Home > News > News in Brief: 10 December 2007

News in Brief: 10 December 2007

A brief list of news for the day:

Africa: The Next Defense Market Opportunity? Low value. Corrupt. Aid-driven. Despite the odd exception like Algeria, and South Africa’s indigenous defense industry, most people think of these terms when they think of the African defense market. Analyst firm Forecast International sees a different picture, however: “tomorrow’s growth market for the global defense industry.”F.I. admits that overall African spending isn’t expected to suddenly become impressive: 3.5% increases year-on-year from 2007-2011 to $15.9 billion, with under 20% of defense budgets slated for procurement. That isn’t much to write home about, but “African Market Overview” author Matthew Ritchie sees the opportunities in much more specific terms: “…looking at the confluence of burgeoning security requirements and vast oil and [natural] gas reserves in the context of high energy prices and it becomes readily apparent that there is a collection of Africa nations demonstrating procurement characteristics reminiscent of the Middle East three decades ago.” (Defense Industry Daily)

Kosovo Troika Calls It Quits After Failed Negotiations. Ahead of the negotiation deadline set by the UN for Monday, Dec. 10, the EU, the US and Russia said further talks over Kosovo’s status would be superfluous. The Serbian province could declare independence any time. Key European powers and the United States are gearing up to recognize Kosovo as an independent state, while Serbia, backed by Russia, has said it will never accept a self-ruling Kosovo. In response to the deadlock, the so-called Kosovo troika — made up of the EU, the US and Russia — ended four months of UN-initiated talks on Friday by concluding that negotiations had failed. (Deutsche Welle)

Top level talks on Lebanon crisis. Lebanon’s army chief and potential president, Gen Michel Suleiman, has met the head of the Maronite church amid efforts to end the political crisis. The government and opposition have agreed in principle that General Suleiman should stand for the country’s vacant presidency. But they have yet to finalise how to amend the constitution to make it possible for him to do so. Lebanon’s parliament is due to convene to elect the president on Tuesday. (BBC)

Russia’s Putin anoints deputy premier as presidential frontrunner. President Vladimir Putin on Monday endorsed his first deputy prime minister, liberal technocrat Dmitry Medvedev, to succeed him in the Kremlin next year. Putin, whose endorsement is seen as virtually guaranteeing victory in a March 2 presidential election, threw his weight behind the 42-year-old chairman of gas giant Gazprom in a surprise television statement. The nomination followed mounting intrigue over who would succeed Putin, who is required to step down next year after two consecutive terms at the head of the nuclear power and leading global energy exporter. However mystery over Putin’s own future remained. The ex-KGB officer has repeatedly said he wants to retain significant authority after leaving office, but has never explained how. (AFP)

Baghdad oil refinery ablaze. Firefighters have been battling a fire at an oil refinery that supplies much of the fuel to produce power for Baghdad. Iraqi oil officials said on Monday that the plant had been hit by a Katyusha-type rocket. However, the US military later issued a statement saying that the blaze “was the result of an industrial accident”. The refinery is one of two that produces Iraq’s fuel and receives crude from the country’s north and south to supply refined products to Baghdad. The explosion comes after another major oil-producing hub was bombed last week, 100km north of Baghdad. Seven policemen were killed when a car bomb blew up near the GFX Baiji refinery – the country’s biggest – which is connected by a pipeline to oilfields in the nearby city of Kirkuk. (Al Jazeera)

CIA ‘engineered nuclear brain drain’ from Iran. The CIA launched a secret programme in 2005 designed to degrade Iran’s nuclear weapons programme by persuading key officials to defect, an effort that has prompted a “handful” of significant departures, current and former US intelligence officials familiar with the operation say. The previously undisclosed programme, which CIA officials dubbed “the Brain Drain,” is part of a major intelligence push against Iran ordered by the White House two years ago. (Gulf News/LA Times)

CIA photos ‘show UK Guantanamo detainee was tortured’. Lawyers for a British resident who the US government refuses to release from Guantanamo Bay have identified the existence of photographs taken by CIA agents that they say show their client suffered horrific injuries under torture. The photographic evidence will be vital to clear Binyam Mohammed, 27, who the Americans want to bring before a Military Commission on charges of terrorism, say his lawyers. (The Independent)

Europe-Africa Trade Talks Hit Fresh Low. European leaders admitted yesterday that efforts to conclude new trade agreements between the European Union (EU) and Africa had foundered, as delegates from the two continents wound up a summit that was supposed to forge a new relationship. The EU is seeking new trade deals with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries to replace the current preferential system that has been ruled illegal by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The EPAs would require the 78 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries to open their markets to European goods gradually. In exchange, they would be granted open access to European markets from January 1 next year, except for rice and sugar. (allAfrica)

Afghan troops enter Taliban stronghold. Afghan army troops entered the town of Musa Qala on Monday, the fourth day of a large offensive to capture the only sizeable town controlled by Taliban insurgents, a spokesman for the NATO-led force said. (FT/Reuters)

Taking Part in Musharraf’s Polls – Under Protest. With general elections barely a month away, Pakistan’s major political parties have decided not to boycott the polls and take their chances in a situation where the media and the judiciary have been hobbled. (IPS)

Central Asia and Caucasus: Governments rely on old-style methods to contain inflations. Soaring inflation rates across the former Soviet Union are causing food price to spiral upward. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international financial institutions have cautioned that despite impressive economic growth in CIS member states, the threats to social stability posed by galloping inflation remain strong, and that these dangers should be addressed via stringent fiscal policies. But many governments are resorting to Soviet-style fixes on foodstuffs in the face of consumer concern over rising costs. In many Central Asian and Caucasus states, the inflation rate has hit double digits. (Eurasianet)

Kyrgyzstan: U.S. armed forces try to win hearts and minds. US Air Force Col. Don Berchoff is the commander of the Mission Support Group at Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan. Normally, this entails nuts-and-bolts affairs like lodging and feeding of the approximately 1,200 airmen based here. But in the case of Manas, Berchoff’s job has taken on a more strategic role: making sure that public opinion in Kyrgyzstan – a country much more accustomed to cooperating with Russia than with the United States – remains favorable toward the base. (Eurasianet)

U.S. and Iran Will Meet, Iraqi Official Says. U.S. and Iranian experts will hold a meeting next week to discuss security issues ahead of an expected round of formal talks on Iraq’s stability, Iraq’s foreign minister said Monday. (New York Times)

Libya’s Col Gaddafi visits France. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has begun his first visit to France since 1973. He will meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and is expected to sign a series of trade and military deals worth billions of dollars. (BBC)

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