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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Terrorist e-mail dodge revealed

The New York Times MADRID, Spain — One of the leading figures indicted in the March 11, 2004, train bombings in Madrid used a simple trick that allowed him to communicate with his confederates on ordinary e-mail accounts but still avoid government detection, according to the judge investigating the case.

Instead of sending the messages, the man, Hassan el Haski, saved them as drafts on accounts he shared with other militants, said papers issued by the judge, Juan del Olmo. They all knew the password, so they could access the accounts to read his unsent notes and post replies the same way, the judge said. This way, the notes left less of a digital trail that the government could track.

Intelligence officials have said in the past that some terrorist groups were using the method, which investigators call a "virtual dead drop." But few concrete examples had come to light until now, and its possible use in such a major attack, along with the wide circle of contacts that Haski maintained, officials say, raises the possibility that it is much more widespread among terrorists than previously thought.

Few details of this use of e-mail accounts were given in a lengthy indictment that was released to news organizations this month naming 29 suspects, most of them North African, in connection with the Madrid attack. But because of testimony from one of the suspects, the government now contends that such shared accounts were apparently used by the conspirators as early as late 2003.

"This is probably a common method of communication among jihadists in Europe," said Javier Jordan, the director of the Center for Security Studies and Analysis at the University of Granada.

"Haski is a person who traveled a lot and had lots of contacts," Jordan said. "If he used this method, a logical interpretation is that many others did, too."

The indictment includes testimony from a man named Attila Turk, a native of Turkey who was arrested on terrorism charges in France in 2004. Turk was trying to flee Europe after the Madrid bombings, fearing arrest. He asked Haski for help, he testified.

"Hassan had given me an address on the Internet the day that I left," the indictment quotes Turk as testifying. "I was to check the Internet address in question every day and to go to the draft menu to check for messages."

"The only way to get in touch with him was through the e-mail address Babana12002 with password Wahd11," Turk said. "Hassan told me that the address worked in Yahoo or in Hotmail."

Spanish investigators contend that by saving the messages as drafts, the men did not leave the digital traces that are normally created when e-mail messages are sent, and can often be traced by law-enforcement agencies.

Jordan said he was skeptical that the authorities were as unable as they claimed to track unsent messages. "There is still communication between the computer and the server," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if the intelligence services have a way of monitoring that."

Haski, 42, a Moroccan who has lived in Belgium, is portrayed in the indictment as one of the three main conspirators who helped bombers carry out the Madrid attacks, which killed 191 people. He was arrested in the Canary Islands nine months after the bombings, and his trial is to begin next spring.

Before his arrest, Spanish investigators said, Haski was a top leader of a terrorist network described as having broad contacts in Europe and Morocco and many ties to the Madrid suspects. The network, the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, is described in the indictment as the "supreme point of reference for the Salafist Jihadist Movement in our country." That refers to the followers of an extremist interpretation of Islam.

The indictment also says the group has sent "a large part of its militants to join the ranks of the insurgency in Iraq" and "constitutes the principal concern regarding the end of the conflict and the return of the volunteers to Europe and Morocco."

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Pakistan test fires long-range nuclear capable missile

ISLAMABAD (AFX) - Pakistan yesterday successfully test fired a nuclear capable missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers, the military said.

It was the second test firing of the surface-to-surface Hatf VI (Shaheen II) missile, which was earlier tested in March 2005, it said.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz witnessed the test carried out from an undisclosed location.

'The missile test was conducted to validate additional technical parameters beyond those that were verified in the last test fire in March 2005,' a military statement said.

The Hatf VI is Pakistan's longest range ballistic missile system and has the potential to achieve a range of 2,500 kilometers in an advanced version.

'It is a two stage solid fuel missile which can carry nuclear and conventional warheads with high accuracy,' the statement said.

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US, Iraqi troops kill more than 20 foreign rebels

BAGHDAD, April 30 (Reuters) - U.S. and Iraqi forces killed more than 20 foreign insurgents, several of them wearing suicide vests, during raids south of Baghdad in the past few weeks, the U.S. military said on Sunday.

The raids took place in and around Yusifiya, a village 15 km (9 miles) south of Baghdad, which insurgents have used as a staging area for suicide attacks in Baghdad, the military said in a statement.

A U.S. combat helicopter was presumably shot down in the Yusifiya area on April 1, killing its two pilots.

U.S. and Iraqi forces captured seven wanted insurgents and detained more than 50 other suspects on Saturday during raids on locations believed to be safe houses for foreign fighters and al Qaeda-linked leaders, the military said.

In a rare Internet video posted earlier this week, Iraq's al Qaeda leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who Washington blames for most of the bloody suicide attacks, denounced the new Iraqi government and warned of "more painful" attacks.

Building strong Iraqi security forces to fight Sunni rebels and sectarian violence that has pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war is a cornerstone of Washington's plan to start withdrawing U.S. troops, which now number roughly 133,000.

Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie told Reuters on Friday that the U.S.-trained Iraqi forces now played a "lead role" in 60 percent of military operations in Iraq.

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Muslim Brotherhood: Egypt Arrests Members

CAIRO, Egypt - The Muslim Brotherhood said Saturday that Egyptian authorities detained 43 members of the fundamentalist group over the past two days, including 25 as they were hanging posters condemning Egypt's emergency laws.

Leading Brotherhood member Mohammed Morsi also charged that baton-wielding police beat lawmakers from the group during a protest Thursday to support judges facing a disciplinary hearing for alleging fraud in last year's parliamentary elections.

He told The Associated Press that Brotherhood lawmakers held Interior Minister Habib el-Adly responsible for what he called the "excessive use of force" and planned to demand a no-confidence vote be held in parliament to remove el-Adly from his position.

Organizers said at least 16 demonstrators were arrested and one was beaten, but police have declined to confirm any arrests or clashes related to Thursday's protests.

The 25 Brotherhood members were taken into custody in the Nile Delta province of el-Sharqiya, while state security officials arrested 18 others in Giza, near the capital of Cairo, according to the group's Web site. Police refused to comment on the claim.

The site said the arrests were part of "the campaign launched by the Egyptian regime against all the political forces and currents demanding political reform, especially the Muslim Brotherhood."

Outlawed since 1954, the Brotherhood is tolerated within limits. Its candidates, fielded as independent, won 88 seats in the 454-member parliament in elections late last year.

The Brotherhood and other opposition groups have been demanding an end to emergency laws in place since the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat, which give security forces broad powers to arrest and detain people.

Earlier this month, Egypt's top prosecutor ordered the release of 120 university students suspected of membership in the outlawed Brotherhood.

Morsi warned in comments posted on the group's Web site that "if the Egyptian regime wants to bring the people back to square one, this will not happen. The march of reform will continue until the demands of the nation are met."

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Developments in Iraq on April 30

April 30 (Reuters) - Following are security and political developments in Iraq on Sunday as of 0930 GMT.

Iraq is forming a new government of national unity to combat a mostly Sunni Arab insurgency. Sectarian tensions are running high after the bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra in February, which unleashed a wave of reprisal attacks.

Asterisk denotes new or amended entry.

*BAGHDAD - The wife and daughter of a former construction and housing minister Omar al-Damluji were kidnapped in Baghdad, the latest in a series of abductions and killings of the family of politicians and former politicians.

BAGHDAD - Three foreign security contractors were killed on Sunday when their convoy was hit by a roadside bomb just outside Baghdad, witnesses said.

Two more foreigners were wounded in the blast, on the main highway southeast of the capital, near the town of Suwaiyra.

The British Foreign Office and its embassy spokesman in Baghdad confirmed three people died and two, including a Briton, were wounded in an attack on private contractors in the area.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said those killed were not British but declined to give their nationality.

BASRA - Two British contractors were injured in an incident in the southern oil city of Basra on Saturday, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said on Sunday.

The spokeswoman said a British military spokesman had been wrong to say that two British contractors had been killed when a roadside bomb hit their convoy on Saturday.

KIRKUK - An Iraqi civilian was killed when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle in the town of Dibis 45 km (28 miles) north of the northern oil city of Kirkuk, police said.

KIRKUK - A civilian was wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near a police patrol in Kirkuk, police said.

NEAR MUSAYIB - One police officer was killed and three policemen wounded when their patrol was targeted by a car bomb near the town of Musayib 60 km (40 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

YUSIFIYA - U.S. and Iraqi forces killed more than 20 foreign insurgents, several of them wearing suicide vests, during raids in a rural area south of Baghdad in the past few weeks, the U.S. military said on Sunday.

The raids took place in and around Yusifiya, a village 15 km (9 miles) south of Baghdad, which insurgents have used as a staging area for suicide attacks in Baghdad, the military said in a statement.

U.S. and Iraqi forces captured seven wanted insurgents and detained more than 50 other suspects on Saturday during raids on locations believed to be safe houses for foreign fighters and al Qaeda-linked leaders, the military said.

NEAR BAGHDAD - Two suspected al Qaeda members were killed on Saturday by U.S. forces in Taji, north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said on Sunday. It said one of the two men, which the U.S. military identified as Abu Usamah, was suspected of involvement in planning suicide car bombs.

BAGHDAD - A bomb planted inside a minibus exploded in Baghdad's Shi'ite Sadr City neighbourhood on Sunday, killing at least two people and wounding six, police sources said.


*BAGHDAD - Iraq's president said on Sunday he and U.S. officials had met with insurgents and that a deal with some groups to end violence could be reached.

Jalal Talabani said the discussions took place in the president's Kurdish home region in northern Iraq.

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Nigeria bomb destroys 5 oil trucks, no casualties

WARRI, Nigeria, April 30 (Reuters) - A car bombing in the Nigerian oil city of Warri, claimed by militants whose attacks have cut oil exports by a quarter, destroyed at least five tanker trucks, a Reuters witness said on Sunday.

An army spokesman in Warri said there were no casualties.

The blast late on Saturday night in a truck park close to a refinery sent debris flying 100 metres away. Drivers at the park on Sunday said the area would have been deserted the night before.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which demands more local control over the southern delta's oil wealth, said it had used a mobile phone to detonate 30 kg (66 lb) of dynamite in the bombing.

It said the attack was a warning to all people working in the oil industry in Nigeria. It also made specific threats against China, which has just signed a major oil deal with Africa's top oil producer.

MEND said the bombing was a final warning to oil workers and future attacks would be directed against individuals.

"We have resolved to take our campaign out of the creeks (so) that every Nigerian may feel the true pains of the Niger Delta peoples," it said in an e-mail sent to the media.

It was referring to the mangrove-lined creeks of the delta where many oil installations are located and where militant attacks, acts of sabotage and crude oil theft are frequent.

"We wish to warn the Chinese government and its oil companies to steer well clear of the Niger Delta ... The Chinese government by investing in stolen crude (oil) places its citizens in our line of fire," MEND said.

Earlier this week, Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Nigeria and signed deals to explore Nigerian oilfields in return for a commitment to invest $4 billion in infrastructure to help develop Africa's most populous country.


MEND has staged a series of kidnappings and attacks against the oil sector in the world's eighth-biggest exporter that has forced companies to cut production by 550,000 barrels per day.

This has contributed to recent spikes in world oil prices, including last week's record high at over $75 per barrel.

The militants, who have abducted a total of 13 foreign oil workers this year and held some of them for several weeks, have warned all oil workers to leave the delta and vowed to halt exports completely. They have now freed all the hostages.

The use of car bombs is unusual in Nigeria but it was MEND's second such attack in nine days after a bombing close to an army barracks in Port Harcourt, a major city in a different part of the Niger Delta. That attack killed two civilians.

Soldiers guarded the site of the Warri explosion on Sunday and it was impossible to get close, but from a distance the blackened carcasses of five tanker trucks were visible.

The explosion, which was heard 4 km (2.5 miles) away, shattered the windows of the drivers' office 100 metres away and flung a chunk from one of the vehicles into the building where it crashed through a wall.

The Warri refinery has not been functioning for several months and the tanker trucks were empty at the time of the blast, apparently helping avoid a major fire.

A little-known group that first appeared in December, MEND is a coalition of militias which the government accuses of involvement in a lucrative trade in stolen crude oil.

But its demands -- which also include the release of two jailed leaders from the region and compensation for oil spills -- are shared by many activists in the area, where most people live in poverty despite the riches being pumped from their land.

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Jim Woosley interview on The Colbert Report

The former CIA director talk to Stephen about World War IV.

Click Here

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Country Reports on Terrorism, 2005

Required by U.S. law, this State Department report is a "full and complete report on terrorism"; it includes descriptions of foreign terrorist organizations as well as regional overviews of countries considered state sponsors of terrorism.

To view the PDF files, you will need to download at no cost, the Adobe Acrobat Reader Adobe Acrobat Reader.

In addition to the individual report files listed below, this report is also available as a single file.

Special Briefing
releasing the reports.

Background Information: Country Reports on Terrorism and Patterns of Global Terrorism

-- Table of Contents
-- Chapter 1 -- Legislative Requirements and Key Terms
-- Chapter 2 -- Strategic Assessment
-- Chapter 3 -- Terrorist Safe Havens
-- Chapter 4 -- Building International Will and Capacity to Counter Terrorism
-- Chapter 5 -- Country Reports: Africa Overview
-- Chapter 5 -- Country Reports: East Asia and Pacific Overview
-- Chapter 5 -- Country Reports: Europe and Eurasia Overview
-- Chapter 5 -- Country Reports: Middle East and North Africa Overview
-- Chapter 5 -- Country Reports: South Asia Overview
-- Chapter 5 -- Country Reports: Western Hemisphere Overview
-- Chapter 6 -- State Sponsors of Terror Overview
-- Chapter 7 -- The Global Challenge of WMD Terrorism
-- Chapter 8 -- Foreign Terrorist Organizations
-- National Counterterrorism Center: Country Reports on Terrorism 2005, Statistical Annex
-- Supplement on Terrorism Deaths, Injuries, Kidnappings of Private U.S. Citizens

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Hezbollah, Illegal Immigration, and the Next 9/11

By LTC Joseph Myers and Patrick Poole

AUTHORS NOTE: This article was prepared and approved before the London Times report this past weekend which verified that longtime Hezbollah terror chief, Imad Mugniyah, has been tapped by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to initiate attacks against the West, especially the U.S., in the event that any preemptive strikes are made against Iran's nuclear facilities. In the following article we identify Mugniyah and his extensive role in a number of attacks on Americans since the 1980s and have assumed that any action taken by Hezbollah would be directed by Mugniyah, but this new supporting information was important enough and directly relevant to the discussion at hand to warrant us including this author’s note to call our reader's attention to it. This new report reinforces our argument made here that Hezbollah and its operations inside America and throughout Latin America pose an immediate national security risk that should be among the primary topics of consideration in the ongoing border security debate.

“Death to America was, is, and will stay our slogan!” – Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah Secretary-General (“Hezbollah Vows Anew To Target Americans”, Los Angeles Times, April 17, 2003)

In the prosecution of the Global War against Terror (GWOT) initiated only after the horror of 9/11, an important threat to the United States fell from the public radar screen while al-Qaeda, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and the regime of Saddam Hussein became the primary targets. That important threat was the Iranian-backed terrorist organization, Hezbollah.

Operating out of their stronghold in southern Lebanon, Hezbollah has successfully waged a war against Israel for more than two decades and has provided ample financial, training and logistical support for the Palestinian terrorists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Hezbollah’s particular expertise has been in teaching the art of suicide bombing, which it introduced to the Palestinian groups in 1993; and in constructing elaborate “mega-bombs” to inflict massive casualties.

In addition to their terror networks, Hezbollah also operates several Arabic-language newspapers and a satellite TV station, Al Manar (The Lighthouse), to broadcast their jihadist propaganda to the Middle East, North Africa, South America, and Europe. These media outlets spread Hezbollah’s toxic ideology of pan-Islamism, Shi’ite martyrdom, jihad theology, Khomeini-style theocratic political theory, and virulent anti-Semitism.

Hezbollah’s hatred is not limited to Israel, but extends to America. Islamic radicals see America as the primary purveyor of decadence, moral depravity, and secularism in the world. Ideologically, for many Muslims, America also stands as great of a threat to Islam as we view Islamist terror ideology as a grave threat to us. For that reason, recent events related to Hezbollah should punctuate that reality and should give political and national security officials pause as they discuss issues of Homeland Security disaster response and readiness, border security and illegal immigration.

Most notably, last month FBI Director Robert Mueller testified to Congress that his agency had dismantled a Hezbollah smuggling operation bringing terror personnel across the border from Mexico.“[T]his was an occasion in which Hezbollah operatives were assisting others with some association with Hezbollah in coming to the United States,” Mueller said. “That was an organization that we dismantled and identified those persons who had been smuggled in. And they have been addressed as well.”

While the FBI believes that the national security threat from this particular Hezbollah operation has been neutralized, there are many questions that should be asked:

1. What is the level of threat Hezbollah presents to American interests at home and abroad?
2. What are the indicators that Hezbollah is preparing terrorist or military operations inside the U.S. Homeland?
3. What is the size, location, and capabilities of Hezbollah cells in the U.S.?
4. Who are the leaders of U.S. cells and subordinate cell members?
5. What are the personal and professional connections/relationships with Hezbollah leaders abroad?
6. What are their means of communications and what languages (Persian, Arabic, French, Spanish, English) are spoken?
7. What targets would Hezbollah consider or select? -- synagogues, churches, transportation hubs, schools, power plants, malls, financial centers, government facilities, military facilities, aircraft....
8. Are their indicators of reconnaissance, surveillance, plans, or patterns of activities?
9. Have any members or sympathizers penetrated local or state police, FBI, Customs/Border Patrol, national intelligence organizations?
10. Where are the training locations in the U.S.; in Latin America and the Caribbean, in the Middle East?
11. What are the types of training received; duration of training; levels of competence achieved?
12. What types of equipment, technology and weapons are acquired in the U.S.; acquired abroad and brought into the U.S.? Are their active sources of supply?
13. Where are the logistics and support cells; in the US or Latin America and the Caribbean?
14. Are they receiving third country assistance from Syria, Venezuela or Cuba?
15. What are the likely methods of attack: suicide bombings, car bombs, conventional assaults, aircraft hijacking, CBRN, nuclear weapon?

We should hope that the FBI and the rest of our national intelligence agencies have some good answers to these questions.

The Worldwide Threat of Hezbollah

Prior to the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaeda, Hezbollah was responsible for more terrorism-related American deaths than any other organization in the world. It should be remembered that Hezbollah was killing scores of Americans when Osama bin Laden was still a Westernized playboy living in France. Organized in the early 1980s by Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah quickly racked up an impressive resume of terror against the U.S.:

* Hezbollah made its debut in April 1983 by slamming a truck laden with explosives into the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, killing 63, including 19 Americans. After the attack, the embassy was moved to another location, which was also bombed in September 1984. The Reagan administration took no official action against the terrorism organization.
* Still in its nascent stages of organizational development but emboldened by their successful attack on the U.S. Embassy, Hezbollah launched another suicide bombing against the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983, causing 241 deaths. Simultaneous with the attack on the Marine forces, Hezbollah bombed the barracks of French peacekeepers. An attack on Italian peacekeepers was foiled. Four months after the bombing, President Reagan ordered the withdrawal of American forces from Beirut, with France quickly following suit.
* Throughout the 1980s, Hezbollah was behind the kidnapping of many Westerners in Lebanon throughout the 1980s, including the capture and brutal murder of CIA Beirut Station Chief, William Buckley. Journalist Terry Anderson was kidnapped and would eventually spend 2,454 days in captivity, along with several officials from the American University of Beirut. In order to secure the release of the hostages, the Reagan administration covertly organized an arms-for-hostages deal with Hezbollah’s primary state-sponsor, the Islamic Republic of Iran, which would only result in the release of three American hostages. Eventually, the related Iran-Contra scandal would paralyze the Reagan presidency.
* In June 1985, Hezbollah terrorists seized TWA Flight 847 en route from Athens to Rome, and diverted the plane to Beirut. When the terrorists demands were not met, a US Navy Seabee diver on board, Robert Dean Stethem, was shot and his body dumped on the airport tarmac. Other American military personnel were savagely beaten. The plane’s passengers and crew were held for 17 days. In the weeks that followed, Israel released a number of Shi’ite prisoners, though U.S. officials deny that there was a covert deal. Only one hijacker was ever captured and held for several years in Germany.
* In 1990, Hezbollah captured, tortured, and eventually hanged Marine Corps Colonel Richard Higgins, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran who was on duty as an unarmed United Nations peacekeeper in Lebanon. His body was not recovered for another year. The story of Higgins’ life, captivity and murder is memorialized in a book written by his wife, Marine Lt. Col. Robin Higgins, Patriot Dreams: The Murder of Colonel Rich Higgins.
* A Saudi Hezbollah cell was involved in providing al-Qaeda operatives with explosives training in their June 1996 attack on the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 American Air Force servicemen and injured 372 others. According to then-FBI Director Louis Freeh, in his 2002 Congressional testimony to the Joint Intelligence Committee: “The direct evidence obtained strongly indicated that the 1996 bombing was sanctioned, funded and directed by senior officials of the government of Iran.”

Many terrorism analysts and experts rate Hezbollah as the best organized and most competent Islamist terrorist organizations in the world. With an annual budget of likely well over $100 million coming from Iran, Syria and its criminal operations in the West, it boasts more than 25,000 men under arms. Having pushed Israel out of its security zone in southern Lebanon and the American and French peacekeepers out of Beirut, they are arguably the most successful terrorist organization of the modern era.

In a speech in September 2002, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage described the danger of the organization: “Hezbollah may be the A team of terrorists and maybe al-Qaeda is actually the B team.”

In a November/December 2003 Foreign Affairs article, Should Hezbollah Be Next?, national security expert Daniel Byman makes the same point about Hezbollah’s impressive track record compared to al-Qaeda:

In the U.S. Demonology of terrorism, Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda are relative newcomers. For most of the past two decades, Hezbollah has claimed pride of place as the top concern of U.S. counterterrorism officials. It was Hezbollah that pioneered the use of suicide bombing, and its record of attacks on the United States and its allies would make even bin Laden proud…In the course of its 20-year history, Hezbollah has amply demonstrated its hostility, its lethality, and its skill. (pp. 56-57)

Former CIA Director George Tenet has also added his voice to the chorus identifying Hezbollah as a terror threat equal to that of al-Qaeda: “Hezbollah, as an organization with capability and worldwide presence, is [al-Qaeda’s] equal, if not a far more capable organization. I actually think they’re a notch above in many respects.”

Despite these warnings, U.S. officials prioritized the threats focusing on al-Qaeda and Iraq. That notwithstanding, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, emphasized that the American response to the 9/11 attacks did not change the organization’s stance towards America:

Let the entire world hear me. Our hostility to the Great Satan [America] is absolute…Regardless of how the world has changed after 11 September, “Death to America” will remain our reverberating and powerful slogan: Death to America!

This was a theme Nasrallah restated in a February 2005 speech [video]: “We consider the current administration an enemy of our [Islamic] nation…Our motto, which we are not afraid to repeat year after year is ‘Death to America.’”

Based on religious elements of Shi'ite martyrdom theology, Khomeini’s Islamic triumphalism and modern nationalist ideology, Hezbollah has forged a rigid policy of utilizing suicide bombings, revolutionary political action and developing extensive terror networks around the world to accomplish its stated goals of extinguishing the state of Israel, pushing America entirely out of the Middle East and establishing Iranian-style Islamic republics around the globe.

With reliable financial resources from Iran, controlling a sizeable political bloc in the Lebanese parliament, broadcasting their Islamist hate-ideology on their own al-Manar television network aired all over the Middle East and Europe, and arming and training many of the other Islamist terror organizations, including al-Qaeda, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah is considered the sophisticated elder brother in the world of Islamic terror.

As one high-ranking FBI official has said, “Hezbollah makes al-Qaeda look like Sunday-schoolers, children, kindergartners.”

Hezbollah Operations in the U.S. and Latin America

Hezbollah’s deadly network isn’t limited to the Middle East. In fact, in the past 20 years Hezbollah has created an extensive web of operations within the United States itself – a sophisticated terror network better established here than any other terrorist organization in the world. The network is organized and directed by Hezbollah’s Special Security Apparatus, the group’s international terror unit.

According to Tom Diaz and Barbara Newman, co-authors of the recently published book, Lightning Out of Lebanon: Hezbollah Terrorists on American Soil (Presidio Press, 2005), active Hezbollah cells have been identified in Boston, New York, Newark, Atlanta, Miami, Tampa, Charlotte, Louisville, Detroit, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland. Diaz and Newman quote former FBI Hezbollah unit director, Bob Clifford, as saying, “they are the best light infantry in the world and can strike the United States anytime, anywhere.”

The recent revelation by FBI Director Robert Mueller about the Hezbollah smuggling ring out of Mexico just barely scratches the surface of the group’s activities inside the US. Hezbollah engages in a wide variety mid-level crime ranging from cigarette smuggling to credit card fraud to selling fake Viagra, intentionally keeping their operations from getting too large to prevent raising the attention of law enforcement authorities. Hezbollah operatives have also been observed working out of New York Indian reservations to avoid detection and arrest.

Among the Hezbollah operations in the U.S. that have been uncovered by state and federal authorities are:

* According to Diaz and Newman, one of the most well publicized incidents of a Hezbollah terror cell operating in the US involved a hit team sent here to kill President Clinton’s former national security advisor, Anthony Lake. Lake was moved into the Blair House across from the White House until the threat was neutralized.
* Bob Clifford, former head of the FBI Hezbollah unit, told Diaz and Newman about a Hezbollah operative that was working at Boston’s Logan Airport – where American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, two of the four hijacked 9/11 flights, originated. According to Clifford, the FBI agent that told Logan security authorities about the potential threat was himself investigated for wrongdoing after the Hezbollah operative lost his job, though the agent was eventually cleared. Clifford claims to have arrested more than one hundred Hezbollah operatives in the US during his tenure at the FBI.
* DEA officials busted an elaborate methamphetamine drug ring in January 2002 operating in Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Phoenix and several cities in California that funneled money back to Hezbollah. At least 136 people – most from the Middle East – were arrested and 36 tons of pseudoephedrine, 179 pounds of methamphetamine, $4.5 million in cash, eight properties, and 160 cars used for transport were seized.
* According to investigative journalist Steve Emerson in his book, American Jihad, a Hezbollah cell operating in Charlotte, North Carolina was busted in a FBI sting in a July 2000 operation that netted 18 arrests. The accused were indicted for providing training, communications equipment and explosives to Hezbollah, which the federal indictment said were intended to “facilitate its violent attacks”.
* In 2001, federal officials discovered a Hezbollah fundraising cell in Charlotte, North Carolina that was purchasing untaxed cigarettes and selling them illegally in Michigan. In a year and a half, the network sold $7.9 million worth of cigarettes illegally, with most of the money being returned to Hezbollah headquarters in Lebanon.
* In 2003, the FBI raided the Dearborn, Michigan home of Mahmoud Kourani. He was indicted for harboring an illegal alien and conspiracy to provide material support to Hezbollah. Kourani’s brother is the chief of military security for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Kourani admitted to being smuggled across the Mexican border into the U.S. in the trunk of a car after arriving in Mexico on a visa he obtained from the Mexican consulate in Beirut after paying a consulate official $3,000.
* In March 2006, indictments involving another Hezbollah smuggling ring uncovered in Detroit were unsealed. The suspects are accused of bootlegging cigarettes, counterfeiting tax stamps, selling phony Viagra tablets, and hijacking shipments of toilet paper to fund Hezbollah activities.

The criminal activities serve the higher purpose of funding the thousands of personnel that Hezbollah maintains in the U.S., providing them financial means to insulate themselves further into American society. The proceeds from criminal activity also provide funding for high technology military equipment purchases here and in Canada to be sent back to Lebanon to improve Hezbollah capabilities against the Israeli military. In a recent case, Canadian authorities took down a Hezbollah cell that had received from Beirut a shopping list of equipment to obtain, such as night vision goggles, laptops, cell phones that could be used to remotely detonate explosions and intelligence drones.

Many mainstream US media outlets dismiss the internal threat Hezbollah poses to the US, and have contributed to the reshaping of the organization’s image from terrorist organization to Lebanese political party and charitable organization. In 2005, a New York Times editorial praised the softening attitude of the Bush administration towards Hezbollah: “It’s so great that the Bush Administration is going along with our allies to treat Hezbollah as a political entity. Maybe they can demilitarize them or make them less extreme.”

Regardless of how many hospitals and schools Hezbollah builds in Lebanon in their attempt to increase their absolute social control over that country, dismissing Hezbollah’s networks in the U.S. and their criminal activities here as petty crime is to greatly understate the terror threat that they pose to the American homeland. Hezbollah surely appreciates the image makeover provided by American mainstream media, but it clearly has no intentions in changing its policies regarding the use of terror against American interests.

Hezbollah’s ability to smuggle terrorist personnel and equipment into the U.S. seemingly at will, potentially to launch terrorist attacks against America, makes their activity south of the border all the more important. It should provide much-needed clarity to the present discussions in Washington D.C. about our border security and illegal immigration.

In testimony before the House International Relations Committee in 2002, Mark F. Wong, the State Department’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism warned Congress, “Hezbollah has a global reach and a bloody track record in this hemisphere.”

The list of Hezbollah activities in Latin America is extensive:

* The greatest hub of terrorist activity in Latin America is in the border region of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, known as the Triple Frontier or Tri-Border Area, which has long been known as a haven for smuggling, counterfeiting, money laundering and drug trafficking. Officials estimate that at least 30,000 Middle Eastern immigrants reside in the Triple Frontier, with Hezbollah being the most active and dominant group in the area. In a detailed October 2002 New Yorker report, journalist Jeffrey Goldberg found that many immigrants in the area have established business with the help of loans provided by Hezbollah, businesses which are “taxed” by Hezbollah at 20 percent of gross revenues after the loans are paid off. Erick Stakelbeck of the Investigative Project cites Paraguayan Interior Minister Julio Cesar Fanego as saying that Hezbollah received anywhere from $50-$500 million from illegal activities in the Triple Frontier from 1999 to 2001 alone.
* A research report issued by the Library of Congress Federal Research Division, Organized Crime and Terrorist Activity in Mexico, 1999-2002, quotes (p. 43) Mexican former national security advisor and ambassador the United Nations, Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, as saying that “Spanish and Islamic terrorist groups are using Mexico as a refuge.” The report also cites an El Norte Spanish-language news report that there are approximately 400,000 Arabic speakers in Mexico mostly located among the large Lebanese and Palestinian communities of the northern city of Monterrey, nearby the U.S.-Mexican border.
* According to a Dec. 2003 report by Terrence Jeffrey of Human Events, the Mexican consul in Beirut, Imelda Ortiz Abdala, was arrested by Mexican authorities in November 2003 for her role in helping to smuggle Arab migrants into the U.S. from Mexico by selling Mexican visas, including the one sold to Mahmoud Khourani. Jeffrey has also recently written more about the Hezbollah/Mexico connection.
* Hezbollah was responsible for the greatest anti-Semitic attack since the Nazi Holocaust when a suicide truck-bomb drove into the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994, killing more than a hundred people. As a result, Jewish synagogues and cultural centers around Latin America have been turned into virtual fortresses to protect them.
* In May 2001, Mexican authorities announced that measures were being increased to dismantle terror training camps along the US border run by Hezbollah and the Spanish Basque Fatherland and Liberty Party (ETA).
* In 2005, Mexican authorities arrested Amer Haykel, a British citizen of Lebanese birth, who was sought by US authorities for his connection to the 9/11 attacks. Haykel was arrested near the U.S. border in the northwest Mexican state of Baja California.
* According to a June 2005 BBC report, Ecuadorian officials busted up an international Hezbollah drug ring run out of a Lebanese restaurant in Quito, in which authorities say cocaine was obtained in Colombia and trafficked to Europe, the Middle East and the rest of South America. Up to 70 percent of the profits from each $1 million shipment went to Hezbollah. In addition to the suspects arrested in Ecuador, 19 other people were arrested in connection with the Hezbollah drug ring in US and Brazil.
* One major Hezbollah terrorist, still at large, has had his hands in all of the attacks against America — Imad Mugniyeh — chief of Hezbollah’s military operations. Reports indicate that Mugniyeh and Osama bin Ladin have met to establish a concordant and exchange technical expertise. National Security expert Patrick Devenny has called Mugniyeh, Tehran’s Terror Master, and has identified his critical role in Hezbollah’s operations in North and South America. Even in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, 20-year CIA veteran Robert Baer has said: “He is the most dangerous terrorist we’ve ever faced. He’s a pathological murderer. Mugniyeh is probably the most intelligent, most capable operative we’ve ever run across, including the KGB or anybody else.”

Estimates vary widely on the number of Muslim and Middle Eastern migrants that live in Latin America. Ironically, if one would refer to the CIA Factbook, the source document used by researchers, intelligence analysts and policy official for basic data on countries around the world one would almost conclude there are no Muslims at all in Latin America. Since 9/11 and the start of the GWOT one would think Islamic demographic data would be an important data point for the Factbook, no matter how large or small the demographics. One problem of course is the lack of good census data; in Brazil for example, their 2000 census reflect only 27,000 Muslims while other information estimates their population at upwards of 1.3 million. If countries have no clear idea of the number of immigrants resident in their country or the number of Muslims it is unlikely they will have a clear picture of the degree and scope of their domestic terrorist threat either.

To be clear, not all or even most Muslims are involved in terrorist activities, but where large populations reside allows Hezbollah and other Islamic terrorist operatives to move freely, inside or outside Latin America. Many legitimate business owners in Hezbollah-controlled areas are forced to pay “taxes” to help finance Hezbollah operations.

In terms of U.S. foreign policy considerations, officials should pay particular attention to four disturbing trends related to Hezbollah and Islamist activities in Latin America:

1. It is too quiet down South. U.S. Southern Command spokesmen readily admit that most terrorist activities in Latin America involve support cell activity: recruitment fundraising, proselytization. The official line is that there is no “credible reporting” of operational cells in Latin America. From an intelligence perspective, the credibility of reporting turns on one’s standard of credibility. That is not the same as saying there is “no reporting” of operational cells in Latin America, and support cell members can always become operational.
2. The growing cooperation between Hezbollah and drug-financed revolutionary terrorist groups in South America, such as the Colombian FARC and the Peruvian Shining Path, which has raised the concerns of the Organization of American States.
3. The developing connections between Hezbollah, al Qaeda, and violent Latin American gangs, such as El Salvadoran gang MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha), which is reported to have up to 50,000 members working in the U.S. A 2004 Washington Times article reports that at least one high-ranking al-Qaeda lieutenant, Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, has been spotted meeting in Honduras with MS-13 officials; other reports indicate his presence in Panama and possible surveillance of the Panama Canal. MS-13 operates an extensive alien smuggling ring out of Matamoros, Mexico, just across the border from Brownsville, Texas, and has been documented to have smuggled non-Mexicans into the U.S.
4. A fourth analytical consideration is the movement of Islamic proselytization and conversion in Latin America and known trends for radical Islamists to recruit and obtain converts in prisons. It is likely these two trends would extend to gangs and the Islamic radicalization of gang members would then justify their criminal activities under extant Islamist jihad doctrines, psychologically and morally legitimizing their criminal activities.

Final Considerations

We began this discussion by mentioning FBI Director Robert Mueller’s recent testimony to Congress about busting up a Hezbollah Mexican smuggling ring. But several years ago, Director Mueller admitted in a very candid moment while speaking to the Senate Intelligence Committee that a wave of suicide bombers being unleashed throughout America was “inevitable”. At the time, he wasn’t aware that an Associated Press reporter was in the room to record his comments.

When asked about the possibility of suicide bombings in America, Mueller said, “I think we will see that in the future – I think it’s inevitable,” adding that, “There will be another terrorist attack. We will not be able to stop it. It’s something we all live with.”

In the weeks ahead as Congress resumes the debate over border security, this admission from one of the government’s top law enforcement authorities should be noted. As one blogger put it sarcastically, “Hezbollah is coming to America to blow up things American’s won’t.” Mueller’s statements should make the point that illegal immigration is not just about poor Mexicans trying to find a decent living; it is also about America’s enemies entering our country with every intention of causing mayhem, destruction and death.

In the next few weeks and months, we may observe an escalating series of events that will lead to the next 9/11. As one U.S. intelligence official has stated:

If Iran becomes the focus of Phase Three [on the War on Terror], it could send a message to the U.S. that it is not like Iraq, that it has the means to strike us at home, with a network of cells that it placed here a long time ago. The Iranians wouldn’t take credit for blowing up a McDonald’s, but we would know, and they would know we know.

It is too early to predict how the current diplomatic crisis over Iran’s nuclear weapons program will play out, but Americans should assume that any potential military hostilities could result in Hezbollah striking American interests across the globe and here in the US Homeland. Possibly the Iranian ayatollahs may decide that preemptive Hezbollah suicide attacks against America might serve as a deterrent to U.S. military action against their nuclear facilities. A strategic wave of Hezbollah suicide bombings, and well coordinated military attacks in America could very well make the horror and tragedy of the last 9/11 look like a distant memory. Few realists doubt that we live in a dangerous world and most Americans understand that ‘freedom is not free,’ nonetheless, in the aftermath of another terrorist outrage on U.S. soil, new government commissions won’t impede Americans demanding accountability.

Hezbollah’s known domestic activities, to include the smuggling operation, not to mention unknown and yet unidentified ones, makes the question of America’s border security as an important national security consideration as any other. Yet ironically America’s border security is not even discussed in the newly published National Security Strategy. The security of other countries borders are more discussed in this and in the previous 2002 strategy than our own borders today.

America’s enemies have identified this vulnerability; according to a March 2005 Time Magazine report, al-Qaeda lieutenant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi instructed jihadists to bribe their way into Honduras and cross the U.S. southern border to attack soft American targets. From an intelligence perspective the indicators and warnings of the threat cannot be clearer.

The U.S. is faced with the rising nuclear threat from Iran. The announcement just a few days ago that the Islamic Republic has successfully produced enriched uranium quickly leading them to producing weapons-grade material makes the present discussion more exigent. As President Bush told the graduates of West Point in 2002, “The gravest danger to freedom lies at the crossroads of radicalism and [nuclear] technology.”

If the U.S. is forced into preemptive military action against Iran to prevent them from developing nuclear weapons, it should be expected that the long-established Hezbollah network in the US will be activated and attempt retaliation by their primary state-sponsor. We will learn the extents and limits of Hezbollah’s military capabilities within the U.S., our own intelligence capabilities, and whether our immigration and border policies were adequate.

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Iran to set up oil stock exchange next week

Iran's Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh said Wednesday the Oil Stock Exchange, which is in its final stage, will be launched in Iran in the next week, the Iranian news agency reported.

After arriving from Doha, Vaziri Hamaneh told reporters that the Council of Stock Exchange was expected to approve the registration of the Oil Stock Exchange soon.

Vaziri Hamaneh denied reports attributing him to comments that the Oil Stock Exchange was meant to undermine the United States.

The Iranian official attended the 10th General Assembly of International Energy Agency in Qatar where he held various consultations with member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Oil producers held talks with oil producers on the security of supply and demand, security of investment in energy and environment issues.

"The best method for security of demand in the oil sector is that consumers should be given opportunity to enter into partnership with the suppliers in investment in oil industry," Vaziri Hamaneh said.

He said political tensions are negatively influencing global oil prices, which should be determined by economic and technical fundamentals instead.

"As long as political impacts dominate the oil market, price hike will continue," he concluded.

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Developments in Iraq on April 29

April 29 (Reuters) - Following are security and political developments in Iraq on Saturday as of 0800 GMT.

Iraq is forming a new government of national unity to combat a mostly Sunni Arab insurgency. Sectarian tensions are running high after the bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra in February, which unleashed a wave of reprisal attacks.

JURF AL-SAKHAR - A policeman and his brother were abducted from their house by gunmen in Jurf al-Sakhar about 80 km (50 miles) south of Baghdad. Police said their bodies were dumped near their house two hours later.

QAIM - Three civilians were killed and seven wounded including three policemen when a suicide car bomb detonated near an Iraqi army base south of the town of Qaim near the Syrian border, Qaim police colonel Jamal Shihab said.

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Indonesian police in shootout with militants

JAKARTA, April 29 (Reuters) - Indonesian police exchanged fire with suspected militants on Saturday at what local media said was a Central Java hideout of one of Asia's most wanted militants, Noordin M. Top.

A police source who declined to be identified said police had a firefight with terrorism suspects in the town of Wonosobo, but he declined to comment on the reports about Top, a Malaysian national wanted over a string of bombing attacks in Indonesia.

"We opened fire and we have captured one and two were killed," he told Reuters, adding that police had yet to enter the premises where the suspects were hiding.

Without citing a source, state news agency Antara said one of the suspects was believed to be Top, a leading figure in the al Qaeda-linked Southeast Asian network Jemaah Islamiah.

The network is blamed for the Bali bombings in October 2002 that killed 202 people and a series of other attacks.

"There was an arrest around Wonosobo and Purworejo, Central Java. We'll just see the result later. The arrested person might just be a subordinate of Noordin," Antara quoted a local police officer as saying.

Last year police killed another top Jemaah Islamiah figure, Azahari, in a shootout.

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Friday, April 28, 2006

Full Text: IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear activities

The following is the full text of a report released on Friday by the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed ElBaradei on Iran’s nuclear program.

Click here for full text

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China tests new prototype of JF-17 jet fighter

AFX News: BEIJING: China tested a new prototype of the FC-1 Xiaolong combat jet jointly developed with Pakistan, and is gearing up for mass production of the plane, Xinhua news agency reported.

The fourth prototype of the Xiaolong aircraft, a multi-role fighter-bomber with a range of 1,200 kilometers, successfully completed a 16-minute test flight from a base in southwest China's Sichuan province, Xinhua said.

Production of different parts of the plane has already begun in anticipation that the plane would soon be mass produced, the report said.

'The success of the flight marks a significant improvement in the innovation capabilities of China's aviation industry and makes possible mass production of the plane,' Xinhua said.

The aircraft, also known as the JF-17, is a cooperative project between the Chengdu Aircraft Industrial Group in the southwest province of Sichuan and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex.

While earlier prototypes have focused on operational flight capabilities, the fourth prototype included advanced avionics and weapons, it said.

The plane is capable of carrying multiple air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons and is a 'third generation' fighter jet, one generation removed from the world's most advanced fighters.

Earlier reports had said the fourth prototype would have its maiden flight in April 2005. No explanation was provided in the report for the apparent delay.

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Pirates hijack another ship in south Somalia

NAIROBI, April 28 (Reuters) - Somali pirates have hijacked a ship in southern Somalia in the latest attack off the country's lawless coast, a maritime official said late on Friday.

The Kismayu-bound ship was hijacked by Somali gunmen on Thursday and commandeered to a coastal town near Harardheere where two other vessels are still being held by gunmen.

"The boat was heading to Kismayu when pirates opened fire at it," said Andrew Mwangura, of the Seafarers Assistance Programme, a Kenyan-based organisation representing sailors in the region.

"They commandeered it to Gann, 18 km north of Harardheere," he told Reuters by phone from the coastal town of Mombasa.

The owner of the ship was not immediately clear.

Somalia waters have become among the most dangerous in the world since warlords ousted military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 ushering in an era of anarchy in the Horn of African country.

Typically pirates on speedboats attack ships plying Somalia's Indian Ocean, frequently opening fire before mounting the vessels.

"Other details are still vague but we understand some of the crew are Indonesians," Mwangura said.

Meanwhile Kenyan police in the coastal town of Mombasa have arrested three men after discovering two AK-47 automatic rifles and 119 rounds of ammunition in their boat.

The police said they want to establish whether the three men -- an Asian and two Somalis -- had any links with piracy in the Indian Ocean.

"The three suspects are likely to be arraigned in court on Tuesday to be charged with illegal possession of firearms and maritime crimes if any," said Stephen Munguti, chief of police at the port of Mombasa. (Additional reporting by Celestine Achieng in Mombasa)

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DHS Open source report 4/28

Al-Qaida leaders losing control, U.S. says

WASHINGTON(AP) - Leaders of al-Qaida lost some control of the terror network last year due to the arrests and deaths of top operational planners, but the group remains the most prominent terror threat facing the United States and its allies, the State Department said Friday.

In its annual report on worldwide terrorism, the department singled out Iran as the most active state sponsor of terrorism, saying that its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Ministry of Intelligence and Security directly have been involved in the planning and support of terrorist acts.

Overall, the report tallied about 11,000 terror attacks around the world last year, resulting in more than 14,600 deaths. That is almost a fourfold increase from 2004, though the agency blames the change largely on new ways of tallying the incidents.

About 3,500 of last year's attacks occurred in Iraq and about 8,300 of the deaths occurred there, accounting for a large part of the increase over 2004.

The report said that Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders are scattered and on the run and Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for the network. In addition, al-Qaida's relations with the Taliban that once ruled Afghanistan are growing weaker and the group's finances and logistics have been disrupted, the report said.

"Al-Qaida is not the organization it was four years ago," the report said.

However, "overall, we are in the first phase of a potentially long war," it said. "The enemy's proven ability to adapt means we will go through several more cycles of action/reaction before the war's outcome is no longer in doubt. It is likely we will have a resilient enemy for years to come."

A new generation of extremists, some of them getting training through the Internet, is emerging in cells that are likely to be more local and less meticulously planned, the report said. These small groups, empowered by technology, are very difficult to detect or counter, it said.

Safe havens for terrorists where they plan and inspire acts of terrorism tend to be located along international borders between and among ineffective governments, the report said. It cited the Afghanistan border, the intersection of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, the Celebes Sea in Southeast Asia, and Somalia.

In Iraq, which the report called a key front in the global war on terror, a system of clandestine support networks funneled in foreign terrorists from the Middle East, Europe, North Africa, South and Central Asia and the Caucasus.

In 2004, the U.S. government's National Counterterrorism Center, which monitors terrorism, counted 3,192 terror attacks worldwide, including more than 28,000 people wounded, killed or kidnapped.

Officials have said the government last year changed its system of counting global attacks and devoted more energy to finding reports of violence against civilians. Even so, the higher figures underscore how terrorism around the world has grown since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Six countries - Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria - remain classified as state sponsors of terror. Libya and Sudan, though, were credited with continuing to take significant steps to cooperate in the global war on terror.

But the report cited allegations that Libyan officials played a role in an attempt to assassinate then-Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah in 2003 and said the United States continues to evaluate Libya's assurance to halt the use of violence for political purposes.

Libya began working last year with Britain to curtail terrorism by the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and extradited a suspect in a Cairo bombing to Egypt, the report said.

In Israel and Palestinian-held territories, a range of groups, including Hamas, used a variety of tactics, including suicide bombs.

The number of victims killed in Israel was less than 50, down from the nearly 100 people killed in 2004, the report said.

The report said that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, with whom the Bush administration has clashed repeatedly, has an "ideological affinity" with two terrorist groups operating in Colombia, the FARC and the National Liberation Army. It said these connections limit Venezuela's anti-terrorism cooperation with its neighbor.


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U.N. agency finds Iran noncompliant

Washington Post: Despite a formal request from the U.N. Security Council, Iran has not provided international inspectors with new information about the country's nuclear program and has accelerated, rather than curbed, uranium-enrichment activities, according to sources familiar with a report the inspectors plan to issue today.

Iran announced two weeks ago that it had used a "cascade" -- or array -- of 164 centrifuges to enrich uranium for nuclear fuel. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency are expected to confirm in the report that Iran ran the cascade successfully, but several officials with knowledge of the nuclear program said yesterday that the cascade was no longer operating and that a number of the networked centrifuges had crashed during a fairly rushed process.

It remains unclear whether Iran managed to enrich a small quantity of uranium to a level of 3.5 percent, as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced April 11. That level would suffice for nuclear energy but is far too low for a weapons program, which the Bush administration contends Iran is clandestinely developing.

The IAEA will include these findings, sources said, in what they characterized as a brief and highly negative report to be delivered today, the end of a 30-day deadline the Security Council set for Iran to stop enriching uranium until inspectors are confident the program is exclusively peaceful.

"It's pretty clear Iran is not going to meet those requirements," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday. "When that happens, the international community, represented by the Security Council, is going to have a choice."

The Bush administration is hoping that the report, and Iran's actions, will make it easier for council members to increase pressure on Iran. The council's March request, along with others by the IAEA's board of directors, asked Iran to voluntarily suspend its enrichment program.

On Monday, diplomats from the United States, Britain and France will begin pushing for a resolution that would legally obligate Iran to abide by the council's demands, officials said. If Iran balks, the trio would then pursue international sanctions, either through the Security Council or with like-minded allies, administration officials and European diplomats have said.

But Russia and China -- both with strong economic ties to Tehran and the power to veto Security Council resolutions -- remain at odds with the other three over how much pressure to exert. Both fear that additional measures will lead to an escalation in tensions and spark a global oil crisis. Other council members are concerned that Washington is using the diplomatic process as a steppingstone toward military action.

Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, Javad Zarif, maintained yesterday that the Security Council has no right to demand a halt to his country's nuclear energy program and that Iran would not abide by a resolution requiring it do so.

"If the Security Council decides to take decisions that are not within its competence, then Iran does not feel obliged to obey," he said. Zarif said he anticipates a major U.S. campaign in the Security Council to win such a resolution.

Iran says its industrial-scale program, built in secret over 18 years, is designed to produce fuel for nuclear energy. But Washington and a growing number of allies believe that Iran plans to divert its equipment and know-how for bomb development. Inspectors, on their third year of an investigation, have not found proof of a weapons program, but Iran is not fully cooperating and questions remain.

While the Iranians are publicly defiant, they have offered in private talks with senior European officials to slow down the program if Washington, London and Paris back away from Security Council action. Several European diplomats called the offer unacceptable. "A technical pause is not a concession and not an offer," one diplomat said. "The Iranians need to deal in substance, not timelines."

Late yesterday, as inspectors were putting the finishing touches on their report, Mohammad Saeedi, Iran's deputy nuclear director, submitted a written time frame for cooperation on a number of issues. The IAEA report, officials said, is expected to note the eleventh-hour pledge, but agency officials said privately that the Iranians are straining the agency's patience. Ali Larijani, the Iranian national security adviser, made nearly identical promises in a meeting in Tehran two weeks ago with IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei but delivered nothing beyond the additional written guarantee, they said.

Inspectors have made some progress on their own, however. Preliminary test results from a visit to an Iranian facility this month seem to indicate the presence of nuclear materials but will require further study, according to two officials who have seen parts of the IAEA report.

Concerns about Iran's program have grown since 2002, when Iranian dissidents revealed the existence of an industrial-scale enrichment facility inside the country. Since then, IAEA inspectors have found evidence of uranium and plutonium experiments as well as purchase orders, equipment and instructions from a Pakistani-run nuclear black market.

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China signs oil exploration deal in Kenya

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya signed an agreement on Friday allowing China's largest offshore oil producer to prospect in the east African country.

The deal was one of a clutch of bilateral agreements signed at the end of President Hu Jintao's five-nation tour, which has cemented Beijing's economic and political clout, especially in Africa where it seeks raw materials to feed its roaring economy.

Neither Kenyan nor Chinese officials would immediately give details of the oil pact, which came two days after Beijing struck a $4 billion deal for drilling licences in Nigeria.

Kenya, which produces no oil but has foreign companies sniffing after possible reserves, said last year it planned to sign an agreement allowing China's state-controlled CNOOC Ltd to prospect in six on- and offshore blocks.

The other China-Kenya deals included grants for economic and technical cooperation, anti-malarial medicine and rice.

Hu's delegation also offered to maintain a Chinese-built sports stadium, help carry out a feasibility study into revamping Nairobi's potholed roads and patchy street-lighting, as well as providing exchange programmes for Kenyan students.

For its part, Kenya voiced support for Beijing's "One China" policy, becoming the latest nation to brush off Taiwanese diplomatic efforts in Africa.

"The Kenyan government expressed its opposition to 'Taiwan independence' in any form and expressed its support for China's efforts to realise national reunification," Foreign Minister Raphael Tuju said, reading a joint communique.


Hu's three-day trip to Kenya came after President Mwai Kibaki visited Beijing last year to sign a series of economic agreements including landing rights in several Chinese cities for national carrier Kenya Airways.

The cooperation is part of Kenya's strategy to seek investment and aid from the Far East, especially China which extends financial assistance without attaching demands for good governance unlike multilateral and Western donors.

Last year, China handed Kenya 2.6 billion shillings in aid, mainly to modernise its ailing state-run power company, agreed to boost Kenya's coffee trade, and set up a factory with the capacity to assemble 800 television sets a day.

China's offer of "no strings" aid may be welcomed in the east African country, under Western pressure to tackle rampant corruption. But critics say a flood of cheap Chinese imports is the price Kenyans pay for Beijing's "good will".

"We want the trade between us to grow. ... But we want to see more 'made in Kenya' available in China," Trade and Industry Minister Mukhisa Kituyi told reporters.

Talks between the two countries present Kenya with the delicate task of encouraging economic ties with a market of 1.3 billion potential consumers while protecting its trade.

Bilateral trade amounted to $475 million last year, according to Chinese officials. But the lion's share flowed east to pay for exports of everything from machinery to textiles.

China's exports to Kenya were worth $457 million in 2005, a 31 percent increase on the previous year, while imports from Kenya rose 4 percent to $17.6 million.

"We don't see ourselves competing with China mainly because of supply side constraints," said Martin Mutuku, researcher at the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM). "If we allowed China to trade freely with us, it's obviously going to impact local manufacturers -- actually it will be a death knell."

Kenya was the final stop of Hu's tour that has taken him to the United States, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Nigeria.

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Indian police 'kill nine rebels'

BBC: Nine Maoist rebels have been killed in a clash with police in India's southern state of Andhra Pradesh, officials say.

Security forces surrounded the Maoists as they were meeting in a forest in the Rayala Seema region, a senior police official said.

He said the dead Maoists included six women and that about 20 rebels escaped during the three-hour gun battle.

Police officials say around 450 people have died in Maoist-related violence in the last 17 months.

Peace talks collapsed in 2005.

The BBC's Omer Farooq in the state capital Hyderabad says rebels have infiltrated Rayala Seema in the last five years, especially the Nallamalla forest which is believed to be the biggest rebel hideout in the state.

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Russia leaving Europe short of gas?


Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, has reiterated that the country could direct its gas exports away from Europe if gas monopoly Gazprom’s downstream expansion in the EU is blocked. Although Mr Putin’s comments were more measured than those of Alexei Miller, the head of Gazprom, they rest on an equally shaky basis. For the next decade at least, Russia has no alternative to Europe as a major gas customer, and even after this period the costs of switching to Asia or North America could be prohibitive. Also, conditioning supplies on other deals enforces European concerns over whether Gazprom is a political tool rather than a reliable commercial venture. Given the sizeable risks and the limited potential rewards, why are Messrs Putin and Miller pushing so hard on this question?

Speaking in Siberia on April 27th, after a meeting with Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, Mr Putin said that European scaremongering over the risks inherent in greater reliance on supplies of Russian gas was creating an atmosphere that would force Russia (meaning Gazprom, although Mr Putin notably used the term “us”) to seek other markets for gas. Two weeks earlier, the Financial Times reported that the UK Department of Trade and Industry had considered options for blocking a rumoured bid by Gazprom for Centrica, the UK’s largest gas distributor, on national security grounds. This would most likely have involved changes to existing legislation.

Although Gazprom subsequently denied an interest in buying Centrica, Mr Miller appeared to be incensed at the prospect of the UK government—and perhaps others in Europe—putting obstacles in the path of Gazprom’s expansion. The company aims to become a major energy player in Europe, through increased supplies and the acquisition of transportation and distribution assets. Apparently responding to the reports, Mr Miller threatened on April 18th to redirect Gazprom’s exports to China and North America—both of which are set to experience a huge increase in gas demand in the next 20 years—if Europe blocked Gazprom’s downstream expansion.

Another fine mess

Mr Putin’s comments were notably softer than Mr Miller’s. He insisted that Russia would honour existing contracts and noted the country’s long track-record of supplying gas to Europe—even during times of East-West tension, such as the early 1980s. He also acknowledged that Europe was Russia’s largest and most stable gas partner.

Nevertheless, both Russia’s president and the CEO of Gazprom have sought to link gas supplies with Russia’s ability to acquire downstream assets in Europe. As an approach, it would seem to have some merit, if UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s recent statement that the UK would not block Gazprom from buying Centrica was prompted by Mr Miller’s threat. In general, however, this is unlikely to further Russia’s or Gazprom’s interests; indeed, it could easily be counterproductive.

Firstly, a threat to divert supplies away from Europe is barely credible. Russian gas is not a commodity that, like its oil, can easily be shipped to remote locations. Gazprom at present has no capacity to liquefy natural gas; as a result, it is dependent on pipelines for its gas exports—and all of these lines run to European countries. For as long as Western Siberia remains the centre of Russia’s oil industry, it is difficult to envisage Gazprom being able to direct the lion’s share of its exports to non-European markets. A pipeline to China from Western Siberia would take years to build and would be extremely expensive—and, if Russia’s disinclination to commit to an oil pipeline to China over a more expensive route to the Pacific coast is any guide, the country is also uneasy about tying itself to a single customer. Nor would it be commercially viable to liquefy West Siberian gas and ship it to North America.

Large-scale development of other regions would potentially allow Russia to diversify its export base. Fields in Eastern Siberia are closer to China, although it would be much cheaper to extend the existing Western Europe-Siberia pipelines to the new fields than to build a new line from Eastern Siberia to China. Also, the Shtokman field in the Barents Sea—for which Gazprom has just postponed to May the announcement of its project partners—has been earmarked as a source of liquefied natural gas (LNG) for export to the US market. The rise of Shtokman and Eastern Siberia could allow Russia to diversify away from a reliance on the European market, but this is far removed from a scenario whereby Russia turns its back on Europe and sells gas instead to customers that are much more difficult to reach. Underlining this, Gazprom and Germany’s BASF on April 27th signed a deal that gives the Germany company a 35% stake in the Yuzhno-Russkoye field, which will be the primary source of gas for the planned 1,200 km North European Gas Pipeline (NEGP) that will bypass eastern Europe to deliver gas to Germany via the bed of the Baltic Sea.

Secondly, threats to redirect supply on grounds not related to the profitability of that transaction stoke fears over Gazprom’s reliability. Mr Putin has said that Gazprom is a multinational like any other, but it is difficult to imagine ExxonMobil or Shell threatening to cut crude supplies to a country unless they were allowed to acquire refining or retail assets. Gazprom’s reputation has already been dented by two episodes of supply disruption in January 2006 and a perception that the government has used the company to punish unfriendly former Soviet states by restricting gas supplies and hiking prices (even if the reality is much less straightforward). In the current environment, Gazprom’s interests would be best served by avoiding controversy and studiously honouring its export contracts; attempts to bully its way into gas distribution in the EU’s largest gas market will only serve to increase security-of-supply anxieties.

Moreover, the acquisition of Centrica would not be particularly valuable for Gazprom. As several commentators have noted, Centrica’s margin in a competitive market is low; by acquiring the distributor, Gazprom would assume significant additional debt while gaining only a modest income stream. With regard to the UK market, the most lucrative opening for Gazprom is as a gas supplier rather than to become involved in distribution. Of course the acquisition of Centrica would guarantee Gazprom an export market, but if the company’s projections for Western European gas production and demand are correct then it should not need to buy Centrica in order to achieve this.

Thinking big

Given these considerations, it is worth asking why Messrs Putin and Miller reacted so strongly to reports that a UK ministry was merely considering restrictions on Russian investment. The answer probably lies in the centrality of Gazprom to Mr Putin’s plans for Russia and the determination of the Kremlin that Gazprom should become the world’s leading energy company, with interests in gas, oil and power at home and abroad.

For Mr Putin, Russia’s energy resources are central to his aspirations for the country to regain its global standing. The country’s military resources are limited; its nuclear arsenal is virtually an irrelevance in day-to-day diplomacy; and its permanent seat on the UN Security Council has proved to be less influential than Russia might have hoped, as the US-led invasion of Iraq showed. Economically, Russia is getting stronger but it remains much weaker than the G7 or China, and its long-term growth prospects are clouded by a shrinking population and over-reliance on resources. Viewed from this perspective, energy is perhaps the only sphere in which Russia is and will remain a world power—the country is the world’s second-largest oil producer and exporter, as well as being the leading global gas producer and owner of 25% of the world’s gas reserves.

Gazprom is central to Mr Putin’s vision of Russia as an energy superpower; this is clear in the government’s initial preference for the gas monopoly to take control of Yukos’s main subsidiary, Yuganskneftegaz, and its subsequent support for Gazprom’s acquisition of Sibneft. It is also clear in the government’s refusal to countenance gas-sector reform, which would threaten Gazprom’s dominance of domestic production and monopolies on transit and exports.

Gazprom is already a vast empire, with interests in banking, the media and agriculture as well as gas, oil and electricity. The Kremlin is eager to see the giant grow still further, and to be involved in all aspects of the gas trade as it concerns Europe, from production to distribution. In this regard, any move to block Gazprom’s expansion is not simply a commercial matter—it interferes with Mr Putin’s national strategy.

Source: ViewsWire Eastern Europe

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India may stay away from Iran pipeline

ISLAMABAD, April 28(Pakistan Dawn): India is expected to formally join $5billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan gas pipeline by mid May and stay away from Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline in the wake of its civil-nuclear energy pact with the United States.

Pakistan has been informed through informal channels that Indian cabinet would approve a plan by early next month to request Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan to join the pipeline through the Asian Development Bank.

The project would then be renamed as the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project, sources in the petroleum ministry said on Thursday.

The Indian petroleum ministry, they said, was believed to have already referred the case of TAPI to the cabinet for approval.

Based on interactions with Indian authorities recently, the sources said, it was Islamabad’s understanding that India would not be joining the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project at least for the time being, leaving Iran and Pakistan to pursue the project.

The sources, however, said a number of issues on the TAP project were still to be legally resolved, including certification of the Daulatabad gas field reserves, gas volumes to be transported by the pipeline, gas pricing, pipeline security and the overall project structure, which is presently being examined.

Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan had formally asked India on Feb 15 this year to decide about joining the gas pipeline project by May 15, 2006.

The project is expected to take precedence over Iranian and Qatari gas imports to India and Pakistan because of its cost effectiveness. It would cost $5billion against $7 billion Iran-Pakistan-India and $8 billion Qatar-Pakistan-India pipelines.

A clear response from India on the TAP project is a must before launching of the detailed feasibility study and engineering design of the project by June this year.

The ADB had already prepared various projects structures of the gas pipeline but a decision on “India factor” would be required before it is presented to possible consortium partners. These sources said Turkmenistan had told participants that an independent firm had confirmed gas reserves of over 2.3 trillion cubic meters at the Daulatabad field.

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Missile blast at Russian arsenal kills two

MOSCOW, April 28 (Reuters) - Two Russian soldiers were killed on Friday when an air-to-air missile exploded at an air force arsenal outside Moscow, Russian news agencies reported, citing the air force.

The missile exploded at an air force missile and munitions depot at Sergiyev Posad, just outside the capital, they said.

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Suspected al-Qaida commander seized

BAGHDAD, April 28 (UPI) -- Iraqi army troops succeeded in capturing the suspected al-Qaida commander in the province of Salaheddine, north of Baghdad.

An official source in the province said Friday that Ali Abdel Qader was seized in an ambush set up on the Tigris River, north of the city of Samarra.

The source said the operation was carried out successfully with the help of intelligence information gathered by the Iraqi army over the past few days.

In another development, Iraqi police discovered an arms cache in the southern city of Basra, believed to be remnants of the 2003 war between the Iraqi army and U.S.-led foreign forces.

A security official said the arms included 50 mortar rounds, two Russian-made Katyusha rockets and three mortars.

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Iran accuses U.S. of destabilising oil-rich south

Iran Focus Tehran, Iran, Apr. 28 – The top commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the governor of Iran’s southern province of Khuzestan issued a stern warning to the United States and Britain on Thursday to “stop meddling in Iran’s internal affairs” and creating “insecurity” in the province, the heart of Iran’s oil industry.

“For the past two weeks, America has stationed a brigade of its forces on the borders of Khuzestan [and Iraq], despite the fact that the military responsibility for the region from al-Amara to Basra had been given to the British”, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi told a gathering of senior commanders of the Bassij militia in the volatile city of Ahwaz, provincial capital of Khuzestan.

“This action shows that either the Americans don’t trust the British or these two have problems with each other”, Safavi said. “We warn the U.S. and Britain not to meddle in Iran’s internal affairs”.

The top Revolutionary Guards commander said the United States was “the principal enemy of Muslims around the world”, adding that “America’s hands are “stained with the blood of Muslims in Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan”.

Safavi claimed that members of the Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin (also known as Mujahedin-e Khalq or MeK), had been stationed alongside the U.S. brigade in the south as part of the campaign to destabilise Khuzestan Province.

“We have to be sufficiently prepared to counter the plots being hatched by these enemies”, Safavi said.

Speaking at the same meeting, the governor of Khuzistan Province, Revolutionary Guards Brigadier General Hayat Moqaddam said security in the province could only be established by “expanding the Bassij forces”. The Bassij is an arm of the Revolutionary Guards composed of Islamist zealots.

“As we all know, 65 percent of Iran’s oil and gas, 15 percent of thermal electricity, 88 percent of hydro-electric power, and a third of our country’s agricultural produce come from Khuzestan Province”, the governor said, underlining the unique position of the oil-rich province in Iran’s economy.

“We don’t believe that the insecurity in Khuzestan Province is an indigenous issue”, the general said. “This is a foreign-driven crisis that has its roots in the conspiracies of America, Britain, and Israel against the Islamic revolution, the Islamic Republic, and the people of Iran”.

Khuzestan Province has been the scene of unremitting anti-government protests since early 2005.

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Developments in Iraq on April 28

April 28 (Reuters) - Following are security and political developments in Iraq on Friday as of 1400 GMT.

Iraq is forming a new government of national unity to combat a mostly Sunni Arab insurgency. Sectarian tensions are running high after the bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra in February, which unleashed a wave of reprisal attacks.

Asterisk denotes a new or updated item.

*NEAR KIRKUK - One civilian was wounded when a roadside bomb targeting a police convoy exploded on a road 5 km (3 miles) south of Kirkuk, the oil centre 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

*KIRKUK - U.S. and Iraqi forces detained four suspected militants on Thursday, the joint military coordination centre said on Friday.

SAMARRA - An Iraqi security source said Hammadi al-Takhi, a wanted senior al Qaeda in Iraq member, was killed in an operation by the U.S. and Iraqi armies in Nahr al-Rusafi area, northeast of Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad.

SALAHADDIN - A source at the national security agency said Abdul Qadir Makhool, suspected of being a senior al Qaeda leader in Iraq, was detained on Thursday night by Iraqi soldiers 20 km (12 miles) north of Samarra.

FALLUJA - Three policemen were killed when a roadside bomb hit their patrol near a bridge in Falluja, 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, police said.

DIYALA - Nine people were killed, including seven Iraqi army soldiers, and 18 people were wounded, including 10 Iraqi army soldiers and four policemen, on Thursday in a series of attacks on police and Iraqi army checkpoints in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

They said the Iraqi security forces killed 21 insurgents and detained 43 others.

NEAR BAGHDAD - A U.S. soldier was killed on Thursday when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said in a statement.

NEAR NAJAF - Iraqi army and coalition soldiers killed a suspected assassin and bombmaker when he shot at them near Najaf, 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.


*NAJAF - Adel Abdul Mahdi, an Iraqi vice president, warned the United States against attacking Iran, a regional Shi'ite power with close ties to Shi'ites leading the Baghdad government.

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Russia, Germany sign major gas deal

ISN SECURITY WATCH (Friday, 28 April 2006: 10.35 CET) – Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel concluded key talks in Siberia by signing a key gas deal that gives a German company a role in the development of a lucrative Russian gas field.

The Thursday agreement signed by Putin and Merkel allows Germany's BASF-Wintershall company to work alongside Russian state-run gas giant Gazprom to develop a large gas field in Western Siberia, the Yuzhno-Russkoye gas field, which will feed a new gas pipeline delivering Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea.

Both sides praised what they called a smooth summit and welcomed future energy cooperation.

"There are obvious prospects for the deepening of cooperation in the high-technology and science intensive sectors determining the future of world progress - I mean aviation and space exploration," Russia's Itar-Tass news agency quoted Putin as saying.

Putin said a vital task was "the transition from the traditional, predominately trade forms of cooperation to large-scale scientific-industrial cooperation between Russia and Germany" - the foundations for which had already been laid, he said.

Merkel also won a guarantee from Putin that Russia would honor its energy export obligations to Germany and the EU, despite earlier warnings that it was considering focusing more on Eastern markets.

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Iran working on P-2 centrifuges for nukes – opposition

Iran Focus Paris, Apr. 27 – Iran’s main opposition movement National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) charged on Thursday that Tehran was working to develop P-2 centrifuges in an effort to obtain nuclear weapons.

“The mullahs are hard at work trying to build P-2 centrifuges. Tests are already in process in this respect”, NCRI Foreign Affairs Committee chair Mohammad Mohaddessin told reporters at a press conference in Paris.

Mohaddessin said that with P-2 centrifuges, Tehran could speed up its “efforts to manufacture a nuclear bomb” four-fold.

“The regime has done its utmost to conceal the P-2 program and is trying to prevent the [International Atomic Energy Agency] from obtaining any information on its P-2 research and development work. For this reason, all of the work has been carried out in military sites and by constant relocating of the work”, he said, adding that presently work on P-2 centrifuge development was being carried out in nuclear workshops in Ab-Ali, northern Tehran, and Natanz, central Iran. He said that the information had been provided to the opposition movement by sources inside Iran.

The Ministry of Defence was also working on the P-2 research program, he said, identifying “Ali Karimi, a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps” as a defence ministry expert involved in the project.

Mohaddessin gave the names of several other nuclear officials involved in the P-2 projects, including Seyyed Jaber Safdari, a key official working in Natanz.

The NCRI foreign affairs chief also gave details of an “implosion-triggered” nuclear bomb project being pursued by Tehran.

He said that the defence ministry had attempted to buy 20 kilograms of beryllium needed to build the bomb.

The exile coalition NCRI was the first to reveal Iran’s clandestine nuclear program. In August 2002, they revealed two massive nuclear sites at Natanz and Arak, both in central Iran, and have since made a string of stunning revelations about Tehran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.

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Hu's Doctrine on American Diplomacy

04/27/2006 - By Willy Lam (from China Brief, April 26) - President Hu Jintao’s U.S. trip last week (April 18 – 21) marked subtle but important changes in both the substance and style of China’s American diplomacy. This is despite the fact that given the lack of accomplishments at the much-touted Hu-Bush “summit,” the visit would probably be remembered mainly for the intrepid Falun Gong protestor at the White House South Lawn as well as President Bush’s refusal to give his guest a state dinner.

From the days of Chairman Mao Zedong, Beijing’s foreign policy toward the U.S. has always been the preserve of the country’s top party cadre. Since the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989, China’s American diplomacy has been guided by late patriarch Deng Xiaoping’s realistic, eight-character instruction: “Avoid confrontation and seek cooperation.” This dictum was faithfully followed during the 13-year tenure of ex-president Jiang Zemin, who was deemed “pro-U.S.” by quite a few Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials. Yet since President Hu took over Jiang’s last remaining post of Chairman of the CCP Central Military Commission in September 2004, the new supremo—who few would call “pro-U.S.”—has fundamentally revised Deng’s mantra partly to reflect the nation’s growing heft in economics, military strength and global standing. While on the surface, the Hu-led diplomatic team would seem to be working hard to accommodate a good number of U.S. demands, Beijing has let it be known in no uncertain terms that it is not afraid of taking on the lone superpower. In other words, the new guiding principle in China-U.S. diplomacy has become: “Cooperate – if it suits our purposes – but don’t shy away from confrontation if toughness is required.”

Given the growing inter-dependency between the U.S. and China, there is little doubt that Beijing is eager to secure whatever benefits that would accrue from cementing a “constructive, cooperative partnership” with Washington. Indeed, Hu and his colleagues in the CCP’s Leading Group on Foreign Affairs had thoroughly done their homework prior to the president and commander-in-chief’s arrival in Seattle. Earlier this month, Vice-Premier Wu Yi bought $16.2 billion’s worth of American products. The State Council, or cabinet, announced tough new guidelines against piracy of intellectual property rights, including the fact that governments of all levels must buy properly licensed software. At least outwardly, Chinese diplomats refused to make much of the fact that the Bush White House had refused to dignify the Hu trip by calling it a “state visit.”

Yet when it came to the supposed substance of the Hu tour—the one-hour tete-a-tete in the White House—the Chinese leader gave nothing away. Beijing stood its ground on a gradualist policy on appreciating the Chinese currency. The Chinese team laid the blame for the $200 billion U.S. trade deficit on the Bush administration’s refusal to sell the PRC high technology, including dual-use hardware. Most significantly, Hu did not even offer anything rhetorically notable regarding what Beijing would do to pressure its quasi-allies, North Korea and Iran, into dismantling their nuclear programs.

In fact, the new Hu doctrine on American diplomacy—do not shy away from confrontation—has manifested itself most palpably in China’s continued support for the two rogue regimes. Earlier this month, the Chinese leader sent his defense minister and trusted military aide, General Cao Gangchuan, to both Pyongyang and Seoul with a view of demonstrating Beijing’s growing clout with not only the DPRK but also South Korea. It is no secret that through last year, China’s economic and energy aid to the Kim Jong-il regime increased substantially. General Cao pledged an “expansion of military cooperation” while meeting his hosts in Pyongyang. While in Seoul, one of General Cao’s purposes was clearly trying to drive a wedge between South Korea and the United States, especially ensuring that U.S. troops stationed in the ROK would not be deployed against China should the two powers go to war over Taiwan.

Also prior to Hu’s visit, Beijing sent Assistant Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai as a special envoy to Tehran to discuss the Iranian nuclear crisis. While not much is known about the results of the trip, it is clear that Beijing, along with Moscow, is averse to the UN Security Council mandating the use of force against Iran. Diplomatic sources in Beijing have pointed out that in its internal circulars for party cadres, the CCP leadership has the past several months reiterated that there is no way Beijing will acquiesce in a U.S. invasion of Iran the same way that it did Iraq.

Yet perhaps the most significant aspect of Hu’s get-tough American diplomacy is that China would no longer content itself with passively countering what Beijing perceives to be an “anti-China containment policy” spearheaded by Washington. For Hu, offense is the best defense. Sun Tzu, the great Chinese strategist—an ornate edition of whose masterwork The Art of War was presented by Hu to Bush as a gift—might not exactly have used so many words to describe China’s new-found assertiveness in global one-upmanship. Yet the Hu team is obviously convinced that China now has the economic, diplomatic and military wherewithal to compete with the U.S. head-on—and in some instances, even to outflank it.

This aggressive game-plan goes beyond efforts, made the past couple of months by General Cao and Premier Wen Jiabao in their respective visits to South Korea and Australia, to ensure that these U.S. allies would think twice about following what Washington might want them to do vis-à-vis the PRC. The bigger picture can be seen by taking a closer look at the trips made by Hu—who seems bent on going into the history books as China’s “foreign-policy president”— the past year or so. Take Hu’s ongoing world tour of the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Nigeria and Kenya. It is noteworthy that, first, Hu is spending much less time in the U.S. than previous top Chinese cadres did on their state visits; and that symbolically, the U.S. is just one of the pawns—albeit the biggest one—that the Chinese diplomatic juggernaut is determined to maneuver in Beijing’s global chessboard. Most importantly, the level of Beijing’s buying power and military power projection is such that a sizable portion of whatever economic, diplomatic and energy-related gains that Hu may make, particularly in Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, could be at the expense of the U.S.

The logic of Beijing fully acting out its potential as America’s “strategic competitor” was already evident in trips that Hu had made earlier to Africa, the Middle East and the Americas. Last September, Hu’s brief stop-over in New York (to attend functions at the UN and to participate in another “summit” with Bush) was sandwiched between his tours of immediate U.S. neighbors, Canada and Mexico. Moreover, in late 2004, Hu received VIP treatments in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Cuba. Given that since 9/11, most of U.S. foreign policy has been preoccupied by events in Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, ever-more assertive steps that Beijing is taking to compete with the U.S. for oil—and in particular, influence in the Middle East, Africa and the Asia-Pacific—will necessarily detract from Bush’s ability to, in his words, spread the values of freedom and democracy in China.

Hu’s recently concluded trip to the U.S. has also confirmed a new “united front” strategy that Chinese cadres are using in interactions with the United States. More than previous top leaders touring America, Hu seemed to be lavishing the bulk of his attention on audiences outside of the Bush administration. The usually dour CCP General Secretary displayed for the first time a sense of humor and an avuncular touch—with Chinese characteristics—while hobnobbing with captains of industry, workers, as well as professors and students. In Seattle, he charmed Bill Gates with his profession of respect for IPR protection, hugged a Boeing worker, and even joked about his being a closet Starbucks fan. At Yale, Hu even kidded apparently-enraptured students about his willingness to “stay on and not go home” so as to fully answer the 78 questions they had put to him after his 50-minute paean to cultural cross-pollination.

Much more than Deng and even the savvy ex-president Jiang, Hu understands that U.S. presidents—and most politicians—come and go, and that oftentimes it is more important to woo big corporations as well as opinion-makers. In the past couple of years, Beijing has skillfully asked large numbers of U.S. corporations, especially those with plants in the east China “gold coast,” to lobby Washington not to press China too hard on the currency issue. An important focus of Beijing’s business-oriented united-front tactics is to persuade U.S. high-tech firms to put pressure on the White House to selectively lift the ban on the export of dual-use technology to the PRC. Given the headway that Hu seems to have made in waging an assertive diplomacy, it would not be inappropriate for Bush to take an in-depth look at The Art of War the next time he goes to his Texas Range.

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