US citizen gathering intelligence arrested in Dagestan
APA: Local police officers arrested Kelly Mac Eversy, an associate of the US John Hopkins University, on March 29 in Khasavyurd, Dagestan. Recorder, camera and other equipment ere found in his bag. He showed legal documents to the police but police got him testify for 5 hours and recorded this process.
Dagestan Interior Ministry told APA bureau in Dagestan that Kelly was in ‘Svoboda Slova’ printing house director’s car and the police took him to Sovetski police department.
“He was provided with a lawyer in the police station at once. No pressure was exerted on him. He said in his testimony that he came to familiarize himself with culture of nations living here but gathered intelligence and belongings in his bag refuted his words. So, a search was carried out in his apartment”.
The Ministry stated that Kelly gathered information of intelligence character in Dagestan. He has been in Dagestan since March 15 and took photos of some strategic facilities.
APA bureau reports that Kelly Mac Eversy will be deported from Dagestan. /APA/
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By Joe Kaufman
FrontPageMagazine.com | March 31, 2006
Once every year, CAIR or the Council on American-Islamic Relations gathers its followers in various ‘hot spots’ around the nation to raise money and flaunt its homemade status as a “civil liberties group,” in an attempt to convince the world that they are something which they are not. This year’s annual banquet in Florida will fall fittingly on April 1st or April Fools. The title of the event is ‘Partners for Peace & Justice.’
The keynote speaker for this weekend’s event will be David Cole. Cole is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, a board member of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Legal Affairs Correspondent for the publication, The Nation. As an attorney, he has been involved in a number of high profile cases. This includes United States v. Eichman, which established that the First Amendment allows for the burning of the American flag.
Cole also played the role of lead counsel for terror operative, Mazen Al-Najjar. Following a 1997 deportation order for overstaying his student visa, Al-Najjar was jailed as a potential threat to the United States public. In July, 2001, after a hard fought court battle, Cole and his legal team lost a federal appeal, thereby denying Al-Najjar asylum. In August of 2002, he was deported to Lebanon. [Al-Najjar would later be named as a co-defendant in the trial against his brother-in-law, Sami Al-Arian.]
Weighing in on the Al-Najjar case was the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which stated, in a May 2002 press release: “Mazen Al Najjar has never been charged with a crime, yet he has spent more than four years behind bars, first on secret evidence that he had no chance to rebut, and for the last six months on no evidence of dangerousness whatsoever.” But at the time, according to the Department of Justice, Al-Najjar “had established ties to terrorist organizations and held leadership positions in the Tampa-based Islamic Concern Project (ICP) and the World and Islam Studies Enterprise,” groups founded by Al-Arian.
This was not the first instance of the ACLU being wrong about those that fall under the inglorious title of ‘radical Islamist,’ and it seems that the group is continuing the trend, now with the appointment of a leader of CAIR to its ranks.
In a CAIR press release, dated March 8, 2006, the group announced to the world that its National Board Chairman, Parvez Ahmed, had been elected to the board of the ACLU of Florida. In the past, the ACLU had participated in events with the group and had even ‘locked arms’ in legal actions with CAIR, but never had it gone so far as to take one of its leaders into its ranks. About his new position, Ahmed, who is also a speaker at the April 1st fundraising dinner, stated: “American Muslims view the protection of civil liberties as one of the most important issues facing our nation today. By working with the ACLU in Florida, I hope to strengthen constitutional rights and help balance those rights with legitimate national security concerns.”
Ahmed’s reason for making that statement – and for getting involved with the ACLU – is apparent. Since CAIR has been in existence, it has lost a Civil Rights Coordinator, a fundraiser, a Director of Community Relations, and a founding Director of its Texas Chapter, all through conviction or deportation. CAIR is currently the defendant in a lawsuit put forward by the family of an FBI agent for his murder, during the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. Bringing Ahmed into its organization, the ACLU gives CAIR the legitimacy it both craves and needs to survive.
For Parvez Ahmed, it’s just one more step on his quick rise to power. Ahmed, who is an assistant professor at the University of North Florida, became CAIR’s Chairman of the Board in May of 2005. He previously served as Board Chairman for the Florida Chapter of CAIR and as a CAIR National Board member. In addition to this, Ahmed incorporated – in Jacksonville, Florida, where he resides – CAIR’s now defunct Independent Writers Syndicate (IWS). According to CAIR, the syndicate was created, because “after 9/11… newspapers became hungry for input from Muslims.” The service would “distribute original commentaries to newspapers and web sites throughout North America.” Unfortunately, there were problems with many of the writers. They included:
• Arselan Tariq Iftikhar. Iftikhar, who is currently CAIR’s National Legal Director, wrote a June 2002 IWS piece, entitled ‘Bush’s Speech – An Interim Insult,’ in which he described Ariel Sharon as a “terrorist.” He stated, “Ariel Sharon is as much of a terrorist as Yasser Arafat, if not five times more.” In 2002, Iftikhar was a speaker at a Muslim Students Association (MSA) Conference, which featured numerous Islamist radicals, including Siraj Wahhaj, a man named as a potential co-conspirator to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and Zulfiqar Ali Shah, the South Asia Director for KindHearts, an Islamic charity that was recently closed down by the United States government for financing Hamas.
• Riad Z. Abdelkarim. Abdelkarim was the Coordinator for IWS. He was also the co-founder of KinderUSA, which suspended operations in December of 2002, amidst an FBI investigation into its Hamas-related activities. In addition, he had been involved with the Holy Land Foundation (HLF), which the United States government shut down after 9/11, and he was on the Los Angeles board of CAIR. In May of 2002, Abdelkarim was detained by the Israeli government, along with fellow KinderUSA co-founder, Dallel Mohmed. The Israelis claimed that the two “charity” workers were “transferring money to sponsor suicide bombings.”
• Fedwa Wazwaz. In August of 2005, Wazwaz was a ‘Live Dialogue’ guest on Islam Online, a website that features live interviews with leaders of Hamas. She authored a libelous tirade against Middle East expert Daniel Pipes, in August of 2003, falsely accusing him of “bigotry.” The title of the piece was ‘Bush Appointee is a Bigot Disguised as a Scholar.’ Wazwaz also, in a November 2002 IWS piece, echoed a conspiracy theory about the Iraq war being started to assist Israel. She stated, “So the plan to attack Iraq was plotted six years ago by pro-Israelis who now hold key positions in the Pentagon.”
Parvez Ahmed has written some disturbing things in his own right. In December of 2005, he called for the release of terrorist Sami Al-Arian, in his op-ed entitled, ‘Al-Arian Verdict a Victory for Common Sense.’ Al-Arian had been the North American leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an organization that carries out suicide operations against innocent Israelis. Al-Arian had also been involved with CAIR’s parent organization, a Hamas-front called the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP). Ahmed stated, “The Justice Department should respect this sentiment and the verdict reached by Al-Arian’s peers by releasing him so that he may resume a normal life, or as close to normal as possible after such an ordeal.” Furthermore, Ahmed laments, in the piece, that “the government may retry him on the charges for which the jury could not reach a decision.”
Most of the time, though, Ahmed is smart and tries to put a positive spin on matters that would concern most Americans. In his August 2005 article entitled, ‘A moderate Muslim way to counter terrorism,’ he agrees with the rationale that says suicide bombings have “little to do with the teachings of any religion but [are] rather a response… designed to compel the retreat of an occupation force.” He says that “Islam… allows for defensive war against combatants but unequivocally forbids the killing of civilians.”
However, to Hamas – the organization that CAIR was born out of – targeting civilians is justified, because all Israelis serve in the military. And the Hamas charter states explicitly that Israel must be destroyed by religious means. According to the charter: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam witll obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it… It is necessary to instill the spirit of Jihad in the heart of the nation so that they would confront the enemies and join the ranks of the fighters… It is necessary to instill in the minds of the Moslem generations that the Palestinian problem is a religious problem, and should be dealt with on this basis.”
CAIR would not be around, if it weren’t for the fact that so many are willing to buy into the group’s ‘dog and pony show.’ With CAIR, the horrors of terrorism and destruction disappear like magic. Except that they’re not really gone. We’re just made to think they are. This April Fools, once again, CAIR will attempt their magic act on the world. And they’ll even throw in a comedian for good measure. If we fall for this act, the real fool is us.
Joe Kaufman is the Chairman of Americans Against Hate and the host of The Politics of Terrorism radio show.
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Iran fires stealth missile - Revolutionary Guards
Tehran, Iran, Mar. 31 – Iran has successfully fired its first stealth missile, according to a top commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
“Today, we successfully tested a new-generation missile capable of striking several targets simultaneously”, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, who commands the IRGC Air Force, told state television on Friday.
The new domestically-produced missile can “hide from radars” and “evade anti-missile missiles”, Salami said.
The missile makes use of modern “multiple warhead” technology which allows it to strike several targets simultaneously with superior accuracy.
The missile was more advanced than those found in the armies of Iran’s adversaries, he said.
The missile was fired during the first day of weeklong large-scale naval exercises in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman. Images of the missile taking off were aired on state television.
A Shahab-2 missile was also fired “to show Iran’s desire for peace and friendship with neighbouring countries”.
Salami is known as the father of the IRGC’s “asymmetric warfare” doctrine, which he helped to develop in the months preceding the war in Iraq. At the time, he was Director of Operations in the IRGC command headquarters.
The military doctrine is based on two components as strategic tools in any military confrontation: the massive use of suicide operations to target U.S. and Western interests around the world, and the use of weapons of mass destruction.
On July 4, 2004, General Salami called for the destruction of the United States during a ceremony to recruit suicide bombers who were willing to attack Western and Israeli targets.
“Now, America knows that Muslims with their desires for martyrdom have discovered a new technology and are capable of technological production. This has made [the U.S.] fear them”, Salami was quoted as saying by the state-run news agency ISNA.
In his position as commander of the IRGC’s Air force, General Salami is in charge of the country’s ballistic missile development project, a key component of the asymmetric warfare doctrine. Missiles are important as means of delivery for such weapons.
In November, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed Salami as Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the IRGC.
In the July 2004 speech, Salami had argued for the use of oil as a weapon by Muslim countries to put pressure on the West.
He said that because of the strategic location and resources of the Middle East, the United States had a goal of dominating the region, but was faced with the world of Islam.
Referring to suicide attacks against Israel, Salami said, “A young group following the ideology of Imam [Ruhollah] Khomeini and the  Islamic revolution have started a new strategy of struggle and jihad against the Israelis”.
“With martyrdom-seeking operations, the fight against Israel has taken on a religious quality and has spread Islamic values. It was these martyrdom-seeking operations that brought about victory for the Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon”.
He said that the West and Israel were terrified of suicide operations. “Now, no part of the Islamic world is safe and secure for America, thus the U.S. cannot move forward in the region and is currently trying to secure its present location”.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps was founded in the early days of the Islamic revolution in 1979 as an armed force loyal to Iran’s clerical rulers. Its commanders directly report to Supreme Leader Khamenei and their mission is to “protect and propagate the Islamic revolution”.
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TURKEY: UNREST SPREADS IN KURDISH POPULATED TOWNS
Istanbul, 31 March (AKI) - Despite calls for calm, violence in Turkey's largets Kurdish populated city, Diyarbakir, continued for a third day and began spreading to nearby towns. The latest victim, a nine-year-old boy who died overnight, brought to six the deathtoll in the clashes which broke out on Tuesday following the funerals of four Kurdish rebels from the banned Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) who were killed by Turkish security forces. Over 250 people have been injured and hundreds of shops and other property has been destroyed.
Hundreds of riot police, backed by armoured vehicles, have taken up positions in Diyrabakir. As part of a low profile policy to avoid instigating further riots by Kurdish youths, Turkish police chiefs have urged their men to refrain from using firearms.
In the worst street battles in southeastern Turkey for nearly two decades, hundreds of people, mainly youngsters, hurled stones and petrol bombs at the police and public buildings also vandalising shops and public offices. All trade and businees in Diyarbakir has come to a standstill, with demonstrators forcing shopowners to keep their stores shut, as an act of disobedience towards the Ankara government.
An attempt to quell tensions by Diyarbakir's mayor, Osman Baydemir, a popular figure from the pro-Kurdish party, DTP, fuelled further controversy when in a message to the rioters, he said: "I congratulate you because of your courage," in Kurdish.
The mayor's remark to the rioters, most of whom are believed to be PKK supporters, has prompted Turkey's interior ministry to launch an inquiry.
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IRAN: TWO SWEDES ARRESTED ARE U.S. OR ISRAELI SPIES, DIPLOMAT SAYS
Tehran, 31 March (AKI) - Two Swedish citizens arrested a month ago as they took pictures of navy installations on the island of Qashm, off the southern coast of Iran, are US or Israeli spies, said Hassan Ghadiri Abyaneh, Iran's former ambassador to Australia. The two, whose arrest was publicised only a few days ago, are in good health conditions, said the Iranian justice ministry."They are probably American or Israelis and entered in Iran with Swedish passports," Abyaneh told Iran's semi-official Fars news agency.
Abyaneh, who was also a spokesman for the Iranian embassy in Rome, is known for his radical positions and attacks against the West and in particular Italy.
"Right now, many American and Israeli commanders operate on the Iranian territory to get the necessary information for potential military attacks against the Islamic Republic," he told Fars.
No further details were given on the arrest of the two Swedes.
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MOSCOW HINTS IT MAY FORMALIZE INCORPORATION OF SOUTH OSSETIA
Eurasian Daily Monitor: Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov's aide, Gennady Bukayev, told a joint session of North Ossetia's and South Ossetia's leaderships in Vladikavkaz on March 22 that Moscow has "decided in principle" to merge the two entities into a single one within Russia. The question is not whether, but when, Bukayev declared, indicating that "a united republic would soon appear" under the name Alania as a unit of the Russian Federation. Referencing a decision by the "Russian leadership," Bukayev told both leaderships to accelerate the two entities' economic integration in preparation for the political move. His speech met with enthusiasm by the delegates to the session, who sensed that the issue has entered a decisive stage in the direction they desire.
In that context, the delegations headed by North Ossetia's president Teimuraz Mamsurov and South Ossetia's Moscow-installed leader Eduard Kokoiti discussed the plan to build a new road from the Roki Tunnel (on the Russia-Georgia border, Russian-controlled on both sides) to Tskhinvali, bypassing the Georgian villages that are strewn along the existing road. They also approved plans to build a gas pipeline and electricity transmission line from Vladikavkaz in the north to Tskhinvali in the south.
The proposed road would be completely out of Georgian reach and could be used for unimpeded smuggling and arms deliveries to South Ossetia. The gas pipeline plan was first made public in Tskhinvali in September 2005 when a Russian group initiated construction work on what is legally Georgian territory. The OSCE Mission in Georgia had full knowledge of this development and was genuinely concerned, but dared not speak out.
Bukayev's remarks were cited by Mamsurov's press service and the Vladikavkaz correspondent of Itar-Tass and were reported by independent Moscow media, but not by official ones. Bukayev is the senior official handling frozen conflicts as part of the Russian Prime Minister's Office. He supervised the agitated "presidential" election in Abkhazia in 2004-2005 and went to Transnistria in March 2006 with the official Russian delegation that devised countermeasures to the customs and border regime, recently introduced there by Moldova and Ukraine under European Union guidance.
In Moscow, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs seemed somewhat embarrassed by Bukayev's statements. MFA spokesman Mikhail Kamynin tried to cast the Vladikavkaz meeting in an innocuous light by claiming that it only discussed a reconstruction program for the "conflict zone" that is currently being considered by the OSCE and European Union under the auspices of the Joint Control Commission (JCC, consisting of Russia, North Ossetia, South Ossetia, and Georgia, with the OSCE as observer). However, earlier this month, Russia and its two proxies on the JCC torpedoed a scheduled meeting in Vienna of the JCC that was to have discussed that very issue. Kamynin restated the known position that South Ossetia's political status is to be discussed at the final stage of negotiations within the JCC.
The idea of merging North and South Ossetia within the Russian Federation is almost as old as the conflict itself (1990) and has been examined by the Duma and other Russian authorities several times, without a decision being taken. However, Bukayev's statements are unprecedented in that they seem to reflect for the first time a serious intent to pass from words to deeds. President Vladimir Putin and his government have systematically proceeded toward incorporation of South Ossetia de facto, apparently preparing to formalize annexation de jure at some convenient time. They may now calculate that the time is drawing near.
Concurrently with the Vladikavkaz meeting, Abkhaz forces conducted exercises involving artillery, helicopters, armored vehicles, and coast guard boats, under the command of officers seconded from Russia: the "Abkhaz defense minister" Sultan Sosnaliev, "chief of staff" Anatoly Zaytsev, and coastal guard commander Alexander Voinskiy (NTV Mir, March 24). De facto annexation of Abkhazia is also well under way. However, Moscow is likely to drive the process in South Ossetia faster. It apparently calculates that the international stakes and visibility are lower in South Ossetia, compared to Abkhazia; and it aims to thwart Georgia's strategy, which envisages a peaceful political solution in South Ossetia first and in Abkhazia later.
Bukayev's declaration reflects the official policy and strategic timetable, but leaves the tactical decisions open for adjustment. The declaration may also be intended as a trial balloon to test the international response. Almost certainly, it also seeks to provoke Georgia into some rash moves in South Ossetia as the weather turns favorable to operations on the ground. Tbilisi will certainly display sufficient maturity not to be drawn into a risky confrontation. The real test of maturity is for international organizations and Georgia's Western allies and partners to make clear to Moscow that its intentions are intolerable and have consequences on Russia's relations with the West.
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AZERBAIJAN SPEARHEADING INITIATIVE ON TRANS-CASPIAN GAS PIPELINE
Eurasian Daily Monitor: Addressing an international energy conference in progress in Baku, Azerbaijan's Industry and Energy Minister Natig Aliyev outlined the advantages of a trans-Caspian gas pipeline from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan via the South Caucasus to European markets. Natig Aliyev underscored the project's value for diversifying supplies and restraining prices as well as the favorable international context for this project, as Western interest rebounds in the wake of this winter's disruption in supplies. Urging Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan to become part of the project without waiting for approval from other Caspian countries -- an allusion to Russia and Tehran -- Aliyev noted that any impediments to a seabed pipeline are political, not technical ones.
A trans-Caspian seabed pipeline "would ensure Europe's energy security and protect it from Russian monopolism," Aliyev remarked. "Europe has understood that it is naive to place all its hopes on Russian gas. The events of recent months, when Russia has in effect demonstrated its status as a monopolist, indicate that prices will rise further." Thus, the timing is now ripe for starting the negotiations (AP, Turan, Trend, Ekho [Baku], March 29).
The preceding week, Russia opposed the trans-Caspian pipeline proposal during a routine meeting of the five riparian countries on defining the legal status of the Caspian Sea. Russia, which happens to be the leading industrial polluter of that sea, cited environmental risks in opposing a trans-Caspian pipeline and claimed that any such project requires approval from all five countries. Azerbaijan took the lead in refuting Russia's position (RIA-Novosti, March 22). Azerbaijan, seconded by Kazakhstan, upholds the right of Caspian countries to make sovereign decisions about laying pipelines on their respective seabed sectors.
Baku estimates the construction costs at $5 billion for a pipeline with an annual capacity of 30 billion cubic meters that would run from the eastern Caspian shore, across the seabed to Azerbaijan, and further via Georgia into Turkey. With Turkey as a transit corridor, the gas could be piped to European Union member countries in southern and central Europe. The concept largely follows that promoted by the United States in 1996-2001, primarily in Europe's interest, though amid European indifference at that stage. Azerbaijan and Georgia were firmly on board the U.S.-led project, Turkmenistan prevaricated, and Turkey mismanaged the negotiations.
The updated concept, now under exploratory discussion by the same countries with European participation for the first time, includes major novel elements, such as:
a) The opportunity for Kazakhstan to joint the project;
b) Turkey's role as transit corridor to Europe, rather than consumer country as had earlier been envisaged;
c) Massive input from Azerbaijan's Shah-Deniz gas field into the proposed pipeline via Turkey to Europe (the offshore field's anticipated yield is 20 billion cubic meters annually, almost twice the earlier projection, and most of it available for delivery to Europe); and
d) Possibly integrating the Caspian gas pipeline with the Nabucco project (Turkey-Bulgaria-Romania-Hungary-Austria) by connecting the two planned lines near Erzurum in eastern Turkey.
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov has signaled an intention to rejoin negotiations on the trans-Caspian pipelines. Receiving a Turkish delegation (unrelated to the energy sector) in Ashgabat, Niyazov offered on live television, "We can provide you with cheap gas … I had already made such an offer to you in the past, but your leadership was slow to act and failed to get the Turkmen gas in time. At present, you are purchasing expensive gas and it does not even match your demand" (Turkmen Television Channel One, March 19). Niyazov was alluding to Turkish government officials who made it possible for Gazprom's pipeline across the Black Sea to defeat the U.S.-proposed trans-Caspian pipeline in the race for Turkey's gas market in 2001. Those Turkish officials have since been investigated and indicted for having secretly agreed on onerous terms of purchase for Russian gas.
Turkey has recently been paying $243 per one thousand cubic meters of Russian gas, and Gazprom recently demanded a hike to $273, which Turkey finds unacceptable (Zaman, February 2). Meanwhile, the pipeline across the Black Sea is being underutilized while Turkey's gas market is oversubscribed. The initial trans-Caspian project had targeted the Turkish market as main downstream destination. In the new circumstances, Turkey's role can change from that of a potential consumer of Caspian gas to that of a transit country for Caspian gas to Europe.
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Explosion in Gaza kills key militant
GAZA, March 31 (Reuters) - A car explosion outside a Gaza mosque killed a top Palestinian militant on Friday, triggering a street gunbattle after fighters loyal to him accused Palestinian security forces of collaborating with Israel in the attack.
The Israeli army denied any involvement in the explosion, which also wounded a young boy. "It wasn't us," said an army spokeswoman. Israel has launched several recent air strikes in Gaza targeting militants.
The surge in violence in Gaza came one day after a Palestinian suicide bomber killed four Israelis in the West Bank. Top Hamas officials defended the suicide bombing as "resistance" against Israeli "crimes", putting them at odds with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who condemned the bombing.
Hamas trounced Abbas's Fatah faction in January parliamentary elections and officially took control of the Palestinian government this week.
The Popular Resistance Committees, an umbrella group of militants in Gaza often responsible for rocket attacks against Israel, accused the Jewish state of assassinating Abu Youssef al-Quqa, one of the group's two top commanders.
"We declare an open war against the Zionist enemy," said PRC spokesman Abu Abir.
But Abu Abir later accused Palestinian security officials of collaborating with Israel. He singled out several by name, calling them "traitors" and vowing "We will behead them".
A gunfight later broke out between PRC members and Palestinian security forces. At least one person was injured in the brief exchange of fire.
The Gaza blast occurred near a mosque at the start of Friday prayers and all that was left of the car was a mangled heap of charred metal.
The boy was wounded in the head by flying debris, though medics said the injury was not life threatening.
The PRC has refused to recognise a March 2005 truce with Israel, citing the Jewish state's non-compliance.
Abu Abir said Quqa and other PRC leaders had recently attended a meeting to draw up plans to attack Israeli targets. "He (Quqa) said he knew he was going to be assassinated soon," Abir said.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar, a top Hamas leader, said of the Gaza explosion: "It means that the Israeli aggression will not stop. It means our resistance should continue."
HAMAS VS ABBAS
The conflicting statements of Hamas and Abbas on Thursday's suicide bombing were the first since the president swore in the Palestinian Authority's first Hamas government on Wednesday.
The suicide bombing, claimed by al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, occurred days after Israeli leader Ehud Olmert's Kadima party won elections on a platform of setting Israel's borders in the occupied West Bank unilaterally in the absence of peace talks.
Palestinians say such a move would annex land and deny them the viable state they seek in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israeli officials said the bomber, whose group is part of Abbas's Fatah faction, was disguised as a religious Jewish hitchhiker and blew himself up when Israelis in a car picked him up near a settlement late on Thursday.
"The Palestinian Authority does not accept it. We condemn it and we don't think it will help the peace process," Abbas told a news conference in Cape Town, South Africa.
But Hamas, which now controls the Palestinian Authority, described the suicide bombing as a "natural response to Israeli crimes". Information Minister Youssef Rizqa said: "Resistance is a legitimate right for people under occupation."
Abbas has said he could overrule Hamas, which is pledged to Israel's destruction, if it continues to block peacemaking.
Hamas is under pressure from Abbas, Washington and the European Union to stop violence, recognise Israel and respect interim peace deals. It carried out about 60 suicide bombings during an uprising that began in 2000, but has upheld the truce.
Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said in a column published on Friday in a British newspaper that "we have every right to respond with all available means" if Israel continues to launch attacks and to impose "sanctions" on Palestinians.
Haniyeh also ruled out any talk of his Hamas-led government recognising Israel or ending the fight against the Jewish state until it commits itself to withdrawing from Palestinian land.
Hamas's cabinet is set to meet for the first time on Tuesday.
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Coca eradication way down under Morales
AP: LA PAZ, Bolivia - The smell filling the grimy whitewashed rooms of the market in the Villa Fatima district overlooking this Andean capital evokes the sweetness of cut grass - only it's more pungent, nearly intoxicating.
Sacks of freshly harvested coca leaves are stacked all around, awaiting buyers. It's all legal, this trade in the leaves that produce cocaine.
There's lots more coca leaf around than there has been in years, no surprise given that new President Evo Morales was recently re-elected head of Bolivia's coca growers' federation.
Eradication of Bolivian coca leaf, an enterprise underwritten almost exclusively with U.S. tax dollars, is down more than 60 percent since Morales took office.
The destruction of coca fields is no longer forced, but depends on the cooperation of coca growers, said Felipe Caceres, the official in charge of the effort and himself a coca grower. Morales has declared zero tolerance for cocaine but says he won't discourage coca growing for traditional consumption.
To see one such traditional use, look no farther than the bulging cheek of Daniel Sonco, a 37-year-old coca trader.
He chews on a ball of coca leaves as he and a colleague repack a half-dozen 50-pound sacks of "hoja de coca" in airtight plastic for a trip down from Bolivia's high plains to the steamy eastern lowlands, where he says he sells them in one-pound lots to agricultural workers.
"If you don't chew down there, you get sleepy," says Sonco, his breath emitting a bitter, alkaloid odor. "The people in the east need to chew to work because it's so hot there."
There is a traditional mystique to coca-leaf chewing. It was once a restricted privilege of Inca royalty before becoming common practice among indigenous peoples in the Andes, where the stimulant doesn't just suppress the appetite but also helps ward off altitude sickness.
The first thing you're offered at La Paz hotels as you arrive in the world's highest capital - 11,800 feet above sea level - is a cup of "mate de coca," or coca tea. You'll get the same treatment in the former Inca capital of Cuzco, Peru.
Another means of coca consumption - as an all-purpose food supplement - has in recent weeks been suggested by politicians in the region.
Bolivia's new foreign minister, David Choquehuanca, said the "sacred leaf" is so nutritious it should be on school menus, although scientific studies show humans don't easily absorb its nutrients.
A spokesman for Peruvian presidential candidate Ollanta Humala said ground coca leaf could be baked into schoolchildren's bread. In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez also embraced the idea of coca bread.
"Coca isn't the same as cocaine," Chavez said. "Coca is tremendously nutritional."
Coca recipes notwithstanding, Bolivians have no illusions that a good portion of their coca crop is being converted into cocaine.
The question is, how much?
In October 2004, then-President Carlos Mesa ended a tense confrontation with coca growers in the Chapare region by agreeing to let them cultivate 7,900 acres of the crop while the government commissioned a study of Bolivia's legal coca market.
Once that amount was determined, the government would eradicate the surplus.
The study has yet to be started and Bolivia's coca crop, meanwhile, grew to an estimated 65,500 acres last year, according to the U.S. State Department. That was an 8 percent increase over 2004 and more than twice the 29,652 acres that's permitted under Bolivian law. The crop has grown for four years in a row.
This worries U.S. officials, though they've been loathe to discuss the issue on the record. U.S. Ambassador David Greenlee has expressed concern, nevertheless, that excess coca leaf cultivation fuels the cocaine trade.
Of the $150 million in annual U.S. aid to Bolivia, about two-thirds is tied to narcotics. The money goes to everything from boots to health care and pay supplements for the 1,500 Bolivian conscripts in the eradication force.
Unlike in Colombia, where the chief method of coca crop destruction is aerial spraying with a herbicide, conscripts in Bolivia do it by hand. Last year, they ripped out an average of 1,235 acres of coca bushes every month.
In the nine weeks since Morales' Jan. 22 inauguration, however, they've destroyed just 1,017 acres - though nearly one-third of that was eradicated in the past week, according to the Vice Ministry of Social Defense, which oversees the force.
It's anyone's guess how much more coca is being planted.
Bolivia is the world's third-largest coca producer behind Colombia and Peru, and what gets processed into cocaine is smuggled across the porous border into Brazil, destined mostly for Europe and the Brazilian market, now the world's second-largest after the United States.
Alarmed by growing drug-related violence and rising crack cocaine addiction, Brazil last week said it would build nine new surveillance posts along its 2,100-mile border with Bolivia to combat drug trafficking and illegal immigration.
Pressure from neighbors may be tempering the Morales government's attitude toward coca.
While Bolivia's "Coca Control" agency has been renamed "Coca Development," its chief returned somewhat chastened last week from a meeting in Vienna, Austria, of the International Narcotics Control Board.
Caceres announced Morales would be delaying his campaign to get coca leaf decriminalized and said growers needed to understand that some coca destruction would continue.
"We will eradicate, but in a voluntary manner," he said. "We will meet our international obligations in a voluntary form."
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Crime networks, terrorists linked
A U.S. official said al Qaeda and other terrorist groups have ties to criminal organizations in Latin America.
BOGOTA - Middle Eastern terrorist groups rely on criminal organizations in Latin America to acquire false passports and raise funds, although there is no evidence they operate directly in the region, a U.S. State Department anti-terrorism official said Thursday.
''We are not aware of any operational cells in this hemisphere by al Qaeda, Hezbollah or Hamas,'' said Harry Crumpton, antiterrorism coordinator at the U.S. State Department. ``But we do have information that these organizations raise money in the hemisphere and are tied in to transnational criminal networks.''
The U.S. official was in Bogotá for a three-day meeting of the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism, or CICTE for its initials in Spanish, a gathering of antiterrorism officials from 34 nations sponsored by the Organization of American States.
In the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the United States has boosted efforts to identify and arrest terrorists before they reach American shores.
While most of the attention has focused on the Middle East, lax border controls and widespread corruption is believed to make Latin America vulnerable to infiltration by terrorist groups seeking recruits and money to plan future attacks.
To enhance the region's security, the United States was pledging an additional $2.25 million to strengthen and expand port, airport, land border and document security activities, as well as training for Customs officials, Crumpton said.
The contribution -- the equivalent of about $65,000 for each nation in the hemisphere -- barely registers in the overall war on terror. But it's the United State's biggest contribution yet to the multilateral antiterror effort, a $400,000 increase over last year's commitment, representing 80 percent of the funds raised by CICTE, Crumpton said.
Although Crumpton said terrorist groups had no tactical base in Latin America, he also said links with transnational criminal organizations for the purpose of fundraising were increasing and ''posed a great threat'' to regional security.
U.S. officials suspect the lawless, porous border region of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay is a haven for fundraising for Islamic militant groups.
In Colombia, officials in January arrested four Jordanians and a Palestinian belonging to a false passport ring that they said may have had links to al Qaeda.
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Intelligence Office Has Swollen, House Panel Says
A bipartisan vote seeks to curb funds if further growth of the oversight agency can't be justified. A separate bid to stem NSA funds is killed.
By Greg Miller, Times Staff Writer
March 31, 2006
WASHINGTON — The House Intelligence Committee voted Thursday to withhold funding from the nation's intelligence director over concerns that his office, which was created to streamline operations in the nation's spy community, is instead becoming bloated and bureaucratic.
At the same time, Republicans on the House panel defeated a Democratic push to suspend hundreds of millions of dollars in spy agency funding until the Bush administration provided more information about a controversial domestic espionage program being conducted by the National Security Agency.
The measures were considered as part of the 2007 intelligence authorization bill, which sets the spending priorities for the nation's spy agencies.
The move to withhold funding still must be approved by the full House as well as the Senate. But it reflects rising frustration among House lawmakers with an office that was created less than two years ago to solve communication breakdowns and other problems that plagued the intelligence community leading up to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the war in Iraq.
The bill would require the nation's intelligence director, John D. Negroponte, to present a detailed rationale for any additional increases to his staff or risk losing a portion of his budget. The measure was endorsed by Republicans and Democrats.
"We're concerned about some of the steps that are going on" at Negroponte's office, said Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Hoekstra said Negroponte needed to demonstrate that any further expansion would improve coordination among intelligence agencies, and would not amount to "putting in more lawyers and slowing down the process."
Rep. Jane Harman (DVenice), the ranking Democrat on the committee, cited similar concerns.
"We don't want more billets, more bureaucracy, more buildings," Harman said. "We want more leadership."
The action by the committee represents one of the most pointed public rebukes of Negroponte and the course he has set in assembling a staff to oversee the activities of the nation's 16 intelligence agencies.
A spokesman for Negroponte, Carl Kropf, said that the intelligence director's office had not yet seen the House bill. Kropf declined to respond to criticism that Negroponte's office was becoming bloated, except to say that "we are within the limits of the law that established" the director of national intelligence.
Since Negroponte was sworn in less than a year ago, his staff has grown to about 700 employees, according to U.S. intelligence officials. The legislation that created the position provided for a few hundred initial slots, but allowed for the director to add as many as 500 employees through transfers from other agencies.
The intelligence office has named many high-level officials to oversee such intelligence activities as collection and analysis across multiple agencies.
Beyond his own staff, Negroponte is also directly responsible for new centers that coordinate the nation's espionage efforts against terrorism and weapons proliferation.
House Intelligence Committee officials declined to say how much money would be withheld from the intelligence director's office, or exactly what Negroponte would need to include in a report to the panel to get the money released.
Hoekstra described the report the committee was seeking from Negroponte as an "architecture study" of the intelligence office. Other congressional officials said the report would need to justify any additional hires and to explain the functions of existing offices.
In other action, Republicans on the committee defeated a Democratic amendment that sought to force the Bush administration to reveal the budget for the controversial NSA espionage program.
The Democratic measure would have withheld 20% of the NSA's budget unless the White House agreed to disclose how much was being spent on the domestic eavesdropping program.
Democrats have complained that the White House is refusing to provide information on the program to all members of the intelligence committee. Hoekstra noted that 11 of the 21 members of the House panel were getting briefed on the NSA operation, but he said the committee was still engaged in a "tug of war" with the administration for greater access.
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Hundreds rally in Kyrgyz protest, tension high
BISHKEK, March 31 (Reuters) - Hundreds of men marched through Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek on Friday in a brief but chaotic protest sparked by the authorities' stand-off with an influential businessman seeking a seat in parliament.
The protest began after election authorities refused to register Ryspek Akmatbayev, who has risen to prominence since last year's coup which ousted long-serving leader Askar Akayev, as a candidate for a parliamentary by-election on April 9.
The 1,500-strong crowd, waving red banners, whistling and shouting "Hurrah, Ryspek!", arrived from Akmatbayev's constituency town in eastern Kyrgyzstan and marched towards a government building on the main city square.
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who came to power after the coup, appeared before the crowd escorted by more than 100 security guards and urged them to settle grievances through the courts.
"Go home, please. Do not disturb the city," he told them through a loud-speaker from a distance. Many in the crowd nodded and most protesters left shortly afterwards as troops guarding Bakiyev's office looked on.
But tension in Bishkek remained high and police remained on high alert after protesters threatened to bring more people from the provinces to hold more rallies.
Bishkek was the scene of chaotic protests in March 2005 when demonstrations against a flawed election turned violent and led to Akayev fleeing to Russia before a mob ransacked his offices, in contrast to peaceful demonstrations in Ukraine and Georgia.
The Central Election Commission annulled Akmatbayev's bid on Thursday on the grounds that he had not lived in Kyrgyzstan for the last five consecutive years as required by law.
Akmatbayev -- whose brother, parliamentarian Tynychbek Akmatbayev, was shot dead last year during prison riots -- was tried for murder and acquitted earlier this year.
An influential businessman, Akmatbayev has accused the authorities of having criminal links and blamed top government officials for killing his brother.
Since Akayev's overthrow, the impoverished Central Asian country has been unsettled by political instability, a wave of organised crime and high-profile assassinations.
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Spain approves more autonomy for Catalonia
ISN SECURITY WATCH (Friday, 31 March: 12.10 CET) – Spain’s lower house of parliament has approved broader political and economic autonomy for Catalonia, the country’s largest regional economy.
The Senate must now debate and approve the plan, which would then be sent to parliament and put to a regional vote.
The Catalan people are expected to have the opportunity to vote on the issue in June, reports said.
Catalan regional Prime Minister Pasqual Maragall hailed the move.
“Catalonia has achieved what it had not achieved in 300 years, with Spain now having recognized the personality of the region,” news agencies quoted him as saying.
If approved, the autonomy deal with give the Catalan regional government greater power to levy income tax collected in the region and value-added tax (VAT). The regional government will also be given greater power over the court system, and will promote the use of the Catalan language and refer to Catalonia as a nation.
According to the new wording in the preamble, the regional Catalan parliament recognizes Catalonia as a “nation”, but made clear that the Spanish Constitution referred to the northeastern region as a “nationality”.
The opposition People’s Party (PP) said the new law would lead to the break up of Spain and demanded the government “hold a referendum for all Spaniards on whether they want Spain to continue being a single nation”.
The party has already attempted to halt the autonomy move through Spain’s constitutional court.
The initial version of the plan was approved by the Catalan regional parliament in September last year, but it was amended to eliminate proposals that would have allowed Catalonia to manage its own ports and airports and to have its own national sports teams.
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AFGHANISTAN: RELEASE OF CONVERT TRIGGERS NEW POWER STRUGGLE
Karachi, 30 March (AKI) - (by Syed Saleem Shahzad) - The release of Abdul Rahman, an Afghan citizen who has been freed after facing the death penalty for converting to Christianity, has mobilised the former mujahadeen and other influential figures in the newly formed Afghan parliament, giving them an opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with the US-backed administration of president Hamid Karzai.
Abdul Rahman, a Christian for 16 years, was charged with rejecting Islam but his case was dismissed because of gaps in evidence and after being deemed mentally unfit for trial.
The case caused an international outcry from Afghanistan's allies, including the US, Britain, Germany, Italy and Sweden, who called on Kabul to respect international laws on freedom of religion and human rights.
The Afghan parliament criticised the release on Wednesday with MPs insisting that Rahman should not be granted asylum abroad and should be re-arrested and executed. On Thursday, the MPs vowed to investigate whether the Afghan judiciary violated Islamic law by freeing Rahman. The case has exposed a division between the conservative and the more democratic elements of the new parliament, which was elected in September in the first free parliamentary vote in 30 years.
Rahman has since been granted asylum in Italy and has already arrived in the country.
However since his release, thousands of people have also expressed their anger; from Kabul to Mazar-i-Sharif as well as Balkh and other northern parts of the country.
"Everybody knows that government released Abdul Rahman on the flimsy grounds that he is insane. Actually the government caved in to international pressure,” Abdul Hadi Argundwal, a top leader of the Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan, told AdnKronos International (AKI) in a telephone from Kabul.
The Hizb-i-Islami, an element of the Afghan resistance, is now a registered organisation, after dismissing its former mujahadeen leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The group is currently led by Khalid Farooqui.
"Abdul Rahman’s own family filed a petition against him [arguing mental instability] after he converted so that he would not be given custody of his children," said Afghan parliamentarian Sibgathullah Zaki. "Now if he is proven insane, of course the grounds for execution would be finished," said Zaki.
Zaki is an MP from the northern province of Takhar and a top leader of the Junbish-i-Milli Afghanistan (National Islamic Movement), a predominantly Uzbek militia faction run by General Abdul Rasheed Dostum, a warlord who is an influential figure in the north of the country.
However, well-placed sources in Afghanistan maintained that Rahman's release was the trigger for the start of serious political manoeuvres by the former mujahadeen in parliament.
EX-MUJAHADEEN AND ISLAMISTS FIGHT BACK AGAINST EFFORTS TO EXCLUDE THEM
Contrary to the hopes of Washington, the former mujahadeen managed a strong showing in last September's parliamentary vote and are now looking for a lion's share of power.
The Americans are determined to thwart this and are instead aiming to develop a new leadership which would be indigenous - mainly involving former Afghan royalists - and one that will move away from the influences of neighbouring Pakistan and Iran.
Gradual purging has meant there are now hardly any former mujahadeen among the provincial governors, who are mainly liberals, nationalists or former royalists.
Furthermore, in the proposed list of members of the federal cabinet, announced last week, both former Northern Alliance members and former mujahadeen from the south seem to be absent.
The American-backed government of Afghan president Hamid Karzai has chosen a list which gives a voice to all the different ethnic and sectarian groups in Afghanistan but making sure that any figures that were in some way linked to either Iran or Pakistan were removed.
For example, there are four Shiite ministers in the proposed list but for the first time all of them are Hazaras - granting them a share in power they have never enjoyed in the past - and Syed Shiites are absent.
This is a complete turnaround from the ethnic divvying-up of power in the past where non-Hazaras and Syeds were represented in the cabinet.
This is seen as a smart move by the Karzai administration, as it has cut the Iranian connection from Afghan politics while at the same time managed to preserve the rights of the Shiite community in Afghanistan.
Karzai's efforts to curb pro-Iranian or Islamist elements plays to the divisions of Afghanistan's tormented recent history.
However the new cabinet line-up still has to be approved by parliament and this will provide an opportunity for the former mujahadeen to flex their muscles in terms of numbers and alliances.
In the early 1990s, after the fall of the communist government in Kabul, Iran supported the Northern Alliance when it was fighting against the Shiite Hazaras. Tehran even issued a religious decree against Hazara Shiites, who were fighting the predominately-Sunni but Tajik-origin Northern Alliance, led by the slain Ahmed Shah Masood.
Masood was killed just two days before the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Non-Hazara Syeds were also part of the Northern Alliance.
Analysts say that more than ideology or religion it is ethnicity that dominates Afghanistan's complex political patchwork.
The Hazaras are the descendants of the great Mongol warrior Genghis Khan and are therefore perceived as being an inferior race to Aryans, be they Tajik or Iranian.
NEW CABINET LIST ANGERS SOME PARTIES
As a result of their exclusion from president Karzai's new cabinet line-up disgruntled Syed Shiites have once again joined forces with the group backed by the Yunus Qanooni - a Tajik veteran of Afghanistan's power struggles and currently president of the lower house - to block the names once the list is presented in the parliament for approval.
The reshuffle has seen a significant erosion of the power of the Northern Alliance.
The dumping of former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, a Tajik, while he was on a visit to Washington, was a further blow, meaning that the Northern Alliances grip in Kabul had all but vanished.
In the south of Afghanistan the strongest leader is so far Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf, the chief of Ittahad-i-Islami Afghanistan and the strongest leader of Pashtun origin who was part of the Northern Alliance under Ahmed Shah Masood.
Sayyaf is considered a religious hardliner and the American-backed Karzai administration is not ready to give him any share in the power. Former royalists are touted as favourites to substitute the Islamists to represent the southern Pashtun belt.
Sources said that the speaker of the national assembly Yunus Qanooni, ex-Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf as well as pro-Iranian leaders Alimi Balkhi and Asif Mohsini are in the forefront, keen to enforce thier positions and roles in the cabinet.
The Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan led by Khalid Farooqui, which emerged as the single largest party in the parliament, has however decided to keep a low profile.
Outside the parliamentary process, Taliban members and fighters loyal to wanted warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar are, from their southern stronghold, watching closely developments in Kabul.
ABDUL RAHMAN'S CONVERSION CASE A GODSEND
While all the political forces were realigning to form a government in which the former mujahadeen appeared to be losing power, along came the case of the Christian convert Abdul Rahman, a blessing in disguise for the hardliners.
Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf played a big role in the case. The only anti-Taliban Pashtun leader to be part of the Northern Alliance, he is known as a hardliner and its reported that he formed his party, Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan, with Saudi backing.
The Afghan judiciary has remained under the complete control of an element which is loyal to Sayyaf, including the the Chief Justice of the Afghan Supreme Court. The case of Abdul Rahman has reminded Karzai of just how important Sayyaf is in the future setup of the country. Sources said that despite the release of Abdul Rahman, Sayyaf's connections in the judiciary will remain.
The pro-Iranians, Asif Mohsini and Alimi Balkhi, immediately took the forefront in the demonstrations against Rahman's release. By mobilising the masses throughout northern Afghanistan they were reminding the Americans that the Syeds are the most important influence among Shiites in Afghanistan and Iran-hostile Hazaras will never be able to take on significant positions within Afghan politics.
As the crowds rallied, both the speaker of the parliament Yunus Qanooni and former president and influential Tajik figure Rabbani put pressure on Karzai to regain their lost influence in the federal cabinet. The silent and spiritual presence of Iran is strongly felt throughout northern Afghanistan.
At the same time, away from the cities like Kabul and Jalalabad, forces loyal to the Taliban regime and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the warlord still in hiding, have started distributing religious edicts all over the Pashtun heartland, calling on people to rise up against the foreign armies in Afghanistan and save the country from becoming a Christian state.
So while the battle for power in Afghanistan is strongly rooted in recent bloodshed, the case of a Christian convert has given power struggles by influential figures a chance to flourish.
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Fourth Annual Antiterrorism Business Preparedness Conference (ABPC)
Counterterrorism &Security Education and Research Foundation ( CTSERF)
Friday May 5, 2006 NYC
Place: The New York Athletic Club
180 Central Park South &59th Street
New York City
For Special Intelligence Summit Attendee rate, please call Phil Friedman at 212-362-3151, or Steve Fustero at 571-216-8205 or go to www.iacsp.com
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Russian court rules against Yukos
ISN SECURITY WATCH (Thursday, 30 March: 15.10 CET) - The company that was once Russia's largest producer of oil has been banned from selling any of its foreign assets without permission.
Radio Free Europe (RFE) reports that Moscow's Arbitration Court has ruled that the management of Yukos oil can not sell of its assets abroad without obtaining consent from bankruptcy supervisors.
Yukos was the brainchild of Mikhail Khodorovsky, who is now serving eight years in a Siberian prison for fraud and tax evasion. In its heyday, the company produced 20 per cent of the country's oil.
It is currently facing a lawsuit after defaulting on a loan worth alomst US$ 500 million.
RFE says she company is reportedly negotiating with Lithuania to sell its controlling stake in Mazeikiu Nafta oil company.
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Two Killed in Pakistan Tribal Region
MIRAN SHAH, Pakistan (AP)- Stray mortars hit several homes during fighting between pro-Taliban Islamic militants and security forces near the Afghan border, killing at least two Pakistani villagers and wounded four, officials and residents said Thursday.
Two security forces were also injured in the fighting, which began late Wednesday and ended just before dawn Thursday in the village of Hurmaz, about 15 miles southeast of Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal region, said local resident Ahsan Ullah.
The attack was the latest bout of violence to rock the region, which hugs the Afghan border and where al-Qaida and Taliban-linked militants have been battling Pakistani troops for the past month.
An area security official confirmed that two villagers were killed and four wounded but said officials didn't know whether the militants suffered losses.
"Our forces returned fire after miscreants fired rockets and used other munition to target them. We don't know whose fire caused these civilian casualties," said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Pakistan, a key ally of the United States in its war on terror, has deployed 80,000 troops in the country's tribal regions and launched a series of operations in an effort to flush out militants.
Officials say hundreds of members of
Afghanistan's former Taliban regime and al-Qaida militants are hiding in Pakistani tribal regions, a claim that most tribesmen deny.
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Drug violence afflicts Caribbean countries
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, March 30 (Reuters) - More than a dozen gunmen attacked a gas station in Guyana late last month, fired on passing cars, torched a house and machine-gunned the occupants of another. Eight people died in the rampage.
Somehow, say police in the jungle-clad Caribbean country, the attack was linked to a high-speed chase between the Guyanese coast guard and a trawler escorted by two speedboats as it carried suspected drugs down the Demerara River.
Such tales of blood and violence are increasing in the Caribbean as the infiltration of Colombian cocaine and heroin, the spread of regionally grown marijuana and the growing corruptive power of hundreds of millions of dollars in drug money threaten the foundations of small democracies, U.S. and Caribbean officials say.
Drug-fueled violence, for example, drove Jamaica's murder rate to a new record high in 2005, making it one of the most murderous countries in the world.
"...It is not far fetched to conceive of the insidious influence of drug lords spreading more easily throughout the society and eventually reaching the highest levels of our political, security and legal systems," Patrick Manning, prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, warned recently.
In the State Department's 2006 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Washington said drugs, gun-running and corruption were so rife in parts of the Caribbean that some countries could even be "ripe for exploitation by terrorist organizations."
South American traffickers had reportedly taken up residence on the tiny islands of St. Kitts and Nevis, which lie about a third of the way from the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico to Trinidad and Tobago, the report said.
"The police drug unit on St. Kitts has been largely ineffective," it added.
In Guyana, the estimated $150 million earned every year by cocaine traffickers was equivalent to 20 percent of the country's gross domestic product -- giving them enormous economic and political clout -- according to a calculation by the U.S. Embassy there.
"Drug trafficking and money laundering appear to be propping up the Guyanese economy. Known drug traffickers have acquired substantial landholdings and timber concessions, are building large hotel and housing developments, and own retail businesses that sell imported goods at impossibly low prices," the U.S. report said.
"The drug trade generates violent armed groups who act as if they are above the law and who threaten Guyana's fragile democracy, and drug traffickers may use their ill-gotten gains to acquire political influence."
In Jamaica, long the biggest producer and exporter of marijuana in the Caribbean, violence spawned to a large extent by the drug trade killed 1,669 people in 2005, compared with the previous annual record of 1,471 murders the year before.
A crackdown by police -- aided by British constables -- reduced the number of murders in January.
Lawless and impoverished Haiti, which has not had an effective government since President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was deposed in an armed revolt in February 2004, continues to be a significant transit route for Colombian cocaine smuggled to the United States.
Haiti has 1,125 miles (1,810 km) of unpatrolled shoreline, no security in its ports and its police force is notoriously corrupt, the U.S. report said. Cocaine airdrops and sea shipments from Colombia, Venezuela and Panama are believed to be on the increase.
Haiti's neighbor on the island of Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic, is also tainted by corruption and weak government and has become a major transit route not just for cocaine and heroin, but also for MDMA, or ecstasy, which is imported from Europe.
Trinidad's national security minister, Martin Joseph, said around 66 known gangs with an estimated 500 hardcore members were believed to be fighting over the lucrative drug trade in the twin-island nation near Venezuela, which borders Colombia and which U.S. law enforcement agencies say has become an important transit route for Colombian cocaine.
"It is the cocaine trade that is fueling a lot of criminal activities in Trinidad and Tobago and a new development is that the drugs are coming with guns and the guns stay, while the cocaine goes," said Joseph.
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Developments in Iraq on March 30
March 30 (Reuters) - Following are security incidents in Iraq on Thursday as of 1300 GMT.U.S. and Iraqi forces have been battling a Sunni Arab insurgency against the Shi'ite- and Kurdish-led interim government. The bombing of a Shi'ite shrine on Feb. 22 has been followed by a surge in sectarian attacks.
Asterisk denotes a new or updated item.
*BAGHDAD - American journalist Jill Carroll was freed in Iraq, almost three months after being kidnapped in Baghdad.
*BAGHDAD - The bodies of two people were found in two different districts in the capital, police said.
*BAGHDAD - Three civilians were wounded when a roadside bomb hit a police patrol in central Baghdad, police said.
BAGHDAD - One U.S. airman was killed and another wounded by a roadside bomb while conducting an operation near Baghdad, the U.S. military said.
KIRKUK - A policeman was killed and three others wounded when a roadside bomb hit their patrol in the northern oil city of Kirkuk, 250 km (150 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.
BAGHDAD - Five police commandos were wounded when a suicide bomber in a car attacked their convoy in southwest Baghdad, Interior Ministry sources said.
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More clashes in SE Turkey as Kurds bury 3 dead
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey, March 30 (Reuters) - Kurdish youths hurled stones and molotov cocktails at Turkish police and burned tyres on Thursday in a third day of violent clashes which have so far claimed three lives and wounded more than 250 people.
The fresh fighting erupted when thousands of people attended funeral ceremonies for the three people -- two young men and an eight-year-old boy -- killed during Wednesday's clashes in Diyarbakir, the main city of Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast.
Some of the mourners, ignoring calls for calm from local officials, attacked a police station they were passing. Police used tear gas and truncheons to disperse them.
In a sign that the unrest may be spreading, CNN Turk television said about 3,000 protesters had also fought with police in the nearby town of Batman. More than 10 people were hurt in those clashes, it said.
In Diyarbakir, a city of nearly one million on the river Tigris, most shops and offices were shut on Thursday. The Turkish army has stationed combat vehicles in the suburbs in a bid to discourage protesters.
The violence first erupted on Tuesday after funeral ceremonies for 14 guerrillas of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), killed by security forces last weekend.
Diyarbakir governor Efkan Ala told a news conference late on Wednesday that police had detained around 200 people during the clashes, the worst seen in Diyarbakir in 30 years.
"This violence damages the image of Diyarbakir, which had been steadily improving ... It will delay the flow of investment here that would curb unemployment," Ala said.
Political analysts say the riots are rooted in high unemployment, poverty and a belief among the Kurds of the region that Ankara is not seriously interested in improving their lot.
Under pressure from the European Union, which it hopes to join, Turkey has removed restrictions on Kurdish language and culture, but critics say it is too little too late.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government is also under fire from Turkish nationalists who view the concessions to Kurds as rewarding terrorism.
Ankara holds the PKK responsible for the deaths of more than 30,000 people since it launched its armed campaign for an independent Kurdish state in southeast Turkey in 1984.
"We are now paying the price for Erdogan's Diyarbakir adventure," Devlet Bahceli, leader of the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), said in televised remarks.
Erdogan infuriated nationalists last summer when he visited Diyarbakir and said Turkey had made mistakes in the past in its handling of what he called the "Kurdish problem".
The PKK is also on the terrorism blacklist of the European Union and the United States.
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Iran to hold large-scale naval war games
Tehran, Iran, Mar. 29 – Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) will begin large-scale naval exercises in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman on Friday by firing a Shahab-2 missile “to show Iran’s desire for peace and friendship with neighbouring countries”, the IRGC naval chief said on Wednesday.
Rear Admiral Morteza Saffari, who commands the IRGC Navy, told a press conference in the Iranian capital that the naval war games would go on until April 6 with the participation of five IRGC naval garrisons and the assistance of Iran’s regular navy and air force, as well the missiles force, the Bassij, and the State Security Forces.
“Today, Iran is calling for its rightful demands with strength and national unity and these exercises will show an increase of strength and preparedness”, the navy commander added.
Saffari dismissed efforts by the United States to build up international consensus against Tehran over its nuclear program.
“It may seem that this country is trying to bring about international consensus and believes that it has been successful, but this is not the case. It is trying to force Iran into submission through its psychological warfare and its bullying propaganda”.
“We will resist and bear whatever costs that may entail”, Saffari said.
He said that during the naval exercises unmanned airplanes will be used to “collect intelligence about the enemy” and anti-air missiles will be deployed to attack “enemy targets”.
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By Joe Kaufman
FrontPageMagazine.com | March 30, 2006
On January 15, 2002, the Student Government of the University of South Florida (USF) voted to support USF President Judy Genshaft’s decision to fire Sami Al-Arian from his job as a professor with the school. The nearly decade-long investigation into Al-Arian’s involvement with an overseas terrorist organization had finally taken a toll on the university. Two weeks later, on January 28th, the student newspaper, The Oracle, on its website, published letters to the editor about the vote, written by members of the Student Government senate. One of the letters drew the ire of a teenage girl named Danya Shakfeh. In the future, she would see to it that this “problem” would not be repeated.
I received a couple of e-mails from an anonymous source, which contained links to documents that were said to be of interest to me. Respectively, they were a USF Student Government resolution against my group and the minutes to the March 6, 2006 Student Government meeting where the Senate voted on it. The resolution, which specified the organization I chair by name, quoted a press release put out by us concerning an event taking place at USF, sponsored by the Muslim American Society of Tampa (MAS-Tampa). It read, [sic] “Whereas, the American Against Hate weblog states, ‘if USF hosts MAS-Tampa's 2006 Olympics, it would give the appearance that USF approves of MAS-Tampa's propagation of hatred and violence towards non-Muslims, as witnessed on the group's website.’”
Our organization believed that it was outrageous for a state-run university to allow a group – a group whose website curses Jews and Christians and calls for waging war against non-Muslims – to use school grounds. Statements found on MAS-Tampa’s e-Library, include: “A Muslim must always worship Allah and wage jihad until death in order to reach his ultimate goal… Regularly make the intention to go on jihad with the ambition to die as a martyr.” And “The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: ‘May Allah curse Jews and Christians for they turned the graves of their Prophets into places of worship.’”
The quote from our press release, found in the resolution, was one of the few things contained in the resolution that had any basis in fact. The USF document states, “Whereas, bloggers are not a reliable source of information and can easily be a tool to spread lies and false accusations towards the Muslims in Tampa.” In an effort to minimize the impact our organization has had in the arena of counter-terrorism, the author has erroneously labeled us as “bloggers.” Americans Against Hate, in fact, is a civil rights organization and terrorist watchdog group. We hold rallies, publish articles, put out press releases, work with law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and give lectures, all in an effort to alert and educate the public and assist in the safety and security of our nation. Second, every bit of information we put out is backed up by source material. Nothing is made up! To say that we are making “false accusations” or “spreading lies” is a lie in itself.
Another blaring mistruth in the resolution is the following: [sic] “Whereas, the Muslim American Society (MAS) and the Muslims Student Association (MSA) are both peaceful organizations.” Now, the truth: Both the MAS and the MSA were created by members of the violent Muslim Brotherhood. As such, both propagate a radical strain of Islam. This is indicative in the speakers that they bring to their venues and the material they disseminate.
The resolution overwhelmingly passed, 21-6, with 2 abstentions. How was this possible? According to the person that e-mailed this to me, the piece was shoved through, last minute, so no one had a chance to research the matter. That being the case, wouldn’t it make sense for them to have voted to review the matter on a later date? Obviously, that did not happen. So what did happen? A clue can be found at the bottom of the resolution, where the author’s name is located. It was none other than the girl that wrote the reply to the student paper’s Al-Arian editorial, Danya Shakfeh.
Who is Danya?
Danya Shakfeh is a 19 year-old student at USF. She has a very strong Islamic identity, having taken it upon herself to practice the religion at a very early age. Shakfeh’s parents, both of which are Hernando County doctors, were born and raised in Syria. She, herself, refers to Syria as “the motherland.” Her father, Samir, is an attending obstetrician at Spring Hill Regional Hospital, the scene of a neurological injury to an infant that had occurred in 2001, to which he was successfully sued for medical malpractice.
Her mother, Samar, along with physician Ayman Osman, run two area medical centers. Their business came under scrutiny, when it was discovered that the manager of the facilities, Hatem Fariz, was working with Sami Al-Arian to finance overseas suicide operations for Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Osman, who had previously given over $30,000 to the Global Relief Foundation – a large Islamic charity shut down by the U.S. for funding Al-Qaeda and Hamas – has been questioned for his ties to Al-Arian, as well. Osman was on the Board of Directors of the children’s school founded by Al-Arian, the Islamic Academy of Florida (IAF). IAF had its government funded student vouchers revoked, in 2003, for being part of the “PIJ enterprise.” Shakfeh’s parents, whose names appear on courtroom documents with regard to the Al-Arian trial, were also active in IAF. Samar was President of the academy’s PTA, and both had donated thousands of dollars to the school.
Shakfeh, a former student at IAF, has, too, been involved with Islamic radicals. Throughout 2004, she held the position of News Editor for the Tampa chapter of the United Muslims Association (UMA). UMA, as its unacronymed name infers, brought all Tampa-area Islamic institutions (mosques, schools, organizations, and taskforces) together under one umbrella. In doing so, UMA regularly came to the defense of Sami Al-Arian and his fellow terrorists. In addition, while Shakfeh was with UMA, the group told its website viewers to “become a member of” the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), two groups with significant ties to Muslim fanatics.
Today, Shakfeh is a Course Correspondent (Teaching Assistant) for SunniPath, an online Islamic academy, which like MAS-Tampa, has a website filled with hate and violence. In the SunniPath e-Library, under the section ‘Fighting the Jews,’ it is stated, “The Final Hour will not come until you fight the Jews and until the stone behind which the Jew is hiding calls out, ‘O Muslim! This Jew is behind me, so kill him!’”
Shakfeh is also affiliated with one of the aforementioned groups, CAIR, with whom she attends “executive meetings” for its Tampa chapter. This bit of information is located on a weblog that she created (Salika Sufisticate) and that she posts to, on a near daily basis.
Danya the ‘Blogger’
Shakfeh is very into blogging on the internet. [A weblog – blog for short – is a website that acts as a personal journal.] This is interesting, as stated previously, she wrote in her USF resolution against my group that “bloggers are not a reliable source of information” and are “a tool to spread lies.”
Last week, Shakfeh posted to her weblog a page devoted to ‘The Doha Debates: Recognizing Hamas,’ whereby the audience, who is responsible for the outcome of the event, overwhelmingly voted in favor of the international community’s acceptance of Hamas “as a political partner.” This in itself would not be a crime, except for the fact that Shakfeh devotes entire pages to fellow Palestinian terrorist Sami Al-Arian. She includes a full-color picture of the Islamic Jihad leader, in her page entitled, ‘FREE SAMI AL-ARIAN.’ On another page, she posts numerous photos from a recent rally for Al-Arian. Ahmed Bedier, the Director of CAIR-Tampa and unofficial spokesperson for Al-Arian, is shown prominently in the pictures. She devotes pages to Bedier, as well. Bedier has stated that, prior to 1995, there was “nothing immoral” about Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
On her blog, Shakfeh praises anti-Jewish and anti-Christian Islamic “scholar” Abdallah Ibn Alawi Al-Haddad. On her page entitled, ‘Why I love Imam Al-Haddad,’ she writes, [sic] “I recently (well no so recently) read Imam Al-Haddad’s Lives of Man and I think he is an absolute genius masha’Allah!” In the book, Al-Haddad states, “People in the second category will remain in the fire [Hell] forever: they include the Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians and others who are all to remain in the Fire permanently.” He (Al-Haddad) then quotes from the Quran, by stating, “Those who disbelieve and die as disbelievers, upon them is the curse of G-d, and of the angels and men combined. Eternally therein: the torment will not be lightened for them, nor will they be reprieved.” [Surah 2: 161-162]
Shakfeh displays her own contempt for Jews, when, in discussing the koshering of food, she refers to the Jewish religion as “their alleged faith.” She writes, “I was no longer convinced by the ‘People of Book’ argument. Not because I don’t believe they are really People of the Book but the fact is, they don’t slaughter these animals according to any book, regardless of their alleged faith.”
According to her blog, Shakfeh has been active in her university’s Muslim Students Association (MSA). She states, on her blog, that she controls an MSA listserv, from which she sends e-mails. She also discusses the misogynistic tendencies of the male members of the MSA. She says that because “the graduates of the Islamic schools do not [know] how to assimilate into university life,” the guys from the MSA, who all attended Muslim high schools, “had a hard time when a female was in leadership.”
Shakfeh’s weblog contains a blogroll or links section, complete with a full array of extremist sites. They include:
• A Mother From Gaza. In her blog, “journalist” Laila El-Haddad gushes over new Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah, whom she recently met. She states, “My first impression of Haniya (besides his towering height) was his warmth and casual demeanor. I also couldn’t help [from] noticing his eyes… They are these soft emerald-grey-green colour that somehow leave you at ease when you talk to him.” She proudly says she also met former Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi, and number 2, in her “top ten” most memorable moments in the last two years, was her meeting with Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, the founder and former spiritual leader of Hamas. [Both Rantisi and Yasin were executed by the Israelis.]
• Brilliance of Islam. This blogger features pictures of Fatah and Hamas fighters and laments over the imprisonment of Holocaust denier, David Irving. He/she also repeats the often heard martyr’s mantra, “A believer wants his death more than life • so that he could meet Allah.”
Izzy Mo’s Blog. This “Southern-born Muslima” gives long talks about her attendance at ISNA and MAS conferences. In her blog, she lauds potential co-conspirator to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, Siraj Wahhaj, as a “Notable Muslim of African Descent.”
• idealmotion (a.k.a. Jenn’s Blog). Jennifer Valko runs this blog. She has been active with the MAS, CAIR, UMA and MSA. This past New Year’s, Valko was the contact for a jihad retreat sponsored by MAS-Tampa. The retreat featured Mazen Mokhtar, the developer of a website that, prior to 9/11, raised finances and recruited fighters for Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. On Valko’s blog, she lauds co-defendant in the Al-Arian trial, Sameeh Hammoudeh, as “such a sweet brother, big heart.” She said he had her and her Arabic class over his house for dinner.
• Realm of Truth (a.k.a. Jinnzaman’s Blog). This blog is run by Abdul Haqq, whose entire interests include “Jihad of the Sword and Heart.” Haqq is not happy with those that “try to define Jihad solely as being defensive,” and he does not recognize Israel as a legitimate state. He writes of a chilling future, when he states, “The victory of HAMAS and the Muslim Brotherhood in elections, the continued persistency of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the formation of an entrenched Iraqi resistance, Muslim protests against Western hegemony… are we finally witnessing the long-awaited Islamic response to imperialism?... Islam is coming up from the underground and it will seize the day.” He also says that he wants the MSA to take “active steps” to “instigate” an “Islamic revolution.”
• Mujahideen Ryder. This blogger rates the conferences of various North American radical Islamist groups. He also devotes a page to Siraj Wahhaj, whom he states “has done a lot for Islam in North America. May Allah continue to bless him!”
• Sunni Sister. On this blog, one can find pictures of “peaceful” Palestinian children. One is parading around with a Hamas flag. Under it appear the words: “al Nakba,” translated “the catastrophe,” a reference to the creation of the state of Israel. And one is about to slingshot a rock at an Israeli. Under this pic is the statement: “Listen to the stones as they dent the pride of Goliath.”
On October 12, 2004, Danya Shakfeh triumphantly posted to an MSA discussion board the following revelation: “Salamaat everyone, we now have TWO new Muslim senators, Rehana and Ramzy, YA!!” By “Rehana and Ramzy,” she meant Rehana Hakeem, her cousin and fellow UMA activist, and Ramzy Kilic, an MSA officer and the author of an Oracle letter to the editor, entitled, ‘Reasons for Al-Arian arrest unjustified.’ The USF Student Government, which manages the activity and service fees for the university (campus recreation, lecture series, student organizations, etc.), was going through a sea change. If USF was not to defend Al-Arian, then USF was to become Al-Arian!
Judy Genshaft, in her official statement about the firing, is quoted as saying, “We have determined that USF must sever all ties to Sami Al-Arian once and for all.” But did the school, in fact, sever all ties to this man – the man that is said to have been the North American leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad – the man that personally saved the terror organization from financial collapse? It seems that, in the case of the University of South Florida, even while behind bars, Al-Arian’s presence is still felt, and the inmates are in control of the asylum.
Joe Kaufman is the Chairman of Americans Against Hate and the host of The Politics of Terrorism radio show.
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Israel politics: Olmert's mandate
FROM THE ECONOMIST INTELLIGENCE UNIT
The Kadima party, founded by Ariel Sharon and entrusted to his loyal deputy, Ehud Olmert, has won just enough seats in the March 28th election to form a coalition government of the centre-left, with Labour as its principal partner. The raison d'être of Kadima is to engineer a final resolution to the conflict with the Palestinians through disengaging from substantial parts of the West Bank, while retaining major settlement blocs. Labour will be willing to subscribe to this plan as long as the way is left open for negotiations with the Palestinians. The Labour party will also be pressing for increases in social spending and further initiatives to alleviate poverty--which was highlighted as a policy priority in a recent IMF report on the Israeli economy.
Kadima emerged as the largest party, with 28 of the 120 Knesset (parliament) seats, but this was short of the target of 35 seats that had been suggested in opinion polls. Labour, under its new leader, Amir Peretz, managed to secure a respectable 20 seats. This was at the lower end of its expectations, but sufficient to ward off a leadership challenge to Mr Peretz. In third place was Shas, the larger of two ultra-orthodox parties, with 13 seats. Shas has reservations about the disengagement plan, but based on previous experience, could be expected to join a coalition in return for pledges on issues relating to religious and social affairs. Other potential supporters of a Kadima-led government include the Pensioners--a new single-issue party led by Rafi Eitan, a close associate of Mr Sharon in the past, which won seven seats--the United Torah Judah religious party (six seats) and the left-win Meretz (four).
The biggest loser in the election was Likud, which trailed in fifth place with 11 seats. The party had been deserted by most of its leading figures when Mr Sharon formed Kadima at the end of 2005 in response to residual opposition in Likud to his Gaza disengagement plan. Binyamin Netanyahu, who took over the helm of Likud, was undermined both by his inconsistency on the Gaza issue and by the unpopularity of his tough fiscal policies during his stint as finance minister. The ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party secured 12 seats, winning a significant portion of the Russian immigrant vote.
Mr Olmert has set a goal of defining the permanent borders of the Jewish state by 2010. He has proposed to establish a separation between the Israelis and the Palestinians through withdrawing Israeli troops and settlers from the heart of the West Bank and establishing a new border with the Palestinian territory based on the route of the separation barrier, large sections of which have already been built. Existing concentrations of Israeli settlements around Jerusalem would be consolidated, and Israel would also retain a security corridor along the Jordan Valley. Mr Olmert has made clear that he envisages this being a unilateral process. He does not rule out negotiating with the Palestinian Authority, but these would only be feasible if Hamas, the victor in the recent Palestinian election, were to submit to stringent conditions--recognition of Israel, renunciation of terrorism and disarmament. Mr Peretz has insisted that Israel should base its approach on seeking to negotiate a settlement with the Palestinians, and only fall back on unilateralism as a last resort. He has proposed to offer financial incentives to Jewish settlers to encourage them to move out of their West Bank homes.
The relatively small, eight-seat, gap between Kadima and Labour means that Mr Peretz is in a stronger bargaining position than seemed likely before the election. However, he is expected to focus on socio-economic issues in his negotiations about policy and cabinet position, rather than on the substance of the new government's approach to the Palestinian issue. Labour's principal target will be the finance portfolio. If Mr Peretz succeeds in winning this prize, his scope for major reform will be limited as most of the structural changes carried out by Mr Netanyahu are bedded in, including enhanced powers for the governor of Bank of Israel (central bank), and any increase in spending will be hedged around by the requirement to keep the fiscal deficit below 3% of GDP in order to benefit from US loan guarantees. The budget for 2006 has yet to be approved, because of the dissolution of the Knesset ahead of the election.
Palestinian voices off
The Israeli election coincided with the vote of confidence in the Palestinian parliament for the new government formed by Hamas, the Islamist movement that swept to power in January after inflicting a heavy electoral defeat on Fatah, the party of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas has held out the prospect of negotiating with Israel, but only on the basis of a complete Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967. The Islamist party has also refused to provide explicit endorsement of the Road Map for Middle East peace, although the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, has proposed holding discussions with the Quartet (US, EU, UN and Russia), which is the sponsor of this peace plan. The Quartet supported Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, but Mr Olmert's proposals on the West Bank are much more controversial, as they would entail a significant portion of the occupied territory remaining in Israeli hands.
The international community would clearly prefer the next steps in any resolution of the Palestinian question to involve negotiations rather than unilateral actions that, unlike the Gaza pullout, would be vigorously opposed by the Palestinian government and by most Arab states. The situation is complicated by the split in Palestinian ranks. Mr Abbas maintains that, as president of the PA and chairman of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), he is entitled to lead negotiations with Israel--he has also left the door open to Hamas to participate. Hamas has questioned the claim of Mr Abbas to derive legitimacy from the PLO. In its government programme it refers to the need to carry out an agreement reached between all Palestinian groups in March 2005 to restructure the organisation, in which Hamas is not represented.
Behind the wall
The Palestinian power struggle clearly makes it easier for Israel to persist in its claim that the lack of a fit negotiating partner leaves it no option but to adopt a unilateral approach. However, Mr Olmert's vision of Israel regrouping behind the walls it is erecting around the Palestinians remains highly problematic. If the proposed withdrawal entails the removal of a significant number of the estimated 240,000 settlers in the West Bank, this would put strains on the coalition, with objections likely to come from Shas as well as from within Kadima. However, if Mr Olmert were to opt for a limited withdrawal, he would have to contend with fierce Palestinian opposition, almost certainly including violence, as well as with international reluctance to provide Israel with the necessary diplomatic cover.
Mr Olmert has pulled off an impressive political feat in guiding Kadima to an election victory without the party's founder and inspiration, Ariel Sharon, being involved. Consolidating that victory and maintaining Kadima's party unity will be an even more demanding challenge.
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PAKISTAN: FORMER BIN LADEN AIDE AND MILITANT FIGHTS FOR LIFE AFTER ATTACK
Karachi, 30 March (AKI) - (by Syed Saleem Shahzad) - The leader of one of Pakistan's most feared militant groups, who was also once a close aide to Osama bin Laden, is currently in critical condition in a Rawalpindi hospital after surviving an attempt on his life. Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, the chief of the banned Harkat-ul-Mujahadeen, was dumped in front of a mosque in the outskirts of the Pakistani capital Islamabad.
"Don't call it an accident," said Harkat-ul-Mujahadeen's official spokesperson Sultan Zia in an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI). "It was a fully managed episode," he said.
The militant organisation, which was then known as Harkat-ul-Ansar, was blacklisted as a terror group by the US State Department in 1994.
Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf banned the organisation in 2001 and Khalil has kept a low profile ever since.
"Fazlur Rehman Khalil does not have any personal feud against anybody," said Zia. "In the incident it seems that a few people were chasing him and when he reached Tarnol and offered his Magrib prayers on Tuesday evening at a prayer's place (not a proper mosque), around five people kidnapped him and his driver. They beat him mercilessly and suffocated him. Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil was unconscious and so they believed that he was dead and left him and his driver with their hands tied with ropes," said Zia.
"It was coincidence that people nearby found them and provided first aid so that they survived," Zia maintained.
According to Sultan Zia, the abductors were repeatedly saying that they were after Khalil for quite some time but they did not have a chance to get him.
Fazlur Rehman Khalil was one of the oldest jihadi leaders in Afghanistan, famed for fighting against the Soviets. He founded Harkat after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and fought alongside the mujahadeen forces.
Harkat was respected in jihadi circles for its role in the defeat of the communist Afghan Army of Afghanistan in the south-eastern Afghan province of Khost where the militant group then seized control in 1991. Khost was the first major city which fell to the mujahadeen fighters. The Harkat fighters also fought along side with the fugitive Taliban leader Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani.
When the United States under the administration of Bill Clinton fired cruise missiles to target bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1998, Kandahar was attacked in a bid to kill the al-Qaeda leader and Khost was attacked to destroy the bases of the Harkat-ul-Mujahadeen in the province.
After the attacks, bin Laden held a press conference in Afghanistan, while at the same time Khalil held a separate press conference in Pakistan in which he supported bin Laden's statement to attack American interests all over the world. At the press conference, he also asserted that the Harkat-ul-Mujahadeen would take revenge on the US attack on Afghanistan.
After the 1998 attacks, Khalil also went on to hold many seminars in Pakistan in favour of bin Laden. The al-Qaeda leader provided him with large sums of money which he is believed to have embezzeled, after which he fell out of favour with bin Laden.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, the FBI sought to interrogate him. It is believed they managed to do so and that Khalil was injected with various medicines which eventually affected his mental health. He often complained of physical problems as a result of the FBI interrogation
Sources said that although Khalil reportedly had abandoned all jihadi activities, the Pakistani authorities recently became suspicious about his activities and have interrogated him regarding his alleged ties with the Taliban fighters in the tribal region of Waziristan which borders Afghanistan.
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Iran gets 30 days to stop Uranium enrichment
(Times of India)UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Security Council has asked Iran to suspend its Uranium enrichment programme and given the country 30 days to comply with the demand
The 15-member council unanimously approved a statement on Wednesday evening that will ask the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency to report within 30 days on Iran's compliance with the demands to stop enriching Uranium.
It took almost three weeks of contentious discussions at the United Nations and in the capitals of five veto-wielding permanent members of the Council and last minute talk between American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rica and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to reach an agreement on the statement.
By the time the statement was finalised, Britain and France, who had drafted the original tough statement, had pulled most of the teeth out of it in face of stiff opposition from Russia and China who wanted to ensure that it cannot be used as pretext by a member or group of members to take action against Iran, including imposition of sanction, without the approval of the Council.
But western diplomats said it retains enough muscle and sends a strong signal to Tehran to stop defying international community and meet its obligation under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to which it is a party.
Asked what action they plan to take in case IAEA reports non-compliance, ambassadors told reporters the issue would be discussed at the Berlin meeting of ministers of five permanent members of the Council - the United States, Britain, Russia, France and China and Germany. They do not want to preempt their decision, they said.
Diplomats said to win support of Russia and China, Washington, London and Paris agreed to remove the language which would have linked the Iranian programme to threat to international peace and security which Moscow and Beijing feared, could be used to justify imposition of sanction without an explicit Council authorization.
Within a hour of the council adopting the statement, Tehran's UN ambassador Jawad Zarif said, pressure and threat does not work with Iran.
He rejected the suggestion that Iran is aiming to develop nuclear weapons and asserted its right to use the nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. "We will not abandon that claim to our legitimate rights."
The statement asked Iran to take steps required by IAEA Board of Governors which are "essential to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful purpose" of its nuclear progamme.
It also underlines the "particular importance" of reestablishing full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development.
This, Moscow and Beijing argue, keeps the issue with the IAEA but western diplomats said the Council is its own master and could take up any issue without any agency referring to it.
Stressing this position, China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya said it sends a strong signal for the Council to support the authority of the IAEA.
But American John Bolton said it sends a strong an "unmistakable message" to Iran that its efforts to deny the obvious fact of what it is doing are not going to be sufficient.
The statement "may not win any awards in tennis heaven, the ball is back in Iran's court and we'll be here 30 days to see what they will do," he said, summing up American position.
Britain and France had originally given 14 days for IAEA to report compliance but under pressure from Britain and China, agreed to extend it to 30 days.
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