Saturday, February 02, 2008

Iran determined to deepen ties with Africa: FM

TEHRAN, Feb. 2 (MNA) – Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki held talks with a number of African leaders over expansion of bilateral relations on the sidelines of the African Union (AU) summit in Ethiopia on Friday and Saturday.
Mottaki met with the presidents of Sudan, Djibouti, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Mauritania, Mali, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Tanzania, the foreign ministers of Ghana and Chad, Lesotho’s prime minister, and Ethiopia’s parliament speaker, asserting that Iran is determined to boost cooperation with African countries.

He called year 2008 “the year of expansion of relations between Iran and Africa” and expressed hope that the upcoming Iran-Africa summit will pave the way for further development of relations.

Iran-Africa summit will be held in Tehran in the near future at the level of deputy foreign minister in order to discuss boosting cooperation in trade, investment, and implementation of joint projects, the foreign minister explained.

Mottaki also briefed the African leaders on growing cooperation between Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog over the country’ nuclear activities.

The African officials lauded Iran’s initiative to hold Iran-Africa summit and expressed support for Tehran’s peaceful nuclear activities.

Djibouti’s president Ismail Omar Guelleh said, “The real spirit of Islam is dominant in Iran, thus progress of Iran is the progress of the Islamic world.”

Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade expressed Dakar’s support for Iran’s peaceful nuclear program, saying, “The report by the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies showed that Iran’s nuclear activities pose no threat to the world.”

Sudan’s President Umar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir reiterated Wade’ view towards Iran’s nuclear plan, saying, “We absolutely defend Iran’s right to access peaceful nuclear technology because we believe Iran’s scientific might belongs to all Muslims and the Islamic world needs a powerful country to stand up to the U.S. imperialism.”

“Good relations between Iran and the regional countries prove that Iran is the friend and the supporter of its neighboring countries,” he added.

Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore stated that Iran’s nuclear dossier should be investigated at the International Atomic Energy Agency and the UN Security Council should keep in view IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei’s positive report about Iran’s growing cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog.

The foreign ministers of Ghana and Chad also expressed their countries’ interest in expansion of cooperation with the Islamic Republic and briefed Mottaki on the latest developments in bilateral relations.


MSF pulls foreign staff from Somalia after 2 killed

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) suspended its operations in Somalia on Friday after a roadside bomb killed two foreign aid workers employed by its Dutch arm this week.
The blast in the southern port town of Kismayu on Monday killed the Kenyan doctor and a French logistics officer instantly, along with a Somali driver. A Somali journalist nearby died after being showered with shrapnel.
"We find this attack against one of our teams absolutely intolerable and a serious violation of the humanitarian action to which our late colleagues were so committed." Dr Christophe Fournier, international president of MSF, said in a statement.

Somalia is considered one of the world's most dangerous places for foreigners to work. Few aid workers go there and those that do risk being kidnapped or killed.
"Although life-saving medical activities continue under the supervision of our dedicated Somali colleagues, the suspension will clearly hamper the essential medical work of MSF in Somalia," Fournier said.
More than 6,500 people have been killed and a million displaced from the capital Mogadishu since allied Somali and Ethiopian troops drove Islamists out at the end of 2006, sparking a deadly insurgency. Malnutrition and disease are rife.
The United Nations refugee agency this week called Somalia the world's most pressing humanitarian crisis, even worse than Sudan's war-shattered Darfur region.

Source: Reuters

City schools to offer Somali

Liverpool schools will be the first in the UK to add Somali to the curriculum, education chiefs have said.
The city has one of the oldest Somali communities in Europe and a pilot scheme is to be launched in a limited number of schools this month. The education authority plans to offer GCSEs and A-levels in the subject. About 9,000 Somalis live in the city. Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2008, All Rights Reserved.
The full article contains 88 words and appears in Press Association newspaper.
Last Updated: 02 February 2008 3:32 PM

Friday, February 01, 2008

Somali mayor aid gunned down

Mogadishu - Somali insurgents shot dead the spokesperson for the Mayor of Mogadishu, killed a police officer and wounded a lawmaker in separate attacks in the war-ravaged city, officials and witnesses said on Friday.Armed men ambushed Abbas Nur Galeyr - the mayor's acting spokesperson whose predecessor was killed in an explosion last month - at his home in south Mogadishu late on Thursday and shot him dead.

"Four men armed with pistols attacked and killed the spokesperson in Hamarweyn and we are still investigating the incident. I hope justice will prevail," said Abdullahi Ibrahim Gardhub, a district chief.Also in southern Mogadishu, lawmaker Botan Ise Alin - an ex-warlord - was wounded when attackers hurled a grenade at his house, sparking a heavy exchange of fire between his guards and the raiders.

"He was wounded in the stomach, his situation is better now. Maybe a shrapnel damaged his intestines," a hospital source said.Insurgents also raided a police station in Hodan district in the south of Mogadishu and killed a policeman. Three civilians were wounded in the attack, witnesses said.

Rebels have been targeting government officials and installations in near-daily attacks since their movement was ousted by Ethiopia-backed government forces at the start of 2006.The embattled Somali government is struggling to exert its authority in a war-torn country, while a contingent of African Union (AU) peacekeepers have been unable to stop the attacks. -

Source: Sapa-AFP

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The State of the Union

Six years ago, President Bush began his State of the Union address with two powerful sentences: “As we gather tonight, our nation is at war, our economy is in recession, and the civilized world faces unprecedented dangers. Yet the state of our union has never been stronger.”
Monday night, after six years of promises unkept or insincerely made and blunders of historic proportions, the United States is now fighting two wars, the economy is veering toward recession and the civilized world still faces horrifying dangers — and it has far less sympathy and respect for the United States.
The nation is splintered over the war in Iraq, cleaved by ruthless partisan politics, bubbling with economic fear and mired in debate over virtually all of the issues Mr. Bush faced in 2002. And the best Mr. Bush could offer was a call to individual empowerment — a noble idea, but in Mr. Bush’s hands just another excuse to abdicate government responsibility.
Monday night’s address made us think what a different speech it might have been if Mr. Bush had capitalized on the unity that followed the 9/11 attacks to draw the nation together, rather than to arrogate ever more power and launch his misadventure in Iraq. How different it might have been if Mr. Bush meant what he said about compassionate conservatism or even followed the fiscal discipline of old-fashioned conservatism. How different if he had made a real effort to reach for the bipartisanship he promised in 2002 and so many times since.
Then he could have used last night’s speech to celebrate a balanced budget, one in which taxes produce enough money to pay for the nation’s genuine needs, including health care for poor children and a rebuilt New Orleans. Instead, Mr. Bush called — again — for his tax cuts to be permanent and threatened to veto bills that contained excessive pork-barrel spending, an idea absent from his agenda when Republicans held Congress.
Had Mr. Bush been doing his job right just in the last few weeks, he could have used this speech to celebrate a genuinely bipartisan agreement on a sound economic stimulus plan. In addition to the tax rebates agreed on already between the White House and the House, Mr. Bush could have announced sensible proposals for extending unemployment benefits and a temporary increase in food stamps for the most vulnerable citizens.
Those aren’t just Democratic ideas. The independent Congressional Budget Office ranks those stimulus policies as far more effective than rebates.
If Mr. Bush had let compassion and good sense trump ideology, he would have been able to use last night’s speech to celebrate the expansion of health insurance to tens of millions of children with working parents. Mr. Bush vetoed an expansion of the S-chip program, and he did not even agree to pay for all of the existing coverage because he thought a relative handful of parents might switch from private to public insurance if they were offered government assistance to buy it.
In 2003, the president proposed the Medicare prescription drug benefit, his signature achievement in health insurance reform. It barely squeaked past conservative Republicans in Congress, and Mr. Bush’s appetite for making health care accessible and affordable for all Americans vanished.
Mr. Bush has included a call for immigration reform in all of his previous State of the Union addresses. But he has never matched that rhetoric with strong ideas or political passion. A push last year for comprehensive reform was defeated by his party’s right wing, which continues to spread hatred on the campaign trail. His insight last night: “Illegal immigration is complicated.”
In 2002, Mr. Bush spoke about the international coalition that invaded Afghanistan, about the consensus among civilized nations of the need to combat terrorism, about the way the 9/11 attacks had rallied nations behind America’s leadership. Afghanistan’s good war was quickly overshadowed — and shortchanged — by Mr. Bush’s Iraq folly. Six years later, the United States and its allies are still fighting and dying in Afghanistan and the Taliban is back in force.
He was not even able to assure Americans that there is an end in sight to the Iraq war. Instead, he made the same empty promise he has made every year: When Iraq can defend itself, American troops will come home. Iraq’s defense minister told The Times recently that his forces would not be able to fully keep the peace and defend their country until 2018.
Mr. Bush’s troop escalation has succeeded in stabilizing parts of Baghdad and lowering casualties. But 2007 was still the most violent year in Iraq since the 2003 invasion and — more important — Mr. Bush has little to show in the way of political reconciliation, the only guarantor of a lasting peace. Mr. Bush has made no real effort to seek the help of Iraq’s neighbors to help stabilize the country.
In the end, when it comes to Iraq, Mr. Bush’s annual addresses will be remembered most for his false claims — the fictitious “axis of evil,” nonexistent aluminum tubes and African uranium, dangerous weapons that did not exist. No president can want that as his legacy.
Mr. Bush still has a year left — and many serious problems to address. It is time, finally, for him to put aside the partisanship, the bluster and the empty rhetoric. The state of the union is troubled. The nation yearns for leadership.
Next Article in Opinion (1 of 16) »
Source: NY Times

President Bush’s last State of the Union

Same promise, same threat
by Reinout van Wagtendonk
In his final State of the Union before handing over to the next president, George W. Bush called on Congress to approve the economic stimulation measures agreed last week. He also said he will continue to attack terrorism, adding that his troop surge in Irak had yielded successes. How does this last State of the Union compare to Bush’s first one? In 2002 president Bush delivered his first State of the Union speech under grim circumstances.
“As we gather tonight our nation is at war, our economy is in recession and the civilized world faces unprecedented dangers. Yet, the state of our union has never been stronger.”
The first year of his presidency was the year of the September 11 attacks.
EvilSix years ago on January 29 Bush vilified North Korea, Iran and Iraq with a memorable phrase:
‘States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil arming to threaten the peace of the world.’The largest part of that speech focused on the threat posed by islamic terrorists and rogue nations, and the Bush doctrine of preemptive strikes to keep that threat far from the American homeland.Six years ago the economy wasn’t doing well either. President Bush emphasized lower taxes, calling for making permanent the tax cuts enacted in 2001 when the US budget had a few hundred billion dollar surplus.
TaxesMonday night, in his final State of the Union speech, Bush again asked Congress to pass a stimulus plan. The budget long ago sunk back into hundreds of billions of dollars worth of red ink, but the president’s economic priority remains the same:
“Most Americans think their taxes are high enough. With all the other pressures on their finances the American families should not have to worry about their federal governments, taking a bigger bite out of their pay-checks. There is only one way to eliminate this uncertainty: make the tax relief permanent.”
The cheering came from other Republicans. The Democrats sat in disapproving silence. A large difference with 2002 is that the Democrats now control both Houses of Congress.
SimilaritiesA large difference as well is George Bush’s approval rating: in January 2002 84%, now at 32%. In this final speech Bush changed the order of his two most important subjects: first the economy then terrorism and Iraq. But it was remarkable how little different his first and his last State of the Union speech seemed. The same threat…
“Evil men who despise freedom, despise America and aim to subject millions to their violent rule.” The same promise…
“Since 9/11 we have taken the fight to these terrorists and extremists, we will stay on the offence, we will keep up the pressure and we will deliver justice to our enemies.” But the applause sounded polite at best. Bush has already lost a lot of power. In this election year the lame duck president will have even less clout.Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton voiced the relief of many Democrats now that Bush is in his final year in office:
“The day may be beautiful and the heavens are smiling at us, because tonight will be the last time George Bush ever gives a State of the Union speech.”
Tags: axis of evil, economy, George W. Bush, State of the Union, terrorism
Source: Radio NL

Djiboutians: Anti-Terrorism Tactics

TADJOURA, Djibouti - After completing 70 days of training under Guam National Guard Soldiers, 60 Djiboutian National Army soldiers graduated from the Able Dart 08-01-Tadjoura Train-the-Trainer Course at the Regiment Inter-Army Tadjoura compound last week.
Guam National Guard unit 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry (Light), Delta Company, serving under Combined Joint Task Force-Horn facilitated the anti - and counter-terrorism training for the Djiboutian soldiers, enabling them to return to their regiments to provide fellow soldiers the same skills.

At the graduation ceremony, the Guard's commander, Capt. Joseph I. Cruz, told the graduates that their willingness to learn and their motivation and esprit de corps were noteworthy and commendable.

"Of course, all this is a true testament to the level of professionalism in your army, which brings credit upon each of you, the Djiboutian National Army and the country of Djibouti," Cruz said. "My Soldiers have learned just as much from you as you have from them," Cruz said. "We look forward to working with you again in the future as we continue to strengthen the bond between our countries and defeat terrorism in this region.

Specific anti-terrorism and counter-terrorism training Djiboutian soldiers received included tactics and topics of human rights, squad-level defenses, offensive operations, improvised explosive device familiarization, traffic control points and quick reaction forces.

"The training was long and tough, but we are now able to take what we have learned back to our regiments and train other soldiers to be knowledgeable and successful in many areas," said Abdi Amir Djama, a train-the-trainer graduate. "We are happy for what Delta company has taught us, and I am proud to be able to teach soldiers in my regiment the same skills I have learned."
Combined, the topics served to provide the soldiers with the knowledge and capabilities to deter and repress extremists who wish to establish a foothold within the Tadjoura region.

The 10-week course was designed to build up knowledge that was sequentially taught. The degree of difficulty was increased throughout the training and was put to the test in a culminating exercise called Operation Able Dart.

Gratitude was a universal note to graduates, CJTF-HOA and the Tadjoura community from the distinguished visitors who had an opportunity to address the audience.

"I want to thank the forces stationed here in Djibouti for helping our military forces," said Djiboutian army Brig. Gen. Osman Nour Soubagleh, Djiboutian Army East African Standby Brigade commanding general. "I also want to thank the Djiboutian soldiers for their knowledge and going through the difficult training they have just completed. You have become a confident technician in fighting the war against terrorism."

(Air Force Staff Sgt. Jennifer Redente serves with Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa Public Affairs.)


Somalia: Ethiopian Troops Abandon Key Military Base

Ethiopian troops backing Somalia's transitional federal government withdrew from a key military base in the central regions on Monday, witnesses and residents said.
Since early 2007, the Ethiopian army maintained a 1,000-strong garrison in a base east of Beletwein, the capital of the central Hiran region.

Ethiopian army trucks were seen leaving the base on Monday and were reportedly heading west, towards the Somali-Ethiopian border.
Ethiopian army
The exact number of troops and trucks could not be confirmed, but our Beletwein correspondent reported that the army base was "completely vacant," save for some "explosives material" that worried residents.
Three Somalis who were jailed by the Ethiopian army at the base were also released.
Before leaving, the Ethiopian commanders met privately with Hiran regional officials, including Governor Yusuf Daboged.
No report emerged from that meeting and Somali officials declined comment on these latest developments.
But the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces from the Beletwein area coincides with increasing attacks on their position. The Ethiopian army still maintains a small contingent in Kala-Beyr village, near the border, local sources said.
Last week, heavily-armed insurgents battled joint Somali-Ethiopian forces in parts of Hiran region.
Meanwhile, targeted killings of Somali government officials continued when Hiran regional intelligence boss Mohamed Ali "Gabow" was shot and killed.
Witnesses said three men armed with pistols killed Mr. Gabow in front of a hotel in Beletwein town.

One civilian was wounded during the attack. The killers escaped before police arrived on the scene and began questioning potential witnesses.
No group has thus far claimed responsibility for the killing, but it becomes the first successful targeted killing of a government official in Hiran region.
Regional officials have been attacked several times, including Governor Daboged who was attacked at least two times in the past year.

Source: Garowe