Wednesday, May 02, 2007

World News In Brief

Venezuela : President Hugo Chavez is in the midst of a massive arms buying spree, including new air defence systems, and more than $500 of investment in factories to make assault rifles, mines and detonators, all of which he claims will make Venezuela "invulnerable" to attack, and invasion. Chavez is also now offering oil at a half-price discount to South American allies.

Turkey : "More than a million Turks rallied on Sunday in support of secular democracy amid an unprecedented stand-off between the Islamist-rooted government and the army over presidential elections.

"As calls for calm mounted, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, a former Islamist and the sole candidate in the race to become president, ruled out withdrawing his bid, defying the army's threat of intervention in politics."

Turkey has been considering deploying troops across its border into Northern Iraq to counter PKK-Kurdish "terrorists". But the US has quietly told Turkey to learn from Israel's "strategic failure" in its war against Lebanon, and to not take any action.

Yemen : "A rebel leader in Yemen has said that the government's attacks on Shia civilians amount to 'genocide'. Abd al-Malik al-Houthi, a brother of Hussein Badr al-din al-Houthi who began the group's campaign to topple the government in 2004, also said that his followers will continue their fight to establish a Shia theocracy in the country.

Somalia : A former UN spokesman on Somalia now claims the massacres and fighting by US-backed Ethiopian troops inside Somalia ranks as "the most lawless war of our generation."

More than 1300 civilians were killed in less than four weeks of fighting in and around the capital Mogadishu. It's quietened down in the past week, but the Somalia and Ethiopian governments are now installing former warlords into positions of power and security control, to try and counter the force and influence of the Islamic Courts, who controlled Somalia and brought comparative peace before they were deposed by the US and Ethiopia late last year.

"Renegade" Somalian leaders, meanwhile, have allegedly promised to pursue a deeper insurgency against Ethiopian troops.

Montenegro : The United States and Montenegro have signed a "security pact" which could see thousands of American troops deployed into the territory. Russia is expected to be very unhappy about this deployment of US troops.

Israel : In the name of "security", Israel continues to seize prime farming lands from Palestinians. Israel claims the farming lands are needed for the 700km long wall that cuts through Palestinian territory, and will eventually separate most of the West Bank from Israel. The illegal land seizures continue, despite warnings from the (admittedly hollow) from the US government and the International Criminal Court to end this disguised form of 'ethnic cleansing.'

Prime Minister Olmert is now struggling to hold onto power, after a devastating report from an inquiry in the Second Lebanon War, blasted Olmert, and some of his key ministers, for an appalling series of failures that, the report claims, led to an unacceptable death toll of IDF soldiers and Lebanese civilians. Israel's foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, has now told Olmert he must quit. Livni is widely tipped to replace Olmert.

Afghanistan : Anger is rising across the country, after President Karzai publicly aired his displeasure at the civilian death toll that continues to mount as a result of US raids and air strikes on supposed Taliban and Al Qaeda "strong holds". Karzai, struggling to hold onto power, has told the US that civilian deaths are no longer acceptable, and will not be tolerated. More than 50 civilians are said to have been killed yesterday, with more than 100 killed as a result of air strikes and raids in the past two weeks. Huge rallies, some tens of thousands of people strong, have swamped Afghan cities as a result of the climbing civilian death toll.

Peru : "Peruvian Foreign Minister Jose Garcia Belaunde totally rejected any possibility that the government would accept a United States military base on Peruvian soil."

Sri Lanka :
(government) troops operating in rebel-held territory killed 13 Tamil Tiger fighters in a series of clashes over the past 48 hours, the military said on Wednesday.

"...patrols had fought with clusters of rebels on the Tigers' side of forward defence lines that separate government from rebel territory in a northern swathe of the island called the Vanni.

Taiwan : "For a long time, Taiwan has been relatively quiet about its long range missile programs. But recently, senior officials mentioned that Taiwan does have missiles that can reach targets deep inside China. Also mentioned was a recent wargame, where Taiwanese used these missiles to defeat a Chinese attempt to invade Taiwan. Apparently, someone is sending a message."

Japan : In the face of a growing energy and mutual security alliance between China, Russia, India, Iran and Pakistan, the United States is making a big deal in South East Asia of its firm friendship with Japan, vowing it will defend Japan against any and all threats :

"The United States has the will and the capability to meet the full range of deterrence and security commitments to Japan," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice after a meeting here of the two allies top diplomats and defense officials.