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Friday, 28 July 2006 02:28

World Media Watch for July 28, 2006

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World Media Watch

1//The Moscow Times, Russia--PUTIN AND CHAVEZ SEAL WEAPONS DEAL (President Vladimir Putin courted Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez in the Kremlin on Thursday, offering the strongly anti-American leader broad political support and giving his blessing to hefty arms orders and budding oil and gas projects. Under the arms deals, which Washington has sought to block, Russia will sell 24 fighter jets and 53 helicopters to the Venezuelan military. … After more than three hours of talks with Chavez, part of which included delegations of business and political leaders from both countries, Putin told reporters that Russia was ready to pump investment into Venezuela, primarily in the energy sector. … Steven O'Sullivan, head of emerging markets research at Deutsche Bank, said oil-consuming countries were over a barrel when it came to Chavez's energy and arms deals. "In an era of high energy prices, resource-exporting economies are becoming much more independent," O'Sullivan said. "There's not a lot you can do about it -- whether it's Chavez supporting Fidel Castro or Putin selling arms to Chavez. Russia is pursuing its own interests.")

2//The China Post, Taiwan--CHINA EYES STRONGER MILITARY FOR DEFENSE (China needs stronger military forces as it faces growing instability and threats to national security, the ruling Communist Party's ideological mouthpiece said according to reports in the state media Wednesday. An essay in the latest issue of Qiushi, or Seek Truth, says China must strengthen its military to guard a peaceful international setting for economic growth, the official China News Service reported. "Destabilizing and uncertain factors are increasing and having a major impact on China's security environment," the essay said. … Qiushi magazine is the Communist Party's ideological mouthpiece and often carries essays by senior officials and theorists. The latest essay appears to reflect unease about China's military preparedness, even with rapidly rising defense spending over the past decade. The essay did not specify the threats calling for stronger defense, but it said that Western foes did not want to see a strong China.)

3//Asia Times Online, Hong Kong--JAPAN JOINS THE ENERGY RACE (Resource-poor Japan is revving up its diplomatic drive to strengthen relations with the oil- and gas-rich countries of Central Asia amid stubbornly high oil prices. Japan invited foreign ministers of Central Asian nations to talks early last month. And in a more significant move that highlights how passionately Japan is wooing the Central Asian nations, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi plans to visit the region in late August, becoming the first Japanese premier to do so. He and the leaders of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, as well as possibly others in the region, are expected among other topics to discuss economic cooperation, anti-terrorism measures and cultural and personnel exchanges. Japan's energized diplomatic drive in Central Asia comes at a time when Tokyo is implementing its new energy strategy aimed at ensuring stable oil, gas and other resource supplies in the long term to feed the world's second-largest economy. … Japan will have a difficult time securing the necessary energy resources from Central Asia. The country lacks the sheer military force that the US, Russia and China can all bring to influence events in the region. But the cash reserves that Tokyo can offer provide the country with substantial sway, and Japan's policy of pushing dialogue is likely to afford it the means of tapping oil and gas reserves.)

4//The New Zealand Herald, New Zealand--SOMALI MPs TRY TO REMOVE PRIME MINISTER GEDI (Somali legislators are trying to remove Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi from power, in a move government sources said was aimed at persuading rival powerful Islamists to enter peace talks. A lawmaker said a vote of no confidence in Gedi had been presented to the speaker and would be debated on Saturday. Analysts see peace talks and power sharing as the only hope for averting war in Somalia, but Gedi's position would be vulnerable in any shared government as President Abdullahi Yusuf would likely offer the prime minister's post to the Islamists. … The Islamists are split between moderates wanting talks and hardliners who believe they can win a military campaign against the interim administration. "The plan is to go to the talks without a government in order to have a bargaining power with the Islamists," member of parliament Abdallah Ali said.)

5//Arab News, Saudi Arabia--7TH IMPEACHMENT COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST PRESIDENT ARROYO (Yet another impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the seventh, was filed yesterday in the Philippine House of Representatives. The complainants, numbering more than 200, were led by the parents of two missing University of the Philippines students who were allegedly abducted by army soldiers in a province north of Manila. Representatives Satur Ocampo, Teodoro Casi?o, and Joel Virador, Liza Maza and Rafael Mariano, all of the Leftist bloc, endorsed the complaint in compliance with the rules of Congress. Last Tuesday, Rep. Joel Villanueva endorsed the sixth complaint filed by more than 1,000 individuals, mostly members of the Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption [Cibac]. An eighth complaint is expected to be filed by the opposition today. The latest complaint was no different from the six. It contained the same charges — electoral fraud, graft and corruption, extra judicial killings, among others.)

* * *

1//The Moscow Times, Russia Friday, July 28, 2006. Page 1.

PUTIN AND CHAVEZ SEAL WEAPONS DEAL
By Anna Smolchenko and Nabi Abdullaev, Staff Writers

President Vladimir Putin courted Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez in the Kremlin on Thursday, offering the strongly anti-American leader broad political support and giving his blessing to hefty arms orders and budding oil and gas projects.

Under the arms deals, which Washington has sought to block, Russia will sell 24 fighter jets and 53 helicopters to the Venezuelan military.

In contrast to Chavez's harsh anti-U.S. rhetoric during the rest of his three-day visit to Russia, however, his tone was far more restrained during the Kremlin meeting.

After more than three hours of talks with Chavez, part of which included delegations of business and political leaders from both countries, Putin told reporters that Russia was ready to pump investment into Venezuela, primarily in the energy sector.

Then, in comments that appeared to refer directly to the United States, Putin said, "The cooperation between Venezuela and Russia is not aimed against any third parties."

Putin and Chavez were standing at lecterns in the Grand Kremlin Palace's Malachite Foyer, a hall adorned with malachite columns and portraits of princes and military commanders. Both leaders appeared solemn and barely broke into a smile during the half-hour briefing.

(SNIP)

Chavez, wearing a sober black suit and a scarlet tie, praised Russia's Sukhoi jets and Kalashnikov rifles, yet took pains during a restrained speech to tone down his anti-American rhetoric.

"For us, it's very important that Russia participates in the construction of a large gas pipeline that will run from Venezuela to the south and will span 8,000 kilometers," Chavez said, adding that the pipeline would take $20 billion to build.

He repeatedly thanked Putin for his support, saying, "In the face of the pressure and even an embargo that they wanted to impose on us, Russia has extended its hand to us."

(SNIP)

Konstantin Makiyenko, a defense analyst at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a think tank, said Moscow should not even consider bowing to U.S. pressure over the arms deal, as it would lead to "catastrophic damage to the reputation of our country on the global arms market."

The strengthening of energy ties hailed by both leaders is also likely to worry Washington, which is eager to ensure the security of oil and gas supplies from non-Middle East exporters, such as Venezuela and Russia.

Venezuela is the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, holding about 7 percent of global oil reserves, and holds the second-largest gas reserves in the Western hemisphere after the United States.

As well as participating in his cherished project of a South American gas pipeline, Chavez said Russian energy companies, including LUKoil and Gazprom, had been invited to increase their involvement in Venezuelan oil and gas projects, including the exploration of oil fields in the Orinoco River basin.

(SNIP)

Steven O'Sullivan, head of emerging markets research at Deutsche Bank, said oil-consuming countries were over a barrel when it came to Chavez's energy and arms deals.

"In an era of high energy prices, resource-exporting economies are becoming much more independent," O'Sullivan said. "There's not a lot you can do about it -- whether it's Chavez supporting Fidel Castro or Putin selling arms to Chavez. Russia is pursuing its own interests."

(MORE)

2//The China Post, Taiwan 2006/7/27

CHINA EYES STRONGER MILITARY FOR DEFENSE
Beijing, Reuters

China needs stronger military forces as it faces growing instability and threats to national security, the ruling Communist Party's ideological mouthpiece said according to reports in the state media Wednesday.

An essay in the latest issue of Qiushi, or Seek Truth, says China must strengthen its military to guard a peaceful international setting for economic growth, the official China News Service reported.

"Destabilizing and uncertain factors are increasing and having a major impact on China's security environment," the essay said.

"History demonstrates that one cannot rely on others granting peace, and only building a strong military and firm national defense can provide a reliable security barrier," it added.

Qiushi magazine is the Communist Party's ideological mouthpiece and often carries essays by senior officials and theorists. The latest essay appears to reflect unease about China's military preparedness, even with rapidly rising defense spending over the past decade. The essay did not specify the threats calling for stronger defense, but it said that Western foes did not want to see a strong China.

"Hostile Western forces do not want to see a strong socialist China emerge in the east, and they are constantly cooking up vain attempts to hold in check and contain China's development."

Supporters of independence for Taiwan -- the self-governed island that China has claimed as its own since their split in 1949 amid civil war -- are also a "major peril", it added.

(SNIP)

"At present, the political and military environment on China's periphery is quite complex, and unpredictable factors are clearly rising," the essay said.

3//Asia Times Online, Hong Kong Jul 28, 2006

JAPAN JOINS THE ENERGY RACE
By Hisane Masaki

TOKYO - Resource-poor Japan is revving up its diplomatic drive to strengthen relations with the oil- and gas-rich countries of Central Asia amid stubbornly high oil prices.

Japan invited foreign ministers of Central Asian nations to talks early last month. And in a more significant move that highlights how passionately Japan is wooing the Central Asian nations, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi plans to visit the region in late August, becoming the first Japanese premier to do so.

He and the leaders of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, as well as possibly others in the region, are expected among other topics to discuss economic cooperation, anti-terrorism measures and cultural and personnel exchanges.

Japan's energized diplomatic drive in Central Asia comes at a time when Tokyo is implementing its new energy strategy aimed at ensuring stable oil, gas and other resource supplies in the long term to feed the world's second-largest economy.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry released its new national energy strategy at the end of May. It calls for, among other things, strengthening ties with resource-rich countries, promoting nuclear energy, and securing energy resources abroad through the fostering of more powerful energy companies. The new strategy specifically calls for increasing the ratio of "Hinomaru oil", or oil developed and imported through domestic producers, from the current 15% to 40% by 2030.

Japan has also turned to a free-trade agreement as a foreign-policy tool to beef up ties with resource-rich countries. Japan will soon launch FTA negotiations with the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, for instance. Japan imports almost all of its crude oil, nearly 90% of which comes from the Middle East. The GCC groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The grouping accounts for more than 70% of Japanese crude-oil imports. In the upcoming FTA negotiations with the GCC, Japan will seek a written pledge by the grouping to preferentially supply crude oil to Japan, even in emergencies such as war.

Japan's new diplomatic focus on Central Asia also comes at a time when the United States, Russia and China are all flexing their political muscles in the resource-rich but volatile region, competing in an attempt to secure energy. To ensure its energy security, Tokyo is desperate to diversify its hydrocarbon sources in order to reduce its heavy reliance on the Middle East for crude-oil imports. As such, an obvious choice for the country is to turn to the Central Asian and Caucasian nations.

(SNIP)

New Great Game
Japan's acceleration of dialogue is widely seen as reflecting a desire to play a greater geopolitical role, not only in Central Asia but also in Eurasia as a whole, while countering the growing influence of Russia and China in the region.

In a development that raised eyebrows in the United States, Japan's most important ally, China issued a joint statement with Russia and four Central Asian countries at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization a year ago calling for an early withdrawal of US forces from Central Asia.

This fits into Moscow's efforts to reduce - or at least compete with - US unilateralism. In particular, Russia is determined to maintain its hold over the former Soviet states, as can be seen through its support of Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko and Uzbek President Islam Karimov despite Western criticism of their regimes. Meanwhile, Japan's ties with both Russia and China are far from easy over a variety of issues.

Japan has frequently locked horns with China over natural-gas reserves in the East China Sea. The Sino-Japanese rivalry over energy resources shows signs of spreading to the Middle East. In early 2004, Japan and Iran signed a $2 billion deal to develop Iran's massive Azadegan oilfield. But with international tensions rising over Tehran's nuclear program, there are growing concerns in Tokyo about how the nuclear crisis will play out. China won rights to the Yadavaran oilfield in Iran. Many analysts point out that should Japan be forced to give up the Azadegan project as part of international pressure on Tehran, Beijing could step in to replace Tokyo.

China became a net importer of crude oil in 1993, and in 2003 overtook Japan as the world's second-largest oil consumer - with the US secure in the top spot. China now depends on imports for more than 40% of its oil.

China is aggressively making inroads into Central Asia. China National Petroleum took over for $4.2 billion last year the Canada-based oil firm PetroKazakhstan, which operates solely in Kazakhstan. China and Kazakhstan also inaugurated a 1,000-kilometer oil pipeline in December to send oil to western China, the first major export pipeline from the landlocked Central Asian republic that does not cross Russia. Eventually another pipeline will link up with this one from the Caspian region in western Kazakhstan, where the huge new Kashagan oilfield is being developed.

Meanwhile, Japan has reviewed and overhauled its ODA (overseas development assistance) policy recently in an attempt to make financial assistance a more effective foreign-policy tool in the pursuit of its strategic interests.

Japan will have a difficult time securing the necessary energy resources from Central Asia. The country lacks the sheer military force that the US, Russia and China can all bring to influence events in the region. But the cash reserves that Tokyo can offer provide the country with substantial sway, and Japan's policy of pushing dialogue is likely to afford it the means of tapping oil and gas reserves.

4//The New Zealand Herald, New Zealand Friday July 28, 2006

SOMALI MPs TRY TO REMOVE PRIME MINISTER GEDI
By Guled Mohamed, Reuters

MOGADISHU - Somali legislators are trying to remove Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi from power, in a move government sources said was aimed at persuading rival powerful Islamists to enter peace talks.

A lawmaker said a vote of no confidence in Gedi had been presented to the speaker and would be debated on Saturday.

Analysts see peace talks and power sharing as the only hope for averting war in Somalia, but Gedi's position would be vulnerable in any shared government as President Abdullahi Yusuf would likely offer the prime minister's post to the Islamists.

In another development boosting the Islamists' power by giving them full control over the capital Mogadishu, militiamen said gunmen loyal to a warlord who controlled a former presidential palace were preparing to hand over the building.

Although the Islamist movement seized Mogadishu from warlords last month and now controls a swathe of the south, some pockets in the capital remained under warlord control.

The Islamists are split between moderates wanting talks and hardliners who believe they can win a military campaign against the interim administration.

"The plan is to go to the talks without a government in order to have a bargaining power with the Islamists," member of parliament Abdallah Ali said.

The government's interim charter says that once a vote of no confidence is passed against a prime minister, the president is required to appoint a new one within 30 days.

(MORE)

5//Arab News, Saudi Arabia Thursday, 27, July, 2006 (02, Rajab, 1427)


7TH IMPEACHMENT COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST PRESIDENT ARROYO
Julie Javellana-Santos, Arab News

MANILA, 27 July 2006 — Yet another impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the seventh, was filed yesterday in the Philippine House of Representatives.

The complainants, numbering more than 200, were led by the parents of two missing University of the Philippines students who were allegedly abducted by army soldiers in a province north of Manila.

Representatives Satur Ocampo, Teodoro Casi?o, and Joel Virador, Liza Maza and Rafael Mariano, all of the Leftist bloc, endorsed the complaint in compliance with the rules of Congress.

Last Tuesday, Rep. Joel Villanueva endorsed the sixth complaint filed by more than 1,000 individuals, mostly members of the Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (Cibac).

An eighth complaint is expected to be filed by the opposition today.

The latest complaint was no different from the six. It contained the same charges — electoral fraud, graft and corruption, extra judicial killings, among others.

Signatories of the previous complaints included bishops, priests, retired generals, businessmen, professors, students, leftist activists and opposition politicians.

Impeachment proponents said the serial filing was intended to cover all the possible dates that may be used by the president’s allies to raise questions of technicality on the one-complaint-a-year rule. Last year, Arroyo’s allies threw out three impeachment complaints on the mere grounds of technicality.

Which One?
Ocampo said the complaint, which they endorsed yesterday, might be the one that would be recognized by the justice committee, tasked under House rules to determine whether any or all of the complaints were sufficient in form and substance before sending one or all of them to the plenary for deliberations.

As required by the Philippine Constitution, another impeachment complaint against the same impeachable official can be filed only after one year from the filing of the first one.
Lawyer Oliver Lozano filed the first impeachment complaint against Arroyo on June 27, 2005, but this was referred to the committee only on July 25.

Lozano’s complaint and two others were dismissed eventually by the House.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the author of the “prejudicial questions” that became instrumental in the dismissal of the impeachment case against Arroyo last year, said the six impeachment complaints were “prohibited complaints” because they were filed within the one-year ban.

He said the ban will only end today because the impeachment complaint filed against Arroyo last year was referred to the justice vommittee “on July 26, 2005, at 4:20 p.m.”

Ocampo said the president should be impeached especially because of “gross violation of human rights” she allegedly committed since she assumed office in 2001.

He said 690 political killings had been recorded since January 2001.

But instead of investigating Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, the alleged perpetrator of these killings, the group of party-list congressmen lamented how the president even extolled him during her State of the Nation Address on Monday.

(MORE)

Copyright 2006, Gloria R. Lalumia

World Media Watch