Saturday, August 29, 2009

Iran Nuclear Enrichment

US Says Iran Still Not Addressing International Nuclear Concerns

Voice of America — The State Department said Friday the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran's nuclear program shows it is still not being responsive to concerns that it might be seeking nuclear weapons. Senior diplomats from major world powers meet next week in Germany to discuss nuclear diplomacy with Iran.

U.S. experts are still studying the lengthy IAEA document, but officials here say it is already clear from the report that Iran is still not being forthcoming with the U.N. agency on its nuclear intentions.
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West wants Russia, China to back tough Iran steps

Reuters India — The U.N. nuclear watchdog's new report on Iran sets the stage for a showdown between Western powers who want to hit Iran's energy sector with sanctions and Tehran's protectors -- Russia and China.

The report by the Vienna-based U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency said that Tehran had failed to heed U.N. Security Council demands that it stop enriching uranium and cooperate with the agency's investigation "to exclude the possibility of military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program."
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Israel not to attack Iran 'in near term'

Iran Press TV — Amid Israeli concerted efforts to halt Iran's nuclear work, a US defense official says Tel Aviv is not going to launch an attack on Tehran in the near term.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East Colin Kahl said in an interview with al-Hayat published on Friday that Israel was 'concerned' about Iran's nuclear program but was unlikely to unilaterally strike Tehran before the end of the year if negotiations don't start.
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Friday, August 28, 2009

Zuma Zimbabwe

Zuma: Zimbabwe’s Problems not ‘insurmountable’

Newstime Africa — South Africa’s Pres­i­dent, Jacob Zuma, is in Zim­babwe for talks with the country’s lead­ers. This is his first visit to the coun­try since he became Pres­i­dent of South Africa. Mr Zuma met with Pres­i­dent Mugabe and Prime Min­is­ter Tsvan­gi­rai and had talks with both lead­ers on end­ing the stale­mate in the Unity Gov­ern­ment. There are hopes the Mr Zuma will pres­sure Mugabe to rein in on hard-line ZANU-PF sup­port­ers who are bent on derail­ing the Unity admin­is­tra­tion.

As cur­rent chair­man of SADC, the region’s eco­nomic com­mu­nity, Mr Zuma will use his clout to ensure that the frag­ile unity gov­ern­ment does not col­lapse. He will admon­ish the two lead­ers that it is of Zimbabwe’s vital inter­est that they work together to remove the impasse that has pre­vented progress in the unity gov­ern­ment.
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Zimbabweans look to Zuma for help

Aljazeera — Jacob Zuma, the South African president, is likely to face one of the toughest political challenges of his career when he arrives in Zimbabwe on his first state visit.

Zimbabwe's inclusive government, now just over six-months old, is on shaky ground. Tensions between long-time rivals Robert Mugabe, the president, and Morgan Tsvangirai, the prime minister, could cripple the new coalition government.
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Zuma says Zimbabwe's coalition government is working

UK Guardian — South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, has given an upbeat assessment of Zimbabwe's unity government, saying he believes the worst of the country's troubles are over.

Zuma held talks in Harare with President Robert Mugabe, who looked well despite speculation over his health, and the prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, in a bid to end feuding between the coalition partners.
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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Japan Elections

Japan's long-ruling government braced for election defeat

U.K. Guardian — Shinjiro Koizumi could hardly have chosen a worse time to run in an election on a Liberal Democratic party (LDP) ticket.

After the votes in Sunday's general election have been counted, the 28-year-old will probably win his seat south of Tokyo, thanks largely to his name: the constituency's most recent MP was his father, Junichiro Koizumi, one of Japan's most popular postwar prime ministers.
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Japanese ex-premier fights uphill battle for reelection

L.A. Times — Veteran voters here have rarely witnessed a gloves-off election battle -- or political campaigning of any kind, for that matter.

In this regional transportation hub of 350,000 residents, confident incumbents with the nation's ruling Liberal Democratic Party had only to list their names on the ballot to virtually guarantee a landslide victory.
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Japan seen muddling toward middle ground with U.S.

Reuters India — Japan's populist opposition Democratic Party, forecast to win Sunday's election, will likely bring confusion rather than dramatic foreign policy changes to the United States' main Asian ally.

Polls show the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) could win by a landslide, ending more than 50 years of rule by conservatives who kept Japan in lock-step with Washington on security policy in return for the shelter of its "nuclear umbrella".
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

U.S. Middle East Peace Talks

'Better For Israel To Be Respected Than Loved'

The Jewish Press — Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and a 2008 Republican presidential candidate, completed a three-day tour of some of Israel's holiest and most contentious sites last week with leaders of Ateret Cohanim.

During his eleventh visit to Israel since 1973, Huckabee toured Jewish neighborhoods within East Jerusalem and Samaria and consistently affirmed his support for Jews living in any and all parts of the Jewish homeland.
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US and Israel spar over settlements

Aljazeera — Talks between Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, and George Mitchell, the US Middle East envoy, are continuing behind closed doors in London amid disagreement over West Bank settlements.

Netanyahu has said he wants an agreement that allows Israel to proceed with some settlement construction and to restart peace talks with Palestinians.
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Palestinians Seek State by 2011

Fox News — Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad released a government plan Tuesday calling for the establishment of a de facto Palestinian state by the end of 2011 regardless of the outcome of negotiations with Israel.

The plan faces significant practical hurdles and raised worries that Fayyad was advocating the sort of unilateral actions toward statehood long opposed by the U.S. and Israel. Implementing it would mean overcoming likely Israeli opposition to key elements and Fayyad's own weak domestic political standing, and would also require hefty financial-aid commitments from foreign donors, such as the U.S., European Union and Arab states.
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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bernanke Reappointed as Fed Chief

Bernanke's Fed Confirmation May Focus on Slow Crisis Response

Bloomberg — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, likely to win confirmation to a second term, will confront critics in Congress who fault his response to the financial crisis and ad hoc bailouts for the industry.

Bernanke, nominated today by President Barack Obama for a four-year term beginning Jan. 31, also will defend the central bank’s independence as the administration and lawmakers seek to strip its power to protect consumers.
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Was Bernanke the Wrong Choice for Fed Chair?

The Atlantic — President Obama has re-nominated Ben Bernanke to serve as chairman of the Federal Reserve and everybody expects the Senate to confirm him. Although Bernanke has been widely praised for driving the expansionary monetary many think saved the financial system, he has his detractors. After all, you can't preside over the largest financial collapse since the Great Depression, extend trillions of dollars to keep our bedeviled banking system afloat and manage to escape criticism entirely. So here's one surprising critic: Stephen Roach, the chair of Morgan Stanley Asia, who writes: "It is as if a doctor guilty of malpractice is being given credit for inventing a miracle cure." Ouch!
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Global stocks gain on Bernanke, data

Reuters — World stocks surged to 10-month highs on Tuesday after upbeat U.S. economic data and Ben Bernanke's renomination as Federal Reserve chief spurred optimism, but increased risk-taking weakened the U.S. dollar.

U.S. Treasury debt prices fell as the renewed gains on Wall Street and data on U.S. home prices and consumer confidence reduced a safety bid for bonds..
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Monday, August 24, 2009

Iran's Nuclear Rights

MP highlights Iran's inalienable nuclear rights

Tehran Times — An Iranian lawmaker on Saturday blasted the remarks by German chancellor on Iran, and underlined the country's inalienable right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

""If Iranians are asked about the country's nuclear program, they will call it (nuclear energy) their country's indispensible right,"" Mohammad Karim Abedi, a member of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, told FNA.
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Iran 'will co-operate with IAEA'

BBC — Iran will continue to co-operate with the United Nations nuclear agency, a foreign ministry spokesman has said.

Hassan Qashqavi appeared to confirm reports last week that UN inspectors were allowed access to Iran's nearly complete nuclear reactor at Arak.
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'Sanctions won't prevent Iran from legal rights'

Iran Press TV — Iran has taken a swipe at Germany over calling for sanctions on Iran's energy sector, saying that sanctions won't prevent Tehran from pursuing its legal rights.

“Experience has proved that sanctions are futile and won't prevent Iran from pursuing its legal rights,” Qashqavi said at his weekly press conference on Monday.
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Friday, August 21, 2009

U.S. Health Care

'Tea Party' Organizers Plan Anti-'Obamacare' Rallies Across the Country

Fox News — If Democratic lawmakers thought all the furor over President Obama's health care plan expressed this month at town hall meetings was dying down, they might be in for a surprise Saturday.

That's when citizens are planning anti-"Obamacare" rallies across the country Saturday in all 435 congressional districts.
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Obama Faults GOP in Health Debate

Wall Street Journal — President Barack Obama, seeking to rally his base, accused Republican leaders Thursday of trying to block a health-care overhaul from the start and again threw his weight behind a government-run insurance plan.

During a radio call-in show and at a town-hall meeting of supporters, Mr. Obama tacked to the left as Democratic allies inched toward trying to pass a health-care bill on their own.
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Poll: Hits on health care hurting faith in Obama

Boston Globe — In the Washington Post/ABC News survey, 49 percent of Americans say they believe Obama will be able to drive significant improvements in the health care system, down nearly 20 percentage points from before he took office.

As Republicans and other critics continue to hammer his health care proposals, confidence in Obama's overall leadership is also eroding, according to the poll: 49 percent of respondents express confidence that he will make the right decisions for the country, down from 60 percent at the 100-day mark in his presidency.
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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

U.S. Afghanistan War Poll

Afghan war poll triggers Obama political alarms

L.A. Times — As President Obama concludes weeks of intense -- and increasingly desperate -- salesmanship on his keystone and embattled healthcare reform plans, a discouraging alarm arrived today that he may soon have to devote his selling skills toward a less interesting but more dangerous area of concern for him:

The war in Afghanistan.

Secure parts of that country vote in a presidential election Thursday. And quietly coming through the bureaucratic defense pipeline is a request for even more U.S. troops, on top of the compromise 17,000 additional Obama approved last winter.
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We ignore Afghanistan at our strategic peril

The Australian — 2nd articleThose who seek to discredit the Afghan elections are not doing its people any favours

IN many ways, it is a tale of two armies. Perhaps the most important mistake the Bush administration made after the invasion of Iraq was to disband that nation's army.

A Lebanese friend of mine, a man steeped in all the ways of his region, told me recently: "It was necessary for the Americans to get rid of Saddam Hussein. But in Iraq, they only needed to change the decision maker, they shouldn't have destroyed the one institution that bound the country together."
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Obama defends Afghan war as 'necessity'

Belfast Telegraph — US President Barack Obama has defended the ongoing war in Afghanistan following a significant rise in US-British fatalities in the country in recent months.

In a speech to US military veterans yesterday, Mr Obama said the fight against insurgents would not be easy and the Taliban would not be defeated overnight.

However, he insisted that the conflict was a "necessity" and was a war worth fighting.
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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Japanese Elections

Japan's Twitter-Free Election Campaign

Time Magazine — Campaigning officially kicked off Tuesday in Japan as candidates for the Diet's upcoming elections took to the streets to canvas for votes. And while the Aug. 30 general election could be revolutionary — with Japan on the cusp of a regime change that could end nearly 54 years of virtually unbroken rule — candidates' official campaigning methods are far from it. With 12 days to go until national elections, candidates rode in vans, armed with banners, leaflets and loudspeakers for soapbox speeches at train stations and street corners across the nation. But as their names were blared out on the first day of political open season, their campaigns on Twitter and Facebook were silent. One thing that Japanese politicians aren't armed with is the Internet.
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Japan’s Opposition May Press BOJ to Buy More Government Bonds

Bloomberg — Japan’s opposition party may press the central bank to purchase more government bonds should it win this month’s general election, economists say.

Lawmakers from the Democratic Party of Japan, which is favored to gain power for the first time after the Aug. 30 election, have said they value the Bank of Japan’s autonomy. That respect would be tested if the party’s pledge to spend more on social programs forces the Finance Ministry to increase bond sales. Analysts say the DPJ would be tempted to urge the central bank to buy the debt to contain an increase in yields.
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Hatoyama's 'new politics' threaten to obliterate Aso

The Australian — IT may well produce a historic result but Japan's general election campaign was officially launched yesterday in familiar style, with Opposition Leader Yukio Hatoyama offering "new politics" and Prime Minister Taro Aso asking: where's the money coming from?

"The day to make history has finally come," said Mr Hatoyama at a street meeting in Osaka, the start of a six-city barnstorm finishing in Tokyo yesterday evening.
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Monday, August 17, 2009

U.S. Iraq Exit Strategy

One Step Backward, Two Steps Forward

Newsweek — For all appearances, the U.S. presence in Iraq is slowly winding down. A brigade of U.S. troops (about 3,500 of the 130,000 here) will leave this month and not be replaced; another will follow in the fall. Meanwhile, the Iraqi cabinet today proposed a referendum on the U.S. presence of during national elections in January, which could force an even quicker exit. But even as the United States wraps up here, America's top general in Iraq is contemplating a high-profile, high-risk new assignment for U.S. troops, putting them into the breach between Arab and Kurdish armies, attempting to quell (but possibly inflaming) ethnic tensions. It's a sort of Godfather moment for American forces: just when they think they're getting out, they get pulled back in.
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US Commander Wants More Troops in Northern Iraq

Voice Of America — The top U.S. commander in Iraq says he wants to station more American soldiers in disputed areas of northern Iraq where there has been a recent spike in violence.

General Ray Odierno said Monday U.S. soldiers would partner with both Iraqi government and Kurdish troops to secure the region marked with tension between Arabs and Kurds.
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US troops to return to Iraq despite Barack Obama’s withdrawal plan

London Times — The US military plans to send thousands of American soldiers back to the oil-rich north of Iraq to prevent a civil war between Arabs and Kurds.

The emergency move, which partially reverses a recent drawing- down, is the first major sign that President Obama’s withdrawal plan may not work. He wants all US combat troops out of Iraq within 12 months.
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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hillary Clinton's Africa Trip

Clinton's Africa trip highlights importance US attaches to the continent

Deutche Welle — Hillary Clinton kicked off the 11-day trip in Kenya and US officials were keen to emphasize that her trip to Africa was the earliest by a secretary of state to the continent of any administration.
Dominic Johnson, who writes on African affairs for the German TAZ newspaper, told Deutsche Welle that, "the purpose of the tour is for the US to establish contact with Africa and provide high visibility for US policy. Hillary Clinton will say what she thinks of African governing policies. It's not to establish trade ties as no contracts have been signed."
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Clinton’s agenda makes women’s issues a priority

The Boston Globe — She talked chickens with female farmers in Kenya. She listened to the excruciating stories of rape victims in war-torn eastern Congo. And in South Africa, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited a housing project built by poor women, where she danced with a choir that was singing her name.
Clinton’s seven-country trip to Africa, which ends today, has sent the clearest signal yet that she intends to make women’s rights one of her signature issues and a higher priority than ever before in American diplomacy.
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Secretary Clinton's Opportunity: Ending the World's Two Deadliest Wars

The Huffington Post — n the aftermath of Secretary of State Clinton's trip to Africa, the U.S. has a chance to help bring an end to two of the great unfolding tragedies of the 21st century. Together, Sudan and Congo represent two of Africa's largest countries, two of Africa's richest natural resource bases, two of Africa's longest wars, two of the world's deadliest conflicts in the past half century, two of the continent's most predatory governments, and two of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman or a girl. That is a legacy that deserves and demands a rethink of the international response, which has allowed these wars to burn for years.
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Future of Fatah

Gaza Fatah leaders quit in protest

Arab News — Eleven senior leaders from the Gaza Strip of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party resigned in protest on Wednesday over the election process and results of their movement’s top decision-making body.
The 11 members of Fatah’s highest committee in the Gaza Strip complained that Fatah members from the Gaza Strip were underrepresented in the newly elected, 23-member Central Committee.
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Fatah Party Election Brings in a New Generation

New York Times — Fatah, the mainstream Palestinian nationalist party, elected a mostly new leadership committee, ushering in a younger generation and ousting some prominent veterans, according to preliminary results released here on Tuesday.
The new leaders are considered more pragmatic than their predecessors and grew up locally, in contrast to the exile-dominated leadership they are replacing. But many are familiar names who have already played active roles in Palestinian society and the peace process, and their election to the committee is not expected to bring about significant changes in Fatah policies.
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Fatah vote gives boost to Abbas

The Jerusalem Post — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has emerged victorious from the elections for Fatah's Central Committee, as almost all his preferred candidates won seats in the key decision-making body.
The elections were held in the context of Fatah's sixth General Assembly, which convened for the first time in 20 years in Bethlehem last week.
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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Obama - Health Care

Obama attacks healthcare insurers

Aljazeera — The US president has launched an attack on insurance companies who he accuses of limiting people's access to medical care, during a town hall session on health reform.
Barack Obama said on Tuesday that Americans are often "held hostage" by insurance companies that deny or drop clients' coverage or charge excessive fees.
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Obama defends ability of government on health care

Associated Press — President Barack Obama says Americans wary of a government-run health care plan should look no further than Medicare.
Critics of Obama's overhaul effort say creation of a public plan to compete with private insurance adds up to a government takeover. Obama told a New Hampshire town hall Tuesday that he received one letter from a woman who said "keep your hands off my Medicare."
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High Fees Common in Medical Care, Survey Finds

New York Times — A patient in Illinois was charged $12,712 for cataract surgery. Medicare pays $675 for the same procedure. In California, a patient was charged $20,120 for a knee operation that Medicare pays $584 for. And a New Jersey patient was charged $72,000 for a spinal fusion procedure that Medicare covers for $1,629.
The charges are among a long list of high fees cited in a survey released online Tuesday by America’s Health Insurance Plans, which represents 1,300 health insurance companies. The group said it had used Medicare payments for comparison because Medicare was so familiar and payments are, on average, about 80 percent of what private insurers pay.
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Monday, August 10, 2009

North American Summit

Drugs gangs, flu dominate North American summit

Agence France Press — US President Barack Obama joined the leaders of Canada and Mexico on Monday to fine tune the fight against swine flu, murderous drugs gangs and economic recession at the North American summit.
At the quick summit in the western city of Guadalajara Obama, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper targeted incremental change rather than breakthroughs.
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Canada to train Mexican officers fighting drug cartels. — Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Sunday that Canada will train Mexican police officers to assist Mexico in its brutal war against rival drug cartels.
The announcement came as the prime minister touched down here for a two-day summit with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and U.S. President Barack Obama.
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Obama Promises Calderon Solution to U.S.-Mexico Trucking Spat

Bloomberg — President Barack Obama told his Mexican counterpart Felipe Calderon that he is committed to resolving a dispute over truck access to U.S. highways.
Obama said he will also address safety concerns about the trucks raised by the U.S. Congress, an administration official said after the two leaders met in Guadalajara yesterday at a summit of North American leaders. Calderon told Obama that the dispute has hurt trade, raised consumer costs and reduced job creation, according to a statement from his press office.
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Saturday, August 8, 2009

IRAN: Ahmadinejad sworn in as president

Pro-Mousavi Iranians chant death to the dictator

Malaysian National News Agency — Hundreds of supporters of Iranian opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi chanted "death to the dictator" in Tehran on Thursday, a witness said, a day after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sworn in as president.
The renewed protests come despite a heavy police presence and the mass trial of some 100 leading reformers accused of fomenting the unrest that has continued for eight weeks since disputed June 12 polls returned hardliner Ahmadinejad to office.
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Cleric: Iranian nation is united and vigilant

Tehran Times — Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani has said that the Iranian nation is “united and vigilant” and that is why all plots against the Islamic Republic have failed so far.
He made the remarks in a sermon at Friday prayers in Tehran.
Ayatollah Kashani also stated that the Supreme Leader’s approval of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency on Monday was an endorsement of the fact that “republicanism and Islamism” are inseparable in Iran.
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Defiant Iran president takes oath

Agencia AngolaPress — Iran- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been sworn in for a second term as Iran's president, after weeks of post-election unrest.
In an address after the ceremony, he criticised foreign powers who have cast doubt on the validity of the election, saying Iran would resist them.
Opposition supporters protesting outside parliament were met by hundreds of riot police.
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Friday, August 7, 2009

Sri Lanka - Tamil Tiger Leader Arrested

Another hit for Tigers as new leader arrested

Sydney Morning Herald — THE new head of the Tamil Tigers, Kumaran Pathmanathan, was being interrogated in Sri Lanka last night after being arrested outside the country and flown to the capital, authorities have said.
The arrest is a fresh blow to the separatist group, which was routed on the battlefield in May after more than two decades of armed struggle. Pathmanathan's detention comes a little over a fortnight after he was announced as the group's new leader.
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UPDATE 1-S.Lanka bourse at 14-mo high after Tamil Tiger arrest

Reuters — Sri Lanka's share market .CSE rose to its highest in more than 14-months on Friday before retreating to close up marginally amid a lack of foreign buying, after the arrest of the new Tamil Tiger leader the night before.
The new head of the Tamil Tigers, the separatist group defeated by the Sri Lankan military after 25 years of war, was being held in the capital Colombo, the military said on Friday.
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Australian Sri Lankan Disapora needed back home

Radio Australia — The Sri Lankan government has begun allowing people displaced by the civil war with the Tamil Tiger rebels, to return home, but a major de-mining operation is required before large-scale re-settlement can begin.
THOMAS: Look the Government has a program on resettling people within 180 days. Which may be an oportunist approach because there's such a large number of people across a large area, it's a very slow process, the roads are very slow, so I applaud their enthusiasm but I think it's going to be an enormous task to resettle these people back to their homes.
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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Georgia - Russia One Year Later

Georgia Draws Gains, Not Lessons, From War

Moscow Times — Exactly one year after the war over South Ossetia, Georgia’s chances of becoming a NATO member have been reduced to almost zero, but the South Caucasus nation might actually be safer and is putting greater hopes into political integration with the West. Despite the fact that key European powers continue to be skeptical because Tbilisi’s standoff with Moscow remains fundamentally unsolved, President Mikheil Saakashvili is promoting his country as a regional champion.
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Did Russia pay high price for winning Georgia war?

Christian Science Monitor — Though the dispute over who started the war between Russia and Georgia has yet to abate, most experts agree that it erupted during the night of Aug. 7 with an apparently well-planned and massive Georgian attack on Tskhinvali, capital of South Ossetia, which had won its de facto independence from Georgia in a brutal civil war nearly two decades earlier.
About a dozen Russian peacekeeping troops died in that assault, prompting Moscow to send its North Ossetia-based 58th Army swarming through the Roki Tunnel the next day. Russian forces rapidly routed the Georgians and went on to briefly occupy a handful of Georgian towns such as Gori, where they destroyed Georgian weapons
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Russia urges Georgia to ink non-violence agreement

Xinhua — Russia insists that Georgia assume a legal obligation on the non-use of force with respect to its breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Thursday.
"We insist that Georgia take on the legal obligation on the non-use of force. The obligation should be unconditional, not in relation to Russia, but in relation to the neighboring republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia," Andrei Nesterenko told a briefing.
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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

NATO - Afghanistan

New NATO chief vows to strengthen Afghan efforts

Agence France Presse — The new NATO chief vowed Wednesday to strengthen military efforts to counter an insurgency in Afghanistan but conceded peace talks with certain groups were an option to end mounting violence.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, making his first visit to Afghanistan as head of the 28-nation alliance, told a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai that he was ready for "pragmatic steps" to improve security.
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Rasmussen wants Afghans to take more responsibility

Reuters — The new head of NATO said he wanted Afghan forces to assume lead responsibility for security within the next four years, but would not set a timeline for a complete pull out by alliance troops.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who took over as secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on Saturday, faces many challenges but none more daunting than finding a winning strategy for the war in Afghanistan and improving relations with its former Cold War foe Russia.
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New NATO chief open to talks with Taliban

ABC Australia — The new head of NATO says the organisation's priority must be the war in Afghanistan and he says he is open to negotiations with moderate members of the Taliban.
As the new Secretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen inherits a daunting task with tens of thousands of troops battling a fierce Taliban insurgency ahead of the Afghanistan presidential election.
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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bill Clinton goes to North Korea

Bill Clinton seeks to free S.F. journalists held in North Korea

Sacramento Business Journal — Former President Bill Clinton flew to North Korea in hopes of freeing two San Francisco journalists held in that isolated country.
In June North Korea sentenced the two — Laura Ling and Euna Lee, employees of Current TV — to 12 years of hard labor. They were convicted of “committing hostilities against the Korean nation and illegal entry,” charges U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called baseless.
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White House mum on 'private' Clinton mission to NKorea

Agence France Presse — The White House Tuesday declined to comment on former president Bill Clinton's trip to North Korea, saying it did not want to jeopardize his "solely private mission" to negotiate the release of two US journalists.
"While this solely private mission to secure the release of two Americans is on the ground, we will have no comment," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a brief statement.
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Bill Clinton rewarding NKorea for bad behavior: Bolton

Agence France Presse — The Obama administration is rewarding North Korea for its bad behavior by sending ex-president Bill Clinton to Pyongyang to win the release of two US journalists, the former US ambassador to the UN said Tuesday.
John Bolton, an outspoken hardliner in the previous administration of George W. Bush, told AFP that Clinton's mission to Pyongyang undermines a number of public stands held by his own wife, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
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Sunday, August 2, 2009

The U.S. Role in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, U.S. May Shift Strategy

The Washington Post — The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan is preparing a new strategy that calls for major changes in the way U.S. and other NATO troops there operate, a vast increase in the size of Afghan security forces and an intensified military effort to root out corruption among local government officials, according to several people familiar with the contents of an assessment report that outlines his approach to the war.

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US general may ask for more troops for Afghan war

Associated Press — The U.S. general in charge of turning around the war in Afghanistan is likely to recommend significant changes to U.S. and NATO operations, military officials and others familiar with his forthcoming report said. Those changes could include additional U.S. troops despite political headwind against further expansion of the war.
As Gen. Stanley McChrystal readies his assessment of the war, due next month, numerous U.S. officials and outsiders apprised of his thinking suggest McChrystal will request that more American troops, probably including Marines, be added next year.
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US forces fade into background for Afghan election

Associated Press — An Afghan going to the polls in the Aug. 20 presidential election will not see an American or NATO soldier — if all goes according to plan.
Although the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan has swelled to 62,000 — more than double this time last year — international forces plan to keep a low profile on election day to avoid any suspicion that foreigners are trying to influence the outcome.
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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Iran Election Trial

Iran tries 100 moderates over election unrest

Reuters — The trials began on Saturday of 100 prominent moderates arrested shortly after Iran's disputed June presidential election and charged with trying to overthrow the clerical establishment, Iranian media reported.
This is the first time since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution that dozens of senior officials, including former ministers, vice-presidents and lawmakers, have been put on trial.
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In Iran court, Abtahi 'disputes' vote fraud claims

Iran Press TV — Reformist figure Mohammad-Ali Abtahi, accused of provoking and taking part in deadly riots after the recent presidential election in Iran, has reportedly testified that the vote was "clean".
The first court session for opposition activists and protesters convened on Saturday in the Iranian capital Tehran with charges of rioting, threatening national security and conspiring against the ruling system being read against those in the dock.
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Iran reportedly frees 140 jailed election protesters

CNN — The Iranian government has released 140 people arrested in the aftermath of the Islamic republic's disputed presidential election, a semi-official news agency reported Tuesday.
Kazem Jalali, spokesman for the parliament's national security and foreign policy commission, said the detainees posted bail and were freed from northern Tehran's Evin Prison during an inspection of the prison by a task force made up of commission members, the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) reported.
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