Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NATO forces fire on militants in Pakistan

NATO forces fire on militants in Pakistan (NSI News Source Info) ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - November 18, 2008: The NATO-led alliance in Afghanistan said its troops fired at militants inside Pakistan in coordination with Pakistani soldiers. The distinction is a noteworthy one because Pakistan has, in recent months, complained that international forces were violating the country's sovereignty by going after militants inside its borders. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said Monday that the artillery fire Sunday was in response to an attack on an allied base in Paktika province, in eastern Afghanistan. Militants twice fired rockets into the base from across the border, the alliance said. Once ISAF soldiers pinpointed the origin of the rocket launches, they fired 20 artillery rounds in coordination with the Pakistani military. "ISAF and Pakistani soldiers observed all fired artillery rounds," an alliance statement issued on Monday said. "The Pakistan soldiers assured ISAF that they would engage any insurgents attempting to flee deeper into Pakistan." No NATO soldiers were hurt in the rocket attack. ISAF also re-released a statement from September that said its forces can fire back on militants in self-defense under an agreement with Pakistani authorities. About 40 countries have contributed troops to ISAF, which is charged with supporting the Afghan government in the battle against the Taliban and al Qaeda. Pakistan has repeatedly raised objections to violations of its sovereignty during the Afghan conflict. A U.S. ground operation in September left several Pakistani civilians dead, and unmanned American drones have carried out several missile strikes inside Pakistan that have resulted in many more casualties. The actions have not only rankled relations between the two countries, but Pakistan says the raids have undermined public support for its counterterrorism efforts. The U.S-led coalition and ISAF have been seeking a way to effectively battle militants who are launching attacks from Pakistan's swath of tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan. They have become frustrated with Islamabad over the years, saying it is not being proactive enough against militants -- a claim Pakistan denies. In western Afghanistan, coalition forces on Tuesday killed five militants and destroyed a weapons cache in Farah province, the U.S.-led coalition said. "The militants were tracked to a remote location about 75 kilometers northwest of Farah city where they were observed loading weapons into a vehicle from a weapons cache. Coalition aircraft used precision munitions to destroy the militants, weapons and vehicle. There were no civilians or man-made structures in the vicinity of the operation," the coalition said.

Moscow Mulls Purchase of Carrier Gorshkov

Moscow Mulls Purchase of Carrier Gorshkov
(NSI News Source Info) MOSCOW - November 18, 2008: The latest development in the saga that has been the modernization of the Admiral Gorshkov for the Indian Navy, Russian naval and defense industry officials have indicated that Russia may acquire the vessel if India is unwilling to provide the $2 billion needed to finance the extensive retrofit.
On November 13, Deputy General-Director of Sevmash (Severodvinsk Machine Building Enterprise) Sergey Novoselov told RIA Novosti new agency that, "On the market, the price of an aircraft carrier like that varies from three to four billion dollars. The renovations being done at the moment at Sevmash are worth 60-70 per cent of the cost of a new aircraft carrier. That's an approximate sum of up to two billion dollars. Of course, that figure needs refining."
"We are essentially constructing a new aircraft carrier at the open assembly berth of Sevmash. In the last two years, work has only proceeded thanks to internal loans. The construction of any vessel, especially one like this, needs constant and uninterrupted financing," he added, as quoted in the report.
When the contract for the Admiral Gorshkov was signed by Russia and India in 2004, the cost of modernizing the aircraft carrier was agreed at $617 million dollars, Novoselov said, adding that there was no-one to blame for the difference that has formed between the initial and current prices.
"If India won't pay the money, we will keep the aircraft carrier ourselves. It will be very useful to us, because the situation in the world is complicated. Vessels like that are needed to patrol the waters of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean," noted a Russian defense industry official. In such a scenario, Russia would have to compensate India for the money it has already spent on modernizing the vessel. "That's about 400 million dollars," the source said, as quoted in the RIA Novosti report.

Canada Orders 38 Additional MRAP Vehicles

Canada Orders 38 Additional MRAP Vehicles (NSI News Source Info) LADSON, S.C. - November 18, 2008: Force Protection, Inc. today announced that it has received a modification under contract M67854-07-C-5039 for the delivery of 14 of its Buffalo A2 route-clearance vehicles and 34 of its Cougar vehicles to the Canadian Government.
Buffalo A2 route-clearance vehicles
The undefinitized contract modification carries a dollar value not to exceed $49.4 million and includes vehicles, spare parts and field support. The vehicles are scheduled for delivery in 2009. This represents the second order for Force Protection vehicles by the Canadian Government. In 2007, Force Protection delivered five Buffalo and five Cougar vehicles for the Canadian Expeditionary Force Command. Michael Moody, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Force Protection, stated, “Our NATO allies continue to face threats from roadside bombs, landmines and many other types of improvised explosive devices. We are delighted that the Canadian military will be receiving this life saving equipment for use in supporting their operations in the global war on terror. This order further solidifies our belief that the Cougar and Buffalo are proving to be the most survivable, sustainable vehicles on the battlefield. We are very pleased that the Canadian government has chosen to procure additional vehicles from Force Protection.” Force Protection, Inc. is a leading American designer, developer and manufacturer of life saving survivability solutions, predominantly ballistic- and blast-protected wheeled vehicles currently deployed by the U.S. military and its allies to support armed forces and security personnel in conflict zones. The Company’s specialty vehicles, the Cougar, the Buffalo and the Cheetah, are designed specifically for reconnaissance, forward command and control, and urban operations and to protect their occupants from landmines, hostile fire, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs, commonly referred to as roadside bombs). The Company is one of the original developers and primary providers of vehicles for the U.S. military’s Mine Resistant Ambush Protected, or MRAP, vehicle program.

Eurofighter Test Fleet Surpasses 6,000 Flying Hours

Eurofighter Test Fleet Surpasses 6,000 Flying Hours
(NSI News Source Info) HALLBERGMOOS, Germany - November 18, 2008: The international test fleet of Eurofighter Typhoon surpassed the 6,000 Flying Hours mark recently. With flight testing now focusing on further enhancements of Eurofighter Typhoon, recent major highlights were the conclusion of in-flight refuelling trials of the Italian Air Force and Alenia Aeronautica with KC-130J Hercules tankers and the beginning of similar trials of the German Air Force, the German Operational Test Centre Wehrtechnische Dienststelle 61 and EADS with Airbus A310 MRTT (Multi-Role Tanker Transport).
Also the first phase of flight tests for Phase 1 Enhancements were concluded at Alenia with IPA2 flying air-to-surface weapon Paveway IV in various configurations for flutter trials. Further trials will follow on IPA1 at BAE Systems and IPA4 at EADS CASA with Paveway IV and the 1000lb dual mode precision guided EGBU-16 bomb. The test data gained in these trials will allow the air vehicle aspects of the P1E capability development to be progressed.
The current test fleet consists of six Instrumented Production Aircraft plus one Instrumented Series Production Aircraft (ISPA1), while IPA3 is on loan to EADS for a flight evaluation in Switzerland.
Eurofighter Typhoon is the world's most advanced new generation multi-role/swing-role combat aircraft available on the market and has been ordered by six nations (Germany, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, Austria and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia). With 707 aircraft under contract, it is Europe's largest military collaborative programme and delivers leading-edge technology, strengthening Europe's aerospace industry in the global competition. More than 100,000 jobs in 400 companies are secured by the programme.
Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH manages the programme on behalf of the Eurofighter Partner Companies Alenia Finmeccanica, BAE Systems, EADS CASA and EADS Deutschland, Europe's foremost aerospace companies with a total turnover of EUR 72.8 billion (2007).

Sikorsky Flies First CH-148 Cyclone Helicopter

Sikorsky Flies First CH-148 Cyclone Helicopter (NSI News Source Info) WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - November 18, 2008: The first CH-148 Cyclone helicopter, which is being developed by Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. for the Canadian government as a replacement for its long-serving SEA KING helicopter fleet, has completed its first flight successfully at Sikorsky's Development Flight Center in Florida. Sikorsky is a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp.
The CH-148 Cyclone will replace the CH-124 Sea King as Canada’s main ship-borne maritime helicopter. This state-of-the-art aircraft will fill the Canadian Forces’ operational demands well into the 21st century
The flight occurred Saturday, Nov. 15. Steered by Sikorsky Test Pilots John Armbrust and Rick Becker using state-of-the-art, fly-by-wire technology, the aircraft hovered and accomplished low-speed handling tasks including forward flight at speeds reaching 30 knots, and sideward and rearward maneuvers. The helicopter, Tail No. 801, will continue to undergo a series of increasingly demanding flight tests leading up to certification and production deliveries. Sikorsky will build 28 CH-148 helicopters for the Canadian government. "The CH-148 helicopter will be a world leader in sophistication and capability for maritime helicopters," said Program Manager Dan Hunter. "Today's successful first flight represents a huge milestone, transitioning the program from the prototype build to the flight test stage. The aircraft performed beautifully, easily achieving each maneuver attempted. We're extremely pleased." The CH-148 helicopter represents the next step in Sikorsky's long planned extension of the S-92 helicopter into the H-92 helicopter product line. It is equipped with a fully digital, fly-by-wire system designed to improve significantly the aircraft's maneuverability, safety and effectiveness. The CH-148 helicopter further builds upon Sikorsky's rugged S-92 helicopter, which meets the most demanding safety standards in North America and Europe. Among the most sophisticated rotary wing aircraft in the world, the production CH-148 helicopter will be an extremely versatile, multi-mission aircraft with capabilities including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, search and rescue, and troop and cargo transport. It will be fully equipped for ship-based operations including automatic blade and tail fold systems and a deck to aircraft recovery assist system. Capitalizing on proven S-92 helicopter capabilities that include a glass cockpit with advanced avionics, systems allowing flight into known icing conditions, flaw tolerant components and state-of-the-art search and rescue equipment, the CH-148 helicopter will incorporate additional mission systems including Forward- Looking Infrared Radar (FLIR), 360 degree search radar, passive and active acoustics systems, threat surveillance and countermeasure capabilities, and network link communications. "The stringent qualification and certification standards of the S-92 helicopter will be further extended through the Canadian military certification process resulting in an aircraft that will meet the most exacting civil and military standards in the world," said Hunter. "Its proven and expanded design focused on reliability, maintainability and safety will provide operational capabilities at world-class life cycle support cost levels." Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., based in Stratford, Conn., is a world leader in helicopter design, manufacture and service. United Technologies Corp., based in Hartford, Connecticut, provides a broad range of high technology products and support services to the aerospace and building systems industries.

U.S. Marines Order More M72A7 Anti-Armor Weapons

U.S. Marines Order More M72A7 Anti-Armor Weapons (NSI News Source Info) November 18, 2008: Nammo Talley Defense, Inc., Mesa, Ariz., is being awarded a $15,460,047 firm fixed price contract for the procurement of 7,750 units of Light Weight Anti Armor Weapons rockets, M72A7, to replenish stockpiles. The M72A7, DODIC HA29, is a man-portable, shoulder launched rocket designed to destroy armored vehicles and covered enemy fighting positions. Work will be performed in Mesa, Ariz., (70 percent); Camden, Miss., (16 percent); and Davidsville, Pa., (14 percent), and is expected to be completed by Apr. 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured - sole source announced via Navy Electronic Commerce Office. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity (M67854-09-C-1003).

Portuguese Air Force (Força Aérea Portuguesa, FAP) Receives First C-295M Aircraft

Portuguese Air Force (Força Aérea Portuguesa, FAP) Receives First C-295M Aircraft (NSI News Source Info) November 18, 2008: The Minister of National Defence, Nuno Severiano Teixeira, will today Nov. 18 preside over the ceremony marking the delivery of the first C-295M aircraft to the Portuguese air force (Força Aérea Portuguesa, FAP). The ceremony will take place at Getafe air base, Madrid.
The new C-295 is a stretched derivative of the CN-235 transporter
The C-295M acquisition program, part of the current Military Program Law, is intended to provide the FAP with modern aircraft having high capabilities and operational versatility, and adequate levels of safety and protection. To equip the FAP, Portugal is acquiring 12 tactical transport aircraft (Aeronaves de Transporte Táctico), of which five configured for maritime patrol and surveillance, from the Spanish aerospace manufacturer EADS-CASA. The C-295M fleet will gradually replace the fleet of CASA C-212 Aviocars currently in service. The useful payload and range of the C-295M are more than triple those of the C-212. The C-295M made its first flight in 1998, and is currently operated by 11 air forces throughout the world. While in Getafe, Defence Minister Nuno Severiano Teixeira will hold a bilateral meeting with his Spanish counterpart, Carme Chacón Piqueras, who will also attend the delivery ceremony. The Minister of Defence will return to Lisbon in late afternoon.

RUAG Says Dornier 228 New-Gen On Track

RUAG Says Dornier 228 New-Gen On Track
(NSI News Source Info) November 18, 2008: RUAG Aerospace is on track with its Dornier 228 NG (New Generation) relaunch project. After a successfully completed test programme for the new 5-blade propellers the production facility of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in India has also been subjected to a successful auditing by the German Federal Office of Civil Aeronautics (LBA). The partner company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in Kanpur/India was successfully audited in October 2008 by the LBA, by order of EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency).
The production of structural assemblies for the new Dornier 228 NG aircraft is now running at full speed. Aircraft final assembly and outfitting of the aircraft components will be done at RUAG Aerospace in Oberpfaffenhofen/Germany.
The first items will be anticipated there in the first quarter of 2009. Furthermore, RUAG Aerospace can announce an additional customer of the Dornier 228 NG. Early in November 2008 a letter of contract was made with the Mexican Air Cancun for two aircraft, one aircraft as a firm-fixed order and one as an option. The aircraft planned for delivery late in 2010 and early in 2011 will be used by a large travel firm on the Yucatan peninsula.

BVT Launches Fourth Type 45 Destroyer For Royal Navy

BVT Launches Fourth Type 45 Destroyer For Royal Navy
(NSI News Source Info) November 18, 2008: The Royal Navy's latest addition to the Type 45 destroyer fleet, to be called HMS Dragon, roared its way into the Clyde from BVT's shipyard at Govan today, complete with an 18 metre long Welsh Dragon attached to its bow. Dragon will join her sister ships as one of the largest and most powerful warships in the world. As well as providing air defence over a wide area, including for the future aircraft carriers, the Type 45s will be highly versatile and able to conduct a variety of operations. They will be able to carry up to sixty Royal Marines Commandos and their equipment and operate a Chinook sized helicopter from the flight deck. Minister of State for Defence Equipment and Support, Quentin Davies said: "I am delighted to be here today to witness the launch of our latest destroyer Dragon. She is a fine example of the UK's shipbuilding prowess and will boost the Royal Navy's capability when she enters service in 2012. "These are exciting times for shipbuilding here in the UK and today's launch marks another milestone in the T45 programme. Work for the Type 45 Destroyers and the Future Aircraft Carriers is sustaining thousands of jobs, not just here in Scotland but across the country. I look forward to watching Dragon's progress as she undergoes her sea trials next year." Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, Commander in Chief Fleet, said: "The launch of Dragon is another important landmark in delivering future Royal Navy capability. We are in the middle of the largest procurement programme for the Royal Navy in many years and today's event underlines the importance of the Royal Navy in the 21st Century. "The Type 45 destroyers will be powerful and versatile ships, capable of undertaking a wide range of military tasks. They are based on first-class innovation and engineering which will set new standards in air defence and they will ensure that the Royal Navy remains at the forefront of the world's navies." Complete with the latest upgrade to satellite communications systems, the destroyer will carry the world-leading PAAMS system (Principal Anti-Air Missile System) allowing it to defend high value ships from the most dangerous air threats, including multiple attacks by sophisticated anti-ship missiles. Speaking after the launch, Alan Johnston CBE, CEO of BVT Surface Fleet said: "The launch of Dragon is an excellent opportunity to celebrate the progress that is being made on this programme here on the Clyde and I am delighted that so many people have turned out to share this occasion with us. "Only four days ago, the second ship in the class, Dauntless, departed the Clyde on her maiden voyage, her first set of sea trials off the west coast of Scotland, and today we have seen their magnificent sister ship take to the water for the first time. "Each of these milestones on the Type 45 contract is testament to the innovation, design and engineering skills of our employees and partners and proof of our commitment to building the next generation of warships for the Royal Navy." Dragon was named and launched by her Lady Sponsor, Mrs Susie Boissier, in front of several thousand members of the public, including over two thousand school children wearing dragon masks. BACKGROUND NOTES: 1. The fourth Type 45 destroyer was launched from the BVT shipyard at Govan, on the Clyde, on Monday 17 November at 3pm. 2. The six ships are in various stages of build, outfit, and trials: * The First of Class, Daring, successfully completed her final set of sea trials whilst in the Contractor's hands in September; * Dauntless, the second of the T45s, started her initial set of sea trials on 14 November 2008, for a period of 4 weeks; * Diamond, the third, is being fitted out on the Clyde and she will go to sea for the first time in the next 12 months; * Dragon, the fourth, was launched today from Govan shipyard; * The bow for the fifth T45, Defender, was rolled out at Portsmouth Naval Base in April 2008 and good progress continues to be made on her build; * The steel cut for the sixth Type 45, Duncan, took place on 29 February 2008. 3. The Type 45 programme is good news for British Industry, currently providing 2, 500 in Portsmouth and the Clyde and many more jobs at sub-contractors around the country. FACTS AND FIGURES -- A Type 45 has a range of around 7000 nautical miles - that's New York and back without refuelling. -- The hull structure is made of 2800 tonnes of steel which is more than the weight of the Blackpool Tower. -- Her 152m length is equivalent to more than 16 double decker buses and she is as high as an electricity pylon. -- Her fuel tanks have a volume equivalent to approximately half the volume of an Olympic swimming pool. -- Approximately 40 tonnes of paint will have to be applied to cover an area of 100,000 square metres of steel. -- Each PAAMS air defence missile is approximately the size of 10 beer barrels stacked end-on-end, weighing almost as much as a small car, and from launch accelerates to a speed twice that of Concorde in under 10 seconds.

U.S. Services Plan To Buy Electric Cars

U.S. Services Plan To Buy Electric Cars (NSI News Source Info) November 18, 2008: Aiming to save fuel and advance alternative-energy plans, the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force intend to buy thousands of battery-powered, 35-mile-an-hour electric cars and light trucks to provide on-base transport, senior Army officials said. The U.S. Army is looking to buy several thousand electrically powered vehicles. One candidate is the Columbia ParCar Mega. The first of the cars, called Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, or NEVs, will be at Fort Belvoir, Va., by mid-December, said Paul Bollinger, deputy assistant Army secretary for energy and partnerships. The Army plans to order the street-legal NEVs from E-Z-Go, Native American Biofuels International and other electric car makers. E-Z-Go, which is a subsidiary of defense giant Textron, makes golf carts that are listed online at about $1,300 each. Some 800 cars will be delivered next year and 4,000 over the next three years. Ultimately, "we should be able to go to at least 10,000 vehicles overall," Bollinger said. The Army's plan has persuaded its sister services to jump on board. "The good news is that the Air Force and Navy have come to us and said that they want to piggyback on the order. Previously, the Air Force was looking at low-speed vehicles, which are actually still gasoline vehicles. We've skipped that and we are going straight to electric. We are eliminating the fuel issue, period," Bollinger said. The Army is moving quickly; the purchase plans were unveiled in October as part of the service's ambitious new energy strategy, which also calls for the construction of solar and geothermal facilities. Bollinger, citing General Services Administration figures, said each electric car would use an average of about $400 in electricity per year, compared with the roughly $2,400 in fuel needed to run a gas-powered car. Moreover, the 4,000 electric cars will save 11.5 million gallons of fuel per year, he said. The first batch of vehicles likely will be leased from Native American Biofuels International through a small-business set-aside, Bollinger said. The Army expects to continue to lease the electric cars on a yearly basis and possibly buy them down the road. "We will not be paying any more for the NEV than for a standard gasoline-powered vehicle," Bollinger said. "We are not going to buy enough to be a market maker, but we can be a market initiator," Bollinger said. "If we buy 10,000 of these vehicles, piggyback that with perhaps 10,000 by the Air Force and 10,000 for the Navy, that is 30,000 vehicles. Automobile manufacturers can then decide if there is a market for these. We have at least created the market to get something started."

100 Countries Expected To Attend IDEAS2008

100 Countries Expected To Attend IDEAS2008 (NSI News Source Info) KARACHI, Pakistan - November 18, 2008: Organizers of Pakistan's fifth biannual International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) expect to attract more than 35,000 visitors and buyers from about 100 countries to the Nov. 24-28 event. Speakers from China, Italy, Turkey and the United States will appear, including two of Pakistan's foremost defense analysts and commentators, Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema, head of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute, and Shireen Mazari of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. The majority of Pakistan's indigenous defense companies are expected to be present, including Pakistan Ordnance Factories, Heavy Industries Taxila, and conglomerates such as the National Engineering & Scientific Commission and Global Industrial Defence Solutions. A large number of exhibitors from China, Turkey and other foreign companies are expected to be present, especially those linked to ongoing Pakistani military procurement programs. Analysts will be closely watching developments to see if long-speculated deals will be announced. Of particular note is the deal for the Navy's next-generation submarine. The HDW Type-214, which has already been selected by Greece, South Korea and close Pakistani ally Turkey, was the expected winner. There also may be movement on a deal for a Western engine to power the Air Force's next future multirole combat aircraft, the JF-17 Thunder. The current Russian-made Kilmov RD-93 is deemed unsatisfactory and will only power the first 50 aircraft. It is believed the Snecma M-52-P2 that powered the Dassault Mirage 2000 series of fighters is the Western engine in question. Exhibitors at IDEAS2008 will be divided into nine categories: ■ Weapons and ammunition - turrets. ■ Vehicles - aircraft and drones/UAVs. ■ Battlefield management/C4ISTAR and target acquisition. ■ Training and simulation - support, protection, operational logistics. ■ Special equipment - engineering works, crossing, terrain clearance, homeland security, peacekeeping, urban operations. ■ Industrial and logistics support. ■ Industry sectors involved. ■ Services. ■ Naval ships and submarines. IDEAS2006 attracted foreign delegations from 44 countries and exhibitors from 27 countries. Chinese and Turkish companies were heavily represented in reflection of the close military and political ties between those countries and Pakistan. Since the first IDEAS was held in 2000, the number of exhibitors has nearly doubled to 221 companies from 125. Of the companies exhibiting in 2006, 73 were domestic and 148 foreign. Visitors more than doubled over this period to 30,000 who attended IDEAS2006. IDEAS will culminate in a joint forces display, which will showcase some of the capabilities of the Pakistani armed forces, and is one of the most impressive in the region.

Taiwan-China direct flights likely in 6 months

Taiwan-China direct flights likely in 6 months (NSI News Source Info) TAIPEI, Taiwan - November 18, 2008: Taiwan will probably start regular direct flights to rival China in about six months, the island's President Ma Ying-jeou said Tuesday. Ma's comments, which came in a speech to a business group in Taipei, echo an agreement reached between the sides during a Taipei visit earlier this month by senior Chinese envoy Chen Yinlin. With charter flights between Taiwanese and Chinese cities already in operation, the regularly scheduled flights would mark a further improvement in relations between Taipei and Beijing, Ma's fundamental goal as president. Predecessor Chen Shui-bian kept China at arm's length, in line with his pro-independence views. Chen left office in May. China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949. Beijing continues to regard the democratic island of 23 million people as part of its territory, to be united by persuasion if possible, by force if necessary. Despite Ma's announcement, Taiwan's two biggest air carriers suffered big losses in Tuesday trading on the local stock market.No. 1 China Airlines fell 4.54 percent to New Taiwan dollars 7.36, while No. 2 Eva Airways dropped 5 percent to NT$7.41.

Chinese President Hu Jintao Visit to Cuba

Chinese President Hu Jintao Visit to Cuba (NSI News Source Info) November 18, 2008: Chinese President Hu Jintao has arrived for a landmark visit to Cuba and was to meet Tuesday with its leaders as part of efforts to boost ties with President Raul Castro. Hu's Latin America tour, which also includes an Asia-Pacific summit in Peru, comes as China expands its diplomacy and investment around the world, eyeing natural resources and developing markets for manufactured goods and even weapons.
Chinese President Hu Jintao walks away after laying a wreath at the Jose Marti Monument in Havana's Revolution Square on November 18, 2008

Pakistan backed raid, says Nato

Pakistan backed raid, says Nato (NSI News Source Info) November 18, 2008: Nato-led troops in Afghanistan say they carried out an attack on an "enemy position" in Pakistan on Sunday with the help of Pakistani security forces. The International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said in a statement that it carried out the attack after one of its Afghan bases came under attack. Isaf said there were no casualties in the attack on its base. Correspondents say it is rare for Isaf to acknowledge such co-operation. There was no immediate Pakistani response. A statement by Isaf said that its base in Afghanistan's south-eastern Paktika province was hit by rocket attacks from a "location within Pakistan" on Sunday. The Nato-led forces said they were able to "identify the origin of the enemy rocket launches". The location has not been disclosed. "Upon positive identification, Isaf coordinated with the Pakistan military and fired a total of 20 artillery rounds on the enemy location," said the statement. "The artillery fire caused a secondary explosion at the rocket launch site, which indicates additional munitions in the location." Isaf said that the Pakistani soldiers had given an assurance they "would engage any insurgents attempting to flee deeper in Afghanistan". Though Pakistan has not officially reacted to the statement, a senior Pakistani army official told the BBC that "some level of ground coordination" did take place. He said the attack by the Isaf forces took place in Angoor Adda in the South Waziristan tribal region. The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Peshawar says such acknowledgement by foreign forces has often embarrassed Pakistan because it would not like to be seen to be cooperating with Western forces against Pakistani people. The US and Nato have called on Pakistan to do more to curb militants operating in the border area.

'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in Pakistan Drone War (Updated)

'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in Pakistan Drone War (Updated) (NSI News Source Info) By Noah Shachtman November 18, 2008: America's top commander in Afghanistan says he doesn't have anything to do with the flurry of U.S. killer drone attacks in the nearby border regions of Pakistan. In an interview with Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, General David McKiernan, the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan said, "these drones do not come under my command." It's part of a delicate diplomatic dance surrounding the stepped-up unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) strike against the Pakistani-based militants who have become one of the leading dangers for coalition forces in Afghanistan. The Washington Post calls it "a don't-ask-don't-tell policy" for the robotic assaults. "The U.S. government refuses to publicly acknowledge the attacks while Pakistan's government continues to complain noisily about the politically sensitive strikes." This wink-wink-nudge-nudge approach is made easier because the drones hitting Pakistan aren't being operated by the U.S. military, it seems. The Central Intelligence Agency is remotely-flying the UAVs. Hence Gen. McKiernan's statement. "For more context, unmanned aerial vehicles operating within the borders of Afghanistan may fall under his command," a spokesman for McKiernan e-mails. "But anything in Pakistan would not come under his command. As Gen. McKiernan often puts it, his mandate stops at the Afghan border." Another example came in late September, when an American-made Predator drone went down in Pakistan; the wreckage was shown on national television. But Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen told Danger Room, "It wasn't a U.S. UAV." Well, maybe not a U.S. military drone. Since the start of August, American Predator and Reaper drones have struck at least 20 times on Pakistani targets. The latest attack killed at least 10; Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari called the hits "counterproductive." But as the Post's story makes clear, the Pakistani government feels quite the opposite. Terrorist attacks within Pakistan have persuaded the government that the border-based "are a grave threat to Pakistan as well as to Afghanistan and the U.S.," Slate's William Saletan notes.

Dealing with Pakistan is risky business

Dealing with Pakistan is risky business (NSI News Source Info) Source - Lee Hamilton, November 18, 2008: Why do U.S. security experts say Pakistan is the most dangerous country in the world? For starters, there is not one crisis in Pakistan; there are several interconnected crises, each with the potential to undermine the stability of Pakistan and South Asia. The danger of a failed state, replete with nuclear weapons, ethnic tensions, Taliban sympathizers and Osama bin Laden in residence, is chilling. Pakistan's underlying economic weaknesses and the global financial crisis have devastated the country. Between July and October, the rupee lost a quarter of its value. Foreign-exchange reserves have dwindled to dangerously low levels. Pakistan has sought assistance from the International Monetary Fund in the $5 billion to $13 billion range to avoid defaulting on its debts. President Asif Ali Zardari has yet to demonstrate the capacity to tackle Pakistan's toughest challenges. He lacks popular support to wage a campaign against the Taliban. He must carefully balance his country's strategic alliance with the United States and widespread public hostility to the U.S. The dispute over Kashmir, a flash point since the partition of India in 1947, lingers. The reach of the Taliban increasingly extends from the tribal areas into Pakistan and its cities. Two months ago a massive truck bomb at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad killed 55 people and wounded more than 200. In Lahore, bombings and death threats targeting those perceived as purveyors of Western culture are increasingly common. Last Wednesday in Peshawar, gunmen killed an American contractor working for USAID. In Pakistan's tribal areas, the Taliban and al-Qaida are a powerful force. From its base there, the Taliban has launched deadly raids on U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan, where its presence is growing. The U.S. response thus far has been increased cross-border military action into the tribal areas. The results: the elimination of some leading Taliban and al-Qaida figures, an unknown but significant number of civilian casualties, the unification of disparate insurgent forces whose common bond is antipathy toward the United States, and growing anti-Americanism within Pakistani civil society. The U.S. needs a comprehensive plan to promote stability in the region with integrated security, political and economic components. Even then, the U.S. cannot achieve success and eliminate terrorist sanctuaries in the tribal areas without Pakistani help. In recent months, tribal militias, or lashkars, have fought back against the Taliban. But the Taliban has killed hundreds of tribal elders in the last four years. The United States needs to discreetly help Pakistan defend traditional forms of tribal governance and the elders who could form the backbone of indigenous resistance to the Taliban. In dealing with the tribal areas, the United States must differentiate its enemies. Some factions want to recreate the hellish Taliban rule of the 1990s. Others may be amenable to a political settlement. Kabul has opened low-level negotiations with pragmatic elements within the Taliban under Saudi Arabian auspices. The U.S. should sharply expand and improve its commitment to Pakistan's economic development. Finally, India remains Pakistan's national security obsession. To Islamabad, Afghanistan represents an opportunity to achieve "strategic depth" vis-à-vis India. The United States should support rapprochement and a settlement over Kashmir, while encouraging Pakistan to view its regional security challenges more broadly. But, even with the right military, economic and political resources, the U.S. faces an enormous challenge, nation-building in a country of 170 million people. The United States needs a unity of effort in support of the Pakistani government, the Pakistani people and our own national security interests. Hamilton is the director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington and director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He served as a U.S. representative from Indiana from 1965 to 1999.

Iran's Defense minister: Iran's missile development not a threat

Iran's Defense minister: Iran's missile development not a threat (NSI News Source Info) TEHRAN - November 18, 2008: Iran's Defense Minister Brigadier General Mostafa Mohammad Najjar on Monday dismissed concerns over Iran's missile development and said it was not a threat, Iran's satellite Press TV reported. Najjar rejected the U.S. claims over Iran's advancing missile might, saying that "military developments (of Iran) are only intended to ensure regional security." His remarks came following a White House's warning statement against Iran after the launch of Sejjil, Iran's newly-developed missile. On Wednesday, the United States denounced Iran's test of a generation missile, saying the development of ballistic missiles could be used as a delivery vehicle for nuclear weapon. "Iran's development of ballistic missiles is contrary to United Nations Security Council resolutions and completely inconsistent with Iran's obligations to the world," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in a statement. On Wednesday morning, Iran successfully test-fired a new generation of surface-to-surface missile with "an extraordinary high capability," according to state television. Najjar said then that the new missile, named Sejjil, was a high-speed type and has a range of about 1,200 miles (2,000 km), which is similar to that of Iran's Shahab-3 missile. Iran has test-fired its Shahab-3 missiles capable of hitting targets within a range of 2,000 km, repeatedly vowing that its missile capabilities are "a defensive tool against invasions." A missile in Iran with a range of 2,000 km could easily hit U.S. bases in the Middle East, Israel and even southern Europe. The new missile Sejjil burns combined solid fuel, which makes it more accurate than liquid fuel missiles. "The two-stage missile uses combined solid fuel and has a high launching speed," IRNA quoted Najjar as saying on Wednesday. Sejjil, which means "clay stone," is a reference to a story in the Koran in which God's birds use clay stones to fight against enemy troops riding elephants.

Analysis: Turkey, a land of paradoxes

Analysis: Turkey, a land of paradoxes
(NSI News Source Info) Washington - November 18, 2008: Turkey is a land of many paradoxes. While the Kemalist notions of secularism and the separation of mosque and state are taken seriously, at the same time the state provides funds for the building of mosques, keeps the Sunni clergy on the state's payroll and allows school textbooks that teach that being a Sunni Muslim is part and parcel of the Turkish identity. No less of a paradox is how Ankara hopes to adhere to the European Union as it promotes one branch of Islam while ignoring minorities, such as the Alevis, who constitute roughly 10 percent to 15 percent of the country's population. Still, Turks take their secularism to heart to the point that often the word "secularism" does not convey the sense of urgency felt in post-Ottoman Turkey to describe the notion of keeping religion separate from politics, as intended by Mustapha Kemal (Ataturk), the founder of modern-day Turkey. Instead, Turks often borrow the word "laicite" from the French. Numerous factors play a part in making Turkey into the land of contradictions that it is today. Certainly its geographic location, as a nation straddling the borders of East and West, sitting along the periphery of the Judeo-Christian West and the Muslim Levant and beyond, counts for something. Turkey was a co-founder of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, whose charter defines its members as "Islamic countries committed to preserving Islamic principles, ethical, social and economic values." Writing in the October-November issue of the journal Survival published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, in an article entitled "Turkey's Latest Crisis," Gareth Jenkins, an analyst based in Turkey, reports that "claims by opponents of the (ruling Justice and Development Party), or the AKP, that it wants to establish an Islamic state are probably exaggerated. But the AKP's denials that it has a religious agenda are equally misleading." Yet, as Jenkins reminds us, "Women who believe the Koran requires them to cover their heads in public are banned from working in the civil service and are even forbidden from studying at universities on the grounds that doing so would be a violation of the secular nature of the Turkish state." And although Shariah law prohibits the lending of money for profit, there is hardly another country in either the East or the West with as many banks and as many branches of these banks. Turkey's cross-cultural exposure and its geographic position have resulted in some unique geopolitical assets. Turkey, possibly more so than any other nation in Europe or the Middle East, understands the mindset of both the European and Levantine cultures. And as one of the rare countries in the region to enjoy relations with both the Arabs and Israel, Turkey in recent years has become involved in trying to mediate between Syria and Israel on the one hand, and Iran and the West on the other. "Turkey is becoming more active in geopolitical affairs," said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a news conference in Washington last Friday. "Turkey," said Erdogan, "could also play a positive role if it were to act as a mediator in the stalled negotiations between Iran and the West over the controversial nuclear dossier. "We are ready to be the mediator," said the Turkish prime minister. "I do believe we could be very useful." Ankara announced earlier this year that it had begun to play an informal role in the talks between Iran and the group of six leading powers trying to talk Iran out of its nuclear ambitions -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. Replying to this reporter's question, Erdogan reaffirmed that Turkey was not prepared to accept the possibility that Iran -- right next door -- could acquire nuclear weapons, but he did not elaborate as to what steps Turkey might take in that regard. Erdogan said: "The world is going through a global political and economic crisis." Keeping in line with its paradoxical identity crisis, since Erdogan's ruling party, the AKP, or the Justice and Development Party, came to power in 2002, as Jenkins reminds us, despite its Islamist leanings, there has been an absence of any explicit pro-Islamic legislation. Rather, there has been a "battery of liberalizing reforms" passed in hope of appeasing the European Union and gaining entry into the Brussels club, something Ankara has been pushing for almost 20 years now. But continued refusal from some European countries, particularly France under the leadership of President Nicolas Sarkozy, who remains ardently opposed to Turkey's accession to the EU, risks pushing Turkey off the fence and into the Islamist camp. At a time when the West needs all the friends it can get, alienating the Turks to the point where they would turn away from Europe and begin looking eastward once again would be an unforgivable mistake.
Russia backs Abkhazian show of force in the Caucasus
An unrepentant Russia is continuing its policy of arming to the teeth the two secessionist regions of Georgia that it has recognized as independent nations. The deputy defense minister of Abkhazia announced Nov. 11 his military forces were carrying out what RIA Novosti described as "a planned battalion-level tactical exercise with live firing." "In line with the military training program for 2008, the Defense Ministry is holding on Nov. 10-12 a battalion-level tactical exercise with live firing, which involves the 2nd independent naval infantry battalion and the 2nd independent motor rifle battalion at the Nagvalou testing grounds," Abkhazian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Zaitsev announced. Military air formations also would be involved, he said. The maneuvers serve notice to the beleaguered pro-American government of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili that Russia continues to arm the inhabitants of the secessionist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to the teeth. And the Kremlin remains determined to uphold their independence. Russia has equipped the Abkhazian ground forces and it also has supplied at least one MiG-21, one Sukhoi Su-25, two L-39 combat trainers, a single Yakovlev Yak-52 combat trainer, and two Mir Mi-8 multipurpose helicopters, RIA Novosti said. Russia has protected and armed Abkhazia and its fellow secessionist region of South Ossetia since Georgia became independent for the first time in 190 years following the disintegration of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991. Thousands of people on both sides were killed in prolonged and heavy fighting between the two regions and successive Georgian governments in Tbilisi. In August Russia infuriated the United States and the European Union by recognizing both Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent nations following its five-day blitzkrieg occupation of one-third of the territory of Georgia in response to a Georgian military incursion into South Ossetia.

EU-China sign deal to boost 'Made in China' product safety

EU-China sign deal to boost 'Made in China' product safety (NSI News Source Info) Brussels - November 18, 2008: The EU and China on Monday signed a deal to improve consumer safety amid continuing health fears over Chinese products imported into Europe. Chinese toys, which have been a particular area of concern in recent years, are still not always up to the highest safety standards, EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva said after a meeting with Chinese and US officials on product safety. "There are still product recalls," she added, citing cases of Chinese furniture, clothes, shoes and electrical products as well as toys pulled from international markets due to health and safety concerns. Under the new agreement, China will be obliged to inform the European Union about what it is doing to track down dangerous goods. The deal also allows for officials from the EU and China to carry out coordinated checks on producers to ensure safety standards are being met. The agreement "substantially strengthens the systems of safety controls for product and food safety between the EU and China," said Kuneva. "It provides for more transparency, better monitoring and new possibilities for joint surveillance." As the flow of goods increases and supply chains become ever more complex, "it is clear that closer cooperation between Europe, China and the US is not just a desirable luxury but a real necessity," she said. The tripartite meeting on product safety was the first of its kind, with Kuneva hosting Wei Chuanzhong, vice-minister in China's quality supervision and inspection administration (AQSIQ) and Chairman of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission Nancy Nord. The idea of such a three-way approach to the consumer issue was first mooted last year amid a string of problems with "Made in China" goods, with the focus on unsafe Chinese goods in the toy sector. Tens of millions of Chinese-made toys were recalled amid concern they could be dangerous, in what became a new flashpoint in trade relations between the Asian economic giant and Europe and the United States. China is the world's biggest toy exporter, with total sales of 60 billion toys in 2006, amounting to 60 percent of the world market. In September, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao vowed to ensure the "Made in China" brand was safe for consumers at home and abroad, as Beijing scrambled to restore confidence amid a toxic milk scandal. Nord stressed that the toy market was a particular area of concern as the products "are destined for the most vulnerable sector of the population; children, and their safety will not allow for any half-measures". The Chinese representative said her country took the matter very seriously. "From the conception phase, companies must be in close consultation with the manufacturers, so as to respect the criteria," said Wei. Chinese products ranging from pet food to pharmaceuticals have also recently sparked safety fears.

Boeing Develops Common Software To Reduce Risk For TSAT

Boeing Develops Common Software To Reduce Risk For TSAT
(NSI News Source Info) El Segundo CA - November 18, 2008: Boeing has announced the successful demonstration of a common software application that can support the space and ground segments of the Transformational Satellite Communications System (TSAT). The demonstration is one of three being conducted by Boeing and partner Raytheon as part of TSAT risk-reduction efforts funded by the U.S. Air Force. "Boeing has built a single software program that will allow all of TSAT's space and ground systems to work together, eliminating the need for multiple software programs to run different operations," said Craig Cooning, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems. "Boeing's approach saves our customer the cost of developing multiple software programs for ground and space operations, while removing the risk inherent with having two or more different software programs performing similar functions." Boeing leveraged its expertise in developing software for satellite communications and onboard satellite operations into a collaborative effort with Raytheon, an industry leader in developing ground control software. During the demonstration conducted at the Boeing Transformational Communications Laboratory in El Segundo, Calif., the software application ran in simulated space and actual ground computing environments without the need for modifications. Typically, these types of applications require separate suites of software, increasing operational risk and potentially escalating costs. Interoperability was accomplished through the creation of an Application Program Interface (API), a common interface that enables separate and sometimes incompatible elements to coordinate effectively by making these different hardware and system elements invisible to the application software. This ensures that programs used on the satellites and in the ground station computers execute required missions without errors that commonly occur when incompatible technologies are combined. TSAT is a major element for the U.S. Department of Defense's secure, global communications network, providing survivable, protected, high-capacity, Internet-like connections for communication on the move; airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and secure, assured communications for control of strategic assets.
Interoperability was accomplished through the creation of an Application Program Interface (API), a common interface that enables separate and sometimes incompatible elements to coordinate effectively by making these different hardware and system elements invisible to the application software.

Spanish Army Conducts Successful NASAMS Live-Fire Exercise

Spanish Army Conducts Successful NASAMS Live-Fire Exercise (NSI News Source Info) Tewksbury MA - November 18, 2008: Raytheon, along with Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace, provided support during the Spanish Army's successful live-fire exercise of its National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS), a surface-launched AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) system. "Raytheon's support to the Spanish Army enabled it to conduct missions independently," said Pete Franklin, vice president, National Theater and Security Programs for Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems. "Through our efforts, the Army was able to successfully demonstrate its capabilities in using this weapon system." Raytheon provided support for mission planning, data recording and flight test scenarios. During the exercise, four AMRAAM missiles were launched against target drones at the Medano del Oro firing range in Mazagon, Spain. This was the first NASAMS live firing conducted in Spain. Two dual-missile scenarios were performed during the exercise. The Spanish NASAMS equipment and crews met all the test objectives. The Spanish Army acquired their four NASAMS fire units in 2003. NASAMS is a launcher that provides increased environmental protection to the surfaced-launched AMRAAM, which was developed by the U.S. Air Force's Air Armament Center, the U.S. Navy, and Raytheon.

China says not sending troops to Afghanistan: state media

China says not sending troops to Afghanistan: state media
(NSI News Source Info) Beijing - November 18, 2008: China has no intention of sending troops to Afghanistan, state media said Monday, downplaying recent reports quoting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown as saying Beijing could do so. "Except the United Nations peacekeeping operations approved by the UN Security Council, China never sends troops abroad," the official Xinhua news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang as saying in a statement. "The media reports about China sending troops to participate in the ISAF in Afghanistan are groundless," it quoted him as saying. Qin was responding to reports that Brown suggested China could contribute to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Xinhua said. According to reports last week, Brown told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York that China could one day contribute troops to ISAF. The international force includes nearly 50,000 troops, working to help stabilise the country and fighting insurgents from the Islamist Taliban regime. Originally mandated by the United Nations Security Council, ISAF was placed under NATO command in August 2003. In addition to ISAF, a separate US-led contingent of several thousand mainly American troops operates in the country as part of Operation Enduring Freedom and is also involved in training the Afghan security forces. Afghan blast injures four German soldiers: Berlin
A bomb attack on a German patrol in northern Afghanistan on Monday left four soldiers slightly injured as well as an unspecified number of Afghan civilians, the German army said. The Improvised Explosive Device (IED) went off on Monday afternoon local time outside the town of Feyzabad, the army said in a short statement on its website. It was the second such attack in as many days after a blast on Sunday killed two Afghan civilians and wounded two German troops. Germany has about 3,300 soldiers in the relatively safe north of Afghanistan as part of NATO's 50,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Last month Berlin boosted the upper limit on troops it has by 1,000 to 4,500 and extended the mission's mandate by 14 months until December 2009 but Chancellor Angela Merkel refuses to send soldiers to the more volatile south of the country.
Time not right to talk to Taliban in Afghanistan: US admiral
US military chief Michael Mullen said on Monday that conditions were not right yet for talks with Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.Holding negotiations with elements of the Taliban should be part of a long-term strategy in Afghanistan at an appropriate time but "at least in my perspective, we're not there yet," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, told a news conference

IAEA chief says atomic report on Syria 'not conclusive'

IAEA chief says atomic report on Syria 'not conclusive' (NSI News Source Info) Dubai - November 18, 2008: UN atomic watchdog head Mohamed ElBaradei said on Monday that a report on Syrian nuclear activity is "not conclusive" and he called for more cooperation from both Syria and Israel. The report will show that "we still have work to do," said the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency. "We are having a report by the end of this week with regards to Syria ... It's still not conclusive," he told reporters at an economic conference in Dubai. "We are taking the issue very seriously." "We need more cooperation from Syria ... We need also cooperation from Israel," ElBaradei said. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said last week he was stunned by media reports that the IAEA had found secret atomic material on a site in northern Syria bombed by Israel in September 2007. "Such information hawked by anonymous diplomats even before ... ElBaradei has presented his report have the sole purpose of exerting pressure on Syria," Muallem said. "There was uranium but dosn't mean there was a reactor ... It's not highly enriched uranium," said ElBaradei, whose inspectors visited the bombed Al-Kibar site last June, taking samples. Washington claims that Al-Kibar, which was razed to the ground by Israeli planes, was a nuclear facility built with North Korean help and close to becoming operational. It has provided intelligence and photographic evidence to support its claims, which have been denied by Damascus.

Iraq Deal Could End War

Iraq Deal Could End War
(NSI News Source Info) Washington - November 18, 2008: President George W. Bush appears to have had to climb down from his long-held opposition to an unconditional troop withdrawal from Iraq, a move which Barack Obama will likely speed up. As the Iraqi parliament Monday began debating a US-Iraq military deal approved Sunday by the Iraqi cabinet, the White House sought to put a positive spin on the pace. Spokeswoman Dana Perino acknowledged that Washington had had to make some compromises with the Iraqi government on the future of US troops in the Iraq. And she admitted the whole pact could be reviewed once president-elect Barack Obama takes over from President George W. Bush in the White House on January 20. But she told reporters: "We just keep getting success after success on the security front in Iraq. "We have been able to reach this point because of the vision that the president had in sending more troops to Iraq, which was one of the most unpopular decisions that any president could have made if you think about what we were going through at the time in Iraq," she said, referring to Bush's surge strategy of sending in some 30,000 extra troops. "But it has worked. And the Iraqis are now able to see a path where they can govern, sustain and defend themselves, which is -- which was our test for them." Bush had long opposed setting any timetable for the withdrawal of troops, saying the Iraqis would first have to be able to govern themselves. "Our answer is, there should be no definitive timetable; there ought to be obviously a desire to reduce our presence, but it's got to be based upon success," he said in June. "We'll be making our decisions based upon the conditions on the ground, the recommendation of our commanders, without an artificial timetable set by politics." The Bush presidency has been indelibly scarred by the Iraq war, from the 2003 invasion spurred by false allegations that late dictator Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction, to the abuses by US troops of Iraqis in the Abu Ghraib jail, to the bloody insurgent uprising. Some 4,200 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq, in war which has also cost the US hundreds of billions of dollars. Despite huge public opposition to the war and the Republican Party's emphatic defeat in the 2006 congressional mid-term elections, Bush resisted efforts to bring back the troops. The war was also a dominant theme of the 2008 White House race, with president-elect Obama vowing to bring home the forces within 16 months. But with the UN mandate allowing the presence of international forces in Iraq set to expire on December 31, 2008, Washington and Baghdad had to open talks on an accord to govern their future presence. The text, now due to be adopted by the Iraqi parliament, sets out that US forces will leave the country by December 31, 2011 -- more than eight years after the March 2003 invasion -- whatever the conditions on the ground. Asked about the timing, Perion said the dates were "firm." The US joint chiefs of staff Admiral Michael Mullen said on Monday however that he believed the withdrawal should depend on the situation on the ground. "I do think it is important that this be conditions-based," Mullen told reporters. As expected Obama's incoming administration now inherits the huge task of ending a war launched by his predecessor and bringing home the 150,000 troops. Obama told the CBS program "60 Minutes" on Sunday he would keep his word. "As soon as I take office, I will call in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, my national security apparatus, and we will start executing a plan that draws down our troops," he said. Perino acknowledged that Obama could speed up the withdrawal. "This agreement doesn't mean that a future president, the president-elect, would not be able to change this agreement later on if he saw fit or if the Iraqis saw fit," she said. Hardline cleric fails to halt Iraq-US pact in parliament
Anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's camp on Monday failed to halt the first reading in parliament of a controversial Iraq-US military pact which has been passed by the Iraqi cabinet. The Sadrist movement has vigorously opposed the wide-ranging agreement, which would replace a UN mandate that expires at the end of this year and allow US forces to remain in the country until the end of 2011. When parliament convened to discuss the pact, the 30 Sadrist deputies demanded that the body instead examine another draft law on treaties and conventions, an AFP reporter present in the chamber said. "We want the law on treaties and conventions to be the only thing discussed today, not the accord with the United States," shouted Aqil Abdel Hussein, head of the Sadr group. Mahmud Mashhadani, the speaker of parliament, compromised and ruled that both texts would be read. The assembly read the first half of the military pact, then read the Sadrist bill, then completed the reading of the pact. Ahmed Masaudi, spokesman for the Sadrist bloc, had earlier said the movement would submit a bill requiring a two-thirds majority for parliamentary approval, replacing the current requirement of a simple majority. The current law is "contrary to the constitution and to the instructions from the Guide, Sistani, to obtain a national consensus on this agreement," Masaudi said on Sunday, referring to Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al-Sistani. The country's most powerful Shiite cleric has not taken a clear position on the agreement other than to say it must respect Iraq's "sovereignty," and has left a verdict on the deal to elected leaders. But Sadr and his followers have adamantly opposed concluding any agreement with the US "occupier" and vowed to hold mass demonstrations to demand the immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces. "The Sadr movement will use every legal avenue to work to stop this agreement," Masaudi said. The 275-member parliament adjourned after reading both bills on Monday. The deputy speaker said on Sunday that the military pact would pass through a week-long process of deliberation before a final vote on November 24. But parliament has no power to make changes to the text of the agreement. The pact was expected to pass parliament after winning approval from the Iraqi cabinet on Sunday with the support of the major political blocs representing Iraq's Shiite majority and its Sunni and Kurdish communities. A senior US official involved with the negotiations said he was hopeful parliament would approve, adding that the pact is the only realistic way to provide legal authority to US forces past December 31. "We are very hopeful that the Iraqi parliament will accept," the official said on condition of anonymity. "There is no alternative to the security agreement." Syria, meanwhile, slammed the pact, with Information Minister Mohsen Bilal saying it "rewards the American occupier, and gives it rights at the expense of the Iraqi people and their neighbours." If parliament approves the pact it would need to be ratified by Iraq's presidential council before it could be signed by the two governments. In a symbolic ceremony broadcast on state television before Monday's parliamentary session began, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and US ambassador Ryan Crocker added their signatures to the pact. The agreement requires the withdrawal of all US troops from Iraqi cities by the end of June 2009 and from the country as a whole by the end of 2011, but senior US and Iraqi officials have said it could be modified by mutual consent. US president-elect Barack Obama told CBS television on Sunday that when he takes office on January 20 his government "will start executing a plan that draws down our troops" in Iraq.
US pullout of Iraq should depend on conditions: Mullen
The withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, scheduled to be completed by the end of 2011 under a proposed deal between Baghdad and Washington, should depend on the situation on the ground, US military chief Admiral Michael Mullen said on Monday. "I do think it is important that this be conditions-based," Mullen told reporters, referring to the eventual withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.
Syria says US-Iraq pact rewards US occupation
Syria on Monday criticised the proposed military pact between Iraq and the United States, saying it rewarded American occupation of its Arab neighbour. The United States is "trying to impose its conditions on the Iraqis and to legalise the arbitrary and usurpatory presence of their (forces) on Iraqi territory with this accord," said Information Minister Mohsen Bilal. He told a meeting of Arab information ministers that the accord "rewards the American occupier, and gives it rights at the expense of the Iraqi people and their neighbours." "Our people in Iraq can not accept anything which damages their history, independence or dignity, or anything that damages neighbouring countries," the Syrian minister said. The controversial pact won approval from the Iraqi cabinet on Sunday with the support of the major political blocs representing Iraq's Shiite majority and its Sunni and Kurdish communities. The agreement, due to be submitted for a final parliamentary vote on November 24, would replace a UN mandate which expires at the end of this year and allows US forces to remain in Iraq until the end of 2011.

Russia To Equip Five Brigades With Iskander Missile Systems By 2015

Russia To Equip Five Brigades With Iskander Missile Systems By 2015 (NSI News Source Info) Moscow - November 18, 2008: At least five missile brigades deployed on Russia's western border will be equipped with new Iskander-M short-range missile systems by 2015, a Defense Ministry source said on Friday. "By 2015, the Iskander system will be put in service with five missile brigades, primarily near Russia's western border and in the Kaliningrad Region," the source said. Russia believes that the placement of high-precision tactical missiles near borders with NATO countries would be the best response to U.S. missile defense plans for Europe. Moscow has repeatedly expressed its opposition to Washington's plans to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and an accompanying radar in the Czech Republic, saying they threaten Russia's national security. The deployment of mobile Iskander-M missile systems with a range of 500 km (310 miles) in the Kaliningrad region would allow Russia to target almost anywhere in Poland and also parts of Germany and the Czech Republic. The Iskander-M system is equipped with a solid-propellant single-stage guided missile 9M723K1 (SS-26 Stone) controlled throughout the entire flight path and fitted with a non-separable warhead. The missile follows a non-ballistic "fuzzy" path, which includes such features as violent maneuvers in the terminal phase of flight and the release of decoys. It is built with elements of "stealth" technology and has a reduced reflective surface. The altitude of its flight trajectory never exceeds 50 kilometers (30 miles), which makes it even harder to detect and intercept. The source also said Russia will supply Iskander missile systems to Belarus as part of an "asymmetric" response to the U.S. European missile shield. "Belarus is our ally and we ... will deliver these systems to that country on a priority and most favorable basis," the official said. Russia and Belarus, which have maintained close political and economic ties since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, have been in talks for several years on the delivery of Iskander-E systems to equip at least one Belarus missile brigade by 2015. With its maximum range of 280 km (about 180 miles), Iskander-E is likely to target U.S. missile defense facilities in Poland, which shares a border with Belarus. Belarus denies seeking to counter US missile shield
Belarus on Monday denied it was planning to acquire Russian Iskander missiles in retaliation for the controversial US missile shield planned in eastern Europe. A report in The Wall Street Journal last week had an "absolutely incorrect interpretation" of comments by Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko over the acquisition of the missiles, the foreign ministry ministry said. In the interview, Lukashenko "made no statements about our country's intent to host Russian Iskander missiles in Belarus as a retaliatory measure for US moves to deploy a missile-defence system in Europe," it said in a statement. Instead, Lukashenko's comments about his country's plans to acquire the Iskander short-range conventional missiles were meant in the context of a "general rearming of the Belarussian army," the ministry said. Lukashenko gave the interview the week after Russia threatened to deploy Iskander missiles in its Baltic Sea territory of Kaliningrad, on the borders of the European Union, in response to the US anti-missile system. Belarus borders Poland, which has agreed to host interceptor missiles as part of the planned missile shield. The country is a close ally of Moscow, which says the planned missile shield threatens its national security despite US assurances that it is not directed against Russia and is meant to protect against "rogue states" like Iran.

Ecuador signs contract to buy Dhruv Helicopters

Ecuador signs contract to buy Dhruv Helicopters (NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI - November 18, 2008: Foreign Minister of Ecuador Maria Isabel Salvador met her counterpart, Pranab Mukherjee, on Monday with a close relationship in oil and defence between these geographically distant countries high on the agenda. On the oil front, the new government in Ecuador has reversed the earlier revenue-sharing arrangements with western oil companies and is now keen on striking new partnerships with state-owned companies from China, Russia and India.
PUSH FOR TIES: External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee with his Ecuador counterpart, Maria Isabel, in New Delhi on Monday
In the defence sector, Ecuador became the first country to sign a contract for purchasing the indigenously made Dhruv helicopters of which one will be for use by its President. The Embassy here has expanded its setup with the appointment of a Military Attache and prospects appear bright for more defence exports as Ecuador has agreed to be the servicing hub in South America for Indian defence equipment.
India has won an export order to supply seven homemade Advanced Light Helicopters, the Dhruv, to the Ecuadorian Air Force. The Indian Defence Ministry's June 26 news release said that Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) "has bagged this order amidst strong competition from Elbit of Israel, Eurocopter of France and Kazan of Russia. HAL's offer of $50.7 million for 7 helicopters was about 32% lower than the second lowest bid from Elbit." The contract is likely to be signed within a few weeks, and the first helicopter would be delivered by HAL in six months, a Defence Ministry official said. HAL has already supplied 76 helicopters to the Indian defense services and has an order to supply 159 more to the Army and Air Force. Other countries have inquired about the Dhruv, the Defence Ministry official said. However, early this year, Chile rejected the Dhruv in favor of Bell Helicopter's Bell-412. The Chilean Air Force bought 12 light transport helicopters from Bell Helicopter for more than $120 million. HAL has already sold two Dhruvs to Nepal and has dispatched one for the use of the Israeli Air Force. Designed and developed by HAL, the Dhruv is a multirole, cost-effective helicopter in the 4- to 5-ton class for civilian and military use.