Home > News > News in Brief 23 August 2007

News in Brief 23 August 2007

A brief list of news for the day:

Interview discredits claim by Andrews. Claims by [Australia’s] Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews that his decision to cancel Mohamed Haneef’s visa was based on much more than a mobile phone SIM card given to a second-cousin have been undermined by the release of the second police record of interview.A year before the foiled June 29-30 terror acts in London and Glasgow, Dr Haneef had given a SIM card, which had some unused credit, to his second-cousin, Sabeel, who is not accused of being directly involved in the attacks. Sabeel’s brother Kafeel died after suffering serious burns in a Jeep Cherokee in the attack on Glasgow airport. The transcript shows Dr Haneef also tried to explain to the Australian Federal Police the context of a reference in a chatroom exchange with his brother, Shoaib, translated from Urdu, to a “project” involving Kafeel. Late last month amid calls for his sacking, Mr Andrews selectively released incomplete portions of the transcript from the conversation on July 2 — the day Dr Haneef tried to return to India — including the Urdu-to-English reference to Kafeel being involved “in some sort of project over there”. (The Australian)

European Central Bank Combats Market Crisis With Cash, Higher Interest Rates. In the wake of the global financial jitters following the US housing crisis, the European Central Bank announced Wednesday it would pump millions into European money markets and signaled a likely interest rate hike. (Deutsche Welle)

Arroyo rallies Philippine troops. Tens of thousands of people are fleeing their homes in the southern Philippines as the military steps up its offensive against Abu Sayyaf fighters, sparking the heaviest clashes for years. The fighting is centred on the mainly Muslim islands of Jolo and Basilan. (Al Jazeera)

Abe presents vision of a ‘broader Asia’ while on state visit to India. In pursuit of the “Broader Asia” concept, Japan is promoting several concepts. One of them, in which India would be a crucial element, is building an “arc of freedom and prosperity” along the outer rim of the Euroasian continent. Freedom, democracy and the respect for basic human rights would be the common fundamental values of all participating countries. In case Japan and India come together in a strategic relationship, Mr. Abe felt the “Broader Asia” concept would then span the entire Pacific Ocean along with two non-Asian entities, U.S. and Australia. In addition, India and Japan must join forces with “like-minded countries” to ensure the security of sea-lanes through which most of the world’s trade in oil passes. His reiteration of the idea comes a fortnight before five countries — India, the U.S., Australia, Singapore and Japan — will hold the biggest-ever naval exercises in the Bay of Bengal. (The Hindu)

Indian communists adamant about US nuclear deal. The central committee of India’s main communist party said on Thursday it did not want to pull the government down over a nuclear deal with the United States, but added that this depended on the pact not being pursued. Asked if the party would withdraw support to the government, CPI(M) General-Secretary Prakash Karat said: “The responsibility of the future of the government lies with the government.” The left has asked the government not to go ahead with negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) next month to conclude a key safeguards agreement until all its concerns over the deal are addressed. (Khaleef Times/Reuters)

Israel proposes W. Bank-Gaza route in land swap. Israel has proposed that safe passage for the Palestinians from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip be included in an exchange of territory with the Palestinians in the framework of the agreement of principles now being formulated ahead of the upcoming regional summit. The Palestinians will receive control of the route, but Israel will maintain sovereignty and it will only begin to operate after the Palestinian Authority, under its present leadership, reasserts control over the Gaza Strip. (Haaretz)

U.S. policing Israeli commitment to stop pursuing Fatah men. The U.S. security coordinator for the Palestinian Authority is checking whether Israel is upholding its agreement to stop pursuing Fatah militants in the West Bank. On Tuesday, a group of Canadian officers visited Nablus, which is considered home to the largest concentration of wanted Fatah militants. The officers met with some Palestinian security officials there. Israel has agreed to stop pursuing 178 activists of Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. Some of the activists are suspected of shooting attacks and working with Hezbollah to organize terror attacks on Israel. The team is expected to draft an opinion on the Palestinians’ request to expand the amnesty list. (Haaretz)

Hamas head blames Israel, US for Palestinian impasse. Hamas supremo Khaled Meshaal said efforts to end the bitter feud with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were deadlocked because of Israeli and US meddling, and insisted his men would stay in control of Gaza. (Middle East Times/AFP)

Hamas leader: Palestinians will ‘never stop the intifada’. Khaled Mashaal, Hamas’ most influential political leader, told McClatchy Newspapers that his Islamist organization is unwilling to make any significant concessions to Israel or to its Palestinian rivals in Fatah to repair fractured Middle East peace talks. In a rare 90-minute interview with an American news reporter earlier this week, Mashaal dismissed any suggestion that Hamas would recognize Israel or agree to early elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He said Hamas wouldn’t release an Israeli soldier captured last summer in the Gaza Strip unless Israel releases hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. And he warned that the Palestinians could stage a third violent uprising, known as an intifada, if Israel doesn’t relinquish control of the West Bank. (McClatchy)

Bush pledges support for al-Maliki. The US president has reiterated his support for Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, a day after he said US critics were “frustrated” by the slow progress in Iraq. Voicing his support for the Iraqi prime minister, Bush said: “Prime Minister Maliki is a good guy, a good man, with a difficult job. And I support him.” Bush also said that it was not the decision of US politicians to decide on al-Maliki’s future. “It is up to the Iraqi people who now live in a democracy and not a dictatorship.” (Al Jazeera)

US presses for presidential polls free of interference. The United States wants to see presidential elections in Lebanon held on time in accordance with the Lebanese Constitution, but most importantly wants elections free of external interference, according to Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Beirut William Grant, who spoke to the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation on Wednesday. Grant said that the United States will not negotiate with Syria at Lebanon’s expense, calling for relations between Lebanon and Syria to be based on mutual respect. “We are concerned over Syrian influence in Lebanon, directly or through proxy,” Grant said. (Daily Star)

Pakistan court says exiled ex-PM can come home. Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif could return home after spending seven years in exile, imposed by his embattled archfoe President Pervez Musharraf. Sharif’s party said he would come back, within weeks, to stand in upcoming elections, and lead the growing opposition to General Musharraf, who ousted the industrialist-turned-politician in October 1999. (Middle East Times/AFP)

Benazir unveils details of deal with Musharraf. Former premier Benazir Bhutto has detailed for the first time a plan to keep President Gen Pervez Musharraf in office under a power-sharing deal she said would strengthen the fight against terrorism. In remarks to a US network broadcast on Tuesday, Bhutto outlined an agreement that would reduce Musharraf’s power while allowing her to return from exile — and perhaps to government. “So we’re not trying to bail out a military dictator by saying we will come there on your terms. What we are seeking is a compromise that could help bring about a stable, democratic, civilian order,” Ms Bhutto said on PBS’s NewsHour With Jim Lehrer. (DAWN)

Pakistan: Presidential poll likely before UN session. Hectic consultations continue between the top aides and legal advisors of President General Pervez Musharraf for his re-election before he leaves for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York in the third week of September. “The UNGA session will start from the third Tuesday (18th) of September,” an official in the Foreign Office confirmed, adding that the president would address the UNGA on September 19 or 20. (Daily Times)

Russia: Election Officials Share Fraud Stories. With the Dec. 2 State Duma elections quickly approaching, the Central Elections Commission geared up to fight vote rigging and campaign fraud at a meeting with regional commission officials Wednesday at its Moscow headquarters. A commission spokesman said the event focused on fraud and dirty tactics, factors opposition parties and Western observers say have tarnished previous polls in the country. The spokesman, who did not give his name, said the meeting was to be followed by a two-day seminar for a wider audience Thursday and Friday. (Moscow Times)

Bush invokes Vietnam to justify Iraq commitment. The Middle East would face a generation of bloodshed and dangerous upheaval if the US quit Iraq in haste, President Bush gave warning yesterday. Mr Bush invoked Vietnam, and the chaos in SouthEast Asia after the American military’s withdrawal, to argue that the US must remain in Iraq until the country is stable. But he insisted that the US flight from Saigon in 1975 and the suffering of millions in Vietnam and Cambodia that followed had critical lessons for Iraq and the Middle East today. “Then, as now, people argued that the real problem was America’s presence and that if we would just withdraw, the killing would end,” Mr Bush said of the build up of opposition to the Vietnam War. (Times Online)

Militias Seizing Control of Iraqi Electricity Grid. Armed groups increasingly control the antiquated switching stations that channel electricity around Iraq, the electricity minister said Wednesday. hat is dividing the national grid into fiefs that, he said, often refuse to share electricity generated locally with Baghdad and other power-starved areas in the center of Iraq. The development adds to existing electricity problems in Baghdad, which has been struggling to provide power for more than a few hours a day because insurgents regularly blow up the towers that carry power lines into the city. The government lost the ability to control the grid centrally after the American-led invasion in 2003, when looters destroyed electrical dispatch centers, the minister, Karim Wahid, said in a news briefing attended also by United States military officials. The briefing had been intended, in part, to highlight successes in the American-financed reconstruction program here. But it took an unexpected turn when Mr. Wahid, a highly respected technocrat and longtime ministry official, began taking questions from Arab and Western journalists. (New York Times)

Fights erupt in Bolivian Congress. Bolivian politicians have exchanged blows in Congress amid a dispute over control of the country’s judiciary. The fighting in La Paz erupted when the opposition tried to stop pro-government deputies from bringing charges of improper conduct against four judges. Protests also continued in Sucre with demonstrators calling for the seat of government to be returned to the city. The ongoing protests have disrupted the work of an assembly meeting in Sucre to re-write the country’s constitution. (BBC)

Iran: Ahmadinejad Held to Election Promises. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who came to power two years ago, winning 62 percent of the popular vote, is rapidly losing popularity for failure to make good on election promises to improve the lives of ordinary people by sharing Iran’s vast oil revenues with them and respect their private lives. A poll run by Baztab news on the anniversary of the elections that brought Ahmadinejad to power found his popularity plummeting. The poll with 20,000 individuals polled showed that 62.5 percent of respondents who had voted for Ahmadinejad two years ago would not elect him president again. And only 3.5 percent of those who had not voted for him before said they would now vote for him for the presidency. (IPS)

British Jets Shadow A Russian Bomber. Two Royal Air Force jets shadowed a Russian strategic bomber that approached British airspace, Britain’s Defense Ministry said. The incident occurred Friday, the same day that President Vladimir Putin placed strategic bombers back on long-range patrol for the first time since the Soviet breakup. Britain’s Defense Ministry issued two photographs Tuesday on its web site showing one of the two British Typhoon F2s flying near the Tu-95 strategic bomber over the northern Atlantic Ocean. (Moscow Times)

Indefinite Curfew in Bangladesh After Student Riots. The army-backed interim government clamped an indefinite curfew on capital Dhaka and five other divisional headquarters with effect from 8 p.m. last night amid escalating student rioting across Bangladesh. In an urgent order, the interim regime also shut down sine die all the universities in the country and colleges in the six divisional cities of Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi, Khulna, Sylhet and Barisal. The students were asked to vacate their respective dormitories by 8 p.m. last night to quell the fast-spreading violent student protests across the country. (Arab News)

Iran develops 900-kg “smart bomb” — official media. Iran has developed a 2,000-pound (900-kg) “smart bomb”, official media quoted a Defence Ministry statement as saying August 22, in the latest announcement from Tehran about progress regarding military hardware. The guided bomb, named Qased (Messenger), was developed by specialists within the ministry and is now operational, IRNA news agency said, adding it could be dropped from F-4 and F-5 jets. Iran still uses planes, such as the F-5, supplied by the United States to the government of the former shah of Iran, who was a close U.S. ally. Mohammad Reza Shah was ousted in the 1979 Islamic revolution, after which Washington cut ties with Tehran. (Defense News)

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