Ever since 9/11, readers keep asking me my views on these attacks. I have been barraged with emails until my head spins with engineering studies about melting steel, controlled explosions, claims about nefarious plots, and wreckage analysis.

One of the most colorful theories comes from Gen. Hamid Gul, former director of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI. He insists that 9/11 was staged by Israel’s Mossad and a cabal of rightwing US Air Force generals.

I inspected the ruins of the New York’s Twin Towers, atop which I often dined, right after the attack. Downtown Manhattan was enveloped by a hideous, stinking miasma from the attack. I have never smelled anything so awful. It took me days to scrub the foul odor off my body. As a native New Yorker, I was shaken to the core by 9/11 – but hardly surprised, as I had predicted a major attack on the US nine days earlier.

While visiting the Pentagon to consult on the Mideast, I also inspected its outside wall hit by the third hijacked aircraft.
I saw photos of the impact site and could not understand what had happened to all the aircraft wreckage. There was almost none.

In 1993, I was hijacked over Germany on a Lufthansa flight bound for Cairo. The Ethiopian hijacker took us all the way back to New York City. The hijacker was threatening to crash our A310 jumbo jet into Wall Street.

Our flight was shadowed by US F-15 fighters that had orders to shoot, if necessary. Where, then, was US air defense on 11 Sept. 2001?

A day after 9/11, I was asked on CNN if Osama bin Laden was behind the attack. ‘We have yet to see the evidence,’ I replied. I maintain this position today.

Bin Laden denied he or al-Qaida was behind 9/11 and the death’s of nearly 3,000 people. The plot was hatched in Hamburg, Germany and Madrid, Spain, not in Afghanistan. A Pakistani, Khaled Sheik Mohammed, claimed he was the mastermind – after being tortured by near-drowning 183 times by the CIA.

While denying involvement, Osama bin Laden did say he believed the attack on New York was in part motivated by Israel’s destruction of downtown Beirut during its 1982 invasion of Lebanon that inflicted some 18,000 civilian deaths.

Tapes that appeared to confirm bin Laden’s guilt were clumsy fakes. They were supposedly “found” in Afghanistan by the anti-Taliban Afghan Northern Alliance, which was created and funded by Russian intelligence.

I had met Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and told CNN viewers that he was not the man in the tapes.

After 9/11, Secretary of State Colin Powell promised Americans the State Department would issue a White Paper detailing bin Laden’s guilt. Afghanistan’s Taliban government asked for this document before it would extradite bin Laden, as the US was demanding. The White Paper was never produced, and the US ignored proper legal procedure and invaded Afghanistan. We still wait for evidence.

I remain uncertain that Osama bin Laden was really behind the attacks. Much circumstantial evidence points to him and al-Qaida, but conclusive proof still lacks. One thing is certain: the attacks were planned and mounted from Germany, not Afghanistan. Of the 19 hijackers, 15 were Saudis, two from the United Arab Emirates, one an Egyptian and a Lebanese.

By the way, I’ve said ever since 9/11 that the danger and size of al-Qaida has been vastly exaggerated – as an explosive report this week by the London’s esteemed International Institute for Strategic Studies has just confirmed. Al-Qaida, dedicated to fighting the Afghan Communists, never had more than 300 members at its peak.

Today, according to CIA chief Leon Panetta, there are no more than 50 al-Qaida men in Afghanistan. Yet President Barack Obama has tripled the number of US troops in Afghanistan to 120,000 because of what to calls the al-Qaida threat. What is going on?

Many people abroad believe al-Qaida is an American invention used to justify foreign military operations. I do not share this view. Osama bin Laden was never a US agent, though his group indirectly received funds from CIA to fight the Communists.

Back to 9/11. I still cannot understand how amateur pilots could manage to maneuver in low to hit the World Trade Center and Pentagon. As a Pakistani intelligence agent told me, “if they were really amateur Arab pilots, they would have crashed into one another, not the World Trade Center!”

The arrest of Israeli “movers” filming the attack and dancing with joy, and the subsequent arrest of groups of Israeli “students” supposedly tracking the would-be hijackers remains a deep mystery. So does the immobilization of US air defenses.

The US 9/11 Commission was a whitewash, as are all such government commissions. They are designed to obscure, not reveal, the truth.

A 2006, a Scripps Howard/Washington Post poll found that 36% of the 1,000 Americans sampled believed the US government was behind 9/11. Many Americans still do not believe the official version of 9/11.

Neither do many Europeans. The entire Muslim world believes 9/11 was the work of Israel and far right American neocons, led by Dick Cheney.

If the official story about 9/11 is true, the attacks caught the Bush administration asleep on guard duty. Bush’s incompetent national security advisor, Condoleeza Rice, brushed off serious warnings of the impending attack and actually cut spending on anti-terrorism just before 9/11.

The White House and media were quick to blame Muslims who hated America’s lifestyle and values, launching the concept of “Islamic terrorism” – i.e. that the Muslim faith, not political issues, prompted the attacks.

This dangerous canard has infected America, leading to a rising tide of Islamophobia. This week’s continued uproar over a Muslim community center in downtown New York, and a Florida preacher’s threat to burn Korans, are the latest doleful example of cultivated religious hatred.

The suicide team that attacked New York and Washington made clear its aim was: a. to punish the US for backing Israel’s repression of Palestinians; and b. what they called US “occupation” of Saudi Arabia. Though they were all Muslims, religion was not the motivating factor.

As the CIA’s former bin Laden expert Michael Scheuer rightly observed, the Muslim world was furious at the US for what it was doing in their region, not because of America’s values, liberties or religion.

These motives for the 9/11 attack have been largely obscured by the whipping up hysteria over “Islamic terrorism.” The planting of anthrax in New York, Florida and Washington soon after 9/11 was clearly designed to promote further anti-Muslim furor. The perpetrators of this red herring remain unknown. But the anthrax attack hastened passage of the semi-totalitarian Patriot Act that sharply limited the personal freedoms of Americans and imposed draconian new laws.

Faked bin Laden videos and audio tapes. Planted anthrax. An intact Koran implausibly found at ground zero. Evidence in a hijacker’s bag that had somehow failed to make his ill-fated flight. Immediate claims that al-Qaida was behind the attacks. Those amateur kamikaze pilots and collapsing towers.

Perhaps most damning, tapes taken in London of meetings between President George Bush and PM Tony Blair revealed a sinister proposal by the US president to provoke war with Iraq by painting US aircraft in UN colors, then buzzing Iraqi air defenses until they fired on them, thus providing a “casus belli.” Bush also reportedly told Blair that after Iraq, he would “go on” to attack Saudi Arabia, Syria and Pakistan.

In 1939, Nazi Germany dressed up soldiers in Polish uniforms to provoke a border fire-fight to justify Berlin’s ensuing invasion of Poland. Bush’s plan was of the same ilk. A president who would contemplate such a criminal operation might go a lot further to achieve his imperial dreams.

As a veteran journalist, to me, all this smells to high heaven. There are just too many unanswered questions, too many suspicions, and that old Roman legal question, “cui bono” – “to whose benefit?”

On 28 February, 1933, fire, set by a Dutch Jew, ravaged the Germany’s parliament, the Reichstag. While the Reichstag’s ruins were still smoking, Adolf Hitler’s government declared a war against “terrorism.” A “Decree for the Protection of People and State” was promulgated suspending all legal protections of speech, assembly, property, and personal liberties. The Reichstag fire allowed the government to round up “terrorism” suspects without due process of law and made police powers near absolute.

Sound familiar? Here’s another startling coincidence. Two years before 9/11, a series of mysterious apartment building bombings in Russia killed over 200 people. “Islamic terrorists” from Chechnya were blamed.

Panic swept Russia and boosted former KGB agent Vladimir Putin into full power. Russian security agents of FSB were caught red-handed planting explosives in another building, but the story was hushed up. A former FSB agent, Alexander Litvinenko, who tried to reveal this story, was murdered in London by radioactive polonium.

Similarly, the Bush administration’s neocons shamelessly used 9/11 to promote the invasion of Iraq. Just before the attack, polls showed 80% of Americans erroneously believed Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. Dr. Goebbels would have been proud.

So what, in the end, can we conclude? 1. We still do not know the real story about 9/11. 2. The official version is not credible. 3. 9/11 was used to justify invading strategic Afghanistan and oil-rich Iraq. 4. The attacks plunged America into wars against the Muslim world and enriched the US arms industry. 5. 9/11 boosted pro-Israel neoconservatives, formerly a fringe group, into power, and with them America’s totalitarian far right. 6. Bush’s unprovoked war against Iraq destroyed one of Israel’s two main enemies. 7. 9/11 put America in what may turn out to be a permanent state of war with the Muslim world – a key goal of the neoconservatives.

But I’ve seen no hard evidence to date that 9/11 was a plot by America’s far right or by Israel or a giant cover-up. Just, perhaps, the Mother of All Coincidences. In the end, it may just have been 19 angry Arabs and a bumbling Bush administration looking for someone else to blame.

Eric Margolis [send him mail] is the author of War at the Top of the World and the new book, American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World. See his website

The Fraudulent Criminalization of Marijuana

The Fraudulent Criminalization of Marijuana

For almost 40 years, the United States has waged a war on its own citizens who have used marijuana as a part of a drug culture originally encouraged by the government.  The war was commenced despite the government’s own findings that marijuana posed less of a risk to American society than alcohol, and that the greatest harm that would result from criminalization would be the injury caused to those arrested for possession and use.  The harm caused by the war extends beyond its 15 million prisoners; its cost has exceeded a trillion dollars, and it has benefitted only those who profit from the illegal cultivation and sale of marijuana.

Government Responsibility for the Drug Culture

Drug use became endemic among U.S. troops serving in Vietnam with more than 80% getting stoned on marijuana and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD).  Many of the secrets are still hidden; however, we now have some information about the extent of the government’s responsibility for the development of the drug culture in the military and in communities across America.  These are the highlights:

● Although the U.S. was a signatory to the Geneva Convention protocols banning the use of chemical weapons, the U.S. Army engaged in extensive testing of marijuana and its active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as an incapacitating agent in warfare.  A secret research program tested these substances, including highly-concentrated derivatives, on thousands of American GIs without their informed consent.

● The CIA engaged in a ten-year secret program to identify and test drugs for use as truth serums during interrogations and as incapacitating agents.  Operation Midnight Climax secretly tested LSD on the unwitting patrons of a CIA-financed whorehouse.

● The U.S. Army envisioned “driving people crazy for a few hours” by spiking a city’s water supply and developed a super hallucinogen known as quinuclidinyl benzilate (BZ), which was tested on thousands of soldiers.  Known as “agent buzz,” the Army produced more than 100,000 pounds of the chemical in a facility specifically designed for its incorporation into conventional bombs.   Allegations in foreign publications that BZ was deployed against North Vietnam troops have never been confirmed, and all files on the subject remain top secret.  However, it is known that the government considered using it for the control of domestic riots.

● To facilitate its alliance with the intelligence agencies of Thailand and Nationalist China, the CIA supported the transportation and refining of opium into heroin in Southeast Asia, including the opening of a cluster of heroin laboratories in the Golden Triangle in 1968-1969.  The CIA remained silent as its allies, including officers of the Hmong irregular army, routinely supplied heroin to American troops in Vietnam, resulting in the addiction rates as high as 34%.  In a secret report in 1972, the CIA Inspector General said: “The past involvement of many of these officers in drugs is well-known.”

● During classified testimony before a House committee in 1999, CIA Inspector General Britt Snider admitted that the CIA allowed its Nicaraguan Contra allies to smuggle huge quantities of cocaine into the United States during the 1980′s, which was refined into “crack” for sale by street gangs.  The House report found that “CIA employees did nothing to verify or disprove drug trafficking information, even when they had the opportunity to do so.  In some of these, receipt of a drug allegation appeared to provoke no specific response, and business went on as usual.”

The National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse

In 1971, President Nixon appointed Governor Raymond P. Shafer of Pennsylvania to chair a national commission to “report on the effects of marijuana and other drugs and recommend appropriate drug policies.  Governor Shafer was a former prosecutor, who was known as a “law and order” governor.

The “Shafer” Commission conducted the most extensive and comprehensive examination of marijuana ever performed by the US government. More than 50 projects were funded, “ranging from a study of the effects of marihuana on man to a field survey of enforcement of the marihuana laws in six metropolitan jurisdictions . . .”

“Through formal and informal hearings, recorded in thousands of pages of transcripts, we solicited all points of view, including those of public officials, community leaders, professional experts and students.  We commissioned a nationwide survey of public beliefs, information and experience . . .   In addition, we conducted separate surveys of opinion among district attorneys, judges, probation officers, clinicians, university health officials and free clinic personnel.”

Among the Commissions findings were:

● “No significant physical, biochemical, or mental abnormalities could be attributed solely to their marihuana smoking.”

● “No verification is found of a causal relationship between marihuana use and subsequent heroin use.”

● “In sum, the weight of the evidence is that marihuana does not cause violent or aggressive behavior; if anything marihuana serves to inhibit the expression of such behavior.”

● “Neither the marihuana user nor the drug itself can be said to constitute a danger to public safety.”

● “Marihuana’s relative potential for harm to the vast majority of individual users and its actual impact on society does not justify a social policy designed to seek out and firmly punish those who use it.”

The Commission concluded that “society should seek to discourage use, while concentrating its attention on the prevention and treatment of heavy and very heavy use.  The Commission feels that the criminalization of possession of marihuana for personal [use] is socially self-defeating as a means of achieving this objective . . .  Considering the range of social concerns in contemporary America, marihuana does not, in our considered judgment, rank very high.  We would deemphasize marihuana as a problem.”

President Nixon called Governor Shafer on the carpet and pressured him to change the Commission’s conclusion saying, “You see, the thing that is so terribly important here is that it not appear that the Commission’s frankly just a bunch of do-gooders.”  Governor Shafer declined to change his conclusions, and Nixon declined to appoint him to a pending federal judgeship.

The War on Drugs

White House tapes reveal that Nixon’s opinions about marijuana were based on his personal prejudices rather than the evidence.  He can be heard to make statements such as: “That’s a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob, what is the matter with them?  I suppose it’s because most of them are psychiatrists . . .   By God, we are going to hit the marijuana thing, and I want to hit it right square in the puss . . . ”

When Nixon was talking with Art Linkletter about “radical demonstrators,” he said “They’re all on drugs.’‘ On another occasion, Nixon compared marijuana to alcohol use saying that marijuana users smoke it to “get high,” while “a person drinks to have fun.”

Wanting to be strong, “like the Russians,” and to “scare” marijuana users, Nixon ordered his administration to come down hard on users and to target them as enemies in his “war on drugs.”

The war on marijuana and the false myths associated with its usage have been continued by every president since Nixon.  Since 1973, 15 million people, mostly young people who were committing no other crime, have been arrested for marijuana.  In just the last ten years, 6.5 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges.  Of the 829,625 people who were arrested in 2006, 738,915 of them were in simple possession.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. announced in March 2009 that the administration would discontinue raids on the distributors of medical marijuana, including California – which was the first state to legalize marijuana sales upon a doctor’s recommendation.

Although President Obama backed off on arresting medical marijuana users, his 2010 National Drug Control Strategy continues the hard line: “Keeping drugs illegal reduces their availability and lessens willingness to use them.  That is why this Administration firmly opposes the legalization of marijuana or any other illicit drug.”  Contrary to the


findings of the Shafer Commission, the only existing comprehensive government study on the subject, Obama goes on to say, “Diagnostic, laboratory, clinical and epidemiological studies clearly indicate that marijuana use is associated with dependence, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, and cognitive impairment, among other negative effects, and legalization would only exacerbate these problems.”

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have now followed California in passing laws permitting the use of marijuana for medical purposes; however, no state, thus far, has decriminalized personal possession for recreational use or personal enjoyment.

After spending a trillion dollars in the battle, the war on marijuana has been a complete failure.  Although a marijuana user is arrested every 38 seconds, one hundred million people, or about one third of all Americans acknowledge they have used marijuana, and 15 million “criminals” used it in the last month.

The only victors in the war on drugs have been the criminals who have profited from illegal sales.  There is an estimated $15 billion in illegal cannabis transactions each year just in California.  These transactions are not taxed or regulated.

The cultivation of marijuana in Mexico soared 35% last year to production levels greater than any time in the last 20 years.  According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, in 2006 more than 60% of the revenue generated by Mexican drug cartels came from cannabis sales in the U.S.

Nixon’s war has been expensive; it has been a failure; and it has caused great damage to the fabric of America society.  The harm has been particularly felt by its young people who suffer up to 80% of the marijuana arrests and who are disproportionately African American and Latino.

California’s Initiative to Decriminalize Marijuana Possession

The penalty upon conviction for possession and use of less than an ounce of marijuana in California is now restricted to a maximum of a $100 fine.  If California voters approve Proposition 19 on their November ballot, such possession by a person over the age of 21 will no longer be a crime under California law.

Just as California and New York ended criminal sanctions against the possession and sale of alcohol before prohibition was repealed, California voters again have the chance to remedy the evils caused by almost 40 years of a war without foundation or cause.

The initiative: “Changes California Law to Legalize Marijuana and Allow It to Be Regulated and Taxed.”  It includes the following provisions:

● Allows people 21 years or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use.

● Permits local governments to regulate and tax commercial production and sale of marijuana to people 21 years or older.

● Prohibits people from possession marijuana on school grounds, using it in public, smoking it while minors are present, or providing it to anyone under 21 years old, and ●Maintains current prohibitions against driving while impaired.

The California Legislative Analyst and the Director of Finance estimate there will be savings of up to several tens of millions of dollars annually to state and local governments on the costs of incarcerating and supervising certain marijuana offenders.  In addition, there are unknown, but potentially major tax, fee, and benefit assessment revenues to state and local government related to the production and sale of marijuana products.


In 1972, during the same year of the Shafer Commission, I was a sergeant of police in Los Angeles and had just completed a two-year assignment to write and obtain approval of the Department’s Policy Manual, which defined the principles and philosophy of policing in the city.  I was also attending law school and I was “loaned” to the staff of the Police Task Force of President Nixon’s National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals, where I was privileged to draft the introductory chapters defining the role of the police in America.

Following graduation the next year and passing the state bar examination, I moved to Washington, D.C. to work for the Justice Department’s Law Enforcement Assistance Administration to implement national criminal justice standards and goals.  As a result of these initiatives, the quality of policing in America has been vastly improved over the years, and today, law enforcement is a profession which I am proud to have been a part of.

Several times I had to fight for my life while enforcing the law, and three of my law enforcement friends were murdered in the line of duty.  I am not naive.  I have walked through too much blood and have seen too much pain and suffering during my career.  Everything I have learned during almost 50 years in the justice system compels a conclusion that the criminalization of marijuana was a fraud on the American people from the very inception of the war on drugs.

I am not alone in this conclusion, which has been joined by a large number of active and retired law enforcement officials and judges in the United States and other countries.

Every voter has a duty to honestly consider the issues presented by Proposition 19 and vote as though one of his or her children, a niece or nephew, or a friend’s child will be caught experimenting with marijuana in the future.  How will you want the matter handled?  By creating a criminal, or by using the occasion as an educational opportunity?

We hopefully remember the danger to society caused by the prohibition of alcohol and we have seen how education and reasonable regulation has substantially reduced the use of tobacco in our society.

Let us rely on the true facts, our experience, our best judgement, and our consciences, instead of our prejudices or the misleading myths that continue to be perpetuated by our government.  Let us bring an end to the fraudulent war on marijuana.

William John Cox is a retired prosecutor and public interest lawyer, author and political activist.  His efforts to promote a peaceful political evolution can be found at VotersEvolt.com, his writings are collected at WilliamJohnCox.com and he can be contacted at u2cox@msn.com.

CIS intelligence agencies to strengthen cooperation

CIS intelligence agencies to strengthen cooperation

16/09-2010 08:47, Bishkek – 24.kg news agency , by Anton LYMAR

The intelligence agencies of the CIS countries will strengthen cooperation, RIA Novosti informs.

According to the agency, the heads of the CIS intelligence agencies intend to strengthen cooperation for conducting quality and concordant with the imperatives of our era fighting against possible CIS external security hazards, reads the memorandum, signed as a result of the 11th meeting of heads of security and intelligence agencies of the CIS countries, held on September 14-15 in Baku.

The meeting was chaired by Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Russia Mikhail Fradkov, who reported about the work, accomplished after the previous meeting. He underlined that cooperation of the CIS security and intelligence agencies is an important factor in fighting against international terrorism, religious and political extremism, against possible hazards to the CIS countries’ security.

At Mikhail Fradkov’s suggestion, Eldar Makhmudov, the Minister of National Security of Azerbaijan, was elected as a next Chairman of the meeting of heads of security and intelligence agencies.

It was decided to conduct the 12th meeting of heads of CIS countries’ security and intelligence agencies in Dushanbe.

LAPD Creates “Pre-Crime” Database for “Predictive Policing”

LAPD, sheriff’s department unveil crime-fighting database link

From wire service reports

Sheriff Lee Baca and Los Angeles Police Chief Department Charlie Beck on Tuesday unveiled a database that links local, state and federal agencies in the fight against crime and focuses on communities, rather than criminals.

“This system has the capability to empower police agencies to effectively identify and assess problem areas, without regard to jurisdictional boundaries, just like crime,” said Baca.

The Community Based Information System combines information on crime, community demographics, social service referrals, school dynamics and other data relevant to law enforcement decision-making.

“The CBIS provides real time intelligence between local, state and federal agencies that will allow us to combat crime together,” said Special Agent in Charge John Torres of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Los Angeles Field Division.

“If this database can save one life, and I know it will, ATF will continue its collaboration with this project to ensure open lines of intelligence (are) being shared with all levels of law enforcement.”

Officials said the purpose of the database was not to track criminals or analyze crimes committed, like typical law enforcement technology, but to better understand the socioeconomic dynamics that underlie troubled neighborhoods.

Beck contrasted the active nature of the database with older, reactive technologies.

“The very nature of CBIS supports our goals to further develop and enhance LAPD’s predictive policing efforts, because it presents a comprehensive picture of the communities we serve, especially those troubled by violence and gang crime,” Beck said.

“The future of smarter, more effective policing means knowing where and when crime will happen.”

Steve Whitmore of the sheriff’s department offered an example.

“If (law enforcement) sees an area that’s beginning to grow into terms of crime … a specific kind of crime, like property crimes, that may be related to drugs … (officials can) start flooding the area, not only with police, but with social services,” Whitmore said.

Using the database, officers will also be able to provide immediate referrals to local resources for residents of the neighborhoods they police.

For example, patrol officers who encounter a homeless person who seems to be intoxicated will be able to offer information not only on nearby shelters, but also on rehab centers which work with the homeless or area hospitals that offer substance abuse programs for the uninsured, said Whitmore.

“We can provide the community with tangible solutions to their problems and create a cultural shift within law enforcement,” Baca said.

Whitmore said Baca is convinced that “you can’t arrest your way out of this problem” and believes intervention is critical to long-term success in combating crime.

Community advocates also applauded the new technology.

“CBIS is a breakthrough platform linking law enforcement with quality community data, moving law enforcement towards achieving the best of 21st century policing,” said Connie Rice, director of the Advancement Project, a civil rights and policy “action tank” striving for social justice.

The system will be housed in a single secure location and be accessible to all law enforcement agencies within Los Angeles and Orange counties, according to Baca.

Karzai castigates Pakistan for providing refuge to terrorists

Karzai castigates Pakistan for providing refuge to terrorists

2010-09-16 13:00:00
At a press conference with Asif Ali Zardari, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has criticised Pakistan for harbouring sanctuaries and training camps of the terrorists within its territorial limits.

“There are sanctuaries and training camps in our countries. Militants are not coming from Ivory Coast, they are coming from our lands,” the Dawn quoted Karzai, as saying.

He has been accusing Pakistan of taking no action against terrorists’ sanctuaries and training camps for several years.

However, at the press conference, the two presidents, underlining the need for concerted and coordinated efforts to eliminate extremism from their soils, pledged to work together against terrorism.

Commenting on reports that Indian consulates in Afghanistan were being used for destabilising Balochistan, Karzai said his government would never allow anyone to use its territory against any other country, adding that he was ready to help normalise relations between Pakistan and India.

Replying to a question on his offer of talks to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, Karzai clarified his offer, saying, “We have made talks offer to those Taliban who are not part of Al Qaeda and are ready to obey the Afghan constitution.”

A delegation-level meeting to discuss issues of mutual concern and explore the possibility of enhancing the existing cooperation between the two countries followed the one-to-one meeting between the two presidents.

Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Zalmai Rassoul, Defence Minister General Abdul Rahim Wardak and National Security Adviser Dr Rangeen Dadfar Wardak represented the Afghan delegation, while Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, Commerce Minister Amin Fahim and Interior Minister Rehman Malik represented Pakistan. (ANI)

Govt to take strict action to establish writ: minister

Govt to take strict action to establish writ: minister

By Muhammad Zafar

QUETTA: Federal Minister for Population Welfare Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan has defended the statement of the interior minister regarding using force to crush Baloch militants. She said that the government would take strict action against those challenging the writ of the government to rule Pakistan.

Addressing a news conference at the Civil Secretariat on Wednesday, she said that the patriotic and law abiding citizens should not be scared of such action.

“The Baloch people are not the agents of RAW, the Indian security agency, we would not deny them relief goods and other assistance. They are patriotic Pakistanis and also serving the nation as others so there is no question that we would mistreat them. The federal government will not abandon Balochistan and use available resources to address its problems,” the Minister said. She said that she had come to express solidarity with the Baloch people and also distribute medicines and relief goods amongst them.

“Thirteen districts are worst affected and their population are scattered, thus we need to expedite the efforts to reach out every people. The government would not let Balochistan suffer sense of deprivation,” Firdous said. She said that the Balochistan government did not provide details about the flood victims thus the Watan Cards could not be issued timely. Each victim will get Rs 100,000 through Watan Card that she says would be issued as the provincial government provides details about the affected people. It was the responsibility of the Balochistan Government to estimate the losses as soon as possible and provide details to federal government, she added.

Responding to a query, Firdous said that the Pakistan Army is part of the government and it includes on its prime duty to handle the internal or external security. “The soldiers are getting salaries from the public exchequer in order to help out people and work and not sit in their barracks. “The Military and politicians are the servants of people and it is their duty to serve the nation,” she said adding, “Rs 422 billion allocated for the Pakistan Army is higher than that of other institutions, including salary of bureaucrats and Supreme Court judges. If they reduce their expenditures, it is not a big deal, even we appreciate them.”

About the distribution of medicines, she said that they had brought two trucks of medicines, five trucks of ration and 100 tents in collaboration with NGOs, including Shed. “I know that a vast area had been affected by recent flood in Balochistan and the relief goods which we brought it were too small to meet the demands but we will increase the efforts and size of relief,” she added. She said that the provincial government had raised the demand of Rs 5 million and the Department of Population Welfare would ensure the implementation in this regard. She said that the government would overcome the shortage of medicines in 13 calamity-hit districts of Balochistan.

Rehman Malik presents Pak case before Karzai

Rehman Malik presents Pak case before Karzai

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Rehman Malik has strongly presented Pakistan’s case in front of Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and his delegation during the meeting of Pak-Afghan heads on Wednesday.

Sources in Islamabad said that Rehman Malik had stressed on four points during talks after the address of the Afghan president and told Karzai that Taliban were coming to Pakistan via Konnar and Bajaur, which increased terrorism in Pakistan. He said that the abundance of weapons had created several critical problems for Pakistani society.

He said that there was interference in Balochistan through Afghanistan and Taliban, coming form Afghanistan, were spreading anarchy in Balochistan.Rehman Malik has given reference of Barahamdagh Bugti and said, “Our culprits are given asylum in Afghanistan.” He said that Brahamdagh Bugti was sending people here after giving them training to create disturbance and these people carried out target killings of innocent citizens.

He said that biometric check posts should be set up on Torkham, Chamman and Taftan borders, so that the arrival and exit of nefarious elements could be stopped. He said that only fifty thousand people come and go daily via Chamman border and due to non-availability of biometric system the terrorists enter and depart without any hindrance form this border.

Rehman Malik rejected allegations against Pakistan’s prime security agency and said that Pakistani agencies were playing very important role in detecting networks of the terrorists. The interior minister told the Afghan president that strict monitoring system on behalf of Afghanistan should be made on Pak-Afghan border and this was not only the responsibility of Pakistan rather Afghanistan should also play its role.

The sources said that Rehman Malik had presented Pakistan’s case during Pak-Afghan heads’ meeting in such a manner that Afghan President Karzai had admitted during the joint news conference that Rehman Malik had told him a lot of details.

Pridnestrovie: Black Hole or Paradise?

Pridnestrovie: Black Hole or Paradise?


Published: September 3, 2010Posted in: Headline, News

By: Karla Fetrow

Emergence of the Multi-Ethnic Nation

For every era in history, there is the birth of a great notion.  We are sometimes privileged to become players or witnesses to the events following these notions; the civil rights movement, woman’s suffrage, the craftsmanship of idealistic constitutions.  There is nothing quite so pure as this initial consciousness of equality, no one quite so energized as those first believers.  In 1990, a tiny country was re-born out of the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  It wasn’t unique in this respect.  A number of boundaries were drawn up in 1940 by Stalin during World War II, that were later dissolved by the collapse of the Socialist Republic, such as the splintering of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia into smaller independent countries. What is unique about Pridnestrovie, was that in its divorce with Moldova, which remained a communist country, using the tools of self-determination, it crafted a multi-ethnic government.

The people of Pridnestrovie take a great deal of pride in their multi-ethnicity.  The tiny country of 550,000 people list thirty-five nationalities, ten religions and a total of three official state languages among its population.  In round numbers, a third speak Russian, another third speak Ukrainian, and a third Moldavian. But throughout history the country also received a fair share of immigration from Poland, Germany, Bulgaria, Switzerland and lots of other places … to the point where today, a total of 35 nationalities are represented in Pridnestrovie.

Pridnestrovie considers itself a great melting pot; a free country which welcomes all. In its historic willingness to incorporate foreigners, Pridnestrovie has more in common with the United States than any other country in the world. It is also a country with strong Jewish roots: In 1897, before a Romanian/Moldovan invasion and extermination campaign, 27% of Tiraspol’s population were Jews.

Advertising itself as open and tolerant, it is a multiethnic society with a cosmopolitan outlook. Intermarriage between ethnic groups is common: 15% live in mixed marriages and multilingual households. Xenophobia does not exist: There is no racism or fear of foreigners in Pridnestrovie – and in fact, from the top down, some of the country’s leaders originally came from abroad. Pridnestrovie’s Minister of the Internal Affairs was born in Poland. Others are ethnic Russians and one is from Ukraine. But in parliament and in the government ministries as a whole, the vast majority are locals, having been born in Pridnestrovie. The posts widely represent the country’s varied minority groups. As the OSCE notes, many of the top leaders are ethnic Moldavians.

The country’s constitution, like that of the United States, permits double citizenship. According to the country’s citizenship law, a citizenship of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic is obtained by one of two ways: Either by having been born in the country or of Pridnestrovian parents, or else by immigrating to the country and residing legally  for a specified period of time. Its laws on citizenship and passports are closely modeled on the similar laws of the United States of America, another country which historically has welcomed immigration and where newcomers — after complying with a time period of fixed and uninterrupted residence — have been able to opt for citizenship. Pridnestrovian passports are only available to citizens, and although double citizenship is allowed under the country’s constitution, it is acquired under strict regulations on the basis within the law for residence and citizenship.

By law, Pridnestrovie affords equal treatment to speakers of all 3 official state languages: Russians, Moldavians and Ukrainians. To avoid a dominance of Russian, the Ministry of Education has made it compulsory for the country’s Russian-language schools to also teach Moldavian and Ukrainian. Children studying in Pridnestrovie grow up with a working knowledge of all 3 languages and an understanding of the cultures behind them.

Due to its historical and geographical origins as the frontline between Western and Eastern civilizations, Pridnestrovie is also religiously diverse. Here, a rich tapestry of faiths peacefully co-exist. Next to Orthodox temples you can easily find Catholic churches or Jewish synagogues. There is no religious or racial discrimation between groups in Pridnestrovie. The rate of interfaith marriages is the highest in South East Europe, as are the number of marriages between ethnic groups.  Elected leaders in Pridnestrovie welcome and encourage the multiethnic composition of the republic which in many ways considers itself an example of the new face of Europe.

Struggle for Visibility

In a world where governments call on transparency, Pridnestrovie struggles to become recognized as an independent country, with a sound economic base and equitable laws.  According to the article, “A visit to Pridnestrovie: What life is really like here”, this is because most reports on Pridnestrovie are written by people who had never been there and relied on either on recycled information or on a quick two hour morning visit while on their way to Chisinau or Odessa that same afternoon.

Said the article, “They see uniformed border guards who speak a language that they don’t understand, they see a couple of old Lenin statues and red stars which we kept for historic reasons, and then decide that “this must be a Stalinist dictatorship”… This is the quick and sensationalist approach which grabs the headlines. But it is also the wrong approach because it doesn’t square with reality. To fully understand the dynamic civic life of the country, a less superficial style of reporting is required.”

The article suggests that the visitor first learn to speak the Russian language.  It claims that in this manner you would be able to read the newspapers, “and see for yourself that there is no censorship in Pridnestrovie and that freedom of expression is indeed completely free. You can also watch our TV stations, both private and public. There, political debates and criticism often fill the airwaves, as in any other vibrant European democracy.

And, most importantly, a working knowledge of Russian will help you talk to the people in the street: ordinary Pridnestrovians who will be happy to tell you the good, bad and ugly of living in Pridnestrovie. There are no restrictions on talking to anyone, anywhere. You can go where you want and talk to whomever you meet. You don’t have a “minder” or a KGB-shadow (they don’t exist in Pridnestrovie), and it is legal to take pictures anywhere in the country except at military installations (a normal rule found in most of the world). Speaking of military installations, you will discover when you visit us that they are few and far between. Pridnestrovie is not a militaristic country. Despite wild scare stories to the contrary, we just have the minimum needed for self-defense, a precaution which we took after being on the receiving end of Moldova’s surprise invasion in 1992.”

In Pridnestrovie alone, there are nearly 600 grassroot groups, NGOs and other civic organizations, dozens of newspapers freely reporting in three languages, several private TV and radio stations, ten religions, and about half a dozen opposition parties. It may be overkill, but at least no one can claim with a straight face that the country does not have an active civil society.

Pridnestrovie has been under the scrutiny of the United Nations and the European Union since accusations surfaced following an invasion into the region in 2002 by Moldova.  According to the Moldova reports, Pridnestrovie’s economy is bolstered by drug trafficking, smuggling, sex slavery and militarization. Pridnestrovie sources say that these reports were generated by “a misguided attempt to defend a so called territorial integrity which legal experts say does not exist, the U.S. Embassy in Moldova pays for propaganda by lobbyists who want to turn back the clock on Pridnestrovie’s independence.”

Pridnestrovie claims that following a massacre of nearly one thousand of its citizens, the failed coup of a country ten times its size, resulted in a misinformation campaign designed to view unfavorably Pridnestrovie’s legitimacy as an independent country.  Pridnestrovie’s 800+ km of borders are tightly controlled and smuggling has dwindled to not more than in any other country of Europe. A border monitoring mission from the European Union has been checking the transit of goods on Pridnestrovie’s borders since 2005, filing monthly reports on its finding. The result? A “clean” bill of health for Pridnestrovie, confirming similar reports by officials from the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) saying that there is no evidence that Pridnestrovie has ever trafficked arms or nuclear material, and that reports on drug trafficking are wildly exaggerated.

Pridnestrovie has already acceded to a number of important UN and Council of Europe conventions on human rights.  On September 15, 1992, Parliament of Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublica adopted a resolution “On the attitude of the PMR towards international treaties and other documents regarding human rights.”

As per this act, Pridnestrovie ratified and declared in force on its territory the following human rights conventions -

* International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966);
* European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950);
* Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948);
* International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966);

stating that as of the date of the act these are in effective force “on the territory of Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublica regardless of whether the PMR is or is not member of the corresponding international organizations.”

Pridnestrovie assertions that Moldova is actually the country involved in the highest percentage of drug trafficking and human slavery is backed by The World Fact Book.  According to a CIA report,  “Moldova is a major source and, to a lesser extent, a transit country for women and girls trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation; Moldovan women are trafficked to the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Western Europe; girls and young women are trafficked within the country from rural areas to Chisinau; children are also trafficked to neighboring countries for forced labor and begging; labor trafficking of men to work in the construction, agriculture, and service sectors of Russia is increasingly a problem; according to an ILO report, Moldova’s national Bureau of Statistics estimated that there were likely over 25,000 Moldovan victims of trafficking for forced labor in 2008.”

The report further states, “The Government of Moldova does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; despite initial efforts to combat trafficking-related complicity since the government’s reassessment on the Tier 2 Watch List in September 2008, and increased victim assistance, the government did not demonstrate sufficiently meaningful efforts to curb trafficking-related corruption, which is a government-acknowledged problem in Moldova; the government improved victim protection efforts, deployed more law-enforcement officers in the effort and contributed direct financial assistance toward victim protection and assistance for the first time (2009)” and the appraisal on drug trafficking was, “limited cultivation of opium poppy and cannabis, mostly for CIS consumption; transshipment point for illicit drugs from Southwest Asia via Central Asia to Russia, Western Europe, and possibly the US; widespread crime and underground economic activity.”

Declaration of Independence

Before the Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina and the creation of the Moldavian SSR in 1940, the Bessarabian part of Moldova, i.e. the part situated to the west of the river Dniester (Nistru), was united with Romania (1918–1940). The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between the Soviet Union and the Nazi Germany, that led to the events of 1940, was later denounced by present-day Moldova, which declared it “null and void” in its Declaration of Independence in 1991. However, after the break up of the Soviet Union, the territorial changes resulting from it have remained in place.

Before the creation of the Moldavian SSR, today’s (Transnistriam) or  Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublica was part of the Ukrainian SSR, as an autonomous republic called the Moldovan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, with Tiraspol as its capital (1924–1940). It represents slightly more than one tenth of Moldova’s territory.

On 31 August 1989, the Supreme Soviet of the Moldavian SSR enacted two laws. One of them made Moldovan the official language, in lieu of Russian, the de facto official language of the Soviet Union. It also mentioned a linguistic Moldo-Romanian identity. The second law stipulated the return to the Latin Romanian alphabet. Moldovan language is the term used in the former Soviet Union for a virtually identical dialect of the Romanian language  during 1940 – 1989. On 27 April 1990, the Supreme Soviet of the Moldavian SSR adopted the traditional tricolour (blue, yellow and red) flag with the Moldavian coat of arms and changed the national anthem to Des,teapta(-te, române!, the national anthem of Romania before 1946 and after 1989. Later that year (1990) the words Soviet and Socialist were dropped and the name of the country was changed to “Republic of Moldova”.

These events, as well as the end of the Ceaus,escu regime in neighboring Romania in December 1989 and the partial opening of the border between Romania and Moldova on 6 May 1990, led many in Transnistria and Moldova to believe that a union between Moldova and Romania was inevitable. This possibility caused fears among the Russian-speaking population that it would be excluded from most aspects of public life. From September 1989, there were strong scenes of protests in the region against the central government’s ethnic policies. The protests developed into the formation of secessionist movements in Gagauzia and Transnistria, which initially sought autonomy within the Moldavian SSR, in order to retain Russian and Gagauz as official languages. As the nationalist-dominated Moldovan Supreme Soviet outlawed these initiatives, Gagauzia and Transnistria declared independence from Moldova and announced their application to be reattached to the Soviet Union as independent federal republics.

In December 1991, the Moldovan authorities arrested Lieutenant-General Yakovlev in Ukrainian  territory, accusing him of helping the PMR forces to arm themselves by using the weapons stocks of the 14th Army. At that time, General Yakovlev has been both Commander of the 14th Army and “Head of the National Defence and Security Department” of the PMR. The government of the Russian Federation interceded with the Moldovan government to obtain the release of General Yakovlev in exchange for 26 policemen detained by PMR forces at the start of the fighting in Duba(sari.

On 5 April 1992, Vice-President Rutskoy of Russia, in a speech delivered to 5,000 people in Tiraspol, encouraged the Transnistrian people to obtain their independence.

Transnistria received more support than Moldova did during the conflict. The Transnistrian army was supported by Russia and Ukraine. Russia had its 14th army stationed in Transnistria, and was ordered to aid the Transnistrians during the conflict. Russia and Ukraine each sent a force of volunteers to fight alongside the Transnistrians. Romania  was the only state to aid Moldova during the conflict. Moldova received weapons, military vehicles and a force of volunteers and military advisers from Romania.

The armed conflict lasted from 2 March to 21 July 1992, in three areas along the Dniester river. The start date of the conflict, 2 March 1992, was the same day when Moldova was admitted as a member of the United Nations, i.e. received full international recognition of its August 27, 1991 declaration of independence.

The first fatalities in the emerging conflict took place on 2 November 1990, on the two-month anniversary of the PMR’s 2 September 1990 declaration of independence. Moldovan forces entered Duba(sari in order to separate Transnistria into two halves, but were stopped by the city’s inhabitants, who had blocked the bridge over the Dniester, at Lunga. In an attempt to break through the roadblock, Moldovan forces then opened fire. In the course of the confrontation, three Duba(sari locals, Oleg Geletiuk, Vladimir Gotkas and Valerie Mitsuls, were killed by the Moldovan forces and sixteen people wounded.

A second Moldovan attempt to cross the Lunga bridge took place on 13 December 1991. As a result of the fighting, 27 PMR troops were taken prisoner and 4 Moldovan troops (Ghenadie Iablocikin, Gheorghe Cas,u, Valentin Mereniuk and Mihai Arna(ut) were killed without Moldova being able to cross the bridge. After this second failed attempt, there was a lull in military activity until 2 March 1992, considered the official start date of the War of Transnistria.

It is estimated that in total nearly one thousand people were killed in the conflict, with the number of wounded approaching 3,000. Unlike many other post-Soviet conflicts, IDP’s (internally displaced persons) did not reach large numbers in the war of Transnistria.

Days after the truce had been agreed upon, a military confrontation between a local self-defence unit and the Moldovan army, took place in Gîsca (Gyska), a village with an ethnic Russian majority near Bendery. At least three villagers were killed. During the combat, civil buildings were damaged or destroyed by artillery fire. Later reports of ceasefire violations have been brought under control with no known loss of human lives.

The Russian 14th Army’s role in the area was crucial to the outcome of the war. The Moldovan army’s position of inferiority prevented it from gaining control of Transnistria. Russia has since disbanded the 14th army and reduced troop strength in Transnistria to a corps of around 1,300 men who form part of the JCC.

With the PMR’s overwhelming military superiority, Moldova had little chance of achieving victory and the fighting was unpopular with the skeptical Moldovan population.

According to eye-witnesses in Russian media, the Moldovan troops were firing at houses, courtyards and cars from heavy machine-guns mounted on armored vehicles. It was reported that in the daytime, June 20, Moldovan troopers were shooting at civilians who were hiding in their houses, trying to flee the city or help wounded (PMR) national guards. Eye-witnesses testified that, on that day, a group of unarmed men, having gathered in a downtown square on the call of the pro-PMR Executive Committee, were fired at from machine-guns. Eye-witnesses in Moldovan media testified and produced similar accusation directed at the other side.

On many occasions, fire was opened at ambulance cars. The sides accused each other of such actions. Doctors testified in Russian media that heavy fire from the positions of Moldovan forces, June 19–20, prevented them from giving help to the wounded.

A Chance to be Heard

Pridnestrovskaia doesn’t pretend to be paradise.  Like its neighbors, Pridnestrovskia suffered economically with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  The country is poor, but the people claim no one goes hungry.  They have free education and free medical care.  They have a ten percent flat tax base on all incomes. It claims that while poor, it is still more industrialized than Moldova.  With a territory just 12% of Moldova’s, upon independence Pridnestrovie nevertheless produced 40% of its GDP and 90% of its electricity. In gas, Pridnestrovie is the region’s leader: During the first 15 years of independence, the nation’s government doubled the length of gas lines to 3,376 km. Exports go to a total of 99 countries. Just one of the privately owned companies, the steel works in Rybnitsa, exports 2,000,000 tonnes of steel per year and has a Lloyds of London certification. Annual turnover exceeds USD 500 million. Today, the USA is the #1 customer for the country’s steel exports. With more than 3,530 trains, the rail system carries over 10 million tons of goods per year. Pridnestrovie’s large hydroelectric plants, M.GRES and Dubossarskaya GES, generate and export electricity to its two neighboring countries, Moldova and Ukraine. These numbers show the importance of Pridnestrovie and underscore the importance of future integration in European cross border trade flows.

Although supported by Russia in its efforts, Pridnestrovie continues struggling to be recognized as its own country.  Although a small country, it is larger than Belize with a greater population than Iceland.  Pridnestrovie has already acceded to a number of important UN and Council of Europe conventions on human rights. While still not a perfect record, human rights groups who are active in the country report that Pridnestrovie has been making substantial advances in the field.  The nation itself was founded on minority rights at a time when ethnic minorities were being mistreated, beaten and tortured as a result of government-sponsored hate language.

The President of Pridnestrovie states that the twenty years of PMR’s existence have not been in vain.  “Over the 20 years, we have proved to the world that Transnistria does exist. I am grateful to Russia thank to which there is no bloodshed here. And recent changes in Ukraine are inspiring hope that it is possible to make something for improving the people’s lives without cringing before the European Union”, said Igor Smirnov, the country’s chosen leader.

In his words, no one can force the Transnistrian people into living a different life “because it is impossible to combine the incompatible. We have Slavic roots, and we shall be always with Russia. The people residing in Transnistria have a mentality totally different from that in Moldova, Bessarabia, Romania”. Smirnov thus hinted that Transnistria’s integration with Moldova is impossible.

Asked what he believed was Transnistria’s main achievement and main blunder over the 2 decades concerned, Smirnov said, “Our main achievement has been that we have preserved in Transnistria the Moldovans, and the Russians, Ukrainians, Jewish people, Bulgarians, the Gagauz people etc. And our chief mistake was that we had believed too long that somebody would care about our problems and grievances”.

Western European press coverage of Pridnestrovie is not favorable.  A 20 March 2010 coverage by BBC News refers to it as an unrecognized, self-declared statehood, often portrayed as a hotbed of crime.  It criticizes the continued occupation of Russian troops within the province, stating that this has been a stumbling block in peace talks and the West is concerned about the Soviet-era arsenal in the territory. A pull-out began in 2001 but was halted when Trans-Dniester blocked the dispatch of weapons. Subsequent agreements to resume failed to reach fruition.

Maxim Belinski from the Helsinki Committee claims that when he tried to supervise a trial in Transnistria, three men kidnapped him at gunpoint. He was badly beaten and narrowly escaped being killed. Dissidents describe how they were forced into exile. “It was said quite clearly; ‘if you stay here, you will properly be dead by tomorrow’”, recalls Sergei Ostaf. The police are believed to be involved in trafficking and Transnistira gives sanctuary to known criminals.

Yet the people of Pridnestrovie say this isn’t so. In a 2006 election, there was a ninety-six percent voter turn out with ninety-four percent voting for the independence and development of PMR. The people of Pridnestrovie invite visitors into their region and encourage an examination into their domestic affairs.  To all appearances, they comply with the Conventions of Human Rights.  They promote democracy and multi-ethnicity.

It leaves one to wonder why the European Union and the world at large has refused to recognize Pridnestrovie as its own country.  Although the ongoing explanation is that PMR is seeped in corruption, there is virtually no evidence that the country that wishes to annex the state into its own province has a better record.  Is it possible that in this current society where people are measured in numbers instead of as individuals, Moldova has the larger voice simply because it’s the larger and has been established longer as a country?  Maybe the reasons go deeper than that.  On many fronts, within the United States and in Europe, the dream of multi-ethnicity and democratic union has fallen way to bitter religious and ethnic hate campaigns.  Perhaps they feel uncomfortable that a country, whose main support is Russia, is purporting to represent a form of government more democratic, more elastic in its diversity that what our current corporate driven society has been able to project.  Perhaps this type of idealism simply isn’t convenient.

What is certain is that Pridnestrovie has the right to try.  It has the right to enter the modern world and present its perspective.  Only by listening to the viewpoints of all cultures, can we truly enter the era of multi-ethnicity understanding.  The legitimacy of PRA should not be questioned.  It is the agreement of a region of people who retain close ties with Russia and Ukraine, as well as containing a  population of native Moldovians.  It is the efforts of a united citizenry to recognize a diverse state with three different languages, thirty-five nationalities and ten different religions.  It has the right to be heard.










Three arrested in Moldova uranium trafficking plot

Three arrested in Moldova uranium trafficking plot

CHISINAU: Moldova has seized almost two kilograms of the radioactive substance uranium-238 from a suspected group of traffickers, including former Interior Ministry officials.

Police found 1.8 kilograms of the substance in a garage in the capital Chisinau where it was under guard and in a special container, said an Interior Ministry spokesman, Kirill Motpan.

He said the radioactive substance had been brought to Chisinau in the form of contraband and the people linked to the operation wanted to sell it for €9 million ($12.8 million).

”The suspects are under arrest,” Mr Motpan said, adding they had previous convictions for possessing radioactive materials. He said the group of seven people included two former Interior Ministry officials who were now retired.

Sources suggest only three of the gang are in custody. As well as the uranium-238, security officials found rounds of ammunition, a grenade, a pistol, number plates and false documents in the garage.

CNN reported that undercover policemen acting as buyers acquired less than one gram of the substance and sent it to the US for analysis where its identity was confirmed.

”Seven members of the criminal group came under suspicion of police in mid-June when they started to look for ways of selling the radioactive material,” Mr Motpan said.

It was not clear from where the substance was obtained. Moldova is not a producer of uranium. Reuters reported that Moldovan authorities were now waiting for tests conducted in Germany to determine the uranium’s country of origin.

Police are investigating whether the smugglers were attempting to sell the uranium in the breakaway region of Transnistria as one of the suspects came from that region.

“We are expecting more information coming out of Russia, Romania and some other countries that can shed light on this case and those suspects,” Mr Motpan told CNN.

Experts have repeatedly expressed fears over traffickers obtaining nuclear materials from the former Soviet Union with the aim of selling them on to rogue groups in the hope of making a so-called dirty bomb.

Moldova is one of Europe’s poorest nations, making it prone to smuggling of all kinds.

Uranium-238, known as yellowcake, is the most common of the three radioactive uranium isotopes. It is not a fissile substance, which means it cannot by itself unleash a chain reaction. It can be converted to create plutonium, a source for nuclear power and warheads.

But the enrichment involves an “elaborate set-up”, Xiachun He, a professor of nuclear physics at Georgia State University in the US, told CNN.

The uranium 238 alone is not potent enough to make an effective dirty bomb, the physicist said, since the level of radiation would be too low once scattered as dust. That did not deter the traffickers. Mr Motpan said: ”They were actively looking for a customer.”

Russia’s Cowboy Capitalists Fight for the Right to Squeeze Nickel Profits

Oligarch gloves come off as Norilsk row worsens

Vladimir Potanin, Founder and Owner of Interros, speaks with journalists at Reuters office in Moscow, September 15, 2010. REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin

By Polina Devitt and Dmitry Zhdannikov

MOSCOW | Wed Sep 15, 2010 2:36pm EDT

(Reuters) – The two billionaires who co-own Norilsk Nickel (GMKN.MM) clashed at the Reuters RussiaSummit, trading accusations ranging from abuse of funds to mismanagement but said the Kremlin would stay out of their brawl.

Vladimir Potanin, who backs the current management of Norilsk, the world’s biggest nickel and palladium miner, said the best way out of the conflict would be a buyout of rival tycoon Oleg Deripaska’s 25-percent stake.

But Deripaska told Reuters he had no plans to sell out and demanded bigger dividends and a new marketing strategy for the disputed firm, whose fate has dominated headlines in Russia’s business press for months and unsettled investors.

“Oleg needs either to get accustomed to the fact that he is a large but minority shareholder or he, in the interest of RUSAL, conducts a sale,” Potanin told the summit.

Deripaska, who controls the world’s largest aluminum firm RUSAL, bought into Norilsk in 2008. He has said it may make sense to ultimately merge it with RUSAL to create a national champion to rival the likes of BHP Billiton (BLT.L).

But the global crisis forced a change of plan, as both Potanin and Deripaska had to seek massive state bailouts to avoid defaulting on billions of dollars of Western bank loans.

As the crisis subsided and debts were restructured, rivalry at Norilsk resumed. RUSAL lost a seat on the board of Norilsk at a shareholder meeting in June, while Potanin kept the same number of seats.

RUSAL challenged the vote and called an extraordinary meeting to re-elect the board. Top Russian prosecutor Yuri Chaika said on Wednesday that investigators had found procedural violations in the board vote.

“We as shareholders are all exposed to the risk that Potanin could use the cash of Norilsk again. Norilsk sits on liquid assets and cash which was over $7 billion. And full control of the board creates the risk,” Deripaska said.


Norilsk, one of the most lucrative enterprises privatized in controversial state auctions in the 1990s, has often been seen as a target for renationalization.

The row is escalating despite a visit last month to Norilsk by Russia’s paramount leader, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who said the row could be soon be over.

“I never heard anything like that,” Deripaska said when asked about Putin’s comment, adding that the dispute could be solved without government intervention.

Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin told the summit earlier in the day that the Norilsk shareholders should resolve their dispute without the state getting involved, a position Potanin also agreed with.

“Oleg Vladimirovich is often counting on state support but when the state remains neutral or, as in our case, supports the company and indirectly the management, we have to solve it ourselves,” he said.


Deripaska says his goals are to restore parity on board seats and boost the firm’s value. He said Norilsk should be worth $50 billion instead of $32 billion now and a new marketing strategy could bring $500-$600 million in fresh core earnings.

“What they are doing on the market is just destroying Norilsk value,” Deripaska said, referring to Norilsk’s use of long-term contracts with multiple buyers.

Potanin retaliated by saying Deripaska’s idea of putting Swiss trader Glencore, a minority shareholder in RUSAL, in charge of Norilsk exports would not help the firm.

“Since the IPO of RUSAL, its shares have lost 30 percent of their value. Therefore the company has little to be proud of when it comes to earning money for investors,” said Potanin.

“In my view, it would make sense for RUSAL to focus on its own share price growth,” he said, adding that the sale of Norilsk stake would help RUSAL cut its $12 billion debt. He said he would join a pool of investors to buy the stake out.

Neither Deripaska nor Potanin could say when the row could be over. But Potanin said the state would have to ultimately intervene if the row affected Norilsk’s performance or the eponymous remote Arctic town where it is the sole employer.

Foreign investors in Russia such as Wermuth Asset Management chief executive Maarten van den Belt said they did not expect a speedy end to the battle:

“If you start a conflict in Russia, you had better be prepared for a rough ride,” he told the summit.

Andrew Cornthwaite, head of investment banking at leading Russian bank Renaissance Capital, said investors were concerned that the oligarchs’ fight could distract managers from running the giant miner efficiently.

But he did not rule out an eventual deal.

“I don’t think it’s impossible two big shareholder groups can co-exist alongside each other in managing a big national asset,” he said.

(Reporting by Michael Stott; Sitaraman Shankar, Mike Dolan, Aleksandras Budrys, Polina Devitt,Melissa Akin and Dmitry Zhdannikov; writing by Melissa Akin, Dmitry Zhdannikov and Alfred Kueppers)