British PM David Cameron and Prince Charles visit injured troops

The Prince of Wales walks with Prime Minister David Cameron as they arrive for a visit to injured troops being treated at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, 22 December 2010. The Centre cares for soldiers wounded in Afghanistan and manages a dedicated 32-bed ward at the hospital.

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Dec 22, 2010 (KATAKAMI / NUMBER10.GOV.UK) — Prime Minister David Cameron and the Prince of Wales have visited injured troops being treated at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine in Birmingham.

The pair met service personnel, their families and civilian and military staff at the unit, based at the newly-opened Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Prince Charles, who is a regular visitor to the unit, had invited Mr Cameron to join him for a tour of the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine’s (RCDM) dedicated ward for members of the armed forces wounded in Afghanistan.

Following the visit, the Prime Minister headed to the National Traffic Control Centre in Birmingham to meet staff and see the work they are doing to keep traffic moving during the extreme weather conditions.  (*)

Foreign Secretary William Hague expresses UK concern following Belarus elections

Foreign Secretary William Hague

 

‘I urge the Belarusian authorities to ensure that all detainees are given access to adequate medical care and legal representation’

Dec 23, 2010 (KATAKAMI / FCO.GOV.UK) — Following the Belarus Presidential elections and widespread reports of its conduct and its aftermath the Foreign Secretary William Hague said:

“The UK Government has extremely serious concerns about the conduct of the Belarus Presidential election and the reports that the Belarusian authorities responded with excessive and apparently coordinated violence. Seven Presidential Candidates and over six hundred protesters were reported to have been arrested on the day of the election.

“I understand that the conditions in which detainees are being held are utterly unacceptable and designed to punish and intimidate. I am also extremely concerned at what appear to be forced recantations, broadcast on Belarusian state media, reminiscent of the show trials of a previous era.

“I therefore call on the Belarusian authorities to release immediately all those detained for politically motivated reasons as a matter of urgency. In particular, I call on the Belarusian authorities to make known the whereabouts of the opposition candidate Vladimir Neklyaev who was forcibly removed from intensive care in the early hours of Monday morning and whose location and wellbeing are still unknown.

“I urge the Belarusian authorities to ensure that all detainees are given access to adequate medical care and legal representation, and call on President Lukashenko and his government to engage in a dialogue with political parties, NGOs and civil society with a view to allowing them to fulfil their natural role in a democratic society.” (*)

Lukashenko victory 'predictable' – Russian ambassador

Alexander Lukashenko

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December 23, 2010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Russia’s Ambassador to Belarus Alexander Surikov has criticized the Belarusian opposition for rioting, saying the reelection of Alexander Lukashenko as president was “predictable.”

“A predictable election, a predictable victory,” Surikov said at a press conference in Minsk on Thursday. “We understood everything from the very beginning.”

Thousands of people flooded into central Minsk on Sunday after news emerged that Lukashenko, dubbed “Europe’s last dictator” by the West, had won 79.7 percent of the vote on Sunday.

More than 600 were jailed for up to two weeks, while a dozen detainees, including six presidential candidates, are facing longer terms of up to 15 years for organizing “mass disturbances.”

“The opposition was counting for a yellow, orange or some other kind of [‘color’] revolution,” Surikov said.

“The organizers and participants [of the demonstrations] should be judged according to Belarusian law,” he said. “It is Belarus’s internal affair, not ours.”

The ambassador conveyed his empathy to those who were injured in the riots, however added that the mere presence of a person at a non-sanctioned protest is “already a breach” in the law and therefore illegal.

International monitors have said the Sunday ballot was “flawed.”  (*)

MINSK, December 23

Ahmadinejad meets Turkish Prime Minister

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Istanbul, Dec 23, (KATAKAMI / IRNA) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Teyyip Erdogan met here late Wednesday night and discussed most important bilateral, regional and international issues.

According to IRNA Night Service, the information website of the IRI Presidential Office reported early Thursday morning that the late Wednesday night meeting of the two top politicians took more than an hour.

The two sides emphasized in the meeting over the need for the improvement of comprehensive bilateral relation, cooperation, and harmony, arguing that such moves would be to the benefit of both nations, and boost peace and security in the region and the world.
The meeting took place on the sidelines of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Summit in Istanbul.

The 11th Heads of State and Government Summit of ECO began its activities on Wednesday, December 23rd in Istanbul.

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (L) shakes hands with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad before a meeting in Istanbul December 22, 2010. REUTERS/Tolga Bozoglu/Pool

Prior to the summit, economic experts attended the senior officials’ meeting slated on December 20 and 21, and foreign ministers of ECO member countries held the 19th Council of Ministers Meeting on December 22.

The Iranian president is also scheduled to hold meetings with Turkish officials and representations from other ECO member countries on the sidelines of the summit.

The newly-appointed caretaker of Iran’s Foreign Ministry Ali-Akbar Salehi is accompanying President Ahmadinejad in this trip.

Moreover, representatives from ECO Secretariat, ECO subsidiary organs and a number of international organizations are expected to attend the meetings.

The 10th ECO summit was held in Tehran in March 2009.

Following the summit, Turkish President Abdullah Gul will host a trilateral meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari aimed at bringing the two countries closer on December 24.

The ECO is an intergovernmental regional organization established in 1985 by Iran, Pakistan and Turkey providing a platform to promote economic, technical and cultural cooperation among member states.

The organization was expanded in 1992 to include seven new members, namely Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

ECO members aim to establish a single market for goods and services, much like the European Union.

ECO’s secretariat and cultural department are located in Tehran, its economic bureau is in Turkey and its scientific bureau is situated in Pakistan.  (*)

President Ahmadinejad departs for Turkey

 

Dec 22, 2010 (KATAKAMI / PRESIDENT.IR) — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad left Tehran on Wednesday afternoon for Istanbul, Turkey, to attend the Summit of Economic Cooperation Organization.

Delivering a keynote speech at the 11th ECO summit and meeting with a group of his counterparts are on the agenda of the President’s two-day visit to Turkey.

First Vice-President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi and Supreme Leader’s International Affairs Advisor Ali-Akbar Velayati were at the airport to see off the president.  (*)

President Medvedev welcomes START treaty ratification by U.S. Senate

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (Photo : Kremlin.Ru)

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Dec 23, 2010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev welcomes the ratification of a new U.S.-Russian arms reduction deal by the U.S. Senate but believes it could take some time for the Russian lawmakers to study the amendments to the treaty.

The United States Senate ratified on Wednesday the new START treaty with Russia, with a vote of 71 for and 26 against. The agreement will come into force after ratification by both houses of the Russian parliament.

“President Dmitry Medvedev was satisfied with the news that the U.S. Senate had ratified the new START treaty and expressed hope that Russia’s State Duma and the Federation Council would be ready to review and ratify this document,” the Kremlin spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said on Thursday.

However, the president believes that “the Russian parliament might need some time to study the legal aspects of the ratification by the Senate prior to making its own decision,” Timakova said.

The new START treaty, which restricts both nations to a maximum of 1,550 nuclear warheads, down from the current ceiling of 2,200, was signed by Russian and U.S. presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama in April.

The Senate ratified the new arms pact after 18 hearings and seven days of debate, answering more than 1,000 questions in line with the document. The White House and State Department spent several months in heavy debates with Republican lawmakers to pass the bill.

The Republicans were attempting to put the final vote off until the beginning of 2011 when the number of Republicans in the Senate would significantly increase, giving them more muscle.

The document approved by the Senate contains at least two minor amendments that could draw Russia’s attention – the Republican senators demanded that Pentagon should modernize the U.S. nuclear triad and that Washington should start discussions with Moscow on Russia’s superiority in tactical nuclear weapons.  (*)

MOSCOW, December 23

Senate approves nuclear arms treaty with Russia

Senator John Kerry (L) and Senator Richard Lugar (R) hold a news conference to discuss their support of ratifying the new START treaty, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, December 21, 2010 ( Photo : Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)

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Dec 22, 2010 (KATAKAMI / Reuters) – The Senate approved a landmark nuclear arms control treaty with Russia on Wednesday, giving President Barack Obama a major foreign policy victory in his drive to improve ties with Moscow and curb the spread of atomic weapons to other nations.

The Senate voted 71-26 in favor of the New START treaty between the former Cold War foes after a contentious debate with Republican leaders that threatened traditional bipartisanship on security affairs.

“This treaty will enhance our leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace of a world without them,” Obama told a news conference after the vote, praising the bipartisan nature of the final result.

The vote was an endorsement of Obama’s efforts to improve relations with Russia and curb the pursuit of nuclear weapons by countries like North Korea and Iran.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the process was “a new gold standard for concluding agreements of this kind.”

“Not only does the treaty facilitate a strengthening of the security of Russia and the USA but it will also have a positive effect on international stability and security in general,” Lavrov told the Interfax news agency.

The Russian parliament has yet to approve the treaty — signed by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April — but the Kremlin-backed United Russia party is dominant, so ratification there is all but assured.

Still, Russian lawmakers will review the terms in the U.S. Senate’s resolution of ratification.

“Taking into account the amendments added by senators, we are forced to undertake a deep and thorough analysis of the text … since we are speaking about the national security of our country,” Leonid Slutsky, deputy chair of parliament’s international affairs committee, told Interfax.

Senator John Kerry, who led the debate as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the treaty was a message to Iran and North Korea “that the international community remains united to restrain the nuclear ambitions of countries that operate outside the law.”

“We send a message that the two countries that possess 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons are fulfilling their obligations to reduce their arsenals in a responsible manner,” Kerry said.

The treaty will cut long-range, strategic nuclear weapons deployed by Russia and the United States to no more than 1,550 on each side within seven years. Deployed missile launchers will be cut to no more than 700 on each side.

The agreement also creates an inspection and verification process to replace the one that expired nearly a year ago with the end of the original START accord.

The new treaty has wide support in military and diplomatic circles. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said it would make a “significant contribution” to regional security and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it was a “clear message” supporting nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.

U.S. CREDIBILITY AT STAKE

Passage of the treaty with support from 13 Republicans was a big victory for Obama just weeks after his Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives and narrowly retained control of the Senate in the November 2 congressional elections.Republican senators had sought to amend the treaty this week to allow for more inspections, more deployed missiles and to force talks on tactical nuclear weapons. But Democrats, who still control the chamber 58-42 until the new Congress sits in January, easily defeated the amendments.

Kerry said Senate approval was critical for sustaining Obama’s credibility with fellow world leaders and supporting his ability to advance the U.S. agenda.

Officials in the Obama administration have said passage of the New START treaty was a prerequisite for turning to other arms control issues such as reducing tactical nuclear weapons.

But Jon Kyl, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate and an opponent of New START, said he would fight any effort to revive the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

“This may be the last arms control agreement for a while,” Kyl said. “I think we can get back to focusing on the real issues — issues of proliferation, terrorism and dealing with threats from countries like North Korea and Iran.”

Arms control experts disagreed, hailing the treaty as a step in the right direction.

Steven Pifer, director of the Arms Control Initiative at the Brookings think tank, said failure of the treaty would have undercut Obama on the world stage.

“Virtually all the NATO allies came out and endorsed this treaty,” he said. “And had the Obama administration not been able to deliver its ratification, I think that it would have really been a blow to the credibility and authority of the president when he was engaging overseas.”

While the treaty will not cause Iran or North Korea to alter their behavior, Pifer said, “it does give the administration a greater authority with other countries to up the pressure on North Korea and Iran.”

Daryl Kimball, director of the nonpartisan Arms Control Association, said the treaty “does augur well for the Senate’s pursuing further fact-based, adult conversations about nuclear security issues and I’m optimistic about the prospects for building upon this bipartisan consensus.”  (*)

 

 

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