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Monday, December 31, 2007

London drops 'War on Terror' label

Sat, 29 Dec 2007 23:06:30

Britain's chief prosecutor says the words 'war on terror' will no longer be used by the government to describe attacks on the public.

Sir Ken Macdonald said terrorist fanatics were not soldiers fighting a war but simply members of an aimless 'death cult'.

“The people who were murdered on July 7 were not the victims of war,” he said referring to the London bombings.

"The men who killed them were not soldiers; they were fantasists, narcissists, murderers and criminals and need to be responded to in that way," said Macdonald.

The term 'Islamic terrorist' will also no longer be used. Officials believe it is unhelpful because it appears to directly link the religion to terrorist atrocities.

In an interview with BBC Radio's World at One, Macdonald also made a fresh attack on plans to extend beyond 28 days the length of time a terror suspect can be held without trial.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Conspiracy theory abound

Al-Qaeda denies killing Bhutto
Sat, 29 Dec 2007 16:57:43

Al-Qaeda-linked militant Baitullah Mehsud denies being involved in the assassination of Bhutto, accusing the government of killing her.

"I strongly deny it. Tribal people have their own customs. We don't strike women," said Mehsud's spokesman Maulvi Omar who is also the official spokesman for the Taliban in Pakistan.

The government said on Friday that Mehsud was responsible for Bhutto's killing as she left an election rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, close to Islamabad, on Thursday.

But the militant's spokesman said Bhutto was a victim of President Pervez Musharraf's security apparatus, repeating a conspiracy theory many Pakistanis are willing to believe.

"This was a well-planned conspiracy carried out by the intelligence agencies, army and government for their own political motives,"Omar said.

Mehsud also issued a swift denial of any involvement in the attack on her homecoming parade that killed at least 139 people in Karachi after suspicion fell on him.


Pak rules out Int'l probe on Bhutto
Sat, 29 Dec 2007 22:27:51

Interior ministry spokesman Brigadier Javed Cheema

Pakistani Interior ministry rejects any international help in probing Bhutto's death, saying they don't understand Pakistan's environment.

With questions raised about the official account of how she died, which has been rejected by Bhutto's aides and supporters, ministry spokesman Brigadier Javed Cheema said the Pakistan government had told the truth.

He added that the government would let the former premier's body be exhumed for inquiry if Bhutto's party asked.

"We do not require the assistance of the international community," he said when asked about calls for an outside probe into her assassination, which has plunged the nuclear-armed nation deeper into turmoil.

"We understand the environment, the international community does not understand the environment," Cheema told a news conference.

The government said that Bhutto died after banging her head on the sunroof of her vehicle while trying to duck when an attacker came up and started firing before blowing herself up. It said she had no bullet wounds.

The account has been rejected by her Pakistan People's Party (PPP), and a key aide and witness who washed her body.

"There was a bullet wound I saw that went in from the back of her head and came out the other side," said Bhutto's spokeswoman Sherry Rehman, who was involved in washing her body for burial.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Malaysian row over word for 'God'

Muslims take part in Friday prayer at the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur
Religious freedom is guaranteed under Malaysian law
A church and Christian newspaper in Malaysia are suing the government after it decreed that the word "Allah" can only be used by Muslims.

In the Malay language "Allah" is used to mean any god, and Christians say they have used the term for centuries.

Opponents of the ban say it is unconstitutional and unreasonable.

It is the latest in a series of religious rows in largely Muslim Malaysia, where minority groups claim their rights are being eroded.

A spokesman for the Herald, the newspaper of the Catholic Church in Malaysia, said a legal suit was filed after they received repeated official warnings that the newspaper could have its license revoked if it continued to use the word.

"We are of the view that we have the right to use the word 'Allah'," said editor Rev Lawrence Andrew.


The Sabah Evangelical Church of Borneo has also taken legal action after a government ministry moved to ban the import of religious children's books containing the word.

In a statement given to Reuters news agency, the church said the translation of the bible in which the word Allah appears has been used by Christians since the earliest days of the church.

There has been no official government comment but parliamentary opposition leader Lim Kit Siang said the decision to ban the word for non-Muslims on security grounds was "unlawful".

"The term 'Allah' was used to refer to God by Arabic-speaking Christians before Arabic-speaking Muslims existed," he said.

Religious issues are highly sensitive in Malaysia, which has a 60% Muslim population.

Religious freedom is guaranteed in the law but minority groups have accused the Muslim Malay majority of trying to increase the role of Islam in the country.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Ethiopia in Somalia: One year on

By Martin Plaut
BBC Africa analyst

The Ethiopian decision to invade Somalia in December 2006 altered the balance of power in the Horn of Africa.

Ethiopian soldiers in Mogadishu
The Ethiopian army is now fighting on several fronts

On 28 December 2006, they helped government forces capture Islamists from the capital, Mogadishu, which they had controlled for six months.

Ethiopian forces, which had been facing Eritrea along their 1,000km border, but were otherwise confronting few security threats, are now engaged on three fronts.

The forces in Somalia are now bogged down and cannot withdraw, as Prime Minister Meles Zenawi recently acknowledged.

In addition to the conflict in Somalia they now also confront a growing rebellion in the Somali region of Ethiopia from the Ogaden National Liberation Front.

Knox Chitiyo, head of the Africa programme at the Royal United Services Institute in London, believes the Ethiopian military position is increasingly difficult.

"The government now has daggers pointing at it from all directions," he says.

"It is facing a multi-front war with no prospect of a military victory."

The invasion has:

  • Left Ethiopia bogged down in Somalia
  • Forced around 600,000 Somalis to flee their homes, in what the UN has described as one of the worst humanitarian situations in Africa
  • Brought the United States into the conflict, allied to Ethiopia
  • Left Eritrea even more isolated from the international community and threatened with being declared a terrorist state by Washington.

The US says it opposed the Ethiopian invasion, although it certainly supplied assistance to the Ethiopian military once the invasion had happened, and used its AC-130 gunships to try to kill senior Islamists on at least one occasion in January 2007.

Anti-Ethiopian demonstration
Many Somalis are opposed to the Ethiopian presence
The US Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer said: "We urged the Ethiopian military not to go into Somalia."

This is acknowledged by Ethiopian officials, who say the then head of US Central Command, General John Abizaid told them the invasion would be a mistake, and warned that Somalia would become "Ethiopia's Iraq."

Others analysts are not so apocalyptic. Ethiopia argued it had no alternative but to confront the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) after it took power in Mogadishu in mid-2006, because of the Islamists' alleged links with al-Qaeda.

The declaration of a jihad against Addis Ababa by UIC leader Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys was seen as the last straw.

Human cost

But even if the UIC was routed, it has now re-formed and has banded together with other forces in the Eritrean-based Alliance for the Liberation of Somalia.

Sally Healy of the Royal Institute of International Affairs argues that even if Ethiopia has made some security gains, the suffering of ordinary Somalis has been disproportionately high.

"The cost for the people of Mogadishu has been unacceptable," she says.

This reflects the view of the United Nations, which now considers Somalia the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa.

Man wounded in market bombing
The conflict is taking a heavy toll on Somali civilians
Peter Smerdon of the World Food Programme says it will have to try to feed at least 1.2 million Somalis during 2008.

"More than 600,000 people were forced from their homes in Mogadishu in 2007 by fighting and the worst cereals harvest in 13 years in Middle and Lower Shabelle, traditionally the most agriculturally productive regions of the whole country," Mr Smerdon says.

He warns the numbers needing food aid could well rise if there is continued insecurity and any kind of repeat of the floods and bad harvests seen in recent years.

New initiative

So how might the Somali crisis be resolved?

Displaced people's camp
Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced this year

Ethiopia has said it would consider withdrawing its troops if an international peacekeeping force were put in place, but UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said the situation in the country makes such a deployment "neither realistic nor viable".

The UN believes a new initiative is required, bringing together Somalia's Transitional Federal Government and the opposition.

This proposal was put forward by the UN's senior Somali official, Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, when he addressed the UN Security Council earlier this month.

"These discussions should preferably be held in a location close to Somalia or in one where most observers following the situation in the country are based," he said.

"I am preparing the agenda, identifying a possible list of participants, and the timing for this process."

Ms Healy says this is really the only way forward.

Until an exit strategy can be achieved for Ethiopia, its troops will remain in occupation of the country - providing a cause around which the Islamists can rally.

"The Somali people must create a situation that would allow the Ethiopians to leave," she says.

But 16 years after the country last had a functioning national government, there seems little prospect of President Abdullahi Yusuf asserting control of the whole country in 2008.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Somali opposition picks senior Islamist as new alliance leader

Written by Administrator
Friday, 14 September 2007
ImageASMARA, Eritrea (AFP) — A congress of top Somali opposition figures wrapped up Friday in Eritrea after choosing senior Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as the chairman of a newly formed anti-Ethiopian alliance. The announcement was made at the close of a congress of some 350 Somali opposition figures who have been gathered in Asmara since September 6 to work out how to unite against Ethiopian troops in Somalia.

"The conference is over with great results but now the struggle for liberation starts," conference spokesman Zakariya Mahamud Abdi told reporters.

"The chairman of the alliance, elected by the 191 members of the central committee, is Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. He is chair of the alliance and of the executive committee," he said.

Sheikh Sharif's closest rival in the opposition's consultations to choose a leadership was appointed head of the central committee, which will function like a parliament.

"Sherif Hassan Sheikh Adan, who was the speaker of the now deceased transitional federal parliament, is now chairman of the central committee," Abdi said.

The identities of the 10-man executive committee's other members have not yet been revealed.

"Our work will be concentrated in Mogadishu and surrounding areas to drive out the Ethiopian forces. Everyone must take part, this is not to do with clan lines or religion, but a national liberation struggle," he added.

Sheikh Sharif was the number two of the Islamic Courts Union, which briefly controlled large parts of Somalia before being ousted by Ethiopian troops earlier this year.

The opposition figures gathered in Eritrea -- Ethiopia's arch-foe -- boycotted a clan reconciliation conference held by the transitional government and backed by the international community.

This long process in Somalia's violence-wracked capital Mogadishu, where insurgents clash frequently with the Ethiopian-backed security forces and civilians often get hurt, wrapped up two weeks ago with no major breakthrough.

Somalia's top hardline Islamist leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who is wanted by Washington over suspected links to Al-Qaeda, said he would participate in the push against Ethiopia.

"I am no different from any other Somali, so I'll play any role I can but I don't have any position," added Aweys, who was not named in the alliance leadership role.

Sheikh Hassan said: "The Somali people have no choice but exercise its right of legitimate self-defence as well as protect the integrity and independence of its country."

"We have no connections with any dubious external forces and we urge the international community not to succumb to the propaganda of the occupation forces," he said in the closing speech.

His central committee is dominated by Islamists, who account for roughly 45 percent of its members, with 25 percent of lawmakers, 16 percent of diaspora representatives, as well as civil society members and religious leaders.

The final statement read at the closing of the opposition conference called on Uganda to pull out the troops it dispatched to Somalia as Africa Union peacekeepers earlier this year.

The congress also reiterated its call for Washington to reverse its policies in Somalia and the rest of the Horn of Africa.

The opposition alliance "will not enter into any talks with the so-called transitional federal government before a complete withdrawal of Ethiopian occupation army from Somalia," the statement also said.

Since the ouster of Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia has had no central authority and defied several initiatives aimed at ending bloody tribal feuds and restoring stability.

Iran, Malaysia sign historic gas deal

Iran, Malaysia sign historic gas deal
Wed, 26 Dec 2007 17:50:23
The Golshan gas field

Iran has signed a multi-billion-dollar deal with Malaysia's SKS to develop two major gas fields in the southern province of Bushehr.

The National Iranian Oil and Gas Company and the SKS signed a $16 billion contract to develop Golshan and Ferdows gas fields, Shana news agency reported.

Iran's Oil Minister Gholam-Hossein Nozari said on Wednesday that the SKS will develop the upstream part of the gas fields with an investment of six billion dollars within five years.

He added that another deal on the production of liquefied natural gas (LNG) with an estimated $9-10 billion dollar investment would be ready for signing soon.

Nozari said the deal was the biggest investment in Iran's energy sector adding that Tehran would be choosing its future partners from Asian countries because of their lucrative energy markets.

Despite US efforts to discourage international firms from investing in Iran, the SKS is the second Asian company which has recently signed a major energy deal with Iran.

China's biggest refiner, Sinopec, signed a $2 billion dollar agreement with Iran to develop the Yadavaran oil field on Dec. 9.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Whats Happening in Lebanon?

Mouallem Accuses U.S of Blocking Solution in Lebanon

20/12/2007 Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem on Thursday accused the United States of "blocking a Syrian-French attempt" to settle the ongoing political crisis in Lebanon and criticized Paris for not rejecting Washington's approach.

Talking to a group of reporters in Damascus on the Lebanon situation, Mouallem also expressed "regret because the French did not commit to distancing themselves from the American role."

"Unfortunately, the French did not show a commitment to distancing themselves from the American role that blocked the Syrian-French attempt to reach a solution," Mouallem said.

However, he said, Syrian-French "contacts regarding Lebanon persist." He said that an agreement had been reached between Paris and Damascus on a "declaration of principles that includes the election of a consensus president who is Army Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman, the formation of a national unity government and amending the election law."

Mouallem criticized the recent mission in Lebanon by U.S. Undersecretary of State David Welch, saying Washington "is not for consensus among the Lebanese, but wants a conqueror and a vanquished. “Washington wants the majority to monopolize the decision-making in Lebanon,” he charged.

"We believe that forming a national unity government is as important as electing a new president because it would lead to activating all constitutional institutions, end the sit-in and pave the way for a thorough national dialogue," Mouallem said in echoing a call by the Lebanese national opposition for agreement on a "basket" of conditions prior to facilitating Suleiman's election.

"Syria does not exert pressure. It encourages and urges (its Lebanese allies)," Mouallem said. "The position of the opposition groups is legitimate. They don't demand seats in the cabinet more than their share in parliament." "Syria plays a constructive role and does not interfere," the Syrian FM concluded.

Hezbollah won

Why Hezbolla Won

george galloway on Siniora

Sayyed Nasrallah calls for transparent Presidential Polls

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Invincible Army - proving otherwise

Palestinians Managed to Penetrate Israeli Army Merkava
source almanartv

13/12/2007 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have managed to penetrate an Israeli occupation army Merkava tank using a missile and the army is now checking if double headed anti-tank missiles have made their way to Gaza, Israeli Channel 10 reported Wednesday. According to the report, the missile was fired at an Israeli army tank on Tuesday and its jet stream passed between the tank's soldiers, who subsequently suffered from smoke inhalation.

Details released by the occupation army about the incident on Tuesday said that four Israeli soldiers had inhaled smoke and suffered minor bruises, but had not stated that the RPG had actually managed to penetrate the tank. The Israeli army said that the tank's defense systems had functioned properly and that these were sufficient in dealing with the threats in Gaza.

Hezbollah’s advanced armor-piercing RPGs damaged 40 Merkava tanks and killed more than 30 tank crew members during the Second Lebanon War. The Israeli army has ordered hundreds of Trophy active protection anti-missile systems, which it plans to install on its Merkava tanks.

Developed by the Rafael Armament Development Authority, the Trophy system creates a hemispheric protected zone around armored vehicles such as the Merkava tank. The system is designed to detect and track a threat and counter it with a launched projectile that intercepts the anti-tank missile.

Ashkenazi: We Have Learned from Lebanon War

13/12/2007 The current situation in Gaza cannot continue, and ongoing Qassam attacks on the occupied territories may force the Israeli occupation army to launch a large-scale operation in the Strip, Israeli army Chief of Staff Lit.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said Wednesday.

"You cannot defeat a terror organization without eventually taking control of the territory," according to Ashkenazi, "the only reason we have been successful in Judea and Samaria is because we control the area." Speaking at a conference hosted by the Institute for National Security Studies at the Tel Aviv University, Ashkenazi said that while the current limited army operations in Gaza impair the capabilities of resistance organizations, they would never completely curb all attacks against Israel. "We may very well come to a point where we will be forced to carry out a large-scale operation," he said.

His speech came several short hours after a heavy barrage of Qassam rockets hit Sderot. Earlier in the day the Israeli security cabinet recommended against launching a large-scale military operation in the Strip but called on the Israeli army to continue its limited military operations. Ashkenazi said that Israel must prepare for the possibility of facing numerous enemies on several fronts - including foreign armies and resistance groups – simultaneously. "The threat to the Israeli home front is growing and this requires us to prepare ourselves both on the defensive and offensive levels," he stated.

The Israeli chief of staff also addressed the long-term ramifications of the Second Lebanon War. "The Israeli army's deterrence has only grown stronger after the war," said Ashkenazi. As for Israel's concerns regarding its enemies from the east, Iran and Syria, Ashkenazi said the Israeli occupation army "must be prepared to achieve a decisive victory in any confrontation."

In a possible war with Syria, he said, the army would not combat rocket attacks on Israel's home front as it had during the war in Lebanon. "So long as there are rockets falling on homes in the occupied teritories - we can not win the war. We will not fight as the army has in the past. We will not only operate against the rocket launchers themselves but also create a situation where the other side's desire to launch these attacks sufferers, the price for these attacks will be steep – and the enemy will have to decide whether it can keep fighting. "In a playground like Syria, we have the capability to strike them," Ashkenazi claimed.

Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he was aware that the situation in and around Sderot was "difficult and complicated" and assured residents that the Israeli army would find a solution to their plight. Taking the podium after Ashkenazi, Barak said that Israel's "finest" were working day and night on the Qassam problem.

"We know that this is a mission we haven't accomplished yet, and the road ahead is still very long," said Barak. "This is a solution that requires sound judgment and responsibility, the situation isn't simple and I hope it will not come to a point where we are forced to do that which, for now, we do not want to do." Barak also called on Eli Moyal to reconsider his decision to resign as mayor of Sderot following a particularly heavy rocket barrage earlier in the day.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

'Africa no longer Europe's colony'

Fri, 30 Nov 2007 22:33:05

Europe must rid itself of the notion that Africa is still its own private domain, EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel has warned. EUDevelopment Commissioner,
Louis Michel

"Too often still in Europe, Afro-pessimism dominates,"
Michel told a conference in Brussels a week ahead of a landmark EU-Africa summit.

"African leaders are becoming more and more critical of Europe's old-fashioned thinking and we must clearly understand that Africa is no longer Europe's private hunting ground," said Michel, in a reference to the continent's colonial past.

"Europe is not alone in Africa and it will never again be alone in Africa," he added, alluding to growing influence of emerging powers, notably the United States, China, India and Brazil in the region.

Bilateral trade in Africa was 55.5 billion dollars last year, a ten-times growth compared to under a decade ago.

Michel concluded that the EU-Africa summit would be the ideal place to establish a real 'political partnership' so as to become players on 'the great African chessboard'.


Musliams killing Muslims - US war on Terror

'Turkish troops enter northern Iraq' source presstv

Sat, 01 Dec 2007 19:15:52

The Turkish forces have entered northern Iraq and inflicted heavy losses on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) terrorists, the military says.

The Turkish army said on its Web site that a group of 50 to 60 PKK insurgents had been spotted inside Iraq's borders.

"An intense intervention was made on the group and it was detected that the terrorist group had suffered heavy casualties," it said, according to Reuters.

The operation comes just a day after Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan authorized a cross-border operation against PKK militants.

A spokesman for Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani said there had been no incursion by Turkish troops into the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.

The Turkish military said the operations in the region would continue if necessary.

The Turkish government in October secured parliamentary approval to conduct a cross-border military operation against the PKK rebels into northern Iraq.

In recent Weeks, The Turkish military has moved more soldiers and artillery units to the border with Iraq.


Turkey, US generals discuss PKK
Sun, 25 Nov 2007 01:20:51
General Buyukanit and General Craddock.
Turkish army chief Gen. Buyukanit and the head of US forces in Europe, Gen. Craddock have discussed measures against the rebel group PKK.

On Saturday Turkey's Yasar Buyukanit and the American Eantz Craddock reviewed "cooperation issues in the joint struggle against the PKK terrorist organization, including intelligence sharing".

This was second meeting between top Turkish and US generals this week following US pledges to provide Turkey with real-time intelligence on the movement of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels.

The pledge, made by US President George W. Bush in early November, was largely seen as tacit US approval for limited cross-border Turkish strikes, notably air raids, against PKK targets.


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