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Friday, 20 October 2006 02:09

Gloria R. Lalumia's World Media Watch for October 20, 2006

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WORLD MEDIA WATCH

1//Asia Times Online, Hong Kong--MILITANTS, MUSHARRAF CIRCLING  (The battle between Islamists and Taliban supporters and the pro-Western Pakistan government has intensified with the arrest of dozens of people in a massive crackdown in and around the federal capital, Islamabad.  This follows hard on the heels of the uncovering of a coup plot against President General Pervez Musharraf last week which resulted in over 40 people being arrested. Among these were al-Qaeda-linked personnel from the Air Weapon Complex [AWC] of Pakistan, a leading organization in the field of air-delivered weapons and systems. ... It is the latest showdown in and around Islamabad, though, that is of significance as the guns have suddenly been turned against the premier Islamic party of the country, the Jamaat-i-Islami [JI], and its ideological cousin, the Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest indigenous Kashmiri separatist militant outfit. ... Most important for the militants is that Musharraf not unleash any operation in the North Waziristan tribal area on the border with Afghanistan or in Pashin and Zhob (in southwestern Balochistan province). These areas are vital to the Taliban's winter strategy, in which it lays low, regroups and plans for the next spring offensive.  Only a few days remain before the end of Ramadan and heavy snows rule out any significant military action in the mountainous region that straddles Pakistan and Afghanistan.  That means, just a few days for either side to make a decisive move.)

2//The Daily Times, Pakistan--ARMY RIGS POLLS TO PERPETUATE POWER: EX-ISI DG  (Lt Gen (r) Asad Durrani, a former head of the ISI who later served as ambassador to Bonn and Riyadh, told a meeting here on Tuesday that an army regime only digs itself deeper into its hole as time passes and it has to rig elections to perpetuate its power.  Durrani, who did the round of several local think tanks this week, was speaking at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. ... To the inevitable question about the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden, he replied that no one knew where he was, but if he was found in Pakistan, it would be "embarrassing." He ruled out the Saudi fugitive's presence in Pakistan's tribal regions where secrets are hard to keep. It is much easier to hide in a built-up area, he added. Some people, he pointed out, see Bin Laden as a "symbol of resistance". He disclosed that there are 14 different American organisations in Islamabad looking for Bin Laden. That is what has driven property prices in that city higher than they were in Washington, he added as the audience snickered.)

3//The Turkish Daily News, Turkey--US CALLS FOR IRAQI CONSENSUS FOR FATE OF OIL-RICH KIRKUK  (A decision for a future status of the multiethnic and oil-rich area of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, of which the Kurds are seeking to gain control, should be based on a consensus to be reached by all related Iraqi groups, a senior U.S. administration official said, opposing unilateral moves to win the city's control. ...  Asked how a consensus could be reached on Kirkuk -- home to Turkmen, Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Christians -- which has turned into a bloodbath in recent months, the official said that it would be up to the Iraqis to find a way. The official's remarks calling for a consensus may represent some change in U.S. policy, which until recently had been viewed as a complete "hands off" approach on Kirkuk. As central Iraq, and most notably Baghdad, is on the verge of a full-scale civil war between Shiite and Sunni Arabs, Kirkuk had been relatively calm until this summer, a situation that had prompted the Americans to keep away from that region's politics. ... Until recently, the U.S. position had been viewed to mean a tacit support for the referendum process.  But the senior U.S. administration official's Tuesday remarks on a much-needed consensus now suggest that Washington will not insist on the referendum if almost all non-Kurdish groups oppose that process.  Like any other matter related to Iraq, nothing is certain about Kirkuk's future. But a diminished U.S. support for the Kurdish-backed referendum likely would kill the process, analysts say.  The key factor pushing the Americans to seek consensus on Kirkuk is the rapidly mounting violence in the region. ... The violence even worsened following a crackdown of U.S.-backed Iraqi army troops -- read it Kurdish forces -- against insurgents and other opponents, including the Turkmen, early this month. And rising tensions point to even worse violence next year.  The U.S. administration official said that there was no example of an armed conflict in the modern world that could be solved without a national reconciliation process and an accompanying amnesty, and that in Iraq such a national reconciliation was being sought.)

4//The Daily Star, Lebanon--CABINET AGREES TO SET UP CAMERAS ACROSS CAPITAL  (The Lebanese Cabinet agreed Thursday to install surveillance cameras throughout the capital - including the southern suburbs - in a bid to tighten security across the country.  The government agreed "unanimously to use all necessary means to control the security situation in Lebanon," Information Minister Ghazi Aridi told reporters after the Cabinet's weekly session.  Closed-circuit TV cameras, "which will be linked to telephone lines, will be extended to Beirut's southern suburbs after the area is rebuilt," he added. ... Meanwhile, a security source told The Daily Star Thursday that the security measure would cost $12 million.  "Police stations in Beirut will be provided with monitors set to detect any suspicious movement 24 hours a day," the source said.)

5//The Independent, UK--EU PREPARES FOR SHOWDOWN WITH PUTIN AFTER CIVIL LIBERTIES RESTRICTED  (Europe is seeking to bury its divisions ahead of a tense meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, who yesterday raised the temperature on civil liberties by forcing dozens of NGOs to suspend operations in Russia.  New Russian legislation, which requires any foreign NGO in the country to submit paperwork to a federal agency, has heightened concerns over basic freedoms in the wake of the murder of the campaigning journalist, Anna Politkovskaya.  When the law was implemented yesterday a list published by the Federal Registration Service showed 80 NGOs whose registration had been approved out of up to 500 working in Russia.  The Kremlin says its crackdown will prevent terrorists, money launderers and foreign intelligence services using NGOs as cover but critics fear it will give the government carte blanche to harass critical human rights groups. ... Moscow is adept at exploiting divisions inside the 25-nation bloc and its position is strengthened by rising energy prices and demand for oil and gas.)              

***

1//Asia Times Online, Hong Kong             Oct 20, 2006          

MILITANTS, MUSHARRAF CIRCLING
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

KARACHI - The battle between Islamists and Taliban supporters and the pro-Western Pakistan government has intensified with the arrest of dozens of people in a massive crackdown in and around the federal capital, Islamabad.

This follows hard on the heels of the uncovering of a coup plot against President General Pervez Musharraf last week which resulted in over 40 people being arrested. Among these were al-Qaeda-linked personnel from the Air Weapon Complex (AWC) of Pakistan, a leading organization in the field of air-delivered weapons and systems. Two prominent names were Muneer Malik and Ali Ahmed Gondal.

Subsequently, two other staff members at AWC, Shakeel Rabbani and Saqib Zafar, were detained, in addition to more air force officers. These arrests have not been made public, but have been confirmed by Asia Times Online contacts who say that more arrests can be expected within the rank and file of the armed forces.

At the same time, a series of massive crackdowns on militants is ongoing throughout Punjab province.

It is the latest showdown in and around Islamabad, though, that is of significance as the guns have suddenly been turned against the premier Islamic party of the country, the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), and its ideological cousin, the Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest indigenous Kashmiri separatist militant outfit.

(SNIP)

The crackdown came without warning. It prompted the deputy chief of the JI and member of parliament, Liaquat Baloch, to urgently meet with top Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) officials at the ISI's headquarters in Islamabad. This resulted in the crackdown being temporarily suspended, with some conditions being placed on the JI.

Although the salient features of these conditions are not known, the normal rhetoric of JI chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed was visibly toned down after the meeting and he categorically mentioned that JI would not welcome any coup against the government.

The JI has always been at the forefront of political initiatives to unseat Musharraf and has been involved most recently in laying the groundwork for a joint opposition alliance including all major liberal and Islamic parties to oust Musharraf after the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan toward the end of this month.

Nevertheless, political campaigns these days in Pakistan and Afghanistan are not only a center of interest for political parties and their supporters - they attract other vested interests, especially militant groups and disgruntled elements within the armed forces.

At present, the militant groups have only one obsession, to keep Musharraf's anti-Taliban convictions at bay and prevent him from taking any stringent steps that would undo all the Taliban's gains in the campaign in Afghanistan since the spring offensive began. This has kept the militant groups active, and their activities are complemented by their supporters within the establishment.

Most important for the militants is that Musharraf not unleash any operation in the North Waziristan tribal area on the border with Afghanistan or in Pashin and Zhob (in southwestern Balochistan province). These areas are vital to the Taliban's winter strategy, in which it lays low, regroups and plans for the next spring offensive.

Only a few days remain before the end of Ramadan and heavy snows rule out any significant military action in the mountainous region that straddles Pakistan and Afghanistan.

That means, just a few days for either side to make a decisive move.

2//The Daily Times, Pakistan                      Thursday, October 19, 2006

ARMY RIGS POLLS TO PERPETUATE POWER: EX-ISI DG
By Khalid Hasan

WASHINGTON: Lt Gen (r) Asad Durrani, a former head of the ISI who later served as ambassador to Bonn and Riyadh, told a meeting here on Tuesday that an army regime only digs itself deeper into its hole as time passes and it has to rig elections to perpetuate its power.

Durrani, who did the round of several local think tanks this week, was speaking at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He said as an institution, the army wants to keep out of politics. But when in power, it finds its particular culture clashing with civilian culture, which is different. Whereas the civilian approach is one of accommodation and compromise, the army is trained to operate out of a well-defined framework. He said one reason for military takeovers is that the army gets impatient with the pace and style of civilian-run governments and disrupts the process through intervention when it should learn to let it continue, which is the only way it will improve. Once the military takes power, within its own ranks, it is loyalty to the coup-maker that becomes the norm. After some years in power, army regimes begin looking for an exit strategy but do not always find it.

Turning to the present situation, he felt that President Musharraf should take off his uniform and stay in power thereafter for four to five years. He was of the view that in the last seven years, the "so-called" mainstream parties had failed to build support at the grassroots level. They had also been waiting for "outside signals".

Gen Durrani called for a rethink of the common Pakistani view that Pakistan's fate is determined by "two As", namely Allah and America. He said Allah does not spend all His time looking after Pakistan. As for America, its role has been exaggerated. Not always does the American ambassador in Islamabad, for example, know about changes, he added.

(SNIP)

To the inevitable question about the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden, he replied that no one knew where he was, but if he was found in Pakistan, it would be "embarrassing." He ruled out the Saudi fugitive's presence in Pakistan's tribal regions where secrets are hard to keep. It is much easier to hide in a built-up area, he added. Some people, he pointed out, see Bin Laden as a "symbol of resistance". He disclosed that there are 14 different American organisations in Islamabad looking for Bin Laden. That is what has driven property prices in that city higher than they were in Washington, he added as the audience snickered.

3//The Turkish Daily News, Turkey            Thursday, October 19, 2006


US CALLS FOR IRAQI CONSENSUS FOR FATE OF OIL-RICH KIRKUK
If US support for Kurdish-backed Kirkuk referendum diminishes, it would kill plebiscite

Ümit Enginsoy
 
WASHINGTON - Turkish Daily News - A decision for a future status of the multiethnic and oil-rich area of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, of which the Kurds are seeking to gain control, should be based on a consensus to be reached by all related Iraqi groups, a senior U.S. administration official said, opposing unilateral moves to win the city's control.

"There should be a resolution which will meet the needs of all related sides," the official said. He said the Kirkuk problem should be addressed through consensus, and not unilaterally.

Asked how a consensus could be reached on Kirkuk -- home to Turkmen, Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Christians -- which has turned into a bloodbath in recent months, the official said that it would be up to the Iraqis to find a way.

The official's remarks calling for a consensus may represent some change in U.S. policy, which until recently had been viewed as a complete "hands off" approach on Kirkuk. As central Iraq, and most notably Baghdad, is on the verge of a full-scale civil war between Shiite and Sunni Arabs, Kirkuk had been relatively calm until this summer, a situation that had prompted the Americans to keep away from that region's politics.

(SNIP)

Under a provision backed by the Kurds and their Shiite Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq Party (SCIRI) allies in last year's constitution, a referendum should be held in the area to determine Kirkuk's future. And following the three-year Kurdish exodus to Kirkuk, the Kurds now have a majority to win in the referendum.

But there are several roadblocks: Iraq's Sunni Arabs, Turkmen and some Shiite parties -- mainly maverick Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi army and current Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Dawa Party -- are all against a Kurdish takeover of Kirkuk. Those groups are united in opposing the planned referendum.

Also wary of Kurdish aspirations for independence, Turkey has been calling on the United States for the referendum's indefinite postponement and a special status for the city. U.S. President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan briefly discussed the matter when they met at the White House early this month, but the U.S. side just noted Turkey's position.

Until recently, the U.S. position had been viewed to mean a tacit support for the referendum process.

But the senior U.S. administration official's Tuesday remarks on a much-needed consensus now suggest that Washington will not insist on the referendum if almost all non-Kurdish groups oppose that process.

Like any other matter related to Iraq, nothing is certain about Kirkuk's future. But a diminished U.S. support for the Kurdish-backed referendum likely would kill the process, analysts say.

The key factor pushing the Americans to seek consensus on Kirkuk is the rapidly mounting violence in the region.

Since June, hundreds of people have been killed in Kirkuk in attacks, clashes, car and suicide bombings and "security operations" by the Iraqi army and police -- that are effectively Kurdish forces.

The violence even worsened following a crackdown of U.S.-backed Iraqi army troops -- read it Kurdish forces -- against insurgents and other opponents, including the Turkmen, early this month. And rising tensions point to even worse violence next year.

The U.S. administration official said that there was no example of an armed conflict in the modern world that could be solved without a national reconciliation process and an accompanying amnesty, and that in Iraq such a national reconciliation was being sought.

Asked if the case of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) also was an example of such an armed conflict, the official said: "No, the PKK is a terrorist organization, and must lay down its arms."

He implied that only after the PKK laid down its arms and renounced terrorism, some formula could be devised to integrate the group's elements that were not involved in crimes and violence.

(MORE)

4//The Daily Star, Lebanon             Friday, October 20, 2006


CABINET AGREES TO SET UP CAMERAS ACROSS CAPITAL
By Nafez Qawas, Daily Star correspondent

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Cabinet agreed Thursday to install surveillance cameras throughout the capital - including the southern suburbs - in a bid to tighten security across the country.

The government agreed "unanimously to use all necessary means to control the security situation in Lebanon," Information Minister Ghazi Aridi told reporters after the Cabinet's weekly session.

Closed-circuit TV cameras, "which will be linked to telephone lines, will be extended to Beirut's southern suburbs after the area is rebuilt," he added.

A ministerial source said Acting Interior Minister Ahmad Fataf had objected during the session to the cameras excluding regions outside the capital, while Energy and Water Minister Mohammad Fneish expressed concern for Lebanon's national security should the cameras be linked to satellites.

"Linking cameras to satellites could allow Israel to violate our security," the source quoted the Hizbullah minister as having said.

However, the information minister said the matter was settled during the session.

"All ministers agreed on the decision ... The cameras will all be linked to telephone landlines," Aridi said.

Meanwhile, a security source told The Daily Star Thursday that the security measure would cost $12 million.

"Police stations in Beirut will be provided with monitors set to detect any suspicious movement 24 hours a day," the source said.

"A central control room will be set up in the Helou police barracks in Corniche al-Mazraa, to be informed of any suspicious activity," the source added.

(MORE)

5//The Independent, UK                           Published: 19 October 2006


EU PREPARES FOR SHOWDOWN WITH PUTIN AFTER CIVIL LIBERTIES RESTRICTED     
By Stephen Castle in Brussels

Europe is seeking to bury its divisions ahead of a tense meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, who yesterday raised the temperature on civil liberties by forcing dozens of NGOs to suspend operations in Russia.

New Russian legislation, which requires any foreign NGO in the country to submit paperwork to a federal agency, has heightened concerns over basic freedoms in the wake of the murder of the campaigning journalist, Anna Politkovskaya.

When the law was implemented yesterday a list published by the Federal Registration Service showed 80 NGOs whose registration had been approved out of up to 500 working in Russia.

The Kremlin says its crackdown will prevent terrorists, money launderers and foreign intelligence services using NGOs as cover but critics fear it will give the government carte blanche to harass critical human rights groups.

The timing of the row could hardly be worse for the EU with Mr Putin attending a dinner tomorrow night at an informal summit in Lahti, Finland.

Energy is top of the agenda but Finland, which holds the EU presidency, yesterday conceded there was no chance of a quick deal with Moscow to open up its energy pipeline network to European firms.

The EU knows that, with 25 member states and a wide range of views, it faces an uphill task in presenting a united front. Yesterday the European Commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, appealed to EU leaders to speak with "a common voice not a discordant chorus" when they meet Mr Putin.

Moscow is adept at exploiting divisions inside the 25-nation bloc and its position is strengthened by rising energy prices and demand for oil and gas.

Earlier this week EU member states agreed to a statement urging Russia to ease pressure on Georgia in a row over four Russians who were briefly arrested and accused of spying. Matti Vanhanen, the prime minister of Finland, also promised to raise the issue of the murder of Ms Politkovskaya.

Tomorrow's meeting of EU leaders will begin with a lunch to hammer out what kind of commitments they will try to extract from Mr Putin, over dinner. These are likely to include better investment conditions in Russia and a tightened judicial system.

One diplomat said: "There are lots of potential minefields, both internally and with Putin". Another added: "It is true that the EU has not always sent a coherent and united message to Russia." Tony Blair is expected to raise the case of Royal Dutch Shell whose Sakhalin-2 project has been accused to breaching environmental standards. This is being seen by western firms as economic blackmail.

There will also be calls for an assurance that the Russian state monopoly Gazprom will not close the giant new Shtokman gas field to foreign partners.

However Mr Vanhanen indicated that the EU's demand for Russia to open up its pipeline network for use by foreign companies was on the backburner.

(MORE)

Copyright 2006, Gloria R. Lalumia

WORLD MEDIA WATCH