Thursday, September 30, 2004

Japan withholds food aid

Japan to withhold shipment of food aid to North Korea:

The government may delay its next shipment of food aid pledged to North Korea in the wake of a stalemate in bilateral talks over the abduction issue, government officials said Wednesday.

The government may not deliver the 125,000 tons of food aid in the latter part of fiscal 2004 if Pyongyang fails in the next round of talks to produce concrete findings from its reinvestigation into the fate of 10 Japanese whom Tokyo believes were abducted to North Korea, the officials said.

The move comes after Japan and North Korea ended two days of working-level talks Sunday without a breakthrough. During the talks, the North failed to provide new information on the current status of the 10 Japanese.

Japan called the results inadequate and proposed that the next talks be held in October or at the latest by mid-November. The North Korean side promised to consider the proposed schedule.

The food aid is part of 250,000 tons of aid promised by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during their May 22 summit in Pyongyang.

Of that amount, Japan decided in August to provide 125,000 tons of food and $7 million worth of medical supplies through international agencies beginning in October.

The second batch of food aid was scheduled to be sent in the latter part of fiscal 2004.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, in a morning news conference, downplayed the issue, saying: "The delay has not been decided yet. The priority (now) is to undertake various negotiations." But several government sources said it is possible to halt the food aid to North Korea depending on Pyongyang's stance.


Straw to Israel: lose already!

Jack Straw has called on Israel to stop "targeted killings", a strategy that has played a large role in Israel winning the "intifada."

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called on the Israeli government Thursday to stop targeted killings of Palestinian militants, and insisted the Palestinian Authority must rein in terrorist groups.


In a speech to the governing Labour Party's annual conference, Straw said there was no "greater challenge to international order than the terrible conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.

He praised Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from Gaza and to dismantle Israeli settlements there.

He said it was a "courageous and important step" toward implementing the U.S.-backed road map for peace in the region, which envisages separate Israeli and Palestinian states.

But he criticized both sides in the conflict.

"The Palestinian Authority must get serious to rein in the terrorist groups who continue to cause such carnage and misery to innocent Israeli families," Straw said.


"As far as Israel, the targeted killings have to end, the settlement building in the West Bank has to stop and so must the routing of the security barrier into Palestinian land," he added.

Syria to tighten border

Syria to clamp down on the Iraq/Syria border:

Syria has agreed to do more to tighten security along the border with Iraq to keep militants from entering the country, a U.S. Embassy official said Thursday.

The decision followed three days of talks between Syrian, U.S. and Iraqi officials on border security. Washington claims foreign fighters have been freely crossing toe 370-mile border to take part in the ongoing insurgency there.

U.S.-Syrian relations have soured in recent months over Washington's claims that Damascus has been doing too little to secure the border to block militants from crossing into Iraq.

Syrian officials have not yet commented on the latest talks in Damascus, which ended Wednesday, but the government has previously said that despite posting hundreds of extra troops along its frontier with Iraq, it is impossible to completely seal off the porous border.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the talks were "constructive and positive," adding that Syrian officials agreed to take "specific actions in coordination with Iraqi and multinational forces."

Cole bombers

USS Cole bombers sentenced:

A Yemeni judge sentenced two men to death by firing squad and four others to prison terms ranging from five to 10 years yesterday, the first convictions and sentences for the 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole, an attack blamed on Osama bin Laden's terror network.

Saudi-born Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is in U.S. custody at an undisclosed location, and Jamal al-Badawi, a 35-year-old Yemeni, were sentenced to death for plotting, preparing and involvement in the bombing, which killed 17 U.S. sailors as their Virginia-based destroyer refueled in the southern Yemeni port of Aden.

Libya wants one too!

Libya's getting in on the permanent UN Security Council seat sweepstakes, of which no one is likely to win:

Libya asked for a permanent U.N. Security Council seat in appreciation for its peace efforts and bid to reduce threats of weapons of mass destruction.

Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel Rahman Shlaqam told the U.N. General Assembly in New York Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi wishes next year's 60th session to be held in Geneva to enable all leaders of the world to attend, including himself.

In a speech carried Thursday by the official Libyan News Agency, JANA, Shalqam said: "Libya deserves to have a permanent seat in the Security Council due to its great peace efforts within the African Union, its world vision of a balance between capitalism and socialism for settling international economic, social and political problems, and its voluntary bid to get rid of weapons of mass destruction."

Shalqam recalled Gadhafi's proposal to set up a "committee of wise men," including former U.S. president Bill Clinton, ex-Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev and former South Africa President Nelson Mandela.


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

China oil pipeline

China has begun a cross-border oil pipeline, linking China with Kazakhstan:

Construction of China's first major land-based cross-border pipeline began Tuesday, linking the nation with Kazakhstan.

The two countries started building a 1,000-kilometer section from Atasu in Kazakhstan, to the border town of Alashankou in China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Tuesday, China News Service reported.

The US$700 million Atasu-Alashankou section, the most important section of the Sino-Kazakh pipeline, will be able to deliver 10 million tons of crude oil a year to China when it is completed in 2005.

The whole Sino-Kazakh pipeline, to be completed in 2011, will cost about US$3 billion. It will reach westwards joining the existing 450-kilometer Atyrau-Kenkiyak pipeline in the central Asian republic. Eastward, it will connect with China's West-to-East oil pipeline.


701 million

701 million dollars has been granted to Pakistan by the US House of Representatives:

The U.S. House of Representatives has adopted $701 million assistance package for Pakistan, which is the first instalment of $3 billion five year U.S. assistance package announced in June 2003.

Out of $701 million, $300 million is for economic assistance, $300 for foreign military financing; while out of remaining $101 million, $40 million is for narcotics control, $29 million for child survival and health, $29 million for development assistance, and $6 million for anti?terrorism. "It is the highest level of assistance which Pakistan will receive," Deputy Chief of the Mission, Mohammad Sadiq told APP, which is symbolic of the close and cordial bilateral ties between Pakistan and the United States.


Nick Witney

The head of the EU's arms agency says that Europe's militaries are "not adapted to the modern world."

European armies have not adapted to modern warfare and need better technology, the head of the EU's arms agency has warned.

In an interview with French daily Le Figaro, Nick Witney, head of the European Defence Agency agency created in June this year to strengthen the EU's military capabilities, said, "European armies are not adapted to the modern world, to its conflicts, to its new threats. On the whole, they are still in the cold war period".

Rather than focusing on tanks, European armies need more high-tech equipment, such as effective communication tools and analytical equipment, urged Mr Witney.

Closing the gap with the US in terms of arms technology is not about spending more, but spending more efficiently, he said.

"New mechanisms"

Iran is trying to rally Europe against the US:

The Iranian government is urging European officials to establish "new mechanisms" for verifying that Tehran is not developing nuclear weapons, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said in an interview Tuesday.

He said the goal of any agreement with key European countries was to prevent the Bush administration from taking the issue to the United Nations Security Council — a move that could lead to punitive measures, including sanctions or, conceivably, military action against Iran.

Kharrazi made it clear that he hoped to enlist the Europeans to "help the process to be continued inside" the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. body responsible for monitoring compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Iran hopes the IAEA will eventually decide that it is in full compliance with the treaty and end concerns that the country is seeking to divert enriched uranium to build a nuclear weapon.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Fuchs

Germany is sending 20 "armoured vehicles" to the Iraqi Army:

Germany will provide around 20 armoured vehicles to the Iraqi army as part of its NATO commitments to help reconstruction in the conflict-torn country, a government spokesman said Tuesday.

The Fuchs vehicles, which are mainly for troop transport but can be outfitted for other purposes, will be provided without weaponry, spokesman Bela Anda said in a statement.

The online version of the news magazine Der Spiegel said earlier that a first batch of the vehicles would be sent to the United Arab Emirates so that Iraqi troops can train there on their use and maintenance.


India/Israel joint exercises?

India has no plans to have joint military exercises with Israel:

India has no plans to conduct military exercises with Israel even as it works to strengthen military-to-military contacts with that country, official sources said.

"There are no plans at all to conduct joint exercises with the Israeli defence forces," said a highly placed source familiar with the thinking in the highest levels of the External Affairs Ministry.

"We will, however, maintain high level military-to-military contacts with Israel that are mutually beneficial," the source told IANS.


"a deterrent against a possible nuclear strike"

North Korea claims it has built new nuclear bombs as "a deterrent against a possible nuclear strike by the United States."

Someone tell the North Koreans that if the US were to strike North Korea with a nuclear attack there would be no more North Koreans and no more North Korean bombs, of any sort.

North Korea has turned plutonium from 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods into weapons to serve as a deterrent against a possible nuclear strike by the United States, a North Korean official said Monday.

Without specifying what kinds or the number of weapons the nation has, Vice Foreign Minister Choe Su Hon said North Korea had been left with "no other option but to possess a nuclear deterrent" because of U.S. policies that he said were designed to eliminate his country.

North Korea previously said this year that it had reprocessed the spent nuclear fuel rods and was increasing its "nuclear deterrent" but had not provided any details.

At a news conference with a small number of reporters, Choe was asked what was included in the nuclear deterrent.

"We have already made clear that we have already reprocessed 8,000 wasted fuel rods and transformed them into arms," he said.

When asked if the fuel had been turned into actual weapons, not just weapons-grade material, Choe said: "We declared that we weaponized this."

South Korea, of course, says this is all North Korean propaganda:

South Korean officials on Tuesday dismissed as propaganda a top North Korean official's claims that Pyongyang had made nuclear weapons from spent plutonium fuel rods, news reports said.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Su-Hon told a small group of journalists in New York Monday that 8,000 spent nuclear fuel rods had been turned into weapons, according to footage aired on YTN cable news television.

"The chances are high for his remarks to be part of a highly-calculated propaganda offensive," an unnamed South Korean government official was quoted by YTN as saying. "But we are trying to verify what he really meant."


Jemaah Islamiah

"Ticking timebombs" being sought in Indonesia:

Police say they are hunting for as many as six Indonesian militants poised to become suicide bombers — a calling once alien to this predominantly Muslim country but one that now poses an increasingly common threat.

The Jemaah Islamiah network, which police say is responsible for three terrorist attacks on Western targets in less than two years, continues to expand and attract new members in Indonesia despite a police crackdown and the arrest of many of its leaders, police and terrorism experts say.

New leaders are being trained to replace those who have been captured, and the group — which can operate legally in Indonesia to raise funds and provide religious education — presents a constant danger, they say.

The ability of Jemaah Islamiah militants to evade police was apparently demonstrated with this month's truck bombing of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. The blast outside the embassy gate, attributed to the group, killed at least 10 people, including at least one suicide bomber. Experts are analyzing unidentified body parts in an attempt to determine how many attackers were involved.

The bomb, placed in a small truck, was so powerful that the largest piece of the vehicle recovered was a hubcap. A human torso was thrown across eight lanes of traffic into a construction site, and additional remains were found a week later on the fifth floor of a heavily damaged office building next to the embassy.

Plutonium deal in Kyrgyzstan

Black market plutonium deal has been thwarted:

Authorities in Kyrgyzstan say they have arrested two men who were trying to sell a large quantity of plutonium on the black market.

The men were detained last week near the capital, Bishkek, but the news was not immediately released.

There has been growing concern that radioactive materials from former Soviet military or research sites could fall into the hands of extremists.

Plutonium is very toxic and can be used in atomic weapons or as reactor fuel.

The highly radioactive material could be used to make a dirty bomb - a non-nuclear explosive which scatters radioactive material packed inside it.

Monday, September 27, 2004

"suffer more serious consequences"

Iran threatens the world by stating that, with regarding to refering Iran's nuclear issues to the UN Security Council, it is "the Europeans and the international community which will suffer more serious consequences if the issue is sent to the Security Council." One can't help wonder what those consequences might be....

Iran announced on Sunday that threatening or pressuring Tehran about its peaceful nuclear program will not work at all, saying dialogue is the only way to settle the problems.

“Threats and pressure are the most inefficient instruments for dealing with Iran and dialogue is the only way to allay the two sides’ concerns,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi told a news briefing.

“Countries should avoid using the language of threats because it is the worst approach in international relations,” Asefi said in response to some European officials who have threatened to make efforts to forward Iran’s nuclear dossier to the United Nations Security Council if it does not suspend all uranium enrichment-related activities.

Asefi said Iran does not want its nuclear dossier sent to the Security Council, adding that the Europeans and the international community will pay a greater cost if the case is sent to the council.

“Of course we do not want the issue to be referred to the Security Council, but it is the Europeans and the international community which will suffer more serious consequences if the issue is sent to the Security Council,” the spokesman commented.


Germany and the UNSC

Germany and Italy are fighting over Germany's bid for a permanent seat on the UNSC.

Germany and Italy locked horns yesterday after the government of Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, opposed Berlin's bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Italy's foreign minister, Franco Frattini, accused Germany, supposedly one of the country's closest allies, of trying to divide Europe with its request for a seat by putting its national interests first.

"I will not accept competition based around national interests. That risks dividing Europe," he told the Italian newspapers Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica.


Syrian Army: lo(o)se cannon

The Syrian Army, withdrawing from a section of Lebanon, somehow "lost" a "cannon" and had to ask the public to help search for it:

A Syrian army convoy heading home from Lebanon as part of a partial pullback crossed the borders early Monday only to find that a cannon had gone missing along the way, Lebanese police sources said.

A convoy of 12 military transport vehicles reached the main Masnaa border post, 70 kilometres (42 miles) east of the capital, they said.

But upon crossing the borders, the troops noticed that the cannon which had been towed by the last vehicle in the convoy had disappeared, they said.

After asking passers-by and carrying out searches, Syrian troops recovered the cannon on the side of a main road in the city of Shtaura, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of the borders.


Maulvi Abdul Ghaffar

A former Gitmo inmate has been killed in Afghanistan:

A former inmate at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who returned to Afghanistan and rejoined the Taliban as a commander was killed in a raid by Afghan security forces, officials said.

Maulvi Abdul Ghaffar died in a gun battle Saturday in Oruzgan province, Gov. Jan Mohammed Khan said. Khan said Ghaffar had been a Taliban commander in northern Afghanistan and was arrested two months after the U.S.-led coalition ousted the regime in late 2001. He was held for eight months in Cuba before being returned to Afghanistan, where he led Taliban fighters in Oruzgan.

U.S. military officials could not immediately confirm Ghaffar had been in U.S. custody.

Izz El-Deen Sheikh Khalil

A "Israeli security source" tells the BBC that Israel killed Izz El-Deen Sheikh Khalil in Damascus:

An Israeli security source has told the BBC Israel was involved in the killing of a Hamas activist in Syria on Sunday.

Officially Israel has neither confirmed nor denied being behind the attack on Izz El-Deen Sheikh Khalil, whose car was destroyed by a bomb in Damascus.

Israel described him as a point man for the Palestinian Islamist movement's military actions in Gaza Strip.

Syria said Israel's attack showed its "intention to shake regional security and stability".

The Israelis had vowed to hit Hamas leaders "wherever they are" after suicide bomb attacks in August in Beersheba left 16 people dead.

Witnesses said they saw Mr Khalil get into his car and answer his mobile phone moments when the vehicle blew up. Three passers-by were injured.

Warning to Syria

Mr Khalil, 39, was a senior figure in Hamas' military wing and a member of the generation that set the group up.

He was based in Damascus along with other senior Hamas figures, including the overall leader, Khaled Meshaal.

He was among about 400 Palestinian militants deported by Israel to Lebanon in the early 1990s.

However, there are reports that Israel is denying responsibility:

Only weeks after Israel publicly threatened to take its war with the Islamic militant group Hamas onto Syrian soil, a Hamas official in Damascus was killed Sunday when a powerful explosion tore through his sport utility vehicle.

Israeli officials disavowed knowledge of the blast that killed 42-year-old Izzedine Sheik Khalil, who had lived in the Syrian capital for the last 13 years and was reportedly a member of the group's military wing.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government expressed satisfaction over the death, and some news reports here cited security sources as indicating that Israel was responsible.

If so, it would be Israel's first known assassination of a Hamas operative outside the West Bank and Gaza Strip, though it has on rare occasions struck at prominent Palestinian militant leaders on foreign soil.

Syria, in statements carried by its official news agency, blamed Israel for the attack and denounced it as a terrorist act. But Israeli commentators said the likelihood of any direct Syrian military response was extremely remote, because of the vastly superior strength of Israel's armed forces.

Khalil died instantly when his four-wheel-drive vehicle exploded just after he climbed in and started it, according to witnesses and news reports from the scene. Al Jazeera and other Arabic-language television channels showed footage of smoking wreckage at the blast site, in the Zahraa district of Damascus.

Israel had explicitly threatened the group's Syria-based leadership after Hamas took responsibility for near-simultaneous suicide bombings Aug. 31 aboard two buses in the Negev desert city of Beersheba. Sixteen passengers died along with the two Palestinian attackers.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Boutros-Ghali: blame America!

Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the former UN secretary general, blames the US for the recent spike in terrorism:

Former UN secretary general Boutros Boutros-Ghali held the U.S. administration accountable for rising wave of terrorism, saying Washington’s unilateral approach has fuelled civil wars across the world.

Boutros-Ghali also asked American President George W. Bush to order his forces out of Iraq and to allow Arab countries mediate a peaceful settlement to the crisis gripping the war-scarred country.

Currently holding the presidency of Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), Boutros-Ghali blamed the U.S. policies for the breakout of many conflicts everywhere in Africa, Latin America and Asia. “The U.S. adopts a unilateral approach in handling international conflicts, without taking into account viewpoints of other world countries that have different mechanisms to settle them.” He said the Middle East long-standing conflict makes a case in point. “Washington has turned down attempts by the European Union to mediate a settlement to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, at the same time it also supports Israel’s right-wing parties.” Boutros-Ghali believes such a U.S. unilateral approach causes to complicate the situation in the Middle East and “plays into the hands of terrorists to gain more ground in the Arab and Islamic countries.”


"Exorbitant demands"

Iran is still defiant toward the UN and vows to proceed with thier nuclear program no matter what:

Iran reiterated on Monday that it will not allow any foreign interference or giving in to exorbitant demands from great powers in its bid to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

President Mohammad Khatami vowed that Iran would resist "exorbitant demands" amid calls from the UN nuclear watchdog to suspend all enrichment-related activities.

"We will resist the exorbitant demands of the great powers," IRNA quoted Khatami as saying.

"What has happened in the past few days on the nuclear issue is a sign of the moral decadence of the world and the pre-eminence of force and hypocrisy in international relations," he said.

The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO), Gholamreza Aqazadeh who is currently in Vienna severely criticized the IAEA resolution, asserting that Tehran will not give up its right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

"Our great nation will not permit any interference and/or interruption in our purely peaceful and indigenous nuclear program and it will not give (it) up at any price," Reuters quoted Aqazadeh as telling the IAEA meeting.


Mugabe

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has stated, in his speech to the UN General Assembly, that "There is but one political god, George W. Bush, and Tony Blair is his prophet."

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe accused US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday of acting like God in riding roughshod over international law in Iraq and elsewhere.

"We are now being coerced to accept and believe that a new political-cum-religious doctrine has arisen, namely that 'There is but one political god, George W. Bush, and Tony Blair is his prophet'," the veteran African leader told the UN General Assembly.

"Iraq today has become a vast inferno created by blatant and completely illegal and defiant acts of aggression by the United States, Britain and their allies," he said.

In a defiant speech, Mugabe, who is subject to sanctions by the European Union and the United States for his human rights record, accused the West of manipulating international aid to punish governments such as his.

"Regrettably, we continue to see the unfortunate and futile tendency to use assistance in this area as reward for political compliance and malleability, making it unavailable to countries whose governments are deemed 'inconvenient'," he said.

Mugabe said Blair had "arrogantly and unashamedly" told the British parliament that his government was working with Zimbabwe's opposition to bring about regime change.

"Once again, the lawless nature of this man who along (with) his Washington master believes he is God-ordained to rule out world, has shown itself," he said.

Former colonial masters were in no position to teach lessons in democracy, he declared.

"Here in the United States, we remain aware of the plight of the black American of both yesterday and today, and of the semi-slave and half-citizen status that has been his burden," Mugabe added.


Raiders

Three Israeli soliders have been shot dead by three "raiders":

Three Israeli soldiers, including an officer, were shot dead by Palestinians who slipped unnoticed into their outpost at a settlement in the Gaza Strip yesterday.

The three raiders, wearing camouflage uniforms and armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and grenades, were killed during their retreat. They surprised the soldiers at Morag settlement at dawn in what was claimed as a joint operation by three Palestinian militant groups.


Helmut R.

German man arrested for "arranging the supply of nuclear arms equipment to a foreign state":

A German has been arrested on suspicion of arranging the supply of nuclear arms equipment to a foreign state, federal prosecutors said. They did not identify the state.

Prosecutors said the man, identified only as Helmut R., was detained in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg and released on bail. He is suspected of brokering a deal in January 2003 for the supply of equipment used for handling spent fuel rods and separating plutonium.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Journalistic integrity?

Reuters' journalistic integrity is being called in to question:

Reuters, one of the world’s leading information services used extensively by the international media has admitted it has a policy of never using the term terrorists or terrorism in its stories.

This came out when the CanWest Group, Canada’s largest newspaper chain decided to exercise its editorial prerogative when using material obtained from Reuters.

Last week the National Post, one of the group’s papers, changed a Reuters piece that read “…the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which has been involved in a four year revolt against Israeli occupation”, to “…the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a terrorist group waging a four year campaign of violence against Israel”.

Reuters took umbrage over the issue, and took the unusual step of officially demanding its byline be taken off the article, and that if the CanWest group intended to continue this practice, it should no longer use the Reuters byline at all.

In an interview to the New York Times, the agency’s Global Managing Editor David Schlesinger said. “ Any paper can change copy as it sees fit. But if they want to change our copy that way, we would prefer if they removed the Reuters byline”.

He explained that he was concerned such changes could cause “confusion”, which could possibly “endanger our reporters in volatile areas”. “My goal is to protect our reporters and our integrity”, he said. A few days later he made a similar statement while talking to CBC, saying there could be “serious consequences if certain people in the Middle East took offense to the fact that Reuters was defining them as terrorists”.

Scott Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of CanWest said that Reuters is violating the most basic concepts of journalistic integrity and ethics. “If you’re deliberately couching language are you telling the truth?” he asked rhetorically.


12 more months

The German government is to ask the German Parliment to extend the army's stay in Afghanistan by another year.

The German cabinet agreed on Wednesday to ask parliament to extend the army's peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan by a further 12 months despite criticism that it is ineffective.

Germany has around 2,000 soldiers in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, its largest military force abroad.


Powell on Iran

Colin Powell says that the US has no plans to attack Iran's nuclear plants, but that "every option" is, of course, avalible:

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Wednesday that there were no plans to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, despite the Pentagon's recent agreement to sell Israel 500 "bunker-buster" bombs capable of disabling underground weapons plants.

But speaking to reporters here, Powell pointedly added, "Every nation has all options available to it" to stop Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons.

Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. The Bush administration believes Tehran is secretly trying to build atomic weapons. Iran announced Tuesday that it would continue preparations to enrich uranium in defiance of the U.N. nuclear agency's demand Saturday to stop. Enriched uranium can be used to make fuel for nuclear power plants or weapons.

"We're talking about diplomacy and political efforts to stop this movement on the part of the Iranians toward a nuclear weapon, and we're not talking about strikes," Powell said. "Every option, though, of course remains on the table."

Brazil lets UN in

Brazil is to allow the UN to inspect its nuclear plants:

Brazil has ended a row with the International Atomic Energy Agency by allowing it to inspect a new uranium enrichment plant.

The UN body wanted to check that Brazil was not breaking international accords on the spread of a chemical, which can be used to make nuclear bombs.

Brazil had argued it needed to protect its nuclear technology.

The two sides agreed the IAEA would inspect pipes at the plant, without looking at the machines themselves.

US diplomats had said Brazil's refusal to allow inspections would send a bad signal at a time of concern about the nuclear programmes of Iran and North Korea.

The IAEA inspection of the Brazilian plant in the town of Resende will take place in October.

Brazil's constitution prevents the nation from owning nuclear
weapons. It decided to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions in 1990.

Moore patriotic as ever in Syracuse

Michael Moore recently visited Syracuse University and had this to say:

He added that Bush is the epitome of what all Americans want for themselves: to live their entire lives and not have to work.

"He's Ferris Bueller," Moore said. "Ferris was cool. Ferris got away with everything. The Democrats are like Ferris Bueller's sister, sitting in the police station with Charlie Sheen, with a scowl on their faces."

Ironic, considering Moore considers himself a member of the never-met-a-social-welfare-program-I-didn't-like party.

Moore had other things to say:

Moore also showed some never-before-seen footage from the "Fahrenheit 9/11" DVD to emphasize his message against the war in Iraq. Moore said he blames the media in part for not depicting the events in a realistic light, adding that not only can the Iraq war not be won, but that it should not be won.

"You don't deliver democracy through the barrel of a gun," he said. "It has to be organic."

Note that, even though Moore hopes the war will not be won, which would mean that many thousands of American military personnel would have to die, it would be wrong to question his patriotism.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

International tax

Jacques Chirac has called, during his recent speech at the UN, for a "international tax" to fight poverty:

French President Jacques Chirac has called for an international tax to help fight poverty.

Speaking at the United Nations in New York, Mr Chirac praised a report prepared by a French working group, which suggested an international tax be levied on arms sales and some financial transactions in a bid to eradicate poverty.

The report contains "technically realistic and economically rational solutions", said Mr Chirac, according to Reuters, who has joined forces with Brasilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to push the anti-poverty agenda.

If the "international tax" program is run as well as the "oil for food" program......

Of course, the US has objection to France's silly idea:

US Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said, "global taxes are inherently undemocratic. Implementation is impossible".

Asif Raees

Pakstani spies have been caught in India:

The interrogation of a Pakistani national arrested in the Indian capital on charges of spying has revealed that Pakistani intelligence agencies have trained dozens of people to gather information about India's military bases.

Asif Raees, a Pakistani national, and an Indian man named Naushad Ali were arrested on Monday in northeast Delhi after intelligence agencies gave Delhi Police's Special Cell information about their whereabouts. Ali is Raees' cousin.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) Ashok Chand said, "Raees belongs to Karachi and came to New Delhi a month ago after staying in Gangtok in Sikkim."

Among the items recovered from the duo were maps and coded messages about locations of India military establishments that were to be passed on to their mentors in Pakistan.

Abu Anas al-Shami

The US has killed one of Zarqawi's assosiates near Baghdad:

The suspected spiritual leader of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad group has been killed in a US air strike in Iraq, reports say.

Sheikh Abu Anas al-Shami was killed when a missile hit his car on Friday, according to relatives in Jordan.

The sheikh is believed to have written the group's fatwas or religious rulings and Mr Zarqawi's speeches.

Mr Zarqawi, the most wanted man in Iraq, heads the group thought to have killed two US hostages since Monday.

The US military had said it conducted a "successful precision strike" west of Baghdad on Friday, targeting a gathering of about 10 Zarqawi supporters.

Jordanian press reports quote the family saying that Mr Shami's car was hit by a missile as he was driving in an agricultural area in the Abu Ghraib region .

Relatives in the Jordanian capital Amman have been receiving condolences for the death since Tuesday, reports say.


Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Missile defense

The national missile defense shield will require that missiles be placed in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan:

A key component of national missile defense, whose development is receiving priority this year, is likely to strategically tie the United States to Iraq, Afghanistan and some of the authoritarian former Soviet republics, requiring permanent US military bases there, according to officials and scientists involved in the project.

The attractiveness of boost phase interceptors lies in their ability to shoot down ascending missiles, whose massive heat signature makes them easier targets, before they release their multiple warheads.

Some serious money is beginning to pour in. The development budget is projected to more than quadruple this October -- from the current 118 million dollars to 511 million, according to congressional officials.

The growth rate will be almost as impressive in subsequent years: from 1.1 billion dollars in 2006 to 2.2 billion in 2009. Flight testing, say defense officials, is slated for fiscal 2010.

But the rocket-like ascent of the program is prompting some on Capitol Hill to wonder whether efforts to counter the missile threat from Iran will push the United States into questionable strategic alliances -- and will add new rationale to the already controversial US military presence in the region.

"It's just that they are throwing huge amounts of money trying to get the technology up and running without thinking clearly about the system they are going to construct," complained Jack Reed, the ranking Democrat of the US Senate Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee.

"It raises issues of basing it in places like Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Iraq or the Caspian Sea," the Rhode Island senator told AFP. "And that introduces geopolitical considerations."

While key variables remain unknown, experts agree that if Iran, as expected, produces an intercontinental ballistic missile sometime within the next decade, the United States will not be able to counter it just from ships patrolling the Gulf.

"Discussions are underway with international partners on ways in which they may be able to cooperate," replied a defense official when asked whether the governments of Iraq, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan had already been approached.


Sir Ivor Roberts

The British ambassador to Rome calls President Bush the "best recruiting sergeant" bin Laden has.

The British ambassador to Rome, Sir Ivor Roberts, caused uproar in Italy yesterday after he accused President George W Bush of being the "best recruiting sergeant" for al-Qa'eda.

His private comments were leaked in the Italian press yesterday and caused consternation at the Foreign Office, which said they "did not reflect government policy".

But British officials said Sir Ivor would at most receive a verbal rebuke, as he was speaking "under Chatham House rules".

Chatham House, the Royal Institute for International Affairs, holds meetings under a privacy rule that allows comments to be reported as long as the identity of the speaker is protected.

But Corriere Della Sera in Milan one of Italy's most prestigious newspapers, broke the confidentiality of the Pontignano conference, an annual gathering outside Siena attended by ministers, officials, academics and journalists from Britain and Italy.

Participants said Sir Ivor vented his anger at US policy after the gathering heard that most Europeans would favour Mr Bush's Democratic challenger in the November presidential election, Senator John Kerry.

"Al-Qa'eda would vote for the re-election of President Bush. It regards President Bush as the best recruiting sergeant ever," participants quoted Sir Ivor as saying.

Sir Ivor said last night, through the Foreign Office: "The remarks as reported did not reflect my personal view."


Bunker Busters to Israel

The US is to sell 500 "bunker busters" bombs to Israel. Such bombs could be effective for use against Syria or Iran:

The United States plans to sell Israel $319 million worth of air-launched bombs, including 500 "bunker busters" able to penetrate Iran's underground nuclear facilities, Israeli security sources said on Tuesday.

The Haaretz newspaper quoted a Pentagon report as saying the planned procurement sought "to maintain Israel's qualitative advantage and advance U.S. strategic and tactical interests".

The U.S. embassy in Israel had no comment, referring queries to Washington. Israel's Defence Ministry also declined comment.

But a senior Israeli security source who confirmed the Haaretz story told Reuters: "This is not the sort of ordnance needed for the Palestinian front. Bunker busters could serve Israel against Iran, or possibly Syria."

Haaretz quoted Israeli government sources as saying the sale, including 4,500 other guided munitions, was not expected to go through until after the U.S. elections in November.

Earlier this month, Haaretz said Israel sought to obtain the U.S.-made, one-tonne "bunker buster" bombs for a possible future strike against arch-foe Iran's atomic development programme, which the Jewish state considers a strategic threat.

“This relationship has a long history. The United States has given Israel more advanced weapons than this,” a spokesman for Iran’s Defence Ministry said.

“This could be psychological warfare to test us,” he added.

Tehran denies hostile designs, saying its nuclear programme has peaceful purposes only. This week, it rejected international calls to comply with a U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency demand that it halt all uranium-enrichment activities.

Among the nuclear facilities that Iran has declared are uranium mines near the city of Yazd, and a uranium-enrichment plant in Natanz incorporating large underground buildings that could accommodate thousands of gas centrifuges.

Western diplomats accuse Iran of having several undeclared facilities close to Tehran thought to be related to uranium enrichment, a process the United States and some other countries believe Tehran will use to produce fissile material for weapons.

The exiled Iranian opposition group known as the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) says Iran is constructing numerous secret facilities under its Defence Ministry.


Iran presses ahead

Iran presses ahead with uranium enrichment:

Iran has begun converting raw uranium into gas which can be used in the process of making nuclear weapons.

Iran's atomic energy chief said 37 tons of uranium mineral were converted into fuel used in nuclear centrifuges.

The move defies calls by the UN's nuclear watchdog for Iran to suspend all enrichment-related activities.

Iran's president said his country will continue developing nuclear technology, even if it leads to international inspections being cut off.


Syria moving troops

Syria is to move some of its troops in Lebanon closer to the border region:

Syria's ambassador to Washington said yesterday his country's forces in Lebanon will begin a major redeployment toward their own border this morning.

The diplomat also said Syrian and U.S. troops will partake in joint security operations along the Syrian-Iraqi border, although State Department officials contradicted that claim.

"This is official," said Imad Mustapha, Syria's ambassador to Washington, speaking by telephone from the Syrian capital. "Tuesday morning there will be a major redeployment of Syrian forces in Lebanon toward the border."

However, the State Department denies any such joint patrols of the Iraq/Syria border:

A senior State Department official disputed the ambassador's statement last night.

"We are looking for Syria to take certain action to protect the border. That action has not been taken yet. We'll be working to improve Syria's performance," the official said. "At this point, that does not include joint actions with American troops."

Monday, September 20, 2004

Kazakhstan

South Korea is going to help Kazakhstan develop technology for "peaceful" nuclear energy:

South Korea and Kazakhstan agreed Tuesday to join hands in developing petroleum and uranium in this Central Asian country, offering the South inroads to energy exploration in the resource-abundant Caspian Sea region.

The two countries also signed an agreement on the peaceful use of atomic energy in which the South will provide nuclear-related technology to Kazakhstan to help the country develop uranium as nuclear energy to generate electricity and for medical purposes.

War games: Iran

War games show that a US strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would not "resolve" the issue:

US spy agencies have played out "war games" to consider possible pre-emptive strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, and concluded that strikes would not resolve Washington's standoff with Tehran, Newsweek magazine reported Sunday.

"The war games were unsuccessful at preventing the conflict from escalating," an unnamed Air Force source told the magazine in its latest issue.

The Central Intelligence and the Defense Intelligence Agency played out the possible results US strikes, the magazine reported.

"Special attention"

Pakistani journalists in the US have been given "special attention."

President Pervez Musharraf may be basking under the new found "friendship" with President Bush after both the countries agreed to fight terrorism together, but it seems America's Immigration and Naturalisation Service doesn't give a damn.

This was starkly evident when Pakistani journalists covering Musharraf's six-day visit to the US, were grilled by the US immigration for nearly two hours in New York.

According to the Daily Times, the immigration officials did'nt even spare two of them who had recently visited the country, one of them on a State Department-sponsored visit.

In the words of one journalist, they were given "special attention."

Pakistani support for suicide bombing...

60% of Pakistanis believe that suicide bombing attacks against "enemies of Islam" are justifiable.

60% of "older" Pakistanis believe that suicide attacks against Americans in Iraq are justifiable.

Six in 10 Pakistanis have come out in support of suicide attacks against "enemies" of Islam.

Going by a report prepared by the Washington-based PEW Research Centre, though most people in Muslim-dominated nations are divided over violence against civilian targets, 41 per cent of those interviewed in Pakistan said it was justifiable in the defence of Islam.

According to the Daily Times , which quoted the report extensively, 47 per cent of the Pakistanis said that Palestinian bombings against the Israelis was justifiable, while 36 per cent said it was not.

Six in 10 older Pakistanis said that the suicide attacks against American troops in Iraq was correct, compared with the 44 per cent of those who are younger saying it was not.

Iran says "no" to UNSC

Iran will not agree to the UN Security Council's request to stop enriching uranium:

Iran has defiantly rejected calls from the UN nuclear watchdog to suspend all its uranium enrichment activities.

Tehran also vowed to block snap inspections of its nuclear sites if the issue is sent to the Security Council.

"Iran will not accept any obligation regarding the suspension of uranium enrichment," chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rohani said.

Enriched uranium can be used to make nuclear weapons, but Iran insists its programme is for peaceful purposes.

"If they want to send Iran to the Security Council, it is not wise, and we will stop implementing the Additional Protocol," Mr Rohani told a news conference in Tehran after the decision by the International Atomic Energy Agency.


Friday, September 17, 2004

James Moore on Hardball

James Moore, author of "Bush's War for Reelection", was on Hardball with Chris Matthews Thursday night. During that show, he made the following comment:

I think it cuts against the president, Chris, and I‘ve felt that since I asked him a question about this in 1994. The problem is that he said—he is going around the country today taking an oath and a pledge to protect this country which is no different than the oath and pledge he took as a member of the National Guard. Why if he walked away from that commitment after four years in the National Guard should voters believe him now? I think it goes to the question of his moral authority...

Is James Moore saying that President Bush is not obeying his pledge to protect the USA? What do you call the effort in Afghanistan and Iraq? The break-up of AQ Khan's nuclear black market? Libya giving up it's WMD program? The Patriot Act?

For James Moore to make a comment like that, on national television, is beyond ridiculous. And to make it worse, Chris Matthews didn't even attempt to correct him or even ask him for a clarification of his statement. He just moved right on to the next question. What James Moore did was to accuse President Bush of the highest form of treason. Asserting that President Bush has walked "
away from that commitment" to protect the citizens of the USA is flat out nonsense, and Matthews treated it as if were noting worth dwelling upon. Even if one disagrees with the methods President Bush has chosen to protect the USA (the Patriot Act, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc), one cannot deny that these are *efforts*, and that he takes his pledge to defend the USA seriously.

NATO

NATO still has not agreed on the details regarding the training of Iraqi troops:

Several NATO countries have voiced reservations about a proposal to expand the alliance's training role in Iraq, blocking an expected final agreement, NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer warned.

"As it stands now not all 26 allies are complety happy," he said Friday, "but I'm very optimistic we can reach an agreement very soon on the remaining points."

NATO agreed to train Iraqi troops back in June.

Enriched uranium

Iran will decide in the next couple days whether or not to start producing enriched uranium again:

Iran is to decide within two or three days whether to resume enriching uranium, the key part of the nuclear fuel cycle, a senior Iranian official revealed.

"The decision makers of the country would come to a decision, I believe, within two, three days," Hossein Mousavian, head of Iran's delegation to a meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog in Vienna, told reporters Friday.

Mordechai Vanunu

Mordechai Vanunu will speak at a "film festival" in the UK, even though as part of his release from jail he is disallowed to talk to foreigners:

Whistleblower defies gagging order
(Filed: 17/09/2004)

Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli nuclear whistleblower, is to address a film festival in the UK in defiance of a ban on talking to foreigners.

Mr Vanunu spent 18 years in prison for espionage and treason, more than 11 of those in solitary confinement, before his release in April.

During his captivity he became an icon of the global anti-nuclear movement but he is regarded by some Israeli critics as a traitor.

Under the terms of his release, Mr Vanunu is not permitted to talk to foreign nationals and has to remain in Israel for a year.

He must notify police if he leaves the city of Jerusalem, where he has been staying, or if he spends the night in another home.

But, despite the restrictions, Mr Vanunu has been interviewed on BBC Radio Scotland and is expected to take part in a telephone question-and-answer session tomorrow.

The event takes place at the International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival at the UGC Cinema in Renfrew Street, Glasgow.

Mr Vanunu denied he was risking imprisonment by taking part in the event.

"All that I am saying is the secrets were published 18 years ago," he said.

The whistleblower gave The Sunday Times information and photographs from Israel's top secret Dimona nuclear reactor in 1986.

The newspaper published an extensive article which led experts to determine that Israel had a large arsenal of nuclear weapons.

He was subsequently abducted from Italy by Israeli agents and imprisoned for treason.



"A new lie"

More on the satelite pictures of Iran's nuclear complex:

A senior U.S. official said satellite photographs of a suspected nuclear site in Iran demonstrated Tehran's intention to develop atomic arms, an allegation Iran dismissed as "a new lie."

He also accused the International Atomic Energy Agency of suppressing information on Parchin, which the agency denied.

An expert said satellite images showed the Parchin military complex might be a site for research and testing and production of nuclear arms. Iran denies having a bomb program.

"Suspicious explosion"

South Korea isn't sure the "suspicious explosion" in North Korean was actually an explosion at all. Also, diplomats who were to be taken to the scene of the blast were possibly taken elsewhere:

A South Korean official said today that the government was unsure whether a group of diplomats had been taken to the actual site of a suspicious explosion in North Korea — or even if there had been an explosion.

Rhee Bong Jo, deputy unification minister, said a mushroom-shaped cloud seen by satellite — raising fears of a nuclear test — now seems as if it could have been weather-related. He also said the cloud was 60 miles from where a seismic wave from the purported blast site was detected last week. And the seismic wave originated near a volcano.

"We have not gained additional information that can support the conclusion that there was an explosion," Rhee said.

The diplomats who were offered a tour of the suspect site said Thursday that they were taken to a hydroelectric construction project.

North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun told a visiting British diplomat Monday that the explosion was part of work to remove a mountain to make way for a hydroelectric project. He agreed to allow foreign diplomats to see the site.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has said North Korea's explanation squared with Washington's view.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Iran nuke photos released

Photos of Iran's nuclear complex have been released:

A US think tank with ties to the diplomatic and intelligence communities released late Wednesday seven satellite photographs of an Iranian military complex suspected of involvement in illicit work on nuclear weapons, AFP reported.

The release comes as US diplomats are stepping up pressure on their European partners in trying to persuade the International Atomic Energy Agency to issue a tough ultimatum to Iran demanding an end to all activities related to enrichment of uranium.

US officials insist the enrichment work is used by Tehran as cover for a clandestine nuclear weapons program.

The pictures, presented by the Institute for Science and International Security, show what appears like an large industrial complex hidden in a natural warren of valleys and crevices created by a mountainous plateau in northern Iran.

A paved road snaking in between barren hills connects warehouse-like buildings and smaller installations.

But expert commentary accompanying the material suggests that the Parchin conventional weapons complex located about 30 kilometers ( 18miles) southeast of Tehran could also be used for nuclear weapons work.

"This site is a logical candidate for a nuclear weapons-related site, particularly one involved in researching and developing high explosive components for an implosion-type nuclear weapon," wrote weapons experts David Albright and Corey Hinderstein in their commentary to the images.

One of the most suspicious sights, according to the experts, is what they see as a high explosive testing bunker that could be used for development of nuclear weapons.

"The concern is that this bunker could be where Iran would test a full-scale mock-up of a nuclear explosive using natural or depleted uranium as a surrogate of a highly enriched uranium core," Albright and Hinderstein pointed out.


Michael Costello

Michael Costello says that Israel will have to bomb Iran's nuclear plants:

SOMETIME in the next year or two, Israel is going to have to make a decision. Will it accept that Iran has nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them against Israel? Or will it do what it did to Iraq's developing nuclear capability in 1981 and bomb it out of existence?

This sounds all rather apocalyptic. That is because it is - at least for Israel. Iran is developing a wide range of nuclear facilities and capabilities. It is doing so even though there can be few countries with less need for nuclear energy than oil-rich Iran.

But, surely, Iran is developing these nuclear facilities under the eagle eye of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the body charged with ensuring that such facilities are developed for peaceful purposes only and not diverted to military use. True enough. Furthermore, the IAEA is charged with referring any concerns it may have of any possible diversion to military use to the UN Security Council for action.

Now this sounds all fine and dandy. But there are a few problems. The IAEA supervised Iraq's nuclear facilities and developments and swore they were for peaceful purposes only. Unfortunately for Iraq, its invasion of Kuwait in 1990 led to its military trouncing and to the imposition of UN weapons inspections. These weapons inspectors found that the American and Israeli assertions that Iraq was indeed developing nuclear capability were not accurate - they were far too optimistic. The Americans and Israelis had in fact underestimated - that's right, underestimated - how far Iraq had progressed down the path to nuclear weapons.

Then there was Libya. When Libya in the past 18 months decided to give up its nuclear facilities, lo and behold, once again it turned out that Western intelligence agencies had severely underestimated how far Libya had progressed down the nuclear weapons path.

And, of course, there are the fine fellows who lead the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Their nuclear facilities were also subject to IAEA safeguards. Yet they, too, have diverted so-called peaceful uses of nuclear energy to military purposes, and have left the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the IAEA system.

Former IAEA director-general Hans Blix has been replaced by a genuinely competent and much more serious person, Mohamed ElBaradei. The new director-general has done everything he can to try to bring the Iranians to heel. The Europeans demanded a central role in helping out on this, but every time things come to a head the usual suspects, Russia and France - and this time, to its shame, Britain - have refused to take the necessary action to force Iran to comply with its obligations. Only in the past few days they have again failed to take strong action.

The Iranian leadership is widely hated by its own people. It is a fundamentalist Islamic dictatorship that made a farce of the recent so-called elections - a fundamentalist dictatorship that is another great gift to the world from that fine nation France, just as Iraq's original nuclear reactor was a gift from the generous-hearted people of France. While the Iranian dictatorship is no friend to Osama bin Laden, it does agree with him absolutely on one thing: Israel should cease to exist.

Furthermore, we cannot rely on this kind of dictatorship having the same sense of self-preservation as the US and the Soviet Union showed during the Cold War. Although there were moments when we stood on the brink of nuclear war, each side accepted the terrible logic of mutual assured destruction and stepped back. This is not true of Iran's leadership. Their beliefs embrace death and martyrdom. To rely on a nuclear-armed Iran to show restraint would be a triumph of hope against reason.

So, sometime soon, Israel will be faced with this choice. Does it allow an implacable enemy determined to obliterate it as a nation to develop the means by which it can achieve that end? Or does it rely on the international community to protect it, an international community that cannot even agree on action to protect the hundreds of thousands of people being subjected to genocide right now in Darfur? Or should it simply "go gentle into that good night"? No, I don't think so. I think it will "rage against the dying of the light".

If Israel does undertake military action to protect itself, action that will be far more difficult, extensive and dangerous than that which it took against Iraq, the world will throw up its hands in horror. Instead the world should hang its head in shame for its failure to insist that Iran meet the commitments it has made.

Whether it is Iraq, or Iran, or North Korea, or Rwanda, or Darfur, or any of the other many and manifest blights on human decency, the international community continues to fail the great promise of those who founded the UN with such high hope: hope that it would bring to the world peace at last. Not peace at any price - but peace with justice and right.


"We probably would have seen it"

Richard Boucher doubts reports that Syria has tested chemical weapons in the Sudan:

The United States expressed scepticism Wednesday over a report that Syria tested chemical weapons on civilians in Sudan's troubled western Darfur region, killing dozens of people.

"I think if that was true, we probably would have seen it," US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.

"Something like transfer and use of chemical weapons would have set off alarm bells if we'd known about it," he said.


"We'll look at it carefully"

The US is keeping a keen eye on Pervez Musharraf and his grip on the Pakastani military:

Washington, September 16: The United States has said it was aware of the announcement that Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf would stay on as head of the armed forces and as the country's president and would "look at it carefully."

"I don't have anything on that right now. We've seen the announcement. We'll look at it carefully," State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said on Wednesday.

Pakistan Information Minister Shiekh Rashid Ahmed had announced in Islamabad on Wednesday that Musharraf would not quit as the Army Chief in view of the "prevailing circumstances" in Pakistan and the Constitution allowed the President to retain both the posts.

Boucher said the US always supported movement and progress towards democracy in Pakistan.

"It's been our fundamental view. What we want to say about this specific step, I'll have to consider and we'll get back to you," he said.

When asked whether he thought that such a move would be a step in the right direction towards democracy, the State Department spokesman said : "I'll have to look at the step and consider it and get back to you."


"India's worst enemy"

The CIA is apparently trying convert Indians to Christianity...

Bhopal: Terming USA as "India's worst enemy," RSS Sar Sanghchalak K S Sudarshan alleged it was running two undercover operations - Joshua I and Joshua II - aimed at converting country's entire population into Christians. Sudarshan also cautioned RSS activists against the increase in Muslim population and said, "if the rate continues Hindus would be a minority community by 2060."

Addressing a gathering of RSS workers in Bhopal on Thursday, he said "America was India's worst foreign enemy as its funding missionary organisations for practicing conversion."

America's CIA has helped in carrying out the first operation - Joshua I- wherein surveys were conducted of every post office area in India and a database was created, he alleged.

"If the CIA requires any information, it has to approach Joshua I in-charge Billy Graham and get it by just clicking at a mouse," the RSS leader said.

"Under the Joshua II campaign launched in 2001, they are targeting at conversion of India's entire population by 2011 and spreading wide network of churches in the country," he alleged.

"Non-Government Organisations like Care and Vision accept funds from them and act as agents. Behind the much-publicised aim of service, these organisations are asked to practice conversion," Sudarshan alleged.

They are attacking the weakest link in Hindus - the SC and STs, he said adding those who stop such activities are defamed and branded terrorist organisations as done in case of the RSS.


Cool

Ok, how does everyone like the new look? This new Blogger interface is pretty nice, with the built in comments and all.

I'll have to regenerate my links section and all that, other wise I'm set to roll.

I think the form that this blog will now take is that I'll post links to interesting stories as I come across them. I probably won't make much comment on them, as you can do that yourself. I guess my main interest in is passing along interesting stories, not necessarily editorializing on them.

Drop me a comment, let me know what you think!

Update: Actually, I think I'll revert to the old format......posting links only is just so....boring.