In my links of the day I try to find the links under the wire, articles all the top blogs miss. I'm not afraid to go to Al Jazeera, Kurd Media or to the Pakistan student movement page to bring the real daily news to you.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Links of the Day 3/23/2008

Sorry China it is not the Dalai Lama stirring up trouble in Tibet it is WE THE PEOPLE of the WORLD..

Until China stops their terror and oppression of their people the world community will never accept them. Governments might but never the people.

So I say to China leave Tibet, cut your losses and go Back to China.

Funny how China makes claim to Tibet. Then WHY did the Great Wall of China not include Tibet.


Tibet: the jealousy, rage and bitterness of a new generation that fuelled deadly riots

Young Tibetans may not remember earlier uprisings but the ethnic tension between the ruled and their rulers is just as acute today

It was March 1988. Tibetan monks howled and shouted, battered at the door, gouged out the mud-baked roof and bayed for the blood of a top ethnic Tibetan official of the Chinese Government.

Captive in a room within the Jokhang Temple, Tibet's most holy Raidi cowered under a table, sobbed with fear and begged ethnic Han Chinese officials trapped with him for protection. He knew Tibetan retribution would be fiercest against one seen as a turncoat.

Today, nearly two decades later, the ethnic bitterness between ruling Han Chinese and deeply Buddhist Tibetans is no less acute.

Zhang Weihong [not his real name], a Han Chinese, owned a trendy little bar frequented by Chinese, Tibetan students and foreign backpackers in Lhasa's Old City - until last week that is. Gutted by fire, it is one of hundreds of small Han-run businesses destroyed in the anti-Chinese riot that ripped apart Lhasa and killed 13.

Tibetans in communities across the Himalayan plateau and in surrounding provinces who have risen up this week against Chinese rule appear mainly to be young men and women in their teens or twenties. They are from a generation too young to remember either a 1959 uprising against Chinese rule in which tens of thousands were killed or the destruction wreaked by Red Guards - both Chinese and Tibetan - during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.

Their anger has been directed as much against the traditional symbols of Chinese power as against ordinary Chinese, hinting at a deepening resentment, even a hatred, that follows ethnic lines.

Ben Hillman, of the Crawford School of Economics and Government of the Australian National University, sees a mix of economic and ethnic factors behind the unrest. “I think there has been a pace of change so fast that Tibetans have failed to keep up. Other groups, such as the Han, have moved in and taken opportunities, and that's caused a great deal of tension - particularly among young Tibetans.”

Beijing has poured billions of dollars into the region over the past three decades to try to develop one of its most backward - and strategically important - corners. The economy has grown at more than 12 per cent for seven years and hit 14 per cent last year - higher even than the national rate. Incomes too have risen: up 13 per cent in 2007 for Tibet's many nomads and farmers and a stunning 24.5 per cent for urban residents.

But there are those who feel left out. Young Tibetans who speak poor Mandarin - the official language of China and crucial to finding a job. Others are accustomed to a more rural way of life and their education, like others in China's vast countryside, leaves them ill-equipped for the rough and tumble of a market economy.

As Mr Hillman said: “These issues are incredibly complex. They are not just economic. It's an oversimplification to say it's the haves against the have-nots.”

Many Tibetans chafe under the restrictions imposed two years ago by the regional party boss that ban Tibetan Government servants from religious activities. Others are keenly aware that scarcely a single Chinese official in the regional government can speak Tibetan. That ethnocentric Han approach only intensifies the ethnic divide and cultural misunderstandings. No ethnic Tibetan has ever held the job of Communist Party boss - a potent signal of Beijing's lack of trust in this deeply Buddhist people who still revere the Dalai Lama.

Mr Hillman said: “It is a real source of resentment among people who feel very proud of their cultural heritage, which is an extremely well-developed one.”

The latest unrest has shown that Beijing needs to do more than restrict religion, vilify the Dalai Lama and throw money at the problem. Mr Hillman said: “Chinese investment has been overwhelmingly in hardware, in infrastructure and not in people, in education, in software.”

Across China, popular fury is being vented in internet chat rooms against the ingratitude of Tibetans. A documentary on the unrest, broadcast repeatedly nationwide since Thursday on state television, has provoked fury among Han Chinese as a sobbing Chinese trader describes the death of his 18-year-old sister in a fire in her shop.

Chinese in Qinghai province, which borders Tibet, voiced their rage openly yesterday on a bus and said that the rioters should be executed at once to teach Tibetans a lesson. Intended to show that only a few Tibetans, manipulated by the Dalai Lama, were involved, the video is already stirring new ethnic hatred.

Chinese have poured into Tibet on the new train to Lhasa that began running over the frozen plateau 18 months ago, visiting as tourists drawn by the mystique of its Buddhist faith and ancient traditions or as traders lured by business opportunities. They may well now recoil after the frenzy of violence. For Tibetans the breakdown of trust is reciprocated. Frightened and embittered, they face a prolonged security crackdown at the hands of Chinese who they may see more than ever as oppressors.

Robbie Barnett, a Tibet expert at Columbia University, said: “Ethnic hatred sometimes appears to be about lack of money and about jealousy - but it always has deeper foundations in long histories of usually bad policy and over-management by the state.”

Already all civil servants, university students and schoolchildren are being required to stand up in public and denounce their exiled god-king in a tested Communist Party tactic that demoralises and humiliates. As for Raidi, the survivor of the 1988 violence, he is now an adviser to Beijing and is leading a campaign in Lhasa to demonise what China routinely brands as the Dalai Lama clique masterminding unrest to try to sabotage the Beijing Olympics. Twenty years on, the ethnic hatred still burns deep.


Tibetan revolt has China's empire fraying at the edge

Michael Sheridan in Chengdu

March 23, 2008

For all its overwhelming force in the lonely mountain passes, where military convoys toil towards the clouds, or in the dark alleys of Chengdu’s Tibetan quarter, where soldiers stand watch, the sour tang of a debacle for China is in the air.

Despite 20 years of iron-fisted security, huge investments and mass migration since the last Tibetan uprising, the roof of the world once again looks like a hostile place to most Chinese.

The uneasy sense of psychological defeat emerged from interviews with Chinese citizens and soldiers in Sichuan province, a vast region that includes a swathe of the Tibetan plateau, over the past week.

Almost without exception, people said they had lost faith in government propaganda and feared that Tibetans would turn to violence against China.

“I believe they can never win their independence, because no big country backs them and they have no army,” said a shop owner, “and I believe we cannot win their hearts.”

This might be the most politically damaging result of the Tibetan uprising for the Chinese government. Foreign condemnation is officially scorned as biased. But public opinion at home, although hard to measure, suggests that many Chinese do not believe that Tibet is secure and do not think things can go on as they are.

The violence across Tibetan-inhabited villages and towns poses a threat to normal Chinese traffic along the strategic Chengdu-Lhasa highway.

The map of disorder is extremely telling. It has forced the army to deploy troops out of a key base at Kangding, a mixed Chinese-Tibetan town wedged between soaring mountains and reached by a dramatic new highway. “Our forces have kept things peaceful here, but you could not go further along the road,” said a staff member in a hotel in Kangding.

West of Kangding, the landscape changes to smooth grass-lands dotted by black-and-white Tibetan houses, towards the heights of the plateau where horse-riding nomads roam.

Fiercely resisting a Chinese campaign to force them into new towns, the nomads burst onto television screens around the world last week as they galloped into village after village at the head of protesting Tibetans.

The Chinese have spent millions on a chain of military bases along the highway. Dozens of artillery pieces can be seen lined up as if on parade grounds.

Sophisticated communications vehicles and new olive-green trucks ply the route.

Towards the troubled monastery town of Litang, where monks have secretly kept pictures of the Dalai Lama for many years, a camouflaged radar station scans the heavens.

“All the shops and businesses have been closed for three days,” said a Tibetan clerk, speaking by telephone from Litang on Friday. “It’s very tense.”

Exiles reported that Chinese stores in Litang had been ransacked and government buildings had been seized by crowds who raised the Tibetan national flag. The scenes were similar around monasteries and impoverished villages all over the ancient Tibetan areas of Kham and Amdo, now incorporated into the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai.

The Chinese military has trained for decades precisely for this moment. Its commander in Lhasa, a two-star general named Tong Guishan, has spent his entire career in Tibet since joining the 155nd Brigade of the People’s Liberation Army’s 52nd division in 1964. His predecessor in Tibet, General Zhang Guihua, is the political commissar in the Chengdu military command, which oversees all southwest China. These two men were responsible for ordering units of the 52nd and 55th Divisions out of Lhasa, Chengdu and Kangding last week to quench the protests in Sichuan.

Tibetans in exile reported 15 deaths in Karze, north of Litang, when 500 protesters confronted troops. Clashes were said to have taken place in Markham, a key highway junction. “Tibetans are being told they will be detained until the end of the Olympics; and once the Olympics are over court proceedings will begin,” a local source told Radio Free Asia.

The worst violence was reported by Tibetans from Aba, in Sichuan province, where they alleged that 23 people, including Lhundup Tso, 16, had been shot dead by the security forces.

China has not officially admitted that its forces have killed any Tibetans. The state media have, however, said that one policeman was killed and 241 were injured, 23 of them critically, in the Lhasa protests.

Reporters have been unable to verify independently either Chinese or Tibetan claims. But the violence reached right into the centre of Chengdu, a city of 11m, where nerves were on edge last week. In scenes not witnessed in a Chinese city since 1989, troops in battledress joined black-uniformed special police in clamping a cordon around the Tibetan quarter.

“A Tibetan from Aba killed two Chinese people with a knife on Xiaotiandong Road,” said a taxi driver, repeating a rumour that spread like wildfire via the taxi radio link and text messages. Chengdu’s Public Security Bureau hastily summoned reporters to a press conference at 10.30pm to deny that anyone was dead. Its deputy chief, He Jiansheng, confirmed that the attacker was a Tibetan from Aba.

Within the bustling warren of Tibetan streets, monks in crimson robes hurried past shops selling sacred statues and pictures – none of the Dalai Lama, of course – while students ate supper at open-air restaurants under the watchful eyes of the military.

The fear, it seemed, was mutual. “No, we can’t speak,” gasped a young Tibetan, abandoning his dish of yak ears and noodles to flee with his friends.

Local Chinese feared a terrorist attack. Cars entering the quarter were searched for explosives. “We’ve got orders to stand here as long as the government tells us,” said a young soldier, gripping his assault rifle.

Western military attachés say there is no question that Generals Tong and Zhang can impose what China calls “stability” in short order. Yet the uprising has led some to sense that China’s empire is fraying at the edges. A bank clerk based in Lhasa told how his financial firm had ordered all staff to stay out of Tibet. A Chengdu entrepreneur said the city’s business people went to make money in Tibet but would never buy a home there.

Such insecurity stands in telling contrast to the strident proclamations of national unity that have accompanied a stream of increasingly coarse propaganda from Beijing.

Yesterday the foreign ministry was reduced to issuing a list of nations that had supported the crackdown – Russia, Syria, North Korea, Vietnam, Belarus, Benin and, perhaps for the sake of variety, Fiji.

Last night the people of the self-governing democracy of Taiwan elected Ma Yingjeou of the Nationalist party as their president in a contest that has been so dominated by China’s conduct in Tibet that the new leader has to take a firm line in defence of the island’s freedom.

In Beijing a noted Tibetan writer, Tsering Woeser, and her Chinese husband have been put under house arrest after speaking to reporters.

In Hong Kong, the former British colony enjoying 50 years of “a high degree of autonomy” from China, an editorial in the South China Morning Post pointed to the degree of unease among its senior editors, who have good relations with mainland officials. “The central government’s policy towards Tibet has clearly failed,” it said.


I am beginning to think republicans like McCain and Cheney only go to Baghdad hoping to rile up the people or giving orders to Blackwater and telling them to step the bombings and continue the chaos. It never fails the republicans go to Iraq and brag how well things are going and the violence explodes all over the country.

I accuse the private contractors of continuing the chaos.

Democrats go to Iraq and no such bombings occur. Mmmm. Interesting to say the least.

Iraq’s Parliament has voted several times telling the USA to leave they even tried to expel BlackWater.

Peace and stability will never come to Iraq until Bush/Cheney and their cohorts in crimes get their oil contracts.

It is time for all private contractors to leave Iraq. Let Iraqi politicians protect themselves.

Baghdad Green Zone under attack


Mar. 23 - Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses the Iraqi parliament and U.S. embassy, is hit by a sustained barrage of rocket or mortar fire but there are no reports of casualties.

The barrage of about a dozen blasts, which started just before 6 a.m. local time, came in three separate volleys and lasted for a total of about 15 minutes.

While there was no immediate indication of who was responsible for the attack, the U.S. military has blamed past missile strikes on the Green Zone on rogue elements of anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia.

Last month Moqtada al-Sadr renewed a seven-month-old ceasefire.

However there are fears the ceasefire may be beginning to unravel after Mehdi Army fighters clashed with Iraqi and U.S. forces in the southern city of Kut and two southern Baghdad districts last week.


2 Arrested on Oil Espionage Charges

Friday, March 21, 2008.

By Miriam Elder and David Nowak
Staff Writers

The Federal Security Service said Thursday that it had charged two Russian-American brothers with industrial espionage in connection with an investigation into embattled Russian-British oil firm TNK-BP.

The announcement came a day after unidentified law enforcement officers spent hours combing the headquarters of TNK-BP and its parent company, BP, in a move seen as a blow to the firm's efforts to maintain independence from the state.

The FSB said the brothers -- Ilya Zaslavsky, a TNK-BP employee, and Alexander Zaslavsky, who heads the British Council's British Alumni Club -- had colluded to undermine the efforts of Russian energy firms.

"According to FSB information, the people mentioned were illegally collecting classified commercial information for a number of foreign oil and gas companies to gain advantages over Russian competitors, including in CIS countries," the FSB said in a statement, Interfax reported.

They were detained on March 12 while attempting to get classified information from a Russian citizen employed by a "national hydrocarbon institution," the FSB said. They were released later that day under orders not to leave the country and were charged on Tuesday, it said.

"TNK-BP is a commercial organization engaged in normal legitimate commercial activity," TNK-BP said in a statement.

Ilya Zaslavsky, 29, works as a manager in TNK-BP's international affairs office, according to his business card. Several Internet profiles refer to him as an adviser for gas business development at the firm.

His brother, Alexander, 33, is head of the British Alumni Club, which groups graduates of British universities. He is also a former employee of Eurasia Group, the political risk consultanc, and now acts as an independent energy consultant.

Both brothers graduated from Oxford University, and Ilya heads the Moscow Oxford Society.

Automatic messages on the two men's cell phones said the numbers had been disconnected.

The arrests put further pressure on TNK-BP, a 50-50 joint venture between BP and three Russian oligarchs, and threatened to plunge relations with both Great Britain and the United States to even deeper lows.

The FSB said searches of the TNK-BP and BP offices on Wednesday had turned up "business cards of representatives of foreign defense departments and the CIA."

A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy declined to comment, while a British Embassy spokesman said they were monitoring the situation. "We are in touch with BP about this," he said.

Relations between London and Moscow deteriorated sharply following the death of Alexander Litvinenko by radioactive poisoning in November 2006 in London. Russia refuses to extradite top suspect Andrei Lugovoi, while Britain has refused repeated Russian requests to extradite self-exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky.

The two sides traded tit-for-tat expulsions of embassy officials last summer but insisted that the spat would not spill over into the economic sphere.

The British Council, the cultural arm of the British Embassy, has also run afoul of the Kremlin and said it was forced to suspend operations at its St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg offices in January because of security concerns for its staff.

"Members of the alumni club are highly valued contacts for the British Council, so obviously we are concerned by the reports," British Council spokesman Anthony Watson said Thursday by telephone from London.

He said the British Council had helped create the alumni club, which maintains around 1,800 members across Russia, but did not directly finance it.

BP, which had its offices searched for several hours Wednesday evening, was functioning as normal, spokesman Vladimir Buyanov said.

Yet at TNK-BP, foreign workers assigned by BP were warned to stay away, a source inside the company said. Computer servers and e-mail were still down following the day-long raid on Wednesday, several sources inside the company said.

TNK-BP agreed to sell its flagship Kovykta gas field to Gazprom last summer following months of wrangling with environmental authorities, but the deal has yet to be finalized, fuelling market speculation that Gazprom hopes to buy out the firm's Russian shareholders.

The 50-50 Russian-British venture does not fit into the current landscape of majority state control over the energy industry. The State Duma is due to vote Friday on a law enshrining state control over strategic sectors.

Gazprom Deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev told the Financial Times in an interview published Thursday that he expected the Kovykta agreement to be sealed by the end of April.

The Kremlin hopes to conclude a broader deal, which could see Gazprom take over the TNK-BP stakes currently held by Viktor Vekselberg's Renova, Len Blavatnik's Access and Mikhail Fridman's Alfa Group, before the inauguration of President-elect Dmitry Medvedev on May 7, analysts said.

Medvedev currently chairs Gazprom's board of directors.

"We are a Russian company and we work successfully on a fair commercial basis with many other Russian companies, both state and privately owned," TNK-BP said in a statement.

The company said it did "not condone illegal activity nor do we rely on unfair competitive practices."

"The company has never countenanced or supported any activities designed to conflict with or damage Russia's interests," the statement said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said late Thursday that the actions of Russian law enforcement should not be politicized.

"They are doing their job and doing it well," he said, adding that charges of economic espionage are deemed serious everywhere. "Everyone is equal before the law."

Peskov added that it was not yet clear whether the matter concerned the company as a whole or just isolated individuals.

TNK-BP is a "respected company that feels comfortable and earns significant profit here," he added. That, he said, is due to government efforts to ensure a good investment climate in the country.

Friends spoke glowingly of the two brothers and appeared shocked by their arrest.

"He's a bright, young guy," one friend said of Ilya Zaslavsky. Ilya Zaslavsky's profile on the Facebook networking site features a self-description as "First Oil Poet of the Russian Federation."

A friend of Alexander Zaslavsky's from Oxford said: "Sasha was a brilliant student. For his degree [in philosophy, politics and economics] he got one of the best grades in the university."

Staff Writers Nikolaus von Twickel and Anna Smolchenko contributed to this report.


I WAS RIGHT! I have always said Bush was probably a schoolyard bully and this next article proves I was right.

Such a shame no other child didn’t kick his ass over and over again, George might have turned out to be a better man.

U.S. Pushed Allies on Iraq, Diplomat Writes

Chilean Envoy to U.N. Recounts Threats of Retaliation in Run-Up to Invasion

By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 23, 2008

UNITED NATIONS -- In the months leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration threatened trade reprisals against friendly countries who withheld their support, spied on its allies, and pressed for the recall of U.N. envoys that resisted U.S. pressure to endorse the war, according to an upcoming book by a top Chilean diplomat.

The rough-and-tumble diplomatic strategy has generated lasting "bitterness" and "deep mistrust" in Washington's relations with allies in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere, Heraldo Mu¿oz, Chile's ambassador to the United Nations, writes in his book "A Solitary War: A Diplomat's Chronicle of the Iraq War and Its Lessons," set for publication next month.

"In the aftermath of the invasion, allies loyal to the United States were rejected, mocked and even punished" for their refusal to back a U.N. resolution authorizing military action against Saddam Hussein's government, Mu¿oz writes.

But the tough talk dissipated as the war situation worsened, and President Bush came to reach out to many of the same allies that he had spurned. Mu¿oz's account suggests that the U.S. strategy backfired in Latin America, damaging the administration's standing in a region that has long been dubious of U.S. military intervention.

Mu¿oz details key roles by Chile and Mexico, the Security Council's two Latin members at the time, in the run-up to the war: Then-U.N. Ambassadors Juan Gabriel Vald¿s of Chile and Adolfo Aguilar Zinser of Mexico helped thwart U.S. and British efforts to rally support among the council's six undecided members for a resolution authorizing the U.S.-led invasion.

The book portrays Bush personally prodding the leaders of those six governments -- Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan -- to support the war resolution, a strategy aimed at demonstrating broad support for U.S. military plans, despite the French threat to veto the resolution.

In the weeks preceding the war, Bush made several appeals to Chilean President Ricardo Lagos and Mexican President Vicente Fox to rein in their diplomats and support U.S. war aims. "We have problems with your ambassador at the U.N.," Bush told Fox at a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Los Cabos, Mexico, in late 2002.

"It's time to bring up the vote, Ricardo. We've had this debate too long," Bush told the Chilean president on March 11, 2003.

"Bush had referred to Lagos by his first name, but as the conversation drew to a close and Lagos refused to support the resolution as it stood, Bush shifted to a cool and aloof 'Mr. President,' " Mu¿oz writes. "Next Monday, time is up," Bush told Lagos.

Senior U.S. diplomats sought to thwart a last-minute attempt by Chile to broker a compromise that would delay military action for weeks, providing Iraq with a final chance to demonstrate that it had fully complied with disarmament requirements.

On March 14, 2003, less than one week before the invasion, Chile hosted a meeting of diplomats from the six undecided governments to discuss its proposal. But then-U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte and then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell moved quickly to quash the initiative, warning them that the effort was viewed as "an unfriendly act" designed to isolate the United States. The diplomats received calls from their governments ordering them to "leave the meeting immediately," Mu¿oz writes.

Aguilar Zinser, who died in 2005, was forced out of the Mexican government after publicly accusing the United States of treating Mexico like its "back yard" during the war negotiations. Vald¿s was transferred to Argentina, where he served as Chile's top envoy, and Mu¿oz, a Chilean minister and onetime classmate of Condoleezza Rice at the University of Denver, was sent to the United Nations in June 2003 to patch up relations with the United States.

In the days after the invasion, the National Security Council's top Latin American expert, John F. Maisto, invited Mu¿oz to the White House to convey the message to Lagos, that his country's position at the United Nations had jeopardized prospects for the speedy Senate ratification of a free-trade pact. "Chile has lost some influence," he said.

"President Bush is truly disappointed with Lagos, but he is furious with Fox. With Mexico, the president feels betrayed; with Chile, frustrated and let down."

Mu¿oz said relations remained tense at the United Nations, where the United States sought support for resolutions authorizing the occupation of Iraq. He said that small countries met privately in a secure room at the German mission that was impervious to suspected U.S. eavesdropping. "It reminded me of a submarine or a giant safe," Mu¿oz said in an interview.

The United States, he added, expressed "its displeasure" to the German government every time they held a meeting in the secure room. "They couldn't listen to what was going on."

Mu¿oz said that threats of reprisals were short-lived as Washington quickly found itself reaching out to Chile, Mexico and other countries to support Iraq's messy postwar rehabilitation. It also sought support from Chile on issues such as peacekeeping in Haiti and support for U.S. efforts to drive Syria out of Lebanon. The U.S.-Chilean free trade agreement, while delayed, was finally signed by then-U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick in June 2003.

Mu¿oz said that Rice, as secretary of state, called him to ask for help on a U.N. resolution that would press for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. The United States had secured eight of the nine votes required for adoption of a resolution in the Security Council. Mu¿oz had received instructions to abstain. "I talked to [Lagos], and he listened to my argument, and we gave them the ninth vote," he said.


Anyone remember this being reported on the MSM? And since March 3rd American soldiers are being killed left and right.


Iranian President Tells US-led Forces to Leave Iraq By Daniel Schearf

03 March 2008

In a live broadcast on Iraqi television, the Iranian leader said Iraqis hated the presence of foreign troops. He said foreign forces needed to respect people in the region by leaving and allowing them to run their own affairs.

He says all they have seen is destruction, problems, and sectarian violence. He said if foreign forces would withdraw Iraq could become a strong nation, serving the region and helping to improve security.

Mr. Ahmadinejad made the comments on the last day of a two-day visit to Iraq. It was the first trip to Iraq by an Iranian leader in decades and leaders from the traditional enemies said it would open a new chapter in their relations.

The two sides signed seven memorandums of understanding on trade and industrial development, including a one-billion dollar loan from Iran for Iraq's reconstruction efforts.

Iraq and Iran fought a bloody eight-year war in the 1980s that killed about a million people. But, after the 2003 U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein Iran's influence inside Iraq has grown, sparking concerns in Washington.

Mr. Ahmadinejad said foreign forces were always trying to destroy the brotherly relations between Iraq and Iran.

He says this visit proves there is once again a strong, fraternal relationship between the two countries.

The United States says Iran is supplying advanced weapons to Shiite militias inside Iraq that have killed hundreds of coalition and Iraqi troops and civilians.

Mr. Ahmadinejad rejected the accusations and said they were based on lies.

Security was tight in Baghdad during the Iranian president's visit, with thousands of extra police and troops on hand and several major roads blocked-off. Despite the measures, two suicide bombers detonated in central and eastern parts of the city, killing at least 23 people and wounding 43 others.


Fatah and Hamas sign reconciliation deal

Sun Mar 23, 2008 1:16pm GMT

By Mohamed Sudam

SANAA (Reuters) - Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas signed on Sunday a Yemeni-sponsored reconciliation deal vowing to revive direct talks after months of hostilities, but differences remained over the future of the Gaza Strip.

The two factions reconvened in Sanaa earlier in the day after the talks, launched last week by Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, came close to collapse several times.

"We, the representatives of Fatah and Hamas, agree to the Yemeni initiative as a framework to resume dialogue between the two movements to return the Palestinian situation to what it was before the Gaza incidents," a declaration issued after the meeting said.

The Sanaa declaration, signed by top Hamas negotiator Moussa Abu Marzouk and senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed, also affirmed the "unity of the Palestinian people, territory and authority".

The Yemeni initiative called for the situation in the Gaza Strip to return to the way it was before Hamas seized the area in June after routing Fatah forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Fatah had said it would agree to direct reconciliation talks with Hamas only if the Islamist group first agreed to relinquish its hold on Gaza, home to 1.5 million Palestinians.

A Hamas official said on Saturday the group asked that the same condition should apply to the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority has dismissed a Hamas-led government and arrested some Hamas supporters.

Differences over that key clause remained, but Ahmed said he was looking forward to Yemen setting a date for new talks to begin that would hammer out the details of implementation.

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