(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - April 13, 2009: The US government has endorsed a plan to build a new generation of spy satellites, although funding to boost the Pentagon's imaging capacity still needs congressional approval. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said Tuesday that his agency and the Department of Defense had finalized a plan to modernize the fleet of US observation satellites. "Imagery is a core component of our national security that supports our troops, foreign policy, homeland security and the needs of our intelligence community," Blair said in a statement. He said the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), which oversees all US spy agencies, had studied the need for the "next generation of electro-optical satellites," and stressed that the government needs "to move forward now." US media said the program would require some 10 billion dollars, although a DNI spokesperson told AFP that the cost of the plan is classified. Republican lawmaker Pete Hoekstra, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, told AFP that he would "not make any judgement" until he sees the plan. But, he said, the committee "will have a briefing as soon as we get back to Washington" on April 20 after the spring congressional recess, "and we'll study this very closely." The US government canceled a similar program in 2005 because it was deemed too expensive. "When it comes to supporting our military forces and the safety of Americans, we cannot afford any gaps in collection," Blair said Tuesday. "We are living with the consequences of past mistakes in acquisition strategy, and we cannot to do so again."
Monday, April 13, 2009
US Senator Kerry Arrives In Pakistan, Meets Zardari, Gilani
(NSI News Source Info) ISLAMABAD - April 13, 2009: Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry met with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari, officials said on Monday. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani (R) and Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry meet in Islamabad to resolve recent controversial pending issues. The prime minister told Senator Kerry that Pakistan does not want the US to base its aid on conditions linked to the campaign against militancy, DawnNews reported. Meanwhile, President Zardari urged Senator Kerry to expedite the Kerry-Lugar Bill and the Reconstruction Opportunity Zones’ legislation and work out a joint strategy to counter terrorism. The Democrat introduced a bill in the US House of Representatives that would triple economic assistance for Pakistan to 1.5 billion dollars a year. A senior foreign ministry official told AFP in Islamabad that Pakistan expected the bill would be passed by Congress ‘by June this year.' US President Barack Obama has put Pakistan at the centre of the fight against al Qaeda under a new strategy dispatching thousands more troops and spending billions of dollars to turn around the flagging Afghan war. Obama last Thursday wrote to US lawmakers asking for an extra 83.4 billion dollars to pay for military efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Kerry's visit comes one week after the US military commander, Admiral Mike Mullen, and special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, held talks in Islamabad.
India: Arjun MBT Prepares For Potentially Decisive Trials
(NSI News Source Info) April 13, 2009: The Indian Army is readying the locally designed Arjun main battle tank (MBT) for combat manoeuvres in the western Rajasthan desert, due to start in May, in what is widely being interpreted as a showdown between the military and the tank's designer, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), over the system's future. The Indian Army has shown little interest in the Arjun, believing it will soon be obsolete. In July 2008, the Indian Army said it would cap Arjun's induction at 124 units, thus effectively putting an end to the Arjun MBT and its derivative Tank EX program. India's Ministry of Defence (MoD) plans to deliver the remainder of the 124 tanks to the Indian Army by 2009. The Arjun, which the DRDO has been developing for nearly 37 years and which the army has consistently rejected because of performance issues, will also be put through comparative trials with the proven Russian T-72M1 and T-90S MBTs, which constitute the backbone of the country's armoured formations. Two Arjun squadrons, or around 40-45 tanks, from the 43rd Armoured Regiment based at Suratgarh will conduct the trials, which are a prerequisite to the army formally clearing the Arjun for induction and determining its eventual operational role.
U.S. Air Force Officials Take Delivery Of First MC-12
(NSI News Source Info) WICHITA, Kan. - April 13, 2009: Winning the fight from up high just got more advanced since the recent delivery of the MC-12 Project Liberty special mission turboprop aircraft. The MC-12 is the first of its kind for the Air Force and is set to venture downrange in May. Lt. Gen. David Deptula, Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance and Brig. Gen. Blair E. Hansen, director of ISR Capabilities took delivery of the 16,500-pound special mission aircraft at the Hawker Beechcraft Corporation. The Project Liberty program is part of the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' ISR task force and derives from his direction to provide enhanced ISR capabilities to U.S. Central Command. The complexities of today's battlefield call for sophisticated capabilities and A2 intelligence officials said the MC-12 delivers. "The MC-12 brings additional electro-optical and infrared full-motion video and signals intelligence to troops on the ground," General Hansen said. "The initial MX-15i system to be installed on the first eight aircraft features an infrared pointer, which allows the aircraft to signal an object or building to a soldier wearing special goggles on the ground," he said. The general added that a planned future upgrade will provide a state-of-the-art laser designator and allow it to target a position with formidable precision. According to Hawker Beechcraft officials, the aircraft can provide more than eight hours of endurance and has the flexibility to loiter low and slow or cruise at 300 knots and 35,000 feet. Taking off with full fuel and payload, the MC-12 is uniquely equipped to perform medium-altitude surveillance for more than seven hours, fly back 100 nautical miles and still land with more than 45 minutes of fuel on board. The MC-12 will augment unmanned systems already flying reconnaissance patrols over Iraq and Afghanistan. "We think this is a core mission of the United States Air Force--medium altitude ISR," General Hansen said. "Through their advanced technology and reliability, these aircraft will increase the number of combat air patrols downrange." Secretary Gates gave the green light to procure 37 MC-12 aircraft by the end of 2009.
Latin Leaders Will Push President Barack Obama To End Cuban Embargo At Summit
(NSI News Source Info) April 13, 2009: When Barack Obama arrives at the fifth Summit of the Americas this week, Cuba will be at the heart of the U.S. relationship with the rest of the hemisphere, exactly as it has been for half a century. While Latin American leaders split on many issues, they agree that Obama should lift the 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. From Venezuelan socialist Hugo Chavez to Mexico’s pro- business Felipe Calderon, leaders view a change in policy toward Cuba as a starting point for reviving U.S. relations with the region, which are at their lowest point in two decades. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner enjoys a coffee as her Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales delivers a speech suggesting that the United States should be given an ultimatum to lift its embargo on Cuba or see its ambassadors across Latin America expelled, during the South America and Caribbean Summit in Costa do Sauipe, Brazil. Morales said the incoming administration of President Barack Obama should be given a deadline for ending the economic sanctions in place against Cuba since 1962 or risk having US envoys declared personas non grata in Latin America. Obama, born six months before President John F. Kennedy imposed the embargo, isn’t prepared to support ending it. Instead, he will likely try to satisfy the leaders at the April 17-19 summit in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, with less ambitious steps -- such as repealing restrictions on family visits and remittances to Cuba that were imposed by former President George W. Bush. That would mesh with his stated goal of changing the perception of “U.S. arrogance” that he attributed to his predecessor in his sole policy speech on the region last May. “All of Latin America and the Caribbean are awaiting a change in policy toward Cuba,” Jose Miguel Insulz, Secretary General of the Washington-based Organization of American States, said in an interview. “They value what Obama has promised, but they want more.” Symbolically Important Cuba, the only country in the hemisphere excluded from the 34-nation summit, is symbolically important to the region’s leaders, many of whom entered politics under military regimes and looked to Cuba and its longtime leader Fidel Castro, 82, for inspiration and support. Even though most countries shun the communist policies of Castro and his brother, now-President Raul Castro, the U.S. alone in the hemisphere rejects diplomatic and trade relations with the island. “Cuba represents a 50-year policy failure in Latin America and that’s why it’s so important for Obama to address it now,” says Wayne Smith, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington, who headed the State Department’s Cuba interest section in Havana from 1979-1982. “Unless Obama wants to be booed off the stage, he better come with fresh ideas.” The U.S. president, 47, thinks it would be “unfortunate” if Cuba is the principal theme at the summit and would prefer the session focus instead on the economy, poverty and the environment, says Jeffrey Davidow, the White House’s top adviser for the meeting. Obama also understands that he can’t control the discussion and intends to deal with the other leaders as partners, Davidow told reporters on April 6. Past Protests That should be enough to avoid a repeat of the circus atmosphere surrounding the previous summit, held in 2005 in Argentina, when 30,000 protesters led by Chavez and Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona burned an effigy of Bush. Obama will also benefit from the U.S.’s decision to take off the table its earlier proposal for a free-trade area spanning the Americas, an issue that divided countries at the four previous summits starting in 1994. Still, Obama’s meeting with Chavez, who last month called the U.S. president an “ignoramus” when it comes to Latin America, has the potential to generate a few sparks. To defuse the tension, Obama may say the U.S. is seeking good relations with governments across the political spectrum, says Peter Hakim, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based research group. Chavez, 54, joined Bolivian President Evo Morales, an ally, in expelling the U.S. ambassadors to their countries in September for alleged interference in domestic politics. ‘Unpredictable’ Chavez “The main concern at this point for the U.S. is the unpredictability of Chavez,” Hakim says. U.S. influence in Latin America waned under Bush as the war on terror diverted attention to the Middle East while the region expanded economic and diplomatic ties with Russia, China and other outside-the-hemisphere powers. In December, Brazil hosted the first-ever, region-wide summit of Latin American and Caribbean nations that excluded the U.S. The summit reinforced other initiatives such as the Union of South American Nations, which was formed by 12 countries to mediate regional conflicts, bypassing the OAS. Taking the “minor step” of easing travel restrictions to Cuba, a campaign pledge Obama made almost a year ago, may not satisfy the region’s increasingly assertive leaders, Julia Sweig, director of the Latin America program at the Council on Foreign Relations, said in an interview from Washington. ‘A Lot on the Table’ “The Cubans are putting a lot on the table,” says Sweig, the author of two books on Cuba, including the forthcoming “Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know.” “The U.S. should test their intentions.” From Havana to the halls of Congress, momentum for a detente is building. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, urged Obama last month to begin direct talks with the Cuban government and end U.S. opposition to its membership in the OAS. Other bills would lift travel restrictions for all U.S. citizens. Last week, the Cuban American National Foundation, the leading organization for Cuban exiles, which is headed by a veteran of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, urged a “new direction” in policy toward Cuba and expressed backing for several of Obama’s proposals. U.S. public opinion favors normalizing relations 59 percent to 29 percent, according to a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll taken Jan. 27-28. The poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points. Meeting With Fidel Fidel Castro last week met with seven U.S. lawmakers and in a column published on the Internet said Cuba “doesn’t fear dialogue with the U.S.” Manuel Marrero Faz, senior oil adviser at the Ministry of Basic Industries, said in an interview this month that U.S. oil companies, expropriated on the island in 1960, would be welcomed back to drill if the embargo ends. Obama said in May he’s taking his cues from predecessor Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s “Good Neighbor” policy, announced in 1933, temporarily ended a long history of U.S. armed intervention in Latin America and ushered in an era of unprecedented hemispheric prosperity. For his effort, Roosevelt was praised in a 1936 calypso, “FDR in Trinidad,” commemorating his stopover in the Caribbean island during a 28-day cruise to Latin America. Obama, who has yet to set foot in the region, is already the subject of 20 steel-drum tunes, says Ray Funk, a calypso expert in Fairbanks, Alaska. The most widely played, Funk says, is one called “Barack the Magnificent.”
China Offers Funds To Boost Asean
(NSI News Source Info) April 13, 2009: China has unveiled plans to establish a $10bn (£6.8bn) investment fund for south-east Asian countries. It has also offered credit of $15bn to the Association of South-East Asian Nations, or Asean. Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao had planned to announce the fund at the cancelled Asean summit this weekend. China's premier Wen Jiabao (2nd L) meets unidentified officials, as he arrives at the U-Tapao military airport, some 170 km south-east of Bangkok on April 10, 2009 for the 14th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Summits held in nearby Pattaya. Hundreds of protesters massed in the Thai beach resort of Pattaya where Asian leaders are holding a major summit April 10 to 12, opening a new front in rallies against the country's prime minister. Asean was set up in 1967 in part to counter influence from communist China but has since become a vehicle for close ties. The collapse of the Asean summit, scheduled in Pattaya, Thailand, this weekend, delayed the conclusion of a key investment agreement between China and the economic bloc. That deal is intended to create the world's largest free trade area, covering nearly two-billion people. China funds China's Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi, announced the new funding plans in Beijing to a gathering of envoys from the 10 members of Asean - Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei, Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The $10bn investment fund was designed for cooperation on infrastructure construction, energy and resources, information and communications, China's state news agency Xinhua quoted Mr Yang as saying. Over the next three to five years, China planned to offer $15bn in credit, including loans with preferential terms of $1.7bn in aid for cooperation projects. China also planned to offer 270 million yuan ($39.7m) in special aid to Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar to meet urgent needs, inject $5m into the China-Asean Cooperation Fund, and donate $900,000 to the cooperation fund of Asean Plus-3, the side grouping of Asean plus China, Japan and the South Korea. Several South- East Asian economies rely heavily on exports to China. China said it would provide 300,000 tons of rice for the emergency East Asia rice reserve, and more government scholarships. "The overall thought for China-Asean cooperation is that the two sides should rise to difficulties in face of the grim global financial crisis, and make efforts to convert unprecedented challenge into opportunity for closer pragmatic cooperation and common development," Mr Yang said. Region watching China has played a larger role in recent years in the export-dependent economies of South East Asia, as a market for goods and raw materials and as a source of investment. It has been active in building roads and other transport links through Laos, Burma and Cambodia, linking southern China to South East Asian resources and ports. During the financial crisis of 1997-98, China also offered support to South East Asian economies. Analysts have noted that while its economic role is increasing, Asean remains strategically linked to the stronger military power of the US. Tensions persist between China and the many south-east Asian claimants to groups of islands in the South China Sea.
President Barack Obama's Brother Refused UK Entry Over Alleged Sex Assault
(NSI News Source Info) April 13, 2009: The brother of President Obama has been refused a visa to re-enter Britain after being questioned by police over an accusation of attempted sexual assault and receiving a caution for a public order offense. Samson Obama — one of the president’s 11 half-brothers and sisters — is alleged to have been living illegally in Britain when he was arrested in Berkshire last November. A group of girls, one aged 13, told police a man approached them and followed them into a cafe a mile from the home of Samson Obama’s mother in Bracknell. Obama, 41, was questioned by Thames Valley Police for several hours, during which his fingerprints and a DNA sample were taken. He is alleged to have told detectives that he was Henry Aloo, a genuine asylum-seeker, but gave the address of his own mother, Kezia. Obama denied any sexual assault, but is reported to have accepted an official caution for a public order offense. A caution is an admission of a criminal offense. Police were reported to have also discovered that Obama had been living illegally in Britain for seven years. Obama was refused permission to re-enter Britain at Heathrow in January while travelling from his home in Kenya to Washington for his brother’s inauguration. An immigration officer used his discretionary powers to allow him to remain “airside” in the terminal overnight before catching his connecting flight to Washington. A source at the UK Border Agency said that Obama originally applied for a visa at the High Commission in Nairobi in January. He withdrew the application before flying to America for the inauguration. On returning from Washington, Obama reinstated his application for a visa. President Obama’s stepbrother-in-law, Ian Manners, said that Samson Obama insisted that the allegations linking him to a sex attack were “absolute lies.” Obama told him: “I was involved in a pub fight which had nothing to do with any young girls.” Barack Obama with his half-brother Samson. Samson Obama was travelling from Kenya to his half-brother's presidential inauguration ceremony in January when he tried to enter the country at East Midlands Airport for a short break but he was stopped by immigration officers. Using biometric tests, they discovered that he was linked to a serious crime in Britain last November, according to the News of the World. Obama, who runs a mobile phone shop in Nairobi, claimed he could not recall why the fight occurred. “It seems he was drunk but I don’t really know what the truth is,” said Manners “Abo is not married but is in a relationship with a woman. He is a bit of a playboy but would not get involved with 13-year-old girls. It is unthinkable.”
Somali Pirates Vow Revenge After Captain Rescued
(NSI News Source Info) MOGADISHU, Somalia - April 13, 2009: Somali pirates on Monday vowed to retaliate for the deaths of three colleagues who were shot dead by U.S. Navy snipers hours before in a daring nighttime assault that freed a 53-year-old American captain. A US Navy April 12, 2009 handout photo shows Maersk-Alabama Capt. Richard Phillips (R), stands alongside Lt. Cmdr. David Fowler, commanding officer of USS Bainbridge after being rescued by U.S Naval Forces off the coast of Somalia. Philips was held hostage for four days by pirates. The Navy Seals late Sunday rescued freighter Capt. Richard Phillips, who had been held by pirates on a lifeboat that drifted in the Indian Ocean for five days. "Every country will be treated the way it treats us," said Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding a Greek ship anchored in the pirate den of Gaan, a central Somali town. "In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying," he told The Associated Press by telephone. "We will retaliate for the killings of our men." He gave no details and it was not clear in what way the pirates could retaliate, though some fear they could take their revenge on the hundreds of other foreign nationals they hold on seized ships. The rescue dealt a blow to pirates who regularly seize passing ships and hold them captive until multimillion dollar ransoms are paid. But it is unlikely to help quell the region's growing pirate threat, which has turned the Gulf of Aden and the waterways along Somalia's coast into some of the most dangerous shipping lanes on the planet. Pirates currently hold more than a dozen foreign ships, most moored along the Horn of Africa nation's long coast, with about 230 foreign sailors from Russia to the Philippines. The American rescue followed a similar operation Friday carried out by French navy commandos, who stormed a pirate-held sailboat, the Tanit, in a shootout at sea that killed two pirates and freed four French hostages. The French owner of the vessel was also killed in the assault. Residents of the Somali town of Harardhere said tensions were growing there. Abdullahi Haji Jama, who owns a clothing store in the town, said: "We fear that the pirates may retaliate against the foreign nationals they are holding." But he also said people feared "any revenge taken by the pirates against foreign nationals could bring more attacks from the foreign navies, perhaps on our villages." Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, said the American operation "could escalate violence in this part of the world, no question about it." Jamac Habeb, a 30-year-old self-proclaimed pirate, told The Associated Press that the three pirates' deaths were "a painful experience." Speaking from the pirate hub, Eyl, he added: "this will be a good lesson for us." "From now on, if we capture foreign ships and their respective countries try to attack us, we will kill them," Habeb said. "Now they became our number one enemy," he said of U.S. forces. So far, at least, it has been rare for Somali pirates to harm captive foreign crews. Several years ago, a crew member of a Taiwanese fishing boat hijacked for six months was killed by pirates, but no reason was given but it appeared to be an isolated incident, according to Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. No reason was given but it appeared to be an isolated incident, he said. Somalia has been engulfed in fighting and anarchy since the 1991 overthrow of Siad Barre, and remains today a country with no effective government, a nation ruled by tribal clans. The piracy scourge appears to have evolved partly out of an attempt by Somali fishermen to protect their waters against illegal foreign trawlers who were destroying their livelihoods. Some of the vigilantes morphed into pirates, lured by the large profits they could win in ransoms. Somalia's prime minister welcomed the U.S. Navy's operation Sunday. "The Somali government wanted the drama to end in a peaceful way, but anyone who is involved in this latest case had the choice to use violence or other means," Abdulkhadir Walayo, the prime minister's spokesman, told The Associated Press. "Anyway, we see it will be a good lesson for the pirates or anyone else involved in this dirty business." Pirates were defiant though, vowing the events would not stop them form seizing more ships. One pirate vowed the events would not stop them from targeting more ships. "The mere killing of three and capturing one will not make us change our mind," said one pirate holding a German ship anchored in the Somali town of Harardhere who refused to give his name. "We are determined to continue our business regardless of the recent killings and arrests."
US Tells GM To Prepare For Bankruptcy Filing
(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - April 13, 2009: The U.S. Treasury Department is directing General Motors to lay the groundwork for a bankruptcy filing by June 1, even though the automaker has publicly stated it could reorganize outside of court, The New York Times reported on Sunday. GM is operating under emergency U.S. government loans. It has been told by the Obama administration's task force overseeing its bailout that it must cut costs and reduce its debts in order to continue to receive aid. The White House-appointed autos task force has given GM 60 days to come up with a restructuring plan and it is trying to determine whether the automaker can be a viable company. Quoting sources who had been briefed on the GM plans, the Times said the goal was to prepare for a fast "surgical" bankruptcy. The newspaper said preparations are aimed at assuring a GM bankruptcy filing is ready if the company is unable to reach agreement with bondholders to exchange roughly $28 billion in debt into equity in GM and with the United Automobile Workers union. A plan under consideration would create a new company that would buy the "good" assets of GM after the carmaker files for bankruptcy, the Times said. Less desirable assets, including unwanted brands, factories and health care obligations, would be left in the old company, which could be liquidated over several years, according to the paper. Treasury officials are examining one potential outcome in which the viable GM enters and exits bankruptcy protection in as little as two weeks, using $5 billion to $7 billion in federal financing, a person briefed on the matter told the Times. The Times sources declined to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the process. Both GM and Treasury Department officials declined to comment, the newspaper said. Last week, GM's chief executive said the automaker wanted to restructure out of court, but also preparing for a bankruptcy filing.
World Powers Agree UN Draft Statement On North Korea
(NSI News Source Info) UNITED NATIONS - April 13, 2009: Six world powers have agreed a draft UN Security Council statement, condemning North Korea's rocket launch, diplomats said on Sunday. Five permanent council members and Japan agreed on Saturday to the draft statement seen as a compromise between the supporters of tough measures against North Korea and restrained response to the communist regime's rocket launch. According to the draft, the UN Security Council condemns the rocket launch by North Korea on April 5, 2009, which is in contravention of Security Council Resolution 1718. The UN Security Council could vote on the draft statement as early as Monday. Pyongyang launched on April 5 a multistage rocket that it said was carrying a communications satellite, defying pressure from the United States, Japan, South Korea and other countries, which suspect the launch was a cover for the test of a Taepodong-2 long-range missile. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that Moscow was concerned by Pyongyang's recent rocket launch, but believed that imposing sanctions against North Korea would be counterproductive.
ASEAN Leaders Dismayed At Cancellation
(NSI News Source Info) April 13, 2009: Thai soldiers have fired tear gas to disperse anti-government protesters blocking a road in Bangkok, where a state of emergency is in force.
In a midnight speech to the Thai cabinet, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva called on people to respect the rule of law.A supporter of ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra wave a national flag at riot troops guarding a road in Bangkok April 13, 2009. The Thai army cracked down on anti-government protesters on Monday, firing warning shots at a major junction in the capital at demonstrators who responded by hurling petrol bombs.
But officials now say at least 49 people have been injured.
Australia's prime minister, Kevin Rudd, was one of the leaders hoping that the East Asia Summit would produce real results.An anti-government demonstrator sets a fire near downtown Monday, April 13, 2009, in Bangkok, Thailand. Thai authorities have declared a state of emergency shutting down rail service as soldiers continue to battle anti-government demonstrators.
Kevin Rudd, like many of the regions leaders, was caught out by the events in Thailand which led to the abrubt cancellation of the planned East Asia summit.
Mr Rudd was on a government plane travelling to Thailand when the decision was made to cancel the summit, and Mr Rudd's plane turned around and came back to Australia.
For the Australian prime minister it is a lost opportunity on a number of issues he wished to pursue with other leaders of the region.
Bangladesh Government Decides To Form 'Joint Working Group' With UK
(NSI News Source Info) April 13, 2009: The government yesterday decided in principle to form a Joint Working Group (JWG) on counter terrorism with the UK next month for exchanging information and training on counter-terrorism. The decision came at an inter-ministerial meeting between Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, state ministers and high-ups of foreign and home ministries. A student reads from koran at a madrasa in Dhaka April 2, 2009. Bangladesh will bring thousands of unregistered Islamic schools under the education ministry to curb militancy, a government minister said on Wednesday. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) will be signed between the two countries during UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Security and Counter-terrorism) Lord West of Spithead’s visit to Bangladesh next month, said government sources. State Minister for foreign affairs Dr Hasan Mahmud and State Minister for home Tanjim Ahmed Sohel Taj, Home Secretary Abdus Sobhan Sikder and Foreign Secretary Md Touhid Hossain attended the meeting at the foreign ministry. Various issues including counter-terrorism, border security, money laundering, the funding of militant organisations, human and drug trafficking were also discussed at the meeting. “If everything goes along well, the memorandum of understanding will be signed next month,” the home secretary told The Daily Star. The MoU will be based on five aspects — civil aviation security, international and regional cooperation on counter terrorism, border security and management, crisis and consequence management. Both the sides will share information on the matters after the MoU is inked. But before signing the MoU, both the sides will exchange draft proposals on the JWG. Bangladesh will soon convey its decision to the home ministry of UK and seek a draft proposal on the matter. After scrutinising the UK proposal, the government will ask for the UK government’s opinion on the modality of the JWG, sources said. Besides, Bangladesh will also evaluate the JWG that UK signed with India and Pakistan. The home ministers of the two countries will lead the JWG comprised of officials from the foreign and home ministries, law enforcement and security agencies of respective countries. Last year British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith stressed the need for a JWG for strengthening cooperation between Bangladesh and UK to combat terrorism. “Terrorism is a regional and international problem and a single country cannot counter it alone. Joint Working Group with other nations can help a country check terrorism,” Home Secretary Abdus Sobhan Sikder told The Daily Star. The proposal for forming a JWG came from the UK side during the tenure of the last caretaker government. The main objectives of the JWG will be to share assessment of international terrorism situation, discuss measures to strengthen bilateral cooperation and multilateral efforts in combating terrorism, home ministry sources said. Inspector General of Police Nur Mohammad, DGFI Director General (DG) Maj Gen Mollah Fazle Akbar, NSI DG Brig Gen (retd) Manzur Ahmed and Rab DG Hassan Mahmood Khandker, among others, were present.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 'Ready For Peace Talks'
(NSI News Source Info) April 13, 2009: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has told Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas he intends to resume talks and co-operation to promote peace. It was their first contact since Mr Netanyahu took office on 31 March. Mr Abbas initiated the telephone call, which Mr Netanyahu's office described as "friendly and warm". The new Israeli leader has not publicly endorsed the creation of a fully independent Palestinian state - a fundamental demand of the Palestinians. An Israeli statement said that during his conversation with Mr Abbas, Mr Netanyahu "recalled their past co-operation and conversations, and how he intended to resume this in the future in order to advance peace". 'Not binding' Mr Netanyahu leads a right-leaning coalition, which combines the centre-right, centre-left and far-right parties. Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and fellow member, Israel Katz (L), greet supporters as they head to the polls to select the party's Knesset list, at Tel Aviv's fairgrounds on January 12, 2006. Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Lebanon's Shiite fundamentalist movement Hezbollah and a nemesis of Israel, "deserves death," Israel Katz, Israeli transport minister and a close to hawkish premier Benjamin Netanyahu told army radio on April 12, 2009. His remarks came several days after Egypt's prosecutor announced the arrest of 49 people linked with Hezbollah, suspected of planning attacks in Egypt. Nasrallah confirmed on March 10 that one of those detained, Sami Shihab, is a member of Hezbollah, but denied seeking to destabilise the country, saying the man was responsible for helping transport arms to the Hamas rulers in Gaza. During his campaign, he said he was willing to negotiate with the Palestinians but that it was premature to talk of statehood. Instead, he offered Palestinians "economic peace". Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who leads the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, has dismissed past peace initiatives by US administrations. He has also said the previous Israeli government's acceptance of Palestinian statehood was not binding. On Saturday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat reiterated his administration's position that that for peace talks to resume, Israel must declare its support for a two-state solution.
Pakistani 'Terror Plot Suspects' To Be Deported Rather Than Charged
(NSI News Source Info) April 13, 2009: Most of the Pakistani men arrested last week in an anti-terrorist operation will be deported rather than charged, senior counter-terrorism sources told The Times last night. (Photo: Haji Hazrat Ali with a portrait of his son Mohammad Ramzan) Officials in London and Islamabad said that Britain had begun seeking assurances about how the men would be treated if they were returned to Pakistan. “The British wanted to be reassured that if some of these men were deported they would not face torture,” an informed source in Pakistan said. One of the 12 men detained, an 18-year-old, has been freed from anti-terrorist detention and is in the custody of immigration officials. Investigators are concerned that they have not found any firm evidence linking the men to terrorist attack plans. A source close to the inquiry said: “There is already talk of coming up empty-handed and there is terrible infighting between the different forces involved.” Operation Pathway, the codename for the inquiry, has already led to the resignation of Britain’s most senior anti-terrorist officer, Bob Quick, after he accidentally revealed details of the arrest plans to photographers in Downing Street. If it results in deportations rather than charges, it will also embarrass the Prime Minister, who said that the police were dealing with “a very big terrorist plot” and had criticised Pakistan for not doing more to tackle Islamist terrorism. The latest discussions between London and Islamabad were disclosed as news emerged from Pakistan that its anti-terrorist agencies had been holding a British convert to Islam for two weeks. James McLintock, 44, was detained in Peshawar, from where many of the men arrested in Britain come, and is being questioned about helping British Muslim militants to make contacts in Pakistan. Pakistani and British officials said that the arrest of Mr McLintock, from Dundee, was not linked to the continuing terrorism investigation in Britain. The last time he came to the attention of the British authorities, however, was in late 2003 when he was questioned by anti-terrorist police in Manchester, the city at the heart of the plot allegations. The family of a man studying at Liverpool John Moores University said they believed that their son had been arrested and appealed for his release. Relatives of Mohammad Ramzan, from Dera in Pakistan, said that they had been unable to contact him since last week. Haji Hazrat Ali, his father, told Associated Press that Mr Ramzan, 25, travelled to Britain in 2006 and was studying for an MBA. Mr Ali said: “He is a very humble, gentle boy and always concentrates on his studies. I firmly believe he simply cannot be involved in any negative activity.” The operation in Britain has been running covertly for several weeks and went public last Wednesday, within hours of Mr Quick’s blunder, with dramatic daylight raids in Manchester, Liverpool and Clitheroe, Lancashire. The remaining 11 detainees, 10 of whom are believed to be Pakistani nationals visiting Britain on student visas, are being questioned at police stations across the North of England. Detectives have been granted a further seven days to detain the suspects, who range in age from 22 to 41. They can be questioned for a maximum of 28 days before they have to be charged or released. The investigation is a joint operation between the North-West Counter-terrorism Unit, Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command and MI5, and involved Merseyside and Lancashire constabularies. The involvement of so many forces is said to have led to infighting and confusion over the command and direction of the inquiry.
India: BSF Acquires Eight Dhruv Helicopters
(NSI News Source Info) April 13, 2009: The Border Security Force (BSF) has embarked on a major expansion of its air wing in a bid to give a thrust to its border patrol and internal security roles in a context of stepped up vigil along the country’s borders. The force intends to add eight helicopters and three fixed-wing medium lift transport aircraft to its existing fleet. Plans afoot to acquire three transport aircraft as well. The fleet now includes six MI-17 helicopters, an Embraer, two King Air and two Avro aircraft.
“We are acquiring eight Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH). Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) started deliveries in March and our pilots are training in various academies in the country…,” M.L. Kumawat, the BSF Director General, told The Hindu in Chennai during an exclusive interaction recently. The Cabinet has given its nod for the BSF acquiring transport aircraft, and the force is considering its options. “In the meantime, we will hire aircraft from Air India to carry out the job,” said Mr. Kumawat.
Shortages overcome The air wing had hit an air pocket owing to dire shortage of pilots. This brought down the serviceability of its choppers to an all-time low. “Unfortunately, we had a shortage of pilots and were not in a position to fly more than one of our six helicopters at any given time. But things have turned around in the last couple of months and the situation is now looking up,” said Mr. Kumawat. “We have given our helicopters to the naxalite-affected States for surveillance and also to airlift counter-insurgency troops. They have also been used for action against Pakistan intruders, particularly fishermen who ventured into our territory regardless of warning. By means of slithering operations in the Sir Creek area, we have foiled their attempts and caught their assets. From intelligence gathered by the Air Force and the BSF, it is obvious that they are no longer coming into the Sir Creek area,” he said. However, the force continues to carry out aerial surveillance in the region to thwart attempts at seaborne infiltration.
Modernisation Regarding force modernisation, he said the government had granted Rs.3,500 crore over the last four years. “Besides, 20 more battalions, nine more sector headquarters and three more frontier headquarters have also been sanctioned. One frontier will only perform internal security duties, thereby providing our troopers, who remain mostly away from their families, an opportunity for rest and recuperation. Thus, we will have battalions stationed across the country, in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu and Thrissur in Kerala, to name a few.”
Betterment Among the soldier-friendly measures that are under way is betterment of living conditions in the border out posts (BOPs). “BOPs are to BSF what police stations are to the police. We want to make them congenial, liveable and worker-friendly,” said Mr. Kumawat. To achieve this goal, the force spent Rs.48 crore last year as against Rs.10 crore each in the past four years.
Gen. Raymond Odierno: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki To Decide On Troops In Cities
(NSI News Source Info) April 13, 2009: The top U.S. commander in Iraq said Sunday a decision on withdrawing American forces from Iraq's major cities by a June 30 deadline will be made by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki with U.S. military advice. President Barack Obama is greeted by Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, as he arrives in Baghdad, Tuesday, April 7, 2009. At center is U.S. Charge d Affaires Patricia Butenis. Gen. Raymond Odierno did not specifically say whether U.S. troops would leave Iraqi cities by the deadline, which is part of a plan for the gradual drawdown of American forces. Odierno contends that overall violence in Iraq remains at the low levels seen in the early months after the U.S. invasion in 2003. But he noted "there are still some elements" in Iraq able to conduct serious attacks on U.S. and Iraqi security forces. A roadside bomb killed an American soldier north of Baghdad on Sunday, the sixth U.S. combat death in the past three days. "So we will continue to conduct assessments along with the government of Iraq as we move forward (to) the June 30th deadline. If we believe that we'll need troops to maintain a presence in some of the cities, we'll recommend that, but, ultimately, it will the decision of Prime Minister Maliki," Odierno said. The deadline is included in an agreement negotiated between the governments of al-Maliki and former President George W. Bush last year. President Barack Obama plans to pull combat troops from the country by September 2010 and bring home the last of the force by the end of 2011. Odierno said the suicide bombing that killed five American troops in Mosul last week was a "tragic, tragic event," but did not presage a return to the violence that took the country to the verge of civil war in 2006 and 2007. "But this is not a significant increase in overall lack of security. There just are still some suicide bombers and those who profess suicide attacks that are still very dangerous," the four-star general said on CNN's "State of the Union." Questioned about his earlier opposition to an announced timeline for the U.S. withdrawal, Odierno noted that the Bush administration had since negotiated a pullout by the end of 2011 and that he was "comfortable" with that. "We will continue to train and advise. We'll continue to assist. We'll continue to conduct combat operations, where we believe it's necessary," Odierno said. "And I do believe, now, that it is probably the right time frame." A member of the Iraqi security forces stands guard at the entrance of the Kirkuk's Chaldean Cathedral during the Sunday Easter mass on April 12, 2009. Christians make up around three percent of Iraq's overwhelmingly Muslim 29 million population and are mostly concentrated in the relatively stable Kurdish autonomous north of the country. According to Christian leaders, 250,000 of the 800,000 Christians who lived in Iraq before the invasion six years ago that ousted dictator Saddam Hussein, have now left the country. Odierno took over control of U.S. forces from Gen. David Petraeus last year, about the same time that Ambassador Ryan Crocker left his post in Baghdad. Crocker has not been replaced because diplomat Christopher Hill, who had led American negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear ambitions, has not been confirmed by the Senate. "So, of course, it would be much better to have our ambassador here. We have a process that we have to go through to get our ambassadors confirmed. We're going through that process. Hopefully we'll have an ambassador out here very soon. It would certainly help to have an ambassador here as quickly as possible," Odierno said.
Thailand Faces Years Of Unrest, Say Analysts
(NSI News Source Info) BANGKOK - April 13, 2009: Thailand is destined for years of political unrest and uncertainty, analysts say, after protests triggered a state of emergency in Bangkok and forced the humiliating shutdown of a major summit.
The kingdom's colour-coded political turmoil was again thrust into the international spotlight when red-shirted anti-government activists stormed a high-profile meeting of Asian leaders on Saturday, forcing its cancellation.Thai soldiers stand guard near government house on April 12, 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday declared a state of emergency in the Bangkok and five neighbouring provinces, a day after anti-government protesters cancelled a 16-nation regional summit.
With the demonstrations escalating on Sunday, tanks deployed on the streets of Bangkok, reviving memories of the 2006 ouster of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra in a military coup, the trigger for three years of turmoil.
As the embattled current prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, announced that the protesters could face the use of force, analysts said the embarrassing cancellation of the summit in Pattaya would only result in more division.
"This summit incident will deepen the rifts in Thai society. Thailand will be divided and unstable for the next few years," said Somchai Phagaphasvivat, an academic at Thailand's respected Thammasat University.
"Anyone could become leader in the future - even a junta government."
Thaksin, living in exile avoiding jail for corruption but still influential, is at the centre of the rift: he is loved by the rural and urban poor, represented by the so-called "Red Shirts" who forced the closure of the summit.
On the other side is the powerful Bangkok-based cliques in the palace, military and bureaucracy, ostensibly represented by the "Yellow Shirts" who loathe the billionaire and side with the current Abhisit administration.
The British-born Abhisit has only been in power since December, when a court turfed out the previous pro-Thaksin government, but, like those before him, he has failed to come good on his promise to unite the country.
Thailand's fourth prime minister in the space of a year, analysts say Abhisit's own personal fate matters less than the need to find a long-term solution that will restore peace once and for all. Without it, tourists and foreign investors will increasingly be scared off by Thailand, observers say, further hurting the economy as it hurtles towards recession, which in turn would only result in more strife.
"The fact that the summit has been postponed now is humiliating for the government," said analyst Thitinan Pongsudhirak of Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.
"It shows the world that last year was not a one-off," Thitinan said, referring to protests against the then-government that saw yellow-shirted demonstrators force the closure of Bangkok's airports.
"This is going to go on for some time, this kind of mob rule," Thitinan added.
Another analyst said only reform of a political system dominated by patronage, provincial strongmen and the influence of a shadowy elite would provide the permanent stability the country so badly needs.
"Politics in Thailand is not a public affair, it is an extension of families and their cliques. This is the building block of the entire system," said Michael Nelson, a visiting academic at Chulalongkorn University.
"Then we have the other elite groups like the privy council (the advisors to King Bhumibol Adulyadej) and the military, and what they do behind the scenes - which is not for public consumption."
Pakistan: Militants Torch Supplies Bound For Troops in Afghanistan
(NSI News Source Info) PESHAWAR, Pakistan - April 13, 2009: Pakistani police say Taliban militants have set fire to about 10 trucks carrying cement to Western forces in neighboring Afghanistan. Authorities say the trucks were in terminals near the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. Officials say gun battles erupted at the scene early Sunday. Media reports say several guards or truck drivers were wounded in the attack.
Pakistani drivers push a half burnt truck after militants attack at a terminal on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan, on Sunday, April 12, 2009.
Militants in Pakistan frequently attack cargo terminals and other stops used by vehicles taking supplies to Western troops in land-locked Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass.A worker poses next to a burnt out military vehicle at a terminal on the outskirts of Peshawar April 12, 2009. Taliban militants set fire on Sunday to 10 container trucks carrying supplies to Western forces in Afghanistan in a pre-dawn attack near the Pakistani city of Peshawar, police said.
Scores of trucks have been damaged, while several people have died, adding urgency to the U.S. efforts to find safer routes.
People gather beside a truck carrying NATO supplies after it was burned by militants at a terminal in outskirt of Peshawar, Pakistan.
In other news, authorities say Pakistani filmmaker Satish Anand was freed by his captors Saturday, six months after he was abducted in Karachi. Media reports say he was released after a ransom payment was made. Six people have been detained in connection to the kidnapping.
Sri Lanka Military Declare Truce
(NSI News Source Info) April 13, 2009: The Sri Lankan military has announced a two-day ceasefire in its operations against Tamil Tiger rebels in the north-east of the country.Sri Lanka soldiers patrol the Puthukkudiyirippu area, where fighting between the Sri Lanka army and the Liberation Tamil Tigers Eelam (LTTE) has taken place, in northeast Sri Lanka. A government spokesman said there would be a halt in operations for the Sinhala and Tamil New Years on Monday and Tuesday. Its aim was to give tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the conflict zone time to flee. There has been no immediate response by the Tamil Tigers. Ethirajan Anbarasan reports from Colombo.
RAF'S Blunder And Lighting *By Neil Chandler Daily Star Sunday April 12, 2009 *Analysis: This is an article on F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) extracted/published in Daily Star Sunday April 12, 2009., which makes no sense. We like to add, while the United States is the primary customer and financial backer, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Turkey, Australia, Norway and Denmark have agreed to contribute US$4.375 billion toward the development costs of the program. Total development costs are estimated at more than US$40 billion (underwritten largely by the United States), while the purchase of an estimated 2,400 planes is expected to cost an additional US$200 billion. The nine major partner nations plan to acquire over 3,100 F-35s through 2035, making the F-35 one of the most numerous jet fighters. The United Kingdom is the sole *"Level 1" partner, contributing US$2.5 billion, about 10% of the development costs under the 1995 Memorandum of Understanding that brought the UK into the project. (DTN Defense-Technology News) (NSI News Source Info) April 13, 2009: THE £9 billion supersonic jump jet seen as the future of the RAF and Royal Navy will not fly properly in hot weather, say experts. British forces are still flying over hotspots Iraq and Afghanistan – and are expected to be involved in the latter conflict for decades. But early versions of the showpiece F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter are “very limited” in the heat. The new plane will replace the Harrier jump jet and also fly from the new £3.8billion aircraft carriers HMS Prince Of Wales and Queen Elizabeth. In America, F-35s are only doing limited flying in hot weather while the makers try to fix the problem. Sources have told the Daily Star Sunday that the £60million supersonic wonder jets will have limited range and may even have problems landing with weapons on board. That could mean pilots having to dump any bombs that have not been used. The F-35 risks overheating because designers want it to be “stealthy” – so it won’t show up on enemy radar. That means it can’t have the usual air scoops and vents to cool its engine, since they would show up as infra-red hotspots. So pilots need lots of fuel on board to keep the jet cool, restricting mission range. It is an even bigger headache for the British F-35B jump jet model, which already has less range than other versions because its big fan for hovering takes up a lot of fuel space. Defence Technology International editor-in-chief Bill Sweetman told us: “JSF in its current form will be very limited in hot-weather performance and modifications intended to fix the problem won’t start to be tested until 2011 or 2012. “But by that time the UK will be well down the road to building ships that can only operate JSFs.” The Ministry of Defence admits sorting the F-35 for hot weather is “a demanding task” but insists they are on top of the problem and “it is not a programme risk”.