Archive for November, 2004

Dollar hits new low on fears over Chinese reserves

Saturday, November 27th, 2004

The dollar fell to new lows on Friday on rumours that China may shift some of its currency reserves away from the greenback, highlighting the extent of dollar-related jitters in financial markets.

The fragility in currency and bond markets has centred on fears that Asian central banks may begin to dump US assets to avoid large losses as the dollar’s value falls. The nervous state of the markets was highlighted by Friday’s investor reaction to a newspaper report, later retracted, that China’s central bank was cutting its holdings of US Treasury bonds.

The dollar dropped sharply after China Business News quoted Yu Yongding, a member of the central bank’s monetary policy advisory committee and a respected professor of economics, as saying China had cut its holdings of US government debt.
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U.S. Sends in Secret Weapon: Saddam’s Old Commandos

Saturday, November 27th, 2004

NEAR ISKANDARIYA, Iraq (Reuters) – Twenty months after toppling Saddam Hussein, U.S. troops still battling his followers in the heart of Iraq’s old arms industry are hitting back with a new weapon — ex-members of Saddam’s special forces.

For five months, Iraqi police commandos have been based with U.S. Marines in charge of the region along the Euphrates river immediately south of Baghdad, which roadside bombs, ambushes and kidnaps have turned into a no-go area for outsiders and earned it the melodramatic description “triangle of death.”

The performance of these police is a critical test of the ability of U.S. forces to hand security over to Iraqis in order to meet their goal of withdrawing while leaving Iraq stable. U.S. officers in the area say they are increasingly optimistic.
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Big Iraqi Parties Are Urging Delay in Jan. 30 Voting

Saturday, November 27th, 2004

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 26 – Some of Iraq’s most powerful political groups, including the party led by the interim prime minister, called Friday for a six-month delay in elections scheduled for Jan. 30, citing concerns over security.

The list of groups includes some that have been among the strongest backers of American policy in Iraq, and their call gives sudden momentum to those arguing for a postponement. The two main Kurdish parties supported the delay request, marking the first time the Kurds, closely allied with the Americans, have taken a clear stand on the issue.
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Top Iraqi Shi’ite Party Insists on Timely Election
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – One of Iraq’s most powerful Shi’ite Muslim parties said on Saturday any delay to planned Jan. 30 elections would be a victory for insurgents trying to wreck the process.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the influential Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), told Reuters he would reject calls by leading Sunni Muslim and secular parties for elections to be postponed amid relentless violence.

“This would mean that the terrorists have been able to achieve one of their main objectives; that there be no elections and that a suitable political process does not start,” he said.

“We will insist on the necessity of holding elections and that a delay will not be in the interests of the Iraqi people.”

Iraq’s 60 percent Shi’ite majority, oppressed under Saddam Hussein, is keen for the election go ahead on time, knowing it is likely to cement the increased power they have enjoyed since the Sunni former president’s overthrow.
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U.S. Threatens to Cut Aid over International Criminal Court

Saturday, November 27th, 2004

UNITED NATIONS — The Republican-controlled Congress has stepped up its campaign to curtail the power of the International Criminal Court, threatening to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in economic aid to governments that refuse to sign immunity accords shielding U.S. personnel from being surrendered to the tribunal.

The move marks an escalation in U.S. efforts to ensure that the first world criminal court can never judge American citizens for crimes committed overseas. More than two years ago, Congress passed the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act, which cut millions of dollars in military assistance to many countries that would not sign the Article 98 agreements, as they are known, that vow not to transfer to the court U.S. nationals accused of committing war crimes abroad.

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The Facts on the Ukrainian Melodrama

Friday, November 26th, 2004

by Srdja Trifkovic
The media myth: An East European “pro-Western, reformist democrat” is cheated of a clear election victory by an old-timer commie apparatchik. A wave of popular protest may yet ensure another Triumph of Democracy a la Belgrade and Tbilisi, however. The fact: neither the winner of the presidential election in the Ukraine, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, nor his Western-supported ultranationalist rival Viktor Yushchenko, are “democrats” or “reformers” in any accepted sense. They differ, however, on the issue of the Ukrainian identity and destiny in what is a deeply divided country. Ukraine is like a large Montenegro, split between its Russian-leaning half (the south, the east) and a strongly nationalist west and north-west that defines its identity in an unyielding animosity to Moscow. The prediction: “The West”—the United States, the European Union, and an array of Sorosite “NGOs”—will fail to rig this crisis in favor of Yushchenko: the critical mass that worked in Serbia in October 2000, and in Georgia in 2003—the complicity of the security services and mafia money—is simply not present.

The myth is virulently Russophobic. It implicitly recognizes the reality of Ukraine’s divisions but asserts that those Ukrainians who want to maintain strong links with Russia are either stupid or manipulated. This view has nothing to do with the well-being or democratic will of 50 million Ukrainians. It is strictly geopolitical, in that it sees Moscow as a foe and its enemies (Chechen Jihadists included) as friends. Radek Sikorski of the American Enterprise Institute even hinted that Washington may have to take up arms to face the threat from a reconstituted empire. Three days before the election Georgie Ann Geyer asserted that the Ukrainian vote “will decide whether Vladimir Putin’s Russia can again be a formalized, or informalized, empire,” and demanded action to prevent such outcome.
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‘Unusual Weapons’ Used in Fallujah

Friday, November 26th, 2004

by Dahr Jamail
BAGHDAD, Nov 26 (IPS) – The U.S. military has used poison gas and other non-conventional weapons against civilians in Fallujah, eyewitnesses report..

”Poisonous gases have been used in Fallujah,” 35-year-old trader from Fallujah Abu Hammad told IPS. ”They used everything — tanks, artillery, infantry, poison gas. Fallujah has been bombed to the ground.”

Hammad is from the Julan district of Fallujah where some of the heaviest fighting occurred. Other residents of that area report the use of illegal weapons.

”They used these weird bombs that put up smoke like a mushroom cloud,” Abu Sabah, another Fallujah refugee from the Julan area told IPS. ”Then small pieces fall from the air with long tails of smoke behind them.”

He said pieces of these bombs exploded into large fires that burnt the skin even when water was thrown on the burns. Phosphorous weapons as well as napalm are known to cause such effects. ”People suffered so much from these,” he said.

Macabre accounts of killing of civilians are emerging through the cordon U.S. forces are still maintaining around Fallujah.
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Bush’s Minority Appointments

Friday, November 26th, 2004

By Liaquat Ali Khan
The Bush administration is making history in hiring minorities to perform high-profile jobs. Colin Powell was the first black man to head the State Department, Condoleezza Rice the first black woman to be the National Security Advisor, and soon Secretary of State. Alberto Gonzales, if confirmed by the Senate, would be the first Hispanic to be crowned as the United States Attorney General. The induction of these and other minorities into what has been a game of white monopoly is bewitching in that it tells the world that President Bush values both equality and diversity and that racial prejudices, actively wired in American power grids, are falling apart. No longer are Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians confined to dirty jobs, such as cleaning private quarters of the white establishment. See, says the Administration–now sons and daughters of the people of color are being actively recruited for leading the world.

Cynicism aside, however, the Thanksgiving dinner for this great achievement is infested with flies. The willing coalition of black, brown, and other faces of color appears to have been summoned to whitewash foreign invasions, occupations, deportations, detentions, disappearances, and even commission of war crimes such as torture and extra-judicial executions. Minorities are cast as big-headed puppets to speak daggers on behalf of a producer/director who, we are told, believes in God, democracy, and liberation.
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Chavez Wants OPEC Target Price Raised

Thursday, November 25th, 2004

MOSCOW (Reuters) – OPEC member Venezuela will ask the oil cartel to revise the bottom end of its official price target range up to at least $30 per barrel, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Thursday.

Chavez told Reuters the current OPEC price corridor of $22-$28 had been consigned to history because of sustained high oil prices. “It has been pulverized,” he said, adding that the upper range should be determined by the market itself.

“The discussion is already on the table and we believe that now the minimum should be $30 a barrel and the maximum whatever the market says,” he said. “It (the oil price) is $48-$50 per barrel right now and this is what the market is saying.”

Chavez reiterated that Venezuela, the world’s fifth largest oil exporter, had no plans to support a cut in oil production by OPEC.

“There is lot of demand and oil production is almost at capacity. There is almost no capacity to increase production and demand continues to grow,” he said.

On a visit to non-OPEC Russia to promote energy cooperation with the world’s No. 2 oil exporter, Chavez said earlier in a speech that Moscow had played a big part in helping bring about a rise in oil prices from lows of around $10 in the late 1990s.

“It is important here to reiterate the role that Russia has played in order to attain these oil prices,” he told an oil and gas industry conference. “We cannot allow oil prices to fall again.”

Chavez took a swipe at Washington, which he has often accused of trying to topple him, saying that his country’s oil policy had been subservient to the United States in the past.


“They used to have us by the throat like little rabbits but now we are free and will continue to be free,” said Chavez.

“Venezuela used not to respect OPEC (export) quotas because it was manipulated by Washington. We recovered our sovereignty,” he said, adding that Moscow had given Venezuela moral support in this regard.

Turning to Venezuela’s oil industry, he said: “We (in Venezuela) have to make a big effort of investment to recover old and mature wells and to recover heavy crude.”

He said he welcomed Russian know-how in handling heavy crude oils, which are abundant in Venezuela.

If proven reserves in the Orinoco tar belt were included in the tally, “Venezuela would become the country with the biggest oil reserves on the planet,” he said.

“We also hope that Russia does not hold back in the search for Venezuelan gas,” he said.

“The diversification of our business is part of our policy and it is something that our friends from the north do not like,” said Chavez, referring to the United States.

Analysts say Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA’s oil production has not fully recovered from a strike which ended in early 2003. But officials insist output is back to pre-strike levels of over three million barrels per day.

Russian oil major LUKOIL is expected to sign a deal with PDVSA on Friday, under which the Siberian producer will invest up to $1 billion in mature and untapped Venezuela fields containing heavy crude, as well as in gas projects.

Bin Laden Not Hiding on Pakistan Border – Army

Thursday, November 25th, 2004

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden can not be hiding in Pakistan’s tribal lands on the Afghan border as Pakistani forces have combed the area and found no hint of him, a Pakistani army commander said on Thursday.

Bin Laden and his bodyguards could not go undetected in the rugged tribal lands, although pockets of al Qaeda-backed fighters are battling Pakistani forces there, said Lieutenant-General Safdar Hussain.

“He requires his own protection and the kind of security apparatus he is supposed to have around would give us a very big signature,” Hussain told Reuters in an interview in his well-fortified headquarters in the northwest city of Peshawar.

“There is not an inch of South Waziristan agency or the tribal area which we have not swept time and again and if he was here, I assure you he could not have escaped my ears and eyes.”
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He’s probably in Saudi in the bosom of his fam, lounging poolside.

Barghouthi to Run for President – Fatah Official

Thursday, November 25th, 2004

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Firebrand uprising leader Marwan Barghouthi has decided to run for Palestinian president from his Israeli jail cell, an official of his Fatah faction said on Thursday.

The candidacy could throw the Jan. 9 election wide open and pose a dramatic challenge to current front-runner Mahmoud Abbas, a former prime minister now caught in the glare of the charismatic Barghouthi’s popular appeal with Palestinians.

Barghouthi’s behind-bars bid to succeed the late Yasser Arafat as president could also bring international pressure on Israel to free the West Bank Fatah leader it jailed in June for five life terms over the killings of Israelis by militants.

“He has decided to run for president,” the official, who said he had spoken with Barghouthi’s lawyer, told Reuters. “An official announcement will be made within 24 hours.”

The official said more consultations were needed on whether Barghouthi, 45, would run as the candidate of Fatah’s “young guard” — which could widen a rift with the faction’s veteran leadership — or as an independent.

Barghouthi’s lawyer, Khader Shqeirat, declined to comment.

Despite the uncertainty over Barghouti’s plans, Fatah’s Revolutionary Council gave expected approval for the candidacy of Abbas, 69, three days after a Fatah panel nominated him in a race that has also drawn several lesser-known figures.

Abbas, who took over the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization after Arafat’s death on Nov. 11, lacks Barghouthi’s strong popular power base, but he is favored as a future peacemaker by Israel and the United States.


Barghouthi, 45, was the main voice of a revolt for an independent Palestinian state after peace negotiations collapsed in 2000 and has long been seen as a potential successor to Arafat.

Palestinian political analysts predicted Barghouthi stood a good chance of winning the ballot, drawing support from mainstream voters as well as from Islamists who oppose Abbas’s call to end the uprising.

At his trial in Tel Aviv, Barghouthi said he was a political leader with no involvement in violence.

Passionate and articulate, the bearded and diminutive Barghouthi has also advocated peace with Israel, making his case for an end to occupation in the West Bank and Gaza in near-perfect Hebrew learned during previous jail stints.

Asked whether Israel might release Barghouthi if he was elected, a senior Israeli government source said: “That would not change Mr Barghouthi’s status as it is today.”

Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the prospect of Barghouthi’s candidacy in an Israeli television interview during a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories on Monday, calling the issue complex.

“I am not sure what he is planning to do, but I think we will just have to wait and see. He is now in legal custody of the state of Israel, and that situation is not something that appears to be about to change,” Powell told Channel One.

Treading where Powell did not go, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw laid a wreath on Thursday at Arafat’s West Bank grave and said talks with new Palestinian leaders gave him optimism about a revival of Middle East peacemaking.

Straw was the first EU leader to stop by the tomb of the former guerrilla leader and president shunned by Israel and the United States.

ooh. Another ‘firebrand’. Like Chavez and Sadr. I think I like him. And Britain is practicing all kinds of one-upmanship on the US these days.