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News in Brief: 14 May 2009

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A brief list of news clippings for the day:

Arms watchdog: Cargo airlines deliver weapons, aid. Air cargo carriers involved in weapons smuggling in African conflict zones are also being contracted for international aid supplies and peacekeeping operations, a prominent peace research group said Tuesday. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said that its report found that 90 percent of the carriers identified in weapons trafficking-related reports have also been used by UN agencies, European Union and NATO member states and leading non-governmental organizations. (The Daily Star / AP)

Kurdish crude bails out Baghdad. Tough economic times are turning willful enemies into reluctant partners. When Iraqi Kurdistan’s oil minister, Ashti Hawrami, buoyantly announced last week that the Kurds and the federal government in Baghdad had agreed to start pumping Kurdish crude through the Iraqi network for export to Turkey, the global oil industry cheered. Up to that point, a long-running tussle between Baghdad and the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) had all but dashed Kurdish export hopes. After years of stalemate over how to divide power, land, and resources, the oil deal looked like nothing short of a breakthrough. (The Argument)

Ire over US Sanctions Causes Policy Review in Damascus. The Syrians are upset with the way sanctions were reimposed by President Obama. The current administration’s use of language identical to that used by President Bush, without any phrases to soften the hostility and without referring to dialogue, progress, or anticipated improvements angered Syrian policy makers. (Syria Comment)

U.S. forces engage Taliban in PR war in Afghanistan. More than a week has passed since a U.S. bombardment killed civilians in western Afghanistan, but the battle between coalition forces and the Taliban has only intensified on another front: public relations. Civilian deaths caused by U.S., NATO and Afghan operations — which, according to the United Nations, topped 800 last year — have long provoked public fury that the Taliban can exploit. But in response, the United States has also begun to control the message, often by providing a counter-narrative or admitting responsibility. (McClatchy)

AFGHANISTAN: ‘We Need a Fundamental Change Here’. The U.S. administration has pledged to increase aid and reconstruction as a central part of President Barack Obama’s new strategy. But critics charge that the new policy contains very little specifics on how to bring development and jobs to the country. (IPS)

China tells neighbours to keep off islands. China has warned neighbours to stay off disputed islands in the South China Sea, telling the United Nations it holds ‘indisputable sovereignty’ over the waters that are an arena for rising regional tension. (The News)

Meet Mir Hussein Moussavi, the man trying to dethrone Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. More than 470 people have registered to run against Ahmadinejad, but the Guardian Council, the conservative-dominated body that supervises the elections, is expected to approve less than 1 percent of the would-be candidates. Among those chosen few, Moussavi will pose the most serious challenge to Ahmadinejad. (Foreign Policy)

Diplomacy Underground: Tunnel Proposed to Grant Bolivia Access to Sea. In the bloody War of the Pacific in 1879, Chile took away Bolivia’s only access to the sea. Over a century later, demands from Bolivia for the recuperation of this land are louder than ever. The most recently proposed solution to this diplomatic crisis seems to be straight out of a science fiction novel: the construction of 150 kilometer tunnel from Bolivia to an artificial island in the Pacific Ocean. (Toward Freedom)

Turkey Bans Coverage Of Tatar Nationalists. Turkish state media have stopped printing and broadcasting interviews with Tatar nationalists after an official protest by the Russian Embassy in Ankara. (RFE/RL)

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