Home > News > News in Brief: 28 August 2007

News in Brief: 28 August 2007

A brief list of news for the day:

U.S. Attorney General Held Firm on War Policies. Days after President Bush’s secret eavesdropping program was publicly revealed in December 2005, a battle-weary Alberto R. Gonzales stood before a room of reporters at the White House and asserted that “the president has the inherent authority under the Constitution, as commander in chief, to engage in this kind of activity.” Time and again, as both White House counsel and attorney general, Mr. Gonzales would return to that theme: in a time of war, the president has broad powers to protect the country. It would become Mr. Gonzales’s mantra and, ultimately, by alienating lawmakers who accused the administration of overreaching, it would contribute to his undoing. (New York Times)

Indian Aerospace Command May Soon Take Shape. India’s long-delayed Aerospace Command may be established in the near future, said Gen. J.J. Singh, Indian Army chief. The concept of an Aerospace Command was floated after the 1999 Pakistan intrusion in the Kargil area, but was put on hold by the Defence Ministry because of a lack of funds and disagreements over whether to have a separate command for the Indian Air Force and other forces. The Aerospace Command was envisioned as the headquarters for space technologies, and would help link radar and communications networks and be used for ballistic missile defense and intelligence-gathering, an Air Force official said. The center is intended to integrate and train joint warfare professionals. The prime objectives are promotion of joint strategies among the three services and to conduct studies and research in joint war fighting. (Defense News)

Russian Nuclear Sites Possible In Belarus. Russia may consider deploying new nuclear facilities in Belarus in response to a U.S. plan to operate a missile shield in eastern Europe, Russia’s ambassador in Minsk was quoted as saying August 27. (Defense News)

Iraqi insurgents taking cut of U.S. rebuilding money. Iraq’s deadly insurgent groups have financed their war against U.S. troops in part with hundreds of thousands of dollars in U.S. rebuilding funds that they’ve extorted from Iraqi contractors in Anbar province. The payments, in return for the insurgents’ allowing supplies to move and construction work to begin, have taken place since the earliest projects in 2003, Iraqi contractors, politicians and interpreters involved with reconstruction efforts said. A fresh round of rebuilding spurred by the U.S. military’s recent alliance with some Anbar tribes — 200 new projects are scheduled — provides another opportunity for militant groups such as al Qaeda in Iraq to siphon off more U.S. money, contractors and politicians warn. (McClatchy)

A third of UK’s biggest businesses pay no tax. Almost a third of the UK’s 700 biggest businesses paid no corporation tax in the 2005-06 financial year while another 30 per cent paid less than £10m each, an official study has found. Of the tax paid by these businesses, two-thirds came from just three industries – banking, insurance and oil and gas – while the alcohol, tobacco, car and real estate sectors contributed only a few hundred million pounds. Altogether, these large public and private companies paid £24.4bn in 2005-06, or just more than half of all the corporation tax paid, according to a National Audit Office analysis of the tax raised from the 700 companies handled by the large business service of Revenue & Customs. It found that 50 businesses, or 7 per cent of the 700, paid 67 per cent of the tax while about 220 paid none and another 210 each paid less than £10m. (Financial Times)

France: L’Affaire Libyen Shows a New Policy. When the government of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi freed five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor after eight years in prison last month, it marked not only the latest twist in Gaddafi’s idiosyncratic rule, but was seen as the opening salvo of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s new diplomatic modus operandi in Africa and beyond. (IPS)

Iran risks attack over atomic push, French president says. In his first major foreign policy speech as president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday that Iran could be attacked militarily if it did not live up to its international obligations to curb its nuclear program. Addressing France’s ambassadorial corps, Sarkozy stressed that such an outcome would be a disaster. He did not say that France would ever participate in military action against Iran or even tacitly support such an approach. But the mere fact that he raised the specter of the use of force is likely to be perceived by Iran as a warning of the consequences of its continuing course of action and by the Bush administration as acceptance of its line that no option, including the use of force, can be excluded. (International Herald Tribune)

Iran Agrees to Reveal Nuclear Info. Iran on Monday offered some cooperation with an International Atomic Energy Agency probe of an alleged secret uranium processing project linked by U.S. intelligence to a nuclear arms program. The Iranian pledge was contained in a memorandum reached between Iran and the IAEA and published on the agency’s Web site at the request of Tehran’s mission to the agency. In it, Tehran also outlined its timetable for providing other sensitive information sought by the IAEA in its probe of more than two decades of nuclear activity by the Islamic republic, most of it clandestine until revealed more than four years ago. (AP)

Colombia: Campaign Seeks to Make Water a Constitutional Right. Sixty environmental, indigenous, labour and social organisations in Colombia are carrying out a campaign for a constitutional amendment that would make access to clean water a fundamental right. The proponents of the initiative have already fulfilled the first legal requirement by collecting some 135,000 signatures, equivalent to five out of every 1,000 registered voters. But they now face a bigger challenge. Once the signatures are certified as valid by the Registraduría Nacional del Estado Civil (national registry), the organisations will have to gain the support of 1.5 million Colombians in order for Congress to call a referendum in which voters would decide in favour of or against the proposed constitutional amendment. (IPS)

Venezuela to Buy 5,000 Russian Sniper Rifles. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Aug. 26 that he plans to buy 5,000 Dragunov sniper rifles from Russia to protect the oil-rich nation from a possible U.S. invasion. The U.S. has cut arms sales to Venezuela and blocked several attempts by Chavez to acquire military aircraft technology on the grounds that Venezuela has not adequately explained why it needs the equipment. Venezuela last year purchased 24 Sukhoi fighters jets and 100,000 Kalashnikov AK-103 assault rifles from Russia, and is currently negotiating the purchase of submarines. (Defense News)

Armed forces issue warning on eve of Turkish presidential vote. Turkey’s staunchly secular armed forces said yesterday that secularism in the country was under attack by “centres of evil”, in a strong warning a day ahead of the expected election to the presidency of Abdullah Gul, a former Islamist. (Guardian)

Musharraf envoys in London for Bhutto deal. General Pervez Musharraf has sent envoys to London to secure a power-sharing deal with one of Pakistan’s former prime ministers. One of the general’s ministers confirmed yesterday that the Pakistani leader had sent representatives to talk with Benazir Bhutto, who has had a recent face-to-face meeting with Mr Musharraf about a deal. His actions suggest he is very concerned Ms Bhutto will back away from such an arrangement for fear that siding with him will cost her political support. Her concerns may have been triggered by a decision by Pakistan’s Supreme Court last week that opened the way for another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, to return. Many of Ms Bhutto’s aides are concerned that, by seeing to side with the increasingly unpopular Mr Musharraf, she could see her support shift to Mr Sharif. (The Independent)

Musharraf may trade army post for re-election. President Gen Pervez Musharraf’s team of emissaries, led by ISI chief Lt Gen Ashfaq Kiani, and PPP Chairperson Benazir Bhutto are understood to have discussed, at a ‘final meeting’ here on Monday, the possibilities of convening an all-party conference for achieving a ‘grand national reconciliation’. According to sources, President Musharraf has offered to doff the uniform even before the presidential elections. But in the trade-off, he wants all political parties to agree to elect him president for the next five years after the new assemblies come into being following the next general election. He, however, is said to want the powers of the office of the president to remain untouched _ at least up to the end of his new term. According to the sources, the package of offers being discussed at the meeting includes formation of a national government, which would then appoint a chief election commissioner by consensus. (DAWN)

Curfew in Bangladesh cities ends. The military-backed government in Bangladesh has lifted a curfew imposed in six major cities last Wednesday following days of student riots. (BBC)

Some Turkey secularists move away from hard anti-Gul line. With the election of foreign minister Abdullah Gul to the Turkish presidency all but certain Tuesday, many secularist opponents are calling for a more moderate stance against the former Islamist and his governing Justice and Development Party (AKP). (Middle East Times/AFP)

Protest strike shuts down India Hyderabad city. Indian police detained about 100 right-wing Hindu activists who tried to enforce a strike in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad to protest weekend bombings in which at least 42 people were killed. (Khaleej Times/AP)

China casts wary eye on foreign takeovers. As the Chinese government and many Chinese companies start looking for foreign companies to buy, including a possible bid for a U.S. manufacturer of computer hard drives, lawmakers in Beijing are about to pass legislation limiting foreign acquisitions in China on national security grounds. (International Herald Tribune)

Japan PM’s crisis not over after cabinet shuffle. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new cabinet line-up of veteran lawmakers got a lukewarm reception from media and voters on Tuesday, with newspapers warning that the crisis for the unpopular Japanese leader was far from over. Abe, 52, his ratings in tatters after an election drubbing for his ruling camp last month, ditched most of his close allies and tapped experienced party heavyweights for key posts in Monday’s sweeping cabinet reshuffle. But doubts run deep as to whether the changes will improve Abe’s image as a weak leader or smooth his government’s path in parliament, where a resurgent opposition won control of the upper house in the July 29 election. (Khaleej Times/Reuters)

Afghanistan ‘set for record opium harvest’. This year’s opium harvest in Afghanistan is projected to reach a record high, up 34 per cent on 2006, with Helmand province ‘single-handedly’ becoming the world’s largest source of illicit drugs, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said on Monday. (Financial Times)

New Arabian Gulf Oil Pipeline Network Will Detour Hormuz. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen have launched the vast Trans-Arabia Oil Pipeline project with encouragement from Washington, DEBKA-Net Weekly 313 revealed on Aug. 10, 2007. By crisscrossing Arabia overland, the net of oil pipelines will bypass the Straits of Hormuz at the throat of the Persian Gulf and so remove Gulf oil routes from the lurking threat of Iranian closure. (DEBKAfile)

‘Australia can’t export uranium to India’. Australia will be in breach of an international anti-nuclear treaty as well as specific undertakings given by its Foreign Minister if the government goes ahead with plans to sell uranium to India, the world’s largest NGO working against nuclear proliferation has claimed. Experts from the James Martin Centre for Non-Proliferation Studies (CNS) at the Monterey Institute of International studies in California have seized on a statement made by Foreign Minister Alexander Downer ten years ago, in which he said Australia could only sell uranium to countries that had signed up to “full scope safeguards” on their nuclear plants, according to a report published in The Age. (The Indian Express)

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