Home > News > News in Brief: 9 August 2007

News in Brief: 9 August 2007

A brief list of news for the day:

U.S. Forces Stage Major Attack on Sadr City. U.S. forces staged a major two-pronged attack on a neighborhood controlled by Shiite militia groups Wednesday morning, killing at least 17 people, according to the military and Iraqi police. The raid on Sadr City, an area dominated by loyalists to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, was one of the largest in a series of U.S. attacks against Shiite militias. The most powerful group, Sadr’s Mahdi Army, controls access to electricity, fuel and housing in much of eastern Baghdad as well as some western neighborhoods. (Washington Post – may require free login)

British military commander asks U.S. forces to leave Afghan province. A senior British commander in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province said he had asked the U.S. military to withdraw its special forces from his area of operations because the high level of civilian casualties they have caused was making it difficult to win over local people. A U.S. military spokesman denied the request was ever made, either formally or otherwise, but the dispute underlined differences of opinion among NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan on tactics for fighting Taliban insurgents and concerns among soldiers on the ground about the consequences of civilian casualties. (International Herald Tribune)

UN to broaden role in Iraq. The United Nations security council is set to agree a resolution [on Thursday] to expand its role in Iraq in spite of overwhelming opposition from the organisation’s staff. Although not mentioned in the text, it will open the way for an increase in its Iraq staff complement from 65 to 95 by October. The security council is also seeking $130m (£65m) to build a fortified compound in Baghdad. The US has offered to help with the costs. (Guardian)

China threatens ‘nuclear option’ of dollar sales. The Chinese government has begun a concerted campaign of economic threats against the United States, hinting that it may liquidate its vast holding of US treasuries if Washington imposes trade sanctions to force a yuan revaluation. Two officials at leading Communist Party bodies have given interviews in recent days warning – for the first time – that Beijing may use its $1.33 trillion (£658bn) of foreign reserves as a political weapon to counter pressure from the US Congress. (Telegraph)

Musharraf to declare emergency. Private Pakistani television channels reported on Wednesday that President Pervez Musharraf was preparing to declare a state of emergency imminently, but government spokesmen denied there were any such plans. (Indian Express)

Hamas and Fatah are holding secret talks. Secret talks aimed at solving internal Palestinian instability are being held between Hamas and Fatah officials, Ma’an reported on Friday. Former Palestinian Authority government spokesman Ghazi Hamad (Hamas) and former Fatah security commander Jibril Rajoub, along with other representatives sent by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, were said to be holding talks over the last few days. Members of other Palestinian factions were reported to be mediating between Fatah and Hamas at the meetings. (Jerusalem Post)

Abbas insists no dialogue with Hamas. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Wednesday insisted there would be no dialogue with Hamas until the Islamists return Gaza to his legitimate authority after seizing the territory in June. (Khaleej Times/AFP)

Egyptian embassy moves from Gaza Strip to Ramallah. Israeli television reported on Tuesday evening that the Egyptian embassy has moved from the Gaza Strip to Ramallah. The move comes after the embassy was attacked by Hamas members during its fifty day rule of the Gaza Strip. (Ma’an)

Head of the Hamas politburo meets with Yemeni President, just days after a visit from Abbas’ advisor. Speaking to the Yemeni Sabaa agency, Mash’al said he wishes to hold consultations with the Yemeni leader, especially in light of the pressure exerted on Palestinians by international and regional powers. The media advisor of the Palestinian president, Nabil Amr, visited Yemen ten days ago. Observers believe that Yemen is attempting to mediate between Fatah and Hamas. (Ma’an)

Reconstruction Can Help Win War Against Taliban. On Jul. 26, coalition aircraft pounded Taliban targets in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, killing 78 civilians and reducing to rubble, countless mud-walled homes. As the death toll mounts in the conflict between security forces and the Islamist militants, public sentiment has turned against the coalition forces and their Afghan counterparts in the army and police, to the advantage of the Taliban which has reimposed control in parts of southern Afghanistan. (IPS)

Tribal council starts in Kabul. A meeting of Afghan and Pakistani political and tribal leaders has opened in Kabul, but will not be attended by Pakistan’s president. Musharraf’s decision not to attend comes as Islamabad considers whether to impose a state of emergency over “internal and external threats”. (Al Jazeera)

Big US Armed Forces integrated Valiant Shield exercises simulate possible operation against Iran. The maneuvers beginning Monday, Aug. 6, in waters off Guam include the simultaneous deployment of three carriers and their air and naval strike groups: USS Stennis, USS Nimitz and USS Kitty Hawk, altogether 30 warships, 280 warplanes and 22,000 soldiers and sailors. The exercise is commanded by Adm. Robert Willard, Pacific Fleet chief. To indicate that outside eyes were not desired, foreign observers who attended the Pacific exercises last year were not invited this year. US military sources in the region said that invitations to officers of regional nations to watch the drills would have had to include Malaysia, which has close ties with Iran. (DEBKAfile)

Reformist paper closed by Iran for second time. Authorities in Iran closed down the country’s leading reformist newspaper yesterday in the latest stage of an offensive against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s opponents in the media. Shargh, which has been critical of Mr Ahmadinejad, was ordered to shut after running an interview with an anti-regime poet last Saturday. The poet, Saghi Qahraman, has been accused by the country’s Islamic rulers of promoting homosexuality. (Guardian)

Iran aims to avoid sanctions with atomic openness. Iran expects its willingness to grant more access to U.N. nuclear inspectors will help it avert further U.N. sanctions, the deputy secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said on Tuesday. (Reuters)

Venezuela Signs New Economic Agreements in Argentina. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez arrived to Argentina [on Monday] to formalize several economic agreements between Venezuela and Argentina. Chavez said that projects to build new industry in Venezuela as well as supply Venezuelan gas to Argentina have the intention of diversifying the economies and increasing regional integration. (Venezuelanalysis)

Georgia Claims Proof Russians Fired Missile. Georgia said Wednesday that it had proof that Russian jets violated its airspace and fired a missile that landed near a house, a claim Russia has denied. The ministry said that radar records compatible with NATO standards showed that a Russian Su-24 jet had flown from Russia into Georgia and launched a missile, which did not explode. Investigators identified the weapon as a Russian-made Raduga Kh-58 missile, designed to hit radar systems, the ministry said. The missile, code-named AS-11 by NATO, carried a warhead of 140 kilograms of TNT, it said. (Moscow Times/AP)

US faces obstacles as it seeks to ease tensions with Turkey. Bush administration officials see Turkey’s recent election as an opportunity to improve strained relations with an important ally, but they face obstacles that may be beyond their control. (Today’s Zaman/AP)

Canada Joins Arctic Fray. As Russian scientists returning from their Arctic mission were greeted like cosmonauts in Moscow yesterday, the U.S. Coast Guard dispatched an icebreaker toward the Bering Sea. And Canada sent out Operation Nanook 07, a 600-member joint forces team billed a “sovereignty operation” to the unlikely hot spot. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates 25% of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas reserves lie under the Arctic Ocean. Though each Arctic nation has a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone from their shores, sovereignty beyond those lines isn’t always clear. To validate their jurisdiction over seabeds, they must submit scientific evidence to a United Nations body that proves the area in question is a natural prolongation of their continental shelf. (National Post)

Australia admits discrimination against Aborigines. The Australian government has admitted that legislation it plans to pass in parliament on Tuesday to fight child sex abuse among Aborigines is discriminatory. Mal Brough, the indigenous affairs minister, said the government was prepared to bypass anti-discrimination laws “in the interest of saving children”. (Axis of Logic)

UK reviews Iraqi asylum decision. Britain is reconsidering its decision not to give favourable treatment to Iraqis who worked alongside British soldiers if they apply for asylum. (Al Jazeera)

Study: Outlook bleaker for migrants. Migrants from Mexico and Central America are finding it harder to get jobs and are living under a dramatically increased sense of siege, according to a study released Wednesday. (McClatchy)

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