US Out of Iraq and Afghanistan March on Washington–March 20

What you can do on March 20

Afghanistan coffin March 21March 21 coffins

The March 20 National March on Washington to demand “U.S. Out of Afghanistan and Iraq Now” is shaping up to be a dramatic and highly significant demonstration.

People will be coming to D.C. by bus, van, car, train, plane and metro from over 50 different cities and towns across the East Coast, South and Midwest. Large numbers of veterans, service members, and their families; members of the Arab and Muslim community; students and teachers; representatives of local anti-war and peace groups; and many others are mobilizing to join the demonstration.

We will gather at 12 noon at the White House (Lafayette Park on the north side).

We will march from the White House, making stops at the offices of Halliburton, Washington Post, Mortgage Bankers Association of America, National Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

On the march, we will carry hundreds of coffins representing the victims of war from Iraq to Afghanistan, Palestine, Pakistan, Lebanon, Somalia, Yemen, and the U.S. GIs who have been killed in the various fronts of these wars of aggression. We will deliver the coffins to the doorsteps of those who profit from and promote these wars.

There are several ways that you can be a part of this important action:

1) Be part of a team that carries a coffin in the march
2) Bring a coffin to carry in the march
3) Participate in the worksession to prepare the coffins

Button - Click to participate in this dramatic action

Where and Why We Are Marching
White House (start and end of the march)
The White House is the decision-making center of the U.S. empire, where all high-level decision on war and occupation are ultimately made.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Faced with few and inadequate services, veterans are increasingly left to cope with the devastating psychological and physical impact of war on their own. Soldier suicides now surpass combat-related deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Halliburton
Once headed by former Vice President Dick Cheney, Halliburton has become synonymous with war profiteering.

Washington Post
This “independent media” has been a staunch supporter of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and continues to operate as an apologist for U.S. aggression.

National Endowment for Democracy
As NED founder Allen Weinstein put it, the NED does overtly what the CIA used to do covertly. The NED has been responsible for numerous government destabilization operations in Latin America over the past three decades.

Mortgage Bankers Association of America
While war rages abroad, it also wages against working people at home. The housing crisis, driven by speculation from mortgage bankers, made the profits-over-people orientation of Wall Street and Washington clearer than ever.

M21 coffins combined vertical 2

Button - Click to participate in this dramatic action

Please make an urgently needed donation to support our March 20 student travel fund!

Make a generous donation to help high school students travel to Washington D.C. for the March on Washington. It costs a lot for organizations to rent buses and for individuals to buy tickets to come to Washington, D.C. We are setting up a scholarship fund to help cover the transportation costs for high school students. How much we can provide will be based on how much we raise. Please click here to make a generous donation and help a new generation of activists take their place in today’s anti-war movement.

More information about March 20 is available at www.AnswerCoalition.org.

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Palestinian Day of Rage Follows Synagogue Opening

Palestinians in Al-Quds Clash with Israeli Occupation Forces

16/03/2010 The Israeli President’s office said on Tuesday that US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell has delayed his visit to the region. This came after violent clashes broke out early Tuesday in occupied Jerusalem between hundreds of Palestinians and Israeli occupation police amid heightened anger at the opening of a synagogue a few meters away from the holy Aqsa mosque. The outrage is also related to the Israeli occupation settlement plans that also infuriated the US administration. Israeli police fired stun grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets at Palestinian demonstrators who hurled rocks at occupation forces in the Shuafat refugee camp. Occupation authorities said it had deployed 3,000 policemen across the city.

This came after Palestinian factions in Damascus called on Arab and Islamic stated to declare today (Tuesday) a day of anger and a general call to protect the Al-Aqsa. In a statement read by the Hamas’ politburo chief Khaled Meshaal, the factions leaders stressed the need for acting efficiently and seriously to defend Al-Quds and the holy Al-Aqsa mosque. Gazans took to the streets Tuesday to express outrage and support to the Palestinians in Al-Quds. Thousands of people carrying pictures of the Qibbat el-Sakhra (Dome of the Rock) raised Palestinian and Hamas flags and shouted anti-Israeli occupation slogans, calling for defending Al-Quds. Speakers at the demonstration called for military operations in occupied territories. They demanded Arab leaders due to meet soon in Libya not to condemn Israel’s aggression but to take concrete steps that ascend to the level of the aggression. Speakers also asked Arab regimes: “Where are your fighter jets? Where are your tanks? Where are your rockets? Where are your armies to deal with this dangerous situation?”
There was mounting anger in Palestine and among Arab and Muslim peoples at the Arab and Islamic regimes for their indifference to the Israeli aggression on the holy Aqsa mosque, and Israel’s plans to build 1,600 new settler homes in occupied Al-Quds.

Crazy Zionists and Their “Temple Mount” Plot

Hamas: ‘Hurva’ Synagogue a Declaration of War; Israel Playing With Fire

Hanan Awarekeh

16/03/2010 Israel has opened the so-called “Hurva” (Ruin) synagogue in occupied Jerusalem (al-Quds) on Monday, in a move backed by the United States and ignited angry protests by Palestinians in the holy city and elsewhere in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Hamas announced Tuesday a “day of rage” a day following the opening of the synagogue a few hundred meters from the al-Aqsa Mosque in.

A joint Palestinian factions’ statement read by Hamas’ Politburo Chief Khaled Meshaal in Damascus on Monday, described the synagogue opening as “a declaration of war” because of its direct threat to the holy site. “It is part of a project to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque” and replace it with Israel’s so-called “Solomon’s Temple.”

Mashaal slammed Tel Aviv’s “falsification of history and Jerusalem’s religious and historic monuments”. “Israel is playing with fire and touching off the first spark to make the region explode,” he said.

Large Israeli occupation forces continued to deploy throughout the occupied city, with 3,000 policemen and border officers stationed in the area and in neighboring villages, where hundreds of Palestinians clashed with the occupation police early Tuesday.

Israeli police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at protesters who hurled rocks at occupation security forces in the Shuafat refugee camp.

In a video message to the opening ceremony, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu claimed that the synagogue brought a message of religious coexistence. “We permit believers of other faiths to conserve their places of worship. We proudly protect our heritage, while at the same time allowing others freedom of religion,” he said.

Netanyahu’s speech came while Palestinian men under the age of 50 were barred from entering the al-Aqsa Mosque compound for a fourth day and will continue for the fifth day. Members of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee are set to hold a procession in the east of the city on Wednesday.

Israeli Housing Minister Ariel Atias used the occasion to stress construction in Jerusalem will continue. “We have thousands of housing units in 2010, and no government has allowed a dialogue about the right to build in Jerusalem,” the Israeli minister said.

Palestinians both in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip closed ranks to condemn the Israeli move.

Head of al-Quds international institution, Dr. Ahmed Abu Halabiya, warned the opening of the synagogue in al-Quds was part of an Israeli plan “to build a Jewish temple on al-Aqsa ruins.”

Hamas called on Arab and Islamic governments to shoulder the responsibility of protecting Al-Quds and the Aqsa Mosque. The movement also urged PA chief Mahmoud Abbas and his entourage to end the futile negotiations with the Israeli occupation government and to return to the ranks of the Palestinian resistance to confront the occupation and its schemes.

Senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Zahhar leveled scathing criticism to the occupation government saying: “You who are opening Hurva are heading towards ruin. Wherever you have been you’ve been sent to your destruction. You’ve killed and murdered your prophets and you have always dealt in loan-sharking and destruction,” he said Monday, during a conference of Palestinian groups in Gaza.

“You’re destined to be destroyed. You’ve made a deal with the devil and with destruction itself – just like your synagogue,” al-Zahhar said.

He urged the Arab world to respond to “Israel’s crimes and protect the sites that are holy to Muslims and Christians from the Zionists’ racist onslaught”.

Moreover, Political bureau member of Hamas Ezzet Al-Resheq said the synagogue served as a cornerstone for the Judaization of Jerusalem, warning in a press release on Monday the Israeli occupation authority of the repercussions of the aggressive policy against Al-Quds and the Aqsa Mosque.

Hatem Abdel Qader, the Palestinian Authority’s official in charge of al-Quds affairs, expressed concern over what he described as “not just a synagogue.” “This synagogue will be a prelude to violence, extremism and religious fanaticism, and that will not be limited to extremist Jews but includes members of the Israeli government,” he warned.

The US State Department, however, criticized Palestinian comments for “mischaracterizing the event in question, which can only serve to heighten the tensions we see.”

The US support for the opening of the synagogue raises serious questions over a purported dispute between Tel Aviv and Washington over the continued Israeli settlement construction. Some analysts argue that the ostensible tensions are to provide a cover for Israel’s encroach upon Palestinian and Islamic identity of al-Quds.

“Uncle” of New Mumbai Terror Suspects, Top Dawood Lieutenant

Terror suspects linked to fugitive ganglord

Praveen Swami

NEW DELHI: Karachi-based ganglord Bashir Ahmad Khan Ain-ul-Haq Khan had recruited two Mumbai-based men arrested over the weekend for plotting terrorist attacks, intelligence sources have told The Hindu.

Khan, a key lieutenant of top mafioso Mushtaq Abdul Razzak Memon, is wanted for his alleged role in planning and executing the 1993 serial bombings in Mumbai, which left 254 people dead and more than 700 injured.

Khan is a paternal uncle of Abdul Latif Sheikh, one of the two men arrested by the Mumbai police. Sheikh is married to the sister of Riyaz Ali, the second suspect.

Maharashtra prosecutors say Khan played a key role in landing hundreds of kilograms of plastic explosives, as well as assault rifles and grenades, off the coasts of Dighi and Shekhadi in January and February, 1993. He is also alleged to have participated in a string of meetings where top mafioso Dawood Ibrahim Kaksar planned the serial bombings, and to have received combat training from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.

Based on the evidence so far available, planning for the attacks appears to have been at an early stage. No explosives of weapons had been received by the men, and neither appears to have been directly linked to jihadist organisations.

Intelligence sources said both men appeared motivated by a desire to avenge the anti-Muslim violence that tore apart Gujarat in 2002. Both men’s families, the sources said, are ethnic-Gujarati, originally hailing from Ahmedabad and Bhusaval.

Personal grievances may also have shaped the choice of the two suspects’ targets. Four years ago, police detained Ali after he eloped with a minor, the daughter of his former employer at the Thakkar Shopping Mall, one of the targets.

India Defers American Corporate Liability

[Is this the end of Indo-American scheming?]

Nuclear liability Bill deferred at last minute

Aarti Dhar

Advani demands explanation on decision

NEW DELHI: Amid stiff opposition from the political parties, particularly the Left, the government on Monday decided against introducing in the Lok Sabha the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010 that provides for compensation in the event of a nuclear accident.

A key step in the operationalisation of the India-U.S. nuclear deal, the Bill was listed for introduction in the House, but just as it was about to be tabled, Speaker Meira Kumar said she had received a request from the government that “it did not intend to introduce the Bill today [Monday].”

At least four members from the Opposition had given notice to the Speaker in the morning of their intention to oppose the Bill at the introduction stage as it violated Article 21 of the Constitution and several Supreme Court rulings.

Under Rule 72 of the Rule of Procedures of the Lok Sabha, any government motion that is opposed at the time of introduction has to be put to vote. Since the government lacked the numbers in the House, it decided to withdraw the Bill instead.

The notice to oppose the Bill had been given by Murli Manohar Joshi and Yashwant Sinha of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Basudeb Acharia of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Gurudas Dasgupta of the CPI.

Protesting strongly against the announcement, working chairman of the National Democratic Alliance L.K. Advani said the government should tell the House why the Bill was deferred suddenly.

“The government should tell [us] whether it has a rethink on it or whether they are not introducing because of opposition to the Bill,” he said, pointing out that the proposed legislation was an important part of the day’s agenda.

Earlier, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj also said that a motion had to be moved for withdrawal of the Bill from the agenda as the matter was listed in the day’s business.

“The House does not run by the intention of the government but by rules of the House,” she said.

The Speaker, however, rejected the demand saying such a motion could not be moved as the Bill had not been introduced.

Responding to the opposition, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said the government decision could not be challenged in the House.

Enactment of the liability law is one of the three key requirements because of which the nuclear deal with the U.S., concluded in September 2008, could not be operationalised so far.

The Bill provides for establishment of a Nuclear Damage Claims Commission.

“Meant to serve

U.S. interests”

PTI reports:

The Left parties dubbed the Bill as “a harmful piece of legislation meant to serve the interests of the United States and its nuclear industry.”

The BJP said it had “serious reservations” over the Bill as it “caps the liability of American firms.”

Motives behind Pak ‘terror uncle’ exposed

Motives behind Pak ‘terror uncle’ exposed

IST

MUMBAI: A terror strike appears to have been averted in Mumbai in the nick of time. The two terror suspects arrested over the weekend planned to set fire to the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) office at Bandra (East) on Monday (March 15), according to state Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) officers.

Abdul Latif Rashid alias Guddu (29), a resident of Haji Chawl, Behrampada, Bandra (East), and Riyaz Ali Imtiaz alias Rehan (23), a resident of Koyla Bhavan Chawl, Ratan Nagar, Dahisar, planned to enter the ONGC premises, known as Vasudhara Bhavan, with the help of an ONGC Class-IV employee, said the ATS officers.

When asked how they intended to set fire to the building, the ATS officers said they were still interrogating the two brothers-in-law. Sources said they were held while going to a petrol pump to arrange for fuel. Police are issuing a warning to all pumps not to sell loose fuel to any customers, especially those who don’t have vehicles, and to inform the authorities of anyone trying to buy such fuel.

According to the remand application, attacks were planned on ONGC, Thakkar Mall in Borivli, where Riyaz worked, and Mangaldas Market in Kalbadevi, where Latif worked. Gujarati Chawl, near the Borivli mall, was also targeted. The ATS officers said fire was to be set at these places before the suspects went to Pakistan.

Latif had allegedly asked six men, aside from himself and Riyaz, to apply for passports and go to Pakistan free of cost for terror training. Two of those youth refused to go, saying the plot was anti-national. ‘‘One of those two youths first told a police informant about the plot and we put all the eight under surveillance,’’ said the officer. Both youth who refused to go to Pakistan have been questioned by police.

Of the other four, two have been questioned and two cannot be found. While some sources said the four who applied for passports may be arrested soon, other sources said the ATS is looking for as many as 10 associates of the arrested duo who was part of the ‘‘Karachi operation’’.

Police said the arrested duo had befriended an ONGC employee over the period of a month. ‘‘The duo wanted to set the ONGC headquarters, Vasudhara Bhavan in Bandra, on fire, and not oil tanks,’’ said a senior ATS officer. No maps, firearms or petrol was recovered.

Senior officers were tight-lipped about the identity of the ONGC employee, but plan to make him a witness for the prosecution. ‘‘The two suspects befriended him and wanted to get some support from him. We are questioning him, but it’s too difficult to say at this stage whether he was part of the conspiracy or unaware of the plot,’’ an ATS officer said.

Latif was in touch with a certain ‘Chacha’ in Karachi. ‘‘Latif’s maternal uncle is an absconding accused in the 1993 Mumbai blasts. He had asked Latif to go to Pakistan and sent Rs 10,000 to help him get a passport through tatkal,’’ said an ATS official. It is not known if ‘Chacha’ and Latif’s uncle are the same person. Latif’s and Riyaz’s passports have been seized. ‘‘More than 16 calls were made and received by the duo to a Pakistani number. Their phones will be sent for analyses,’’ said the ATS source.

West condemns Georgia war spoof, divisions exposed

West condemns Georgia war spoof, divisions exposed

Matt Robinson and Margarita Antidze
TBILISI
Main Image

(Reuters) – Western envoys on Monday condemned a fake news report in Georgia that Russian tanks had entered the capital, wading into a row that has exposed deep divisions over opposition attempts to mend ties with Moscow.

Saturday’s 20-minute primetime report on pro-government Imedi TV caused panic 18 months after the ex-Soviet neighbors fought a five-day war.

Shock has given way to accusation over the politics behind the broadcast, which Imedi said was a warning over contacts between opposition leaders and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

EU special envoy to the South Caucasus Peter Semneby said the stunt did not help stability in Georgia and the region.

“It seems to have created further internal political divisions. It may even have been intended to do so,” he told Reuters.

Georgia holds local elections in May watched as a barometer of support for authorities under President Mikheil Saakashvili.

The opposition said the government was behind the report on Imedi, which is run by a close ally of Saakashvili.

The president’s spokeswoman said on Monday the accusation was “absurd”. But state manipulation of media remains a serious concern for Georgia’s Western backers.

Meetings between Putin and Saakashvili defectors Nino Burjanadze and Zurab Nogaideli have fueled debate over Russia’s intentions and whether Georgia should seek to mend relations with its northern neighbor.

“POLITICAL TERROR”

Ordinary Georgians, many of whom have relatives in Russia, are suffering from severed diplomatic relations, closed air links and an effective Russian trade embargo.

Georgia’s government says Russia cannot be trusted. The Kremlin says it wants nothing to do with Saakashvili, whose assault on rebel South Ossetia in August 2008 after clashes with separatists drew a crushing Russian counterstrike.

The fake broadcast, which ran without a banner to make clear it was not real, said Russian tanks were advancing on Tbilisi after Burjanadze and Nogaideli called on Moscow to intervene in political unrest following the mayoral vote.

Mobile phone networks crashed and there was a spike in calls to the emergency services.

Saakashvili criticized how the report was presented but said it was not unrealistic.

But U.S. ambassador to Georgia John Bass slammed the stunt.

The situation between Georgia and Russia is “serious enough without this sort of sensational quasi-news activity and I look forward to the examination of what happened by the appropriate organizations,” he said.

Russia envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said Saakashvili must have known about the report.

“It’s a well-planned act aimed at scheming new armed conflicts in the Caucasus region,” he said.

Imedi was pro-opposition until police stormed its studios in 2007 at the height of opposition protests, deepening concern over media freedom and marginalization of the opposition under Saakashvili since the 2003 Rose Revolution swept him to power.

“This is a continuation of the political terror in Georgia aimed at burying the opposition,” Nogaideli said.

(Additional reporting by Conor Humphries in Moscow)

Aide: Karzai ‘very angry’ at Taliban boss’ arrest in Pakistan

KABUL (AP) — The Afghan government was holding secret talks with the Taliban‘s No. 2 when he was captured in Pakistan, and the arrest infuriated President Hamid Karzai, according to one of Karzai’s advisers.

The detention of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar — second in the Taliban only to one-eyed Mullah Mohammed Omar— has raised new questions about whether the U.S. is willing to back peace discussions with leaders who harbored the terrorists behind the Sept. 11 attacks.

Karzai “was very angry” when he heard that the Pakistanis had picked up Baradar with an assist from U.S. intelligence, the adviser said. Besides the ongoing talks, he said Baradar had “given a green light” to participating in a three-day peace jirga that Karzai is hosting next month.

The adviser, who had knowledge of the peace talks, spoke on condition of anonymity because of their sensitivity. Other Afghan officials, including Abdul Ali Shamsi, security adviser to the governor of Helmand province, also confirmed talks between Baradar and the Afghan government. Several media reports have suggested that Baradar had been in touch with Karzai representatives, but these are the first details to emerge from the discussions.

Talking with the Taliban is gaining traction in Afghanistan as thousands of U.S. and NATO reinforcements are streaming in to reverse the insurgents’ momentum. Reconciliation was one topic Karzai and President Barack Obama discussed during a more than one-hour video conference Monday night, Karzai’s office said.

Baradar’s arrest has already prompted Pakistan and others to stake out their positions on possible reconciliation negotiations that could mean an endgame to the eight-year war.

Officials have disclosed little about how Baradar was nabbed last month in the port city of Karachi. The Pakistanis were said to be upset that the Americans were the source of news reports about his arrest.

The capture was part of a U.S.-backed crackdown in which the Pakistanis also arrested several other Afghan Taliban figures along the porous border between the two countries, after years of being accused by Washington of doing little to stop them.

Far from expressing gratitude, members of Karzai’s administration were quick to accuse Pakistan of picking up Baradar either to sabotage or gain control of talks with the Taliban leaders.

Whatever the reason, the delicate dance among Karzai, his neighbors and international partners put the debate over reconciliation on fast forward.

Top United Nations and British officials emphasized last week that the time to talk to the Taliban is now. The Afghan government, for its part, has plans to offer economic incentives to coax low- and midlevel fighters off the battlefield. Another driving force is Obama’s goal of starting to withdraw U.S. troops in July 2011.

The United States, with nearly 950 lives lost and billions of dollars spent in the war, is moving with caution on reconciliation.

At a breakfast meeting in Islamabad last week, Karzai said he and his Western allies were at odds over who should be at the negotiating table. Karzai said the United States was expressing reservations about talks with the top echelon of the Taliban while the British were “pushing for an acceleration” in the negotiation process.

“Our allies are not always talking the same language,” he said.

Karzai said overtures to the Taliban stood little chance of success without the support of the United States and its international partners. He says his previous attempts to negotiate with insurgents were not fruitful because “sections of the international community undermined — not backed — our efforts.”

The U.S. has said generally that it supports efforts to welcome back any militants who renounce violence, cut ties with al-Qaeda and recognize and respect the Afghan constitution, but it is keeping details of its position closely held.

Daniel Markey with the Council on Foreign Relations said that while Karzai is having discussions with senior people on the Taliban side, “it’s not clear that Washington or other members of the international community have weighed in as to what they believe are the red lines or proper boundaries with respect to negotiations with the Taliban.”

During his trip to Afghanistan last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said it was premature to expect senior members of the Taliban to reconcile with the government. He said until the insurgents believe they can’t win the war, they won’t come to the table. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has said she’s highly skeptical that Taliban leaders will be willing to renounce violence.

A U.S. military official in Kabul, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss reconciliation, said the top commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has not yet solidified his opinion on this issue.

He said the U.S. is still debating the timing of the Afghan government’s outreach to senior leaders of three main Afghan insurgent groups — Omar; Jalaluddin Haqqani, who runs an al-Qaeda-linked organization; andGulbuddin Hekmatyar, the boss of the powerful Hezb-e-Islami.

The official added that the international military coalition had no problem with the Afghan government’s reaching out to anyone, at any time, but is concerned that a deal to end the violence not come at too high a price.

Deep differences remain within the Obama administration on reconciliation, said Lisa Curtis, a research fellow on South Asia for the Heritage Foundation, a right-leaning think tank in Washington. “This disagreement is contributing to a lack of clarity in U.S. official statements on the issue and leading to confusion among our allies,” she said.

“The military surge should be given time to bear fruit,” Curtis argued. “Insurgents are more likely to negotiate if they fear defeat on the battlefield.”

Karzai won’t discuss his administration’s talks with Taliban members or their representatives, but several Afghan officials confirmed that his government was in discussions with Baradar, who hails from Karzai’s Popalzai tribe of the Durrani Pashtuns in Kandahar.

“The government has been negotiating with Mullah Baradar, who took an offer to the Taliban shura,” Shamsi said, using the word for the group’s governing board.

Shamsi said he’d seen intelligence reports indicating that Omar resisted the offer and that Baradar’s rivals within the Taliban leadership were fiercely opposed to any negotiations with the Afghan government.

An intelligence official in southern Afghanistan, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk with journalists, said there were reports that Omar was angry about Baradar’s negotiations with the government and asked Pakistani intelligence officials to arrest him.

Nevertheless, Hakim Mujahed, a former Taliban ambassador to the United Nations, said many Taliban leaders are willing to talk.

“The problem is not from the Taliban side,” he said. “There is no interest of negotiations from the side of the foreign forces.”

Hamid Gul, a former director of the Pakistani intelligence service who has criticized the U.S. role in Afghanistan, said the insurgents want three things from the U.S. before talks could begin — a clearer timetable on the withdrawal of troops, to stop labeling them terrorists, and the release of all Taliban militants imprisoned in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

What actually precipitated Baradar’s arrest remains a mystery.

Some analysts claim Pakistan wanted to interrupt Karzai’s reconciliation efforts or force Karzai to give Islamabad a seat at a future negotiating table.

“I see no evidence to support that theory,” Richard Holbrooke, U.S. envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, told reporters this month. “I know somewhat more than I’m at liberty to disclose about the circumstances under which these events took place and every detail tends to work against that thesis.”

Another theory is that Baradar, deemed more pragmatic than other top Taliban leaders, was detained to split him from fellow insurgents. McChrystal said recently that it was plausible that Baradar’s arrest followed an internal feud and purge among Taliban leaders.

There’s also speculation that Baradar’s arrest was just lucky — even unintentional.

If Karzai was still angry about Baradar’s arrest, he didn’t show it publicly last week on a two-day visit to Islamabad. His message was twofold — that Pakistan had a significant role to play in reconciliation and that its cooperation would be welcomed. He called Pakistan a “twin” and said Afghans know that without cooperation, neither would find peace.

Chinese Build Thirty Nuclear Reactors In 2010

China to build more than 30 nuclear islands simultaneously in 2010

BEIJING, Mar. 16, 2010 (Xinhua News Agency) — China’s nuclear islands under construction are expected to exceed 30 by the end of 2010, said Mu Zhanying, general manager of China Nuclear Engineering Group Company.

China has had the largest number of nuclear power stations in the world with 24 nuclear islands being built in 2009.

According to government strategy, China’s nuclear power installed capacity in operation will reach more than 60 to 70 million kW in 2020. Furthermore, the world’s largest single nuclear power unit has been imported in China.

Mu said that in the next few years, six to eight new nuclear power units with a capacity of more than one million kW will be constructed in China every year, and additional six to eight units of the same capacity will be launched to generate power.

Talking about the sudden increase in the volume of projects and the updating technology requirements, Mu expressed confidence that they have acquired full knowledge and skills to build nuclear power stations of more than 1 million kW. “It is not difficult for us to simultaneously build 40 nuclear islands every year”, he said.

According to the international standards, the average design working life of a nuclear island is about 45 years. But it is possible for Chinese nuclear power stations to work for 60 years if they get prompt and regular maintenance, according to Mu.

Mu said that many counterparts in France, the United States, Canada, Russia and other countries have expressed their willingness to cooperate with China to develop the international market together.

Nuclear islands are the nuclear part of a power plant that generates the steam for use by conventional power generators. (Edited by Wei Jing)

(Source: iStockAnalyst )

The China, Unocal, Bridas Pipeline Dance Goes On

[SEE: Unocal and the Afghanistan pipeline]

China Eyes South American Energy, Food With Bridas Deal

By Charles Newbery

BUENOS AIRES (MNI) – China is taking a fresh step to gain energy supplies in South America through a deal with Bridas Corp., a leading oil group in Argentina with an ambitious international investment plan, analysts said Monday.

China’s state energy company Cnooc said announced Sunday it had offered $3.1 billion in cash to create a 50-50 venture with Bridas Energy Holdings, now wholly owned by Bridas.

The deal, which is expected to close in the first half of this year, will give Cnooc a stronghold in South America, a market with potential for expansion in the energy and food supplies that China needs.

And it will give Bridas the backing it needs to develop projects there and in foreign markets, including the proposed construction of a natural gas pipeline in Central Asia.

Cnooc and Bridas will share management of the joint venture, gaining Cnooc local sway and know-how on the ground in Argentina and Bridas in other markets.

Cnooc “is looking very long term and not at the short term obstacles in Argentina,” said Osvaldo Cado, an economist at Prefinex, a financial consulting firm in Buenos Aires. “They are putting a foot here and another there. South America is part of its long-term growth strategy.”

Federico MacDougall, an energy expert at economist at the University of Belgrano in Buenos Aires, said, “China had tried a more aggressive plan for Latin America, but that failed.”

The initial plan included announcements of multi-million dollar projects earlier this decade, such exploration and production of oil and natural gas off the coast of Argentina.

“It failed and so it changed its plans,” he said.

A big setback in China’s ambitions to gain more energy supplies came in 2005 when its purchase of U.S. oil company Unocal Corp. for about $18 billion was rejected by the U.S. government on concerns of national security.

The new strategy is to string together resources through smaller participations, helping to get it on the ground where it can then plan expansion, MacDougall said.

This has raised concern among world leaders that China’s snapping up of resources in Africa and Latin America to feed its burgeoning demand for energy could cause trouble for other nations that depend on foreign energy supplies like the United States.

“China is looking at the world and all the possibilities there are to meet its huge and growing demand,” said Gerardo Rabinovich, an energy expert at the General Mosconi Institute of Energy in Argentina. “The deal is part of a global strategy and not just for energy. South America also is attractive for food.”

To be sure, Argentina and Brazil are poised to start bringing in huge corn and soybean harvests, exporting most of the soy output because of limited domestic consumption. China imported 57% of Argentina’s exports of soybeans and other oilseeds and derivatives in 2009.

The deal with Bridas is “another sign that China is looking to extend to all continents,” said Luis Palma Cane, an economist in Buenos Aires.

Why Bridas?

Bridas is run by Alejandro and Carlos Bulgheroni, brothers who are “very quick on their toes,” said Jaime Abut, a business consultant in Rosario, Argentina.

They have built Pan American Energy, a venture 40% owned by the family and 60% by BP, into the second biggest oil producer in Argentina.

While oil and natural gas production have fallen this decade in Argentina, Pan American’s has gone up, allowing it to maintain oil exports while most other producers can now only sell crude domestically because of dwindling output.

Their astute management has kept them on good terms with the different governments in Argentina, including President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who’s administration only last week slammed Brazil’s Petrobras and Royal Dutch Shell for not producing enough gasoline.

Indeed, while the energy business in Argentina has been sidelined by the short-term policies like price controls and high taxes of Fernandez de Kirchner and her predecessor and husband, Nestor Kirchner, the Bulgheronis have come through these with growth, Abut said.

He expects the Bulgheronis to use the partnership with Cnooc to press forward with its explorations off the coast of Argentina as well as to develop other assets, like a gas pipeline project in Central Asia.

“Bridas will get the technology and a strong injection of finances that it needs for offshore exploration,” said Palma Cane. “China has great expertise in offshore exploration, in deep waters. This is a trend in the world.”

** Market News International **

The Shame of Pakistan’s Political Parties

Sharif and the Taliban

The Punjab chief minister is mocking the sacrifices made by the very people who serve his administration by finding common cause with the enemy. –Photo by AP

Even by the wretched standards of the cesspit of lies and cravenness that can be the Pakistani political establishment, the comments made on Sunday by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif are extraordinary and demand the most vigorous condemnation possible.

Essentially, Mr Sharif has argued that his party, the PML-N, shares a common cause with the Taliban —that of opposing Gen Musharraf and his policies and rejecting ‘dictation’ from abroad — and therefore the Taliban should ‘spare’ Punjab. The very thought that any mainstream politician, let alone one as high-profile and powerful as the serving Punjab chief minister, could find anything in common with the Taliban ideology is despicable.

But Mr Sharif has gone so much further than that. By asking the Taliban to ‘spare’ Punjab, what does the Punjab CM mean? Does he mean that the Taliban should launch their attacks elsewhere, in Sindh, Balochistan, the NWFP, Fata, Pata or other places? And what does the CM mean when he says that his party is fighting foreign ‘dictation’ just like the Taliban are? Does he mean that Pakistan should not fight the threat of militancy? What does Mr Sharif want to do instead — accommodate the Taliban like they were accommodated in Swat last year? Or should ‘peace deals’ be struck with the Taliban like they were in South Waziristan for years? The chief minister’s half-hearted ‘clarification’ issued later will not suffice; he must apologise to Punjab and the nation.

That Mr Sharif could possibly be ignorant of the threat posed by the Taliban is impossible. As chief minister of Punjab he has sat at the apex of that province’s administration for over a year and a half now. Countless secret and not-so-secret memos will have arrived on his desk detailing the atrocities and crimes committed and planned by the Taliban. The secret interrogation cell that was attacked in Model Town, Lahore, only a few days ago was run by provincial authorities. The Punjab chief minister is mocking the sacrifices made by the very people who serve his administration by finding common cause with the enemy.

Why is it so difficult for the PML-N to condemn terrorism outright, with no ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’? It surely cannot be a question of the reluctance to use violence against ‘fellow Pakistanis’. Like Mr Sharif’s first tenure as chief minister in the late 1990s, Punjab is once again witnessing a spike in ‘encounter’ killings of alleged dacoits, kidnappers and sundry criminals. The men who have been killed in dubious circumstances are also ‘fellow Pakistanis’. But Mr Sharif has no sympathy for these men; in fact, he has on many occasions announced rewards for the policemen for ‘cleaning up’ the province of criminal elements. There has been no talk of an amnesty for such criminals, no appeals to their better sides, no exhortations to recognise that they have much in common with the largest party in Punjab. The ordinary criminals must be wondering what they must do to get on Mr Sharif’s good side. Perhaps a statement against Mr Musharraf will do the trick.

The PML-N needs to come clean with the people of Pakistan. On which side of the divide does it stand? Is it against militancy in all shapes and forms or is it ideologically sympathetic to the ‘justness’ of some facets of the militants’ cause? This is not about political expediency but about the very worst form of moral corruption. Pakistan’s leaders have a sacred duty to protect the people and the sovereignty of the state. There is absolutely nothing in the Taliban’s agenda that is any way even remotely compatible with that sacred duty. In fact, finding common cause with the Taliban is to take the country one step closer to the abyss. Ordinary Pakistanis have shown remarkable courage in resolutely backing the fight against the militants for a year now. Shahbaz Sharif and the PML-N need to accept who the enemy is. Otherwise, they have no business being involved in the affairs of the state.

Iran to step up Afghan presence

Iran to step up Afghan presence

ATUL ANEJA

Within days of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Kabul, Iran has decided to increase its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan’s sensitive border province of Nimroz.

Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency (FNA) is reporting that Tehran is planning to establish its consulate, during the Iranian New Year, starting from March 21.

“According to our country’s Foreign Minister, Iran’s consulate in Afghanistan’s Nimroz province will be opened in the near future,” an Iranian official was quoted as saying.

Iran has a special security interest in Nimroz, which borders the country’s turbulent Sistan-Balochistan province. Analysts say Iran has been badly hit by cross-border movement of drugs and militants into the Sistan-Balochistan province, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan. Zaranj, the capital of Nimroz province, is also important for Iran’s trade with Afghanistan. Goods from the Iranian port of Chabahar, after being ferried through Iranian territory, can be taken inside Afghanistan across a 215 km India-built highway from Zaranj to Delaram, a key junction connected to major Afghan cities.

Last month Iran captured Abdolmalek Rigi, leader of the Jundallah group which has been accused of masterminding several militant attacks including assassination of senior Iranian military commanders in Sistan-Balochistan.

Observers say Iran’s diplomatic assertion in Afghanistan acquired high visibility during the visit on March 10 to Kabul by Mr. Ahmadinejad.

The visit has been followed up by a flurry of diplomatic activity involving Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Iran’s Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar is set to meet his counterparts from Afghanistan and Pakistan in Islamabad this month. Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has said a summit of the leaders from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan is also on the anvil. Iran’s state-run Press TV quoted Mr. Mottaki as saying the idea was discussed during Mr. Ahmadinejad’s visit to Kabul, just before Mr. Karzai left for Islamabad on an official visit.

Hindu Press Denies Missile Test Failure

[SEE: India Shows Its Stuff, Pakistan Whips-Out Its Own Package]

Interceptor missile test postponed

Y. Mallikarjun

HYDERABAD: The interceptor missile test, scheduled to be conducted on Sunday, was put off after one of the pre-launch operations got delayed during the final countdown. It will take place on Monday.

According to Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) officials, there was no technical snag or malfunctioning.

Delay in assembly

The test had to be postponed due to delay in assembly and operation of the one of the sub-systems. Since the delay had led to overshooting the specified time allotted by the civil aviation authorities, the exercise had to be deferred.

The officials said it would be held on Monday after getting fresh clearance from the civil aviation authorities.

During the test, an endo-atmospheric interception of an incoming ballistic missile would be carried out at low altitude, off the Orissa coast. While a variant of the surface-to-surface Prithvi, acting as “hostile” missile, would lift off from the Integrated Test Range’s Launch Complex-III, a high-speed interceptor, Advanced Air Defence 12 missile, would be fired from Wheeler Island a few minutes later to intercept and kill the target.

ISI looks to use Hekmatyar to hit Indian interests in Afghanistan

Sachin Parashar , TNN
NEW DELHI: With its favourite anti-India terror group in Afghanistan – the Haqqani network, which was responsible for the attacks on Indian embassy in Kabul – coming under heightened international scrutiny, Pakistan’s ISI is planning to use one of its old proxies, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, to target Indian interests in the war-torn country.

The move is part of ISI’s design to keep attacking Indian establishments in Afghanistan and also skirt around the handicap of not being able to use the Haqqani network under pressure from the US and others.

Indian officials stationed in Kabul have warned of recent meetings between Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) and officials of ISI’s joint intelligence (north) team and LeT to plan attacks on Indian establishments in and around Kabul.

Highly places sources said the first such meeting, in which some LeT members were also present and in which plans to target Indians in Afghanistan were specifically discussed, took place on September 29 last year in the mountainous region of Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan. Kunar also happens to be the birthplace of LeT.

“LeT facilitated the meeting which was attended by a least one senior ISI official apart from others. This particular meeting, in fact, serves as real evidence of the coming together of hitherto India specific LeT and groups operating in Afghanistan,” said a government source, adding that Kunar continued to be an LeT stronghold even after its headquarters later shifted to Muridke.

The most recent of these meetings is said to have taken place days after the suicide attacks on two guesthouses in Kabul on February 26 which left several Indians dead. The first meeting on September 29, sources said, was also attended by men owing allegiance to the Haqqani network.

Intelligence reports from Kabul say that ISI is reviving its old and extremely close links with Hekmatyar who, in what clearly doesn’t bode well for India, is being courted by both the US and the Hamid Karzai government as they go about the process of reconciliation.

After the first meeting with HIG in September 2009, according to intelligence inputs, ISI officials organised several such meetings at regular intervals. LeT members were also present in these meetings.

The joint intelligence (north) wing of ISI is responsible for Afghanistan and Kashmir. Sources said that in some of these meetings since September, officials of joint intelligence (miscellaneous) wing were also present. The infamous Karachi Project – meant to target India – is the brainchild of this wing.

“As per available information, the HIG faction under Hekmatyar has assured ISI of a major strike against Indian interests in Afghanistan. For Hekmatyar, who is desperately seeking an important role in post-war Afghanistan, this is an opportunity to prove his utility to his former bosses in the ISI,” said a government source.

The official said that it may be difficult for ISI to get the Haqqani network to target India incessantly because of the intense pressure it has been subjected to by the US to act against the Haqqanis. “The US has taken Pakistan by the scruff of its neck and is forcing it to act against the Haqqani network as it continues to maintain links with al-Qaida. This is even as the US flirts with the idea of getting on board Hekmatyar to further the reconciliation process,” the source said.

Hekmatyar, of course, is very bad news for India not just because of his military prowess but because any role for him, as much as for Mullah Omar’s Taliban, in the Afghan government can help Pakistan acquire the “strategic depth” it so desperately seeks over India.

“Hekmatyar is just as ill-disposed towards India now as he was many years ago. We have to wait and see if he as powerful and influential today but any role for him in the Afghan establishment will not be good news for India,” said strategic affairs expert B Raman.