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Daily Archives: 10/08/2010

Obama calls on China to free Nobel laureate Liu

President Barack Obama (Getty Images)

 

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October 08, 2010 WASHINGTON (KATAKAMI / THE NEWS TRIBUNE) – President Barack Obama is calling on China to quickly release Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

Hours after Liu was awarded the prize Friday, Obama said in a statement that Liu “has sacrificed his freedom for his beliefs.” He called Liu “an eloquent and courageous spokesman for the advance of universal values through peaceful and nonviolent means.”

Last year China sentenced Liu to 11 years in prison on subversion charges after he co-authored a document calling for greater freedom.

Obama says China has made dramatic progress on economic reform, but “this award reminds us that political reform has not kept pace.”

Obama, who received the peace prize last year, said many of the recipients over the years have “sacrificed so much more” than himself.

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Obama’s National Security Adviser Stepping Down

 

 

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WASHINGTON (Oct. 8) — Gen. James Jones, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, is stepping down and will be replaced by his top deputy Tom Donilon, two senior administration officials told The Associated Press on Friday.

Obama will announce the change in a Rose Garden ceremony on Friday with both men. Jones’ resignation will take effect in two weeks.

The move, though expected, is the latest high-profile departure among Obama’s leadership team. Chief of staff Rahm Emanuel left just last week, and the president is expected to see more change at the top as Obama’s tenure nears the two-year mark and the grinding pace of the White House takes a toll.

Jones, who retired from active duty in February 2007 after more than 40 years of uniformed service, had planned all along to leave the national security adviser’s post within two years, said one official. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the president had not yet announced the decisions.

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Dalai Lama congratulates fellow Nobel laureate

The Dalai Lama waves after his arrival in Passau September 21, 2010  (Reuters/Michael Dalder)

 

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October 08, 2010. (KATAKAMI / Reuters) – Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama offered his congratulations to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo for winning the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, calling on the government to release him and other jailed activists.

“Awarding the Peace Prize to him is the international community’s recognition of the increasing voices among the Chinese people in pushing China towards political, legal and constitutional reforms,” the Dalai Lama said in a statement on his website (www.dalailama.com).

“I have been personally moved as well as encouraged by the efforts of hundreds of Chinese intellectuals and concerned citizens, including Mr. Liu Xiaobo in signing the Charter 08, which calls for democracy and freedom in China.”

Liu helped organise the “Charter 08” petition which called for sweeping political reforms and was modelled on the Charter 77 petition which became the rallying call for the human rights movement in communist Czechoslovakia in 1977.

“I believe in the years ahead, future generations of Chinese will be able to enjoy the fruits of the efforts that the current Chinese citizens are making towards responsible governance,” the Dalai Lama added.

“I would like to take this opportunity to renew my call to the government of China to release Mr. Liu Xiaobo and other prisoners of conscience who have been imprisoned for exercising their freedom of expression,” he said.

Beijing was furious when the Dalai Lama won his Peace Prize in 1989, the year of the Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy protesters by Chinese authorities.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of fanning a violent campaign for separatism. He denies China’s charges against him, and says he only seeks more meaningful autonomy for Tibet through purely peaceful means.
Chinese Communist troops marched into Tibet in 1950. The Dalai Lama fled in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, and has since campaigned for self-rule from exile.

 

Russia to Refund Iran for Canceled Missile Deal

Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias (R) welcomes Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev during their meeting in Presidential palace in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, on 07 Oct 2010 (Getty Images)

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October 08, 2010 (KATAKAMI / VOA) – Russian officials say the country plans to reimburse Iran, after Moscow canceled the sale of an air defense missile system to Tehran. The announcement comes as the Russian president is on a one-day state visit to Cyprus.

In the scope of a $800 million contract brokered in 2005, Russia was obliged to send Iran at least five S-300 missile systems.

But last month, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev banned the sale of the missile systems following United Nations sanctions against such arms sales.

The U.N. imposed the sanctions in June for Iran’s refusal to stop enriching uranium.

Mr. Medvedev also outlawed the sale of tanks, aircraft and sea vessels to Iran.

The proposed deal caused alarm in the United States and Israel as the S-300 can track 100 targets at once and fire on aircraft up to 75 miles away.

Possession of S-300 systems would have also boosted Iran’s defense of its nuclear facilities against attack from the air.

The news comes on the heels of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s first ever state visit by a Russian leader to the Republic of Cyprus.

Security was high in the capital, as the Cypriot government views this visit of crucial importance and a chance to display their strong ties with a superpower.

Government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou told VOA News that Russia and Cyprus will sign fifteen agreements during the visit ranging from a tax treaty to healthcare and tourism deals.

“It is very significant; I would say its very historic official visit. Russia is a very significant country in the world; it’s a permanent member of the Security Council and very important country for Cyprus regarding the political and economic aspect of our relations,” he said.

Ties between the two countries are strong with more than 10,000 people of Russian origin living and working in Cyprus. The island is one of the largest foreign investors in the Russian economy.

“The Soviet Union at that time was one of the first countries that recognized the Cyprus republic, and since then the bilateral relations between the two countries are at a very good level,” said Stefanou.

Thousands of offshore companies registered on the island are Russian, which re-invest profits, taxed at a lower rate in Cyprus, back into Russia.

Cyprus is also a big foreign destination for Russian money, receiving $16.6 billion since 1991.

“The investments of Russians in our country are very high, so the financial aspect of the visit is very significant as well. So, and politically and financially the official visit of Mr Medvedev is very important for our country,” Stefanou added.

The Russian president, who is accompanied by a multi-party delegation, leaves the island Thursday night.

Israel Signals Settlement Compromise to Save Talks

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a meeting at the city hall of Lod near Tel Aviv October 7, 2010. (Getty Images)


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Oct. 8 (KATAKAMI) — Israel signaled that a compromise may be reached in a dispute over settlement construction in the West Bank that threatens to derail U.S.-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians.

Incentives offered by the Obama administration to Israel may allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to push through his Cabinet a limited renewal of the 10-month freeze on West Bank settlement construction that expired last month, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. said

“The U.S. has come back to Israel with a number of suggestions, incentives if you would, that enable the government to maybe pass a limited extension of two or three months,” Ambassador Michael Oren told the Washington Post.

The Palestinians have threatened to pull out of the peace talks if Israel continues to build in West Bank settlements. Netanyahu said on Oct. 4 that he was in “sensitive diplomatic contacts” with the U.S. administration to find a solution to the crisis that would let the talks continue. Israel’s partial halt of building in settlements expired Sept. 26.

The start of peace talks has seen an increase in violence. Israel said its army today killed two members of Hamas that it suspected of involvement in an attack near a West Bank settlement in August that left four Israelis dead. The military wing of Hamas, the Al-Qassam Brigades, vowed to avenge today’s killings “by all possible means.”

Temporary Extension

Palestinian leaders from President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement who are conducting the talks with Israel have indicated a willingness to accept a temporary extension of the building moratorium. Arab League chief Amre Moussa said in an interview that Arab foreign ministers will today renew a demand for a construction freeze.

Abbas remains adamant that the talks, which began on Sept. 2, can’t proceed while settlement construction continues, Moussa said. “This is everybody’s position,” he said. “We’re not against negotiations but we’re not just doing it for show.”

Abbas will brief Arab ministers today in the town of Sirte, Libya. The group will include representatives from Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

“We want a freeze of all settlement activities and then we can get as quickly as possible to completing the first part of an agreement, on borders and security,” Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath said in a phone interview. Once agreement is reached on the borders of a future Palestinian state, it would “end the issue of settlements,” as Israel would then be able to build freely in all areas under its sovereignty, Shaath said.

‘Playing Games’

Shaath said Israel was currently “playing games” and “bargaining for goodies from the Americans.”

Netanyahu will bring a proposal to his Cabinet on Sunday to change the citizenship oath to include swearing allegiance to Israel as a Jewish, democratic state, an Israeli official said Oct. 6. The oath will only apply to non-Jews seeking citizenship.

The loyalty oath is a key demand of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who leads Yisrael Beitenu, the second-biggest party in Netanyahu’s coalition, and has threatened to block a renewal of the freeze. Lieberman lives in a West Bank settlement.

The change is aimed at easing Lieberman’s opposition, said Uri Dromi, a government spokesman under the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

“It is tactically good for Netanyahu to keep Lieberman in the coalition,” Dromi said. “In a cynical way, this thing, which is a major issue on a constitutional level and should have been discussed in the most serious way, is now rushed to the table to serve a political emergency.”

Lieberman Backing

Lieberman welcomed Netanyahu’s proposal, and said that stressing Israel’s Jewish and democratic nature was essential after incidents such as the participation of an Israeli Arab parliament member in a Gaza Strip-bound aid flotilla in May. The ships attempted to breach an Israeli blockade on the Hamas- controlled territory. Parliament’s House Committee has recommended lifting the lawmaker’s immunity from prosecution.

Eyal Gabbay, director general of Netanyahu’s office, said on Army Radio yesterday that there was “no connection” between the peace talks and the proposed change to the oath.

 

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Abbas threatens to resign if peace talks fail

(FILE) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel (C), Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama talk after they delivering remarks to the press following their individual meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington on September 1, 2010.

 

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October 08, 2010 [KATAKAMI / RANTBURG /Al Arabiya] Paleostinian President the ineffectual Mahmoud Abbas signaled his intention to resign if US peace talks with Israel fail, a front man for the Paleostinian National Council (PNC) said Thursday.

In a PNC meeting early this week, President Abbas said, “I may be sitting on this (presidency) chair only for another week,” according to Khalid Mismar.

A senior Paleostinian official said on Thursday he saw no hope of a serious peace processor with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in some of the darkest comments to date on the U.S.-mediated talks.

A senior Paleostinian official said on Thursday he saw no hope of a serious peace processor with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in some of the darkest comments to date on the U.S.-mediated talks.

Yasser Abed Rabbo’s remarks signaled deep Paleostinian skepticism about the outlook for the talks, which began on Sept. 2 but have been on hold since an Israeli moratorium on new settlement building in the West Bank expired last week.

The United States wants the talks to continue and has been trying to find a formula to save the negotiations.

“There will be no serious political process while Netanyahu’s government pursues settlements,” Abed Rabbo told Voice of Paleostine radio.

“I can go further still and say that there will be no serious political process with Netanyahu’s government.”

Netanyahu, who heads a cabinet dominated by pro-settler parties, including his own Likud, has said he will not extend the freeze which his government had enforced for 10 months.

Abbas and Netanyahu met three times before the end of the moratorium. The Paleostine Liberation Organization (PLO) said on Saturday talks would not resume until Israel halted settlement building on land where the Paleostinians aim to found a state.

The United States and European Union had called on Israel to extend the settlement freeze. The expiry of the moratorium had been seen as an early obstacle facing U.S. President Barack B.O. Obama’s push to end the six-decade-old conflict within a year.

Bomb kills Afghan governor, 15 others-official

 

(Getty Images)


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(KATAKAMI) – A bomb attack inside a mosque killed the governor of Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province and 15 others as they attended Friday prayers, the local police chief said.

 

The attack on governor Mohammed Omar happened in neighbouring Takhar province, where he had a home. At least 20 people were wounded.

 

“The situation is chaos, we do not know whether it was a suicide attack or whether the bomb was already planted in the mosque,” Shah Jahan Noori, police chief for Takhar province, told Reuters.

 

It was the most serious attack since parliamentary elections last month, when a wave of assaults killed at least 17 people as the Taliban vowed to disrupt polling.

 

The war in Afghanistan, now in its tenth year, is at its bloodiest since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban.

The insurgency has spread to northern parts of the country, that until recently were relatively peaceful, from its heartland in the south and east.

 

Attacks during Friday prayers are relatively rare in Afghanistan. In July, a candidate for parliamentary elections was killed by a bomb planted in a mosque in eastern Khost province.

 

More than 2,000 foreign troops have been killed since the war began — over half in the last two years — and U.S. President Barack Obama and his NATO allies are under pressure at home over the increasingly unpopular war.

 


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Oprah Winfrey introduces her students to Obama


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London, Oct 08 (KATAKAMI) – Chat show queen Oprah Winfrey thrilled her students from her academy in South Africa when she introduced them to U.S President Barack Obama.
The talk show host launched the Leadership Academy for Girls near Johannesburg eight years ago to improve education for local youngsters.

And she has shown the project is still close to her heart by jetting a group of 63 students to the States to visit leading universities including Harvard and Stanford, reports the Daily star.

Winfrey even used her influence to arrange a visit to the White House to meet the president before throwing a party for the group at her estate in Santa Barbara, California, according to the Montecito Journal.

 

 

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Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo wins 2010 Nobel Peace Prize

Imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo has won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”

 

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Imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”, the Norwegian.
Nobel Committee said. Known for joining student protesters on hunger strike in 1989 only days before the army crushed the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement, Liu has frequently infuriated Chinese authorities with his criticisms of China’s one-party rule.

A former professor of literature, Liu received an eleven-year prison sentence in December 2009 for campaigning for political freedoms, including publishing online texts that were critical of China’s government. Liu’s was found guilty of “inciting subversion of state power.” The verdict was condemned by rights groups and the governments of the US and various European countries.

The dissident is well known for helping organise the Charter 08 petition, which demanded major reforms.  It was inspired by the Charter 77 petition that was a fundamental text in the human rights movement in communist Czechoslovakia in 1977. “The Chinese people have endured human rights disasters and uncountable struggles”, reads the Charter 08 text, which Liu was one of the first to sign.

A history of clashes with Chinese government

Liu has a history of clashing with the Chinese government. In 1989 he was fired from Beijing Normal University and served 20 months in prison following his participation in the Tiananmen protests. From 1996 to 1999, he spent three years in a “labour re-education” camp for having called for sweeping political reforms and the release of imprisoned Tiananmen protesters.

On June 3, 2008, the 19th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square events, Liu was interviewed by FRANCE 24. Following the interview, Liu said he was interrogated by Chinese police about the interview.

Liu was suggested for the prize by dissident playwright and former president of Czechoslovakia Vaclav Havel, and by the rights group International Pen.

Reacting to news of the prize on Friday, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying warned that relations between China and Norway would be hurt by Liu’s prize.

Imprisoned Chinese dissident Hu Jia, also known for his political activism, was considered one of the favourites for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008. In the end, it was former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari who received the prize.

Karzai Reaches Out to Taliban in New Afghan Peace Council

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, center, speaks during the inaugural session of Afghanistan’s new peace council in Kabul, Afghanistan, 7 Oct. 2010 (AP)

 

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October 08, 2010 (KATAKAMI) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai used the anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan to open the inaugural session of a peace council appointed to help reconcile with the Taliban and other militant groups.

President Karzai offered peace to the Taliban nine years to the day after U.S.-led forces began their effort to topple the group’s government in Kabul.

Mr. Karzai opened the 70-member council meeting.

The Afghan leader said he hoped the High Council for Peace will make the desire of peace and stability a reality for the nation. He said Afghanistan’s reconstruction and development are linked to peace and stability.
The council includes former Taliban officials as well as past Afghan presidents, civilian and religious leaders.
President Karzai made a special appeal to members of the Taliban in their main language, Pashto.

He called again on opposition forces, the Taliban and any Afghan citizen inside or outside of the country to use the opportunity to forge peace.

The U.S. government has expressed support for Mr. Karzai’s long-standing efforts to negotiate peace with the Taliban.

For months, there have been scattered reports that the Karzai administration has been involved in secret talks with the militant group. But the Taliban leadership officially has dismissed the possibility of reconciliation until foreign forces leave the country.

Afghan political analyst Wadir Sapai says he believes that the Taliban will accept a timeline for a coalition withdrawal only if the Afghan government meets its other basic demands, which include government recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political group with sovereignty within its regional strongholds.
Sapai says the Taliban inadvertently finds itself with allies in the current Afghan government, who are echoing its call for changes to the country’s constitution.

“Even the opposition of the present government also wants this amendment, which would be a parliamentary regime with a prime minister and limited authorities for the president,” he said.

Sapai says that a lack of trust in the Afghan government contributes to the belief that Afghanistan has lost more than it has gained after nine years of war.

“Afghanistan has lost in the security sphere, in the economic sphere, in the political sphere and also in the nation building,” he added. “Afghanistan has not gained anything for society, nothing for the peace [and] nothing for the region.”

This year has been the deadliest of the war, with more than 560 foreign troops killed. More than 2,000 foreign troops have died since 2001. As coalition and Afghan forces push deeper into Taliban-controlled territory in the south, analysts warn that the number of causalities will increase.

VOA