Home > News > News in Brief: 3 October 2007

News in Brief: 3 October 2007

A brief list of news for the day:

Pakistan Seen Losing Fight Against Taliban And Al-Qaeda. Pakistan’s government is losing its war against emboldened insurgent forces, giving al-Qaeda and the Taliban more territory in which to operate and allowing the groups to plot increasingly ambitious attacks, according to Pakistani and Western security officials. The depth of the problem has become clear only in recent months, as regional peace deals have collapsed and the government has deferred developing a new strategy to defeat insurgents until Pakistan’s leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, can resolve a political crisis that threatens his presidency. (Washington Post)

U.S. Congress approves $1.2 billion worth of US-funded Israeli arms purchases, including 50 huge GBU-28 guided bunker busters. They include thousands of missiles, tens of thousands of new bombs worth $799 million and 132 million gallons of jet fuel worth $308 million. The accent of this consignment will be on the heaviest American bombs designed for such subterranean targets as the bunker fortresses of Iran, Syria and Lebanon’s Hizballah and on operating and guidance systems for upgrading Israeli Air Force ammunition. The list, according to US defense sources, also includes 10,000 JDAM tail kits for high precision guidance of bombs in all weathers at ranges of up to 25 km, which are designed for use with the GBU-29-32 bunker busters; 4,000 laser-guided Paveway II munitions kits; more than 11,000 Mk-84 and Mk-82 bombs; 2,000 heavy fortifications-penetrating BLU-109 bombs; and 50 GBU-28 5,000-pound guided bunker busters. The Israeli Air Force will also receive 500 Sidewinders AIM-9M, and 200 AIM-120C (AMRAAM) medium range air-to-air missiles. (DEBKAfile)

Bhutto says Musharraf talks have stalled. Benazir Bhutto believes power-sharing talks with General Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, have “totally stalled”, it was reported today. The former prime minister, who has been negotiating with Gen Musharraf for months, also denied that his government’s decision to drop corruption charges against her was genuine. (Guardian)

Bhutto may allow US military strike. Benazir Bhutto, the former Pakistani prime minister, has said she might allow a US military strike inside Pakistan to eliminate Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader, if she were the country’s leader. (Al Jazeera)

Fresh violence casts shadow over Middle East peace talks. The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, will meet today to map out their vision for a Middle East peace deal. The meeting in Jerusalem is expected to lay the groundwork for an international summit on the Middle East peace process due to take place in the US. But apparent internal strife in the Palestinian territories yesterday between the rival Hamas and Fatah factions cast a shadow over preparations for the summit. (Guardian)

Ukrainian elections over but its outcome unclear. Ukraine’s September 30 early parliamentary election produced a hung parliament, just like the regular election in March 2006. Like last year, the Party of Regions (PRU) of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych scored more votes than other parties. The Our Ukraine-People’s Self-Defense bloc (NUNS), backed by President Viktor Yushchenko, came third with nearly the same result as Our Ukraine in 2006. The opposition Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT), however, made a sensation, scoring almost as much as the PRU. BYuT benefited from the snap election most of all, and its leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, stands a high chance of replacing Yanukovych as prime minister. (Eurasia Daily Monitor)

Gazprom announces gas accord with Ukraine. Ukraine’s current government pledged on Wednesday to pay off a $1.3bn gas debt by Nov 1 to avoid a cutback in natural gas deliveries that could have led to disruptions in supplies to Europe. (FT)

Blackwater head defends firm from congressional critics. Blackwater USA founder Erik Prince defended his company Tuesday from an onslaught by House Democrats, who portrayed the defense contractor as an overpaid private army that is harming U.S. interests in the Middle East. (McClatchy)

Gaza kids don’t play. According to army, children killed by Israeli Defence Force (IDF) are part of Palestinian war machine. I recalled the story recently when I read a pile of clichés coming from the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit in response to the killing of children in Gaza. The IDF spokesman uttered slogans aimed at making it easier for us to cope with the terrible results of our attacks on Gaza. We are talking about genuine concern for the public’s feelings, for fear that citizens more aware of the suffering caused in their name may proceed to ask questions regarding IDF activity in Gaza and demand answers. (YNet)

Junta seizes UN worker in nighttime raid in Myanmar. A local staff member of the United Nations in Myanmar and three of her family members were taken from their home in Yangon before dawn Wednesday as part of a continuing crackdown on demonstrators, a UN official said. The UN worker’s arrest is one of an unknown number of nighttime abductions conducted by the junta to identify and round up people who took part in the demonstrations over the past month, which were the largest protests against the junta in nearly two decades. (International Herald Tribune)

N. Korea Nuclear Accord Reached. North Korea will begin disabling key nuclear facilities within weeks and start disclosing details of its nuclear programs under a six-nation agreement to be announced this week, U.S. and Asian diplomats said yesterday. (Washington Post)

Analysis: Syria-Israel tensions. The secret is out. But the speculation has not ended. And the tension lingers dangerously. Israel has suddenly broken its exceptional news blackout on a covert air raid against Syria, admitting officially its warplanes hit a “military installation” on 6 September. This unexpected disclosure, after weeks of mysterious silence, came hours after the first public comments from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. He ended his silence in a BBC interview, saying Israeli jets hit “a building under construction related to the military but it’s not used, it’s under construction so there’s no people in it, there’s no army, there’s nothing in it”. (BBC)

India’s Ordnance Factories Reveal Export-Boosting Plans. India’s state-owned ordnance factories plan to increase exports of defense equipment and weapons to friendly countries, and are establishing a separate entity to market their wares abroad. The factories make military transport vehicles, infantry combat vehicles, armored vehicles, optical and opto-electronic instruments, arms and ammunition, summer and winter uniforms, parachutes, miscellaneous leather goods and general stores. In fiscal year 2006-07, the ordnance factories exported more than $104 million in weapons and other defense gear to countries such as Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. The OFB also has received inquiries about exports from Algeria, Belgium, Botswana, Chile, Cyprus, Indonesia, Israel, Kenya, Malaysia, Suriname, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam, the board official said. (Defense News)

Missile defense system is up and running, U.S. military says. After a successful test last week, the tracking radars and interceptor rockets of a new American missile defense system can be turned on at any time to respond to an emerging crisis in Asia, senior military officers said Tuesday. (International Herald Tribune)

France urges EU to widen Iran sanctions. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has urged European Union counterparts to study widening existing sanctions on Iran’s banking sector over its nuclear programme before any new UN resolution against Teheran. (Khaleej Times/Reuters)

Multiple blasts hit Turkish port. A bomb has killed one person and wounded four others Izmir, just hours after another device injured two people in the Turkish port. There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the blasts. Kurdish separatist fighters have carried out attacks in Izmir, Turkey’s third largest city and the Aegean region in the past. (Al Jazeera)

Palestinian Authority to wage “financial war” on Hamas. The Palestinian caretaker government in Ramallah is preparing to wage a “financial war” on its rival de facto Hamas government in the Gaza Strip to force them to retract June’s military coup, Arab media outlets reported on Wednesday. They have adopted a series of measures to stop the flow of funding reaching Hamas’ coffers and new laws have been ratified to “fight money laundering.” (Ma’an)

Dissenters arrested and beaten in China. Human rights activists, free speech advocates, campaigning lawyers and political writers have been arrested and tortured as Chinese police crack down on dissent ahead of this month’s Communist Party congress, campaigners said yesterday. (The Independent)

Congo-Kinshasa: Troop Build-Up in North Kivu Worrying – UN Official. Humanitarian workers are concerned that a build-up of Congolese troops in two areas of the embattled North Kivu Province could hinder access to civilians displaced by fighting, a UN official said on 2 October. (allAfrica)

Pakistan: Residents Solve Own Sanitation Woes. Mobilised by social workers from Orangi Pilot Project (OPP), a civil society organisation working in Karachi’s slum dwellings for over two decades, residents here put their heads together to deal with one of the most pressing issues facing their community — a need to do something about their own environment. OPP, having vast experience in the field, extended further help in the form of technical assistance. The result was a clean street, costing just Rs 600 (10 US dollars) per household. Orangi is considered the largest informal settlement in Asia, home to one-tenth of 12 million residents of Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city. (IPS)

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