News roundup — April 19

New cables released by WikiLeaks reveal the United States’ heavy-handed efforts to help Israel at the U.N.

In the aftermath of Israel’s 2008-2009 intervention into the Gaza Strip, Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, led a vigorous campaign to stymie an independent U.N. investigation into possible war crimes, while using the prospect of such a probe as leverage to pressure Israel to participate in a U.S.-backed Middle East peace process, according to previously undisclosed diplomatic cables provided by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

The documents provide a rare glimpse behind the scenes at the U.N. as American diplomats sought to shield Israel’s military from outside scrutiny of its conduct during Operation Cast Lead. Their release comes as the issue is back on the front pages of Israel’s newspapers, following the surprise recent announcement by Richard Goldstone — an eminent South African jurist who led an investigation commissioned by the U.N.’s Human Rights Council — in a Washington Post op-ed that his team had unfairly accused Israel of deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians.

The new documents, though consistent with public U.S. statements at the time opposing a U.N. investigation into Israeli military operations, reveal in extraordinary detail how America wields its power behind closed doors at the United Nations. They also demonstrate how the United States and Israel were granted privileged access to highly sensitive internal U.N. deliberations on an “independent” U.N. board of inquiry into the Gaza war, raising questions about the independence of the process.

In one pointed cable, Rice repeatedly prodded U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to block a recommendation of the board of inquiry to carry out a sweeping inquiry into alleged war crimes by Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants. In another cable, Rice issued a veiled warning to the president of the International Criminal Court, Sang-Hyun Song, that an investigation into alleged Israeli crimes could damage its standing with the United States at a time when the new administration was moving closer to the tribunal. “How the ICC handles issues concerning the Goldstone Report will be perceived by many in the US as a test for the ICC, as this is a very sensitive matter,” she told him, according to a Nov. 3, 2009, cable from the U.S. mission to the United Nations. (Foreign Policy)

A West Bank anachronism

[T]he PLO is as much a part of the crumbling Arab order as any of the collapsing regimes around it; and it is now losing the last vestiges of its founding legitimacy as a product of the era of armed struggle and the contemporary national movement forged by Yasser Arafat. Today the PLO can claim no genuine representative status; (its local arm the Ramallah PA) the PA rules by decree and is sustained by a combination of foreign aid, the power of the Israeli military, and Palestinian police action on the ground; and the factions that once were a credible reflection of the Palestinian political will (such as Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) have faded into ossified insignificance, their power-sharing formula fatally compromised by the absence of Hamas.

The Gaza-West Bank split, the experience of PA rule, the failure to stem the tide of Israeli settlement, and the increasingly strident terms for any final agreement articulated by Israel have all contributed to a new popular Palestinian mood where the goal of statehood has lost most if not all its glitter and resonance. While UN recognition will undoubtedly mark an important stage in the Palestinian struggle, there is a clear and growing realisation that this will neither fulfil Palestinian national aspirations nor address the needs of significant constituencies such as the diaspora and Israel’s Arab citizens – together a majority of the Palestinian people. For those under occupation in the West Bank or besieged in Gaza, moreover, it will have no palpable effect.

What is emerging instead is a slow but sure manifestation of a new transnational movement, centred less on statehood and more on forging a national project that will traverse the existing Palestinian divides – diaspora, occupied territories and Israeli Arab citizens – and bypass the notion of an independent Palestinian state on part of Palestinian soil.

In what may be the beginnings of an unprecedented and fertile exchange of ideas, recent meetings have brought together intellectuals, opinion-formers and policymakers from the different Palestinian constituencies to review the challenges arising from the blocked prospects for negotiations and the surging revolutions changing the map of the Arab world. This has been matched by a renewed spirit of popular activism that is starting to take hold in the occupied territories, spurred and inspired by events elsewhere in the region.

What this approach, still in nascent and tentative form, reflects may be profoundly important for the future of the struggle; a move away from seeking the ever-shifting goalposts of an inevitably constrained and incomplete form of statehood that would come at the expense of equally fundamental rights to a much broader interpretation of self-determination that includes all the divergent Palestinian constituencies, and a much wider and continuing confrontation with the Zionist enterprise in Palestine. (Ahmad Samih Khalidi)

Syria meets new defiance with bullets and a warning

The government in Syria tried to placate protesters with declarations of reform Tuesday while bluntly warning its people to end more than a month of demonstrations, a now-familiar strategy in one of the Arab world’s most repressive countries that has so far failed to blunt the most serious challenge to its 40-year rule.

The mix of concession and coercion came hours after police, army and the other forces of an authoritarian state were marshaled to crush one of the biggest gatherings yet by protesters bent on staging an Egyptian-style sit-in in Homs, Syria’s third-largest city. At least two people died as security forces cleared the square, protesters said, but there were conflicting accounts on casualties.

The warning by the Interior Ministry — forbidding protests “under any banner whatsoever” — suggested that the government was prepared to escalate a crackdown, even as the promised repeal of emergency law, in place since 1963, went far in meeting at least some of the demands of protests that have mirrored uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world and reverberated across a region where Syria’s influence outstretches its relative power. The repeal must still be formally approved by Parliament or the president, but that amounts to a formality.

Since the uprising began, the government has vacillated between compromise and crackdown, a formula that proved fatal for strongmen in Tunisia and Egypt. But the combination Tuesday was most remarkable for how divergent it was. Even as protesters buried those killed in Homs, the reforms ostensibly granted civil liberties, curbed the power of police and abolished draconian courts. The reforms also legalized peaceful protests — coded language for those approved by the government — as the Interior Ministry warned that it would bring to bear the full breadth of the law against any other kind of demonstration.

“The street is in one world and the president and the regime are in another,” said Wissam Tarif, executive director of Insan, a Syrian rights group, reached by telephone.

The statements followed another government crackdown on protests, this time in Homs, an industrial city near the Lebanese border.

For days, organizers in Syria have sought to replicate the experience of Tahrir Square in Cairo, where hundreds of thousands of Egyptians gathered to demand the end of President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule. The square became symbol and instrument of the demonstrations, eventually forcing him to resign in February. Organizers envisioned as their equivalent Abbassiyeen Square, a crucial artery in the capital, Damascus, but were prevented by security forces. Some organizers said they turned instead to Homs, where funerals Monday for 14 demonstrators killed a day earlier drew thousands.

Some protesters said the security forces seemed taken aback by the crowds, which grew through the day. “A sit-in, a sit-in, until the government falls!” some shouted. Mr. Tarif cited witnesses who said protesters served tea and sandwiches as night fell, and organizers said mattresses were carted in so that protesters could serve in shifts.

Security forces made some attempts to disperse the crowds but relented until after midnight. Then, protesters said, a mix of soldiers, security forces and police officers attacked the crowd with tear gas and live ammunition after the crowds had dwindled. Videos posted on Facebook showed scenes of chaos as volleys of gunfire echoed over a square faintly lit by yellow streetlights. Mattresses were strewn across the square, where a portrait of President Bashar al-Assad superimposed on a Syrian flag read, “Yes to living together, no to strife.”

“This is reform? This is reform?” asked a protester in one of the videos. (New York Times)

Bashar al-Assad’s strategy in Syria is self-defeating

The regime’s double-edged strategy of cracking down hard on protesters (200 have reportedly died in the last month), while simultaneously promising reform, is not working.

The protesters seem undeterred by memories of the Hama massacre in 1982, which showed just how brutal this regime can be, and each new attack fuels their anger. Monday’s protest in Homs was triggered by the deaths of 17 people in a protest on Sunday – and that protest in turn had been triggered by the death in custody of a prominent tribal figure. Deaths mean funerals, funerals mean protests and protests mean more deaths.

At the same time, the regime’s efforts to blame the demonstrations on foreign conspiracies, armed gangs, sectarian elements, militant Salafists and the like, are self-defeating. Disinformation of that kind might have worked years ago when the state had total control over the media, but today its absurdity is far too obvious.

On the reform front, protesters have every reason to be sceptical of the president’s promises: they have heard it all before and won’t take it seriously unless or until it actually happens. (Brian Whitaker)

Gaddafi’s Tripoli lives under pall of fear

The armed men arrived this month, pounded on the door and took Ibrahim’s cousin away. There was not a word of explanation and not a word since about where he has been taken.

“I can’t even ask anyone where my cousin is. It’s too dangerous,” the 33-year-old told two reporters who had briefly slipped away from their government minders, on a chance encounter in the mazelike streets of Tripoli’s walled old town.

“Everyone is scared,” he added, looking furtively to the right and left, wary of government informers. “We can only talk to a few close friends. We can’t trust anyone else.”

Human rights groups say the Libyan government embarked on a systematic and widespread campaign to imprison critics in Tripoli after protests against Moammar Gaddafi’s rule erupted — and were violently put down — in February. Ibrahim’s account, and that of other Tripoli residents, suggests that the campaign is continuing this month, albeit at a slower pace.

“Gaddafi and his security forces are brutally suppressing all opposition in Tripoli, including peaceful protests, with lethal force, arbitrary arrests and forced disappearances,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Given Libya’s record of torture and political killings, we worry deeply about the fate of those taken away.”

The rebel Transitional National Council — the de facto government in eastern Libya — says 20,000 people have been “kidnapped” by the Gaddafi government and are being held in inhumane conditions in several prisons across the capital, as well as in police and army camps and in an old tobacco factory. That figure could not be independently confirmed, but Human Rights Watch said the detentions have been significant and widespread. (Washington Post)

With U.S. in support role, NATO’s Libya mission ‘going in circles’

A month ago in Libya, troops loyal to Moammar Kadafi were advancing on opposition-held areas, tens of thousands of civilians feared for their lives, and rebel forces appeared in disarray with little prospect of driving Kadafi from power.

After four weeks and hundreds of airstrikes by the U.S. and its NATO allies, in many ways little has changed.

Kadafi’s tanks and artillery no longer threaten the de facto rebel capital of Benghazi in eastern Libya, and Kadafi’s combat aircraft and helicopter gunships are grounded. But the disorganized rebel forces are still outmatched and outnumbered by Libyan army units, which, along with their leader, show no sign of giving up.

Rather, Kadafi has intensified his counteroffensive in recent days. Human rights groups accused Kadafi’s military of using cluster bombs and truck-mounted Grad rockets to bombard residential areas of Misurata, the only city in western Libya still in rebel hands.

“We rushed into this without a plan,” said David Barno, a retired Army general who once commanded U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. “Now we’re out in the middle, going in circles.” (Los Angeles Times)

A new Arab generation finds its voice

Escalating violence has tempered the regional euphoria that followed the youth-led revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. And yet, young people will continue to play an important role in the Arab Spring. This month, The New York Times interviewed more than two dozen of them, from Morocco to the West Bank, to find out how they consider their moment in history and their generation’s prospects for the future.

For those who’ve forgotten what real journalism looks like, Matt Lee provides a welcome reminder

How to save a trillion dollars

Numbers alone tell much of the story: we are now spending 50% more (even excluding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) than we did on 9/11. We are spending more on the military than we did during the Cold War, when U.S. and NATO troops stared across Germany’s Fulda Gap at a real super-power foe with real tanks and thousands of nuclear weapons aimed at U.S. cities. In fact, the U.S. spends about as much on its military as the rest of the world combined.

And yet we feel less secure. We’ve waged war nonstop for nearly a decade in Afghanistan — at a cost of nearly a half-trillion dollars — against a foe with no army, no navy and no air force. Back home, we are more hunkered down and buttoned up than ever as political figures (and eager defense contractors) have sounded a theme of constant vigilance against terrorists who have successfully struck only once. Partly as a consequence, we are an increasingly muscle-bound nation: we send $1 billion destroyers, with crews of 300 each, to handle five Somali pirates in a fiberglass skiff.

While the U.S.’s military spending has jumped from $1,500 per capita in 1998 to $2,700 in 2008, its NATO allies have been spending $500 per person over the same span. As long as the U.S. is overspending on its defense, it lets its allies skimp on theirs and instead pour the savings into infrastructure, education and health care. So even as U.S. taxpayers fret about their health care costs, their tax dollars are paying for a military that is subsidizing the health care of their European allies. (Time)

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News roundup for week ending April 15

For more on why I’m doing reduced news coverage right now, please read this post. — PW

With Tripoli’s rebel underground
He was rummaging in the boot of his car as we walked past. “Go forward,” he instructed out of the side of his mouth. “I’ll pick you up further on.”

The car circled several times before he stopped. In a snatched conversation on the phone, he told us he feared he was being watched.

Eventually he felt confident enough to draw up. “You want to go to the fish market?” he called through the lowered window. “Get in.”

No, we didn’t want to go to the fish market, but as rare and highly-restricted westerners in Tripoli, we both needed a cover story for why we were getting in a Libyan’s car.

Our contact was a middle-aged opposition activist in the heart of Muammar Gaddafi’s stronghold. Fear and danger are rife; the stakes are high.

During the course of an hour-long conversation, he told us that activists in Tripoli, frustrated by the violent suppression of peaceful protests, were now resorting to guerilla tactics to try to bring down the regime. Even suicide bombings were being considered, he said. His claims cannot be verified or properly evaluated, but they echo accounts obtained by other journalists in Tripoli, and help piece together a picture of underground opposition in the regime-held west of the country.

Our contact took us to a safe house some distance from the city centre. “I am not going to tell you my name, and I don’t want to know yours,” he said. Before we left, he insisted we delete his phone number from our mobiles.

“They are going to catch me soon,” he said with a shrug. He suspected his neighbour of being a spy for the regime – “supergrass” the word he used, reflecting his years living in the UK.

“My name is on a list. Three or four of his boys are really interested in me.” In the course of our discussion, he rarely called Gaddafi by name.

“My family don’t know about what I’m doing – even my wife,” he said. He and his fellow activists communicate using sim cards bought from migrant workers who have fled the country. They speak in code and rarely meet. They have “a few friends in Benghazi”, the heart of the rebel-held east, with whom they are in sporadic contact.

Shortly after the Libyan uprising began in the east of the country in mid-February, activists in Tripoli attempted to mount a protest in the capital’s central Green Square. It met a violent response from the regime. The rebels were forced to retreat and reconsider their tactics.

Now, the contact said, they were turning to guerrilla actions. They have attacked checkpoints across the city, killing the pro-Gaddafi militia and stealing their guns. The shooting that crackles across the city after dark, which regime officials claim is celebratory gunfire, is the work of the underground rebels, he said. “They [the regime] are covering up … Every night there are attacks. The boys [on the checkpoints] have got scared. They are only getting 40 dinars (£20) a night, and they are saying we don’t want to do this dirty work any more.” There have been fewer checkpoints since the attacks began, he claimed.

Asked how they felt about killing fellow Libyans, he replied: “If we don’t kill them, they’re going to kill us.”

The rebels, he said, were planning attacks on petrol stations. Fifteen police stations in the capital have been burned down since the uprising began, he said.

And the underground activists were preparing even bigger attacks. “People are ready for suicide bombings.” He told us the rebels were gaining access to explosives from fishermen who use dynamite to stun or kill fish to aid harvesting.

The Libyan leader himself was their number one target, he said. How would they get near him? “We will. We can get near him.” (The Guardian)

Libyan rebel chief with U.S. ties feels abandoned (McClatchy Newspapers)

ITV News goes inside Misrata’s war zone to uncover a humanitarian crisis (video)

U.S. groups helped nurture Arab uprisings
Even as the United States poured billions of dollars into foreign military programs and anti-terrorism campaigns, a small core of American government-financed organizations were promoting democracy in authoritarian Arab states.

The money spent on these programs was minute compared with efforts led by the Pentagon. But as American officials and others look back at the uprisings of the Arab Spring, they are seeing that the United States’ democracy-building campaigns played a bigger role in fomenting protests than was previously known, with key leaders of the movements having been trained by the Americans in campaigning, organizing through new media tools and monitoring elections.

A number of the groups and individuals directly involved in the revolts and reforms sweeping the region, including the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and grass-roots activists like Entsar Qadhi, a youth leader in Yemen, received training and financing from groups like the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, a nonprofit human rights organization based in Washington, according to interviews in recent weeks and American diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.

The work of these groups often provoked tensions between the United States and many Middle Eastern leaders, who frequently complained that their leadership was being undermined, according to the cables.

The Republican and Democratic institutes are loosely affiliated with the Republican and Democratic Parties. They were created by Congress and are financed through the National Endowment for Democracy, which was set up in 1983 to channel grants for promoting democracy in developing nations. The National Endowment receives about $100 million annually from Congress. Freedom House also gets the bulk of its money from the American government, mainly from the State Department.

No one doubts that the Arab uprisings are home grown, rather than resulting from “foreign influence,” as alleged by some Middle Eastern leaders.

“We didn’t fund them to start protests, but we did help support their development of skills and networking,” said Stephen McInerney, executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy, a Washington-based advocacy and research group. “That training did play a role in what ultimately happened, but it was their revolution. We didn’t start it.”

Some Egyptian youth leaders attended a 2008 technology meeting in New York, where they were taught to use social networking and mobile technologies to promote democracy. Among those sponsoring the meeting were Facebook, Google, MTV, Columbia Law School and the State Department.

“We learned how to organize and build coalitions,” said Bashem Fathy, a founder of the youth movement that ultimately drove the Egyptian uprisings. Mr. Fathy, who attended training with Freedom House, said, “This certainly helped during the revolution.”

Ms. Qadhi, the Yemeni youth activist, attended American training sessions in Yemen.

“It helped me very much because I used to think that change only takes place by force and by weapons,” she said.

But now, she said, it is clear that results can be achieved with peaceful protests and other nonviolent means.

But some members of the activist groups complained in interviews that the United States was hypocritical for helping them at the same time that it was supporting the governments they sought to change.

“While we appreciated the training we received through the NGOs sponsored by the U.S. government, and it did help us in our struggles, we are also aware that the same government also trained the state security investigative service, which was responsible for the harassment and jailing of many of us,” said Mr. Fathy, the Egyptian activist.

Interviews with officials of the nongovernmental groups and a review of diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks show that the democracy programs were constant sources of tension between the United States and many Arab governments.

The cables, in particular, show how leaders in the Middle East and North Africa viewed these groups with deep suspicion, and tried to weaken them. Today the work of these groups is among the reasons that governments in turmoil claim that Western meddling was behind the uprisings, with some officials noting that leaders like Ms. Qadhi were trained and financed by the United States.

Diplomatic cables report how American officials frequently assured skeptical governments that the training was aimed at reform, not promoting revolutions. (New York Times)

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GLOBAL BRIEFING: Obama’s former pastor speaks out

Obama’s former pastor speaks out

Summary – In the protracted and bitter contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as they seek the Democratic nomination, the subject that interests the media above all else is the controversy surrounding Mr Obama’s former pastor, the Rev Jeremiah Wright. Adding fuel to the controversy, Mr Wright has embarked on a ‘media blitz’ in order to set the record straight. Elsewhere, in Nepal the Maoists fail to win a majority in parliament but are expected to become the governing party. [complete article]

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NEWS & VIEWS ROUNDUP, EDITOR’S COMMENT & GLOBAL BRIEFING: April 28

Evidence-based bombing

It looks as if Israel may, in fact, have had reason to believe that Syria was constructing, with the aid and assistance of North Korea, a facility capable of housing a nuclear reactor. The United States Central Intelligence Agency recently released a series of images, believed to have been made from a videotape obtained from Israeli intelligence, which provide convincing, if not incontrovertible, evidence that the “unused military building” under construction in eastern Syria was, in fact, intended to be used as a nuclear reactor. Syria continues to deny such allegations as false.

On the surface, the revelations seem to bolster justification not only for the Israeli air strike of September 6 2007, which destroyed the facility weeks or months before it is assessed to have been ready for operations, but also the hard-line stance taken by the administration of President George W Bush toward both Syria and North Korea regarding their alleged covert nuclear cooperation. In the aftermath of the Israeli air strike, Syria razed the destroyed facility and built a new one in its stead, ensuring that no follow-up investigation would be able to ascertain precisely what had transpired there.

Largely overlooked in the wake of the US revelations is the fact that, even if the US intelligence is accurate (and there is no reason to doubt, at this stage, that it is not), Syria had committed no crime, and Israel had no legal justification to carry out its attack. Syria is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and under the provisions of the comprehensive safeguards agreement, is required to provide information on the construction of any facility involved in nuclear activity “as early as possible before nuclear material is introduced to a new facility”. There is no evidence that Syria had made any effort to introduce nuclear material to the facility under construction.

Editor’s Comment — If former UN weapons inspector and stalwart critic of the war in Iraq, Scott Ritter, says there’s no reason at this stage to doubt the accuracy of the intelligence on the Syrian reactor, is this enough to quieten those who seemed convinced that this must be a hoax? Maybe, maybe not.

The story at this point, as far as I’m concerned, is not about the intelligence — it’s political. And to delve into the political implications, we need to look at the context. On the one hand, the fact that this came out now clearly may have something to do with the efforts of those who want to undermine the six-party talks with North Korea. On the other hand, it may have as much to do with Israel and Syria’s moves towards peace. And while the story could have been pushed to undermine those moves, it could also have been a way of pushing the issue off the table. If at the end of the day Assad can claim victory in having reclaimed the Golan Heights, the loss of a clandestine nuclear program is one he has already had to quietly write off — it no longer risks being a knot that ties up negotiations. That isn’t to jusify Israel’s unilateralism, but it might explain, in part, why they did what they did.

Iraq’s dance: Maliki, Sadr and Sunnis

…the idea of Sadr becoming a nonviolent actor in Iraqi politics is all but gone after a month of almost daily street fighting between the Mahdi Army and Iraqi government forces backed by the Americans. Sadr appears now more than ever a militia leader, and the door allowing him to step into Green Zone deal-making seems closed. That means Sadr and his Mahdi Army are quickly becoming the major hardened mass resistance group to the Iraqi government and its U.S. supporters. Even if Maliki strikes a reconciliation deal with Sunni factions, his government will know no peace — and hold little legitimacy in the eyes of many Iraqis. In addition to commanding up to 60,000 militia fighters, Sadr has a popular following throughout southern Iraq and Baghdad. Sadr is, quite simply, the most powerful political player in the country, and any government without some meaningful inclusion of his following is unlikely to succeed in consolidating authority on a national scale.

Mccain vs. Mccain

In his speech McCain proposed that the United States expel Russia from the G8, the group of advanced industrial countries. Moscow was included in this body in the 1990s to recognize and reward it for peacefully ending the cold war on Western terms, dismantling the Soviet empire and withdrawing from large chunks of the old Russian Empire as well. McCain also proposed that the United States should expand the G8 by taking in India and Brazil—but pointedly excluded China from the councils of power.

We have spent months debating Barack Obama’s suggestion that he might, under some circumstances, meet with Iranians and Venezuelans. It is a sign of what is wrong with the foreign-policy debate that this idea is treated as a revolution in U.S. policy while McCain’s proposal has barely registered. What McCain has announced is momentous—that the United States should adopt a policy of active exclusion and hostility toward two major global powers. It would reverse a decades-old bipartisan American policy of integrating these two countries into the global order, a policy that began under Richard Nixon (with Beijing) and continued under Ronald Reagan (with Moscow). It is a policy that would alienate many countries in Europe and Asia who would see it as an attempt by Washington to begin a new cold war.

Global Briefing: Israel and Syria make moves towards peace

Summary – Israel indicates readiness to give up the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria, while Turkey offers mediation through ‘proactive peace diplomacy’. In southern Lebanon, Hizbollah expands its fighting capabilities though UN peacekeeping general is not alarmed. The Afghanistan president Karzai survives assassination attempt and is critical of US and Britain’s conduct in the war. In Zimbabwe the crackdown on the opposition continues as Robert Mugabe fails to regain control of parliament, while Angola blocks Chinese arms shipment. The economics of the global food crisis.

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GLOBAL BRIEFING: April 27

Syria ‘reactor’ claim raises doubts about N Korea pact

Summary – The US presents intelligence on Syria’s alleged nuclear reactor that was bombed by Israel last September. The finding indicates evidence of a facility designed for plutonium production, constructed with North Korean assistance. Bush administration criticised for withholding information from Congress, raising questions about the impact on six-party negotiations with North Korea on the dismantling of its nuclear program. In Iraq, the US accuses Iran of ‘lethal and malign influence’, while Muqtada al Sadr clarifies ‘open war’ and the Sunni bloc rejoins the government. [complete article]

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GLOBAL BRIEFING: April 25

Week in review

Summary – In face of criticism from the US and Israeli governments, the former US president Jimmy Carter meets the leaders of Hamas, which declares it will abide by the will of the Palestinian people if the majority supports the two-state solution. The US effort to support the Iraqi government works in Iran’s favour. Iraq’s Arab neighbours are reluctant to offer an Iran-friendly Iraqi government their political and economic support. In Zimbabwe, fears of ‘genocide’, while a Chinese weapons shipment turned away from South Africa may go back to China. [complete article]

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GLOBAL BRIEFING: April 24

Another Clinton comeback

Summary – With a ten-point victory in Pennsylvania, Hillary Clinton keeps her hopes alive, but the Democratic Party may be paying the price. Heavily outspent by her opponent, Clinton needs to raise money fast to keep her campaign afloat. In Pakistan, a senior ally of Musharraf says Pakistan has been blamed for Nato’s failures in Afghanistan, while UK offers cautious support for new government’s plans for dialogue with tribal militants. UN warns global food crisis is a ‘silent tsunami.’ [complete article]

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