Friday, October 29, 2004

Ali Ahmad Al-Baghli, columnist for Kuwait's Arab Times, says of George H. W. Bush:

"Had this man not been in power in 1990 Kuwait would surely have lost its freedom forever."

Al-Baghli goes on to say about George W. Bush:

"Coming to Bush, the son, we remember how nicely Clinton was treating Saddam although his mere presence was a problem for us, Kuwaitis. Saddam was a nightmare for us for all the 12 years he remained in power. Then the solution to this nightmare was delivered to us on a golden platter by George W. Bush, a true son of his father...If we just pause for a moment to think of who made it possible for us we will realise it was not the GCC, the Arab League or even the United Nations. It was one man, George W. Bush, the son."

THERE is no doubt the decision to choose the US President rests with Americans. But when we consider the fact that the US President is the President of the sole superpower in the world, then the elections to this position become the concern of the entire world. Everyone has his own opinion. Among all opinions on election of the next US President, we want to talk about Kuwait's point of view. However, I must hasten to add maybe this view won't represent all Kuwaitis. Speaking for ourselves we must say that we don't agree with those who talk ill about President Bush's bad decisions and mistakes because these people never had to deal with Saddam Hussein. Their hands were in water while ours were in the fire of Saddam Hussein.

To begin we must start with Bush, the father. Had this man not been in power in 1990 Kuwait would surely have lost its freedom forever. Our files would have been collecting dust in the drawers of the United Nations with some forgotten serial numbers. Kuwait would have met the same fate as the Palestinian issue. Saddam was hoping for this when he said he wouldn't quit Kuwait as long as Israel was in Palestine. Eventually Kuwait was liberated while Palestine is still struggling. The difference between us and the Palestinians is that God gave us a man like Bush, the father. Coming to Bush, the son, we remember how nicely Clinton was treating Saddam although his mere presence was a problem for us, Kuwaitis. Saddam was a nightmare for us for all the 12 years he remained in power. Then the solution to this nightmare was delivered to us on a golden platter by George W. Bush, a true son of his father.

We don't care what others say about Bush's reasons for attacking Saddam. People may say President Bush wants to control the oil resources of the Middle East or whatever. For us the most important thing is the result. We must admit we never dreamt of such a wonderful result. We are living a real dream. If we just pause for a moment to think of who made it possible for us we will realise it was not the GCC, the Arab League or even the United Nations. It was one man, George W. Bush, the son.


Mohamed Harkat

Terror suspect, and acquaintance of Abu Zabaydah, on trail in Canada:

There still remain two stories about the life of Mohamed Harkat.

One account is written by Canadian security agents, who describe the 36-year-old Algerian refugee as a supporter of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist organization, sent to Canada as a sleeper agent.

The other story, told this week to a federal court by Harkat himself, is of a hard-working refugee drawn to Ottawa by the freedom Canada promised.

A four-day court hearing that wrapped up yesterday, added little to these two versions of Harkat's history. Justice department lawyer James Mathieson spent less than 90 minutes yesterday cross-examining Harkat on the more than five hours of testimony he had given a day earlier.

There was no evidence given publicly by government lawyers to support the vague allegations contained in a 40-page brief written by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service when Harkat was arrested in December, 2002.

"I would have thought they had more things to deal with him on (during the cross-examination) to suggest he wasn't telling the truth," Paul Copeland, one of Harkat's lawyers, said outside the court.

On Wednesday, Harkat admitted he lied to CSIS agents when they interviewed him before his arrest, denying knowing a friend in Ottawa and using a nickname. He testified he was scared and believed agents had the wrong person. But government lawyers yesterday did not challenge his denial of having met Abu Zabaydah, an accused top-ranking Al Qaeda member, or knowing a now-deceased Canadian Al Qaeda member any more familiarly than having once shared a car ride with him.

Two federal ministers signed a national security certificate seeking Harkat's deportation, on the grounds he poses a risk to the country's security. If Justice Eleanor Dawson upholds that certificate as reasonable then he could be deported to Algeria, where Harkat says he will be tortured or killed.

India to US & UN: "No"

India will not send "its observers nor any officials to train the election staff" to Iraq:

India will send neither its observers nor any officials to train the election staff for conducting general elections in Iraq.

At a breakfast meeting on Iraq between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the left leaders, including Harkishan Singh Surjeet and A B Bardhan, the consensus emerged that India should not send either observers or trainers to Iraq.

“If they need our help, they can come here and benefit from our experience and expertise. We have no objection to this,” CPI General Secretary Bardhan told media persons after the 70-minute meeting.

Besides Surjeet and Bardhan, Security Advisor J N Dixit, Forward Bloc General Secretary Debarat Biswas and RSP leader Abani Roy also attended the meeting.

UN request

The United Nations and the United States have requested India to lend its specialists and experts in the sphere to ensure the smooth conduct of elections in January.

The UN and the US had also requested India to share its successful experiment of electronic voting machines for the elections with Iraq.

The Left leaders said Mr Dixit also briefed them about India’s relationship with Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel and apprised them of the talks held with the Military ruler of Myanmar General Than Shwe, who is currently on an official visit to India.

Bardhan said there is no question of sending Indian observers or trainers for Iraq elections. “We are happy that the UPA government and the left parties have the same thinking on the issue.”

Thursday, October 28, 2004

UNRWA+Hamas=More Canadian money

Canada will still give the UNRWA money even though it employs members of Hamas:

Canada will continue to fund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees after a week of allegations that the agency is employing members of Hamas, a group officially designated by Canada as a terrorist organization.

"UNRWA has a long-standing record of humanitarian aid for the Palestinian refugees, and Canada wants that role to continue," Canadian Foreign Affairs Department spokesperson Marie Christine Lilkoff told The Daily Star in a phone interview.

In a televised interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) two weeks ago, UNRWA Commissioner General Peter Hansen had said: "I am sure there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll, and I don't see that as a crime."

"Hamas as a political organization does not mean every member is a militant and we do not do political vetting and exclude people from one persuasion as against another," he said.


3 taken in Kabul

Three foreign election workers abducted in Kabul:

Armed men kidnapped three foreign election workers as they drove in a white sport utility vehicle in the Afghan capital on Thursday, the United Nations and Afghan officials said.

An election official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the victims were all women and were believed to include one Irish citizen and one Croatian.

U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva confirmed the abductions but declined to identify the victims or give their nationalities.

The motive for the attack was not clear, but Taliban rebels have in the past kidnapped Westerners, and the U.S. Embassy issued a warning earlier this month that abductions might be attempted surrounding the October 9 presidential vote.

Abdul Hadi Qasemi, an Afghan working for U.N. security, said the three were stopped and abducted by five gunmen. He said the driver of the U.N. car was also missing.

On Thursday afternoon, U.N. security staff ringed the white vehicle, found on a dusty street near an office of the joint U.N.-Afghan electoral body set up to oversee the presidential vote.

The car, clearly marked with the world body's initials, had its doors locked; there was no sign of any struggle.

The three were driven away in a dark-colored four-wheel drive vehicle in the direction of Paghman, a district in the west of Kabul province that is considered rife with banditry, said Abdul Jamil, head of the city police's criminal department, citing witness accounts.

Police said officers manning checkpoints around the city and in neighboring provinces were alerted to check the identity of any foreigners passing their posts.

Two NATO helicopter gunships were circling over the city. NATO armed vehicles were stationed on street corners in the city's Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood, where many aid workers and diplomats live.

Afghan security forces were stopping cars and questioning passengers.

Abu Bakar Bashir

Abu Bakar Bashir, leader of Jemaah Islamiah, is on trial:

Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir went on trial in Indonesia on charges of leading the Jemaah Islamiah terrorist group.

Scores of supporters of the 66-year-old Bashir were at the courthouse as the bespectacled, gray-haired preacher was brought by police officers wielding M-16 rifles.

Prosecutors have charged Bashir in connection with a bomb attack at the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta last year, which killed 12 people, and blasts at two Bali nightclubs in October 2002 that killed 202, most of them foreign tourists.

Algerian soldiers have heads cut off

Three Algerian soldiers have had their heads hacked off by "suspected Islamic militants."

Suspected Islamic militants decapitated three soldiers in Algeria in an upsurge of violence during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, reports said Wednesday. Security forces killed seven alleged militants in an ensuing operation.

La Tribune newspaper said 30 armed men intercepted the soldiers at a roadblock Monday some 90 miles east of the capital Algiers.

The soldiers, one of them a naval officer who was shot first, were beheaded. Two other people, including a police officer, also were killed.

Security forces later killed seven of the suspected assailants, L'Expression reported.

Three suspected militants from the extremist Salafist Group for Call and Combat killed another soldier in an attack Tuesday in the Boumerdes region about 30 miles east of Algiers, the daily El Watan reported. Another soldier was injured and a third escaped.

About 40 people have been killed since the start of Ramadan earlier this month in attacks by suspected militants and security forces' anti-terror operations.

No major acts of violence or assassinations occurred during the holy month last year, the first time that had happened since Algeria's Islamic insurgency erupted in 1992 after the army canceled national elections to thwart a likely victory by Muslim fundamentalists.


Abderrezak El Para caught

Abderrezak El Para, one of the most wanted terrorists in North Africa, has been caught:

One of North Africa's most wanted Islamic militant leaders, accused of the kidnapping of 32 European tourists last year, has been taken into custody in Algeria.

An Interior Ministry statement said: "Amar Saifi, known as 'Abderrezak El Para', was extradited on Wednesday October 27, 2004, by Libyan authorities and placed in the custody of the Algerian judicial police."

Saifi was captured by Chadian rebels in northern Chad in March after fleeing neighbouring countries.

The Interior Ministry says Saifi had been intercepted by Libyan authorities near the Chadian-Libyan border.

Saifi is wanted in Germany in the kidnapping of 32 European tourists in the Algerian Sahara desert last year, including several German nationals.

He is said to be a member of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which had pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda.


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

"Brisk activity"

Abnormal activity spotted at North Korean missile base:

The United States, South Korea and Japan have been closely monitoring a North Korean missile base where brisk activity has been spotted in the past several days, a newspaper reported here Wednesday.

The three countries have yet to confirm the movements at the base in Jeongju, 100 kilometers (some 60 miles) north of Pyongyang, are for test-firing missiles or for simple training, the largest-circulation South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo said, quoting an unnamed official.

"Since two or three days ago, there have been activities -- such as the relocation of mobile launchers in an apparent bid to test-fire Scud or Rodong missiles," the official said.

"We are following the movements to see if this is just part of a routine training or intended to launch a missile."


Enduring Freedom

The German government approves a 1 year extension for German troops serving in operation "Enduring Freedom."

The German government Wednesday approved the extension by one year of the deployment of some 500 soldiers in the US-led war on terror, sources said.

The decision, which affects German troops stationed in the Horn of Africa and the Mediterranean, is expected to receive parliamentary approval in mid-November.

Government officials said that Germany could not afford to waver in the fight against international terrorism, as demonstrated by the Madrid train bombings in March in which nearly 200 people were killed, the sources said.

The attacks were blamed on Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.

The mandate sets an upper limit of 3,100 soldiers but far fewer are actually deployed.

Germany currently has about 300 naval troops serving in the Horn of Africa as part of the US-led mission "Enduring Freedom" and some 200 soldiers in the Strait of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean. Both missions monitor sea traffic.


Defection?

The South Korean Defense Ministry claims that a South Korean has cut through 3 fences along the DMZ and defected to North Korea. But not everyone in South Korea believes this story:

Harsh disciplinary measures are expected to follow the Defense Ministry's conclusion Tuesday that an unidentified South Korean defected to North Korea by cutting through three fences in the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone.

Military observers said the ministry would likely soon form a disciplinary board to determine the level of punishment, which could affect key officers in the Fifth Army Division which failed in its duty of guarding the border.

At the same time, military officials and many civilians remained puzzled over the Defense Ministry's report on the unprecedented event.

The ministry said that because the footprints and the cuts through the fences indicated movement from South to North, and because of the clumsy way the fences had been cut, a joint investigation concluded that the three holes were made by a person defecting from the South to the North.

However the ministry has refused to release photos of the fences, which has contributed to the snowballing doubts about the official explanation.

"I sympathize with the media reports today, questioning the validity of a civilian defection," an Army officer said yesterday on the condition of anonymity.

He said the defense posture along the southern border area is relatively strong, though the Army cannot position soldiers along every bit of the 248-kilometer (154-mile) DMZ.

The border is protected by two-member patrols that guard against possible intrusion from guard posts located every 400 meters along the border fences. The teams change their positions about every 90 minutes.

The Army has also positioned thermal detectors in some areas to detect moving objects with thermal characteristics.

Some of the fences have rocks stuck into gaps, so that if the fence is bumped they will be dislodged and show possible intrusion. There are no electric fences, however.

Many said it would be nearly impossible for a civilian to sneak through the mountainous frontlines and across the mine-infested 4-kilometer-wide border area without being noticed by South Korean troops patrolling the border.

A military officer said if he were the defector, he would reach the North by visiting a North Korean Embassy in a third country instead of trying to cross the DMZ. "Did he have no money to travel to a third country?" he asked.

North Korea has yet to respond to the South Korean claim, which is seen here as strange, considering Pyongyang's past practice. The North used to use any defection to the North for propaganda to tout its socialism regime.

Brig. Gen. Hwang Jung-sun, a top operations officer at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Tuesday asked the public to trust the ministry report. He said defense officials see very little possibility of a North Koran intrusion.

The appeal, however, has failed to satisfy the public. The Defense Ministry's homepage has been bombarded with angry responses.

Netizens, especially former soldiers who performed mandatory military service in the border area, called for severe punishment for the security lapse.

"How can the ministry possibly defend against North Korean attacks when it failed to detect even a civilian defecting to the North through the border," said one man, who said he was discharged from his mandatory military service last year.

Another man indicated it was implausible that a civilian could have defected across the heavily-mined border. "Even scout teams take the same routes for fear of mines when they go on patrol in the DMZ. The military is writing a fiction," he said.


Karzai wins

Karzai wins:

Interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai emerged with a clear victory as vote counting was completed in Afghanistan's first presidential election.

David Avery, the election's chief technical officer, said about 100 suspect ballot boxes were being examined.

But there were not enough votes at issue to affect the result.

With 98.4% of the estimated 8.2 million ballots counted, the website of the U.N.-Afghan election commission said Karzai had 55.5%, 39 points ahead of former Education Minister Younis Qanooni.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Syria arrests some Kuwaitis

Syrian "security authorities" have arrested "some Kuwaitis" trying to enter Iraq to fight US troops.

Syrian security authorities recently arrested some Kuwaitis near the Syrian-Iraqi border while they were attempting to enter Iraq to fight a holy war against the US forces in Fallujah, reports Al-Rai Al-Aam daily quoting reliable sources. The same sources said the Syrian authorities had earlier reported the arrest of a 23-year-old Kuwaiti man, identified only as Ali M.H.M., who was deported to Kuwait three days ago aboard a Kuwait Airways flight after thorough investigations. Ali was arrested in June 2004, two weeks after his arrival in Syria, say sources.

The daily quoted unidentified security sources as saying the Syrian authorities have made arrangements to deport another Kuwaiti citizen, identified as Ahmad H.D., 29, who was arrested a week ago near the Iraqi border. It has been reported Ahmad was carrying an introductory message to some personalities in Fallujah. In the message Ahmad has been described as a sincere jihadist. However, the name of the sender has been kept secret for security reasons. The same sources said a Kuwait army officer in the rank of 1st lieutenant is in custody of the Syrian authorities.

The officer, identified only as Ahmad Q., was arrested last month upon his arrival via the UAE. Ahmad's name was often mentioned during interrogations by the so-called "jihadists" describing him as one of the key personalities who prepares youth for jihad in Iraq.

Abdullah Al-Omari, Saudi emabssy threatened

Saudi embassy in Pakistan threatened:

A top Saudi diplomat has received a parcel disguised as a gift from a former Pakistani premier that contained four grenades and a letter threatening to attack the Saudi Embassy if Saudis do not leave Pakistan, the Saudi ambassador said yesterday.

The deputy head of the Saudi political mission in Pakistan, Abdullah Al-Omari, received the package on Oct. 21 at his residence. He informed Pakistani security forces immediately, and they safely defused the explosives, Ambassador Ali Awadh Asseri said.

Security for Saudi diplomats both in Karachi and Islamabad has since been tightened.

Asseri said the parcel was wrapped in the shape of a gift and was made to appear like it was sent by former Pakistani Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.

Al-Omari will not leave Pakistan and Saudi diplomats working in Pakistan have not received any travel advisory. “They have been asked to be careful,” Asseri said.


US dollar in Cuba

No more US dollars in Cuba:

Cuba said Monday that it would end circulation of the U.S. dollar in its territory as of Nov. 8 in response to tightened U.S. economic sanctions.

Cubans, foreign residents and tourists will have to use locally printed pesos, equal in value to the dollar, the central bank said. A 10% fee will be charged for exchanging dollars.

The ban will, in effect, tax remittances from the United States — an estimated $1 billion a year — unless they are sent in other currencies.

Iran to agree to freeze?

Iran "might" agree to extend its freeze on uranium enrichment but warned that it could not be forced to permanently scrap its nuclear technology."

Iran's top security official suggested Monday that the country might agree to extend its freeze on uranium enrichment but warned that it could not be forced to permanently scrap its nuclear technology.

Britain, France and Germany have offered Iran a deal under which Tehran would indefinitely suspend its uranium enrichment in return for European Union help with civilian nuclear technology and a resumption of trade talks.

Enriched uranium can be used in atomic weapons and to fuel nuclear power plants.

The U.S. claims Iran is trying to covertly build nuclear weapons, but Tehran says its atomic program is strictly for generating energy.

Under the European plan, the freeze on enrichment activities must happen before Nov. 25, when the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, meets to discuss Iran's program. Otherwise, the EU will join the United States seeking to refer the issue to the U.N. Security Council.

Although Iranian officials have called the European proposal unbalanced, they also have said they want further negotiations.

In a sign Tehran may agree to the EU offer, Hassan Rowhani, secretary-general of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said an "indefinite" freeze did not mean the same thing as a "permanent" halt to enrichment.

"The Europeans say indefinite because Iran and Europe are supposed to hold negotiations for a long time," he told reporters after a meeting of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee.

"We have always said that if Iran agrees to suspend uranium enrichment … it will be voluntary because no country can force another to stop having peaceful and legal nuclear technology, not even for one hour," the official news agency IRNA quoted him as saying.

"God grant us victory over Israel. God grant us victory over America and its allies"

Just another Friday at the local Syrian mosque:

A central problem faced by President Bashar Assad, and to an extent by all Arab leaders, is that the anti-American fighting in Iraq enjoys wide public support. Taking steps against it could make unpopular governments even more suspect.

During the noon sermon in Abu Kamal on Friday, the prayer leader called on God to help Muslims defeat their enemies and return all usurped land. But at a much more ardent, private prayer sermon in Aleppo a week earlier, the venom aimed at Syria's foes was far more potent.

"God grant us victory over Israel. God grant us victory over America and its allies," bellowed one worshiper at a prayer service, before a religious sheik rose to deliver a sermon condemning Zionists and their American allies for killing children.

Sentiments like those are repeated in thousands of mosques across the region and help speed the flow of insurgents through Syria. In several major cities this week, the Syrian government even allowed rare street demonstrations in support of Palestinian and Iraqi resistance.

Rusman Gunawan

Hambali's brother has been sentenced to 4 years in prison for his role in a bombing attack.

The brother of an alleged South East Asian militant leader has been found guilty of helping to finance a bomb attack in Jakarta last year.

Rusman Gunawan, the brother of militant suspect Hambali, was given a four year jail term by a Jakarta court.

Judge Adullah Sidiq said Gunawan had sent US$30,000 to a militant group in Indonesia from his base in Pakistan.

He said some of the money was used to fund the 2003 J W Marriott hotel bombing in Jakarta.

Twelve people died in the attack, including a suicide bomber.

"The defendant has been found guilty of helping others to acts of terrorism, and therefore we sentence him to four years in jail," said Mr Sidiq.


Monday, October 25, 2004

Riots in Thailand

Riots in Thailand:

Dozens of people have been injured in clashes between Thai security forces and hundreds of protesters who tried to storm a police station in Thailand's troubled Muslim-majority south.

Thai officials used tear gas and water cannon to break up the protest that turned violent after 3,000 people spent all day camped outside a police station demanding the release of six officials.

Fourteen members of the security forces were injured in gunbattles and clashes and up to 30 demonstrators, according to Thai officials. More than 300 demonstrators were arrested.

The crowd were angered by the arrest of officials by police in the southern province of Narathiwat for allegedly falsely reporting the theft of a small number of guns.

Tensions are already running high in the area where a separatist insurgency across the south has claimed more than 325 lives this year.

"I decided to stop the demonstration by firing water and tear gas against them because I could not allow the violence to happen," senior military commander Lieutenant General Pisarn Wattanawongkiri said in a television interview.

Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra made an emergency trip to the area with two senior cabinet members.

"You cannot come and say they (the officials) are innocent and that the police have to release them, you have to wait until the investigation is over," he told reporters before his departure.

The military ordered a curfew in the three worst-hit southern provinces, Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani, from 10:00pm to 6:00am in the wake of the violence.

The insurgency in the Muslim-majority south of predominantly Buddhist Thailand has continued sporadically for decades and sparked into life again in January with a raid on an army depot.

Militants killed four soldiers and looted hundreds of weapons.

Since then attacks aimed mostly at officials and security forces have continued almost daily.

Because Iran wants Iraq to succeed

Iran wants the IMF to add 97.2 billion to Iraq's debt:

Iran has asked the International Monetary Fund to add $97.2 billion to its Iraqi debt assessment to cover reparations and reconstruction for the 1980-1998 war between the two states, Middle East Economic Survey (MEES) reports in its latest edition.

According to MEES, the Iranian claim covers the non-military cost of the war to Iran, and while it is not the first time Tehran has made such claims, it is the first time it has put its claims forward to an international organization.

It is unclear how the IMF, which concluded a debt sustainability analysis earlier this year, will deal with Tehran's request "since there is no UN resolution that takes into account the Iranian compensation claim," MEES said.


750 more

Egypt wants to move 750 additional border guards to the Israel-Egypt border.

Egypt has proposed the deployment of two border guard battalions along its border with Israel in the Sinai to prevent smuggling. The force's 750 soldiers are equipped with sidearms and armored vehicles but not anti-tank rockets or mortars.

The Egyptians are proposing a change in the military appendix to the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, expanding the number of troops permitted in Area C adjacent to the border, where at present only an Egyptian police contingent is stationed.

If Israel agrees, the force will be deployed beginning on January 1, 2005. Egypt made the proposal to Israel during the last meeting of the special security committee on the Egyptian side of Rafah on October 5.

Israel opposes any changes to the peace treaty. Instead, it has suggested an exchange of letters outlining the new security arrangements. The details of the agreement will be discussed during the meeting in Israel set for November 11 between Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and heads of the security establishment.

5 held in Taba bombing

Egypt has identified those responsible for the bombings in Taba and has arrested 5 "suspects who had lesser roles, including obtaining explosives and the cars used in the attacks."

A Palestinian angered by Israeli-Palestinian violence plotted and then died in the nearly simultaneous car bombings of a Sinai hotel and tourist camp that killed at least 34 people this month, the Egyptian government said Monday in announcing the arrests of five Egyptians.

Two other suspects remained at large, the Interior Ministry said.

The Taba Hilton was heavily damaged in the worst of the blasts. Two other car bombs exploded at bungalow campgrounds in nearby Ras Shitan, also in the Sinai Peninsula. The resorts were packed with Israeli tourists who had traveled to the Sinai during a Jewish holiday.

The government identified the mastermind of the attacks as Ayad Said Salah, a Palestinian who had lived in the Sinai and who died in the Oct. 7 explosion at the hotel along with a fellow plotter, Egyptian Suleiman Ahmed Saleh Flayfil. The pair, identified through DNA testing, were trying to leave the scene but their timed explosives detonated prematurely, the statement said.

Two other suspects were said to be at large: Mohamed Ahmed Saleh Flayfil, brother of Suleiman Flayfil, and Hammad Gaman Gomah. Mohamed Flayfil was accused of carrying out the attack on one of the campgrounds and Gomah was accused of carrying out the third bombing.

Police had arrested five suspects who had lesser roles, including obtaining explosives and the cars used in the attacks, the ministry said. The statement did not say when the five were arrested or provide other details of their capture.

More here.


Friday, October 22, 2004

Sudan being harassed

Sudan says that the UN is "harassing" them becasue they (the UN) can't settle the Palestine or Iraq issue.

Sudan charged Thursday that it was being harassed by the United Nations over the Darfur crisis because the world body was powerless to change the situation in Iraq or the Palestinian territories.

"The UN has lost its sense of direction in applying the international charter," said Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail, citing the Darfur issue to which he said the UN "pays a greater concern than it does to the situation in Iraq and Palestine."

Describing this policy as "unfair," Ismail said, "I defy the Security Council to convene a meeting in Gaza or Baghdad as it is intending to do for Darfur."


Mockery of democracy, independence, and freedom

Iran says that the US is "wearing out its welcome" in Afghanistan. Iran also says that the US has made a "mockery of democracy, independence, and freedom" in Afghanistan.

United States Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said on Friday that U.S. and NATO military forces will undoubtedly continue play an important role in Afghanistan in the near future.

It seems that it will take a decade until the Afghan police and military forces will be able to establish peace and stability in the country on their own, he added.

This statement by the Afghan-born U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan suggests that the U.S. has just made a mockery of democracy, independence, and freedom with the recent presidential election in Afghanistan it helped organize since U.S. officials do not intend to hand over full sovereignty to the Afghan nation.

It appears that the United States plans to use Afghanistan as a base to implement its expansionist policies in the region. Three years ago, the U.S. attacked Afghanistan on the pretext of bringing the country peace, stability, security, and democracy. However, the U.S. has not only failed in this endeavor but has further complicated the problems in Afghanistan through its military presence in the country and through its interference in the country’s internal affairs.

Continuing insecurity as well as poverty, high unemployment, and the increase in the rate of production and smuggling of opiates are just some of Afghanistan’s problems.

In addition, the great influence of some U.S. officials and especially the U.S. ambassador over Afghanistan’s internal affairs, including the ratification of the Afghan constitution and the recently staged presidential election, clearly indicate that the U.S. is trying to arrange the country’s affairs in line with its own policies and goals. Therefore, in view of the current scenario, one cannot expect the realization of democracy and development in this war-ravaged country in the foreseeable future.

In another troubling development, just like in Iraq, the United States has refrained from announcing an exact date for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghan territory. The statements of Khalilzad and some other U.S. officials have made it even more obvious that the United States does not plan to leave its military bases in the country. The U.S. actions in Afghanistan, particularly the establishment of military bases in various parts of the country, are further proof.

In light of all this, the Afghan nation expects their elected president to establish national police and military forces and to pave the way for the withdrawal of U.S. troops as soon as possible.


Adnan Gul

Hamas "explosives expert" killed:

An Israeli aircraft fired two missiles into a crowded Gaza City street Thursday night, killing a senior Hamas explosives expert who was blamed in the deaths of dozens of Israelis, according to both the military and the Palestinian militant group.

Adnan Gul, killed along with a Hamas colleague in the explosion, was the No. 2 man in the group's military wing Izzidin al-Qassam, Hamas said in a statement.

International pressure

Some eight "inmates" that have been released from Gitmo have returned to the battlefield. Says the Pentagon: "international pressure had undermined the U.S. effort to fight Islamic fundamentalism."

At least eight inmates released from detention at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have returned to the battlefield against U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan, prompting complaints inside the Pentagon that international pressure had undermined the U.S. effort to fight Islamic fundamentalism.

The most recent case is that of Abdullah Mehsud, a former Taliban commander released from the detention facility in March, who masterminded the recent kidnapping of two Chinese engineers in Pakistan. One of the engineers was killed during an Oct. 14 rescue attempt by the Pakistani military.

The Mehsud case and incidents involving at least seven other former detainees demonstrate that mounting international pressure to either file charges against the prisoners or release them has led to inevitable mistakes, officials say.

"I think it's time to question whether we are releasing too many of them," said a senior Defense Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The sheer number of people we are seeing on the battlefield is cause for concern."

Thursday, October 21, 2004

American lawn care

American lawn care and slow dancing caused Islamic fanaticism, or so claims a "documentary" airing on the BBC:

COULD 9/11 have its roots in one man's visit to a dance in Colorado in 1949? Could the current terrorist threat stem from the same man's belief that gardening was a selfish Western pastime? Could the invasion of Iraq have its origins in the cowboy TV series, Gunsmoke?

Intriguing ideas, and they were thrown up by a new documentary series, The Power of Nightmares. Its central thesis was that politicians exaggerated the terrorist threat in order to retain power, and its starting-point was the observation that, instead of delivering dreams, politicians now promise protection from nightmares. Thus far thus arguable.

More dubious seemed the claim that radical American neo-conservatives and militant Islamicists had similar roots. In 1949, we learned, a middle-aged Egyptian school inspector arrived in Colorado. Sayyid Qutb saw crassness, corruption and vulgarity everywhere. Americans' devotion to lawn-maintenance epitomised this: a selfish, shallow activity designed only for show.

But worse took place indoors. One summer night, Qutb attended a dance in a church hall. The pastor at the gramophone put on a song called Baby, It's Cold Outside, and shameless couples danced chest to chest, desire forming like fire in their minds. Qutb was appalled. The following year, he returned to Egypt, only to find American ways spreading in his own country. Determined to stem such selfish individualism, he set up the Moslem Brotherhood, which spawned the current generation of fanatics.

Gadhafi to Schroeder: Pay up!

German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder recently visited Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, hoping to come to an agreeement regarding German investment in Libya. Instead, Gadhafi told Schroeder that Germany must pay compensation for World War Two era landmines planted in Libya.

Poor Gerhard Schroeder. Just when he thought he was making progress pushing German business and political interests with the new all smiling, all friendly Libya, the hand of history brought him back down to earth with a jolt.

During his tete-a-tete with Moammar Gadhafi last week, the German chancellor was told in no uncertain terms to pay Erwin Rommel's debt, as the Libyan leader demanded compensation for thousands of land mines buried in Libyan soil during World War II which are still killing and maiming people today.

Schroeder can consider himself somewhat unfortunate. Many of the mines currently lying around the Libyan desert are British and there is no record of Gadhafi chastising Tony Blair on the subject during his visit to Tripoli earlier this year.

But the substantial business contracts that Schroeder's visit looks set to generate will no doubt herald the beginning of a happier relationship with Libya. The visit saw the signing of a $224 million deal for German industrial conglomerate Siemens to modernize Libya's electricity network, and German oil group Wintershall already has substantial drilling contracts in Libya which it expects to increase. So aside from the land mine issue and differences over Iraq, Schroeder's mission was a success. Germany has jumped to the head of the pack of Western countries that are now quite legitimately courting business links with the former rogue regime.


So they meet, again

France, Germany and the UK will meet with Iran in an effort to get Iran to give up its "nuclear enrichment plans." Iran would face "possible" UN sanctions if they don't agree:

France, Germany and the UK will meet Iranian officials on Thursday (21 October) in a bid to persuade Tehran to give up its nuclear enrichment plans or face possible UN sanctions. Senior officials from the three countries will meet Hassan Rohani, Secretary-General of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, in Vienna, it was confirmed today. Tehran agreed last year to suspend its uranium enrichment plans - which purifies uranium for use either in nuclear power plants or nuclear weapons - but has yet to honour the deal. German foreign minister Joschka Fischer said Iran should "fulfill its commitments and ... avoid miscalculation that will lead us into a very serious situation", according to Reuters. Iranian officials countered that they would not give up their right to enrich uranium but insisted that they had no plans to build nuclear weapons. Mr Rohani hinted yesterday that Iran might suspend some nuclear activities but it still wants to be able to produce its own enriched uranium. However, the US is convinced that Iran intends to develop nuclear capabilities and has pushed for a tougher line with Tehran. And the EU has recently toughened its own stance, indicating that 31 October is the final deadline for Iran to comply if it wishes to avoid sanctions. Last week, the EU presented a "carrot and stick" approach at the G8 summit of leading industrial nations, whereby incentives would be offered in exchange for Iran stopping its enrichment programme.

100 Chechens detained

More than 100 "militants" have been caught by local police in Chechnya:

More than 100 militants have been detained in special operations involving the local police in Chechnya in 2004, Chechen Interior Ministry press secretary Ruslan Atsayev told Interfax by phone on Thursday.

"More than 100 members of illegal armed units were detained in operations of the Chechen Interior Ministry, the Russian Interior Ministry's Department in the South Federal District, the Federal Security Service, the Defense Ministry and the Interior Ministry Troops between January-September 2004. Another 50 militants were killed in clashes," Atsayev said.

Ninety-eight militants have surrendered to the Chechen police in 2004

Israel-Egypt rift

Israel and Egypt are engaged in a diplomatic disagreement:

A provision in the U.S.-brokered 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt moved into sharp focus last week, putting senior Egyptian and Israeli officials at loggerheads over each country's security responsibilities in the Sinai Peninsula after three terrorist bombs killed 34 persons, including 13 Israelis celebrating a Jewish holiday, on Egypt's side of the border.

Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the Israeli Knesset's powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said Egypt was "partially responsible" for the Oct. 7 attacks because of its long-term laxity, although he acknowledged that the violence was damaging to Egypt's tourism trade.

In a Washington Times interview, Mr. Steinitz went so far as to accuse Egypt of deliberately failing to prevent rampant arms and explosives smuggling in the past four years and suggested that Egypt was trying to destabilize Israel and sap its strength by encouraging Palestinian-Israeli bloodshed.

Osama El-Baz, chief adviser to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, rejected the charges as "malicious, bad-intentioned and false," but said the accusations would not deflect Egypt from its commitment to combat terrorism.

Cairo authorities initially had tried to dismiss the bombings as explosions of cooking-gas canisters.

In cautious language, Mr. El-Baz offered to improve Egyptian-Israeli links for preventing terrorism.

"We believe we can improve things through some increased cooperation in certain areas," he said.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

US, Australia, Japan, France hold naval drills

The US, Australia, Japan, and France are all holding joint naval exercises near Japan:

Australia, Japan, the United States and France will take part in a joint maritime exercise to intercept weapons of mass destruction on October 26 in waters south-west of Tokyo, Japanese officials have said.

About 10 naval and coast guard vessels from the four countries and observers from 18 other nations will take part in the drill off Sagami Bay in Kanagawa Prefecture despite concerns that it could provoke North Korea.

It is the first time an Asian country is hosting a drill under the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), formed at the behest of US President George W Bush in May last year, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.

About 380 personnel from Japan's Defence Agency and Self-Defence Forces and some 200 others from the Japan Coast Guard will take part along with five coast guard vessels and a Maritime Self-Defence Force destroyer.

Air planes and helicopters from the JCG and the SDF will also join the drill, the officials said.

Australia, France and the United States will each deploy one naval vessel, they said.

Japan invited China and South Korea to the drill since there is no rule as to which countries can participate but they decided not to join in, the officials said.

North Korea has criticised the move to hold the drill in Japan, calling it ''provocative".

The PSI has 15 core member countries that have held similar exercises 11 times since September last year.


Riot in China

Riot in west China:

Rioters in the western Chinese region of Chongqing burned police cars and looted government buildings after a quarrel between residents escalated into a riot involving thousands, residents and officials said.

The angry crowds gathered on Monday night during a quarrel between fruit market workers and a delivery boy, after one worker passed himself off as an official and threatened to use his rank to resolve the dispute in his favour, state media said.

That caused bystanders, angry at the attempted abuse of privilege, to become involved in the dispute.

Residents said crowds grew to more than 20,000 after cars and buses passing through the area stopped to watch.


Lt. Gen. David Barno

Lt. Gen. David Barno, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, says that 2,000 Taliban have defected as a result of the Afghanistan elections. He also says that OBL is probably alive, although he is not actively controling al-Qaeda.

This month's election in Afghanistan marked a "big defeat" for Taliban holdouts, with an estimated 2,000 low-level militiamen defecting, said Lt. Gen. David Barno, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

He also said all indications are that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is alive, but not controlling anti-coalition fighters in Afghanistan on a daily basis.

Seized in Russia

"Highly radioactive material" has been seized in Russia:

Security services seized two containers filled with highly radioactive material at a scrap yard in central Russia, Interfax news agency said.

Radiation levels at the scene in the town of Saratov, where the containers with uranium-238 were discovered, were 358 times higher than normal, Interfax said. Depleted uranium, where uranium-238 is usually found, theoretically can be used to make nuclear "dirty bombs."

Abu Hamza al Masri

Abu Hamza al Masri has been charged in the UK for "possessing Al Qaeda literature and inciting the killing of Jews and other non-Muslims." He is wanted in the US for "sending a scout to the United States to explore setting up a terrorist training camp in Oregon, supplying services and recruits to Al Qaeda and to the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and of being an accessory to a kidnapping in Yemen in which four foreign tourists were killed. "

British authorities Tuesday charged extremist cleric Abu Hamza al Masri with possessing Al Qaeda literature and inciting the killing of Jews and other non-Muslims, delaying his possible extradition to the United States, where he is wanted on terrorism charges.

The Crown Prosecution Service lodged 16 counts against the cleric, whom terrorism experts have long considered a major Al Qaeda supporter in Europe. The move means he would stand trial in England before being sent to the United States.

U.S. authorities accuse Abu Hamza of sending a scout to the United States to explore setting up a terrorist training camp in Oregon, supplying services and recruits to Al Qaeda and to the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and of being an accessory to a kidnapping in Yemen in which four foreign tourists were killed.

Abu Hamza, 46, a native of Egypt who moved to England 25 years ago, gained notoriety after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as the inflammatory prayer leader who praised the bombings at his north London mosque, which had been attended by several alleged Al Qaeda operatives.

The charges presented Tuesday were based mainly on tapes of sermons he gave in which he allegedly used hateful language and exhorted followers to act violently, particularly against Jews.

He was accused of "threatening, abusive or insulting behavior with intent to stir up racial hatred." The charges also said that at the time of his arrest in May, Abu Hamza possessed a document "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing to commit an act of terrorism."

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Hungary

Hungary will not make any decision regarding its troop levels in Iraq until after the US election:

Hungary will wait until after the US presidential election to decide whether it wants the country's troops to stay in Iraq beyond their current mandate, which expires in December, Defence Minister Ferenc Juhasz said late on Monday.

"The Hungarian government will only submit its recommendation to parliament on the extension of the Hungarian participation in Iraq after the US presidential election," Juhasz told public television.

The government declined to comment specifically on how the outcome of the US vote on November 2 would influence Hungary's military presence in Iraq, where Budapest currently has 300 troops, mostly logistics experts.

NBut a spokesman said the US election was was one of several factors that the government would consider before deciding whether to seek an extension of the Hungarian military presence in Iraq.

"Other factors include whether Hungarian troops can help ensure a peaceful election in Iraq planned for next year, what the security situation will be in that country and whether the Iraqi government will ask for our troops stay longer," defence ministry spokesman Istvan Bocskai told AFP.


Nuclear reactors to China

The US is to soon allow the export of nuclear reactors to China:

The United States' nuclear regulator said Tuesday it is likely to approve the export of US-designed reactors to China soon, giving American companies access to a multi-billion-dollar market.

Nils Diaz, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told reporters it was reviewing export licenses for Westinghouse's recently approved "state of the art" AP-1000 reactor.

He said he was unaware of any significant objections to exporting the technology to China.


General Sir Mike Jackson

General Mike Jackson, chief of the British army, is visiting the Line of Control along the Indian-Pakistani Kashmir border:

The chief of the British army, General Sir Mike Jackson, who began a three-day visit to India, will be touring Indian Army installations close to the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

In preparation for his visit, he was given an hour’s briefing on the “Indian security perspective” in the war room at the defence headquarters today.

Army chief General N.C. Vij also had an hour’s talk with the visiting British officer. General Jackson has come with an agenda to intensify military-to-military programmes with India.

“On what is my first visit to India, it is evident that the defence relationship between the two countries is in excellent shape. And I look forward to working out ways to increase that cooperation when I meet Indian defence secretary Ajai Vikram Singh, the service chiefs and other senior members of the Indian armed forces,” the general said on arrival.


Saudi plan

A Saudi plan regarding Iraq has been dismissed:

Iraqi government officials and commanders of the U.S.-led military coalition killed a proposal by Saudi Arabia for a Muslim peacekeeping force in Iraq, the White House said yesterday, citing concerns over who would be in charge.

Responding to reports in two newspapers, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the government in Baghdad had "some real concerns" about having troops from a neighboring country inside Iraq.

"The multinational force commanders also had some concerns about forces operating outside the chain of command," he said. Most of the multinational force commanders are Americans, as are the majority of forces.

Monday, October 18, 2004

"On Iraq, Italy has very clear ideas"

Italy will not pull troops from Iraq until "establishment of a new government in Baghdad."

Italy plans to withdraw its troops from Iraq but not before elections and the establishment of a new government in Baghdad, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini was quoted in the country's press as saying.

"On Iraq, Italy has very clear ideas," Mr Frattini was quoted as saying during a trip to Washington at the weekend.

"We have a three-phase plan - the first is the election and we are working together so that the elections are real and they take place by January 2005," he said.

The second stage would be a new Iraqi Government chosen by the Iraqi people, he added.

"And to finish up, we will work so that the Government invites other countries, Arab ones in particular, to be present on the ground," Mr Frattini said.

The Minister mentioned no dates but the Italian press interpreted his comments as a signal for the announced Italian troop withdrawal.

During the weekend Italy's Defence Minister Antonio Martino said it could begin reducing its contingent in the violence-wracked country during 2005.

"An immediate withdrawal would be inexplicable. But a first step could be a reduction in our contingent during 2005," the Corriere della Sera quoted Mr Martino as saying on Saturday on the sidelines of an Italian television program.

He said any withdrawal or reduction in the Italian contingent was conditional on democracy returning to Iraq in the form of "a fully legitimate government" following the elections, planned for January.


Karzai with 62.6%

Hamid Karzai leads the Afghanistan election:

Afghanistan's presidential vote count has passed one million ballots with incumbent Hamid Karzai firmly in the lead, according to the country's electoral commission web site.

As of 9:30am (local time), the commission had received preliminary results from 30 of 34 provinces for the landmark October 9 vote, about 13 per cent of ballots cast, said the website run by the joint UN-Afghan election body.

Mr Karzai was the pre-election favourite and has scored 62.6 per cent of the vote, followed by his chief rival and former education minister Yunus Qanooni on 17.7 per cent.


Likiep v. US?

Marshall Islands atoll of Likiep is suing the US government:

The remote Marshall Islands atoll of Likiep, which was dusted with fallout from nuclear tests in the 1950s, has filed a late suit for compensation, officials said, but chances of a big payout appear remote.

The Likiep suit claims the prosperous economic, employment and educational status enjoyed by the mid-Pacific island's residents "fell precipitously" following the US testing between 1946 and 1958.

It was filed this week after the Nuclear Claims Tribunal - established in 1986 with $US80 million from the US government - set a November 30 deadline for additional class action suits.

The tribunal has already granted awards to both Bikini and Enewetak and is currently reviewing three other claims, however its funding is limited as only $US5 million is left.


Canadian Parliment to vote on MDS

The Canadian government will hold a symbolic vote regarding whether or not they should be part of the US Missile Defence Shield:

Prime Minister Paul Martin's Liberals have yielded to opposition pressure and will hold a Commons vote on the controversial U.S.-led missile defence program.

The promise to let MPs have their say is said to be the newest concession from a Liberal regime quickly gaining a reputation for its willingness to trade on the issue of Ottawa's central powers.

But the vote itself won't commit the Liberals to any decision on participating in the U.S. scheme. It will be more symbolic of the co-operation the minority government is trying to build with opposition parties in the Commons.

Liberals were believed to be wary of a Commons vote because it would expose deep divisions toward Americans within the minority caucus and present an opportunity for more MPs to vent anti-Americanisms that could damage relations with the U.S.

Only a few weeks ago, Defence Minister Bill Graham indicated that a vote was unlikely because the federal government retained sole authority for national defence and treaties with other countries. Moreover, the Martin government pointedly failed to promise a missile-defence vote in the throne speech at the beginning of the month.

Abu Musab Zarqawi

Abu Musab Zarqawi is to be tried in Jordan, in absentia, for "an alleged plot to attack the U.S. Embassy in Amman and Jordanian government targets with chemical and conventional weapons."

Jordan's military prosecutor indicted Abu Musab Zarqawi, one of the most wanted insurgents in Iraq, and 12 other alleged militants Sunday for an alleged plot to attack the U.S. Embassy in Amman and Jordanian government targets with chemical and conventional weapons, government officials said.

The foiled plot was first revealed by Jordan in April.

Lt. Col. Mahmoud Obeidat summoned nine suspects already in custody and read them the charges in the indictment, the officials said on condition of anonymity. Among the nine was Zarqawi's alleged Syrian right-hand man, Abu al Ghadia.

Four suspects, including Zarqawi, are at large and will be tried in absentia, the officials said. The trial is expected to begin in November.

"650 crack troops" to shift?

The US has asked the UK to move troops from South Iraq to areas near Baghdad:

U.S. commanders have asked Britain to shift 650 crack troops from southern Iraq to more dangerous positions near Baghdad, freeing American troops for an anticipated large-scale assault on the terrorist stronghold of Fallujah, officials said.

Defense Ministry officials said the government had not made a decision on the request, which will be announced to the House of Commons by British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon today, but other sources said the appeal would be "very difficult to refuse."

Friday, October 15, 2004

Canadian troops to Iraq? Maybe some day...

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin doesn't rule out sending Canadian forces to Iraq in the future:

Canadian troops might one day patrol war-torn Iraq, but for now the country's military can be more effective helping bring peace to other global hotspots, Prime Minister Paul Martin said yesterday.

"Canada's role has got to be one of significance ... it's got to be one where in fact we can make a substantial difference," Martin said yesterday.But despite growing pressure on countries like Canada to bring order to Iraq, Martin refused to commit troops to the controversial conflict yesterday.

Instead, he made it clear he thinks Canada's limited resources are best devoted to Afghanistan, Haiti and Africa, especially Sudan's troubled Darfur region.

"I'm not downplaying the role we could play in Iraq at all ... I'm not saying we will not play a role in Iraq," Martin said, after meeting with French President Jacques Chirac.

"What we've really got to be doing is focusing those efforts ... and not simply spreading them so thinly that what we are is a marginal player in every area," Martin said. "I'd rather have us be a predominant player."

EU's new plan

The EU has a new plan regarding the "viability of a Palestinian state."

The European Union is set to produce a plan to ensure the viability of a Palestinian state, based on 1967 borders, it has emerged.

In a bid to step up the EU's engagement in the region, the plan is set to focus on reconstruction as well as ensuring security is brought to the territories.

It will also set out the need for holding free and fair elections.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, who is a former EU envoy to the Middle East, said that it is hoped the plan would be adopted in November at a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels, according to reports.

The move follows deep unease in Europe over the lack of progress in implementing the EU, US, UN and Russian backed ‘Road Map’ for peace and a response to Israel's plans to withdraw from Gaza.

"We want to show the will to start moving and commit ourselves to the situation in the Middle East", Mr Moratinos told a press conference.

Road Map

Diplomats insist that the Road Map is still on the table, but little progress has been made ahead of the US presidential elections.

EU diplomats also insist that the move does not represent the EU stepping away from the Quartet and is compatible with the Road Map.

However, with a vote on prime minister Ariel Sharon's plans to withdraw from Gaza in 2005 set to come before the Knesset in two weeks time, the EU is keen to make sure no power vacuum ensues.

Mr Solana's paper is expected to deal with four major areas; security, facilitating elections, economic development and reforms.

In the security area, the EU is said to be considering a police mission on the ground to help train Palestinian security services in the event of an Israeli withdrawal, in co-ordination with the Egyptian government.

Iran controls Palestinian terror

Iran has apparently taken control of Palestinian terrorist operations in Israel:

Iran has taken control of many Palestinian terrorist cells from Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, giving them funds and orders to attack Israeli targets, and even rewarding successful missions with "bonuses", according to a senior Israeli security source.

For many years, Iran has given money and ideological support to radical Palestinian groups, especially Hamas and Islamic Jihad, responsible for most of the Israeli deaths in the past four years of the Palestinian uprising.

But Israel believes that much of the Fatah-affiliated armed faction, calling itself the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, has now come under Iran's sway, especially in the West Bank.

Scores of Palestinian attacks, accounting for roughly a third of the 98 Israelis killed so far this year, are believed to have been orchestrated by the Lebanese Hizbollah movement.

The Shia group pioneered the use of suicide bombings in the 1980s, kidnapped westerners and successfully drove the Israeli army out of south Lebanon in 2000. Hizbollah is now a political party in Lebanon.

"Hizbollah is a finger of Iran's hand," the senior Israeli security source said. "In the past year we can see increasing Iranian influence in Palestinian attacks on Israel.

"The same people sometimes receive money both from Arafat's headquarters and from Hizbollah. If the attack succeeds in causing fatalities, they get a bonus from Hizbollah."

Another security source said Hizbollah rewards Palestinian cells to the tune of $5,000 (£2,900) for each Israeli killed.


Attacks from Syria

U.S. troops facing attacks from Syria:

American troops stationed along Iraq's border with Syria are coming under increasing attack with mortar shells fired from Syrian territory, but it was unclear who was responsible, U.S. officers said Thursday.

The 82-millimeter rounds have been fired at U.S. and Iraqi positions in and around Husaybah in Al Anbar province, said Lt. Col. Chris Woodbridge, commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.

There has been no evidence linking the Syrian military to the attacks, Woodbridge said. However, the Syrians have the capability to determine who is launching the mortars and act against them, he said.

"Syrian authorities should be the ones to go after them, no question about it," he said.

Chinese dies in Pakistan

One Chinese national has been killed in Pakistan after "Pakistani army commandos" tried to free them from the captors:

One hostage and five militants died Thursday when Pakistani army commandos tried to free two Chinese engineers held by followers of a former Guantanamo Bay inmate linked to Al Qaeda.

The engineers, who were working on the Gomal Zam Dam project near the border with Afghanistan, were abducted Saturday with their two Pakistani security personnel. The Pakistanis were released before troops stormed the militants' hide-out in the remote tribal area of South Waziristan.

The kidnappers said they wanted to exchange the Chinese for militants captured during Pakistan's crackdown on Al Qaeda. Their leader, Abdullah Mehsud, 28, returned to Pakistan in March after being held for two years in the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It was not clear why he was released.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

France and Germany say no

France and Germany don't want NATO to take over "reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan."

France and Germany spoke out against a U.S. proposal to put NATO in charge of the military and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, but U.S. and other officials said the alliance would look at options for merging the missions.

The issue featured prominently in a meeting of NATO defense ministers at a Romanian ski resort.

"There may be some interest in synergy between the two operations, but a merger of the forces makes no sense," said French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie.

Schroeder to Kerry

Gerhard Schroeder is speaking loud and clear to John Kerry:

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Wednesday ruled out sending German troops to Iraq after his defense minister said a deployment was possible.

Defense Minister Peter Struck had said Wednesday that Germany, which opposed the U.S.-led war to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, could eventually send troops to Iraq, although he ruled out any immediate move. Struck made his comments in a newspaper interview and in a briefing to reporters at a NATO summit in Romania.

The chancellor, however, was quick to contradict Struck.

"The position of Germany will not change. We will not send soldiers to Iraq," Schroeder said at a news conference in Rome, after meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Success!

An "overwhelming majority of ballots" have been "approved" in the Afghanistan elections:

An international team investigating allegations of fraud in last weekend's presidential election set aside a small portion of suspect ballot boxes Wednesday but approved the overwhelming majority of ballots for counting.

Under pressure to resolve disputes over Afghanistan's first democratic presidential vote Saturday, two members of the United Nations panel began their work without the third member, who is yet to be named.

Although the deadline for candidates to file complaints was extended until today, investigators said they would not set aside any more ballot boxes.

The U.N. team asked election organizers to isolate suspect boxes at 11 polling stations in four provinces after receiving complaints from candidates, said Craig Jenness, a Canadian member of the investigating panel.

There were more than 22,000 voting stations, and about 5,000 polling centers, in Afghanistan's 34 provinces. Tuesday's deadline for complaints was extended 48 hours, Jenness said.

Boats impounded

Six South Korean boats have been impounded in Sierra Leone:

Six South Korean fishing vessels have been confiscated after crossing into Sierra Leone's territorial waters.

A navy spokesman told the BBC the trawlers were caught poaching fish and shrimps in Sierra Leone's waters. They have been held since the weekend in the capital, Freetown, and if found guilty, each vessel faces a $30,000 fine and the loss of their catch.

Illegal fishing off the coast is a big problem for a country whose economy is fragile after a brutal civil war.

North Korean submarines

Hoping to locate two North Korean submarines, South Korea has completed a huge naval operation:

South Korea has admitted it has conducted a massive but secret naval operation to find two North Korean submarines.

The Defence Ministry says the hunt began on Sunday after the United States warned Seoul that two North Korean submarines were lurking in South Korean waters.

Surveillance planes and helicopters were dispatched, navy ships dropped depth charges but the operation failed to find any evidence of an incursion.

At the same time, four sailors from the South Korean navy are missing after their semi-submersible boat capsized.

They were participating in what the navy is calling an "anti-infiltration exercise".

Officials say the drill had nothing to do with the submarine hunt.


Wednesday, October 13, 2004

2 women to be stoned to death in Nigeria

Two women are to be stoned to death in Nigeria:

Islamic courts in Nigeria sentenced two women to death by stoning for having sex out of wedlock, but two men whom they identified as sexual partners were acquitted for lack of evidence, authorities said Tuesday.

Both sentences, which were imposed within the last month in the northern state of Bauchi, must be confirmed by the state governor before being carried out, and they are open to appeal.

Nobody has been lawfully stoned to death in Nigeria since 12 northern states introduced Islamic law, or Sharia, in 2000, because all such sentences have been overturned on appeal.

A 29-year-old woman, Hajara Ibrahim, was sentenced Oct. 5 in the Tafawa Balewa area of the state, having confessed to having sex with 35-year-old Dauda Sani and becoming pregnant, the court said in a statement.

"The court has, however, handed the woman convict to her guardian to take care of her until she delivers the baby before the sentence will be executed by stoning her to death according to the provisions of the Sharia penal code," the court said.

"There is no evidence to link him with the allegation and consequently the court acquitted him for lack of evidence."

Global Anti-Semitism Review Act

In an effort to combat anti-Semitism, the US Congress has passed a bill requiring the State Department to "start rating governments throughout the world on their treatment of Jewish citizens."

In another test of America's frayed relations with France, Russia and other allies, the US Congress has ordered the State Department to start rating governments throughout the world on their treatment of Jewish citizens.

The resulting report cards on anti-Semitism would be published in annual US surveys of human rights abuses around the world.

The proposed law was passed by the House of Representatives on Monday, in response to what its sponsors called an alarming surge in anti-Semitism, especially in Europe. It has already been passed by the Senate.

Congress overruled strong opposition from diplomats at the State Department who complained in an internal memo that a special focus on Judaism, "opens us to charges of favouritism and challenges the credibility of our reporting".

There is little doubt that the new law will create diplomatic waves.

France, Russia, Malaysia, Egypt, Canada and Australia were singled out by congressional sponsors of the law as countries that had witnessed disturbing outbreaks of discrimination against Jews in the past year.

The law, the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act, also ordered the establishment of an office at the State Department dedicated to monitoring anti-Semitism, again over the department's protests.

The resulting internal row must now be resolved by President George W Bush as the legislation heads to his desk from Congress. With the act overwhelmingly backed by both parties, officials in Congress said they expected he would sign it into law.


Kenneth Bigley

The US military made two attempts "to rescue British hostage Kenneth Bigley and the two Americans he was held captive with."

US troops made two failed attempts to rescue British hostage Kenneth Bigley and the two Americans he was held captive with, it has been reported.

The American soldiers, possibly joined by US intelligence agents, were deployed on two occasions to locations in Baghdad in an attempt to find and free the men.

But each time, there was no sign of the hostages, who were all eventually beheaded, CNN said.

The revelation came after Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, told the Commons that an intermediary had passed messages to the terrorists, urging them not to kill Mr Bigley, a 62-year-old civil engineer.


Top-secret interrogation facility

The CIA is "secretly" holding senior al-Qaida members in Jordan:

The Central Intelligence Agency runs a top-secret interrogation facility in Jordan, where at least 11 detainees who are considered Al-Qaida's most senior cadre are being held, Haaretz has learned from international intelligence sources.

Since the war in Afghanistan ended three years ago, reports spoke of these special detainees being held outside the United States, but no location was mentioned. A report on these prisoners issued Tuesday by the Human Rights Watch organization claims they are being held somewhere so secret that U.S. President George Bush asked the CIA heads not to report it to him.

The international intelligence sources who spoke to Haaretz are considered experts in surveillance and analysis of Al-Qaida and are involved in interrogating the detainees. Most of the Al-Qaida detainees who were arrested in Afghanistan in the course of the war or its aftermath were transfered to the American base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A minority were held in Pakistan, where some had been picked up, and were later moved to Jordan.

It is not known where precisely in the Hashemite kingdom they are being held, but they are thought to be at a secret facility belonging to Jordanian intelligence or at a secret base. Their detention outside the U.S. enables CIA interrogators to apply interrogation methods that are banned by U.S. law, and to do so in a country where cooperation with the Americans is particularly close, thereby reducing the danger of leaks.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

A "million American tentacles"

The Times of India says that they are in possession of documents "detailing the unshakeable grip of a million American tentacles that have an all pervading grip on Pakistan's present and future."

There is nothing in history like a hurt and humiliated Super Power. In case you don't have any idea, just look across the border to Pakistan.

As its global blitzkrieg against terrorism continue to throw up unexpected results, United States of America has tightened its vice-like grip on its frontline ally, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Timesofindia.com is in possession of documents, detailing the unshakeable grip of a million American tentacles that have an all pervading grip on Pakistan's present and future.

The documents reveal how the US has mapped Pakistan's year-wise targets, details of various schemes that would give the global superpower an unhindered influence over General Musharraf's Pakistan. Put together, they read like the British crown's annual plans for one of its colonies from a bygone era.

Investigations reveal that US has a free run over almost every aspect of Pakistan's national life, including sensitive national records and data.

The US has Pakistan all wired up in a highly sophisticated network of software systems, with direct access to information including that of every one entering or leaving Pakistan.

The Personal Identification Secure Comparison Evaluation System (PISCES), an automated border control system, is being implemented in 20 ports of immigration in Pakistan.

According to latest information, all points of entry and exit in Pakistan would have PISCES system by Dec 31, 2004.


US, Europe, Iran

The US is teaming up with Europe to try to stop Iran's nuclear ambition.:

The Bush administration is holding talks with its European allies on a possible package of economic incentives for Iran, including access to imported nuclear fuel, in return for suspension of uranium enrichment activities that are suspected to be part of a nuclear arms program, European and American diplomats said Monday.

The diplomats said that while the administration had not endorsed any incentives for Iran, it was not discouraging Britain, France and Germany from assembling a package that the administration would consider after the American presidential election on Nov. 2, for likely presentation to Tehran later in the month.

Any support of a package of incentives, even if it is to be offered only by the Europeans, would indicate a significant shift in the Bush administration policy of demanding penalties, but not offering inducements, to get Iran to halt activities that are suspected to be for a nuclear arms program.