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Thursday, November 30, 2006

EXCLUSIVE: Iranian Weapons Arm Iraqi Militia


WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2006 — - U.S. officials say they have found smoking-gun evidence of Iranian support for terrorists in Iraq: brand-new weapons fresh from Iranian factories. According to a senior defense official, coalition forces have recently seized Iranian-made weapons and munitions that bear manufacturing dates in 2006.

This suggests, say the sources, that the material is going directly from Iranian factories to Shia militias, rather than taking a roundabout path through the black market. "There is no way this could be done without (Iranian) government approval," says a senior official.

Iranian-made munitions found in Iraq include advanced IEDs designed to pierce armor and anti-tank weapons. U.S. intelligence believes the weapons have been supplied to Iraq's growing Shia militias from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is also believed to be training Iraqi militia fighters in Iran.

Evidence is mounting, too, that the most powerful militia in Iraq, Moktada al-Sadr's Mahdi army, is receiving training support from the Iranian-backed terrorists of Hezbollah.

Two senior U.S. defense officials confirmed to ABC News earlier reports that fighters from the Mahdi army have traveled to Lebanon to receive training from Hezbollah.

While the New York Times reported that as many as 2,000 Iraqi militia fighters had received training in Lebanon, one of the senior officials said he believed the number was "closer to 1,000." Officials say a much smaller number of Hezbollah fighters have also traveled through Syria and into Iraq to provide training.

U.S. intelligence officials believe the number of Al-Sadr's Mahdi army now includes 40,000 fighters, making it an especially formidable force.

ABC News

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Traces of Radiation Found on 2 Jetliners

Authorities found traces of radiation on two British Airways jets, and the airline appealed Wednesday to tens of thousands of passengers who flew the aircraft to or from Moscow to come forward as investigators widened the search for clues into the poisoning death of a former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

The airline said the "risk to public health is low," adding that it was in the process of contacting tens of thousands of passengers who flew on the jets.

Two planes at London's Heathrow Airport tested positive for traces of radiation and a third plane has been taken out of service in Moscow awaiting examination, British Airways said in a statement.

Natalia Remnyova, administrator at Domodedovo Airport, the Moscow airport used by British Airways, said she knew nothing of a plane grounded there. Russian Transport Ministry and other government officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The airline said it was contacted by the British government Tuesday night and told to ground the planes and allow investigators looking into Litvinenko's death to test them for radiation.

High doses of polonium-210 _ a rare radioactive element usually manufactured in specialized nuclear facilities _ were found in Litvinenko's body, and traces of radiation have been found at sites in London connected with the inquiry into his death.

All three planes had been on the London-Moscow route, British Airways said. In the last three weeks, the planes had also traveled to routes across Europe including Barcelona, Frankfurt and Athens. Around 30,000 passengers had traveled on 220 flights on those planes, said Kate Gay, an airline spokeswoman.

"The airline is in the process of making contact with customers who have traveled on flights operated by these aircraft, which operate within Europe," British Airways said in a statement.

"British Airways understands that from advice it has been given that the risk to public health is low," the airline's statement said.

The airline has published the flights affected on its Web site, and told customers on these flights to contact a special help-line set up by the British Health Ministry.

Litvinenko, a former colonel with Russia's Federal Security Service _ the successor agency to the KGB _ had been a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin before his death from radiation poisoning on Nov. 23. From his deathbed, he blamed Putin for his poisoning. Putin has strongly denied the charge.

Britain's Home Secretary John Reid, who chaired a meeting of COBRA, the government's emergency committee, said that the tests on the planes were part of a wider scientific investigation into sites that could be linked to Litvinenko's death.

Meanwhile, Italian security expert Mario Scaramella, who was one of the last people to meet with Litvinenko before the former spy fell ill, said tests cleared him of radioactive contamination.

Scaramella came from Rome and met Litvinenko at a sushi bar in London on Nov. 1 _ the day the former intelligence agent first reported the symptoms.

"I am fine," Scaramella told The Associated Press by telephone. "I am not contaminated and have not contaminated anybody else."

Scaramella returned to London to undergo tests and talk with the police Tuesday. He said he is in security protection and refused to say where he was.

More than three dozen staff at the two hospitals that treated Litvinenko will be tested for radioactive contamination, Britain's Health Protection Agency said.

The agency said 106 staff at Barnet General Hospital and University College Hospital had been assessed for possible exposure, and 49 would have their urine tested.

The mysterious death has clouded Anglo-Russian relations. Prime Minister Tony Blair said Tuesday that police were determined to find out who was responsible for Litvinenko's death.

"The police investigation will proceed, and I think people should know that there is no diplomatic or political barrier in the way of that investigation," Blair said in Copenhagen, Denmark. "It is obviously a very, very serious matter indeed. We are determined to find out what happened and who is responsible."

Media reports in Britain and Russia on Wednesday said that Litvinenko had been engaged in smuggling nuclear substances out of Russia.

The Independent newspaper reported that Litvinenko told Scaramella on the day he fell ill that he had organized the smuggling of nuclear material for his former employers at Russia's Federal Security Service, or FSB. The newspaper reported that Litvinenko said he had smuggled radioactive material to Zurich in 2000.

But Scaramella told the AP that he had been misquoted by the newspaper.

"He (Litvinenko) wanted to see me because he knew about smuggling of nuclear material, but as far as I know he was never involved in nuclear smuggling," he said.

London police say they are investigating the case as a "suspicious death" rather than murder, although they have devoted a large anti- terrorist force to the investigation.

Scaramella said he had been cleared of any involvement in the 43-year- old former spy's death.

"Let me take the opportunity to say that I'm not under investigation by any British authority," he said. "I am cooperating with them (the police)." Police declined to say whom they had spoken to.

Scaramella said he showed Litvinenko e-mails from a confidential source identifying the possible killers of Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya and listing other potential targets for assassination _ including himself and Litvinenko.

Following Litvinenko's death, more than 1,100 people called a health hot line over concerns they might be at risk from polonium poisoning, which is deadly in tiny amounts if ingested or inhaled. Sixty-eight have been referred to health authorities, the Health Protection Agency said _ including the 49 hospital staff.

Eight have been referred to a special clinic as a precaution. The tests should take about a week.

Traces of radiation have been found at six sites visited by Litvinenko.

A coroner will perform an autopsy on Litvinenko on Friday, "subject to appropriate precautions," said the local authority responsible, Camden Council. Doctors had sought expert advice on whether Litvinenko's radioactive body posed a threat to those performing the post-mortem.

A coroner's inquest will be opened Thursday and then adjourned until the police investigation is complete, the council said.


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IDF to establish Hizbullah enemy training units

Syrian Special Forces and Hizbullah guerrilla cells will begin playing a prominent role in IDF training sessions for its infantry units in the near future.

According to a plan developed by Brig.-Gen. Uzi Moskowitz, commander of the Ze'elim Training Base in southern Israel, the IDF will establish a "Red Unit" which will study enemy tactics and impersonate Hizbullah guerrillas, Hamas fighters or Syrian ground troops during exercises.

Until now, every battalion that arrived at Ze'elim for training would set aside a company assigned the enemy role for the duration of the exercise. The company however was not trained in enemy tactics and as a result the soldiers they fought against did not experience the real enemy. In addition, the company impersonating the enemy missed out on essential parts of the exercise.


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Iran-Venezuela joint car factory inaugurated

LONDON, November 29 (IranMania) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, together with Iran's minister for industry, inaugurated a joint venture car factory in central Venezuela, RTT News reported.

The car factory is expected to produce around 20,000 cars every year. Many of the cars produced in the factory will be exported to other South American countries. The joint venture with Iran is intended to produce low cost cars that will be within reach for most Venezuelans.

Though rich in oil, Venezuela depends heavily on imports from the United States for its industrial requirements. President Chavez, an outspoken critic of US President George Bush, is trying to reduce Venezuela's dependence on US imports by setting up a large number of industrial projects in Venezuela in partnerships with other countries such as China, Iran and Russia. He wants Venezuela to manufacture cars, tractors, computers and other high-tech products for its internal use and exports.

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Pakistan's Chitral District: A Refuge for al-Qaeda's Top Leadership?

By Hassan Abbas

In the hunt for Osama bin Laden and other top al-Qaeda leaders, security services continue to focus on Pakistan's Chitral district in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). Chitral became a concern after the release of a bin Laden videotape from September 2003 in which trees native to the Chitrali mountain range were evident. Extensive search operations for the al-Qaeda leader and fellow operatives by Pakistani and U.S. forces were conducted in the area in February-March 2003 (Dawn, March 7, 2003). More recently, in May there were claims that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had established an office in Chitral to monitor militant activities in the district (The Nation, May 1). Other links to the district include Abu Khabaib, an Arab explosives expert who has been spotted several times in the hills of Chitral. He is known to have helped Sheikh Ahmed Saleem, an Arab member of al-Qaeda. Saleem has been giving money to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi for recruiting militants for al-Qaeda in Pakistan (Daily Times, October 2). Finally, because Chitral is adjacent to Afghanistan's Nuristan province, there is concern that Taliban and al-Qaeda militants are crossing the border between the two countries.

Chitral, with its rich cultural heritage and changing religio-political trends, is a fascinating area in the NWFP. It is caught between diverse traditions and rumors of al-Qaeda involvement. In the backdrop of the turmoil created by pro-Taliban elements in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area and the rising influence of religious political parties in the district, Chitral has become an important focus in the war on terrorism. For centuries, the people of Chitral have lived in relative isolation in their mountain kingdom. They have experienced various political phases, beginning with their involuntary association with the British Empire (1895), their voluntary association with the new state of Pakistan (1947) and finally their incorporation into Pakistan's NWFP (1969). The Katur dynasty that ruled the area collapsed in 1949-50, and the federal government of Pakistan took direct control of the Chitral administration.

Geographically, Chitral is bordered by Afghanistan in the north, south and west. A narrow strip of Afghan territory, the Wakhan strip, separates it from Tajikistan. It has always been a very important route for invaders on their way to South Asia, including Alexander the Great and the Mongols. The Chitral Valley, at an elevation of 1,100 meters, is popular with mountaineers, hunters, hikers and Western anthropologists. Imposing mountains dominate the landscape of Chitral, forging a rugged terrain that is home to approximately 325,000 people comprising an area of 243,818 acres. The topography of the district is varied, with 30% of the region covered in glaciers, snow-clad mountains, bare rock and barren ground, and with about 65% of the land supporting pastures with only sparse vegetation. Chitral is cut off from the rest of Pakistan during the winter. Sunnis compose 65% of Chitral, while Ismaili Shiites comprise 35% of the population. A small population of the non-Muslim Kailash community—known for their beautiful dresses and traditional dance—are based in the south of the district.

While located in a Pashtun region, the Chitrali people are ethnically different than Pashtuns. They are called Kho and their primary language is Khowar, although about 10 other languages are spoken in the area. One might expect that Pashto would be a natural choice as a second language for many Chitralis, but that is not the case. In fact, Chitralis dislike Pashtuns and their language. Their dislike is in part an outcome of economic factors—for instance, since 1979-80, a large number of Afghan refugees (predominantly Pashtuns) moved into the area and competed quite successfully with the local Chitrali businessmen. Business in the region is predominately agricultural.

Chitralis have a reputation for being civilized and peace-loving. Their folk singers are popular in various parts of Pakistan. There is a fairly sizeable seasonal migration of Chitrali men to Peshawar and to other cities of Pakistan for winter employment. Additionally, many have found employment in the Gulf States. Relations between Sunnis and Shiite Ismailis have been cordial historically, but have recently become more heated now that Wahhabis have more influence in the area.

In terms of political orientation, however, Chitral has been steadily becoming more conservative. For instance, its current representative in the National Assembly of Pakistan, Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali, belongs to Jamaat-e-Islami (part of the religious MMA alliance) and is a chief administrator of a seminary in Peshawar named Jamia Arabia Hadiqatul Uloom. Interestingly, he is best known for leading a mob that burned down the offices of the Frontier Post newspaper in Peshawar three years ago after it published a "Letter to the Editor" with controversial religious connotations.

More troubling signs emerged in late 2004 when the offices of a progressive Pakistani NGO, Aga Khan Rural Support Program (AKRSP), sponsored by Ismaili leader Prince Karim Aga Khan, were attacked by religious extremists. Developments came to a head on December 27, 2004 when two workers of the Aga Khan Health Services Office in Chitral were killed in a terrorist attack and four vehicles owned by the charity organization were destroyed. The culprits turned out to be two men associated with the declared terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has links to al-Qaeda (Dawn, January 5, 2005). In a December 29, 2004 Daily Times editorial titled "Chitral Trouble is Symptomatic of Deeper Malaise," the paper maintained that this development was an outcome of sectarianism and that "in Chitral, the Shiite-Sunni tension dates back to 1988 when the Northern Areas were attacked by Pashtun lashkars."

In conclusion, due to Chitral's location on the border with Afghanistan, elements of al-Qaeda may find refuge there. The mountains potentially provide a good cover. Yet, another potent factor has to be kept in perspective—because much of the district's population is not friendly to Pashtuns, they may be less willing than other areas of the NWFP to provide sanctuary. Pashtunwali has very limited appeal in this area and Ismaili Shiites (35% of the population) are anti-al-Qaeda to their core for sectarian reasons. Therefore, one can speculate that the al-Qaeda leadership may have passed through this area during their "travels" in the region, but are unlikely to consider Chitral a place where they can find safe refuge for a long period of time.

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Calderón under fire for security chief pick

Financial Times: Felipe Calderón, Mexico’s president-elect, drew fierce criticism on several fronts on Tuesday after he chose a highly controversial figure to fill a pivotal cabinet position.

The criticism came as Mr Calderón, who begins his six-year term on Friday, revealed the final six names of his cabinet. Yet attention immediately focused on Francisco Ramírez Acuña, who as government secretary will be responsible for implementing security policy, among other things.


Tamara Taraciuk of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Washington said on Tuesday: “This appointment sends a terrible signal both to the domestic and international communities.”

HRW and other human rights groups say that Mr Ramírez, who comes from Mr Calderon’s centre-right National Action party (PAN), believes in “firm-hand” policies to deal with issues of public order, and that he has an unenviable record on human rights.

They argue that Mr Ramírez bears much of the responsibility for the detention and subsequent physical and psychological abuse of dozens of anti-globalisation protesters in Jalisco in 2004.

The incident, considered one of the most prominent cases of human rights abuses in Mexico’s recent history, occurred when Mr Ramírez was state governor, and human rights defenders claim he did little or nothing to stop the violations.

HRW, for example, says there was never any serious attempt to investigate the incident and no police officers were ever sanctioned in spite of many testimonies from the detainees describing beatings, humiliation and death threats while in police custody.

Political analysts on Tuesday said Mr Ramírez’s appointment was almost certainly motivated by paybacks and rewards within Mr Calderón’s PAN party. Mr Ramírez was the man who first announced Mr Calderón’s presidential candidacy in 2004, and was instrumental in handing the president-elect a crucial victory in his state of Jalisco.

But they also say the appointment could be a signal that Mr Calderón is willing to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to civil unrest and conflict at a time when Mexico finds itself deeply divided along political, social and regional lines.

The most immediate concern is the southern state of Oaxaca, where what initially started out as a teachers’ strike over pay has turned into a bloody confrontation between social organisations and unions on one side and state authorities on the other.

Last month increasing levels of violence – a US journalist was shot dead while filming street clashes – forced Vicente Fox, the outgoing president, to send in federal forces.

Dan Lund of Mund Americas, a consultancy in Mexico City, said on Tuesday: “With Ramirez’s appointment there is now a much greater worry among different groups and political parties that Oaxaca will be handled by repression not negotiation.”

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Mystery illness hits former Russian PM

Financial Times: Yegor Gaidar, Russia’s former prime minister and the architect of the country’s market reforms, last week suffered a sudden, unexplained and violent illness on a visit to Ireland, a day after Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB spy, died in London from an apparent radiation poisoning.

Mr Gaidar is now in a stable condition at an undisclosed Moscow hospital, undergoing tests. In a telephone interview with the FT, Mr Gaidar said the doctors had so far been unable to identify the cause of the violent vomiting and bleeding that he suffered during a conference in Ireland.


Anatoly Chubais, his former associate and the head of Russia’s electricity monopoly, said he suspected Mr Gaidar may have been poisoned. However, he strongly ruled out that either Russia’s security services or the Kremlin could have had any involvement. There is no indication of radiation being the cause of his illness.

Mr Gaidar is one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s softer critics and his daughter is a leader of an opposition movement. Mr Gaidar, who heads an economic think-tank in Moscow, has close connections with the government and occasionally advises them on economic matters.

“I have suffered sudden problems with my health on November 24 which posed a threat to my life. This threat has not been realised. After a few hours the situation stabilised,” Mr Gaidar said.

Mr Chubais and Mr Gaidar said the doctors could not explain the symptoms he had suffered.

Mr Gaidar said he felt ill after eating a simple breakfast where he was staying near Dublin. He said he could barely move any of his limbs and had to lie down for most of the afternoon.

Ekaterina Genieva, who helped to organise the conference at National University of Ireland, Maynooth, said Mr Gaidar looked pale and unwell when a few hours later he came down to answer questions about his book The Death of the Empire: Lessons for Contemporary Russia. After about 10 minutes, Mr Gaidar said he had to leave the room.

“I rushed after him and found him lying on the floor, unconscious. He was vomiting blood and also bleeding from the nose for about 35 minutes,” Ms Genieva said. Mr Gaidar was taken to James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown, where he was treated overnight. The following morning, Mr Gaidar had asked to be discharged and, after a visit to the Russian embassy, was put on a flight back to Moscow.

Mr Gaidar declined to comment about whether he believed he had suffered a poisoning attack. The news of his illness comes after a series of mysterious incidents involving Russian public figures over the past month. It emerged as the Kremlin and state-run television continued to suggest the murky world of Russia’s recent émigrés was behind the death of Mr Litvinenko.

Sources in Dublin said they did not suspect anything untoward in Mr Gaidar’s illness.

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EU Commission Urges Suspension of Turkish Entry Talks

Nov. 29 (Bloomberg) -- The European Union's executive body urged a suspension of accession talks with Turkey because of its embargo on EU member state Cyprus, a step that may kill the Turkish entry bid.

The European Commission recommended freezing about a quarter of the accession program to punish Turkey for barring ships and planes from Greek-speaking Cyprus. The proposal would also prevent entry negotiations on issues including trade, transport and agriculture.

``Failure to meet legal obligations cannot remain without consequences,'' Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said at a news conference in Brussels today. Foreign ministers from the EU's 25 nations, which have the final say over negotiations with aspiring members, will discuss the recommendation on Dec. 11.

EU anger is growing after Turkey backtracked on a pledge to end the curbs on Cyprus in return for winning the go-ahead to start accession negotiations 13 months ago. The Turkish government now says this step requires the bloc to allow trade with a part of Cyprus occupied by Turkey for three decades.

The commission's recommendation reflects broader anxieties about admitting Turkey, which would be the first Muslim member and one of the bloc's most populous nations. The Turkish embargo is a lightning rod for criticism that extends to demands for more Turkish media and religious freedoms.

Eight Chapters

Both sides have completed one of 35 regulatory ``chapters'' due to be covered by the negotiations over the coming decade, sealing an accord on Turkish research laws in June.

The commission recommended the suspension of eight chapters on issues that also include customs, fisheries, financial services, other services and external relations. The commission also recommended that no chapter be completed before Turkey lifts the curbs against Cyprus.

``The recommendation is both clear and measured,'' commission President Jose Barroso said in a statement.

Turkey has occupied northern Cyprus since a 1974 invasion after a coup by Greek Cypriot supporters of union with Greece. Turkey, which refuses to recognize the Mediterranean island republic, has 30,000 soldiers in the occupied region.

The EU says Turkey has a legal obligation to open its ports to Cyprus while working toward a political settlement on the island. ``The European Union is a community of law,'' Rehn said.

`Golden Goal'

The commission recommendation will slow Turkey's accession process while avoiding a ``train crash,'' Rehn said. He pressed the Turkish government to meet the EU's demands over Cyprus before the Dec. 11 foreign ministers' meeting, saying ``Turkey can still score a golden goal.''

The recommendation seeks to balance the demands of EU skeptics of Turkish entry including France, Germany and Austria and U.K.-led supporters who say the bloc should push harder for Turkish accession. Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI reversed his stance and expressed support for Turkish entry into the EU.

Cyprus joined the EU in May 2004 without the occupied northern region because voters in the Greek-speaking south rejected a United Nations-backed unification plan. The Turkish- speaking north endorsed the plan, leading Ankara to blame the Cypriot government for the island's continuing division.

In February, EU governments approved 139 million euros ($183 million) in aid for northern Cyprus as a reward while refusing to let the region trade with the bloc.

The debate about opening commercial ties with northern Cyprus raises intractable issues linked to unification. The Cypriot government says it would veto any EU plan for trade with the Turkish-occupied region without the return of a town called Varosha that Greek-speaking Cypriots abandoned after Turkey's invasion.

The Finnish government, current holder of the EU's rotating presidency, has failed over the past several weeks to find a diplomatic solution to the trade dispute.

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Japan Raps Firm for Missile-Related Sale to Iran

Japanese authorities have banned a Tokyo-based firm from exporting any goods for the next two years as punishment for its sale to Iran of machinery that could be used to enhance Tehran’s ballistic missile capability, Agence France-Presse reported today (see GSN, Oct. 15, 2004).

The Seishin Enterprise Corp. shipped a jet-mill grinder to Iran in 1999 and another in 2000 without getting government approval. The equipment requires an export license because it can be used to produce fine powders, a process that improves solid rocket fuel, AFP reported. The penalty ban will take effect Dec. 5.

Two top company executives were convicted in 2004 for breaking Japanese export laws and received suspended sentences (Agence France-Presse/Middle East Times, Nov. 28)

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Fighting continues in Congo for 4th day

SAKE, Congo - U.N.-backed government forces battled renegade troops loyal to a local warlord in a fourth day of fighting Tuesday in eastern Congo, where a U.N. helicopter strafed hills and gunfire echoed as hundreds of people fled the area.

Ending such violence in the country's lawless east is a major challenge for President Joseph Kabila, who was declared winner of Congo's landmark presidential ballot on Monday by the Supreme Court.

Kabila's challenger, Jean-Pierre Bemba, conceded defeat but denounced the verdict and said he would continue his struggle politically through the opposition to "preserve peace and save the country from sinking into chaos and violence."

The latest skirmish began Saturday after forces loyal to former army general Laurent Nkunda attacked Sake, a small town on the northern tip of Lake Kivu about 18 miles west of Goma.

By Monday, Nkunda's fighters were pushed back into hills a few miles east of the town, but gunfire still echoed through the area Tuesday as sporadic battles continued. A U.N. helicopter fired into the hills at Nkunda fighters dug in there.

Hundreds of people carrying mattresses and suitcases filled the road between Sake and Goma. Sake's population is estimated at 12,000, but the town was mostly deserted.

The Congolese army said at least three of its soldiers died and about 50 were wounded. The body of one Congolese soldier was seen in Sake, and those of three fighters identified by army troops as Nkunda's men were seen outside town.

U.N. spokesman Kemal Saiki said a delegation of Congolese and U.N. officials had arrived in Goma and was headed to Sake to broker a cease-fire.

Nkunda, a former general, quit Congo's army and launched a low-level rebellion after the war ended, alleging the transition to democracy was flawed and excluded the minority Tutsi community. Nkunda controls thousands of fighters and claims the loyalty of two army brigades.

The U.N., which now has about 800 peacekeepers in Sake, entered the conflict Monday after coming under fire by Nkunda's troops as they attempted to advance toward Goma. The U.N. has about 17,500 peacekeepers in the Central African country trying to maintain calm as Congo tries to make the transition to democracy after a 1998-2002 war and decades of dictatorship.

Although a peace deal ended the broader war, the government has struggled for years to gain control of the vast, lawless east, which has been periodically wracked by violence from Congolese militiamen and Rwandan rebels who fled the 1994 genocide.

In Kinshasa on Monday, the Supreme Court confirmed provisional results from the Oct. 29 presidential runoff that gave Kabila 58 percent of votes, compared with about 42 percent for former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba. The court rejected charges of vote fraud brought by Bemba.

Congo has been on a bumpy four-year transition toward democracy.

Kabila will become Congo's first freely elected president since independence from Belgium in 1960.

In eastern Congo, meanwhile, the Mount Nyamulagira volcano spewed lava Tuesday for a second day, but did not appear to threaten the provincial capital, Goma, which was destroyed by another volcano four years ago.

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Russia Must Remain A Major Nuclear Power

Sergei Kortunov, RIA Novosti
Nov 29, 2006 - 3:56:32 AM

Moscow, Russia: An all-out war or armed conflict between the great powers no longer seems possible. However, the five official nuclear powers are in no hurry to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in their policy, a fact attested to by the US's new nuclear doctrine, loose rules of engagement for using nuclear weapons in the event of a crisis and greater regional tensions.

Russia therefore has no choice but to remain a major nuclear power in the foreseeable future.

It is our opinion that, depending on the global military-political situation, by 2012 Russia's strategic nuclear forces should have

- about 600 ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles;

- ten to 12 SSBNs (ballistic missile submarines);

- 50 strategic bombers for carrying nuclear and conventional weapons;

- 1,000 to 1,200 nuclear warheads on ICBMs and SLBMs (submarine launched ballistic missiles).

Moscow would therefore be able to maintain its special strategic relationship with the United States and preserve its global political role.

Russia and the United States have managed to conclude the legally binding Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions stipulating a ceiling of 1,700-2,200 warheads in the next decade.

But the Russian side had initially insisted on a more comprehensive treaty that would call for irreversible and controlled strategic arms reductions. Moreover, Washington has refused to formalize its assurances that the National Missile Defense (NMD) system will only be able to intercept several dozen warheads.

Consequently, the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions does not stipulate irreversible and controlled reductions; nor does it place any limitations on the potential of ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) systems.

In effect, this treaty merely reduces the combat readiness of strategic offensive arms and does not provide for disarmament or arms control measures. The United States will not scrap any strategic delivery vehicles or their warheads, meaning that Washington can beef up its strategic forces anytime.

But Russia has to spend a lot on scrapping its aging strategic offensive arms because of their specific features, as well as the lack of co-production arrangements between post-Soviet republics and some other factors.

Moscow, which has no alternative but to fulfill the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions, must also modify its nuclear policy. We must face the facts: the United States will create the NMD system in the near future and completely dominate the world unless Russia's nuclear policy adapts to the above-mentioned priorities.

If possible, Moscow should continue to negotiate with Washington and suggest a joint search for ways of minimizing risks that stem from the current mutual nuclear deterrence situation. However, given the current attitude of the Bush Administration towards bilateral and multilateral strategic offensive arms control, such agreements seem unlikely.

Under these circumstances, we should study the possibility of resuming work on weapons and systems that can effectively breach or neutralize the US ABM system.

In his state of the nation address, Russian President Vladimir Putin said "work is already under way on creating ... maneuverable combat units that will have an unpredictable flight trajectory for the potential opponent."

But this is not enough, because such weapons were contemplated during the Soviet period. Experts believe the cheapest option is to implement a set of active and passive measures for protecting Russia's strategic nuclear forces.

The most likely scenario involves parallel unilateral reductions in both the US's and Russia's nuclear arsenals without any mutual agreement or prior consultations. These cuts will depend on technical and economic expediency factors.

Such a situation would mean the end of arms control as we know it, and politicians, diplomats, military leaders and the general public might find it disorienting.

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Saudi will intervene in Iraq if US withdraws-aide

WASHINGTON, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Using money, weapons or its oil power, Saudi Arabia will intervene to prevent Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias from massacring Iraqi Sunni Muslims once the United States begins pulling out of Iraq, a security adviser to the Saudi government said on Wednesday.

Nawaf Obaid, writing in The Washington Post, said the Saudi leadership was preparing to revise its Iraq policy to deal with the aftermath of a possible U.S. pullout, and is considering options including flooding the oil market to crash prices and thus limit Iran's ability to finance Shi'ite militias in Iraq.

"To be sure, Saudi engagement in Iraq carries great risks -- it could spark a regional war. So be it: The consequences of inaction are far worse," Obaid said.

The article said the opinions expressed were Obaid's own and not those of the Saudi government.

"To turn a blind eye to the massacre of Iraqi Sunnis would be to abandon the principles upon which the kingdom was founded. It would undermine Saudi Arabia's credibility in the Sunni world and would be a capitulation to Iran's militarist actions in the region," he said.

U.S. President George W. Bush will meet Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Jordan on Wednesday to discuss a surge in Sunni-Shi'ite violence in Iraq.

Bush has said he does not support calls for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, but he is expected soon to receive proposals for possible changes in U.S. policy in Iraq from a bipartisan panel.

Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil producer and exporter and a close U.S. ally, fears Shi'ite Iran has been gaining influence since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq toppled Saddam Hussein's government.

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney held talks with Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh on Saturday. Details were not disclosed.

Obaid said Cheney's visit "underlines the pre-eminence of Saudi Arabia in the region and its importance to U.S. strategy in Iraq."

He said if the United States begins withdrawing from Iraq, "one of the first consequences will be massive Saudi intervention to stop Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias from butchering Iraqi Sunnis."

Obaid listed three options being considered by the Saudi government:

- providing "Sunni military leaders (primarily ex-Baathist members of the former Iraqi officer corps, who make up the backbone of the insurgency) with the same types of assistance", including funding and arms.

- establishing new Sunni brigades to combat the Iranian-backed militias;

- or the Saudi king "may decide to strangle Iranian funding of the militias through oil policy. If Saudi Arabia boosted production and cut the price of oil in half ... it would be devastating to Iran ... The result would be to limit Tehran's ability to continue funnelling hundreds of millions each year to Shi'ite militias in Iraq and elsewhere."

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Terror's Playground


More than a decade after U.S. troops pulled out, Somalia has fallen to Islamic fundamentalists. Here's why it could become the world's next nightmare

On a dusty side street in Somalia's former capital, there's little that distinguishes Mohammed's stall from the others. A grenade rests against a box of ammunition next to a row of AK-47s, and still more rifles hang from nails beneath a patch of tin roofing. His booth occupies prime real estate in the center of Mogadishu's Bakaraaha Arms Market, and he obsessively polishes his guns with an oil-stained rag in a battle against sand and grit. But few passersby show interest. Once one of the most bustling, bristling arms bazaars in the world, the Mogadishu weapons market is weathering a down cycle, with business a mere fraction of what it was in the days when warlords settled internecine grudges in the city's streets. Mohammed's average daily sales have dropped from 15 AKs to just three--and prices have fallen by almost half, to $300. "The only good job was selling guns," says Mohammed, 24. "Now I don't know what I'll do."

In most strife-torn parts of the world, a bear market for weapons would be cause for relief. But tranquillity rarely lasts long in Somalia. Since the overthrow of dictator Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991, the country has been a byword for dysfunction, less a nation-state than a destitute, unremittingly violent land ruled by the barrel of a gun. Last June the warlords' grip on power was finally broken by a dedicated confederacy of fundamentalist Muslim militias that fought their way into the former capital and sent the warlords fleeing.

Since then, the Muslim militias, which call themselves the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), have consolidated their claim to Mogadishu and expanded their control to include most of Somalia, particularly the fertile lands and strategic ports in the country's south. Meanwhile, the U.N.-backed transitional government is unraveling. Confined to the squalid town of Baidoa near the Ethiopian border, the government is dependent on foreign money and security and crippled by internal dissent and mass resignations.

The fear is that Somalia, a country with nearly 9 million Muslims and one that the U.S. has long suspected is a haven for al-Qaeda, may fall further into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists sympathetic to terrorist organizations. A report by the U.N.-chartered watchdog group on Somalia, which was submitted to the U.N Security Council last week, says the ICU has developed extensive ties with groups and states steeped in terrorism.

The report states that the ICU sent "approximately a 720-person-strong military force to Lebanon to fight alongside Hizballah against the Israeli military" during this summer's monthlong war. In exchange, Hizballah's leadership "has made arrangements" for governments like Iran's and Syria's to contribute arms and supplies to the ICU. And senior leaders within the ICU, including co-leader Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, allegedly have direct ties to al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, a radical group suspected of links to al-Qaeda.

Leaders of the ICU deny such allegations, but it's telling that they don't seem particularly bothered by them. "We believe the war against terrorism is a war against Islam," says the hard-line ICU national security chairman, Sheik Yusuf Indahaadde. "Those who are making trouble are not based here." Then, in English, the sheik adds forcefully, "Bush is the mother and father of terrorism."

And yet, in spite of the Islamists' disreputable allies, many Somalis cannot remember a time when they felt safer. For Americans, the single, searing image of Somalia was formed in October 1993, after two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters--part of a U.S. mission to provide humanitarian relief and restore order--were felled by militias loyal to warlord Mohammed Farrah Aidid. Eighteen U.S. special forces were killed, and the world community's involvement in Somalia effectively ended. What followed was a decade and a half of intermittent war that reduced Mogadishu to rubble. Along the "green line," the architectural gem of the former Italian colony that bore the brunt of the warlords' reign, the once proud edifice of the National Bank is obliterated, and only a stone shard remains of the cathedral's twin bell towers.

But over the past few months, there have been glimpses of progress. In the clearings between bullet-pocked buildings and along the city's broad, leafy avenues, children play soccer and a decade's worth of trash is slowly being hauled away. Extortionate militia checkpoints and roving bands of technicals--pickups mounted with heavy artillery and carrying armed thugs--have been replaced by disciplined Islamic troops. The city's ports have reopened, buses travel the roads by day, and Somali families stroll the sidewalks by night. Barring the notable exceptions of a Swedish journalist and an Italian nun who were recently murdered, there's no denying Mogadishu's new semblance of order. "This is an area of the world that we would obviously like to see stable, and [the Islamists] are doing that to some extent," says a Western diplomat. "So if what you see is what you get, then maybe it isn't the worst thing in the world."

The Islamists who control the city occupy a whitewashed compound in Mogadishu. They are eager to present their domination as a fait accompli. "We are ready to be a nation," says Foreign Minister Ibrahim Hassan Addou. "We want Somalia to be peaceful, and we want to establish good relations with the rest of the world." With both hands, he beckons toward the open window in his office. "Feel free to look around," he says. "You can go where you want to go and see what you want to see."

Well, not quite. The Islamists have instituted Taliban-style rules banning drinking, cinemas, dancing and women swimming, as well as curbing the press. Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, the ICU's co-leader, insists these restraints are the product of spontaneous acts of piety by the public. "We don't have any rules issuing from the Islamic Courts to stop any of this," he insists. "The people are doing this by themselves without intervention by us." That seems open to dispute. Just last week, after protests erupted over the shortage of khat, the seemingly ubiquitous narcotic chewed in Somalia, the Islamists ordered a ban on the drug. It's unlikely to go over well. "It's good to stop hashish and harder things," says a man at a khat stall in Mogadishu, "but cigarettes and beer? There will be a day when people say, Wait, they have gone too far. I am sure of it."

The Islamists' takeover is a parable of the unintended consequences of the U.S.'s war on terrorism. After Sept. 11, the U.S. intelligence community, acting on concerns that Somalia's lawlessness could be exploited by al-Qaeda, initiated the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism, a covert program that funneled aid to warlords in return for their assistance in capturing suspected terrorists. One of those warlords approached by U.S. operatives was Osman Hassan Ali Atto. Once a top financier of warlord Aidid--Atto was captured just a week before the downing of the Black Hawks in 1993--he is the last independent warlord in Mogadishu, a testament to his ability to play both sides of the net. Blunt-spoken and avuncular, Atto disparaged the U.S. cash-for-warlords program. "It was a waste of money," he says at his junkyard in Mogadishu, where the rusting hulks of dozers and pavers are still scarred by flak from U.S. missiles some 15 years ago. "I always told them that America's interests [should be] a government that is put in place without the pressure of money. They had their own ambitions to capture certain individuals. But I told them to f___ off. We are not for sale."

But other warlords were. Payments totaling several hundred thousand dollars were funneled to various militia groups, according to U.N. sources. The program was an open secret in Somalia and among the African diplomatic corps, but its only success was to bolster support for the Islamic Courts among a population weary of anarchy and opposed to foreign meddling. "It was a spectacular disaster," says John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group. "Not only were the militia leaders routed, but the U.S. and CIA support for these militias led to strengthened support for the Islamic Courts."

Poorly trained and addled by khat, Mogadishu's bands of thugs were no match for the highly regimented and dedicated Islamic soldiers. After just three months, the warlords were decisively routed this summer. "The warlords, they did not know how to fight," an ICU militia trainer says during a tour of his training camp just outside Mogadishu. "They had the guns and the money and the khat, but they did not have the heart. For many months we have not been paid to fight, whether in money or in khat. We fight with our hearts."

Those aren't their only weapons. The U.N. watchdog report circulated to the Security Council last week says Syria has equipped and trained the ICU military. On July 27, the report says, "200 fighters from the ICU were transported by aircraft to Syria to undergo military training in guerrilla warfare." The report also says a Syrian plane delivered a "large quantity" of arms, including surface-to-air missiles, to the ICU in early September. On at least two occasions, Iran supplied the ICU with arms, including a shipment on July 25 of 1,000 machine guns and grenade launchers, an unknown quantity of mines and ammunition, and 45 shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles.

In mid-August, a large dhow originating in Iran and carrying arms, medical supplies and food arrived at a Mogadishu seaport. Included in the shipment were 80 man-portable surface-to-air missiles and launchers. The U.N. also charges that "at the time of writing of this report, there were two Iranians in Dhusa Mareb engaged on matters linked to the exploration of uranium in exchange for arms to the ICU." In separate letters written to the U.N., Syria and Iran denied having any involvement.

Foreign diplomats warn that the arms buildup may be a prelude to a wider war. Despite being sidelined by the Islamists, the transitional government still enjoys the full-throated backing of the international community and is being armed to the teeth by neighboring Ethiopia--a necessary violation of the country's arms embargo if the transitional government is to survive, but hardly endearing to most Somalis, for whom Ethiopia is a blood enemy. Meanwhile, Ethiopia's main rival in the region, Eritrea, has funneled arms and forces to the ICU. Peace talks between the Islamists and the transitional government have largely collapsed, and skirmishes are increasing.

The African Union plans to deploy some 7,000 African peacekeepers to keep the two sides at bay. But the Islamists have made clear they will consider this an act of war. "If they come, we will view them as invading troops," said Ahmed. "And we are ready to defend ourselves because we are not ready to be colonized again by any sort of troops in the world." Without those peacekeepers, however, the two sides seem destined to clash. A face-off would surely drag Ethiopia and Eritrea into a proxy--if not outright--war. The Islamists' stated aim to unite all of Somalia is believed to include the secular breakaway territories of Puntland and Somaliland, as well as portions of Kenya and Ethiopia. Once fighting has begun, there's little to prevent Somalia from becoming a conflict that could engulf the Horn of Africa, cause horrific loss of life and create the continent's next major humanitarian crisis.

With those storm clouds gathering, the Islamists in Mogadishu are intent on solidifying their hold on power, dispensing their harsh brand of justice and leaving no doubt about who's in control. A reminder of that came on a clear blue morning in mid-October, when thousands of Somalis gathered at the parade ground of the old police barracks on the city's battered coast. Guards led a tall, undernourished man, condemned to death for killing another man, to a clearing in the center. After a reading from the Koran, the man conducted his ablutions, said a prayer and was led to a post facing eight soldiers in balaclavas and armed with AKs. His hands and feet were tied and his eyes blindfolded. With the bright blue sea behind him and puffy white clouds above, and to the jubilant shouts of Allahu akbar (God is great) from the crowd, the man's head and stomach were ripped by bullets.


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Houston men accused of conspiring to help terrorists

Two Houston men have been charged with planning to aid the Taliban, U.S. Attorney Don DeGabrielle announced Tuesday.

Adnan Babar Mirza, 29 and 33-year-old Kobie Diallo Williams, also known as Abdul Kabeer and Abdul Kabir, are both in federal custody.

They are charged with conspiring to train with firearms with a goal to fight with the Taliban against coalition forces in the Middle East and providing approximately cash to support terrorist groups.

Mirza is also charged with three violations of federal firearms law.

To hone their skills in anticipation for battlefield jihad, the indictment alleges, Williams and Mirza agreed to train with firearms at various locations located in Harris and surrounding counties.

The four count indictment was returned under seal by a Houston grand jury last week and unsealed Tuesday after the appearance of both men before a U.S. magistrate judge.

“In this post 9/11 era, threats against our international security efforts are taken most seriously,” said U.S. Attorney DeGabrielle.

“While these subjects did not operate at a high level of sophistication in comparison with the 9/11 hijackers, the expressed goal was to aid the Taliban by training to carry out jihad against coalition troops in the Middle East,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Roderick Beverly.

Kobie Diallo Williams surrendered to members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force Tuesday.

Adnan Babar Mirza, who has been in the custody of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement on related immigration violations, was transferred into the custody of JTTF agents this morning.

Both Williams and Mirza have been ordered to remain in federal custody without bond pending further criminal proceedings.

According to allegations in the indictment, Williams and Mirza, a citizen of Pakistan who entered the United States on a student visa on Aug. 15, 2001, allegedly viewed the United States and coalition military forces on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq as invaders. In April 2005, they agreed that they should travel to the Middle East to fight with the Taliban to engage in battlefield jihad.

On at least eight occasions between May 20, 2005, and June 17, 2006, the men engaged in firearms training, and at times in reconnaissance training.

As part of and during the alleged conspiracy, Williams and Mirza are accused of agreeing to offer financial support to Taliban fighters and their families.

Federal law prohibits contributions of goods or services to the Taliban.

As a student visa holder, Mirza is prohibited from possessing firearms. Furthermore, once his student visa expired on Dec.12, 2005, Mirza’s status changed to that of being illegally in the United States. Illegal aliens are also prohibited from possessing firearms.

The indictment charges Mirza in three counts of unlawfully possessing firearms during three firearms training sessions occurring in May 2005, March 2006 and May 2006.

If convicted of the conspiracy charge, Williams and Mirza face a maximum punishment of five years imprisonment, a fine of $250,000 and three years supervised release.

Each of the three firearms alleged against Mirza in Counts Two through Four carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment, a fine of $250,000 and three years supervised release, upon conviction.

The investigation resulting in the charges was led by the Houston Division of the FBI and the agency’s JTTF with participation by: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Houston Police Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Sheriff’s Offices of San Jacinto and Montgomery Counties.


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Iran offers to share nuclear know-how with Algeria

TEHRAN, Nov 28, 2006 (AFP) - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has offered to share Tehran's nuclear expertise with Algiers, in a meeting here with Algerian energy minister Shakib Khalil, the press reported Tuesday.

"We are ready to share our experience in different domains including peaceful nuclear technology with Algeria," the government daily Iran quoted Ahmadinejad as saying in a Monday meeting with Khalil.

Algeria is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, which supports Iran's civilian nuclear activities -- feared by the West to be a cover for secretly developing nuclear weapons.

Oil-rich Iran denies the allegations, saying it only wants to generate electricity.

World powers have been debating a draft UN resolution that would impose limited sanctions on Iran over its failure to comply with an earlier UN resolution on halting uranium enrichment.

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Security developments in Iraq, Nov 28

Nov 28 (Reuters) - Following are security developments in Iraq as of 0930 GMT on Tuesday.

BAGHDAD - Two car bombs close to west Baghdad's main Yarmouk hospital killed four people and wounded 40, a source at Baghdad police headquarters said. An Interior Ministry source gave the same figure of casualties but they said it was one car bomb.

BAGHDAD - U.S. forces raided a Shi'ite mosque and exchanged fire with the guards, wounding four and arresting 14 on Monday in the southern Doura district, an Interior Ministry source said. They found a car bomb factory, weapons and army uniforms. The U.S. military said it was checking the report.

KIRKUK - A man wearing an explosive vest blew himself up next to the convoy of the governor of the northern Iraqi province of Kirkuk, killing a passerby and wounding 12 people, the governor and health officials said.

BAGHDAD - Forty bodies with gunshot wounds and some with signs of torture were found in different parts of Baghdad on Monday, an Interior Ministry source said.

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

TAL AFAR - Two policemen were wounded when they entered a house booby-trapped with explosives in the town of Tal Afar, about 420 km (260 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

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Chad politics: Emergency measures


In an announcement which took both domestic and international observers by surprise Chad's prime minister, Pascal Yoadimnadji, declared a state of emergency across most of the country in November. The measure covers all of the provinces bordering Sudan and the Central African Republic--Biltine, Ouaddai, Salamat and Moyen-Chari--as well as the Borkou, Ennedi, Tibesti, Chari-Barguini regions and the capital, N'Djamena. According to Mr Yoadimnadji, the primary reason for imposing emergency measures is the flare-up in violence in Ouaddai and Salamat provinces in recent months. Calling for international action to prevent cross-border raids allegedly sponsored by the Sudanese government, the prime minister described the violence--in which hundreds have been killed, entire villages burned and herds of livestock slaughtered--as "inter-ethnic". In truth, however, it is increasingly difficult to differentiate between political and inter-communal violence, given that tensions in the region are simultaneously inflamed by the government’s arming of local militia, and the acute dislocation of both pastoral and sedentary livelihoods by the fighting.

The immediate practical impact of the state of emergency has been the nomination of regional military rulers, and imposition of systematic media censorship. In announcing the suspension of media freedom, the Mr Yoadimnadji accused the private media of being apologist for rebel forces, and of having systematically ignored government warnings. Unsurprisingly, the private press association, Association des editeurs de la presse privee au Tchad, has denounced the censorship as “unjustified”. The sweeping geographic scope of the measures, coupled with the official targeting of both the Sudanese government and domestic journalists, certainly heighten suspicions that the measure is in part designed to distract attention from the problems of the president, Idriss Deby Itno, who lacks leverage over the Sudanese government in Khartoum. Amid a growing number of counter-accusations, it appears there is mounting evidence of punitive Janjaweed (Sudanese Arab militia) devastation of eastern Chadian settlements, whose mixed ethnic profiles mirror those of neighbouring Darfur region in Sudan. The clear risk is that the patterns of fear, violence and reprisals that are well-established in Darfur are being extended into Chad. In addition, there is evidence of Sudanese logistical support for the Chadian rebel groups, although liaison between them and Sudanese Janjaweed irregulars has yet to be proved.

The situation in Ouaddai and Salamat adds to the feeling of uncertainty in the country, and suggests that Chad's president will struggle to maintain his grasp on power. Mr Deby Itno faces increasing threats from several armed opposition groups, overshadowing the civilian opposition, which will remain largely ineffective. Divisions and defections from within his own military and political entourage and his Zaghawa clan are expected to grow, while the rebel assaults in the east of the country will continue. Meanwhile, mounting casualties among senior military ranks will weaken military morale and motivation. Attempts to head off further internal military dissent will continue to focus largely on promises of rapid promotions and large cash bonuses. This may halt short-term defections, but such overt patronage-based promotion is in the long term likely to weaken army cohesion further, so undermining effectiveness.

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New NATO Intelligence Technology on Trial in Greece

Nov 28, 2006 - 6:22:24 AM

NATO tested new methods for conducting joint intelligence operations in Trial Spartan Hammer in Greece, 2-16 November 2006. Over 2 000 air, sea, and ground personnel from 14 NATO countries, including four special operations units, participated in the exercise.

The trial coupled NATO countries’ unique equipment with common standards in order to build a more effective intelligence capability against threats ranging from suicide bombers to surface-to-air missiles. The chief objective of the trial was to test new methods for conducting cooperative intelligence operations, in order to obtain more refined actionable intelligence for commanders.

Over 35 ground systems were used, along with 37 aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and seven warships.

Better intelligence for NATO commanders

“Trial Spartan Hammer was a milestone for NATO. It was the largest joint signals intelligence and electronic support measure trial in NATO’s history, making significant advances in bringing actionable intelligence to the military commander in the field,“ said Mr. Marshall Billingslea, NATO's Assistant Secretary General for Defence Investment.

The management of sensor information was coordinated by a new operational entity called the Signals and Electronic Warfare Operations Centre (SEWOC). The SEWOC intelligence provided critical support to the Commander.

"In Afghanistan, NATO faces an adversary who is quick to adapt, and who operates in small units that are hard to detect and accurately identify. The need for timely, accurate location and identification of threats is crucial," said Mr. Billingslea, "Trial Spartan Hammer 06 proved a major success in this respect, as we practised new ways to work together in the intelligence fields to counter the terrorist threat."

The standards and interoperability procedures tested during Spartan Hammer ’06 streamline the NATO information sharing process, allowing intelligence information to be rapidly shared via a network.

This speeding up of the process improves the situational awareness of NATO forces, allowing NATO commanders to make better informed decisions.

Signals Intelligence/Electronic Support Measures Working Group

Trial Spartan Hammer ’06 was organized under the auspices of NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Defence Investment and the Conference of National Armaments Directors. The trial was conducted by the NATO Signals Intelligence/Electronic Support Measures Working Group, a unique group of experts – including industry representatives, NATO specialists, and operational personnel - which has been created to address critical intelligence sharing requirements within the Alliance. This group received extensive support from Greece, the host nation.

This was the second in a series of trials, the first – Trial Hammer took place in April 2005.

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Missiles, Missiles Everywhere

Andrei Kislyakov, RIA Novosti
Nov 28, 2006 - 7:09:54 AM

Moscow, Russia: Looking at things from a broad perspective is often very useful. For example, consider the following: Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov tells us that the country's armed forces will buy 17 intercontinental ballistic missiles next year; a reporter peers intently into a hole made in the pavement of an Israeli town by a rocket fired from a neighboring quarter; or two former U.S. defense secretaries say Tridents can be fired with non-nuclear warheads.

All three examples share one common theme: rocket weapons.

Anticipating possible objections, I will remark that today, from a practical point of view, there is little difference between strategic and tactical missiles. A military man seeks to make the most of jet propulsion in armed conflicts, but one must pay a high price for that. Also, unlike other weapon systems, such as armor or artillery, missile systems, regardless of their type, give rise to countermeasures that are themselves in effect unpredictable strategic weapons.

Already dozens of countries with different levels of development and political orientations have a large stock of ballistic missiles purchased elsewhere or the capability to manufacture them. Meanwhile, the world abounds in regions with smoldering military conflicts. Today we constantly see warring sides use their rocket weapons without hesitation.

Over the past 30 years or so, this has happened with alarming frequency, starting, say, from Egypt in 1973 and ending with the massive launches of Qassam projectiles on the Promised Land this fall.

It therefore emerges that fighting in the air and in space is becoming one of the key components of military confrontation at all levels. So, in today's armed struggles, not to mention tomorrow's possible clashes, one cannot do without developing and deploying either a strategic (or mostly non-strategic) missile defense or a theater missile defense system.

Yet one should not expect the latter to be safer or better than its strategic cousin. The last war in Iraq has shown how difficult it is to intercept short-range missiles because of their short approach time and maddening speed of about three kilometers a second. In the case of BM-21 rockets, which are plentiful in the Middle East and which local artisans have been able to configure into mini-missile systems, countering them in military-technical terms is impossible without resorting to high-precision weapons on a massive scale, moreover in real time.

High-precision weapons are above all space-based reconnaissance and target-designation facilities - in other words, command and control. It is likely that any day now general staffs meetings will recommend destroying short-range missiles directly from orbit. In view of the possible scale of use of such missiles, it is easy to imagine how densely near-Earth space will be packed with killer weapons.

And even this is not all the trouble. Supposedly peaceful reconnaissance, weather and other support systems, which must exist in large numbers and which are vital to a country's survival, need to be protected. In this connection, the launch of ground- and space-based anti-satellite programs is only a matter of time.

The above suggests that developing an anti-intercontinental ballistic missile system is no more challenging than building a more ramified network to counteract tactical and shorter-range missiles. In any case, regardless of what the weapons are called, it means deploying them in the Earth's orbit.

Russian Air Force Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Mikhailov bluntly said in mid-November that "given modern large-scale anti-missile defense models, the best way to make them more effective would be a space-based echelon capable of engaging most of the missiles in their boost and post-boost phases regardless of where they are launched ... "

The general's next comment was that there must be a control regime for weapons in space. This is hard to deny. It would be good to devise at least the general outline of such a regime that could break the vicious circle. So far there are only good intentions. But a nuclear missile club is open next door around the clock and does not charge admission fees.

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Fraud Probe May Jeopardize Saudi-UK Eurofighter Deal: Report

AFP: Saudi Arabia may pull out of a contract to buy 72 new Eurofighter aircraft from British firm BAE Systems because of a row over an investigation into an alleged slush fund, the Daily Mail reported Nov. 25.

The Saudis could pull out of the $147 billion contract and take their business to France, with the potential loss of up to 50,000 jobs, the paper said.

The row has flared over a three-year investigation by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) into claims that BAE Systems established a 60 million pound slush fund for some members of the Saudi royal family.

This allegedly provided perks including luxury cars to ensure that the Saudis kept doing business with BAE, the Mail said.

The paper added that Saudi Arabia is holding talks with France about the possibility of buying 24 Rafale jets.

“The Saudis are threatening to go elsewhere and you can’t blame them. They keep being insulted,” the Mail quoted an anonymous senior BAE Systems executive as saying.

And Mike Turner, the company’s chief executive, told the Sun that the investigation had “been going on long enough”.

Saudi Arabia threatened to suspend diplomatic links with Britain over the affair after SFO lawyers persuaded a Swiss magistrate to force disclosure of details about confidential Swiss bank accounts, this week’s Sunday Times reported.
BAE Systems has sealed a series of lucrative deals with Saudi Arabia since 1985.

“We continue to co-operate with the inquiry and believe we have done nothing wrong,” company spokesman John Neilson told AFP.

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Jakarta, 28 Nov. (AKI) - Defence, nuclear energy, space exploration and the economy - these are items on the agenda of Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono when he begins his visit to Russia. The Indonesian leader will be in Moscow on Wednesday and is currently in Japan on an official visit. While in Russia, Yudhoyono will be meeting president Vladimir Putin, various local politicians and will be speaking at a meeting of Russian business leaders at the Kremlin.

According to a statement released by Eddhi Hariyadi, the director general for Europe and America at the Indonesian foreign minister, Yudhoyono and Putin will be signing 12 bilateral agreements. Particularly relevant among them is the accords on military and nuclear cooperation.

The agreement on military cooperation will allow Indonesia to purchase from Russia a total of one billion dollars worth of arms from 2006 till 2010. This will allow Jakarta to diversify its sources of arms supplies and avoid the problems it faced of a decline in its arms supplies following the American embargo on Indonesia.

The United States was for a long time the principle arms supplier to Indonesia. But Washington imposed an embargo following the crimes commited by the Indonesian armed forces in East Timor in 1999. The embargo was subsequently lifted in 2005.

The agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear enenrgy could also result in cooperation between the two countries for the construction of a nuclear plant in Indonesia.

Jakarta recently confirmed its intention to restart its nuclear programme, which it first began in the 1960s and set aside in the 1990s.

According to the Indonesian minister for energy and mineral resources, Purnomo Yusgiantoro, Jakarta will have its first nuclear plant by 2015.

Yudhoyono and Putin will also be signing an accord for the construction of a launching pad for communication satellites on the island of Biak in Papua.

Most of the other agreements are for greater economic cooperation to improve bilateral trade between the two countries.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Security developments in Iraq, Nov 27

Nov 27 (Reuters) - Following are security developments in Iraq as of 1130 GMT on Monday.

* TAL AFAR - Clashes erupted between gunmen and police during the night, killing three policemen and one gunman in Tal Afar, about 420 km (260 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

* BAGHDAD - The bodies of five people were found with gunshot wounds and bearing signs of torture just north of Baghdad, an Interior Ministry source said.

* BAIJI - A police major was killed while he was trying to dismantle a roadside bomb in the oil refinery city of Baiji, 180 km (112 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

* BAGHDAD - Gunmen attacked a Baghdad municipal office in central Baghdad and killed a guard and abducted three others, an Interior Ministry source said.

BAGHDAD - The U.S. military said three of its soldiers were killed and two others wounded by insurgents in Baghdad on Sunday.

RAMADI - U.S. forces killed two suspected insurgents on Sunday after observing them loading weapons from a cache into a vehicle in the insurgent stronghold city of Ramadi, 110 km (70 miles) west of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

DUJAIL - Gunmen attacked a checkpoint near Dujail, 90 km (55 miles) north of Baghdad, and kidnapped eight policemen, police said. A ninth policeman was wounded but managed to escape. One policeman was killed and another wounded when their patrol arrived at the scene and was ambushed.

RAMADI - The U.S. military said four Iraqi civilians were wounded, including three boys aged 6, 13 and 16, when mortar bombs fired by U.S. forces against insurgents hit them. The wounds were not life-threatening, a statement said.

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Hezbollah issues warning

BEIRUIT (Globe & Mail)-- The Shia movement Hezbollah warned yesterday that Lebanon was headed into a "dark tunnel" unless the country's pro-Western government soon gives in to its demands for more power.

The warning came one day after Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and his cabinet ratified a proposed United Nations tribunal that will investigate a string of political assassinations in the country that many Lebanese blame on neighbouring Syria.

The move was slammed as unconstitutional by Hezbollah, which pulled its allies out of the cabinet two weeks ago to support its demands for an effective veto over government decisions. The tribunal decision now goes to President Émile Lahoud for approval. Mr. Lahoud, a pro-Syrian figure who owes his position to Syrian President Bashar Assad, is expected to refuse to sign it into law.

Hezbollah has been locked in a power struggle with the government since the end of this summer's war with Israel, when the government did little to support the militia in its fight. The Shia movement, backed by Syria and Iran, accuses the government of collaborating with Israel and being a U.S. puppet.

Hezbollah, along with other political forces allied with Syria, is expected to launch street demonstrations this week, aiming to force the resignation of Mr. Siniora and his cabinet.

Pro-Western groups have said they will respond with protests of their own, leading to worries that duelling street demonstrations could devolve into violence.

Mohammed Raad, the head of Hezbollah's parliamentary caucus, said that out of respect for Pierre Gemayel, a Christian leader who was assassinated last week, pro-Syrian forces would give the government several more days to meet its demands.

"The ruling majority has a chance until the mourning period ends, and it should seize that opportunity, or else they will get themselves into a dark tunnel," he said.

John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, upped the stakes over the weekend, saying that Lebanon was locked in a battle between "democracy and terrorism" that could decide the course of the entire region. "The future of the Middle East . may well be decided in the next several days."

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Plane crash kills 36 members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards: TV reports

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iranian state television reported that a plane crashed in Tehran early Monday, killing 36 members of the elite Revolutionary Guards, including high-ranking officers.

The plane crashed shortly after taking off from an airport in Tehran, headed for Shiraz, about 1,000 kilometres south of Tehran, the capital, the TV said. "Some 30 members of the elite Revolutionary guards and six crew members were killed in the crash while they were heading for a military site in southern Iran," state-run television said, reading a statement from the Guards.

Two others were injured in the crash, the TV said.

Earlier, the television had said the number of victims was 38. It did not give any details on the names or ranks of the victims of the crash - the third military air plane crash this year.

Another official, Gen. Eskandar Moemeni, a deputy police chief, told reporters that the number of dead had increased to 39 after three injured people died in a hospital.

There was no immediate way to determine which number was accurate.

In January, a small military passenger Falcon jet crashed in northwestern Iran, killing the commander of the ground forces of the elite Revolutionary Guards. That happened just one month after a military transport, a U.S.-made C-130 plane, crashed into a 10-storey building near Tehran's Mehrabad airport, killing 115 people.

In Iran, the Revolutionary Guards are a separate organization from the regular armed forces. Founded after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Guards have their own air, naval and ground components. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a former commander in the Guards.

Iran has a history of aircraft accidents involving a heavy loss of life. The government has blamed a U.S. trade embargo, which makes it impossible for Iran to buy parts for its old U.S.-built aircraft. But critics have also said planes are poorly maintained.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Mexican president collapses

MEXICAN President Vicente Fox collapsed at his ranch today, the national daily Reforma reported.

Mr Fox, whose six-year term ends next week, fell at an event in front of congressmen, the online version of the newspaper said.

Politicians had been told he was conscious and stable.

A government press official was unable to confirm the report.

Mr Fox, 64, hands power to president-elect Felipe Calderon on December 1.

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Jordanian Chechen Chief Dies in Gunfight

MAKHACHKALA, Russia -- A Jordanian who commanded foreign mercenaries in Chechnya and was reportedly al-Qaida's top emissary in the troubled North Caucasus died Sunday in a shootout with police, security officials said.

Abu Khavs was killed in a four-hour gunbattle in the Dagestani town of Khasavyurt, near the Chechen border, along with four other militants, said Mikhail Merkulov, deputy director for the Dagestani branch of the Federal Security Service, or FSB.

Merkulov called Abu Khavs "a foreign mercenary of Jordanian origin" who was the main al-Qaida contact for the North Caucasus.

State-run television showed a house apparently ravaged by gunfire, along with the bodies of at least five alleged militants. One FSB officer was wounded, said Irina Volkova, a spokeswoman for the service.

In Moscow, the FSB's central headquarters said in a statement that Abu Khavs' presence in Dagestan signaled that he may have been trying to flee Russia and called his death a "telling psychological blow to all the fighters remaining in the North Caucasus mountains."

At least one rebel-linked Web site, daymonk.org, said five militants were killed in Khasavyurt, but made no mention of Abu Khavs.

According to Russian security officials, Abu Khavs _ whose name has also been spelled Havs or Hafs _ was a commander of foreign mercenaries once active in Chechnya.

As large-scale fighting has died down in Chechnya, the number of foreigners fighting there has dropped. In recent years, violence in the Russian region has mainly taken the form of hit-and-run attacks against federal forces and local allied paramilitaries.

Russian forces have killed or captured a number of Chechen rebel leaders in recent years, including the notorious warlord Shamil Basayev and Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev, who was the one-time president of the separatists' self-declared government.

Russian security officials say Abu Khavs took over as al-Qaida's top emissary in Chechnya in 2004 after the death of Saudi-born rebel chief Abu Walid.

In an interview with a Turkish newspaper that was posted on the rebel-allied Web site Kavkaz Center, Khavs maintained that separatist fighters were seeing new successes in their war against Russian forces, and he asserted that few fighters had responded to the amnesty offered by federal officials earlier this year.

"The mere fact that the Russian authority has taken such an action testifies to the strength of the Chechen Resistance, and weakness and feebleness of the Russian army," he said according to the interview, dated Nov. 12.

The origin of Khavs' alias is unclear. One of several independent militias now operating in Iraq is called the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade _ named after former Osama bin Laden lieutenant Mohammed Atef, who used the nom de guerre Abu Hafs. Atef was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan in 2001.

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U.S. worries about Chinese espionage

Concern focuses on non-traditional agents like students, businessmen

WASHINGTON - University professor Gao Zhan, a human rights activist once celebrated in Washington, is today in U.S. custody, convicted of selling sensitive U.S. technology to China — microprocessors that could be used in missiles.

Gao's activities are part of what senior U.S. officials say is an intensified campaign by the People's Republic of China to steal military and civilian technology.

"Right now I would say that China is the No. 1 counterintelligence threat to the United States," says Dave Szady, the FBI's former top counterespionage official. "It's a very large threat, it's pervasive and it's extremely effective."
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U.S. officials say there are now 400 active investigations here involving illegal exports to China — more than any other country.

"We've seen a significant spike in attempts to illegally acquire U.S. technology," says Stephen Bogni, with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Undercover video — obtained exclusively by NBC News — shows Bill Moo, an employee of a U.S. defense contractor, inspecting a military jet engine that he planned to secretly buy for China.

Unbeknownst to him, Moo had made the deal with undercover U.S. agents and was later arrested. He pleaded guilty to being an unregistered foreign agent for China.

But officials say not everyone who steals technology is a traditional spy working for the Chinese government. Some are students, businessmen and academics.

"We're finding freelancers all over the country," says ICE Assistant Secretary Julie Myers, "and people are going to their friends and asking them, 'Do you know where we can get this microchip or this helicopter engine, or an air-to-air missile system?'"

"The Chinese are very good at using multiple redundant collection platforms," says former FBI Assistant Director Szady, "and by that I refer to students, delegations, visitors, researchers, development, partnerships, business deals and false front companies."

The Chinese government tells NBC News that it does not engage in espionage in the U.S., calling such accusations irresponsible.

But U.S. intelligence sources say China has a very specific shopping list here, focused on upgrading its Navy and Air Force.

"China really seeks technology across the board," says Szady. "But the primary target is the technology, the research and development that goes into developing their military."

And officials warn that U.S. corporations and universities are not sufficiently on guard to protect against this growing and pervasive threat.

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Spy arrested by State Intelligence Agency

The State Intelligence Agency has detained a man suspected of spying for Belarus. The man was detained in Lithuania during a joint action of the Polish Intelligence Agency and Lithuanian special services. The Polish prosecutor general Janusz Kaczmarek said the suspect will be interrogated under the accusations of spying against Poland. The Baltic news agency BNS has said that the man could have been gathering information before the oncoming NATO summit due to start in the Latvian capital of Riga.

Source: Polskie Radio

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Iran reportedly smuggling arms to Hezbollah via Syria

Beirut - Weapons smuggled from Iran through Syria to Lebanon have rearmed Hezbollah, Time magazine reported Friday.

Western diplomats in Beirut say Hezbollah has received 20,000 short-range missiles, bringing its armaments back to around their level before last summer's war with Israel. Israeli military officials say Hezbollah has about half the arms that were stockpiled when the war began.

"The Iranian pipeline through Syria was already working during the war," one diplomat told Time.

A Saudi official said the Iranians have been operating out of a military base outside of Damascus that serves as a transshipment point for arms. Arms convoys reportedly use mountain passes into Lebanon to bypass forces stationed on the border.

The Saudis are concerned about the spread of Iranian influence, Time said.
Saudi adviser Nawaf Obaid said that during a meeting between Saudi King Abdullah and US VP Dick Cheney, the king told his guest that the Saudi's will not allow the Iranians and Syrians through their ally in Lebanon , Hezbollah to take over the Lebanese government.

The middle eastern countries are becoming extremely nervous about the increasing of Iranian influence in the region.

Picture: Saudi Crown Prince Sultan, seated, right, meets with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, left, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2006

Source: UPI, Al Seyassah

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Russian arms dealer tied to Wilkes-Barre

Firm sells restricted items to Bout, banned from U.S. trading

WASHINGTON -- A sporting-goods store in a small northern Pennsylvania town is the unlikely focus of a federal investigation into the suspected re-emergence of the global arms transport network controlled by Russian businessman Victor Bout.

Federal officials this week said a recent search of the store near Wilkes-Barre, Pa., sought to learn whether a Bulgarian firm in Mr. Bout's business empire was being used to buy restricted paramilitary items for a company tied to Russia's intelligence agency.

According to a federal affidavit, the equipment allegedly sold included telescopic rifle scopes, binoculars and optics that can only be exported under State Department authorization.

The search of D & R Sport Center in Nanticoke, in Luzerne County, Pa., coincided with an effort by U.S. Treasury officials to broaden stiff financial sanctions against Mr. Bout and his organization. In late October, under an order signed by President Bush, Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control banned all U.S. firms from doing business with Mr. Bout because of the Russian's history of arms dealing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Mr. Bout, several associates and 30 companies were covered by a similar ban and a Treasury assets freeze that was ordered in 2004 and expanded in 2005 because of financial dealings with deposed Liberian dictator Charles Taylor.

Heading a private air fleet of several dozen cargo planes and commercial airliners, Mr. Bout runs an operation that is considered to be the world's largest transporter of contraband weapons. He has a documented history of supplying arms and other cargo to any side in any conflict for the right price.

His planes have been linked to weapons deliveries to warlords in Africa and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and they later carried reconstruction supplies for the U.S. military and private contractors in Iraq.

"That's not the first time America is freezing or blocking so-called assets, although I don't have any assets in the U.S.," Mr. Bout said in an interview on the Moscow television program "Russia Today." "Nevertheless, every time it is the same story, the same repetition. I can even call it a witch hunt."

John Hageman, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Philadelphia, confirmed this week that firearms agents armed with a federal search warrant inspected documents at the Nanticoke sporting-goods outlet Nov. 8.

An unsealed federal warrant and an accompanying affidavit indicated that ATF investigators sought shipping and wire-transfer documents, phone records, government licenses and computer and other electronic files from the Nanticoke store and a sister outlet in Bloomsburg, Columbia County, Pa.

According to an affidavit prepared by firearms agents Mitchell A. Worley and Michael A. Culp, investigators are looking into allegations that the D & R sports outlet "illegally shipped restricted items to Russia, Kuwait, Germany and Japan in violation of United States export laws." The sports outlet reaped more than $248,000 for the sales, the federal agents said.

The investigation centers on paramilitary equipment purchases made from D & R in early 2005 by Tactica Ltd., a Moscow firm that was described by investigators as "a member of the 'Vympel Group,' which is a known identifier for an elite counterterrorism unit that is controlled by the Russian Federal Security Service (formerly KGB)."

Mark Komoroski, who owns D & R with his brother, Theodore, acknowledged this week that his outlet had sold gun sights and other items to Tactica, and that he was aware of Tactica's "contract with the Russian special forces." But Mr. Komoroski denied that his store had broken any U.S. export laws. Tactica "never got anything that wasn't State Department licensed," Mr. Komoroski said.

Federal agents found that at least $60,000 that paid for Tactica's purchases had come from wire transfers sent in February and March 2005 by Rockman Ltd., a firm based in Sofia, Bulgaria. Rockman has been identified by U.N. investigators as a holding company owned by Sergei Bout, the brother of Victor Bout and a key associate in the Russian's arms operation.

According to the federal agents, an additional $44,000 for Tactica's equipment was routed in wire transfers from Ibrahim Haiji, a Pakistani man accused on federal charges of heroin trafficking. The affidavit does not detail any connection between Mr. Haiji and Victor Bout's organization.

In April 2005, as part of the sweeping U.S. sanctions against Victor Bout, Treasury officials banned any U.S. firm from doing business with either Sergei Bout or with Rockman Ltd.

The wire transfers showing an alleged financial relationship between Victor Bout's organization and Russian intelligence marks the first time the United States has found contemporary evidence that the two entities work in concert.

After living abroad for more than a decade, Victor Bout retreated to Moscow in 2002, after Belgian and Interpol officials issued an international warrant for his arrest on money-laundering charges. Despite Interpol's global law-enforcement authority, Russian officials refused to extradite Victor Bout, and Western officials complained that he had been given official protection.

In the affidavit, the federal agents said they were concentrating on Victor Bout's involvement in the Tactica sales because he "and his numerous shell companies around Eastern Europe and the world were also identified as significant participants in providing weapons to the dictator Charles Taylor in Liberia, rebel groups in Rwanda and the Taliban, as well as subsequent war crimes that were committed by those regimes."

The recent presidential order targeting Victor Bout in the Congo used similar strong language describing his illegal activities. Victor Bout was one of "seven individuals that have destabilized the Congo by impeding disarmament activities, violating international laws involving the targeting of children or violating a United Nations arms embargo," State Department spokeswoman Nancy Beck said.

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Iran invites Sinopec head to sign $100 billion oil, gas deals

Nov. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Iran has invited the managing director of China Petrochemical Corp. to Tehran to sign the development contract of Iran's Yadavaran oil field as well as oil and gas purchases worth as much as $100 billion.

A deal for China's Sinopec Group, as China Petrochemical is known, to develop Yadavaran has been completed, National Iranian Oil Co. President Gholamhossein Nozari told Iran's oil ministry press agency Petroenergy Information Network yesterday.

"All elements of the contract have been finalized and it is in the final process for signing by Sinopec,'' Nozari told Petroenergy. Sinopec has been negotiating to buy a 51 percent stake in the project since an initial agreement was reached in October 2004.

Iran, under U.S. economic sanctions and at odds with the U.S. and the European Union over its nuclear program, is seeking friendlier markets. China and Russia said on Oct. 26 they would oppose a draft resolution imposing United Nations sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program as the Security Council's five permanent members held their first meeting on the text. No resolution has been passed since.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc, which has worked as a technical consultant for Sinopec on the Yadavaran oil field, will participate in the field's development, Iran's oil ministry said in September. Shell officials have said the company is seeking a 20 percent stake in the field.

If completed, the deal will allow China to buy 150,000 barrels of Iranian crude a day at market rates for 25 years as well as 250 million tons of liquefied natural gas. Under an initial agreement signed by the Sinopec Group in October 2004, China could pay Iran as much as $100 billion for the stake and the purchases of oil and gas over 25 years.

Yadavaran, with estimated reserves of 3 billion barrels, is expected to produce 300,000 barrels per day -- or about the same volume China currently imports from Iran, Petroenergy said.

Yadavaran is located in Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan province near its border with Iraq.

China Petrochemical is parent of overseas listed China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., Asia's largest refiner.

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Security developments in Iraq, Nov 26

Nov 26 (Reuters) - Following are security developments in Iraq as of 1200 GMT on Saturday.

* Indicates new or updated item

* HAQLANIYA - U.S. forces said they found 11 bodies near the town of Haqlaniya, west of Baghdad. A U.S. statement said the 10 men and one youth died from gunshots and a burned-out van was found close to the bodies.

* DIYALA PROVINCE - A U.S. soldier was killed and two more wounded when a roadside bomb hit their vehicle in Diyala province, north of Baghdad, on Saturday, the military said.

* AZIZIYA - Clashes between insurgents and police on Saturday killed two people and wounded eight more in Aziziya, a town southeast of Baghdad, police said.

CAMP BUCCA - The U.S. military said a detainee died on Saturday at Camp Bucca, in southern Iraq, of what appeared to be natural causes. The statement said the man had complained of chest pains and was under medical care when he died.

HASWA - A car bomb killed five people and wounded 23 in a crowded market in Haswa, a small town 50 km (30 miles) south of Baghdad, an interior ministry source said. Police in the regional capital Hilla said six or seven were killed and up to 27 wounded.

RAMADI - The U.S. military said it launched air strikes and fired artillery to help a tribe in western Anbar after an attack by al Qaeda. "Al Qaeda burned homes and killed members of the tribe using small arms fire and mortars," the military said in a statement, adding it had no casualty figures.

Sattar al-Buzayi, head of the Anbar Salvation Council, an umbrella group of tribes in Anbar, said tribal fighters had raided an al Qaeda stronghold and killed 55 militants and arrested 25. He said nine tribal fighters were killed.

BASRA - Three men and one woman were shot by gunmen who attacked their car at a road junction in central Basra, a police official said.

MOSUL - An office worker for Iraqiya state television in the northern city of Mosul was killed by gunmen on her doorstep, police said.

FALLUJA - Two U.S. marines died on Saturday from wounds sustained in combat in Iraq's western Anbar province, the U.S. military said. One of them was killed when a suicide car bomber attacked a checkpoint in Khaldiya, about 80 km (50 miles) west of Baghdad, killing three Iraqi civilians, including two children. Nine civilians were also wounded.

BAQUBA - The U.S. military said its forces killed four suspected insurgents linked to al Qaeda in Iraq and detained 11 more during a raid near Baquba, north of Baghdad. "One of the (detained) terrorists was hiding in a house dressed as a woman, pretending to nurse a baby," the statement said.

MAHAWEEL - Two members of the local town council were dragged from their car and killed by gunmen in Mahaweel, 75 km (50 miles) south of Baghdad, on Saturday night, police said.

BAGHDAD - Baghdad was under a vehicle curfew for the third day. It was imposed after Thursday's bombings in the Shi'ite stronghold of Sadr City that killed 202 people.

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Pakistan emerging arms market in world

Press Trust of India

After enduring two decades of international arms embargo, Pakistan is set to emerge as one of the most active new players in the $3 trillion world arms market.

Its arms export last year amounted to $200 million - a small sum in comparison to the US and Russia, nonetheless a huge earning for Pakistan considering that the arms sanction against it was lifted just five years ago.

The sanction was imposed by the US and its European allies to punish Pakistan for embarking on its nuclear weapons programme.

However, following the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and Pakistan's support for the US-led war on terrorism, the US has designated the populous Muslim nation as a major non-NATO ally - one of the few Muslim countries to be accorded the privilege.

The designation meant that Pakistan now has access to weapons, from aircraft to missiles, which were denied to it five years ago.

During the period of embargo, Pakistan turned to its long-time ally, China for cooperation in arms trade, which according to defence experts, was limited to conventional weapons only.

However, with its "new status" in the world arms market, Pakistan's arms exhibition, International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) 2006, is being viewed as one of the leading defence events in the South Asia region.

A total of 231 companies, including those from the US, Europe, Russia and China took part in the four-day event which showcased five long-range surface-to-surface missiles, in service with the Pakistan Army Strategic Forces Command (ASFC)

Among the missiles were the intermediate range ballistic missiles, the Ghauri and Shaheen II. The Ghauri has a 1,500 km range, and the Shaheen II, 2,000 km.

On November 16, witnessed by Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, a Ghauri missile was test fired from an unspecified location.

Pakistan has neither confirmed nor denied that its ballistic missiles are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

Growing Export Market

Pakistan is exporting arms and munitions to 50 Asian and Europeans countries, the US, UK and New Zealand.

Its sales are not limited to small arms and ammunition; they also included big-ticket items, such as the Super Mushak training aircraft to Middle East, gunboats to Bangladesh and man portable air defence missiles to Malaysia.

These sales have wetted Pakistan's appetite to further penetrate the international arms market.

It recently demonstrated the capability of its Al-Khalid main battle tank (MBT) in Saudi Arabia with a hope to clinch a deal for the sale of 150 tanks to beef up the Kingdom's defence forces.

The Al-Khalid MBT, manufactured by Pakistan's Heavy Industries Taxila, was the result of Pakistan-China collaboration.

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