Home > News > News in Brief: 21 September 2007

News in Brief: 21 September 2007

A brief list of news for the day:

Long-term US Iraq bill to be 25 billion dollars: Congress. A decades-long US presence in Iraq would cost around 25 billion dollars a year in combat conditions, and up to 10 billion even in more peaceful times, a new congressional report said. Upfront costs for a combat force of 55,000 US troops, modelled on the current US mission in Iraq, would mean a one-time payment of “four to eight billion dollars and annual costs of approximately 25 billion dollars.” Even a US force of the same size in a less exposed non-combat role, would entail up-front costs of eight billion dollars and an annual outlay of up to 10 billion dollars, the report said. (AFP)

In blow to Democrats, Senate kills anti-war bill. President George W. Bush’s administration Wednesday thwarted the latest bid by Democrats to derail its Iraq strategy, as the Senate blocked a bid to limit the numbers of troops ready for deployment. (Middle East Times/AFP)

US endorses Arab-African peace force for Somalia. The United States gave its blessing on Thursday to the idea of an Arab-African peacekeeping force for Somalia to replace a small, Ugandan-only mission that has failed to stem an Islamist-led insurgency. “I think that if there would be a peacekeeping force made up of other Arab nations, it would be quite satisfactory,” U.S. special envoy to Somalia, John Yates, said of the proposal floated days ago by Somali government leaders in Saudia Arabia. Foreign diplomats, however, see beefing up a peacekeeping force inside Somalia as the only way to facilitate the exit of Ethiopian troops. They prop up the interim government but are also a pretext for violence by “anti-occupation” insurgents. The Alliance For The Re-Liberation Of Somalia is headed by former Islamic Courts leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed. It also includes other members of the movement chased out of Mogadishu by allied Ethiopian-Somali government troops at the end of 2006. Washington supports the Somali government, and Ethiopia is its closest counter-terrorism ally in the Horn of Africa. (Awdal)

Calls for a Breakup Grow Ever Louder in Belgium. [The] country of 10.4 million is of a bad marriage writ large — two nationalities living together that cannot stand each other. Now, more than three months after a general election, Belgium has failed to create a government, producing a crisis so profound that it has led to a flood of warnings, predictions, even promises that the country is about to disappear. Radical Flemish separatists like Mr. Dewinter want to slice the country horizontally along ethnic and economic lines: to the north, their beloved Flanders — where Dutch (known locally as Flemish) is spoken and money is increasingly made — and to the south, French-speaking Wallonia, where a kind of provincial snobbery was once polished to a fine sheen and where today old factories dominate the gray landscape. (New York Times)

144-nation atomic energy conference criticizes Israel. A 144-nation atomic energy conference criticized Israel Thursday for refusing to put its nuclear program under international purview, with the United States alone in supporting the Jewish state. Besides Washington, only Israel voted against the resolution, while 53 nations backed it and 47 abstained. (Ynetnews)

Controversy swirls around Iranian leader’s visit to New York. Plans by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit New York next week have sparked deep controversy in the United States, where the Iranian leader is considered an ally of Islamic militants and Iraqi insurgents. Ahmadinejad is due to address the UN General Assembly on Tuesday and had wanted to tour Ground Zero — the site of the September 11 attacks of 2001 — during his visit, but was denied permission on Wednesday on security grounds. (IC Publications)

Sarkozy calls for stronger sanctions against Iran. French President Nicolas Sarkozy accused Iran directly of seeking nuclear weapons Thursday and suggested tougher sanctions against the Mideast country. Mr. Sarkozy, who has toughened the French position on Iran since taking office in May, called the possibility of an Iranian bomb “unacceptable.” Mr. Sarkozy was expected to discuss sanctions with other world leaders at the UN General Assembly next week. (Globe and Mail)

U.N., AU differ on composition of Darfur peace force. Not enough countries have contributed to the peacekeeping force in Darfur and the African Union is blocking some of those who have, diplomats said on the eve of a high-level meeting on Sudan on Friday. (Reuters)

Scramble for Resources Driving Sudan Conflicts. A U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) report released here this week emphasises strong linkages between environmental stresses and the ongoing conflict in Sudan. The new assessment of the country, including the troubled region of Darfur, indicates that among the root causes of decades of social strife and conflict are the rapidly eroding environmental conditions in several parts of the country. The violence sponsored by the Sudanese government and perpetrated by its Janjaweed militias has claimed at least 400,000 lives, displaced 2.5 million people and left more than 3.5 million men, women and children struggling to survive amid violence and starvation, according to the U.N. (IPS)

U.S.-funded broadcasters in S. Korea bombard North. In isolated North Korea, the only legal transistor radios have dials permanently set to government stations. But smugglers and itinerant traders bring an increasing number of radios into North Korea, according to anecdotal reports, and that’s gratifying news for three tiny broadcasters that beam information north of the border. Each night, the three U.S.-financed radio stations crackle onto the air, trying to reach North Koreans who are brave — or reckless — enough to tune into foreign newscasts in defiance of the North’s Stalinist regime. (McClatchy)

Fury as Netanyahu confirms Syria strike. Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the right-wing opposition party Likud, was chacteristically at the centre of a controversy yesterday after appearing to be the first Israeli politician to confirm an air strike against Syria two weeks ago. With reporting in Israel covoered by military censorship, Mr Netanyahu startled television viewers – and reportedly shocked the office of the Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert – by answering a question about the supposed air strike in an interview. The row came as US President George Bush – while refusing to confirm what US officials have been anonymously briefing for more than a week was a strike on a suspected nuclear facility built with North Korean help – warned against nuclear prolifetration by North Korea. (The Independent)

Bin Laden tape urges uprising against ‘infidel’ Musharraf as poll date is set. Osama bin Laden declared war on Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, yesterday, calling on ordinary people to rise against their “infidel” leader in retaliation for the storming by troops of Islamabad’s radical Red Mosque in July. The fiery denunciation came as election officials announced October 6 as the presidential polling date – when General Musharraf will seek his own re-election despite a mounting protest and a welter of legal challenges against him. (Guardian)

Lebanese MPs Go Into Hiding. Jittery members of Lebanon’s ruling coalition have gone into hiding, many of them abroad, for fear of meeting the same fate as an anti-Syrian MP who was blown up just days before a key presidential poll. (Arab News)

Pakistan: Lawyers plan to besiege Electoral Commission offices. Lawyers will lay siege to the offices of the Election Commission of Pakistan on Sept 29 — the day of scrutiny of the nomination papers of President Gen Pervez Musharraf. Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, Supreme Court Bar Association president Munir A. Malik, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, Hamid Khan and Ali Ahmed Kurd said that lawyers would continue their peaceful struggle for supremacy of rule of law. (DAWN)

Guards’ shots not provoked, Iraq concludes. Iraq’s Ministry of Interior has concluded that employees of a private American security firm fired an unprovoked barrage in the shooting last Sunday in which at least eight Iraqis were killed and is proposing a radical reshaping of the way American diplomats and contractors here are protected. In the first comprehensive account of the day’s events, the ministry said that security guards for Blackwater USA, a company that guards all senior American diplomats here, fired on Iraqis in their cars in midday traffic. The document concludes that the dozens of foreign security companies here should be replaced by Iraqi companies, and that a law that has given the companies immunity for years be scrapped. Privately, [U.S. officials] officials have warned against drawing conclusions before American investigators have finished interviewing the Blackwater guards. (International Herald Tribune)

Nuclear-deal: Debate will have to play its course, US says. The debate and discussions in India over the civilian nuclear deal will have to play its course and it is best that this process takes place without the involvement of third parties, especially the US, a senior American official has said. (The Hindu)

Arctic seabed ‘belongs to Russia’. A Russian expedition has proved that a ridge of mountains below the Arctic Ocean is part of Russia’s continental shelf, government officials have said. The Natural Resources Ministry said tests on soil samples showed Russia was linked to the Lomonosov Ridge. Moscow has mounted several expeditions recently – and risked tensions with rivals in August by planting a flag in the seabed below the North Pole. (BBC)

India, US to discuss bilateral trade, WTO talks. Top US and Indian officials will meet next week to discuss ways to boost business ties as well as last-ditch efforts to reach a world trade deal, the top US trade office said on Thursday. (Khaleej Times/Reuters)

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