Saturday, December 09, 2006

Early Morning News Roundup Saturday December 9th 2006

Aswat al Iraq Late Night Round Up For Friday (In English):
Iraq-Security (Highlights)
Security developments in Iraq
Baghdad, Dec 8, (VOI) – Main security developments in Iraq on Friday:

Tikrit-Baghdad – U.S. and Iraqi officials gave conflicting reports over the bombing of houses in the village of Is-haqi, as Iraqi police sources said 17 members of one family including women and children were killed, while the U.S. army said it killed 20 people he described as “al-Qaida terrorists.”

Baghdad – Two U.S. soldiers were killed and another two wounded in a roadside bomb explosion in south Baghdad on Thursday, raising the death toll among U.S. forces in Iraq in the first week of December to 35 soldiers.

Baghdad – Eleven Iraqis were killed and 13 others wounded when mortar shells landed in the southeastern Baghdad district of Nahrawan, a police source said.

Mosul – Three Iraqi civilians were killed and 15 were wounded in a suicide car bombing at an army checkpoint in Talafar town, Ninawa province, a security source said.

Basra - British forces arrested the chief of al-Haritha district in northern Basra along with four others, prompting their clans to take to the streets with all their weapons demanding their release, said a tribal chief in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

Hilla – Unidentified gunmen fired three mortar shells on the U.S. consulate in Hilla town, but there were no news on resulting damage, a security source in Babel police command said.

Baghdad – The Multi-National forces in Iraq said that special Iraqi army forces, with coalition advisers, captured in Falluja a “senior leader” of al-Qaeda in Iraq group.

Ba’quba - A university professor was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Ba’quba and a policeman was killed in al-Moqdadiya, while a curfew was imposed all over the Ba’quba, 60 km north of the capital Baghdad, according to an official security source.

Ramadi – Al-Warrar U.S. military base west of Ramadi town was attacked with katyusha rockets, but results of the attack were not known, a security source said.

The URL for this story is:
http://www.aswataliraq.info/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=32703 
Warm welcome in Washington, cold shoulder elsewhere - World - Times Online: [When I saw the headline I thought the story would be about Blair - mfi]
Warm welcome in Washington, cold shoulder elsewhere
Tim Reid, Ned Parker and Stephen Farrell
The recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group were broadly welcomed by most Republicans and Democrats in Washington yesterday, but received a far cooler reception in Iraq, Iran, Israel and from the US military.

The report, which calls for the withdrawal of all US combat troops from Iraq by early 2008, negotiations with Iran and Syria, and a renewed Middle East peace initiative, was a rare triumph of political compromise in Washington.

But for those directly affected by the Iraq war and the wider regional instability — the Iraqis themselves, Israel and the US troops on the ground — the report was widely seen as unrealistic and provocative. In Baghdad, it was branded by some influential Sunnis as designed to solve American, rather than Iraqi, problems. Read in full:
Reuters AlertNet - Rice cool to idea of talks with Iran about Iraq:
By Arshad Mohammed

WASHINGTON, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday all but rejected the idea of talks with Iran about quelling the violence in Iraq unless Tehran first acts to rein in its suspected nuclear weapons program.

In her first comment about the Iraq Study Group report, Rice was cool to its recommendation that the United States actively engage with Iran and Syria to try to stabilize Iraq, a key proposal from the bipartisan advisory panel. Full article on Reuters Alertnet:
Freed Iraq hostages forgive captors | Top News | Reuters.co.uk:
By Tahani Karrar

LONDON (Reuters) - A British man and two Canadians freed from captivity in Iraq said on Friday they forgave their captors but are undecided on whether to testify at the trial of the men accused of kidnapping them.

"We have no desire to punish them," said peace campaigners Norman Kember and Canadians James Loney and Harmeet Sooden in a joint statement.

The three said they had been asked to give evidence at the trial in Iraq of a number of men accused of the kidnap, who could face execution if convicted.

"We unconditionally forgive our captors for abducting and holding us," they said. "Punishment can never restore what was taken from us."

They had gone to Iraq as members of Christian Peacemaker Teams, a group that advocates non-violence, but were kidnapped in November last year along with Tom Fox, an American. Full article (two pages) on Reuters UK:
People's Daily Online -- Japanese government decides to extend aid mission in Iraq:
The Japanese government decided on Friday morning to extend the Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF)'s mission for reconstruction aid in Iraq to next July.

With the extension, the third of its kind, the operation of ASDF in Iraq will enters its fourth year till July 31, 2007.

"It is important for Japan to fulfill its appropriate share of responsibility in helping with the reconstruction of Iraq," Kyodo News quoted Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki as saying.

Japan's special law on reconstruction aid for Iraq, which was enacted in 2003 and extended twice in 2004 and 2005, will expire at the end of next July after altogether four years of effective duration.

The ASDF has been doing airlifts from its base in Kuwait to Iraq since March 2004, initially to support the Ground Self- Defense Force (GSDF) troops in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah.

Japan began to withdraw the GSDF from Iraq in June this year, however decided at the same time to expand the ASDF's airlift operations to transport personnel and supplies for the United Nations and the multinational forces as an aid measure for reconstruction in Iraq.

Source: Xinhua
The Japan Times Online Articles:
Kyuma admits Tokyo backed Iraq attack

In an embarrassing overnight flip-flop, Defense Agency chief Fumio Kyuma withdrew Friday his previous remarks that the government did not officially support the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, but that former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi did so only in a private capacity.

Kyuma's remarks caused a stir, particularly because he heads the Defense Agency, which still has an Air Self-Defense Force unit deployed in the region to provide airlift support for U.S.-led multinational forces and United Nations staff working in the war-torn country.

During a foreign and defense committee session of the Upper House on Thursday, Kyuma said Koizumi expressed support for the war only at news conferences, and that this was not the official position of the government.

But Kyuma admitted Friday that he "did not have enough knowledge" of the government stance on the Iraq war, acknowledging that the Cabinet officially adopted a unified view supporting the U.S.-led war.

"In that sense, Koizumi's view (expressed) during the news conferences was an official view," Kyuma told reporters after his earlier remarks made headlines in Friday's morning newspapers.

But Kyuma maintained he is reluctant to endorse the U.S.-led war against Iraq, saying there might have been an alternative to waging war to deal with Iraq's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction -- a claim that proved false.

"I still wonder if there might have been better measures" for dealing with the issue, Kyuma said. In full:
The Jakarta Post: Indonesia proposes Muslim-led intervention force for chaotic Iraq:
Indonesia proposes Muslim-led intervention force for chaotic Iraq

Endy M. Bayuni and Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Bandung

Indonesia says a military force from predominantly Muslim countries should be deployed in Iraq before the United States withdraws. The recommendation is part of a larger proposal to resolve the conflict in the war-torn country.

Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said like-minded moderate Islamic countries acceptable to the Iraqis should contribute to the "intervening force", whose deployment should not be seen as an extension of the U.S.-led coalition troops or Iraqi security forces.

"This force would not be perceived as enemies by the Iraqis because we're going in there as brothers who are there to help," he said in an interview here Wednesday.

The force's capacity should not be measured by its firepower, he added.

Hassan was elaborating on the Indonesian proposal for a political framework to solve the Iraq problem, a concept which first became public during the visit of U.S. President George W. Bush to Bogor last month.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono referred to it at the joint press conference with Bush afterwards as the "triple track" proposal.

The other two "tracks" are a national reconciliation forum that must ultimately lead to an international conference, and a massive economic rehabilitation and reconstruction program.

The proposal took many people here by surprise, since there had been no prior public discussion about Indonesia getting involved in the conflict. Read "Indonesia proposes Muslim-led intervention force for chaotic Iraq" in full:

FT.com / In depth - Iraq’s oil-for-food scandal perpetrators go unpunished:
Slightly more than a year after a United Nations inquiry discovered a staggering level of graft by officials and corporations worldwide in buying cheap oil and selling goods to Iraq experts warn the great majority of alleged perpetrators are escaping scot-free.

An 18-month inquiry by Paul Volcker, former Fed chairman, found that more than2,000 companies, including some of the world’s most reputable blue chips, paid kickbacks to get a piece of the market to sell civilian goods to Iraq, providing the regime of Saddam Hussein with $1.8bn in illicit income.

Some legal action stemming from the accusations has generated headlines: in Australia, 11 wheat board officials face possible criminal charges; in France, Christophe de Margerie, chief executive designate of Total is in the spotlight; in India the foreign minister had to step down; and in the US, two influential private oil traders are due to face trial next year. A US court also convicted Tongsun Park, who acted as an agent for Iraq in its efforts to undermine the programme, to help Iraqi civilians.

Yet the response in most countries has been negligible. Russia, seen as a powerful source of wrongdoing, all but dismissed the findings as soon as they emerged. Few expected Moscow to do otherwise. But there has also been a similar lack of follow-up even in countries that present themselves as anti-corruption leaders.

British authorities, for example, have yet to take action against any of the UK firms named in the report, which included Weir Group, the engineer. The Serious Fraud Office said it was still considering whether to open an investigation, while a new police anti-corruption unit – set up to investigate bribery by British companies and individuals overseas – said it would probe the case only if instructed to do so by the SFO.

“This report has been out for more than 12 months and they are still just thinking about it,” said Jeremy Carver, a board member of Transparency International UK, a state of affairs he described as “really shocking”.

Swiss companies say there has been nearly no follow-up since last year. “We have had no contact from the Swiss or Swedish authorities,” says Thomas Schmidt, spokesman for the Swiss-Swedish electrical engineering group. “We are still conducting internal inquiries.”

Roche, the pharmaceuticals group, similarly said there had been no official contacts, and the dust has settled even at Cotecna, the Geneva-based goods authentication company that hit the headlines after allegations about its involvement with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s son.

“We haven’t heard a thing since the fifth and final report came out on October 27 2005,” says Alison Bourgeois, head of corporate communications.

In Germany, prosecutors have launched initial probes into some of the approximately 60 companies named in the report, but progress has been slow.

The Stuttgart prosecutor’s office investigating Volcker report allegations against automaker DaimlerChrysler admitted in October “nothing further would happen on the case until January” due to staff shortages. Daimler on Friday reiterated its position that it had not knowingly paid any kickbacks.

Mr Annan, whose second term was almost destroyed by the scandal, has sought to focus more attention upon wrongdoing outside his organisation. But he told the Financial Times: “Given the numbers involved, we haven’t seen much action across the board.”

“There’s very little specific follow-up.

The problem is that legal proceedings find the [oil-for-food] scandal very difficult to deal with,” said Jermyn Brooks, head of Transparency International’s private-sector programme.

“Prosecutors are looking at what happened and saying actually the Iraqi government stole money from itself. Our legal colleagues tell us it is very difficult to fit this into a corrupt-crime category.”

Only one country, Denmark, regards flouting UN sanctions as a crime.

Given limited resources, decisions are being made to focus efforts elsewhere.

Politics is also playing a role. “In some cases, sad to say, the political levels might feel this is damaging to national prestige, and prosecutors are dissuaded from giving priorities to those kind of cases,” said Mr Brooks.
FT.com / Home UK / UK - Iraq bribe prosecutors criticised as ‘lazy’:
Iraq bribe prosecutors criticised as ‘lazy’

By Hugh Williamson in Berlin and Adam Jones in Paris

Published: December 8 2006 22:27 | Last updated: December 8 2006 22:27

State prosecutors are dragging their feet investigating corruption in the Iraq oil-for-food programme, according to one of the authors of last year’s United Nations report on one of the world’s largest bribery scandals.

Mark Pieth, a Switzerland-based lawyer who wrote the report with Paul Volcker, former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, told the Financial Times that prosecutors in many countries were too career-minded, too unwilling to enter new legal terrain “and sometimes simply lazy”.

In spite of high-profile investigations in Australia, France and elsewhere, few cases have led to charges being laid in the 13 months since the report was published. Mr Pieth said he was “astonished” the report’s conclusions had not led to organisational changes in the UN, which was accused of mishandling the oil-for-food programme.

He welcomed the October decision by a Paris judge working on the oil-for-food scandal to charge with corruption Christophe de Margerie, head of exploration and production at Total, the French oil and gas group.

Mr Pieth said the “spectacular” case meant there were “many doubts” that Mr de Margerie, would, as planned, become chief executive next year. He added that this relatively rare breakthrough was because of France’s handful of “very stubborn” anti-graft prosecutors. Total said yesterday Mr de Margerie would take up the post as planned in February. It has previously denied violating the UN embargo in place against Iraq until 2002.

Prosecutors in various countries have complained of the unclear legal basis for prosecuting the 2,200 companies named as law-breakers in the Volcker report. But Mr Pieth said the investigations were “straightforward legal work”.

“As a prosecutor you rarely get promoted for such work, so many are not interested in it,” said Mr Pieth, chair of the Basel Institute on Governance and adviser to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

He accused governments of failing to provide enough support to identify companies that allegedly paid kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime to gain contracts.

Mr Pieth said an Australian inquiry that last month confirmed evidence of corruption in the Australian Wheat Board’s involvement in the UN programme was important because it showed “the AWB knew even more [about corruption in Iraq] than it was willing to admit” to the Volcker inquiry.
Poodle Alert! : UK Telegraph: Blair was overruled by Bush on post-war strategy, says Hoon:
Blair was overruled by Bush on post-war strategy, says Hoon

By Toby Helm, Chief Political Correspondent
Last Updated: 1:11am GMT 09/12/2006

Tony Blair's "special relationship" with President George W Bush was called into fresh question last night when it emerged that he was overruled by Washington over key parts of the allied strategy for post-war Iraq.

Geoff Hoon, who was Defence Secretary at the time of the conflict, told The Daily Telegraph that he and the Prime Minister "lost the argument" with the Americans before the fighting ceased – with disastrous consequences.

Mr Hoon said in an interview that he and Mr Blair had urged the US, before the conflict ended, not to dismantle the Iraqi army or purge all members of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party from senior positions. But they were over-ruled.

[snip]

"I think we understood from perhaps experience in Europe that quite a lot people were Ba'athists because they had to be if they wanted to be teachers or administrators and they weren't necessarily committed to Saddam Hussein. Those were arguments that I certainly put forward and I know other members of the government put forward. So we lost the argument."

Asked to whom they had lost the argument, Mr Hoon said: "To the Americans."

[snip]

"The Prime Minister's strategy of staying close in public so as to be influential in private simply didn't work. The problem for the British Government was that we became so enmeshed in American strategy that we had no option but to go along with it, even when it was palpably wrong."

Mr Hoon, who remained in charge at the Ministry of Defence until last year, said the US and Britain had made other errors. Notably, they underestimated the extent to which the occupying forces, particularly in and around Baghdad, would be seen by the Iraqis as "part of the problem, not as we saw it, part of the solution".

He added: "I think this is still one of the problems today."

Earlier this month a US State Department official, Kendal Myers, said Britain was routinely ignored in a "totally one-side" relationship and that Tony Blair had got "no pay-back" from the US. Full article here:

markfromireland
06:08 09/12/2006

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