Nabucco officials: Now is the time to build pipeline


UNDER NEW SECURITY AGREEMENT, US COULD GAIN CONTROL OF UKRAINIAN PIPELINE NETWORK

Nabucco officials: Now is the time to build pipeline

The recent standoff between Russia and Ukraine, which resulted in suspension of the delivery of natural gas to Europe, has once again highlighted the need to diversify the continent’s natural gas supplies in the minds of many policy-makers in the EU. The proposed 7.9 billion euro Nabucco pipeline, which will carry Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Egyptian natural gas to European markets, has been hailed by many as a possibly significant contribution to the diversification of Europe’s energy supplies. However, significant challenges remain in store for the project, including perceived resistance from Russia as well as finding significant gas sources to supply the pipeline to justify the enormous costs associated with its construction.

Recent figures put EU gas consumption at about 500 billion cubic meters per year, of which only 200 billion cubic meters is produced in continental Europe. The rest is imported from Russia, the North Sea and Africa.

At a breakfast meeting yesterday in İstanbul, officials from Nabucco, including Nabucco Pipeline International Managing Director Reinhard Mitschek and participating companies, such as OMV international spokesperson Christian Dolezal, explained the project’s vision as well as a number of the benefits that will be seen by participating countries.

Gas consumption in Europe is expected to rise significantly in coming years while, at the same time, domestic sources are expected to diminish. Although Russia is said to be the biggest source country, the Middle East and Central Asia are believed to be the largest source regions.

The Nabucco pipeline is touted by many as able to benefit both importers, by reducing dependency on source countries, and also exporting countries, by providing alternative markets. Diversification and competition are also said to work toward promoting efficiency.

“It’s a win-win situation,” Mitschek declared yesterday, outlining the many benefits that will flow to participating countries.

According to the proposed agreements, the six countries involved in the construction of the pipeline — Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Germany and Austria — will all share the benefits and risks of the project equally, each owning a 16.6 percent stake in the project. “Profits, costs and risks will all be shared” Mitschek said.

Officials from Nabucco have long discussed the benefits that will flow to countries participating in the project. This is especially the case for Turkey, whose land mass will occupy approximately 2,000 kilometers of the project’s 3,300-kilometer length.

In addition to benefiting from the lion’s share of the 7.9 billion euros in planned construction costs — which will involve upwards of 2.2 million tons in steel purchases and engineering and construction contracts — Turkey will see an increase in badly needed gas storage facilitates in Turkey (which are now considerably underdeveloped) and will be able to extract considerable transit levies (as will all participating countries).

With respect to sources, Mitschek noted that there would be many to draw on. Unlike other pipelines, Nabucco will be able to receive sources from an eclectic mix of countries, including Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Iraq, Egypt, Iran and Russia. “We don’t want to exclude any gas source. We’re open to all,” he stated.

Construction has been slotted for between 2010 and 2013. But, the pipeline’s planned construction has been pushed back a number of times over the years. The greatest drawback to the plan, however, revolves around the enormous expenses associated with the construction of the line, as well as guaranteeing supplies.

The challenge of providing the pipeline with sufficient supplies to justify the enormous cost has been a source of much debate. Studies that Nabucco has conducted polling over 60 leading gas market suppliers suggest that the sources supplying the pipeline with gas will be able to supply upwards of 25 billion cubic meters of gas per annum initially and, within several years of the line becoming fully operational, will be able to expand this amount to more than 70 billion cubic meters. Nevertheless, many are not convinced by conclusions drawn from this.

At present there are a great number of uncertainties associated with gas sources. Iran as a source has been met with great resistance from both the EU and the US for a number of reasons, not least of which concerns the country’s alleged ambitions for creating nuclear weapons.

Turkmenistan, on the other hand has been courted quite heavily (some say “coerced”) by the Russians, to supply gas through Russian pipelines through the Caspian.

Northern Iraq is promising, as is the development of the Shah Deniz gas fields in Azerbaijan. However, the massive expenses associated with developing the Shah Deniz pipelines have led some to question the feasibility of the project and Russia has also been promising to buy Azeri gas at very favorable costs.

Now is the time to move, according to representatives from Nabucco and participating companies. Not only did the standoff with Russia that left some countries shivering in the cold create the political will to go ahead, but banks in this period of financial turbulence are much more ready to lend to long-term financially “responsible” borrowers than less reputable borrowers. Although the cost of financing the pipeline may have increased in recent months, the dramatic drop in the price of steel and other construction materials has more than offset this.

When asked about Russian reservations about the project, Mitschek responded that “Putin recently said he had no objections to the project.” What Mitschek didn’t mention, however, was that in the same breath Putin added, “If they can find the sources to fill the pipeline.”

14 January 2009, Wednesday

DAVID NEYLAN

Does the US-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership Challenge Russia?

Does the US-Georgia Charter on Strategic

Partnership Challenge Russia?

ZAAL ANJAPARIDZE,
Independent expert, Tbilisi

The Charter on Strategic Partnership between Georgia and the United States, signed during the last days of the Bush Administration, has aroused various reactions, from enthusiastic to cautious optimism in the Georgian political establishment. In the situation, when Russia and Georgia actually found themselves in the “Cold War” conflict, there is no political force in Georgia, which doubts the political significance of the document. Only Georgia’s Labor Party, keeping a bit aloof from the others, has stated that the Charter is the first step to the U.S. military presence in Georgia, the issue which is allegedly being negotiated behind-the-scenes. But the Georgian authorities zealously deny that kind of supposition.

Indeed, such kind of document could not include the direct indication for the deployment of the U.S. military bases in Georgia.

However, the part of the Charter, which covers the issues of military cooperation between Georgia and U.S.A., contains the items, which make the document different from that one, recently signed between Washington and Kyiv. The United States-Georgia Charterpays much more attention to the military aspect of cooperation. The Charter makes it clear, that the U.S.-Georgia cooperation in military and security spheres will grow stronger, increasing Georgia’s chances for integration into NATO. The point in the Charter which urges Russia to follow the Ceasefire Agreement, dated August 12, 2008, and non-use of force is actually a warning to the Kremlin.

Another point of the Charter covers the development of the existing programs on bilateral cooperation in military and security spheres in order to “eliminate threats to peace and stability”. Under certain conditions, if the sides consider such threats to become real, that point can come into being by reinforcing U.S. military presence in Georgia to a varying extent.

Despite the fact, that the Charter doesn’t provide the United States with the commitment to offer military support to Georgia in case of escalation of an armed conflict against it, it will no doubt be a kind of a red rag for the Kremlin. As according to the Charter, which was successfully negotiated with the new U.S. Administration, Americans will tend to enhance their influence over the Caucasian region. It is proved by the item devoted to “the development of the new Southern Corridor” (in circumvention of Russia)in order to diversify the exports of energy supplies destined for Georgia and EU member states. The project would seriously break down Russia’s economic and geopolitical interests in the region.

The article of the Charter, calling on the measures for the reconciliation between Georgians, Abkhazians and Ossetians can also alert Russia. The locals of Abkhazia and South Ossetia – Georgia’s separatist regions, recognized by Moscow, express growing discontent with Russia’s intrusion into their lands, including the deployment of the Russian military bases and behavior of the Russian militaries.

It is difficult to forecast how diligently the Administration of President Barack Obama will follow the above-mentioned articles of the Charter. But there is a high probability (taking into consideration the increased tension in the Russia-U.S. relations) that Russia would consider the Charter as a challenge to its interests in South Caucasus. In this light, the Charter appears to lead to the further complications in the volatile Russia-Georgia relations. It will probably bolster the Kremlin to destructive actions against Georgia, once more turning the country into the arena of confrontation between the big international players.

Under such conditions the Georgian officials should act very carefully in order not to draw themselves and the country into a new armed conflict with Russia. However, the bitter experience of the August war is a vivid example of impossibility to avoid hostilities when it is already “pre-programmed.”

Gas as a political weapon

19:38 | 14/ 01/ 2009

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Romanov) – The more the gas scandal develops, the more political it becomes. To begin with, there is turmoil in Ukraine where parliament is demanding the president’s impeachment and cabinet resignation.

While the second option is unlikely, the first is quite possible, and here Viktor Yanukovich, the Ukrainian Communists and the Yulia Tymoshenko bloc see eye to eye. But even if the impeachment idea fails to get through, the gas scandal is putting an end, finally and utterly, to Yushchenko’s political career. No one knows what poison was administered to the Ukrainian president before, but now he has had a hefty dose of a really lethal gas.

Russia, too, is suffering politically after sustaining economic damage. It is only looking from Moscow and only at first sight that it seems that Russian energy giant Gazprom and the Russian government are winning European sympathies. Actually, freezing European consumers find both Russia and Ukraine unlikeable suppliers. Their irritation is understandable: the European housewife wants to have gas in her kitchen and does not care who is to blame, Moscow or Kiev. As for European politicians, they, too, put the blame on Russia even if they understand the situation better. They are inclined to shut their eyes to many tricks performed by Yushchenko, because Ukraine, not Moscow, is their potential partner in the European Union and NATO.

Finally, it would be a matter of big politics and a devastating headache for Russia if Ukraine refuses to transport Russian gas to Europe for good. Not for a week or two, but forever. True, Ukraine needs Russian gas, but if the anti-Russian policy prevails, our neighbor may well risk that step. Its own gas and coal, plus fuel oil bought in Europe, could help Ukraine get through these troubles. Such a tightening of the energy belt would, of course, slow down Ukraine’s economic development, but anti-Russian feelings have driven quite a few countries to such lengths in the past. Ukrainian nationalists seem to be unafraid of shooting themselves in the foot.

Given such a prospect, both Ukraine and Russia would be losers, especially Russia which at a time of the worst global crisis would lose the European gas market, a dependable source of currency earnings for the country. The Nord Stream pipeline will go into operation at best in the fall of 2011, but by that time (if Ukrainian transit to Europe is blocked all the while) our European consumers would have opted for other energy sources and other suppliers.

Of course, Europe would be the third suffering party. To give up Russian gas all of a sudden is a great loss for the European economy and a disaster for some countries.

Who is winning in this squabble is perhaps made clear by a document signed by Ukraine and the United States and just published in Izvestia. In December, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed a Charter of Strategic Partnership. It says that Washington will now help upgrade Ukraine’s badly worn-out gas pipelines. Of course, it is for Kiev to decide who will be repairing its gas system. But it is clear that charters are not signed for repairs alone. Such texts are usually only the tip of an iceberg. The most important issues are discussed without protocol.

This suggests a very likely scenario, one described by Gazprom’s deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev. He says there is the impression that “all this jazz in Ukraine is orchestrated from another country.” There seems to be a simple explanation for Ukraine’s apparent illogical and irrational behavior: Kiev is implementing plans agreed on with the Bush administration.

The logic of this game plan may have many aspects. It is not only a way of tying Ukraine to the U.S. more tightly, but also a policy of holding Russia back. Also, it might be an anti-European move. Too many things in EU policy appear to irritate the U.S. – a competitive European economy unacceptable to the Bush administration, a French president showing activity during the events in the Caucasus last year, a call by some European leaders to the U.S. to heed the Russian president’s proposals to reform the European security system, etc.

Whether or not the Obama administration will join these anti-Russian and anti-European games is anybody’s guess. Some indirect signs show that it will not.

But, whatever is said or done, it is clear that gas banned as a weapon has found a new niche – in politics. With the global crisis in full swing, using it is particularly risky and unwise. However, the departing American administration has never shown much wisdom.

Kyrgyzstan might ask the Americans to vacate their air base outside Bishkek. T

Kyrgyzstan will have to stop maneuvering between Moscow and Washington

Kyrgyzstan might ask the Americans to vacate their air base outside Bishkek. The announcement is expected to be made ahead of a visit by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to Moscow. It is only in exchange for a quarrel with the United States that Russia will allocate Kyrgyzstan the promised $2 billion loan, said a source in Bishkek.
But any and all talk of an early closure of the U.S. base at Bishkek’s Manas airport has been so far unofficial. According to sources, the Kyrgyz president was scheduled to arrive on January 16, but the date has been pushed back and could now be January 20.
In Moscow, the two countries are to sign an agreement granting Kyrgyzstan a $2 billion easy-term loan. Part of the loan, which Kyrgyz Prime Minister Igor Chudinov negotiated in December in Moscow and that amounts to $1.7 billion, will be used to construct the Kambaratinsky hydro power plants, and $300 million will go into supporting Kyrgyzstan’s state budget. In addition, Bishkek expects a sizeable write-off of its external debt to Russia, which exceeds $180 million.
It is for the sake of this loan that Bakiyev has decided to sacrifice the favor of the U.S. and several tens of millions of dollars paid for the lease of the base.
The U.S. base was opened in 2001 to support NATO’s operation in Afghanistan. It employs 1,500 Americans and provides basing facilities for military transport and refueling aircraft. With a similar base closed in Uzbekistan in 2005, Manas is now the key to the continued operation in Afghanistan. Russia’s Kant air base is located not far from the American one, and this has always unnerved Moscow.
“The situation in the country has reached boiling point. To avoid a repeat of the tulip revolution, the main reliance must be put on the chief donor, Russia,” says Alexei Vlasov, general director of Moscow State University Center for Study of Social and Political Processes in the CIS.
According to Vladimir Yevseyev, senior research assistant at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Bishkek has repeatedly bargained for increased rent payments for the base, and now it could be a matter of money, too: “The Americans would find it more convenient to increase the rent. It is not ruled out that Bakiyev might be using this as a bargaining chip.”

United States-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership

United States-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership

Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Washington, DC
December 19, 2008

Preamble
The United States of America and Ukraine:

  1. Affirm the importance of our relationship as friends and strategic partners. We intend to deepen our partnership to the benefit of both nations and expand our cooperation across a broad spectrum of mutual priorities.
  2. Emphasize that this cooperation between our two democracies is based on shared values and interests. These include expanding democracy and economic freedom, protecting security and territorial integrity, strengthening the rule of law, and supporting innovation and technological advances.
  3. Stress our mutual desire to strengthen our relationship across the economic, political, diplomatic, cultural, and security fields.
  4. Confirm the importance of the security assurances described in the Trilateral Statement by the Presidents of the U.S., Russian Federation and Ukraine of January 14, 1994, and the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances in connection with Ukraine’s accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of December 5, 1994.
  5. Affirm the Priorities for U.S.-Ukraine Cooperation (Road Map) signed on March 31, 2008 and the commitments to a strategic partnership made by Presidents Bush and Yushchenko on April 4, 2005.

Section I: Principles of Cooperation
This Charter is based on core principles and beliefs shared by both sides:

  1. Support for each other’s sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and inviolability of borders constitutes the foundation of our bilateral relations.
  2. Our friendship comes from mutual understanding and appreciation for the shared belief that democracy is the chief guarantor of security, prosperity and freedom.
  3. Cooperation between democracies on defense and security is essential to respond effectively to threats to peace and security.
  4. A strong, independent and democratic Ukraine, capable of responsible self-defense, contributes to the security and prosperity not only of all the people of Ukraine, but of a Europe whole, free and at peace.

Section II: Defense and Security Cooperation
The United States and Ukraine share a vital interest in a strong, independent, and democratic Ukraine. Deepening Ukraine’s integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions is a mutual priority. We plan to undertake a program of enhanced security cooperation intended to increase Ukrainian capabilities and to strengthen Ukraine’s candidacy for NATO membership.

  1. Guided by the April 3, 2008 Bucharest Summit Declaration of the NATO North Atlantic Council and the April 4, 2008 Joint Statement of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, which affirmed that Ukraine will become a member of NATO.
  2. Recognizing the persistence of threats to global peace and stability, the United States and Ukraine intend to expand the scope of their ongoing programs of cooperation and assistance on defense and security issues to defeat these threats and to promote peace and stability. A defense and security cooperation partnership between the United States and Ukraine is of benefit to both nations and the region.
  3. Working within the framework of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, our goal is to gain agreement on a structured plan to increase interoperability and coordination of capabilities between NATO and Ukraine, including via enhanced training and equipment for Ukrainian armed forces.
  4. Acknowledging the growing threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the United States and Ukraine pledge to combat such proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and dangerous technologies through adherence to international nonproliferation standards and effective enforcement and strengthening of export controls.

Section III: Economic, Trade and Energy Cooperation
The United States and Ukraine intend to expand cooperation to enhance job creation and economic growth, support economic reform and liberalization, develop a business climate supportive of trade and investment and improve market access for goods and services. Recognizing that trade is essential for global economic growth, development, freedom and prosperity, the United States and Ukraine support the following initiatives:

  1. Welcoming Ukraine’s accession to the World Trade Organization on May 16, 2008, the parties held the first U.S.-Ukraine Trade and Investment Council meeting on October 2, 2008 in Kyiv. As discussed at the meeting, the United States continues to support Ukraine’s efforts to implement its WTO commitments. Other areas in which we plan to accelerate our efforts include expanding market access, resolving outstanding disputes and promoting intellectual property rights. Acknowledging the importance of increased investment to economic growth and development, the United States supports Ukraine’s efforts to enhance investor protections.
  2. Recognizing the importance of a well functioning energy sector, the parties intend to work closely together on rehabilitating and modernizing the capacity of Ukraine’s gas transit infrastructure and diversify and secure Ukraine’s sources of nuclear fuel making Ukraine less dependent on foreign sources of nuclear fuel and nuclear fuel storage.
  3. Following the Roadmap of Priorities for U.S.-Ukraine Cooperation, the United States and Ukraine intend to launch the work of the Bilateral Energy Security Working Group. Consistent with the U.S.-EU Summit Declaration of June 10, 2008, the United States and Ukraine intend to enhance a trilateral dialogue with the European Union on enhanced energy security.
  4. Actively developing cooperation with Ukraine’s regions, including Crimea, the United States supports Ukraine’s plan to promote security, democracy and prosperity through expanded economic development, energy conservation, food security, and good governance initiatives. The United States and Ukraine also intend to cooperate in the area of public-private partnerships in regions of Ukraine aimed at supporting small and medium enterprises.

Section IV: Strengthening Democracy
Strengthening the rule of law, promoting reform of the legal system and of law enforcement structures and combating corruption are all of key importance to the well being of Ukraine. We intend to work together to support reform, democracy, tolerance and respect for all communities.

  1. The United States and Ukraine will enhance their cooperation on efforts to strengthen the judiciary, increasing professionalism, transparency and independence as well as improving legal education and improved access to justice for all Ukrainians.
  2. Through enhanced law enforcement and judicial branch relationships, the United States and Ukraine plan to address common transnational criminal threats such as terrorism, organized crime, trafficking in persons and narcotics, money laundering, and cyber crime.
  3. Recognizing the importance of combating corruption, the United States and Ukraine intend to increase cooperation that will expand media and public monitoring of anti-corruption efforts; enforce ethical standards by establishing internal investigation units; and streamline the government regulatory process.
  4. The United States and Ukraine plan to work together to promote reform in Ukraine’s legislative processes through increased transparency, heightened accountability through citizen and media access, and expanded public information about the work of Ukraine’s parliament.
  5. Recognizing the importance of harmonizing Ukraine’s criminal justice system with European and other international standards, we plan to work together more intensely on issues of key importance, including the adoption of a Criminal Procedure Code compliant with Council of Europe standards.
  6. The United States plans to provide Ukraine with further technical assistance to support Ukraine’s efforts through government and judicial authorities to combat human trafficking, including strengthening witness protection.
  7. The United States supports increased assistance to strengthen democracy building and good governance in order to build upon Ukraine’s political progress and commitment to democratic development.

Section V: Increasing People-to-People and Cultural Exchanges
The United States and Ukraine share a desire to increase our people-to-people contacts and enhance our cultural, educational and professional exchange programs that promote democracy and democratic values and increase mutual understanding.

  1. Recognizing the vital importance of increased contact between the people of the United States and Ukraine, both sides intend to promote further cultural and social exchanges and activities through initiatives such as the Fulbright program, Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX), Undergraduate Exchange (UGRAD), Legislative Education and Practice (LEAP), the International Visitor Leadership Program, the English Language Teaching and Learning Program and the Open World Program.
  2. Stressing the necessity of innovation and dynamism to the future of our two countries, the United States and Ukraine intend to promote increased cooperation in higher education and scientific research. The United States will facilitate these exchanges consistent with U.S. laws and procedures so that qualified individuals in cultural, educational and scientific activities are given the opportunity to participate.
  3. Our two countries will continue to cooperate closely to promote remembrance and increased public awareness of the 1932-33 Great Famine (Holodomor) in Ukraine.
  4. Ukraine welcomes the United States’ intention to establish an American diplomatic presence (American Presence Post) in Simferopol.

Signed at Washington, D.C. on December 19, 2008.

For the United States of America: For Ukraine:

Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State

Volodymyr Ogryzko
Minister of Foreign Affairs

UNDER NEW SECURITY AGREEMENT, US COULD GAIN CONTROL OF UKRAINIAN PIPELINE NETWORK

THE CAT IS OUT OF THE BAG!

under a cooperation agreement Kiev and Washington signed in December, the U.S. would modernize Ukraine’s crumbling transit pipelines and could receive control of the vast network.

“Recognizing the importance of a well functioning energy sector, the parties intend to work closely together on rehabilitating and modernizing the capacity of Ukraine’s gas transit infrastructure” United States-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership

Gazprom: Kiev refuses to accept Russian gas intended for Europe

14. January 2009. | 15:11

Source: EMportal, Ria Novosti

For a second day Ukraine’s national energy company Naftogaz refused to accept Russian gas due to be transited to Europe, Russia’s gas monopoly Gazprom said on Wednesday.Gazprom’s deputy CEO, Alexander Medvedev, has called Ukraine’s behavior in the dispute “unbelievable” and suggested the United States could be behind the row.The Czech EU Presidency and the European Commission strongly urge Russia and Ukraine to immediately resume full gas supplies to the European Union.

For a second day Ukraine’s national energy company Naftogaz refused to accept Russian gas due to be transited to Europe, Russia’s gas monopoly Gazprom said on Wednesday.

Gazprom said it submitted another application with Naftogaz on Wednesday for the transit of 98.8 million cubic meters of gas, including 13.9 million intended for Moldova, 62.7 billion for the Balkan states, and 22.2 million for Slovakia.

Russia, which has accused Ukraine of tapping gas bound for Europe, resumed shipments after a weeklong cutoff on Tuesday after a team led by EU monitors was deployed at gas metering stations in Ukraine. However, Gazprom later said that Kiev was blocking the gas shipments.

The monopoly said on Wednesday it had requested that gas be transited via the Sudzha entry point on the Russian border, an export pipeline with direct access to the nations affected by the dispute, including Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey.

Gazprom also said that Naftogaz was demanding that the gas be sent via other transit stations, used mainly for gas intended for Ukraine’s domestic use, and that they receive 140 million cu m in order to be able to resume supplies.

Ukraine has claimed that Russia has not provided enough “technical gas” necessary to maintain pipeline pressure and pump the required volumes to Europe. Kiev also said that Moscow had demanded a complicated transit route be used that would force Ukraine to cut its domestic supplies.

“Naftogaz’s repeated refusals demonstrate that Ukraine is unable to replenish the gas reserves it has siphoned off and resume transits. Gazprom is prepared to restart supplies for European consumers at any moment,” the Russian energy giant said.

The Naftogaz chief rejected on Wednesday Russia’s claims that Ukraine had illegally siphoned off its gas, saying the company had transited 1.2 billion cubic meters of gas to Moldova.

Oleh Dubyna also said gas transits were “technically” not possible at the moment.

“We cannot reactivate the [transit] network for such insignificant amounts [of gas] and for an indefinite time,” Dubyna said, urging a provisional agreement with Russia that stipulated transit volumes and routes.

Ukraine’s energy minister, Yury Prodan, urged EU officials on Wednesday to pressure Moscow over the delays in transits.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso was reported to have called the crisis “unacceptable and incredible” and warned the EU could advise energy firms to sue Russian and Ukrainian energy companies unless gas supplies were restored quickly.

The crisis has hit about 20 EU countries in the height of winter, forcing them to close schools, factories and leaving householders without heating.

The prime ministers of Slovakia, which has said it could reactivate its aging nuclear power plant to make up for the shortfalls in energy supplies, Bulgaria and Moldova are due to meet with their Russian counterpart in Moscow on Wednesday to discuss the situation.

Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine on January 1 after talks on debt and a gas price for 2009 broke down. On January 7, Moscow cut off shipments to Europe, accusing Ukraine of siphoning off gas in transit for European consumers.

U.S. role

Gazprom’s deputy CEO, Alexander Medvedev, has called Ukraine’s behavior in the dispute “unbelievable” and suggested the United States could be behind the row.

“It looks like the entire musical show underway in Ukraine is being orchestrated from outside the country,” he said.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack rejected the claim as “totally without foundation”.

A popular Russian daily said on Wednesday that under a cooperation agreement Kiev and Washington signed in December, the U.S. would modernize Ukraine’s crumbling transit pipelines and could receive control of the vast network.

“This may explain Kiev’s ‘bravery,'” in the dispute, Izvestia said.

The paper also said “America could well use the current tensions in Ukraine as a pretext for one of its campaigns ‘to protect democracy.'”

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has in turn accused Russia of using the dispute to try to seize control of Ukraine’s pipelines.

EU Presidency and Commission urge resumption of gas supplies
The Czech EU Presidency and the European Commission strongly urge Russia and Ukraine to immediately resume full gas supplies to the European Union.

In a joint letter, Martin Říman, the Minister of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic, and Andris Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Energy, said that EU monitors were at all relevant sites and that natural gas flows should be supplied in full volume.

In a joint letter, sent on 13 January addressed to Sergey I. Shmatko, Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation, and Yuriy Prodan, Minister of Fuel and Energy of Ukraine, the Presidency and the Commission also warned that the credibility of Ukraine and Russia as reliable partners would be irrevocably damaged should gas supply to European consumers not be immediately resumed.

Israel…An Abnormal State

Israel…An Abnormal State

Readers Number : 451

13/01/2009 An Abnormal State
By Aluf Benn
Haaretz

Who complained to the United Nations Security Council about the firing of Qassam rockets by the Hamas government in Gaza? The government of Israel.

And when the Security Council met to discuss the threat from Gaza, who refused to send its foreign minister to UN Headquarters so as “not to legitimize the Security Council’s discussion of the operation against Hamas”? And who left the most important international arena to its UN ambassador, while the Palestinians and Arab countries flooded the building with high-level delegations? The government of Israel.

Who demanded in every diplomatic encounter that the Security Council impose sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear program and punish Syria for smuggling weapons to Hezbollah, and then accused Iran and Syria of ignoring U.N. resolutions?

And when, over Israel’s objections, that very council passed Resolution 1860 calling for a cease-fire in Gaza, who proclaimed that it would not accept it and intended to continue fighting? The government of Israel, of course.

It would be funny if it were not a matter of national importance: Israel complains to the UN about the Hamas government, and the next day claims that Hamas is not worthy of recognition and that the Security Council should not be discussing the conflict. Someone in Jerusalem is confused. Or not: Israel wants the international community, represented by the Security Council, to protect it from Hamas, Syria and Iran, but not to hamper the Israel Defense Forces operating with all its strength in Gaza. The problem is that the international community rejects this arrangement and wants to intervene even when it hampers Israel.

As usual with us, political rivalries affect foreign-policy discourse. Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak pass responsibility to Tzipi Livni and the Foreign Ministry for the diplomatic downfall in the UN. Livni defends herself with the argument that she warned them of the expected resolution, and that the prime minister was the one who forbade her from taking part in the deliberations. Olmert hoped that his personal friendship with George W. Bush and Nicolas Sarkozy would allow him to torpedo a Security Council resolution, but his friends disappointed him and preferred to back up their foreign ministers. Sarkozy did not postpone the discussion and Bush did not veto the resolution.

Israel’s problematic conduct in the UN is doubtless affected by disagreements among its leaders, but it reflects a deeper problem. Israel has not yet decided whether to be a normal member of the international community and pay the price of normalcy, or to remain isolated on the outside. This dilemma began almost with the establishment of the state, and has persisted since. The natural tendency of Israeli diplomats is to see the UN and its institutions as insignificant, as a famous statement by David Ben-Gurion once intimated. It was a kind of hostile organization, controlled by a majority opposed to Israel, which is saved only by an American veto in the Security Council.

In recent years, Israel has tried to soften its attitude and normalize its relationships with the international organization. The Foreign Ministry is proud of the involvement of Israelis in UN institutions and the resolutions Israel has initiated in the General Assembly. The Security Council has been perceived as an asset in dealing with Iran and Hezbollah, and even in negotiations with the Palestinians. Only four weeks ago, Livni praised Resolution 1850, which supported the Annapolis process, and called for a continuation of talks on a final agreement. In the days before the war in Gaza, the Security Council resolution was seen as a tool to strengthen Kadima as the party of negotiations and peace against the rejectionism of Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud.

But then came the crisis, and Israel returned to her old rejectionist stance. Once again it had to beg America to save it, and came out humiliated. In retrospect, Jerusalem tried to soften the embarrassment, and claimed that the resolution was not so bad. If that’s the case, why did Israel demean itself in a failed attempt to prevent it? Would it not have been preferable to send the foreign minister to New York to demonstrate involvement and concern, and also to talk about the resolution in a positive way after it was passed?

In eight days, a new president will move into the White House, one obligated to strengthening the influence of international institutions. Barack Obama will not be in a hurry to cast a veto for Israel’s sake. Israel should become involved in this process and not be seen as the disturbed child of the international community.

Gaza comparable to Sabra and Shatila massacre



‘We hoped we would never see anything like it again’

Gaza comparable to Sabra and Shatila massacre

Two Norwegian doctors say high number of Palestinian civilians were victim of Israeli raids on Gaza.
OSLO – Israel’s offensive in Gaza can be compared to the massacre of Palestinian refugees by Israeli-backed Lebanese militiamen in 1982, two medics said Monday as they returned to Norway after working 10 days at a Gaza hospital.

“Gaza in 2009 is becoming a new bloody chapter in Palestinian and Middle Eastern history that is, unfortunately, comparable to Sabra and Shatila,” Mads Gilbert told reporters at Oslo’s Gardermoen airport, referring to a three-day massacre at two Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut 27 years ago.

Gilbert, 61, and his colleague Erik Fosse, 58, were sent into Gaza to work at the Shifa Hospital by the aid organisation NORWAC on December 31.

They said they had both worked in Lebanon in 1982 when Lebanese Christian militia massacred between 800 and 2,000 Palestinians at the camps as Israeli troops stationed nearby did nothing to stop the bloodshed.

“We hoped we would never see anything like it again,” Gilbert said.

The high number of civilian casualties and the huge amount of suffering in Gaza was, however, similar to what he had seen back then, he said, noting that as many as 90 percent of the wounded he and his colleagues had treated at the Shifa hospital were civilians.

“Every third person killed and every second person injured is a child under 18 or a woman,” he said.

“Gaza is living an enormous humanitarian crisis… The bombing must stop and the borders (with Israel and Egypt) must be opened so that civilians can receive food, water and be safe,” he said.

Cabinet Airs Saudi Duplicity, Denouncing Strike On Hamas Which Bandar Recently Supported

Bandar and the intensification of the face of the forces of extremism


الى جانب ذلك، اكد بندر ان الضغوط على ايران وسوريا ودعم سلطة عباس من شأنهما توجيه ضربات الى القوى الميدانية التي تستند اليها هذه الدول، قاصداً حزب الله في لبنان وحركة حماس والجهاد الاسلامي في فلسطين. Besides, Bandar said that the pressures on Iran and Syria, and uphold the authority of Abbas, would strike at the forces that are based on the field by these countries, meaning Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine.


Saudi slams Israel’s ‘racist extermination’ war

Saudi cabinet says 17-day-old offensive on Gaza ‘stripping Israeli leaders of their humanity’.
RIYADH – Saudi Arabia on Monday denounced Israel for its “racist extermination” war on Palestinians in Gaza, and demanded international action to prevent a humanitarian disaster in the territory.

In a statement after its weekly meeting under the chairmanship of King Abdullah, the cabinet said the 17-day-old offensive “was stripping Israeli leaders of their humanity.”

Leaders of Israel were “placing their policies among those of racist extermination,” it said in the statement released by the official SPA news agency.

The Saudi government appealed to the international community to respond “decisively to stop a catastrophe” in Gaza, and to compel Israel to abide by a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire.

It said it was “optimistic” about US president-elect Barack Obama’s pledge to put in place a team that can commit “immediately” to the Middle East peace process, after his inauguration on January 20.

Riyadh expected the incoming US administration to show “more seriousness, objectivity and independence in dealing with Palestinian affairs,” the statement added.

Saudi Arabia, a close ally of the United States, has tried in vain to find a common Arab response to the Israeli offensive, which has killed more than 900 Palestinians.

The rulers of Saudi Arabia are under immense public pressure to act, and they do not wish to be seen as remaining silent while the Israel kills more Palestinian civilians.

Lieberman: Do to Hamas what the US did to Japan

MIDEAST-ISRAEL-POLITICS-LIEBERMAN

Lieberman: Do to Hamas what the US did to Japan

“Israel won’t be secure so long as Hamas is in power, and therefore we need to come to a decision that we will break the will of Hamas to keep fighting,” he said during a speech at Tel Aviv’s Bar-Ilan University.

“We must continue to fight Hamas just like the United States did with the Japanese in World War II,” Lieberman added. “Then, too, the occupation of the country was unnecessary.”

In 1945, Japan unconditionally surrendered to the US following two atomic bomb attacks on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. A ground invasion of mainland Japan had been prepared at the time, but was avoided due to the Japanese capitulation after the bombings.

Israel Beiteinu is currently the fifth largest party in Israel, and, according to an average of all polls taken since the start of the campaign season, is expected to become the fourth largest party in the next general election.

The Humiliation Of America

The Humiliation Of America

By Paul Craig Roberts

“Early Friday morning the secretary of state was considering bringing the cease-fire resolution to a UNSC vote and we didn’t want her to vote for it.” Olmert said. “I said ‘get President Bush on the phone.’ They tried and told me he was in the middle of a lecture in Philadelphia. I said ‘I’m not interested, I need to speak to him now.’ He got down from the podium, went out and took the phone call.”

“Let me see if I understand this,” wrote a friend in response to news reports that Israeli Prime Minister Olmert ordered President Bush from the podium where he was giving a speech to receive Israel’s instructions about how the United States had to vote on the UN resolution. “On September 11th, President Bush is interrupted while reading a story to school children and told the World Trade Center had been hit–and he went on reading. Now, Olmert calls about a UN resolution when Bush is giving a speech and Bush leaves the stage to take the call. There exists no greater example of a master-servant relationship.”

Olmert gloated as he told Israelis how he had shamed US Secretary of State Condi Rice by preventing the American Secretary of State from supporting a resolution that she had helped to craft. Olmert proudly related how he had interrupted President Bush’s speech in order to give Bush his marching orders on the UN vote.

Israeli politicians have been bragging for decades about the control they exercise over the US government. In his final press conference, President Bush, deluded to the very end, said that the whole world respects America. In fact, when the world looks at America, what it sees is an Israeli colony.

Responding to mounting reports from the Red Cross and human rights organizations of Israel’s massive war crimes in Gaza, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted 33-1 on January 12 to condemn Israel for grave offenses against human rights.

On January 13, the London Times reported that Israelis have gathered on a hillside overlooking Gaza to enjoy the slaughter of Palestinians in what the Times calls “the ultimate spectator sport.”

It is American supplied F-16 fighter jets, helicopter gunships, missiles, and bombs that are destroying the civilian infrastructure of Gaza and murdering the Palestinians who have been packed into the tiny strip of land. What is happening to the Palestinians herded into the Gaza Ghetto is happening because of American money and weapons. It is just as much an attack by the United States as an attack by Israel. The US government is complicit in the war crimes.

Yet in his farewell press conference on January 12, Bush said that the world respects America for its compassion.

The compassion of bombing a UN school for girls?

The compassion of herding 100 Palestinians into one house and then shelling it?

The compassion of bombing hospitals and mosques?

The compassion of depriving 1.5 million Palestinians of food, medicine, and energy?

The compassion of violently overthrowing the democratically elected Hamas government?

The compassion of blowing up the infrastructure of one of the poorest and most deprived people on earth?

The compassion of abstaining from a Security Council vote condemning these actions?

And this is a repeat of what the Israelis and Americans did to Lebanon in 2006, what the Americans did to Iraqis for six years and are continuing to do to Afghans after seven years. And still hope to do to the Iranians and Syrians.

In 2002, I designated George W. Bush “the White House Moron.” If there ever was any doubt about this designation, Bush’s final press conference dispelled it.

Bush talked about connecting the dots, but Bush has failed to connect any dots for eight solid years. “Our” president was a puppet for a cabal led by Dick Cheney and a handful of Jewish neoconservatives, who took control of the Pentagon, the State Department, the National Security Council, the CIA, and “Homeland Security.” From these power positions, the neocon cabal used lies and deception to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, pointless wars that have cost Americans $3 trillion, while millions of Americans lose their jobs, their pensions, and their access to health care.

“These obviously very difficult economic times,” Bush said in his press conference, “started before my presidency.”

Bush has plenty of liberal company in failing to connect a $3 trillion dollar war with hard times. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities blames Bush’s tax cut, not the wars, for “the fiscal deterioration.”

Bush told the White House Press Corps, a useless collection of non-journalists, that the two mistakes of his invasion of Iraq were: (1) Putting up the “mission accomplished” banner on the aircraft carrier, which, he said, “sent the wrong message,” and (2) the absence of the alleged weapons of mass destruction that he used to justify the invasion.

Although Bush now admits that there were not any such weapons in Iraq, Bush said that the invasion was still the right thing to do.

The deaths of 1.25 million Iraqis, the displacement of 4 million Iraqis, and the destruction of a country’s infrastructure and economy are merely the collateral damage associated with “bringing freedom and democracy” to the Middle East.

Unless George W. Bush is the best actor in human history, he truly believes what he told the White House Press Corps.

What Bush did not explain is how America is respected when its people put a moron in charge for eight years.

ISM video of Israel troops shooting Palestinian paramedics in Jabaliya

ISM video of Israel troops shooting Palestinian paramedics in Jabaliya

A Palestinian medic, traveling with two International Solidarity Movement volunteers, has been shot by Israeli forces in Jabaliya, northern Gaza.

Red Crescent medic, Hassan al-Attal, was shot through the thigh while collecting a civilian killed by Israeli fire from Zemmo, east of Jabaliya refugee camp

Gas-starved EU nations seek end to energy crisis

Gas-starved EU nations seek end to energy crisis

MOSCOW (AP) — The leaders of several gas-starved European nations traveled to Ukraine and Russia on Wednesday, pressing them to restore supplies as the EU threatened both with legal action for halting energy deliveries in the midst of winter.

But Ukraine’s natural gas company said for a second straight day it would not send Russian gas along to Europe. It claimed that Russia’s gas monopoly Gazprom was trying to force it to cut service to parts of Ukraine in order to send the gas along.

For his part, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of holding European nations hostage and insisted the EU should not accept Ukraine’s claims. He spoke as met with the prime ministers of Slovakia, Bulgaria and Moldova at his residence outside Moscow.

“No matter what papers others provide, I’ll burn them in the oven,” he told the visitors. “We opened the tap, and are ready to supply gas, but on the other side, the tap is closed.

“Nobody, no transit country, has the right to use its transit location to take other customers hostage,” Putin declared.

FIND MORE STORIES IN: Europe | Russia | Ukraine | Ukrainian | Gazprom | Naftogaz

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said “Ukraine is losing the trust of European partners because of its behavior.”

“The most unpleasant part is that millions of Europeans feel like hostages and are truly suffering,” added Bulgaria’s Sergei Stanishev.

With no end to the politically charged dispute in sight — despite a weekend agreement that sent teams of EU monitors out to pumping stations to keep tabs on the gas flows — the EU was fed up.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso warned Gazprom and Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state-run gas company, that he will urge European energy companies to sue them unless they move quickly to restore gas supplies.

“If the agreement is not honored, it means that Russia and Ukraine can no longer be considered reliable partners for the European Union in matters of energy supply,” Barroso told the European Parliament.

Gazprom stopped sending gas into Ukraine’s pipeline system on Jan. 7, alleging that Ukraine was siphoning off supplies destined for Europe. Ukraine has denied the charges, claiming that Russia has not sent enough so-called “technical gas” to pump the rest of the gas west to Europe.

Gazprom cut off all gas supplies to Ukraine itself on Jan. 1, amid a clash over what price Ukraine should pay for gas in 2009.

The dispute has affected millions of people, mostly in eastern Europe and sent at least 15 European nations scrambling for heat. Thousands of businesses have had to shut down or cut production, forcing workers into involuntary layoffs.

Russia opened a tap to Ukraine on Tuesday after the hard-won EU deal to monitor gas flows, raising hopes across Europe.

But Ukraine’s gas company Naftogaz did not deliver the gas to Europe, saying Gazprom demanded that it use a technically arduous route which would force Ukraine to halt supplies to a large swath of its own territory. Ukraine uses Russian gas, but also produces natural gas on its own and has large stockpiles of the fuel.

Naftogaz head Oleh Dubina said Gazprom made the same request again Wednesday — and he would not agree to halt supplies to Ukrainian consumers.

“Unfortunately, we answered the same way: we cannot leave our regions without gas,” Dubina told reporters.

Gazprom has rejected the claim, saying the route was fine.

Earlier in Kiev, Fico urged Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to hold talks with Putin to resolve the dispute as soon as possible.

“We ask for talks between the prime ministers of Russia and Ukraine. This is an issue that is very important for us,” Fico said.

Russia and Ukraine are deeply at odds over what Ukraine will pay for Russian gas in 2009. Ukraine last year paid $179.50 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas and its president said Tuesday that Ukraine will pay no more than $210 in 2009.

Russia wants Ukraine to pay market price for gas, about the $450 that European customers pay.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rules out talks with Hamas

Her position is “absolute”

OBAMA’S FIRST MISTAKE COMING BACK TO HAUNT HIM.  THE WAR-BITCH NOW HAS THE AUTHORITY TO CARRY-ON WITH THE NEOCON WAR PLAN FOR ISRAEL.

WE ARE SO SCREWED!

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rules out

talks with Hamas

Hillary Clinton won't negotiate with Hamas

Future … US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she won’t talk to Hamas unless they drop their extremist stance / AP / The Associated Press

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has ruled out negotiations with the Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas unless it drops its extremist stance, saying her position is “absolute”.

“On Israel, you cannot negotiate with Hamas until it renounces violence, recognises Israel and agrees to abide by past agreements. That is just for me an absolute,” Mrs Clinton told a Senate confirmation hearing.

“That is the United States government’s position. That is the president-elect’s position,” she said after a senator suggested it is “naive and illogical” to pursue diplomacy with governments opposed to Israel.

She echoed the stance of the outgoing administration of President George W. Bush which is supporting Egyptian efforts to mediate a ceasefire following an 18-day Israeli war to stop Hamas rocket attacks.

Palestinian medical sources said around 70 more people had been killed in the fighting, bringing the overall toll to around 975 Palestinians with a further 4400 wounded.

On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and three civilians have been killed in combat or by rocket attacks since December 27 when the Jewish state began its deadliest ever offensive on Gaza, ruled by the Islamists of Hamas since the group won elections in mid-2007.

The Bush administration has opposed negotiations with what it calls a terrorist organisation.

Mr Obama has proposed reaching out to the leaders of anti-US countries like Iran, North Korea and Cuba, but analysts doubted he would engage with Iran-backed Hamas and Hezbollah, which the US denounces as terrorist groups.

During her confirmation hearing, Mrs Clinton said the new administration will try a “new approach” toward Iran by engaging it diplomatically.

State Terrorism

A Good Day

Leaflets courtesy of the israeli terrorists.  More like little white death sentences.  And New York jews at their rally –  along with their sidekicks –  say Gaza should be grateful.

So “brave”  the coward, this eastern european khazar descendant, “chosen” to reign mass murder and insanity on a land he has no claim to.

A bad day comes

every once in awhile

your body says

Fourteen hundred shooting stars and (every time?)


A bad day comes every once

in your body life

Goodbye

Sing along

Hold my life

A good day

Is any day that you’re alive

A good day

Doesn’t need to be your birthday

The next one then

You won’t survive

Hold my life

One last time

A good day

Is any day that you’re alive

__________________________________________

THANK YOU Cherifa for the photos

Gas crisis causes political turmoil in Ukraine

Gas crisis causes political turmoil in Ukraine

Opposition parties in Ukraine are pressing for the resignation of the Government over the row with Russia that has left the country without gas supplies for two weeks.

As local authorities reduced heating and water supplies, there has been growing resentment on the streets and now there are calls to start impeachment proceedings against President Viktor Yushchenko.

The head of the Regions party, Viktor Yanukovich has called for a special commission to investigate what he called the authorities’ abuse of power over gas supply issues.

Backed by the communist faction in parliament, the two groups fall short of being able to raise a majority and would need the backing of some pro-government lawmakers to initiate a vote of no confidence.

Yanukovich, who favours closer ties with Moscow, lost to President Yushchenko in a re-run of a fraudulent election in 2004 which sparked the Orange Revolution.

His party gets its key support from the Russian speaking east and south of the country.

Israeli airstrikes, tank fire pound Gaza City

Israeli airstrikes, tank fire pound Gaza City

Fighting rages on streets; diplomatic efforts for truce drag on

slide showAn explosion is seen after an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah near the border with Egypt yesterday. Israeli troops and Hamas fighters fought fierce battles in the streets of Gaza’s main city as Israel’s war on Hamas entered its 18th day and the death toll went above 900.Photo: AFP

Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen fought fierce night-time clashes around Gaza yesterday, with Israeli tanks making their deepest incursion yet into districts of Gaza City, witnesses said.

Israeli ground troops battled Palestinian militants in the streets of a densely populated Gaza City neighbourhood early yesterday, destroying dozens of homes and sending terrified residents running for cover as gunfire and explosions echoed in the distance.

Israel’s push into Tel Hawwa neighbourhood was the farthest it has moved into Gaza City during its 18-day offensive against Hamas militants, and brought Israel’s ground forces within a mile of the crowded city centre. Palestinian hospital officials say more than 900 Palestinians, half of them civilians, have been killed.

Israel launched the offensive on Dec. 27 to end years of Palestinian rocket attacks on its southern towns, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has vowed to press forward with an “iron fist,” despite growing international calls for an end to the fighting. UN chief Ban Ki-moon was headed to the region Tuesday to press for a ceasefire.

An army spokesman confirmed fighting in several areas, as Israel’s war to put an end to Hamas rocket fire from the Gaza Strip entered its 18th day, but he could not elaborate.

Israel’s military chief says his troops have inflicted damage on Hamas in the Gaza Strip but will continue fighting to achieve more.

Lt Gen Gabi Ashkenazi says soldiers are doing “exceptional work” and that Hamas fighters, infrastructure and government institutions in the territory have been dealt a serious blow.

Witnesses said Israeli special forces advanced into the southern Gaza City neighbourhood of Tal Al-Hawa after midnight (2200 GMT Monday) and were ambushed by Palestinian fighters.

Subsequently, Israeli tanks pushed into the district and opened fire, supported by aerial bombing.

Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, said fighters had knocked out two Israeli tanks in Gaza City’s Zeitun neighbourhood with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), a claim denied by Israel.

“Tanks have entered Tal al-Hawa, Ash Sheikh Ajlin and Zeitun neighbourhoods further than before” in the war, an AFP correspondent said. “The airplanes are bombing and the tanks are shelling.”

Palestinian fighters responded to the advancing tanks with mortar fire, he said to the sound of explosions in the background, as bright blasts lit up the night sky.

Medics said one Palestinian was killed by tank fire in Zeitun. It was not clear whether the victim was a fighter or civilian.

And witnesses said three people were hurt when an airstrike destroyed a house in Gaza City’s Sheikh Radwan district.

On Monday, residents said Israeli tanks punched their way into the southern rim of Gaza City, advancing several hundred metres (yards) into Ash Sheikh Ajlin, Zeitun and Tuffah, where the sound of gunfire echoed.

“We are tightening the encirclement of the city,” the offensive’s commander, Brigadier Eyal Eisenberg, told reporters. “We are not static. We are careful to be constantly on the move.”

Heavy fighting was also reported early on Tuesday in Beit Lahiya and Jabaliya, just to the north of Gaza City, and around the city of Khan Yunis, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) to the south.

Witnesses said Israeli special forces tried to enter the village of Khuzaa, southeast of Khan Yunis and close to the Israeli border, but were driven back after being ambushed. Tanks later shelled the village.

Hamas said a number of soldiers died in the assault on Khuzaa, but an army spokesman said there were no reports of Israeli troops killed.

Khuzaa was the scene of tank fire on Sunday that killed a woman and wounded at least 60 other people. Doctors said 55 of them suffered injuries from white phosphorous shells, banned under international law for use in civilian areas.

At the time, an army spokeswoman said: “There is no use of white phosphorous. Everything we use is according to international law.”

Warplanes on Monday hit more than 60 targets, including 20 weapons-smuggling tunnels in Rafah, on the Egyptian border, and nine rocket launch sites, a military spokesman said.

Witnesses said air strikes on Rafah were continuing into early Tuesday.

The war to force Hamas to stop firing rockets on southern Israel erupted on December 27 with an intensive bombing campaign that was widened a week later with a ground assault on the narrow, densely populated Gaza Strip.

More than 900 Palestinians have been killed in the onslaught.

Meanwhile, envoys of the militant Palestinian Hamas are continuing talks in Cairo with officials on an Egyptian truce proposal for the embattled Gaza Strip where the Israeli offensive is in its third week.

The talks Tuesday follow diplomatic efforts that have made little concrete progress in reconciling key differences between Israel and the militant Palestinians.

A three-member Hamas delegation from the group’s exiled leadership in Syria returned to Cairo from Damascus late Monday for more talks.

The UN Security Council has already passed a resolution calling for a cease-fire. Ban was headed to the Mideast on Tuesday to enforce the measure.

Speaking at UN headquarters in New York on Monday, Ban said he has been on the phone constantly with top officials in the Middle East, Europe and the United States promoting the cease-fire. But he said phone calls are not a substitute for direct talks with leaders who have influence on the parties.

“To both sides, I say: Just stop, now,” the UN chief said. “Too many people have died. There has been too much civilian suffering. Too many people, Israelis and Palestinians, live in daily fear of their lives.”

The secretary-general said he plans to meet senior officials in Egypt and Jordan on Wednesday, then head to Israel, the West Bank, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Kuwait.

The fighting has raised concerns about a looming humanitarian disaster in Gaza, where hundreds of thousands of people are without power and running water. The Israeli army said about 100 truckloads of humanitarian aid, including wheat, flour and medical supplies, were expected to be let into the territory on Tuesday.

Missiles rain down on Gaza City; 48 Palestinians killed in 24 hours

Missiles rain down on Gaza City; 48 Palestinians killed in 24 hours

[Ma'anImages]

Gaza – Ma’an – Chaos hit a critical peak in the Strip early on Wednesday morning as Israeli warplanes detonated a cemetery in the center of Gaza’s most populous city.

Residents said the missiles dug into Sheikh Radwan Cemetary in central Gaza City, simultaneously bringing down homes in Sheikh Radwan, which left at least one man dead, next door, who was identified as Osama Abu Jayyab and injuring ten other Palestinians.

Two Palestinians affiliated with the armed An-Nasser Brigades were killed in shelling at eastern Rafah; the faction identified them as Mohammad and Muneer Abu Sneimeh, who were killed instantly.

Mohamad Abu Dakka, an Al-Quds Brigades fighter, was reported seriously injured in Israeli shelling while riding a motorcycle in Khan Younis.

Aircraft also fired on dozens of targets throughout central Gaza, covering the area with a cloud of thick white smoke, according to witnesses. Numerous residents were hospitalized after inhaling the apparently weaponized white phosphorous chemical.

Another explosion rocked a municipal park elsewhere in Gaza, according to reports that described the blast as “enormous.”

In Rafah, eyewitnesses confirmed that over 40 targets were struck by Israeli missiles along the border area and in Tal Zo’rob in the west, destroying several homes.

At least 48 Palestinians were killed in the past 24 hours throughout the Gaza Strip, 11 of them in Khaza’a, the site of heavy chemical bombing, and in Khan Younis, where as many as 40 homes were leveled by the Israeli military.

The de facto Palestinian Health Ministry confirmed that an estimated 977 Palestinians were dead by early Wednesday, as well as some 4,500 injured since the Gaza assault began on 27 December.

Spying in Afghanistan is world’s riskiest job

Spying in Afghanistan is world’s riskiest job

Tue, January 13 2009

US-spiesAnwar Saeed’s life was at risk either way, whether fighting with the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s restive tribal region or spying on them for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

But he chose the second option. The promise of $6,000 from U.S. intelligence agents was enough for him to buy better health services for his aging parents, and perhaps a chance to be self-employed in some big city, where he could vanish with his family and be anonymous among millions of people.

The gamble did not pay off. Saeed, 21, was caught before he could guide a Hellfire missile fired from a U.S. pilotless aircraft to the hideouts of two important Taliban commanders in the Khaisor and Sholam areas of South Waziristan.

“He was one of us but some of his moves made him a suspect,” said a local Taliban fighter, who requested to be identified only by his alias Mohammed Zia. “We took him to our headquarters, seized his Kalashnikov, and showed him the knives we wanted to use to cut his throat, and he told us everything.”

According to Zia, the “traitor” had planted two microchips that identified the places for U.S. drones in two different villages where two Taliban commanders were supposed to be on a night in October.

There is no mercy for U.S. spies in South Waziristan, a stronghold of Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, whose more than 20,000 fighters launch regular cross-border attacks on international troops in Afghanistan.

After hours of torture, spies are beheaded with a sharp knife, or shot dead. Their bodies are dumped in a public place with the severed head and a note saying: “All those spying for the U.S. will meet the same fate.”

Such executions are becoming more common as the U.S. has recently put in more efforts to recruit informants in South Waziristan and its neighbouring district of North Waziristan.

Most of the informants are recruited from among the tribesmen who live on the Afghan side of the border, but frequently visit relatives in the Pakistani tribal region.

“These Afghans either carry out an assigned task by themselves or share a portion of their promised reward with a local to accomplish the job,” said a Pakistani intelligence official, who conceded that his colleagues were also sharing “some information” with U.S. forces.

With the help of an expanded intelligence network, the U.S. military have carried out about three dozen drone attacks since August. Many of these proved to be successful in eliminating second-rate Al Qaeda operatives and Taliban leaders.

The spies are given small equipment, containing a small transmitter and a battery that lasts for about 48 hours. The instrument is placed inside or outside the house of a militant, or planted on his vehicle.

The transmitter sends signals to a U.S. satellite, which conveys it to U.S. forces operating in Afghanistan or directly to a drone awaiting the target co-ordinates to strike.

“The accuracy of the guided missile is just a few feet, probably three to four. It can pick up a single specified target situated in a cluster of buildings, without damaging the adjacent compounds,” said Syed Shah Mehmood.

He is the general manager of East West Infiniti, a company that manufactures Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for the Pakistani military.

But each successful air strike against the Islamist insurgents is followed by one or two beheadings.

Last week, the Taliban released a video of five men, including Pakistani soldiers, accused of providing “secret information” about the whereabouts of Al Qaeda leader Abu Laith al-Libi, leading to a U.S. missile strike that killed him and 11 others in North Waziristan.

The Pakistani intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said over the past two years about 150 suspected U.S. spies have been executed.

Well aware of his fate, Saeed decided not to allow the Taliban to make an example out of him.

“We were on our way back to the headquarters after recovering the chip from Sholam,” the Taliban fighter named Zia recounted. “I . . . saw him (Saeed) punching on a small instrument that looked half a size of a cellphone.

“A few minutes later our vehicle was hit by a missile. Four of my colleagues and Saeed died, and I survived miraculously with minor injuries,” Zia said.

On Heightened “Full Red Alert” Hezbollah Continues to Ponder its Islamic Duty to the Palestinians in Gaza

On Heightened “Full Red Alert” Hezbollah

Continues to Ponder its Islamic Duty to the

Palestinians in Gaza

The Resistance is one project and the resistance movement is one movement and has one course, one destiny, one goal, despite its different parties, factions, believes, sects and intellectual and political trends…Resistance movements in this region, especially in Lebanon and Palestine, complement one another and (Hezbollah and Hamas) are contiguous groups.

– Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah 7/18/08

In Lebanon, we, the Islamic Resistance, are ready and prepared to confront any Israeli stupidity. We are prepared to face any foolishness. We have the wisdom to act calmly and we will not be dragged to any act of which we are not convinced. But we will not accept becoming a target for anyone. Hezbollah’s level of readiness is greater than the enemy’s imagination.

– Mohammad Raad, leader of the Hezbollah’s block in the Lebanese Parliament 1/09/09

Beirut, Lebanon — “Where is my friend Hussein?,” this observer asked some of the guys yesterday at my favorite motorcycle repair shop in Dahiyeh, the Hezbollah area in Beirut, as I helped, with my bandaged arm, off load my motorbike. “Silver”, sad to report, was not at all in good shape. In fact Silver needed a front end alignment, a new headlight, two turn signals, a new tail light and a new front wheel guard and at least the cracked windshield taped, before we could head off again and add the more than 11,000 miles we have logged crisscrossing Lebanon together.

The problem was Beirut’s flash hailstorm on Sunday. Immediately upon entering Verdun street near the Dunes hotel, Silver, not being used to a surface road mixture of oil and ice, and having a van cut him off from the right, tried to maneuver and skidded on his side and this observer went tumbling (again!). This time against a hotel protective barrier as some army guys jumped out of the way then courteously helped me up with a friendly “Welcome in Lebanon.”

“Isn’t this about your third ‘divine accident’ this year?,” one of Hussein’s mechanics, Ali grinned, as payback for me telling him a Sunni joke the other day about Hezbollah’s string of “divine victories.”

Again, I asked why my friend Hussein was absent. No response.

If one wants his motorcycle fixed cheap, well and quickly, even the pro government-anti Hezbollah Sunni repair shops in the central Beirut area of Hamra neighborhoods will tell you it’s best to take it to Ghouberi. “Ghouberi” is code language for the Hezbollah area of Dahiyeh/Haret Hareik, where most macho Hamra guys fear to tread as they continue to smart over “the events of May,” when Shia Hezbollah and some of their allies in Shia Amal and the Christian National Syria Socialist Party stormed parts of Sunni West Beirut and locked it down tight for around 72 hours before handing it over to the Lebanese Army. It was all about sending a message to the US-Israeli backed government not to mess with Hezbollah’s communication system or with their guys at the Beirut airport.

Once again the Hezbollah shop that took care of Silver did a great job. The mechanics, mainly Hezbollah reservists with ‘day jobs,’ apply the same work ethic of thoroughness and skill to their bike work as they do defending Lebanon against Israeli attacks. Space only allows for one example. As I inquired about the prospects that Hezbollah would open a second front, I noticed that a mechanic and his Palestinian dropout helper (quitting school is the growing pattern these days in Lebanon’s Refugee camps due to economic and political pressure), one with a screwdriver and the other with a wrench, literally checked and tightened every nut or screw on the bike. Never in 20+ years of riding and crashing motorcycles in more than a dozen countries had I seen mechanics do that.

Pastries or Pistachios as Clues

“So where was Hussein?” I asked for the third time. “He not in Beirut,” one of the mechanics said.

I immediately understood.

There is quite a lot of code language used in Lebanon these days, and “He’s not in Beirut” in Hezbollah parlance means, “He’s been called up,” he’s off somewhere for a few weeks doing ‘training’ or he’s been posted with his 5-6 man unit.

While Hussein is “not in Beirut.” it’s likely no one among his family or friends will hear from him. He may spend days or weeks in a tree along the Blue Line electronically eavesdropping on Israeli soldiers or recording their movements and habits or any one of hundreds of preparatory tasks. Hussein will return as if he just completed his day off but will answer no questions that begin with where, what, why, who, when, are, can, do, etc. Quite likely he will look leaner, stronger, more serious than when he left and will parry inquires with a smile and a question about “what’s new with you,” etc.

One might gain some inkling where he has been from what he brings back as gifts for his pals. For example, if Hussein brings special pastries acquired only from a certain village, which he did last time for this observer, obviously he had been posted in the Bekaa Valley. If he returns with a bag of oranges perhaps he was down south. Iranian candies or Iran’s famous Pistachios? For sure he was, well, the dear reader gets the idea.

Today, the Lebanese Resistance led by Hezbollah remains on full alert, in the 1/10/09 words of Lebanon’s Oppositions leader in Parliament, Mohammad Raad, “in case Israel does something stupid, we are ready.”

Some Hezbollah officials took note of what might be an Israeli record of some sort. They pointed out that whereas in the July 2006 War, Israel killed approximately 1,100 Lebanese civilians in 33 days of carpet, frenzied and indiscriminate bombing, in Gaza they have achieved the killing of approximately the same number of Palestinians, is about have the number of days. No doubt some kind of a lesson the Israeli military learned from their failure in the earlier conflict.

Many questions are being asked throughout Lebanon about whether the Hezbollah leadership will yield to growing pressure from all parts of Lebanon and within its ranks to force Israel to lift its destruction of Gaza? If so, are there ways it could be done without a igniting a sixth war in Lebanon?

Contemporary Wisdom in Lebanon

Every day brings more questions from Resistance observers inside and outside of Lebanon: when is Hezbollah going to deliver on all those speeches by Party leaders expressing Hezbollah’s ‘sacred commitment’ to the bloodstream issue for all Arabs and Muslims: the liberation of Palestine?

These days the Lebanese Resistance, led by Hezbollah is on Full Red Alert and there is a palpable sense of foreboding in many Hezbollah supporting neighborhoods.

In the bike shop, with its “town meeting” atmosphere, some Hezbollah members are more explicit.

“We can hit Dimona with hundreds of rockets on the first day, if we get the order,” the veteran Abass explains. “The Zionists are very lucky I do not have the authority or we would have joined the battle when the first bomb fell on Gaza. It is just a matter of when, not if, we join the Gazan Resisters.”

The largest of dozens of demonstrations in support of the Gaza Resistance Hamas have been organized by Hezbollah. Thousands of those in attendance at every demonstration bristle with anger along with hundreds of millions all over the World. In Lebanon, many, not only in the Palestinian camps and Hezbollah areas, but north and south ache to do something to help the trapped and dying Gazans.

Regarding the likelihood that Hezbollah will come to the military aid of Gaza, the local conventional wisdom, much of it likely wrong, includes:

* Hezbollah is still regrouping its base from the July 2006 Israeli aggression and rebuilding thousands of homes and businesses and doesn’t want them destroyed again.

* Hezbollah may not yet be prepared militarily.

* Hezbollah has not completed its redeployment to the Bekaa Valley and to the strategic mountain tops where the next war with Israel will be largely based. This includes towns such as Sajad near Al-Rihan Mountain, north of the Litani River with its clear view of all of South Lebanon and the upper Galilee of occupied Palestine, as well as part of the Golan and the Mediterranean coastline. The geographic location of Sajad between the Al-Zahrani and Litani Rivers give it strategic importance and links the South and the Bekaa. They need more time.

* The certain massive destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure of roads, bridges, schools, would turn the populace against it and undermine its great political progress since 2006.

* That Hezbollah, having recently consolidated its base and formed a political coalition with Christian and some Druze leaders wants time to see its alliances grow stronger and free of potential military and political “unintended results.”

* Hezbollah wants to win the currently scheduled June 9, 2009 elections, and being seen as sparking another massive destruction of Lebanon would give its rival parties plenty to beat it over the head with at the polls. Every time Israel issues a new threat against Lebanon and announces in advance that it intends to commit war crimes by destroying Lebanon, this helps Hezbollah’s rivals in the polls as they take to the airwaves and argue that Hezbollah wants another war and does not care about destroying Lebanon like last time. Or, as scholar Amal Saad-Ghorayeb observed last week, intense domestic pressures to disarm, and possible, more externally manufactured, locally-executed conspiracies hatched against it that could drag it into the kind of civil warfare that the movement found itself in during May 2008.

* Hezbollah does not want to risk losing the June 9 election and wants to keep its lead in the polls.

* Hezbollah is currently behind in the polls and needs peace in Lebanon in order to convince swing voters that it will be behave responsibly if the voters will allow it to govern.

* Hamas is assured of winning the war Gaza, given that Israel must win with its 1000 to 1 military advantage or it will be humiliated and, as Anthony Cordesman has pointed out, would likely in any case lose its deterrence position, likely for good.

* That the Israeli government and its supporters claim that Israel learned from their poor performance in July 2006 is wishful thinking and their performance to date strongly suggests Israel has learned nothing and will deliver to Hamas a silver platter with huge organizational and political gifts.

The “Varsity Squad” of Hezbollah has so trained the “Junior Varsity Squad” that there is no need to intervene unless Hamas is on the verge of total elimination which given its strong showing during the past 17 days appears very unlikely. As one Hezbollah reservist noted, “If Hamas survives to fire even one rocket into Israel after Israeli forces eventually withdraw from Gaza, the World will declare Hamas the winner.” Israel discovered Hezbollah expertise last weekend when it learned that the capabilities of Hamas are much more than they anticipated including its ability to strike Beer Sheba.

Based on conversations with several Hezbollah functionaries, Shia Hezbollah appears to have increasingly deep respect for Sunni Hamas. They share an ideology and a set of strategic goals that transcend their religious difference. Both were created as an alternative to failed Arab nationalist organizations in order to effectively confront the Zionist occupation. Hezbollah has been the primary role model, trainer, and “coach” of a “new” Hamas with apparent dramatic results.

Strategically, the fact that Sunni Hamas and Shia Hezbollah cooperate well, despite differing interpretations of some of the Koran, and the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Mohammad), leads some observers to believe that this display of Muslim unity dampens the effects of the fiery rhetoric of Egypt’s Mubarak and Jordan’s Abdullah, among others, who regularly raise the chicken-little alarm of an Iranian constructed “Shia crescent.”

Hezbollah’s “Parental Pride” in Hamas

When Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh, was assassinated last February, one of the major projects he had been working on for nearly two years was to teach Hamas the lessons Hezbollah learned during the 22-year Israeli occupation of much of Lebanon as well as the 2006 Israeli aggression against Lebanon. The current conflict in Gaza may indicate how well Hamas learned from “Hajj Radwan,” Moghinyeh’s nom de guerre.

It was Israel that killed Imad. One reason was that he was deeply involved in training Hamas with the Hezbollah model of Resistance. He is known to have been very proud of the Palestinians and stated shortly before his death to Party colleagues: “They (Hamas) are becoming a very good resistance force.” Some in Lebanon refer to Hamas as the JV (Junior Varsity) or “red shirts” as opposed to the Hezbollah “Varsity” or “blue shirts,” and “Hajj Radwan” is the coach of both. In another Report to the Party, he expressed his admiration for their ability reporting that, “they are proving day after day that they are powerful people capable of facing all challenges.”

During Mughinyeh’s scores of tutorials, Israel was tipped off by certain Palestinians who had met with Imad and who knew or suspected his real identity from “the old days” when Imad spent years with the PLO and was close to Arafat and his inner circle. Most people, even those who worked closely with him, did not know his true identity and he tried to keep it that way even avoiding his home village where half the residents are Mughinyehs. Yet, some who met with him remembered him and ultimately betrayed him.

Some, including this observer, theorize this is why Mughinyeh was killed, almost certainly with the help of Syrians in Israel’s employ since every individual allowed in the Damascus “special security zone” where the killing occurred was closely vetted, examined and then carefully watched. A “full report” on the assassination was claimed to have been made by the Syrian government, which promised to release it within a few days. In two weeks the report will be exactly one year past the promised release date and no one claims to have seen it.

Yet Hajj Radwan is said to have helped revamp Hamas’ military command and replaced certain elements. One subject Mughinyeh is said to have stressed to Hamas during such meetings was the importance of “the communications network as a strategic weapon,” which included Hamas keeping in direct battlefield contact with other Resistance groups fighting Israel, and advising Hamas on ways of fighting Israel using a number of different tactics and bases in locations in Syria, Lebanon and Iran, according to the authoritative Beirut daily Al Akbar.

One of his communications to superiors in Hezbollah is said to have reported: “The way the bottom of the earth was transformed in (areas) around the Strip and inside cities indicates that if determination and leadership was provided to them (the Palestinians), they would achieve what hasn’t been achieved before.”

Other lessons Mughinyeh offered Hamas, based on the lessons from 2006, included that each Hamas small unit of approximately five fighters should be fully equipped and must have a clear plan to fight Israeli soldiers and to wage a long war of attrition until Israel withdraws. Another included instruction on ways to stockpile weapons that would allow Hamas to have quick access to them even if Israel occupied many areas in the Gaza Strip. It is some of these pre-positioned weapons that special Israeli search units try to find in order to exhibit them for propaganda purposes.

How well Hamas has learned from Hezbollah’s experience remains to be seen. Meanwhile plenty of suspicions and speculation remain concerning exactly who killed Hezbollah’s much loved Imad Mughinyeh and why.

As Hezbollah has leveraged its 2006 victory, Hamas will likely do the same, with the losers again being the American–Israel axis, the current PA leadership, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The winners, in addition to Hamas, are once more Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. Never in American history has one US administration delivered such a long and consistent string of political victories to its declared adversaries while assuring the eventual collapse of its most favored nation, and managing to turn most of the World, and its own country, against itself.

Rockets from Lebanon hit Israel

Rockets from Lebanon hit Israel

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Three rockets fired from Lebanon hit northern Israel on Wednesday, causing no casualties, emergency services said, in the second such attack since Israeli forces launched their Gaza offensive.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Israel responded with artillery fire into south Lebanon, witnesses said.

“Three rockets fired into Israel landed outside the city of Kiryat Shmona,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

A fire brigade spokesman in northern Israel said the rockets landed in fields and no one was hurt.

Security sources in Lebanon said five rockets were fired but two fell short of the Israeli border.

Last Thursday, three rockets that Israeli officials said were launched by Palestinian guerrillas in Lebanon in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip slammed into northern Israel, wounding two people.

That attack briefly raised fears that guerrillas in Lebanon might open a second front against Israel, which launched an offensive against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip on December 27.

But Israeli cabinet ministers said last week’s rocket strike appeared to be an isolated incident.