Russia and Ukraine have points of approach in military technological field
Aug 3, 2008: Despite the existing problems, it seems that Moscow and Kiev have long-term mutually beneficial joint plans in the military technological field. The topic of the project for the development and construction of military transport airplane An-70 surfaced in the dialogue between the two countries again. Recently, De-fense Minister of Ukraine, Yury Yekhanurov, announced that he talked to his Russian colleague about this issue in February.
Yekhanurov added, "Russian De-fense Minister Serdyukov said that Russia was interested in this project and they would work. So far, there have been no practical steps but the Russian party confirms that it will work in this direction in principle." According to Yekhanurov, the An-tonov corporation is currently testing this airplane.
Yekhanurov added, "however, all work is being done very slowly because of the current situation." According to him, the Ukrainian De-fense Ministry already ordered two such airplanes to Kiev-based Aviant.
Earlier, it was reported that the Russian party was going to restart financing of a project joint with Ukraine for the creation of military transport airplane An-70. In 2006, the Russian Defense Ministry an-nounced withdrawal from the An-70 program explaining that IL-76 was the main airplane of the Russian mili-tary transport aviation. In accordance with the estimates approved by the parties, expenditures of Russia and Ukraine on the An-70 program amount to approximately $1.5 billion and the need for financing for the accomplishment of research and de-velopment is about $100 million.
Meanwhile, the production of IL-76 was not started in Russia yet ei-ther. There are certain difficulties in the transfer of production of this air-plane from Tashkent (Uzbekistan) to Ulyanovsk (Russia). Thus, the An-70 project may be interesting for Mos-cow again, at least for the sale of this airplane to third countries and possi-bly to NATO. So far, the alliance agrees with aviation cooperation both with Moscow and Kiev.
For example, the united fleet of Ukrainian and Russian heavy trans-port airplanes An-124-100 Ruslan with a cargo capacity of 120 tons will continue the fulfillment of strategic transportation in the framework of NATO's program SALIS (Strategic Airlift Interim Solution) in the inter-ests of 18 countries of NATO and European Union. During the interna-tional aerospace show Farnborough-2008 (UK), General Director of Ruslan International, Valery Gabriel, reported that according to results of negotiations with NAMSA (NATO Maintenance & Supply Agency) be-tween April and May, an agreement was achieved on prolongation of the contract on use of Ukrainian and Russian Ruslans in the framework of SALIS singed at the end of 2005.
Gabriel explained, "signing the prolonged contract is scheduled for autumn: we plan to do this until No-vember. The contract will be pro-longed for two years."
According to him, under the con-tract terms two An-124-100 will re-main permanently based in Germany in the airport of Leipzig and four airplanes will be provided to the cus-tomer at demand. According to the company, since January 2006 the united fleet performed 687 flights in the framework of SALIS, had fight time of 6,500 hours and transported more than 306,000 tons of cargoes. The main destination countries are Afghanistan, Congo, Chad and Dji-bouti. The leading international op-erators of Ruslan airplanes are Rus-sian company Volga-Dnepr and Ukrainian Antonov Airlines. At the end of 2005, they signed a three-year contract worth 600 million euros with NAMSA with a possibility of prolongation on transportation of cargoes in the interests of NATO and European Union. The contract was signed according to results of victory in a NATO tender the terms of which implied the provision of strategic transportation of the alliance until 2012, that is until the beginning of operation of new European transport airplanes A400M.
Restarting series production of modernized Ruslan with a cargo ca-pacity of 150 tons - An-124-100M-150 - is planned for 2012 in a broad Russian-Ukrainian cooperation. The new version of the airplane certified by the interstate aviation committee in June of 2007 complies with re-quirements of European control of zonal navigation P-RNAV, as well as accuracy requirements of piloting airplanes Р-RNP-1. Preparation for the validation of certificate of type by the EASA was already started. Ruslan International Ltd (UK) estab-lished by the partners in 2006 acts as the marketing agent of the Ukrainian and Russian operators. At present, this company controls 35% of the international market of transportation of super heavy and bulky cargoes and the share of Ruslan SALIS GmbH (Germany) is 11%.
Pakistan urges US on intelligence, equipment sharing to combat terrorism
August 03, 2008 - WASHINGTON: Pakistan has asked the United States to provide it modern equipment and enhance intelligence sharing to fight terrorism challenges more effectively along its Afghan border region, a U.S. newspaper quoting Pakistani officials reported Sunday. Pakistan has asked for more intelligence-sharing, training and equipment for its forces, including night-vision goggles and the latest technology for intercepting communications, an embassy official in Washington said according to the newspaper. A senior Pakistani official reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to fight against terrorism in cooperation with the United States but also pointed out, “We also believe that there is more that the United States can do as well, and that we have asked it to do”. Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, confirmed to the newspaper that various proposals were discussed during Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s visit to Washington last week but he said he could not talk about them in detail.
CAIRO, Egypt August 3, 2008 (AP): Al-Qaida says explosives expert wanted by US killed along with 3 other commanders. Al-Qaida confirmed Sunday the death of a top commander accused of training the suicide bombers who killed 17 American sailors on the USS Cole eight years ago.
Abu Khabab al-Masri, who had a $5 million bounty on his head from the United States, is believed to have been killed in an airstrike apparently launched by the U.S. in Pakistan last week.
An al-Qaida statement posted on the Internet said al-Masri and three other top figures were killed and warned of vengeance for their deaths. It did not say when, where or how they died but said some of their children were killed along with them.
Pakistani authorities have said they believe al-Masri is one of six people killed in an airstrike on July 28 on a compound in South Waziristan, a lawless tribal region near the Afghan border.
The U.S. military has not confirmed it was behind the missile strike. But similar U.S. attacks are periodically launched on militant targets in the tribal border region.
Deadly San Andreas Fault Longer Than Thought
August 3, 2008: If the tremor that struck California earlier this week was not enough of a reminder of the region's dangerous side, a new study says the powerful San Andreas Fault extends further south than previously believed.
Tuesday's magnitude 5.4 quake in greater Los Angeles occurred along one of many lesser known fault lines that fan out from the San Andreas like glass fractures.
The new finding, meanwhile, adds 18 miles (30 kilometers) of earthquake potential to the deadly major fault that devastated San Francisco and Loma Prieta in 1906 and 1989, respectively.
A scientist discovered the San Andreas Fault was longer while he was studying boiling pools of mud called mud pots and small, erupting mud volcanoes near the Salton Sea (learn more), a saltwater lake about 165 miles (265 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles.
Study author David Lynch of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) was studying the size, activity, and gas chemistry of the mud pots, which result from a range of geothermal activities and are sometimes associated with fault lines.
"As locals showed me where many of the pots were, I noticed that they tended to line up," Lynch said. "I plotted them on a map and realized they aligned with the San Andreas."
The San Andreas Fault is a boundary between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates.
When the stress between the plates becomes too great, the rocks shift, causing the earth to shake.
Over time, the earthquake movements tend to leave visible traces on the surface, such as furrows and cracks in the ground, making it possible to identify where a fault line actually is. Geologists have suspected that the San Andreas Fault might extend beyond the visible traces in Southern California, but so far there has been no evidence.
Using satellite imagery and physical searches of the land, Lynch and study co-author Ken Hudnut, also of the USGS, identified a cluster of 33 boiling mud features, which, when plotted, formed a clear line extending 18 miles (about 30 kilometers) southeastward from the previously accepted endpoint of the San Andreas Fault.
The scientists say the usual fault line indicators are not visible near the Salton Sea because the San Andreas Fault has not been active in the area for quite some time.
Without regular activity disturbing the ground and creating surface markings, agriculture and erosion have effectively erased it from the landscape, they said.
The study appears in the August issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.
Shaken But Not Stirred?
"Clearly something interesting is going on here," said Michael Manga, a geophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley.
Manga, who is not involved with the study, wondered why the mud pots and mud volcanoes are active.
"Documenting their history—when they appeared, how long they last—may be a useful test of this hypothesis that they are an extension of the fault," Manga said.
"Knowing history may also provide insight into the plumbing of the fault and the origin of the fluids and high pressure needed to make mud volcanoes."
Roger Musson, a seismologist at the British Geological Survey, was not so impressed with the finding.
"This study only extends the length of the San Andreas by a few percent of its total length," he said. "Interesting though it is, [this] does not represent a major change [in] our understanding of the seismic hazard of Southern California."
Bangladesh proposes South Asia military cooperation
Aug 03, 2008 (BBC Monitoring via COMTEX) -- Bangladesh has urged other South Asian leaders to work out a roadmap to fight against poverty and hunger and achieve accelerated economic and social growth to the benefits of the people.
"South Asia is home to almost a half of the world's poor. Global economic slowdown, soaring oil and food prices and growing threats of climate change are driving the destitute people of the region even further below the poverty line," the chief adviser to Bangladesh's interim government, Fakhruddin Ahmed, said addressing the 15th SAARC [South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation] summit in Colombo.
The two-day gathering of the heads of the government or the state of SAARC began at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall on Saturday.
Fakhruddin said, "It is incumbent on us who have gathered here today to clearly chart out a roadmap for SAARC for greater prosperity and welfare of the peoples of the South Asia."
He said, "We must redouble our efforts to attain the SAARC Development Goals within the targeted timeline. I believe national action on poverty alleviation should be complemented by effective and robust regional initiatives in order to have a penetrative impact on poverty reduction in South Asia."
The Bangladesh leader also stressed the need for cooperation to develop short- and long-term action to address food security, fight against terrorism, explore alternative sources for energy, face challenges of climate change and increase trade for the establishment of the South Asian Economic Union.
In his speech, the head of Bangladesh's interim government, backed by the army, proposed working out a mechanism among the armed forces of the region to advance the mutual interest, including training facilities.
Referring to Bangladesh's proposal at the SAARC Council of Minister's Meeting on 31 July in Colombo, he said, "Bangladesh has suggested a methodology for structured contacts between our armed forces. Such links exist at the bilateral level. Together we provide a huge majority of the world's peacekeepers. I believe it may be worthwhile to devise such a system that can periodically bring senior officers of our military forces together to determine how best we can advance our mutual interests. We may also share training facilities under this scheme."
Fakhruddin said food crisis because of recent global price spiral led the region to find out a collective solution to tackle food security.
He said, "We need to develop strategies, not only to address short-term supply side stocks, but also to strengthen cooperation to increase agricultural productivity. I would stress early ratification and activation of the SAARC Food Bank to address the situation."
On the issue of terrorism, he said, "The deadly fangs of terrorism are spreading across the region. They threaten to disrupt peace and democracy. We must combat the menace of terrorism across the broadest possible spectrum."
He expressed his satisfaction at the plan signing of the anti-terror deal, SAARC Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, on Sunday and felt the legal instrument would be an important tool for the members for an effective and meaningful cooperation in fight against all serious and organised crimes.
Fakhruddin said South Asia witnessed a tremendous increase in demand for energy because of high growth in the region and energy played a key role in economic, social and human development, including in poverty alleviation.
Against the backdrop of such energy requirement, he said the region might explore all the avenues - bilateral, sub-regional and regional cooperation - to harness renewable sources of energy such as hydro-power, solar power, bio-fuel and wind to address energy crisis.
He said, "We should strive to develop conventional and alternate sources of energy to ensure steady energy supply at an affordable cost."
Regarding climate change, considered an issue of major concern in recent times, he said, "In South Asia, global warming is rendering natural disasters frequent and more intense, causing greater damage and devastation to lives and livelihood."
"We must bear in mind that it is our collective responsibility to save our planet for the present and futurity," Fakhruddin said.
Touching on the issue of trade, he said despite SAFTA [South Asia Free Trade Agreement] being in place, non-tariff and para-tariff barriers, and complicated and cumbersome customs procedures stand in the way of greater intra-regional trade.
He pointed out that a long, sensitive list close to preferential tariffs and rigidities in other structural and policy frameworks stood in the way of people's desire for a fully-integrated South Asia.
Fakhruddin said, "Clearly there is a need to remove such hurdles to enhance intra-regional trade."
He also pointed out that the intra-regional investment flows were very small in South Asia. Given the right kind of environment and confidence, the potential for increased intra-regional investment is huge.
"I feel that restrictive investment regime is one of the inhibiting factors in attracting foreign direct investments. In this context, it is important that the draft agreement on promotion and protection of investments is finalised at the earliest," he said.
Source: New Age website, Dhaka, in English 03 Aug 08
BBC Mon SA1 SAsPol smm
Mbeki and Zuma in Billion-Rand arms-deal bribes
3 August, 2008: The Billion-Rand Dud Secret report fingers both men in arms-deal bribes.
President Thabo Mbeki is alleged to have received R30-million from a German industrial giant to ensure it won the submarine contract in democratic South Africa’s first arms deal.He allegedly gave R28-million to the ANC and R2-million to former deputy president Jacob Zuma. This shocking allegation has surfaced for the first time in a highly secretive investigation by a UK-based specialist risk consultancy.The cloak-and-dagger world of big business, greedy opportunists, dodgy dealings, outrageous promises, explosive reports and expensive gifts ... the Sunday Times encountered them all in a six-month investigation into the submarine deal. We interviewed arms dealers, military experts, economists, politicians, lawyers, industrialists and academics, and scoured highly confidential reports.We also uncovered the suspect practices that helped favour the German company during the fiercely fought bidding war, including the irregular practice of using correcting fluid to alter documents.We further reveal warnings in several authoritative reports at the time that the exorbitant cost of the deal could severely impact on the economy and that South Africa could ill afford to pay billions for weapons it did not need. Mbeki brushed these aside.In another twist, we found that the first of the three submarines has spent most of the past six months out of the water, plagued by serious defects, and that the navy has neither the money nor the resources to run the vessels.
Secret report fingers both men in arms-deal bribes
Mbeki took R30-million and gave some to Zuma
Six-month Sunday Times investigation reveals:
A bit of Tipp-Ex helped Germans clinch winning bid
Mbeki ignored warnings country could not afford deal
First of navy’s three new submarines has serious defects
New navy deal now on cards for arms we should have bought in the first place
Cocaine finds AfricaAugust 03, 2008: West Africa is under attack. The region has become a hub for cocaine smuggling from Latin America to Europe. States that we seldom hear about, such as Guinea-Bissau and neighbouring Guinea, are at risk of being captured by drug cartels in collusion with corrupt forces in government and the military.
With the exception of cannabis in Morocco, Africa never used to have a drug problem. That has changed, however, in the past five years. Around 50 tons of cocaine are being shipped from the Andean countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru) to Europe via West Africa every year - and that is a conservative estimate. Actual amounts could be at least five times higher. The volume seized is rising sharply: from 266 kilograms in 2003, to 3,161 in 2006, to 6,458 in 2007. This steep increase will no doubt continue. This month alone, more than 600 kilos were seized in a plane with fake Red Cross markings at the airport in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and at the international airport in Bissau, several hundred boxes were unloaded from a jet.
The profiteers in this illicit trade - mostly but not only Latinos - stand out on the streets of West African towns. They drive luxury cars, buy up the best hotels and are building haciendas and other opulent examples of "narcotecture."
Law enforcement has been helpless against this onslaught. Drug planes don't have to fly below the radar, because in most cases there is no radar (or electricity). Soldiers sometimes help smugglers by closing airports and unloading the cargo. Police cars run out of gas when giving chase or are left in the dust by smugglers' all-terrain vehicles. There are no local navies to intercept the ships coming from Latin America or to chase the 2,000-horsepower boats that speed drugs up the coast to Europe. Traffickers are seldom brought to trial; in some cases, there are no prisons to put them in. Even when they are charged, they are usually released because evidence is not collected or needed laws are not in place.
Drugs have become a security issue. Drug money is perverting the weak economies of the region. In some cases, the value of the drugs being trafficked is greater than a country's national income. The influence that this buys is rotting these fragile states; traffickers are buying favours and protection from candidates in elections.
Quick intervention by the international community five years ago prevented a crisis in Cape Verde, but the cartels merely shifted their operations to Guinea-Bissau. Now Guinea is under threat; Guinea's neighbour Sierra Leone could be next. Without a regional response, the problem will move from country to country.
Containing this threat will not be easy. Poverty is the biggest problem. These countries are the worst performers on the human development index - their populations at the bottom of the "bottom billion". Unemployed and desperate youths are vulnerable to being recruited as foot soldiers for criminal groups. West African countries must take control of their coasts and airspace. This requires hardware (boats, planes and radar), know-how (investigative techniques and container security) and counter-narcotics intelligence. Some of these capabilities can be developed nationally, but some assistance will have to come from abroad.
Cooperation among customs officials, border guards, the police and counter-narcotics agents - at ports and airports, for example - has made Cape Verde a less attractive transit point for drug traffickers. The same approach should be adopted elsewhere.
Because the drug trade defies borders, regional cooperation is vital, particularly intelligence-sharing. Stronger legal cooperation among West African nations would enable more effective extradition, mutual legal assistance and confiscation of the proceeds of crime. Working contacts must also be strengthened between countries of origin and destination, in South America and Europe, respectively.
In some cases, mechanisms for intelligence-sharing are under construction. But measures, and even laws, to fight organised crime and corruption will be meaningless without the political will and capacity to implement them. Too often, drugs that are seized disappear instead of being destroyed. Judges, police and witnesses are intimidated. Security forces turn a blind eye or lend a hand to smuggling.
The highest authorities must recognise the stakes. Their failure to act is a sign of helplessness or complicity. Political will would be strengthened if regional leaders were rewarded for their integrity and punished for corruption. At the moment, the honest ones feel abandoned and the crooked ones act with impunity. We must reduce vulnerability to drugs and crime with greater development. And greater justice would build faith in the rule of law.
West Africa's drug trafficking problem is still relatively small compared with that of West Asia, the Caribbean or Latin America. But it is growing exponentially and threatens to turn the region into a centre of lawlessness. Such instability is the last thing Africa needs. The affected countries and the international community must act before the situation spirals out of control.
-Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service
China defense could be $360 billion a year by 2020
3 August, 2008: BEIJING (AP) — China's defense spending is on track to reach $360 billion a year by 2020 if annual increases continue at their current pace, an analyst with defense consultancy Jane's said Friday.
That figure is still dwarfed by U.S. military spending, which amounted to $547 billion last year, but would represent a significant increase over Beijing's current official budget of about $59 billion.
China's publicly announced spending is roughly on a level with total military expenditure by Britain last year, and slightly higher than that of France. Some analysts believe total spending may actually be significantly higher because the official budget doesn't include funding for weapons programs.
On average, China's military spending has jumped by 15.5 percent each year over of the past 14 years, powering China's arms industry and making the country less dependent on Russian imports, Matthew Smith said in a telephone interview.
"Our forecast shows no decline in spending," Smith said. China's goal, he said, is to "reinvent" the People's Liberation Army by 2020.
China's officially declared defense spending jumped 17.6 percent, the 18th double-digit percentage increase in 19 years. The spending has drawn calls from Washington and Tokyo for Beijing to explain the reasons for the buildup and how it was spending the money.
China claims its intentions are not aggressive, and that increases were needed to pay for higher oil prices and boost salaries of the 2.3 million-member army.
China bought almost $3.5 billion in weaponry from Russia in 2006, but that figure fell by 62 percent last year, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a leading monitor of the global arms trade.
Smith said that came as a result of Chinese advances in arms production and Russia's reluctance to part with its most cutting-edge technology.
U.S. and European companies meanwhile have lagged behind in military exports to China because of legal restrictions at home and an American policy aimed at deterring the sales, Smith said. Washington has banned the trade of weaponry and technology with military applications since the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.
As China's arms industry grows, the country will likely step up exports as a low-cost alternative to Russian or Western weapons suppliers, Smith said.
Especially in Africa, Chinese arms sales often serve to cement links with countries that have large oil and gas stocks that Beijing has aggressively sought to fuel its sizzling economy, he said.
Poland must sign missile shield deal before U.S. poll - KaczynskiWARSAW, August 3, 2008 - Warsaw needs to sign a treaty on the deployment of elements of a U.S. missile shield on its territory before the upcoming U.S. presidential elections, the Polish president said on Sunday.
The U.S. plans to deploy 10 interceptor missiles in northern Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic as part of a U.S. missile shield for Europe and North America against possible attacks from "rogue states," including Iran.
"The missile shield is a good solution [for Poland]," Lech Kaczynski told national television.
According to Kaczynski, his country should not take too much risk in advancing terms to the United States about the deployment of the missile shield elements on its territory because failure of these talks would aggravate the situation for Poland.
In long-running negotiations with the U.S., Warsaw has been pushing Washington to spend billions of dollars improving Poland's air defenses in exchange for allowing the deployment of the interceptor missiles.
Kaczynski said Poland must sign the missile shield deal with the current U.S. administration, without waiting for the U.S. presidential elections.
Moscow strongly opposes the possible deployment of the U.S. missile shield, viewing it as a threat to its national security. Russia's Foreign Ministry has said that if U.S. strategic missile defense elements are deployed near Russia's borders, Moscow would be forced to respond with a "military-technical approach" rather than a diplomatic one.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg signed an agreement in Prague on July 8 on the deployment of a missile-tracking radar in the Czech Republic.
The Czech-U.S. treaty has yet to be ratified by the Czech parliament or signed by the Czech president, however.
Russia prioritizes nuclear triad, hi-tech weaponry in future warsMOSCOW, August 3, 2008 - The nuclear triad of ballistic missiles, nuclear-powered submarines and strategic bombers will remain the core of the Russian armed forces for the next two decades, a draft military doctrine says.
The document called "The new face of the Russian Armed Forces until 2030" is still being developed by the General Staff and will be ready, according to some military sources, by the fall 2008.
The first part of the doctrine is an assessment of Russia's geopolitical role in the world and the variety of external global, regional and local threats to its national security, including military ones.
The second part covers the development and restructuring of the Russian armed forces with priority given to information technologies and warfare, space technologies and even nanotechnologies.
The draft document says the Russian armed forces will rely heavily on high-precision conventional weaponry developed on the basis of artificial intelligence and nanotechnologies.
Nanotechnologies are already widely used in special alloys for armor, "stealth" technologies and explosives, but Russian designers of new weapons systems are planning to extend their application even further - to create miniaturized and highly effective weapons on the battlefield including remote-controlled aerial vehicles, mini-submarines, mini-boats and robots.
At the same time, Russia will continue to maintain a strong nuclear potential as a reliable deterrent to potential threats. Russia's nuclear arsenal currently totals about 4,147 warheads on 848 delivery vehicles.
Russia's Strategic Missile Forces will continue the deployment of new ballistic missile systems, the modernization of strategic command-and-control networks and the development of enhanced warheads and their delivery vehicles.
At present, Russia deploys Topol-M (NATO reporting name SS-27) ballistic missiles as the mainstay of its land-based component of the nuclear triad. As of December 2007, Russia's SMF operated 48 silo-based and three mobile Topol-M missile systems.
The country will put an average of three mobile and 3-4 silo-based Topol-M ballistic missile systems into operation every year.
Russia will also modernize and expand its fleet of strategic bombers and create a national air-and-space defense network.
According to various sources, the Russian Air Force currently deploys 141 Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers, 40 Tu-95MS Bear bombers, and 14 Tu-160 Blackjack planes.
Russia plans to build at least one new Tu-160 bomber every one or two years to increase the number of available aircraft to 30.
According to the new doctrine, the Russian Navy will prioritize the deployment of fourth-generation nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft-carrier task groups.
Russia will completely modernize the naval component of its nuclear triad by 2016.
Fourth-generation Borey-class nuclear-powered submarines armed with Bulava ballistic missiles will form the core of Russia's fleet of modern strategic submarines.
Aircraft-carrier task groups will consist of an aircraft carrier, escort ships and support vessels.
"Three task groups will be in service with the Northern Fleet and another three with the Pacific Fleet," a defense ministry source said.
Russia is gradually shifting the focus of its geopolitical interests toward the Arctic and will increase its military presence in the region.
The Defense Ministry has already announced plans to expand the presence of the Russian Navy in the world's oceans, including the Arctic, and extend the operational range of submarines deployed in the northern latitudes.
Russia says threat of war between Georgia, South Ossetia real
MOSCOW, August 3, 2008 - The threat of war between Georgia and its breakaway region of South Ossetia is becoming increasingly real, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.
The conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia has intensified after the rebel region's territory was shelled late on Friday and early on Saturday, as a result of which six people were killed and 13 wounded. South Ossetia accused Georgian forces of shelling its territory while Georgia blamed the separatists for provoking armed clashes.
"The situation in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict area, which sharply aggravated on August 1-2 as a result of mass mortar shelling of residential quarters in Tskhinvali, which claimed human lives, remains extremely explosive. The threat of large-scale combat operations between Georgia and South Ossetia is becoming ever more real," the ministry said on its web site.
South Ossetia declared its independence from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Hundreds died in the bloody conflict that followed. The pro-Western Georgian leadership has said it is determined to bring the region, along with another breakaway republic, Abkhazia, back under central control.
South Ossetian authorities on Sunday accused Georgia of moving its troops close to the separatist region's borders, saying that an artillery battalion and two mortar batteries from the 4th motorized brigade of the Georgian Defense Ministry had started movement from the army base in Georgia's eastern town of Gori towards the separatist republic's capital, Tskhinvali.
Georgia rejected the reports as being untrue.
South Ossetia leader Eduard Kokoity said on Saturday he was ready to mobilize men in the separatist republic and take volunteers from other Caucasus republics to fight Georgia.
In its statement, Russia's Foreign Ministry also urged both conflicting parties to show restraint and prevent the use of force in the conflict area.
"The parties should act in the spirit of goodwill and focus their efforts on settling the crisis situation and prevent its recurrences," the ministry said.
According to the ministry, it is important to resume the negotiation process in the format of the Mixed Control Commission for the solution of the South Ossetian conflict and hold extraordinary working meetings between representatives of the conflicting parties.
Sunday, August 03, 2008: The demand by the Boston-based Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) that the US Congress and British Parliament investigate a report in a leading US magazine that the CIA was maintaining a secret detention centre on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, where a key US base is located, once more highlights US abuses of basic rights. The PHR, which has documented torture for 21 years, warns that 'secret' imprisonment often leads to grave violations of human rights. The PHR, since 2005, has also spearheaded US civil society efforts against the use of torture at Guantanamo Bay and other detention centres. In its reports, it has detailed use of psychological terror and other 'sophisticated' techniques the CIA is said to employ. The suspicion that 'ghost' prisoners are being held at Diego Garcia is a disturbing one. Certainly, the fact that such prisoners exist is known. The harrowing accounts given recently of an unidentified Pakistani woman, apparently being held at Bagram for years on end, helped underscore this ugly reality. There is also a suspicion that the young scientist and mother, Dr Afia Siddiqui, who disappeared from Karachi in 2003 with her three small children, may have ended up at such a detention centre. All of us need to support the international effort to speak up for these people. No matter what their crime – if indeed they are involved in one – no one deserves to be shut up for years, in secret jails, without access to family, lawyers and a trial process. It is unclear how many Pakistanis may have met with such a fate, but certainly there are accusations a number of them were handed over to the US, possibly in exchange for 'head money'. Some may indeed have ended up at places like Diego Garcia. As the PHR has demanded, international humanitarian groups must be allowed access to prisons there.The report regarding the location of a secret centre on the island adds to their dark history. In the 1960s and 1970s, the native population of the Chagos islands, lying about 1600 kilometres off the Indian coast, were forced away from their homes and lands by the British, and a massive US and UK base established on the principal island, Diego Garcia. The islanders have for years fought a legal battle against this ethnic cleansing and demanded they be allowed to return. Their plea has been upheld by a London Court, with the British foreign office currently involved in an appeal against the ruling, citing security interests. It is time the darkness over the Chagos archipelago that fell with the brutal evictions carried out over three decades ago, be lifted. The accusations that Diego Garcia is being used by the CIA as a torture centre must be investigated. It is ironic such terrible deeds should take place on illegally seized islands once known as a kind of paradise. Any prisoners held there must be freed. The international community must join hands to ensure this and prevent another coverup being staged by the CIA, which today must rank as among the organizations that are most guilty of terrible violations of human rights and basic dignities.
Afghanistan president heads to India to cement ties
August 03, 2008, New Delhi: Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai is due to arrive in India on Sunday to cement ties with its neighbour. Karzai will meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday. His visit comes just weeks after a suicide bombing at the Indian embassy in Kabul underscored the security tensions in the region. Afghanistan and India have accused Pakistan's spy agency of being involved in the July bombing that killed at least 58 people, including two Indian diplomats. Both Singh and Karzai share a common interest in stopping any Pakistan-sponsored violence and talks will probably centre on this issue, analysts say.
3 August, 2008: A small radioactive leak aboard the fast-attack submarine Houston was confirmed during testing July 24, prompting submarine officials to notify federal authorities, according to a Navy spokesman.
The boat was in dry dock for scheduled maintenance when the leak was discovered, said Lt. Cmdr. David Benham, spokesman for Naval Submarine Forces Pacific in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. One of the shut valves associated with the boat's propulsion system was "weeping" water at a rate higher than design specifications, he said.
"At no time was there any risk to the reactor plant, the safety of the crew or the safety of the public," he said.
For context, he said the amount of radioactivity released was "less than the quantity of naturally occurring radioactivity in a bag of common lawn and garden fertilizer."
"The design specification is set very low to ensure we fix any problems while they are small, before they grow into bigger problems," he said.
Benham said officials are looking into the duration of the leak, and added that officials notified the state of Hawaii and the Departments of Health and Energy after it was discovered. "That's the standard for us; anything out of the ordinary, no matter how miniscule, we notify proper authorities," he said.
3 August, 2008: A week before the Olympic Games, China has launched its first super high-speed intercity rail route.
The 120-km (75-mile) line will shuttle athletes and spectators between Beijing and neighbouring Tianjin, where Olympic football matches will be held.
Trains will reach speeds of 350 km/h, cutting journey times between the cities from 70 to 30 minutes.
The railway is part of the new infrastructure that China has put in place for the Games.
Rail enthusiasts began queuing on Thursday for tickets for the train's inaugural run, China's Xinhua news agency reported.
A tour inside the new super high-speed intercity train
Twin ceremonies were held in Beijing and Tianjin on Friday, with the first trains set to depart shortly afterwards.
The high-tech trains, which feature swivel seats and smart interiors, can accommodate about 600 people.
Construction began on the new line in July 2005. It has cost a total of 21.5bn yuan ($3.1bn, £1.55bn), Railway Minister Wang Zhiguo said.
A first class ticket will cost 69 yuan ($10), while a second-class ticket is 58 yuan.
Fighters practice operational ferrying immediately after rain
3 August, 2008: In view of the tasks of combat readiness and operational needs, an aviation regiment of the PLA Air Force sticks to the practice of being strict in training and active in exploring new modes of operational tactics and military training under complicated conditions aiming at uplifting the overall combat capability of the troops constantly. The fighters of the regiment are seen in the pictures getting ready to soar up to the sky in a hurry and practice operational ferrying immediately after a spell of rain.
Armed policemen on patrol duty around Shenyang Olympic Sports Center
3 August, 2008: In full vigor and fervor, the officers and men of the Armed Police Liaoning Contingent are ready to devote themselves to the work of ensuring the security of the Olympic Games and honor their pledge of being the loyal guardians with actual deeds. They are shown in the snapshot policing the surroundings of the Shenyang Olympic Sports Center.