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Daily Archives: 07/13/2010

Russian President criticises Iran for moving closer to nuclear bomb

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July 13, 2010

(KATAKAMI / WEBINDIA123.COM)  Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said that Iran is gaining the ability to build a nuclear bomb, the strongest criticism of Iran’s nuclear program to emerge from the Kremlin under either Medvedev or his predecessor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

According to China Daily, a major goal of US President Barack Obama’s “reset” of relations with Moscow has been winning Russian backing for a tougher international line toward Iran.

“It is obvious that Iran is moving closer to possessing the potential which in principle could be used for the creation of nuclear weapons, Iran is not acting in the best way,” Medvedev said.

He called on Tehran to “show openness and cooperate” with the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Meanwhile, Washington welcomed the remarks made by Medvedev as a sign of growing international unity.

“This is about as blunt as Medvedev has ever been about Iran’s nuclear program and should be taken as a good sign of increased international unity on Iran’s nuclear program,” an Obama administration official said.

Earlier, the United States, major European Union powers and Israel have said that they suspect Iran of trying to build atomic weapons under the cover of its civilian nuclear program.

Urged on by the Obama administration, Russia voted for a UN Security Council resolution on June 9 to impose new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. Medvedev said he was still skeptical of sanctions but they could prod diplomacy.

“I have said before that sanctions as a rule do not have the desired results. Their role is to send a signal, to stimulate the negotiating process,” Medvedev said.

Moscow has been Tehran’s main nuclear partner, building Iran’s first nuclear power plant near the city of Bushehr, which is set to begin operations later this year.

But Russia has been dismayed by Iran’s failure to disclose full details of its nuclear work and Medvedev has expressed growing concern in recent months about Tehran’s nuclear aims.

Iran, however, had denied such claims and said that it has a right to nuclear power.

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PM David Cameron condemns killing of three British soldiers

July 13, 2010

(KATAKAMI / NUMBER10.GOV.UK)  Prime Minister David Cameron has condemned the “appalling” killing of three British troops in Afghanistan by a rogue Afghan soldier.

Mr Cameron paid tribute to the “brave Gurkha soldiers” who lost their lives and said “our hearts go out to them and their families”.

The PM stressed that the 120,000 strong Afghan National Army was doing a very effective job working in partnership with the British army and other Nato partners and the incident should not change the strategy of working alongside the Afghanistan army.

He said:

“This is not typical of the Afghan Army, this is a rogue element and the insurgents want us to change our approach. They want us to abandon our strategy. They want us to lose faith in the Afghan National Army. That would not be the right approach. It is a dreadful incident. We need to get to the bottom of what happened. We need a proper investigation. I discussed that with President Karzai this morning.

“The right thing for us to do is to keep with our strategy of working with and building up the Afghan National Army because in the end it’s when the Afghans can take care of their own security, can keep Al Qaeda out of their country, can make sure there’s a basic level of security and stability. It’s when that happens we will be able to bring our troops home.”

Speaking earlier today, Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox also condemned the “despicable and cowardly act” and said British and ISAF forces with continue to work with Afghans undeterred.

Photostream : Britain’s PM David Cameron meets NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

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NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (C) arrives in Downing Street to meet Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron in London July 12, 2010. (Getty)

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Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron (L) greets NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at 10 Downing Street in London July 12, 2010. (Getty)

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Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron (L) greets NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at 10 Downing Street in London July 12, 2010. (Getty)

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Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron (L) and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen enter 10 Downing Street in London July 12, 2010. (Getty)

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Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, right, talks with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at 10 Downing Street in London, on July 12, 2010. (Getty)

Bill Clinton on Haiti: ‘My job is to keep the work going”

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Haitian President Rene Preval (C) and former US president Bill Clinton (L), who heads UN efforts to rebuild Haiti, make their way to a remembrance ceremony on July 12 2010 on the grounds of the destroyed presidential palace in Port-au-Prince, on the six-month anniversary of the devastating January 12 earthquake. (Getty)

July 13, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (KATAKAMI / BOSTON HERALD) — Six months after the Jan. 12 earthquake, Haiti is still hobbling to get back on its feet.

But former President Bill Clinton, now U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti and co-chairman of Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission (IHRC), remains optimistic the country can recover despite the enormous challenges _ enough rubble to fill five Superdomes and a lack of land to shelter 1.5 million displaced.

Clinton, who has committed the next three years to helping Haiti become economically competitive, discussed the progress and priorities in an exclusive interview with The Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles.

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Former US president Bill Clinton (L), who heads UN efforts to rebuild Haiti, shakes hands with Haitian Himmeler Rebu after he received a medal during a remembrance ceremony on July 12 2010 on the grounds of the destroyed presidential palace in Port-au-Prince, on the six-month anniversary of the devastating January 12 earthquake. (Getty)

Q: It’s been six months since the catastrophic quake. What do you see as progress and challenges?

A: The progress is that people are settled; we’ve moved a lot of people out of the most dangerous areas. Food is being distributed. Water is being distributed. We’re beginning to get new investments. The resumption of NGO activities on rebuilding schools. I think that’s good. Having set up the (Interim Haiti Reconstruction) commission and the U.N. is better coordinated.

(Deputy U.N. Special Envoy) Paul Farmer, for example, has agreed to oversee the building of a genuine national health system for the first time so that when all of these NGOs come in and other people come in wanting to build hospitals or wanting to do other things in health care, he can make sure that whatever they do is consistent with where we want to be three years from now.

I feel good about the economic efforts being undertaken by the group that grew out of the Clinton Global Initiative, headed by (Digicel founder and Chairman) Denis O’Brien and others coming in.

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Former US president Bill Clinton (L), who heads UN efforts to rebuild Haiti, shakes hands with US actor Sean Penn after he received a medal during a remembrance ceremony on July 12 2010 on the grounds of the destroyed presidential palace in Port-au-Prince, on the six-month anniversary of the devastating January 12 earthquake. (Getty)

Q: And the ongoing challenges?

A: The pace of the debris removal is not nearly rapid enough. We need more heavy equipment as well as more people in the Cash-for-Work, working in it. We need a plan for breaking it down, either giving the things that can be recycled to people for recycling or setting up direct recycling.

I’ve asked the U.N. to work on a plan that will allow us, instead of moving everything to a central location, to clear a five-block area and store all of the rubble in one or two places so every place else can start to rebuild. We’ve got to accelerate that.

Q: Even before the earthquake, you spoke of the need for energy independence in Haiti where less than 30 percent of the population has access to power.

A: I think we’re doing pretty good in energy and communications planning. The commission will make a decision to make Haiti as energy independent as possible. We’ve got 20-megawatt windmills going up just across the Haitian border in the Dominican Republic, which is going to be dedicated to Haiti and will be part of a larger effort to deal with the island’s future challenges. All we need is $14 million to interconnect the two grids and the two countries will have a totally interconnected, seamless grid system, which I think is going to be a really important thing.

We’ll be able to do great things with solar, wind and solid waste. We still have a ways to go to get clearer commitments to build up the airport and port capacities and make the cost of operating them competitive so that we can get even more investments, particularly in the manufacturing sector.

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Former US president Bill Clinton (L), who heads UN efforts to rebuild Haiti, attends a remembrance ceremony on July 12 2010 on the grounds of the destroyed presidential palace in Port-au-Prince, on the six-month anniversary of the devastating January 12 earthquake. (Getty)


Q: And the biggest problem in Haiti with this disaster?

A: It’s the biggest problem in every disaster area I’ve ever worked in, including the United States. It’s the housing issue. It’s complicated in Haiti by the fact that most of the people who lost their primary residences were renters. And so just like in relocating these big settlements, the government has to either condemn land or make deals with land owners.

We’re talking about what kinds of arrangements might be made with the people who own property in the larger Port-au-Prince area and who are renting out to people. We’ve got a lot of those buildings that have been certified as safe to move in or could be safe to move in just by clearing rubble or fixing them up. That is, they are not structurally unsound.

But it’s quite complex and it’s the one area that President (Rene) Preval has wanted to keep the Haitian government directly in charge of because of all of the legal issues involved. It looks to me like what we are going to have to do is almost work this out building by building, block by block, although we had discussed whether we can make a deal with the biggest of the landlords. The rubble and the housing are big problems.

Q: Are there things you now want to do in addition as part of the rebuilding effort?

A: We are trying to figure out a much more complete sanitation system in larger Port-au-Prince. It will reduce pollution, public health problems and other things. We want to make sure they’ve got a strategy so that everybody can light their homes at night whether through the LED solar flashlights, which only costs $20 a piece and are very useful, or through low-cost solar reflectors on the roof. We want to do a lot of things that were never done before.

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Former U.S. President and U.N. special envoy for Haiti, Bill Clinton, center, greets workers in charge of the reconstruction during a memorial ceremony for the six-month anniversary of the Jan. 12 earthquake inPort-au-Prince, Monday, July12, 2010. (Getty)


Q: We see a number of schools going up, or desire to build schools. What are your concerns?

A: What I am trying to do is to work with McKinsey (& Company, a global management consulting firm) and others to accelerate the process for a plan that will actually give them a sustainable school system that can enroll all of the children in Haiti where the poor kids won’t have to pay. I figure, if we can do this for five or seven years, then by that time the growth of the economy in Haiti will be such that they will be able to take it over and operate it.

It doesn’t mean the private schools shouldn’t stay there, and shouldn’t continue to educate the kids they are educating. But if you really look at it, there has never really been a time when more than half the kids were in school.

If we can get 100 percent of them in school and the poorest families didn’t have to pay the way they had to do in Mexico and Brazil, I believe that would eliminate 80 to 90 percent of the restavek (child slavery) problem because if you look at these families’ stories, most of these kids are in essence, put in bondage to other families only so the parents can feed the kids that are left at home.

That’s a big challenge, but all of these are by way of making things better.

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A boy points in a camp set up by relief agencies for victims affected by the January 12 earthquake in Port-au-Prince July 10, 2010. Haiti is commemorating on Monday the six-month anniversary of the disaster that killed more than 300,000 people. (Getty)


Q: How is the effort to build communal shelters to help Haitians cope with the current hurricane season?

A: We’ve made some progress in building communal shelters, or rebuilding them in the case of Leogane so that if a storm comes up this season between now and the end of the year, the people in tents and tarps can go some place and not be hurt. I want to speed that up.

Q: What are your main priorities at the moment?

A: My big priorities are speeding up the housing, doing the communal shelters and getting at least a schedule of when the donors are going to give their money.

Q: Only 10 percent of the more than $5 billion pledged at the donors’ conference has been disbursed. Where is the money?

A: I can understand why in this budget climate people want to hold onto their money until the end. We are looking at things like having the commission go ahead and approve projects and go raise the money for them.

To be fair, there has been some rather spirited discussions with the World Bank about what their role is, and what the costs are going to be for small projects, which have been both sources of friction and has slowed us up some.

I think that we can do more planning, if the donors … they may not all want to do what Brazil has done and just go ahead and send ($55 million) to us, but at least if they can tell us when we can look forward to receiving money, we can approve all of these projects and fund them, and they can send the money in on time and we can match it and get the job done.

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Residents are seen sleeping outside of their tent in a makeshift camp for victims affected by the January 12 earthquake in Port-au-Prince July 10, 2010. Haiti is commemorating on Monday the six-month anniversary of the disaster that killed more than 300,000 people. (Getty)


Q: Still, with only 10 percent of the funds some are wondering if the Clinton magic has vanished in your ability to get donors to pay up.

A: A lot of these donors want to know what their money is going to go for. One of the things I intend to do this week, I just got back from my annual trip to Africa and I’ve been working on my projects there, we’re going to have a meeting with Prime Minister (Jean-Max) Bellerive to see where we are with the commission. And then I am going to call a number of the donors and try to get those that have expressed a willingness and can legally give direct budget support to the government.

I am going to try and deal with the budget support piece this coming week, call the donors and see what we can do with that. I think a lot of these donors will come across once they see what we are going to do. The great benefit of this (reconstruction) commission is that all of the big donors are represented on the commission, so they’re there with the Haitians and I expect that to pick up pretty briskly. I’d be surprised if it doesn’t.

Q: With legislative and presidential elections set for Nov. 28, to what extent are you concerned that it will hamper or overshadow reconstruction?

A: No, not if it works the way it should. President Preval can’t succeed himself. The government should be free to focus, once they set up a system for the elections and others start to campaign for office. Everybody else in the government ought to be working full time on this.

It might overshadow reconstruction in terms of what’s in the headlines. But my job is to keep the work going day after day.

You know, when you’ve got something like this, you’ve just got to put one foot in front of another. But I’m far more concerned about being slowed down by the rubble problem. There’s just so much of it. Even in (Indonesia), which was devastated, you didn’t have anything like this volume of rubble because you didn’t have 3 million people concentrated in an urban area, that was basically self-enclosed without an easy way to get all of the rubble collected and moved out somewhere. That and the other more emergency matters concerned me more. …

I expect the elections to come off, and what I think is important is neither the IHRC nor the government itself and their ministers be distracted from the urgent work before us because the best way to ensure that it’ll be continued after the next elections and it will be a seamless transition no matter who wins the elections or what their politics are, is to prove that it is working now.

The looming election should actually intensify the determination of the government to get as much done as possible before its mandate runs out. That’s what normally happens all over the world; people try to get as much done before they leave and there is no significant political impediment in the parliament here unlike many places in the world. I’ve been impressed by the extent to which the parliamentary leaders have been willing to work directly with us, and they have been consulted with and involved in, every step of the way and I will continue to do that.

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A woman prays in a cemetery affected by the January 12 earthquake in Port-au-Prince July 10, 2010. Haiti is commemorating on Monday the six-month anniversary of the disaster that killed more than 300,000 people. (Getty)

Q: You have been pushing the private NGOs to contribute to the public sector. The American Red Cross announced a few days ago that it was giving $7.9 million for health programs, which includes a $3.8 million agreement with Paul Farmer’s Partners In Health to pay the salaries of more than 1,800 Haitian doctors and health care professionals at the state-owned General Hospital. Why is this contribution significant?

A: I believe this is a new direction for them and I’m very grateful they are doing it. I think the Red Cross and Partners In Health have the most cash, and we know that Partners In Health will put all of their money back into Haiti. This is a good deal, and the fact that they’re willing to register their donations on our website and then have them track is a very good deal.

With the smaller NGOs, the ones that don’t have this much money, what I really want them to do, the ones that don’t have a lot of cash amassed as a result of the earthquake, is to make sure that if they want to build a new clinic, they want to build a new hospital, they integrate it as far as possible into the national plan; they work with Paul Farmer, give us advanced notice and that where ever possible, we use people on the ground in Haiti who are part of the public health system and make sure they’re paid.  (*)

Medals for Haiti recovery, little for homeless

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Former US president Bill Clinton (L), who heads UN efforts to rebuild Haiti, speaks at a remembrance ceremony on July 12 2010, while Haitian President Rene Preval (C) and Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive (R) listen, on the grounds of the destroyed presidential palace in Port-au-Prince, on the six-month anniversary of the devastating January 12 earthquake. (Getty)

July 13, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (KATAKAMI / AP) – Haiti’s president handed out medals to celebrities, aid-group directors and politicians for post-earthquake work Monday in a ceremony designed to beat back criticism of an uneven recovery that has left 1.6 million people homeless and destitute six months to the day since the disaster.

Just out of sight, baking in the oppressive noonday sun, were the fraying tarps of tens of thousands of homeless who live on the Champ de Mars, once a grassy promenade surrounding the government complex.

“That is just a way to put the people to sleep. But the people are suffering,” Edouard James, a 32-year-old vendor said when he was told of the ceremony. Unable to find a job with his degree in diplomacy, he sells pirated DVDs in a tarp-covered booth.

“We are tired of the NGOs … saying we will have a better life and better conditions, and then nothing happens,” he said.

Twenty-three honorees — including actor Sean Penn, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and the head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission — crossed a podium in front of the crushed, unrepaired national palace to steady applause. Some smiling, some solemn, each received medals and certificates deeming them Knights of the National Order of Honor and Merit.

President Rene Preval, whose successor is to be elected in November, defended the response to the quake. He said in two speeches during the ceremony that hard-to-see successes — like the avoidance of massive disease outbreaks and violence — obviates the perception that not enough has been done.

“There are people who did not see all the big efforts that were deployed during the emergency stage: distributing tents, water, food, installing latrines, providing health care during the six months that have just gone by,” Preval said. “It is a major, major task.”

The ceremony was resolutely upbeat. The focus was on successes past and plans going forward, with little talk of the 230,000 to 300,000 people killed in the magnitude-7 temblor.

The president and prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, both used the occasion to announce that a six-month emergency phase has ended and that reconstruction has begun.

The distinction was lost on some Haitians.

“I don’t know if I’m mad or happy,” Anne Bernard, a 24-year-old mother of two living in a metal shack a few hundred yards from the national palace. “All I know is they haven’t done anything.”

The most visible early-emergency programs like massive food distributions have stopped, and there still are few tangible effects of $3.1 billion in humanitarian aid for all but a handful of those left homeless by the quake, who rely on plastic tarps for shelter.

Tarp-and-tent camps are growing instead of shrinking. Just 5,657 transitional shelters have been built of a promised 125,000, which even if completed would not be nearly enough for everyone.

When building materials finally get through customs, there is nowhere to put them. Fights over land rights, customs delays and systemically slow coordination between aid groups and the government have hampered nearly everything. The Associated Press reported Sunday that the location of the largest of two relocation camps provided by the government was the result of an inside deal.

Shortly after the ceremony ended, that camp flooded in a sudden summer squal, with 94 deluxe tents collapsing in the wind and rain.

Compounding the problem in the city is that almost no rubble has been cleared. Preval said Monday it would take $1.5 billion to remove all of it.

Meanwhile donors have met 10 percent of a promised $5.3 billion in reconstruction aid — separate from the humanitarian aid — mostly by forgiving debts, not providing cash.

Clinton, who also received a medal, said it will be his mission in coming weeks to make sure donors meet their pledges. He acknowledged that more could have been done, but that recovery has so far been faster than the rebuilding of coastal Indonesia following the 2004 tsunami.

“To those who say we have not done enough, I think all of us who are working in this area agree this is a harder job (than the tsunami),” Clinton said. “Viewed comparatively I think the Haitian government and the people who are working here have done well in the last six months.”

CNN’s Cooper, who spent parts of January and February in Haiti following the quake and had not returned since, said he found out about the award while getting ready to board his plane to Haiti on Sunday.

“I thought a long time about not accepting it. We finally came to the opinion that it was recognition by the country for all journalists,” he told resident reporters after the ceremony. “I don’t think this in any way impacts the desire or willingness to be critical of the government.” (*)

Russia to deliver 21 transport helicopters to Afghanistan

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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, right, and Russia’s ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin  (Getty)

July 12, 2010

(KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI)  Russia will supply Afghanistan with 21 Mi-17 Hip military transport helicopters, an Afghan television channel reported on Monday.

According to Tolo television, the contract is worth $300 million and was concluded with the approval of the с command in Afghanistan.

Russian envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin told RIA Novosti on Monday that NATO had yet to agree on the exact delivery date of some time in July, although the alliance has voiced the need for Russian transport helicopters a long time ago.

The Mi-17 is a medium twin-turbine transport helicopter that can also act as a gunship.

The Afghan Air Force currently has 25 Mi-17 helicopters, which are widely used for troop and cargo transport, rescue and evacuation missions in the fight against Taliban militants.

Afghanistan plans to increase the number of Mi-17 helicopters to 56 by 2012. The majority of Afghan helicopters pilots were trained in the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Meanwhile, Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan Andrei Avetisyan told reporters on Monday that Moscow was ready to supply Russian-made weaponry to the war-ravaged Central Asian state.

“We have repeatedly stated our readiness to deliver military equipment to Afghanistan,” the diplomat said.

In December 2002, Russia’s Defense Ministry signed a contract with Afghanistan to provide military-technical assistance to Kabul with deliveries of motor vehicles, fuel and lubricants, communication equipment, topographic maps, truck-mounted repair workshops and automobile and armor equipment spare parts.

Mi-17 helicopters
Mi-17 helicopters

However, deliveries of Russian weaponry to Afghanistan were suspended in 2005 allegedly in order to avoid “the duplication” of U.S. aid to the country, which that year totaled over $929 million, more than 80% of which was earmarked for the military and police.

Avetisyan said the Western supplies of copycat versions of Russian weaponry to Afghanistan negatively affected the combat capabilities of the Afghan armed forces.

“We are mainly talking about the Kalashnikov assault rifles, which are manufactured under expired licenses in several East European countries,” the ambassador said.

Russia will supply Afghanistan with 21 Mi-17 Hip military transport helicopters, an Afghan television channel reported on Monday.

According to Tolo television, the contract is worth $300 million and was concluded with the approval of the с command in Afghanistan.

Russian envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin told RIA Novosti on Monday that NATO had yet to agree on the exact delivery date of some time in July, although the alliance has voiced the need for Russian transport helicopters a long time ago.

The Mi-17 is a medium twin-turbine transport helicopter that can also act as a gunship.

The Afghan Air Force currently has 25 Mi-17 helicopters, which are widely used for troop and cargo transport, rescue and evacuation missions in the fight against Taliban militants.

Afghanistan plans to increase the number of Mi-17 helicopters to 56 by 2012. The majority of Afghan helicopters pilots were trained in the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Meanwhile, Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan Andrei Avetisyan told reporters on Monday that Moscow was ready to supply Russian-made weaponry to the war-ravaged Central Asian state.

“We have repeatedly stated our readiness to deliver military equipment to Afghanistan,” the diplomat said.

In December 2002, Russia’s Defense Ministry signed a contract with Afghanistan to provide military-technical assistance to Kabul with deliveries of motor vehicles, fuel and lubricants, communication equipment, topographic maps, truck-mounted repair workshops and automobile and armor equipment spare parts.

However, deliveries of Russian weaponry to Afghanistan were suspended in 2005 allegedly in order to avoid “the duplication” of U.S. aid to the country, which that year totaled over $929 million, more than 80% of which was earmarked for the military and police.

Avetisyan said the Western supplies of copycat versions of Russian weaponry to Afghanistan negatively affected the combat capabilities of the Afghan armed forces.

“We are mainly talking about the Kalashnikov assault rifles, which are manufactured under expired licenses in several East European countries,” the ambassador said.  (*)

Nato chief urges UK to ‘stay course in Afghanistan’

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Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron (L) greets NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at 10 Downing Street in London July 12, 2010. (Getty)

July 13, 2010

(KATAKAMI / BBC) A weakening in political support for the Afghan mission could encourage the Taliban to step up attacks on coalition forces, the head of Nato has warned.

Nato’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said there could be no guaranteed withdrawal date for troops.

Last month Prime Minister David Cameron said he wanted UK forces out of Afghanistan within five years.

After Mr Cameron met Mr Rasmussen in London, No 10 said the country was the PM’s “highest foreign policy priority”.

Mr Rasmussen, who was in London for talks with Mr Cameron and Defence Secretary Liam Fox, said while he understood the desire to bring back forces, the international mission had to continue until the Afghans could take responsibility for their own security.

‘Terror threat’

He told The Daily Telegraph: “We can have our hopes, we can have our expectations, but I cannot give any guarantee as far as an exact date or year is concerned.

“The Taliban follow the political debate in troop-contributing countries closely.

“If they discover that through their attacks, they can weaken the support for our presence in Afghanistan, they will just be encouraged to step up their attacks on foreign troops.”

Mr Rasmussen said withdrawing too soon would not only lead to a renewed terrorist threat from al-Qaeda, but would also risk destabilising neighbouring Pakistan.

“The Taliban would return to Afghanistan and Afghanistan would once again become a safe haven for terrorist groups who would use it as a launch pad for terrorist attacks on North America and Europe,” he said.

Downing Street said Mr Rasmussen and Mr Cameron had had a “positive and productive” meeting and the two men had agreed on the “central importance” of the ongoing international mission in Afghanistan “to the national security of the UK and all Nato allies”.

A No 10 statement said: “The Prime Minister made clear that success in Afghanistan was his government’s highest foreign policy and national security priority.

“The leaders agreed that the next year would be crucial. The current counter-insurgency strategy remained right. The recent troop surge provided the necessary military resources.

“The Prime Minister made clear his confidence in General Petraeus’ ability to deliver progress on the ground.”

No 10 said Mr Rasmussen and Mr Cameron had reaffirmed their view that accelerating training of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police was a key objective for the period ahead.

The had also discussed work on the new Nato strategic concept and “looked forward to working closely together in the run up to the Nato Summit in Lisbon”, the statement added.  (*)

Photostream : King Juan Carlos of Spain meets with the winning Spanish FIFA 2010 World Cup team

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MADRID, SPAIN – JULY 12: Spanish Royal family (L to R) Princess Elena, Princess Letizia, Prince Felipe, Queen Sofia and King Juan Carlos receive the winning Spanish FIFA 2010 World Cup team at Zarzuela Palace on July 12, 2010 in Madrid, Spain. (Getty)

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MADRID, SPAIN – JULY 12: King Juan Carlos of Spain (C) receives the Spanish football team fresh from their victory at the 2010 FIFA World Cup at Zarzuela Palace on July 12, 2010 in Madrid, Spain.  (Getty)

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King Juan Carlos, center, holds the World Cup trophy next to Queen Sofia, right, and Vicente del Bosque, left, at the Royal Palace in Madrid on Tuesday, July 12, 2010. Spain won the World Cup after defeating the Netherlands 1-0 on Sunday. (Getty)

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MADRID, SPAIN – JULY 12: King Juan Carlos of Spain (3rd R) speaks with the manager of the national football team Vicente Del Bosque (3rd L) as he receives the Spanish football team fresh from their victory at the 2010 FIFA World Cup at Zarzuela Palace on July 12, 2010 in Madrid, Spain. (Getty)

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MADRID, SPAIN – JULY 12: King Juan Carlos of Spain (C) receives the winning Spanish FIFA 2010 World Cup team at Zarzuela Palace on July 12, 2010 in Madrid, Spain. (Getty)

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MADRID, SPAIN – JULY 12: King Juan Carlos I of Spain holds the trophy beside goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas (front R) while the FIFA 2010 World Cup winning team Spain are received by the Spanish royal family at Zarzuela Palace on July 12, 2010 in Madrid, Spain. (Getty)

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Spain’s King Juan Carlos (R) speaks to national soccer team player David Villa during a reception at Madrid’s Royal Palace July 12, 2010. Spain stunned the Netherlands to win their first World Cup on Sunday in sensational fashion with a goal in the last minutes of extra time. (Getty)

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Spain’s King Juan Carlos, right, playfully gestures as he receives national soccer team coach Vicente del Bosque, left, during a reception at the Royal Palace in Madrid on Monday, July 12, 2010, following the teams triumphant return from South Africa. Spain won the World Cup after defeating the Netherlands 1-0 in the final on Sunday. (Getty)

British Government condemn Bomb attacks in Kampala

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July 12, 2010

(KATAKAMI / NUMBER10.GOV.UK)  Foreign Secretary William Hague has condemned the bomb attacks in Kampala and sent his ”heartfelt sympathies to President Museveni”.

Mr Hague called the attacks “cowardly” and stressed the “UK will stand with Uganda in fighting such brutal acts of violence and terror”.

The Foreign Secretary said:

“I was deeply shocked to hear of the bomb attacks that took place in Kampala last night, which left many people dead and injured. I send my heartfelt sympathies to President Museveni and the people of Uganda, in particular the families and friends of those who lost their lives, and wish a full and speedy recovery to those who were injured.

These were cowardly attacks during an event that was widely seen as a celebration of African unity, and I condemn them in the strongest possible terms. The UK will stand with Uganda in fighting such brutal acts of violence and terror.”

The Prime Minister has also passed on his personal condolences to President Museveni following the devastating bomb attacks.

Castro blames U.S. for stoking nuclear tensions

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Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro (C) is interviewed by anchor Randy Alonso (L) in Havana July 12, 2010. (Getty)

July 12, 2010

Havana, Cuba (KATAKAMI / CNN) — The United States is pushing for what would become nuclear wars against Iran and North Korea, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said in a rare televised interview Monday.

Castro blamed the United States, not North Korea, for the sinking of a South Korean ship that killed 46 sailors. The incident was orchestrated to stir conflict in the region, Castro said.

The former Cuban leader, who is 83, said he was disappointed that China and Russia didn’t veto a U.N. Security Council resolution for additional sanctions against Iran for its alleged illegal nuclear program.

Iran, he said, has been building up for a confrontation for 30 years. If the United States attacks Iran, it will meet a resistance unlike anything it faced in Iraq, Castro said.

“A war there can’t avoid becoming nuclear,” Castro said.

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Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro speaks on Cuban television in Havana July 12, 2010. (Getty)

One subject Castro did not mention during the hour-long appearance was Monday’s release of political prisoners.

Castro spoke on Cuban TV on a show called “Roundtable.” He appeared in a dark blue tracksuit worn over a plaid shirt and sat on a swivel chair that he shifted at points during the interview.

His remarks were based on a column published Monday of a possible nuclear war involving the United States and Iran, sparked by conflict over that country’s nuclear activities.

News of Castro’s television appearance appeared to resonate with some residents in the Cuban capital.

“[It’s] extraordinary because we want to feel him, hear him, see him, because we haven’t seen him in a long time,” said Havana resident Ruben Morrejon Fernandez.

Monday’s appearance was the second Castro sighting in the past few days. Three photographs of Castro surfaced Saturday on a pro-government blog, which claimed the photos were taken last Wednesday.

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Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro speaks on Cuban television in Havana July 12, 2010. (Getty)

The set of three photos appear to show the ailing Castro meeting with people during “a surprise visit” at the National Center of Scientific Investigations in Havana, according to a blog published by columnist Rosa C. Baez.

An additional five photos — appearing to be from the same event — were published Saturday by the state-run media site Cubadebate.

Castro has been largely out of sight since undergoing emergency intestinal surgery in July 2006. He ceded power to younger brother Raul Castro in February 2008.

The elder Castro’s appearance follows last week’s announcement of the largest release of Cuban political prisoners in more than a decade.

Cuba’s Roman Catholic Church also announced Monday the names of the three more political prisoners set to be freed. They were identified as: Jesus Mustafa Felipe, Omar Rodriguez Saludes and Antonio R. Diaz Sanchez.

The first prisoners to be released are expected to arrive in Madrid on Tuesday, a Spanish Foreign Ministry spokesman told CNN on Monday.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos met with Cuban President Raul Castro and Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega last week, after which the prisoner release was announced.

The 52 political prisoners Cuba plans to free are the remainder of 75 dissidents jailed during a government crackdown on political opposition in March 2003.

They represent roughly one-third of all known political prisoners left on the island, according to Cuba’s unofficial Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation.  (*)

Uganda makes arrests after twin bomb blasts

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July 13, 2010

(KATAKAMI / Reuters) – Uganda has made arrests after Somali Islamists said they detonated two bombs killing at least 74 people, and an unexploded suicide-bomb belt has been found at a new site, a government spokesman said on Tuesday,

“Arrests were made late yesterday after an unexploded suicide bomber’s belt was found in the Makindye area (of the capital Kampala),” said government spokesman Fred Opolot.

Sarkozy dismisses ‘shameful’ Bettencourt donation claim

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France’s President Sarkozy (L), seen in this video grab from France2 Television, appears during a prime time news interview with journalist David Pujadas on France2 television in the garden of the Elysee Palace in Paris July 12, 2010. (Getty)

July 12, 2010

(KATAKAMI / BBC) French President Nicolas Sarkozy has dismissed accusations he received illegal donations from the richest woman in France, Liliane Bettencourt.

He called the allegations lies and calumny, and claimed his opponents were trying to destabilise the government as it tried to reform the pension system.

Mr Sarkozy also expressed confidence in Labour Minister Eric Woerth, who is accused of accepting illegal donations.

Both Mr Woerth and Mr Sarkozy deny any wrongdoing, as does Mrs Bettencourt.

Tax inspectors have already cleared Mr Woerth, who was budget minister until March, of shielding the L’Oreal heiress from an audit.

“Things are clear, and it is true that I am relieved, enormously relieved,” he told reporters earlier.

‘Vital reform’

BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris says President Sarkozy was at his most combative in the hour-long interview with France 2 television carried live from the Elysee Palace on Monday evening.

He said the allegations were part of a “campaign” to blacken his name and make it harder to pass a contested pension reform plan that has already brought millions of protesters to the streets.

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France’s President Sarkozy (L), seen in this video grab from France2 Television, appears during a prime time news interview with journalist David Pujadas on France2 television in the garden of the Elysee Palace in Paris July 12, 2010. (Getty)

“I was described as someone who for 20 years has been going to Mrs Bettencourt’s house to pick up envelopes. It’s shameful.”

“France is not a corrupt country,” he added.

Asked whether he would dismiss Mr Woerth, who is also treasurer of the governing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), Mr Sarkozy declared: “Eric Woerth is an honest, competent man. He has my full confidence. He is the minister who will defend this vital pensions reform.”

But the president said that to avoid any controversy, he had asked Mr Woerth to “devote himself exclusively” to the role and step down as UMP treasurer.

He would also ask parliament to set up a commission to look at guidelines “to avoid all forms of conflict of interest”, he added.

Mr Sarkozy said he was determined to see through the pension reforms – which include raising the state retirement age from 60 to 62 and making people contribute longer for a full pension – a key part of his government’s pledge to cut France’s budget deficit to within EU limits within the next three years.

Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry said the president’s comments showed he was not aware of public anger at the scandal, the pension reforms, and at high unemployment and financial insecurity.

“We expected this evening, like the rest of the French people, clarifications and decisions,” she said. “We had neither one nor the other.”

Apartment searched

The allegations surrounding Mr Sarkozy and Mr Woerth surfaced in connection with a trial over the estimated 17bn-euro fortune of Mrs Bettencourt, 87, whose father founded the cosmetics giant, L’Oreal.

Mrs Bettencourt’s daughter Francoise is suing celebrity photographer Francois-Marie Banier, a close friend of her mother’s, for allegedly exploiting her mental fragility to gain access to her fortune.

Mr Woerth has also come under scrutiny because his wife worked for the company that managed Mrs Bettencourt’s fortune, and their names emerged in tapes secretly recorded by Mrs Bettencourt’s butler.

The tapes suggested that Mrs Bettencourt had been making cash donations to members of the UMP including Mr Woerth, and that she had been avoiding taxes.

Mrs Bettencourt’s former accountant also accused the minister of accepting an illegal donation of 150,000 euros from her wealth manager, Patrice de Maistre.

Hours before Mr Sarkozy spoke, police searched the Paris apartment of Ms Banier.

Our correspondent says many in France believe that the Bettencourt saga has touched the president at his weakest point – an excessive interest in, and an indulgence of, the very wealthy. (*)

Photostream : Good Bye Paul The Octopus, Auf Wiedersehen !

Octopus oracle Paul to retire after perfect record

Photostream : Paul The Octopus Predicts Spain Win In Final

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Germany’s so-called oracle octopus Paul, swims in front of a mock soccer World Cup trophy in its tank at the Sea Life Aquarium in the western German city of Oberhausen July 12, 2010. The two-year-old celebrity octopus, accurately picked the outcome of all six of Germany’s 2010 World Cup matches, even the two defeats, and then went on to correctly predict Spain to beat the Netherlands in the World Cup final. The conservative German newspaperFrankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung paid tribute in its story to the celebrity octopus on Monday “Paul the oracle octopus in Oberhausen got it right again,” the FAZ wrote.  (Getty)

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In this picture provided by the Sea Life Aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany, shows octopus Paul swimming next to a golden cup similar to the World Cup trophy Monday July 12, 2010. No more World Cup, no more octopus oracle. Paul, the octopus who became a pop culture sensation by correctly predicting the outcome of as many World Cup matches as he has legs – all seven of Germany’s games plus the Spain-Netherlands final – is going to retire. However, Paul took one last curtain call on Monday. Aquarium employees presented the octopus with a golden cup – similar to the official World Cup trophy.o (Getty)

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Germany’s so-called oracle octopus Paul, swims in front of a mock soccer World Cup trophy in his tank at the Sea Life Aquarium in the western German city of Oberhausen July 12, 2010. Paul was given a replica of the World Cup on Monday as a reward for his perfect eight-for-eight record in picking matches as bettors worldwide collected their winnings based on his selections. Paul’s home at Sea Life aquarium in Oberhausen has been inundated with visitors and media from acrossEurope . Many networks broadcast his picks live. Hundreds were on hand to watch the World Cup replica lowered into his tank on Monday. (Getty)

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ADDING INFO ON THE SCULPTURE An Indian artist puts the finishing touches to a sand sculpture representing Paul the Octopus on a football ahead of the FIFA World Cup final match between Spain and The Netherlands, depicting a football covered with an octopus in Bhubaneswar on July 10, 2010. Spain will face the Netherlands in the FIFA 2010 World Cup final soccer match on July 11, at Soccer City stadium inJohannesburg, South Africa. (Getty)

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An octopus named Paul sits on a box decorated with a Spanish flag and a shell inside on July 9, 2010 at the Sea Life aquarium in Oberhausen, western Germany. Paul’s task is to decide in favour of one of the shells hidden in boxes with the flags of the Netherlands and Spain to act thus as oracle for the upcoming final match of theFIFA Football World Cup between the two countries on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg , South Africa. Paul, the ‘psychic’ octopus, who had predicted well the result of six German matches earlier in the tournament, predicted Spain will win the football World Cup for the first time in their history. (Getty)

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A Netherlands fan holds a sign reading, ‘Octopus a l’Orange’ during the 2010 World Cup football final between the Netherlands and Spain on July 11, 2010 at Soccer City stadium in Soweto, suburban Johannesburg.  (Getty)

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Spain’s Andres Iniesta holds a mock version of Paul the oracle octopus as he and his team mates celebrate their World Cup victory on a stage in Madrid July 12, 2010. The octopus, who lives in an aquarium in the German city of Oberhausen, had picked Spain to beat the Netherlands in Sunday’s final. (Getty)

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Spain’s Andres Iniesta holds a mock version of Paul the oracle octopus as he and his team mates celebrate their World Cup victory on a stage in Madrid July 12, 2010. The octopus, who lives in an aquarium in the German city of Oberhausen, had picked Spain to beat the Netherlands in Sunday’s final. (Getty)

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Spain’s goalkeeper Pepe Reina (L) jokes with a puppet of Paul the Octopus on a stage set up for them in Madrid on July 12, 2010 a day after they won the 2010 FIFA football World Cup match against the Netherlands in Johannesburg. (Getty)

Octopus oracle Paul to retire after perfect record

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July 13, 2010

 

BERLIN  (KATAKAMI / CHINA POST)  — No more World Cup, no more octopus oracle.

Paul, the octopus who became a pop culture sensation by correctly predicting the outcome of as many World Cup matches as he has legs — all seven of Germany’s games plus the Spain-Netherlands final — is going to retire.

The intuitive invertebrate will “go into retirement and do what he likes to do best: play with his handlers and delight children who come visit to him,” Tanja Munzig, a spokeswoman for the Sea Life aquarium in Oberhausen, told AP Television News.

However, Paul took one last curtain call on Monday. Aquarium employees presented the octopus with a golden cup — similar to the official World Cup trophy.

Although the cup was garnished with mussels, Paul ignored it as it was lowered into his tank — showing the world one last time that he isn’t just any old octopus who can be excited simply by shiny bait.

Paul won worldwide attention as he called all of Germany’s games correctly — including its semifinal defeat by Spain. He crowned his career by forecasting correctly that Spain would beat Holland in Sunday’s final.  (*)