Home > News > News in Brief: 4 September 2007

News in Brief: 4 September 2007

A brief list of news for the day:

Rafsanjani bounces back to head Iran clerical body. Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was elected head of Iran’s Assembly of Experts Tuesday, continuing a political comeback from the humiliation of his defeat in the 2005 presidential election. Rafsanjani becomes the second head of the Assembly of Experts – the body that supervises the work of the supreme leader – after the death of previous chairman ayatollah Ali Meshkini, who led the body for its 27 years of existence. The main job of the Assembly is to supervise and select the supreme leader, currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 67. If the performance of the supreme leader is deemed inadequate, it even has the power to oust him. (Middle East Times/AFP)

Bombs kill 24 near Pakistani capital. Two powerful bombs ripped through a bus and a market in the Pakistani garrison city of Rawalpindi today, killing at least 24 people including 15 government defence workers, and wounding 66 others. The devastating attacks happened minutes apart in sensitive military areas of the city, which is near the capital Islamabad and also the site of key US ally President Pervez Musharraf’s official army residence. (The Age)

Japanese minister quits in fresh blow to Abe. Japan’s farm minister has resigned over a money scandal in a fresh blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe just a week after he reshuffled his cabinet in the hope of cleaning up the Government’s image. Ending the shortest tenure in memory for a Japanese minister, Takehiko Endo yesterday submitted his resignation amid threats by an emboldened opposition to raise financial misdemeanours in Parliament. Mr Endo took office exactly a week earlier in a reshuffle by Mr Abe, who had begun to see his Government’s approval ratings rebound after a stinging election rebuke following earlier scandals. (The Age)

Iraqi flag signals the transfer of power in Basra. The Iraqi flag was fluttering over Basra Palace yesterday, in a potent symbol of British withdrawal from the last base inside the city. Both British and Iraqi officials declared a successful transition from UK to local control and insisted that law and order will not collapse. (The Independent)

Supreme Court orders Israel to reroute wall. In an embarrassing blow to the Israeli government, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the state to redraw the route of its West Bank separation barrier near a Palestinian village that has come to symbolize opposition to the enclosure. Residents of the village of Bilin went to court arguing that the current route, built on village land, kept them from their fields and orchards, which remained on the other side of the barrier. Villagers and their Israeli and foreign supporters have protested at the barrier every Friday for the past 21/2 years, routinely sparring with police in clashes that wounded dozens. The Israeli government argued that the route was necessary to protect residents of the nearby settlement of Modiin Illit, and completed the section of fence that cut through Bilin despite the protests. (Globe and Mail)

Israel threatens to cut Gaza power, water. Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon on Tuesday threatened to cut electricity, water and fuel supplies into Gaza if militants in the Hamas-ruled territory continued to fire rockets into Israel. “It is unthinkable to continue to furnish Gaza with electricity, water and fuel while Israeli citizens are live targets of these rockets,” Ramon, a close ally of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, told the mass-selling Yediot Aharonot daily. “We have to draw a line for the Palestinians. We have to make it be known that for any rocket fire, we will cut for two or three hours the supplies of water, electricity and fuel to the Gaza Strip,” he said. Environment Minister Gideon Ezra told public radio that he was also in favour of such a measure. (Khaleej Times/AFP)

Iraqi parliament faces US deadline. Iraq’s parliament has reconvened after a month-long summer break under pressure from Washington to take up key benchmark legislation. Washington has, however, put pressure on Iraqi politicans to work through the summer to tackle pressing issues. MPs face two major issues: whether former Baath party members will be allowed back to positions of power and whether to pass an oil law aimed at dividing up resources. (Al Jazeera)

India, US begin wargames in Bay of Bengal. About two dozen ships from five nations, led by the US, began their most ambitious exercises in the Bay of Bengal on Tuesday, as Leftists opposed to strategic ties with Washington launched protests. The naval drill, called the ‘Malabar Exercise’, is the seventh involving aircraft carriers, submarines and fighter jets of India and the US, whose friendship has blossomed this decade after they were on opposite sides of the Cold War. (The Indian Express)

India’s Left parties against joint naval exercises and warn the government against the India-US nuclear deal. The Left parties today kick-started a countrywide agitation against the joint naval exercise involving the US in the Bay of Bengal with the CPI-M also bluntly warning the Government that it would stall any move to operationalise the Indo-US nuclear deal. In Kolkata, veteran CPI(M) leader Jyoti Basu said the government will have to face “consequences” if it went ahead with the Indo-US nuclear deal. Flagging of Left parties ‘jatha’ (procession), Basu accused the government of a “tilt” towards the US. “The UPA government is trying to turn the country into the American fold which is against the Common Minimum Programme on the basis of which the Left is extending support to the Centre,” Basu said. (The Hindu)

Somalia’s Islamic Courts movement “intact”. A senior Somali Islamist leader said on Tuesday the Islamic Courts movement ousted from Mogadishu in a brief war at the end of 2006 remained unbroken and better-supported than before among the population. Many in Mogadishu and elsewhere in south Somalia credited the Islamists last year for bringing peace to areas knowing little but warlord rule and anarchy since 1991, when the Horn of Africa nation descended into chaos with the fall of a dictator. But Somalis, who are generally moderate Muslims, also complained of hardline practices by the SICC such as enforcing dress codes and banning public viewing of films. (Hiiraan/Reuters)

China denies Pentagon cyber-raid. China has denied reports that its military hacked into the computer network of the US Department of Defense in Washington. A foreign ministry official said the claims “reflected Cold War mentality”. (BBC)

Bush arrives in fortress Sydney. US President George W Bush has arrived in Sydney amid the tightest security Australia’s biggest city has ever seen.Sydney residents had been told to steer clear of the city centre and main roads were shut for Mr Bush’s motorcade. The city is in virtual lock-down as world leaders gather for the high-profile Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum (Apec) this week. Police have been seeking court action to prevent a major protest due to take place on Saturday. (BBC)

Bremer told Bush of plan to dissolve Iraqi ‘military and intelligence structures’. A previously undisclosed exchange of letters shows that President George W. Bush was told in advance by his top Iraq envoy in May 2003 of a plan to “dissolve Saddam’s military and intelligence structures,” a plan that the envoy, L. Paul Bremer, said referred to dismantling the Iraqi Army. Bremer provided the letters to The New York Times on Monday after reading that Bush was quoted in a new book as saying that U.S. policy had been “to keep the army intact” but that it “didn’t happen.” The dismantling of the army in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion is widely regarded as a mistake that stoked rebellion among hundreds of thousands of former Iraqi soldiers and made it more difficult to reduce sectarian bloodshed and attacks by insurgents. (International Herald Tribune)

Thousands Flee Violence in Eastern Congo. The UN Refugee Agency has expressed concern over the plight of thousands of civilians forced to flee worsening tension and fighting in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). (allAfrica)

U.S. Sends 2nd Batch of Humvees to Lebanon. As 130 newly donated Humvees rolled past the Lebanese Ministry of Defense Aug. 29, senior U.S. officials reiterated Washington’s pledge to arm and assist the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in their fight against extremists. “By the time we fulfill our commitment, the LAF will have a total of 295 new Humvees,” said Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon. “In 2007, the United States is providing the LAF with more than $270 million in assistance.” (Defense News)

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