Home > News > News in Brief: 13 September 2007

News in Brief: 13 September 2007

A brief list of news for the day:

Abe resigns after year of scandal. The esignation of Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, one year into office could trigger unprecedented turmoil for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Japanese politics, stunned party members fear. Mr Abe finally capitulated to months of pressure following a number of corruption scandals in his cabinet and a crisis over lost pension records, which intensified when his party suffered a crushing and historic defeat in upper house elections in July. On Sunday, while visiting Sydney for the APEC summit, Mr Abe, 52, staked his job on the extension of Japan’s anti-terrorism law in the Diet, which resumed sitting on Monday. The law authorises the dispatch of Maritime Self-Defence Force vessels in the Indian Ocean to provide refuelling support for anti-terrorism operations in and around Afghanistan. But yesterday afternoon, the fiercely nationalistic Prime Minister said he would step down to give the law, which faces solid resistance from opposition parties, a stronger chance. (The Age)

Japan’s PM hospitalized day after quitting. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was hospitalized for psychological stress and exhaustion Thursday, a day after he announced he would quit amid failure at the ballot box and a political brawl over the country’s aid to U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. (Globe and Mail)

Estrada Found Guilty of Plunder, Sentenced to Life in Prison. Former Philippine President Joseph Estrada was convicted yesterday of the crime of plunder and sentenced to life in prison, more than six years after he was kicked out of office by a “people power” revolution. (Arab News)

Troop levels in Iraq likely to remain above 130,000. More than 130,000 U.S. troops are likely to remain in Iraq next summer after the withdrawal of five combat brigades, military officials familiar with U.S. deployments said Wednesday. (McClatchy)

Putin defies expectations in naming Zubkov PM. Anonymous bureaucrat promoted to post traditionally seen as springboard to presidency. President Vladimir Putin fired the starting gun in next year’s race for the Kremlin yesterday as he appointed a new prime minister, traditionally a springboard to the presidency.Mr. Zubkov, 65, the head of a financial market watchdog, was familiar to political analysts as a Putin loyalist from the president’s native St. Petersburg, but he was practically unknown to the general public. His appointment followed the resignation yesterday of the government led by former premier Mikhail Fradkov, another grey figure who appeared to have outlived his usefulness. (Globe and Mail)

Al-Qaeda fights back at Afghan peace bid. The Taliban have responded positively to Afghanistan’s offer to start peace talks. With active backing from the United States, tribal leaders in Pakistan are already working towards traditional peace councils involving all parties. Most threatened by these developments is al-Qaeda. Having already lost primacy in the Iraqi resistance, al-Qaeda does not want to lose ground in Afghanistan. In this context, Osama bin Laden’s latest video is a rallying call. (Asia Times)

Taliban readies Ramadan offensive. The Taliban says it is launching a major Ramadan offensive amid claims by US and Pakistani forces that they have killed about 75 suspected fighters of the anti-government group. And for the first time, the Taliban claims to control a large area north of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul. (Al Jazeera)

Israel’s Syria ‘raid’ remains a mystery. During the early hours of last Thursday morning, a number of Israeli jets appear to have entered Syrian air-space from the Mediterranean Sea, possibly penetrating deep into the country. Later unidentified drop tanks, which may have contained fuel for the planes, were found on Turkish soil near the Syrian border, indicating perhaps the Israeli jets’ exit route. Israeli sources are saying nothing. US officials indicate that at least one target in northern Syria was hit and despite the Israeli silence there does seem to be a perceptible mood of satisfaction in Israel; a sense that what they wanted to achieve was carried out. Initially experts suggested that this might simply have been an over-flight to trigger air defence radars and gather electronic intelligence. Such a probe might be linked to new air defence missiles reportedly supplied to Syria by the Russians. What is intriguing is that the response of both the Syrian and Israeli governments has been muted – in the Israeli case largely mute. (BBC)

Germany Hopes to Revive CFE Arms Treaty. The German government plans to host an international conference in October to discuss the future of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty. It’s survival has is in threat since Russia decided to pull out. The CFE treaty was signed in 1990 and updated in 1999. It limits the number of tanks, artillery, aircraft and helicopters stationed in Europe. Russia announced in July that it no longer considered the treaty effective. Moscow said that the failure of NATO countries to ratify the latest version of the treaty was the main reason for the decision. But Russian officials also said that a US plan to station parts of a new missile defense system in central European countries also played a role, Reuters news service reported. They consider the system a threat to Russia’s national security. (Deutsche Welle)

Indonesia: House challenges legality of new free trade zones. The fate of the newly inaugurated Batam, Bintan and Karimun free trade zones (FTZs) appears to be in limbo as members of the House of Representatives continue to question the legal basis for their establishment. Most members of the House of Representatives’ trade and investment commission stated during a working meeting with the government Wednesday that the issuance of an emergency government regulation in lieu of law (emergency regulation) to amend the 2000 Free Trade Zone Law (FTZ) had resulted in a lack of synchronization with other laws and regulations. (Jakarta Post)

IDF ground troops stage limited incursion into central Gaza Strip. Israeli ground troops entered central Gaza Wednesday night, a day after rocket fire from the Gaza strip wounded 69 Israeli soldiers but the military said the incursion was a low-scale routine operation. Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired four Qassam rockets at the western Negev on Wednesday morning, a day after a similar attack on an Israel Defense Forces base left 69 soldiers wounded. (Haaretz)

Hamas on high alert for major Israeli offensive in Gaza. Hamas said on Wednesday its security forces in Gaza have gone on high alert ahead of an anticipated large-scale Israeli offensive in the Islamist-controlled Palestinian territory. Also yesterday, Middle East envoy Tony Blair called for expanding the capabilities of Palestinian security forces to bolster Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking efforts. Israel is reluctant to accept a specific timetable for peace moves at a US-sponsored conference without more guarantees that Palestinian forces can prevent attacks on Israel if the Jewish state begins reducing its military presence in the occupied West Bank. (Jordan Times)

S. Arabia might shun peace conference. Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Wednesday it is doubtful the kingdom will attend the Middle East peace conference called by the United States if it does not tackle core issues of the conflict.US President George W. Bush has called for the international conference, expected to be held in November, in order to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. But Arab leaders, including US-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, have since said that the conference must also address the Syrian and Lebanese tracks of the long-stalled peace process. (Jordan Times)

Beirut cleared of Hizbullah communications cabling. Premier Fouad Siniora’s Cabinet declared Wednesday that cabling for a private communications network installed and used by Hizbullah in Beirut has been removed. Back in August the government formed a special telecommunication committee to draft a report on information that Hizbullah had installed its own communications infrastructure in Beirut, its suburbs and in the South of the country, which the group relied on during the summer 2006 war with Israel. (Daily Star)

Maliki ‘perplexed’ at US anger over Iraq-Iran ties. Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki said in a Cable News Network (CNN) interview broadcast late Wednesday that he was “perplexed” at anger among US politicians over his close ties with Iran. CNN told Maliki that many Americans criticized him for being photographed holding hands with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a visit to Tehran in early August. Ahmadinejad said August 20 that he is planning to visit to Iraq, responding to an invitation from Maliki’s Shiite-led government. He gave no date. The top US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, said Wednesday there was hard evidence of Iranian involvement in attacks on US soldiers. (Middle East Times/AFP)

Shelling Near Iranian Border Is Forcing Iraqi Kurds to Flee. For four weeks now, Kurdish villagers in this far northeastern corner of Iraq have endured a punishing barrage of rockets and artillery shells from what they say are Iranian troops across the border. The attacks are an ominous reminder that the emergence of an increasingly self-sufficient Kurdish region in northern Iraq could provoke reprisals or even invasions by Iran and Turkey. (Washington Post)

Compromise on Oil Law in Iraq Seems to Be Collapsing. A carefully constructed compromise on a draft law governing Iraq’s rich oil fields, agreed to in February after months of arduous talks among Iraqi political groups, appears to have collapsed. The oil law — which would govern how oil fields are developed and managed — is one of several benchmarks that the Bush administration has been pressing the Iraqis to meet as a sign that they are making headway toward creating an effective government. Again and again in the past year, agreement on the law has been fleetingly close before political and sectarian disagreements have arisen to stall the deal. (New York Times)

Need for democratic transition: US. The United States said on Wednesday that Pakistan needed a ‘democratic political transition’. When asked about former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s deportation, Mr Negroponte offered no criticism. He said it was “an internal Pakistani political and legal matter and it’s for the government and people of Pakistan to decide”. He offered broad support for President Musharraf. “We welcome Pakistan’s leadership as a voice of moderation and reason in the Islamic world. Your nation remains a valuable ally in the war on terror,” he said. (DAWN)

Wheat smuggling unabated. Undeterred by government’s rhetoric against hoarders, an estimated 1.5 million tonnes of wheat has so far been smuggled out of Pakistan over the last 45 days as domestic flour prices increased by almost 40 per cent since February this year, it is learnt. Wheat prices have surged by almost 38 per cent to Rs1,450 per 100kg from about Rs1,050 in February despite record production of 23.5 million tonnes which is much higher than the estimated 22 million tonnes of domestic consumption and some exports to Afghanistan. In public sector its rate is fixed at Rs1,215 per 100kg. (DAWN)

Somali opposition forms new “liberation” movement. Somali opposition figures meeting in Eritrea united to form a new “liberation” movement on Wednesday to seek a military or diplomatic solution to conflict in their homeland, a spokesman said. The main aim of the organisation, called The Alliance For The Liberation Of Somalia, is to secure the exit of Ethiopian troops who are backing the interim government in Somalia. About 400 opposition figures, from Islamists to an ex-deputy prime minister, have been meeting in Eritrea for a week to unify and plot strategy to get Ethiopian troops out of Somalia. (Hiiraan)

Greece: Far-right movement gathers strength as Greek election nears. For almost the first time since the collapse of military rule 33 years ago, a group that has been internationally denounced for supporting “virulent nationalism, anti-semitism, racism and xenophobia” appears set to muster enough votes to enter the Greek parliament. The party also has a special appeal to the 20% of the population who live below the poverty line, with its straight-talking former body-builder leader being particularly popular among working-class men. (Guardian)

EU told to accept 20m migrant workers. Europe must relax its immigration controls and open the door to an extra 20m workers during the next two decades, the European Union’s justice chief will say on Friday. While 85 per cent of unskilled labour goes to the EU and only five per cent to the US, some 55 per cent of skilled labour goes to the USA and only five per cent to the EU. The [EU’s] Italian [justice commisioner] wants to reverse those figures by means of harmonised policies to allow in millions of extra workers of all abilities. (FT)

Panel urges World bank to change antigraft plan. The anticorruption drive led by Paul D. Wolfowitz as president of the World Bank, which shook the institution and contributed to his downfall, remains hampered by weak management, internal distrust and employee resistance to combating fraud, a panel of outside experts concluded Wednesday. (International Herald Tribune)

Tehran warns on new UN sanctions. Iran yesterday warned that its policy of increased co-operation with the UN atomic watchdog would be at risk if a third set of UN sanctions were imposed on the Islamic republic. (Gulf Times)

Sub Plans Surface Online. Russia could be developing a top-secret new type of submarine capable of patrolling underwater longer than existing diesel-powered submarines, Kommersant reported Wednesday. The project, code named 20120, came to light when details were inadvertently posted on the web site of the Novgorod region town of Sarov, Kommersant said. (Moscow Times/Reuters)

Peru: Mining Project Hurting Highland Ecosystem. The preliminary results of a study by researchers at the University of Texas have shown that the exploration phase of the Río Blanco mining project in Peru’s northwestern Andes mountains caused damages to the area’s biological diversity. (IPS)

The migration across the Gulf of Aden in facts. A growing number of people fleeing conflict, famine and persecution in the Horn of Africa region are attempting the peril-fraught crossing of the Gulf of Aden to seek a better life. Tens of thousands converge each year on the port of Bosaso, the economic capital of Somalia’s northern autonomous region of Puntland, with the aim of reaching Yemen and finding work there or in Saudi Arabia. Many die before they even reach Bosaso, others die of exhaustion or starving during a crossing on rickety dhows and others are killed by their smugglers or drown when their boats capsize. (IC Publications/AFP)

Côte d’Ivoire: Striking State Doctors Snub Health Ministry’s Call for Minimum Services. One week into a nationwide strike, the union of state doctors in Cote d’Ivoire has again rebuffed a call by the heath ministry to reinstate at least minimum services. On 5 September SYNACASS-CI launched the second strike in two months over pay scales, benefits and other grievances with the government. But unlike the work stoppage in August, this time health workers are refusing to provide even minimum services. (allAfrica)

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