Home > News > News in Brief: 10 September 2007

News in Brief: 10 September 2007

A brief list of news for the day:

Former Pakistani PM deported on return. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was deported to Saudi Arabia Monday, hours after he had landed in Pakistan following seven years in exile hoping to campaign against the country’s U.S.-allied military ruler, officials said. About four hours after he arrived on a flight from London, Mr. Sharif was taken into custody and charged with corruption, but then quickly spirited to another plane and flown out of Pakistan toward Jiddah, a close aide to President Pervez Musharraf said. Mr. Sharif’s deportation apparently sidelines a powerful political enemy of the general, but it is likely to deepen Gen. Musharraf’s growing unpopularity and reinforce public perceptions that he is an authoritarian ruler ahead of presidential and legislative elections. The deportation came despite a landmark Supreme Court ruling last month that the two-time former premier, whose elected government was ousted by Gen. Musharraf in a 1999 coup, had the right to return to Pakistan and that authorities should not obstruct him. (Globe and Mail/AP)

Benazir defends talks with Gen, takes potshots at Sharif. The rivalry between exiled former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif took a new turn with the PPP chief urging the PML-N leader to desist from using the name of her father Z A Bhutto. Benazir said that Sharif should not make a mockery of democracy by using the name of the former premier and founder of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) after striking a deal with a dictator to go into exile from his prison in 2000.

Petraeus to offer token withdrawal of troops in pivotal report on war in Iraq. The US military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, went to the Pentagon yesterday for a dress rehearsal of tough questioning – a “murder board” in American military jargon – before his much anticipated address to Congress on the status of the war today. General Petraeus is expected to offer the token withdrawal of 4,000 or so troops starting in January while dangling the prospect of further pull-outs later on. His proposals reflect a deeper argument raging at the highest levels of the US military over the scale of cutbacks. The Pentagon high command favours slashing US forces by three quarters over the next three years – in preparation for an expected conflict with Iran. General Petraeus and his fellow officers in Baghdad still believe the war in Iraq can be won. (The Independent)

India-U.S. Nuclear deal: Governing coalition partner, AIADMK, distances itself from Prime Minister Singh’s statement. All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) general secretary Jayalalithaa wonders whether her party is still part of the [governing coalition] United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) and whether the alliance itself exists. In a statement on Sunday, Ms. Jayalalithaa distanced her party from Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh’s recent statement that if a joint parliamentary committee to discuss the Indo-US nuclear deal was not possible, the Government should consider some other mechanism to take on board the views of political parties. (The Hindu)

Afghan bombings increase. Taliban insurgents carried out 103 suicide bombings in Afghanistan in the first eight months of the year, a 69 per cent increase over this period 12 months ago, a UN report says. More than 200 people, 80 per cent of whom were civilians, were killed. (The Age)

Taleban says “ready for talks”. The Taleban said Monday it was ready for talks with the Afghan government, one day after President Hamid Karzai offered negotiations in a bid to end a bloody insurgency. “As we did hold negotiations with the South Korean government, we can hold talks at an even higher level with the government,” he said by telephone from an undisclosed location. (Khaleej Times/AFP)

Fiji leader condemned, faces sanctions. Australia, New Zealand, the United States and the European Union have roundly condemned the new emergency measures, announced yesterday by coup leader and self-appointed prime minister Frank Bainimarama. The European Union said there would be a meeting in Brussels today to discuss the situation and warned Bainimarama’s move could contravene a deal it struck with Fiji’s military government in April. Under the deal, $F400 million ($294.6 million) in aid payments were made conditional on Fiji moving towards democracy, including ending the state of emergency imposed after the December coup. (The Australian)

Harare devalues dollar, but ‘too little, too late’. Zimbabwe devalued its currency by 1200 per cent yesterday in a desperate attempt to bring the world’s highest rate of inflation under control and save the shattered economy. But economists dismissed the measure as too little, too late. They blamed President Robert Mugabe’s policy of forcing businesses to slash prices and freeze wages for bringing the economy to its knees. Zimbabwe has the world’s highest official inflation of 7634 per cent, though independent estimates put the rate closer to 25,000 per cent. (The Australian)

Two US carrier-strike groups are bound for Persian Gulf region, bringing number back to three. from the third week of July, the only American strike force- carrier in the Persian Gulf-Arabian Sea region was the USS Enterprise. By the end of September, it will be joined by the USS Nimitz and the USS Truman Strike Groups. Our sources note that with their arrival, three American naval, air and marine forces will again confront Iranian shores at a time of crisis in the military and civilian leadership of Iran – signaled by the abrupt change of Revolutionary Guards Corps commanders, rising Israel-Syrian tensions and a troubled situation in Lebanon. (DEBKAfile)

IAEA to meet with ElBaradei urging patience. UN atomic watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei will brush aside US criticism when his International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meets Monday, and call for worried nations to wait and see if new inspections show whether Tehran seeks the bomb. The IAEA will be hearing an ElBaradei report backing a timetable, agreed last month, for Iran to answer outstanding questions over its nuclear program. ElBaradei has come under fire for his approach, as some Western diplomats have said the timetable gives Iran the chance to stave off the threat of new UN sanctions for a few more months. US officials have said the Security Council must be ready to impose a third round of sanctions to get Iran to stop enriching uranium, and to cooperate fully with the IAEA. But the IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors is not expected to impede or even pass judgement on ElBaradei’s timetable at the meeting opening in Vienna Monday, although the matter is expected to be debated. (Middle East Times/AFP)

Pentagon planning base near Iraq-Iran border: report. The Pentagon is preparing to build a military base near the Iraq-Iran border to try to curtail the flow of advanced Iranian weaponry to Shiite militants across Iraq, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday in its online edition. The base will be located about four miles from the Iranian border and will be used for at least two years, according to the report. U.S. officials told the paper it is unclear whether it will be among the small number of facilities that would remain in Iraq after any future large-scale U.S. withdrawal. The report comes on the same day the top U.S. commander in Iraq and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker present a progress report to Congress on the war. (Washington Post/Reuters)

Foreign envoys line up to mediate in Beirut as Berri urges March 14 to accept his offer. As international efforts to help Lebanon avert a crisis over its presidential election picked up steam, Speaker Nabih Berri warned the ruling coalition on Sunday against dragging the country into a “great disaster.” Berri announced two weeks ago that the opposition was ready to drop its demand for a national unity government if all Lebanese factions could agree on a consensus candidate for the presidency. The speaker officially called for a special session of Parliament on September 25 to elect a new head of state. (The Daily Star)

Mastermind of attack on Yazidis killed in Iraq. “On September 3, a coalition air strike killed the terrorist responsible for the planning and conducting of the horrific attack against the Yazidis in northern Iraq on August 14,” military U.S. spokesman Rear Admiral Mark Fox told a news conference. According to Reuters, Fox named the mastermind as Abu Mohammed Al-Aafri, who he said was an associate of Abu Ayyab Al-Masri, the Egyptian leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Aafri was killed in an air strike southwest of the northern city of Mosul, Fox added. (Daily Times)

French military academy opening branch in Qatar. France will open the first overseas branch of the renowned Saint-Cyr military academy in Qatar, French Defence Minister Herve Morin announced in Doha yesterday. The two countries have signed an agreement to establish the branch of the prestigious military school in Qatar which will train some 50 cadets annually and should open its doors by 2011 with the first officers graduating three years later. (Gulf Times)

NATO Asks Moscow to Clarify Ties. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the alliance wanted “a solid, trustful” relationship with Russia and that it was up to Moscow to clarify whether it wanted the same. De Hoop Scheffer told security experts meeting in Geneva that such a relationship would be a “long-term investment in European, and indeed global, security.” “It is up to Russia to clarify whether it holds a different view,” he said. The relationship between Moscow and the 26-nation alliance was tested Thursday when Norwegian and British fighters were scrambled to intercept eight Russian bombers that neared the Nordic country’s territory. (Moscow Times)

US gives stark warning to Eritrea. The US has issued Eritrea with its strongest warning yet over its alleged support for terrorism. A senior US official said the presence of an exiled Somali Islamist leader in Asmara this week was further evidence Eritrea gave sanctuary to terrorists. The gathering of further intelligence could lead to Eritrea being named as a state sponsor of terrorism – followed by sanctions, the official said. The Eritrean ministry of information website has just published a 35-point condemnation of US foreign policy accusing Jendayi Frazer herself of deliberate distortion. (Hiiraan)

For China’s Censors, Electronic Offenders Are the New Frontier. Party censors are now turning to China’s booming Internet and cellphone networks with particular vigor. Given the easy access to technologies such as text messaging, censors have found it difficult to keep a grip on information. It hasn’t been for lack of trying. The Public Security Ministry, which monitors the Internet under guidance from the Central Propaganda Department, has recruited an estimated 30,000 people to snoop on electronic communications. The ministry recently introduced two cartoon characters — a male and female in police uniforms — that it said would pop up on computer screens occasionally to remind people that their activity is being tracked. (Washington Post)

Guatemala to hold run-off elections. Otto Perez Molina, a former general will run against businessman Alvaro Colom in a presidential election run-off after a close first-round vote. None of the candidates earned more than half the votes in Sunday’s election, therefore a second round of voting will be held on November 4. Colom had won 27 per cent compared to 25 per cent for Perez Molina. (Al Jazeera)

Japan’s embattled PM vows to stay. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed to stay on, a day after he hinted he may quit if Japan’s mission in Afghanistan was not extended. Mr Abe has faced growing calls for his resignation, but said he was intent on staying to push through his reforms. On Sunday, Mr Abe staked his job on extending Japan’s support of the US-led mission in Afghanistan, beyond a current November deadline. (BBC)

APEC meeting fizzles to inconclusive end. The much-anticipated Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Sydney limped to a close Sunday, with a heavily compromised agreement on tackling climate change, few answers on how to push the global trade agenda forward and a huge security operation that ended up a laughing stock. (International Herald Tribune)

U.S. Viewed as Turkey’s “Greatest Threat”. Nearly two-thirds of the Turkish public named the United States as their country’s greatest future threat, a recent Pew Global Attitudes Project survey has revealed — the highest percentage of any Middle Eastern or Islamic country polled. The survey, which was also conducted in Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco and Israel, asked an open ended question: “What country or groups pose the greatest threat to (survey country) in the future?” Turkey was the only country in which a majority of respondents pointed to the U.S. (IPS)

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