Monthly Archives: April 2009

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"The king spoke with Israeli President (Shimon) Peres, the first such exchange between Saudi and Israeli leaders," said Burns during a meeting on Saudi-American relations in Washington that began on Monday.

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs gives no details of meeting between Peres, Saudi King.

A meeting between King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Israeli president Shimon Peres that took place on the margins of a UN Interfaith Dialogue Conference organised last November in New York, has been revealed by William Burns, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, overseeing the Middle East.

“The king spoke with Israeli President (Shimon) Peres, the first such exchange between Saudi and Israeli leaders,” said Burns during a meeting on Saudi-American relations in Washington that began on Monday.

Israel, who holds no official diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia, had been invited on King Abdullah’s initiative to participate in the Conference running from 12-13th November.

The Saudi sovereign also sponsored an international conference in July 2008 where key leaders from the three monotheist religions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) assembled in Madrid.

Burns gave no details on the circumstances of the meeting between the Saudi monarch and the head of the Jewish state.

Earlier on Tuesday a Washington-based Saudi journalist, Ali Al-Ahmad, highlighted on his website “Saudi Information Agency – Independent Saudi News” that the official Israeli delegation had stayed at the Waldorf Astoria hotel, one of the places of residence frequented by members of the Saudi royal family.

The UN Interfaith conference of last November had denounced the use of religion in justifying the murder of innocent people and acts of terrorism.

Prior to the conference, the Saudi daily Al Watan revealed that the Israeli president had been “informed by some UN leaders that he should not try to shake the hand of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, neither before, nor after the [royal] speech.”

After the conference, the official Saudi press bragged about the fact that no handshakes had been exchanged between King Abdullah and the Israeli president.

“The Saudi Kingdom can point to its credit the fact to have been the first in offering a hand to Israel”, wrote Al Watan.

“But no handshakes were exchanged between the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques (in Mecca and Medina) and the Israeli President Shimon Peres”, the newspaper argued, while noting that during the dinner attended by the two leaders, at the invitation of the UN chief, they were not seated at the same table.

“The Kingdom wants to signal in this way, that there will be no direct encounter or exchange of handshakes (between the leaders of the two countries) until Israel ceases violating the rights of Palestinians and takes a serious step towards the path of peace. The ball is therefore in their court” concluded Al Watan’s columnist.

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"This region is roiling with turmoil and radicalism and the aspirations of a young population, and I am afraid we are not prepared for that. We cannot use the same tools we have been using to rule the country for a century,"

A senior member of the Saudi royal family has called for political and economic reforms in the world’s largest oil producer, warning that the kingdom is not prepared to face the challenges of the 21st century.

Prince Talal bin Abdelaziz, who has no role in decision-making and is known for his outspoken views, said there needed to be increased dialogue within the ruling family and called for greater powers for the Shura Council, an unelected consultative body, to pave the way for eventual elections.

“This region is roiling with turmoil and radicalism and the aspirations of a young population, and I am afraid we are not prepared for that. We cannot use the same tools we have been using to rule the country for a century,” Prince Talal, who is a half-brother of King Abdullah, told the Financial Times.

His remarks appeared to be triggered by King Abdullah’s decision last month to appoint Prince Naif, another brother, as second prime minister, causing many to believe the powerful interior minister has been chosen as third in line. The appointment eased concerns about the succession amid mounting speculation over the health of Crown Prince Sultan, the first deputy prime minister who recently underwent surgery in New York.

However, Prince Naif is considered a conservative and Saudi activists seeking reform fear he may quash any hopes of political change in a nation that is ruled by an absolute monarchy.

Prince Talal, 79, is one of 18 surviving sons of King Abdelaziz, Saudi Arabia’s founding father. He said his concern was that the Allegiance Council, a body established by King Abdullah in 2006 to select the next crown prince and king, would be bypassed.

“Bypassing the allegiance system would mean we do not respect our own rules or uphold our system,” said the prince, who is a member of the council.

In spite of its oil wealth, Saudi Arabia faces many social issues with high unemployment, a young population – more than 65 per cent are aged under 25 – and a continued threat from Islamic extremists.

King Abdullah, 84, is considered a modernising force in Saudi terms. When he ascended to the throne in 2005, many Saudis hoped that their country would embark on a period of reform. He is credited with allowing a greater openness and debate, and a recent cabinet reshuffle, which saw the removal of powerful conservatives who headed the judiciary and religious police, was widely praised.

Change in the kingdom is notoriously slow and reformers question the substance of the changes that have taken place in the past four years, while others argue that change could destabilise the ultra-conservative country.

However, Prince Talal, who says he fully supports King Abdullah’s efforts, was dismissive of such suggestions. “Hypocrites claim our society is unprepared for change and blame religious institutions,” he said. “Certain people are pleased to hear that. We have to stop using them as an excuse. King Abdullah is the ruler. If he wills it, then it will be done.”

Although political parties are illegal in Saudi Arabia, in 2007 Prince Talal, a long-time advocate of reform, proposed forming one. He believes the kingdom has to make gradual moves towards elections. “Young Saudis see elections in Arab countries, Gulf countries, and even Bangladesh and Bolivia, and they wonder why we lack the same thing. We’re not less able than those others,” he said.

Published: April 29 2009 03:00 | Last updated: April 29 2009 03:00

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009…nclick_check=1

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The flu-like symptoms include sore throat, fever, cough, diarrhea, vomiting, stiffness of the joints, fatigue and shortness of breath, which quickly progresses to difficulty in breathing, loss of consciousness and death in some cases.

The rapidly growing number of confirmed cases of swine flu across the globe has fueled fears of an impending pandemic.

Swine Influenza (swine flu), first isolated from pigs in the 1930s, is a respiratory disease caused by type A influenza — subtypes H1N1, H1N2, H3N1, H3N2 and H2N3. The virus regularly leads to influenza outbreaks (Orthomyxoviruses endemic) in pigs.

The virus does not normally affect humans. Human infections, however, has been reported in certain cases where the individual has been in contact with pigs.

Human-to-human transmission is also not uncommon. Immune compromised, old and pregnant individuals are at a higher risk of complications, serious respiratory illness and possible death.

The flu-like symptoms include sore throat, fever, cough, diarrhea, vomiting, stiffness of the joints, fatigue and shortness of breath, which quickly progresses to difficulty in breathing, loss of consciousness and death in some cases.

Human influenza viruses carried by pigs can exchange homologous genome sub-units by genetic reassortment and combine with H5N1, passing genes and mutating into a form which can pass easily among humans with casual contact or airborne transmission.

The disease crossed over to humans in the 20th century, causing the Spanish Flu pandemic. In the spring of 1918, bird influenza mutated into a severe human form which killed 675,000 individuals in the US and 50 to 100 million others across the globe.

The disease was believed to be a mix of swine and bird flu; further studies, however, revealed it to be a mutated bird flu virus and not a combination one.

Two other, less deadly flu pandemics struck in 1957 and 1968. The 1957 pandemic also known as the Asian flu was caused by an H2N2 strain and first identified in China. It claimed 2 million lives.

The 1968 pandemic, known as the Hong Kong flu, was the mildest of the three pandemics. It was first spotted in Hong Kong and then spread globally over the next two years. About 1 million people mostly seniors were killed by the H3N2 flu strain.

In 1976, a 19-year-old army recruited at Fort Dix complained of being tired and weak. His sudden death within 24 hours of the onset of the symptoms was followed by the hospitalization of four of his fellow soldiers. Two weeks later, health officials announced swine flu as the cause of death. The tests performed at Fort Dix showed the strain to be closely related to the strain involved in the 1918 flu pandemic.

Five hundred soldiers caught the flu without falling ill; health officials believed any flu able to affect that many individuals so fast is capable of resulting in another worldwide epidemic.

They therefore urged the government to inoculate every US citizen against the disease. The vaccination program was plagued by delays; it however was blamed for 25 deaths and about 500 cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a condition which led to the cessation of the program after about 24% of the population had been vaccinated.

History shows flu pandemics tend to occur once every 20 years or so, therefore it seems likely that the world is headed toward another one.

In March and April 2009, more than 2,000 cases of swine flu in humans were detected in Mexico. More than 150 deaths in the region have been linked to the virus reported to be a new genetic strain of H1N1.

Nearly all deaths of the flu-like illness were reported to be young adults, a hallmark of pandemic flu.

While the Mexican government has reported a considerable drop in the number of suspected swine flu deaths and maintains that the disease is under control, officials warn individuals to refrain from customary greetings such as handshakes and kissing, or sharing food and drinking from the same glass.

All the educational centers in and around the capital have been shut down; public events have also been suspended to prevent an outbreak of the disease, making it the first citywide closure since Mexico City’s devastating 1985 earthquake.

While the mortality rate of the Spanish flu pandemic was about 2.5 percent, the mortality rate of the Mexican outbreak is believed to be about 7 percent.

The disease has crossed the border into the United States. The latest US case count has now reached 64 cases.

Top US health officials have confirmed that these cases have been infected by the new strain of the ‘largely mysterious’ swine flu combining pig, bird and human viruses in a way that researchers have not encountered before.

The difference between the behavior of the disease in the US and Mexico has puzzled public health experts; many believe the virus is changing as it leaks across the border to the north.

The poor quality of nutrition, air and medical care access in some Mexican communities has also been linked to the condition.

Twelve cases of severe flu-like illness in Canada and eight others in Chile raised fears of the rapid spread of the disease, making health authorities in neighboring countries to begin preparing for countermeasures against the fast-catching viral syndrome.

The first two confirmed swine flu cases in Spain marked the spread of the disease to Europe. Soon after, 26 suspected sufferers were also reported in the country.

The other three suspected cases reported in Germany alerted European health authorities who denied the spread of the fatal disease to their territory.

Soon Britain and Scotland confirmed three and two potential cases of the disease; 22 other cases were reported by the Scottish Health Minister shortly afterwards.

Two French men, who recently returned from Mexico, are being monitored for suspicious fever.

Belgium has also reported six suspected cases of the disease.

New Zealand officials have reported a group of 22 schoolchildren and three teachers, who returned from a language trip to Mexico via Los Angeles, to be infected with an H1N1-like strain.

Seventeen highly suspicious cases were also reported in Auckland, Australia. Three people have been cleared and the remaining seven suspected cases are waiting for test results.

Suspected cases were also investigated in the Middle East and Asia. A 26-year-old Israeli man admitted to hospital after returning from a trip to Mexico with flu-like symptoms was the first confirmed case in the Middle East. Later on, however reports revealed the patient to be in “excellent condition”.

South Korea also spotted a suspected case of swine flu in a woman who had just returned from a trip to Mexico. All 315 passengers who on the same flight are being monitored but none have tested positive.

Thailand has also quarantined the first case of swine flu.

In less than a week, suspicious cases have also been reported across other continents. So far, 92 confirmed cases of the flu have been detected worldwide. There have been no reports of deaths outside Mexico.

Considering the rapidly growing number of swine flu cases, WHO on Tuesday has decided to lift the alert level of a pandemic from phase four (established on Monday) to five, ‘a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short’.

A level five alert also implies the human-to-human spread of the virus in at least two countries in one WHO region.

Despite all these reports, WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl announced today, following an emergency meeting in Geneva, that swine flu has been mild everywhere except Mexico.

He added that the virus has become too widespread to be prevented by closing borders or imposing travel bans.

President Barack Obama similarly said that the outbreak was reason for concern, but not yet “a cause for alarm.”

Many countries such as New Zealand, Australia, Spain, Brazil, and Britain, however, are closely monitoring airports and testing individuals who have traveled to Mexico.

Russia, Hong Kong and Taiwan said they would quarantine visitors showing symptoms of the virus.

The European Union health commissioner has suggested that Europeans avoid nonessential travels to Mexico and parts of the United States.

Asian governments, which have not yet forgotten the previous flu outbreaks, have raised high alert levels and tightened security control at airports, checking for signs of fever among North American passengers.

While officials say the virus is not contracted by eating pork, several countries have banned US pork imports.

Preliminary genetic characterization found that the hemagglutinin (HA) gene in the new strain was similar to that of swine flu viruses present in US pigs since 1999, but the neuraminidase (NA) and matrix protein (M) genes resembled versions present in European swine flu isolates.

CDC officials describe the virus as having a unique combination of gene segments not seen in people or pigs before. It has genes from North American swine and avian influenza, human influenza, and swine influenza normally found in Asia and Europe.

When the flu spreads person to person, instead of from animals to humans, it can continue to mutate, making it a tougher strain that is harder to treat.

Tests have found the swine influenza A (H1N1) virus to be susceptible to antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir, and that the virus is resistant to amantadine and rimantadine.

A daily intake of up to 10,000 IU of vitamin D for a few days may also help prevent influenza infections by strengthening the immune system.

There is no specific vaccine for swine flu and the efficacy of available human flu vaccines in protecting individuals against the new strain is unclear. Reports suggest that a swine flu vaccine may be available in six months.

The CDC guideline on the prevention and treatment of the disease suggests routinely washing the hands and wearing face masks to be helpful in community settings where the spread of swine flu has been confirmed.

Health agencies urge all persons with flu-like symptoms who have recently returned from infected areas to stay at home, limit contact with others and seek medical advice.

It should however be kept in mind that most flu symptoms are the result of a viral infection and are NOT the fatal swine flu.

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"Our security forces were not more morally unblemished jailers," Prince Turki said, "but along the way, we learned from the experience."

Urges U.S. out of Afghanistan

An influential member of the Saudi royal family, who headed the country’s intelligence service for 25 years, said Monday that Pakistan can survive the Taliban threat provided the military remains intact.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, former ambassador to Washington, also called for the speedy withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan, saying that they are “not welcome” there. He did not specify a deadline.

In addition, Prince Turki said the stigma of Sept. 11, in which 15 of 19 hijackers were Saudis, “will be with us forever.”

The prince, who oversaw funding that helped create the Taliban two decades ago during the fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, downplayed concerns about Pakistan’s stability despite Taliban advances close to the Pakistani capital and the fact that the country’s nuclear weapons are scattered across its territory, which makes it difficult to guard them.

“As long as the armed forces are intact, the state is not going to be at risk,” Prince Turki told editors and reporters of The Washington Times.

He criticized the Pakistani government, suggesting it had not found a proper way of dealing with the Taliban, which he said was not a monolithic organization. He said the army did not want to intervene in politics but suggested that there could be a coup if the civilian government did not improve its performance.

“I’m sure that someone like [Army chief General Ashfaq] Kiyani, who is unwilling to play a more political role than he is doing now, doesn’t want to interfere in the politics of the situation,” Prince Turki said. He warned, however, that “the politicians in Pakistan – as everywhere – should get their act together and not lead to a situation where it could require someone like General Kiyani to intervene.”

Pakistan’s military leaders have repeatedly staged coups when they have decided that the elected government did not serve the nation’s interests. The current government follows the military regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in 1999 and stepped down in the face of widespread public opposition last year.

Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton accused President Asif Ali Zardari’s government of abdicating to the Taliban. She was referring to a truce finalized this month that gave Taliban fighters control of a scenic valley just 100 miles from the capital, Islamabad, after two years of fighting. In recent days, Taliban militants have moved even closer, to within 60 miles of the capital.

“Why are we so concerned about this? One of the reasons is nuclear weapons,” she told a House Appropriations subcommittee Thursday when asked about the truce. “We spend a lot of time worrying about Iran. Pakistan already has them, and they are widely dispersed in the country – they are not at a central location.”

Prince Turki also criticized the harsh interrogation methods used by the CIA during the Bush administration that have sparked controversy because of recently declassified memos authorizing those techniques at the time.

“If you want those you incarcerate to be reformed, you don’t treat them harshly – rather, you try to devise other ways,” he said. He referred to a Saudi rehabilitation program that includes “a psychiatric evaluation, reintroducing them to their kin folk and challenging their ideology” by having Islamic scholars talk with them.

The United Nations and various human rights groups regularly accuse Saudi Arabia of abusing prisoners, including by amputating limbs under Shariah law.

“Our security forces were not more morally unblemished jailers,” Prince Turki said, “but along the way, we learned from the experience.”

He added that “one of the biggest stumbling blocks” in his work as intelligence chief until 2001 was the U.S. protection of sources coming from other countries. If foreign intelligence services “have objections” to the CIA memos’ release, because they might implicate them in certain practices, they “will have to get over them,” he said.

Prince Turki, who is a nephew of King Abdullah and brother of Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, was ambassador to Washington from 2005 until 2007. He met several times with Osama bin Laden in the 1980s to persuade him to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. During that mission, he worked closely with the CIA and Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI.

A longtime U.S. ally that has suffered a significant image problem since it was revealed that 15 of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers hailed from the kingdom, Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter. Last year, the U.S. imported from Saudi Arabia 1.5 million barrels of oil a day – more than 11 percent of total imports.

Prince Turki accused both the Obama and Bush administrations of “deceiving” the American people by telling them that the U.S. can end its dependence on foreign oil and described such comments by President Obama and former President George W. Bush as “pandering.”

“You can’t get rid of oil. You can’t get rid of fossil fuels – gas and coal – unless you want to price yourself out of existence,” he said. “I’d hope that the general public in the United States would be wiser than to be deceived into thinking that the U.S. can ever be energy independent.”

Richard M. Nixon in 1973 was the first U.S. president to pledge to end U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Mr. Bush made the issue one of the main points of his 2006 State of the Union address.

During his election campaign last year, Mr. Obama said, “I will set a clear goal as president. In 10 years, we will finally end our dependence on oil in the Middle East.”

On its Web site, the White House has outlined a plan on how to “eliminate our current imports from the Middle East and Venezuela within 10 years.” It includes increasing fuel economy standards, getting 1 million plug-in hybrid cars on the road by 2015, creating “a new $7,000 tax credit for purchasing advanced vehicles” and establishing a national “low-carbon fuel standard.”

“The U.S. has rising energy needs despite the economic downturn,” Prince Turki said. “If you are going to be paying for wind, electric and solar energy equivalents that cost five or 10 times more than it costs to use oil, you are going to price yourself out of the market. You are going to lose whatever competitiveness you have in your products.”

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"You can’t get rid of oil. You can’t get rid of fossil fuels — gas and coal — unless you want to price yourself out of existence," Prince Turki al-Faisal, former ambassador to Washington,

A key member of the Saudi royal family who headed the country’s intelligence service for 25 years accused both the Obama and Bush administrations Monday of “deceiving” the American people that the U.S. can ever end its dependence on foreign oil.

“You can’t get rid of oil. You can’t get rid of fossil fuels — gas and coal — unless you want to price yourself out of existence,” Prince Turki al-Faisal, former ambassador to Washington, told editors and reporters at The Washington Times.

“I’d hope that the general public in the United States would be wiser than to be deceived into thinking that the U.S. can ever be energy independent,” he said.

Saudi Arabia, a long-time U.S. ally that has suffered a significant image problem since it was revealed that 15 of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers hailed from the kingdom, is the world’s largest oil exporter. Last year, the U.S. imported from Saudi Arabia 1.5 million barrels of oil a day — more than 11 percent of total imports.

“The U.S. has rising energy needs despite the economic downturn,” Prince Turki said. “If you are going to be paying for wind, electric and solar energy equivalents that cost five or 10 times more than it costs to use oil, you are going to price yourself out of the market. You are going to lose whatever competitiveness you have in your products.”

He noted that the first president to declare the goal of independence of foreign oil was George W. Bush, in his 2006 State of the Union speech, shortly after the prince was named ambassador to the U.S.

“Politicians, when they do that, I think they are misleading their publics,” he said.

During his election campaign last year, President Obama said, “I will set a clear goal as president. In 10 years, we will finally end our dependence on oil in the Middle East.”

On its Web site, the White House has outlined a plan how to “eliminate our current imports from the Middle East and Venezuela within 10 Years.” It includes increasing fuel economy standards, getting one million plug-in hybrid cars on the road by 2015, creating “a new $7,000 tax credit for purchasing advanced vehicles” and establishing a national “low-carbon fuel standard.”

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Well, America is definitely ready for a change every year. Every party manager knew that. In fact the polls tell you 80% of the public thinks that things are going in the wrong direction. Now that tells every party manger would better focus on change. So both campaigns — Obama and McCain — highlighted change.

sociopolitical analyst and cognitive scientist Noam Chomsky

The following is a Press TV interview with sociopolitical analyst and cognitive scientist Noam Chomsky on the policies of the new US administration and the chances of ‘change’ under President Barack Obama.

Chomsky: The best comment on [this issue] was made by advertising industry. They give a prize every year to the best marketing campaign of the year and for 2008 they gave it to Barack Obama. He beat out Dell computers and Apple computers. And the executives said that…exalted this [saying] “as we have been marketing candidates like commodities ever since Ronald Regan, I think, this was the best we ever did.” That is when it changed the atmosphere in corporate boardrooms about how to manipulate and manage and so on. And that is about right. It was a very effective advertising campaign. They did what they have to do. Elections are pretty much run by the advertising industry. And they read polls, they know what people think, and they pay a lot of attention to them. So they know that, on a great many issues, both political parties are well to the right of the population. So it is a good idea to keep away from issues and to focus on personalities, body language, qualities, and, what they call, values and things like that.

Press TV: Do you think that America was ready for this change or is this even a change?

Chomsky: Well, America is definitely ready for a change every year. Every party manager knew that. In fact the polls tell you 80% of the public thinks that things are going in the wrong direction. Now that tells every party manger would better focus on change. So both campaigns — Obama and McCain — highlighted change.

But does that mean there is going to be change? No, not necessarily. There will be some changes but one change is that the Bush administration was very unusual in American history. There is a pretty narrow spectrum within the political range, but the Bush administration was way off the spectrum. Especially the first term was unusual in its brazen arrogance…, its offensive manner. It has alienated even allies. Its violence and aggressiveness…. And, in fact, the attitudes towards the United States throughout the world just plummeted in reaction to this. Now, the second term they sort of moderated that stance to some extent, but it was pretty clear that any candidate who comes in is going to move back more toward the normal centre and Obama has, in fact, done so.

Press TV: So, do you think that the Bush legacy will be marked by these things that you noted?

Chomsky : Well, the Bush legacy will be marked by a series of just incredible catastrophes. Everything they touched turned into a disaster, whether it was the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan or Hurricane Katrina or the financial crisis. There are few things, which did, had a positive impact. A couple of things…. For example, they played a constructive role leading to a partial peace treaty in Sudan between north and south, increased aid to Africa…. So, there were some positive developments, but, by and large, it is a record of just unusual catastrophes. Which is why, if you look at the 2008 elections, it was unusual in that both parties ran against the incumbent president. The Republicans also ran against him because he was so unpopular.

Press TV: There is a perception right now here in the United States right now that with the “Wind of Change” prevailing in the Washington DC, that “we are seeing the end of American capitalism as we knew and the end of American imperialism as we knew it.” Would you agree with that theory?

Chomsky: No. For one thing…. The American capitalism…. What is happening now in the financial industry is unusual. The government is stepping in entirely to partly manage and take over part of the financial institutions. But that is the norm. That has happened all the time in the industrial circuit and even in financial institutions. So, for example, Citigroup is now being bailed out with a huge amount of tax payer funds. Ronald Regan did pretty much the same thing in the early 1980s. I think the whole of the advanced industry, the HIGH-TECH industry, comes out of the state circuit, places like MIT is among the places that develop the computers, the internet, lasers, most of HIGH-TECH economy that includes pharmaceuticals and so on.

I mean, the system that we have, which is called capitalism, is basically a system in which the public pays the costs and takes the risks and profit is privatized. That is something of an exaggeration but it is very largely true. In fact, if you take the financial institutions, I mean, a common phrase in Washington and the media these days is “too big to fail”.

Now, what does that mean? It means when you have an institution like, say, Citigroup or Bank of America, it is so big that the government can not allow it to fail and then the public will have to pay in or step in and make sure it continues to function pretty much as before. Well, that is a is insurance policy, a publicly-granted insurance policy which permits huge institutions to undertake a very risky behavior, from which, of course, you make a lot of profits but, if anything goes wrong, the public pays. Now, that is high-level protectionism and it undermines competitors who do not have that insurance policy. That is just one of many ways which can go on and on in which the United States departs very sharply from market systems.

Now, will that system remain? Well, we can not be sure but the Obama administration is certainly trying very hard to maintain its structure. So, for example, if it takes a Citigroup or Bank of America or General Motors, it would be much cheaper to buy them than to bail them out but that would mean that they are nationalized and under the public control.

Press TV: Is this almost a loophole? The protectionism that that we are seeing on the part of the government…. Is it a loophole towards nationalization?

Chomsky: It has just…. It has always been like that. As I say, the HI-TECH economy is, to a large extent, publicly subsidized. No, that is protectionism; it is just not called protectionism. The terms are used in such a way that they do not really describe…. They have ideologically tinged the terms that we use.

Press TV: Why are Western societies intimidated by these terms?

Chomsky: They are not intimidated. They act the same way. I mean, that is for economic history. The reason that there is a First World and a Third World…, the large reason, part of the reason, is that, from the 18th century, the European societies and their offshoots like the state the United States relied on a very high level of state intervention. Protectionism, subsidy worked in such a way in which the powerful states intervened and they had their economy developed. The colonist societies…, they were subjected to free market principles and they declined, they stagnated. Those are some of the major principles of economic history. I mean, let us take look…outside of the European-US world. There is one country that developed, Japan, and that is the one country that was not colonized.

Is that accidental? No, in fact, if you look at the East Asian growth system, you know one of the miracles of took place in the 20th century, they ruled by following pretty much the kinds of policy that the Europe and the United States had followed in their own development. They rejected the rules of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and developed through various kinds of state intervention.

So, it has changed with time. After the Second World War, when the economy allowed much more hi-technology innovation, the government role increased substantially. And so that is why you have places like MIT. Public-funding mostly extended from funding to develop what became a new economy.

So, these are just general features of the economic history. In fact, it is kind of dramatic right now….it is interesting that nobody notices it… Suppose that a Third-World country has an economic, national crisis, say, Indonesia. The IMF comes in….

They come in. They tell…. They give lectures and instructions to Indonesia as to how to deal with the crisis. First, pay off your debts to us. Second, raise interest rates which lower the crippling economy. Third, the population has to pay for the structural adjustment. And fourth, privatize so we can pick up your assets….

Those are the instructions given to the third world uniformly…. If fact they are given right now, Suppose we had the crisis as we do now. The instructions are the opposite. Forget about the debts…. Lower the interest rates. Just do everything to stimulate the economy. Do not suffer as long as you can and do not privatize. Nationalize, but do not call it nationalization. Just help the public to move a couple of bad assets and subsidize.

So, exactly the opposite prescriptions. Now, all this passes without comment. And, I think, the reason is deeply ingrained in the imperial mentality that we act one way and our subjects act the different way and that traces back through modern economic history and it is a large part of the reason for the split between first world and the rest of world.

Press TV: You have constantly warned of propaganda and how the mainstream media is essentially employed to coy the population into submission, if you may. What role do you think the mass media plays in the current American political system?

Chomsky: They pretty much represent the standard ideological framework that grows from the structure of power in the society. I do not think they are being deceptive…. It is their belief. It is their understanding. I mean, if you had a religious theocracy, the media perfectly honest with you and repeat the claims of the religious theocracy. They may do it by force. They may do it because they believe it…. It is not deception. That is what educated, cultivated people believe and that is deeply rooted in the imperial mentality and has developed over hundreds of years. And the class mentality the rich are supposed to do well and the poor have to pay for it. No, it is pretty natural, belief of a part of privileged people.

To be continued…


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"If you were someone who was involved with Iranian government I could ask you: what actions are you prepared to take?

Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski

The following is a Press TV interview with Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Polish-American statesman and former national security advisor under President Jimmy Carter.

Press TV: Dr. Zbigniew, thank you for joining us today on this special edition of Face to Face.

Brzezinski: It’s nice to be with you. It is nice to have the opportunity to talk to Iranian viewers.

Press TV: And our international viewers abroad as well?

Brzezinski: Of course, but the former are more important.

Press TV: Dr. Zbigniew, before the interview we were talking about the fact that how fascinated I was, personally, that you were at the forefront of American politics when two or three of the most major internal developments of our time took place; one was the Iranian revolution, two was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and as you mentioned the relations with China.

Looking at these issues one by one, how would you assess the current administration’s policy toward Afghanistan, and how has it changed throughout the years?

Brzezinski: Well, the current administration’s policy has not changed throughout the years, because it has been in office under several weeks.

But American policy is going to change, because the new administration has a more serious, more responsible, and more nuanced view of the problem. That is to say the problem is specifically al-Qaeda. Taliban may be an umbrella. It may be connected with it by historical circumstances, but Taliban is essentially a specific Afghan phenomenon focused on Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda is an extremist organization which has a variety of very hostile intentions towards a number of countries in the world. The United States very much so, and we know this very painfully because of what happened here in New York City.

And it also involves other countries. If I dare say so, it also probably involves Iran as an object of some hostility on the part of al-Qaeda. Our objective, as articulated by President Obama, is to separate al-Qaeda from Taliban and to find a way whereby Afghanistan can be governed, in part, through traditional arrangements, in part, through some improvements, modernization, better social services, better transportation and, in part, also perhaps by some limited regional accommodations with different groups within the Taliban that maybe satisfied with a local status-quo arrangement, who can’t see themselves as part of a larger global conspiracy.

Press TV: Now, we have good terrorist, bad terrorist. We have good Taliban, moderate Taliban and the bad Taliban which would become al-Qaeda. These definitions seem to change with administration. Do you think that the policy negotiating with the “moderate Taliban”, would be wise for America’s national security?

Brzezinski: There is an obvious deference between, not several administrations, but two administrations, the Bush administration and the Obama administration. The Bush administration had a sort of generalized, black/white view of the threat and sometimes used language that almost implied that the threat was in some fashion, in an un-generalized manner, an Islamic threat.

I think Obama recognizes the specificity of the threat: Al-Qaeda. Taliban happens to be a historically accidental association with al-Qaeda. And I think that if we can manage to negotiate with some second nuance of the Taliban, not the entire Taliban- the movement is not that centralized anyway- then perhaps arrange for a kind of modus vivendi in parts of Afghanistan.

Actual Taliban is not that influential through out Afghanistan. It is more influential in certain zones.

Press TV: It’s gaining momentum …

Brzezinski: Well, up to a point. It is certainly not a dominant force in terms of popular support. It is also very much a Pashtun phenomenon, and that spills the problem over into Pakistan.

I approve of what President Obama has been doing, in part because I have been advocating it myself for months now, in the press in the United States, in the European press, in the leading German, French, and British publications, on the radio and television. So, I am happy to see the administration doing what it does, and I think that is a better way towards finding an acceptable solution to the problem.

Press TV: To what extent do you think that the United States was responsible in creating the Mujahideen the Taliban and today, al-Qaeda? I think if anyone is responsible for the creation of the Mujahideen it was the Soviet Union. The Mujahideen was a reaction to the Soviet invasion. It was a spontaneous national reaction in Afghanistan. Supporting it made great sense. Because a Soviet victory at that time, with the Soviet Union actively sponsoring terrorist camps on the Soviet territory would have given the Soviet Union enormous momentum in the region.

And incidentally, since this program is originating in part from Tehran, it would have been a threat to Iran as well. And this is why the Iranian leadership was not enamored of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. I think this was the right decision.

The Taliban arose after the Soviet Union was driven out, and when the West basically ignored the ravaged destroyed Afghan society. The Taliban came and filled a void which should not have been permitted to develop, there should have been an earlier, more constructive, more positive Western reaction.

In some ways, there should have been a reaction then, of the kind that took place in early 2002.

Press TV: A military invasion?

Brzezinski: When the United States and others, drove the Taliban and al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan, initially, with the support, incidentally of Iran, very active, very important support.

That should have been done much earlier. We should have gotten together in a constructive fashion to help Afghanistan recover immediately after the departure of the Soviet in the late 1980s.

Press TV: Basically, militarily attack Afghanistan?

Brzezinski: No, the contrary! Provide positive political, social, and economic support to Afghanistan. After the Soviets had been driven out by the Mujahideen there was a social void, there was a political vacuum, there was enormous suffering and the rest of the world simply ignored Afghanistan at that moment and that created the opportunity for the Taliban.

Press TV: It is interesting that today, or during the previous years, the Afghan war has been termed as the forgotten war. Are we seeing that again? Are we seeing Afghanistan being ignored again?

Brzezinski: No, I do not think so; quite the contrary. We are not seeing Afghanistan being ignored. There is a lot of involvement now in Afghanistan. There is the international community, not only directly on the ground forces, but social aid, economic assistance, but also international conferences.

The most recent one which is about to conclude as we speak, involves a large number of countries, including incidentally the United States and Iran.

Press TV: What do make of President Obama’s comments acknowledging Iran as the Islamic Republic after thirty years?

Brzezinski: I totally endorsed him. You know, I met with [head of Iran’s interim government Mehdi] Bazargan and [leader of the Iran Freedom Movement Ebrahim] Yazdi after the [1979 Islamic] revolution.

And without going into enormous amount of historical detail, I am positive, without pointing accusatory fingers, there was even then a chance for some normalization. I am glad it may be now beginning to become reality. But normalization takes two, it can not be undertaken by one side alone.

I think President Obama made a historic effort. I think it was intellectually brave, politically courageous, and potentially and historically constructive. I think it is therefore very important to go forward. But it can only go forward if there is reciprocity.

Press TV: Iranian officials have asked for action, saying that actions speak louder than words. Do you think that these comments are basically enough on the part of the United States in reaching out to Iran?

Brzezinski: A relationship has to be built on mutual accommodation. A relationship between serious powers is not built on begging or pleading. If there is a genuine interest in mutual accommodation, actions as well as words, have to be reciprocal. Words are usually the beginning of a diplomatic dialogue. I think President Obama made a really historically significant gesture, and it can leads to things.

But, we sit down and start pointing fingers at each other, but and if we start to say: you have to take the first action … No, you have to take the first action, it is not going to be very productive.

Press TV: I do not think that either side is at that point right now. I think that acknowledging that Iran is the Islamic Republic was a positive gesture definitely. But, then there are analysts who say what America needs to do, is stop setting pre-conditions for negotiations with Iran. You cannot set preconditions for pre-negotiations and negotiations.

Do you think that on that front perhaps the United States stop its “carrot and stick” policy, as some analysts like to put it?

Brzezinski: Well, you confused the two. Preconditions is one aspect of the American policy, and the “carrot and stick” is a generalized description of some aspects of it. It so happens that in my testimony before Congress, in my writings, I have said that if there are to be negotiations, they can not be based on unilateral preconditions. The United States should not insist on unilateral preconditions. Or alternatively there can be reciprocal preconditions; one side does this, the other side does that-more or less simultaneously.

But that kind of process can only get on the way if there is a willingness, seriously to sit down, to in effect signal a willingness to discuss seriously, and not start by making demands that one side only has to undertake actions and the other side can simply sit back and wait on whether it approves of these actions.

That is a formula for a stalemate. So I am hopeful that mature leadership in both countries, sense of responsibility for the region in the future, and awareness of the fact that both countries play important roles in the world, will accumulate to create condition under which we sit down in the wake of the intuitive undertaken and talk with each other as people are prepared seriously to negotiate.

Press TV: And for the United States at this point in time, what is that concrete action? What is the bottom line for the United States to see for negotiations to resume?

Brzezinski: Willingness to negotiate. That is all.

Press TV: Will the United States change its policies, change its actions and not just its words?

Brzezinski: Well you know, I could ask you the same question, except that you are interviewing me and I am not interviewing you.

Press TV: I could give the answer that Iranian officials are saying …

Brzezinski:“If you were someone who was involved with Iranian government I could ask you: what actions are you prepared to take?

I am not authorized to negotiate. I am not negotiating. I speak for myself. But as someone who knows something about international affairs, I can say that you are not going to get negotiations going if one side insists that the other side undertake actions, that the side insisting then approves and then after that there are negotiations. Negotiations begin by serious discussions.

I think, what Mr. Obama did is to initiate the process in a constructive way, from the American side. It is a decision for Iran to make on its own, from the standpoint of its own sense of history and interests, whether it wants relations with the United States or whether it does not.

I hope that it does, because I think that it would be good for the world. I think it would be good for the United States. I think it would be good for Iran. But that is a judgment that each side has to make on its own.

Press TV: And on the part of Iranian officials, what I have been hearing – of course I do not have a government post – but what they say is that they are open to dialogue, if and when they see a change of policy and if and when the situation is right, hopefully the situation is right and to the benefit of both sides.

Brzezinski: I do not think that you are getting the point that I am making. If the Iranian position is that negotiations will only take place when they see evident changes in American policy, then I think they are failing to see something important that has already taken place; namely an overture that is constructive in spirit and in historic significance.

And the proper response to that is not to say that we are going to wait and see that you prove by some actions, that we either desire or specify or will then judge. That is not the way to begin serious negotiations.

Press TV: So what you are saying is that the United States’ change of tone has been a step forward.

Brzezinski: Well, in diplomacy and in international affairs, tones are very important. Abusing, accusing, insulting, are sometimes also negotiating methods. The intent then if it is conducted by intelligent people, who know what they are saying, is obviously to prevent negotiations.

You can operate that way either if you are very stupid, or if very, very Machiavellian. But if you do not want negotiations to succeed, you can start them by insulting, abusing, accusing.

Press TV: Let us talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You were an extremely influential figure during the Camp David negotiations. Do you think that a two-state solution is possible at this point in time?

Brzezinski: I think it is not only possible, but it is necessary. It seems to me that if there is not such a solution in the not too distant future, the opportunity for that solution may pass.

There is settlement activity, which makes a real accommodation difficult. There are incidents, events, tragic situations, like what happened in Gaza, which poisoned the atmosphere.

There is a tendency, in different degrees perhaps and not yet irrevocable, but there is a tendency on both sides towards more extremist views.

So I think, time is of the essence. But I do think that still, it is possible to have a settlement in part because, according to public opinion polls, both within Israel itself and within Palestine, the majorities are still for settlement. And very interestingly, public opinion polls show that the majority of American Jews, who are as Americans interested in American policy and try to influence it, the majority, 60%, favor a two-state solution.

Press TV: What about the coming to power of a figure like Benjamin Netanyahu. Do you think that this will affect negotiations between the two sides?

Brzezinski: You know, the obvious and the short-range answer is, it will complicate it. On the other hand, sometimes, the leaders of that type are the ones that in the end can deliver a settlement, which reduces the opposition of the most rigid dogmatic elements within their camps.

In a way, if Netanyahu has some, as his foreign minister who has been described in American newspapers as having racist views, he may have a match on the Palestinian side, with Hamas in the government, who is described in Israel and elsewhere as a terrorist group, and paradoxically such two governments can reach a more comprehensive solution than when both sides are divided among moderates and extremists, and thereby paralyzed.

So it depends, it depends a bit on their personalities. It depends also a great deal on how the United States conducts itself. Because the fact is we have a great deal of influence with both sides.

Press TV: Regarding the Palestinian issue and Hamas, do you think that it is wise to draw a parallel between a Hamas, which was democratically elected in 2006, and the Israeli government? Because Hamas still enjoys great support among the Palestinian people, so when we say these are extremist views, are we calling as the international community is calling it? Are we using that definition? Or do you really believe that this is the case.

Brzezinski: You know both groups have been elected by their constituencies, and both groups have support in their constituencies. But within both groups, there is also a spectrum of opinion; some leaders are very rigid, very extremist, very uncompromising; some less so. And the name of the game is to find some kid of formula in which both sides recognize that in the long run they are better by accommodating than by waging a conflict, which will exclude the two-state solution but also in the long run create an abyss, a division, between both sides that will make for permanent instability and conflict in the region.

And from the American point of view, I think, paradoxically, it may be even a moment of opportunity.

Press TV: Coming back to the United States, are there any elements in a certain lobby that have an extremist tendency, or a very influential sense of power in the Obama administration right now, at this point in time?

Brzezinski: I think it is really changing. As I just cited, 69% of American Jews favor a two-state solution, that is something that probably a few years ago was a kind of anathema to the majority. I think that there is a growing realization within the responsible leadership of the Jewish-American community that [not] to let the two-state solution pass, is to create in the long run, conditions increasingly inimical to Israel’s long-term survival in the region as an accepted part of the region.

Press TV: What about organizations like AIPAC?

Brzezinski: This would fit our previous discussion, and I am sure since AIPAC is a large-scale organization, there are probably differences of opinion in it now too.

Press TV: What did you make of the Charles Freeman saga recently?

Brzezinski: What do you mean what did I make of it?

Press TV: Well, he was chosen to head the National Intelligence Committee, and he resigned. President Obama did not back him. There was a wave of accusations against him, that he is too moderate and that he does not have Israeli interests at hand and that he might be perhaps a dangerous figure in the current administration, and in dealing with the future of the Middle East.

Brzezinski: Well you know some of these accusations were extreme and in my view unacceptable, and from a human point of view hurtful. So in that sense it was deplorable. On the other hand, I also have to acknowledge the fact that from a realistic point of view, that you want someone in that position who is not a priori, very controversial.

And the reason that he withdrew, he was not incidentally appointed by Obama himself, he was chosen by the head of National Intelligence, and the reason that he withdrew was that he realized that as a consequence of this very unfortunate, very unfair attacks on him, [he had become] so controversial that if he then makes a judgment or renders an opinion as the head of the Intelligence Council, that opinion will automatically be questioned, because he is viewed in some fashion as having been part of a very deep and wrenching debate.

So, probably, from a practical point of view, once that affair escalated to the level of ugliness that it did, the decision was a right one, I am sorry to say.

Press TV: And do you think that he became this controversial figure because he was swimming against the stream?

Brzezinski: We do not know. I mean, I do not think that he was swimming against the stream, if anything, if my final analysis turns up, he was swimming with the stream, but there were many rocks in that stream.

Press TV: What about the appointment of Denis Ross? How do you see him in the equation of American foreign policy?

Brzezinski: He is a very experienced foreign policy specialist who took an active role in the Camp David II discussions, and to the extent that one can judge from the sometimes conflicting accounts of the Camp David II, he played a constructive role in them and certainly, he could be quite important in trying to find a formula which would also be reassuring to both parties and especially to the Israeli side, because the Israeli side of course has to assess any settlement from the standpoint not only of its immediate effects but also of its long-range prospects.

Press TV: What about the Palestinians?

Brzezinski: Well, What about the Palestinians?

Press TV: Well do you think that he will be a fair broker?

Brzezinski: Well, first of all I do not think that he is going to be a broker. The broker is going to be the Secretary of State and even somebody more important than the Secretary of State, and that is the President and Vice-President of the United States. I think that is where the decisions are going to be made.

Press TV: And finally, you are a realist and do you see our world, the international community, as moving towards a more multi-polar world, as we speak or a uni-polar world?

Brzezinski: Neither, Neither. I think there are strong tendencies towards international chaos in the world today. That chaos could become very destructive, because chaos generally breeds intolerance, extremism, violence, and self-destructive behavior. But at the same time, I think there is also a growing realization in the world that we have to work together, that conflicts whether they are a hundred years old or thirty years old, have to be revised and reviewed.

That in such a world, everyone will have to participate but not everyone is equal. And whether one calls it multi-polar or uni-polar, the fact is that at this historical junction some countries are more important than others, and one country particularly is critical to economic recovery in the world and in many respects therefore to its political stability, and that is a reality. It will not endure forever. History has seen powers rise and decline and no one is immune to that historical process, but the process does require recognition of existing realities. Now this is why America’s role in the world is important.

But it is also important, and it should be important, that that role be defined intelligently and in a historically relevant way. And one of the reasons why I supported Obama from early on was that I felt he understood something about the 21st century that others did not, especially our previous president, and therefore his presidency would be very timely.

And since you said that this was the last question, let me add that it is particularly timely to what we were talking about earlier, namely the relationship between America and Iran.

Press TV: What is the biggest challenge that the United States is facing today?

Brzezinski: I think what I just said is part of it. I think there is a risk of the international framework disintegrating into something that will be collectively self-destructive.

Press TV: Dr. Brzezinski, thank you for you time and company on this edition of Face to Face.

Brzezinski: Thank you very much.


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A 2008 report by the Senate Armed Services Committee has confirmed the application of “the methods” at Cuba-based Guantanamo detention facility and prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan run by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Washington might impose new sanctions against Iran. The US failed to garner enough support -at the height of its Soviet downfall power in the 1990s- to get enough leverage to administer “crippling sanctions” against Iran. Now a Secretary of United States outdone by an incapacitating recession and two wars still running simultaneously has reassured chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Howard Berman, she is able to get “more leverage” on the Iran issue.

It is logically impossible to imagine the kind of outcome preached by Hillary Clinton. Only a couple of days ago the US troubles went from single files to battalions when the Taliban insurgents stormed into new areas in North West Pakistan and effectively took over control of the districts that lie only around one hundred kilometers from Islamabad.

Thus, with a third front opening in Pakistan the US Secretary of State is proposing opening a fourth front against Iran. She says: “We are also laying the groundwork for the kind of very tough sanctions (against Iran)…that might be necessary in the event that our offers… are inconclusive or unsuccessful.”

There is also the problem of a very active fifth column that is domestically eating away at the Obama administration’s chances of success. The cankerworm in question is called Dick Cheney. He has just torpedoed President Obama’s efforts to present a respectable American face to the international community. Ex-Vice President Dick Cheney has just attempted to publicize the “success” of the American “torture aided interrogation” against “terror suspects.”

A 2008 report by the Senate Armed Services Committee has confirmed the application of “the methods” at Cuba-based Guantanamo detention facility and prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan run by the Central Intelligence Agency.

There other issues eating away at the US ability to make good on its promises.

The proposed Missile defense shield in Eastern Europe has already put the US at odds with Russia. And the planned NATO maneuvers in Georgia will only rub salt into Russia’s injury.

A quietly simmering China, already vexed over extensive financial damage to its economic infrastructure caused by the US corporate misdeeds is the next obstacle. The unresolved Taiwan question is also likely to pop up should an arms deal under discussion on US manufactured advanced medium range surface to surface and surface to air missiles to the Island reach fruition.

The US is very badly overstretched to be able to master the kind of international consensus required to cripple Iran and even at the best of times the US efforts to impose total sanctions has purely provided agreeable grounds for other countries to partake in beneficial business, trade and energy projects in the Islamic Republic.

Obama’s ghost ship is getting blown off course, this way and that, by the curse of the fool’s gold inheritance left over from the Bush administration. And even should the captain and all the shipmates, man all the stations in the call of duty, the sails torn apart by eight years of Bush administration’s neglect can hardly catch the fair winds of change.

Secretary of State Clinton should realistically be contemplating battening down the hatches instead of readying about for a full broadside.

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The following is the speech of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Durban Review Conference on racism in Geneva on April 20.

Mr. Chairman, honorable secretary general of the United Nations, honorable United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Ladies and gentleman:

We have gathered in the follow-up to the Durban conference against racism and racial discrimination to work out practical mechanisms for our holy and humanitarian campaigns.

Over the last centuries, humanity has gone through great sufferings and pains. In the Medieval Ages, thinkers and scientists were sentenced to death. It was then followed by a period of slavery and slave trade. Innocent people were taken captive in their millions and separated from their families and loved ones to be taken to Europe and America under the worst conditions. A dark period that also experienced occupation, lootings and massacres of innocent people.

Many years passed by before nations rose up and fought for their liberty and freedom and they paid a high price for it. They lost millions of lives to expel the occupiers and establish independent and national governments. However, it did not take long before power grabbers imposed two wars in Europe which also plagued a part of Asia and Africa. Those horrific wars claimed about a hundred million lives and left behind massive devastation. Had lessons been learnt from the occupations, horrors and crimes of those wars, there would have been a ray of hope for the future.

The victorious powers called themselves the conquerors of the world while ignoring or down treading upon rights of other nations by the imposition of oppressive laws and international arrangements.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us take a look at the UN Security Council which is one of the legacies of World War I and World War II. What was the logic behind their granting themselves the veto right? How can such logic comply with humanitarian or spiritual values? Would it not be inconformity with the recognized principles of justice, equality before the law, love and human dignity? Would it not be discrimination, injustice, violations of human rights or humiliation of the majority of nations and countries?

The council is the highest decision-making world body for safeguarding international peace and security. How can we expect the realization of justice and peace when discrimination is legalized and the origin of the law is dominated by coercion and force rather than by justice and the rights?

Coercion and arrogance is the origin of oppression and wars. Although today many proponents of racism condemn racial discrimination in their words and their slogans, a number of powerful countries have been authorized to decide for other nations based on their own interests and at their own discretion and they can easily violate all laws and humanitarian values as they have done so.

Following World War II, they resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering and they sent migrants from Europe, the United States and other parts of the world in order to establish a totally racist government in occupied Palestine. And, in fact, in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine.

The Security Council helped stabilize the occupying regime and supported it in the past 60 years giving them a free hand to commit all sorts of atrocities. It is all the more regrettable that a number of Western governments and the United States have committed themselves to defending those racist perpetrators of genocide while the awakened-conscience and free-minded people of the world condemn aggression, brutalities and the bombardment of civilians in Gaza. The supporters of Israel have always been either supportive or silent against the crimes.

Dear friends, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen. What are the root causes of the US attacks against Iraq or the invasion of Afghanistan?

Was the motive behind the invasion of Iraq anything other than the arrogance of the then US administration and the mounting pressures on the part of the possessors of wealth and power to expand their sphere of influence seeking the interests of giant arms manufacturing companies affecting a noble culture with thousands of years of historical background, eliminating the potential and practical threats of Muslim countries against the Zionist regime or to control and plunder the energy resources of the Iraqi people?

Why, indeed, almost a million people were killed and injured and a few more millions were displaced? Why, indeed, the Iraqi people have suffered enormous losses amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars? And why was billions of dollars imposed on the American people as the result of these military actions? Was not the military action against Iraq planned by the Zionists and their allies in the then US administration in complicity with the arms manufacturing countries and the possessors of wealth? Did the invasion of Afghanistan restore peace, security and economic wellbeing in the country?

The United States and its allies not only have failed to contain the production of drugs in Afghanistan, but the cultivation of narcotics has multiplied in the course of their presence. The basic question is that what was the responsibility and the job of the then US administration and its allies?

Did they represent the countries of the world? Have they been mandated by them? Have they been authorized by the people of the world to interfere in all parts of the globe, of course mostly in our region? Are not these measures a clear example of egocentrism, racism, discrimination or infringement upon the dignity and independence of nations?

Ladies and gentlemen, who is responsible for the current global economic crisis? Where did the crisis start from? From Africa, Asia or from the United States in the first place then spreading across Europe and their allies?

For a long time, they imposed inequitable economic regulations by their political power on the international economy. They imposed a financial and monetary system without a proper international oversight mechanism on nations and governments that played no role in repressive trends or policies. They have not even allowed their people to oversea or monitor their financial policies. They introduced all laws and regulations in defiance of all moral values only to protect the interests of the possessors of wealth and power.

They further presented a definition for market economy and competition that denied many of the economic opportunities that could be available to other countries of the world. They even transferred their problems to others while the waves of crisis lashed back plaguing their economies with thousands of billions of dollars in budget deficit. And today, they are injecting hundreds of billions of dollars of cash from the pockets of their own people and other nations into the failing banks, companies and financial institutions making the situation more and more complicated for their economy and their people. They are simply thinking about maintaining power and wealth. They could not care any less about the people of the world and even their own people.

Mr. President, Ladies and gentlemen, Racism is rooted in the lack of knowledge concerning the root of human existence as the selected creature of God. It is also the product of his deviation from the true path of human life and the obligations of mankind in the world of creation, failing to consciously worship God, not being able to think about the philosophy of life or the path to perfection that are the main ingredients of divine and humanitarian values which have restricted the horizon of human outlook making transient and limited interests, the yardstick for his action. That is why evil’s power took shape and expanded its realm of power while depriving others from enjoying equitable and just opportunities of development.

The result has been the making of an unbridled racism that is posing the most serious threats against international peace and has hindered the way for building peaceful coexistence in the entire world. Undoubtedly, racism is the symbol of ignorance which has deep roots in history and it is, indeed, the sign of frustration in the development of human society.

It is, therefore, crucially important to trace the manifestations of racism in situations or in societies where ignorance or lack of knowledge prevails. This increasing general awareness and understanding towards the philosophy of human existence is the principle struggle against such manifestations, and reveals the truth that human kind centers on the creation of the universe and the key to solving the problem of racism is a return to spiritual and moral values and finally the inclination to worship God Almighty.

The international community must initiate collective moves to raise awareness in afflicted societies where ignorance of racism still prevails so as to bring to a halt the spread of these malicious manifestations.

Dear Friends, today, the human community is facing a kind of racism which has tarnished the image of humanity in the beginning of the third millennium.

World Zionism personifies racism that falsely resorts to religions and abuses religious sentiments to hide its hatred and ugly face. However, it is of great importance to bring into focus the political goals of some of the world powers and those who control huge economic resources and interests in the world. They mobilize all the resources including their economic and political influence and world media to render support in vain to the Zionist regime and to maliciously diminish the indignity and disgrace of this regime.

This is not simply a question of ignorance and one cannot conclude these ugly phenomena through consular campaigns. Efforts must be made to put an end to the abuse by Zionists and their political and international supporters and in respect with the will and aspirations of nations. Governments must be encouraged and supported in their fights aimed at eradicating this barbaric racism and to move towards reform in current international mechanisms.

There is no doubt that you are all aware of the conspiracies of some powers and Zionist circles against the goals and objectives of this conference. Unfortunately, there have been literatures and statements in support of Zionists and their crimes. And it is the responsibility of honorable representatives of nations to disclose these campaigns which run counter to humanitarian values and principles.

It should be recognized that boycotting such a session as an outstanding international capacity is a true indication of supporting the blatant example of racism. In defending human rights, it is primarily important to defend the rights of all nations to participate equally in all important international decision making processes without the influence of certain world powers.

And secondly, it is necessary to restructure the existing international organizations and their respective arrangements. Therefore this conference is a testing ground and the world public opinion today and tomorrow will judge our decisions and our actions.

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, the world is going through rapid fundamental changes. Power relations have become weak and fragile. The sound of cracks in the pillars of world systems can now be heard. Major political and economic structures are on the brink of collapse. Political and security crises are on the rise. The worsening crisis in the world economy for which there can be seen no bright prospect, demonstrates the rising tide of far-reaching global changes. I have repeatedly emphasized the need to change the wrong direction through which the world is being managed today and I have also warned of the dire consequences of any delay in this crucial responsibility.

Now in this valuable event, I would like to announce to all leaders, thinkers and to all nations of the world present in this meeting and those who have a hunger for peace and economic well-being that the unjust economic management of the world is now at the end of the road. This deadlock was inevitable since the logic of this imposed management was oppressive.

The logic of collective management of world affairs is based on noble aspirations which centers on human beings and the supremacy of the almighty God. Therefore it defies any policy or plan which goes against the influence of nations. The victory of right over wrong and the establishment of a just world system has been promised by the Almighty God and his messengers and it has been a shared goal of all human beings from different societies and generations in the course of history. Realization of such a future depends on the knowledge of creation and the belief of the faithful.

The making of a global society is in fact the accomplishment of a noble goal held in the establishment of a common global system that will be run with the participation of all nations of the world in all major decision making processes and the definite root to this sublime goal.

Scientific and technical capacities as well as communication technology have created a common and widespread understanding of the world society and has provided the necessary ground for a common system. Now it is upon all intellectuals, thinkers and policy makers in the world to carry out their historical responsibility with a firm belief in this definite root.

I also want to lay emphasis on the fact that Western liberalism and capitalism has reached its end since it has failed to perceive the truth of the world and humans as they are.

It has imposed its own goals and directions on human beings. There is no regard for human and divine values, justice, freedom, love and brotherhood and it has based living on intense competition, securing individual and cooperative material interest.

Now we must learn from the past by initiating collective efforts in dealing with present challenges and in this connection, and as a closing remark, I wish to draw your kind attention to two important issues:

Firstly, it is absolutely possible to improve the existing situation in the world. However it must be noted that this could be only achieved through the cooperation of all countries in order to get the best out of the existing capacities and resources in the world. My participation in this conference is because of my conviction to these important issues as well as to our common responsibility of defending the rights of nations vis-à-vis the sinister phenomena of racism and being with you, the thinkers of the world.

Secondly, mindful of the inefficiency of the current international political, economic and security systems, it is necessary to focus on divine and humanitarian values by referring to the true definition of human beings based upon justice and respect for the rights of all people in all parts of the world and by acknowledging the past wrong doings in the past dominant management of the world, and to undertake collective measures to reform the existing structures.

In this respect, it is crucially important to rapidly reform the structure of the Security Council, including the elimination of the discriminatory veto right and to change the current world financial and monetary systems.

It is evident that lack of understanding of the urgency for change is equivalent to the much heavier costs of delay.

Dear Friends, beware that to move in the direction of justice and human dignity is like a rapid flow in the current of a river. Let us not forget the essence of love and affection. The promised future of human beings is a great asset that may serve our purposes in keeping together to build a new world.

In order to make the world a better place full of love and blessings, a world devoid of poverty and hatred, merging the increasing blessings of God Almighty and the righteous managing of the perfect human being, let us all join hands in friendship in the fulfillment of such a new world.

I thank you Mr. President, Secretary General and all distinguished participants for having the patience to listen to me. Thank you very much.


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A total of 1.7 billion unlevered consumers have GDP per head of US$5,000 to US$20,000 the report points out. No doubt, restoring credit flow is a key step in stabilising aggregate OECD demand. But global industrial production has fallen sharply, and the only way to fill the extraordinary “demand vacuum” created by the collapse of the credit bubble is to fuel demand for durables in emerging markets.

INTERNATIONAL. A new report released by Banc of America Securities-Merrill Lynch Commodity Research says there are many factors pushing for a rise in energy prices in the coming years, relative to other prices in the global economy.

A total of 1.7 billion unlevered consumers have GDP per head of US$5,000 to US$20,000 the report points out. No doubt, restoring credit flow is a key step in stabilising aggregate OECD demand. But global industrial production has fallen sharply, and the only way to fill the extraordinary “demand vacuum” created by the collapse of the credit bubble is to fuel demand for durables in emerging markets.

The annual GDP per head bracket of of US$5,000 to US$20,000, mostly in emering markets, is a sweet spot for the consumption of durable goods and for taking on leverage. As a reference point, Americans had a real GDP per capita of US$12,000 in 1980 as the multi-decade long credit bubble began, while Portugal did not cross the GDP per capita mark of US$10,000 until 1990.

Appetite for washing machines, freezers or cars rises rapidly when per capita income hits US$5,000. Thus, as a higher consumption of durables comes with a substantial increase in energy use, supply constraints could soon resurface. On the bank’s estimates, if global GDP grows by 3.6% every year over the next decade, annual energy demand will increase by 4 million bpd of energy in oil equivalent
terms. Given the natural limits to supply, policymakers will have to shift their attention to energy efficiency. The report sees global energy efficiency increasing by 1.8% year on year in the next decade, as global energy supply will likely only grow by 1.7% per annum.

As the global economy recovers, continued upward pressure on energy prices is needed to focus policy on energy efficiency. Limited spare capacity, strong underlying trend demand and the need for efficiency improvements all suggest that energy prices may have to increase again in the coming years relative to
other prices in the economy. Thus, Merrill reiterated its long-term WTI oil price forecast of US$72 per barrel in real terms. In turn, high oil prices will keep the energy sector share of global GDP above historical averages, and hold emerging market growth in check.

A global misallocation of capital is at the root of the crisis

The report puts forward the view that  a global misallocation of capital sits at the heart of the current economic crisis. In simple terms, capital markets failed in recent years and channelled too much money into real estate, too little into energy. If capital had been efficiently allocated to the most productive sectors in the global economy, high savings rates in emerging economies would have enabled a high investment rate in key sectors. In turn, a high investment rate could have allowed for a higher rate of economic
growth in the long-run.

However, in the five years preceding the current crisis, excessive leverage and non-productive investment contributed to fuel both a credit bubble and an economic boom. Energy demand increased very rapidly as global GDP expanded at the fastest pace since the 1960s.

With the burst of the credit bubble, global economic activity collapsed. Industrial production across a broad range of developed and emerging economies came down very sharply in fourth quarter 2008 and first quarter 2009. This sequential decline in industrial and economic activity has brought aggregate output for key economies down to levels not seen in years. In the case of Japan, industrial output is now at the same level it was back in 1983, while German and American industrial activity has taken a step back of almost ten years.

Economic growth and primary energy demand

The world now faces substantial spare productive capacity. Due to the decline in activity, capacity utilisation rates have fallen across a broad range of industries in the economy. At the peak of the last business cycle, most economic sectors saw capacity utilisation rates above 80%. Now, utilisation rates have collapsed for a broad range of industries such as motor vehicles, semiconductors or chemicals. As a result, spare productive capacity has increased well above and beyond previous business cycle downturns in a number of economic sectors in the United States, and also in other countries.

The policy response has so far focused on fixing the banks. So far, governments have fought the economic crisis using expansive fiscal and monetary policy, and focused their efforts on fixing a broken banking system. Of course, the scarcity of consumer credit has quickly fed into many parts of the global economy from construction to travel and vehicles sales. Reinstating some normalcy into the credit markets is unquestionably the first step to stop the downturn in economic activity.

Looking farther out, the large fiscal and monetary policy stimuli and the bank bailouts should succeed in supporting aggregate OECD in the medium-term. Industrial production across a broad range of developed and emerging economies came down very sharply in fourth quarter 2008 and first quarter 2009. Credit facilities for key emerging markets will likely contribute to support emerging-market consumer demand and industrial activity in the coming quarters. So far, the sharp expansion in money supply and lending in China has already started to pay off, with car sales up 25% year on year in February and 10% year on year in March.

Can increased credit to emerging markets and OECD consumers do the trick?

However, if the energy and credit crises are indeed linked to the same market failure, the report ponders whether increased credit to EM and OECD consumers will help create a sustainable growth path for the global economy. Judging by the sharp global energy and commodity price increases of first half 2008, the recent trends of urbanisation, industrialisation and globalisation, particularly in the emerging markets, have proved unsustainable.

Simply put, a lot more energy is required to keep emerging markets on a fast growth track. Therefore, even if government policies are successful in reigniting the global economy, physical energy supply constraints will prevent a return to high world GDP growth rates. In this process, we could witness a second round of commodity price inflation.

A billion consumers have annual GDP per head of US$20,000-plus

According to the report, the only way to fill the extraordinary “aggregate demand vacuum” created by the collapse of the credit bubble is to fuel demand for durables in the emerging economies. For sure, stabilising OECD demand through better functioning banks is critical to restore healthier consumption levels than those observed in fourth quarter 2008. But the output gap in OECD economies is probably too wide to fill it with increased domestic lending. About 1 billion consumers enjoy yearly income per capita in excess of US$20,000 in advanced economies, but many of these rich consumers are over-levered. Thus, filling the output gap will require help from emerging market consumers. The report estimates, there are about 670 million consumers sitting on an annual GDP per head of US$10,000 to US$20,000, mostly in emerging markets and mostly unlevered.

Another 1 billion consumers in the emerging markets enjoy an income level per head of US$5,000 to US$10,000 per annum, also a critical mark in the consumption of durables. In fact, the appetite for domestic appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers or freezers increases very rapidly in the US$5,000 to US$20,000 per capita income range. Similarly, the purchase of cars and motorcycles increases exponentially in this income bracket, suggesting continued strong support to vehicle sales growth in the emerging economies over the next decade. Of course, increased consumption of durables and rising incomes also bring in a substantial increase in the consumption of energy per head.

Urbanisation is an extremely energy-intensive endeavour

The three key defining trends of today’s global economy remain urbanisation, industrialisation and globalisation. As moving people from the countryside to the cities is basically an exercise of turning low intensity solar power consumers into high-powered thermal fuel users, increased urbanisation rates in emerging economies will necessarily continue to push up increased energy requirements. And according to the United Nations Population Division, urbanisation trends in China, India and even Africa will continue to increase over the next decade, suggesting soaring energy requirements in the years ahead. On average, Merrill estimates that a 1% increase in urbanisation rates brings in a 1.5% increase in energy demand.

Industrialisation and urbanisation go hand in hand, as the organisation of economic activity around factories requires firstly more factories—to create network externalities—and then large urban centres—to create a steady supply of labour to the factories. This is precisely the process that has been taking place in China for the last two decades. Industrial activity and electricity generation are intrinsically linked, particularly in emerging economies. Consequently, most of the growth in power consumption has occurred in non-OECD economies in the last decade. Net, Merrill estimate that a 1% increase in global economic activity typically results in roughly a 0.9% increase in global energy demand.

Another key trend defining the world economy at the moment is globalisation. From an energy standpoint, this trend means that the world economy has a voracious appetite for transportation fuels or, more simply, oil. Sea, air and road transport will likely increase at a fast pace in the future, averaging an incremental
1 million bpd per year over the next decade. In line with this increase in fuel consumption, our equity analysts expect a rapid surge in global car sales and other modes of transport in the next few years.

China remains the one country to watch

Developments in China have been key to understanding commodity demand patterns in the past decade, due to its rapid industrialisation. Looking forward, the recent economic trends coupled with the global bank bailouts suggest that China will remain the one key country to watch over the next decade. The focus is now shifting, though, from the rapid growth in industrial activity with a goal to become the world’s manufacturing hub towards increasing domestic demand with a goal to help fill up the global output gap. The Chinese urban middle class is moving up the economic ladder, rapidly expanding its consumption of durables.

Domestic vehicle sales also continue to grow at a fast pace despite the global downturn. In fact, Chinese car sales have outpaced car sales in the United States during the last three months.

The sharp drop in global oil and energy demand in recent quarters has left some spare productive capacity available in the global economy. In particular, the fall in OECD energy use will likely enable emerging economies to expand again with affordable energy prices for the next two years. The report estimates spare global oil production capacity has jumped to 7 million bpd or 8% of global demand on the back of the sharp OPEC output cuts, while we can also observe significant increases in natural gas and coal spare productive capacity.

Increased spare productive capacity is good news for consumers in China and other energy-intensive emerging economies. In fact, the drop in global energy prices is one of the key reasons why EMs have turned towards more relaxed monetary policy to counterbalance the drop in economic activity. But energy demand in emerging markets can not grow unchecked for the coming decade simply because supply is constrained. The report estimates, maintaining an annual global GDP growth rate of 3.6% over the next decade will require yearly increments of 4 million bpd of oil in energy equivalent terms.

The next global policy wave will focus on energy efficiency

It is still uncertain what a “balance sheet” recession in North America and Europe will do to per capita energy consumption in these regions. The case of Japan suggests that a 1.1% annual drop in oil consumption is possible. But Europe is already rather oil-efficient on a per capita basis and further OECD
efficiency gains will depend mostly on US energy policy. At any rate, given the constraints on global energy supplies, we believe policymakers will shift their attention to energy efficiency once the ailing financial sector starts to recover. In that regard, we believe that there is substantial oil demand substitution potential in the replacement of boiler fuels, the removal of ethanol trade barriers, or a reduced shift towards diesel vehicles.

In effect, because oil is the scarcest energy source on a relative basis, it will probably lose market share relative to other energy sources such as coal, natural gas, nuclear energy or renewables. Even under the assumption of oil losing market share by 4% in the global primary energy consumption pie over the course of 2008-2020, we can still expect oil demand growth averaging at least 1% or 800,000 bpd in the 2011-2020 period. But becoming more oil efficient is only part of the solution, and the report estimates that net global energy efficiency will increase by 1.8% annually to allow world GDP to grow at an average rate of 3.6% over the next decade.

As the global economy recovers and demand for oil and other fuels starts to increase again, only a continued upward pressure on prices will provide the signal to refocus policy on energy efficiency. Commodity utilisation rates are still high compared to other sectors, so any rebound in economic activity will likely impact commodity prices before it hits other parts of the economy.

Low spare capacity availability on a relative basis, strong underlying trend demand and the need for energy efficiency all suggest that energy prices may have to increase again in the coming years, and therefore Merrill Lynch is maintaining its long-term real WTI crude oil price forecast of US$72 per barrel In turn, a high oil price will keep energy’s share of global GDP above historical averages.

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday branded Israel a "racist government," charging the West with dispossessing the Palestinians "on the pretext of Jewish suffering from World War II."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday branded Israel a “racist government,” charging the West with dispossessing the Palestinians “on the pretext of Jewish suffering from World War II.”

The remarks seemingly living up to concerns that the United Nations conference on racism which he was addressing would turn into a forum to vilify the Jewish state.

The comments sparked a mass walk-out of the conference hall by dozens of Western delegates to the summit.

Ahmadinejad accused Israel of “being the most cruel and racist regime,” sparking a walkout by angry Western diplomats at the conference and protests from others.

In a rambling speech, Ahmadinejad on Monday pointed the finger at the United States, Europe and Israel and said they were “destabilizing the entire world.”

Some European diplomats immediately walked out of the room when Ahmadinejad said Israel was “created on the pretext of Jewish suffering from World War II.”

“The UN security council has stabilized this occupation regime and supported it in the last 60 years giving them a free hand to continue their crimes,” Ahmadinejad said.

“What were the root causes of the U.S. attacks against Iraq or invasion of Afghanistan?” the Iranian president said. “The Iraqi people have suffered enormous losses … wasn’t the military action against Iraq planned by the Zionists … in the U.S. administration, in complicity with the arms manufacturing companies?”

“The Security Council made it possible for that illegitimate government to be set up,” Ahmadinejad said. “For 60 years, this government was supported by the world. Many Western countries say they are fighting racism, but in fact support it with occupation, bombings and crimes committed in Gaza. These countries support the criminals.”

A wigged protester shouting “Racist! racist!” threw a soft red object at
Ahmadinejad, hitting the podium and interrupting his speech.

Click here for excerpts of the contentious Durban draft documents

Ahmadinejad’s speech came as Israel prepared to mark its own Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Iranian leader has repeatedly claimed the Holocaust never happened and has called repeatedly for Israel’s destruction.

The president also criticized the United States, which had boycotted the conference along with a host of other countries, accusing it of invading Iraq and Afghanistan solely to “expand its sphere of control.”

The first anti-racism conference, held in Durban, South Africa in 2001, was dominated by condemnation of Israel, which led to a walk-out by the United States and Israel.

“Such outrageous anti-Semitic remarks should have no place in a UN anti-racism forum,” said British ambassador Peter Gooderham, whose country chose not to send a minister to Geneva.

And French ambassador Jean-Baptiste Mattei said: “It is a pity that Mr. Ahmadinejad is trying to take this conference hostage. We are ready for serious discussion but this is beyond what should have been expected.”

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The Obama administration believes that a breakthrough in the peace process between Israel and the Arab states would restrain Tehran’s influence and contribute to the diplomatic effort to block Iran’s nuclearization.

The Obama administration is preparing a Middle East peace process that will include simultaneous bilateral talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and between Israel and Syria. The plan is based on the Arab peace initiative that offers establishing normal relations between Israel and Arab League states in exchange for withdrawing from the occupied territories and establishing a Palestinian state.

The United States will put together a “security package,” including demilitarization of the territories from which Israel will withdraw and the option of stationing a multinational force in them for years.

The Obama administration believes that a breakthrough in the peace process between Israel and the Arab states would restrain Tehran’s influence and contribute to the diplomatic effort to block Iran’s nuclearization.

The regional peace plan will be the focus of President Barak Obama’s meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah in the White House later this month.

Senior Palestinian Authority officials told Western diplomats Thursday that PA President Mahmoud Abbas will be invited to the White House after the Jordanian king’s visit to discuss the Palestinians’ participation in the initiative.

Abbas’ visit is expected to take place before Obama’s first meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But American sources have not confirmed this is so.

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah is pressing the U.S. administration to adopt the Arab initiative, which began as a Saudi initiative. In an article published some two months ago in the Financial Times, Prince Turki al-Faisal, former head of Saudi intelligence and former Saudi ambassador in Washington, wrote that failing to act on this initiative would lead to a reevaluation of Riyadh’s relations with Washington.

Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman object to resuming negotiations with the Palestinians on a final-status arrangement. However, Defense Minister and Labor leader Ehud Barak has spoken in closed forums of his support for simultaneous talks with the Palestinian and the Syrians as part of a regional peace agreement and security arrangements.

On the eve of special American envoy George Mitchell’s meeting with Abbas, there are increasing pressures among Fatah’s leadership to put an end to the negotiations with Israel and demand equal rights for the territories’ residents, in view of Israel’s refusal to recognize the two-state solution.

Imprisoned Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti and Ahmed Qureia, who led the talks with former foreign minister Tzipi Livni following the Annapolis conference, also support this position.

In all his talks in Jerusalem Thursday, Mitchell strongly dismissed the arguments against establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Mitchell is presenting support of a two-state solution as a fundamental condition for the U.S.’s recognition of a Palestinian unity government. Abbas and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak support this position.

Mitchell is to meet Abbas, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and the head of the PA’s negotiation team head, Saeb Erekat, in Ramallah Friday.

The Palestinian leaders will ask the Obama administration to treat Israel as the U.S. treats the Hamas government – total boycott – following Netanyahu’s demand Thursday that the Palestinians first recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Netanyahu did not mention Israel’s agreement to the two-state solution.

Jordan’s King Abdullah will meet with President Obama next Tuesday to discuss cooperation toward improving the political and security situations in the Middle East.

Abdullah is the first Arab leader to meet Obama in the White House. The two are expected to discuss cooperation in dealing with various issues in the region, including security, reforms and the Arab peace initiative.

Abdullah is a strong supporter of the Saudi plan. It offers Israel recognition by all Arab states in exchange for withdrawal from territory it occupied in the 1967 war, establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital and a just solution for Palestinian refugees.

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The following the complete text of Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Mohammad Khazaee’s letter to the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council, over Israel’s latest threats to attack Iran.

Iran’s Ambassador to the UN, Mohammad Khazaee

In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful


Upon instructions from my Government and pursuant to this Permanent Mission’s previous letters circulated as documents A/61/571-S/2006/884, A/61/954-S/2007/354, A/62/705-S/2008/117, A/62/798-S/2008/240, S/2008/377, S/2008/377, 2/3008/599 and S/2008/790 regarding the unlawful and insolent threats of resorting to force against the Islamic Republic of Iran by the Israeli regime, I wish to inform you that the use of fabricated pretexts by various Israeli regime’s officials to publicly threatening to resort to force against the Islamic Republic of Iran is continuing unabated in total defiance of international law and the fundamental principles of the Charter of the United Nations particularly the previsions of the UN Charter which calls for refraining “from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purpose of the United Nations.”

While the said regime continues its war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Palestinians and other Arab peoples under its brutal occupation, particularly against the innocent Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, it also persists on its vicious threats against the nations that show sympathy to the innocent Palestinian people, including against my country. As the latest example in this regard and emboldened by the absence of any action on the part of the United Nations, Israeli regime’s President Shimon Peres, repeated the same unlawful threats in an interview on 12 April 2009 by saying “we’ll strike” Iran. Prior to that and in an interview conducted on 31st March 2009, the Israeli regime’s current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had said that the said regime “may attack Iran’s nuclear facilities”.

These outrageous threats of resorting to criminal and terrorist acts against a sovereign country and a Member of the United Nations, not only display the aggressive and warmongering nature of the Zionist regime, but also constitute blatant violations of international law and the most fundamental principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and require a clear and resolute response on the part of the United Nations, particularly the Security Council. The Security Council should react to these vicious statements by unambiguously condemning them and calling on the said regime to cease and desist immediately from the threat of using force against Members of the United Nations.

As we have stressed time and again, while the Islamic Republic of Iran has never threatened nor has nay intention to threaten other nations, nonetheless and in response to any aggression, it will not hesitate to act in self-defense to protect itself and its people in accordance with its inherent right under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations.

I would appreciate it if you could circulate this letter as a document of the Security Council. Please accept, Excellency, the assurance of my highest consideration.

Mohammad Khzaee
Permanent Representative

H.E. Mr. Claude Heller
President, Security Council
United Nations, New York

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Because Europe sees no threat from Afghanistan and no vital interest in a faraway country where NATO Europeans have not fought since the British Empire folded its tent long ago.

“No one will say this publicly, but the true fact is we are all talking about our exit strategy from Afghanistan. We are getting out. It may take a couple of years, but we are all looking to get out.”

Thus did a “senior European diplomat” confide to the New York Times during Obama’s trip to Strasbourg.

Europe is bailing out on us. Afghanistan is to be America’s war.

During what the Times called a “fractious meeting,” NATO agreed to send 3,000 troops to provide security during the elections and 2,000 to train Afghan police. Thin gruel beside Obama’s commitment to double U.S. troop levels to 68,000.

Why won’t Europe fight?

Because Europe sees no threat from Afghanistan and no vital interest in a faraway country where NATO Europeans have not fought since the British Empire folded its tent long ago.

Al-Qaida did not attack Europe out of Afghanistan. America was attacked. Because, said Osama bin Laden in his “declaration of war,” America was occupying the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia, choking Muslim Iraq to death and providing Israel with the weapons to repress the Palestinians.

Brigitte Gabriel combats politically correct notions about the “religion of peace” in “They Must be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How we Can Do It”

As Europe has no troops in Saudi Arabia, is exiting Iraq and backs a Palestinian state, Europeans figure, they are less likely to be attacked than if they are fighting and killing Muslims in Afghanistan.

Madrid and London were targeted for terror attacks, they believe, because Spain and Britain were George W. Bush’s strongest allies in Iraq. Britain, with a large Pakistani population, must be especially sensitive to U.S. Predator strikes in Pakistan.

Moreover, Europeans have had their fill of war.

In World War I alone, France, Germany and Russia each lost far more men killed than we have lost in all our wars put together. British losses in World War I were greater than America’s losses, North and South, in the Civil War. Her losses in World War II, from a nation with but a third of our population, were equal to ours. Where America ended that war as a superpower and leader of the Free World, Britain ended it bankrupt, broken, bereft of empire, sinking into socialism.

All of Europe’s empires are gone. All her great navies are gone. All her million-man armies are history. Her populations are all aging, shrinking and dying, as millions pour in from former colonies in the Third World to repopulate and Islamize the mother countries.

Because of Europe’s new “diversity,” any war fought in a Muslim land will inflame a large segment of Europe’s urban population.

Finally, NATO Europe knows there is no price to pay for malingering in NATO’s war in Afghanistan. Europeans know America will take up the slack and do nothing about their refusal to send combat brigades.

For Europeans had us figured out a long time ago.

They sense that we need them more than they need us.

While NATO provides Europe with a security blanket, it provides America with what she cannot live without: a mission, a cause, a meaning to life.

Were the United States, in exasperation, to tell Europe, “We are pulling out of NATO, shutting down our bases and bringing our troops home because we are weary of doing all the heavy lifting, all the fighting and dying for freedom,” what would we do after we had departed and come home?

What would our foreign policy be?

What would be the need for our vaunted military-industrial complex, all those carriers, subs, tanks, and thousands of fighter planes and scores of bombers? What would happen to all the transatlantic conferences on NATO, all the think tanks here and in Europe devoted to allied security issues?

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the withdrawal of the Red Army from Eastern Europe and the breakup of the Soviet Union, NATO’s mission was accomplished. As Sen. Richard Lugar said, NATO must “go out of area or out of business.”

NATO desperately did not want to go out of business. So, NATO went out of area, into Afghanistan. Now, with victory nowhere in sight, NATO is heading home. Will it go out of business?

Not likely. Too many rice bowls depend on keeping NATO alive.

You don’t give up the March of Dimes headquarters and fundraising machinery just because Drs. Salk and Sabin found a cure for polio.

Again, one recalls, in those old World War II movies, the invariable scene where two G.I.s are smoking and talking.

“What are you gonna do, Joe, when this is all over?” one would ask.

Years ago, we had the answer.

Joe stayed in the Army. He couldn’t give it up. Soldiering is all he knew. Just like Uncle Sam. We can’t give up NATO because, if we do, we would no longer be the “indispensable nation,” the leader of the Free World.

And, if we’re not that, then who are we? And what would we do?

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His family, friends and lawyers did not give up. They scoured Europe and, in the last days of the Soviet Union, struck pay dirt. In Moscow’s files on Treblinka they discovered a photo of the real "Ivan," a far bigger, more mature man than the 23-year-old Demjanjuk in 1943.

On Good Friday, John Demjanjuk, 89 and gravely ill, was ordered deported to Germany to stand trial as an accessory to the murder of 29,000 Jews — at Sobibor camp in Poland.

Sound familiar? It should. It is a re-enactment of the 1986 extradition of John Demjanjuk to Israel to be tried for the murder of 870,000 Jews — at Treblinka camp in Poland.

How many men in the history of this country have been so relentlessly pursued and remorselessly persecuted?

The ordeal of this American Dreyfus began 30 years ago.

In 1979, the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) at Justice, goaded and guided by Yuri Andropov’s KGB, was persuaded that Demjanjuk was “Ivan the Terrible,” a huge, brutal, sadistic guard at Treblinka, who bashed in babies’ heads and slashed off women’s breasts, as he drove hundreds of thousands of Jews into the gas chambers.

Demjanjuk’s defense was simple: I was never at Treblinka.

Yet, a dozen survivors, shown a photo spread, identified him as the beast of Treblinka. In 1986, OSI had him extradited to Israel. In 1988, he was convicted and sentenced to death. The greatest Holocaust monster since Mengele was to be hanged.

His family, friends and lawyers did not give up. They scoured Europe and, in the last days of the Soviet Union, struck pay dirt. In Moscow’s files on Treblinka they discovered a photo of the real “Ivan,” a far bigger, more mature man than the 23-year-old Demjanjuk in 1943.

Ivan Marchenko was positively identified as Ivan the Terrible.

To its eternal credit, Israel’s Supreme Court threw aside the verdict and stopped Demjanjuk from being the first man hanged in Jerusalem since Adolf Eichmann in 1961.

A humiliated OSI, through its Israeli friends, now asked the court to authorize a new trial, charging Demjanjuk with having been a guard at Sobibor — during the same time they previously charged he had been at Treblinka.

What OSI was admitting was that its case against Demjanjuk, to see him hang from the gallows as “Ivan the Terrible,” had been based on flimsy or falsified evidence and worthless or perjured testimony.

Replied the court, we don’t do double jeopardy here in Israel.

Demjanjuk was released. And the grin of the jailer who opened his cell testified that many in Israel never accepted the charge that this simple man was some unrivaled devil of the Holocaust.

So, after 13 years, the last four on death row reflecting on his hanging for horrors he never committed, Demjanjuk came home to Cleveland, a free man. His citizenship was restored.

Though disgraced, OSI was not ready to throw in its hand. For it had been dealt a new card by its old comrades in the KGB.

The new evidence was a signed statement by one “Danilchenko,” who claimed to have been a guard at Sobibor and had worked with Demjanjuk. As this document would have blown up the Treblinka case in Jerusalem, OSI had withheld it from the defense.

Another document turned up suggesting that Demjanjuk had indeed, after training at Trawniki camp, been assigned to Sobibor.

When the defense asked to interrogate “Danilchenko,” to verify he had made and signed the statement and to question him on details, they were told this was not possible. Seems Danilchenko had died after signing.

So, after the first 13 years of his ordeal took him right up to a gallows in Jerusalem, Demjanjuk has now been pursued for another 17 years by an OSI that will not rest until he has been convicted, somewhere, of genocide.

And so we come to today.

Demjanjuk is to be taken to Germany and prosecuted as an accessory to the murder of 29,000 Jews at Sobibor — though not one living person can place him at that camp and not even the German prosecutor will say that he ever hurt anyone. One witness in Israel, who was at Sobibor and says he knew all the camp guards, says he never saw Demjanjuk there.

If Friday’s ruling is upheld, John Demjanjuk, who has been charged with no crime on German soil, is to be taken to Germany, home of the Third Reich, to be tried by Germans for his alleged role in a genocide planned and perpetrated by Germans. He is to serve as the sacrificial lamb whose blood washes away the stain of Germany’s sins.

But if Germans wish to prosecute participants in the Holocaust, why not round up some old big-time Nazis, instead of a Ukrainian POW.

Answer: They cannot. Because the Germans voted an amnesty for themselves in 1969. So now they must find a Slav soldier they captured — and Heinrich Himmler’s SS conscripted and made a camp guard, if he ever was a camp guard — to punish in expiation for Germany’s sins. The spirit behind this un-American persecution has never been that of justice tempered by mercy. It is the same satanic brew of hate and revenge that drove another innocent Man up Calvary that first Good Friday 2,000 years ago.

Patrick Buchanan

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The Obama administration faces the reality that unless the impasse is broken somehow, the standoff continues. The standoff worked to Iran’s advantage only insofar as the country speeded up its nuclear program ever since the series of United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions since 2006 began forbidding Iran from enriching uranium. Iran today has installed over 5,500 centrifuges and built up a stockpile exceeding 1,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium.

When the wastes of Qyzylqum and Karakum blossom in early spring, the enchanting sight can pain one’s heart. But the killer deserts are deceptive in appearance, especially Qyzylqum, which is in the tract of land between the two great rivers in Central Asia – the Amu Darya and Sirdarya.

In the spring of 1220, when Genghis Khan abruptly rode out of the Qyzylqum with a few hundred Mongol horsemen to take the Amir of Bukhara by surprise, the Amir never imagined that the desert would so easily concede safe passage to a Mongol stranger. Bukhara – one of the biggest cities at that time along with Cordoba, Cairo and Baghdad – paid heavily for the desert’s

treachery. Bukhara took over two centuries to recover from “God’s wrath”, which the austere Khan insisted he was administering to the slothful, opulent city for its sinful ways.

It is again early spring in the Central Asian steppes. There is a deceptive calm, but all signs are that the Great Game is bestirring from its slumber. The United States is focusing on the key Central Asian country of Kazakhstan, which straddles the Qyzylqum and the Karakum, to stage a strategic comeback in the region. Prospects are brighter than ever as Kazakhstan is edging closer to the chairmanship of the Organization of Security and Economic Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) next year. The OSCE leadership brings Kazakhstan into the forefront of the Western strategies in Eurasia – and out of Russian orbit.

The war in nearby Afghanistan provides the backdrop for the US’s proactive diplomacy. But that, too, is deceptive. It seems the US is also probing a solution to the Iran nuclear problem with Kazakhstan’s helping hand. The urgency is great and President Barack Obama has already hinted that he intends to pay a visit to Kazakhstan, the first ever to the steppes by an American president.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration is “carefully considering” the setting up of an international uranium fuel bank in Kazakhstan, which could form the exit strategy for the historic US-Iran standoff. That is why the visit by the Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to Astana, Kazakhstan, on Monday assumes exceptional importance.

In bits and pieces, a stray thought has been surfacing in the recent months in the US discourses over the situation surrounding Iran. It sought a rethink of Washington’s insistence on Iran jettisoning its pursuit of uranium enrichment as a pre-requisite of commencement of direct talks between the two countries. This was borne out of a growing realization that the US insistence was no longer tenable. A logjam has indeed developed as it became clearer by the day that within the fractious Iranian opinion there is virtual unanimity when it comes to the continuance of the country’s nuclear program, and effecting a regime change in Tehran didn’t necessarily alter Iran’s policies.

The Obama administration faces the reality that unless the impasse is broken somehow, the standoff continues. The standoff worked to Iran’s advantage only insofar as the country speeded up its nuclear program ever since the series of United Nations (UN) Security Council resolutions since 2006 began forbidding Iran from enriching uranium. Iran today has installed over 5,500 centrifuges and built up a stockpile exceeding 1,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium.

It now appears that the US might cede to Iran’s nuclear program. The Wall Street Journal reported last Friday that as part of a policy review commissioned by Obama, “diplomats are discussing whether the US will eventually have to accept Iran’s insistence on carrying out the [enrichment] process, which can produce both nuclear fuel and weapons-grade material”. The newspaper assessed that the Obama administration’s message to Tehran is increasingly shaping up as “Don’t develop a nuclear weapon” – a nuanced stance that would not rule out a deal accepting Iranian enrichment as such. It pointed out that Obama’s articulations on the subject have become much less specific than those of former president George W Bush, who never minced words in crying a halt to Iran’s enrichment.

The new thinking is that the priority should be to win greater access for UN inspectors to the Iranian nuclear establishments, as compared with the current limited inspection regime, which has led to diminishing information regarding Iran’s nuclear program. In other words, why not trust Iran to retain its enrichment activities so long as its program can be effectively verified.

In this scenario, it is significant that following talks with Ahmadinejad, Kazakhstan President Nurusultan Nazarbayev chose the venue of their joint press conference on Monday in Astana to make the public offer that his country is willing to host a global nuclear fuel bank as part of a US-backed plan to put all uranium enrichment under international control. “If such a nuclear fuel bank were to be created, Kazakhstan would be ready to consider hosting it on its territory as a signatory of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and as a country that voluntarily renounced nuclear weapons,” Nazarbayev said.

The veteran Kazakh statesman (who might have been the Soviet Union’s prime minister but for the superpower’s implosion in 1991) didn’t speak out of the blue. Such impetuousness is alien to his shrewd political temperament. He knew the time has come for his proposal to be publicly voiced. It is an idea that is evidently supported by Obama. It devolves upon the creation of a global repository that would allow countries to tap into Kazakhstan’s vast reserves of uranium to fuel their nuclear plants without having to develop their own enrichment capability. At any rate, Ahmadinejad also chose to publicly welcome the Kazakh proposal. “We [Iran] think that Nurusultan Nazarbayev’s idea to host a nuclear fuel bank is a very good proposal,” he noted.

These are, of course, early days. However, Iran used to maintain at one point that it would be open to the idea of stopping sensitive uranium enrichment if a supply of nuclear fuel from abroad could be guaranteed. In the face of the Bush administration’s mindless containment strategy, the Iranian stance hardened, especially as the nuclear file got transferred from the International Atomic Energy Agency to the UN Security Council, and the country began harping on its due rights to master the complete nuclear fuel cycle, including enriched uranium, for peaceful purposes.

Later on Monday in Astana, Ahmadinejad utilized yet another press conference to argue that he welcomed Nazarbayev’s proposal since “any country that has uranium mines and the capability to produce nuclear fuel can also establish a nuclear fuel bank”. He then went on to elaborate the Iranian response:

As regards the nuclear issue, two major developments are simultaneously needed. One is ending the assumption that nuclear energy is quite the same as nuclear bomb. And the other one is about disarmament by the nuclear powers in the world. This would ease [Iranian] concerns regarding these powers and also ease the global concerns. That is to say, the issue needs to be solved fundamentally … Ever since nuclear energy got equated with [the] nuclear bomb, a monopoly developed over nuclear energy, whereas nuclear energy has beneficial uses in medicine, agriculture and industry. I wouldn’t say that it was intentional to equate nuclear energy and nuclear bomb, but, considering the broadly negative fallouts of it, we cannot say that it has been totally unintentional, either.

Significantly, Ahmadinejad also utilized the second press meet to make some positive references to Obama’s recent overtures. “We hope Obama would manage to … establish friendly relations with other countries on equal terms. We welcome fundamental changes and are longing for them to happen … we are waiting for practical deeds and real changes … Currently, the statements are satisfactory … If fundamental changes [in US policy] occur, we ill definitely welcome them.”

What emerges is that Japan might also play a key role in the US-Kazakh nuclear paradigm and any resultant new opening with Iran. The news agency Agence France-Presse reported that senior Japanese diplomats with deep experience in dealing with Iran – Tatsuo Arima, special envoy on the Middle East, Toshiro Suzuki, head of the foreign ministry’s Middle East and Africa department, and Akio Shirota, Japanese ambassador in Tehran – have held several days of intensive consultations in Washington with the Obama administration, including with the National Security Council in the White House.

Curiously, Japan and Kazakhstan have an expanding cooperation program in the nuclear field. There is much complementarity between the two countries since Japan is the world’s third-largest importer of uranium, next only to the US and France, while Kazakhstan possesses the world’s second largest reserves of uranium after Australia. Japan currently imports only 1% of its uranium from Kazakhstan and hopes to increase it to 30-40% in the next decade or so.

As for Kazakhstan, at 1.5 million metric tons, it holds roughly 19% of the world’s total uranium deposits. More than half of the Kazakh deposits are also available for extraction by in-site leaching, which is a cheap and environmentally friendly method in comparison with extraction from open pits or deep shaft mines. Kazakhstan produced 6,637 metric tons in 2007 and 8,521 metric tons in 2008. The production is expected to jump to 11,900 tons in 2009.

Japanese companies like Marubeni have moved into Kazakh uranium mines. Within the framework of a series of cooperation agreements, Japan has agreed to provide technology assistance to Kazakhstan for processing uranium fuel and building light-water reactors. One key agreement in October 2007 enabled Kazatompom, a Kazakh state company, to acquire 10% of Westinghouse Electric from Japan’s Toshiba at a cost of $540 million.

All in all, therefore, Kazakhstan is gearing up as a leading player in the global uranium market while Japan is eager to secure a stable supply of uranium for its growing nuclear energy industry. Japan is a notoriously reticent partner in nuclear cooperation and the fashion in which it made an exception in the case of Kazakhstan is truly extraordinary. From the US perspective, Japan would be an ideal partner for fleshing out the idea of a nuclear fuel bank in Kazakhstan since it has an advanced nuclear fuel cycle industry. Japan’s Rokkasho reprocessing plant gives it a unique status as the first country to have such facility, though a non-nuclear weapon state. Japan is also committed to commercialize practical fast breeder reactor cycles. At the same time, Japan has been right in the vanguard of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

Washington would see that Japan fits well with Kazakhstan’s ambitious plans for developing nuclear energy, increasing uranium exports, and expanding nuclear fuel production and export. Besides, Tokyo always kept up cordial ties with Tehran through the 30-year period since the 1979 Iranian revolution.

More importantly, Japan rivals China in both the Central Asian and Middle Eastern regions. The rivalry provides Tokyo with just the right impetus to pay close attention to ties with Astana and Tehran, which are two key capitals in Beijing’s energy diplomacy.

But China won’t be alone in taking stock of any US-Japanese-Kazakh tie-up in the field of nuclear energy. Russia would be equally wary of the geopolitical implications of any expansion of US influence in Kazakhstan. Russian companies have been making robust efforts to gain control over Kazakhstan’s uranium mines. The Kremlin encouraged Astana to become a partner in setting up an international nuclear re-processing center in Siberia. Thus, Moscow would be displeased with any US-Japanese attempt to build up Kazakhstan as an international nuclear fuel bank.

In short, Iran’s support of the idea of setting up a nuclear fuel bank holds the potential to address the US-Iran nuclear standoff. On Thursday, the European Union’s foreign policy advisor Javier Solana invited Iran’s nuclear negotiators for talks. He wouldn’t have taken the initiative without synchronizing with the Obama administration. The big question is whether Washington will shed its reluctance to engage with Ahmadinejad, who is completing his term in office in June. The indications are that Obama might be inclined to directly engage, the impact on the presidential poll in Iran notwithstanding.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

(Copyright 2008 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd.

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"Cluster munitions always kill and maim civilians, during the fighting and long afterward," said Bonnie Docherty, researcher in the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch and author of the report. "A comprehensive prohibition is the only real solution. So-called responsible use of cluster munitions is a myth, and nations should resist efforts to weaken the ban."

ILLUSTRATION SHOWING cluster munitions being dropped from the air.
(DPA via Newscom).

In the aftermath of the Second Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah two summers ago, as in the more recent conflict between Russia and Georgia last summer, large numbers of cluster munitions were deployed and thousands of unexploded ordnance still remain scattered in civilian populated areas.

The loss of life and limbs, in many cases by children, only reinforces the importance – and the urgency – in banning cluster munitions.

The United States meanwhile remains opposed to the ban of cluster bombs. Timed to be released on the first day of this meeting, Human Rights Watch has made public an 80-page report titled “A Dying Practice: Use of Cluster Munitions by Russia and Georgia in August 2008.”

It is the first such comprehensive report on cluster munition usage in the Caucasus war.

A field investigation by Human Rights Watch in August, September, and October 2008 documented dozens of civilian deaths and injuries from the use of cluster munitions, including casualties after the fighting ended. Unexploded submunitions continue to threaten civilians.

And despite considerable material evidence of Russian cluster munitions use, Russia continues to deny every using them.

Human Rights Watch found that Russia violated international humanitarian law with indiscriminate and disproportionate cluster munitions attacks on populated areas in Georgia. It blanketed the town of Variani, for example, with cluster munitions over two days, causing 19 civilian casualties. Human Rights Watch identified Russian cluster munitions remnants in or near seven towns and villages.

The Georgian government acknowledged using cluster munitions, but claimed that it was aiming at invading Russian military forces and equipment in South Ossetia, in an otherwise unpopulated area.

“Cluster munitions always kill and maim civilians, during the fighting and long afterward,” said Bonnie Docherty, researcher in the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “A comprehensive prohibition is the only real solution. So-called responsible use of cluster munitions is a myth, and nations should resist efforts to weaken the ban.”

The new Convention on Cluster Munitions, which opened for signature in December 2008, categorically bans cluster munitions. It also requires nations to clear contaminated areas and to aid affected individuals and communities.

This is a great idea but hardly one that is likely to work. Does anybody really believe that Israel is likely to compensate the villagers of south Lebanon or the residents of Beirut’s southern suburbs, both Hezbollah strongholds, or for that matter that Russia will compensate the Georgians?

Human Rights Watch also documented casualties from Georgian cluster munitions in or near nine populated areas of Georgia south of the South Ossetian administrative border.

The United States is not the only major power to refuse to comply with the world-wide ban on cluster munitions. Along with the U.S. are China, Russia and Georgia – not particularly the best company to be associated with when one advocates the spread of democracy in the developing world.

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Sokolski told the Middle East Times "Iran could have a nuclear bomb as early as 50 to 60 days from now and as late as one year away."

Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility building is seen behind Imam Ali mosque on April 9, which marks Iran’s national nuclear technology day. The facility is just outside the city of Isfahan, 410 kilometers (255 miles) south of Tehran. (UPI Photo/Mohammad Kheirkhah via Newscom]
Call it the Iranian tango. For the United States, engaging Iran in politics is akin to executing a political tango, if such a beast exists; you take one step forward and two steps back, another step forward and then another two steps back.

No sooner had the U.S. administration of Barack Obama announced Wednesday that it will be taking part in talks with the Islamic Republic of Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany, to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, the very next day the Iranians announced they had reached the hallmark point of running 7,000 centrifuges, an important stepping stone on the way to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power.

Having crossed that hurdle, and with centrifuges churning away around the clock to upgrade uranium, which could relatively quickly be turned into weapons-grade uranium, one U.S. expert in nuclear energy and weaponry estimates Iran could have a working bomb within 50 to 60 days.

The word to underline here is “could.”

As explains Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC), a Washington-based nonprofit organization, it does not necessarily mean they will have enough weapons-grade uranium within that time frame. That day could be as far away as 12 months.

Sokolski told the Middle East Times “Iran could have a nuclear bomb as early as 50 to 60 days from now and as late as one year away.”

However, cautioned Sokolski, who served as deputy for Nonproliferation Policy in the Office of the secretary of defense under then-Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz from 1989 to 1993, this would be realistic only if Iran were capably of keeping all 7,000 machines going 24 hours a day and 7 days a week with absolutely no stoppage, that they have lined up all 7,000 units, that all work perfectly well and that there is no breakdown or interruption.

That most likely not being the case, Sokolski added, “I would suggest that the amount of time it takes to make a bomb could be less than a year.” Sokolski estimates that Iran could produce about 60 bombs in the first 12 to 18 months of operations.

However, no one knows for sure if the Iranians have a device needed to deliver that bomb. Jennifer Lazlo-Mizrahi from The Israel Project told the Middle East Times, “We don’t know what we don’t know.”

And although it would be suicidal for Iran to deploy nuclear weapons given that the retaliation would be immediate and ruthless, Lazlo-Mizrahi says “when people who dream of martyrdom and send 12-year-olds to clear mine fields [as the Iranians did during the Iraq-Iran war], you simply have to conclude that these people don’t think like the rest of us.”

“All this is another way of saying if you want a sound policy with Iran you have to assume they have a bomb,” added Sokolski. “This is something you can’t discount.”

Ahmadinejad said Iran must continue its nuclear development to increase its status among nations, and he criticized the United States and other “enemies” for trying to restrict its progress. Iran will not stand down, he said.

In a statement carried by the official IRNA news agency, Ahmadinejad said Iran was “ready to cooperate” toward nuclear disarmament as long as those efforts did not create obstacles.

Based on the amount of low-enriched uranium Iran has stockpiled, and the amount it is believed to be producing each month, the Wisconsin Project estimates that by December 2008, Iran had accumulated enough U-235 to fuel one bomb quickly. “Quickly,” in this context, means two to three months; about the time it would take Iran to raise the level of U-235 in its uranium stockpile from 3.5 percent to over 90 percent.

The Wisconsin Project was established in 1986 by now-Emeritus Professor Gary Milhollin as a non-profit, non-partisan organization that operates in Washington, D.C. under the auspices of the University of Wisconsin. The organization’s work is guided by the idea that the best way to stop the proliferation of mass destruction weapons is to do so at the source: to cut off the supply of material, equipment and technology needed to make these weapons.

But an official at the International Atomic Energy Agency cautioned about drawing such conclusions. The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium would have to be turned into highly enriched uranium to be weapons-grade material.