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Daily Archives: 10/29/2010

EU: Iran Ready to Resume Nuclear Talks

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton delivers a speech at the European Parliament  16 June 2010
EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton (file photo)

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October 29, 2010 (KATAKAMI / VOA) — The European Union’s foreign policy chief says Iran is ready to resume talks about its nuclear program.

Catherine Ashton told reporters in Brussels Friday that she received a letter from Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, saying he is prepared to restart talks after November 10.

Ashton called the offer an “important development.”

The EU foreign policy chief had proposed meeting with Jalili in mid-November on behalf of the P5 + 1, which includes Germany and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

The Security Council has imposed four sets of sanctions on Iran for its refusal to stop enriching uranium, which can be used to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.

Report: Israel, U.S. discuss land lease

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JERUSALEM, Oct. 29 (KATAKAMI / UPI) — Israel and the United States are conducting secret talks on future borders of a Palestinian state, Ash-Sharq al-Awsat reported Friday.

“We are conducting intense negotiations with the U.S. administration in an effort to resume direct talks with the Palestinians,” Ophir Gendelman, head of Israel’s Foreign Ministry Arabic media department, told the Arabic daily.

The two sides are discussing the option that Israel will lease land in East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley from the future Palestinian state for 40 to 99 years, the report said.

The report was confirmed by Palestinian sources, who said the idea was an American initiative aimed at obtaining an understanding with Israel over the future Palestinian state, Haaretz said.

The sources said the talks are being conducted in secret in an effort to save the peace process.

The Israeli daily said U.S. and Israeli government officials declined to comment on the report.

An Egyptian source told Ash-Sharq al-Aswat the Palestinian Authority was informed only recently of the substance of the talks.

 

(MS)

Report says PM Netanyahu mulling freeze

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends an award ceremony for outstanding new immigrant scientists at Tel Aviv University on October 26, 2010. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

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JERUSALEM, Oct. 29 (KATAKAMI / UPI) — Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wants to extend a West Bank building freeze but lacks government support to do so, sources told The Jerusalem Post.

Despite his efforts, Netanyahu has failed to garner the necessary support to extend a building freeze, a move that would help to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, a report in Post said.

The report said that, until now, the prime minister has failed to give any indication concerning his views on extending the freeze and whether he will bring it up for a vote before the Cabinet.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has insisted that no progress will be made in peace negotiations unless Israel imposes a freeze on building in West Bank settlements.

A 10-month freeze imposed by the Israeli government in an effort to move the peace process forward expired Sept. 26.

‘Israel hogging Gaza water sources’

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October 29, 2010 (KATAKAMI / PRESSTV.IR) — More than 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip lack access to basic humanitarian supplies such as shortage of water resources.

Many Palestinians are forced to purchase bottled water for their daily needs, as water coming from their taps has run dry, a Press TV correspondent reported on Thursday.

The Gaza aquifer is the only source of water for residents of Gaza. Reports show that 90 percent of its water is not suitable for human consumption due to high levels of nitrate and salinity.

In an interview with Press TV, public health coordinator Tracey Wise said, “Because of such limited amounts of water in Gaza that’s acceptable for human consumption, mostly this is the shallow, coastal aquifer, and this aquifer is being over-pumped, so much water is being taken out to supply the needs of Gazans, that you have much more intrusion of sea water.”

“And then also you have upwelling of this very, very old water that has high salinity and high concentrations of other pollutants,” she added.

Meanwhile, Israel has installed huge pumping stations all along the shared border, diverting water before it reaches the aquifer of Gaza.

Israel has imposed a blockade on the region since June 2007, preventing the entry of hundreds of items, including essential industrial materials needed to repair the water infrastructure.

During the Gaza war, bombs completely destroyed three water wells and much of the water system infrastructure in Gaza.

The Coastal Municipal Water Utility (CMWU) has reported Israel’s daily water consumption per capita at around 320 liters while the consumption of Palestinians in Gaza is less than 90 liters.

“We need to start to think about unconventional water sources, [such as] the sea, along with other solutions,” said CMWU Director Munzer Shuplaq.

According to recent statistics conducted by CMWU, residents of the coastal enclave will not find healthy water to drink by the year 2015.

(MS)

PM David Cameron defends EU budget agreement

British Prime Minister David Cameron gestures while speaking during a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, Oct. 29, 2010. EU leaders on Friday agreed on tougher rules for spendthrift nations whose overspending threatens Europe's single currency and risks triggering a debt crisis. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert / Getty Images)

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October 29, 2010 (KATAKAMI/ BBC) — UK PM David Cameron says he has protected British taxpayers by putting the spotlight on reining in EU budget “excesses” at a Brussels summit.

He has been accused of “grandstanding” after saying he wanted the 2001 budget frozen, then agreeing to a 2.9% rise.

He said he had won agreement from 12 EU leaders that the rise should not exceed 2.9%, amid calls for a 5.9% rise.

Labour said his strategy had been a “complete failure” and some Eurosceptic Tories wanted a budget freeze or cut.

‘Stopped juggernaut’

Mr Cameron is in Brussels for a two-day summit, where EU leaders have been discussing measures to avert another financial crisis within the eurozone.

But separately he has been pressing the case for limiting the EU’s budget, arguing against a 5.9% rise for 2011 backed by the European Parliament and European Commission.

In a press conference at the close of the summit, Mr Cameron said he had made “a real difference” by putting the 2011 budget on the agenda and persuading other states to reject the “crazy” higher budget rise – which he said was now “dead”.

While he had wanted a freeze in the 2011 EU budget, he said had been “looking down the barrel of a potential 6% increase” and his aim had been to stop it adding: “We have succeeded quite spectacularly, we put together a big alliance to stop that juggernaut of 6% in its tracks.”

Mr Cameron said he had inherited a “budget deal completely out of touch with the economic situation we face across Europe” but “as a result of Britain’s intervention the spotlight has now shifted to reining in the excesses of the EU budget”.

Of the 2.9% rise – which will cost the UK an extra £450m a year – he added: “I’m not pretending that is a giant Eldorado of a goldmine for the British public what it is is a lot better than what we were looking at and the key point is, it wouldn’t have happened without our action.”

He also said he had secured an agreement that from now on the EU budget “will reflect the spending cuts being made by national governments” – adding: “This is, I think, incredibly important, it will have a direct impact on the pocket of the UK taxpayer back at home. It is a significant prize.”

‘Could do better’

Mr Cameron also said, although final decisions were not taken this week, EU leaders had endorsed a “full British opt out” for the UK on strengthened enforcement measures for EU states – aimed at avoiding another financial crisis in the eurozone.

He said eurozone countries would simply formalise arrangements to bail each other out in a crisis – something that would protect British taxpayers.

Last week Mr Cameron said he was calling for “a cash freeze in the size of the EU budget for 2011”. But on Thursday his officials briefed that he had accepted a freeze was not possible.

On Thursday Downing Street said the UK prime minister had “delivered an important first step towards ensuring the EU gets a grip on its finances for the future” by securing agreement from other EU states, including Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and the Czech Republic, to limit the rise to 2.9% – the amount agreed by the EU Council of Ministers in August.

But Labour – and Eurosceptics in Mr Cameron’s own party – have questioned whether it was much of an achievement.

Conservative MEP Roger Helmer told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think we could have done better, I think we should have done better. Only two days ago we were talking about a freeze or even a cut and yet here we are rolling over – 2.9% is no great achievement, it’s the position that the Council held beforehand.”

He said Mr Cameron should have used German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s desire for agreement for treaty changes as leverage to secure more concessions on the budget – and on repatriating powers to the UK.

“We should exercise the power of the purse and say: ‘I’m sorry, we are not going to pay’.”

And shadow foreign secretary Yvette Cooper said: “David Cameron’s grandstanding has been a complete failure. European governments decided on 2.9% in August so he has achieved absolutely nothing.

“He’s tried to swing his handbag but simply ended up clobbering himself in the face.”

 

(MS)

Queen Elizabeth II Sends Condolences to Indonesia

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II ( Photo : Getty Images / AP Photo/Geoff Pugh, pool)

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October 29, 2010 (KATAKAMI / THE JAKARTA GLOBE) — Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, has sent a letter of condolence to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Friday, the British Embassy said in a press release.

“I was saddened to hear of the loss of life caused by the tsunami on 26 October, the eruption of Mount Merapi volcano and floods and landslides across Indonesia this month. My thoughts and sincere condolences are with you and the people of Indonesia,” the queen said in her letter.

First joint U.S.-Russian drugs operation in Afghanistan yields good results

Viktor Ivanov, the head of Russia's Federal Anti-Narcotics Committee

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October 29, 2010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Russian and U.S. drug control services have carried out their first joint anti-narcotics operation in Afghanistan, destroying four major drug laboratories, the head of Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service said on Friday.

Viktor Ivanov, the head of Russia’s Federal Anti-Narcotics Committee, said during a joint press conference with Deputy Head of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Russia Eric Rubin that the operation destroyed four drug labs in Afghanistan on the border with Pakistan.

“The operation began on October 28 at 6:30 a.m. and four drug laboratories were destroyed by 10:20 a.m.,” Ivanov said, adding the joint operation was carried out by a total of 70 personnel.

Ivanov had no information on casualties or the number of detained during the operation.

The operation, which took three months of planning, destroyed three heroin labs, including one large drug hub near the village of Achin, and one morphine lab.

Ivanov praised joint efforts by Russian and U.S. anti-drug services and said the effective work of a Russian-U.S. presidential commission in the sphere of drug trafficking was a good example of a “reset” in relations between the two countries.

He said 932 kilograms (more than 2,000 pounds) of high quality heroin and 156 kilograms (344 pounds) of opium was seized, or 200 million doses with an estimated value of $250 million.

Rubin also praised the results of the operation.

“This investigation is a very concrete example of real cooperation,” he said. “We cannot succeed alone. This was the first step and we will continue to destroy labs.”

Rubin said that one of the main goals of U.S.-Russian operations in Afghanistan was to “identify, disrupt, and destroy the drug trade.”

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev emphasized last year that the creation of a joint mission on the fight against drug production and trafficking in Afghanistan “should not consist of just commissions and reports, but of concrete results,” Rubin said.

However, Ivanov also admitted that “drug infrastructure in Afghanistan is expanding.”

He said the number of drug laboratories in the country has increased by almost 2.5 times in the past two years, from 175 in 2008 to 425 in 2010.

Ivanov said that drug cartels similar to those in Mexico have appeared in Afghanistan and the transit countries of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Afghan drug production increased dramatically after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban in 2001, and Russia has been one of the most affected countries, with heroin consumption rising steeply.

Ivanov said approximately 65% of Afghanistan’s opium crops are grown in the Helmand Province, one of the most volatile regions in the country, adding that farmers make “around $70 a year by cultivating opium, much more than for growing wheat.”

An estimated 90 percent of heroin consumed in Russia is trafficked from Afghanistan via Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

MOSCOW, October 29 (RIA Novosti)

France ready to build first Mistral warship for Russia in 2013

Mistral class helicopter carrier

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October 29, 2010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — If Moscow and Paris sign a contract to build Mistral class helicopter carriers for Russia, the first warship may be built in 2013, a top manager of French STX Europe shipbuilder said on Friday.

The shipyards of Saint-Nazaire are seen as the most likely winner in a tender to build amphibious assault warships for the Russian Navy.

“If Russia and France sign the deal, the first Mistral-class vessel may be built in the shipyards of Saint-Nazaire in late 2013-early 2014,” said Jacques Hardelay, STX Europe president for operations in France.

He said the shipyards of Saint-Nazaire are able to build two Mistral class warships simultaneously.

“If the contract is signed, then in one year, namely in 2015, Russia would get a second Mistral class warship. Therefore, by 2016 the Russian Navy would have two Mistral class warships,” Hardelay said.

“As soon as the contract is signed, we would propose to our Russian colleagues to produce certain components for the first two ships to be built in France. There won’t be many [components to be produced] for the first ship, but many more for the second,” the official added.

Russia will be able to build its first domestically-produced Mistral class amphibious assault ships in late 2016 or early 2017.

LE BOURGET, October 29 (RIA Novosti)

Mentawai ( Indonesia) : Rescuers Race Against Time, Bad Weather, as Death Toll Rises

Members of the Indonesian army and rescue team carry the bodies of victims of an earthquake and tsunami in the coastal village of Purourougat in Mentawai District, West Sumatra October 28, 2010. A tsunami and a volcanic eruption in Indonesia have killed more than 300 people with over 400 missing and tens of thousands displaced, authorities said on Wednesday. (Getty Images / REUTERS/Stringer )

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October 29, 2010 Mentawai (KATAKAMI / THE JAKARTA GLOBE) — The death toll following the tsunami that hit the Mentawai Islands in West Sumatra on Monday climbed to almost 400 on Friday morning, as rescuers continued to race against time and unfavorable weather conditions to evacuate survivors and locate missing victims.

According to the Disaster Relief Operational Control Center, at least 50 more bodies were unearthed in the islands of North and South Pagai, bringing the total casualties to at least 394 people. At least 338 people are still missing.

Zulhendri, a coordinator at the West Sumatra chapter of the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI), said that many victims are still virtually untouched by relief aid, particularly at the southern tip of South Pagai, just 50 kilometers away from the epicenter of the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that triggered the three-meter high waves.

“Our volunteers tried to reach the locations by boat [on Thursday afternoon], but they were forced to return due to bad weather and rough waves. Their boat nearly capsized. Thank God they survived the weather,” Zulhendri said.

“We will try to reach remote areas in [South Pagai] island again on Friday,” he added.

The islands are sparsely populated, with less than 50 people per square kilometer, forcing rescuers to cover vast areas in search of survivors. The majority of homes in fishing villages were destroyed by the giant waves that swept 600 people inland.

“Coordination is difficult because communication is limited,” said Surung Sinaga, chairman of the West Sumatra Disaster Relief Ageny (BPBD). “We are trying to evacuate those who are gravely injured from the disaster and get them to a nearby hospital and health center.”

Surung added that there were at least 23,000 refugees who have been evacuated, most of whom are now living in the town of Sikakap, where aid and volunteers are being coordinated.

 

(MS)

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad : PA will declare independent state in August 2011

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad

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October 29, 2010 (KATAKAMI / JPOST) — Palestinian Authority PM tells Italian newspaper: “The youngest olive trees have deeper roots than the largest Israeli settlement.”

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said the PA will declare an independent Palestinian state in 2011, while picking olives with a reporter from Italian daily Corriere Della Sera, according to an interview published on Thursday.

“The deadline is next summer, when the Israeli occupation of the West Bank must end,” Fayyad said. “In 2011, we will celebrate 66 years of the United Nations and the United Nations will celebrate the birth of our nation.”

Fayyad added that the Palestinians “need to build national institutions in the West Bank and prepare for an independent Palestinian state.”

“The people of Gaza must be involved in our national project,” Fayyad explained. “There are gaps between us, it’s true, but the real gap is the wall that closes off the Strip. Next week, I will try to enter Gaza,” he added.

Fayyad took the Corriere Della Sera reporter to pick olives, something that he says he does every day. He also lamented the settlers’ “poisoning” of the trees, saying olive trees are “the symbol of our right to be on this earth.”

“In Palestine we have 15 million” olive trees, Fayyad said. “We can not accept that even one is destroyed. The youngest of these trees have deeper roots than the largest Israeli settlement.”

Fayyad also expressed anger at the end of the settlement building moratorium.

“Look at those houses up there in Shiloh,” he said, “they are illegal not because I say so, but in international law. Israel considers UN resolutions as mere recommendations.”

The Palestinian prime minister said that he will give Israel “one more year of grace…but these colonies can no longer be there. They are illegal everywhere; here and Jerusalem.”

“If it is true that Israel is interested in peace, it must block” the settlers, Fayyad said.

On Tuesday, Fayyad went olive-picking with UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry. Serry expressed his support for an declaration of Palestinian statehood by August 2011.

Netanyahu: Direct talks are only path to true Mideast peace

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo by REUTERS/Baz Ratner / Getty Images)

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October 29, 2010 (KATAKAMI / HAARETZ) — PM’s comment comes after Abbas says considering appeal to UN Security Council to approve unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood.

Direct peace talks are the only path to achieve genuine Middle East peace, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement on Thursday, hours after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinians were considering a unilateral declaration of statehood.

Netanyahu has refused to extend a 10-month moratorium on new West Bank settlement housing starts that expired on September 26, with Abbas saying he won’t resume the talks without an extension on the building curbs.

Earlier Thursday, in a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Palestinian Authority president hinted that the Palestinians would try to persuade the United States to recognize a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, if Israel kept up its refusal to freeze settlements.
“For now, we are focusing on the first option [negotiations],” Abbas said.

In a statement released later Thursday, Netanyahu said Israel expected the “Palestinians to live up to their obligations by holding serious direct negotiations, without malice and without preconditions.”

“Any attempt to bypass direct talks by appealing to international bodies will do nothing to advance the true peace process,” the PM’s statements said, adding that the two peoples could achieve “a secure and stable peace solely through direct negotiations, a path I hope we shall return to in full force soon.”

UN diplomats, responding to Abbas’ threat of a unilateral declaration, said earlier this week that such a move would represent a severe strategic error on Abbas’ side, calling Palestinian hopes of a possible U.S. abandonment of its traditional support of Israel UN Security Council a “wild dream.”

“Even a hostile U.S. president won’t free the UNSC floor to anti-Israel moves,” a senior diplomat said, adding that the Americans would do “anything to thwart an initiative such as a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood.”

The diplomat added that a UNSC approval of such a move would “be the equivalent of declaring war on Israel, and the United States would prevent that at any cost. U.S. support of Israel is part of its DNA.”

Earlier Thursday, Aboul Gheit indicated that U.S. efforts to restart Mideast peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have not produced results so far, saying that his government was continuing its contacts with the U.S. and Israel, but that “up to now, the necessary breakthrough did not take place.”

Egypt, the first Arab country to reach peace with Israel, wields considerable influence in the Arab world and serves as an important mediator between Israel and the Palestinians.

Aboul Gheit said Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Uzi Arad, recently held talks with Egyptian officials.

“During the meeting, Egypt confirmed its … support for the Palestinian demand,” Aboul Gheit told the news conference.

In response to Aboul Gheit’s remarks regarding the apparent lack of peace talks progress White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday that the settlements “is a very difficult issue. It is – it’s one that has been with us for decades, and we are trying to make some slow progress on it.”

The White House official added that there were “are a series of very tough issues that have to be addressed between the two sides as we move forward, adding that the United States was continuing “to work.”

“There are no guarantees in this process. We do know this: That the process works best and has its maximum of working if the United States is actively engaged in the process of bringing these two parties and these two sides together,” Gibbs said, adding that the sides aren’t going “to make progress if the United States is not involved.”

“That’s why the president has dedicated such time to trying to bring about a two-state solution to, again, a problem that has been very, very difficult,” Gibbs said, adding that Washington “started this process, again, at the beginning of his administration, and even in the talks that were held here, with no illusions that this one was going to be the easy problem that we’d picked to solve.”

PM Netanyahu: Settlement building won’t affect final status peace deal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

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October 29, 2010 (KATAKAMI / HAARETZ) — PM’s remarks comes as Palestinians consider UN Security Council vote on unilateral declaration of statehood if Israel does not halt recently resumed settlement construction.

West Bank settlement construction will not affect the final status peace deal between Israel and a future Palestinian state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday, adding that he felt the settlement issue wasn’t an obstacle to continued peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.

The premier had refused to extend a 10-month moratorium on new West Bank settlement housing that expired on September 26, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas saying he won’t resume the talks without an extension on the building curbs.

Earlier Thursday, Abbas hinted that the Palestinians would try to persuade the United States to recognize a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, if Israel kept up its refusal to freeze settlements.

“For now, we are focusing on the first option [negotiations],” Abbas said.

Speaking after a meeting with U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman on Thursday, Netanyahu seemingly rejected the Palestinian stance, saying the settlement issue was “not substantial” and that construction in the settlements “will not influence the peace map.”

In a statement released by the premier’s office earlier Thursday, Netanyahu also seemingly related to the tacit PA threat of unilateral statehood, saying he expected the “Palestinians to live up to their obligations by holding serious direct negotiations, without malice and without preconditions.”

“Any attempt to bypass direct talks by appealing to international bodies will do nothing to advance the true peace process,” the PM’s statements said, adding that the two peoples could achieve “a secure and stable peace solely through direct negotiations, a path I hope we shall return to in full force soon.”

Referring to the impasse in Middle East peace talks, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday that the settlements “is a very difficult issue. It is – it’s one that has been with us for decades, and we are trying to make some slow progress on it.”

The White House official added that there were “are a series of very tough issues that have to be addressed between the two sides as we move forward, adding that the United States was continuing “to work.”

“There are no guarantees in this process. We do know this: That the process works best and has its maximum of working if the United States is actively engaged in the process of bringing these two parties and these two sides together,” Gibbs said, adding that the sides aren’t going “to make progress if the United States is not involved.”

“That’s why the president has dedicated such time to trying to bring about a two-state solution to, again, a problem that has been very, very difficult,” Gibbs said, adding that Washington “started this process, again, at the beginning of his administration, and even in the talks that were held here, with no illusions that this one was going to be the easy problem that we’d picked to solve.”

Medvedev, Obama to meet next month in Japan

(FILE) US President Barack Obama (R) and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev walk across Lafayette Square, from the White House to the US Chamber of Commerce, June 24, 2010 in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. The two leaders were walking to the US Chambers of Commerce to attend the US - Russia Business Summit. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

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October 29010 MOSCOW (KATAKAMI / ChannelNewsAsia.Com)  — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his US counterpart Barack Obama will hold talks on the sidelines of an APEC summit in Japan next month, the Kremlin said Thursday.

“The Russian and American presidents will have a full meeting on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Yokohama in Japan on November 13-14,” a statement said without giving further details.

The two leaders will travel to Japan after attending a Group of 20 economic summit in South Korea on November 11-12.

At the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit the 21 members are expected to again talk about the tricky issue of opening up their markets to each other.

Although APEC has made little headway for years in creating a free trade zone in the dynamic Pacific Rim region, a US-backed initiative that started five years ago with a group of small economies is gaining momentum.

Obama will meet Chinese President Hu Jintao in South Korea on November 11 ahead of the G20 summit as Sino-US economic tensions flare and territorial rows fester between Beijing and its neighbours.

White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said that Obama’s relationship with Medvedev was one of the “closest and most active” with any foreign leader.

“They’ll have an opportunity to discuss a number of issues, including the progress that’s been made recently in terms of US support for Russia’s entry into the WTO, as well as our ongoing cooperation on issues like non-proliferation, nuclear security, and other security issues,” Rhodes said.

UK Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell responds to the natural disasters in Indonesia

UK Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell

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October 29, 2010 (KATAKAMI / UK EMBASSY IN INDONESIA) — UK Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell said:

“Our sympathies go out to those affected by these disasters.  We are in close contact with the Government of Indonesia and stand ready to help if necessary.”

(MS)

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan offers condolences over Indonesian disasters

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan extended deep condolences over consecutive natural disasters which had hit Indonesia in the past few weeks, thus causing a big number of casualties on the people. (Photo by JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)

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October 29, 2010 Jakarta (KATAKAMI / ANTARA News) – Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan extended deep condolences over consecutive natural disasters which had hit Indonesia in the past few weeks, thus causing a big number of casualties on the people.

Indonesia, this month, was already hit by three devastating disasters of Wasior flash flood in West Papua, followed by an earthquake-triggered tsunami in Mentawai district, West Sumatra, then volcanic eruption in less than 24 hours in Central Java.

“I really feel sad when hearing many victims were killed and many of residents in the affected areas are in a state of difficulty resulting from quake happening on October 25, in Mentawai and eruption of Mount Merapi in Central Java which had been started on October 26, a release from the Japanese embassy made available to ANTARA said here on Thursday.

The Japanese Prime Minister also said his country was available to provide such maximal aid to the families of the disaster.

In addition, Australia was reported to provide up to $1 million of emergency assistance to help Indonesia in the wake of two devastating disasters, according to the Australian Embassy here in its wesite on Thursday.

Australia regretted the loss of life and damaged caused by the tsunami and earthquake in Mentawai and the volcanic eruption on Mount Merapi.

Australia`s Charge d`Affaires to Indonesia Paul Robilliard said that Australia stands ready to provide further assistance should Indonesia require additional support and is monitoring the situation closely.

“Australia is always keen to assist Indonesia in times of need. We are working with our Indonesian counterparts to quickly and precisely respond to these disasters,” Robilliard said.

Australia`s initial support package will consist of funding to SurdAid for assessment, relief and recovery activities to the Mentawai Islands, the Indonesian community organisations Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah to help local communities recover following the eruption, and the Indonesian Red Cross for humanitarian assistance in the Mentawai Islands and Mount Merapi area.

On 26 October 2010 Indonesia reported that a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the Mentawai Islands, shortly followed by a tsunami. On the next day, a volcanic eruption on Mount Merapi occurred near Yogyakarta. These disasters caused a number of deaths and injuries.

Indonesia volcano erupts again

Mount Merapi volcano releases lava for the first time since its latest round of activity began earlier this week taken from Cangkringan, Sleman on October 29, 2010. The volcano that erupted on October 26 and killed 32 people earlier this week spewed ash and lava early on October 29, with government volcanologists saying the activity was not a fresh eruption and could help to stabilize the mountain following its series of deadly eruptions. (Photo by ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)

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October 29, 2010 (KATAKAMI / CNN) — Indonesia’s Mount Merapi volcano erupted again Friday, sending a plume about 1,500 meters (4,921 feet) above the mountaintop, an extreme weather chaser said.

Ash drifted to the south after the eruption about 10 a.m. local time, weather chaser James Reynolds said.

Residents started streaming down the mountain, heading for safer ground. Some were being evacuated after having already returned home following eruptions earlier in the week, observers from the Volcanology Agency near Merapi said.

No injuries or deaths were immediately reported Friday.

The volcano killed at least 32 people when it exploded earlier in the week, medical officials said.

Rescue and recovery efforts continue to unfold, with the Indonesian government scrambling to help tens of thousands of residents displaced by the eruption.

Mount Merapi, which looms on the horizon north of the major city of Yogyakarta, is one of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes and lies in one of the world’s most densely populated areas. The volcano has a summit elevation of nearly 10,000 feet (3,000 meters).

Hundreds of displaced residents have crammed a small government building in Yogyakarta. Many had fled with only the clothes on their backs.

Some residents refused to flee, holding out to watch over their crops and livestock. Some residents awaited word from the traditional gatekeeper of Mount Merapi. But Maradjin, the gatekeeper, fell victim to the volcano as well.

He was buried Thursday. He died in his 80s, after being appointed about two decades ago by the last Sultan of Java.

Hundreds paid their respects as Maradjin was buried in the volcano’s shadow, along with two other people who died with him.

The revered elder had refused to leave the mountain, even as it rumbled.

Maradjin, whose father was gatekeeper before him, spent decades guarding the volcano and trying to appease its spirits with offerings.

“Merapi is a house of spirits, which also means a living mountain,” Maradjin told CNN in a 2006 interview. “When Merapi emits smoke, we have to be respectful.”

Photostream : Indonesia’s Mount Merapi volcano spewed ash and lava again early on Friday

Lava flows again from the crater of Mount Merapi as seen from Cangkringan, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, early Friday, Oct. 29, 2010. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)

Mount Merapi volcano releases lava for the first time since its latest round of activity began earlier this week taken from Cangkringan, Sleman on October 29, 2010. The volcano that erupted on October 26 and killed 32 people earlier this week spewed ash and lava early on October 29, with government volcanologists saying the activity was not a fresh eruption and could help to stabilize the mountain following its series of deadly eruptions. AFP PHOTO / ADEK BERRY (Photo by ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)

Mount Merapi spews volcanic materials as seen from Kaliadem, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Oct. 29, 2010. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Irwin Fedriansyah)

Residents weep as they watch Mount Merapi erupting from a temporary shelter for those who are displaced by the volcano's eruption in Umbulharjo, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Oct. 29, 2010. (Getty Images /AP Photo/Irwin Fedriansyah)

Residents watch Mount Merapi erupting from a temporary shelter for those who are displaced by the volcano's eruption in Umbulharjo, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Oct. 29, 2010. (Getty Images / AP Photo/Irwin Fedriansyah)