Home > News > News in Brief: 19 October 2007

News in Brief: 19 October 2007

A brief list of news for the day:

Turkish Bid to Pursue Kurds Poses Quandary for Iraq. On one hand, Iraq wants a cordial relationship with Turkey, a powerhouse in the region and a counterweight to the competing pulls of Iran and Saudi Arabia. But Iraq has been able to do little to halt the rebel group’s activities because Iraq’s central government must rely on its ethnic Kurdish minority, which populates the region where the guerrillas are active, to take a stand against them. (New York Times)

Turkish constitutional referendum to go ahead. Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Board (YSK), yesterday (October 17) voted to go ahead with the planned constitutional referendum on October 21, amid continuing confusion about its legal validity. The constitutional amendments foreseen in the text that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) originally planned to put to a referendum included: reducing the maximum term of a parliament from five to four years; setting a quorum of one-third of MPs for all parliamentary votes; cutting the presidential term from seven to five years while allowing the president to stand for a second term; and, most critically, introducing a popular vote for the presidency to replace the current system whereby the president is elected by parliament. The main reason for the latter was that the AKP wanted to ensure that its own candidate, Abdullah Gul, was appointed to succeed Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Turkey’s tenth president, after the party’s attempts to have him elected by parliament in spring this year were blocked by country’s secular establishment. The text explicitly stated that a popular vote would be introduced for the eleventh president and his/her successors. (Eurasia Daily Monitor)

Iraqi Parliament Resumes Session Saturday by Discussing Turkish Threats. The parliament’s leadership has decided to resume parliament’s session on Saturday after the Eid al-Fitr, during which a number of issues will be discussed, mainly the Turkish threats to invade northern Iraq to pursue elements of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). ”Saturday’s session is expected to attract a large number of lawmakers from different parliamentarian blocs to discuss the Iraqi-Turkish crisis,” the source also said, noting that the parliament is likely to issue an important decision within this context. (PUK Media/VOI)

Turkish PM calls for reconciliation with Armenia. Turkey’s prime minister called for dialogue and reconciliation with Armenia on Friday as the US Congress weighs whether to approve a resolution calling the 1915 massacres of Armenians by Ottoman Turks genocide. ‘While we search for ways to address this painful issue and develop our relations with Armenia, we cannot live in the past. Our sincere offer for dialogue and reconciliation is on the table,’ Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan wrote in an opinion piece published in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, European edition. ‘It is incumbent on Armenia to take the next step,’ he added. (Khaleej Times/Reuters)

Bomb attack kills scores in Pakistan as Bhutto arrives. Two bombs exploded Thursday just seconds apart and feet from a truck carrying the returning opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, narrowly missing her but killing scores of people and bloodying her triumphal homecoming after eight years in exile. According to reports on local news stations late Friday morning, 134 people had been killed and about 400 wounded. (International Herald Tribune)

Claims of secret CIA jail for terror suspects on British island to be investigated. Allegations that the CIA held al-Qaida suspects for interrogation at a secret prison on sovereign British territory are to be investigated by MPs, the Guardian has learned. The all-party foreign affairs committee is to examine long-standing suspicions that the agency has operated one of its so-called “black site” prisons on Diego Garcia, the British overseas territory in the Indian Ocean that is home to a large US military base. (Guardian)

European leaders approve pact that faces future. European Union leaders gathering here late Thursday night agreed on a treaty that they hoped would end the drift plaguing the bloc since the French and the Dutch rejected a European constitution two years ago. With a road map for its future in hand, the 27-member union hopes to play a larger role on the world stage and become a more equal partner with Washington on issues ranging from the Middle East to energy security and a newly assertive Russia. (International Herald Tribune)

French Transit Workers Strike Over Pension Threat. French public transportation workers staged a strike on Thursday, bringing most rail, bus and subway service across the country to a standstill and delivering a vivid warning to President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose plans to reduce generous but costly public pensions face stiff opposition from labor unions. “This is an opening salvo,” said political analyst Nicole Bacharan. “A majority elected Sarkozy to change these kinds of rules, and the unions are checking after he’s had a few months in power to see the level of satisfaction and whether the balance is shifting towards protests, but so far I think the support is on the presidential side.” (Washington Post)

Cuban polls may lead to new president. Cubans go to the polls on Sunday as the western hemisphere’s only one-party state begins an electoral cycle that may well result in a new president for the first time since Fidel Castro was named to the post in 1976. (FT)

Clinton bucks the trend and rakes in cash from the US weapons industry. The US arms industry is backing Hillary Clinton for President and has all but abandoned its traditional allies in the Republican party. An analysis of campaign contributions shows senior defence industry employees are pouring money into her war chest in the belief that their generosity will be repaid many times over with future defence contracts. (The Independent)

Russia, India Collaborate on New-Generation Fighter Plane. Russia and India will collaborate on building a new fifth generation fighter plane, the Indian defense minister confirmed here Oct. 17. “We are collaborating on the BrahMos missiles, on a new fifth generation combat plane and on a multipurpose transport plane … demonstrating the strategic nature of Russo-Indian cooperation,” Arackaparambil Kurian Antony said at a high-level meeting in Moscow. For his part, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov pointed out the importance of military cooperation between the two countries currently shown in the joint construction of the Su-30 MKI fighter plane and the T-90 tank. (Defense News/AFP)

Gates Eyes Single Authority for Contractors. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is mulling a move to bring all armed security contractors in Iraq under a single authority to exert greater control over them, the Pentagon said Oct. 17. (Defense News/AFP)

New task for U.S. Coast Guard in Arctic’s warming seas. In one of the most concrete signs of the effect of a warming climate on government operations, the Coast Guard is planning its first operating base there as a way of dealing with the cruise ships and the tankers that are already beginning to ply Arctic waters. The Coast Guard says its base, which would probably be near the United States’ northernmost town, Barrow, Alaska, on the North Slope coast, would be seasonal and would initially have just a helicopter equipped for cold-weather operations and several small boats. (International Herald Tribune)

Voices from the past heard online as world’s digital archive nears fruition. You will be able to listen to a former American slave tell his story, turn the pages of a book about ancient treasures from Egypt or pore over old maps written in Latin. When the World Digital Library goes online next year, it will be free and multilingual, with contributions from around the world including rare books, films, prints, sound recordings and musical scores. (The Independent)

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