Home > News > News in Brief: 19 November 2009

News in Brief: 19 November 2009

A brief list of news clippings for the day:

Nuclear fallout rocks Pakistan. Reports of the United States attempting to take an active role in helping safeguard Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal could not have come at a worse time for President Asif Ali Zardari. He is already marginalized by his military, now his political opponents – including revitalized former president Pervez Musharraf – see a weakness. A crucial showdown is due next month, precisely the time the Pakistani Taliban plan their own fireworks. (Asia Times)

Pakistan: South Waziristan operation has displaced 275,000. At least 17,564 families claiming to have been displaced are declared ineligible for assistance. (Dawn)

Deadly suicide bombing in Peshawar. A suicide bomber self-detonated Thursday morning outside the gates of a court compound in the heavily guarded administrative heart of the Pakistani city of Peshawar, the seventh deadly explosion there in less than two weeks. (CNN)

EU leaders deadlocked over top 2 EU jobs. The European Union’s 27 leaders were facing an all-nighter Thursday as a bruising battle loomed over naming the bloc’s first full-time president and new foreign policy chief… (AP)

West lowers sights for new Iran sanctions at U.N. Western powers are gearing up for talks on a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program but will not target Iran’s energy sector to ensure Russia’s and China’s support… But the scaling back of the West’s expectations for new U.N. steps against Iran for defying Security Council demands to stop enriching uranium shows that the Europeans and Americans have accepted that Moscow and Beijing, with their close trade ties to Tehran, will not let Iran’s economy be crippled. (Reuters)

Afghanistan: Karzai seeks army ‘control’ in five years. Afghan president Hamid Karzai on Thursday called for the Afghan Army to assume full control of the country’s security within five years. As he was sworn into office for a second term after a controversial election, Karzai also reiterated his pledge to fight corruption and said his ministers must be “competent and just”. (AKI)

Afghanistan: Black & Veatch’s White Elephant in Kabul. In a secluded valley a few miles from Kabul’s international airport, Caterpillar turbines custom-built in Germany and giant transformers flown in from Mexico hum away at a brand-new power plant… But much, so far, has not gone according to plan. The 280-million-dollar a year cost to run the power plant full tilt is more than a third of total tax revenues for the entire country; the plant would supply electricity to less than two percent of the population; and the plant’s cost – already more than 300 million dollars – is roughly three times that of any similar plant in the region. (IPS)

Leave Pak-India ties alone: Govt to meddling US. India reacted sharply on Wednesday to the reference to India-Pakistan ties in the joint statement issued by US President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Hu Jintao. Tuesday’s joint statement had said the US and China “support the improvement and growth of relations between India and Pakistan”. (Hindustan Times)

Israel dismisses USanger at settlement plan. An aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday dismissed US anger at Israel’s approval for new homes in a settlement near Jerusalem, saying it was part of a routine building program. Netanyahu seemed keen to contain the fresh dispute with Washington over settlements, ordering cabinet ministers to show restraint after the White House said it was “dismayed” at the plan to build 900 new houses in Gilo. (Today’s Zaman)

Medvedev urges change to economy. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in further signs of distancing himself from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, has called for a change to the country’s “primitive raw materials economy” and to policies based on “nostalgic superstitions”, even as a recovery based on higher energy and commodity prices gives him room to speak out. (Asia Times)

Ukraine Raises Fees on Russian Gas. Ukraine announced on Wednesday that it would double the fees that Russia must pay to transport natural gas through Ukrainian territory to the rest of Europe, raising the possibility of a new feud between the two countries that could lead to disruptions in the flow of gas this winter. (New York Times)

Iran: Doctor’s Death Raises Questions. Judicial authorities in Iran plan to investigate the death of a young doctor who had testified before Parliament about prisoner abuses in the aftermath of the disputed presidential election. Reformist Web sites said that Dr. Ramin Pourandarjani, 26, was killed in order to silence him, as he was the only independent witness to be able to corroborate the charges of torture. As part of his military service, Dr. Pourandarjani attended once a week to prisoners at Kahrizak, a notorious prison that was shut down in July after several prisoners died there. (New York Times)

France rejects Iran’s nuclear fuel proposal. France has rejected Tehran’s latest proposal for exchanging its low-grade nuclear fuel with higher enriched uranium in a simultaneous swap inside the country. (Press TV)

Lithuania investigates possible CIA ‘black site’. Residents of this village were mystified five years ago when tight-lipped American construction workers suddenly appeared at a mothballed riding stable here and built a large, two-story building without windows, ringed by a metal fence and security cameras. Today, a Lithuanian parliamentary committee is investigating whether the CIA operated a secret prison for terrorism suspects on the plot of land at the edge of a thick forest for more than a year, from 2004 until late 2005. (Washington Post)

Iraq: Najaf contests number of seats in Parliament. Najaf Provincial Council contested the number of seats set by the Independent High Electoral Commission in the new Parliament estimated at 12 seats. The provincial council deems the number of seats unsuitable for the status of the province and called to be allocated 14 instead of 12 seats… (Alsumaria)

Report: Lebanon arrests another suspected Israel spy. Lebanese intelligence forces have reportedly arrested another citizen suspected of spying on behalf of Israel, following months of a crackdown on an alleged espionage ring… Last spring, Lebanon arrested close to 20 alleged members of six espionage cells suspected of transmitting intelligence information to Israel. The two-month crackdown was apparently aided by American training and equipment. (Haaretz)

YEMEN: Too many kids out of school in Hodeidah Governorate – report. Nearly half of children in rural areas of the western Yemeni governorate of Hodeidah, have no access to basic education, according to a new report by the Seyaj Organization for Childhood Protection (SOCP) and the Yemen News Agency. (IRIN)

Georgia: Unions Press for Labor Law Reform. As Georgia strives to recover from the global economic crisis, the government is struggling to find a balancing point between the protection of workers’ rights and the need for employers to boost output. President Mikheil Saakashvili’s administration is hearing it from both sides. Labor union leaders claim that the government’s overriding interest in attracting foreign investment is encouraging businesses to trample on workers’ rights. Employers, meanwhile, are worried that potential changes to the labor code could turn off outside investors. (EurasiaNet)

Before Sunrise: Will Obama seize a rare opportunity for change in U.S.-Japan relations? For Japan has never been an American ally. It was first a rival, then an enemy, and finally, after it lost the war it foolishly started with the U.S., it became a protectorate, not an ally. The distinction matters. An alliance is an institution negotiated between two sovereign governments in which each agrees to a series of reciprocal obligations that have the force of law. A protectorate arrangement, by contrast, sees the protectorate retaining a degree of control of its internal affairs, but surrendering authority to manage external relations–most crucially, in the area of military decision-making. In return for the protectorate’s ceding of this key aspect of sovereignty, the dominant partner in the arrangement agrees to provide for the defense of the protectorate. (The New Republic)

Securing U.S. Energy Supplies. Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers says nuclear investment and partnering with Chinese energy firms are important steps to building U.S. energy security. (CFR)

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