Home > News > News in Brief: 27 August 2007

News in Brief: 27 August 2007

A brief list of news for the day:

Bush ally Gonzales resigns post. US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, embroiled in a row over the sacking of eight US attorneys, has formally announced his resignation. Members of Congress have accused Mr Gonzales of abuse of office over the sacking of federal prosecutors. He is the latest in a run of senior officials to leave the White House. A long-time ally of President George W Bush, Mr Gonzales has worked with the president since his days as Texas governor and was the country’s first attorney general of Hispanic descent. (BBC)

Pakistan Test Fires New Air-Launched, Nuke-Capable Cruise Missile. Pakistan on August 25 successfully test fired a new air-launched cruise missile capable of carrying nuclear weapons, the military said in a statement. The locally developed Ra’ad (Hatf-8) missile — Ra’ad means thunder in Arabic — has a range of 350 kilometers (217 miles) and uses stealth technology, it said. (Defense News)

Australia: ‘Uranium Sales May Fuel Asian Arms Race’. Australia’s deal to export uranium to India — which is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty — will strengthen India’s nuclear capabilities and could lead to a heightened arms race on the subcontinent, say activists. Dave Sweeney, from the Australian Conservation Foundation (AFC), says that Australia is rewarding unscrupulous behaviour. “In giving the go-ahead to uranium sales to India, the federal government is telling the world (that) if you break your promises, breach international law and build nuclear weapons, Australia will respond not with sanctions, but with priority picks of our uranium,” Sweeney told IPS. (IPS)

Abe’s Visit Underlines New Strategic. With Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s just-concluded maiden visit to India, New Delhi has taken one more step towards fashioning a new posture towards East Asia, seeking to expand its political influence in the region and strengthen economic ties with it. At the centre of this is India’s efforts to build a strategic relationship with Japan, which was launched during former Prime Minister Yushiro Mori’s visit to India in 2000. Then, the two governments announced a “Global Partnership between Japan and India in the 21st Century”. Besides greater cooperation in the economic field, including information technology, they have been trying to expand bilateral exchanges in political-military areas. (IPS)

Abe reshuffles cabinet in bid to regain support. Japan’s prime minister chose experienced conservatives as his new foreign and defense ministers Monday, news reports said, as the government attempted to regroup following a humiliating electoral defeat. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked Nobutaka Machimura, 62, to return as foreign minister, a post he held under Abe’s predecessor, national broadcaster NHK and Kyodo News agency reported. Abe also chose Masahiko Komura, 65, as defense minister, the reports said. Komura, who supports a hard-line against North Korea, served as foreign minister in the 1990s and as justice minister in 2002, the reports said. (International Herald Tribune)

India – Ties with US in our national interest, deal OK if home law changed: Advani. In a dramatic turnaround, the BJP today distanced itself from the Left over the Indo-US nuclear deal with Leader of Opposition L K Advani saying that his party has no objection to the 123 Agreement if the government amends the Indian Atomic Energy Act to ensure strategic independence and non-hindrance in reactor fuel supplies. (Indian Express)

Somali politician threatens attacks. One of the leaders of the Union of Islamic Courts movement has said that the group’s fighters will step up their attacks on Ethiopian forces deployed in Somalia. “They will be pushed out from Somalia and we will take back our freedom by force,” Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed has told AFP news agency in the Eritrean capital Asmara. “We have a right to live in peace and in freedom and a right to manage our affairs ourselves … Until we get that point, we will continue the fighting.” (Al Jazeera)

For second time, Maliki responses to criticism. For the second time in a week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki on Sunday expressed agitation with U.S. politicians who say they are frustrated with his government’s lack of political progress, this time targeting two prominent U.S. senators. Maliki’s comments came as a Kurdish militia spokesman said U.S. helicopters and fighter jets had mistakenly bombed two police stations near Qara Taba, a village 80 miles north of Baghdad in Diyala province. Four policemen were killed and eight others injured, according to the spokesman, Gen. Jabbar Yawr, who said the Kurdish officers had been brought to the area to help in U.S. efforts to pacify the province. (McClatchy)

Iraq: British retreat descends into chaos as Shia militia occupy police centre. Shia militia loyal to the firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have scuppered an attempt by British forces to hand over the Basra joint police command centre to Iraqi police. Iraqi police reportedly left when the Shia fighters arrived and began emptying the facility. According to witnesses, they made off with generators, computers, furniture and even cars, saying it was war booty – and were still in the centre yesterday evening. The embarrassing episode, which comes as the British in Basra are preparing to move their remaining soldiers to the city airport as part of a planned withdrawal, once again highlights the strength of the militia in the city. (The Independent)

Iraqi leaders sign unity accord. Iraqi Shia, Sunni and Kurdish leaders have signed a reconciliation deal, Prime Minister Nouri Maliki says. The accord was the second step towards rebuilding Iraq’s political process, Mr Maliki said, after four Kurdish and Shia parties formed a new alliance. (BBC)

Options Narrow for Pakistan’s Musharraf. Another defeat for President Gen. Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan’s Supreme Court has narrowed the options for the U.S.-allied military leader as he seeks to extend his rule. Thursday’s ruling that his arch rival, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom Musharraf ousted in a 1999 coup, can return from exile leaves the general vulnerable at home and abroad ahead of crucial elections. (AP)

Pakistan army officer abducted. A Pakistani army officer, two guards and a government official have been abducted in the South Waziristan tribal region of the country, officials said. No one has claimed responsibility for taking the men from near an army base in the town of Ladha, but officials said on Saturday that tribal leaders were trying to secure their release. South Waziristan borders Afghanistan, where Pakistani forces have carried out scores of operations against al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in recent years. (Al Jazzera)

Europe May Cut Military Role in Afghanistan. The United States is worried about weakening Italian and German military commitments in Afghanistan as casualties increase in the fight to stem the bloody Taliban insurgency, officials said. Debate is raging in Italy and Germany, and to a lesser extent the Netherlands and Denmark, on whether they should remain in the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF), already grappling with a shortage of troops in the face of one of the most intense military engagements in decades. (Defense News)

Saudis set up force to guard oil plants. Saudi Arabia has begun setting up a 35,000-strong security force to protect its oil infrastructure from potential attacks. The move underlines the kingdom’s growing concern about its oil installations after threats from al-Qaeda to attack facilities in the Gulf, as well as rising tensions between Iran and the US. The force already numbers about 5,000 personnel, a Saudi adviser said on Sunday. They are being trained in the use of new surveillance equipment, countermeasures and crisis management under a programme managed by US defence group Lockheed Martin, according to the Middle East Economic Survey in Nicosia. (Financial Times)

Fresh criticism of South Africa’s embattled health minister. South Africa’s embattled health minister faced a fresh barrage of criticism Sunday over her mistreatment of staff after this week refusing to quit amid allegations of drinking and theft. While a beleaguered Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has pledged to tough it out, observers say the flood of allegations will have major repercussions for President Thabo Mbeki who is steadfastly backing his health minister. After reports accusing the health minister of incompetence, alcoholism and theft, Sunday newspapers this week highlighted the plight of her recently fired deputy health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge. (IC Publications)

Taliban offers new direct talks on S.Korean hostages. Afghanistan’s Taliban said Sunday they were ready for more direct talks with South Korea over 19 hostages held for six weeks, but negotiators would have to bring something new to the table. Face-to-face talks between the Taliban and a South Korean delegation ended in failure, nearly two weeks ago, after authorities refused to bow to the rebels’ demands, especially the release of some of their jailed fighters. But Zabihullah Mujahed, one of the Taliban’s main spokesmen, said the Islamic militant group was ready to resume negotiations if the Koreans and Afghan authorities “come up with something new.” (Middle East Times/AFP)

Sudan Accused of Breaking Arms Embargo. The human rights group, Amnesty International released photographs Friday showing the Sudanese government continuing to deploy offensive military equipment in Darfur in what the group said was “breathtaking defiance” of both a United Nations arms embargo and peace agreements. The photographs were sent to Amnesty and the International Peace Information Service in Belgium by eyewitnesses. They were taken at El Geneina airport in Darfur, near the border with Chad. (allAfrica)

Nigerian Govt Suspends Currency Changes. President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua yesterday ordered the immediate stoppage of the Naira redenomination policy announced last week by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), citing the non-compliance by Professor Chukwuma Soludo, the CBN governor with Section 19 of the CBN Act. (allAfrica)

Yushchenko Calls for New Constitution. President Viktor Yushchenko on Friday pledged quick action to restore presidential powers in Ukraine after early elections next month meant to end a political deadlock with the prime minister. Yushchenko said he was setting up a constitutional council to proceed with changes to be approved by a countrywide referendum. He said the Sept. 30 parliamentary elections, intended to end a long power struggle pitting him against Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, was a chance to be seized by the population. (Moscow Times)

Russia Sells Venezuela 98 Ilyushin Aircraft. Russia has signed a deal to sell 98 Ilyushin civilian aircraft to Venezuela, Russian newspapers reported on Friday. Sergei Chemezov, head of state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, signed the deal for the Ilyushin-114 planes, which can be used as passenger and cargo planes, the Vremya-Novostei newspaper said. The deal could be worth several billion U.S. dollars, the Izvestia newspaper reported. Russia said last year it had sold 24 Sukhoi jets and 53 helicopters to Venezuela as part of a long-term package of arms contracts worth more than $3 billion. (Defense News)

Turkey’s FNSS to upgrade Saudi M113 armored vehicles. Turkey’s FNSS Defense has further strengthened its entry into the Persian Gulf and Asian defense markets by signing a modernization deal with Saudi Arabia worth over $200 million, involving a major overhaul of 300 United Defense-made M113 armored vehicles. (Today’s Zaman)

The 200 American AMRAAM air-to-air missiles on sale to Israel designed for F-15 and F-16 warplanes in IAF use. The most advanced medium-range air-to-air weapon of its kind, a single burst can be directed at several targets, DEBKAfile’s military sources report. Their sale was announced by the Pentagon along with 30 Harpoon anti-ship missiles and 500 AIM-9M Sidewinder air-to-air missiles in a transaction worth $334 million. Congress has 30 days to negative the sales. The Pentagon also announced the possible sale to Israel of $308 million worth of JP-8 aviation fuel for its aircraft and diesel fuel for its ground forces. (DEBKAfile)

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