Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110301

»Clinton Wants Lockerbie Bombing Inquiry Opened
»Congressman King: Subpoena the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA)
»Frank Gaffney: Huawei? No Way; Don’t Let the Chinese Telecom Giant Infiltrate Our Communications System
Europe and the EU
»Italy: Berlusconi Tax-Fraud Trial Resumes
»Italy: Berlusconi Unfazed by Ruby Trial, Quotes Jesus
»Italy: Fiat Tries Renaming Chrysler Cars to Turnaround Business
»Italy: Berlusconi Claims He No Longer Has a Cellphone
»Italy: Berlusconi Cautious on Gaddafi Exile
»Slovenia: End Wanted to Property Sales to Italians on Border
»Spain: Polls: PSOE Debacle in Andalusia as Well
»UK: London School of Economics Takes £1.5m From Gaddafi’s Son as Chief Admits Embarrassment at Relationship With Regime
North Africa
»Belgian Bullets Used in Libya
»Egypt: Travel Banned for Mubarak and Family, Assets Frozen
»Libya: In Benghazi: A Revolt 30 Years in the Making. And Plans to Finish the Job
»Libya: UNHCR Spokeswoman, Refugee Emergency at Tunisian Border
»Libya: Beijing & Moscow Against Military Intervention
»Libyan Rebels, Invoking U.N., May Ask West for Airstrikes
»Press: Israel Behind African Mercenaries in Libya
»We’ll Use Military Force to Free Libya, Vows UK PM: Cameron Plans No-Fly Zone Over Country and Even Threatens to Send British Troops
Israel and the Palestinians
»Israel — Eldorado for Small Hi-Tech Enterprises
»West Bank: Army Clashes With Settlers in Outpost
Middle East
»Demonstrations in Amman for Releasing Political Prisoners
»Lebanon: Demonstration Against Sectarian Political System
»Syria: Footwear Sector Operators on Mission to Italy
South Asia
»India’s ‘Mr History’ Passes Away
»Pakistan: US Govt Refuses to Swap Jailed Scientist for Davis
»EU-Turkey: Immigration Deal No Longer as Close
»UK: Migrant Cover-Up: Reports Kept Secret by Labour Show Mass Immigration Cut Wages, Raised Tensions and That Too Many Stayed Too Longby James Chapman


Clinton Wants Lockerbie Bombing Inquiry Opened

(AGI) Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has asked that an inquiry be opened on the possible role Muammar Gheddafi played in the Lockerbie bombing that destroyed Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland on December 21, 1988, killing 270 people. It is a pro forma request seeing that the only person held responsible, Abdel Basset ali al Megrahi, condemned to life imprisonment was freed by Scotland, under pressure from London, on August 20, 2009.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Congressman King: Subpoena the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA)

Congressman Peter King is holding hearings to discuss radicalization of Muslims within America.

The country would be well-educated on the matter should he choose to enter the AMJA’s writings and fatwas into the record…

           — Hat tip: Andy Bostom[Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: Huawei? No Way; Don’t Let the Chinese Telecom Giant Infiltrate Our Communications System

Last summer, a Chinese telecommunications giant founded by a former People’s Liberation Army (PLA) engineer was rebuffed in its effort to sell vast quantities of equipment to Sprint Nextel — an American company that provides communication services to the U.S. Defense Department and other government agencies. An interagency group known as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) took a hard look at the proposal and, quite sensibly, rejected it on national security grounds.

Unbeknownst to CFIUS at the time, Huawei was making another, unscrutinized and problematic investment in the United States. It bought pieces of 3Leaf, a now-insolvent pioneer in “cloud computing” technology, including intellectual property with obvious military applications.

When this transaction serendipitously came to the Pentagon’s attention, alarm bells went off. CFIUS took a look at it as well and came to the same conclusion as it had with the Chinese company’s previous play with Sprint Nextel and two earlier initiatives — its effort to buy a stake in 3Com and bid to invest in some of Motorola’s assets: No way…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Italy: Berlusconi Tax-Fraud Trial Resumes

Ruby will be called as witness in sex trial because of ‘contradictions’ in statements

(ANSA) — Milan, February 28 — A trial for alleged tax fraud on the sale of film rights by Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset empire resumed Monday but the premier did not attend.

It is the first of three graft trials that will see the premier facing charges over the next few weeks, while a fourth trial, for the alleged use of an underage prostitute called Ruby, gets under way on April 6.

The graft trials were reactivated after Italy’s Constitutional Court last month partly lifted the latest of the premier’s judicial shields.

The sex trial, which was not covered by the shield, came after weeks of wiretap leaks that engrossed the nation.

“Four trials in Milan for the premier is a situation without precedent,” said Berlusconi’s lawyer, Niccolo’ Ghedini.

“It is beyond normality”.

Berlusconi, who vowed Sunday to press on until the end of his term in office in 2013, has claimed the Milan prosecutors are trying to oust him from office and he has announced judicial reforms to rein them in.

On Monday a judge filed a note saying the premier had not shown up but Ghedini said he might attend the next hearing, on April 11.

The second graft trial, in which the premier is accused of paying British tax lawyer David Mills for allegedly favourable testimony, is set to restart on March 11.

The third corruption trial, into alleged film-sale tax irregularities by a Mediaset unit, Mediatrade, will start from scratch on Saturday, March 5.

The Ruby trial is the most keenly waited and the one that has finally knocked Berlusconi’s standings in the polls after months in which despite his judicial woes his ratings were buoyant.

The latest poll showed that, if an election were called now, the divided and fractious centre-left opposition might be favourite for the first time since Berlusconi swept back to power in 2008.

In the Ruby case, Berlusconi is also accused of abusing his position to get the teen Moroccan belly dancer and runaway out of police custody by saying she was the niece of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

He has said he acted in good faith to avoid a diplomatic incident and believed what he had been told.

Ghedini said Monday the Berlusconi defence team intended to call Ruby, whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, to the witness stand because of “contradictions” in her statements to police. Berlusconi’s other top lawyer, Piero Longo, said he “wasn’t worried about any of the four trials, because we’re going to win them”.

Meeting the public Monday to present an initiative of his People of Freedom party, Berlusconi told them: “You’re good fun, I’m inviting you all to the bunga bunga”, a nickname for his parties.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Unfazed by Ruby Trial, Quotes Jesus

‘They know not what they do,’ premier says ahead of April 6 date

(see related story on site).

(ANSA) — Milan, February 28 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was unruffled Monday when asked about the start of a trial April 6 for allegedly paying for sex with an underage girl called Ruby.

Asked if he was worried about April 6, the premier replied: “What is there (on that date)?” Quizzed whether he intended to show up after he was a no-show Monday for a graft trial, the premier replied: “I’m the man who’s had the most trials in Italy, I’ve had 2,952 hearings”. “When they tell me, ‘Let yourself be tried’, I think, ‘forgive them for they know not what they do’“.

The premier is facing four trials, three for alleged corruption and one for alleged sex with the alleged underage prostitute and allegedly pressuring police to get her out of police custody after an unrelated theft allegation.

He vowed Monday to press on with judicial reform and told Milan entrepreneurs he was also poised to boost the economy, “even though I’m rather busy at the moment, with five hearings in 11 days”.

“If I tell you how much I’ve spent on consultants and lawyers I think you’ll faint: more than 600 billion (old) lire”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fiat Tries Renaming Chrysler Cars to Turnaround Business

(AKI/Bloomberg) — Fiat’s integration with Chrysler faces its first test with European buyers this week, when chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne introduces Chrysler models with Fiat nameplates at the Geneva auto show.

Marchionne is counting on the rebadged models to keep customers walking into the showrooms as he holds off on new Fiat models until the second half. Marchionne, who boosted Fiat’s stake in Chrysler to 25 percent last month, is withdrawing the Chrysler brand from continental Europe.

“Marchionne is trying to make a virtue out of necessity,” said Marco Santino, an analyst at A.T. Kearney in Rome. “While pure rebadging strategies have never worked well, Lancia and Fiat dealers will at least have some new products to show this year.”

Marchionne said 15 February that Fiat had “repositioned” model launches until the second half because he doesn’t expect Europe’s car market to start recovering before then. Fiat forecasts a 3 percent decline for the European market this year. The company’s European share shrank to 7.6 percent in 2010 from 8.7 percent in 2009, according to industry group statistics.

“Fiat is playing defence in Europe, it has no major product push throughout the year,” said Jochen Gehrke of Deutsche Bank, who’s ranked No. 1 among Fiat analysts tracked by Bloomberg. The rebadged Chryslers may only provide “niche” sales, he said. Gehrke expects Turin, Italy-based Fiat to lose market share in Europe this year.

Three of the five cars Fiat will introduce this year are derived from Chrysler models, including the Lancia Thema, which is a European version of the Chrysler 300, and the Fiat Freemont, which is based on the Dodge Journey. Fiat will unveil the cars at the Geneva Motor Show on Tuesday. The five-door Lancia Ypsilon is the only all-new car the company will show.

Sales of the Thema and other rebadged Chrysler models in Europe may give the carmaker an “incremental” sales bump without a lot of extra cost, said Jim Hall, an industry analyst with Birmingham, Michigan-based 2953 Analytics.

“It does allow them to firm up Lancia, and Lancia has had a tough time,” Hall said. The strategy is “a ‘win’ in that there’s not a lot of investment.”

Excluding the Ferrari and Maserati luxury brands, the Italian carmaker lost about 380 million euros in Europe last year, Gehrke said. The company had 2010 operating profit of 1 billion euros in Latin America, he estimates.

“Fiat needs to sell at least 10 percent more cars in Europe this year in order just to break even,” said Gehrke.

The revamped Lancia Thema features European touches like Italian leather made by Poltrona Frau. Elisabetta Canalis, the Italian girlfriend of George Clooney, is also appearing in a series of Lancia ads, with the tagline, “Italian character meets American glamour.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Claims He No Longer Has a Cellphone

Milan, 28 Feb. (AKI) — Italy’s scandal-mired premier Silvio Berlusconi, who currently faces four trials, told supporters on Monday that he gave up his mobile phone to evade police surveillance.

“Be aware that your prime minister no longer has any kind of cell phone because he is subjected to every kind of wiretapping,” Berlusconi told a meeting of his ruling conservative People of Freedom party in the northern city of Milan.

“Everyone considers it an infringement of liberty not to be able to speak freely on the phone. This is why I have stepped backwards in time and no longer use a mobile phone,” Berlusconi said.

Berlusconi currently faces four criminal trials. Following a ruling by Italy’s constitutional court last month that removed his automatic immunity from prosecution, a tax fraud trial re-started against him in the northern city of Milan on Monday.

Two related trials against Berlusconi involving tax fraud, embezzlement and bribery are due to resume in early March.

But in a fourth and possibly more damaging case relating to Berlusconi’s private life, a judge has ordered him to stand trial in April for allegedly paying an underage nightclub dancer for sex and abusing his powers of office to get police to release the girl from custody on unrelated theft charges.

If convicted of both offences, 74-year-old Berlusconi could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

The judge who sent Berlusconi to trial over the prostitution case ordered a fast-track trial with no pre-trial hearing due to the “obviousness” of the evidence, which is contained in over 700 pages of wiretaps transcripts and documents.

Berluconi denies wrongdoing in all the cases, saying he is the victim of an alleged conspiracy of leftist judges.

He has claimed he is the most persecuted politician in the history of the world.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Cautious on Gaddafi Exile

‘Situation in flux,’ says Italian premier

(ANSA) — Rome, March 1 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was cautious Tuesday about proposed exile for embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

“At this time a lot of caution is needed because the situation is in continuous flux,” Berlusconi told the Il Messaggero newspaper, while stressing that Italy will be “in line” with what the international community decides.

The Italian premier said he was in touch with European Union leaders and would talk to German Chancellor Angela Merkel later Tuesday.

International pressure on Gaddafi to step down amid his bloody crackdown on rebels has stepped up with sanctions from the EU on top of those from the United Nations, while the United States has urged him to leave power immediately.

The option of imposing a no-fly zone across Libya still appears to be on the table if Gaddafi continues to bomb protesters and Italy has said Sicily would be available as a base for Western planes because Gaddafi’s conduct has negated a 2008 mutual non-aggression pact with Libya.

Berlusconi was one of the closest Western leaders to Gaddafi after the Libyan strongman came out of the international wilderness and Italy was initially criticised for not wanting to “interfere” in Libya before it joined in condemnation of the crackdown.

Italy is Libya’s top trading partner and Tripoli supplies it with about a quarter of its oil and about a tenth of its gas.

Libya has stakes in Italy’s biggest bank Unicredit as well as aerospace and engineering giant Finmecannica and soccer club Juventus while ENI is the biggest oil operator in the North African country.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Slovenia: End Wanted to Property Sales to Italians on Border

(ANSAmed) — LJUBLJANA, FEBRUARY 28 — Slovenians living in towns on the border with the Italian city of Trieste have asked the Ljubljana government to declare a “protected territorial strip” in the border area of Kras and the Slovenian coastline, in which foreign citizens, chiefly Italians, are unable to purchase property. This is according to the Slovenian press.

Since the removal of an article in the country’s Constitution banning the sale of property and land to foreigners, a move requested by Brussels as a condition for Slovenia’s entry into the EU in 2004, around a thousand homes in the border area have been sold to non-Slovenians, with most buyers coming from Trieste. This is according to two associations, one representing Kras and the other acting on behalf of the Slovenian coastline, which have written to the Prime Minister, Borut Pahor, and other government officials, requesting the introduction of “a protective clause based on EU rules” in order to bring about “an end to the selling-off of property and land”.

The two initiatives say that land close to the border is turning into “dormitories for people from Trieste”, with families from the Italian city moving across the border without any of the Slovenian towns receiving any income as a result. The new residents pay their taxes in Italy and, the associations maintain, show no interest in integrating with the local community and adapting to local customs, “even expecting that people speak to them in Italian”. Furthermore, as a result of property speculation brought about by estate agencies, the cost of a square metre of constructible land has risen from around 15 euros in 2004 to 120 euros in 2010.

“The right to protect our land is provided by Article 37 of the EU membership treaty, which guarantees all countries that joined in 2004 the right to introduce protective measures as part of the free circulation of capital, including property. These measures are applicable in the seven-year transition period, which expires on May 1 this year,” explains Spomenka Hribar, a Slovenian politician, who has urged the Prime Minister to act fast.

Pahor has said that his government has taken the demands of the local population regarding the “protective clause” into account and says that the executive “is not indifferent to this problem”, though he says that “cautious and intelligent action” must be taken.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Polls: PSOE Debacle in Andalusia as Well

(ANSAmed) — MADRID — FEBRUARY 28 — The four polls published today by four different newspapers predict a real debacle for the socialists, 3 months before the regional elections that will be held on May 22. The polls say that the socialists would even lose their historic stronghold Andalusia, which they have government for the past 30 years. The People’s Party with leader of Andalusia Javier Arenas would win the election obtaining an absolute majority and with a 12.3 point lead over the socialist candidate and outgoing President, José Antonio Griñan, according to El Pais and with a lead of 7.1 points according to the conservative ABC. Both newspapers expect an increase in votes to the left-wing Izquierda Unida, and add that many voters (25.9% according to ABC) have not made up their mind yet. According to 66% of the interviewed, the socialist government has been “bad or very bad”, particularly in the light of the case of the early retirement scam, in which public funds were allegedly used to help companies pay to dismiss staff. An investigation has led to the resignation of many members of the regional socialist government. If the prospects for the local elections in May are bleak, they are even more so for the 2012 general election. in this election, the PP is expected to win with an absolute majority, consolidating its lead of more than 13 points over the PSOE, based on the poll published by newspaper Publico, close to the socialist government, and the conservative La Razon. And this while it is yet unknown whether or not Zapatero will stand for his third mandate.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: London School of Economics Takes £1.5m From Gaddafi’s Son as Chief Admits Embarrassment at Relationship With Regime

The head of a leading British university which has taken cash from Libya yesterday admitted he was ‘embarrassed’ by his relationship with the Gaddafi regime.

The London School of Economics accepted an offer of £1.5million of research funding from a foundation controlled by Saif Gaddafi, the dictator’s son — and has already spent half of the money it has received.

And a video has emerged of its leading academics lavishing praise on Colonel Gaddafi, welcoming him as a statesman.

Sir Howard Davies, the director of the LSE, had feted Saif as the modernising and acceptable face of the Gaddafi regime.

But to his acute embarrassment the second son of Colonel Gaddafi went on state television last week to proclaim that his father remained in charge and would, with the army’s backing, ‘fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet’.

Sir Howard yesterday admitted his shame and ‘embarrassment’, saying the close relationship and acceptance of the funding had ‘backfired’, and acknowledging he had seriously misjudged Saif.

The chilling footage, shot on a mobile phone in Tripoli at the weekend, makes a mockery of Saif’s claims to be a man the West can do business with.

Standing on the roof of a 4x4 and holding the rifle in his left hand, Saif tells armed supporters: ‘Brothers, God willing — keep the spirits high. We have the means, the equipment, the weapons, we’re fine. It’s your homeland. Don’t lose it.’

He also expressed regret that he had visited the country to advise the regime about how it could modernise its financial institutions.

Saif was awarded a PhD from the LSE in 2008 after studying at the university’s Centre for the Study of Global Governance. He then made a £1.5million gift to the LSE from his organisation, the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation (GICDF), in 2009.

Professor David Held, co-director of the Centre for Global Governance, was an informal mentor and an economic adviser to Saif and appointed a trustee of GICDF.

To date the foundation had paid £300,000 of the £1.5million pledged, half of which has been spent on research into the development of democracy and civil society in North Africa.

Yesterday the LSE said it would plough the remaining £150,000 into a scholarship fund.

Sir Howard said: ‘We looked at the pros and cons of engaging with someone like Saif Gaddafi and with the problems in North Africa and we decided that we would do so.

‘In retrospect we can say that, knowing what we know now and how he has behaved in this crisis, that’s a judgment that we might have made differently… We took a risk on that and I think it’s right to say that that risk backfired on us.’

Sir Howard admitted his errors after coming under intense pressure from the LSE’s student body.

Now, strip him of his ‘stolen’ PhD, demand angry studentsThe London School of Economics is under pressure to strip Saif Gaddafi of his PhD after claims that his thesis was ghost-written or that he had heavily plagiarised other works.

The allegations first surfaced after he was awarded the academic qualification in 2008.

Last night a spokesman for the LSE Students Union said: ‘There are serious questions about Saif Al Islam’s PhD, and we call for an external investigation.’

Saif’s thesis is called The Role Of Civil Society In The Democratisation Of Global Governance Institutions.

Some 16 examples of where he has plagiarised well-known academic texts in his thesis have already been pinpointed by critics on the internet.

He lifted whole passages from International Monetary Fund research and numerous academic texts such as Denying Democracy: How The IMF And World Bank Take Power From People, by Tim Jones and Peter Hardstaff.

And the billionaire was also allowed to commission research from consultancy Monitor to pad out his thesis — which he mentions in the acknowledgements.

A spokesman for the LSE said yesterday: ‘We are aware that there are allegations of plagiarism concerning the PhD thesis of Saif Gaddafi.

‘The School takes all allegations of plagiarism very seriously, and is looking into the matter in accordance with standard LSE procedures.’

The thesis investigates arguments for ‘soft power’ and different voting systems and the role of ‘civil society’.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Belgian Bullets Used in Libya

Le Soir, 24 February 2011

“Bullets made by the Fabrique Nationale d’Herstal found at site of Libyan killings,” reveals Le Soir. Thousands of small and medium calibre cartridges bearing the inscription FNB 7,62 08 have been found on the runways of La Abraq airport in Libya’s third largest town, El Beïda, where fighting between “government forces” and demonstrators, which lasted from 17 to 19 February, resulted in 63 deaths and 200 wounded. “There is no doubt,” writes Le Soir, “ a Belgian arms specialist has confirmed that the bullets were produced by FN Herstal in Belgium.” Accused by several NGOs last week of selling rifles, machine guns and grenades to Libya, the Region of Wallonia, which is the sole shareholder in FN Herstal, has claimed that all the arms sold to Tripoli by the company were specifically destined “for a mission to protect convoys of humanitarian aid on their way to Darfur.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Travel Banned for Mubarak and Family, Assets Frozen

Cairo, 28 Feb. (AKI) — Egypt has imposed a travel ban on former president Hosni Mubarak and his family, a move which also freezes their money and assets.

The country’s public prosecutors office on Monday said that all of the family’s money transfers stocks, bonds, real estate, and banks be seized.

The prosecutor also said it was looking into complaints accusing regarding Mubarak of gaining wealth through illegitimate means.

Mubarak, 82, resigned on 11 February following widespead anti-government protests.

The military took over, dissolved parliament and said it will hand over power to the winner of elections slated for September.

The protests were sparked by an uprising in Tunisia which toppled that country’s leader, and has spread to other parts of the Middle East including Libya and Oman.

Switzerland froze Mubarak’s assets within hours of his resignation. Egyptian state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper reported that the Mubarak family had “secret accounts in Egyptian banks,” including deposits of 147 million dollars for his wife and 100 million dollars each for his sons.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya: In Benghazi: A Revolt 30 Years in the Making. And Plans to Finish the Job

As locals search for corpses at the Ground Zero of the Feb. 17 Revolution, military and civilians map out a final assault on Muammar Gadaffi

Giordano Stabile

Osama is rotating in his hand a new Belgian-made 9-mm Parabellum cartridge. He took it after the assault on Al Fadil, a major Libyan police base in Benghazi’s suburbs, and the scene of the most serious fighting between police forces and anti-government protesters in these early weeks of the Revolution of Feb. 17.

Osama is chubby and bold. He is 40 years old, but looks younger. He is a Libyan Olympic Committee employee, and has a friendly demeanor. But he is originally from Saika, Benghazi’s toughest neighborhood. “Our local ‘bad guys’ were crucial during the assault,” he says. “They had explosives. We had tried to break the perimeter fence in every way. We tried with an excavator and sand pallet trucks. Then, we just blew it off. It was the end for the policemen.”

Osama shows the individual bullets, labeled with the name of a famous Belgian manufacturer. They are his war chest from Al Fadil’s armory. It was Gaddafi’s stronghold, in the middle of a city that was destined to fall to the revolutionaries. Benghazi is said to have being in revolt since 1977, when for the first time there was a bloody crackdown by Muammar Gaddafi’s forces that culminated in the public hanging of students. The repression became more severe over the years, with the bloodiest massacre in June 1996.

The February 17 revolution can trace its origins to these past uprisings. For 15 years, Benghazi’s people have looked for the corpses of the victims. They thought they were buried in Al Fadil, a labyrinth made of prisons, barracks, stages for Gaddafi’s speeches, and underground cells, which were used as torture rooms — and to bury dissidents alive. Residents are still digging and looking for the victims of the 1996 massacre, and others that followed.

Friday morning, they found the corpses of nine soldiers. Those soldiers had refused Gaddafi’s orders to shoot at the Libyan people. They were lashed, killed, burned alive, and buried under the sand. The 1.5 meter-high, 3-by-4-meter wide cells are horrifying. A white plastic tube was the sole conduit for air to enter. “They promised us houses and schools. And this is where they put our sons. They killed them as rats,” cries a mother. ?

Injured people are still arriving at the city’s main hospital, which has been renamed “Martyrs’ Hospital.” In the villages of the southern region Sirte, fighting persists between the revolutionaries and Gaddafi’s tribal militia. Those most seriously injured on February 17 are still dying. More than 300 have been killed, according to Imed Al Jouif, a 32 year-old surgeon. “On the first day, 10 people died. On the second day, 45 died. Last Sunday, more than 100 people died,” he says.

Since February 15th, Imed has not left the hospital ward. He sleeps just a few hours a night on a cot. Nearby, in a big room, there are 10 critically injured people. Ahmed was wounded in the stomach. He tries to smile, to make a ‘Victory’ sign with two fingers, but it is too painful. His smile becomes a grimace. He is 27 years old. He was shot in front of Al Fadil during the last assault.

“They attacked with hard weapons,” says Al Jouif. “We have seen crashed skulls, huge holes in the chests, and broken limbs.” He shows the documentation on his computer. Many radiographies show that the injuries were caused by major assault weapons, machine guns from helicopters and grenades. “In the worst days, 250 people worked in the hospital. Many of them were just students. Some colleagues who studied in Germany and are more expert on these kind of injuries were priceless.”?

The air force, which is still loyal to Gaddafi, worked hard in Benghazi. It is the most serious issue for the new Republic of Free Libya’s army. This would be the name of a post-Gaddafi Libya. At the air base in Benghazi, a new air force is being created, putting together retired officials, exiles, and former jailed dissidents. They are tearing down a sign with Gaddafi’s revolution slogan “For ever September 1.”

“That was not a revolution, it was a military coup d’etat,” says General Fatih Al Kaidani, who is the commander-in-chief of the base. “We instead feel close to the people. Gaddafi answered with repression to people’s rightful claims. He has become a traitor to Libya. It is wrong to kill your own youth. He is just a traitor.” The general stresses the point that this is a “republican,” not Islamic or military revolution. This is the new, free Libya.

Many years ago, Lt. Atia Mansouri used to dream about such freedom. He is now 60. Rail thin with a sunken face and wild eyes, he is wearing his old uniform. He spent 13 years in one of Gaddafi’s prisons, where he was tortured. For three years, he was kept in solitary confinement. Then, he obtained the right to have a visitor every three months. “In 1975 it was already obvious that Gaddafi would have never kept his word. He has always spoken and promised. That’s all. We were more than 200 young officials preparing a military coup d’etat. I don’t hide it. They discovered us.”

At the base, military personnel and civilians are discussing the situation. There is not a common line yet. Lt. Mansouri admits that there are one or two Mirages, the jet fighter he learned to pilot in Dijon. They are hidden in underground bunkers, out of sight. Some planes of the national Libyan airline are on the runway. They are stuck here because the airport is closed, the radar busted.

According to rumors, there should be a new offensive from Misurata to Tripoli. It could happen in two or three days, maybe with helicopters — and, possibly, planes. However, it is necessary to make sure the coast along Sirte’s Gulf is safe, an area traditionally loyal to Gaddafi. Osama — the man who with the Parabellum cartridge — says he is ready to leave with the expedition. Currently, he is giving away sandwiches at his cousin’s restaurant. They give them away for free, for the revolution. “Now my people are happy. Gaddafi will die or we will die. But we cannot go back.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libya: UNHCR Spokeswoman, Refugee Emergency at Tunisian Border

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 1 — The refugee problem at the Libyan-Tunisian border is a real emergency. “So far 140 thousand people have left Libya to Egypt and Tunisia. Most of them are Egyptians and Tunisians, but there are also Libyans from other countries”. This was announced by the spokeswoman of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Laura Boldrini, during a hearing in the Senate Human Rights commission on the situation in Libya and the situation of refugees. “The situation that is developing at the borders is difficult to manage”, said Boldrini, adding that up to today “basic aid has been supplied to 10 thousand people, 2 thousand tents have been put up and three more airplanes will arrive in the coming hours”. According to the UNHCR spokeswoman, “the international community cannot allow that this emergency situation is managed only by the generosity of the Egyptian and Tunisian people who are helping these refugees “bringing blankets and food to the border”. “An intervention is necessary”, Boldrini concluded, “these two countries can’t be left to themselves”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Beijing & Moscow Against Military Intervention

(AGI) Rome — Beijing and Moscow take issue with the prospect of military intervention in Libya. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu expressed the government’s “concern”, while Sergej Lavrov, head of Russian diplomacy, claims he is also against imposing a no-fly zone. “Let’s avoid anything superfluous”, he stated, and “focus our attention on fully implementing the sanctions” established by the UN Security Council.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Libyan Rebels, Invoking U.N., May Ask West for Airstrikes

In a sign of mounting frustration among rebel leaders at Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi’s diminished but unyielding grip on power, the revolutionary council in Libya is debating whether to ask for Western airstrikes on some of the regime’s most important military assets under a United Nations banner, according to four people with knowledge of the council’s deliberations.

By invoking the United Nations, the council, made up lawyers, academics, judges and other prominent figures, is seeking to draw a distinction between the airstrikes and foreign intervention, which the rebels say they emphatically oppose.

[Return to headlines]

Press: Israel Behind African Mercenaries in Libya

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 1 — With approval from the government in Tel Aviv, an Israeli security firm is responsible for sending groups of African mercenaries to Libya to fight the protestors who have been calling for the fall of the Gaddafi regime for the last two weeks, reports Al Jazeera’s website, citing a source in the Israeli press. The journalist from Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, who prefers to remain anonymous, said that according to speculation in the security sector, Israel looks at Libya from a strategic perspective and in terms of security. The fall of Gaddafi would open the door for an Islamic regime in Libya, according to speculation. In a meeting on February 18, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defence Minister Barak and Foreign Minister Lieberman decided to recruit African mercenaries to fight alongside Gaddafi, according to the journalist. During the meeting, they decided to let General Isarel Zef, the director of security firm Global CST, which is active in many African countries, to make a group of paramilitary mercenaries from Guinea, Nigeria, Central Africa, Mali, Senegal, Darfur and Southern Sudan available to Abdullah Assinousi, one of the heads of Libya’s intelligence agency.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

We’ll Use Military Force to Free Libya, Vows UK PM: Cameron Plans No-Fly Zone Over Country and Even Threatens to Send British Troops

David Cameron threatened Colonel Gaddafi with military action last night, promising a no-fly zone and arms shipments to his enemies.

In a dramatic move that could define his premiership, the Prime Minister even suggested he could send British troops into Libya as a peacekeeping force to stop Gaddafi’s henchmen massacring democracy campaigners.

At a National Security Council meeting yesterday morning, he ordered military chiefs to draw up plans for the no-fly zone. If Gaddafi turned his air force on the rebels, RAF warplanes would be able to intervene.

But today it emerged that Gaddafi’s forces had failed in a bid to retake the rebel-held city closest to the capital, Tripoli.

Witnesses said pro-Gaddafi troops, supported by tanks and anti-aircraft guns, tried to retake Zawiya in six hours of fighting last night, attacking rebel positions from six directions.

They said the rebels managed to push back the attackers in Zawiya which is 30 miles west of Tripoli.

‘We will not give up Zawiya at any price,’ said one witness.

Col Gaddafi, Libya’s ruler of 41 years, has already lost control of the eastern half of the country since protests demanding his resignation began two weeks ago. He still holds the capital.

The gunfight came a day after leaked papers revealed UK forces have trained Libyan troops in Britain and Gaddafi’s son Saif repeated his pledge that the regime would ‘fight to the last bullet’.

The dictators’ son is under pressure to strip Saif Gaddafi of his PhD after claims that his thesis was ghost-written or that he had heavily plagiarised other works.

The allegations first surfaced after he was awarded the academic qualification in 2008.

Last night a spokesman for the LSE Students Union said: ‘There are serious questions about Saif Al Islam’s PhD, and we call for an external investigation.’

In another hard-hitting move intended to force Gaddafi to step down, the Pentagon started moving warships in preparation to police a no-fly zone and world leaders imposed a raft of diplomatic and financial sanctions.

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Tony Blair was condemned for ‘dodgy dealing’ that led to the now infamous ‘deal in the desert’ with Gaddafi in 2004.

A previously unpublished document shows that Mr Blair’s Government agreed to supply military hardware and expertise to the despotic regime.

And it proves that there were plans for Britain to train Libyan military officers at ‘its prestigious military colleges and institutions’ such as the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.

The revelation came as Mr Cameron vowed that world leaders need to look again at their relationship with Arab dictators and trade agreements with them.

Mr Cameron’s intervention was designed to pile the pressure on Gaddafi to quit — an outcome many had expected already.

But, while the dictator has lost control of much of his country, he still remains in charge of Tripoli, the capital and home to a third of Libya’s people.

Yesterday Gaddafi showed no sign of wanting to quit, giving a deranged interview to world’s media. ‘They love me, all my people love me,’ he told the BBC. ‘They would die to protect me.’

The head of a leading university which has taken cash from Libya admitted he was ‘embarrassed’ by his relationship with the Gaddafi regime.

The London School of Economics accepted an offer of £1.5million of research funding from a foundation controlled by Saif Gaddafi, the dictator’s son. The university has already spent half of the money it has received.

Sir Howard Davies, the director of the LSE, had feted Saif as the modernising and acceptable face of the Gaddafi regime.

But the second son of Colonel Gaddafi appeared on state television last week proclaiming that his father remained in charge and would ‘fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet’.

Sir Howard yesterday admitted his shame and ‘embarrassment’, saying the close relationship and acceptance of the funding had ‘backfired’, and acknowledging he had seriously misjudged Saif.

He said: ‘We looked at the pros and cons of engaging with someone like Saif Gaddafi and with the problems in North Africa and we decided that we would do so.

‘In retrospect we can say that, knowing what we know now and how he has behaved in this crisis, that’s a judgment that we might have made differently… We took a risk on that and I think it’s right to say that that risk backfired on us.’

Asked why so many appeared to be rebelling, he blamed Osama Bin Laden: ‘This is Al Qaeda, not my people. They come from outside.’

Gaddafi’s remarks were met with derision in Washington. “It sounds, just frankly, delusional,” said US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice.

She said Gaddafi’s behaviour, including laughing on camera in TV interviews amid the chaos, ‘underscores how unfit he is to lead and how disconnected he is from reality’.

Despite having criticised Mr Blair’s speed at going to war, Mr Cameron said he wanted Britain to be ‘on the front foot’ over the North African crisis.

‘We must not tolerate this regime using military force against its own people,’ he told MPs. ‘In that context I have asked the Ministry of Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staff to work with our allies on plans for a military no-fly zone. My message to Colonel Gaddafi is simple: go now. We do not in any way rule out the use of military assets.’

Asked whether Britain could supply arms to the Libyan opposition, Mr Cameron told MPs: ‘It is certainly something we should be considering.

Britain signed an arms embargo at the weekend preventing further sales of weapons to Libya. But Mr Cameron could justify sending weapons to the rebels using a loophole in the embargo allowing ‘humanitarian’ weapons drops.

Sending in ground troops will be much more controversial.

‘We do not want to get into a situation where we are using ground troops,’ a senior No 10 official said.

‘We are not about to invade. This is just contingency planning but we want some ideas worked up if it gets to the point where Gaddafi is using extreme force against his own people.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israel — Eldorado for Small Hi-Tech Enterprises

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, FEBRUARY 28 — Some people already speak of an “economic miracle”. Israel is a small, young country without natural resources, and has been in a state of war since its foundation. But necessity makes inventive: this nation with just 7,4 million inhabitants has become the El Dorado of start-ups and technological innovation. “Difficulties are the driving force behind development”, hi-tech entrepreneur Eddy Resnick told ANSAmed. “When there are few resources you can rely on, you must do all you can to make the best possible use of them. That’s our culture”. The Israeli formula includes much hi-tech, foreign capital coming from across the world and important stages that allow people with good ideas to present themselves to the firms. An example of these stages is the “Startup weekend”, which ended on February 25 in Tel Aviv. “Creating companies is a national sport”, Italian-Israeli entrepreneur Astorre Modena confirmed to ANSAmed. “Young entrepreneurs in technology are Israel’s new heroes”. The 40-year-old Modena is part of this group: his investment fund, created in 2007, is now seen as one of the country’s three most important funds in the “clean-tech” sector, a sector that develops technology for sustainable development making use of renewable energy. The figures speak for themselves. Eighty percent of the around three thousand Israeli companies invest in research and development and were founded less than ten years ago. With the exception of the United States, Israel has the highest density of technological inventions in the world. And even more importantly, these inventions draw in more foreign capital per person than any other country. The ratio of the volume of foreign investments and the number of inhabitants is in fact 2,5 times higher than in the United States, 30 times higher than in Europe and 300 times higher than the rate recorded in China. “The key to this success is education”, said Resnick, one of the organisers of the “Startup weekend”. “Our education system stimulates individuality and initiative. Moreover, Israelis usually go to university at the age of 21, 22, after serving in the army. They are more mature, used to teamwork and aware of their potential”. After serving their country in the army, they continue to contribute by working in the sector that is considered to be the flagship of the national economy. In a way, hi-tech is the continuation of patriotism using different means. But there is more. “Israel is a land of immigration and the cosmopolitan composition of our society is in the end an advantage”, comments Resnick, who also stresses the importance of the added cultural variety and variety of ideas conveyed to the country by the “olyim chadashim”, the Jews of the Diaspora who return to live in the land of their fathers.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

West Bank: Army Clashes With Settlers in Outpost

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, FEBRUARY 28 — Fifteen Jewish settlers were injured or suffered bruises this morning in a raid conducted by Israeli armed forces in the Hawat-Ghilad (West Bank) outpost to raze to the ground three authorised buildings. Settler sources accuse the army of acting with “extreme brutality” and of having made abundant use of rubber bullets and deafening bombs. The settlers radio has reported that about 30 families live in Hawat-Ghilad. “We have never seen such violence,” the broadcaster was told by one of the inhabitants, who said that the buildings knocked down were likely to be rebuilt within a short time.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Demonstrations in Amman for Releasing Political Prisoners

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, MARCH 1 — Hundreds of turban wearing Islamist activists and relatives of political prisoners staged a protest in downtown Amman calling for release of relatives in Jordanian prisons.

Most prisoners are held on charges related to terrorism, who have been captured in the past years as part of official efforts to crush fundamental Islamists. Hundreds of salafis, better known as takfiris are held in prisons across Jordan after being tried in military run courts, the ruling of which can not be appealed and often hand heavy sentences. The government has accused salafi activists of belonging to al Qaeda and said they tried to stage attacks on American forces in Iraq and on Israel.

The protest comes following a spat of demonstrations by activist from different political backgrounds who called for economic and political reform.

Activists say the government’s will not be able to use an iron fist with such groups any longer amid concern of fuelling public tension at a time when the country is on the brink of serious political challenges.

The government refuses to recognize Islamist fundamentalist groups as political prisoners, insisting they are terrorists.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Demonstration Against Sectarian Political System

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 28 — Hundreds of Lebanese have responded to an appeal made on a Facebook page and have staged a protest against the sectarian government system, divided between the various communities. The website of Al Arabiya writes that the demonstration in Lebanon is an extension of the wave of rebellion and protest that is invading the Arab world. Despite the rain, the demonstrators marched, escorted by security forces and the army, through the streets of Beirut to the Justice Building. The Lebanese political system is based on a distribution of power between the various communities and on a consensus democracy. Amal, one of the protesters, said that “it is not acceptable that this country is still governed by the people that have caused the civil war. Enough. They must go”. The Lebanese people must, according to unemployed engineer Ali, “rise up. The citizens continue to support the leaders of their communities even thought they are dying of hunger”. Lebanon, according to political science student Amer Saidi, “doesn’t have a single dictator but has twenty of them”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Footwear Sector Operators on Mission to Italy

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, FEBRUARY 28 — The Italian Trade Commission in Damascus is organising a visit to Italy by 2 Syrian operators to mark the MICAM footwear show (March 6-9 2011). The initiative comes after a request from the National Association of Italian Footwear manufacturers.

According to ISTAT figures, Italian footwear exports to Syria in the first 11 months of 2010 registered a 6.1% fall on the corresponding period of 2009, reaching a total value of 1.99 million euros.

Local laws on imports show that Syria’s Economy Ministry has issued decision number 2318 of August 23 2010, which forces all importers of footwear to print their own name on every article imported. The name of the company must be written in Arabic as well in the other languages that feature on the label. The decision was enforced on December 23 2010.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India’s ‘Mr History’ Passes Away

By Raja Murthy

MUMBAI — Anant Pai, creator of India’s iconic Amar Chitra Katha comic books, died in Mumbai on February 24, aged 81. A heart attack ended his 43-year innings as its founder editor, after selling 100 million copies in 20 languages and achieving unprecedented success narrating Indian history and folklore to children. His grown-up fans included prime ministers, chief ministers and princesses.

Popularly called “Uncle Pai” and the “Father of Indian Comics”, Pai created a powerful cultural force of nationalistic inputs for an Indian child growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, with no Internet, cell phones, iPods, and with only television entertainment from the state-run channel Doordarshan.

Pai’s inspiration for Amar Chitra Katha, meaning “immortal picture stories”, came in 1967 after seeing Indian children, including his nephew, showing more knowledge of Western culture than on the Indian epic Ramayana.

When “Uncle Pai” died last Thursday at the SR Mehta and Kikabhai Hospital in Mumbai, he left a legacy of over 440 titles of Amar Chitra Katha (ACK), covering over 5,000 years of recorded history and folklore from every era, region and religion in India. His multi-cultural comics became single largest proof of India’s standard slogan of the 1970s and 1980s: “Unity in Diversity”.

Following the phenomenal success of Amar Chitra Katha, Pai launched the popular Tinkle comics in April 1980, offering general knowledge and characters like the bumbling Suppandi, scheming Tantri and Kalia the crow. He signed his editorials on the front inside cover as “Uncle Pai”.

Uncle Pa’s Amar Chitra Kathas, selling three million copies annually, are second in Asian popularity only after Japan’s Manga, which have nearly a US$4 billion global market. And for generation of Indians, the words “Amar Chitra Katha” are synonymous with childhood memories.

On February 25, “Uncle Pai” was paid tributes by the generation of Indians worldwide who were school kids when the Beatles broke up, Microsoft was born, Elvis Presley left the building forever, computer floppy disks arrived, the Vietnam war ended and Abba swept the world.

“I grew up on a steady diet of Amar Chitra Katha comics from my Kashmir Bookshop,” said 40-year old Omar Abdullah, chief minister of the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, “and my yearly subscription of Tinkle”.

“I learnt more from Amar Chitra Kathas than all my text books,” said a message on Twitter from 39-year old Barkha Dutt, group editor of NDTV English channels.

“Uncle Pai, thanks for all the wonderful childhood moments!” said Rutvik Sanghvi; “Eternally grateful to him for my childhood connect with India,” Meera Ravi tweeted via her BlackBerry.

Uncle Pai’s following was made up of as many millions of grown-ups as children. Amar Chitra Katha fans included former Indian prime ministers Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

When Indira Gandhi led India in the 1970s and early 1980s, international comics from neighborhood book lending libraries filled our school summer holidays — Tintin, Asterix, Dennis the Menace, Richie Rich, Phantom,Tarzan, Archie and Lucky Luke. But Amar Chitra Katha comics were the common sight in urban Indian homes.

Apart from the paternally-gifted stack of Amar Chitra Kathas, during my school days in Don Bosco, Egmore, in Madras, now Chennai, my comic book source was Princess Irene of Greece, who lived alone in the ground floor of our two-storeyed rented house in Kilpauk Garden.

The friendly, saree-clad Princess Irene, born in Cape Town, South Africa, sister of King Constantine of Greece and Spain’s Queen Sophia, was studying Indian philosophy, and shared her Amar Chitra Katha comics when I climbed up to her study room window and called her for them, or when she came upstairs to visit my mother.

From the A-4 sized color pages of Amar Chitra Katha, Princess Irene’s Greek ancestors like Alexander of Macedonia and great Indian emperors like Asoka, Chandragupta Maurya, Akbar, came alive to be unforgettably etched in the mind like Antonio Vivaldi’s Spring from Four Seasons.

Amar Chitra Kathas celebrated some of the most fascinating characters in Indian folklore like Arjuna, Abhimanyu and Karna from the epic Mahabharata; from freedom fighters Rani Laxmibai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Subhas Chandra Bose and Gandhiji, to timeless character-building tales from the ancient Jataka and the Panchatantra.

Orphaned in childhood and growing up with relatives, a young Anant Pai mastered the ancient Indian languages of not only Sanskrit, but also the rarer Pali and Magadhi, two languages spoken in northern and eastern India during the lifetime of the Buddha

Pai was a chemical engineer, but worked for the Times of India group to bring out the popular Indrajal comics featuring Lee Falk’s Phantom and Mandrake the Magician, before launching Amar Chitra Katha with publishers India Book House.

“What is really important is providing role models,” Pai told the New York Times in July 19, 2009. “A nation marches ahead, provided it has role models.”

Pai himself did not see himself as a role model when I interviewed him for The Statesman, during my debut days as journalist in the 1990s he was an unassuming man with an aura of quiet strength. “Accuracy in detail,” were Pai’s words lingering in memory from that interview, along with his eagerness to beat Mumbai traffic snarls by driving home from the office at 4 pm.

Pai’s drive for accuracy brought Amar Chitra Katha comics rare credibility for cartoon books. “For a great many of the Indian readers with whom I spoke, Amar Chitra Katha was instrumental in them teaching to appreciate the diversity of India, and to locate their own local traditions within the larger national tapestry,” wrote Karline McLain in her book India’s Immortal Comic Books that was awarded the Edward Cameron Dimock, Jr, Prize in 2007 by the Chicago-based American Institute of Indian Studies.

Pai has ensured his creations survived the 21st century. In 2007, Samir Patil, a 40-year old former McKinsey consultant, acquired publishing rights for Amar Chitra Katha. The newly formed ACK Media makes available Pai’s lifetime works in DVDs, online markets, video games, television, film and mobile phone services.

“History is a vast early warning system”, American essayist Norman Cousins famously said, and individuals and nations not learning from the past are condemned to repeat mistakes of the past. The new generation of children is getting their lessons from Uncle Pai’s India’s past on Cartoon Network and Discovery Channel, as well as downloading the Amar Chitra Katha comics on their cell phones.

Barely a week before Anant Pai died, he was in New Delhi on February 19 at India’s first annual Comics Convention, and received the “Special Lifetime Achievement Award”. For a generation of Indians, especially history students like me, discovering my country started with Amar Chitra Katha.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: US Govt Refuses to Swap Jailed Scientist for Davis

Washington, 1 March — (AKI) — The United States has rejected Pakistan’s proposal to trade US official and murder suspect Raymond Davis for jailed Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, diplomatic sources told Dawn newspaper. Siddiqui is serving an 86-year term in a US prison for the attempted murder of FBI and US military officials in Afghanistan.

The sources said that Pakistan discussed the proposal at “the highest level” with the Obama administration but was told that this was “a non-starter”.

The US government informed Pakistan that they ruled out trading Siddiqui for Davis because “these were two different cases”.

The proposal called for Siddiqui to be transferred to Pakistan, where she would serve the remainder of her sentence in a prison or under house arrest.

Siddiqui’s case became famous in Pakistan last year when prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called for her exoneration and release.

Davis’s arrest in the January 27 shooting in Lahore that led to the death of three Pakistani citizens, however, led to a diplomatic standoff, which is threatening to derail the US-Pakistan counter-terrorism partnership. Since his arrest, both sides have discussed various proposals to break the impasse but have not yet succeeded in doing so.

The proposals include quashing a case against Pakistan’s ISI intelligence services chief in a New York court and curtailing the CIA’s activities in Pakistan.

Another proposal calls for the US government to pay reparations to the victims’ families, who under a Pakistani law can pardon Davis if asked.

The US administration is said to be discussing all three proposals with Pakistani officials.

ISI chief’s case: Meanwhile, a court in New York has accepted a petition against the ISI chief for his agency’s alleged involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks, which also killed some US citizens.

Diplomatic sources claim that the US administration appears willing to claim sovereign immunity for the ISI chief in this case provided Pakistan also granted diplomatic immunity to Davis, an alleged CIA contractor.

“At one stage, the Americans were going to file papers in the court, stating that the ISI chief enjoyed sovereign immunity but decided not to do so after Davis’s arrest,” an official source said.

The arrest of another alleged CIA operative in Peshawar for over-staying his visa has further annoyed the Americans who point out that more than 100,000 Pakistanis were living in the United States after the expiry of their visas.

“The Americans seem to indicate that they too can start deporting Pakistani citizens,” the source said.

Similarly, the Americans also seem willing to discuss Pakistan’s demand for sharing the CIA’s work in the country with them, “provided the Pakistanis also shared relevant information”, the source added.

The Americans complain that Pakistan often refuses to share sensitive data about certain militant groups with their American counterparts.

“But on Aafia Siddiqui, the Americans are showing no leniency,” the source said. “They have informed Pakistan that they are not even going to pursue it.”

Ms Siddiqui, an MIT-educated Pakistani neuroscientist, was convicted of trying to shoot FBI agents and military officers in an Afghan police station in 2008.

In 2004, FBI director Robert Mueller described Siddiqui as an “Al Qaeda operative and facilitator but Ms Siddiqui was never charged with any terrorism-related crimes.

Shortly after the FBI alert, she and her children disappeared, only to surface in Afghanistan five years later.

Siddiqui has claimed she was held in secret American prisons, including Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, during that time.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


EU-Turkey: Immigration Deal No Longer as Close

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 25 — The agreement between the EU and Turkey for the “readmission” of clandestine immigrants adopted yesterday in Brussels by the Council of Internal Ministers of the 27 Members States and announced as imminent by the European Commission, risks ending up not being implemented. Turkey has set down as a condition for its signing of the agreement the setting in motion of talks for Schengen area visa exemption for its citizens, while the EU Council has only approved the launch of a general “dialogue” on the matter without making any promises as to the final outcome of it. In the eyes of the 27 Member States, the border with Turkey is an important one considering that an estimated 80% of clandestine immigrants headed for the EU cross the border with Greece. The readmission agreement concerns both clandestine immigrants of Turkish origins and those from third countries who entered the EU illegally, which Ankara would agree to let back onto its territory once expelled from the EU. “Turkey, “ reports EU Internal Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom on her blog, “is an important partner and we must step up our cooperation.” And to deal with the visa issue, “I am prepared to go to Turkey to identify what efforts and needs must be undertaken.” The reaction by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was clear, after having received the news from the Brussels Council. “Our position,” said Davutoglu,” is clear. Turkey will not agree to a form of treatment different from that of all other countries.” In Davutoglu’s eyes, mere dialogue on visas is an “ambiguous” expression, since “dialogue is not a goal, it is a process. We want to see the goal achieved at the end of he process.” On the matter of visas, Ankara is cautiously clashing with such countries as France and Germany. “There is the willingness to increase mobility between the EU and Turkey,” report French diplomatic sources,” and there is the commitment to discuss the visa issue, but not to guarantee a positive result. It needs to be discussed in detail.” Facilitation for visa liberalisation for the Schengen area (all of the Members States except for Great Britain and Ireland, plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland) has so far been granted by the European Union to several countries , including ones neighbouring Turkey in the Western Balkans: Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Albania and Macedonia, with Kosovo an exception. The latter aims to be integrated into the European Union but, unlike Turkey, it has not yet begun membership talks.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Migrant Cover-Up: Reports Kept Secret by Labour Show Mass Immigration Cut Wages, Raised Tensions and That Too Many Stayed Too Longby James Chapman

Ministers will publish three reports commissioned at the taxpayers’ expense by Labour politicians — but then apparently ‘sat on’ because of their inconvenient conclusions.

Government advisers concluded immigration had depressed wages, threatened to increase community tensions and seen many incomers stay longer than intended.

The Coalition claims the unpublished reports, which cost more than £100,000 to produce, are extraordinary evidence of how Labour lost control of Britain’s borders and then tried to cover it up.

The revelations come as Labour leader Ed Miliband admitted his party got it ‘wrong’ on immigration while they were in power — with millions of families having their incomes squeezed as a result.

The last government was widely criticised for failing to impose any controls when ten countries joined the EU, underestimating the number of migrant workers coming to the UK as a result of the changes by a factor of ten.

Local government minister Grant Shapps, who will release research commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government before last year’s election, said: ‘This is a shocking cover-up by Labour. Labour ministers spent over £100,000 of taxpayers’ money on research reports into immigration, and when they didn’t like the results they tried to brush it all under the carpet.

‘The new Government is being more honest with the public and so we will be making these reports public. We are introducing a series of measures to get immigration under control. Labour’s uncontrolled immigration put unacceptable pressures on public services and harmed community relations.’

The first report, a DCLG ‘economics paper’, was commissioned in 2009 at a cost of £24,275, and looked into immigration and rural economies.

Government advisers concluded that immigration had had a negative effect on the wages of British workers, particularly at the lower end of the income scale.

They also warned of a big increase in the number of National Insurance numbers being issued, with hundreds of thousands handed to illegal workers as there was no requirement for JobCentre staff to check whether a person was in the country legally.

In rural areas, migrants make up a third of food manufacturing workers, a quarter of farm workers and a fifth of hotel and restaurant workers, the report added. ‘There are challenges posed by language barriers, which can make access to services and integration within local communities more difficult,’ it said.

‘Housing, healthcare and education could also be affected by an increase in local population, when some existing local services may already be under pressure.’

The largest clusters of migrant workers, the report said, were around Herefordshire, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire and, to an extent, Somerset and Devon.

‘Far from being an urban phenomenon, recent migrants have increasingly chosen to settle in the countryside, in many cases in areas without a history of migration,’ the report added.

The second report, prepared by the Government’s regeneration and economic development analysis expert panel, looked at the impact of the economic downturn on migration. It was commissioned in 2008 at a cost of £3,400.

The report showed that the number of migrants entering the country with dependants increased dramatically from 2007 to 2008. Ministers were also warned that community tensions were likely to increase in the event of an economic downturn.

The third report, commissioned last year at a cost of £78,500, was designed to measure international and internal migration using information from a national database of school pupils. It found that one in eleven pupils spoke English as a second language.

Yesterday, Ed Miliband admitted the Labour government’s open door policy towards immigration from Eastern Europe had put ‘pressure on people’s wages’ by bringing about an influx of cheap migrant labour.

He also conceded that Labour ministers had been ‘wrong’ to say that a maximum of 13,000 migrants a year would come to the UK from Eastern Europe following EU enlargement in 2004. In the event, more than 600,000 arrived in the following two years.

And he warned that immigration had helped widen the gap between rich and poor by piling pressure on those in lower skilled jobs.

Labour’s former immigration minister Phil Woolas claimed last year that even at party gatherings, senior figures were reluctant to talk about one of voters’ chief concerns.

‘We had imposed a gag on ourselves,’ he said. And by the 2010 election, when the party did finally discuss the issue, ‘the public thought we were shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted and even worse that we were doing it for electoral gain’.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]