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NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Egypt busts Sinai arms ring - security sources

AL-ARISH, Egypt, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Egyptian police busted a weapons-dealing ring on Saturday that sold guns and grenades in Egypt's Sinai peninsula and whose members included security men, security sources said.

"Nine members of this network were caught red-handed while selling weapons and explosives on one of the streets in al-Arish to a group of Bedouin and Palestinians," one of the sources told Reuters, asking not to be named.

The Sinai peninsula has been the scene of a string of three deadly bomb attacks targeting popular Red Sea beach resorts over the past two years that have killed scores of people.

Palestinian militants have also used Sinai to smuggle weapons through tunnels across the border into the Gaza Strip for use in fighting Israel.

Of those arrested on Saturday, five were Palestinians and four were members of the Egyptian police, the sources said. They said authorities were still searching for six more suspects in north Sinai. The sources said the police seized hand grenades, an assault rifle and ammunition when they made the arrests in al-Arish, a town on Egypt's Mediterranean coast with a mixed population of settled Bedouin, people from the Nile valley and assimilated people of Palestinian origin.

Egypt has laid the blame for the Sinai bombings on local militants including Bedouin with militant Islamist views.

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Kurdish guerilla group declares unilateral ceasefire

A Kurdish guerrilla group on Saturday declared a new unilateral cease-fire in its war for autonomy in Turkey's southeast, heeding a call from its imprisoned rebel leader, pro-Kurdish Firat news agency said on its Web site.

The Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, said the cease-fire will go into effect on Sunday.


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Report: Egypt, Jordan want Hamas excluded from PA

Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and officials from unnamed Gulf states met secretly in Aqaba, Jordan to discuss keeping Hamas out of a new Palestinian government to be formed by Abbas, London's Al-Quds al-Arabi reported Saturday morning.

Egypt, Jordan and an unnamed Persian Gulf state are opposed Hamas' participation in a Palestinian unity government, according to the report. Arab officials do not want Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh - whom they consider moderate - to continue serving as PA prime minister, because they see him as ultimately subordinate to Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashal. The Arab officials would prefer to see an independent candidate - like Palestinian businessman Munib al-Masri - for the premiership.

The report said Abbas accused Israel of trying to delay a resolution to the Gilad Shalit hostage crisis by making use of non-Egyptian mediators, including Turkey, Norway, and Spain.

The PA chairman also said Syria and Iran wanted to see the negotiations fail, and requested that talks be coordinated through him personally, because Hamas would try to take credit for any successful resolution.


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2 OPEC countries cut oil production

NEW YORK, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Nigeria and Venezuela plan to cut production amid OPEC concern about the rapid drop in prices, the OPEC countries say.

The move, which accounts for about 170,000 barrels a day, may suggest other cuts by the oil-producing cartel, The Financial Times reports.

Figures to be released in the next few weeks are expected to show Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates also reduced output, but are keeping quiet about it, the newspaper reports.

Nigerian Oil Minister and OPEC President Edmund Daukoru has said the price of oil was "very low."

Nigeria and Venezuela both said their cuts were part of an informal deal worked out at a meeting in September to pare output if prices fell, The New York Times reported.

Oil prices peaked in midsummer at $77.03 a barrel and have fallen nearly 20 percent since then.

Current oil futures rose 15 cents to close at $62.91 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange Friday.

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Islamists extend authority in Somalia

AFGOYE, Somalia, Sept 30 (Reuters) - A Somali cleric handed over a region under his control to powerful Islamists on Saturday, further extending the movement's authority over southern Somalia.

In a ceremony attended by hundreds in the town of Afgoye, 30 kms (18 miles) from Mogadishu, Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed Siad, known as "Inda'ade", handed over the fertile agriculture area of Lower Shabelle, which he had governed for the last few years.

Although his fighters played a key role in the fight for Mogadishu, which the Islamists seized from U.S.-backed warlords in June, Inda'ade had previously distanced himself from the movement, saying he was a just a supporter.

"This region is in the hands of the Islamic courts as of today," Inda'ade, now in charge of security for the Islamists, told the crowd gathered under a tree.

"Whatever happens from today, good or bad, will fall on the shoulders of the Islamic courts."

The Islamists have rapidly expanded their influence, effectively flanking the Western-backed interim government, based in the provincial town of Baidoa, on three sides.

They seized the port of Kismayo, 500 kms (310 miles) from Mogadishu, on Monday without firing a shot. Many Somalis have been puzzled as to why the Islamists had taken control of faraway towns and not Lower Shabelle, closer to Mogadishu.

Inda'ade told Reuters he had handed over his fighters and his technicals -- pickups mounted with guns.

"I have only two technicals for my own safety," he said.


Senior Islamist Sheikh Sharif Ahmed told the cheering crowd how the new leadership would administer the region.

"We will start with security first, then we will go to the judiciary and then we will set up an administration," he said.

"The troops of the Lower Shabelle are part of the Islamic Courts Union's Army. They are ready to go into the trenches against Ethiopia," he added.

Islamists leaders have repeatedly urged Somalis to defend their country against an Ethiopian military presence.

Witnesses say Ethiopia -- long the most powerful country in the region -- is bolstering the interim government by sending troops to Baidoa. Addis Ababa denies this.

Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi said on Friday Kenya and Ethiopia would help if the Islamists attacked Baidoa.

Kenyan media on Saturday quoted foreign affairs ministry officials as saying the country's armed forces were maintaining a round-the-clock surveillance on the border with Somalia.

The Somali interim administration -- the 14th attempt at restoring effective central rule since the 1991 ouster of a dictator -- views the Kismayo takeover as a breach of a ceasefire agreed at talks in Sudan.

The Islamists' arrival in Kismayo has been met with several protests. On Thursday they forcibly closed a private broadcaster, accusing it of distorting news about the protests.

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Iranian video game offers chance to blow up U.S. tanker

TEHRAN (Reuters) - A new Iranian computer game sets players the task of blowing up a U.S. tanker in the Gulf to block the sea route for much of the world's oil supplies, a newspaper reported on Saturday.

The game, "Counter Strike", invites players to plant two bombs on the oil tanker to sink it and make the strait of Hormuz impassable, the Jomhouri-ye Eslami daily reported. About two-fifths of globally traded oil passes through the channel.

The game illustrates a warning by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said in June that oil exports in the Gulf region could be seriously endangered if the United States made a wrong move on Iran.

Its launch also comes at a critical time in negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, which the United States says is aimed at making an atomic bomb but which Iran says is to produce electricity. Iran faces the threat of U.N. sanctions if it does not suspend uranium enrichment.

"In the new computer game ... the ways of shutting down the Hormuz strait through exploding a ship will be shown to the users," Jomhouri-ye Eslami quoted a statement issued by the game's state-funded producers as saying.

The cyberspace and computer games markets have witnessed sabre-rattling before between Iran and the United States. Games have involved special forces of each side blasting their enemies' facilities and foiling plots hatched by the adversary.

A popular U.S. game, called "U.S. attacks Iran" or "Assault on Iran" and made by Kuma Reality games, revolved around a special forces mission to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities.

The new Iranian game was produced by an eight-member team in three months for distribution in Iran, the paper said. Its launch was linked to commemorations of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, whose official start was marked in Tehran this month.

The designers and the sponsors of the game were not immediately available for comments.

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Russian planes buzz Alaskan coast

The Russian air force held a massive exercise that involved strategic bombers flying across the North Pole and approaching Alaska, the Aleutian Islands and Japan, a top general said Friday.

Lt. Gen. Igor Khvorov, the commander of Russian long-range aviation, said the exercise that began Tuesday and finished Friday had nothing to do with heightening tensions between Russia and Georgia, Russian news reports said.

Khvorov said the exercise involved 70 Tu-160, Tu-95 and Tu-22M3 bombers, which test-fired 18 cruise missiles, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

He said some bombers crossed the Arctic Ocean, flew over the North Pole and also reached Alaska, the Aleutian Islands and Japan's western coast without entering any country's airspace.

"All the aircraft involved flew over neutral waters, and none of them came closer than 12 nautical miles (25 km) to the maritime borders of any country," Khvorov said, according to RIA Novosti.


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Islamic rebels warn India over execution

Haveeru Online: Islamic rebels warned Friday of "dire consequences" if India executes a Kashmiri Muslim convicted over a 2001 attack on parliament, as a protest strike paralysed the state's main city.

The threat came on the third day of protests in insurgency-racked Indian Kashmir against a New Delhi judge's order for Mohammed Afzal, one of the masterminds of the attack, to be hanged October 20.

"We warn of dire consequences if the death sentence is carried out," said Sadaqat Hussain, spokesman for the United Jihad Council, Indian Kashmir's main militant alliance which fights New Delhi's rule here.

Hussain did not make any specific threats in the statement published in local Indian Kashmiri newspapers but said Afzal was innocent.

Shops, businesses and schools were closed in Srinagar to protest the planned execution of Afzal who was convicted of conspiracy in the assault on parliament in December 2001 which left 14 people dead, including the attackers, and brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war.
The one-day strike, which followed two days of street demonstrations and running battles with police, was called by the hardline wing of the region's main separatist alliance, the Hurriyat Conference, and backed by the United Jihad Council.

A leading separatist Yasin Malik said he would travel to New Delhi to take up the matter of Afzal's death sentence with lawyers and human rights activists.

"A massive agitation to save Afzal will continue to press for repeal of the death sentence," he said.

India blamed Pakistan-backed militants fighting against its rule in Indian Kashmir for the attack on parliament but Islambad denied the charge.

The nuclear-armed neighbours which have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir each control part of the Himalayan region but claim it in full.

Afzal can still seek clemency from India's president, but his family said he opposes such a move. They allege that Afzal was not given a fair trial.

Last month, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence against Afzal over the attack, saying there was no doubt about his complicity in carrying out the "terrorist act of (a) most diabolical nature."

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Kurdish rebels 'announce truce'


A Kurdish rebel group fighting for autonomy in south-east Turkey has declared a unilateral ceasefire, a pro-Kurdish news agency has reported.

The Firat agency said the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) truce would take effect from Sunday.

PKK fighters would not use their weapons unless Turkish troops fired on them, the agency reported.

The PKK's conflict with Turkey has claimed more than 30,000 lives since it began in 1984.

Erdogan firm

The declaration came after the PKK's jailed leader, Abdullah Ocalan, called on Thursday for the organisation to seek a peaceful solution with Turkey.

The Turkish government has previously said it will pursue the Kurdish militant group until it is eliminated or surrenders.

On Friday Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected Ocalan's ceasefire call.

Mr Erdogan said a truce was only possible between two states, describing the PKK as a "terrorist organisation".

A spate of bomb attacks hit Turkey over the past month, some of them blamed on a group called the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (Tak), regarded as an offshoot of the PKK.

As violent attacks by the PKK have escalated in recent weeks, Turkey has been talking tougher than ever, even threatening military intervention in northern Iraq where the group has its bases, the BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Istanbul says.

The PKK has been classed as a terror group by the European Union and the US, as well as by Turkish authorities.

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Russia suspends troop pull-out from Georgia bases

MOSCOW, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Russia has temporarily suspended a pull-out of its troops from two Russian bases in Georgia until the security situation has returned to normal, a defence ministry spokesman said on Saturday.

"The pull-out has been suspended," the spokesman said, referring to the phased withdrawal of Russian forces from Georgia under bilateral agreement.

This was because the security of troops could not be fully guaranteed as they crossed Georgian territory, he said, referring to the spying row in which Georgia arrested four Russian army officers.

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At least 20 killed as Sri Lanka violence grinds on

COLOMBO, Sept 30 (Reuters) - At least 17 Tamil Tiger rebels and three policemen were killed in Sri Lanka on Saturday, the security forces said, as the worst violence since a 2002 ceasefire grinds on despite peace talk pledges.

Police Special Task Force troopers opened fire on Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) guerrillas who attacked a remote police post in the east, killing 15 rebel fighters, while the Navy killed two rebels wearing cyanide capsules around their necks as they tried to land by boat on the northern army-held Jaffna peninsula, officials said.

"The Navy killed two Sea Tigers as they were trying to infiltrate islands near Jaffna and damaged their boat. Frogmen are searching the sea to see if there are any more bodies," a military spokesman said.

In a separate incident, three policemen were killed when suspected Tigers detonated a Claymore fragmentation mine in the north central district of Vavuniya.

The LTTE was not immediately available for comment on the incidents.

The clashes came a day after suspected rebels fired mortar bombs at an army camp further north in the eastern district of Batticaloa, killing three soldiers and a civilian.

Also on Friday, the bodies of three slain Tamil men, one of them decapitated, were found by the roadside in the east.

The military said the trio were Tamil Tiger fighters who were abducted and killed by the rebels as they sought to defect. Pro-rebel Web site www.tamilnet.com said the three men had been abducted in Colombo by suspected paramilitaries aligned to the government in a white van and murdered.

White-van abductions are infamous in Sri Lanka. There have been dozens of reported cases in recent months in a new chapter in a two-decade civil war that has killed more than 65,000 people since 1983. Many residents accuse the military of being responsible.

The Tigers and the government have both told peace broker Norway they are prepared to meet for talks after a five-month deadlock to end fighting that has killed hundreds of civilians, troops and rebels since late July.

However, some military officials say they are keen to inflict as many casualties on the Tigers as possible to corner them and subdue them into resuming talks.

Emboldened by the capture of strategic rebel territory south of the northeast harbour of Trincomalee, some officers are keen to push into Tiger areas in the northern Jaffna peninsula and recapture a strategic spit of land called Elephant Pass.

Both sides are poles apart over the central issue of devolution of power to minority Tamils in the north and east, where the Tigers demand a separate homeland.

Analysts and diplomats are sceptical the talks will actually happen and fear the violence will only deepen.

"Certainly it looks as though we will see more of the same," said one diplomat on condition of anonymity. "We don't see any signs that either side are ready to stop this. They both seem to think they are winning."

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Armenian Armed Forces fire at Azerbaijani positions in Aghdam

Armenia continues violating the ceasefire, APA’s Garabagh bureau reports.

Armenian Armed Forces fired at opposite positions of Azerbaijan in Chiragli village, Aghdam with short intervals till the morning from occupied Besh Gervend village and Gulchuluk.

The enemy was silenced by response fire. No casualties were reported. Azerbaijan Defense Ministry press service did not give exact information. /APA/

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Pata Davitaya: Russian intelligence service sent Armenian spies to Georgia

APA: “Armenians’ autonomy in Georgia is out of question. We perfectly realize their aim,” Pata Davitaya, Georgian parliamentarian and UN International Academy of Information member told journalists, APA reports. He commented on the current tense relations between Georgia and Russia.

“The conflict between Georgia and Russia is not good for any country in the region. We hope to solve the problem peacefully. This is the problem of the governments but not nations,” he said.
The parliamentarian also said Russian intelligence service sent Armenian spies to Georgia.

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Friday, September 29, 2006


By Vladimir Socor

Friday, September 29, 2006

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s September 22 address to the United Nations General Assembly has transformed the terms of international discussion on the post-Soviet “frozen” conflicts. After Saakashvili’s address, hardly any international actors other than Moscow’s ad-hoc supporters could any longer defend Russia’s “peacekeeping” and “mediation” or its prescriptions for political settlement of these conflicts.

Saakashvili’s address has -- for the first time in many years at this level -- clearly set down the basic parameters for dealing with these conflicts:

1. The conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia are “territorial conflicts,” conducted by Russia against Georgia. Saakashvili outlined the process by which “these regions are being annexed” through military force and handover of Russian citizenship to local residents, directly violating international law. This part of Saakashvili’s speech implicitly underscores the long-ignored change in the nature of these conflicts: from local ethnic conflicts (Moscow-orchestrated in the first place) into a Russian assault on Georgia.

2. All ethnic communities suffer in the secessionist enclaves: the Georgians through ethnic cleansing and denial of native-language education, the others through rule by “sponsors of organized crime, fear, and lawlessness. Such suffering must come to an end.” Implicitly but clearly, the grounds for international humanitarian intervention are shown to exist.

3. “Proxies” underscore Russia’s primary role in the conflict. Saakashvili called attention to the heavy arming of Abkhaz and South Ossetian forces by Russia and frequently held joint exercises of secessionist and Russian forces.

4. Russia’s conduct poses a clear case of aggression: “Few examples are more blatant of a state seeking to annex the internationally recognized territory of another state.” Thus, Russia is shown to challenge the foundations of the international system as well.

5. Georgia holds the right of self-defense based on international law: Saakashvili wondered aloud “whether any members in this great hall would tolerate such intervention on their own soil.” Russia, he noted, expects the international community to accept this situation with regard to Georgia. If accepted, then “lawlessness and indifference to it [become] the new rules of the international game.” The ultimate stake transcends Georgia: “There is a vital interest to reject the unraveling of sovereign statehood.”

6. Resolution of these conflicts must be integrated with the agenda for rule of law and democracy: “The residents of our disputed territories are under a form of gangster occupation. The Rose Revolution and democracy in Georgia will remain unfinished until all citizens of Georgia have the right to participate in the life and decisions of the state.”

7. On their track record, Saakashvili noted, “The inherited peacekeeping frameworks and negotiating formats neither promote peace nor encourage any genuine negotiation.…They have served to perpetuate, rather than resolve the conflicts.” In the course of 12 years, Russia’s “peacekeepers” have failed to facilitate the return of Georgian refugees to Abkhazia. Russian peacekeeping operations have “abused and made a farce of the principles of neutrality, impartiality, and trust.”

8. Georgia calls for international action to “replace and transform the current frameworks for negotiation and peacekeeping in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.” It seeks demilitarization of both areas and the deployment of internationally mandated police units, backed by active engagement of the UN, OSCE, and the European Union. Russia’s ‘peacekeeping’ forces “themselves, by their own choice, not by ours, have in effect annulled their own mandate.” The negotiating formats must be reconfigured to focus on “direct dialogue on the ground between Georgians and Abkhaz, Georgians and South Ossetians” as well as opening the prospect of economic rehabilitation: “Why should our citizens be reduced to such miserable economic conditions?”

9. Thus, Georgia serves notice that it intends to exercise “the sovereign right to request the removal of foreign military forces. We make no secret of our intentions to fulfill this sovereign right and solemn duty.” Saakashvili was alluding to plans by the Georgian government and parliament to issue in October an evaluation of more than a decade of Russian “peacekeeping” and, based on that track record, to demand the termination of those operations.

10. The onus for a peaceful resolution rests not only on Georgia, but on the international community as well: “Let no one ever say that Georgia was not clear as to how it would protect its democracy and its State, let no one ever say that we did not seek to do so by peaceful means alone.…All nations that share these values are willing to sacrifice for them.”

In the run-up to the Georgian parliament’s vote, some governments and international organizations that have over the years grown comfortable with the Russia-created status quo were beginning to discourage Georgia from trying to change that situation. Saakashvili’s UN address -- a consensus product of Georgia’s presidency, leading parliamentarians, and its government -- has rendered those attempts to protect the Russian-made status quo unsustainable from now on.

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The Case for Waterboarding

By Vasko Kohlmayer

Discussing his recent compromise with the White House on detention and interrogation of captured terrorists, John McCain said on the Today show that ‘there will be no such thing as waterboarding…You will never see that again. We stood up and said that cannot be done.’

It is not easy to grasp the thinking of senator McCain and others who seek to ban this practice in the light of its immense value in our fight against terror. Take, for instance, the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed captured in Pakistan in March of 2003. One of the masterminds of 9/11 and al-Qaeda’s operational leader at the time, he possessed a wide-ranging knowledge of the network’s plans, logistics and personnel. Unwilling to share it voluntarily, he was subjected to forced interrogation. As resilient as he was and defiant, he held out until the interrogators decided to proceed with waterboarding. Two and a half minutes into the procedure, a broken Mohammed begged for relief. Stunned and shaken, his extensive confession amounted to nothing less than a treasure trove of priceless intelligence.

This case is unusual not in how quickly the waterboarding worked, but how long Mohammed was able to withstand it. Two and a half minutes is by all accounts a record of sorts, as most subjects usually break down inside a minute. CIA agents who undergo this procedure as part of their training rarely last more than 40 seconds. This despite the fact that they are in a friendly environment and know that death is not an option.

Although waterboarding is normally employed as the last resort and the frequency of its use kept secret, it has been made known that so far it has worked every time it has been tried. Thanks to its extraordinary efficacy, we have been able to obtain a great amount of critical intelligence that would have otherwise remained inaccessible. With the help of this information we have captured al-Qaeda operatives, stopped deadly plots, and saved many innocent lives. One of the fruits of Mohammed’s confession, to give one example, was the thwarting of a conspiracy to fly an airliner into the Library Tower, the tallest building in Los Angeles.

Given these facts, it is almost incomprehensible that there are some people in this country who insist that we relinquish this life-saving tool. Resting their objections on ethical grounds, they try to convince us that the procedure is morally unacceptable. But theirs is a misguided stance, since careful consideration shows that waterboarding is in fact one of the least injurious among interrogation techniques.

To see why this is so, it is enough to contrast it with the most common approach which involves a combination of sleep deprivation and cold exposure. Frequently requiring days and even weeks to break the captive’s spirit, it carries a real possibility of long-term physical and psychological damage. Worse still, it often fails to achieve the desired effect with the result that the captive is subjected to prolonged hardships, but we still end up without the information we so urgently need.

Waterboarding, on the other hand, is fleeting in duration with the actual discomfort lasting seldom more than a couple of minutes. And since a man can be safely deprived of oxygen for at least twice as long, there is almost no risk of long-term harm. The possibility of injury is further reduced by the fact that the procedure calls for no direct physical contact between the subject and his interrogators. Not even as much as pushing or chest slapping is required at any time, making waterboarding one of the safest and least confrontational among interrogation methods. Involving the lowest risk of long-term harm and the least amount of cumulative discomfort, it is also the most humane. Most importantly, it is the most effective.

While other interrogation procedures employ raw force, intimidation or long-term duress, waterboarding brings the terrorist face to face with that which he himself seeks to inflict upon his victims – the horror of dying. Viewed in this light, waterboarding may well be the most just form of interrogation for this kind of criminal, because it gives him a taste of his own evil. The difference is that his anguish is stopped the moment he expresses a desire for it to be so. This, tragically, is something which his victims would never be granted. While the terrorist turns his prey into mangled corpses, waterboarding gives him a chance to see another day without being so much as scathed by his momentary ordeal. But even as he goes on living, we have in our possession crucial intelligence that will save innocent lives.

It is widely agreed that the horrors of 9/11 took place primarily because of our intelligence gathering failures. The fact that at the time we had in our custody the 20th hijacker makes this tragedy all the more painful. Even though we suspected that Zacarias Moussaoui knew something big was in the works, we did not interrogate him aggressively enough to extract this information from him. Had we done so, things could have turned out differently. One of the primary objectives of waterboarding is to bring forth the kind of intelligence that will prevent tragedies like 9/11 from occurring again.

Rather than depriving our interrogators of this tool for wresting intelligence from recalcitrant terrorists, we must ensure that it is available whenever the need arises. Our government officials would do well to remember what the stakes are and whose protection they have been entrusted with. Once they do so, they cannot but recognize that our government not only is fully justified in utilizing this invaluable technique, but has a moral obligation to use it to save lives.

And as far as opponents of waterboarding are concerned, I have these questions to ask: Are a few moments of a terrorist’s discomfort more important than the lives of the innocents he seeks to destroy? Are two minutes of Moussaoui’s anguish worth more than the three thousand lives lost on 9/11? Does his momentary pain override a lifetime of hurt of those left behind?

If you can’t answer in the affirmative then hold your peace.


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Taliban say they shot "spy" in Pakistan's Waziristan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The Taliban claimed responsibility on Friday for executing a man described as a spy for U.S. and Afghan intelligence in North Waziristan, a border region where the Pakistan government signed a pact with tribals a few weeks ago to stamp out militancy.

Leaflets justifying the slaying were distributed in the semi-autonomous Pashtun tribal region a day after Malang Rahim Jan's bullet-ridden body was found. Taliban and al Qaeda fighters had been active in the area before a ceasefire was called three months ago to allow talks that led to the September 5 pact.

"With Allah's blessing, Taliban captured this spy and gave him punishment according to Shariah (Islamic law)," read the leaflet, bearing a photograph of Jan, with his identification card pinned to his chest. The dead man was said to be an Afghan.

The leaflet was titled "Da Jasoosi Anjam", meaning "Fate of the Spy" -- the same title put on several execution videos made by Al-Sahab Productions, an arm of al Qaeda's media wing.

"He had reported that 10 Taliban centres were here," the leaflet said. "He was working for Afghan intelligence."

Afghanistan says Taliban forces fighting in southern Afghanistan are being reinforced from Pakistan, but Islamabad says the accusation is exaggerated.

The United States and other NATO members with troops in Afghanistan are closely monitoring events in North Waziristan.

A handful of such killings have been reported since the government signed a treaty with a faction of tribal leaders dominated by clerics from an Islamist political party that has supported the Taliban cause.

Critics fear the pact could create a safe-haven in North Waziristan for the Taliban and al Qaeda.

The army has taken a much lower profile since. Suspected militants have been freed, weapons returned and compensation paid.

So far, the pact has succeeded in halting attacks on Pakistani troops in North Waziristan, but attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces directly across the border have increased sharply since the June truce, according to the U.S. military in Kabul.

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China quietly adjusts yuan policy, rise quickens

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China is quietly adjusting its policy on the yuan, letting it appreciate a little faster and setting the stage for a possibly wider trading band, traders and analysts said after a recent surge in the currency's value.

Between Tuesday last week and Thursday, the yuan climbed 0.64 percent against the dollar to a close of 7.8965, its fastest rise in any period of eight trading days since it was revalued by 2.1 percent and freed from a peg to the dollar in July 2005.

Although the yuan fell back on Friday, analysts said the record appreciation -- which coincided with the maiden visit of U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to China -- sent a strong signal that Chinese currency policy was shifting.

"It is clear that the central bank is quietly allowing the yuan to rise faster, and the move has coincided with renewed international pressure," said economist Wang Haoyu at First Capital Securities in Shenzhen.

A dealer at a major Chinese state bank added: "The policy has changed to some extent, and the central bank is paving the way for a wider trading range for the yuan.

"The silence on the central bank's part doesn't mean there are no policy adjustments."

China has in the past resisted foreign pressure for faster appreciation, and nobody disputes it is setting policy mainly according to its own economic needs.

But tighter monetary policy over the past six months has only partially succeeded in restraining breakneck money supply growth, so currency appreciation has become an increasingly attractive tool to moderate the economy.

Meanwhile, signs from the United States have suggested that Washington and Beijing may have reached some kind of tacit understanding on the yuan.

Paulson is believed to have discussed currencies in Beijing last week, but he carefully avoided the confrontational rhetoric used by some U.S. officials in the past, saying instead he aimed for a new tone in cooperation with China.

And after meeting Paulson on his return to Washington, two U.S. senators announced on Thursday that they were dropping legislation threatening China with punitive tariffs if it did not permit faster yuan appreciation.

This caused the market to speculate that Paulson communicated to the senators a new U.S.-China consensus -- one in which Beijing undertook to allow somewhat faster appreciation in return for a reduction in U.S. pressure over the issue.

Asked about this speculation, a Chinese central bank official told Reuters on Friday that the bank had no new policy statement about the yuan, and declined to comment further.

But analysts said both governments were unlikely to publicly confirm any understanding that did exist, in order to preserve their room for maneuver as economic conditions and the policy environment changed in the future.

"The recent quicker yuan appreciation may be a face-giving gesture to U.S. politicians, but it goes far beyond that," said a dealer at a European bank, adding that it could mark the start of a period in which quibbling over the exchange rate was no longer central to U.S.-China ties.

Any understanding on the yuan probably does not involve dramatically faster appreciation, which could destabilize China's export industries, analysts said.

Many expect a rise of between 3 percent -- roughly the gap between U.S. and Chinese interest rates -- and 5 percent over the next 12 months.

That would be roughly twice the pace of the yuan's 1.6 percent rise in the first 12 months after its revaluation, but still slower than many currencies' movements in global markets.

One-year offshore non-deliverable forwards , used for long-term bets on the yuan's movement, were quoted at 7.6510 early on Friday afternoon, implying appreciation of 3.3 percent over the next 12 months. Forwards have not shifted sharply over the last several weeks.

The yuan fell back to 7.9070 against the dollar on Friday afternoon, and traders noted that in the short term, a further pullback could be in store.

The central bank is keen to encourage two-way volatility in order to discourage speculators from pouring hot money into the country in one-way bets. The pullback could, therefore, easily extend to 7.94 or even 7.95 early next month, some traders said.

Analysts, however, believe a widening of the yuan's trading band may be on the cards as part of a U.S.-China understanding. Currently, the yuan may rise or fall 0.3 percent from a daily mid-point set by the central bank.

The band makes little difference to the speed of yuan appreciation -- the market rarely even approaches the edge of the bands, and the central bank is able to engineer any pace of appreciation that it wants simply by setting mid-points.

But widening the band would be a positive gesture to U.S. politicians, while helping China's foreign exchange market become deeper and more closely resemble developed markets.

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Pakistan accused of hundreds of terror abductions

LONDON (Reuters) - Pakistan has abducted hundreds of people as part of the U.S-led war on terror, often secretly holding them for months while they are interrogated, the human rights group Amnesty International said on Friday.

Some suspects were held in Pakistani interrogation centers, but many were handed over to U.S. custody and held in Guantanamo Bay, Bagram Airbase or other secret detention facilities, the group said in a report on "enforced disappearances in the war on terror".

In many cases, U.S. agents paid a bounty of $5,000 to those, usually intelligence agents, who simply declared people terrorists, seized them and handed them over for interrogation with no legal process, Amnesty said.

"Enforced disappearances were almost unheard of in Pakistan before the start of the U.S-led war on terror -- now they are a growing phenomenon, spreading beyond terror suspects," Amnesty researcher Angelika Pathak said.

"The Pakistani government must set up a central register of detainees and publish regular lists of all recognized places of detention so that in future nobody can be secretly imprisoned and face the risks of torture," she added.

The rights group said the clandestine nature of the war on terror made it impossible to know exactly how many people had been forcibly 'disappeared' and tortured or illegally executed, but the number must run into hundreds.

It cited Pakistani military spokesman Major-General Shaukat Sultan as saying in June this year that 500 terrorists had been killed and more than 1,000 arrested since 2001.

In one example, Amnesty said sisters Arifa and Saba Baloch and Arifa's mother-in-law Gul Hamdana were arrested in Swat in June 2005, but all state agents denied any knowledge of them.

Hamdana was freed at a bus stop in Peshawar three months later but was too scared to talk about her experiences, and the two sisters were released in January 2006. No charges were laid.

Amnesty said there had been reports that U.S. personnel had taken part in some of the arrests and had either been present at or had even taken part in the torture of some of the suspects.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is in Britain as part of a tour to promote his memoirs "In the Line of Fire". He is due to give a speech in Oxford later on Friday.

His tour became controversial when he said in a U.S. television interview that a senior U.S. official had threatened to bomb his country back to the Stone Age unless he cooperated fully in the war on terror launched after the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. targets.

A leaked report from a group associated with Britain's Defense Ministry alleged earlier in the week that Pakistan's intelligence service ISI was indirectly supporting the Taliban rebels in Afghanistan and said Musharraf should resign.

The Ministry of Defense distanced itself from the report.

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Explosion on natural gas pipeline near Turkey-Iran border

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP)- An explosion ignited a fire on a natural gas pipeline near the Turkey-Iran border, Turkish news reports said on Friday.

The state-run Anatolia news agency cited district head Rauf Ulusoy as saying the explosion occurred late Thursday night in the Iranian city of Bazargan, about 1 kilometer (half a mile) east of the Gurbulak border gate.

The private Dogan news agency cited Turkish truckers as saying they could hear ambulances and fire engines going to the blast site.

Last month, Kurdish guerrillas belonging to the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, blew up part of the same pipeline in the Turkish city of Agri, shutting down the flow of gas for four days.

The rebels are active on both sides of the border and have sabotaged pipelines in the past as part of their struggle for an autonomous homeland. More than 37,000 people have been killed in Turkey since the rebels took up arms in 1984.

Turkey has been importing natural gas from Iran through the 2,577-kilometer (1,598-mile) pipeline since 2001. Turkish and Iranian officials are reportedly discussing expanding the pipeline for exports to Europe.

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Al Qaeda in Iraq beckons nuclear scientists

BAGHDAD (AP)- Al Qaeda in Iraq's leader, in an audiotape released yesterday, called for nuclear scientists to join his group's holy war and urged insurgents to kidnap Westerners so they could be traded for a blind Egyptian sheik who is serving a life sentence in a US prison.

The speaker, who identified himself as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir -- also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri, also said that more than 4,000 foreign militants have been killed in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003. It was the first known statement from the insurgents about their death toll.

The fugitive terrorist chief said experts in the fields of ``chemistry, physics, electronics, media and all other sciences -- especially nuclear scientists and explosives experts" should join his group's jihad, or holy war, against the West.

``We are in dire need of you," said the speaker. ``The field of jihad can satisfy your scientific ambitions, and the large American bases [in Iraq] are good places to test your unconventional weapons, whether biological or dirty, as they call them."

The 20-minute audio was posted to a website that frequently airs Al Qaeda messages. The voice could not be independently identified, but it was thought to be Masri. He is believed to have succeeded Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who died in a US airstrike north of Baghdad in June, as head of the Al Qaeda-linked organization.

Yesterday's message focused attention on Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, a 68-year-old Egyptian cleric who was convicted in 1995 of seditious conspiracy for his advisory role in a plot to assassinate Egypt's president and blow up five New York City landmarks including the United Nations. Abdel-Rahman is considered the leader of Egyptian Islamic militants, and the 1993 World Trade Center conspirators were known to have attended his lectures.

``I appeal to every holy warrior in the land of Iraq to exert all efforts in this holy month so that God may enable us to capture some of the Western dogs to swap them with our sheik and get him out of his dark prison," said Masri, who is also Egyptian.

It was unclear why Masri would advertise the loss of the group's foreign fighters, but martyrdom is revered among Islamic fundamentalists, and could be used as a recruiting tool. Analysts said the announcement was likely aimed at drumming up support.

``It's showing the level of dedication to their cause, the level of sacrifice jihadists are making," said Ben N. Venzke, director of the Washington-based IntelCenter, which monitors terrorism communications.

``In a strange kind of way, it's almost showing a sense of strength and purpose in their cause to other people around the world who might be thinking about joining the fight," Venzke said in a telephone interview.

The statement followed the release of a UN report Wednesday that said fewer foreign fighters have been killed or captured in Iraq in the last few months, ``suggesting that the flow has slackened." The report said some fighters had expressed dissatisfaction that they were asked to kill fellow Muslims rather than Western soldiers and that the only role for them was to be suicide bombers.

Still, the report said Al Qaeda ``has gained by continuing to play a central role in the fighting and in encouraging the growth of sectarian violence; and Iraq has provided many recruits and an excellent training ground."

On the tape, Masri offered amnesty to Iraqis who cooperated with their country's ``occupiers," calling on them to ``return to your religion and nation" during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which Sunnis began observing in Iraq on Saturday and Shi'ites on Monday. ``We will not attack you as long as you declare your true repentance in front of your tribe and relatives," he said.

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EU opinion on Kurdish rebels could hit raw nerve in Turkey

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - EU courts in Luxembourg could in Spring 2007 restart hearings on whether Brussels was wrong to brand the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) as terrorists, following legal advice that could hit a raw nerve in EU-Turkey relations.

"The Court of First Instance should not have dismissed the application against the inclusion of the PKK on a list of terrorist organisations," the court's advocate general Juliane Kokott said on Wednesday (27 February). "[It] will therefore still have to decide whether it was correct to include the PKK on that list."

The advocate general's opinion is not legally-binding but is usually followed by the EU courts, with EU judges set to give a formal verdict on the admissibility of the PKK appeal around January next year, potentially paving the way for fresh PKK-terror list hearings in March.

The PKK was set up in the 1970s to form an independent Kurdish state in the ethnic-Kurdish region of southeast Turkey, with Ankara blaming it for 30,000 deaths since 1984 and holding its leader - Abdullah Ocalan - for life in jail on an island in the Sea of Marmara.

European pressure groups such as Amnesty International have heaped blame on both Ankara and the PKK for killings and human rights abuses in the past, while the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg upheld its decision in May 2005 that Mr Ocalan did not get a fair trial in 1999.

A Turkish diplomat told EUobserver that "the [PKK] opinion is a legal not a political issue, which doesn't touch on the substance of the case" but he admitted it could be "badly received" in the popular Turkish press, with Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul considering issuing a statement on the topic on Thursday.

The legal opinion comes on the same day as MEPs voted through a report criticising Turkey on democratic standards in a move set to annoy Turkish nationalist groups such as the Union of Lawyers, who see the EU as trying to weaken the Turkish state.

It also comes in the context of falling public support for Turkey's EU accession on both sides of the Bosphorus, with the latest surveys showing 39 percent support inside the EU and just 35 percent of Turks saying they "trust" the bloc.

Terror list gripes
The EU put the PKK on its list of terrorist entities in 2002 in a move that carries political stigma as well as obliging EU member states to freeze PKK financial assets and block any funds from being channelled to the group.

The PKK's appeal against the decision - thrown out in February 2005 - was complicated by the fact the PKK split up into various branches with new names such as KGK, HSK, KHK and KADEK between 2003 and 2005.

The EU's terror list has recently caused controversy in other areas, with the addition of Sri Lanka's "Tamil Tigers" in May leading to the expulsion of Nordic EU peace-brokers from the island, and with the inclusion of Hamas complicating EU humanitarian aid payments to Palestine.

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Jerusalem, 29 Sept. (AKI) - A suspected car bomb explosion in a town south of Tel Aviv has killed at least one person, possibly a suicide bomber, Israeli rescue services say. The explosion occurred around 2 pm local time on Friday, the website of daily Haaretz reports, in the coastal town of Rishon le-Tsiyon. Six people were wounded and others are being treated at the scene, ambulance officers said. Israeli army radio said it appeared that someone may have blown himself up inside the vehicle, but there was no independent confirmation of that.

Two Palestinians were killed in the Gaza strip earlier on Friday. Eyewitnesses in Gaza report that two men were killed in an Israeli air strike on the Beit Hanun neighbourhood.

The Israel Defence Forces said helicopter gunships fired missiles at two gunmen spotted collecting rocket launchers which are used to fire Qassam rockets at Israel.

Israel has sharply stepped up security throughout the country and in the occupied West Bank in recent days, in the run up to the Yom Kippur holiday, this weekend.

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Russia accuses NATO nations of arms sales to Georgia

PORTOROZ, Slovenia, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Tensions over Georgia boiled over at NATO-Russia talks on Friday as Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov accused some alliance nations of illicitly selling weapons to the ex-Soviet country.

"Some members of NATO -- shall we call them the younger generation? -- are supplying Georgia with arms and ammunition of Soviet production," Ivanov told a news briefing after the talks in the Slovenian coastal resort of Portoroz.

Ivanov did not name the countries, but he was referring to some of the seven eastern European nations that joined NATO in 2004. He said Soviet arms exports to the region were made under the understanding they would not get into the hands of third parties.

"It means these countries are breaching world practice," he said.

His comments came at a time of escalating tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi, with Russia on Friday pulling out some of its diplomats and their families from Georgia after it pressed spying charges against a group of Russian army officers.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the 26-member alliance, which this month angered Moscow by opening talks with Georgia on closer ties potentially leading to membership, urged restraint on both sides.

"This is of course a bilateral issue between Georgia and Russia and NATO does not have a direct role...There was a call by me for moderation and de-escalation," he told a news briefing.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld joined the call for restraint and insisted Russia had no say in whether Georgia ultimately became a member of NATO.

"NATO membership really is a decision for individual countries and not for countries other than the individual countries," he told reporters.

Neither De Hoop Scheffer nor Rumsfeld referred to Ivanov's accusations of arms sales to Georgia by some NATO members. An alliance spokesman said Ivanov had not raised the issue in talks earlier with his NATO counterparts.

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Iran To Mass Produce New Artillery Gun

AFP: Tehran: Iran on Wednesday announced it has started mass production of a marine artillery gun, the Fajr 27, which it said is capable of firing 85 76-millimeter shells a minute. "The Fajr 27 addresses our naval forces' needs and is capable of hitting surface as well as aerial targets. Six years of work by our military specialists have borne fruit," Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said.

"This weapon is capable of quickly reacting to any incoming aerial and surface attacks, has the capability to fire 85 rounds of 76 millimeter shells a minute and can be controlled automatically," he added on state television.

He added that the cannon, which can be mounted on a ship or dry land, has a range of 17 kilometers (10.5 miles).

Najjar said at the unveiling of the weapon's mass production plant that since 54 countries have this kind of artillery, its mass production will open up export markets for the Islamic republic.

The announcement is the latest of a string of military breakthroughs claimed by Iran over the past month and comes at a time of mounting tension with the West over the Islamic republic's nuclear program.

In early September, Iran announced that it has developed a new war plane -- named the "Azarakhsh" (Lightning) -- which it describes as similar to the American F-5.

It also developed a new war plane named "Saegheh" (Thunder), it claims is similar to the American F-18 fighter jet. Experts say that the fuselage is that of a F-5 but the tail is modeled after F-18.

It also announced that it had successfully tested a 2,000-pound (about 900 kilogram) guided bomb named Ghased, or "Messenger".

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Report: IDF clashes with French UNIFIL troops

Clashes erupted Thursday between IDF forces and French troops from the multinational force (UNIFIL) currently stationed in Lebanon, the Al- Jazeera television network reported.

Reportedly, the IDF soldiers had infiltrated 150 meters deep into Lebanese territory to the Maji Iyun area.

UNIFIL denied the report.


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Document: Pakistan Agency Backs al-Qaida

Published in: Washington Post

September 28, 2006

LONDON -- A leaked document accuses Pakistan's intelligence agency of indirectly supporting terrorist groups including al-Qaida and calls on Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to disband the agency.

Musharraf, who is scheduled to meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair later Thursday, told the British Broadcasting Corp. that he rejected the assessment and would raise the matter with his counterpart.

"ISI is a disciplined force, breaking the back of al-Qaida," Musharraf told the broadcaster, claiming his intelligence service had secured the arrests of 680 suspected terrorists.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/28/AR2006092800305.html

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Lebanon to France: Stop intervening

Lebanon's president launched a scathing attack on French President Jacques Chirac on Thursday, urging him to stop intervening in Lebanese domestic affairs.

President Emile Lahoud, in an interview with Radio France International (RFI), accused Chirac of being responsible for his exclusion from Wednesday's opening of the Organisation International de la Francophonie, a summit of French-speaking nations held in Bucharest, Romania.

"He has been meddling with Lebanon's domestic affairs out of belief that he is helping his Lebanese friends. This makes Chirac a party to the Lebanese conflict, because he is siding with one party against the other," Lahoud said, according to a transcript of the interview released by his office.

"His (Chirac's) move is unprecedented by a head of state and harms principles of Francophone and the historic and deep-rooted relations between Lebanon and France," he added.

Romania's decision to not invite Lahoud and instead to extend an invitation to Lebanon's Prime Minister Fuad Saniora led to a diplomatic flap between Lebanon, Romania and France, which Lebanon accused of being behind the decision.

Saniora declined to take part to avoid a political crisis, sending Culture Minister Tarek Mitri instead as "his personal representative."

Romanian President Traian Basescu said Wednesday he did not invite Lahoud after a UN report on the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri raised suspicions about Lahoud's alleged involvement.

"It was a decision that I made, and I think it was correct, given the suspicions in the (UN) report about the death of the former premier Hariri," Basescu said.

Lahoud dismissed Besescu's claims and said he was excluded for personal reasons having to do with Chirac's well-known personal friendship with Hariri.

"So far, four reports have been published by the international investigation commission. None of those reports has referred to me as a suspect," Lahoud said.

"I urge ... Chirac, and with all my respect to his person, to stop interfering in Lebanon's domestic affairs," he said.


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Georgia says to give media recordings of Russian "spies"

TBILISI, September 28 (RIA Novosti) - Georgia's interior minister said Wednesday he would provide the media with audio and video recordings confirming that Russian officers had been spying in Georgia.

Six Russian soldiers and officers have been detained over the last 24 hours for allegedly being involved in espionage.

"The files reliably show officers of Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate personally conducting intelligence activities, personally recruiting Georgian nationals and carrying out unlawful activities," Vano Merabishvili told a briefing.

The minister also said that during the arrest, Georgia had taken into account all international norms. Charges will be brought Friday.

Tensions between Russia and Georgia have been rising in the past few years over the presence of Russian peacekeepers in the breakaway Georgian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and the current scandal has done nothing to improve the atmosphere.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that the accusations were "unsubstantiated" and called them "the latest gross attack that confirms that anti-Russian course of the Georgian leadership."

Sergei Ivanov, Russia's defense minister and also a deputy prime minister, also raised the temperature Thursday by saying seven other Russian servicemen - a junior officer and six soldiers - had been subjected to violence when their car was stopped in the western city of Batumi on Wednesday night.

"They were beaten up, [and] their weapons and car were confiscated," he said. "Then at about 3 a.m. (11 p.m. GMT) they were released."

Ivanov described the Georgian authorities' actions as "total lawlessness and hysteria."

But Shota Khizanishvili, a spokesman for the Georgian Interior Ministry, categorically denied the assault accusations. "That did not happen," he said. "Police did not beat up the Russian servicemen."

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Riyad, 28 Sept. (AKI) - Saudi Arabia has announced that it is pushing ahead with plans to build a fence along its border with Iraq. The 900 kilometre fence will be build to improve security and bar terrorists from crossing into Iraq, as well as to prevent smuggling. The barricade will cost an estimated 12 billion dollars, and will take between five to six years to construct. A Saudi security adviser, Nawaf Obaid, said: "The main issue is to seal the border on the Iraqi side since there has been almost no [Iraqi security] presence since the US invasion".

Iraqi officials have repeatedly complained about millitants crossing into Iraq from neighbouring countries, to conduct operations against the US-led coallotion forces. Saudi Arabia wants to stop drug smugglers, weapon dealers, and illegal migrants from crossing into the country from Iraq.

Iraqi interior ministry spokesman, Brigadier-General Abdul-Karem Khalaf, said Iraqi officials had heard of the Saudi plans, "and we thank them for it."

Khalaf added: "If the Saudis want to build border defences to stop the infiltration of terrorists, they can do that to protect their borders".

US forces in Iraq have not commented on the plan.

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Iran, EU Fail to Reach a Deal in Berlin

Berlin (AP): Iran and the European Union failed to reach a deal in their latest round of nuclear talks but came to "some positive conclusions," Tehran's chief negotiator said Thursday. Neither Ali Larijani nor EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana gave any details of what had been achieved, but both spoke positively of the discussions over Tehran's disputed nuclear program.

Solana and Larijani are holding the latest round of talks over a package of incentives that six countries - the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany - are offering Tehran in return for suspending its uranium enrichment program and returning to full-scale negotiations.

Iran missed an Aug. 31 Security Council deadline over the issue. The six are considering seeking sanctions in the U.N. Security Council if Tehran does not comply.

"We have had long, constructive negotiations" Larijani said. "We have been able to come to some positive conclusions."

Soland said, "We have been progressing."

"But still, we have some issues, that have been put but have not been closed," Solana said, adding that the two sides "will keep in touch."

Solana said he hoped to have further telephone contact with the Iranian side later this week, but he gave no specifics. Larijani indicated they had discussed how future negotiations could proceed and expressed hope they could "embark on the main negotiations as soon as possible."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned Solana on Wednesday and renewed U.S. support for his talks with Iran, she told reporters in Washington, D.C.

Rice said if Larijani agreed to a suspension of processing uranium "we would be on a course for negotiations."

But, Rice told reporters, she had told Solana "clearly this won't go on very much longer."

Solana is to report back to the six countries trying to persuade Iran to give up its program to enrich uranium.

Germany has joined with the permanent U.N. Security Council members in pressing Iran to give up what the U.S. says is a nuclear weapons program. Iran says its program is peaceful.

Enriched uranium can be used for power plants or for weapons, depending on the level of enrichment.

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Bin Laden alive in Afghanistan: Musharraf

AAP: AL-QAIDA leader Osama bin Laden, reported last week to have died, is alive and hiding in Afghanistan, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said in an interview published in The Times today.

"It's not a hunch,'' Musharraf said.

Afghanistan's eastern "Kunar province borders on Bajaur Agency. We know there are some pockets of al-Qaida in Bajaur Agency. We have set a good intelligence organisation. We have moved some army elements. We did strike them twice there. We located and killed a number of them there.''

Pakistan's military ruler also suggested links between bin Laden and Afghan warlord and former Afghan prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, saying: "In Kunar province, it is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who is operating.''

"There must be some linkages.''

Musharraf also said he had no information about reports bin Laden may have died from typhoid fever .

The memo, leaked to a newspaper last weekend, emerged from a French intelligence memo citing Saudi sources

"I don't know. Unless I am sure I never say anything,'' he said.

"If they have some source they should tell us. At least our intelligence does not know anything.''


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Open Source News

Collected articles of open sources news for Sept 23-28

September 28, 2006

Guardian Departs Vladivostok After Meaningful Visit
Court postpones K-159 submarine hearings until October 23
USS O’Kane Conducts Anti-submarine Warfare Exercise
Stennis Security Completes Force Protection Exercise
Russian air carrier to rejoin Navy by end of 2006
Russia observing safety requirements for Bushehr power plant: official
Afghanistan: Bush, Karzai Agree On Strategy Against Terror
India steps up security along Bhutanese border
Instruments enhance space weather forecasts
Iran's Larijani arrives in Berlin for talks with EU's Solana
Islamists Disarm Somali Warlord Fighters in Kismayo
ISRAEL: Sderot still under fire
Israeli Air Raid on Gaza Kills Palestinian Girl
Lebanon: UN force tends to humanitarian needs following Israeli-Hizbollah conflict
LTTE supremo agrees to resume talks with Sri Lankan Govt
Navy Customs Battalion Quebec Returns to Norfolk
Navy Provisional Detainee Battalion 1 Returns Home
AMC commander: Global mobility aircraft saving lives in Iraq
NEPMU 7 Ends Service After Half a Century
New RSS Facilities to Improve Seabee Skills
NIGERIA: Rehabilitation, harassment concerns mar Bakassi pullout
Osama is alive: Taliban
Rice Warns Sudan of 'Consequences' for Refusing Darfur Force
Rumsfeld Expresses Confidence NATO Will Provide Troops Needed in Afghanistan
Rumsfeld Voices U.S. Support for NATO Enlargement
Salvor Departs Fiji
Assam militants pull out of talks with Delhi
Terrorist Bomb Expert Captured in Afghanistan; 10 Taliban Rebels Killed
Thailand promises swift return to democracy during address to UN debate
UGANDA: Rebel moves threaten peace talks, says army
Ugandan Army Accuses Rebels of Deserting Camp, Violating Truce
UN Optimistic Sudan Will Allow Advisors
US Presses for Turkish, Iraqi Cooperation on PKK
Blix Urges Security Guarantees for Iran
Bosnian Serb Gets 27 Years for War Crimes
ETHIOPIA-ERITREA: Annan recommends extending UNMEE mandate
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 17 Disestablished
UN: GUAM Brings Frozen Conflicts To World Stage

September 27, 2006

Bushehr power plant to be inaugurated in Nov 2007: Russia
Bush Tells Karzai U.S. Committed to Afghanistan
Bush Says Forces in Afghanistan Changing Tactics to Fight Taleban
Tomcats Officially Retire
Russian, Iranian Officials Agree on Bushehr Nuclear Plant Launch Date
Iraq Deployment Adjustments Allow for 15 Brigades in Iraq Through March
Acting UN envoy to Ethiopia and Eritrea delivers Annan’s latest report to the Council
Congress Approves Sudan Sanctions
Department of Defense Meet in London on Anti-WMD Trafficking
Enterprise Strike Group Conducts Significant Strikes in Afghanistan
European Union Set to Expand
Infantry, armor NCOs train together
Iran, EU will not discuss uranium enrichment moratorium
Montenegrin PM: Country Ready to Participate in Anti-Terror Coalition
Nepal gov't-rebel talks to initiate arms management
New SEAL Training Facility Opens on Fort Story
Air Force launches Delta II/GPS mission
PACAF commander speaks of enhancing partnerships
Russia accuses Bulgaria over illegal Kalashnikov sales
Somali Islamists Impose Curfew on Newly-Seized Town
South Asia: Karzai, Musharraf Spar Ahead Of Bush Meeting
Suicide Bomber Kills 18 in Southern Afghanistan
Talks on Forming Palestinian Unity Government Hit a Snag
Thai Coup Leaders Draft New Constitution
Tomcat Ceremony Honors Aircraft, People Associated With Jet
Annan calls for extension of the UN mission in the DR Congo ahead of October’s poll
U.S. Soldiers Stop Baghdad Bomber; Iraqi Police Catch Two Killers
UGANDA: Most rebels have left northern Uganda for Sudan - army
US Offers One-on-One Talks if North Korea Commits to Nuclear Diplomacy
US Seeks to Heal Rift Between Key Anti-Terror Allies
Washington out of touch with anger of Arab world, Syrian minister tells UN
Armenia and Azerbaijan exchange accusations on Nagorno-Karabakh during UN debate
Assam militants accuse India of double standards on peace talks
At UN debate, DPR Korea accuses United States of encouraging nuclear tensions

September 26, 2006

Aqazadeh: Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant should be implemented in 6 months
Aqazadeh seeks Iran's partnership in Bushehr power plant
DoD News: DoD Announces Iraq Force Adjustments
Hammer ACE team ready for hurricanes, more
New unmanned aircraft delivered to armed forces
Thai Military Coup Leaders Set up Powerful Anti-Corruption Body
Iran: Israel Views Threats With Increasing Seriousness
Iran Says Nuclear Talks 'On Track'
SUDAN: President reiterates rejection of UN troops in Darfur
DRC: Presidential hopefuls agree to disarm for next election
SOMALIA: Lift arms embargo, prime minister says
LIBERIA: April trial date for Taylor
Indian Maoists could get arms from Nepal Maoists
Nepal says UN-led peace process can serve as an example to other countries
Somali Leader Wants UN to Lift Arms Embargo
Rejected Mediator Thabo Mbeki Arrives in Ivory Coast
SOMALIA: Protests after Islamic Courts take Kismayo
Sudan's Bashir Lashes Out Against UN
DoD Announces Tour Extension of Army Unit, Early Deployment of Another
CENTAF releases airpower summaries for Sept. 23-25
British Forces In Iraq Kill Al-Qaida Terrorist, US Extends Combat Tours
Navy Strike Group Contributing to Iraq, Afghanistan Security
Karzai Says Upsurge of Narcotics Feeding Terrorism
Karzai, Rumsfeld Discuss NATO, Progress in Afghanistan
COTE D IVOIRE: Call for departure of French peacekeepers

September 25, 2006

USS Momsen Returns Home Following Deployment
US Scholar: North Koreans Preparing to Boost Nuclear Weapons Capability
Bunker Hill Assumes ESG 5 Sea Combat Command
First Littoral Combat Ship Christened
New Navy Oceanography Center Established at Stennis Space Center
Navy Region Northwest Participates in Navywide Exercise
Rice Warns of Punitive Steps If Sudan Refuses UN Darfur Force
Bombing in Baghdad as Ramadan Observance Begins
Amnesty act for militants, troops comes into effect
Thailand Faces First Violence Since Military Coup
Leaders from France, Germany, Russia Meet Near Paris
Joint PRT opens new bridges
ESG 5 Visits Hawaii
Lebanese Troops Deploy on Israeli Border
India resumes military operations against NE separatist group
Russia, France, Germany favor diplomatic solution of Iran issue
Aircraft swap helps maintain mission-ready capabilities
Analysts: US Image Slipped in Lebanon After Israel-Hezbollah War
Abbas Says Efforts to Form Unity Government With Hamas Have Failed
Russia offers mediation for conflict resolution in Georgia

September 23, 2006

Russian parliament approves amnesty for militants, troops
People of Baghdad Seeing Results from U.S.-Iraqi Operation
Bush Says He Is Unaware of Any US Pressure on Pakistan after 9/11
South Asia: Musharraf Says U.S. 'Threatened To Bomb' Pakistan
Bush 'Taken Aback' By Pakistan Bombing Threat
Musharraf: US Threatened to Bomb Pakistan After September 11
Adherence To Geneva Conventions at Heart of US Detainee Compromise
Airmen fly with Indian air force counterparts
Defense Department Becoming Stronger, More Capable, Rumsfeld Says
Army Achieving Recruiting, Retention Goals Early
Joint Interagency Group Working to Stop Flow of Drugs Into U.S.
Army Materiel Command Stands Up Army Sustainment Command
US General Says 3,000 More Iraqi Troops Needed to Help Stabilize Baghdad
Army meets active-duty recruiting goal early
2nd BCT paratrooper is 750,000th Soldier to receive RFI equipment
Signal command manages global communications from Hawaii
USS Bunker Hill Deploys
Strike Fighter Squadron Gives Media Final F-14 Ride
Trenton Returns from Historic Final Deployment
CTF 12 Challenges Boxer ESG with Submarine Threat
Frank Cable Hosts First Multinational Sub Talks in Malaysia
USS Bonhomme Richard Completes Canadian Journey
Guardian Arrives in Vladivostok, Russia for Port Visit
CENTAF releases airpower summary for Sept. 22
USS Tucson Returns From Western Pacific
Warfare Commanders: Ensuring Strike Group Success
Georgia's accession to NATO affects Russian interests - ministry
U.S., Pakistan Partners in Hunt for Osama Bin Laden, Countries’ Leaders Say
Hamas Rejects Recognition of Israel as Condition for Unity Government
Lebanon: Israeli troops start withdrawing from two more areas
Hezbollah Leader Appears at 'Victory' Rally in Beirut
Georgian leader demands withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers at UN
Georgian President Blasts Russian Role in Abkhazia, South Ossetia
Security Council extends the mandate of the UN mission in Sudan
Afghanistan: EU Official Urges More Varied Strategy To Defeat Taliban
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Security developments in Iraq, Sept 28

Sept 28 (Reuters) - Following are security and other developments in Iraq reported on Thursday, as of 1100 GMT.

Asterisk denotes a new or updated item.

*BAGHDAD - Mortar rounds landed on a residential district in the southern outskirts of Baghdad, killing four people and wounding four others, police said.

*BAGHDAD - A car bomb and a roadside bomb exploded in quick succession, killing four people including two policemen and wounding 38 in the al-Saadoun district in central Baghdad, police said.

*BAGHDAD - Iraqi police and army arrested 44 suspected insurgents during the past 24 hours in different cities of Iraq, the Defence Ministry said.

*BALAD - Police retrieved the body of a man from the Ishaqi river in Balad, 80 km (55 miles) north of Baghdad, local authorities said. The man was an employee in a fuel station and was kidnapped on Wednesday.

*BAGHDAD - A car bomb targeting a police patrol wounded four policemen in the southern Doura district of Baghdad, a source in the Interior Ministry said.

*BALAD - Gunmen killed a man in Balad, local authorities said.

*BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol killed a civilian in al-Tahariyat square in central Baghdad, police said.

*NEAR HAWIJA - U.S. forces killed two insurgents when they received arms fire from a truck attempting to ram the gate of a U.S. military base near Hawija, 70 km (43 miles) southwest of Kirkuk, the U.S. military said.

*MOSUL - A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded two policemen in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

*NEAR KIRKUK - A roadside bomb targeted police commander Brigadier Serhat Qadir, wounding one of his guards in the main road between Rashad town and Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. Qadir was unharmed.

*MOSUL - Police found the body of a man shot dead, in Mosul, police said.

*MOSUL - Gunmen killed a man in Mosul, police said.

*MUQDADIYA - U.S. force killed an insurgent and wounded another on Wednesday while they were trying to plant a bomb near Muqdadiya, 90 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - A suicide car bomber targeted an Iraqi army headquarters, killing two civilians and wounding 25, including nine soldiers, in Shaab district in northern Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - A car bomb wounded two people, including a policeman, in Bayaa district in southwestern Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - Several mortar rounds hit Bayaa district, wounding three people, police said.

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb targeted a police commando patrol, wounding three of them in central Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - The bodies of five people were found, shot and tortured, in different districts of Baghdad, police said.

NUMANIYA - A bomb planted inside the house of a policeman wounded a passer by on Wednesday night in the small town of Numaniya, 120 km (75 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

KUT - Iraqi police arrested a gang that specialised in kidnapping children on Wednesday in Kut, 170 km (105 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. The gang confessed to the killing of a 12 year-old boy whose body was found near Kut, police added.

BAGHDAD - A car bomb exploded but caused no casualties in Qadissiya district in southwestern Baghdad, police said.

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