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Daily Archives: 06/14/2010

Ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan kills 117

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Kyrgyzstan (Reuters) – Kyrgyzstan’s interim government said on Monday it had arrested a “well-known person” on suspicion of fomenting the worst ethnic riots in 20 years, which have killed at least 117 and left cities in flames.

The Interior Ministry in the Central Asian state, which hosts Russian and U.S. military bases, said the situation in Osh and Jalalabad was “tense.” A Reuters witness in Osh said gangs resumed shooting on Monday at residents and homes in one area of the city.

The interim government said authorities in Jalalabad had made an arrest. It did not disclose the person’s identity, but repeated accusations that supporters of ex-president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was overthrown in April, were behind the violence.

Bakiyev, in exile in Belarus, issued a statement from there on Sunday in which he denied claims he was behind the clashes.

But Kubatbek Baibolov, commandant in Jalalabad, said in televised comments: “This is nothing other than an attempt by Bakiyev’s supporters and relatives to seize power.”

The ethnic violence between Kyrgyz and Uzbek residents began late on Thursday and escalated over the weekend. Witnesses said gangs armed with automatic rifles, iron bars and machetes had set fire to houses and shot fleeing residents.

Kyrgyzstan’s interim government, which assumed power after the April revolt, has been unable to gain full control of the country’s south, which is separated from the north by mountains. It appealed to Russia at the weekend to send in troops.

The renewed turmoil in Kyrgyzstan has fueled concern in Russia, the United States and neighbor China. Washington uses an air base at Manas in the north of the ex-Soviet state, about 300 km (190 miles) from Osh, to supply forces in Afghanistan.

Russia has said it will not send in peacekeepers alone but will discuss the situation within a Moscow-led security bloc of former Soviet republics known as the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

Kyrgyzstan’s interim foreign ministry said the CSTO meeting would take place in Moscow later on Monday.

Led by Roza Otunbayeva, the interim government has sent a volunteer force to the south and granted shoot-to-kill powers to its security forces in response to the deadly riots. Otunbayeva has accused supporters of Bakiyev of stoking ethnic conflict.

The Health Ministry said on Monday that 117 had been killed — 93 in Osh and 24 in Jalalabad — and 1,485 wounded in the violence, exceeding the death toll in the capital Bishkek during the overthrow of the president in April.

Moscow sent at least 150 paratroopers to Kyrgyzstan on Sunday to protect its own military facilities in the country.

Sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Russian troops could also be deployed to guard a hydroelectric power station in the south, freeing up Kyrgyz troops to combat the rioters. Russia’s embassy in Kyrgyzstan declined to comment.

HUMANITARIAN AID

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was alarmed by the scale of the clashes and ordered a special envoy to travel to the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, his office said in a statement.

The Red Cross said on Sunday the humanitarian situation in southern Kyrgyzstan was becoming “critical.”

Bread had been delivered to some residents of Osh, who were fearing starvation after grocery stores burned to the ground, a Reuters reporter said. Ethnic Uzbeks trapped in one neighborhood of Osh gathered to share stockpiled food.

The interim government has sent two planes, each loaded with 50 kg of food, clothing and medical supplies, to the south. Residents of northern Kyrgyzstan have donated humanitarian supplies and some residents are giving blood in Bishkek.

The Interior Ministry said six policemen had been killed in the conflict. Shooting occurred in Jalalabad overnight, it said, and its forces were patrolling southern regions.

The European Union is sending its special representative for Central Asia, Pierre Morel. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), currently chaired by Kyrgyzstan’s northern neighbor, Kazakhstan, is also sending a special envoy.

Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan intertwine in the Fergana Valley. While Uzbeks make up 14.5 percent of the Kyrgyz population, the two groups are roughly equal in the Osh and Jalalabad regions.

The latest clashes are the worst ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan since 1990, when then-Kremlin leader Mikhail Gorbachev sent Soviet troops into Osh after hundreds of people were killed in a dispute that started over land ownership.

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President says Iran, Saudi Arabia should stand by each other

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June 14, 2010

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said here Sunday that Iran and Saudi Arabia should stand by each other because they have splendid position and share common interests and enemies.
“Iran and Saudi Arabia should taje the side of each other given their common religion, outstanding position and common interests and enemies,” President Ahmadinejad told Saudi Arabia’s new ambassador to Tehran Mohammed Ibn Abbas al-Kallabi here on Sunday.

The president said Iran and Saudi Arabia should have fraternal bonds for three reasons: First of all they are Muslim and follower of a common religion; secondly, both are main bastions for Muslims and thirdly they have common enemies.

He said Iranians’ resistance to the US and the Zionist regime is in fact aimed at defending entire regional states. “Enemies are seeking geopolitical change of the region, including Saudi Arabia, and today, the Iranian nation has powerfully stood up to their sinister wishes and is supporting all Muslim states as a duty.”

President Ahmadinejad also told the Saudi diplomat that there are extensive grounds for Iran-Saudi Arabia cooperation.

“The cultural, religious, political, international and economic grounds and defense of rights of Muslims are the opportunities which both countries can seize for expansion of mutual cooperation. Absolutely, there are many enemies which do not wish closer ties between the two countries. We should be careful and nullify their plans. If Iran and Saudi Arabia stand by each other, enemies will not dare to continue aggression, occupation or pressurize world Muslims,” said President Ahmadinejad.

Al-Kallabi, submitting his credentials to the President, said in turn that his country wants to have extensive cooperation with Iran, believing that there are ample subjects which the two countries should address through mutual cooperation.

Undoubtedly, no body can affect mutual ties thanks to strong determination of the two countries’ officials to upgrade bilateral and regional ties and cooperation, he added.

Photostream : Hamas PM Ismail Haniya meets Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa

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Amr Mussa (R) speaks during a joint press conference with senior Palestinian Hamas leader Ismail Haniya at the latter’s office in Gaza City on June 13, 2010, on his first visit as Arab League chief to the besieged territory which has been languishing under a tight Israeli-Egyptian blockade since 2006.

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Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya (L) gestures to the press as he welcomes Amr Mussa upom his arrival for a meeting in Gaza City on June 13, 2010, on his first visit as Arab League chief to the besieged territory which has been languishing under a tight Israeli-Egyptian blockade since 2006.

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Back dropped by a picture of the Dome of the Rock mosque located in east Jerusalem’s Old City, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa of Egypt, left, and Gaza Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, right, are seen prior to their talks in Gaza City, Sunday June 13, 2010. The Arab world’s top diplomat made an unprecedented tour of Hamas-ruled Gaza on Sunday as part of a growing international push to end a 3-year-old Israeli blockade of the territory. Moussa’s visit was the first by a senior Arab official to Gaza since the Islamic militant Hamas movement seized the territory in 2007.

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Amr Mussa (L) meets with Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya at the latter’s office in Gaza City on June 13, 2010, on his first visit as Arab League chief to the besieged territory which has been languishing under a tight Israeli-Egyptian blockade since 2006.

Pope Benedict praises generosity and faith of two newly beatified Catholics

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June 13, 2010

Vatican City, Jun 13, 2010 / 03:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- During his traditional greeting and remarks before praying the Sunday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s square, the Holy Father discussed Manuel “Lolo” Lozano Garrido and Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko, two men who were beatified in their home dioceses this week.

As Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the priest being a gift from the heart of Christ, he noted the contributions of priests throughout history to defending the civil and religious freedoms of mankind. He highlighted Blessed Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko, a Polish priest and martyr who was beatified in Poland before an audience of 140,000 people last Sunday, June 6.

Fr. Jerzy “exercised his generous and valiant ministry along with those who fought for liberty, for the defense of life and its dignity,” explained the Pope.

“His work of service to good and to the truth was a sign of contradiction to the regime that was governing Poland at the time. The love from the Sacred Heart of Christ impelled him to give his life, and his testimony has been the seed of a new spring in the Church and in society.”

Fr. Jerzy was the pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka, a parish located in a working class suburb of Warsaw. During the 1980s, he became the chaplain of Lech Walesa’s Solidarity movement, the first trade union to be recognized by the Soviet regime. He also began saying a monthly “Mass for the Homeland” and thousands gathered to hear his homilies.

In 1984, he was abducted by the Communist police, beaten, bound, and thrown into the river in a sack. When his body was found nearly two weeks later, over half a million people attended his funeral to show their appreciation for the priest who always spoke of the value and dignity of human life. His murder sparked an outrage that helped lead to the fall of the communist regime.

After the Angelus, Pope Benedict took a moment to remember Manuel “Lolo” Lozano Garrido, a Spanish journalist who spent 28 years in a wheelchair. Lolo was beatified on June 12 in Linares, Spain.

Lolo was a “faithful layman who knew how to radiate the love of God through his example and his writings, even through the pain which kept him wheelchair-bound for 28 years,” noted the Pope. “At the end of his life, he also lost his vision, but he continued to gain hearts for Christ with his serene joy and his unbreakable faith.”

Lolo was journalist during the Spanish Civil War and was imprisoned at the age of 17. When he was released at 22, he suffered paralysis but accepted the trial with docility. From his wheelchair, he wrote numerous books, journals, and articles on spirituality as well as an autobiographical novel. He also founded a prayer group for infirm journalists. He lost his sight nine years before his death in 1971.

Pope Benedict also said that journalists can find in him “an eloquent testimony of the good that can be wrought with the pen in the service of the truth and of noble causes, reflecting the greatness of the soul.”

Obama: Gulf spill 'echoes 9/11'

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June 13, 2010

 

[POLITICO]  Sounding reflective as he heads into a bruising electoral season, President Barack Obama told POLITICO columnist Roger Simon that the Gulf disaster “echoes 9/11” because it will change the nation’s psyche for years to come.

Obama — facing mounting criticism of his handling of the BP gusher, even from longtime allies — vowed to make a “bold” push for a new energy law even as the calamity continues to unfold. And he said he will use the rest of his presidency to try to put the United States on a course toward a “new way of doing business when it comes to energy.”

“In the same way that our view of our vulnerabilities and our foreign policy was shaped profoundly by 9/11,” the president said in an Oval Office interview on Friday, “I think this disaster is going to shape how we think about the environment and energy for many years to come.”

Previewing his message for the midterm congressional elections in November, the president said: “[T]he Democrats in Congress have taken tougher votes, have worked harder under more stressful circumstances, than just about any Congress in our memory. And they’ve done a great job and deserve reelection.”

“So I’m going to be fighting on their behalf and doing everything I can and using my bully pulpit to communicate that fact to the American people,” he said. “I know there’s an anti-incumbent mood out there right now because … people are frustrated about the hit that the economy has taken. … But what I’m going to remind people of is we didn’t create this mess. And this Congress responded forcefully at a time when this economy really could have fallen off a cliff.”

Historic patterns and the current political climate all but guarantee that both the House and Senate will lose Democrats in the election, and administration officials concede the Republicans have a chance of winning control of the House.

Obama acknowledged that the results will help determine the course of his term’s second half. “I am spending some time thinking about 2010 because, obviously, my ability to get things done on behalf of the American people depends on a Congress that is willing to cooperate,” he said.

In his firmest declaration yet that he views the calamity as an impetus to push Congress afresh to pass a major energy and climate bill, Obama vowed to “move forward in a bold way in a direction that finally gives us the kind of future-oriented, … visionary energy policy that we so vitally need and has been absent for so long..”

“One of the biggest leadership challenges for me going forward is going to be to make sure that we draw the right lessons from this disaster,” he said.

U.S. welcomes Israel inquiry on flotilla events

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June 13, 2010

(Reuters) – The United States on Sunday welcomed Israel’s decision to begin an internal investigation into the events surrounding last month’s raid on a convoy of Gaza-bound aid ships.

A statement by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs called the proposal for the probe “an important step forward” and said Israel was capable of conducting a fair investigation into the deadly flotilla raid.

“But we will not prejudge the process or its outcome, and will await the conduct and findings of the investigation before drawing further conclusions,” the statement said.

Report: Pakistani spy agency supports Taliban

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In this photo taken on Wednesday, June 9, 2010, the Pakistani army presents alleged militants standing behind their seized weapons before members of the media,in Mamund in the Pakistani tribal area of Bajur along the Afghanistan border.

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June 13, 2010

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan’s main spy agency continues to arm and train the Taliban and is even represented on the group’s leadership council despite U.S. pressure to sever ties and billions in aid to combat the militants, said a research report released Sunday.

The findings could heighten tension between the two countries and raise further questions about U.S. success in Afghanistan since Pakistani cooperation is seen as key to defeating the Taliban, which seized power in Kabul in the 1990s with Islamabad’s support.

U.S. officials have suggested in the past that current or former members of Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, have maintained links to the Taliban despite the government’s decision to denounce the group in 2001 under U.S. pressure.

But the report issued Sunday by the London School of Economics offered one of the strongest cases that assistance to the group is official ISI policy, and even extends to the highest levels of the Pakistani government.

“Pakistan’s apparent involvement in a double-game of this scale could have major geopolitical implications and could even provoke U.S. countermeasures,” said the report, which was based on interviews with Taliban commanders, former Taliban officials, Western diplomats and many others.

“Without a change in Pakistani behavior it will be difficult, if not impossible, for international forces and the Afghan government to make progress against the insurgency,” said the report, written by Matt Waldman, a fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, spokesman for the Pakistani army, which controls ISI, rejected the report, calling it “rubbish.”

“In the past, these kinds of baseless and unsubstantiated allegations have surfaced and we have rejected them,” said Abbas.

He pointed out ISI has suffered many casualties fighting militants in the country.

But the Pakistan military’s campaign has been focused on Pakistani Taliban battling the state, not Afghan Taliban waging war against NATO troops in Afghanistan. The army has resisted U.S. pressure to wage offensives in areas of the country the Afghan Taliban use as sanctuaries, despite billions of dollars in American military and civilian aid.

Many analysts believe Pakistan is reluctant to turn against the Afghan Taliban because the government believes the group could be a key ally in Afghanistan after NATO forces withdraw, and the best partner for countering the influence of archenemy India in the country.

“Interviews suggest that Pakistan continues to give extensive support to the insurgency in terms of funding, munitions and supplies,” said the report.

In addition, “ISI continues to sanction and support military training centers for insurgents and a large number of (Islamic schools) that actively encourage their students to fight in Afghanistan,” it said.

Pakistani support is channeled toward both the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Mohammad Omar, who is believed to be based in the Pakistani city of Quetta, and the Haqqani network, which is allied with the Taliban but operates fairly independently, said the report. The Haqqani network is based in the North Waziristan tribal area along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s spy agency has considerable control over both groups and even has agents on the Taliban’s leadership council, which is known as the Quetta shura, said the report.

“Interviews strongly suggest that the ISI has representatives on the shura, either as participants or observers, and the agency is thus involved at the highest level of the movement,” it said.

One of the most surprising allegations in the report is that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and a senior ISI official visited some 50 high-ranking Taliban fighters this spring being held at a secret prison in the country and told them they were only arrested because of U.S. pressure.

Zardari reportedly told them they would be released and that Pakistan would help support their operations, according to a Taliban member who was one of about a dozen insurgents set free just three days after the president’s visit.

Presidential spokeswoman Farahnaz Ispahani denied the allegations in the report, saying “if Mr. Waldman had been a seasoned academic, he would have conducted interviews in Pakistan itself to balance his so-called research report.”

Waldman concluded in the report, “it is hard to see how the international coalition can continue to treat Pakistan as an ally and ‘effective partner.'”

“However, an aggressive American response to Pakistan’s conduct is only likely to generate further instability, especially given the army’s ongoing battle against Pakistani militant groups and widespread anti-American sentiment among the population,” he said.