World Media Watch
by Gloria R. Lalumia
April 28, 2006
|MEDIA WATCH ARCHIVES|
World Media Watch
by Gloria R. Lalumia
BuzzFlash Note: WMW provides BuzzFlash readers foreign views and perspectives that are not usually available from the media here in the U.S. The presentation of these articles from these international publications is not an endorsement of their viewpoints.
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WORLD MEDIA WATCH FOR APRIL 28, 2006
1//Azzaman in English, Iraq--MILITIA GROUPS CONTROL RECONSTRUCTION MONEY (Militia groups and their factions have the final say in granting reconstruction contracts in the ministries and provinces under their sway. For example, members of the militias belonging to Islamic factions snatch most of government contracts in southern provinces. “Winners are not those with lower costs and better quality. If you are not a member of the group you are denied the contract,” said a contractor from Najaf who refused to have his name revealed. “This is official policy. I am not revealing a secret,” he added. … The new prime minister designate, Nouri Maliki, has vowed to limit Iraqi militias’ influence and disband their armed groups. … Officially, 11 militia groups operate freely in Iraq. The Kurdish north is under militias known as Peshmerga.
Kurdish leaders have made it clear they will resist any move to have their armed groups dissolved.)
3//Worldpress.org, US--CONCERNS EXPRESSED OVER AUSTRALIA’S URANIUM DEAL WITH CHINA (There are concerns that the recent decision by the Australian government to supply uranium to China will destabilize the region, contribute to nuclear proliferation and result in the diversion of more resources for China's nuclear weapons program. Prime Minister John Howard hailed the agreement — signed with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao earlier this month — as a breakthrough and stressed the importance to Australia of the growing relationship between the two countries. "Of all the important relationships that Australia has with other countries, none has been more greatly transformed over the last 10 years than our relationship with China," he said at a news conference following talks with Wen. … However, Australian Greens energy spokesperson Christine Milne questioned Wen's assurances and pointed to the inadequacy of international monitoring safeguards agreements. Senator Milne claimed the supply of the ore would allow the Chinese government to divert some of its own uranium into nuclear weapons programs. … "The agreements make clear that Australian yellowcake will go first to Chinese nuclear facilities for conversion and these are outside the safeguards agreement.)
4//The Daily Times, Pakistan--US WILL HELP SOUTH ASIA TO GET ELECTRICITY FROM CENTRAL ASIA (The US wants to spearhead a project to transmit electricity from Central Asia across Afghanistan to Pakistan and India, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian affairs Richard Boucher said on Thursday. Under the plan, a regional power grid stretching from Almaty to New Delhi would be fed by oil and gas from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan and hydropower from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. “Within the next few years, we expect to see private investment lead to the establishment of a 500 kilovolt power line transmitting much-needed electricity from Central Asia across Afghanistan to Pakistan and India,” Boucher told a Congressional hearing. … Chinese and Indian companies are increasingly competing with US and Russian entities in the contest to develop and export energy resources in Central Asia.)
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MILITIA GROUPS CONTROL RECONSTRUCTION MONEY
ARABS STAKE A CLAIM IN IRAQ
BAGHDAD - The Arab League is to reopen its Baghdad office for the first time since the US-led invasion of Iraq three years ago amid fears of growing Iranian influence in Iraq and the increasing scale-back of US troops there into "enduring bases".
"They [the Arabs] are worried about the future of Iraq and that it will drift out of the Arab sphere of influence," a former high-ranking Iranian foreign-policy official told Asia Times Online in Tehran.
The 22-member Arab League, established in 1945, resembles the Organization of American States, the Council of Europe or the African Union in that it has primarily political aims. All Arab League members are also members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. In turn, the memberships of the smaller Gulf Cooperation Council and Arab Maghreb Union organizations are subsets of the Arab League.
The newly appointed head of the Arab League's mission in Iraq is Moroccan diplomat Mokhtar Lamani. He is already in Baghdad with a brief to consult with various Iraqi factions and speed up the creation of an Iraqi government that remains unformed over four months after the December elections brought a Shi'ite coalition to power. One of his first steps was to meet with US Ambassador to Baghdad Zalmay Khalilzad.
The Arab League has resisted opening an office in Baghdad in a sign of its disapproval for the non-United Nations-sanctioned war. But Iraq's gradual collapse into civil strife has prompted concerned Arab leaders to re-engage with the troubled country.
Last month, top intelligence officers from several Arab countries and Turkey met secretly to coordinate their governments' strategies in case civil war erupts in Iraq, according to Arab diplomats quoted by the Associated Press, and in an attempt to block Iranian interference there, as that non-Arab country is widely perceived as a threat to the region.
Concern over Shi'ite Iran's reach in Shi'ite-majority Iraq has bubbled over into a series of anxious statements made by Sunni-dominated Arab leaders in the past week.
"The threat of breakup in Iraq is a huge problem for the countries of the region, especially if the fighting is on a sectarian basis," said Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal on Tuesday as he discussed a massive air-defense deal with a British delegation that could see Saudi Arabia buy up to 72 Eurofighter Typhoon jets and upgrade its existing Tornado fighters. "This type of fighting sucks in other countries."
Faisal's comments followed controversial remarks made by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last week to the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiyya news channel where he accused Arab Shi'ites of holding primary allegiance to Iran rather than to their own Sunni governments. Mubarak's statements laid bare the distrust with which the region's Sunni rulers regard Arab Shi'ites and caused a storm of protest by Iraqi politicians.
"Such statements make it more difficult for any serious Arab initiative in Iraq," said Joseph Bahout, a Paris-based Lebanese political analyst. "They also highlight the dangers of any open Arab alignment in the US-Iran confrontation." This was a reference to the fragile unity of the Arab League.
Nevertheless, the Arab League's return to what was once one of the most powerful Arab states signals an escalation in the Arab-Iranian struggle over Iraq's future.
"The Arabs feel that Iraq is a slippery fish," said the Iranian official. "They want to catch this fish and bring it to the Arab family. So they don't want there to be a deal between Iran and the US on Iraq. They don't want to see Iran being the gendarme of the Gulf again."
CONCERNS EXPRESSED OVER AUSTRALIA’S URANIUM DEAL WITH CHINA
Prime Minister John Howard hailed the agreement — signed with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao earlier this month — as a breakthrough and stressed the importance to Australia of the growing relationship between the two countries. "Of all the important relationships that Australia has with other countries, none has been more greatly transformed over the last 10 years than our relationship with China," he said at a news conference following talks with Wen.
Addressing concerns that the export of uranium to China would result in an increase in nuclear proliferation, Wen denied that his government would divert the Australian uranium into its nuclear weapons program guaranteeing instead to use the ore to satisfy China's voracious energy needs. "China is a responsible country in the international community," he said.
However, Australian Greens energy spokesperson Christine Milne questioned Wen's assurances and pointed to the inadequacy of international monitoring safeguards agreements. Senator Milne claimed the supply of the ore would allow the Chinese government to divert some of its own uranium into nuclear weapons programs. "The Chinese Ambassador to Australia in December 2005 said that China had insufficient uranium for both its nuclear power and nuclear weapons programs. It is obvious that Australian uranium will make up the shortfall," she said to reporters.
Expressing concern that the enriching of the uranium fell outside of the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) monitoring specifications Senator Milne added, "What must be understood is that China, as a nuclear weapons state, makes the decision about which facilities will be open to inspection by the I.A.E.A. These facilities can be withdrawn from inspection at any time of China's choosing.
"The agreements make clear that Australian yellowcake will go first to Chinese nuclear facilities for conversion and these are outside the safeguards agreement.
"Whilst Prime Minister Howard says that Australian uranium will only be permitted to be enriched to 20 percent, there is no way that he can guarantee this as once the uranium is converted into uranium hexafluoride it is impossible to tell from where it was sourced.
"Selling uranium to a military dictatorship which has already made nuclear materials and technology available to Pakistan and Iran and which has so little respect for human rights and industrial health and safety is putting dollars before human decency and global security," Milne said.
US WILL HELP SOUTH ASIA TO GET ELECTRICITY FROM CENTRAL ASIA
WASHINGTON: The US wants to spearhead a project to transmit electricity from Central Asia across Afghanistan to Pakistan and India, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian affairs Richard Boucher said on Thursday.
Under the plan, a regional power grid stretching from Almaty to New Delhi would be fed by oil and gas from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan and hydropower from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. “Within the next few years, we expect to see private investment lead to the establishment of a 500 kilovolt power line transmitting much-needed electricity from Central Asia across Afghanistan to Pakistan and India,” Boucher told a Congressional hearing.
“Together with other donors, we are exploring ways to export electricity from Central Asia to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India,” Boucher said, adding that in partnership with multilateral development banks and other donors, Washington wanted to help “build new links” among the countries of the broader region and connect them more closely to the rest of the world.
“One of our leading objectives is to fund a greatly expanded Afghan power grid, with connections to energy sources in Central Asia. “It’s a winning solution for both sides, providing much-needed energy to Afghanistan and serving as a major source of future revenue for countries like Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.” New energy routes, Boucher said, would ensure that the next generation of South and Central Asian entrepreneurs had access to the resources they needed to prosper.
“We want to give South Asians access to the vast and rapidly-growing energy resources in Central Asia, whether they are oil and gas in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, thermal power in Uzbekistan, or hydropower in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.” Boucher said that the “opening” of Afghanistan had transformed it from an “obstacle” separating Central from South Asia into a “bridge” connecting the two, which in turn opened “exciting new possibilities”.
Chinese and Indian companies are increasingly competing with US and Russian entities in the contest to develop and export energy resources in Central Asia.
Boucher said that Washington supported establishing “multiple, commercially viable” pipelines and other new energy transportation routes.
JOB LOSSES FEARED OVER PACT
Ontario is furious about Ottawa's tentative deal to end the softwood lumber dispute with the United States, saying it cheats the province out of its traditional "fair share" of sales south of the border.
Unless it's fixed, the pact will lead to more mill closings and job losses in Ontario's hard-hit forest industry, provincial Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay warned yesterday.
"We've been shortchanged and we won't stand for it," he said after the framework agreement was reached in Washington by Canadian and U.S. negotiators.
"This is very serious."
The deal, which could end decades of bickering and negotiations if ratified by both countries, would cap Canada's share of the huge American market at the current level of 34 per cent, Canadian Press reports.
It also imposes a border tax and provides for the return of 78 per cent of the punitive duties imposed on Canadian lumber by the U.S. since May 2002, or almost $4 billion of the $5 billion paid.
But the cap includes a smaller share of the U.S. market — about 9 per cent — than the 10.5 or 11 per cent Ontario has traditionally garnered over the last few years, Ramsay said.
That may seem small but it's actually a drop of 10 to 15 per cent from current sales levels and 20 per cent below Ontario's best years, Ramsay added.
"This would mean less lumber coming out of Ontario, smaller mills, less jobs and maybe some communities being in jeopardy," Ramsay told reporters.
"Many communities are totally dependent ... on this industry, so any restriction to production like this is just untenable."
Ramsay said Ontario may be powerless to stop the deal negotiated by Canadian Ambassador Michael Wilson and U.S. officials.
"Unfortunately, we don't have control over this file," Ramsay said. "But, you know, I would think the federal government would want the co-operation of the provinces in this, and this is a bad deal for Ontario."
The deal comes as relations between the new federal Conservative government and Ontario have been strained, with Premier Dalton McGuinty still waiting for a promised meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Sources told Canadian Press the framework deal is being pitched by Ottawa as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, with the producing provinces and their lumber sectors expected to turn thumbs up or thumbs down.
Ramsay said Ontario was blindsided by the pact because it was presented to the province's representative at the talks as a fait accompli. "We weren't in the room in Washington when it happened ... we were taken by complete surprise."
Ramsay said British Columbia is the big winner in the deal, because its share of the American market will rise to 58 per cent from 52 per cent.
"Every other province except B.C. is hurt by this, so this isn't just an Ontario issue. ... We need a fair deal for all Canadians."
Canada and the United States have been battling over softwood lumber since the late 1970s. In the latest dispute, the United States slapped duties totalling more than 27 per cent on Canadian lumber after American producers complained it was subsidized and being dumped on the U.S. market.
Reviews and trade panel rulings have cut them to around 10 per cent.