Category: World Politics

ICC Continues to Target Sudanese President

The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court continues to target Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. He accused him of siphoning off up to $9 billion of his country’s funds. Luis Moreno Ocampo, the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC previously charged Mr Bashir with crimes against humanity in March 2009 based on which the ICC issued an arrest warrant on Bashir, a working president of the independent sovereign country, Sudan.

BBC News reported that Moreno’s allegation of siphoning off funds had originally become knownOmar al-Bashir after Wikileaks revelation. He said the court had "strong reason to believe that Bashir has a lot of money" held in personal accounts outside Sudan – but that he could not be sure of the precise amount, with estimates ranging from hundreds of millions of dollars up to $9bn.

In the leaked diplomatic cable, US diplomats report Mr Ocampo as saying that "Lloyd’s Bank in London might be holding or knowledgeable of the whereabouts of his money". However, Lloyd’s has denied holding any funds in Mr Bashir’s name, and in his BBC interview, Mr Ocampo agreed that the money was not held in a London account.

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U.S. gets tough to make Europe yield IMF power

Reuters | Aug 20, 2010 | 2:55pm IST

The United States has taken unprecedented action at the International Monetary Fund to try to force Europe to give some of its power on the IMF board to emerging economies. The United States, frustrated at Europe’s refusal to share more power, this month declined to back a resolution that would have maintained European dominance over the 24-member board, diplomats from several IMF members countries told Reuters. Washington has long pushed, unsuccessfully, to reduce the number of IMF board seats from 24 to 20 as part of broader reforms that would give rising economic powers a bigger say in IMF decisions, reflecting their growing global clout. Europe has balked at the idea of yielding the nine chairs it currently occupies on the board. Emerging economies like Turkey have expressed interest in a seat on the IMF board. European countries and the United States dominate the IMF in a reflection of the post-World War II order which is being challenged by the rise of nations such as China.

The board is one of the global lender’s main decision-making bodies. It has approved billions of dollars in emergency loans for countries hit by the global financial crisis and oversees the way the Fund is run. Domenico Lombardi, a former IMF board director, said the U.S. action, at an Aug. 6 meeting of the IMF board, reflected frustrations with Europe not only over Fund governance but on broader economic matters.Those issues include differences over new liquidity rules for global banks and Europe’s emphasis on fiscal austerity while Washington stresses the need to ensure economic recovery before belt tightening. The United States has not previously flexed its muscles in such an overt way. “Secretary (Timothy) Geithner supports reforming the IMF executive board to make it better reflect the realities of today’s global economy and ensure that the representation of emerging market and developing countries is strengthened,” a Treasury official said. Continue reading

Aid group doubts Afghan Taliban killed medical team

Reuters | Aug 9, 2010 | 7:24pm IST

An international Christian aid group on Monday played down claims by the Taliban they had killed 10 members from one of the group’s medical teams, saying it was still unclear who was responsible. Dirk Frans, executive director of the International Assistance Mission (IAM), also told a news conference that an Afghan driver who was with the team was in custody at the Interior Ministry in Kabul. He did did not say if the driver, identified only as Safiullah, was a suspect. “Safiullah is in Kabul at Ministry of Interior facilities,” Frans said, adding he had been able to speak with him briefly. “He sounded quite okay. He is one of the witnesses, he is not the only witness. I know his relatives have had access to him.” An Interior Ministry spokesman was not immediately available to comment.

Frans’s comments, casting doubt about whether the Taliban were behind the attack, were in contrast to a statement by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton which directly blamed the Islamist group for what she described as a “despicable act of wanton violence”. On Saturday, the Taliban claimed responsibility for Thursday’s killings, saying the medical workers had been carrying bibles in Dari — one of Afghanistan’s two main languages — and were killed because they were promoting Christianity. Another Islamist group also said it had carried out the attack. But Frans said local police had initially raised the possibility of bandits, adding the team’s valuables were stolen. “There are very confusing reports,” he said, adding both Afghan and U.S. authorities are investigating the incident. “If armed opposition claims an attack it is (usually) within hours of it happening. That was not the case this time,” Frans said, playing down the Taliban’s claim.  Continue reading

Mia Farrow contradicts Naomi Campbell at war crimes trial

Deutsche Welle | 09/08/2010

It may sound like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster, but the drama is being played out at a trial in The Hague against former Liberian president Charles Taylor. On Monday actress Mia Farrow gave evidence at the trial. US actress Mia Farrow testified on Monday that model Naomi Campbell said she got a “huge diamond” from men sent by former Liberian president Charles Taylor. Speaking before the court in The Hague, Farrow contradicted parts of evidence given by Campbell last week. “What I remember is Naomi Campbell … said that in the night she had been awakened, some men were knocking at the door,” Farrow said. “They had been sent by Charles Taylor and they were giving a huge diamond.” Naomi Campbell was pressed on this issue by the prosecution in court last week. Campbell said she had received some “dirty stones” after a dinner hosted by Nelson Mandela in South Africa in 1997, but she did not know who had sent them.

‘Dirty-looking stones’ or ‘a huge diamond’?

Prosecutors are trying to link Charles Taylor to so-called “blood diamonds,” illegal uncut diamonds used by rebel groups to finance wars. Naomi Campbell gave evidence at the trial last week. Taylor is accused of 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity during Sierra Leone’s civil war. He denies the charges. Farrow was pressed by the prosecution over whose suggestion it was that Taylor was involved in presenting the supermodel with the diamonds. “Only hers [Campbell’s]. I didn’t know anything about it,” Farrow replied.  Continue reading

EXCLUSIVE – Fight between U.S. and Brazil threatens trade (A must read)

EXCLUSIVE – Fight between U.S. and Brazil threatens trade | Reuters  Aug 5, 2010 | 6:00pm IST

The road to rock bottom for relations between Brazil and the United States, a dispute that now threatens business ties between the two Western Hemisphere economic giants, began in Brasilia in March. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was trying to convince Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to drop or postpone his controversial efforts to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran, and support a new round of sanctions instead. Lula refused. Then, he dropped a diplomatic bombshell, telling Clinton he was worried Iran would become another Iraq — that is, that the United States was on a path to war, according to sources familiar with the exchange. Clinton bristled, replying that Lula wasn’t taking into account the fact that Barack Obama was now president, rather than George W. Bush, the sources said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks. The meeting ended badly. Two months later, Lula was standing in Tehran alongside Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, trumpeting a fuel swap deal for Iran’s nuclear program — an agreement that was immediately ignored by the United States and most other major world powers, who pursued sanctions anyway. Today, the fallout from Iran remains worse than either side will acknowledge publicly.

Brazilian officials complain in private that their good-faith efforts to broker a peace deal were brushed aside, with little regard for Brazil’s status as an emerging power. Meanwhile, officials in Washington are angry that an ostensible regional ally interfered on an issue they feel is one of the biggest long-term threats to global security. The bottom line, and the issue of most concern to investors, is that there is now a real risk of a longer-term drift between Brazil and the United States that could have a negative effect on bilateral trade and business. “I worry about it,” Representative Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs subcommittee that covers Latin America, said in an interview. “I think it’s Lula’s policy to try and push the countries apart. He wants the U.S. to be less influential.” Nerves between the two countries were already raw following other disputes including a narrowly averted trade war this spring over U.S. cotton subsidies; differences over the handling of last year’s coup in Honduras; and the disappointing outcome of the climate summit in Copenhagen in December. The clashes have been especially disappointing since both sides had anticipated improved ties under Obama, who made a point of fawning over Lula last year, calling him “my man” and “the most popular politician on earth.” These days, an upper-level source in Brasilia described the chill in bilateral ties this way: “They’re in the freezer.”   Continue reading

Kuwait ‘deports supporters of Mohamed ElBaradei’

BBC NEWS | 2010/04/11 | 17:32:40 GMT

Kuwait has deported at least 21 followers of Egypt’s high-profile opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei, human rights groups say. Another 20 or so are still being held in Kuwait, according to colleagues of Mr ElBaradei in Egypt. Mr ElBaradei, a former chief of the International Atomic Energy Association, is an emerging contender to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Mr Mubarak has been in power for almost three decades.

According to Human Rights Watch, Kuwait’s interior minister Sheikh Jaber al-Sabah said the Egyptians had assembled without permission and had criticised the Egyptian president. It is rare for Kuwait to deport expatriates for political activities.

Global air industry sees recovery but not this year

Reuters | Singapore | Wed Feb 3, 2010 | 2:55pm IST

The global economy may be climbing out of recession but the air transport industry does not expect any significant pick up in orders this year, executives said on Wednesday. “Cautious optimism” is the dominant phrase at the Singapore Airshow this week, the first major industry event of the year after a wretched 2009, when aircraft orders at both Boeing and Airbus were the worst in 15 years. Amid a dearth of orders at the air show, both manufacturers said demand was likely to remain more or less flat in 2010. But there were some spots of good news elsewhere. Brazil’s Embraer said it hoped to better the 2009 sales of 30 jets, but would fall short of the 100 sold in 2008. Bell Helicopter, a unit of Textron Inc, said it saw revenue climbing around 16 percent this year, backed by strong demand by the U.S. military for its craft.

“Generally we see 2010 as the year of economic recovery and 2011 a year where airlines recover to profitability and as a result of that (we see) an increase in demand for airplanes in 2012,” said Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Boeing had gross orders from airlines for 263 planes in 2009, but net orders of 142 planes after cancellations. Airbus had gross orders of 310      Continue reading

Major economies square off over global trade deal

Reuters | Tue Dec 1, 2009 | 11:24pm IST

The United States sparred with the world’s large emerging economies on Tuesday over the fate of a long-delayed deal to open global trade that critics say has become largely irrelevant in light of the financial crisis. After Brazil’s foreign minister, Celso Amorim, told a World Trade Organisation ministerial that developing countries would offer no more to clinch a Doha Round deal, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk called on all the WTO’s 153 members to get “out of their comfort zones. If you take Mr. Amorim’s rationale then we are basically dooming Doha to failure because everybody’s saying we want change but we don’t want to do anything different,” he said.

On the second day of a three-day meeting, Kirk stressed to reporters that while Washington was not seeking further concessions from the world’s poorest countries, emerging powers needed to open markets more to make the new global pact worthwhile. Countries seeking more sway in the governance of the global economy, among them Brazil, China and India, needed to show more leadership in the Doha talks to edge the agreement toward conclusion next year, the U.S. trade chief said. Others questioned whether that 2010 goal could be met. “The issues that are stopping its conclusion are issues of substance, of content,” South African Trade Minister Rob Davies told Reuters. While developed economies are seeking new markets for their exports, poorer nations smarting from the recession are looking for the development boost first promised to them when the Doha Round was launched in Qatar in 2001. “It is far from certain that there will be a conclusion next year,” Davies said, signalling his country was willing to wait longer if necessary for a development-oriented agreement.       Continue reading

Iran issues warning over UK crew

BBC NEWS | 2009/12/01 | 13:19:25 GMT

An Iranian official has said “serious” measures will be taken against a UK yacht crew it if is proved they had “evil intentions.” The five Britons are being detained by the Iranian navy after the Volvo 60 yacht was stopped on 25 November. The Foreign Office said Luke Porter, Oliver Smith, David Bloomer, Oliver Young and Sam Usher may have “strayed inadvertently into Iranian waters.” The Team Pindar-backed yacht was sailing from Bahrain to Dubai. Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaie, President Ahmadinejad’s head of staff, told Iran’s Fars news agency: “Judiciary will decide about the five… naturally our measures will be hard and serious if we find out they had evil intentions.”

Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he was expecting the Iranians to make a statement later on Tuesday. He also said he hoped the matter would be resolved “soon” and that there was “no confrontation or argument.” Mr. Miliband said: “This is a human story of five young yachtsmen. It’s got nothing to do with politics, it’s got nothing to do with nuclear enrichment programmes… it has no relationship to any of the other, bigger issues.” He added: “They were going about their sport and it seems they may have strayed inadvertently into Iranian waters.” The Foreign Office says it believes the five sailors are being held on the island of Sirri. It said it was seeking confirmation of this from the Iranian authorities. The sailors are understood to be safe and well.     Continue reading

Obama Issues Order for More Troops in Afghanistan

NYT | Washington | December 1, 2009 |

President Obama issued orders to send about 30,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan as he prepared to address the nation Tuesday night to explain what may be one of the most defining decisions of his presidency. Mr. Obama conveyed his decision to military leaders late Sunday afternoon during a meeting in the Oval Office and then spent Monday phoning foreign counterparts, including the leaders of Britain, France and Russia. Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, declined to say how many additional troops would be deployed, but senior administration officials previously have said that about 30,000 will go in coming months, bringing the total American force to about 100,000.

On top of previous reinforcements already sent this year, the troop buildup will nearly triple the American military presence in Afghanistan that Mr. Obama inherited when he took office and represents a high-stakes gamble by a new commander in chief that he can turn around an eight-year-old war that his own generals’ fear is getting away from the United States. The speech he plans to deliver at the United States Military Academy at West Point at 8 p.m. will be the first test of his ability to rally an American public that according to polls has grown sour on the war, as well as his fellow Democrats in Congress who have expressed deep skepticism about a deeper involvement in Afghanistan.

Mr. Gibbs told reporters at the White House that Mr. Obama would discuss in the speech how he intended to pay for the plan — a major concern of his Democratic base — and would make clear that he had a time frame for winding down the American involvement in the war.      Continue reading

Karadzic challenges legality of Yugoslavia tribunal

Reuters | Mon Nov 30, 2009 | 3:47pm IST

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, on trial over 11 counts of war crimes during the 1992-95 Bosnian war when 100,000 people were killed, said the court lacked the “legal validity and legitimacy” to try him. Karadzic boycotted the start of his trial last month, forcing the tribunal’s judges to appoint legal counsel against his will and adjourn until March 2010 to give new defence lawyers time to prepare. “Regardless of what the decision of the Trial Chamber may be in response to this motion, Dr. Radovan Karadzic believes it is his moral duty in the light of history and before the general public, to challenge the legal validity and legitimacy of this court,” Karadzic said in the eight-page motion released on Monday, in which he cites Aristotle and argues that the court is merely a prosecution organ of the U.N. Security Council.

Karadzic faces life in prison on charges of orchestrating crimes against humanity in the Bosnian war during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. He has been indicted over episodes including the 43-month siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo that began in 1992 and the genocide of about 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995. Karadzic denies all the charges and has challenged the court and sought delays to the trial since he was captured 16 months ago after 11 years on the run, arguing that he had a secret immunity deal that protected him from prosecution. Judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia denied his claims and went forward with the trial of their highest-profile suspect. Last week, they denied him permission to appeal against the court’s decision to appoint him legal counsel saying that an appeal would “hinder, rather than materially advance the proceedings.”

Iran rebuked over nuclear ‘cover-up’ by UN watchdog

BBC NEWS | 2009/11/27 | 17:44:22 GMT

The UN nuclear watchdog’s governing body has passed a resolution condemning Iran for developing a uranium enrichment site in secret. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also demanded that Iran freeze the project immediately. The resolution, the first against Iran in nearly four years, was passed by a 25-3 margin with six abstentions. Iran called the move “useless” but the US said it showed time was running out for Iran to address key issues. Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful energy purposes, but the US says it is seeking nuclear weapons. In September, it emerged that as well as its uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, Iran had a second such facility near the town of Qom. The revelation deepened Western fears about the country’s nuclear ambitions.

‘Clear signal’

The IAEA resolution was passed with rare Russian and Chinese backing. Only Cuba, Venezuela and Malaysia voted against it. It called on Iran to reveal the purpose of the second plant and confirm that it is not building any other undeclared nuclear facilities. After the resolution, the US said Iran needed to address “the growing international deficit of confidence in its intentions.” “Our patience and that of the international community is limited, and time is running out,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. “If Iran refuses to meet its obligations, then it will be responsible for its own growing isolation and the consequences.” Speaking at a Commonwealth summit in Trinidad and Tobago, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that sanctions were the next step if Iran did not respond to what was “a very clear vote.” Russia’s Foreign Ministry urged Iran to react “with full seriousness” to the resolution.        Continue reading

Talks on Iranian nuclear issue slide into deadlock –ElBaradei

Xinhua | 2009-11-26 | 23:39:06

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei (L) speaks at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting in Vienna, Austria, Nov. 26, 2009

The chief of the UN nuclear watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei, admitted on Thursday that consultations with Iran on its nuclear issue reached a deadlock. ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), voiced “regret” that Iran had not responded to the agency’s proposal of shipping its low-enriched uranium (LEU) abroad for further purification.

 

He said Iran’s agreement to this proposal would help the international community to rebuild confidence in Tehran over the nuclear issue. It is regrettable that this opportunity was not seized by Iran, he said at the IAEA Board of Governors’ meeting in Vienna. ElBaradei added that this deadlock would be unable to break unless Iran engages fully with the UN agency. With regard to the issue of the newly discovered nuclear plant in Qom, ElBaradei said the facility was “under construction” with about 3,000 centrifuges to produce enriched uranium. “Iran failed to notify the agency of the existence of this facility,” which violated the terms of the relevant nuclear safeguards, ElBaradei said. The building of the uranium enrichment plant in Qom damaged Iran’s credibility, he said.

Bush ‘hardened Blair Iraq stance’

BBC NEWS 2009/11/26 14:23:27 GMT

Tony Blair’s view on regime change in Iraq “tightened” after a private meeting with President Bush in 2002, the UK’s former US ambassador has said. Sir Christopher Meyer said no officials were at the Bush family ranch talks – but the next day Mr. Blair mentioned regime change for the first time. He also said officials had been left “scrambling” for evidence of WMD while US prepared its troops for an invasion. He was giving evidence to the inquiry into the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Crucial meeting

Its remit is to look into UK involvement in Iraq between 2001 and 2009, with the first few weeks focusing on policy in the build-up to the 2003 US-led invasion. On the third day of public hearings, Sir Christopher attacked the UK-backed process of weapons inspections in the run-up to the war, saying officials had been forced to scramble for a “smoking gun” while US troops gathered. But most attention focused on when he believed the decision to go to war had become inevitable. Sir Christopher said the UK believed it was “pointless” to resist US plans for regime change in Iraq a full year before the invasion and speculated that the path to war was set at a meeting between the two leaders at President Bush’s Texas ranch in April 2002.           Continue reading

Iran Says US & Israel are Pressing Russia to Halt Missile Sale

Bloomberg | November 25, 2009 | 18:37 EST

The U.S. and Israel are trying to force Russia to halt the sale of an $800 million missile system to Iran that will help protect nuclear plants, the commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards Corps said. “Delay in the delivery of Russia’s S-300 missile system to Iran is the result of pressure from the U.S. and Israel,” state-run Press TV cited Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari as saying yesterday in Tehran. Russia and Iran signed the agreement for the sale of the S- 300 surface-to-air system in 2007. Iran will “pursue its implementation through legal bodies” if the sale is delayed, Press TV cited military spokesman Brigadier General Mohammad Hassan Mansourian as saying two days ago.

Iran, under three sets of United Nations sanctions for refusing to halt enriching uranium, is this week holding military exercises to assess its capability to protect nuclear plants. The government in Tehran rejects assertions by the U.S. and its European allies that its nuclear program is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. The Iranian program is for peaceful use, such as electricity production, the government says. While Iran is the world’s fourth-largest oil producer, limited refining capacity forces it to import about a third of its gasoline. Russia hasn’t violated its       Continue reading