Lebanese lawmakers back Hezbollah candidate for PM

Lebanese soldiers patrol Martyrs' Square in downtown Beirut January 25, 2011. Hundreds of supporters of caretaker Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri protested in north Lebanon on Tuesday against the expected nomination of Hezbollah-backed Najib Mikati to form the next government. Photo : REUTERS/ Sharif Karim

BEIRUT, Jan 25 (KATAKAMI.COM / AP)  – A majority of Lebanese lawmakers have voted to support thecandidate for prime minister backed by Iranian ally Hezbollah.

By the end of Tuesday’s voting, Najib Mikati had 68 votes. Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri had 60.

The Shiite militant group is now in position to control Lebanon’s next government. The move has set off angry protests and drew warnings from the U.S. that its support could be in jeopardy.

Thousands of Sunnis waved flags, burned tires and torched a van belonging to Al-Jazeera on Tuesday during a “day of rage” to protest the gains by Hezbollah.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE.

Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

BEIRUT (AP) — Thousands of Sunnis waved flags, burned tires and torched a van belonging to Al-Jazeera on Tuesday during a “day of rage” to protest gains by the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which is on the brink of controlling Lebanon’s next government.

The largest gathering was in the northern city of Tripoli, a predominantly Sunni area and a hotbed of fundamentalists where thousands of people converged at a major square. Al-Jazeera said none of its crew was injured when protesters attacked the station’s van.

The protests come one day after the Iranian-backed Hezbollah — considered a terrorist organization by Washington — secured support in parliament to name its own candidate, former premier Najib Mikati, for the next prime minister.

The militant group’s Western-backed opponents maintain that having an Iranian proxy in control of Lebanon’s government would be disastrous and lead to international isolation.

Hezbollah’s Sunni rivals held protests across Lebanon, including the capital Beirut and the main highway linking the capital with the southern port city of Sidon. A senior military official said several armed men fired in the air in west Beirut, but the army intervened and dispersed them.

Many fear Lebanon’s political crisis could re-ignite sectarian fighting similar to Shiite-Sunni street clashes that killed 81 people in Beirut in 2008. But besides the protest in Tripoli, the gatherings Tuesday were mostly localized and not hugely disruptive.

Mikati urged calm Tuesday and said he wanted to represent all of Lebanon.

“This is a democratic process,” Mikati told reporters. “I want to rescue my country.”

Lebanon’s President Michel Suleiman started a second day of consultations Tuesday with lawmakers to name a prime minister, but Mikati already has the 65 votes needed to clinch the position.

Hezbollah brought down caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Western-backed government on Jan. 12 when he refused the group’s demand to cease cooperation with a U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Hezbollah, which denies any role in the killing, is widely expected to be indicted.

The group can now either form its own government, leaving Hariri and his allies to become the opposition, or it can try to persuade Hariri to join a national unity government. In a speech Sunday night, Hezbollah leaderSheik Hassan Nasrallah said he favored a unity government.

Hariri said Monday he will not join a government headed by a Hezbollah-backed candidate. Hariri’s Future bloc declared a day of peaceful protests Tuesday — but called it a “day of rage” and played on the sectarian dimension of the conflict.

Lawmaker Moustafa Alloush said Monday night that Hezbollah is trying to “belittle the prime ministry” — a position that under Lebanon’s power sharing system is reserved only for Sunnis.

“Any person who accepts Hezbollah’s appointment of prime minister is a betrayal of the people of Tripoli,” Alloush said in a heated news conference, jabbing his finger toward the cameras.

The United States, which has poured in $720 million in military aid since 2006, has tried to move Lebanon firmly into a Western sphere and end the influence of Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley warned Monday that continuing U.S. support for Lebanon would be “problematic” if Hezbollah takes a dominant role in the government, though he declined to say what the U.S. would do if Hezbollah’s candidate becomes prime minister.  (*)

Medvedev blames security lapse for Moscow blast

A combination of still images taken from a CCTV footage shows the arrival hall of Moscow's Domodedovo airport before (L) and after (R) an explosion, January 24, 2011. A suicide bomber killed at least 35 people at Russia's busiest airport on Monday, state TV said, in an attack on the capital that bore the hallmarks of militants fighting for an Islamist state in the North Caucasus region. REUTERS/Youtube via Reuters TV

MOSCOW, Jan 25 ( KATAKAMI.COM / Reuters) – President Dmitry Medvedev blamed airport managers on Tuesday for failing to stop an attack on Russia’s busiest international travel hub, saying security lapses had enabled a bomber to kill 35 people in a crowded arrivals hall.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday’s attack at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, but the action bore hallmarks of militants fighting for an Islamist state in the North Caucasus region on Russia’s southern frontier.

“It’s obviously a terrorist act that was planned well in advance in order to cause the deaths of as many people as possible,” Medvedev said.

A woman pushes her luggage past flowers at a site of a blast at Domodedovo airport near Moscow on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011, as others wait for a security check to enter. Security was tightened in Moscow on Tuesday, after a suicide bomber set off an explosion that ripped through Moscow's busiest airport on Monday. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)

The blast ripped through the international arrivals area where travelers emerge after collecting their bags, causing carnage and filling the hall with smoke.

An Emergencies Ministry list of the dead included eight foreigners: two Britons, a German and citizens of Bulgaria, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.

Medvedev said the management of Domodedovo Airport should answer for the attack, in which the bomber evaded security to carry the explosives into the airport’s arrival hall.

“What happened shows that there were clear security violations,” he said. He said airport security rules had been strengthened after bombers blew up two planes that took off from Domodedovo in 2004, killing 90 people.

“Unfortunately — we do have this misfortune — we far from always implement even the most important legislation.”

North Caucasus rebels have threatened attacks against cities and economic targets in the run-up to parliamentary elections this year and 2012 presidential polls. The choice of Domodedovo’s international arrivals area suggested the attackers wanted to achieve a wider impact beyond Russia’s borders.

Russia is to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, on the edge of the Caucasus, which some rebels consider part of the territory they aim to include in an Islamic state.

An investigator cited by news agency Itar-Tass said the attack was apparently carried out by a heavily built man aged 30 to 40. Other reports have given conflicting information, with some pointing to a female suicide bomber or two attackers.

Domodedovo Airport said it was not responsible for the blast. “The airport maintains that we should not be held accountable for the explosion, because, I repeat, we fully met all the requirements in the sphere of air transport security for which we are responsible,” spokeswoman Yelena Galanova said in televised comments.

Medvedev, who vowed to punish those behind the blasts, delayed his departure to the Swiss mountain resort of Davos, where he is to court foreign investment in Russia in his opening keynote speech at the WorldEconomic Forum on Wednesday.

Analysts said the attack could hamper Kremlin efforts to reform Russia’s energy-reliant economy, especially with elections approaching.

“The heightened threat to national security distracts top officials’ attention from other pressing issues, such as formulating the economic policy agenda for the next political cycle,” Moscow investment bank VTB Capital said in a note.

“It might also affect calculations for the 2011-12 election campaign,” the note read.

Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill, center, conducts a religious service in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011, for those who died in the explosion at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)

 

NATIONALIST VIOLENCE

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the dominant partner in Russia’s ‘tandem’ leadership, built his early reputation as a strong leader by launching a war in late 1999 to crush a rebel government in Chechnya, a North Caucasus province.

That campaign achieved its immediate aim, but insurgency has spread to neighboring Ingushetia and Dagestan and spawned persistent attacks beyond the North Caucasus.

Putin and Medvedev have vowed to crush the insurgents and poured money into the impoverished North Caucasus, but attacks have continued. Last March, two female suicide attackers from Dagestan killed 40 rush-hour commuters in Moscow’s metro.

Further attacks could increase pressure from hardliners on Putin to return to the presidency next year.

The spread of violence from the North Caucasus, where it is fed by a cocktail of corruption, poverty and clan rivalries as well as religious radicalism, fans Russian nationalist militancy in the heartland.

Tensions between ethnic Russians and the 20 million Muslims who make up one-seventh of Russia’s population flared dramatically last month in clashes including a riot by Russian nationalists who attacked passersby of non-Slavic appearance steps from the Kremlin, many of them from the North Caucasus.

On Tuesday police officers boosted their presence around railroad stations and airports, carrying out spot checks of people who looked as though they could be from the Caucasus.

The worst attack carried out by North Caucasus insurgents took place in 2004 when militants seized control of a school in the town of Beslan. When Russian troops stormed the building in an attempt to end a siege, 331 hostages, more than half of them children, were killed.  (*)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expressed condolences to the injured and to families of the victims at Domodedovo Airport

Emergency meeting following explosion at Domodedovo Airport

 

Jan 25 ( KATAKAMI.COM / KREMLIN.RU ) — As instructed by the President, the Healthcare and Social Development Ministry and the Emergencies Ministry are providing urgent medical assistance to the persons injured by the terrorist bombing.

To ensure transport safety, President Medvedev instructed the Transport Ministry, the Ministry of the Interior and the Federal Security Service to jointly effect a nationwide emergency regime at airports, air terminals and all major transport hubs.

Mr Medvedev instructed Chairman of Russia’s Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin to appoint a team of investigators for detecting into the terrorist attack. Prosecutor General Yury Chaika was instructed to verify compliance with the requirements of regulations and laws on safety at major transport hubs.

Domodedovo Airport’s hotline telephone numbers:

+7 (495) 363-6101

+7 (495) 644-4066

Passengers queue for a security check to enter Moscow's Domodedovo International Airport on January 24, 2011 after an explosion killed at least 35 people. President Dmitry Medvedev said on January 25, 2011 that clear breaches in security had allowed a suspected female suicide bomber linked to Russia's Northern Caucasus to slaughter 35 people at Moscow's main airport. In comments broadcast on national television, Medvedev demanded answers from Domodedovo airport over how it let the bomber wander into arrivals and set off a charge just as passengers from several international flights were arriving. (Photo by OXANA ONIPKO/AFP/Getty Images)

PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: As you know, there has been an explosion at Domodedovo Airport. According to the preliminary information, this is an act of terrorism. Some people have been killed and a number have been injured. I have just spoken with the Healthcare Minister and the Emergencies Minister and instructed them to do everything to arrange immediate medical assistance to the blast victims. Right now, many ambulances are headed for Domodedovo Airport.

I would like to express my sincere condolences to relatives of the victims.

Regarding the law enforcement, first of all, an emergency regime must be effected at all airports, air terminals, and all major transportation hubs and I am hereby instructing Transport Minister Mr Levitin, the Minister of the Interior and the Federal Security Service to join efforts to install procedures which in line with the laws on transport safety would ensure performance of every respective step.

Regarding the investigation, Mr Bastrykin [Chairman of Russia’s Investigative Committee], you must appoint a team of investigators to immediately travel to the site for performing all respective activities. As I directed, at the moment the Mayor of Moscow and the Governor of Moscow Region are already on their way [to Domodedovo Airport]. Every possible investigative action should be conducted in order to quickly collect evidence and possibly accomplish the investigation while the trail is still hot.

In terms of ensuring safety at this airport and at other transportation hubs, [Prosecutor General] Mr Chaika, this currently requires your utmost attention, because following certain events, we passed a whole set of relevant regulations and laws.

It should be reviewed how they have been and are followed, because the terrorist attack demonstrates that not all the laws which should be in proper effect, are adequately applied throughout the country.

This is to be audited.

Assistance and support to those who have suffered is our top priority at the moment while the rest is to be subject to the applicable legislation, including criminal procedure laws, and the Ministry of the Interior and the FSB have been instructed accordingly.

Please get to work.  (*)

Russian President Medvedev : "This is an act of terror. This is grief. This is a tragedy

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev (R) talks to Prosecutor General Yury Chaika during a special meeting at the presidential residence Gorki outside Moscow January 24, 2011. Medvedev vowed to track down and punish those behind a suicide bomb attack which killed at least 31 people and injured over 100 others at Russia's biggest airport. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

President Dmitry Medvedev answered journalists’ questions about the tragedy at the Domodedovo Airport

 
Jan 25 (KATAKAMI.COM / KREMLIN.RU) — PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Considering the location and other indirect indications, this was a well-planned terrorist attack aimed at killing as many people as possible.

Currently medical personnel are treating those in need; there is a large number of injured.

All instructions have been issued, we have an algorithm for this kind of emergency effort in our country because we know firsthand what terrorism is. We have introduced special security measures at virtually all transport hubs.

Everyone has been affected by these measures because security demands very careful inspection of luggage, but it is a forced measure, and sometimes it is crucial, simply vitally important.

Our legislation was amended following the events that happened some time ago, when terrorist attacks were committed on airplanes departing from various airports, including Domodedovo Airport. It became much tougher, but unfortunately – and that is our biggest problem – we do not always enforce even the most important legislation. I therefore instructed the Prosecutor General to investigate the enforcement of these laws at Domodedovo Airport.

The airport is good, everyone recognises that, it is new and modern. But what has happened shows that there were clearly breaches in security, and everyone who makes decisions here, including the airport management, will answer for this.

This is an act of terror. This is grief. This is a tragedy. I hope that law enforcement agencies will be able to quickly reconstruct the course of events and conduct an investigation.  (*)

Photo : Prime Minister Salam Fayyad while heading the Palestinian Cabinet meeting

Prime Minister Dr. Salam Fayyad while heading the Palestinian Cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on January 25, 2011 ( Photo by: Mustafa Abu Dayeh / PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE )

Prime Minister David Cameron welcomes Dutch PM Mark Rutte

Jan 24 (KATAKAMI.COM / NUMBER 10 GOV.UK) — The Prime Minister has welcomed Dutch PM Mark Rutte to Downing Street for bilateral talks.

The two leaders discussed a range of issues including the European budget and Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister noted that Holland was the second largest inward investor into the UK and that both nations were in favour of expanding free trade agreements through the Doha round of negotiations.

Prime Minister Rutte spoke of the relationship between the UK and the Netherlands as being traditionally “very strong and very solid”.  (*)

Photostream : Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron meets Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L) greet his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte outside 10 Downing Street in London January 24, 2011. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L) shakes hands with his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte after their meeting at 10 Downing Street, London January 24, 2011. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (L) is pictured during a meeting with British prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing St, in London on January 24, 2011. (Photo by CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (R) shakes hands with Holland's Prime Minister Mark Rutte at 10 Downing Street, in London January 24, 2011. REUTERS/Carl de Souza/Pool

Indonesian President Welcomed in India With State Ceremony

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

New Delhi, Jan 25 (KATAKAMI.COM / ANTARA) – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was welcomed at a state ceremony by Indian President Shrimati Pratibha Devisingh Patil at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential palace here Tuesday.

The head of state and First Lady Ani Yudhoyono took the salute of mounted members of the Indian Presidential Regiment and a 21-gun salute rendered in their honor.

Indonesia`s national anthem “Indonesia Raya” and India`s national anthem “Jana-Gana-Mana” were played as Yudhoyono and Patil stood on the honorary stage.

The ceremony was concluded with President Yudhoyono inspecting ae guard of honor and later introduced members of the Indonesian delegation to the Indian officials.

The Presidential delegation consists of among others Minister/State Secretary Sudi Silalahi, Industry Minister MS Hidayat, Trade Minister Mari Pangestu, Marine and Fishery Minister Fadel Muhammad, Transportation Minister Freddy Numberi, National Education Minister M nuh, Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik, State Minister of Youth and Sport Affairs Andi Mallarangeng, and Cabinet Minister Dipo Alam.

In response to a press question at the presidential palace, Yudhoyono said he appreciated the invitation as the guest of honor at India`s Republic Day Celebrations and hoped that his visit would result in new economic cooperation opportunities.

The President later laid a wreath at the Samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat.

He and his entourage then proceeded to Hyderabad House to attend a bilateral meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, followed by the signing of 16 Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between India and Indonesia on various sectors such as economic, politic, education and technology.

Yudhoyono is expected also to receive courtesy calls by the Leader of Opposition Shrimati Sushma Swaraj; by the Vice-President of India; and then by Shrimati Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of UPA.

The president is also scheduled to attend a Business Summit organized by CII, ASSOCHAM and FICCI, in which leading Indian businessmen and industrialists as well as their Indonesian counterparts will participate.  (*)

Photostream : Hamas Leader Khaled Meshaal meets Iran's acting Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi

Iran's acting Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi (L) welcomes Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal before a meeting at the Iranian Embassy in Damascus January 23, 2011. REUTERS/Hamas/Handout

Iran's acting Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi (R) meets Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal at the Iranian Embassy in Damascus January 23, 2011. REUTERS/Hamas/Handout

PM Netanyahu's remarks on the Turkel Commission Report at Sunday evening's International Holocaust Day ceremony

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement about Turkel commission, an inquiry set up by the Israeli Government to investigate the Gaza flotilla raid , as Holocaust survivors and their grandchildren listen during International Holocaust Remembrance Day event, in his office in Jerusalem, Sunday Jan. 23, 2011. An Israeli panel on Sunday cleared the military and government of any wrongdoing during last year's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound international flotilla, but the finding appeared unlikely to repair damage to Israel's standing.Nine pro-Palestinian activists, eight Turkish citizens and a Turkish American, were killed as Israeli commandos boarded one of the ships in the flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, last May 31. The report said the armed defense of Israel's maritime blockade of the Hamas-ruled coastal strip was justified under international law. (AP Photo//Debbie Hill, Pool)

Jan 23 (KATAKAMI.COM / PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE) —

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF PM NETANYAHU’S REMARKS :

On this stage, you see the transformation of the Jewish people.

The Holocaust survivors here survived an inferno that transpired on our people because we lacked the power of self-defense, and with the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, we restored the capacity for self-defense.

Now, there are those who would deprive us of that right and of that power.

Of course, they don’t say that outright. They say: yes, Israel has a right to defend itself – but only in theory.
Because when we come in practice to exercise that right, they accuse us of war crimes.

This is what they did when we set up to put up a security fence against suicide terrorists. They actually wanted to take us to an international law court for committing the international crime, so they said, a war crime of putting up a fence against terrorist bombers.
And this is what happened the second time with the Goldstone Report – when we responded, in the most pinpointed way that any army has responded, to the firing of thousands of rockets on our citizens.

And this is also what happened last May – when Israel enforced a naval blockade to prevent weapons and war material from infiltrating into the terror organizations in Gaza.

Watch the video : PM Netanyahu’s remarks on the findings of the Turkel Commission Report

Now, there were those who claimed that Israel and its soldiers acted improperly and against international law.
We established a commission, an independent, transparent commission, an impartial commission of inquiry, to look into these allegations.

The Head of this Commission is a former Supreme Court Justice, Justice Turkel. Among its members were security, legal and military experts, and it also included several prominent international experts and international observers, including the Nobel Prize Laureate, Lord David Trimble, and the former Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Army, Brigadier General Ken Watkin.

This is a highly impartial, highly expert, highly reputable Commission, and it published a report.

The report published today clearly shows that the blockade of Gaza is legal; it shows that the enforcement of the blockade last May was legal and it shows that the Israeli soldiers who boarded the Marmara acted legally and in self-defense.

I hope that all those who rushed to judgment against Israel and against its soldiers will read these reports and learn the truth about what happened.  The truth is that our soldiers were defending our country and defending their very lives.

This is not only their right; it is their duty.

The State of Israel stands behind them and thanks them for their courage.

Thank you.  (*)

President Medvedev want NATO to answer on RF role in EU missile defence

FILE : 20 October 2010, 21:00 Russian Permanent Envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Dmitry Medvedev, Chairman of the State Duma International Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev, and Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko at meeting with participants in the Munich Conference on Security Policy. © Photo: the Presidential Press and Information Office

GORKI, January 25 (KATAKAMI.COM / Itar-Tass) – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has urged NATO to give “a direct and unambiguous answer” on the possible role of Russia in the European missile defence system, promising in any case to give “an adequate response to the existing problem.”

“No joking here is acceptable; we expect from our NATO partners a direct and unequivocal answer: where they see the place of Russia (in the European missile defence system),” Russian President said at a meeting with Russia’s Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin on Monday.

“In any case, we either together with NATO or alone will find a decent solution to the problem existing at the moment,” said Medvedev.

“Our (NATO) partners should realise that we need this not to play some joint games with NATO, but in order to ensure the proper defence of Russia,” the head of state noted. “This is my duty as the president and the duty of other public servants,” Medvedev added.

The president recalled that in his state-of-the-nation address to the Federal Assembly he had already expressed his view on the alternative that Russia faces in this issue. “Either we agree on certain principles with NATO and create a matching system for the fulfilment of the missile defence tasks, or we fail to agree and then in the future we will have to make a number of unpleasant decisions on the deployment of the main nuclear missile attack force,” the RF head of state emphasised.

At the Russia-NATO summit in Lisbon last year Medvedev had already voiced the general approaches of the Russian Federation to building relations with NATO in the missile defence sphere, in particular, in the regime of the creation of the Euro missile shield.

“Our country does not bid for the participation in the NATO initiative as such, we have never needed that. However, we should at the same time realise our share of responsibility for what is happening in this sphere, and are ready to offer our potentialities,” he said.

The president noted that the reaction to Russia’s proposal at the summit was “favourable on the whole, although varied.”

Medvedev asked Rogozin to report on how the events develop and if any agreements have been reached “regarding the approaches to the settlement of this problem.”

The 28 Allies and Russia work together as equal partners in the NATO-Russia Council (NRC), which was established in 2002. Cooperation between Russia and NATO in the area of theatre missile defence (TMD) has been underway for a number of years to address the unprecedented danger posed to deployed forces by the increasing availability of ever more accurate ballistic missiles. A study was launched in 2003 to assess the possible levels of interoperability among the theatre missile defence systems of NATO Allies and Russia, according to a NATO release.

Three command post exercises have been held – the first in the United States in March 2004, the second in the Netherlands in March 2005, and the third in Russia in October 2006. A computer assisted exercise took place in Germany in January 2008. Together with the interoperability study, these exercises are intended to provide the basis for future improvements to interoperability and to develop mechanisms and procedures for joint operations in the area of theatre missile defence.

In December 2009, NRC Missile Defence Working Group was established. It was tasked to build on the lessons learned from the previous TMD cooperation and to exchange views on possible mutually beneficial cooperation on missile defence, based on a joint assessment of missile threats.

At the Lisbon Summit, NRC leaders approved the joint ballistic missile threat assessment and agreed to discuss pursuing missile defence cooperation. They decided to resume TMD cooperation and to develop a joint analysis of the future framework for missile defence cooperation.

Since the NRC was established, military liaison arrangements have been enhanced, at the Allied Commands for Operations and for Transformation, as well as in Moscow. A key objective of military-to-military cooperation is to build trust, confidence and transparency, and to improve the ability of NATO and Russian forces to work together in preparation for possible future joint military operations, according to NATO.

Military-to-military cooperation has resumed, following a temporary suspension in the wake of the August 2008 Georgia crisis. The military work plan for 2010 focused on four agreed areas of cooperation: logistics, combating terrorism, search and rescue at sea, and counter piracy. At the Lisbon Summit, NRC leaders agreed to expand existing tactical-level cooperation to address the threat of piracy, including through joint training and exercises.

A “Political-Military Guidance Towards Enhanced Interoperability Between Forces of Russia and NATO Nations” was approved by NRC defence ministers in June 2005. Another key document is the Partnership for Peace Status of Forces Agreement, which Russia signed in 2004 and the Russian parliament ratified in May 2007,which will facilitate further military-to-military and other practical cooperation, in particular the deployment of forces participating in joint operations and exercises. (*)

NATO sets priorities for 2011, eyeing dialogue with China

NATO leaders pose for a group photo at the venue of the NATO summit in Lisbon, capital of Portugal, Nov. 19, 2010. (Xinhua/Wang Qingqin)

BRUSSELS, Jan. 25 (KATAKAMI.COM / Xinhua) — The NATO’s chief has set three priorities for the alliance in 2011, including transition in Afghanistan, reform and more effective partnership, particularly seeking dialogue with China, India and other key players in the world.

“This spring will see a new stage of our engagement in Afghanistan, with the announcement of the first provinces where Afghan forces are ready to take the lead,” NATO Secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters on Monday.

At a summit last November, the alliance decided to start the transfer of responsibility for security to the Afghan army and police at the beginning of 2011 and complete it by 2014.

“In 2010, we got the strategy and the resources right. Now we have to build on those gains and get transition to Afghan security lead right. Last year, we made hard-fought changes on the ground. Now we need to ensure those changes are durable,” he said.

On NATO reform, Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance would map out plans to cut the agencies, streamline the command structure and develop most critical capabilities, such as missile defense.

In addition, the NATO chief said that “this year will be an important year for partnerships” while the alliance would boost ” its partnerships with countries and organizations with whom we share common security concerns and can cooperate for the benefit of international security.”

“We are not alone in facing emerging security challenges, such as terrorism, proliferation, cyber, energy or piracy — and neither can we deal with them effectively on our own. So we will seek to develop a dialogue with countries such as China, India and other key actors around the world,” he stressed.  (*)

Clinton Voices U.S. Support of Mexico in Trip

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks alongside Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa during a joint press conference at the Alhondiga de Granaditas in Guanajuato, Mexico, January 24, 2011. Clinton traveled to Mexico on a one-day trip for meetings on border security and drug trafficking. (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

GUANAJUATO, Mexico, Jan 25 (KATAKAMI.COM / NY Times) — More than a month after the disclosure ofcables in which American diplomats questioned progress in Mexico’s drug war, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton came here on Monday to deliver a message of solidarity with President Felipe Calderón and to rebut public doubts about persistent violence.

After a private meeting with the Mexican foreign secretary, Patricia Espinosa, in this historic, pastel-splashed colonial city, Mrs. Clinton declined during a news conference to directly address the cables, published by several news organization after they were revealed by WikiLeaks.

The cables, written by American diplomats in Mexico, said that the country suffered from squabbling and mistrust among agencies, intelligence missteps, and a less than complete dedication to the rule of law. Among the results, according to the cables, is that criminals are not prosecuted or prosecutions are delayed. In one of the cables, a Mexican government official raised the fear that some territory was falling under the control of organized crime groups.

But Mrs. Clinton said that the United States supported Mr. Calderón’s resolve to dismantle major organized crime groups, even if “it is not easy.”

The grisly nature of the violence, including the beheading of drug-gang rivals, shocks and worries the public on both sides of the border, she said.

The Mexican government’s crackdown, begun in December 2006, along with fighting among the gangs for control of smuggling and other criminal enterprises, has killed 34,600 people in the past four years, the government said this month, including 15,273 people last year alone.

Drug traffickers are not going to give up without a terrible fight, and when they do barbaric things like behead people, it is meant to intimidate,” Mrs. Clinton said, before touring a historic theater and meeting with Mr. Calderón in Mexico City. “It is meant to have the public say just leave them alone, but a president cannot do that.”

Mrs. Clinton, nodding to sensitivities here, took pains to concede the United States’ role in providing guns and money to Mexico’s gangs, calling them transnational.

In her first visit since she compared Mexico’s battle to an insurgency, in remarks in September that drew the ire of Mr. Calderón, Mrs. Clinton made a friendlier comparison this time.

“There was a time 20, 30 years ago people thought New York was going to be lost to gangs and drugs and crime, and innocent people couldn’t walk down the street,” she said. “They couldn’t take their children to a park. And through hard work by law enforcement and a lot of support and a lot of reforms we’ve seen a lot of change.”

Aides to both secretaries said the visit, to a city that has experienced little drug war violence, originated with an invitation from Ms. Espinosa for a catching-up session over a number of issues.

Ms. Espinosa told reporters that she hoped Mrs. Clinton’s visit, her first since last March, would also help show another, quieter face of Mexico.

Mrs. Clinton spoke in a museum that commemorates a bloody revolt against Spanish loyalists at the beginning of Mexico’s war of independence in 1810.

It shares something with today’s headlines. The heads of four insurgents were hung here during the war of independence.  (*)

Clinton Supports Mexico in Drug War

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gestures during a news conference in Guanajuato January 24, 2011. Clinton travelled to Mexico on a one-day trip for meetings on border security and drug trafficking. REUTERS/Mario Armas

Jan 25 (KATAKAMI.COM / VOA) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is urging Mexico to persist in its war against drug cartels, saying there is no alternative to confronting them head-on.

Secretary Clinton made the comment Monday as she met in the Mexican city of Guanajuato with Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa and gave strong support for President Felipe Calderon’s crackdown on drug gangs. Clinton was quoted as saying that what President Calderon has done is absolutely necessary and that the drug traffickers are not going to give up without a fight.

The U.S. secretary of state also pointed to the killing or capture of about two dozen high-level traffickers as a sign of the Mexican president’s progress.

The talks took place ahead a scheduled meeting in Mexico City later Monday between Secretary Clinton and Mr. Calderon.

Mexico is one of several nations involved in the Merida Initiative, a U.S. program that provides equipment, training and technical assistance to law enforcement operations in neighboring countries to help them fight crime. In 2008, Congress approved $400 million in program funding for Mexico and $65 million for Central America, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Drug-related violence has surged in Mexico in recent years. The violence has left 34,000 people dead since President Calderon took office in late 2006 and began a crackdown on the cartels.  (*)

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