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Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by PowderLove, Aug 7, 2007.

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    http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/europe/08/07/russia.georgia/index.html

    Georgia: Russia bombed village

    TBILISI, Georgia (CNN) -- A pair of Russian fighter jets violated Georgian airspace firing a missile that landed near a village northwest of the capital, Tbilisi, Georgian authorities said. There were no casualties.
    <!--startclickprintexclude--><!-- REAP --><!-- PURGE: /2007/WORLD/europe/08/07/russia.georgia/art.georgia.missile.reut.jpg --><!-- KEEP -->Police tape marks the site Tuesday where the missile apparently dropped in Georgia.

    <!-- /PURGE: /2007/WORLD/europe/08/07/russia.georgia/art.georgia.missile.reut.jpg --><!-- /REAP -->
    <SCRIPT type=text/javascript> var CNN_ArticleChanger = new CNN_imageChanger('cnnImgChngr','/2007/WORLD/europe/08/07/russia.georgia/imgChng/p1-0.init.exclude.html',1,1);//CNN.imageChanger.load('cnnImgChngr','imgChng/p1-0.exclude.html');</SCRIPT><!--endclickprintexclude-->Russia, whose relationship with the western-leaning country has deteriorated in recent months, denied the incident late Monday, insisting its planes had not crossed into Georgian territory.
    A statement from the Georgian Interior Ministry said the missile was fired as "SU-24 frontline bombers" flew over the country near the towns of Kazbegi and Gori, before launching "air-surface precision-guided missiles" at the village of Tsitelubani.
    "Our radars show that these jets flew from Russia and then flew back in the same direction that they had come from ..." Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili told Reuters.
    "I assess this fact as an act of aggression carried out by planes flown from the territory of another state," he added.
    Shota Utiashvili, the head of the Georgian interior ministry's public relations department, earlier told Reuters that the Russian jets had dropped a 700-kilogram (1,543-lb) bomb.

    <!--endclickprintexclude-->"Fortunately it didn't explode. If it had exploded it would have been a disaster," he added. He said nobody was hurt.
    A senior official in Russia's air force quickly denied the reports.
    Col. Alexandr Drobyshevskiy, the assistant commander of Russia's air force, said Russian planes did not fly any missions in the area and did not violate Georgia's airspace.
    Tsitelubani is located about 65 kilometer (40 miles) northwest of Tbilisi, and on the border of the breakaway region of South Ossetia. South Ossetia split with Georgia in the early 1990s.
    Officials from the breakaway region were to meet with Georgian officials on Tuesday, but canceled the meeting after the alleged attack, claiming Georgia could not guarantee their safety. Tbilisi accused Moscow of trying to sidetrack the talks.
    Russia provides moral and financial support for Georgia's rebel Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions. It has accused Tbilisi of pursuing anti-Russian policies.
    Georgia's previous administration, under ousted President Eduard Shevardnadze, accused Russia in 2002 of sending fighter jets on sorties over its territory, but Moscow denied any involvement.
    At that time, Tbilisi alleged that Russian jets had dropped ordnance on uninhabited areas of the remote Pankisi Gorge in north-east Georgia, near the border with Russia.
    Relations between Russia and Georgia deteriorated sharply again last year when Tbilisi deported four Russian army officers, accusing them of spying.

    Moscow responded by withdrawing its ambassador from Tbilisi and cutting air, sea and postal links with Georgia. Russia also deported several thousand Georgians, saying they were illegal immigrants.

    Tension is still high but there have been tentative signs this year that the crisis was easing. Moscow's ambassador has returned to Tbilisi and the two sides have been in talks -- so far unsuccessful -- to restore air links.
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    http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/08/07/floods.health/index.html

    Millions face flood disease threat

    (CNN) -- The United Nations is warning of a massive "health crisis" in southern Asia, where 30 million people have been overwhelmed by the monsoonal rains and flash flooding sweeping across India, Nepal and Bangladesh.


    <!-- /PURGE: /2007/WORLD/asiapcf/08/07/floods.health/art.monsoonwater.ap.jpg --><!-- /REAP --><!--endclickprintexclude-->"Entire villages are days away from a health crisis if people are not reached in the coming days," said Dr. Marzio Babille, the U.N. Children's Fund health chief in India.
    His remarks were made in a statement issued by the agency, also known as UNICEF.

    Such weather is an annual event, but this year it is particularly intense and it is a challenge for relief workers to reach the millions of displaced and marooned.

    The affected area is in India's Assam state in the country's northeast and Bihar and Uttar Pradesh states in the north and in Bangladesh and Nepal -- which border this stretch of India.
    The rains and floods have inundated the infrastructure, the water has become contaminated, and death tolls range in the hundreds.

    <!--endclickprintexclude-->Structures across the region -- such as dwellings, schools and hospitals -- "have been either damaged or lost."
    In the Tuesday statement, UNICEF's Babile said that "many of the affected areas are home to poor communities who suffer from poor sanitation and hygiene year round.

    "Stagnant waters left by the floods are a lethal breeding ground for diarrheal and waterborne diseases at potential epidemic level, skin infections and other public health threats such as malaria, leptospirosis and dengue fever. Children, who make up 40 per cent of South Asia's population, are particularly susceptible."

    <!--endclickprintexclude-->One U.N. official, Nick Nuttall, U.N. Environment Program spokesman, told CNN last week that it appears the intense weather is the "signature of climate change" and the heavy toll is related to various societal trends over the years.


    <!--endclickprintexclude-->These include population growth and an increasing number of people dwelling in marginal areas, such as flood plains and mountainsides; deforestation; and the draining and loss of wetlands.
    "If you add all these kinds of factors, human vulnerability is more extreme" now than it was decades ago, Nuttall said.
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    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20123370/site/newsweek/

    Beijing’s Olympics Face-Lift: Radical Reconstruction
    With the Olympics approaching, China is re-creating its once grim capital on an awesome scale.
    By Melinda Liu
    Newsweek International


    Aug. 13, 2007 issue - The transformation of Beijing for the 2008 Olympics is emerging as perhaps the most ambitious remake of any major world capital in history, short of the postwar reconstructions. The silhouettes of the spectacular new stadium and swimming center are already familiar worldwide, but they are set in a rebuilt urban core that startles return visitors. Lush new green spaces, swirling expressways, shopping arcades roofed with giant LED screens, a new downtown financial center plus a vastly expanded public trans-port system have all rapidly appeared. To some, the Olympic-driven metamorphosis evokes the remaking of Paris by Baron Haussmann between 1865 and 1887—a complete redesign of the city center, including the creation of the grand boulevards for which Paris is famous today.
    For others, Beijing's radical rebuild smacks of totalitarian-power architecture, akin to the grandiose but unrealized blueprints of Albert Speer, Hitler's favorite architect. But Albert Speer Jr. disagrees. The younger Speer—also a prominent German architect—recently redesigned a central eight-kilometer-long strip running from the center of the Forbidden City north to the new Olympic green. mandated by imperial feng shui masters, this has been Beijing's heart for centuries. Speer says his scheme is a paean to the city's tradition, not a power trip—despite being "bigger, much bigger" than his father's "megalomaniac" design for New Berlin.
    However you characterize it, Beijing's rulers are now permitting ultramodern design of a type Maoists have long shunned as bourgeois or Western. Many of the new taboo-busting constructions are stunning gravity-defying structures designed by some of the world's top architects, as well as China's own young guns. Some have sparked unprecedented public debate about whether Beijingers should sacrifice its old charm for modern glitz and convenience—and at what cost. "[Architects] have introduced lots of things we didn't have and didn't do before," says designer Feng Keru, senior editor of the Chinese edition of Domus, the Italian architectural bible. As a result, she says, Beijing's recent edifice complex has triggered new standards for construction and engineering nationwide.

    The Olympics will be a massive coming-of-age party for the world's newest economic superpower, as planned. But President Hu Jintao's administration is not just building an Olympic village; it is overseeing the creation of a dynamic new capital with "the pyramids of the 21st century," says Prof. Zhou Rong of Tsinghua University's architecture school. The problem is that, with the 2008 deadline looming fast, even Beijing can't quite control the pell-mell process of demolition and construction. The basic concern is how to balance costly environmental projects against the raw need for economic growth. The ruling Communist Party has long based its legitimacy on providing prosperity. But for several years now it's been struggling both to restrain construction spending in a dangerously hot economy and to redistribute income more fairly. The Olympic building program is clashing head-on with both goals, by concentrating Beijing's own spending in the wealthy capital and by inspiring every province to spend heavily on grandiose buildings, too.
    The communist leaders are responding by trying to rein in the provinces. The contradiction is glaring. Tough new draft legislation on urban planning proposes stiff fines for property firms guilty of wasteful land use and other violations. In the spring, the Ministry of Construction blasted local governments for single-mindedly pursuing urban development and "vanity projects." It also warned the provinces against "blindly" hiring foreign architects who are "divorced from China's national conditions and pursue novelty, oddity and uniqueness," although this describes most of the architects redesigning Beijing. Many provincial leaders are taking this mixed message to mean "full speed ahead."
    Locals have come to know the new projects by wry nicknames: the futuristic 90,000-seat National Olympic Stadium, with its massive external lattice of intertwined beams, is the "bird's nest." The equally stunning National Aquatics Center, a shimmering translucent block swathed in an energy-saving skin that looks like bubble wrap, is known as the "water cube." Then there's the "duck's egg," the National Opera House designed by French architect Paul Andreu: a titanium ovoid set near Tiananmen Square. And perhaps most breathtaking of all is the new headquarters designed by Rem Koolhaas's firm for the China Central Television corporation, or CCTV. The two 230-meter-high L-shaped towers lean into each other to form a vertiginous loop; local wags call it "trouser legs."
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    Article continued

    Beijing was overdue for a face-lift. When the Red Army first marched into the capital in 1949, Mao Zedong dreamed of turning it into a city of industry with "a forest of chimneys"—a vision he soon helped realize. When China's capitalist boom began many years later, Mao's smoking factories were soon surround-ed by ugly glass-and-chrome office towers, many topped with unintentionally kitschy pagoda roofs. The result was a mess: polluted, chaotic, hard on the eyes and decidedly less than world-class. "You can't say it was all rubbish," says Professor Zhou. "But just about."
    The cleanup is well underway, and much will be done by the time the Olympics open on Aug. 9, 2008. Six new subway lines, a 43km light-rail system, a third airport terminal and runway, and 25 million square meters of property development—all this will greet a projected crowd of 500,000 foreign visitors and 1 million mainland Chinese. The leadership has earmarked some $12 billion for "greening" projects, from a 125km tree belt around the city to mandatory adoption of strict European vehicle-emission standards. Earlier this year, entire blocks of run-down low-rise tenements along the northern Second Ring Road were replaced within weeks by a two-kilometer-long green belt of parkland, walkways, small playgrounds, lighting and 25-foot-tall trees. And that's just one of numerous green spaces, including a 12-square-kilometer Olympic park.
    Mao's beloved chimneys are quickly disappearing. Parts of the Capital Iron and Steelworks and the entire 1.5-sq-km Beijing Coking and Chemical plant have been shuttered or moved to neighboring Hebei province. During the desperate industrialization of the Mao era, both factories were great sources of prestige. But Party leaders are now increasingly concerned with the environment—especially with reducing Beijing's eye-stinging air pollution before the Games begin. Closing the Coking and Chemical Plant alone should reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 7,500 tons annually, says plant president Zhang Xiwen. "Still, it was a big sacrifice," he says.
    And it's not the only one. The speed of Beijing's makeover has further diluted much of the sense of order in this imperial capital founded by Kublai Khan. Ming emperors built the Forbidden City, with city gates and walls revolving around it, in a rectilinear grid. On taking the capital in 1949, Mao and his Russian advisers collectivized single-family courtyard homes, built factories and razed the city wall to make way for the Second Ring Road. (Now Beijing has six ring roads.) "Regrettably, very, very little of Old Beijing's look has been preserved," laments Ma Zishu, formerly deputy director of the high city's cultural-relics bureau. "The problems of disorder and high density began with the plans of Mao's Soviet experts," says Domus's Feng. "Now all of a sudden the government is trying to turn Beijing into an international city, so all of the tensions and conflicts [of spacing] have been intensified."
    Many experts worry that insufficient thought is being given to preserving community and historical continuity. Ancient neighborhoods are vanishing. Beijing pre-servationists lament the disappearance of charming labyrinthine residential lanes known as hutongs—a Mongol word for "alleyway," many of which have been razed to make way for wide, modern boulevards.
    Patchy central planning has created a city with a disjointed, deracinated feel. Entire villages near the Olympic facilities were demolished to make way for space-age-looking structures; nearby clumps of skyscrapers seem as if they'd been airlifted from Tokyo or New York and plunked down at random. Chinese "starchitect" Zhu Pei complains that Beijing's uprooted "ghettoes"—all business buildings here, all luxury residences there—make him feel as if he's "living in an urban archipelago." This approach, says James Brearley, head of the Shanghai-based architecture practice BAU, is typical of Chinese planners' preference for "superscaled segregated-zoning practices" once common in the West during the last century, with central business districts (CBDs) that emptied out at night and apartment complexes lacking retail outlets. The Chinese approach to city design thus far, he says, "is based on one single model, and the model is f—-ing disastrous. You can quote me on that."
    Bad as it is, the provincial copies of this model are worse, and even cruder. Every mayor of a second- or third-tier city now seems to want to set a building record. The Jiangxi capital of Nanchang, for example, has constructed the world's largest Ferris wheel. Zhengzhou (population: 6.6 million) is competing with Chongqing (population: 31 million) for the title of the "Chicago of China," and its apparatchiks boast that they have more construction cranes per capita than any other city in the country. In Zhejiang province, city officials in Shaoxing reacted to the central government's order to limit new CBDs by simply rebranding theirs as a mixed-use "commercial center" with residential facilities. The makeover is grand, with a vast empty plaza (a Shaoxing version of Tiananmen Square), a pyramid-shaped building that is home to (what else?) the city's planning center, and a theater that looks like a knockoff of the Sydney Opera House. There are now about 100 small cities in China that, like Shaoxing, have built grand new opera houses, estimates Professor Zhou. Even Shaoxing officials regret having paved over ancient canals and humpbacked bridges that once gave the place a lyrical "water-city ambience"; officials are now trying to preserve what's left of the old town.
    The type of city that emerges could be critical to President Hu Jintao's legacy. In contrast to the hypercapitalist policies of his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, Hu wants to close the alarming rich-poor gap and repair the tattered social safety net that has kept many Chinese mired in poverty. And he aims to do all this at a time when rural migrants are flocking to cities for jobs in services and on construction sites. To accommodate an influx of up to 300 million peasants in the next 15 years, China will not only have to "build almost the same amount of urban infrastructure as already exists," says Karl Traeger of Woodhead, the Australian firm that designed the original Shaoxing CBD. It will also need to plan more carefully. Showcase buildings and endless ranks of pricey luxury flats will do little to house the incoming army of workers, to advance Hu's "harmonious society," or to restrain the runaway construction sector that poses perhaps the single greatest threat to stable growth.
    It's an open question how China will handle all this. The nation is now expected to surpass Germany as the world's third largest economy this year, a fitting opening act for the Olympic spectacle Beijing plans. But will the capital emerge as a metropolis of beauty and soul (like Paris) or a brawny show of power (à la Speer's vision for Berlin)? The latter seems far more likely unless China's top leaders—nine men trained as engineers—get serious about promoting "human" values, as they've promised.

    With Jonathan Ansfield in Beijing and Duncan Hewitt in Shaoxing
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    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20159606/

    U.N.: Record extreme weather in '07
    Global land temperatures in January, April likely warmest on record
    MSNBC staff and news service reports
    Updated: 5:52 a.m. PT Aug 7, 2007


    <SCRIPT language=javascript> function UpdateTimeStamp(pdt) { var n = document.getElementById("udtD"); if(pdt != '' && n && window.DateTime) { var dt = new DateTime(); pdt = dt.T2D(pdt); if(dt.GetTZ(pdt)) {n.innerHTML = dt.D2S(pdt,(('false'.toLowerCase()=='false')?false:true));} } } UpdateTimeStamp('633220879301800000');</SCRIPT>
    GENEVA - The world experienced a series of record-breaking weather events in early 2007, from flooding in Asia to heat waves in Europe and snowfall in South Africa, the United Nations weather agency said Tuesday.
    The World Meteorological Organization said global land surface temperatures in January and April were likely the warmest since records began in 1880, at more than 1 degree Celsius higher than average for those months.
    There have also been severe monsoon floods across South Asia, abnormally heavy rains in northern Europe, China, Sudan, Mozambique and Uruguay, extreme heat waves in southeastern Europe and Russia, and unusual snowfall in South Africa and South America this year, the WMO said.
    “The start of the year 2007 was a very active period in terms of extreme weather events,” Omar Baddour of the agency’s World Climate Program told journalists in Geneva.
    While most scientists believe extreme weather events will be more frequent as heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions cause global temperatures to rise, Baddour said it was impossible to say with certainty what the second half of 2007 will bring.
    “It is very difficult to make projections for the rest of the year,” he said.
    'More frequent' extremes predicted
    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N. umbrella group of hundreds of experts, has noted an increasing trend in extreme weather events over the past 50 years and said irregular patterns are likely to intensify.
    "IPCC further projects it to be very likely that hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent," the WMO noted.
    South Asia’s worst monsoon flooding in recent memory has affected 30 million people in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, destroying croplands, livestock and property and raising fears of a health crisis in the densely-populated region.
    The region saw four monsoon depressions in June and July, double the normal amount, the WMO said.
    Huge swell waves swamped some 68 islands in the Maldives in May, resulting in severe damage, and the Arabian Sea had its first documented cyclone in June, touching Oman and Iran.
    Heavy rains also doused southern China in June, with nearly 14 million people affected by floods and landslides that killed 120 people, the WMO said.
    Europe, Africa, South America
    England and Wales this year had their wettest May-July since records began in 1766, resulting in extensive flooding and more than $6 billion in damage, as well as at least nine deaths. Germany swung from its driest April since countrywide observations started in 1901 to its wettest May on record.
    Temperature records were broken in southeastern Europe in June and July, and in western and central Russia in May. In many European countries, January and April were the warmest ever recorded.

    In Africa, Mozambique suffered its worst floods in six years in February, followed by a tropical cyclone the same month, and flooding of the Nile River in June caused damage in Sudan.
    South Africa in June had its first significant snowfall since 1981.
    In South America, Uruguay in May had its worst flooding since 1959.
    Argentina and Chile saw unusually cold winter temperatures in July. In Argentina, the capital Buenos Aires saw snow in July for the first time since 1918.
    The WMO and its 188 member states are working to set up an early warning system for extreme weather events. The agency is also seeking to improve monitoring of the impacts of climate change, particularly in poorer countries which are expected to bear the brunt of floods, droughts and storms.
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    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20137025/

    As British leave, Basra deteriorates Violence rises in Shiite city once called a success story
    By Karen DeYoung and Thomas E. Ricks
    The Washington Post
    Updated: 10:33 p.m. PT Aug 6, 2007

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    As British forces pull back from Basra in southern Iraq, Shiite militias there have escalated a violent battle against each other for political supremacy and control over oil resources, deepening concerns among some U.S. officials in Baghdad that elements of Iraq's Shiite-dominated national government will turn on one another once U.S. troops begin to draw down.
    Three major Shiite political groups are locked in a bloody conflict that has left the city in the hands of militias and criminal gangs, whose control extends to municipal offices and neighborhood streets. The city is plagued by "the systematic misuse of official institutions, political assassinations, tribal vendettas, neighborhood vigilantism and enforcement of social mores, together with the rise of criminal mafias that increasingly intermingle with political actors," a recent report by the International Crisis Group said.
    After Saddam Hussein was overthrown in April 2003, British forces took control of the region, and the cosmopolitan port city of Basra thrived with trade, arts and universities. As recently as February, Vice President Cheney hailed Basra as a part of Iraq "where things are going pretty well."
    But "it's hard now to paint Basra as a success story," said a senior U.S. official in Baghdad with long experience in the south. Instead, it has become a different model, one that U.S. officials with experience in the region are concerned will be replicated throughout the Iraqi Shiite homeland from Baghdad to the Persian Gulf. A recent series of war games commissioned by the Pentagon also warned of civil war among Shiites after a reduction in U.S. forces.
    For the past four years, the administration's narrative of the Iraq war has centered on al-Qaeda, Iran and the sectarian violence they have promoted. But in the homogenous south -- where there are virtually no U.S. troops or al-Qaeda fighters, few Sunnis, and by most accounts limited influence by Iran -- Shiite militias fight one another as well as British troops. A British strategy launched last fall to reclaim Basra neighborhoods from violent actors -- similar to the current U.S. strategy in Baghdad -- brought no lasting success.

    ‘Surrounded like cowboys and Indians’
    "The British have basically been defeated in the south," a senior U.S. intelligence official said recently in Baghdad. They are abandoning their former headquarters at Basra Palace, where a recent official visitor from London described them as "surrounded like cowboys and Indians" by militia fighters. An airport base outside the city, where a regional U.S. Embassy office and Britain's remaining 5,500 troops are barricaded behind building-high sandbags, has been attacked with mortars or rockets nearly 600 times over the past four months.
    Britain sent about 40,000 troops to Iraq -- the second-largest contingent, after that of the United States, at the time of the March 2003 invasion -- and focused its efforts on the south. With few problems from outside terrorists or sectarian violence, the British began withdrawing, and by early 2005 only 9,000 troops remained. British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced further drawdowns early this year before leaving office.
    The administration has been reluctant to publicly criticize the British withdrawal. But a British defense expert serving as a consultant in Baghdad acknowledged in an e-mail that the United States "has been very concerned for some time now about a) the lawless situation in Basra and b) the political and military impact of the British pullback." The expert added that this "has been expressed at the highest levels" by the U.S. government to British authorities.

    The government of new Prime Minister Gordon Brown has pointed to the current relative calm in three of the region's four provinces -- barring Basra -- as evidence of success. According to one British official, Brown told President Bush when they met last week at Camp David that Britain hopes to turn Basra over to Iraqi control in the next few months. Although a further drawdown of its forces is likely, Britain will coordinate its remaining presence with Washington after an assessment in September by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq.
    As it prepares to take control of Basra, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has dispatched new generals to head the army and police forces there. But the warring militias are part of factions in the government itself, including radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr -- whose Mahdi Army is believed responsible for most of the recent attacks on the airport compound -- as well as the Fadhila, or Islamic Virtue Party, and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the country's largest Shiite party.
    In March, Fadhila pulled out of Maliki's ruling alliance of Shiite parties in Baghdad after it lost control of the petroleum ministry to the Supreme Council. Last week, under pressure from the council, Maliki fired the Fadhila governor of Basra. Fadhila has refused to relinquish power over the governate or over Basra's lucrative oil refineries, calling the Maliki government "the new Baath" -- a reference to Hussein's Sunni-led political party -- and appealed the dismissal to Iraq's constitutional court.

    Continued below....
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    Shifting alliances
    Jockeying for political power in Baghdad has long since translated into shooting battles in Basra. The militias have shifted alliances with one another, as well as with the British and with Iran as they fight for control of neighborhoods and resources. With the escalation of street battles and assassinations, much of the population is confined to homes and is fearful of Islamic rules imposed by militias.
    Although neighbor Iran's presence is pervasive -- with cultural influence, humanitarian aid, arms and money -- U.S. officials and outside experts think that the Iraqi parties are using Iran more than vice versa. Iraqis in the south have long memories of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, one U.S. official said, and when a southern Shiite "wants to tar someone, they call them an Iranian." He said the United States is "always very concerned about Iranian influence, as well we should be, but there is a difference between influence and control. It would be very difficult for the Iranians to establish control."
    The ICG study described Iran, Britain and the United States as equally confused about what is happening in Basra. During a recent visit there, the U.S. official said, he was unable to meet with any local Iraqis outside the airport base or to travel beyond the secured route between the base and the palace. About 200 Americans are in and around the city, including those assigned to the embassy office, some civilian support personnel and contract security guards.
    Basra's "security nightmare" has already had devastating effects on Iraq's economy, said Juan Cole, a Middle East specialist at the University of Michigan. Home to two-thirds of Iraq's oil resources, Basra is the country's sole dependable outlet for exporting oil, with a capacity of 1.8 million barrels a day. Much of Basra's violence is "over who gets what cut from Iraq's economic resources," a U.S. Army strategist in Iraq said.
    Militias and criminal gangs are financed in part by stolen oil smuggled outside the country, even as Iraq lacks enough energy to provide electricity to many of its people. Both the oil industry and the port facilities -- providing Iraq's only maritime access -- have made Basra "a significant prize for local political actors," the ICG said.
    The current U.S. security operation to "clear, hold and build" in Baghdad and its surroundings is almost a replica of Operation Sinbad, which British and Iraqi forces conducted in Basra from September 2006 to March of this year with a mission of "clear, hold and civil reconstruction." Although Operation Sinbad initially succeeded in lowering crime and political assassinations, attacks rose in the spring and British forces withdrew into their compounds.
    In the early years of Iraq's occupation, British officials often disdained the U.S. use of armored patrols and heavily protected troops. The British approach of lightly armed foot patrols -- copied from counterinsurgency operations in Northern Ireland -- sought to avoid antagonizing the local population and encourage cooperation. A 2005 report by the defense committee of the House of Commons commended the British army's performance and urged the Ministry of Defense to "use its influence" to get the Americans to take a less aggressive approach.

    ‘Unrealistic aspirations’
    In a recent BBC interview, Air Chief Marshal Jock Stirrup, chief of the British defense staff, insisted that Basra has been a success. But he acknowledged that judgment depended on "what your interpretation of the mission was in the first place," adding: "I'm afraid people had, in many instances, unrealistic aspirations."
    The mission, he said, was simply to "get the place and the people to a state where Iraqis could run this part of the country, if they chose to."
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    Iran shuts down leading reformist newspaper

    Police cite ‘anti-morality’ interview calling for gender equality for move

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20148732/

    I am proud to be an American :flag:
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    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20121786/site/newsweek/

    Suicide Bombers: Iraq's 'Martyr' Factory The Iraq war has turned into a veritable 'martyr' factory, unlike any seen in previous conflicts.
    By Rod Nordland and Babak Dehghanpisheh
    Newsweek

    Aug. 13, 2007 issue - In the video that serves as his last will and testament, the youthful, well-dressed Saudi, known only as "Fatima's Fiancé," is laughing and joking with the cameraman who will record his death a few minutes later. "Pray for Allah to make my mission easy," he says, and waves as he climbs into a maroon sedan, grinning broadly. "May Allah make it easy for you," the cameraman says obligingly, and laughs. The scene cuts away to an earlier interview, where the Saudi announces that when he gets to heaven he plans to marry a woman named Fatima, who was allegedly abused in Abu Ghraib Prison. Then the scene shifts to a highway in Iraq, with a line of 18-wheelers roaring along and a red circle superimposed over the bomber's approaching car. As the music swells and the screen fills with an orange-and-black fireball, the cameraman cries, "Thanks to Allah!"
    Such scenes are all too easily found on YouTube—and hundreds more like them are never caught on tape. While new figures show that the U.S. death toll dipped to its lowest total all year in the month of July, the number of Iraqis being killed continues to rise: some 1,652 civilians died in July alone. Many if not most of those deaths are the result of what has become an epidemic of suicide bombings. In the first three years of the war, there were fewer than 300 such attacks; in the year ending June 30 there were at least 540, according to a U.S. Department of Defense intelligence analyst in Iraq who specializes in the subject but is not authorized to speak on the record. Since January, the U.S. military says, more than 4,000 Iraqis have been killed or injured by suicide bombers. Last Wednesday, 50 more died in a truck bombing in Baghdad. "Iraq has superseded all the other suicide-bomb campaigns [in modern history] combined," says Mohammed Hafez, author of "Suicide Bombers in Iraq" and a U.S. government consultant. "It's really amazing."

    What's perhaps even more surprising is that the majority of the bombers are not Iraqi. National-security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie says that Saudis account for half the suicide bombings in Iraq. U.S. military estimates agree, and put Iraqis a distant second; in analyzing cases where the bomber's identity is definitively known, Hafez comes up with similar figures. Saudis play a little role in the insurgency as a whole but are key to the suicide-bombing campaign: the U.S. intelligence analyst estimates that "about half the Saudis crossing into Iraq come as suicide bombers."
    That's one of the reasons the Bush administration's plan to sell $20 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates has aroused protest. "Saudi Arabia is the engine of jihad," says a U.S. adviser in Baghdad who is not authorized to speak on the record. Recently the American ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, said Saudis in particular were "not doing all they can to help us" in Iraq. Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, said he was "astonished" by the criticism. But privately, the Saudis admit they have a problem. A Saudi security consultant with close ties to senior officials, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, says the Saudi government estimates that 850 of its citizens have gone to fight in Iraq since 2003, of whom at least 50 percent have been killed.

    IEDs may take more American lives, but suicide bombs have had a more devastating impact on the way the war is fought. "Martyrdom operations [the jihadist term for suicide bombings] are effective because our losses are little and the opposition's losses are great," says Oslo-based Mullah Krekar, a radical Iraqi Kurd who founded Ansar Al-Islam, one of the first groups to use suicide bombings in the war. The tactic has driven a wedge between Americans and Iraqis: all U.S. outposts are now ringed by layers of blast walls and other obstacles, while convoys warn Iraqis to "stay 100 meters back" or risk being shot. Fear of car bombs has added vastly to the cost of reconstruction; Western contractors typically spend a quarter of their budgets on security.

    Continued below...
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    The impact on Iraqis is even more insidious. The most spectacular suicide attacks have targeted the predominantly Shiite Iraqi security forces, as well as crowded markets in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhoods. They have fueled sectarian revenge attacks. And they've pretty well instilled a sense of despair and chaos among ordinary citizens. When Iraqis of all stripes poured into the streets to celebrate the semifinals victory of Iraq's national soccer team in the Asia Cup, two suicide bombers killed more than 50 revelers in separate attacks. "I could not believe that those who were dancing in the streets a few minutes before were now dead," said an eyewitness, Ahmad Nabeel, 19, a student. "This was jihad?"
    The Saudis say they've spent an average of $1 billion per year patrolling their border with Iraq. But Arabs can travel to Syria visa-free, and often jihadists will transit first through third countries in the gulf or even Europe to hide their trail. Saudis are particularly prized because they typically bring their own funds to pay the Syrian go-betweens who smuggle them into Iraq. That was the route taken by a 21-year-old Saudi last month, who balked at the last minute while on a mission to blow up a key bridge in Ramadi. Police arrested him, and found that his Saudi handlers had given him $1,000 cash in travel expenses. Rubaie agrees with the Americans that Damascus isn't doing enough to cut off the pipeline. He recalls how hard it was for Iraqi exiles in Damascus to get permission to cross into Iraq during Saddam's regime: "This is under the iron fist of their intelligence," he says. "There's not even a bird that can cross the border without them knowing about it."
    An even harder challenge is to dry up the pool of willing martyrs in Saudi Arabia, where zealotry and resentment of infidels in Muslim lands are deeply ingrained. The Saudi government has launched a national media campaign to discourage would-be "martyrs" from traveling to foreign countries, especially Iraq. Radical clerics have been reined in and repentant would-be bombers have been hauled before the press to talk about the error of their ways.
    In June, the Saudi Interior minister, Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz, gave a stern public address to a group of imams: "Do you know that your sons who go to Iraq are used only for blowing themselves up? ... Are you happy for your children to become instruments of murder?" But hostility to the American presence in Iraq and to the increasingly powerful Shiites in the Baghdad government has provoked both anger and fear among the conservative Sunni majority in Saudi Arabia. As the security consultant warns, "If this [anti-suicide campaign] wasn't in place, we would practically be in a state of war with Iraq."

    The flow of bombers seems inexhaustible. Iraqi and some U.S. officials say there have been cases of suicide bombers whose hands were chained to the steering wheels of their vehicles, and reports of those who were drugged or heavily brainwashed. But most experts who have studied the subject doubt such tactics are common. Hafez, who has identified 139 of Iraq's suicide bombers, from U.S. government and jihadist sources, says he hasn't come across a single credible case of coercion. "You see these martyrdom videos, and they say, 'This is the button to paradise,' and they really seem to believe that," he says.
    Iraqi officials who have worked at stopping suicide missions also tend to describe the bombers as dead-enders, manipulated by their handlers. "They don't know what to do with their lives, and they are convinced that after they die they are going to have a better life," says Maj. Gen. Riyadh Jalal, who commands an Iraqi division guarding largely Shiite eastern Baghdad. "They're losers." Saif al din Ali Ahmed, security chief in the Kurdish Regional Government, agrees: "depressed people looking for a better life somewhere else," he calls them.
    But in fact, most of the bombers are recruited from among educated, middle-class families; the recruiters' appeal is an intellectual, theological one. The Ramadi bridge bomber's parents are a college professor and a high-school teacher. Bilal Ahmed, an Iraqi, was a 22-year-old college student and soccer fanatic. Earlier this year he saw his Sunni father killed by Shiite militiamen rampaging through their Baghdad neighborhood. He tore down his Ronaldinho posters, and began praying intensely and going to the mosque daily. There the imam told him suicide was wrong, but jihad was a religious duty. Within weeks his brother got a text message: "Yesterday Bilal was blessed with martyrdom that will lead him to paradise." Apparently he had killed two bystanders at a police station, and just missed the cops.
    Raed al Bena, a Jordanian who blew himself up in Hillah, Iraq, was a former United Nations employee in Jordan. He had obtained a visa to the United States, where he went to work, illegally, at a Los Angeles airport. Found out and deported, he returned home depressed, railing at the U.S. immigration officer who "destroyed my future," recalls his father, Mansour. He denies reports in Jordanian papers that the family celebrated Raed's suicide bombing, but his wife, Nareman, promptly takes offense. "Why do you say 'suicide bombing'?" she asks. "It's 'martyrdom.' One who wants to commit suicide will kill himself [even] in the house."
    Those are not just the views of a bereaved mother trying to make sense of the senseless. They're widely held, even in countries otherwise friendly to the West. In 2004, an opinion survey by the Pew Foundation found that 70 percent of Jordanians and 74 percent of Lebanese approved of suicide bombings; although that decreased dramatically in a second survey this year, still one out of five Jordanians and one out of three Lebanese approve of the tactic. (Saudi Arabia was not surveyed.) Unless those attitudes change, there will be more than enough human bombs to keep Iraq burning for years.
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    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6933741.stm

    Russia watches over nuclear wrecks
    <!--Smvb--><TABLE><TBODY><TR><TD vAlign=bottom><!--Smvb-->By James Rodgers
    BBC News, Andreeva Bay, Russia <!--Emvb-->
    </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>
    Above the waves of the Barents Sea there is a mural of Marx and Lenin, like a faded tattoo.
    Below it, in the waters of Saida Bay, lie other relics of the Soviet Union - the rusting hulls of nuclear submarines. They are no longer part of a Cold War armada, but the radiation risk means they are still deadly.
    Relations between Britain and Russia have soured since the end of last year amid the row over the death of former secret agent Alexander Litvinenko and the expulsion of diplomats from London and Moscow. But both sides say they will not let that harm their co-operation over nuclear safety.
    The UK Energy Minister, Malcolm Wicks, was the first British government official to visit the Barents Sea region since the Litvinenko row escalated in July.
    He went there with delegations from Britain and Norway - two members of the Global Partnership programme set up to reduce the threat from nuclear material in the former Soviet Union.
    "There is a serious matter between us at the present time. We're not going to disguise that. We've made our position clear to Moscow on that. Someone was murdered on our territory. That's a very important matter," Mr Wicks said.
    "But this partnership will continue. There will still be diplomatic relations between our countries, and it's important that this vital work continues."
    Surveillance
    At the spent nuclear fuel storage facility at Andreeva Bay, north-west of Saida Bay, you can see why.

    It is dangerous. The delegation had to wear protective clothing even for their brief visit.
    It is a sensitive location. The Russians told television crews, including the BBC, they had to agree to their pictures being censored if they wished to film.
    It wasn't the first problem we had had. Earlier in the day, at the naval dockyard in Polyarny, we had been prevented from filming a submarine which was due to be broken up.
    A man in civilian clothes suspected we had been taking pictures. I assume he was an agent of the FSB, the Russian secret police. He demanded to see what was on the cassette in our camera.
    We had not even been able to film the delegation looking at the submarine. Even with the Cold War over, the Soviet navy's nuclear legacy is still surrounded by secrecy and suspicion.
    Safety fears
    At Andreeva Bay, I left my TV colleagues behind and boarded a bus which SevRAO, the company which manages the site, had provided for visitors.

    Inside, a sunken ship lay on its side near the quay. Some 30 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel are stored here. It seemed incredible that the site had been allowed to become so neglected.
    You could see the difference that international funding had made. New facilities had been built to replace the crumbling, Soviet-era buildings.
    A British government report published in December 2005 spoke of "significant levels of contamination of the ground" here.
    In for the long haul
    It was a relief to be on the journey out again.
    The Norwegian border is just 45km (28 miles) from Andreeva Bay. Norway has paid for improvements to the site - including a new fence to keep out terrorists. The Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister, Liv Monica Stubholt, seemed generally pleased with the way the partnership was working - but admitted it was not always easy.
    "We have an issue, both with openness and transparency," she explained. "We would like to see a better flow of information. And we would also like the experts to be able to share more freely what they learn and their research results."
    Then there is the question of whether Britain and others should be paying for the clean-up. Russia is not the poor country it was in the 1990s. Valery Panteleev, director of SevRAO, believes everyone is benefiting.
    "Where we're dealing with radioactive waste - probably these British, Italians and Swedes we're working with will get something good from it too," he said. "The way I look at it, we're working together everywhere." When we left Saida Bay, there was a man fishing just a few metres from the rusting hull of a decommissioned nuclear submarine. Some residents of this region seem resigned to life alongside radioactive waste. Countries on Russia's borders and beyond cannot be complacent.
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    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6932800.stm

    'Shots fired' across Korea border
    Shots have been fired across the border between North and South Korea, the defence ministry in Seoul has said.
    The South returned fire after North Korean soldiers fired several shots at a South Korean guard post in the demilitarised zone, the ministry said.
    There have been no reports of any casualties, officials said.
    The two neighbours have frequently been involved in skirmishes along their tense frontier, but this is the first such incident this year.
    The demilitarised zone between North and South Korea is the most heavily-fortified border in the world.
    The two sides are still technically at war - having never signed an official ceasefire at the end of the Korean War in 1953.
    But in recent months there has been an improvement in North Korea's ties with the outside world.
    In July, it finally shut down its Yongbyon nuclear reactor, after months of negotiations. The closure was part of an international disarmament deal under which North Korea is to receive energy aid and political incentives in return for ending its nuclear programme.
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    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6934794.stm

    Nigeria blocks huge clinic deal
    Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua has ordered the suspension of a multi-million dollar contract awarded by his predecessor Olusegun Obasanjo.
    The 18bn naira ($145m) contract to build health clinics across the country was awarded to a company believed to be owned by a former aide to Mr Obasanjo.
    "It was an illegal contract," Mr Yar'Adua's spokesman told the BBC.
    Last month, Mr Yar'Adua reversed the controversial sale of two refineries to a business group linked to Mr Obasanjo.
    Nigeria is seen as one of the world's most corrupt countries - an image both Mr Obasanjo and Mr Yar'Adua have pledged to end.
    Rule of law
    The contract, awarded last year, was to build a primary healthcare centre in each of Nigeria's 774 local council areas.

    The contract was funded by compulsory deductions from each of the local councils' share of monthly oil revenue.
    "There's no law backing it. It was being funded with illegal local government funds," President Yar'Adua's spokesman Olusegun Adeniyi told the BBC News website
    This is the second time in less than three weeks that President Yar'Adua would be reversing a major decision taken by his predecessor and political benefactor.
    Mr Adeniyi denied that President Yar'Adua was trying to prove his independence from his predecessor, who had been instrumental in his landslide win in last April's presidential polls. "For President Yar'Adua, everything is about the rule of law and this contract was found to be illegal," Mr Adeniyi said.
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    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/6932739.stm

    Dogs sniff out pirate DVD factory
    Sniffer dogs have helped shut down a factory in Malaysia that was producing pirated films, according to the Motion Picture Association (MPA) trade body.

    About 18,000 discs were seized from the premises near Kuala Lumpur, including illegal copies of The Simpsons Movie.
    Lucky and Flo - the first dogs trained to sniff out counterfeit discs - were involved in the operation, which led to the detention of four men.
    Since March, 26 arrests have been made following raids involving the dogs.
    In the last six months, more than 1.6 million discs have been recovered by Malaysian authorities during operations involving the Labradors.
    Strong scent
    According to the MPA, which represents the major Hollywood studios, three disc replicating machines were seized in the latest raid.
    They were capable of producing at least 10.6 million pirated discs, worth more than $21m (£10.5m) a year, the MPA said.
    Lucky and Flo were trained by a handler in Northern Ireland who usually teaches dogs to find bombs.
    In an effort to thwart the dogs, the suspected pirates had piled 300 sacks of strong-smelling fertiliser outside the factory.
    'Great success'
    The MPA's Mike Ellis, said: "The Malaysian government's aggressive enforcement measures send a clear message that piracy will not be tolerated. We therefore remain fully committed to support them in their operations."
    The deployment of Lucky and Flo in Malaysia had been "a great success", he added, praising the government for showing "tremendous leadership in tackling the piracy problem".
    The black Labradors have been so successful that local media said movie pirates had offered a bounty to anyone who eliminated the dogs. The pairs' stint in Malaysia is expected to end in August. Malaysia plans to form its own canine anti-piracy unit early next year.
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    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6935286.stm

    Berlin to repair Holocaust site
    Cracks have appeared in 393 of the 2,711 concrete slabs that form the Holocaust memorial in central Berlin.
    Memorial director Uwe Neumaerker said synthetic resin would need to be used to fill the fissures and prevent water from penetrating the slabs in winter.
    He said the cracks were not affecting the stability of the slabs.
    The memorial, designed by US architect Peter Eisenman, was opened in May 2005. It honours the millions of Jews murdered by the Nazis in World War II.
    The labyrinth of slabs stands near the famous Brandenburg Gate.
    The repair work is scheduled to be carried out in the autumn, but the monument will remain open to visitors during the repairs, Berlin officials say.
    It is not yet clear what caused the cracks, but Mr Neumaerker said sharp temperature fluctuations might be to blame.
    The firm that erected the memorial, Geithner Bau, will carry out the repairs, at a cost estimated to be less than one million euros (£678,000; $1.4m). The memorial, which cost 10.5m euros to build, is visited by about three million people annually.
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    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6929532.stm

    Libya sales deal fuels French row
    <!--Smvb--><TABLE><TBODY><TR><TD vAlign=bottom><!--Smvb-->By Henri Astier
    BBC News website <!--Emvb-->
    </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>
    <!--Emvb-->News of a $400m Franco-Libyan arms deal has reignited a controversy in France about how the release by Tripoli of jailed medics was secured last week.
    The six were freed after a high-profile visit to Libya by President Nicolas Sarkozy's wife, Cecilia.
    The day after their release, the president himself flew to Libya to sign trade and health deals.
    Since then, opposition socialists have demanded to know whether the Bulgarian detainees were part of the package.
    Mr Sarkozy strongly denies that there was any such quid-pro-quo.
    But the arms agreement - the first between Libya and a Western country since the EU lifted a ban in 2004 - has fuelled demands for explanations.
    The deal was first outlined on Thursday by Saif Gaddafi, the son of the Libyan leader.
    He told Le Monde newspaper that the arms sales had long been at the heart of talks between Libya and France.

    <TABLE><TBODY><TR><TD width=5></TD><TD class=fact><!--So--><!--Eo--><!--Smva-->In a democracy like ours, transparency must be the rule
    <!--Emva--><!--Smva-->Francois Hollande
    French Socialist Party leader <!--Emva-->
    </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>

    Later Libyan officials provided details, saying Tripoli had agreed to buy Milan anti-tank missiles and radio communications equipment from subsidiaries of the European defence and aerospace group EADS.
    To Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande, the way the news emerged is in itself suspicious.
    "How can we tolerate in a democracy that an arms deal should be announced by Gaddafi's son?" he told AFP news agency on Friday.
    Mr Hollande said he had made inquiries about the agreements with the foreign and defence ministries and was told they knew nothing of them.
    He called for a parliamentary inquiry into negotiations between Libya and France.
    The investigation should "shed light on whether this was a regular trade deal", Mr Hollande added.
    "In a democracy like ours, transparency must be the rule."
    Doubts
    Mr Sarkozy's spokesman David Martinon again denied that the issue of the jailed medics - who had been convicted of infecting children with HIV - played a role in negotiations.
    Defence Minister Herve Morin, for his part, said the deals had been under discussion for months, and that a special committee on arms sales had cleared them in February - three months before Mr Sarkozy's election.
    But the left-wing opposition is clearly not satisfied with the official explanation.
    "Libya is not a democratic country and at least we could have been informed in parliament of the negotiations going on," Socialist MP Marisol Touraine told the BBC.
    The government can expect a rough ride when parliament reconvenes next month.
    In the meantime, the government is facing intense pressure from sections of the media.
    "Doubts remain," Le Monde newspaper writes in an editorial on Friday. "By trying to convince us that the new president and his wife pulled off the happy outcome, on their own, by their sheer persistence in negotiations, the Elysee was inviting a backlash."
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    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6928798.stm

    Concern over UN's wider Iraq role
    <!--Smvb--><TABLE><TBODY><TR><TD vAlign=bottom><!--Smvb-->By Matthew Wells
    BBC correspondent at the UN <!--Emvb-->

    </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>
    For almost four years, the United Nations has kept itself at arms length from the turmoil of Iraqi politics - but next week, that could all change.
    The death of a revered senior official - seen by many as a future secretary general - and 21 others, in a devastating attack on their Baghdad headquarters in 2003, led to almost total withdrawal.
    Since then, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has consisted of just a few hundred staff, providing logistical support mainly for elections and monitoring human rights.
    But following the relative success of a Security Council resolution on Darfur earlier in the week, Anglo-American diplomats at the UN are confident they have the votes to empower a new "heavyweight" mission.

    <TABLE><TBODY><TR><TD width=5></TD><TD class=fact><!--Smva-->The only credible light for the Iraqi people is to see a timetable set up for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq
    <!--Emva--><!--Smva-->Syria's ambassador to UN
    Bashar Jaafari <!--Emva-->

    </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>

    "It's straightforward," said Britain's outgoing UN ambassador Sir Emyr Jones Parry when asked about the new draft resolution, which would extend and widen the UN role.
    Crucially, the Russian ambassador gave his approval to the draft on Thursday, indicating that the permanent member would not be resorting to the veto when it comes before the Security Council next week.
    "It's overall a good draft. Some work of course, may be required," ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters. "But I don't see any basic problems," he added.
    Haunting memories
    One Western diplomat told the BBC that the Iraqi government itself had been fully consulted over the draft, and that no progress would be made without its full co-operation.

    It is hoped that the newly extended mission would play a major role in healing sectarian rifts, settling boundary disputes, and planning a national census.
    It's becoming clear that the sticking point may come much closer to home than Baghdad.
    A UN spokesman said that concern over staff security was still paramount, and there was no guarantee that the mission would increase in size with an enhanced mandate.
    No UN troops are included in the draft resolution, and the mission will be relying on mainly American and British soldiers for security.
    Haunted by the memories of the 2003 truck bomb, the staff union here at UN headquarters has the power to resist a new wave of deployment, if they don't get the reassurances they need.
    Positive diplomacy
    Even if there is a clear majority on the 15-member Security Council already emerging, some member countries have concerns about how effective the UN can ever be while it has to rely on others for protection.
    Syrian ambassador Bashar Jaafari told the BBC: "The only credible light for the Iraqi people is to see a timetable set up for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq."
    Syria shares a border with Iraq and is home, for the time being, to around 1.5 million Iraqi refugees.
    "Nobody is denying the crucial role of the UN in Iraq... but the main issue is how to create a proper environment [for its success]," added the ambassador. After a week of apparently positive diplomacy - led by Western governments - in Africa and now in Iraq, a huge amount of detailed work and bridge-building, still remains to be done.
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    Foreign activists held in China
    Six foreign activists have been detained for holding a protest on the Great Wall of China.
    The activists called for an independent Tibet, and claimed the International Olympic Committee was not holding China accountable for human rights abuses.
    The protest comes as China gets ready to mark a year before the Beijing Olympic Games begin, on 8 August 2008.
    The games countdown has also brought protests from other groups, including Amnesty and Reporters without Borders.
    Highlighting abuses
    The activists - from Canada, the US and Britain - unveiled a banner reading "One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008", on the side of the Great Wall.
    "One World, One Dream" is the motto for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
    Activists say China is using the Olympics to try to legitimise its claims on Tibet, which it says it has ruled for centuries - a fact many Tibetans dispute.

    <TABLE><TBODY><TR><TD width=5></TD><TD class=fact><!--Smva-->Official statements suggest that the Olympics are being used to justify such repression
    <!--Emva--><!--Smva-->Amnesty's Olympics report <!--Emva--><!--So-->
    <!--Eo--><!--Smiiib--></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>
    The protesters were on the Wall for about two hours before being detained, according to the group they were with, Students for a Free Tibet.
    They were not the only protesters using the Olympic countdown to highlight Chinese human rights violations.
    Amnesty International has warned that the image of the games will be tarnished unless China acts urgently to stop abuses.
    In a report, the group accused China's authorities of detaining activists and journalists without trial, in a "clean up" of the capital.
    "Official statements suggest that the Olympics are being used to justify such repression in the name of 'harmony' or 'social stability' rather than acting as a catalyst for reform," said Amnesty's report.
    The organisation said China had taken some positive steps in recent months by reforming the death penalty and relaxing restrictions on foreign journalists.
    But Irene Khan, the organisation's secretary general, said they had also "tightened up the ability of Chinese journalists to work".
    "We've also seen increasing arrests of human rights activists, an increasing use of 're-education' through forced labour, and what they call enforced drug rehabilitation," she said.

    The Amnesty report follows a visit to Beijing by the Paris-based organisation Reporters Without Borders, which called for the release of more than 80 jailed journalists and dissidents in China.
    Members of the organisation demonstrated near the Olympic headquarters, wearing black T-shirts showing handcuffs in place of the Olympic Rings.
    "We didn't come to call for a boycott," said Vincent Brossel, a spokesman for the group. "We are calling for concrete achievements, the release of political prisoners, opening of Web access and an end to radio jamming."
    Meanwhile organisers of the Beijing Olympics have repeatedly expressed a desire to keep the games non-political.
    Speaking before the Amnesty report had been issued, Jiang Xiaoyu of the Beijing organising committee said: "We welcome even more constructive criticism on faults and problems." But he said politicising the event did not "accord with the Olympic spirit".
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    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070807.wisrael07/BNStory/International/?page=rss&id=RTGAM.20070807.wisrael07

    Olmert, Abbas agree to expand talks

    Negotiations aimed at achieving a two-state solution 'as soon as possible'

    CAROLYNNE WHEELER
    From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
    August 7, 2007 at 4:20 AM EDT

    <!-- dateline -->JERUSALEM<!-- /dateline --> — Israeli and Palestinian leaders last night said they had agreed to expand the scope of negotiations toward peace in hope of achieving a two-state solution "as soon as possible," after a three-hour meeting that saw an Israeli leader travel to the West Bank for the first time in nearly a decade.
    Despite the symbolism in having Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert meet Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank for the first time, however, there were no concrete offerings announced after their talks in Jericho, at a luxury hotel once home to a casino beloved by Israelis in peacetime. It was the first such trip by an Israeli leader at least since the last Palestinian intifada began in September, 2000.
    Mr. Olmert reportedly agreed to consider a further release of prisoners and the dismantling of some checkpoints in the West Bank, long-standing requests from the Palestinian side. The two leaders are expected to meet several more times before a U.S.-sponsored peace conference in November.
    The two men shared a hug on Mr. Olmert's arrival in Jericho in a motorcade accompanied by two helicopters and tight security on the streets. But the most that could be said after yesterday's talks, which included 90 minutes of a private tête-à-tête without aides present, is that they were "constructive."

    Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told a news conference after the talks that Mr. Abbas "did not come to the meeting with a magic wand, and neither did Mr. Olmert.
    "There is an agreement on a series of meetings to discuss the issues, including the establishment of a Palestinian state," he said.
    Mr. Olmert said they discussed "fundamental issues" key to the formation of a Palestinian state and will "expand the scope of the negotiations between us."
    Both leaders are working on a ticking clock: Mr. Olmert is still struggling politically after last summer's war in southern Lebanon and the ongoing inquiry that has been deeply critical of his government's actions. And Mr. Abbas has just weathered the defeat of his forces in Gaza at the hands of Hamas, which now has full control of the seaside strip and has refused to recognize Mr. Abbas's subsequent firing of the entire cabinet, now replaced with a smaller group
    of loyalists.
    Though Mr. Abbas has spoken in favour of new parliamentary and presidential elections, Hamas already has declared its opposition to such a move, leaving the president virtually powerless among 1.5 million of his people.
    Also influencing the political process now is the limited time remaining in U.S. President George W. Bush's term, and his need for progress in the Mideast in the wake of the continuing Iraq war and heightened tensions with Iran.
    "Clearly when [the two leaders] meet alone, they are not talking about confidence-building measures," said Yossi Alpher, a former special adviser to former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak at the 2000 Camp David negotiations and now co-editor of the Israeli-Palestinian Internet magazine bitterlemons.org. He said it's likely the two leaders tried to discuss a framework for final-status issues, which include the borders of a Palestinian state, the question of a division of Jerusalem, removal of Israeli settlements from the West Bank and how to deal with Palestinian refugees.
    But he said any progress can only go as far as the next election, on all sides. "There are all kinds of hidden agendas here and it's hard to see how it will progress to the level of substance," Mr. Alpher said.
    "Many people very much doubt whether Abu Mazen [Mr. Abbas] is a strong enough leader, or whether Olmert is a strong enough leader," Mr. Alpher said. "But this is what's happening. This is the only game in town right now."
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    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20070807.WORLD07-1/TPStory/TPInternational/Africa/

    Eight Darfur rebel groups ready to discuss peace

    AFP
    August 7, 2007

    <!-- Summary --><!-- dateline -->Arusha<!-- /dateline --> -- Eight Darfur rebel groups agreed yesterday on a common platform for peace negotiations with the Sudanese government that they said could start within three months.
    A unified position for the fractious rebels was seen as another important step toward ending 4½ years of conflict in the western region.
    <!-- /Summary -->The talks were shunned by two key rebel leaders, including the founding father of the Darfur rebellion, Abdel Wahid Mohammed Nur.
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    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20070807.RUSSIA07/TPStory/TPInternational/Asia/

    Kremlin sets sights on Middle East

    Last week Moscow claimed territorial sovereignty over the Arctic -- now its navy is planning to operate out of Syria

    MARK MACKINNON
    August 7, 2007

    <!-- Summary --><!-- dateline -->JERUSALEM<!-- /dateline --> -- Days after Russia sent the diplomatic world reeling with its audacious flag-planting beneath the ice of the North Pole, the Kremlin is moving to reassert itself in warmer climes as well, plotting the return of the Russian fleet to a Syrian port on the Mediterranean Sea.
    <!-- /Summary -->With much of the world still agape, and the Canadian government fuming, over the bold voyage under the Arctic ice by two Mir submarines last week, the head of the Russian navy announced that he wanted next to plant the white-blue-and-red Russian banner in the Middle East. The new Russian strategy envisions returning warships to a Soviet-era naval base at the port of Tartus.
    "The Mediterranean Sea is very important strategically for the Black Sea fleet," Admiral Vladimir Masorin said as he toured a Russian base in the Ukrainian port city of Sevastopol. "I propose that, with the involvement of the Northern and Baltic fleets, the Russian navy should restore its permanent presence there."
    It would mark the first time Russia has established a military presence outside the borders of the former Soviet Union since the USSR fell apart in 1991.
    <!-- end #inTP -->"It's a symbol, the planting of a flag. Just like the one Russia put under the North Pole," said Alexei Malashenko, an expert on the Muslim world at the Carnegie Moscow Centre. The intent, he said, is to declare that Russia has returned to the Middle East, where Moscow held wide influence during the Cold War, backing the socialist regimes of Syria, Iraq and Egypt against U.S.-supported Israel.
    It's a move that many in Israel and the United States will have trouble separating from a broader pattern of renewed Russian support for countries and groups Washington and Tel Aviv see as enemies.
    "The Russians are coming" read a front-page headline in yesterday's edition of Israel's mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot newspaper. "A Russian flag on Syrian soil has significant strategic implications. Firstly, it challenges the United States and the dominance of the Sixth Fleet stationed in the Mediterranean. Secondly, with its actual presence in Syria, Russia is announcing that it is actively participating in any process and conflict in the Middle East, that it has a stance of its own and that it must be reckoned with," the article read.
    It went on to speculate that a Russian presence in Syria could handcuff the Israeli military in the event of another war over the Golan Heights, which Israel has occupied since 1967.
    The planned return to Tartus is just the latest thorn the Kremlin has thrust in the side of the United States and its plans to remake the Middle East. Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush have both gone to great lengths to insist the two countries are not on the verge of another Cold War. But the Kremlin and the White House, already butting heads in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, are increasingly at odds across this volatile region.
    Mr. Putin, who has repeatedly lamented U.S. dominance in what he derisively calls a "unipolar world," has allowed Russian technology to be used in Iran's controversial nuclear program despite the overt suggestion by the Bush administration that Tehran's pursuit of nuclear power, which Iran says is for civilian purposes only, could trigger a war.
    Russia's relations with Syria have warmed even as Washington has sought to isolate Damascus over its ties with Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as its alleged support for insurgents in Iraq. Two years ago, Moscow wrote off a nearly $10-billion Soviet-era debt owed to it by Syria. Now it's reportedly in the midst of selling medium-range missiles and MiG-31 fighter planes to Damascus over Israel's objections.
    The Kremlin has also happily bucked the White House line when it comes to dealing with Hamas, the Islamist movement that recently seized control of the Gaza Strip from the Israeli and U.S.-backed Fatah movement.
    While Moscow maintains good relations with Fatah via Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (who speaks Russian and did his PhD in Moscow), it has been one of the few non-Muslim countries to maintain contacts with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.
    Though Mr. Putin voiced support for Mr. Abbas while he was in Moscow last week, Hamas officials announced the next day that Mr. Meshaal had been invited to Moscow as well. "The level of relations with Russia is excellent," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.
    While much of the motivation for backing Syria and Iran can be attributed to crass commercialism - there are few markets these days for Russian military hardware - the underlying policy increasingly appears to be that Russia supports whatever the United States is against, and will throw its lot in with anyone willing to stand up to U.S. hegemony.
    But as dramatic as the Russian fleet's return to Syria might be, Mr. Malashenko said his country's navy remains in such a dilapidated state that it's unlikely to affect the balance of power in the region, given the overwhelming presence of the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean.
    The Russian fleet's return to Tartus would, for now, be just a statement of future intent, he said.
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    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1186066404223&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FPrinter

    Russia wants Iran to reveal past actions
    <HR SIZE=1><TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width="100%" border=0><TBODY><TR><TD>Associated Press, THE JERUSALEM POST </TD><TD align=right>Aug. 7, 2007</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>
    <HR SIZE=1>

    In a new blow to Iran's nuclear ambitions, Moscow has warned Teheran it will not deliver fuel to a nearly completed Russian-built nuclear reactor unless Teheran lifts the veil of secrecy on suspicious past atomic activities, a European diplomat said Tuesday.
    Separately, a US official told The Associated Press that the Russians are not meeting commitments that would allow the Iranians to activate the Bushehr nuclear reactor and suggested the delays were an attempt to pressure Teheran into showing more compliance with UN Security Council demands. Both men demanded anonymity in exchange for speaking to The Associated Press because their information was confidential.
    The increased Russian pressure comes at a time when Iran already appears to be ready to compromise on a key international request - that it lift its shroud of secrecy over past activities that heightened suspicions it might be looking to develop a nuclear arms program.
    Those fears led to Security Council demands that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment program - and later to UN to sanctions over Teheran's refusal to mothball the program, which can be used both to generate power and to make the fissile core of nuclear warheads.
    With a third set of sanctions looming, Iran last month told the IAEA - the UN nuclear watchdog investigating Iran - that it would answer questions outstanding for years about past experiments and activities that could be linked to a weapons program. That - and a decision to lift a ban on IAEA inspections of a reactor that will produce plutonium once it is completed - appeared aimed at deflecting US-led moves to implement new and harsher sanctions.
    IAEA inspectors visited the reactor, near the city of Arak, last month. And a second European diplomat told the AP that Iran had recently began providing valuable information on "four of 10 questions" that the agency was seeking answers to.
    Agency officials declined comment. But concerns detailed by past IAEA reports have included suspicions that Teheran has secretly developed elements of a more sophisticated enrichment program than the one it has made public; that it might not have accounted for all the plutonium it processed in past experiments and that its military might have been involved in enrichment, a program that Teheran insists is strictly civilian run. And revelations that Teheran possesses diagrams showing how to form uranium metal into the shape of warheads have heightened concerns.
    Russia has played a complicated role in attempts to pressure Teheran to comply with international demands.
    It and China have blocked attempts by the US, Britain and France - the three other permanent Security Council members - to impose harsh UN sanctions and have hobbled efforts to move forward on new penalties this summer in the face of continued Iranian refusal to freeze its enrichment activities.
    With Iran showing signs that it is ready to shed light on some of its past, unexplained activities, the US-led push for new, more rigorous sanctions has turned into a "steep climb that has become steeper," said the US official.
    Still, it has used Bushehr, built by Russian technicians, as a lever. The first European diplomat said Tuesday that Russian officials told the Iranians about two weeks ago that Russian fuel roads to the Bushehr reactor would be held back as long as unresolved questions about Teheran's past nuclear activities remained. That followed a Russian warning in March that the rods would be withheld as long as the Islamic republic ignored demands that it freeze uranium enrichment.
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    http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/story.html?id=2095b7e8-963a-4077-8d5c-c2915f63f2bf
    Canada increases Darfur aid by $48 million
    <TABLE width="100%" border=0><TBODY><TR><TD></TD></TR><TR><TD>Richard Foot</TD></TR><TR><TD>CanWest News Service</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>
    Friday, August 03, 2007

    CHARLOTTETOWN -- Canada will not contribute soldiers to the new United Nations peacekeeping force for Sudan, but it will increase its aid effort there by $48 million, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said Thursday.
    MacKay said the money -- which will boost Canada's aid funding for the war-torn Darfur region to more than $400 million over the past four years -- will be spent largely on airplanes, helicopters and aviation fuel to help the UN mission.
    "It will go predominantly to continuing to aid the provision of foodstuffs - helicopters, fixed wing and aviation fuel to get this aid out into regions where it's very difficult to reach," MacKay told reporters.
    "Darfur is among the most impoverished and embattled countries on the planet right now and so we take that responsibility very seriously."
    On Wednesday France, Denmark, Nigeria and Indonesia offered troops for the new UN mission.
    On Tuesday, after years of pressure from the international community, the Security Council authorized the deployment of a 26,000 peacekeeping force to Darfur.
    Generating that many soldiers, at a time when Canada, Britain, Holland and other countries are heavily engaged in the war in Afghanistan, will be difficult.
    If it comes together it will become the largest UN peacekeeping mission in the world today. The force is scheduled to deploy to Sudan in December.
    An estimated 200,000 people have died, and millions more have been made homeless in the southern Sudan province of Darfur since 2004, during the civil war between Darfur rebels and Sudan's Islamic government.
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    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6934973.stm

    Iraq power system 'near collapse'
    Iraq's national power grid is on the brink of collapse, the country's electricity ministry has warned.
    Water supplies to Baghdad have also been cut off for days at a time, with summertime pressures on key systems said to be more intense than ever.
    The ministry blamed poor maintenance, fuel shortages, sabotage by insurgents and rising demand for the problems, and said some provinces hold onto supplies.
    The US Army told the BBC that Iraq must now take charge of fixing the problems.
    The general in charge of helping Iraq rebuild its infrastructure, Michael Walsh, said that although Iraqi authorities only have one-quarter of the money needed for reconstruction, solving the problem was now up to them.
    Gen Walsh told the BBC that the US had jump-started reconstruction but that, working with donor nations, the Iraqi government needed to do the rest.
    Blackouts
    The Iraqi warning came a week after the charity, Oxfam, and a coalition of Iraqi NGOs reported that nearly one-third of Iraq's population was in need of immediate emergency aid.
    Their report suggested 70% of Iraqis did not have adequate water supplies and that only 20% had access to effective sanitation.

    <TABLE><TBODY><TR><TD width=5></TD><TD class=fact><!--Smva-->What makes Baghdad the worst place in the country is that most of the lines leading into the capital have been destroyed
    <!--Emva--><!--Smva-->Aziz al-Shimari
    Iraqi electricity ministry <!--Emva--><!--So-->
    <!--Eo--><!--Smiiib-->
    </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>

    A spokesman for the electricity ministry said Iraq's electricity system was only meeting half of the demand and that there had been four nationwide blackouts last week.
    Aziz al-Shimari said the shortages were the worst since the summer of 2003, shortly after the US-led invasion overthrew Saddam Hussein.
    Baghdad residents are complaining that the situation this summer is even worse than four years ago, correspondents say.
    Poor maintenance and a lack of diesel fuel have left even newly-refurbished power stations working below capacity.
    The continuing threat of damage by insurgents has also been a challenge, with 15 of the 17 high voltage lines running into Baghdad have been sabotaged.
    "When we fix a line, the insurgents attack it the next day," Mr Shimari told the Associated Press.
    'No control'
    The problems have been compounded by provinces holding onto supplies for themselves rather than powering Baghdad.


    "Many southern provinces such as Basra, Diwaniya, Nasiriya and Babil have disconnected their power plants from the national grid. Northern provinces, including Kurdistan, are doing the same," Mr Shimari said.
    "We have absolutely no control over some areas in the south."
    Mr Shimari warned that the national grid would collapse if the provinces did not "abide by the rules".
    "Everybody will lose and there will be no electricity winner," he said.
    Baghdad's water supply has also been severely affected by failing power supplies. New water treatment plants are working, but a lack of power and broken pipes mean that the water is easily contaminated and hardly flows at all in many places.
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    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6934031.stm

    Cabinet setback as Iraqi MPs quit
    Five Iraqi MPs have announced a boycott of cabinet meetings, deepening the political crisis and leaving the unity government without any Sunni members.
    The ministers, who are loyal to former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, blamed what they said was the Shia-led government's failure to end sectarian favouritism.
    The Iraqi National List ministers included Sunnis, Shia and a Christian.
    Iraq's largest Sunni-Arab bloc, the Accordance Front, withdrew six ministers from the cabinet last week.
    So far this year, 17 government ministers - nearly half of the cabinet - have either suspended their participation or quit.
    The BBC's Andy Gallacher in Baghdad says it is a serious setback for any attempts at reconciliation between Shia and Sunni factions.
    Our correspondent says the latest events leave the administration of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki looking more fragile than ever. Iraqi MPs are not due to return to parliament until early September when their holidays end.
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    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6935532.stm

    US concerns over Guantanamo men
    The US is considering a request from the British Foreign Office to release five former UK residents from Guantanamo Bay detention centre.
    A senior US official said Washington would seek guarantees that the men would be treated humanely and would not be allowed to pose a security threat.
    When asked whether the US considered the men dangerous, the official replied: "We believe they are."
    Britain has previously not interceded on behalf of non-British citizens.
    The five men are Shaker Abdur-Raheem Aamer, Jamil el-Banna, Omar Deghayes, Binyam Mohammed al Habashi and Abdulnour Sameur.

    <TABLE><TBODY><TR><TD width=5></TD><TD class=fact><!--Smva-->We don't want to be the world's jailers. At the same time, we also don't want to see very dangerous people allowed to walk the streets freely
    <!--Emva--><!--Smva-->Sean McCormack, US state department <!--Emva--><!--So-->
    <!--Eo--><!--Smiiib--></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>

    They were former UK residents who had either been granted refugee status, indefinite leave or exceptional leave to remain prior to their detention.
    The United States has released individuals from Guantanamo Bay to a third country before - a group of Chinese Muslims were sent to Albania in May 2006 after the US deemed them not to be dangerous.
    Those men, ethnic Uighurs, were cleared for release two years before they were freed, but the US did not send them to China for fear of persecution.
    'Dangerous people'
    Albania was the only country willing to accept them after 20 other countries rejected them.

    <TABLE><TBODY><TR><TD width=5></TD><TD class=fact>FIVE DETAINEES
    <!--So--><!--Eo--><!--Smva-->Abdulnour Sameur, pictured above, Algerian with leave to remain
    Omar Deghayes, Libyan with refugee status
    Shaker Abdur-Raheem Aamer, Saudi Arabian granted indefinite leave to remain
    Jamil el-Banna, Jordanian with refugee status
    Binyam Mohammed al Habashi, Ethiopian asylum seeker
    <!--Emva--><!--So-->
    <!--Eo--><!--Smiiib--></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>

    The Bush Administration says the releases are in line with the stated policy of eventually closing down Guantanamo Bay.
    In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the US would review the British request, which was "well within the confines of our policy".
    "We don't want to be the world's jailers. At the same time, we also don't want to see very dangerous people allowed to walk the streets freely so they can pose a threat to our citizens as well as others," he told reporters.
    Earlier UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband formally wrote to his US counterpart Condoleezza Rice with the request.
    Reducing numbers
    The Foreign Office said discussions on release "may take some time".
    "The government will of course continue to take all necessary measures to maintain national security.
    "Should these men be returned to the UK, the same security considerations and actions will apply to them as would apply to any other foreign national in this country."
    The Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary said they had made the request because of recent steps taken by the US government to reduce the number of inmates at the camp in Cuba and "to move towards the closure of the detention facility".
    "These steps include an increasing emphasis on engagement with third countries over the transfer and resettlement of those detained," the Foreign Office said.
    Court decision
    The UK government said all British nationals had been released from Guantanamo Bay by January 2005.
    But it had refused to act on behalf of the five men - a decision upheld by the Court of Appeal last year which agreed that requesting the return of non-British nationals would be counterproductive as the US had clearly said it would not negotiate with third countries.
    "We judged that it would also have been counter-productive, at that time, to our wider aim of securing closure of the detention facility," the FCO said. "The situation has now changed and the Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary have reviewed the government's approach in light of these circumstances."
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    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6934896.stm

    Malawi police raid judge's home
    Malawian police and anti-graft agents have raided the house of a High Court judge hours after he ruled against the government in a row over the budget.
    Joseph Mwanyungwe issued an injunction allowing the opposition-dominated parliament to continue stalling a debate on the budget suspended in July.
    Opposition MPs are refusing to discuss it unless MPs who switched to the president's party are expelled.
    Correspondents say the legal battle could topple the government.
    Hundreds of students have been protesting outside parliament demanding that the budget is passed to provide essential services to Malawi's 12m people.
    Following news of the injunction, the demonstrators threw stones at the building and barricaded the MPs inside for more than five hours.
    'Political'
    Anti-corruption bureau officials confirmed the raid on Monday night, but have given no further details about why it was carried out.
    Mr Mwanyungwe, who was not at home at the time of the raid, told AFP news agency he was not informed what the police were looking for.
    "I don't know whether I am under arrest or not and for what reason," he said.
    His lawyer Fahad Assani told Reuters news agency that they suspected the raid was linked to "the injunction he gave to the opposition stopping parliament from meeting".
    The current political impasse began in June, when the Supreme Court ruled that the speaker of parliament can expel MPs who switch parties.
    Most members of President Bingu wa Mutharika's party were elected on the ticket of the former ruling party, the United Democratic Front (UDF).
    Mr Mutharika also won elections for the UDF, but left to set up the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) - accusing UDF officials of blocking his anti-corruption drive. Analysts say should the speaker expel the floor-crossing MPs, it could take six months to organise all the by-elections which would ensue.
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    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6283460.stm

    Gender equality dogs India's army
    <!--Smvb--><TABLE><TBODY><TR><TD vAlign=bottom><!--Smvb-->By Renu Agal
    BBC News, Delhi <!--Emvb-->
    </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>
    One Sunday night in July, the Indian army's Capt Megha Razdan was found shot dead at her home in Jammu, in Indian-administered Kashmir.
    The officer had apparently taken her own life, leaving behind a suicide note.
    But her father, Arun Kumar Razdan, alleges foul play. He says his daughter was murdered by someone in the army.
    "She was very happy and had spent just over two years in the army. She wanted to serve the country,'' he says.
    Last year another woman officer, Lt Sushmita Chakravorty, shot herself dead. Her parents accused the army of harassment.

    Deterrent
    Indian army spokesperson, Col SK Sakhuja, denies the charges and calls them ''accusations of anguished families''.
    He says there are systems in place in the army to deal with complaints of sexual harassment, harassment by seniors and other complaints.
    He says there is a commanding officer in each unit who is called ''the old man'' - "because he is a caring, understanding and experienced officer and the first person for anyone who is troubled is to go to".

    Most of the problems are sorted out at this level, but if a need is felt, other officers can be approached too, says Col Sakhuja.
    But such incidents work as a deterrent to young women who are thinking of joining the already short-staffed army.
    It also puts a question mark over the army's claim of being a gender sensitive organisation.

    Five cases of harassment were filed by women officers against their male counterparts between 2002 and 2006.
    India's 1.1 million-strong army has only 1,000 women officers.
    The government began hiring women officers just 15 years ago. Until then, women were only allowed into the army's medical corps.

    The first batch of 50 women officers was inducted into the force in 1992. A total of 150 officers are inducted every year, initially for a five-year term which can be extended up to 14 years.
    Women are assigned to departments like artillery, signals, engineering and intelligence but they are not allowed in close combat duties. And once retired, they are not entitled to a pension.

    Howls of protest
    Last year, the defence authorities went into damage control after the second-in-command of the Indian army, Lt Gen S Pattabhiraman, said the force did not need women officers.
    He was speaking soon after a young female officer had committed suicide in Indian-administered Kashmir.
    Gen Pattabhiraman apologised after his statement drew howls of protests from women's rights activists.

    The defence authorities tried to play down the statement but, off the record, many officers say employing women in a traditionally male-dominated force creates its own problems.
    There are special infrastructural needs to be taken care of, like providing bathrooms and living quarters. More important, there is a need to sensitise the workforce.
    Women officers undergo the same 49-week rigorous training received by their male counterparts.
    They are also better equipped physically, mentally and emotionally to meet the challenges of the tough army life.
    But analysts say one cannot ignore the lower middle-class and sometimes rural background from which most foot soldiers come.
    And it is not easy for them to accept women as equals or sometimes even as superiors.

    Enemy within
    Women in the armed forces also feel that they should be given the option of normal commission in the army where they can serve till they retire and also get a pension.
    Capt Pearl Salome, who joined in the early 1990s, says she would have loved to continue working in the army.
    She joined the second batch of "non traditional" women officers in 1993 and says the army establishment made sure the women did not feel out of place in a male-dominated force.
    ''The commanding officer made sure two women officers were posted together, they had separate sleeping quarters. A lot of care, protection and support was given. So, a great deal depends on how you deal with the new environment yourself,'' Capt Salome says.
    In the recent times, a demand for combat role for women in the frontline has also come up.
    But army sources point out that in the US army too women are kept out of infantry and artillery, in the UK they are not allowed as marine commandos, in infantry or armed corps and the same policy is followed in India.
    Former army chief Gen VP Malik says, "We have to consider the social situation in the country too. We cannot be like America and Israel where a woman works with four to five men in a tank or lives in a bunker with them.
    "We won't be able to provide privacy to women on the frontline and if she is caught by the enemy can you imagine the kind of behaviour she will have to face?'' But women officers say at the moment it is the enemy within that they are more worried about.

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