Monthly Archives: September 2009

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He did not repeat his earlier calls for the creation of a United States of Africa or the "abolition" of Switzerland – as he claims most of that country’s banks are "safe havens" for ill-gotten gains.

NEW YORK – Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s maiden address to the United Nations
General Assembly on Wednesday was in some ways predictable, but only in that it
was long on rhetoric and short on substance.



In a rambling statement, the loquacious Gaddafi thrashed the big powers for
their veto powers, rebuked the United States for its military involvement in
Iraq and Afghanistan, and reiterated his call for the 53-member African Union
(AU) to be given a veto-wielding permanent seat on the Security Council.



At the AU election last February, the flamboyant Gaddafi, 67, was hailed as the
“king of kings” – an honor he readily accepted, perhaps as his political
birthright.



Long reputed for his eccentricity, on Wednesday Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya since 1967, wore a shiny black pin in the shape of Africa
pinned on his chest, and his trademark brown and tan Bedouin robes.



He did not repeat his earlier calls for the creation of a United States of
Africa or the “abolition” of Switzerland – as he claims most of that country’s
banks are “safe havens” for ill-gotten gains.



But he did catalogue a list of “injustices” committed, mostly by Western powers
accused of “looting” the economic resources of countries they occupied as
one-time colonial powers.



In his early remarks, Gaddafi suggested the H1N1 flu or swine flu virus was
created in a US military laboratory, though he later claimed it was
the
creation
of
pharmaceutical companies. “What’s next? Fish flu?” he asked
rhetorically.





He asserted that al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden, who is described as a mastermind
of the terrorist attacks on

the United

States
in 2001, is “not a Taliban nor an
Afghan”.



“So why invade Afghanistan?” asked Gaddafi, who recently celebrated the 40th
anniversary of a bloodless military coup that brought him to power in Libya.



The terrorists responsible for the attacks were also not Iraqis. “So why invade
Iraq?,” he asked. “We should leave Iraq for the Iraqis and Afghanistan for
Afghans,” he said, pointing out that civil wars were best left to combatants on
the ground in native soil.



There was no “outside interference”, he said, during civil wars in
the United


States
, Spain or China.



Known for pitching a large Bedouin tent on his trips abroad, Gaddafi this time
pitched it on famous US entrepreneur Donald Trump’s 86-hectare estate in
Bedford, a town about 50 kilometers north of New York, after New York police
turned down his request to erect it in Central Park.



In his speech, Gaddafi chastised the United Nations for failing to intervene or
prevent some 65 wars around the world since the world body was founded in 1945.
He called for reform of the UN Security Council – abolishing the veto power of
the five permanent members – or expanding the body with additional member

states
to make it more representative.



“Sixty-five aggressive wars took place without any collective action by the UN
to prevent them … It should not be called the
Security Council
, it should be
called the ‘terror council’, he said.



The veto-wielding
Security Council
members –

the United

States
, Britain, China,
France and Russia – treat smaller countries as “second class, despised”
nations, Gaddafi said in his 90-minute speech.



Although one of the most long-winded in recent memory, Gaddafi’s statement will
not find its way into the UN record books. The two record holders for sheer
verbosity are Krishna Menon of India, who addressed the
Security Council
for
eight hours on Kashmir in January 1957, and Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who held
forth for four hours and 29 minutes before the General Assembly in September
1960.



Gaddafi’s statement, sometimes incoherent and most times disjointed, covered
events going back decades: colonialism, the assassination of former US
president John F Kennedy and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, the US
invasion of Grenada and Panama, the Vietnam and Korean wars, and the hanging of
former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.



He also showed his disdain for his pet peeves: international sanctions (which
his country was subject to) and sodomy.



“It was vintage Gaddafi,” said an Arab diplomat speaking on condition of
anonymity. “I don’t think he missed anything of political significance that
happened over the last four decades since he came to power.”



Waving the UN charter from the podium of the General Assembly, Gaddafi detailed
a laundry list of “violations” that had taken place in recent years, implicitly
arguing that the charter was not worth the paper on which it was printed.



In contrast to Gaddafi’s meandering speech, most other world leaders were
focused in their addresses to the assembly on Wednesday, the opening day of the
64th session.



Chinese President Hu Jintao said the international community should adhere to
the purposes and principles of the UN charter and seek peaceful solutions to
regional hotspot issues and international disputes.



“There should be no willful use or threat of force. We should support
the
United
Nations in continuing to play an important role in the field of
international security.”



South African President Jacob Zuma stressed the “devastating impact” of climate
change on Africa. “It will severely undermine development and poverty
eradication efforts,” he told the assembly.



“Developed countries bear the greatest responsibility for climate change and
impact. We must therefore strike a balance between adaptation and mitigation,”
he added.



Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the world was witnessing growing
nationalist moods, numerous manifestations of religious intolerance and
animosity.



He said it would be extremely useful to create a high-level group on
inter-religious dialogue under the auspices of the UN Educational, Scientific
and Cultural Organization. “This is especially relevant on the eve of 2010,
declared by
the United
Nations as the Year for Rapprochement of Cultures,”
Medvedev said.



(Inter Press Service)

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Beaming with pride, he warmly received dignitaries including heads of state, global business leaders, Nobel laureates and some of the world’s most celebrated academics; he waved cheerily as he walked through the inaugural exhibit area with his guests and proceeded to the auditorium; and he smiled with pride as he sat through a glorious presentation titled “Journey of Knowledge” that showcased how Thuwal was transformed from a sleepy fishing town to the home of a world-renowned university, and applauded as a disparate group of boys and girls representing 50 countries, who have sent their students to KAUST, trooped down the stage, waving their native flags.


King
Abdullah inaugurates KAUST by pressing his hand on a touchscreen as Ali
Al-Naimi, Khalid Al-Falih, and Nadhmi Al-Nasr, look on. (SPA)
 

THUWAL,
Jeddah: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah was a picture
of contentment as he unveiled King Abdullah University of Science and
Technology (KAUST) to the world at a glittering inauguration ceremony
in Thuwal on Wednesday evening. The ceremony, which took place in a
high-tech auditorium, marked the fruition of a dream that was living in
his heart for 25 years.

Beaming with pride, he warmly received
dignitaries including heads of state, global business leaders, Nobel
laureates and some of the world’s most celebrated academics; he waved
cheerily as he walked through the inaugural exhibit area with his
guests and proceeded to the auditorium; and he smiled with pride as he
sat through a glorious presentation titled “Journey of Knowledge” that
showcased how Thuwal was transformed from a sleepy fishing town to the
home of a world-renowned university, and applauded as a disparate group
of boys and girls representing 50 countries, who have sent their
students to KAUST, trooped down the stage, waving their native flags.

The
king heard with rapt attention speeches delivered by Ali Al-Naimi,
minister of petroleum and mineral resources and chairman of the KAUST
Board of Trustees, Khaled Al-Anqari, minister of higher education, and
Professor Choon Fong Shih, KAUST president.

In his succinct
keynote address, King Abdullah said the 21st century SR10 billion
university promises to usher in another age of Arab scientific inquiry.
He said he was happy that his dream has been realized and thanked Saudi
Aramco and its team for playing a stellar role in making it all happen
in record time.

The king went on to declare that the institution
will not just be a new “House of Wisdom.” It will be a “beacon of
tolerance” in a world attacked by extremists, the king said, spelling
out his larger vision.

“Humanity has been the target of vicious
attacks from extremists, who speak the language of hatred,” King
Abdullah said. “Undoubtedly, scientific centers that embrace all
peoples are the first line of defense against extremists. And today,
this university will become a ‘House of Wisdom’ … a beacon of
tolerance.” A speech that drew thunderous applause.

The king went
on to recall the Islamic civilization’s enormous role in serving
humanity. “After God, the great Islamic scholars have contributed to
many areas of scholarship, such as the role played by Ibn Al-Nafees in
medicine, the impact Jabir ibn Hayyan had on chemistry, and
Al-Khawarizmi’s pivotal role in algebra. Similarly, the study of
sociology benefited immensely from the genius of Ibn Khaldun,” he said.

The
king added that KAUST did not emerge from nowhere. “It is a
continuation of what distinguished our civilization in its Golden Age.
This is, first of all, what the university stands for. Throughout
history, power has attached itself, after God, to science. And the
Islamic nation knows too well that it will not be powerful unless it
depends on, after God, science. For science and faith cannot compete
except in unhealthy souls. And God has graced us with our minds, which
we use to understand and recognize God’s laws of nature. For He, the
Almighty, said, ‘Of his faithful, God is feared by scientists.’”

After
delivering his speech, King Abdullah formally inaugurated KAUST by
pressing his hand on a touchscreen as a group of students from King
Abdul Aziz and His Companions Foundation for the Gifted looked on. A
dazzling display of fireworks that lit up the Thuwal skies followed.
Amid much bonhomie and a festive spirit, the nearly 3,000 guests went
on to celebrate the historic event late into the night.

World
leaders who attended the inauguration were: King Hamad bin Isa
Al-Khalifa of Bahrain, King Abdallah of Jordan, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed
Al-Sabah, the emir of Kuwait, King Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin of
Malaysia, President Zillur Rahman of Bangladesh, President Ismail Omar
Guelleh of Djibouti, President Mohamed Ould Abdul Aziz of Mauritania,
President Umaru Yar’Adua of Nigeria, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
of the Philippines, President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed of Somalia, President
Omar Bashir of Sudan, President Abdullah Gul of Turkey, President Ali
Abdullah Saleh of Yemen, and President Bashar Assad of Syria. Lebanon,
Britain, the US, Oman, the UAE, Pakistan, Algeria, Russia, India and
France sent their high-level representatives.

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Welcome to 21st century America, where globalism has replaced patriotism as the civil religion of our corporate elites. As Thomas Jefferson reminded us, "Merchants have no country."

Down at the Chinese outlet store in Albany known as Wal-Mart,
Chinese tires have so successfully undercut U.S.-made tires that the
Cooper Tire factory in that south Georgia town had to shut down.

Twenty-one hundred Georgians lost their jobs.

The tale of Cooper Tire and what it portends is told in last week’s Washington Post by Peter Whoriskey.

How could tires made on the other side of the world, then shipped to Albany, be sold for less than tires made in Albany?

Here’s how.

At Cooper Tire, the wages were $18 to $21 per hour. In China,
they are a fraction of that. The Albany factory is subject to U.S.
health-and-safety, wage-and-hour and civil rights laws from which
Chinese plants are exempt. Environmental standards had to be met at
Cooper Tire or the plant would have been closed. Chinese factories are
notorious polluters.


Want to show love of country by how you spend your money? Don’t miss
Roger Simmermaker’s “How Americans Can Buy American: The Power of
Consumer Patriotism”

China won the competition because the 14th Amendment’s “equal
protection of the laws” does not apply to the People’s Republic. While
free trade laws grant China free and equal access to the U.S. market,
China can pay workers wages and force them to work hours that would
violate U.S. law, and China can operate plants whose health, safety and
environmental standards would have their U.S. competitors shut down as
public nuisances.

Beijing also manipulates its currency to keep export prices
low and grants a rebate on its value-added tax on exports to the
U.S.A., while imposing a value-added tax on goods coming from the
U.S.A.

Thus did China, from 2004 to 2008, triple her share of the
U.S. tire market from 5 percent to 17 percent and take down Cooper Tire
of Albany.

But not to worry. Cooper Tire has seen the light and is now
opening and acquiring plants in China, and sending Albany workers over
to train the Chinese who took their jobs.

Welcome to 21st century America, where globalism has replaced
patriotism as the civil religion of our corporate elites. As Thomas
Jefferson reminded us, “Merchants have no country.”

What has this meant to the republic that was once the most self-sufficient and independent in all of history?

Since 2001, when George Bush took the oath, the United States
has run $3.8 trillion in trade deficits in manufactured goods, more
than twice the $1.68 trillion in trade deficits we ran for imported oil
and gas.

Our trade deficit with China in manufactured goods alone,
$1.58 trillion over those eight years, roughly equals the entire U.S.
trade deficit for oil and gas.

U.S. politicians never cease to wail of the need for “energy
independence.” But why is our dependence on the oil of Saudi Arabia,
the Gulf, Nigeria, Canada, Mexico and Venezuela a greater concern than
our dependence on a non-democratic rival great power for computers and
vital components of our weapons systems and high-tech industries?

As Executive Director Auggie Tantillo of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Committee compellingly argues:

“Running a trade deficit for natural resources that the United
States lacks is something that cannot be helped, but running a massive
deficit in manmade products that America easily could produce itself is
a choice – a poor choice that is bankrupting the country and
responsible for the loss of millions of jobs.”

How many millions of jobs?

In the George W. Bush years, we lost 5.3 million manufacturing jobs, one-fourth to one-third of all we had in 2001.

And our dependence on China is growing.

Where Beijing was responsible for 60 percent of the U.S. trade
deficit in manufactured goods in 2008, in the first six months of 2009,
China accounted for 79 percent of our trade deficit in manufactured
goods.

How can we end this dependency and begin building factories
and creating jobs here, rather than deepening our dependency on a China
that seeks to take our place in the sun? The same way Alexander
Hamilton did, when we Americans produced almost nothing and were even
more dependent on Great Britain than we are on China today.

Let us do unto our trading partners as they have done unto us.

As they rebate value-added taxes on exports to us, and impose a
value-added tax on our exports to them, let us reciprocate. Impose a
border tax equal to a VAT on all their goods entering the United
States, and use the hundreds of billions to cut corporate taxes on all
manufacturing done here in the United States.

Where they have tilted the playing field against us, let us
tilt it back again. Transnational companies are as amoral as sharks.
What is needed is simply to cut their profits from moving factories and
jobs abroad and increase their profits for bringing them back to the
USA.

It’s not rocket science. Hamilton, James Madison and Abraham
Lincoln all did it. Obama’s tariffs on Chinese tires are a good start.

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The idea, mentioned in hawkish quarters, of having the Sixth Fleet take over the vacated naval base at Sevastopol would be as rash and provocative an act as having Chinese warships move into Guantanamo, were Havana to expel the United States.



In August, the Georgian navy seized a Turkish tanker carrying fuel
to Abkhazia, Georgia’s former province whose declaration of
independence a year ago is recognized by Russia but not the West.

The Turkish captain was sentenced to 24 years. When Ankara
protested, he was released. Abkhazia has now threatened to sink any
Georgian ship interfering in its “territorial waters,” but it has no
navy.

Russia, however, has a Black Sea Fleet and a treaty of
friendship with Abkhazia, and has notified Tbilisi that the Russian
coast guard will assure, peacefully, the sea commerce of Abkhazia.

Not backing down, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili – who
launched and lost a war for South Ossetia in 48 hours in August 2008 –
has declared the blockade of Abkhazia, which he claims as Georgian
national territory, will remain in force. And he has just appointed as
defense minister a 29-year-old ex-penitentiary boss with a questionable
record on human rights who wants to tighten ties to NATO.

We have here the makings of a naval clash that Georgia, given
Russian air, naval and land forces in the eastern Black Sea, will lose.

What is Saakashvili up to? He seems intent on provoking a new
crisis to force NATO to stand with him and bring the United States in
on his side – against Russia. Ultimate goal: Return the issue of his
lost provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia back onto the world’s
front burner.

While such a crisis may be in the interests of Saakashvili and
his Russophobic U.S neoconservative retainers, it is the furthest thing
from U.S. national interests. President Obama should have Joe Biden,
Saakashvili’s pal, phone him up and instruct him thus:

“Mikheil, if you interfere with the sea commerce of Abkhazia,
and provoke Russia into a Black Sea war, you fight it yourself. The
Sixth Fleet is not going to steam into the Black Sea and pull your
chestnuts out of the fire, old buddy. It will be your war, not ours.”

Nor is the Abkhazian crisis the only one brewing in the Black Sea.

Last month, Russian naval troops blocked Ukrainian bailiffs from
seizing navigational equipment from a lighthouse outside Sevastopol,
the Crimean base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet for two centuries.

The Sevastopol lease, however, runs out in 2017. And Kiev has
informed Moscow there will be no renewal. Russia’s fleet will have to
vacate Sevastopol and the Crimea, which belonged to Russia before
Nikita Khrushchev ceded the entire peninsula to Ukraine in 1954 in a
“brotherly gesture” while Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union.

Russia also bears a deep animus toward Ukrainian President
Victor Yushchenko, for trying to bring his country into NATO.
Yushchenko, whose approval rating is in single digits, has been seen,
ever since the U.S.-backed Orange Revolution of 2004 that brought him
to power, as America’s man in Kiev.

Moreover, as religious, cultural, ethnic and historic ties
between Kiev and Moscow go back centuries, Russians remain unreconciled
to the loss of what they regard as the cradle of their country.

What is America’s vital interest in all these quarrels? Zero.

The idea, mentioned in hawkish quarters, of having the Sixth
Fleet take over the vacated naval base at Sevastopol would be as rash
and provocative an act as having Chinese warships move into Guantanamo,
were Havana to expel the United States.

But that is unlikely to happen. For Obama appears to be
rolling back the George W. Bush policy of expanding NATO into former
republics of the Soviet Union.

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are already members, and Bush
and John McCain were anxious to bring in Ukraine and Georgia. But, as
Bush’s inaction during the Russia-Georgia war revealed, America is not
going to fight Russia over who controls Abkhazia, North or South
Ossetia, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Chechnya or Georgia. All are beyond any
vital interest or legitimate sphere of influence of the United States.

With his cancellation of the U.S. missile shield in Poland and
the Czech Republic – a shield designed to defend against a nonexistent
Iranian ICBM – Obama sent two message to Moscow.

First, Obama believes entente with Russia is a surer guarantee
of the peace and security of Eastern Europe than any U.S. weapons
system. Second, Obama puts Washington-Moscow ties before any U.S.
military ties to NATO allies in Eastern Europe.

Which means NATO is approaching an existential crisis.

Almost all NATO troops, except U.S., are gone from Iraq, and the
alliance’s minimal commitment to Afghanistan is ending with no victory
in sight. NATO’s expansion eastward has come to a halt. Ukraine and
Georgia are not coming in. And the United States is not going to place
troops, warships or missiles any closer than they are now to Russia’s
frontiers.

“NATO must go out of area, or go out of business,” said Sen.
Richard Lugar at the Cold War’s end. NATO went out of area, and is
coming back with its tail between its legs. The alternative arises.



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"We should engage Russia and listen to Russian positions," he said. He underscored the need for an "open and frank conversation [with Moscow] that creates a new atmosphere" that would lead to a "true strategic partnership" in which the alliance and Russia collaborated on issues such as Afghanistan, terrorism and piracy.

With his eight-month presidency seemingly weakening, United States President
Barack Obama struck. A familiar pattern in his political career is repeating.
His decision on Thursday to scrap the plans of his predecessor George W Bush to
build a land-based anti-missile shield in the heart of Europe overlooking
Russia’s western borders may appear justifiable, but is nonetheless a stunning
national security reversal.



It was to be a missile defense system of unproven technology, paid for with
money that America could ill-afford to waste, and conceived against a threat
that probably doesn’t exist. Still, missile defense is a Republican obsession
that goes back to Ronald Reagan and the “Star Wars” system. The Republicans
shall not flag or fail and they shall go on to the end. They shall fight on the
seas and oceans, in the air, on the beaches and landing grounds, in the fields
and in the streets, in the hills, and they shall not surrender. They shall attack Obama for blinking in the face of

Russian
blackmail.



Obama has opened another front just when his healthcare plan is on the frying
pan and he is barely coping with the war in Afghanistan. Maybe he can make
financial and diplomatic capital out of dropping the
missile defense plan. The
anti-missile shield needed to be developed at enormous cost and he can use the
savings elsewhere. The plan was a bone of contention with Russia and he can now
advance nuclear arms-reduction talks with Moscow and even count on the Kremlin
not to cast a veto in the United Nations
Security Council on a new round of

sanctions
against Iran.



Not only Central Europe and Ukraine and Georgia but also Iran will huddle in
heightened anxiety to ponder the implications of what Obama has done. His
decision rests on the argument that the threat posed by Iran is currently in
the nature of short- and intermediate-range missiles that is best countered
through a reconfigured system of smaller SM-3 missiles based on proven and
cost-effective technologies that can be deployed using the sea-based Aegis
system as early as 2011.



The revised approach envisages that as technologies evolve, the future threats
can be met in a phased manner, while the US currently counters any threat much
sooner than the previous program.



Significantly, Obama concluded with an offer to Moscow. “Now this approach is
also consistent with NATO’s [North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s]
missile
defense
efforts and provides opportunities for enhanced international
collaboration going forward,” he said. The announcement comes hardly a week
before Obama’s scheduled “private” meeting with his Russian counterpart Dmitry
Medvedev in New York on the sidelines of

the United
Nations General Assembly
session.



Equally, on the eve of Obama’s announcement, new NATO secretary general Anders
Fogh Rasmussen called for an “open-minded and unprecedented dialogue” with
Russia to reduce security tensions in Europe and to confront common threats. He
revealed that NATO officials would travel to Moscow to hear the Kremlin’s views
on how NATO should develop strategically in the long term.



“We should engage Russia and listen to
Russian
positions,” he said. He
underscored the need for an “open and frank conversation [with Moscow] that
creates a new atmosphere” that would lead to a “true strategic partnership” in
which the alliance and Russia collaborated on issues such as Afghanistan,
terrorism and piracy.



Rasmussen concluded, “Russia should realize that NATO is here and that NATO is
a framework for our trans-Atlantic relationship. But we should also take into
account that Russia has legitimate security concerns.” He offered that NATO was
prepared to discuss Medvedev’s proposal for a new security architecture in
Europe. Rasmussen had just visited Washington.



The
Russian
Foreign Ministry lost no time in responding to Obama’s announcement
on

missile defense
. “Such a development would be in line with the interests of
our relations with

the United
States,” a spokesman said. He subsequently
refuted suggestions of any
quid pro quo behind the US decision. He said
any sort of grand bargain with the US was “not consistent with our [
Russian
]
policy nor our approach to solving problems with any nations, no matter how
sensitive or complex they are”.



However, the fact remains that Obama’s decision, while significantly boosting
US relations with Russia, also puts pressure on the Kremlin. The “Iran Six”
process [1] over Iran’s nuclear program enters a new phase on October 1. The
big question is whether Moscow would actually veto a UN
Security Council

resolution if push came to shove. The crunch comes just a week after the
Obama-Medvedev meet when the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
William Burns comes face-to-face with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed
Jalili.



True, the last exposition of the
Russian
position given by Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov a week ago was unequivocal. He made it clear Moscow wouldn’t
block any new rounds of tough
sanctions against Iran and he dismissed a US
timetable for securing progress from Iran as regards ending its
uranium-enrichment program.



Lavrov said, “I do not think these
sanctions
will be approved by

the United

Nations

Security Council
… They [Iran] need an equal place in this regional
dialogue. Iran is a partner that has never harmed Russia in any way.” Lavrov
added that even an expected US move to drop plans to station a missile-defense
system in Eastern Europe wouldn’t be seen as a concession to Russia, as,
according to him, such a move would merely correct a previous US mistake.



But then, a week is a long time in politics. Four days after Lavrov spoke – and
two days before Obama spoke – Medvedev said. “
Sanctions
are not very effective
on the whole, but sometimes you have to embark on
sanctions
and it is the right
thing to do.” The West’s Russia hands promptly perceived a “subtle shift” in
the Kremlin’s position, whereas the US-Russia differences over Iran are far too
deep and fundamental to be easily sidestepped.



Obama’s decision will stimulate thinking in the multipolar world within the
Kremlin. As a top scholar on NATO at the
Russian
Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic
Academy, Vladimir Shtol, pointed out gently, any US rethink of the

missile
defense
system would probably be the result of economic pressures connected
with the global crisis, and not a political deal with Russia. “I don’t believe
the US would ever fully back out of the missile shield, because it is in their
long-term interests and closely connected with their strategy in Europe,” Shtol
said.



The realists in Moscow will note that even as Obama spoke in Washington, Dennis
Blair, America’s intelligence boss, was releasing the latest National
Intelligence Strategy report of the US, which is compiled every four years. The
report specifically warned that Russia “may continue to seek avenues for
reasserting power and influence that complicates US interests”.



On Tuesday, Russia signed defense agreements with Georgia’s breakaway regions
of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, allowing Moscow to maintain military bases there
for the next half-century. The
Russian
military headquarters in Abkhazia will
be in the Black Sea port of Gudauta, which ensures that even if the pro-US
regime in Kiev forces the closure of Sevastopol, Moscow will thwart US attempts
to turn the Black Sea into a “NATO lake”.



Put in perspective, therefore, Moscow will carefully weigh Obama’s “overture”.
The litmus test will be the US’s willingness to abandon NATO expansion. The
eastern European countries’ integration into Western Euro-Atlantic structures
was contrary to the understanding held out to former
Russian
president Mikhail
Gorbachev. Again, Russia is not
the Soviet Union, but cold warriors cannot
grasp this. Moscow’s concept of national sovereignty and its claims of special
interests in the post-Soviet space provoke negative feelings in the West.



Moscow sees no reason to settle for the role of a junior partner when it
estimates that the US is a declining power and the locus of world politics is
shifting eastward. Besides, Washington pursues a policy of “selective
engagement, selective containment”. Over Afghanistan or Iran, Washington needs

Russian
support, while the problem of the post-Soviet space remains acute and
Russia feels excluded from the Euro-Atlantic security arrangements pending,
while a “demilitarization” of relations between Russia and the West remains
elusive.



The smart thing for Obama will be to cast his decision on missile defense
within a working format of “resetting” ties with Russia rather than as a move
that deserves a quid pro quo over Iran. Moscow will only assess Obama’s
decision as a pragmatic step necessitated by the US’s economic crisis.
Meanwhile, Russia will cooperate on fresh START (Strategic Arms Reduction
Treaty) talks or help out the US in Afghanistan, which is in its interests too.


Notes:

1. The “Iran Six” nations are the permanent members of the UN Security Council
– the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China – plus Germany.


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 2009 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd.

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Since the late 1980s Saudi Arabia has been self-sufficient in wheat, even a major exporter for a short while.

Research and Markets: The Saudi Agribusiness Report for Q409 Analyses Industry Fundamentals As Local Producers Increasingly Invest In Overseas Farmland to Boost the Outlook

Fri Sep 18, 2009 12:32pm ED

DUBLIN--(Business Wire)--
Research and Markets(http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/57baca/saudi_arabia_agrib) has announced the addition of the "Saudi Arabia Agribusiness Report Q4 2009" report to their offering. The Saudi Arabia Agribusiness service provides proprietary medium term price forecasts for key commodities, including corn, wheat, rice, sugar, cocoa, coffee, soy and milk; in addition to newly-researched competitive intelligence on leading agribusiness producers, traders and suppliers; in-depth analysis of latest industry developments; and essential industry context on Saudi Arabia's agribusiness service. Despite its placing among the highest GDP per capita nations in the world, Saudi Arabia's domestic food security shows little sign of improving. Import dependent in almost all major consumed food groups, diminishing water resources coupled with steady population growth is heaping pressure on both the public and private sectors to feed the population. The Saudi Agribusiness Report for Q409 analyses industry fundamentals as local producers increasingly invest in overseas farmland to boost the outlook. Since the late 1980s Saudi Arabia has been self-sufficient in wheat, even a major exporter for a short while. However, such success was predicated on robust government support, including subsidies and tax breaks, while domestic water supplies used to facilitate the irrigation-heavy activity competed with household water consumption. Since the turn of the century, production has continued to wane, while demand has increased - from both households and from the domestic poultry industry. As grain prices surged in 2007 and 2008, against volatile oil prices, the inefficiency of the support system has been exposed and magnified, subsequently resulting in a decision by the Saudi government to slowly phase out the subsidies, thus ceasing entire domestic wheat production by 2016. This heaps considerably more pressure on the government to devise strategies to somehow lessen the costs of securing the grain Domestic agribusiness firms have been keen to exercise their financial might, contributing to solid growth, particularly in supply side investments. The dairy processing industry, already commercially and technically well developed has given rise to a number of key players seeking to expand domestically, as well as making their presence felt throughout the wider Gulf and Middle East region. Chief among these is Almarai, Saudi Arabia's leading dairy company by market size. Almarai controls every aspect of its value chain from the farm right through to downstream retail marketing and has been actively ramped up its expansionist aims through a series of acquisitions since 2008. Saudi Savola Group, a primarily industrial firm but also with sizeable shares of the grain, edible oil, sugar and processed food markets, has said that it plans to spend at least US$100mn in order to secure minority shares in agribusinesses in high potential emerging markets, including Egypt, Sudan and the Ukraine. The government has lent its full support to these intentions Compared to African, Asian and Latin America import dependent countries, there has been no discernible social unrest from the rising Saudi food shipment bill, mainly because of the kingdom's stable GDP position. However, continually spiraling prices of consumption staples are particularly undesirable, regardless of income levels, and this could ultimately prove to undermine the popularity of King Abdullah's regime. Of the goods covered in our outlook, sugar, milk and poultry are expected to post decent output growth through to 2013, as an increased level of investment reaps dividends. Corn and barley output will also swell, although from insignificant base positions, such growth will hardly make a dent in the domestic food supply. Consumption growth is expected across the board, outweighing supply growth in nearly every category and underpinning our assertion that ensuring food security will become an increasingly vital goal for the kingdom. Key Topics Covered: * Executive Summary * SWOT Analysis * Industry Business Environment Overview * Supply Demand Analysis. * Saudi Arabia Grains And Rice Outlook. * Competitive Landscape * Commodity Price Analysis * Softs Update * Downstream Supply Chain Analysis * Industry Forecast Scenario - Food For more information visit http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/57baca/saudi_arabia_agrib Research and Markets Laura Wood, Senior Manager, press@researchandmarkets.com U.S. Fax: 646-607-1907 Fax (outside U.S.): +353-1-481-1716 Copyright Business Wire 2009

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Asiri called the prince to say that he and some of his colleagues wanted to turn themselves in, as the prince is well-known for his support of efforts to rehabilitate former jihadis.

 

King Abdullah (L) with Prince Muhammad bin Nayif (above) and would-be suicide bomber Abdullah Hassan Tali Asiri (below)

Al-Qaeda’s recent attempt on the life of a Saudi royal suggests a change in tactics for an organization which has suffered substantial losses in the past few years. 23-year-old Abdullah Hassan Tali Asiri, a would-be suicide bomber listed on Saudi security’s list of most-wanted jihadis, called his target, Prince Muhammad bin Nayif, beforehand to say he wanted to return from Yemen to surrender (Saudi Press Agency, August 31). Bin Nayif is the Deputy Minister of the Interior for Security Affairs and has been in charge of the Saudi counterterrorism campaign since clashes between authorities and Saudi jihadis began in 2003.

Asiri called the prince to say that he and some of his colleagues wanted to turn themselves in, as the prince is well-known for his support of efforts to rehabilitate former jihadis. Bin Nayif has previously coordinated with influential Saudi shaykhs, such as Safar al-Hawali, who helped arrange the surrender of a number of wanted Saudi jihadis.

Asiri is believed to have been recruited to al-Qaeda by his brother Ibrahim, who is known by the alias “Abu Saleh” and also appears on the most wanted list (Saudi Gazette, August 31). In the evening of August 27, Asiri detonated his explosives moments after he reached the prince’s residence, where the prince was receiving guests at the end of the daily fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan (a Saudi custom). Asiri was killed by the bomb but bin Nayef, sitting just a meter away, suffered only superficial injury. Al-Qaeda Organization in the Arabian Peninsula issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack (al-Fajr Media Center, August 29). Saudi and other Arab media questioned how the assassin, who was supposedly searched four times before the detonation, managed to carry out the attack. Bin Nayif, who is known to have welcomed penitent militants into his home before, reportedly said afterwards that he had ordered his men not to search his would-be assassin in the belief that humaneness and magnanimity were key in reforming ex-terrorists (Al-Quds al-Arabi, September 2; Al-Sharq al-Awsat, August 31).

Asiri’s attack was significant for three reasons:

• It is the first known assassination attempt against a member of the royal family by Salafi-Jihadis

• It indicates the reactivation of al-Qaeda after two or three years of retreat since Saudi security cracked down on them.

• It indicates the increasing role of Yemen as a launch pad for attacks by jihadis against Saudi Arabia.

The attack suggested al-Qaeda may have re-examined the tactical work of Faris Ahmad Jamaan al-Shuwayl al-Zahrani (a.k.a. Abu Jandal al-Azdi), a Salafi-Jihadi ideologist who is currently imprisoned. Before his arrest in August 2004, al-Zahrani wrote a book entitled Tahrid al-Mujahideen al-Abtal A’al Ihiya’a Sunnat al-Ightyal (Inciting the Heroic Mujahideen to Revive the Practice of Assassination). [1] In his book al-Zahrani presents the jihadist understanding of the importance of assassination as a tactic, giving its definition, providing various means and methods, with the whole illustrated by accounts of the 1981 assassination of Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat, the 2001 assassination of Afghan mujahideen leader Ahmad Shah Masud and many others. More significantly, al-Zahrani provides a discussion of the legitimacy and feasibility of using such tactics. Al-Zahrani lists those who should be targeted by the tactic; in addition to diplomats, military officers and security agents of foreign enemy countries, he urged jihadis to target the security and military apparatus of those Muslim countries where the government was regarded by Salafi-Jihadis as “tyrants” or “apostates.”


The incident, in light of the existence of such a theoretical rooting in al-Qaeda’s literature, demonstrates the continuity of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia despite its decline over the past few years. However, resorting to such a tactic also demonstrates the inability of al-Qaeda to implement attacks that require major logistical support, such as targeting residential compounds or oil facilities, as the movement has done in the past. Instead, it seems al-Qaeda will rely on its human resources to commit attacks which will reap major media coverage and work to destabilize the regime.

Besides the change at the tactical level, the assassination attempt is also linked to a shift in al-Qaeda’s regional strategy. “Expel the infidels from the Arabian Peninsula” was one of the founding slogans of al-Qaeda, and Saudi Arabia has made it an area of high importance ever since. With the decline in al-Qaeda’s ability to operate in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, Saudi jihadis, like those from other countries, have started to search for new “safe havens.” Yemen appears to have been the destination of many Saudi jihadis.

From al-Qaeda’s perspective, Yemen’s proximity to Saudi Arabia has always made it an area of geopolitical importance and a base for mounting attacks against the Kingdom and other Gulf states. Since clashes between jihadis and Saudi authorities began in 2003, the latter have seized shipments of smuggled weapons to Saudi territory from Yemen several times and have signed agreements with Yemen to control the border. Recently, the potential for Yemen to serve as a base for jihadis is increasing due to the growing crisis in the Yemeni state, as marked by clashes with the Houthi rebels in the north, the revival of the separatist movement in the South, increased jihadi activity and existing socio-economic problems.

By using bases in Yemen, al-Qaeda might be able to mount high profile, low-cost assassinations to destabilize the regime and demonstrate that it is still a strong organization in Saudi Arabia, an essential part of invigorating its recruitment efforts.

http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=35502&tx_ttnews[backPid]=228&cHash=11a165095a

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The anti-missile shield needed to be developed at enormous cost and he can use the savings elsewhere. The plan was a bone of contention with Russia and he can now advance nuclear arms-reduction talks with Moscow and even count on the Kremlin not to cast a veto in the United Nations Security Council on a new round of sanctions against Iran.


With his eight-month presidency seemingly weakening, United States President
Barack Obama struck. A familiar pattern in his political career is repeating.
His decision on Thursday to scrap the plans of his predecessor George W Bush to
build a land-based anti-missile shield in the heart of Europe overlooking
Russia’s western borders may appear justifiable, but is nonetheless a stunning
national security reversal.



It was to be a missile defense system of unproven technology, paid for with
money that America could ill-afford to waste, and conceived against a threat
that probably doesn’t exist. Still, missile defense is a Republican obsession
that goes back to Ronald Reagan and the “Star Wars” system. The Republicans
shall not flag or fail and they shall go on to the end. They shall fight on the
seas and oceans, in the air, on the beaches and landing grounds, in the fields
and in the streets, in the hills, and 
they shall not surrender. They shall attack
Obama
for blinking
in the face of
Russian blackmail.




Obama
has opened another front just when his
healthcare plan is on the frying
pan and he is barely coping with the war in Afghanistan. Maybe he can make
financial and diplomatic capital out of dropping the
missile defense plan. The
anti-missile shield needed to be developed at enormous cost and he can use the
savings elsewhere. The plan was a bone of contention with Russia and he can now
advance nuclear arms-reduction talks with Moscow and even count on the Kremlin
not to cast a veto in the United Nations
Security Council on a new round of

sanctions
against Iran.



Not only Central Europe and Ukraine and Georgia but also Iran will huddle in
heightened anxiety to ponder the implications of what Obama has done. His
decision rests on the argument that the threat posed by Iran is currently in
the nature of short- and intermediate-range missiles that is best countered
through a reconfigured system of smaller SM-3 missiles based on proven and
cost-effective technologies that can be deployed using the sea-based Aegis
system as early as 2011.



The revised approach envisages that as technologies evolve, the future threats
can be met in a phased manner, while the US currently counters any threat much
sooner than the previous program.



Significantly,
Obama
concluded with an offer to Moscow. “Now this approach is
also consistent with NATO’s [North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s]

missile
defense
efforts and provides opportunities for enhanced international
collaboration going forward,” he said. The announcement comes hardly a week
before Obama’s scheduled “private” meeting with his Russian counterpart Dmitry
Medvedev in New York on the sidelines of the
United Nations
General Assembly
session.



Equally, on the eve of Obama’s announcement, new NATO secretary general Anders
Fogh Rasmussen called for an “open-minded and unprecedented dialogue” with
Russia to reduce security tensions in Europe and to confront common threats. He
revealed that NATO officials would travel to Moscow to hear the Kremlin’s views
on how NATO should develop strategically in the long term.



“We should engage Russia and listen to Russian positions,” he said. He
underscored the need for an “open and frank conversation [with Moscow] that
creates a new atmosphere” that would lead to a “true strategic partnership” in
which the alliance and Russia collaborated on issues such as Afghanistan,
terrorism and piracy.



Rasmussen concluded, “Russia should realize that NATO is here and that NATO is
a framework for our trans-Atlantic relationship. But we should also take into
account that Russia has legitimate security concerns.” He offered that NATO was
prepared to discuss Medvedev’s proposal for a new security architecture in
Europe. Rasmussen had just visited Washington.



The Russian Foreign Ministry lost no time in responding to Obama’s announcement
on
missile defense
. “Such a development would be in line with the interests of
our relations with
the United States,” a spokesman said. He subsequently
refuted suggestions of any
quid pro quo behind the US decision. He said
any sort of grand bargain with the US was “not consistent with our [Russian]
policy nor our approach to solving problems with any nations, no matter how
sensitive or complex they are”.



However, the fact remains that Obama’s decision, while significantly boosting
US relations with Russia, also puts pressure on the Kremlin. The “Iran Six”
process [1] over Iran’s nuclear program enters a new phase on October 1. The
big question is whether Moscow would actually veto a UN
Security Council

resolution if push came to shove. The crunch comes just a week after the
Obama-Medvedev meet when the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
William Burns comes face-to-face with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed
Jalili.



True, the last exposition of the Russian position given by Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov a week ago was unequivocal. He made it clear Moscow wouldn’t
block any new rounds of tough sanctions against Iran and he dismissed a US
timetable for securing progress from Iran as regards ending its
uranium-enrichment program.



Lavrov said, “I do not think these
sanctions
will be approved by the

United
Nations

Security Council
… They [Iran] need an equal place in this regional
dialogue. Iran is a partner that has never harmed Russia in any way.” Lavrov
added that even an expected US move to drop plans to station a missile-defense
system in Eastern Europe wouldn’t be seen as a concession to Russia, as,
according to him, such a move would merely correct a previous US mistake.



But then, a week is a long time in politics. Four days after Lavrov spoke – and
two days before
Obama
spoke – Medvedev said. “

Sanctions
are not very effective
on the whole, but sometimes you have to embark on
sanctions
and it is the right
thing to do.” The West’s Russia hands promptly perceived a “subtle shift” in
the Kremlin’s position, whereas the US-Russia differences over Iran are far too
deep and fundamental to be easily sidestepped.



Obama’s decision will stimulate thinking in the multipolar world within the
Kremlin. As a top scholar on NATO at the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic
Academy, Vladimir Shtol, pointed out gently, any US rethink of the
missile
defense
system would probably be the result of economic pressures connected
with the global crisis, and not a political deal with Russia. “I don’t believe
the US would ever fully back out of the missile shield, because it is in their
long-term interests and closely connected with their strategy in Europe,” Shtol
said.



The realists in Moscow will note that even as
Obama
spoke in Washington, Dennis
Blair, America’s intelligence boss, was releasing the latest National
Intelligence Strategy report of the US, which is compiled every four years. The
report specifically warned that Russia “may continue to seek avenues for
reasserting power and influence that complicates US interests”.



On Tuesday, Russia signed defense agreements with Georgia’s breakaway regions
of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, allowing Moscow to maintain military bases there
for the next half-century. The Russian military headquarters in Abkhazia will
be in the Black Sea port of Gudauta, which ensures that even if the pro-US
regime in Kiev forces the closure of Sevastopol, Moscow will thwart US attempts
to turn the Black Sea into a “NATO lake”.



Put in perspective, therefore, Moscow will carefully weigh Obama’s “overture”.
The litmus test will be the US’s willingness to abandon NATO expansion. The
eastern European countries’ integration into Western Euro-Atlantic structures
was contrary to the understanding held out to former Russian president Mikhail
Gorbachev. Again, Russia is not the Soviet Union, but cold warriors cannot
grasp this. Moscow’s concept of national sovereignty and its claims of special
interests in the post-Soviet space provoke negative feelings in the West.



Moscow sees no reason to settle for the role of a junior partner when it
estimates that the US is a declining power and the locus of world politics is
shifting eastward. Besides, Washington pursues a policy of “selective
engagement, selective containment”. Over Afghanistan or Iran, Washington needs
Russian support, while the problem of the post-Soviet space remains acute and
Russia feels excluded from the Euro-Atlantic security arrangements pending,
while a “demilitarization” of relations between Russia and the West remains
elusive.



The smart thing for Obama will be to cast his decision on missile defense
within a working format of “resetting” ties with Russia rather than as a move
that deserves a quid pro quo over Iran. Moscow will only assess Obama’s
decision as a pragmatic step necessitated by the US’s economic crisis.
Meanwhile, Russia will cooperate on fresh START (Strategic Arms Reduction
Treaty) talks or help out the US in Afghanistan, which is in its interests too.


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.


http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/KI19Ag01.html


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"We are not in a state of panic because we have not seen diversion of nuclear material in Iran. We have not seen components of nuclear weapons," he said. "We do not have information to that effect."


The United States and its Western allies may be talking tough about new
“crippling sanctions” on Iran, but the reality is that momentum toward zero
sanctions is gaining the upper hand, giving Iranian negotiators set to meet
representatives of the “Iran Six” nations in Istanbul in early October a
renewed sense of confidence.



There are several reasons for this, warranting the attention of policymakers in
the “Iran Six” countries – the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China
and Germany – who continue to accuse Iran of marching toward nuclear weapons.



First, Iran claims there is simply no evidence to corroborate this allegation against
Iran
. Mohammad ElBaradei, the outgoing
director general of
the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), confirmed this recently at the
agency’s general meeting.



“We are not in a state of panic because we have not seen diversion of nuclear
material in
Iran
. We have not seen components of

nuclear weapons
,” he said. “We
do not have information to that effect.”



Second, in addition to agreeing to the IAEA’s demands for additional safeguards
and surveillance measures at the uranium-enrichment facility in Natanz and the
inspection of the heavy water reactor in Arak,
Iran has now reached a “new
framework for cooperation” with the IAEA. This, although its details have not
yet been fleshed out publicly, promises to further appease the agency’s call on

Iran
to “reengage” with the IAEA.



A third reason for Iran’s relative optimism that it is going into the Istanbul
talks with a strong hand is that there is fresh cynicism in the international
community on the authenticity of documents regarding Iran’s alleged
“weaponization studies” in the past. This is in light of ElBaradei’s reference
to “fabrications” in this regard, as well as his comparison of the
Iran
nuclear
issue with the fiasco of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 “based on fiction” over
Saddam Hussein’s alleged
weapons of mass destruction.



Unless the US and its allies come up with new evidence to substantiate their
allegations against
Iran
, their purported effort to pin on
Iran
the label of
clandestine proliferator is destined to fall short. This is particularly so
since there is as of yet no official US revision of the conclusions of its 2007
intelligence estimate. According to this,
Iran
halted its
nuclear weapons
program in 2003, shortly after the downfall of Iran’s chief nemesis, Saddam,
who was also said to be aggressively pursuing a nuclear program.


Fourth, Iran’s confidence stems from Tehran’s reliance on a multi-faceted
negotiation strategy, reflected in its recent “package” that states Iran’s
preparedness to cooperate on the issues of “non-proliferation and disarmament”
as well as on regional security, energy security, cultural and economic issues.



The advantage of this comprehensive linked approach is that it connects any US
engagement with
Iran
to a host of issues that bind the two countries, such as
drug trafficking and security in the region. This belies the contention of some
US pundits that the “goal of engagement is not improved relations”, to
paraphrase Chester Crocker, a former US diplomat, who in an opinion column in
the New York Times under the title “Terms of Engagement” forgets that the
Iranian side may also have its own ideas about engagement and that it takes two
to have a diplomatic tango.



Experts believe such recipes for negotiations with
Iran
may extend the nuclear
stalemate and diminish the likelihood of a breakthrough in the upcoming talks.



Fifth, it is increasingly clear that the US and its allies need to come up with
a new set of ideas about the nuclear issue. Fresh ideas would mitigate the
insistence on the “zero centrifuges” option – which has been called into
question by, among others, Roger Cohen of

the New York Times
, who in his latest
column opined:

I cannot see any deal that will not at some point trade
controlled Iranian enrichment on its soil against insistence that
Iran
accept
the vigorous inspections of the IAEA Additional Protocol and a 24/7 IAEA
presence. The time is approaching for the United States and its allies to
abandon “zero enrichment” as a goal – it’s no longer feasible – and concentrate
on how to exclude weaponization, cap enrichment and ensure
Iran
believes the
price for breaking any accord will be heavy.

This advice that
corresponds with what this author has been arguing for a number of years,
albeit with a greater emphasis on the need for “good-faith” negotiation on the
part of Western nations. This is in light of repeated past episodes of bad
faith demonstrated on the part of US and European negotiators. These include
when a British diplomat, John Sawers, sent an e-mail to his colleagues urging
them to re-interpret Iran’s “voluntary” suspension of its enrichment activities
as mandatory and permanent.



Such disclosures about the diplomacy of the West toward
Iran
proved
counter-productive. It turned out these moves fueled Iran’s determination to
end its temporary suspension and resume enrichment activities, which have now
reached semi-industrial scale.



There is also the issue of the six United Nations resolutions on
Iran
that have
called for the suspension of its enrichment and reprocessing activities. Aside
from the fact that the IAEA has repeatedly confirmed the absence of any
reprocessing activities, the UN resolutions suffer from a lack of any
time-sensitive dimensions.



They
do not
specify what duration the “suspension” should be, as a result of
which, theoretically,

Iran
could suspend today and resume in a few weeks and
legally claim to be in good standing with the UN Security Council. The question
is: what is the purpose of temporary suspension, given the fact that under
articles of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),
Iran
is fully entitled
to possess a peaceful nuclear fuel cycle?



“There is no doubt that a rule-based negotiation will end in Iran’s favor,”
said Ali Khorram, a foreign policy advisor in Tehran, alluding to IAEA
standards and NPT norms.



This is a nightmare scenario for Israel, whose representative at the IAEA’s
recent meeting expressed “grave concern” about
Iran
and Syria and demanded that
their “breach [of] international commitments and obligations must be met with
concrete and immediate international measures”.



It will be interesting, therefore, to see how Israel and its supporters in
Western capitals spin the upcoming Istanbul talks in favor of a united front
for tough sanctions in the event the talks fail. So far, some European nations
have “lowered their expectations” by anticipating a lack of compromise on
Iran’s part on the thorny issue of uranium enrichment. In turn this raises the
question of why they continue to shun the option of outright revising their
demands and adopting a realistic option along the lines sounded by Cohen cited
above?



Should the US and other “
Iran
Six” nations agree to respect Iran’s right to
have a peaceful nuclear fuel cycle under stringent inspection regimes, then the
next logical move would be to erase the sanctions regime on
Iran
and to openly
entertain the “zero sanctions” option. Under this, both unilateral and
multilateral sanctions would be lifted as the end result of a constructive
dialogue with
Iran
tackling both nuclear and non-nuclear issues of concern to
the West.



At the moment, this option does not seem likely and the chances are pro-Israel
lobbyists in Washington will prevail over the administration’s voices of
moderation vis-a-vis
Iran
. Nevertheless, toughening sanctions on
Iran
when
Iran

is greatly increasing its cooperation with the IAEA and there is no tangible
sign of proliferation activities on Iran’s part is an increasingly hard sell to
the international community.



And this is yet another area where
Iran
feels confident, in light of the
Non-Aligned Movement’s solid support for Iran’s nuclear activities at the
recent IAEA meeting.



There is no longer a global consensus on Iran’s nuclear threat and perceptions
of double-standards and even hypocrisy have emerged concerning nuclear-weapon
states which are failing their own disarmament obligations. These same powers
are sounding alarms about non-proliferation by “rogue states”.


Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New
Directions in Iran’s Foreign Policy (Westview Press) . For his Wikipedia entry,
click here. His
latest book,
Reading In Iran Foreign Policy After September 11
(BookSurge Publishing
, October 23, 2008) is now available.




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sales, syndication
and
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.)

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Critics say the emerging Obama approach does too little to enhance protection of the U.S. homeland from missile threats while putting too much stock in intelligence estimates of Iran’s missile plans.

WASHINGTON | The Obama administration’s revamped plan for a European missile shield is part of a broad new strategy for squeezing Iran.

The plan has upset some loyal allies with its appeal to Russia. Yet if the new approach pans out, using more diverse defenses and greater diplomatic leverage, it could provide protection from Iran not only for Europe but also Israel and Arab states in the Persian Gulf who fear the Iranians’ pursuit of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.

With U.S. troops already stationed on Iran’s eastern and western flanks — in Iraq and Afghanistan — the addition of anti-missile weapons aboard U.S. Navy ships in the region would add to Iran’s military isolation. And the hope is that it would ease Israel’s sense of urgency for taking military action against Iran.

Critics say the emerging Obama approach does too little to enhance protection of the U.S. homeland from missile threats while putting too much stock in intelligence estimates of Iran’s missile plans.

On the diplomatic front, President Barack Obama hopes Russia will find more reason to go along with U.S. efforts to stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb, now that Washington has abandoned a Bush administration approach to missile defense in Europe that Moscow viewed as a threat to its own security.

In Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called the Obama move a “right and brave decision.”

In a new outreach to Russia on Friday, the civilian chief of NATO called for the U.S., Russia and NATO to link their missile defense systems against potential new nuclear threats from Asia and the Middle East. Previous such appeals for collaboration have produced little concrete result, but with Obama’s change of approach this one may stand a better chance.

Russia publicly opposes any Iranian effort to develop nuclear weapons, but it also is against imposing new sanctions on Tehran. In the U.S. view, the threat of further sanctions is a necessary diplomatic tool.

Iran’s nuclear ambitions are expected to be a central focus at a gathering of world leaders at U.N. headquarters in New York next week. And U.S, Russian and other powers are to sit down with Iranian officials on Oct. 1 for a resumption of talks on the nuclear issue as well as other security topics.

Britain’s ambassador to Washington, Nigel Sheinwald, told The Associated Press on Friday that he considered it encouraging that Russia quickly welcomed Obama’s decision to change course in Europe.

“One way or the other, it cannot but contribute positively to the objectives of the reset of relations with Russia,” Sheinwald said, adding that “we do want Russia to be an active and committed participant in these discussions on Iran.”

Ray Takeyh, an analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations who served as a State Department adviser on Iran policy until last month, said Obama’s blueprint for missile defense in Europe evokes an idea raised in July by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for a defense umbrella over the Persian Gulf.

“Logically, there is a connection there,” Takeyh said in a telephone interview.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates made a similar link when he laid out details of the Obama plan for Europe.

“I don’t want to get into it in too much detail,” Gates told reporters Thursday, “but the reality is we are working both on a bilateral and a multilateral basis in the Gulf to establish the same kind of regional missile defense that would protect our facilities out there as well as our friends and allies.”

The U.S. already is taking a similar approach in Asia, where sea-borne anti-missile weapons and mobile radars are arrayed to protect Japan and other allies from the threat of a North Korean missile strike.

Under the Obama plan for Europe, U.S. Navy ships equipped with anti-missile weapons would form a front line of defense in the eastern Mediterranean, combined with existing land-based anti-missile systems such as the Patriot ashore in Europe. A similar arrangement is foreseen for the Persian Gulf to protect not only U.S. ships that regularly patrol the Gulf but also Arab allies such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Clinton said in a speech at the Brookings Institution on Friday that the retooled approach to missile defense in Europe is mainly a response to a perceived change in Iran’s ballistic missile priorities. The U.S. believes Iran is accelerating its short- and medium-range missile development and going more slowly than previously anticipated in building the long-range missile that once was the central threat.

“We believe we will be in a far stronger position to deal with that threat and to do so with technology that works and with a higher degree of confidence that what we pledge to do we can actually deliver,” Clinton said.

She dismissed claims by critics that the administration changed course in order to placate the Russians and that the shift amounted to undermining NATO allies Poland and the Czech Republic, whose governments had agreed during the Bush administration to host key elements of the now-abandoned system.

“This decision was not about Russia. It was about Iran and the threat that its ballistic missile program poses,” Clinton said.

At the Pentagon on Friday, Czech Defense Minister Martin Bartak, speaking through an interpreter, asserted that “missile defense doesn’t end here.” He said his country will evaluate the new plan and “we are going to figure out ways the Czech Republic can be involved in the future missile defense.”

With Bartak at his side, Gates spoke optimistically of entering a new phase of cooperation with Russia.

“For more than two years, I have encouraged the Russians that we are partners in this missile defense,” Gates told reporters. “The Russians have a radar in southern Russia, the Armavir radar, that actually would fill a gap in coverage, and we would welcome the Russians networking with us in this. We think that we can make that happen.”

Combined with the prospect of Iran building a nuclear weapon, the Iranians’ missile program is a particularly urgent problem for Israel. In Tehran on Friday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who denies Israel’s right to exist, lashed out at the Jewish state and again questioned whether the Holocaust happened.

Although Israel is not officially part of the U.S. missile defense system in Europe, Gates reiterated on Thursday that Washington is intent on helping Israel improve its defenses against an Iranian threat.


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Hezbollah is in Lebanon backed by Iranian this is a well-known fact. At the same time we have agreed with Hezbollah after the Doha Agreement conference that we have to have dialogue with Hezbollah to see how to include the military apparatus inside the Lebanese army and the Lebanese state.

 
The following is the full text of Press TV interview with the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) of Lebanon , Walid Jumblatt, on September 12, 2009. Video files included.

Q: I’d like to start with the issue of government. Of course the agreed formula which appoints 15 ministers for the majority, ten for the opposition and five for the President (Suleiman). After the Parliament majority leader Saad Hariri stepped down, certain figures in the Parliament majority said a new formula might be proposed and may be a cabinet of one color. What do you say based on your discussions with Saad Hariri? Does he intend actually to go ahead with such a step?

A:I think we have agreed to fix up the government of national unity. And I think Mr. Hariri is still sticking to this principle — the cabinet of national unity – which means the formula adopted at that time being five, ten and fifteen (seats). Since the situation in the country is very delicate we have to be united. We have to fix up the government of national unity to face the future threats, mainly a possible Israeli aggression at any time. They (Israelis) are not hiding that, they are saying we will attack or we will one day come to Lebanon again.

Q: Have you received any confirmation from Mr. Hariri himself based upon your contacts that he will go ahead with such a step?

A:I cannot answer on his behalf. But as a representative of eleven parliament members, my position is to stick to the principle of the government of national unity.

Q: So, you are against any other different formula.

A:I mean there is no problem if there are other formulas that lead to the same focus. However, I don’t think there are other formulas.

Q: We have heard that the choice of Ministry of Telecommunication is the main obstacle to form a cabinet. You yourself have stressed on the issue of Syrian-Saudi Arabian rapprochement and the external factors. What do you believe is the main obstacle? Do you think it’s the external factors?

A:Part of it is the external factors. I mean once Lebanon benefits from stability the whole region is in the stability and by the time Lebanon is instable the region is not stable. We need a Syrian-Saudi rapprochement, and we need at the same time a dialogue between Arabs and Iranians. It appears that several points of conflict are rooted in misinformation and/or disengagement between the Iranians and the Arabs. By Arabs, I mean the Saudis and the Egyptians. It is a must to engage into the dialogue. When the Secretary of the Arab League — Amr Moussa — was in the Emirates, did say that it is important to engage such a dialogue because we as Arabs and Iranians have to face future threats from a possible Israeli aggression on Lebanon and on Iran.

Q: You just mentioned Egypt. You also said certain countries don’t have an interest in seeing a Syrian-Saudi Arabian rapprochement. Who do you refer to specifically, the United States or Egypt?

A:To date, there has been no clear-cut policy in the American administration. The neo-conservatives are still counseling the foreign policy. (Barack) Obama might have good intentions, but until now we have seen the same old policy on the ground which seeks to wreak havoc, chaos and disorder in the Middle East as well as the Islamic world. I know that Obama is left with terrible legacies in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. However, I don’t see a big difference in the policy except for the appointment of (George) Mitchell whom will turn to be another Tony Blair if he takes no concrete measure.

Q: So, you haven’t seen any implementation of Obama’s slogan of change up to now?

A:In his speech in Cairo, he (Obama) said that the Israelis are to freeze the settlement construction. Israelis have not even answered such an appeal. They are continuing to destroy houses in East Jerusalem (al-Quds) and expanding the settlements.

Q: Do think that these neo-cons in addition to the Israeli government are seizing the opportunity of cabinet formation in Lebanon to try to create sectarian strife. Avigdor Lieberman recently in Nigeria said that Hezbollah and not Israel is the main threat to any Hariri cabinet. Do you think they are seizing the opportunity to create internal havoc and sectarian strife?

A:To succeed in their ultimate goal, and to have the Arab world recognize the Jewishness of the state of Israel, the Israelis need chaos surrounding Israel. The chaos has started in Iraq. They might also need chaos in Lebanon. With respect to things happening in Sudan and Yemen, they need the whole Muslim World in chaos so to say well look what’s happening. With whom shall we speak? then look we have religious and sectarian strife in the Arab Muslim world. We are entitled to have our own Jewish state excluding the Arabs.

Q: So you think the policy towards Lebanon is part of a broader policy concerning the Jewish state.

A:Yes, they have started the Israeli policy long time ago. I mean in the 1950s or 1960s. They nearly succeeded in the 1970s when they were part of division inside Lebanon. But at that time the international and regional circumstances were different. Lebanon was stabilized after nineteen years of civil war by the Taef Agreement. Now it seems the Taef Agreement is being questioned by the Israelis.

Q: In your view, what is the way to address or confront such challenges? When Lieberman says Hezbollah is a danger to Hariri government, how do we as Lebanese confront to this?

A:This is where we need to see a general regional and international outlook, and not to be obsessed with small Lebanese details. We have to offer concessions from both sides. This is in the interest of Hezbollah. This is in the interest of Saad Hariri and in the interest of Lebanon how to accept the cabinet of national unity because we will be facing problems, huge problems and at stake is the unity of Lebanon, and how to defend Lebanon against possible and inevitable Israeli aggression.

Q: Do you think this preoccupation with Lebanese details, is the way in which we indirectly hope Israel — and may be evidence of this is what happened yesterday when a few rockets were launched and were launched back from Israel. This incident happened after this political instability. What do you think?

A:Sometimes some people in Lebanon think that we can be isolated, that Lebanon is an island like Cyprus or Britain, Lebanon is not an Island and Lebanon needs Arab rapprochement basically Saudi-Syrian rapprochement and Lebanon also needs Arab-Iranian dialogue. We are not an Island we are ultimately to face regional consequences with a dreadful neighbor that is just thinking about how to divide the Arab and Muslim world called the Israelis. It’s now well obvious that the only existent of Israel to a long run will depend on if they succeed in creating confessional sectarian state in Iraq, in Sudan everywhere, they will tell you OK why do you challenge the Jewish state? Look there is a Sunni state somewhere, some Shia state there and there is a Kurdish state, and this is the argument.

Q: You said some people in Lebanon; could you be more specific on that?

A:Every body of us. All of us should be aware of dangers by Israeli policy and by the non-policy of Americans or still the neo-conservative policy of Bush.

Q: You said some people think we are an Island. Which people do you refer to?

A:Let me not to mention that. To enter into internal discussions about Lebanon it is not an important issue.

Q: Israel has of course labeled Hezbollah as being an extension of Iranian influence. At the same time we see this policy of trying to show Iran being the enemy instead of Israel. I must say that certain people believe that Arab countries are contributing to this for example we saw what happened in so-called Hezbollah circle in Egypt. What is your stance towards this? Is Lebanon an arena where the Iranian card is being played?

A:Hezbollah is in Lebanon backed by Iranian this is a well-known fact. At the same time we have agreed with Hezbollah after the Doha Agreement conference that we have to have dialogue with Hezbollah to see how to include the military apparatus inside the Lebanese army and the Lebanese state. We have no way out. But I’m challenging some ideas that well to put on the same level animosity of Israel and Iran. I just reject that. OK the Iranians have the rights to push their ambitions for peaceful nuclear activities like other countries like Germany like Japan like other countries. But the Americans and part of the West are just focusing that well that this program could lead to military use and we will allow Israelis to hit Iranians and at the same time saying to certain Arab public that well you have two enemies the Israelis and the Iranians. This is totally wrong. We have only one enemy called Israelis.

Q: So I want to conclude a certain point you believe now that Israel’s way of harming Lebanon is not to launch an all-out war but to create division, whether they are sectarian or otherwise.

A:Well, part of that they succeed but if we do allow them if we delay the formation of the government, if we don’t accept to bring concessions and to forget about some trivial issues in Lebanon. I don’t like the general atmosphere actually in some speeches here and there. I don’t like it.

Q: I want to go back to an issue about Iran. Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah hinted before that the Lebanese government could approach Syria and Iran for getting anti-aircraft system. Will the Progressive Socialist Party being in the next government push for taking such a step?

A:Why not, because until now all weapons delivered to the Lebanese army has been American weapons or weapons from Arab world which are acceptable weapons but they are not the weapons we need. I mean we need some tanks of course. But we need anti-tank weapons and anti-craft weapons which I think we can find such weapons in Iran or in Russia or in China. But going back to this Americans are not really willing to provide us with such weapons. They will tell you these weapons will be used against Israelis. OK, but my enemy is Israel.

Q: The issue you mentioned about sectarian strife in Lebanon. Do you support a meeting to be held in future between Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah and the Parliament majority Saad Hariri to prevent any sectarian chaos?

A:I support all efforts to reduce tension and basically it’s time now to conclude the past experiences of the 70-day when we were not able to have a government. It must accept a government beyond with the prerequisite of the government of national unity and if the meeting between Saad Hariri and Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah is necessary with this purpose why not. You have to ask Mr. Hariri.

Q: Do think Lebanon now should join the alliance called the resistance alliance, which includes Iran and Syria? Is that where Lebanon’s place should be right now?

A:Before the presence of Hezbollah in Lebanon, before what Americans and Arabs claim that Iran has an extension in Lebanon, we had that the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) which was headed by Arrafat. And before Arafat the whole of south was subject to aggression for years for decades and we claimed at that time we can not the Nationalist Party of Lebanon we always demanded to have a strong army and to have bunkers and to have enforcement of the south because at any time Israelis can come to Lebanon. It’s a long story. It started in 1969 but it started long before in the 1950s and 1960s. Always the south was an open space and open air for the Israelis. Now of course after the lessons of the year 2006 well now Israeli should calculate. But Israelis at any time they will find any pretext to come to Lebanon. They have invaded Beirut in 1982 and at that time there neither was Hezbollah nor Iran in Lebanon.

Q: So that leads me to conclusion. You agree with what Hezbollah officials say that the arms of the resistance serve not only to liberate territories but also serve as a deterrent against Israel.

A:Yes, with a slight difference. Let me stick to the principle of the table of dialogue. One day, for the sake of Hezbollah the benefit of Lebanon will force the state when the circumstances will be favorable security-wise, military-wise, politically-wise for Hezbollah they should be part of official apparatus. I say one day not tomorrow.

Q: Don’t you think that the day should come after the Lebanese army has the proper capabilities?

A:We go back to the vicious circle. How the Lebanese army will have the proper capability when the Lebanese army is denied of weapons that we mentioned weapons anti-tanks or weapons anti-aircraft that can deter Israeli aggression. This is where may be would profit the expertise of some Hezbollah units. May be we should find some coordination but one day because of the division inside Lebanon the sectarian division it would be better for Hezbollah to be part of the broad and general apparatus.

Q: What about the point we mentioned about getting these weapons from Iran and Syria?

A:I don’t see any problem with getting weapons from any source from Iran from Syria from Russia from China.

Q: Do you have any candidate possibly to choose as Prime Minister-designate beside Saad Hariri?

A:No, I have to compel to abide by the majority. Up to know Saad Hariri is going to be the future Prime Minister.

Q: I want to talk about your personal stances. Why does Walid Jumblatt consider himself a centrist? where do you consider yourself politically?

A:I have said it before and I say it again. We can’t stay in Lebanon divided. It’s impossible. It’s bad. It creates malice. Political menace and sectarian malice. It is bad. We should have the center. I am trying to fix up the center but I can’t do it on my own. We need others. We can’t others. And here these are the wishes of President Suleiman but circumstances are not that much favorable for that center to emerge. But one day we need the center.

Q: So, can you confirm that you are a centrist and not a March 14 member?

A:Part of a coalition, I have some big items to discuss with the March 14 coalition. Because on certain issues we are no more on the same land. I mean we were claiming independence and the freedom of Lebanon. We still have occupied lands Shebaa and Karchouba. Lebanon is free and we have all kinds of freedom in press, TV but we should also abide by Tife (Accord). Some people forget, Taif called for special relationship with Syria and state of truce I mean it freeze door with Israel. Maybe some people think that is possible to isolate Lebanon from the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is impossible. I’m against the neutrality of Lebanon. And we still have some problems to discuss about the Palestinian issue.

Q: If you succeed in building a centrist coalition will you then officially lead the March 14 coalition?

A:I have to succeed first. Don’t ask me a hypothetical question. I’m part of the coalition majority and one day when circumstances are we will discuss some basic issues about Palestinian social, economic conditions in Lebanon. Some people are not willing to see what is going on in Palestine. March 14 and other than March 14. As if the seizing of the territories in the Arab land, in Palestine, as if continuing the expansion of the settlements, as if destroying houses in East Jerusalem, as if asking the Arabs or the whole world to recognize the Jewish instead of Israeli state do not concern Lebanon.

Q: When you said my alliance with March 14 was out of necessity. After that period were your given any incentives from regional countries to go back and resort to the same stance.

A:No, the necessity at that time was the necessity of circumstances. At that time we met together condemning the assassinations. The killing of former Minister Rafiq Hariri was a huge blow to us at that time and the others. And we met different factions of Lebanon under the slogan of liberty, independence and freedom. And we got these items except sovereignty overt Shabaa and farshuba and we got the diplomatic relations and we agreed altogether that other issues should be discussed.

Q: How did regional countries react to what you said at that time specifically I want to name Saudi Arabia?

A:I have explained to Saudis my positions. I’m sticking to one basic issue which is Taif and when you say Taif they say special relationship with Syria and state of war with Israel. We have the Syrians, The Israelis and the Arab world was announced by the Saudis and Syrians in 1999 when they had Taif initiative.

Q: Do you have any near visits to countries that you were previously at odds with like Syria and Iran?

A:I’ve said before that I cannot go to Syria before Mr. Hariri does. About Iran, I will see for the appropriate time to see Iranians.
MP/MGH/DT 
 

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“The Saudis deployed troops on the borders, and they push back any one who crosses,” Hassan Ali Zawar, 30, said as he held up his arm to shield his eyes against a sandstorm. “They discovered us and deported us three days ago through the al- Tewal border outpost, and we sought refuge at this camp.”

Sept. 16 (Bloomberg) — Saudi Arabian authorities are forcing back hundreds of Yemenis as they cross the border into the kingdom to escape escalating hostilities in their homeland, some of the refugees said.

Fighting between Yemeni forces and Shiite Muslim rebels has been raging in northern Yemen since Aug. 11 as the army tries to crush insurgents holed up in mountain bases in the provinces of Saada and Amran. United Nations agencies appealed for a cease- fire to allow aid to be delivered to thousands of people trapped in the conflict zone.

Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, fears that the war could spread across the border, Mustafa Alani, a regional security expert at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center, said in a telephone interview. The majority-Sunni Muslim nation has a restive Shiite minority in the east, bordering Yemen, where most of its oil output is concentrated, he said. Al-Qaeda is also using bases in Yemen to launch strikes at Saudi Arabia.

The clashes have forced tens of thousands out of their homes to seek safety. Refugees interviewed at a camp housing around 3,000 displaced people in al-Mazraq, a dry expanse of farmland near war-hit Saada city, said Saudi authorities had beefed up security measures along the border with Saada to prevent an influx.

“The Saudis deployed troops on the borders, and they push back any one who crosses,” Hassan Ali Zawar, 30, said as he held up his arm to shield his eyes against a sandstorm. “They discovered us and deported us three days ago through the al- Tewal border outpost, and we sought refuge at this camp.”

Fled to Village

He said he fled from the Yemeni district of Marran to a village in the Saudi province of Jazan on Sept. 9 along with almost 70 people after fighting intensified in Saada, about 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a.

Ahmed Matraq, 34, said he was in a group of 20 people who crossed into the kingdom on Aug. 22, then stayed in a village for almost two weeks before Saudi police, acting on tip off from locals, captured them and sent them back home. “They put us on trucks and drove us back to the border,” Matraq said.

The Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Ali Bin Muhammad al-Hamdan, declined to comment. A Saudi Embassy official in Sana’a said the refugees were being sent back unless they had received clearance from the Yemeni authorities, to prevent rebels from crossing the border. He declined to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.

The Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman, General Mansur al- Turki, couldn’t be reached for comment in Riyadh. Today marks the start of the Eid holidays in the kingdom. Yemen’s foreign minister, Abu Bakr Al-Kurbi, reached by telephone, declined to comment.

UN in Talks

The UN’s refugee agency, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has initiated talks with Saudi authorities to ensure the safety of the displaced people who cross into the kingdom, a senior UN humanitarian official said.

“The UNHCR is conducting negotiations with the government of Saudi Arabia to find out how many people crossed the border and became refugees,” said the official, Rashid Khalikov, director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The talks are also aimed at “bringing the attention of the Saudi government to the need for protecting the rights of refugees,” the New York-based UN official said in an interview during his visit to al-Mazraq camp.

Border District

Khalikov said UN agencies were still trying to reach Yemen’s remote border district of Baqim, where some 15,000 people may be trapped.

“We cannot verify the information of what is actually going on,” he said. “We asked for access and we are working with authorities of both Yemen and Saudi Arabia to facilitate access to the Baqim area to see with our own eyes what is taking place.”

Khalikov said a preliminary estimate puts the number of internally displaced people at 150,000, adding that as many as 85 percent of those who fled their homes aren’t in the camps.

“It is very important for us to reach these people to alleviate their suffering,” he said.

A provincial official in Hajjah province, near Saada, said contacts between Yemeni and Saudi authorities were under way to establish a plan for the proper treatment of Yemenis who cross the border.

He spoke from Harad on the border with Saudi Arabia on condition of anonymity due to Yemeni government restrictions on speaking to the media.

Yemen accuses the Iranian government, led by Shiite clerics, of backing the Shiite rebels and turning the conflict into a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is Iran’s main rival in the region. The conflict, which has continued on and off since 2004, flared up last month after the insurgents launched a series of attacks in Yemen and seized government buildings.

To contact the reporter on this story: Khaled Abdullah in Al-Mazraq, Yemen, at mideastnews@bloomberg.net.

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A more sensible approach that the United States and its six powerful partners should ponder is to say that they have major disagreements with Iran (or Hamas, Hizbullah, Sudan, Cuba, or anyone else) which they seek to resolve on the basis of four principles, with three aims.

 NEW YORK — The United State is juggling four critical and increasingly linked foreign policy issues in Palestine/Israel, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. But it seems to be making little headway as we approach  critical junctures in all four. A different approach seems worth pondering.

 The Obama administration must be given high marks for initiative and courage in its fresh approach to all four conflicts. Yet it is also
 obvious from both the public debate and private discussions here in New York and at the United Nations that Washington remains hobbled by a  structural weakness that may be an occupational hazard or a genetic defect of all superpowers: an exaggerated sense of honor that prevents one from taking that final leap into sensibleness and realism, after starting down the courageous path.

 It is striking, for example, how wisely the Obama administration acted in moving quickly to reach out to Iran. It reaffirmed its wisdom this weekend when it announced that it would join the six other world powers that are already talking with Iran on nuclear and other issues. Common sense seems  to stir anew in Washington.

 Yet, the United States also hobbles itself — and retards the chances of progress in the talks — in two ways. First, it refuses to accept that it  has lost the standoff of recent years and now — having vowed never to do so — meets and negotiates with Iran without preconditions, preferring to speak only about “reaching out” or “engaging” Iran.

 Second, Washington continues to approach the negotiations by laying down both the expected end results and a series of punishments and sanctions that Tehran can expect if it does not, before the talks start, signal its acceptance of American demands. America’s courage in negotiating with Iran is being totally negated by its diplomatic arrogance and amateurism in conducting the process.

 The four conflicts I mentioned above are relevant because they reveal a pattern of failure that should be assessed and absorbed if we hope to achieve any future successes, especially with Iran. It is shocking, but not surprising, to note that after all the effort, money and sacrifice in dead and injured troops that the United States made in Afghanistan and Iraq, its military presence is widely resented and often publicly rejected and violently resisted in both countries. Its approach to Israel/Palest line and Iran generates equally prevalent regional criticism.

 This is a consequence of decades of American policies in these four cases and the surrounding Arab-Asian region. My reading is that Washington has interacted there primarily through warfare, pre-emptive regime change, multi-year occupations, threats and sanctions, supporting local dictators, acquiescing in long-term Israeli occupation and colonization, supporting warlords and militias, pressuring foes to change their core positions before it will speak to them. In most cases of providing substantial economic and military aid, it seeks primarily to fulfill US security goals or to transform local societies in America’s image.

 These approaches have collectively brought the United States to its current calamity in the region. Persisting in these tactics is likely only to aggravate things all around, and to strengthen those foes in Iraq, the Levant, Afghanistan and Iran who are clearly helping each other master the business of blowing up American military or civilian vehicles, or blowing up American diplomatic initiatives.

 It would be a tragic wasted opportunity for the United States now to enter into talks with Iran using the same old approaches. It is particularly juvenile, offensive and counter-productive for American officials and analysts to say, as some do regularly, that the US is talking to Iran only to be able to impose tougher sanctions soon with a clear conscience, based on the fact that it had tried talking but got nowhere. How do you think the Iranians will respond if they sense they are being asked to enter talks whose main aim from the US side is to clear the way to tighten the screws on Iran? Why does the US ask Iran to act like an adult, but treat it like a child?

 A more sensible approach that the United States and its six powerful partners should ponder is to say that they have major disagreements with Iran (or Hamas, Hizbullah, Sudan, Cuba, or anyone else) which they seek to resolve on the basis of four principles, with three aims. The four principles should be: conducting sustained, honest and comprehensive negotiations, without the use of military force, on the basis of prevailing international law and conventions, with a view to simultaneously addressing the core, legitimate demands of both sides. The three aims should be: to satisfy the minimum critical demands and rights of both sides, to end the state of enmity or conflict, and to achieve bilateral and regional peace and security for all.

 This sounds to me like the American way of doing things. Why is it not being used with Iran?


 Rami G. Khouri is Editor-at-large of The Daily Star, and Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, in Beirut, Lebanon.


 

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The president seems to quickly realize he may have gone too far, and jovially appeals to those assembled that the remark be kept private. "Come on guys," he says. "Cut the president some slack. I’ve got a lot of other stuff on my plate."

NEW YORK – President Barack Obama‘s candid thoughts about Kanye West are provoking a debate over standards of journalism in the Twitter age.

ABC News says it was wrong for its employees to tweet that Obama had called West a “jackass” for the rapper’s treatment of country singer Taylor Swift. The network said some of its employees had overheard a conversation between the president and CNBC’s John Harwood and didn’t realize it was considered off the record.

The network apologized to the White House and CNBC.

Harwood
had sat down with the president to tape an interview following his
appearance on Wall Street on Monday. Although they are competitors,
CNBC and ABC share a fiber optic line to save money, and this enabled
some ABC employees to listen in on the interview as it was being taped
for later use.

Their attention was drawn to chatter about West, who was widely criticized for interrupting Swift as she accepted an award at Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards to say that Beyonce deserved it.

During
what sounds like informal banter before the interview begins, Obama is
asked whether his daughters were annoyed by West’s hijacking of Swift’s
acceptance statement, according to an audio copy that was posted on TMZ.com.

“I
thought that was really inappropriate,” Obama says. “What are you
butting in (for)? … The young lady seems like a perfectly nice
person. She’s getting her award. What’s he doing up there?”

A questioner chimes in, “Why would he do it?”

“He’s a jackass,” Obama replies, which is met with laughter from several people.

The
president seems to quickly realize he may have gone too far, and
jovially appeals to those assembled that the remark be kept private.
“Come on guys,” he says. “Cut the president some slack. I’ve got a lot
of other stuff on my plate.”

E-mails shot
around among ABC employees about Obama’s comments, said Jeffrey
Schneider, ABC News spokesman. Before anything was reported on ABC’s
air or Web site, at least three network employees took to Twitter to spread the news.

One was Terry Moran, a former White House correspondent. He logged on to Twitter and typed: “Pres. Obama just called Kanye West a ‘jackass’ for his outburst at VMAs when Taylor Swift won. Now THAT’S presidential.”

When ABC News authorities found out about it, they had the tweets deleted after about an hour, Schneider said. Moran declined a request to comment.

But the news was out.

Harwood
said there was no explicit agreement with the president that those
comments were off the record. But he said it is broadcast tradition
that such pre-interview chatter is considered off the record until the
formal interview begins. Harwood is holding to that: He would not
discuss what the president said before their interview and has no plans
to do so on CNBC.

He said he was aware that it was likely someone outside of CNBC was listening to his conversation with the president.

“It’s one of those things that’s unfortunate,” he said. “But I think it’s an honest mistake.”

There was no immediate response to requests for comment from White House spokesmen.

Twitter, a technology that’s a natural tool for reporters who love to
tell people what they know whenever they know it, has raced ahead in
usage before many news organizations have developed policies to govern
its use, said Richard Wald, a former ABC News executive and professor
at Columbia University.

“You need to reinforce the sense that you have to verify before
you publish,” Wald said. “The policies may be very comprehensive, but
they may not be adequate to the technology that news organizations
have.”

The incident is reminiscent of past “open-mic” incidents involving politicians. President Ronald Reagan,
while waiting to make a speech in 1984, joked that he had outlawed the
Soviet Union and that “the bombing begins in five minutes.” During the
2000 presidential campaign, George W. Bush turned to running mate Dick Cheney to point out a reporter from The New York Times and used an obscenity to describe him.

“If you’re sitting there with a microphone on, you don’t have a
reasonable expectation of privacy,” said Kelly McBride, an expert in
journalism ethics for the Poynter Institute. “If you’re a governor or
president, you know that.”

She also questioned whether news organizations should be agreeing to go off the record with the president.

Judging by the things written by other Twitter users since West’s action, Obama wasn’t in the minority, she said.

“The president calling Kanye West
a ‘jackass’ is perfect information for a tweet,” she said. “In fact,
that’s the ideal format. You can do it in 140 characters. There’s not
much else to say.”

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"I believe that now is the time to start harsh sanctions against Iran — if not now then when? These harsh sanctions can be effective. I believe that the international community can act effectively. The Iranian regime is weak, the Iranian people would not rally around the regime if they felt for the first time that there was a danger to their regime — and this would be a new situation."

The hawks, neoconservatives, and Israeli hardliners are squealing, but the US and Iran are set to talk. The talks will begin October 1, among Iran and the P5 + 1, the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.

Mohammed ElBaradei, the outgoing head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was ebullient, even as he urged Iran to “engage substantively with the agency,” saying:

“Addressing the concerns of the international community about Iran’s future intentions is primarily a matter of confidence-building, which can only be achieved through dialogue. I therefore welcome the offer of the US to initiate a dialogue with Iran, without preconditions and on the basis of mutual respect.”

That’s exactly the right tone and message, and it underscores that President Obama is doing precisely what he campaigned on, namely, to open a dialogue with Iran. It’s an effort that began with his comments on Iran during his inaugural address, his videotaped Nowruz message to Iran last winter, a pair of quiet messages to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Leader, and Obama’s careful and balanced response to the post-election crisis over the summer. Once started, the talks aren’t likely to have a swift conclusion, but the very fact that they’re taking place will make it impossible for hawks to argue successfully either for harsh, “crippling” sanctions on Iran or for a military attack.

That didn’t stop Bibi Netanyahu, for one, from trying. Speaking to Israel’s foreign affairs and defense committee today, the Israeli leader said:

“I believe that now is the time to start harsh sanctions against Iran — if not now then when? These harsh sanctions can be effective. I believe that the international community can act effectively. The Iranian regime is weak, the Iranian people would not rally around the regime if they felt for the first time that there was a danger to their regime — and this would be a new situation.”

Netanyahu’s belief in sanctions, harsh measures, and regime change was echoed by John Hannah, the former top aide to Vice President Cheney, who wrote an op-ed criticizing Obama for taking regime change off the table in dealing with Iran. Hannah utterly ignored the fact that eight years of anti-Iran, pro-regime change bombast from the Bush-Cheney administration did nothing but strengthen Iran’s hawks, while Obama’s softer, dialogue-centered approach to Iran helped boost the power of the reformists and their allies in Iranian politics. Indeed, it was precisely Obama’s less belligerent tone that confused the Iranian hardliners, emboldened the liberals, reformists and pragmatists in Iran, and therefore did more to create the conditions for “regime change” than anything that Bush, Cheney, and Hannah did.

Nevertheless, here’s Hannah:

“It is ironic, of course, that just as the Obama administration seemed prepared to write off regime change forever, the Iranian people have made it a distinct possibility. It would be tragic indeed if the United States took steps to bolster the staying power of Iran’s dictatorship at precisely the moment when so many Iranians appear prepared to risk everything to be rid of it. It would also seem strategically shortsighted to risk throwing this regime a lifeline.”

Hannah adds that whatever happens in the talks, Obama had better be careful not to undermine the possibility that the regime might collapse. “However engagement now unfolds, Obama should do nothing to undermine this historic opportunity.”

Other, less temperate hawks have forthrightly condemned Iran’s offer to negotiate. The Weekly Standard ridiculed Iran’s five-page statement on opening negotiations:

“The Iranian response is a bad joke. It makes a complete mockery of the situation.”

And the churlish Washington Post, in an editorial written before the US agreed to start talks with Iran, huffed that Iran’s offer to talk was a “non-response” and complained that so far Obama has had no results:

“President Obama’s offer of direct diplomacy evidently has produced no change in the stance taken by Iran during the George W. Bush administration, when Tehran proposed discussing everything from stability in the Balkans to the development of Latin America with the United States and its allies — but refused to consider even a temporary shutdown of its centrifuges.”

And the Post again brought up the importance of getting “tough” with Iran and pushing for sanctions, a la Netanyahu, even though neither Russia nor China will have anything to do with more sanctions. (The Europeans don’t really want more sanctions either, though they say they do. And Venezuela has offered to export whatever gasoline Iran needs if, in fact, the United States tries to impose a cut-off of refined petroleum products imported by Iran.)

We can only hope, now, that the United States and the rest of the P5 + 1 will table an offer to Iran to allow Tehran to maintain its uranium enrichment program, on its own soil, combined with a system of stronger international inspections. That’s the end game: not regime change, not Big Bad Wolf threats of military action, not Hillary Clinton-style “crippling sanctions,” not an Iran without uranium enrichment — but an Iran that is ushered into the age of peaceful use of nuclear energy, including enrichment, in exchange for a comprehensive settlement.

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“Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam, the custodian of its two holy mosques, the world’s energy superpower and the de facto leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds — that is why our recognition is greatly prized by Israel,”

Sept. 14 (Bloomberg) — Saudi Arabia won’t engage Israel
until it ends its occupation of Arab territories, “Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam, the custodian of
its two holy mosques, the world’s energy superpower and the de
facto leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds — that is why our
recognition is greatly prized by Israel,”
Prince Turki wrote in
an opinion column in the New York Times yesterday.

“For all those same reasons, the kingdom holds itself to
higher standards of justice and law,” he said. “It must
therefore refuse to engage Israel until it ends its illegal
occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan
Heights as well as Shebaa Farms in Lebanon.”

Israel captured the territories in the Six-Day War in 1967.
Prince Turki said Israel ignored two Arab peace proposals put
forward by Saudi Arabia, one by the late King Fahd in 1982 and
the other by King Abdullah in 2002.

The 2002 peace initiative, endorsed by 22 countries,
proposed peace between Israel and Arab states in exchange for a
full Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories. In January,
King Abdullah said the plan is in danger of being withdrawn.

Egypt and Israel signed a peace accord in 1979. Jordan
became the second Arab country to have a treaty with the Jewish
state in 1994.

Remove Settlements

Prince Turki said if Israel wants peace it should start
with the “immediate removal” of all Israeli settlements in the
West Bank.

“Only this would show the world that Israel is serious
about peace and not just stalling as it adds more illegal
settlers to those already occupying Palestinian land,” he said.

The Obama administration has asked Israel to halt all
construction activity in the West Bank to advance the peace
process and Palestinians have said they won’t negotiate unless
Israel does so. There are almost 300,000 Israelis living in 121
settlements in the West Bank, where Palestinians want to create
a state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to
agree to a total building freeze, saying construction must
continue in existing Jewish communities in the West Bank.
Netanyahu has also said his government wouldn’t agree to any
division of Jerusalem. Palestinians have said that in any final
agreement, Israel must cede the eastern half of the city to
serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.

“Until Israel heeds President Obama’s call for the removal
of all settlements, the world must be under no illusion that
Saudi Arabia will offer what the Israelis most desire —
regional recognition,” Prince Turki wrote. “We are willing to
embrace the hands of any partner in peace, but only after they
have released their grip on Arab lands.”

The former Saudi envoy, born in 1945, is son of the late
King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz, who ruled Saudi Arabia from 1964
until 1975 when he was assassinated. Prince Turki, a graduate of
Georgetown University was the kingdom’s longest serving
intelligence chief, holding the position for 25 years. He was
previously also ambassador to the U.K. His brother To contact the reporter on this story:
Massoud A. Derhally in Amman, Jordan at
mderhally@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: September 13, 2009 19:46 EDT

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The settlements are illegal under international law. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 446, adopted in March 1979, stipulates “that the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East."

The sound of the Israeli bulldozers operating in the West bank and
East Jerusalem continue to rumble dashing the hopes of Barack Obama’s
administration to resume peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian
Authority. They are clearing new Palestinian lands for new Israeli
houses in the territories that Israel occupied in the Six-Day War in
June 1967.



The settlements are illegal under international law. The United
Nations Security Council Resolution 446, adopted in March 1979,
stipulates “that the policy and practices of Israel in establishing
settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied
since 1967 have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction
to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle
East.”



The US has consistently avoided serious confrontations with Israel
over the issue of settlements. And if there were any opposition, it has
been limited to mere words. For instance, in the wake of the Annapolis
Middle East Peace Conference, which was held in November 2007 in
Maryland, the then US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice referred
repeatedly to Israel’s obligations regarding the removal of “illegal
outposts” and its obligations to stop settlements. But Washington’s
demands fell on deaf ears in Tel Aviv and instead Israel built more
settlements and illegal outposts throughout the West Bank including
East Jerusalem.



The administration of Barack Obama seemed to be an exception.
Unlike his predecessors, he tried to show that Washington’s opposition
to the Israeli settlements was more than mere words.



Obama is pressing hard to jump start the Middle East peace
negotiations. But it seems his peace drive, like some of his other
major policies, has wavered.



In a speech in Cairo in June 2009, Obama urged Israel to stop
settlement construction in the occupied territories. “The United States
does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements,” he
said. But Israel has defied the demand and settlements keep growing.
Practically, every Israeli government has promoted settlement since
1967.



In early September 2009, Israel officially approved the
construction of 455 new settlements in the West Bank. Israeli officials
have also announced that Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister,
intends to give the go-ahead for the new projects before considering a
moratorium on settlement construction for a few months.



Netanyahu’s intention of a possible settlement freeze is to manage
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and preserve the status quo. That’s
why, Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, Eli Yishai,
construction freeze in the West Bank settlements is only a ‘strategic
pause.’ Yishai has said Israel would still build settlements in East
Jerusalem. Netanyahu wants to set the conditions for negotiations or
any possible agreement with the Palestinian Authority.



At the same time, he wants to manage Israel’s relationship with the US and keep the ties from plunging into confrontation.



But a serious question that remains is if the US, Britain, France,
Russia and the UN are unable to make Israel stop building new
settlements in the occupied Palestinian lands, even for a short period
of time, how can they make it negotiate a solution for core issues
related to the long-simmering conflict including the right of return of
millions of Palestinian refugees, the status of Jerusalem, border
demarcation and water supplies?



Obama came to power with the slogan of change, but delivering the
change that is necessary to striking a just solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which he has deemed a US national
security priority, is the hard part.

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UNITED NATIONS – The United States has drafted a U.N. Security Council resolution calling on all countries with atomic weapons to get rid of them, a text Washington hopes will be approved by a special council session presided over by U.S. President Barack Obama.

The 15-nation council will debate the draft resolution on Sept. 24 on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the General Assembly, where Obama is making his debut appearance at the United Nations. Washington holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council during September.

The draft resolution was circulated to the full council on Friday, diplomats said.

The text, obtained by Reuters, calls for signatories of the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to begin talks on nuclear arms reduction and to negotiate “a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control, and calls on all other states to join in this endeavor.”

Diplomats said the U.S. draft was yet another example of the sharp shift on disarmament policy taken by the Obama administration. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, had angered many NPT members by ignoring disarmament commitments made by previous U.S. governments, analysts say.

The five permanent council members — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — all have nuclear weapons. The “other states” — referred to but not named in the text — are Pakistan and India, which have not signed the NPT but are known to have atomic arsenals, and Israel, which neither confirms nor denies having nuclear arms but is presumed to have a sizable stockpile warheads.

Council diplomats told Reuters it also referred to North Korea, which withdrew from the treaty in 2003 and later tested two nuclear devices — one in 2006 and another earlier this year.

It also urges those countries outside the NPT to join it. Becoming a party to the NPT would require scrapping their nuclear arsenals, something the nuclear powers outside the pact have refused to do so far.

The draft resolution does not name specific countries, but it clearly has North Korea and Iran in mind when it says the council “deplores in particular the current major challenges to the nonproliferation regime that the Security Council has determined to be threats to international peace and security.”

The West suspects Iran is developing nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian atomic energy program and have pushed three rounds of U.N. sanctions against it, despite initial objections raised by Russia and China. Tehran says its atomic program is entirely peaceful and is aimed solely at the production of electricity.

Without referring to any specific regions, the draft resolution has the council “welcoming and supporting the steps taken to conclude nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties.” Egypt and other Arab states have long called for the establishment of such a zone in the Middle East – which would mean Israel would have to get rid of any atomic bombs it possesses.

The draft resolution also calls for the creation of a treaty that would ban the production of fissile material made specifically for nuclear weapons.

The U.S. resolution would also urge “all states to refrain from conducting a nuclear test explosion and to join the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, thereby bringing the treaty into force.”

The United States signed the treaty, which would ban all nuclear tests, in 1996 during the administration of President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. In 1999, the then-Republican-majority U.S. Senate made clear that it opposed the treaty as an unnecessary limitation on its military research options.

When Bush took office in 2001 his administration said it did not want its options limited by such a treaty and never asked the Senate to vote on the test ban treaty.

Washington is joined by China, North Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel and Pakistan as hold-out countries whose ratification is necessary for the treaty to enter into force. There will be a major conference on the test ban treaty on Sept. 24-25 at U.N. headquarters in New York.

The draft resolution also voices support for the U.N. nuclear watchdog in Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and urges countries to accept its more rigorous inspection regime under the agency’s so-called Additional Protocol intended to smoke out clandestine nuclear weapons activities.

It also expresses the hope that next year’s NPT review conference will be a success. The last review conference in 2005 was a failure and some delegates accused the United States, Iran and Egypt of sabotaging the meeting and preventing it from agreeing on an overhaul of the landmark arms control pact.