>> IRAQ WMD? WHERE?
Radioactive materials disappearing in Iraq
United Nations -- Iraq's nuclear facilities remain unguarded, and radioactive materials are being taken out of the country, the UN's nuclear watchdog agency reported after reviewing satellite images and equipment that has turned up in European scrap yards.
The International Atomic Energy Agency sent a letter to U.S. officials three weeks ago informing them of the findings. The information was also sent to the UN Security Council in a letter from its director, Mohamed ElBaradei, that was circulated Thursday.
The IAEA is waiting for a reply from the United States, which is leading the coalition administering Iraq, officials said.
The United States has virtually cut off information-sharing with the IAEA since invading Iraq in March, 2002, on the premise that the country was hiding weapons of mass destruction.
No such weapons have been found, and arms-control officials now worry that the war and its chaotic aftermath may have increased chances that terrorists could get their hands on materials used for unconventional weapons or that civilians may be unknowingly exposed to radioactive materials.
According to Dr. ElBaradei's letter, satellite imagery shows "extensive removal of equipment and, in some instances, removal of entire buildings" in Iraq.
In addition, "large quanitities of scrap, some of it contaminated, have been transferred out of Iraq from sites" previously monitored by the IAEA.
In January, the IAEA confirmed that Iraq was the likely source of radioactive material known as yellowcake that was found in a shipment of scrap metal at Rotterdam harbour.
Yellowcake (uranium oxide) could be used to build a nuclear weapon, although it would take tonnes of the substance refined with sophisticated technology to harvest enough uranium for a single bomb.
The yellowcake in the shipment was natural uranium ore that probably came from a known mine in Iraq that was active before the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
The yellowcake was uncovered Dec. 16 by Rotterdam-based scrap-metal company Jewometaal, which had received it in a shipment of scrap metal from a dealer in Jordan.
A small number of Iraqi missile engines have also turned up in European ports, IAEA officials said.
"It is not clear whether the removal of these items has been the result of looting activities in the aftermath of the recent war in Iraq or as part of systematic efforts to rehabilitate some of their locations," Dr. ElBaradei wrote to the council.
The IAEA has been unable to investigate, monitor or protect Iraqi nuclear materials since the U.S. invaded the country in March, 2003. The United States has refused to allow the IAEA or other UN weapons inspectors into the country, saying that the coalition has taken over responsibility for illicit weapons searches.
So far those searches have come up empty-handed, and the CIA's first chief weapons hunter has said he no longer believes Iraq had weapons just before the invasion.
Russia's ominous Iraq exodus
By Sergei Blagov
MOSCOW - As Russia begins to evacuate its citizens from rebellion-torn Iraq, Moscow's move comes as a grim reminder of increasing volatility in the US-occupied country, as well as an ominous sign for Russia's pursuit of Iraqi oil riches.
Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry, which has already dispatched planes to Baghdad, plans to evacuate 553 Russian citizens, as well as 263 citizens of other former Soviet states, who are working for Russian companies in Iraq.
Russia advised all of its citizens to leave the country in light of the ongoing hostage crisis there. Eight employees of energy company Interenergoservice - three Russian citizens and five Ukrainians - were in Baghdad to repair power stations. They were seized by gunmen late Monday. Hostages told Russian television channels that they were released on Tuesday as soon as the abductors realized they were working for a Russian company.
It took Moscow little time to blame Iraqi administrators for the hostage crisis. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the kidnappings were the result of the deteriorating situation in Iraq and that it is the coalition forces that are responsible for the country's inadequate security.
Russian media speculated that the hostages were released promptly because of Moscow's opposition to the United States-led invasion of Iraq. Russia, which opposed the operation to depose former president Saddam Hussein right from the start, does not have any troops in the country.
But Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it is up to the companies themselves to decide whether to evacuate or not. Evacuation of Russian experts does not mean Russia has completely pulled out of Iraq, Lavrov stated this week.
Some Russian companies are already pulling their workers out of the country. State-owned Tekhnopromexport has announced it is evacuating its 370 staffers, who are building the Yusifiya power station near Baghdad.
Interenergoservis, which is restoring five Iraqi power stations under a US$30 million contract, has 365 workers in Iraq. However, some experts reportedly volunteered to stay in Iraq. Many of them come from depressed Russian regions or less affluent former Soviet states such as Ukraine, hence their modest income in Iraq is a strong stimulus to stay. According to Russian media reports, employees of Interenergoservice are being paid wages of $600-700 per month for their hard and dangerous work in Iraq.
Already this month, some 100 Russians have been evacuated, including representatives of oil company Tatneft, truck maker Kamaz and foreign trade association Mashinoimport. Representatives of oil companies Zarubezhneft and LUKoil reportedly remain in Baghdad.
Russia's Iraqi interests
For Russian businesses, the stakes are high in Iraq. Current contracts of Russian companies in Iraq reportedly total $1 billion. Meanwhile, evacuated firms could face penalties for breach of contracts.
Moscow has been keen to secure its remaining economic interests in Iraq. Last December, Russia offered to write off more than half of Iraq's $8 billion debt to Moscow, and pledged $4 billion in investments to rebuild the country. The debt writeoff and investments have yet to materialize.
However, Russia's top oil firm, LUKoil, reopened a small office in Baghdad aiming to revitalize a suspended project to develop the West Qurna oilfields, which contain some of the largest oil deposits in the world. A 23-year multibillion-dollar deal to develop the West Qurna field was signed in 1997 between Iraq and a LUKoil-led consortium.
Under the agreement, the Russian group would have developed reserves set at 7 billion to 8 billion barrels. Saddam's government canceled the contract in February 2003, but LUKoil, which owns 68.5 percent of the West Qurna project, insists that the contract is still valid and has threatened to sue in international courts if the contract is canceled.
Aiming at returning to Iraq, LUKoil moved to cooperate with the US and supply oil products. Last month, LUKoil's fully owned subsidiary LUKoil International Trading and Supply Co (LITASCO) signed a contract with Refinery Associates of Texas Inc to deliver gasoline and diesel fuel to Iraq. According to the contract, Geneva-registered LITASCO would supply 1.3 million barrels (180,000 tons) of gasoline and 950,000 barrels (130,000 tons) of diesel fuel per quarter from April 1 onward.
Also last month, LUKoil president Vagit Alekperov traveled to Iraq to meet with Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulloum to discuss the West Qurna contract. Alekperov and Bahr al-Ulloum signed a memorandum of understanding for LUKoil to help rebuild the Iraqi oil industry and to train 100-150 Iraqi oil workers a year. They also reached "an understanding" on the West Qurna-2 contract, according to Alekperov. Yet with a backdrop of deteriorating security and the withdrawal of experts, it remains to be seen how LUKoil could help rebuild the Iraqi oil industry.
When Saddam was still in power, Iraqi oil traded in the United Nations Oil for Food Program brought Russian companies more than $4 billion. The Kremlin had also been in discussions with Saddam's regime for a five-year economic cooperation program worth $40 billion.
But in the wake of Saddam's demise, Moscow's expectations in Iraq have become less ambitious indeed. Nonetheless, many Russian companies, including Interenergoservis and Tekhnopromexport, still work on contracts in Iraq related to the rebuilding of the country's infrastructure under the Oil for Food Program.
However, allegations of graft in the program have dealt a blow to Russian plans in Iraq. Early this year there were media reports that some 40 Russian companies and individuals, including entities linked to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Communist Party and the Liberal Democratic Party, allegedly took part in an illegal kickback scheme for trading Iraqi oil under the Oil for Food Program.
After UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's moves to approve a probe of corruption in the program, Russian officials and oil companies have denied allegations of graft, yet Moscow has been lukewarm over a possible UN investigation.
Russia was Iraq's largest supplier in the program. Of the $18.3 billion in Oil for Food contracts approved by the UN Security Council since the program began, some $4.2 billion went to Russia. Eleven Russian oil companies - Zarubezhneft, LUKoil, Onako, Sidanko, Sibneft, Alfa Eko, Zarubezhneftegazstroi, Mashinoimport, Rosneft, Nafta-Moskva and MES - were buying tens of millions of barrels of oil from Iraq in Oil for Food deals.
Russia has also insisted that US accusations of illegal arms sales to Iraq, such as claims of Oil for Food graft, were intended to elbow the Russians away from Iraqi riches. The war of words first began in March 2003, when Washington accused Russia of failing to stop sales of night-vision goggles, Global Positioning System navigation jammers and anti-tank missiles to Iraq. The Kremlin has repeatedly criticized the administration of US President George W Bush for floating allegations that Russian companies had supplied Saddam with defense equipment in violation of a UN arms embargo.
Whatever the veracity of claims and counter-claims, Russia and Iraq have maintained military ties for decades. Between 1958 and 1990, Iraq was one of the world's largest importers of weapons systems from the Soviet Union. During those three decades, the Soviet government in Moscow supplied Iraq with 4,630 tanks, 5,524 armored vehicles, 725 anti-tank missile systems, 325 air-defense missile systems, 1,593 portable "Igla" air-defense missiles, 1,145 military aircraft and 41 naval vessels, according to Russian media reports. The total bill reportedly amounted to more than $30 billion. Upgrading these arsenals could provide Russia with a number of lucrative deals.
Before the war, the Kremlin had publicly spoken against the use of force on Saddam's regime without authorization from the UN Security Council, where as a permanent member Russia has a veto. While Moscow remains critical, President Vladimir Putin has stated that Russia does not wish to see the US defeated. Russia has also called for a political settlement to end the conflict and restore Iraqi sovereignty.
In the meantime, Russia's evacuation of its nationals from Iraq also highlight Moscow's differences with other former Soviet states. Foreign Minister Lavrov told reporters in Ukraine on Tuesday that Russia is ready to help Ukrainian citizens leave Iraq, although Ukraine has not yet requested this kind of aid. Ukraine and Kazakhstan earlier indicated no plans to withdraw their peacekeepers from Iraq. On Tuesday, Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania and Deputy Speaker Ziyafet Askerov of the Azerbaijani parliament both announced that their countries were not going to withdraw from Iraq. Georgia and Azerbaijan each have some 150 peacekeepers in the country.
In the meantime, Russia still has no plans to dispatch any of its own troops to Iraq.
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The general and his labyrinth
Explosive allegations by a sacked officer of collusion between the Colombian army and death squads could damage cosy relations between Washington and Bogot?, writes Ana Carrigan
Thursday April 15, 2004
Colombia's president, Alvaro Uribe, visited Washington last month seeking more military aid. Since spring 2000, Colombia has received more than three billion "Plan Colombia" dollars, most of it for the army and police. But Plan Colombia - a US aid package aimed officially at bolstering counter-narcotics operations by the Colombian armed forces - expires next year, and Uribe wants a new multi-year deal.
The Bush administration, meanwhile, wants to double the number of US soldiers and civilians supporting Colombia's anti-drug - and anti-insurgency - activities, and the Pentagon has been lobbying Congress for an immediate rise in the current troop cap.
Uribe's star shines brightly in the US, where he is warmly received as Washington's leading hemispheric ally in the war on terror. Even so, this may not be the best moment for Congress to agree more aid for the Colombian armed forces. Not when a story has just broken in Bogot? which threatens to confirm allegations that they conspire with the United Self-defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) - an illegal paramilitary army headed by the country's most feared warlord, Carlos Casta?o - to carry out massacres and terrorise farmers and villagers.
The man at the eye of the storm is former army general Jaime Alberto Usc?tegui, who is awaiting trial for his participation in a gruesome paramilitary atrocity. In the tragic annals of Colombian atrocities there have been too many massacres, but events in the southern jungle town of Mapirip?n in July 1997 haunt the Colombian collective memory with a particularly painful intensity. Usc?tegui is accused of supporting the paramilitaries as they spent five days and nights terrorising the town, torturing more than thirty people to death and dismembering their victims alive in the municipal slaughterhouse.
Now, according to Bogot?'s weekly news magazine Cambio, Usc?tegui has put his military superiors on notice. From his quiet prison cell at an army base in the capital, the general has said that unless his superiors help him avoid jail, he will go public with documentary evidence of a policy of official military collusion with paramilitary terror.
As reported by Cambio, the documents in Usc?tegui's possession were retrieved from an army computer belonging to a military intelligence agent and equipped with a special password used in all communications between the army and the paramilitaries.
According to the general, the material includes pamphlets produced at battalion headquarters and handed out by the paramilitaries at Mapirip?n and other massacre sites, the rules of paramilitary engagement as drafted and drawn up by the army, and a complete list - including names and aliases - of all 93 members of the AUC front that committed the Mapirip?n massacre. The latter item also contains the payroll and individual monthly salaries for all the members of the front, together with their rank and responsibilities. There are also texts of assorted death threats, and thank-you notes to the bosses of the Cali cocaine cartel, acknowledging their financial contributions.
Usc?tegui has already been tried once in a military court, where he received a three-year sentence for failing to prevent a massacre. The Colombian supreme court promptly threw out the conviction and ordered a civilian trial that is scheduled to begin next week and could result in a possible 40-year jail sentence.
So, questions abound. Will the trial go forward? And if so, will Usc?tegui blow the whistle and will his claims stand up to scrutiny? Or will the trial be postponed? Will the country's attorney general, Luis Camilo Osorio, who has previously thrown out cases against senior military officers and paramilitary leaders, find a way to dismiss or derail it?
Only last month, Osorio - citing insufficient evidence - dismissed a similar case against Rito Alejo Del Rio, another general sacked for his paramilitary links. That decision brought a shocked response from 67 organisations, churches and individuals in the region where troops under Del Rio's direct command have been widely and repeatedly accused of collaborating with Casta?o's paramilitaries in atrocities that led to a mass population displacement. It also brought a request from Human Rights Watch for the appointment of a special investigator to examine the attorney general's actions.
"The trial will be my moment of glory," Usc?tegui tells an un-identified colleague in the transcript of a conversation published by Cambio. "If I go to trial, it will be far more serious than anything that has happened in Colombia to date, because this proves something that we have spent our entire lives denying - that is, the link between the military and the paramilitary."
He also makes it clear that he is in no doubt about the strength of his information.
"It seems that the attorney general's office, the inspector general's office and the president's office all know that terrible things happened [in Mapirip?n] for the army and the country ... and that this could topple Plan Colombia," he says.
There is then one final question. How will Washington handle Usc?tegui's information if it falls into the public domain?
? Ana Carrigan is a freelance journalist and author of The Palace of Justice, A Colombian Tragedy
L'Europe ? reculons sur la lev?e de l'embargo d'armes vers la Chine
Bruxelles : de notre correspondante Alexandrine Bouilhet
[15 avril 2004]
Washington a obtenu gain de cause. L'Europe n'est plus pr?te ? lever l'embargo sur les ventes d'armes ? la Chine. La pression exerc?e par les Etats-Unis, conjugu?e ? celle des opinions publiques europ?ennes, a fini par changer la donne sur le Vieux Continent. Favorable, fin janvier, ? un r?examen rapide des sanctions impos?es ? P?kin depuis 1989, les Quinze avancent d?sormais ? reculons sur cet ?pineux dossier.
En visite officielle depuis deux jours ? P?kin, Romano Prodi, a tenu ? pr?venir les autorit?s chinoises. ?C'est un d?bat compliqu? en Europe. Il y a encore des diff?rences entre les Etats membres et des r?ticences de la part de l'opinion europ?enne?, a insist? le pr?sident de la Commission, apr?s sa rencontre avec le premier ministre Wen Jiabao. ?Nous reconnaissons qu'il y a eu des efforts en Chine sur les droits de l'homme, mais ils ne sont pas encore suffisants?, a-t-il ajout?. Dans la bouche de Romano Prodi, le message ne pouvait ?tre plus clair. L'embargo europ?en sur les armes ne sera pas lev? sans contreparties.
Principale alli?e de la Chine dans cette affaire, la France tablait sur une d?cision rapide des Quinze, si possible avant le 1er mai. Le retrait d'une sanction europ?enne exige en effet l'accord unanime des Etats membres, une position plus facile ? obtenir ? Quinze qu'? Vingt-cinq. Les espoirs de P?kin et de Paris, qui qualifie l'embargo d'?anachronique?, risquent d'?tre d??us. Si l'embargo sur les armes reste inscrit ? l'ordre du jour de la r?union des ministres des Affaires ?trang?res, le 26 avril ? Bruxelles, plus aucun diplomate ne parie sur une d?cision prise ce jour-l?. Un report en juin semble encore plus improbable, ce mois co?ncidant avec l'anniversaire de la r?pression de la place Tiananmen. ?Des ?tudiants sont toujours en prison?, rappelait, hier, Amnesty International. Aussi conciliante soit-elle, la pr?sidence irlandaise de l'Union souhaiterait ?viter d'?tre associ?e ? un verdict cl?ment pour les marchands d'armes, qui la mettrait en porte ? faux tant vis-?-vis de Washington que de son opinion publique.
La pression diplomatique des Etats-Unis, des associations de droits de l'homme, m?l?e aux probl?mes de politique int?rieure des Quinze, le tout ? deux mois des ?lections europ?ennes, ne plaide pas en faveur des amis de la Chine. M?me l'Allemagne se montre divis?e sur le sujet. Gerhard Schr?der s'est prononc? en faveur de la lev?e de l'embargo lors d'une visite en Chine en d?cembre, mais les Verts ont de s?rieuses r?ticences, ce qui contraint Yoschka Fischer ? la plus grande prudence. Etrangement silencieux cet hiver, au point d'inqui?ter Washington, le gouvernement de Tony Blair met aujourd'hui l'accent sur les droits de l'homme, afin de retarder la d?cision europ?enne. Le Foreign Office sugg?re m?me de repousser le d?bat au mois d'octobre, lors du sommet Chine-Union europ?enne.
Pour avoir sugg?r? qu'il n'?tait pas insensible aux arguments fran?ais, le premier ministre danois, Anders Rasmussen, a ?t? convoqu? devant le Parlement, o? il s'est empress? de poser une s?rie de conditions. Sans ?tre isol?e, la France compte aujourd'hui ses alli?s sur les doigts d'une main : l'Allemagne, l'Autriche, l'Italie et la Gr?ce. Des supporters de plus en plus discrets ? mesure qu'approchent les ?lections europ?ennes. Le Parlement europ?en s'est prononc? contre la lev?e de l'embargo contre la Chine, estimant que P?kin n'avait toujours pas ratifi? la convention de l'ONU sur les droits civils et politiques.
Les plus cyniques, eux, rappellent que cet embargo, vieux de quinze ans, n'a emp?ch? aucun marchand d'armes europ?en de commercer avec P?kin.
New way for NATO to do business
Katrin Bennhold/IHT IHT
Friday, April 16, 2004
PARIS With NATO member states just days away from awarding a E4 billion military contract to a transatlantic consortium of aerospace companies, a new era of joint procurement may be dawning for the alliance, defense experts said Thursday.
A group of six companies, led by European Aeronautic Defense Space, known as EADS, and Northrop Grumman of the United States, looked set to win the contract, worth $4.8 billion, to build a mixed fleet of manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft for the alliance by 2010, said a NATO official familiar with the selection process.
After procurement experts at NATO's Brussels headquarters threw their support behind the EADS-Northrop consortium, officials in national capitals were expected to sign off on that decision "within days" the official said.
"It seems to be a genuine multinational procurement decision, and that is quite a significant step for cooperation in this area," said Steven Everts, a defense expert at the Centre for European Reform, a think tank in London. "There is an acceleration of the desire to cooperate more closely within the EU and across the Atlantic."
Against a backdrop of violence in Iraq and heightened concerns that terrorists may be targeting Europe following the Madrid train bombings, pragmatism may be gaining the upper hand over the political procurement decisions of the past, analysts said. While some major European governments continue to disagree with America on a wide range of issues, including the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the willingness to deepen their cooperation within NATO may herald a renewed commitment to the alliance.
James Appathurai, a spokesman for NATO called the decision "historic," confirming a report on Thursday in The Financial Times.
"This is only the second time in NATO's history that members join forces in procurement on this scale," he said. The first time, he said, was the AWACs surveillance system developed in the 1960s. "The decision was reached pragmatically on the basis of price, capability and scheduling considerations - not necessarily three factors that have determined procurement decisions in the past," Appathurai said.
Governments have preferred to keep national control of procurement, both to determine the exact nature of a project and to award contracts to the titans of a country's defense industry.
As a result, defense capabilities within the European Union, where most countries also belong to NATO, have often been duplicated.
The idea for a joint fleet of air-to-ground surveillance aircraft has been considered for about a decade at NATO, Appathurai said. Recent progress on the matter "reflects a realization on the part of NATO nations that our troops are out there in the field, and they need this type of cooperation," he said.
This evolving pragmatism is rooted at least in part in financial reality. With technology becoming more sophisticated and expensive every year, collective procurement makes financial sense, analysts said. In addition, recent sluggishness in the global economy has depleted state coffers, leaving less room for governments to bolster defense budgets.
"Pooling is the way to go," Everts said. "It's good news for taxpayers and also good news for political cooperation that common sense has won."
The EADS-Northrop consortium includes Galileo Avionica of Italy, General Dynamics Canada, Indra of Spain, and Thales of France. In addition, more than 80 other companies from NATO countries support the joint proposal, which would provide a mixed fleet of manned A320 Airbus planes and unmanned Global Hawk planes.
According to Alexander Reinhardt, an EADS spokesman, the price for an A320 is about E50 million, though a modified version for intelligence purposes may vary in price. The Global Hawk aircraft that Northrop has been building for the U.S. Air Force costs about $30 million, James Stratford, a spokesman for the company said.
A competing consortium, led by Raytheon of the United States and including Siemens of Germany and Marconi of Britain, has complained that NATO's procurement officials took too little time to examine the two proposals, which were submitted only four months ago. Appathurai, of NATO, rejected the complaint.
International Herald Tribune
Copyright ? 2003 The International Herald Tribune
-Inflation looks to be next export from China
Keith Bradsher and Chris Buckley/NYT NYT Friday, April 16, 2004
Economy's growth lifts prices for goods from rice to steel
GUANGZHOU, China After nearly a decade of mostly flat to falling prices in China that have helped hold down costs around the world, the country has suddenly turned into an exporter of inflation, with growing signs of a spiral of wages and prices similar to what the United States suffered in the 1970s. As managers from Chinese businesses of all sizes staffed exhibition booths here Thursday for the opening day of China's biggest trade fair, the common refrain was that prices of everything from rice to steel were rising sharply, and that prices for exports to the United States, Europe and other markets would have to follow. A socket wrench manufacturer had raised prices by 10 percent for high-quality models and by up to 50 percent for poor-quality models, for which the main cost is increasingly expensive steel. An exporter of exhaust manifolds, brake drums and suspension parts to American repair garages had raised prices by 10 percent in several increments since December. A few manufacturers had not raised prices yet, but said they were considering doing so, like one of the many makers of sinks and toilets who said he had just given his workers a raise to help them with rising expenses.
``The cost of living -- transport, food, everything -- is going up,'' said Su Han Xiang, the director general of Jinshan Ceramic Industries. Beijing announced Thursday that the economy had grown 9.7 percent in the first quarter, faster than expected, and said that raw material prices and other costs for businesses were rising and were increasingly likely to spill into inflation in consumer prices. ``There is a time lag, but it can't be too long, and there is pressure for price rises,'' said Zheng Jingping, the spokesman of China's National Bureau of Statistics, at a news conference in Beijing on Thursday. ``If this goes on for a long time it will cause problems.'' Using two terms that the Chinese government has conspicuously avoided until now, the state-run Xinhua news agency on Thursday quoted Morgan Stanley's China economist, Andy Xie, describing the Chinese economy as ``a bubble'' and an International Monetary Fund economist, Raghuram Rajan, warning that the Chinese economy showed ``some signs of overheating.'' Xie said by telephone that while the National Bureau of Statistics reported Thursday that consumer prices were exactly 3 percent higher in March than a year earlier, the true increase could be 7 percent or 8 percent. ``The State Council has said they want to keep inflation below 3 percent, so they have to report an increase of 3 percent,'' he said, referring to China's cabinet.
To be sure, ferocious competition has kept prices from rising in China for some big-ticket items that a growing proportion of China's population is buying, like cars, household appliances and mobile phones. By next year, many new steel mills now under construction could start alleviating the acute shortages that are driving up steel prices. But growing evidence suggests that while China has publicly embraced the market, it has been using extensive but informal price controls on state-owned enterprises to control inflation until now.
Two representatives of one of China's largest state-owned chemical companies said that while the company had just raised by 50 percent the export price of a popular insecticide for rice and cotton, the government had prevented the company from charging more to Chinese farmers.
Yet the increase in the export price is an accurate reflection, they said, of rising costs. Yellow phosphor, the key ingredient in the insecticide, is in short supply like many raw materials. And while chemical factories commonly ran seven days a week until a few months ago, many are now idle for two or three days a week because of blackouts, so that the steep investment cost for each production line can only be spread over a smaller output of chemicals. The United States and Western European nations found in the 1970s that price controls can limit inflation for a while, but cause markets to become less efficient and slow economic growth, while prices jump even faster when the controls are lifted. China has a different eco nomic model, in which companies with disappearing profit margins or even losses are allowed to continue borrowing large sums from the state-owned banks. Credit-rating agencies estimate that the banks are not receiving payments on nearly half their loans. This proportion has fallen somewhat in recent months, however, as the banks have sharply increased their loans and the borrowers have not yet had time to de fault on the new loans. As market-based approaches to the problem prove ineffective, Beijing is beginning to turn to older, more direct measures. The Xinhua news agency reported Thursday that local governments had stopped approving new economic development zones, which offer low taxes and other preferences, and had even canceled many previously approved zones. ``Since last year, rectifying the land market by using the `iron hand' has become an important measure in our country's macro-economic controls,'' the agency said. While it may seem in Wal-Mart stores as though a big part of the American family's purchases are made in China, exports from China to the United States last year were only equal in value to 1.2 percent of the goods and services produced within the United States.
Huge companies like Wal-Mart also have a considerable ability to force sellers to hold down price increases; the main buyers at the Guangzhou Trade Fair are wholesalers who supply small and medium-sized retailers. Yet China has had an outsized effect in stabilizing global prices until very recently because its very low labor cost has allowed it be the country to beat on prices in many industries.
As Chinese prices rise, many other low-income and middle-income countries exporting to the United States -- including Mexico and countries in Eastern Europe and Central and South America -- are likely to find it easier to raise prices as well. The New York Times Chris Buckley reported from Beijing.
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Irak : M. Chirac propose une conf?rence pour sortir de l'impasse
LEMONDE.FR | 15.04.04 | 20h14
"La France estime qu'une conf?rence r?unissant l'ensemble des composantes de la soci?t? irakienne permettrait peut-?tre de donner ? la transition politique - en attendant des ?lections - toute la l?gitimit? n?cessaire" a d?clar? M. Chirac, jeudi, ? Alger.
Jacques Chirac a exclu cat?goriquement, jeudi 15 avril, toute implication militaire de la France en Irak et a propos? l'organisation d'une conf?rence interirakienne sous l'?gide de l'ONU pour sortir de l'impasse actuelle. Le pr?sident fran?ais, qui s'exprimait ? l'issue d'une visite de travail en Alg?rie, a par ailleurs condamn? les prises d'otages en Irak et exig? la lib?ration imm?diate de tous les ressortissants ?trangers d?tenus.
Il a exprim? sa "sympathie" et sa "solidarit?" ? l'Italie ? la suite de l'ex?cution d'un otage italien.
"Ce qui se d?roule actuellement en Irak d?montre qu'au-del? de la s?curit?, la solution ne peut ?tre en r?alit? qu'une solution politique. Elle passe par un transfert rapide, complet, visible de la souverainet? aux Irakiens eux-m?mes et par la mise en place d'institutions irakiennes qui soient r?ellement repr?sentatives, l?gitimes et pleinement responsables", a dit le chef de l'Etat lors d'une conf?rence de presse.
Estimant qu'on est "loin de cette situation", Jacques Chirac juge, par cons?quent, qu'un engagement militaire de la France aux c?t?s des forces de la coalition pour stabiliser la situation est pour l'heure "hors de question". "Dans ce contexte, il est tout ? fait hors de question que la France puisse r?pondre de fa?on positive ? une demande de pr?sence militaire en Irak", a-t-il dit.
R?UNIR TOUTES LES COMPOSANTES DE LA SOCI?T?
"Toute option qui ne tiendrait pas compte de la volont? exprim?e par le peuple irakien de recouvrer au plus vite sa totale ind?pendance serait lourde de cons?quences pour la stabilit? du pays, et plus largement pour la stabilit? de la r?gion", a-t-il soulign?.
La date du 30 juin, ?ch?ance fix?e par les Etats-Unis pour le transfert de la souverainet?, doit ? ce titre "marquer une v?ritable rupture", a estim? le pr?sident fran?ais. Dans cette perspective, "la France estime qu'une conf?rence r?unissant l'ensemble des composantes de la soci?t? irakienne permettrait peut-?tre de donner ? la transition politique - en attendant des ?lections - toute la l?gitimit? n?cessaire".
Cette conf?rence, plac?e sous l'?gide de l'ONU, s'inspirerait du mod?le de la conf?rence sur l'Afghanistan organis?e ? Bonn (Allemagne), en novembre 2001, par Lakhdar Brahimi, alors envoy? sp?cial de l'ONU dans ce pays, et qui avait
permis de donner naissance au gouvernement de transition afghan.
Jacques Chirac a indiqu? que la France attendait le rapport de l'envoy? sp?cial de l'ONU en Irak, Lakhdar Brahimi, pour se prononcer sur le r?le que pourrait jouer l'ONU dans ce cadre. "La France examinera en liaison avec ses partenaires au Conseil de s?curit? (...) le r?le que les Nations unies pourraient jouer dans ce processus politique." Lakhdar Brahimi est attendu ce week-end ? New York.
Critiquant implicitement la strat?gie militaire am?ricaine, Jacques Chirac a lanc? un appel aux forces d'occupation pour qu'elles ?pargnent les populations civiles et facilitent l'acheminement de l'aide humanitaire.
"Les affrontements dans plusieurs villes d'Irak affectent tr?s durement la population civile. (...) Cette population doit ?tre prot?g?e et l'aide humanitaire doit pouvoir lui parvenir. C'est une responsabilit? qui incombe aux puissances occupantes", a-t-il soulign?.
Avec AFP et Reuters
>> GREENSPAN FILES...
Floyd Norris: Greenspan races the rate clock
Floyd Norris International Herald Tribune
Friday, April 16, 2004
Alan Greenspan has bested the critics. Now the only test left is to see if he can bring interest rates back to something like normal levels without causing too much pain. Unhappily for the Federal Reserve chairman, however, the markets may not be willing to give him as much time as he would like to pull that off.
In the late 1990s, Greenspan decided to ignore the growing bubble in technology stock prices. In 1996, he did mutter something about "irrational exuberance," but he soon changed his tune and embraced the new economy. By the peak of the craziness, in the spring of 2000, he was happily quoting absurd forecasts from Wall Street analysts.
There was no way to know if it was really a bubble, he said then. But if the bubble burst, he would know what to do.
Now the evidence seems clear: He did know. For a time after the bubble burst, it looked like the problems might be long-lasting, but now fears of deflation and of a prolonged economic slump have been quashed. This is a self-sustaining recovery.
So why are investors not celebrating? The decline of bond prices in response to the strong economic news this week may not have been surprising, but the weakness of the stock market was. And why would evidence of a booming economy hurt commodity prices? An answer is that the Fed has kept short-term interest rates so low for so long that a lot of leveraged speculation has built up in what Wall Street calls the "carry trade," so named because the expected profits from the investment are more than enough to carry the cost of borrowing money to finance it. That was particularly true for bonds, but it was also true for stocks, currencies and commodities. The more someone borrowed, the higher the profit.
Banks and hedge funds seem to have a lot of carry trades.
The strong retail sales numbers on Tuesday reminded traders that short-term rates had to rise someday, and caused some of those trades to be unwound. Whether it was copper, or stocks, or the euro, the market showed signed of leveraged investors cutting back on their positions. Then came the inflation report. Until now, rapidly rising commodity prices had not been passed through to consumer prices. Rising prices have largely been confined to things that either don't show up in inflation figures - like home prices - or in areas where international competition could not hold down price rises, like college tuition, which is up 10.2 percent over the past 12 months, the biggest rise in more than a decade. But now prices are rising even in areas where they had been falling.
It has been convenient for the Fed to assume that any inflation threat - and therefore any pressure to raise short-term interest rates - is far, far away. Speeches by Fed officials have played down inflation, and it will be interesting to see if that begins to change. "They will find themselves with a big credibility problem if they do not acknowledge that there is more inflation than they expected," said Roger Kubarych, an economist with HVB Group.
By engineering negative real interest rates - that is, rates lower than the inflation rate - Greenspan has bolstered the economy at the risk of encouraging speculation. Some of the rise in copper - from 60 cents a pound, or E1.11 per kilogram, at the economic nadir in the fall of 2001 to a peak last month of almost $1.40 - is due to rising demand from real users. But some of it reflects speculation on borrowed money. Similarly, the search for yield has allowed companies - and countries - with dicey credit to borrow money cheaply. History says some of those loans will go bad in a few years, creating pain for investors.
Markets are starting to realize that the economy is too strong to justify keeping short-term rates so low. A federal funds rate of 2.5 percent, far above the current 1 percent, might be reasonable. That won't happen quickly, but expectations are growing that the Fed will have to begin raising rates well before this fall's U.S. presidential election. Now the Fed needs to gradually change expectations so that speculative trades can be unwound without doing unnecessary damage to markets.
"The last trick Alan Greenspan has to pull off," said Robert Barbera, chief economist of ITG/Hoenig, "is to get the federal funds rate up from crazy easy and still have everyone live happily ever after."
Copyright ? 2003 The International Herald Tribune
Omri Sharon: If PM loses Likud vote on Gaza plan, he might resign
By Mazal Mualem, Aluf Benn and Nadav Shragai, Haaretz Correspondents
While his father exchanged diplomatic assurances this week with United States President George W. Bush in Washington, MK Omri Sharon canvassed Likud members.
He warned them that if the disengagement plan is not approved in the upcoming party referendum, slated for May 2, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon might quit his post.
The resignation, Omri Sharon added, would lead to the party's loss of its hefty share of 40 Knesset seats, since the public would seek a political alternative in the next national elections.
Hours before his father held a joint press conference with Bush on Wednesday, Omri Sharon met with one local Likud branch head after another at a popular Tel Aviv coffee shop.
Sharon asked them to re-mobilize the same party workers who campaigned for his father in the Likud primaries held a year and a half ago. Sharon added that there is no money in the coffers, so rank-and-file Likud members who work on ensuring that the disengagement plan is approved in the May 2 referendum will have to campaign voluntarily.
The results of the referendum, well-placed sources said, will depend on organizational ability.
Opponents of the plan appear to have an advantage - Likud observers assume that hard-line opponents to territorial concessions and settlement evacuation will not miss the opportunity to vote against the plan, while the prime minister's likely backers are less ideologically committed and more apt not to vote.
Given this, the sources said, Sharon's aides know that a tremendous organizational effort will be needed to ensure that backers of the plan indeed vote.
Omri Sharon has a clear understanding of these facts. He knows that the 160 Likud branch heads constitute the most promising organizational foundation. These political veterans are personally acquainted with party members who will be voting in the referendum, and therefore, Sharon has concentrated his lobbying efforts on the local party heads.
However, if the prime minister's aides succeed in winning approval for the separation plan in the referendum, the coalition is likely to unravel.
The National Union party announced on Thursday that if the disengagement plan is approved by the government and Knesset, it will quit the coalition.
In contrast, the National Religious Party has yet to decide how to respond in the event that the plan wins cabinet approval.
Lawmaker Shaul Yahalom said Thursday that the party should make non-committal statements on the issue: as long as there is hope of stopping rhetoric from turning into the actual uprooting of settlements on the ground, the NRP should consider staying in the coalition, Yahalom said.
Diplomatic loose ends
As Sharon deploys his parliamentarian son and associates for the tense contest in next month's referendum, his bureau chief will wrap up some diplomatic loose ends with Washington in the upcoming days. Dov Weisglass soon will send a letter to U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice detailing Israeli obligations that have yet to be carried out.
The letter will spell out agreements between Israel and the United States regarding the borders and status of areas where settlements have been built and a future freeze on settlement construction.
Washington's ambassador to Israel, Dan Kurtzer, soon will meet with Israeli security officials to discuss definitions of built-up areas in the settlements.
Last year, Israel announced that new construction on settlements will be conducted only in "built-up areas," but refrained from defining the borders of these areas.
Weisglass' letter will also state that Israel will deliver to Kurtzer within 30 days a list of outposts to be dismantled and a timetable for their evacuation.
The letter will also convey a commitment to take down, as security circumstances allow, roadblocks on the West Bank that encumber the Palestinian population.
Marines trade `culturally sensitive' training for bullets
By Lourdes Navarro
Pfc. Phillip Marquez, 21, of Coachella, Calif., passes a heavy sand bag as he and Marines of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, fortify their position at a home in the northwest section of Fallujah, Iraq, on Wednesday. -- Hayne Palmour IV, North County Times / AP photo
FALLUJAH, Iraq -- On a rooftop overlooking Fallujah's industrial wasteland, Lance Cpl. Tom Browne pokes his machine gun muzzle out of a hole in a barrier wall, singing to himself to pass the time.
In the street below, the corpse of an insurgent suspect lies baking in the sun. Browne, from Boston, says he has killed several rebels, probably Iraqis, so far.
"I don't even think about those people as people," he says.
It wasn't supposed to be this way.
The band of Marines in this insurgent stronghold received two big orders this year. They were told to return to Iraq to stabilize the Sunni areas west of Baghdad, Iraq's toughest patch of territory. The normally clean-shaven Marines also were told to grow mustaches in an attempt to win over Iraqis who see facial hair as a sign of maturity.
"We did it basically to show the Iraqi people that we respect their culture," said Lance Cpl. Cristopher Boulwave, 22, from Desoto, Texas.
But after the brutal killing of four American contractors in Fallujah on March 31, they tossed aside such pretenses. First to go were the mustaches.
"When you go to fight, it's time to shoot -- not to make friends with people," said Sgt. Cameron Lefter, 34, from Seattle.
In the fight for Fallujah -- which has killed more than 600 Iraqis, according to city doctors and about a dozen Marines -- the Marines now seem to be following the second half of their famous motto: "No better friend, no worse enemy."
The Marines say it's easier to cope with the daily work of killing inside Fallujah -- where a seemingly unending supply of rebels continues to fight -- if they don't think about the suspected rebels they are targeting as people who, under different circumstances, they might have been trying to help.
"If someone came and did this to our neighborhood, I'd be pissed, too," said Capt. Don Maraska of Moscow, Idaho, a 37-year-old who guides airstrikes on enemy targets in the town. "I've never had people look at me the way these people look at me. I don't know what came before, but at this point, what else can we possibly do but fight?"
The Marines were hoping to lull Fallujah and Anbar province into a state of well-being by passing out $540 million in rebuilding funds, and showing off a more educated attitude about Arab sensitivities than they believed their U.S. Army predecessors displayed.
Before returning to Iraq, the Marines took a crash course in cultural training that included a video teleconference with an Arabic studies professor and the distribution of a culture handbook with tips warning against showing the soles of their feet or eating with their left hands.
About three dozen Marines from one unit took a three-week intensive language course in Arabic. And, of course, they grew mustaches.
"We grew them for the Iraqi people. We shaved them off for us," said Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne, who originally ordered his men to sport the facial hair.
These days, the Marines are speaking a more familiar language.
"We didn't initiate this," said 1st Marine Regiment Commander Col. John Toolen. "I came in here with more money than bullets. Now I'm running out of bullets, but the money is still in my pocket."
The Marines are frustrated with the negotiations to halt the firing in Fallujah. Many say they want to finish the battle, take control of the rebel city by brute force -- whatever it takes -- rather than wait for Iraqi negotiators to thrash out a deal to stop the fighting.
"We're the guys that go in and put our foot in the door," said Maraska, a veteran of the first Gulf War and Somalia. "We'll do any mission. But we're better at pushing and fighting."
Behind the front line, Marines are trying to supply the holed-up locals that they encounter with food and water, one of the few areas where their cultural training is put to use.
But Cpl. David Silvers, based in a front-line building nicknamed "the tower," says his experience with Iraqis has been limited to dodging bullets from a persistent and shadowy gunman he dubbed "Bob the sniper."
"He's the guy who wakes us up every morning and fires at us all day. He hasn't got anyone yet, but he's come close a few times," Silvers said.
Even though the Marines have given Bob his name, they say they still want to kill him.
"This is the closest relationship I have with an Iraqi right now," Silvers said.
S.Korea Nuke Assessment of North Unchanged
By SANG-HUN CHOE
Associated Press Writer
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- South Korea said Wednesday that it was not changing its assessment of North Korea's nuclear capabilities despite a report that a Pakistani scientist had visited a secret underground plant in the communist country and seen nuclear devices.
The United States, Japan and South Korea discussed the information that Pakistan gleaned from investigations of its disgraced nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, and agreed that it was too early to draw a conclusion about what Khan saw in North Korea, Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said.
"South Korea, the United States and Japan share the understanding that it is desirable for them to take a more cautious position on this matter," Ban said during a regular briefing.
He said there was no change in South Korea's basic assessment that the rival North has only enough plutonium for one or two atomic bombs. South Korea has stuck to that evaluation for years, citing a lack of new concrete evidence on the North's secretive nuclear weapons programs.
The CIA takes that assessment a step further saying it assumes North Korea has one or two bombs already built.
South Korea has sent questions to the Pakistani government asking for more information about what Khan saw in North Korea, Ban said. But the government in Seoul has not yet heard back.
Pakistan said Tuesday it was sharing with other countries information divulged by Khan, but refused comment on a report that he had seen North Korean nuclear devices.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, told interrogators he inspected the weapons briefly during a trip to North Korea five years ago. If true, it would be the first time that any foreigner has reported inspecting an actual North Korean nuclear weapon, the newspaper said.
Ban said Pakistan shared Khan's information with South Korea "recently."
"It contained many unclear things, and there is ambiguity about the circumstances. Thus we are trying to make additional confirmation," Ban said.
North Korea is currently locked in a regional dispute over its nuclear programs. Since last August, the United States, China, Japan, Russia and the two Koreas have held two rounds of talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions, but those meetings ended without major breakthroughs.
Ban said North Korea should allow nuclear inspections and freeze all its nuclear facilities as a first step toward what the United States and its allies call a "complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling" of its nuclear programs. Only then, he said, will the allies provide economic aid to the impoverished country.
North Korea says it needs a nuclear "deterrent" against the United States. It demands economic aid and security guarantees in return for giving up its nuclear weapons.
The six nations plan to hold a third round of talks before July aiming to defuse tensions.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Cheney Pushes Asian Nations on N. Korea
By TOM RAUM
Associated Press Writer
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Vice President Dick Cheney challenged Asian powers Thursday to do more to contain North Korea's nuclear program, saying that letting it grow unchecked could spark a new arms race in the region and create a weapons bazaar for terrorists.
"We must see this undertaking through to its conclusion," Cheney told a university audience in Shanghai, China. "Time is not necessarily on our side." He expressed clear frustration with the current diplomatic stalemate before flying to South Korea, his last stop of a weeklong Asia trip.
The speech was carried by China's state television without deletions or blackouts, which U.S. officials took as an encouraging sign of change.
Cheney praised China for setting up six-way talks to persuade North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program, but he prodded Chinese leaders to be more aggressive in bringing pressure to bear on Pyongyang.
The six-way talks include the United States, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas.
"We'll do our level best to achieve this objective through diplomatic means, and through negotiations. But it is important that we make progress in this area," Cheney said.
He suggested that North Korea represented a double threat - it could stock its own nuclear arsenal and sell weapons to the highest bidder, including al-Qaida and other terror organizations.
"The people of Asia are particularly vulnerable to the threats of (weapons) proliferation," Cheney said. "Many countries that have the means to develop the deadliest weapons have refrained from doing so."
But he said a continued North Korean nuclear threat could persuade other powers in the region to develop their own nuclear weapons, triggering a new arms race across the region "and the likelihood that one day those weapons would be used."
Cheney said recent information gleaned from a top former Pakistani nuclear scientist provided compelling evidence that Pyongyang has an active atomic weapons program.
The reclusive communist government "must understand that no one in the region wants them to develop those weapons," Cheney said.
During Cheney's Asia trip, citizens from all three countries he visited - Japan, China and South Korea - were seized by militants in Iraq. Three Japanese hostages were released Thursday. The South Korean and Chinese hostages were freed earlier.
Cheney has engaged in unusually blunt talk in his travels, urging allies with troops in Iraq not to bow to pressure from militants and telling Chinese leaders that U.S. defensive military sales to Taiwan are largely a response to their own military buildup on the Taiwan Strait.
In remarks at Shanghai's Fudan University, almost exactly 20 years after President Reagan spoke on the campus, Cheney praised China's economic advances but pointedly suggested they be coupled with "full freedom of religion, speech, assembly and conscience."
"Prosperous societies ... come to understand that clothing, cars and cell phones do not enrich the soul," he said.
The vice president arrived in South Korea on Thursday shortly before polls closed in parliamentary elections. A liberal party loyal to South Korea's impeached president won the most seats.
The win by the Uri party could result in the crafting of a foreign policy more independent of the United States, South Korea's traditional ally, and the forging of closer ties with the North.
Cheney came seeking South Korea's support on the North Korea nuclear issue and its commitment to a promise to send more than 3,000 troops to Iraq
He was meeting with South Korea's acting president, Prime Minister Goh Kun, and visiting U.S. troops stationed in Seoul before returning Friday to Washington.
In a question-and-answer period, one student asked Cheney to describe his relationship with President Bush, given that he was often described as "the most powerful vice president in history."
"That's not a question I had anticipated," Cheney said to laughter.
He said the role of the U.S. vice president had evolved over recent years into one of more responsibility. But he said that the vice president's actual authority, other than his constitutional duty to cast tie-breaking votes in the Senate, was "based strictly upon your relationship with the president."
"I've been fortunate," he said.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Cuba, N. Korea Criticized on Human Rights
By NAOMI KOPPEL
Associated Press Writer
GENEVA (AP) -- The top United Nations human rights watchdog passed resolutions Thursday criticizing conditions in Cuba and North Korea, but Russia and China avoided censure.
The 53-nation U.N. Human Rights Commission voted 22-21 to 21 for a Honduras-proposed resolution that "deplored" Cuba's jailing 75 dissidents arrested on March 18, 2003.
Moments later, a member of the Cuban delegation attacked an anti-Castro activist outside the meeting, knocking him to the ground after he approached a group of Cubans.
"All of a sudden I passed out," Frank Calzon said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press. He said he was unconscious for a minute or two.
Calzon said he didn't see who struck him. But he said a witness reported to him later that the attacker hit him from behind with clasped hands.
Cuban Ambassador Jorge Mora Godoy, who didn't see the incident, blamed Calzon.
"There was a provocation from Frank Calzon against one woman in the Cuban delegation, and he received the due response from our Cuban delegation," Mora Godoy told the AP.
Cuba said the resolution against it was the work of the United States. Shortly after the vote, the Cuban delegation said it had filed a resolution claiming widespread human rights abuses by the United States against detainees at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.
The Honduran resolution criticizing Cuba called for the commission's experts on torture, judicial independence and arbitrary detention to investigate the situation. Richard Williamson, head of the U.S. delegation, said his only disappointment was that the vote was so close.
"The fact is no one can argue repression doesn't happen in Cuba," Williamson said. "It's an island prison. It's good to have a resolution putting some pressure on that regime."
In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the resolution "sends a strong message to courageous Cubans who struggle daily to defend their human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as to the repressive Castro regime."
Despite longtime ties with Cuba, Mexico also voted for the resolution.
Mexican President Vicente Fox said later that it was a "vote in favor of a cause; not against a nation." He added that Mexico had acted "in keeping with our principles" to defend human rights.
Also Thursday the commission voted 29-8 to condemn North Korea for its precarious humanitarian situation and for systematic and widespread rights violations.
The motion, brought by the European Union and the United States, cited violations including torture, forced abortions and infanticide, as well as harsh restrictions on freedom of expression and foreign travel and severe punishments meted out to those who try to flee the country.
Resolutions also were passed criticizing the rights records of Belarus and Turkmenistan.
However the commission threw out an EU resolution condemning Russia for its record in war-plagued Chechnya. Russia mustered support from Cuba, Brazil, India, China and African countries to defeat the motion 23-12.
China also ducked censure when it used a procedural "no-action" motion to block discussion of a U.S.-sponsored resolution criticizing its rights record.
Chinese Ambassador Sha Zukang said there was no good reason to single out his country. It was the 11th time that China had prevented discussion of such a resolution at the commission's annual meeting.
"China is neither heaven nor hell. It is just in the process of building a society with decent living standards," he said.
China's foreign ministry spokesman, Kong Quan, said Friday in Beijing that Washington should "abandon confrontation" over human rights.
He was quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency as saying "the United States isolated itself" by submitting the resolution.
A similar no-action motion also blocked discussion of an EU resolution criticizing the human rights situation in Zimbabwe. President Robert Mugabe has stepped up measures against dissent, arresting opposition and labor leaders and cracking down on the independent press.
The commission's six-week session continues until April 23. Voting on the Guantanamo Bay resolution as well as on a Mexican resolution on human rights and counterterrorism are due to take place next Thursday.
AP writer George Gedda in Washington contributed to this report.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
>> PAKISTAN DAWN...
Bush claims credit for busting N-network
By Our Correspondent
WASHINGTON, April 14: President George W. Bush has credited his administration with unravelling a dangerous network of nuclear proliferators headed by Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan.
In his Tuesday night news conference, Mr Bush presented the busting of nuclear scientists' network as one of his administration's major victories in the war against terror.
"The A.Q. Khan bust, the network that we uncovered" was another victory in the war against terror, he said. Mr Bush described the group as a shadowy network of folks that were willing to sell state secrets to the highest bidder.
Dr Khan's network, he said, had made the world more unstable and more dangerous. "You've often heard me talk about my worry about weapons of mass destruction ending up in the hands of the wrong people. Well, you can understand why I feel that way, having seen the works of A.Q. Khan. It was a dangerous network that we unravelled. And the world is better for it, he added.
>> BENAZIR COMING CLEAN?
Benazir says she sanctioned Korean missile purchase
By Our Correspondent
WASHINGTON, April 14: Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has said that in 1994 she had sanctioned the purchase of ballistic missile technology from North Korea. But she said during her second term - 1994 to 1996 - she also declined to approve another budget proposal to locally develop a long-range missile technology.
She said her government believed in the policy of "keeping parity with India" and did not want to "develop longer ranged missiles than theirs." In a letter to United Press International, Ms Bhutto said that after Pakistan detonated nuclear devices in May 1998, it came under great financial pressure.
"If any swap (of nuclear technology for money) took place, it would be some time after May 1998 when Pakistan no longer had money to make payments." "After Pakistan's financial crisis in May 1998, there were hawks who argued that Pakistan could earn money selling nuclear technology," she said.
She dismissed media reports as speculative that Libyan leader Col Qadhafi had visited the Canadian-built reactor in Karachi. She said the project in Karachi started in the 1960s.
"Munir Ahmed Khan was indeed the long-term chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and considered by many as the real 'father' of Pakistan's bomb," said Ms Bhutto.
She was also asked to comment on a report that Mohammed Beg, who claimed to be a senior official in her father's government, had revealed that Col Qadhafi "supervised transfers of suitcases filled with US dollars to Pakistan on PIA flights."
"Mohammed Beg was never a confidant of my father. I do not even recall him, and I can recall the small group of people that could call on my father," said Ms Bhutto. "Power is a lonely mountain top and my father was not the type of man to share secrets freely." She rejected the suggestion that Z.A. Bhutto had renamed the Lahore stadium after Col Qadhafi because he had financed Pakistan's nuclear programme.
'External interference won't be tolerated': Adjournment motion on Dr Khan's pardon
By Our Staff Reporter
ISLAMABAD, April 14: Foreign Minister Mian Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri on Wednesday informed the Senate that Pakistan being a sovereign state always guarded its independence and would never tolerate foreign interference in its internal affairs.
The minister said this while opposing an adjournment motion jointly moved by parliamentary leaders of the PPP and PML-N, Senators Raza Rabbani and Ishaq Dar, respectively, concerning the conditional pardon granted to nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan.
Chairman Mohammedmian Soomro ruled the adjournment motion out of order. "We greatly regard our independence and sovereignty and do not tolerate any external interference in the issues of national security," Mr Kasuri said, adding "we always take strategic decisions independently in the best interest of the country."
He explained that Dr Khan was accorded pardon with the condition that he would cooperate with the government agencies and added that he was cooperating in the proliferation case. He said the pardon also pertained to what had been mentioned in the FIR registered against Dr Khan.
The minister emphasized that Dr Khan had made immense contribution in achieving strategic parity with India which helped maintain a balance of power between the two countries. At the same time, he maintained, Pakistan was also mindful of its international obligations regarding nuclear non-proliferation.
Mr Kasuri brushed aside the impression that Pakistan had surrendered to the US diktat on the matters of national security. He said there were issues on which Pakistan was cooperating with the US while there were many other issues on which it was not supporting the US policies.
He referred to the issue of Afghanistan in which the government had acted keeping in view the public interest. He further said that Pakistan had never sent its troops to Iraq and had not even supported the US resolution on Iraq in the Security Council.
"Pakistan always extend support to US when its own interest demands so," he explained. He, however, argued that it was not wise to confront the US because it was a superpower and only a 'foolish' country would go in confrontation with it.
Earlier, Mr Raza Rabbani said the motion pertained to a 'blatant' and 'open interference' by America in the internal matters of Pakistan to which the latter was succumbing.
He recalled that on Feb 5 President Pervez Musharraf addressed a press conference in which he granted pardon to Dr Khan without ifs and buts. But on Feb 6, US Secretary of State Colin Powell talked to the president and on Feb 7, the Foreign Office spokesman announced that the pardon was conditional while on Feb 9 the spokesman again stated that it was not a 'blanket' pardon.
"These two statements of the FO spokesman originating after the phone calls of Colin Powell were in contradiction to what the president had said earlier at his press conference," he maintained. Senator Rabbani also asked as to why the pardon was granted if the inquiry against Dr Khan was not completed yet.
AFP ADDS: Meanwhile, Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan said that Pakistan was sharing information from a probe into proliferation by Dr Khan but refused to confirm reports that he (Dr Khan) had seen three nuclear bombs in North Korea.
According to a report in The New York Times on Tuesday, Dr Khan told interrogators he was shown the devices at a secret underground plant when he visited North Korea five years ago.
"I have seen the report," the spokesman said at his weekly news briefing, but he declined to elaborate, adding only: "I would not like to go into specifics." He said: "We have been sharing information with the international community and other countries who have a direct interest in this matter."
>> FOGGY BOTTOM BACKBONE?
US regrets Hashmi's conviction
By Our Correspondent
WASHINGTON, April 14: The United States has issued a rare warning to its key ally in Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf, for the sentencing of opposition politician. Javed Hashmi who was convicted on a sedition charge.
The US State Department on Tuesday regretted "the closed nature" of proceedings against Mr Hashmi and urged Pakistani authorities to handle his case in a fair and transparent manner. The reaction, displayed on the US government's website on Wednesday with a headline: "US calls for judicial fairness for Pakistan opposition figure."
It quotes spokesman Richard Boucher as saying that US officials had repeatedly expressed concerns to the Pakistani government that Mr Hashmi's case "be handled in a fair and transparent manner and with due regard for his rights."
Powell calls Musharraf
By Our Correspondent
WASHINGTON, April 14: US Secretary of State Colin Powell called President Pervez Musharraf and discussed the regional situation with him, the State Department said on Wednesday.
Spokesman Richard Boucher told a briefing in Washington that Mr Powell telephoned Gen Musharraf on Tuesday and it was "about the situation in that region". He gave no further details.
Probe Casts Doubt on Iraq Nuclear Security
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Some Iraqi nuclear facilities appear to be unguarded, and radioactive materials are being taken out of the country, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency reported after reviewing satellite images and equipment that has turned up in European scrapyards.
The International Atomic Energy Agency sent a letter to U.S. officials three weeks ago informing them of the findings. The information was also sent to the U.N. Security Council in a letter from its director, Mohamed ElBaradei, that was circulated Thursday.
The IAEA is waiting for a reply from the United States, which is leading the coalition administering Iraq, officials said.
The United Sattes has virtually cut off information-sharing with the IAEA since invading Iraq in March 2003 on the premise that the country was hiding weapons of mass destruction.
No such weapons have been found, and arms control officials now worry the war and its chaotic aftermath may have increased chances that terrorists could get their hands on materials used for unconventional weapons or that civilians may be unknowingly exposed to radioactive materials.
According to ElBaradei's letter, satellite imagery shows "extensive removal of equipment and in some instances, removal of entire buildings," in Iraq.
In addition, "large quanitities of scrap, some of it contaminated, have been transfered out of Iraq from sites" previously monitored by the IAEA.
In January, the IAEA confirmed that Iraq was the likely source of radioactive material known as yellowcake that was found in a shipment of scrap metal at Rotterdam harbor.
Yellowcake, or uranium oxide, could be used to build a nuclear weapon, although it would take tons of the substance refined with sophisticated technology to harvest enough uranium for a single bomb.
The yellowcake in the shipment was natural uranium ore which probably came from a known mine in Iraq that was active before the 1991 Gulf War.
The yellowcake was uncovered Dec. 16 by Rotterdam-based scrap metal company Jewometaal, which had received it in a shipment of scrap metal from a dealer in Jordan.
A small number of Iraqi missile engines have also turned up in European ports, IAEA officials said.
"It is not clear whether the removal of these items has been the result of looting activities in the aftermath of the recent war in Iraq or as part of systematic efforts to rehabilitate some of their locations," ElBaradei wrote to the council.
The IAEA has been unable to investigate, monitor or protect Iraqi nuclear materials since the U.S. invaded the country in March 2003. The United States has refused to allow the IAEA or other U.N. weapons inspectors into the country, claiming that the coalition has taken over responsibility for illict weapons searches.
So far those searches have come up empty-handed and the CIA's first chief weapons hunter has said he no longer believes Iraq had weapons just prior to the invasion.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
>> 9/11 ...
Republicans see conflict, urge Gorelick to quit panel
By James Lakely
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Pressure is growing for Jamie S. Gorelick to resign from the September 11 commission for what the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has called "an inherent conflict of interest."
Ms. Gorelick, who served in the No. 2 position in the Clinton Justice Department under Attorney General Janet Reno, was the author of a 1995 directive to the FBI, which repeatedly has been cited in testimony as a major hindrance to antiterrorism efforts prior to the 2001 attacks.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, said yesterday he thinks "the commission's work and independence will be fatally damaged by the continued participation of Ms. Gorelick as a commissioner."
"Commissioner Gorelick is in the unfair position of trying to address the key issue before the commission when her own actions are central to the events at issue," Mr. Sensenbrenner said. "The public cannot help but ask legitimate questions about her motives.
"Testifying before the commission is Ms. Gorelick's proper role, not sitting as a member of this independent commission," he said.
The Gorelick directive is credited with thickening the "wall" that prevented federal prosecutors and counterterrorism agents from communicating even though their separate investigations could help catch terrorists.
"These procedures, which go beyond what is legally required, will prevent any risk of creating an unwarranted appearance that [federal law] is being used to avoid procedural safeguards which would apply in a criminal investigation," Ms. Gorelick wrote in the previously secret memo.
Appearing on CNN's "Larry King Live" last night, Ms. Gorelick said, "All of the commission members have some government experience. Everyone is subject to the same recusal policies. You could have had a commission with nobody who knew anything about government. And I don't think it would have been a very helpful commission."
Attorney General John Ashcroft declassified the four-page document just before his testimony to the commission on Tuesday to help make his point that Ms. Gorelick's directive created "draconian barriers" to uncovering the September 11 plot.
"If the commission doesn't take this issue seriously, undoubtedly a large segment of the American people will see its findings as incomplete and partisan," said Mark Levin, president of the Landmark Legal Foundation, which also has demanded that Ms. Gorelick step down.
Commission Chairman Thomas H. Kean and Vice Chairman Lee H. Hamilton both dismissed the calls for resignation.
"Of course not. That's a silly thing," said Mr. Kean, who said Ms. Gorelick has followed the same rules as every other commission member and has, in fact, been one of the most "nonpartisan" members.
Ms. Gorelick was appointed to the commission by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, and former House Democratic leader and presidential candidate Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri.
She has been criticized by Republicans for what they see as the partisan tone of her questioning of witnesses from the Bush administration.
During the testimony of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice last week, Ms. Gorelick characterized the White House's attempts to coordinate intelligence gathering as "feckless" and argued with Miss Rice's contention that President Bush put the federal government at their "battle stations" when terrorist chatter increased in summer 2001.
Ms. Gorelick took as much time making comments and asking questions as Miss Rice did answering them and finished her session with Miss Rice by saying that "the debate will continue" over whether the Clinton or Bush administrations better thwarted terrorist attacks.
In an interview on Sean Hannity's national radio show yesterday, Mr. Ashcroft also suggested that Ms. Gorelick should resign from the commission
"I think that individuals who are the actors whose policies are under inspection and judgment probably should not sit as judges in those cases," Mr. Ashcroft said.
Failure to remove her from the commission, he said, will leave people questioning its standards when the final report is released in July.
The commission "has to decide what kind of standards it's going to have," Mr. Ashcroft said. "Whether it's going to have standards that would reflect a disaffection for those kinds of conflicts or whether it is going to ignore" the conflict.
Mr. Ashcroft said yesterday he declassified the Gorelick memo because he felt the other commission members "ought to know."
"It was a fact that had simply not been made known," he said.
Indeed, the first commissioner to question Mr. Ashcroft, former Republican Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson, asked to see a copy of the memo on Tuesday.
Ms. Gorelick recused herself this week from questioning her former boss, Miss Reno, and former FBI director Louis J. Freeh, who had to abide by her directive in 1995. But she gave no hint that the memo's revelation would cause a conflict of interest.
"As my colleagues know, the vast preponderance of our work, including with regard to the Department of Justice, focuses on the period of 1998 forward, and I have been and will continue to be a full participant in that work," she said during Tuesday's hearing.
Mr. Levin said her continued participation "taints the whole process."
"The commission wasn't even aware of her memo until John Ashcroft revealed it," Mr. Levin said. "She is hopelessly conflicted.
"The fact that she's a commissioner insulates her from scrutiny, and that's the problem," he said. "She should not be a commission member, she should be a star witness."
Ms. Gorelick suggested that if Mr. Ashcroft was so concerned about the restrictions placed by her policy, he had an opportunity to change it before the attacks, but did not.
"My successor [as deputy attorney general] wrote a memo before 9/11 in August of 2001 leaving those policies in place," Ms. Gorelick said on CNN Tuesday night. "[Commission member] Slade Gorton pointed out in his exchange with John Ashcroft, a fairly tough exchange, I might say, that in the four areas that Attorney General Ashcroft says were problematic and that he inherited, he left three of them in place."
* Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.
CIA Warned of Attacks As Early As'95
By JOHN SOLOMON
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The CIA warned as early as 1995 that Islamic extremists were likely to attack U.S. aviation, Washington landmarks or Wall Street and by 1997 had identified Osama bin Laden as an emerging threat on U.S. soil, a senior intelligence official said Thursday.
The official took the rare step of disclosing information in the closely held National Intelligence Estimate for those two years to counter criticisms in a staff report released Wednesday by the independent commission examining pre-Sept. 11 intelligence failures.
That staff report accused the CIA of failing to recognize al-Qaida as a formal terrorist organization until 1999 and mostly regarding bin Laden as a financier instead of a terrorist leader during much of the 1990s.
But the U.S. intelligence official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said the 1997 National Intelligence Estimate produced by the CIA mentioned bin Laden by name as an emerging terrorist threat on its first page. The National Intelligence Estimate is distributed to the president and senior executive branch and congressional intelligence officials.
The 1997 assessment, which remains classified, "identified bin Laden and his followers and threats they were making and said it might portend attacks inside the United States," the official said.
Philip Zelikow, executive director of the Sept. 11 commission, confirmed the 1997 warning about bin Laden but said it was only two sentences long and lacked any strategic analysis on how to address the threat. "We were well aware of the information and the staff stands by exactly what it says," he said.
The intelligence official also said that while the 1995 intelligence assessment did not mention bin Laden or al-Qaida by name, it clearly warned that Islamic terrorists were intent on striking specific targets inside the United States like those hit on Sept. 11, 2001.
The report specifically warned that civil aviation, Washington landmarks such as the White House and Capitol and buildings on Wall Street were at the greatest risk of a domestic terror attack by Muslim extremists, the official said.
Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin testified Wednesday that by early 1996 his agency had developed enough concern about bin Laden to create a special unit to focus on his threat. "We were very focused on this issue," McLaughlin told the commission.
The commission's report did credit the CIA after 1997 with collecting vast amounts of intelligence on bin Laden and al-Qaida, which resulted in thousands of individual reports circulated at the highest levels of government. These carried titles such as "Bin Laden Threatening to Attack U.S. Aircraft" in June 1998 and "Bin Laden's Interest in Biological and Radiological Weapons" in February 2001.
Despite this intelligence, the CIA never produced an authoritative summary of al-Qaida's involvement in past terrorist attacks, didn't formally recognize al-Qaida as a group until 1999 and did not fully appreciate bin Laden's role as the leader of a growing extremist movement, the commission said.
"There was no comprehensive estimate of the enemy," the commission report alleged.
But the senior intelligence official said the commission report failed to mention that CIA had produced large numbers of analytical reports on the growth, capabilities, structure and threats posed by al-Qaida throughout the late 1990s and those detailed reports were distributed to the front lines of terror-fighting agencies.
The CIA most frequently provided these individual and highly detailed analyses to the White House Counterterrorism Security Group charged with formulating anti-terrorism policies and responses, the official said.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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