Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Japanese Defence Minister - "The decision to go to war against Iraq was a MISTAKE"

14:15 MECCA TIME, 11:15 GMT
Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, has warned his cabinet colleagues to "watch your mouths", issuing the warning at their regular meeting on Tuesday after two big embarrassments to his government.
Fumio Kyuma, the defence minister, angered the US last week by saying that he thought the decision to go to war against Iraq was a mistake. A few days later, Hakuo Yanagisawa, the health minister, called women "birth-giving machines"!
Hakubun Shimomura, the cabinet's deputy chief spokesman, said on Tuesday: "Abe told the ministers to be careful of what they say." But Abe has not asked either minister to step down. Shimomura said Abe was particularly concerned by Yanagisawa's remark which he described as "inappropriate".
Kyuma, one of the more liberal members of Abe's cabinet, started the ball rolling when he described the US invasion of Iraq as a "mistake", "based on an assumption that weapons of mass destruction existed". The defence minister made the comments hours after George Bush, the US president, delivered his annual state of the union address on January 23. 
Japan, the staunchest American ally in Asia, had sent several hundred troops to Iraq "on a humanitarian mission" to support the US-led invasion.
Yanagisawa's remarks on Saturday came during a speech on Japan's falling birthrate, and drew criticism from the opposition and the ruling bloc.
"The number of women between the ages of 15 and 50 is fixed. The number of birth-giving machines [and] devices is fixed, so all we can ask is that they do their best per head," Yanagisawa reportedly said.
The minister later apologised and retracted his remarks. "You can't just say whatever you please in this cabinet," Yasuhisa Shiozaki, the administration's top spokesman, said. The public gaffes come as Abe's support ratings have hit their lowest level and opinion polls show weakening support for his cabinet. Abe's administration faces crucial parliamentary elections in July.

Australian Plot to kill Solomon Island Prime Minister

AN Australian Vietnam veteran has been charged with a plot to assassinate controversial Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare for a $50,000 bounty allegedly sponsored by Australia.

William Ernest Johnson, 61, appeared in the Honiara Magistrates Court yesterday over his role in the alleged conspiracy to kill Mr Sogavare earlier this month. Mr Johnson, originally from the NSW northeastern town of Casino, is married to a Solomon Islands woman and has been living in the strife-torn country since 1992.

Police are still hunting for the four alleged co-conspirators of Mr Johnson, described by sources within the expatriate Australian community as a "happy drunk" who frequented the Honiara Yacht Club when he was visiting the capital from the nearby island of Malaita.

The arrest comes amid a simmering brawl between the Solomons Government and Canberra over Mr Sogavare's plans to form an armed police "close personal protection unit". All Solomons police were disarmed in 2003, following the arrival of the Australian-led intervention force to restore peace after years of ethnic-motivated violence. Some of the armed police were found to have been involved in the ethnic violence that tore the country apart.

In December, the Australian-dominated unit of police protecting Mr Sogavare were withdrawn at his request. Mr Johnson was yesterday charged with conspiracy to murder Mr Sogavare on January 18 and 23 for "a reward bounty payment of $50,000 sponsored by Australia". A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman last night said he could not comment on the allegations of Australian involvement in sponsoring the alleged assassination plot.

Sources said prosecutors will allege that Mr Johnson initially approached an inspector in the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force for assistance in executing the plot to kill Mr Sogavare, who took power soon after the April riots that razed much of Chinatown in Honiara. Mr Johnson allegedly thought the senior officer was an opponent of Mr Sogavare and would be able to ensure armed killers could pass through the checkpoints set up around the parliament and offices of the Prime Minister.

The plotters are alleged to have planned their conspiracy in the mountains of Malaita, a hotbed of past ethnic violence. The police inspector is understood to have informed Mr Sogavare's office and an investigation launched. A statement was last night released by Mr Sogavare's office detailing the charging and appearance in court of "Bill Johnson" in Honiara. "The man is alleged to have made statements to police that he, in company with other people not named in court, had made plans to assassinate the Prime Minister," the statement said.

Magistrate William Seneka remanded Mr Johnson in custody till next Tuesday when the court will hear an application for bail. Mr Seneka denied bail because of the serious nature of the alleged offences and fears that Mr Johnson might abscond or interfere with further investigations.

The Australian consulate organised legal representation for Mr Johnson, as well as diabetes medication. At the time of his arrest, Mr Johnson was staying in a budget motel in Honiara. He appears on the nominal roll of Vietnam veterans as having served in four units in Vietnam - the 2nd, 5th and 8th battalions, Royal Australian Regiment as well as at Headquarters, 1st Australian Taskforce.

Mr Sogavare's office could not be contacted last night. DFAT issued a statement last night detailing the assistance given to Mr Johnson after his arrest. "The Australian consul in Honiara has been providing consular assistance to the man and attended the court hearing on January 30," she said.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Interest rates set for yet another rise!

NEW DELHI: Interest rates are likely to go further up as the central bank might resort to increase the rates at which it lends short-term funds to banks in the third quarter review of annual statement on monetary policy for 2006-07 on Wednesday.

As inflation continues to be the prime concern of the government, the Reserve Bank of India, a chairman of a public bank said, would also like to slow down the growth in the consumer loan but would maintain the fund flow to the firms involved in expansion of their existing facilities.

He said the challenge before RBI is to contain the inflation without affecting the economic growth.

Bankers feel that RBI will raise the short term interest rates, which is also known as reverse repo rate by half a percentage points to 6.5%, which would immediately lead to firming up of variable interest rates in the market.

As majority of loans in the real estate sector is given at variable rate, any hike in the reverse repo rate would lead to increase in the home loan rate.

Also, a senior banker said the impact of hike in short-term rate would not be very harsh on term loans taken by corporate.

The increase in the interest rate on long-term loan would not be directly proportionate to increase in the short-term fund, he said.

RBI is also not happy with the unbridled growth at around 40% to Rs 90,000 crore in 2006-07 in the home loans. The regulator in a statement argued that this has made the real estate a costly asset class.

The central bank in its annual credit policy had increased the provisioning requirement on advances in sectors like personal loans, residential housing loans beyond Rs 20 lakh and loan for commercial real estate from 0.40% 1.0%.

Because of these measures, the cost of funds for banks to lend to these sectors went up. This resulted into increase in the interest rates.

Source said as the growth in the consumer and home loans continued despite these measures, RBI might decide to announce more measures to contain the credit growth.

In the last one year up to January 5, 2007, growth in the credit to companies and consumer loan is 31.09% which is much more than the growth in the deposits in the banking sector at 22.5%.

This, a senior banking official said, has affected the liquidity condition in the banking sector which has resulted into firming up of the overnight inter-bank borrowing rates to around 8% against the RBI's overnight lending rate of 7.25%. RBI is the net lender of over Rs 10,000 crore in the call market.

The banker said the money market is facing liquidity tightness. But as inflation continues to be over 5.5% , which is more than the upper range of the priojected 5-5.5% for 2006-07 by RBI, fresh liquidity infusion through cut in CRR and SLR is out of question.

Therefore, RBI might not announce any measures like cut in the statutory requirements for banks to invest a minimum of 25% of their total deposits, despite the fact that government had recently brought an ordinance that empowers RBI to do so. The ordinance has already been assented by the president.

A senior banker said that RBI would wait to see the impact of the fiscal measures recently taken by the government of cutting the custom duty on imports of various items like cement, steel, copper, edible oil and maize.

He said that the central bank might take such measures of reducing the statutory requirements of investment in March when the market might face tight liquidity situation.

One percentage point cut in the stautory requirements would release around Rs 25,000 crore in the system.

Bankers feel that RBI might not touch the bank rate and CRR requirements at this point of time. The bank rate has already lost its relevance as RBI does not lend long term fund to banks any more. At the same, any increase in the cash reserve requirements would affect the credit flow to the productive sector.

India joins Russian GPS system

NEW DELHI: India's quest for a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system has ended. It will access the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS), ending speculation that India was considering being a part of the network, formerly a military system, now open to civilian use.

India's search for a GPS system had seen it engage in negotiations with the European project Galileo, but the deal had run into security concerns. Indian negotiators were not satisfied that the information accessible on the proposed system was adequately firewalled against individuals and possible military users. China is also part of Galileo.

Recent discussions with Russia had seen reports last week that India could be part of GLONASS. A decision has now been taken and India will be able to access the constellation of active satellites which transmit coded signals in two frequency bands.

These can be used to identify position and velocity in real time based on ranging arrangements. Access to the GPS-type system has important advantages in managing traffic, roadways and ports. It is also an important tool for police and security agencies to track stolen vehicles or those being driven by criminals. It has implications for national disaster warning and will be useful in commercial transactions dealing with sale and exchange of geographical and economic data.

Individual users can find it beneficial for navigation, from hand-held devices taken on treks to systems in cars and trucks. It is used in geo-physical studies, entering data into a geographic information system and wildlife management. In military terms, it enhances accuracy of weapons and so reduces the "fog of war".

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Palestinians students attacked in North Carolina, USA

Associated Press Sports
Updated: 9:47 a.m. ET Jan. 26, 2007
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -The parents of three Guilford College football players charged with ethnic intimidation defended their sons Friday, nearly a week after an on-campus fight between the players and three Palestinian students.

The parents of Michael Bates, Michael Robert Six and Christopher Barnette issued a statement Friday, asking the public to "withhold judgment" until an investigation was completed. The statement said Six was attacked with a belt by one of the accusers but didn't offer further details.

Five players face charges of assault and ethnic intimidation in connection with a fight Saturday. The charges do not reflect results of a police investigation.

The charges were approved by a magistrate judge after a complaint was filed by the victims - Guilford College students Faris Khader and Osama Sabbah and North Carolina State student Omar Awartani, who was visiting Greensboro from Raleigh.

The Palestinian men said they were taunted with racial slurs and called terrorists as they were beaten and kicked, according to court documents.

Lawyer Seth Cohen said his clients didn't do anything wrong and didn't provoke the attack.

"They were minding their own business,'' Cohen said.

The FBI is investigating to determine whether a hate crime was committed, FBI spokesman Tim Stutheit said.

Bates, Six and Barnette were arrested Monday on misdemeanor charges. Two other players, Jonathan Underwood and Jazz Favors, were charged Thursday. Underwood also faces one count of communicating threats.


An Arab-American group blamed growing bigotry against Arabs for an attack on three Palestinian students on a North Carolina college campus.

The students at Guilford College in Greensboro allegedly were kicked and beaten with brass knuckles by 15 members of the college football team last Saturday. "There is a need for national recognition that the effect of negative stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims has created a dangerous environment where incidents like this can occur," the Arab American Institute said in a statement. It particularly blamed calls by some North Carolina state officials to intern Arab Americans.

Tehelka - How They Crush Mangalore’s Muslims

An independent citizens' fact-finding team discovers that attacks on Muslims in coastal Karnataka routinely go unreported. And now, police atrocities are also being overlooked. These are excerpts from the team's report
Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy was unrepentant about the state police's style of violence-management in Mangalore, when he defiantly said, "Were they to dream of such violence?" In coastal Karnataka, the police could most certainly have foreseen communal violence if they had just been alert on duty. That wasn't the problem. In fact, during the violence in Mangalore, the police were either lost in daydreams in the face of daylight looting and atrocities, or were inflicting nightmares on unsuspecting Muslims in the middle of the night.

The Press has always suppressed the fact of violence against Muslims throughout the coastal belt: but, this time around, they suppressed police atrocities too; the non-bjp parties too have maintained complete silence. This is a new development in the bloody history of coastal Karnataka's communal violence. The administration, the police, and the media had never before worked unanimously and in tandem.

From what we saw in the violence-affected areas, wherever the Muslims had taken to destruction, it was as a response to the violence inflicted on them.


Japan carmakers to ride sales rise

By Chang-Ran Kim, Asia auto correspondent

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's top two carmakers, Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., are likely to post double-digit profit growth for the latest quarter on strong sales and a weaker yen, while third-ranked Nissan Motor Co. is seen stalling on tepid demand.

The domestic Japanese market offered a mixed bag of sales data for October-December, with popular 660cc minicars lifting Honda while reining in Toyota, but both continued to increase sales in the more profitable Western markets.

Solid vehicle exports from Japan to meet voracious demand overseas also worked in Japanese automakers' favor as the yen slipped further, especially against the euro. "We can't expect the kind of big boost from the dollar's rise as we did in the first half, but the euro continued to strengthen," said Atsushi Kawai, auto analyst at Mizuho Investors Securities. "The rise in raw material costs also seems to have abated, so the third quarter is likely to be solid."

Dick Cheney: U.S. carrier to Gulf sends "strong signal"

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - By deploying a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf the United States has sent a "strong signal" that it is in the region to stay and working with allies to deal with an Iranian threat, Vice President Dick Cheney said.

He repeated the Bush administration's stance that the United States seeks to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program through diplomatic means, but that all options are on the table.

"I think most of the nations in that part of the world believe their security is supported, if you will, by the United States. They want us to have a major presence there," Cheney said in an interview with Newsweek magazine, according to a transcript released by the White House on Sunday.

"When we -- as the president did, for example, recently -- deploy another aircraft carrier task force to the Gulf, that sends a very strong signal to everybody in the region that the United States is here to stay, that we clearly have significant capabilities, and that we are working with friends and allies as well as the international organizations to deal with the Iranian threat," Cheney said.

Iran plans to expand ties with Iraq: Tehran envoy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iran is taking steps to greatly expand military and economic ties with Iraq, Tehran's ambassador to Iraq said in an interview on Sunday with New York Times.

The ambassador, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, said Iran was prepared to offer Iraqi forces training, equipment and advisers for "the security fight" and was ready to assume major responsibility for the reconstruction of Iraq. He also acknowledged for the first time that two Iranians detained last month by U.S. forces were security officials as the United States has claimed. "They worked in the security sector in the Islamic Republic, that's clear," Qomi said in a 90-minute interview at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad. The interview appeared in Monday's New York Times. The Iranians were in Iraq because "the two countries agreed to solve the security problems," the ambassador said. The Iranians "went to meet with the Iraqi side," he told the newspaper. Qomi said the Iranians should not have been detained and he ridiculed evidence the U.S. military said it has which proving the Iranians were involved in planning attacks on American and Iraqi forces.

Qomi also announced that Iran would soon open a national bank in Baghdad. An Iraqi banking official confirmed that Iran has received a license to open what would be the first "wholly owned subsidiary bank" of a foreign country in Iraq, the newspaper reported.

United States has accused Iran of helping arm, train and fund Iraqi militants, notably fellow Shi'ite Muslims. President George W. Bush said on Friday U.S. forces in Iraq have authority to protect themselves against Iranians attempting to launch attacks inside Iraq.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told The New York Times that the United States had a significant body of evidence tying Iran to sectarian attacks inside Iraq.

"There is a high degree of confidence in the information that we already have, and we are constantly accumulating more," McCormack said.


Saudi King Invites Fatah, Hamas Leaders to Hold Talks in Mecca

By Paul Tighe

Jan. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah invited leaders of the Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah to hold talks in Mecca to try to end fighting between their supporters in the Gaza Strip. The king issued his invitation yesterday, saying the leaders should ``discuss the issues between them in an objective manner without any interference from outsiders,'' the official Saudi Press Agency reported on its Web site.

Hamas and Fatah officials accepted the king's invitation, the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported on its Web site, citing spokesmen for the groups. Hamas and Fatah have failed in attempts to form a national unity government since talks began last May, leading to violence that has killed 23 people since Jan. 24. The Hamas movement won control of the Palestinian Authority from Fatah in elections a year ago. Hamas appreciates, the ``generous position'' of King Abdullah, Haaretz cited Taher An-Nono, a Palestinian Foreign Ministry official, as saying.

``We are ready to go to the kingdom and to start talks,'' said Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, a Fatah official, according to the newspaper report. The latest fighting began five days ago causing the suspension of a new round of negotiations between Hamas and Fatah officials. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned Dec. 16 that he may try to bring down the Hamas cabinet by calling early elections. Gunmen loyal to Hamas yesterday abducted the commander of the security forces in the central Gaza Strip, Haaretz reported, citing unidentified Palestinian security officials.

US forces kill several hundred fighters, US helicopter felled

By Louise Roug and Borzou Daragahi, Times Staff Writers
9:40 PM PST, January 28, 2007

BAGHDAD -- "Iraqi" and American forces killed several hundred gunmen Sunday, fighting a daylong battle in which a U.S. helicopter crashed, killing two U.S. troops, Iraqi security officials said.The fighting in the holy city of Najaf on the eve of the Shiite holiday of Ashura came as a mortar attack killed five teenage girls at a school in Baghdad and the daily nationwide civilian death toll again climbed past 100.

Iraqi security officials offered conflicting accounts of the identity and motives of the heavily armed fighters in Najaf, describing them as Shiite militia.

The cause of the helicopter crash in Najaf was unclear, but U.S. and Iraqi officials said it was felled by fire from the ground, and witnesses said they saw it shot out of the sky. It was the third helicopter to go down in eight days. Three additional U.S. troops were reported killed Sunday.

Sunday's fighting in Najaf and elsewhere was extraordinary, even by Iraq's bloody standards, highlighting the challenge faced by U.S. and Iraqi forces, which are fighting a complex patchwork of elusive enemies, including Shiite militias and Sunni Arab insurgents. The deaths in Najaf would comprise the highest daily casualty toll inflicted by U.S. and Iraqi forces since U.S. troops arrived in Baghdad. Iraqi security forces took authority over Najaf's security about a month ago. But witnesses and security officials said Sunday that Iraqi forces were being beaten by the enigmatic but well-organized fighters until U.S. forces and air support arrived.

Shaky footage recorded by mobile telephone, broadcast on Iraqi television, showed Iraqi soldiers hunkered behind a berm as intense gunfire erupted and smoke rose in the distance.
Ali Nomas, an Iraqi security official in Najaf, said the fighters belonged to a group calling itself Heaven's Army — one among several messianic cults that have appeared among Shiites, who believe in the imminent return of Imam Mahdi, the last in the line of Shiite saints who disappeared more than 1,000 years ago. Nomas said the information came from interviews with at least 10 detained fighters.

"Everyday someone claims he's the Mahdi," he said. Nomas said the leader of the hitherto unknown Heaven's Army had told followers that he was a missing son of the Imam Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad. Ali's remains are entombed in Najaf. "They believe that the Mahdi has called them to fight in Najaf," he said, adding that fighters had converged on Najaf from other predominantly Shiite cities in Iraq. Nomas lamented that Iraq's death and destruction had convinced some Shiites that the end of days was coming.

"There's nothing bizarre left in Iraq anymore," he said in a telephone interview. "We've seen the most incredible things."

Although they disagreed on the attackers' identity, Iraqi officials and witnesses offered similar accounts of events on the battlefield. Most of the fighting took place in farmland outside the city, which also is home to the most revered Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Security forces cordoned off the ancient, labyrinthine city to prevent attacks on pilgrims, clergy and holy sites, the governor said.

Two U.S. soldiers and a Marine were killed in three separate attacks around Iraq on Saturday, the U.S. military said Sunday. The deaths brought the number of U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 to 3,080, according to icasualties.org.

Killers in Baghdad targeted both Sunnis and Shiites. In a Sunni neighborhood in west Baghdad, mortar rounds hit a girl's secondary school, killing five students and wounding 21 others. In another western neighborhood, explosives hidden in a wooden cart killed four and injured 18, while an Industry Ministry advisor and his daughter were shot to death in a nearby area. In a Shiite neighborhood on the east side of the Tigris River, a bomb exploded on a bus, killing one and injuring five others. Two other bombings killed seven and injured 35 people in Shiite neighborhoods. Gunmen elsewhere in the capital killed a bank clerk in a car lot near her house. At least 54 bodies were found in various Baghdad neighborhoods, including a woman kidnapped two days ago, her family said.

Meanwhile, Iraqi officials in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad sacked 1,500 policemen, charging them with absenteeism and fleeing fighting. They also dismissed Baqubah Mayor Khalid Sanjary for having alleged ties to Sunni Arab rebels. The province is riddled with Al Qaeda cell members as well as militiamen affiliated with Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr.

Times staff writers and special correspondents in Baghdad, Baqubah, Hillah, Najaf and Kirkuk contributed to this report.

IAEA Inspectors Arrive in Iran

TEHRAN - Three International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors arrived in Tehran on Saturday while Iran is getting prepared for nuclear celebrations in early February.

Despite a recent parliament approval allowing government to revise cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Tehran continues cooperation with IAEA and in the latest case three of the agency's inspectors arrived here on Saturday.

The said approval was issued in reaction to the UN Security Council Resolution 1737 against Iran and its peaceful nuclear activities. During their one-week mission, the two inspectors are due to visit Isfahan's UCF plant, Natanz enrichment facility and Arak's heavy water installations, an informed source told FNA.

The visit of the IAEA inspectors falls within the safeguard agreement of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and is viewed as the Agency's routine inspections of nuclear sites.

Iran recently barred 38 IAEA inspectors from visiting the Islamic Republic's nuclear sites. The source said that the three are not from the said 38 inspectors, and meantime, added, "IAEA and NPT rules and regulations entitle all the member states to verify the list of inspectors who are supposed to visit their sites and choose whoever they wish from the list of IAEA-appointed inspectors."

Iran's nuclear activities are fully supervised by the IAEA inspectors and cameras, and Tehran is observing the rules and contents of the NPT Comprehensive Safeguard Agreement in full. The IAEA chief Mohammad ElBaradei recently approved Iran's new uranium enrichment tests and equipments, and said that "Iran's second cascade of centrifuges has been installed and is ready to start work."

Despite intense propaganda by the US and some EU countries, the regular visits of the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to the Iranian nuclear sites and installations further illustrates Iran's transparent cooperation with the IAEA. In addition, all Iran's nuclear activities are also supervised and recorded by the IAEA cameras installed in all Iranian nuclear sites and centers.

So far an unprecedented figure of over 2000 person/day inspections have been carried out of Iran's nuclear facilities by the IAEA and all inspection reports, including those presented by the IAEA Director-General Mohammad ElBaradei to the UNSC and Board of Governors, are in confirmation of Iran's continued adherence to the IAEA and NPT rules and regulations. A recent US Senate report alleged that Iran's nuclear capabilities are far more advanced and beyond the information revealed to the IAEA or gained by the US intelligent agencies. The US Senate has claimed that Iran is enriching uranium with the purity level needed for the manufacture of nuclear weapons at Natanz nuclear plant.

The report was strongly censured by the IAEA in such a way that the UN nuclear watchdog stressed in a statement issued on September 13 that the US Senate report not only contained wrong and misleading information and data but was also unfounded. IAEA has stressed that Iran's nuclear activities, particularly its enrichment programs and activities, are under tight supervision of the Agency, reminding that while uranium must be enriched to a level beyond 90% of purity to be used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons, Iran has so far done the enrichment up to the purity level of only 3.5%.

The Islamic Republic has always stressed its peaceful purposes in developing the nuclear technology, while it has also underlined that it would never give up even an iota of its right of access to nuclear technology. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in November announced that the country would celebrate stabilization of its nuclear rights during the Ten-Day Dawn (from February 1 to 11). The Ten-Day Dawn marks the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, when Iranians embraced final victory in dethroning the last king of Pahlavi dynasty.

Israel may have violated arms pact, U.S. says

January 28, 2007

New York Times
WASHINGTON–The Bush administration will inform Congress tomorrow that Israel may have violated agreements with the United States when it fired U.S.-supplied cluster munitions into southern Lebanon during its fight with Hezbollah last summer, the U.S. State Department said yesterday. The finding, though preliminary, has prompted a contentious debate within the administration over whether the United States should penalize Israel for its use of cluster munitions against towns and villages where Hezbollah had placed its rocket launchers.
Cluster munitions scatter tiny but deadly bomblets that explode over a wide area. The grenade-like munitions, tens of thousands of which have been found in southern Lebanon, have caused 30 deaths and 180 injuries among civilians since the end of the war, according to the UN Mine Action Service. Mid-level officials at the Pentagon and the State Department have argued Israel violated U.S. prohibitions on using cluster munitions against populated areas. But other officials in both departments contend Israel's use of the weapons was for self-defence and aimed at stopping the Hezbollah rocket attacks that killed 159 Israeli citizens and, at worst, was only a technical violation.
Any sanctions against Israel would be an extraordinary move by the Bush administration, a strong backer of Israel, and several officials said they expected little further action, if any, on the matter. The State Department is required to notify Congress even of preliminary findings of possible violations of the Arms Export Control Act, the statute governing arms sales. It began an investigation in August.
State Department spokesperson Sean McCormick said the notification to Congress would occur tomorrow but that a final determination about whether Israel violated the agreements on use of cluster bombs was still being debated. "It is important to remember the kind of war Hezbollah waged. They used innocent civilians as a way to shield their fighters," he said.
Even if Israel is found to be in violation, the statute gives U.S. President George W. Bush discretion about whether to impose sanctions, unless Congress decides to take legislative action. Israel makes its own cluster munitions, so a cut-off of U.S. supplies would have mainly symbolic significance. Israel gave the State Department a report late last year in which it acknowledged firing thousands of U.S. cluster munitions into southern Lebanon but denied violating agreements that prohibit their use in civilian areas, the officials said. Before firing at rocket sites, the Israeli report said, the military dropped leaflets warning civilians of the attacks. The report also noted many of the villages were deserted because civilians had fled the fighting.

Jane Fonda's speech against US War!

Jane Fonda's speech at the end of her visit to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam War

This is Jane Fonda. During my two week visit in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, I've had the opportunity to visit a great many places and speak to a large number of people from all walks of life--workers, peasants, students, artists and dancers, historians, journalists, film actresses, soldiers, militia girls, members of the women's union, writers.

I visited the (Dam Xuac) agricultural coop, where the silk worms are also raised and thread is made. I visited a textile factory, a kindergarten in Hanoi. The beautiful Temple of Literature was where I saw traditional dances and heard songs of resistance. I also saw unforgettable ballet about the guerrillas training bees in the south to attack enemy soldiers. The bees were danced by women, and they did their job well.

In the shadow of the Temple of Literature I saw Vietnamese actors and actresses perform the second act of Arthur Miller's play All My Sons, and this was very moving to me--the fact that artists here are translating and performing American plays while US imperialists are bombing their country.

I cherish the memory of the blushing militia girls on the roof of their factory, encouraging one of their sisters as she sang a song praising the blue sky of Vietnam--these women, who are so gentle and poetic, whose voices are so beautiful, but who, when American planes are bombing their city, become such good fighters.

I cherish the way a farmer evacuated from Hanoi, without hesitation, offered me, an American, their best individual bomb shelter while US bombs fell near by. The daughter and I, in fact, shared the shelter wrapped in each others arms, cheek against cheek. It was on the road back from Nam Dinh, where I had witnessed the systematic destruction of civilian targets-schools, hospitals, pagodas, the factories, houses, and the dike system.

As I left the United States two weeks ago, Nixon was again telling the American people that he was winding down the war, but in the rubble-strewn streets of Nam Dinh, his words echoed with sinister (words indistinct) of a true killer. And like the young Vietnamese woman I held in my arms clinging to me tightly--and I pressed my cheek against hers--I thought, this is a war against Vietnam perhaps, but the tragedy is America's.

One thing that I have learned beyond a shadow of a doubt since I've been in this country is that Nixon will never be able to break the spirit of these people; he'll never be able to turn Vietnam, north and south, into a neo-colony of the United States by bombing, by invading, by attacking in any way. One has only to go into the countryside and listen to the peasants describe the lives they led before the revolution to understand why every bomb that is dropped only strengthens their determination to resist.

I've spoken to many peasants who talked about the days when their parents had to sell themselves to landlords as virtually slaves, when there were very few schools and much illiteracy, inadequate medical care, when they were not masters of their own lives.

But now, despite the bombs, despite the crimes being created--being committed against them by Richard Nixon, these people own their own land, build their own schools--the children learning, literacy--illiteracy is being wiped out, there is no more prostitution as there was during the time when this was a French colony. In other words, the people have taken power into their own hands, and they are controlling their own lives.

And after 4,000 years of struggling against nature and foreign invaders--and the last 25 years, prior to the revolution, of struggling against French colonialism--I don't think that the people of Vietnam are about to compromise in any way, shape or form about the freedom and independence of their country, and I think Richard Nixon would do well to read Vietnamese history, particularly their poetry, and particularly the poetry written by Ho Chi Minh.

General Leonid Ivashov (ex Chief of Staff - Russian armed forces) - "US plans to launch a NUCLEAR attack on Iran before end of April, 2007"

Global Research, January 24, 2007
In the overall flow of information coming from the Middle East, there are increasingly frequent reports indicating that within several months from now the US will deliver nuclear strikes on Iran. For example, citing well-informed but undisclosed sources, the Kuwaiti Arab Times wrote that the US plans to launch a missile and bomb attack on the territory of Iran before the end of April, 2007. The campaign will start from the sea and will be supported by the Patriot missile defense systems in order to let the US forces avoid a ground operation and to reduce the efficiency of the return strike by "any Persian Gulf country".

"Any country" mostly refers to Iran. The source which supplied the information to the Kuwaiti paper believes that the US forces in Iraq and other countries of the region will be defended from any Iranian missile strikes by the frontier Patriots.

So, the preparations for a new US aggression entered the completion phase. The executions of S. Hussein and his closest associates were a part of these preparations. Their purpose was to serve as a "disguise operation" for the efforts of the US strategists to deliberately escalate the situation both around Iran and in the entire Middle East.

Analyzing the consequences of the move, the US did order to hang the former Iraqi leader and his associates. This shows that the US has adopted irreversibly the plan of partitioning Iraq into three warring pseudo-states – the Shiite, the Sunnite, and the Kurdish ones. Washington reckons that the situation of a controlled chaos will help it to dominate the Persian Gulf oil supplies and other strategically important oil transportation routes.

The most important aspect of the matter is that a zone of an endless bloody conflict will be created at the core of the Middle East, and that the countries neighboring Iraq – Iran, Syria, Turkey (Kurdistan) – will inevitably be getting drawn into it. This will solve the problem of completely destabilizing the region, a task of major importance for the US and especially for Israel. The war in Iraq was just one element in a series of steps in the process of regional destabilization. It was only a phase in the process of getting closer to dealing with Iran and other countries, which the US declared or will declare rouge.

However it is not easy for the US to get involved in yet another military campaign while Iraq and Afghanistan are not "pacified" (the US lacks the resources necessary for the operation). Besides, protests against the politics of the Washington neocons intensify all over the world. Due to all of the above, the US will use nuclear weapon against Iran. This will be the second case of the use of nuclear weapons in combat after the 1945 US attack on Japan.

The Israeli military and political circles had been making statements on the possibility of nuclear and missile strikes on Iran openly since October, 2006, when the idea was immediately supported by G. Bush. Currently it is touted in the form of a "necessity" of nuclear strikes. The public is taught to believe that there is nothing monstrous about such a possibility and that, on the contrary, a nuclear strike is quite feasible. Allegedly, there is no other way to "stop" Iran.

How will other nuclear powers react? As for Russia, at best it will limit itself to condemning the strikes, and at worst – as in the case of the aggression against Yugoslavia – its response will be something like "though by this the US makes a mistake, the victim itself provoked the attack".

Europe will react in essentially the same way. Possibly, the negative reaction of China and several other countries to the nuclear aggression will be stronger. In any case, there will be no retaliation nuclear strike on the US forces (the US is absolutely sure of this).

The UN means nothing in this context. Having failed to condemn the aggression against Yugoslavia, the UN Security Council effectively shared the responsibility for it. This institution is only capable to adopt resolutions which the Russian and also the French diplomacy understands as banning the use of force, but the US and British ones interpret in exactly the opposite sense – as authorizing their aggression.

Speaking of Israel, it is sure to come under the Iranian missile strikes. Possibly, the Hezbollah and the Palestinian resistance will become more active. Posing as victims, the Israelis will resort to provocations to justify their aggression, suffer some tolerable damage, and then the outraged US will destabilize Iran finally, making it look like a noble mission of retribution.

Some people tend to believe that concerns over the world's protests can stop the US. I do not think so. The importance of this factor should not be overstated. In the past, I have spent hours talking to Milosevic, trying to convince him that NATO was preparing to attack Yugoslavia. For a long time, he could not believe this and kept telling me: "Just read the UN Charter. What grounds will they have to do it?"

But they did it. They ignored the international law outrageously and did it. What do we have now? Yes, there was a shock, there was indignation. But the result is exactly what the aggressors wanted – Milosevic is dead, Yugoslavia is partitioned, and Serbia is colonized – NATO officers have set up their headquarters in the country's ministry of defense.

The same things happened to Iraq. There were a shock and indignation. But what matters to the Americans is not how big the shock is, but how high are the revenues of their military-industrial complex.

The information that a second US aircraft-carrier is due to arrive at the Persian Gulf till the end of January makes it possible to analyze the possible evolution of the war situation. Attacking Iran, the US will mostly use air delivery of the nuclear munitions. Cruise missiles (carried by the US aircrafts as well as ships and submarines) and, possibly, ballistic missiles will be used. Probably, nuclear strikes will be followed by air raids from aircraft carriers and by other means of attack.

The US command is trying to exclude a ground operation: Iran has a strong army and the US forces are likely to suffer massive casualties. This is unacceptable for G. Bush who already finds himself in a difficult situation. It does not take a ground operation to destroy infrastructures in Iran, to reverse the development of the country, to cause panic, and to create a political, economic and military chaos. This can be accomplished by using first the nuclear, and subsequently the conventional means of warfare. Such is the purpose of bringing the aircraft carrier group closer to the Iranian coast.

What resources for self-defense does Iran have? They are considerable, but incomparably inferior to the US forces. Iran has 29 Russian Tor systems. Definitely, they are an important reinforcement of the Iranian air defense. However, at present Iran has no guaranteed protection from air raids.

The US tactics will be the same as usual: first, to neutralize the air defense and radars, and then to attack aircrafts in the air and on land, the control installations, and the infrastructure, while taking no risks.

Within weeks from now, we will see the informational warfare machine start working. The public opinion is already under pressure. There will be a growing anti-Iranian militaristic hysteria, new information leaks, disinformation, etc.

At the same time all of the above sends a signal to the pro-Western opposition and to a fraction of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's elite to get ready for the coming developments. The US hopes that an attack on Iran will inevitably result in a chaos in the country, and that it will be possible to bribe some of the Iranian generals and thus to create a fifth column in the country.

Of course, Iran is very different from Iraq. However, if the aggressor succeeds in instigating a conflict between the two branches of the Iranian armed forces – the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and the army – the country will find itself in a critical situation, especially in case at the very beginning of the campaign the US manages to hit the Iranian leadership and delivers a nuclear strike or a massive one by conventional warfare on the country's central command.

Today, the probability of a US aggression against Iran is extremely high. It does remain unclear, though, whether the US Congress is going to authorize the war. It may take a provocation to eliminate this obstacle (an attack on Israel or the US targets including military bases). The scale of the provocation may be comparable to the 9-11 attack in NY. Then the Congress will certainly say "Yes" to the US President.

General Leonid Ivashov is the vice-president of the Academy on geopolitical affairs. He was the chief of the department for General affairs in the Soviet Union's ministry of Defense, secretary of the Council of defense ministers of the Community of independant states (CIS), chief of the Military cooperation department at the Russian federation's Ministry of defense and Joint chief of staff of the Russian armies

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Massive Anti War protest in USA draws thousands!

January 27, 2007
WASHINGTON -- Convinced this is their moment, tens of thousands marched Saturday in an anti-war demonstration linking military families, ordinary people and an icon of the Vietnam protest movement in a spirited call to get out of Iraq. Celebrities, a half-dozen lawmakers and protesters from distant states rallied in the capital under a sunny sky, seizing an opportunity to press their cause with a Congress restive on the war and a country that has turned against the conflict. Marching with them was Jane Fonda, in what she said was her first anti-war demonstration in 34 years.

''Silence is no longer an option,'' Jane Fonda said to cheers from the stage on the National Mall. The actress once derided as ''Hanoi Jane'' by conservatives for her stance on Vietnam said she had held back from activism so as not to be a distraction for the Iraq anti-war movement, but needed to speak out now. The rally on the Mall unfolded peacefully, although about 300 protesters tried to rush the Capitol, running up the grassy lawn to the front of the building. Police on motorcycles tried to stop them, scuffling with some and barricading entrances.

Protesters chanted ''Our Congress'' as their numbers grew and police faced off against them. Demonstrators later joined the masses marching from the Mall, around Capitol Hill and back. About 50 demonstrators blocked a street near the Capitol for about 30 minutes, but they were dispersed without arrests.

United for Peace and Justice, a coalition group sponsoring the protest, had hoped 100,000 would come. They claimed even more afterward, but police, who no longer give official estimates, said privately the crowd was "smaller" than 100,000. In California, smaller rallies were held in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacramento.

At the rally, 12-year-old Moriah Arnold stood on her toes to reach the microphone and tell the crowd: ''Now we know our leaders either lied to us or hid the truth. Because of our actions, the rest of the world sees us as a bully and a liar.'' The sixth-grader from Harvard, Mass., organized a petition drive at her school against the war that has killed more than 3,000 U.S. service-members, including seven whose deaths were reported Saturday.

More Hollywood celebrities showed up at the demonstration than buttoned-down Washington typically sees in a month. Actor Sean Penn said lawmakers will pay a price in the 2008 elections if they do not take firmer action than to pass a nonbinding resolution against the war, the course Congress is now taking. ''If they don't stand up and make a resolution as binding as the death toll, we're not going to be behind those politicians,'' he said. Actors Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins also spoke.

Fonda was a lightning rod in the Vietnam era for her outspoken opposition to that war and her advocacy from Hanoi at the height of that conflict. Sensitive to the old wounds, she made it a point to thank the active-duty service-members, veterans and Gold Star mothers who attended the rally. She drew parallels to the Vietnam War, citing ''blindness to realities on the ground, hubris ... thoughtlessness in our approach to rebuilding a country we've destroyed.'' But she noted that this time, veterans, soldiers and their families increasingly and vocally are against the Iraq war.

The House Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. John Conyers, threatened to use congressional spending power to try to stop the war. ''George Bush has a habit of firing military leaders who tell him the Iraq war is failing,'' he said, looking out at the masses. ''He can't fire you.'' Referring to Congress, the Michigan Democrat added: ''He can't fire us. ''The founders of our country gave our Congress the power of the purse because they envisioned a scenario exactly like we find ourselves in today. Now only is it in our power, it is our obligation to stop Bush.''

White House spokesman Trey Bohn responded that Conyers ''needs to learn the difference between fact and fable, between a soundbite and a slur.'' He said Conyers' ''assertion that the president fires generals with whom he disagrees is flat wrong.'' On the stage rested a coffin covered with a U.S. flag and a pair of military boots, symbolizing American war dead. On the Mall stood a large bin filled with tags bearing the names of Iraqis who have died.

A small contingent of active-duty service members attended the rally, wearing civilian clothes because military rules forbid them from protesting in uniform. Air Force Staff Sgt. Tassi McKee, 26, an intelligence specialist at Fort Meade, Md., said she joined the Air Force because of patriotism, travel and money for college. ''After we went to Iraq, I began to see through the lies,'' she said. In the crowd, signs recalled the November elections that defeated the Republican congressional majority in part because of President Bush's Iraq policy. ''I voted for peace,'' one said.

''I've just gotten tired of seeing widows, tired of seeing dead Marines,'' said Vincent DiMezza, 32, wearing a dress Marine uniform from his years as a sergeant. A Marine aircraft mechanic from 1997 to 2002, he did not serve in Iraq or Afghanistan. About 40 people staged a counter-protest, including Army Cpl. Joshua Sparling, 25, who lost his leg to a bomb in Iraq. He said the anti-war protesters, especially those who are veterans or who are on active duty, ''need to remember the sacrifice we have made and what our fallen comrades would say if they are alive.''

Bush reaffirmed his commitment to his planned troop increase in a phone conversation Saturday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The president was in Washington for the weekend. He is often is out of town during big protest days. ''He understands that Americans want to see a conclusion to the war in Iraq and the new strategy is designed to do just that,'' said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council. Protest organizers said the crowd included people who came on 300 buses from 40 states.



Bold, Sophisticated attack on US Army base in Iraq, Karbala


Associated Press Writers 1 hour, 25 minutes ago

BAGHDAD, Iraq - In perhaps the boldest and most sophisticated attack in four years of warfare, gunmen speaking English, wearing U.S. military uniforms and carrying American weapons abducted four U.S. soldiers last week at the provincial headquarters in the Shiite holy city of Karbala and then shot them to death.

The U.S. military confirmed a report earlier Friday by The Associated Press that three of the soldiers were dead and one was mortally wounded with a gunshot to the head when they were found in a neighboring province, about 25 miles from the compound where they were captured. A fifth soldier was killed in the initial attack on the compound.

The new account contradicted a U.S. military statement on Jan. 20, the day of the raid on an Iraqi governor's office, that five soldiers were killed "repelling" the attack.

The security breakdown and the dramatic kidnapping and murder of four soldiers leaked out just as  President Bush faces stiffening congressional opposition over his plan to flood Baghdad and surrounding regions with 21,500 more American troops. Two of Congress's most vocal war critics, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. John Murtha, were in the Iraqi capital as the news broke.

The brazen assault, 50 miles south of Baghdad, was conducted by nine to 12 gunmen posing as an American security team, the military confirmed. The attackers traveled in black GMC Suburban vehicles (the type used by U.S . government convoys), had American weapons, wore new U.S. military combat fatigues, and spoke English, according to two senior U.S. military officials as well as Iraqi officials. None of the American or Iraqi officials would allow use of their names because of the sensitive nature of the information.

The confirmation came after nearly a week of inquiries. The U.S. military in Baghdad initially did not respond to repeated requests for comment on reports that began emerging from Iraqi government and military officials on the abduction and a major breakdown in security at the Karbala site.


Bush - "I am the decision-maker on troop strength!"


By Ron Hutcheson and Renee Schoof
McClatchy Washington Bureau

President Bush defended his Iraq strategy Friday in a closed-door meeting with Republicans in the House of Representatives and told reporters that he's ``the decision-maker'' on troop deployments even if Congress opposes his plans.

Bush brushed off his critics as congressional Democrats discussed ways to limit his war-making powers. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., speaking at a Washington research center, outlined a series of steps Congress could take that would go well beyond the non-binding resolution that's scheduled for Senate debate next week.

Proposals outlined

The resolution would put Congress on record against the president's plan to send 21,500 more soldiers to Iraq, but it would do nothing to stop it. Hoyer said additional possible steps included imposing limits on war spending and revising the congressional resolution that authorized the 2003 Iraq invasion. A revised authorization could be used to redefine the mission.

Hoyer didn't commit to any of the options. Although Democrats are under pressure from anti-war activists to get tough with Bush, party leaders are wary of any action that could be seen as undermining the troops.

A defiant Bush suggested that lawmakers should stifle their criticism and let him put his plan into action.

``I'm the decision-maker, and I had to come up with a way forward that precluded disaster,'' the president said. ``Some are condemning a plan before it's even had a chance to work.''

He defended the plan during a White House photo session with Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, who won Senate confirmation 81-0 Friday to become the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

Bush also staunchly defended a new administration policy on Iran that is drawing criticism at home and anxiety abroad, insisting it is only sensible for U.S. troops to move aggressively against Iranians who endanger them in Iraq.

Bush, appearing with military advisers at the White House, said the policy is not meant to spread U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan into Iran, but he asserted that U.S. troops have the right to seek out agents from Tehran, which he has accused of supporting Iraqi militants.

``It just makes sense that if somebody is trying to harm our troops or stop us from achieving our goal, or killing innocent civilians in Iraq, that we will stop them,'' Bush said.

The administration announced two weeks ago, as part of its new strategy on Iraq, that it would move more aggressively against Iranian and Syrian agents in Iraq. Simultaneously, the White House moved Navy warships and fighter jets into the Persian Gulf in a display of determination to maintain influence in the region.

Sunni approval

The new push has been welcomed by some Sunni Arab countries that are worried about the rising influence of predominantly Shiite Iran, as well as by members of Congress who are nervous about the prospect of the country acquiring a nuclear weapon and possibly using it to threaten Israel.

But the approach has been unsettling to Shiite Arabs and Kurdish leaders in Iraq, as well as to others in the United States and Europe, who fear the confrontational words and moves could spiral into military confrontation at a time when the Middle East is already torn by sectarian strife.

Separately, at his first Pentagon news conference, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that whatever their intentions, lawmakers pushing for resolutions against President Bush's troop buildup are encouraging the United States' enemies.

Gates, in his Pentagon post just over a month, said he was certain supporters of measures criticizing the president's plan don't intend to harm U.S. interests in Iraq. ``But that's the effect,'' he said.

``It's pretty clear that a resolution that in effect says that the general going out to take command of the arena shouldn't have the resources he thinks he needs to be successful certainly emboldens the enemy and our adversaries,'' Gates said in his first Pentagon news conference.

``I think it's hard to measure that with any precision, but it seems pretty straightforward that any indication of flagging will in the United States gives encouragement to those folks,'' Gates said, referring to the anti-government forces in Baghdad.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Senators eye rejection of Bush war plan

By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer
11 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - Democrats took the first step toward a wartime repudiation of President Bush on Wednesday, convening a Senate committee to endorse legislation declaring that the deployment of additional troops to Iraq is "not in the national interest."
"We better be damn sure we know what we're doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder," said Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, the only Republican on the committee to announce support for the measure.

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., the panel's chairman, said the legislation is "not an attempt to embarrass the president. ... It's an attempt to save the president from making a significant mistake with regard to our policy in Iraq."

Less than one month after Democrats took control of Congress, there was little doubt they had the votes to prevail. They hold 11 seats on the committee, to 10 for Republicans.

The full Senate is scheduled to begin debate on the measure next week, although Biden has said he is willing to negotiate changes in hopes of attracting support from more Republicans.

Even Republicans opposed to the measure expressed unease with the revised policy involving a war that has lasted nearly four years, claimed the lives of more than 3,000 U.S. troops and helped Democrats win control of Congress in last fall's elections.

"I am not confident that President Bush's plan will succeed," said Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, senior Republican on the committee.

But he also said he would vote against the measure. "It is unclear to me how passing a nonbinding resolution that the president has already said he will ignore will contribute to any improvement or modification of our Iraq policy."

"The president is deeply invested in this plan, and the deployments ... have already begun," Lugar added.


U.S. launches new airstrike in Somalia

By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer 31 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - The United States launched an airstrike in Somalia against suspected terrorist targets — the second such attack this month, defense officials said Wednesday.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the action was carried out in secret, provided few details about the strike by an Air Force AC-130 gunship earlier this week and were uncertain whether the intended target was killed.

One official suggested that early indications showed that no high-value target was killed or captured.

At the Defense Department, spokesman Bryan Whitman declined to confirm any new strike but said in general that the United States is "going to go after al-Qaida in the global war on terrorism wherever it takes us."

He said the nature of some military operations, especially those by special operations commando forces, requires that they be kept secret in order to preserve an advantage in future missions.

Lt. Cmdr. Marc Boyd, a spokesman at U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, declined to comment.


Ahmadinejad dismisses US 'threats'


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, has said that the US is incapable of inflicting damage on Iran, in an interview with state television on Tuesday.


The Iranian leader also said that "wise" Americans would not allow George Bush, the US president, to attack Iran , as a US Navy carrier group moved toward the country.


Ahmadinejad said: "They [the US] are not really in a position to carry out this action [of attacking Iran]. I believe there are many wise people in the United States who would not let it happen."


Ex US President Carter defends book - 'Palestine: Peace, Not (Israeli) Apartheid!'

By Jason Szep

WALTHAM, Mass., Jan 23 (Reuters) - Jimmy Carter defended his controversial book on Tuesday, telling a predominantly Jewish university that his goal was revive Middle East peace talks and that attacks on his character had hurt him and his family.

Jewish groups have expressed outrage at "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," arguing that its comparison of Israel's treatment of Palestinians with South Africa's reviled apartheid system of racial segregation could undermine perceptions of Israel's legitimacy.

The former U.S. president, in his first direct address to Jewish Americans on his book, said the title referred to human rights in the Palestinian territories, not in Israel.

He said the word "apartheid" was intended to provoke debate on the rights of Palestinians, who he said were being treated unfairly by Israel.

He said he never asserted that Jewish money was controlling the U.S. media, as some critics have charged, but only that the pro-Israel lobby was strong.

"I've been hurt and so has my family by some of the reaction," Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, told about 1,700 students at Brandeis University, a secular school founded by the American-Jewish community, outside Boston.

"I've been through political campaigns for state senator, governor and president, and I've been stigmatized and condemned by my political opponents. But this is the first time that I have ever been called a liar. And a bigot and an anti-Semite and a coward, and a plagiarist. This is hurtful," he said.

"I can take it," he added, joking that he could handle the attacks because as a former U.S. president he still had Secret Service protection.

U.S. security company Blackwater's Helicopter crash in IRAQ kills 5 americans

Updated 1/23/2007 8:58 PM ET
USA TODAY staff and wire reports
BAGHDAD, Iraq — A helicopter operated by the private U.S. security company Blackwater crashed Tuesday in Baghdad, a U.S. military officer said.

The officer told USA TODAY that four bodies were found aboard the helicopter. The cause of the crash was not immediately known, the officer said.

The Associated Press, however, reported that five Americans were killed in the crash, citing an unnamed U.S. official in Baghdad.

Both the USA TODAY and AP sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the incident.

Witnesses in the Fadhil neighborhood reported seeing the helicopter go down after gunmen on the ground opened fire and were believed to have shot the pilot or co-pilot or both. Accounts varied, but all were consistent that at least one person operating the aircraft had been shot and badly hurt before the crash.

The helicopter was believed to have been flying escort above a VIP convoy on the ground as it headed away from the heavily fortified Green Zone to an undisclosed destination.

A spokeswoman for Blackwater USA, which is based in far northeastern North Carolina, declined to comment Tuesday. "We really don't have any information for you yet," said spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell. The company provides security for State Department officials in Iraq, trains military units from around the world, and works for corporate clients.

The Blackwater aircraft was at least the 14th helicopter to go down since the war began in March 2003. The worst incident occurred Jan. 26, 2005, when a transport helicopter crashed in a sandstorm in western Iraq, killing 30 Marines and a sailor.

According to insurance claims on file at the Department of Labor, 770 civilian contractors have been killed in Iraq since the war began in March 2003, through Dec. 31, 2006. Additionally, 7,761 civilian contractors have been injured in the same time period, according to claims on file.

Katy Helvenston, mother of Scott Helvenston, a Blackwater employee who died in March 2004, said Tuesday's crash "just breaks my heart."

"I'm so sick of these kids dying," she said.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Israel's President faces rape charge

Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 January 2007, 15:01 GMT
Israeli President Moshe Katsav is to be charged with rape and abuse of power, the ministry of justice has announced.

Correspondents say a final decision on the indictment will be made only after a hearing, in which Mr Katsav will be able to present his side of the case.

Mr Katsav, whose position is largely ceremonial, has denied any wrongdoing. He has faced allegations of rape and sexual misconduct from several female employees. The has been no comment from the president or his office.

The president enjoys immunity in Israel, but he can be prosecuted after he leaves office. Mr Katsav's term ends later this year, but his lawyers have previously indicated he would resign if he was indicted.

Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz's office issued a statement saying that it had collected enough evidence to support an indictment against Mr Katsav on charges of rape, harassment, abuse of power and obstruction of justice, among other crimes.


Monday, January 22, 2007

India to snub US on Burma arms embargo

A US-led arms embargo against Burma's military rulers is to be breached by India, with New Delhi indicating yesterday that it will supply a range of military equipment to the regime in return for help in dealing with terrorism in the region.

After talks in Burma's new capital of Nay Pyi Taw, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said he had promised to give a "favourable response" to the military junta's request for equipment. He conveyed the decision during a 45-minute meeting with the regime's No2 in the ruling State Peace and Development Council, Vice-Senior General Maung Aye.

The junta's request was made to India in December.

No specifics about what will be delivered to the regime have been disclosed, but reports have indicated that its wish list includes field guns, helicopters, mortars, submarines, submarine-detecting sonar equipment, Islander aircraft and spares for MiG fighters. India's actions in supplying arms need to be seen in the context of its strategic rivalry with China for influence in Burma, with Beijing the main military partner to the junta.

After his meeting in Nay Pyi Taw, Mr Mukherjee said the request for arms had been examined "and (we) decided to give a favourable response". While this will doubtless raise eyebrows in the US and Europe, which are seeking to isolate the military junta through an arms embargo and wider sanctions, the Indian response is clearly in the context of attempts to get Burma's rulers to crack down on terrorist groups that are causing serious problems in northeast India, especially in oil- and tea-rich Assam. Many of these insurgent groups are based in Burma, and their increased attacks are causing concern, to the point where making a deal with the military rulers, unpalatable though that might be to many in New Delhi, has become inevitable. The US and EU have been attempting to isolate the military rulers in an attempt to force them to agree to democratic changes.

But Indian officials point out that Washington and the European capitals are far from the reality of the terrorist fray in South Asia and are not confronted by the sort of problems India has with the growing insurgency in its northeast.

Canberra is not part of the arms embargo and sells no weapons to Burma, but Australian government agencies have been involved in providing counter-terrorist training for the Burmese as part of broader programs for ASEAN member nation officials. Last year, The Australian revealed that Burma had attempted to buy nuclear weapons technology from North Korea's rogue regime in an alliance that would present a frightening new threat to regional security.

During his visit to Burma, Mr Mukherjee is reported to have repeatedly referred to the country's membership of ASEAN. This is seen as an attempt to head off criticism that India is dealing with a rogue state. The deal agreed by Mr Mukherjee appears to be that the two countries have agreed to a major enhancement in their co-operation over terrorism, with arrangements for the exchange of information between military commanders on both sides of their border, as well as the fencing of the frontier. Details on implementing the arrangement had yet to be worked out, Mr Mukherjee said.

During their meeting, General Maung Aye said he would pass on instructions to Burmese commanders to work out with their Indian counterparts how to put the agreement into effect. Mr Mukherjee said India was prepared to offer whatever help was required - including the development of infrastructure and arms supplies - in dealing with Burma-based insurgents.

"Of course, we didn't mention joint operations because that is not possible," he said. General Maung Aye did not dispute Mr Mukherjee's contention that the insurgents fighting Indian forces in the northeast were using sanctuaries in Burma. This is unlike officials in Bangladesh, the other major country in which the insurgents have bases. Bangladesh consistently denies Indian claims that rebels are based in its territory. Mr Mukherjee, pleased with the result he achieved in Nay Pyi Taw, said he had found the authorities there "very receptive and responsive". He shrugged off questions about the "denial of democracy" in Burma, saying: "It is their internal matter." In his meetings, Mr Mukherjee also raised the issue of natural gas supplies to India from Burma, including the building of a pipeline. Such supplies are crucial for the booming Indian economy.

A number of insurgent groups fighting in India's northeast are believed to have bases in Burma. They include the United Liberation from for Assam, the Khaplang faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland and secessionist movements from Manipur.

Allahabad erupts over police inaction in gang rape

Allahabad, Jan 21 (IANS)
Angry political activists Sunday demonstrated here against police inaction after two young women from a madrassa were gang-raped.

The women were Wednesday abducted from the madrassa by four unidentified men who raped them and dropped them off at the seminary. Police filed a complaint Friday night and arrested four people for the crime.

However, the activists, mostly from the Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), accused police of indifference and inaction against the "real culprits".

"The suspects booked are ordinary rickshaw pullers being framed to protect the real culprits," said CPI-M leader Subhashini Ali.

Allahabad district magistrate Amrit Abhijat denied the charge.

"People are trying to politicise the crime. We have already taken action in the matter," Abhijat told IANS.

Ali and Congress leader Rita Bahuguna-Joshi led the protest rally that turned violent when a major thoroughfare was blocked and some activists hurled stones at the Kareli police station on the outskirts of Allahabad, about 200 km from Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow.

Bangalore tense after communal clashes

Bangalore, Jan 22 (IANS)


A day after police firing sparked by communal clashes left one person dead and several injured, tension simmered in Bangalore Monday. But authorities said they were confident peace would return soon.

A 12-year-old boy was killed and at least 22 people were injured when the police opened fire to chase away mobs that attacked them and also vandalised private and public property in the residential-cum-commercial areas of the city's eastern districts.

Curfew was clamped in many parts of east Bangalore including Bharati Nagar, Frazer town and Commercial Street.

"There is a lot of fear among people and no one wants to risk their life as there has been a lot of violence in the city since Friday," said Sangmesh, a steward at the Eden Park restaurant.

The violent clashes started Friday after people protested violently against the hanging of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in communally sensitive areas with a large Muslim population.

On Sunday, several shops and buses were also set ablaze in the clashes. A Virat Hindu Samavesha (Big Hindu Function), organised by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in association with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, was being held in one of the violence-hit areas.

"I have not seen such violence in the last six-seven years and I have asked my kids to not to venture out of home till Wednesday. Who knows what is going to happen this afternoon," Sangmesh told IANS. He added that there was at least a 40 percent drop in their business Sunday.

Said Abdul, a newspaper vendor on Infantry Road: "This kind of violence has never been witnessed in the last 10 years. Some violence and a curfew was seen here when Kannada actor Raj Kumar was kidnapped by forest brigand Veerappan a few years back.

"Though there is a lot of fear I have to earn money and livelihood. As soon as the curfew was lifted in the morning I came to sell papers again despite all the violence ...life goes on," Abdul added.

Anil, a manager of Hotel Gold Star at Queens Road, said he had asked the waiters and office boys not to venture near towards Bharati Nagar, Shivaji Nagar and Russel market. "These are the most sensitive and violence prone areas. We are learning to cope with the violence with a lot of apprehension among our guests, people and all our staff," he said.

At least 1,000 policemen have been deployed in these violence-prone areas and two platoons of the Rapid Action Force, along with the police, will conduct a flag march in the city to instil confidence in the people. All schools in the violence-hit areas will remain shut till Tuesday.

Said Bangalore Police Commissioner N. Achuta Rao: "The situation is under control and we are trying our best to bring peace to the city after three days of violence. There was a lot of violence Sunday as mobs torched buses, stabbed each other, pelted stones at vehicles despite all our efforts. They forced us to open fire and one person was killed."

Probe: Belfast police covered up Protestant killings

Monday, January 22, 2007 · Last updated 3:30 a.m. PT



BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- Police intelligence officers covered up at least 10 killings and other crimes committed by Protestant outlaws who were on the payroll as informants, an investigation found Monday.

Following a 3-year probe, Catholic Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan concluded that former officers in the Special Branch paid informants in the outlawed Ulster Volunteer Force who were permitted to pursue killings , bombings, drug dealing and extortion.

Her report called for police to reopen dozens of cases from the 1990s and investigate ex-officers involved in cover-ups of their informants' crimes.

The commander of the predominantly Protestant police force, Chief Constable Hugh Orde, said he accepted O'Loan's conclusions and recommendations in full. In the report, both he and O'Loan noted that the police force's intelligence-gathering arm had been overhauled since 2003.

Britain's secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain, said the report illuminated "a very dark corner of behavior by a limited number of Special Branch officers in the 1990s." He said both UVF veterans and former police officers should stand trial.

O'Loan, a Catholic who has the power to investigate complaints against Northern Ireland's police, started her investigation with the 1997 killing by that UVF unit of a 22-year-old Protestant man, Raymond McCord Jr., who had been a member of the paramilitary group.
The victim's father, Raymond McCord, said he had evidence that the UVF unit's commander at the time, Mark Haddock, was protected by police because he was on the Special Branch payroll providing tip-offs on UVF activities.

McCord said he turned to O'Loan after senior police officers dismissed him as "some sort of crank."

The published report did not identify by name any of the retired Special Branch officers involved in collusion. A secret version of the report that includes these names was delivered Friday to Orde, Hain and a handful of other British officials.

One of the former detectives questioned by O'Loan's investigators, Johnston Brown, said many rank-and-file detectives were prevented from doing their jobs by a Special Branch elite that hoarded information.

Brown, who was a detective in the police's Criminal Investigations Division, said Special Branch colleagues repeatedly stymied his efforts to solve crimes involving members of the UVF and another outlawed Protestant group, the Ulster Defense Association.

In a statement, a group of former Special Branch officers rejected the reported findings.

The ex-officers said they "always acted in the best pursuit of justice and had nothing to be ashamed of."

US Missile shield threatens Russia

Last Updated: Monday, 22 January 2007, 11:22 GMT
Russia has criticised a decision by the US to expand its embryonic missile defence shield to the Czech Republic and Poland.
A senior Russian military commander said the plan was "an obvious threat". On Sunday the US asked for permission to build a missile defence base on Czech territory - a move backed by Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek. Washington says it needs interceptor missiles in Europe to stop attacks by states like Iran or North Korea.

It hopes to build a radar station in the Czech Republic and to site interceptors in Poland. But Moscow insists that the installation of US missiles in countries close to its western border would change the strategic balance in Europe.

Lt Gen Vladimir Popovkin, commander of Russia's space forces, said Moscow would interpret the move as a military threat.

"Our analysis shows that the deployment of a radar station in the Czech Republic and a counter-missile position in Poland are an obvious threat to us.

"It is very doubtful that elements of the national US missile defence system in eastern Europe were aimed at Iranian missiles, as has been stated," he said.

Gen. Vladimir Popovkin - "US Missile system in Eastern Europe is CLEAR THREAT to RUSSIA"
MOSCOW -- A U.S. proposal to install part of its missile system in former Warsaw Pact nations would be a "clear threat" to Russia, a leading Russian general said Monday.

Col. Gen. Vladimir Popovkin, chief of the Space Forces branch of the military, which is responsible for missile detection, spoke two days after the Czech prime minister said the United States had asked to position a radar base in his country that would be part of the global missile defense system.

"Our analysis shows that that the placement of a radar station in the Czech Republic and an anti-missile position in Poland would create a clear threat for Russia," the RIA-Novosti and Interfax news agencies quoted him as saying.

Kingdom to Study NATO Proposal

Raid Qusti, Arab News
RIYADH, 22 January 2007 — Saudi Arabia yesterday said it would study a NATO proposal to join four other GCC countries in the NATO's Istanbul Summit Communiqué, but said that there must be a complete understanding of its regional goals and agendas.

"The Kingdom will study the proposal submitted by NATO to join the Istanbul Summit," said Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal yesterday. The symposium, "NATO and the GCC: Cooperation Within the Framework of the Istanbul Summit," was opened by Prince Saud.

Others attending included NATO's Deputy Secretary-General Alessandro Minuto Rizo, GCC Secretary-General Abdul Rahman Al-Attiyah, various European ambassadors and other officials.

NATO earlier submitted a proposal that the Kingdom sign the Istanbul Summit communiqué in the areas of exchanging information, experience and technical cooperation to combat terror in addition to border security. Other GCC states which signed the communiqué in 2004 are Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrain.

The NATO deputy secretary-general said that it would be in the Kingdom's interest to sign the communiqué, adding that it had many "benefits". He also said NATO wants the cooperation of GCC countries. He said that in order for countries to confront global challenges, "we must overcome barriers such as religious, cultural, and geographical borders."

Prince Saud explained the grounds on which the Kingdom bases its foreign policy: its national unity, its responsibility to serve Arab and Islamic causes and its adherence to international resolutions in the face of global problems.

He also said among the Kingdom's foreign policy agendas was putting its national interests first. "We will not allow our national unity to be bargained for, neither will we take it for granted," he stressed. He said that establishing peace in the Middle East — Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia — was a "major part of solving global security."

He also said that providing regional security would guarantee the smooth flow of global energy and the maintenance of a stable global economy.

The foreign minister said that radical ideology existed and fed and grew out of desperation. "It grows from desperation as a result of the global community's failure to resolve disputes based on international treaties," he said. The Kingdom, he noted, was a major player in combating radicalism and terrorism "by promoting the virtues of peace, balance, and mutual respect between cultures."

He said that winning the battle against terrorism required "having citizens side with the efforts of governments" and that this required political, ideological, and media collaboration on all sides.

He cited the example of how Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah had called an emergency meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to tackle the issues of radicalism and terrorism, saying that all countries voiced their resolve to combat the global threat.

He also said King Abdullah had called for the establishment of an international conference under the UN which would exchange intelligence and information in order to combat terror in all its forms.