Home > News > News in Brief: 24 December 2007

News in Brief: 24 December 2007

A brief list of news for the day:

Turkish Planes Bomb Northern Iraq for Second Consecutive Day. Turkish warplanes bombarded areas of northern Iraq for the second straight day Sunday, according to an Iraqi Kurdish official, as part of Turkey’s ongoing campaign to combat Kurdish guerrillas living in the mountainous border region. (Washington Post)

Maoists to rejoin Nepal government. The Maoists in Nepal will rejoin the Girija Prasad Koirala government under a new deal signed on Sunday night, ending a three-month deadlock that had threatened to derail the peace process. Under the 22-point agreement, the two sides agreed that the country will be declared a federal democratic republic through the interim parliament, subject to ratification by the Constituent Assembly after the elections, likely to be held by mid April. (Times of India)

$1Bln Offer In Georgia’s Campaign. Badri Patarkatsishvili, the Georgian magnate challenging President Mikheil Saakashvili in next month’s snap election, has promised to spend $1 billion of his own money to turn Georgia into a “shining country.” “Badri is ready to spend 1.6 billion lari [$1 billion] to finance social programs if he becomes president,” Patarkatsishvili’s campaign chief, Valery Gelbakhiani, said at a news conference Friday. Opposition parties want to ditch the presidency if they win the Jan. 5 election and turn the country into a parliamentary republic. They accuse [president] Saakashvili of mismanaging the economy and resorting to authoritarian measures. (Moscow Times)

France Admits Indian Helicopter Deal Off, Plans Rebid. France’s foreign minister admitted Dec. 21 that a deal for European aerospace giant EADS’ unit Eurocopter to supply 197 helicopters to the Indian army had been officially canceled. Bernard Kouchner said he was “not satisfied” with the collapse of the $600 million deal, but asserted Eurocopter would rebid once India floats fresh global tenders. The issue figured during Kouchner’s overnight meeting with his counterpart Pranab Mukherjee. (Defense News)

Hindu nationalists win crucial election. HINDU nationalists won a crucial test of political support with a resounding victory in a state election, fought in the shadow of anti-Muslim riots that left more than 1000 people dead in 2002. Sunday’s vote in Gujarat, in western India, was also a personal victory for Narendra Modi, arguably India’s most divisive politician, who was re-elected to the state’s top job. Throughout the often bitter campaign, Mr Modi cast the election as a referendum on his rule – a tenure best known for the riots, which began after a mysterious train fire killed 59 Hindu pilgrims. Many in India say Mr Modi stood idly by as Hindu mobs butchered Muslims, who were blamed for the fire. Some in Congress had even hoped to pull off an upset and unseat the BJP in Gujarat. Instead, the BJP won 117 seats in the 182-seat state assembly in elections held in two phases earlier this month. Congress won 62 seats, and independents took 3. (The Age)

Hamas ‘seeks truce with Israel’. Hamas, the Islamist organisation, was reported to be seeking a truce with Israel following a week of heavy fighting in Gaza, in which at least 20 militants have died. Officials denied any overtures, following media reports in which Ahmed Yusuf, a senior adviser to Ismail Haniya, Hamas’s Gaza leader, said that a truce was possible. Senior Israeli officials maintain that they will not talk to Hamas until it renounces violence and recognises Israel’s right to exist. But the suggestion of a ceasefire can be interpreted as Hamas’s acknowledgement of the severe strain its Gaza government has come under since its violent wresting of control of the strip from Fata six months ago. (Telegraph)

Iran ‘restraining Shia militias in Iraq’. Iran has decided “at the most senior levels” to restrain Shia militias in Iraq, causing a sharp drop in roadside bomb attacks in recent months, according to a senior US diplomat. David Satterfield, Iraq co-ordinator and adviser to the US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, told the Washington Post that while the flow of weapons from Iran may not have stopped, the decline in overall attacks “has to be attributed to an Iranian policy decision”. The diplomat’s comments came after a report from US intelligence agencies this month that concluded Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, contradicting past statements from President George W Bush and his top aides. (Telegraph)

Seeds of conflict in a force for Iraqi calm. The Awakening movement, a predominantly Sunni Arab force recruited to fight Sunni Islamic extremists like Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, has become a great success story after its spread from Sunni tribes in Anbar Province to become an ad-hoc armed force of 65,000 to 80,000 across the country in less than a year. A linchpin of the American strategy to pacify Iraq, the movement has been widely credited with turning around the violence-scarred areas where the Sunni insurgency has been based. How, when thousands are joining each month, can spies and extremists be reliably weeded out? How can the men’s loyalty be maintained, given their tribal and sectarian ties, and in many cases their insurgent pasts? And crucially, how can the movement be sustained once the Americans turn over control to a Shiite-dominated government that has been wary, and sometimes hostile, toward the groups? It is an experiment in counterinsurgency warfare that could contain the seeds of a civil war — in which, if the worst fears come true, the United States would have helped organize some of the Sunni forces arrayed against the central government on which so many American lives and dollars have been spent. (International Herald Tribune)

Thai parties start coalition deal-making. Thailand’s political parties got down to hard bargaining yesterday after voters roundly rejected last year’s military coup but failed to give supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra an outright majority. (The Age)

Fighting breaks out on north-south Sudan border. Militias supported by Khartoum’s army have attacked southern Sudanese soldiers near the north-south border killing dozens of people, southern army officials said on Monday. (Reuters)

New round of Israel-PA talks expected to focus on E. J’lem building plans. The Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams are set to meet on Monday for the second time since the regional peace conference held last month in Annapolis, Maryland. The talks on Monday will focus on Israel’s plans to build close to 1,000 new apartment units in East Jerusalem and another environ east of the Green Line, Army Radio reported. (Haaretz)

Dutch government signs deal to host Hariri tribunal. The UN and the Dutch government have signed an agreement on hosting the international tribunal that would try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes, as UN chief Ban Ki-moon approved recommendations to assign judges to the body. (The Daily Star)

U.S. Officials See Waste in Pakistan Aid. After the United States has spent more than $5 billion in a largely failed effort to bolster the Pakistani military effort against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, some American officials now acknowledge that there were too few controls over the money. In interviews in Islamabad and Washington, Bush administration and military officials said they believed that much of the American money was not making its way to frontline Pakistani units. Money has been diverted to help finance weapons systems designed to counter India, not Al Qaeda or the Taliban, the officials said, adding that the United States has paid tens of millions of dollars in inflated Pakistani reimbursement claims for fuel, ammunition and other costs. (New York Times)

Congo violence fuels surge in child abduction. Fighting in eastern Congo this month has led to a surge in child abductions by armed groups who force minors to fight, carry ammunition or become their sex slaves, Save the Children said on Monday. (Khaleej Times/Reuters)

Uzbek president wins third term. The president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, has been declared the winner of Sunday’s general election. He won 88.1% of the vote in a poll which foreign election monitors said failed to meet democratic standards. Under the Uzbek constitution Mr Karimov has already had the maximum two years in office. He has given no explanation as to why he was able to run again. (BBC)

US ignored warnings on security firms in Iraq: report. The US government ignored numerous warnings over the past two years that private security firms in Iraq were operating with little supervision and instead expanded their role, a media report said Monday. Warnings about the risks posed by tens of thousands of US-funded private security guards in Iraq were relayed in writing from defense and legal experts and by senior Iraqi officials, the Washington Post reported, citing US officials, security firms and documents. But the State Department and the Pentagon took no major action to regulate the security companies until guards from Blackwater Worldwide were involved in a shoot-out in September that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead, sparking an international uproar. (AFP)

The Wideband Gapfiller Satellite Program. The WGS program is actually a set of 13-kilowatt spacecraft based upon Boeing’s model 702 commercial satellite. These satellites will support the USA’s warfighting information exchange requirements, enabling execution of tactical command and control, communications, and computers; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR); battle management; and combat support information. Upon its first launch into geosynchronous orbit, WGS Flight 1 will become the U.S. Department of Defense’s highest capacity communication satellite. Each satellite can route 2.4 to 3.6 Gbps of data – providing more than 10 times the communications capacity of the predecessor DSCS III satellite. Indeed, One WGS satellite will provide more throughput than the entire Defense Service Communications Satellite (DSCS) constellation currently on station. (Defense Industry Daily)

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