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History > 2008 > USA > International (IV)




Bush Meets 5 Dissidents From China

Before Games


July 30, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — President Bush held private talks with five prominent Chinese dissidents on Tuesday, and urged China’s foreign minister to relax restrictions on human rights, as part of an intensifying White House effort to put pressure on Beijing before Mr. Bush travels there in a little over a week for the summer Olympic Games.

Mr. Bush received the dissidents — Harry Wu, Wei Jingsheng, Rebiya Kadeer, Sasha Gong and Bob Fu — in the White House residence, where he “assured them that he will carry the message of freedom as he travels to Beijing,” said his press secretary, Dana Perino. Earlier, Mr. Bush dropped in on a meeting between his national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, and China’s foreign minister, Yang Jiechi.

The back-to-back meetings came a week before Mr. Bush leaves for an Asia trip that will include the Olympics. The president has faced criticism from human rights advocates and members of Congress for his decision to attend. But his meetings on Tuesday drew praise from some of those critics.

“This is a welcome step, and President Bush should now speak forcefully about China’s human rights situation, because quiet diplomacy alone has shown little success,” T. Kumar, the Asia advocacy director at Amnesty International U.S.A., said in a statement on Tuesday.

In a report issued this week, Amnesty International accused China of breaking its promise to open up freedoms in exchange for permission from the International Olympic Committee to host the 2008 Games. A senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss delicate diplomatic matters, said Mr. Bush shared that concern.

The official said the dissidents told Mr. Bush on Tuesday that an estimated 80 million to 100 million Chinese were worshiping in underground churches. “He wants to see that open up,” the official said, adding that Mr. Bush also wants to press China to relax restrictions on the news media.

Mr. Bush has long said that he views the Olympics as a sporting event, not a political one. But he has also said he would use his attendance at the Games to press China on human rights matters.

Michael Green, an Asia expert and former adviser to Mr. Bush, said the White House must now contemplate how Mr. Bush should express his concerns while he is in Beijing. During a trip in 2005, the president attended a state-controlled church there and then held a press conference about it, a tactic that Mr. Green said got the attention of China’s leaders.

Mr. Green said Mr. Bush’s meeting with the dissidents had been aimed at both addressing his critics and sending a pointed message to the Chinese.

“These are very high profile people,” he said. “These are people designed to get the Chinese’s attention. It was not just a political move to provide cover at home. It was an important move to let Chinese leaders know that he’s not satisfied with the progress.”

    Bush Meets 5 Dissidents From China Before Games, NYT, 30.7.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/30/sports/olympics/30prexy.html






Bush Praises Pakistan

Just Hours After U.S. Strike


July 29, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — President Bush on Monday praised Pakistan’s commitment to fighting extremists along its deteriorating border with Afghanistan, only hours after an American missile strike destroyed what American and Pakistani officials described as a militant outpost in the region, killing at least six fighters.

Mr. Bush, meeting with Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, at the White House, sought to minimize growing concerns that Pakistan’s willingness to fight extremists was waning, allowing the Taliban and Al Qaeda to regroup inside Pakistan and plan new attacks there and beyond.

Senior American officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just three days ago, publicly scolded Pakistan for not doing more to root out safe havens like the one bombed on Monday in Azam Warsak, a village in South Waziristan near the Afghan border.

Among those believed to have been killed in the missile attack, evidently carried out by a remotely piloted aircraft operated by the Central Intelligence Agency, was an Egyptian identified as a senior Qaeda trainer and weapons expert, according to residents and officials in the area, as well as American officials. Neither the operative’s identity nor that of the others has been confirmed.

The officials spoke anonymously because of the political and diplomatic sensitivities of attacking targets in Pakistan.

The Egyptian operative, Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar, also known as Abu Khabab al-Masri, appears on the State Department’s list of 37 most-wanted terrorists, with a reward of $5 million for his capture. He is said to be the man who designed the explosives that Richard C. Reid, the so-called shoe bomber, hid in his sneakers during a failed attempt to blow up an airliner on a flight from Paris to Miami in 2001.

He was falsely reported to have been killed in a similar attack in January 2006 in news accounts that attributed the claim to Pakistani officials. The timing of Monday’s strike, the latest in a series by remotely piloted American aircraft inside Pakistan, coincided with the first official visit by Mr. Gilani to the United States.

The meetings on Monday carefully sidestepped the political and diplomatic sensitivities that have strained relations ever since political opponents of the country’s authoritarian president, Pervez Musharraf, won elections this year and formed a governing coalition lead by Mr. Gilani.

Neither Mr. Bush nor Mr. Gilani discussed the American strike inside Pakistan, nor recent episodes like the American bombing of a border post in June that killed 11 Pakistani soldiers and inflamed anti-American sentiment. The two leaders appeared eager to show that they were working together closely and respectfully.

With Mr. Gilani by his side on the South Lawn, Mr. Bush praised Pakistan as “a strong ally and a vibrant democracy” and expressed appreciation for “the prime minister’s strong words against the extremists and terrorists.”

“We talked about the need for us to make sure that the Afghan border is secure, as best as possible,” Mr. Bush said before the leaders continued their discussions. “Pakistan has made a very strong commitment to that.”

In his brief remarks and in a joint statement later, Mr. Bush also expressed respect for Pakistan’s sovereignty.

Mr. Gilani, himself seeking to demonstrate his government’s willingness to fight extremism, noted that his party’s leader, Benazir Bhutto, died in an attack by extremists in December.

“This is our own war,” he said, speaking in English. “This is a war which is against Pakistan. And we’ll fight for our own past. And that is because I have lost my own leader, Benazir Bhutto, because of the militants.”

Mr. Bush also announced that the United States would provide $115 million in food aid, including $42 million in the next nine months, to help Pakistan deal with rising food prices, and pledged to support Congressional efforts to expand American aid to areas beyond security and military affairs, including education, energy and agriculture.

The focus of their meetings remained terrorism, though. Asked about tensions in the relationship, the White House press secretary, Dana M. Perino, acknowledged what she described as “the complex issues on the border” between Pakistan and Afghanistan but suggested that differences were overblown.

“It’s tense in that we are working together to try to fight counterterrorism,” she said, “but I think that we are much more on the same page than some people would like to paint.”

In Pakistan, officials and a resident with ties to the Taliban in South Waziristan said Monday’s strike occurred before dawn. At least two missiles hit a compound that had been used as a school, the officials said.

The local resident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said there had been a meeting at the compound on Sunday, but that many of the attendees had left. A local militant commander, Maulavi Nazir, said the strike left seven people dead, including the head of the school. He complained of frequent American strikes in Pakistan and violations of its airspace.

In Washington, officials were still awaiting confirmation that Mr. Midhat, the Qaeda operative, was among those killed, an American official said.

If so, the official said, it would deal Al Qaeda a significant blow.

“This guy is one of their absolute key specialists in poisons and explosives,” the official said. “He was also a key trainer of people involved in operations inside and outside the tribal areas.”

Mr. Midhat helped Al Qaeda and Taliban plotters tailor bombs or poisons for specific terrorist missions, according to the official and the State Department’s rewards list..

“It doesn’t mean they can’t find other trainers,” the official said, “but they will have lost their most seasoned trainer.”

Ismail Khan contributed reporting from Peshawar, Pakistan, Pir Zubair Shah from Islamabad, and Eric Schmitt from Washington.

    Bush Praises Pakistan Just Hours After U.S. Strike, NYT, 29.7.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/29/world/29prexy.html?hp






Bush Widens Sanctions on Zimbabwe


July 26, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — President Bush expanded sanctions against Zimbabwe on Friday, two weeks after failing to win United Nations support for them because of vetoes by Russia and China.

Mr. Bush ordered the new sanctions to intensify pressure on President Robert Mugabe, as well as his political supporters and government-connected businesses, following elections marred by violence and intimidation and widely denounced as fraudulent.

“No regime should ignore the will of its own people and calls from the international community without consequences,” Mr. Bush said in a statement that accompanied an executive order expanding the American sanctions.

The president’s step came after a similar tightening of sanctions by the European Union, further isolating Mr. Mugabe’s government, though to little immediate effect.

The United States has already imposed sanctions against Mr. Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s leader for 28 years, as well as 129 other people and 35 businesses.

The order issued on Friday added 17 more businesses, which the Treasury Department said in a statement were used by Mr. Mugabe and his “regime cronies” to “illegally siphon revenue and foreign exchange from the Zimbabwean people.”

    Bush Widens Sanctions on Zimbabwe, NYT, 26.7.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/26/world/africa/26prexy.html?hp






Plan Would Use Antiterror Aid on Pakistani Jets


July 24, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — The Bush administration plans to shift nearly $230 million in aid to Pakistan from counterterrorism programs to upgrading that country’s aging F-16 attack planes, which Pakistan prizes more for their contribution to its military rivalry with India than for fighting insurgents along its Afghan border.

Some members of Congress have greeted the proposal with dismay and anger, and may block the move. Lawmakers and their aides say that F-16s do not help the counterterrorism campaign and defy the administration’s urgings that Pakistan increase pressure on fighters of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in its tribal areas.

The timing of the action caught lawmakers off guard, prompting some of them to suspect that the deal was meant to curry favor with the new Pakistani prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, who will meet with President Bush in Washington next week, and to ease tensions over the 11 members of the Pakistani paramilitary forces killed in an American airstrike along the Afghan border last month.

The financing for the F-16s would represent more than two-thirds of the $300 million that Pakistan will receive this year in American military financing for equipment and training.

Last year, Congress specified that those funds be used for law enforcement or counterterrorism. Pakistan’s military has rarely used its current fleet of F-16s, which were built in the 1980s, for close-air support of counterterrorism missions, largely because the risks of civilian casualties would inflame anti-government sentiments in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

State Department officials say the upgrades would greatly enhance the F-16s’ ability to strike insurgents accurately, while reducing the risk to civilians. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because Congress was weighing the plan, said the timing was driven by deadlines of the American contractor, Lockheed Martin.

Having the United States pay for the upgrades instead of Pakistan would also free up cash that Pakistan’s government could use to help offset rising fuel and food costs, which have contributed to an economic crisis there, the State Department officials said.

Under the original plan sent to Congress in April, the administration intended to use up to $226.5 million of the aid to refurbish two of Pakistan’s P-3 maritime patrol planes, buy it new airfield navigation aids and overhaul its troubled fleet of Cobra attack helicopters. The State Department notified Congress last week that the administration had changed its mind and would apply the funds to the F-16s.

Lawmakers immediately bridled at the shift, questioning whether the counterterrorism money could be spent more effectively. “We need to know if this is the best way to help Pakistan combat Al Qaeda and the Taliban,” Senator Patrick J. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who heads the appropriations subcommittee on State Department and foreign operations, said in a statement.

Representative Nita M. Lowey, a New York Democrat who heads the House appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations, said in a statement, “It is incumbent on the State Department and Pakistan to demonstrate clearly how these F-16s would be used to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban in order to get Congressional support.”

In a two-page notification to Congress, the State Department said that upgrading the avionics, targeting and radar systems of Pakistan’s older F-16s would “increase the survivability of the aircraft in a hostile environment” and make the “F-16s a more valuable counterterrorism asset that operates safely during day and night operations.” The notification said the modernized systems would also increase the accuracy of the F-16s’ support of Pakistani ground troops, lessening the risks of civilian casualties.

Many Congressional officials remain unconvinced. “Using F-16s this way is like hitting a fly with a sledgehammer,” said one senior Senate Democratic aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the current negotiations. It remains unclear whether any lawmaker will block or postpone the financing, and risk harming relations with Pakistan any further.

Even if approved, the upgraded F-16s would not be available until 2011, said one House aide who had been briefed on the issue, and who spoke on condition of anonymity, raising the question whether the funds could be spent on counterterrorism equipment that could be employed more quickly.

Pakistan agreed to buy about 70 F-16s in the 1980s, and about 40 were delivered before Congress cut off all aid and military sales in 1990, citing Pakistan’s secret development of nuclear weapons.

A new deal was struck after the Sept. 11 attacks to allow Pakistan to buy newer models, in part to reward Pakistan’s cooperation in fighting terrorism. In 2006, Pakistan was a major recipient of American arms sales, including the $1.4 billion purchase of up to 36 new F-16C/D fighter aircraft and $640 million in missiles and bombs. The deal included a package for $891 million in upgrades for Pakistan’s older F-16s.

At that time, the United States agreed to use $108 million of its annual security aid to Pakistan to retrofit the older F-16s with equipment to make them comparable to the newer models that will be delivered in the next several years. But the administration promised Congress that the Pakistani government would pay for the rest of the upgrades with its own funds. With Pakistan now facing economic hardships, top Pakistani leaders appealed to senior State Department officials to help defray the costs of the ongoing upgrades.

The debate over the F-16 financing comes at a time when Congress has grown increasingly frustrated with the administration’s Pakistan policy, arguing it has been weighted too heavily on security assistance. The United States has given more than $10 billion in military aid to Pakistan since the Sept. 11 attacks, when President Pervez Musharraf agreed to become an ally in the campaign against terrorism. Of that amount, $5.5 billion was specifically intended to reimburse the counterinsurgency efforts by the Pakistani Army, but Congressional auditors have said that Pakistan did not spend much of that money on counterinsurgency.

Senior administration officials, including top military officers, are also voicing increasing exasperation with Pakistan’s efforts to combat militants in the mountainous region along the border with Afghanistan. “We need Pakistan to put more pressure on that border,” Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” on PBS on Tuesday.

    Plan Would Use Antiterror Aid on Pakistani Jets, NYT, 24.7.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/24/world/asia/24pstan.html?hp






Obama Visits Jerusalem's Western Wall


July 24, 2008
Filed at 3:36 a.m. ET
The New York Times


JERUSALEM (Reuters) - U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama made a surprise pre-dawn visit to Jerusalem's Western Wall on Thursday, at the end of a trip aimed at showing his strong support for Israel.

Obama, wearing a Jewish skullcap, placed a prayer he had written in the wall and bowed his head while a rabbi read a psalm calling for peace in the holy city.

One worshipper chanted "Obama, Jerusalem is not for sale" and "Jerusalem is our land" as the Illinois senator stood at the wall, a relic of the ancient Jewish temple destroyed during Roman rule nearly 2,000 years ago.

Obama assured Israel and its U.S. Jewish supporters on Wednesday he was a friend who would not press for concessions in peace talks with Palestinians that would compromise its security.

Hailing Israel as a "miracle," he vowed staunch support and held only a low-profile meeting with Palestinian leaders in the occupied West Bank.

Last month Obama dismayed Palestinians when he said Jerusalem must be Israel's "undivided" capital. Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in 1967, including the Old City where the Western Wall is situated, but Palestinians want it to be the capital of a future state.

Obama later said he had used "poor phrasing."

He is due to fly on Thursday to Germany, where he will give the only public speech of his week-long foreign tour, an outdoor address on transatlantic ties that is likely to draw tens of thousands.

Highly popular in Germany, where he is often likened to former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Obama will also meet for the first time Chancellor Angela Merkel, who opposed his initial plan to speak at the Brandenburg Gate.

Instead, Obama will give his evening address at the "Victory Column" in Berlin's central Tiergarten park, down the road but still within sight of the Gate, a landmark that stood behind the Berlin Wall for decades as a potent symbol of the Cold War.

(Reporting by Caren Bohan; Editing by Dominic Evans)

    Obama Visits Jerusalem's Western Wall, NYT, 24.7.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/washington/politics-palestinians-israel-obama-wall.html






On Mideast Tour, Obama Meeting Olmert and Abbas


July 24, 2008
The New York Times


JERUSALEM — With a fanfare typically accorded to a visiting head of state, Senator Barack Obama dashed through a series of meetings with leaders on both sides of the Middle East conflict on Wednesday, saying it was in Israel’s interest to find peace with the Palestinians. Yet he made clear that Israel should be able to defend itself.

Mr. Obama said that the capital of Israel should be Jerusalem, but added that the matter should be settled through a negotiation by the parties.

“That’s an issue that has to be dealt with by the parties involved, the Palestinians and the Israelis, and it is not the job of the United States to dictate the form in which that will take,” Mr. Obama said, “but rather to support the efforts that are being made right now to resolve these very difficult issues that have a long history.”

Mr. Obama, who flew by helicopter to the southern Israeli city of Sderot, said the people of Israel should be able to defend themselves from Palestinian rocket attacks from nearby Gaza. Sderot has been hit by more than 2,000 rockets in the past four years, and is a symbolic destination for visiting politicians, including Senator John McCain, who toured it four months ago.

In Sderot, Mr. Obama held a news conference against a backdrop of spent rockets and munitions outside. “The state of Israel faces determined enemies who seek its destruction,” Mr. Obama said. “But it also has a friend and ally in the United States that will always stand by the people of Israel.”

He issued a warning to Iran, saying that, “A nuclear Iran would pose a grave threat and the world must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” He said no options were “off the table” in dealing with a nuclear threat from Iran but that the country should be offered “big carrots” as well as “big sticks.” The Bush administration and others have said Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at developing nuclear weapons, although Iran’s leaders insist it is for peaceful purposes.

“I think there are opportunities for us to mobilize a much more serious regime of sanctions on Iran, but also to offer them the possibility of improved relations in the international community if they stand down on these nuclear weapons,” he said.

Mr. Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, held a busy day of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, sharing breakfast with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak before traveling to the West Bank to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.Mr. Obama, who shuttled between morning meetings at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. Wearing a white yarmulke, he rekindled a flame and paused for a few moments of quiet reflection as he laid a wreath on a tomb that contains ashes from Nazi extermination camps.

“At a time of great peril and promise, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man’s potential for great evil, but also our capacity to rise from tragedy and remake our world,” Mr. Obama said after visiting the memorial. “Let our children come here, and know this history, so they can add their voices to proclaim “never again.” And may we remember those who perished, not only as victims but also as individuals who hoped and loved and dreamed like us, and who have become symbols of the human spirit.”

Mr. Obama later met with Mr. Abbas and the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Salam Fayyad, for one hour — 15 minutes longer than scheduled — at the Mukata, the Palestinian president’s compound in Ramallah.

Mr. Obama traveled there by car — crossing two checkpoints — before arriving. Mr. Obama and Mr. Abbas sat down, with a Palestinian flag between them and photographs of the late Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat and of Mr. Abbas himself on the wall behind them. The two men spoke softly for a few moments, while cameras captured the image, before starting their closed-door discussion.

The brief ceremony at Yad Vashem was intended to convey symbolic images of Mr. Obama’s commitment to Israel as he listens to leaders on both sides of the Middle East peace process.

“The most important idea for me to reaffirm is the historic and special relationship between the United States and Israel,” Mr. Obama said as he arrived here on the latest leg of a weeklong trip to the Middle East and Europe. “One that cannot be broken. One that I have affirmed throughout my career and one that I will intend to not only continue but actually strengthen in an Obama administration.”

As Mr. Obama headed to his private meetings, including one later with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, his aides were sensitive to any perceptions that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee was getting ahead of himself. They stressed that he was here to listen, not legislate.

“The United States of America has one president at a time — that president is George W. Bush,” Susan Rice, a senior foreign policy adviser to the campaign, said Wednesday. “Senator Obama will not be engaged in any way, shape or form policy-making.”

Aides to Mr. Obama did not provide an immediate account of his meetings, but Mr. Barak’s office issued a statement saying that the two discussed “all the relevant issues” and the “future challenges facing Israel and the region.”

The list of challenges includes Israeli-Palestinian peace talks as well as Israel’s concern about Iran’s nuclear program.

Mr. Obama received a warm reception from President Shimon Peres of Israel, who said his fondest wish was for a “great president of the United States. That is the greatest promise for us and the rest of the world.”

As he strolled with Mr. Peres just before their meeting, Mr. Obama said: “I’m here on this trip to reaffirm the special relationship between Israel and the United States, my abiding commitment to Israel’s security and my hope that I can serve as an effective partner whether as U.S. senator or as president in bringing about a more lasting peace in the region.”

“You are a person who has forgotten more than I will ever know on these issues and so I look forward to a robust discussion, having an opportunity to get your insights and your wisdom,” he told Mr. Peres.

Mr. Obama also met with the opposition leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, who told reporters that Israeli-Palestinian relations and Iran were the main points of his morning conversation. “The senator and I agreed that the primacy of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power is clear, and this should guide our mutual policies,” Mr. Netanyahu said in a statement.

He added that Mr. Obama told him “he would never seek in any way to compromise Israel’s security, and that this would be sacrosanct in his approach to political negotiations.”

Mr. Obama’s visit to Israel comes after three days in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, where he met American military commanders and soldiers. On Tuesday, he visited Jordan. The international trip, which is unusual in the middle of a presidential campaign, was drawing considerable attention at home and abroad.

At the King David Hotel, some supporters brought Obama campaign signs bearing the slogan “Change you can believe in,” translated into Hebrew. In the lobby, an “Israel for Obama” sign was hanging from a chair.

As they talked casually, Mr. Netanyahu asked the visiting senator how he was feeling, to which Mr. Obama replied, “I could fall asleep standing up.”

    On Mideast Tour, Obama Meeting Olmert and Abbas, NYT, 24.7.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/24/us/politics/24obama.html?hp






U.S. Is Present, but Iran Nuclear Talks End in Stalemate


July 20, 2008
The New York Times


GENEVA — International talks on Iran’s nuclear ambitions ended in deadlock on Saturday, despite the Bush administration’s decision to reverse policy and send a senior American official to the table for the first time.

The presence of William J. Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, was one of the most important encounters between Iran and the United States since relations were severed nearly three decades ago. And it was part of a rare show of unity among the six negotiating partners — the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China — who pressed Iran to accept compromise.

But Iran responded with a written document that failed to address the main issue: international demands that it stop enriching uranium. And Iranian diplomats reiterated before the talks that they considered the issue nonnegotiable.

Specifically, the world powers wanted Iran to accept a formula known as “freeze-for-freeze” to break the deadlock. Under the formula, Iran would not add to its nuclear program, and the United States and other powers would not seek new international sanctions for six weeks to pave the way for formal negotiations. The proposal was originally offered to Iran last year and presented again to it last month as part of a new proposal to ultimately give Iran economic and political incentives if it stops producing enriched uranium.

But officials involved in Saturday’s negotiations said that when they repeatedly pressed the Iranians to say whether they could accept the idea, the question was evaded every time.

“We still didn’t get the answer we were looking for,” the European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said at a news conference after several hours of talks, held in Geneva’s City Hall.

Mr. Solana said the Iranians were given two weeks to formally respond to the proposal before it would be withdrawn.

At the news conference, Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief negotiator, refused to answer whether Iran would accept a freeze of its uranium enrichment program, however temporary. But he called the negotiating process a “very beautiful endeavor” with a result that he hoped would eventually be “beautiful to behold.”

Mr. Burns did not speak privately with Mr. Jalili. But in a brief statement in the morning meeting, he said that the United States was serious in its support for the six-power process and serious that Iran must suspend its production of enriched uranium, the State Department said.

He told his negotiating partners after the talks that the United States would push for new punitive sanctions at the United Nations Security Council in September, one participant in the meeting said.

Saturday’s meeting at Geneva’s City Hall was one of the most important public encounters between an Iranian and an American official since relations were halted after the American Embassy was seized in Tehran in 1979.

Other authorized meetings have occurred. Madeleine K. Albright, as secretary of state, for example, once sat at the same table with then Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and other emissaries at the United Nations to discuss Afghanistan. Colin L. Powell, as secretary of state, once shook Mr. Kharrazi’s hand. American and Iranian officials have met episodically in Baghdad to discuss Iraq’s security.

But Saturday’s meeting was the highest-level session between the countries during the Bush administration, which once branded Iran part of an “axis of evil” and has not ruled out military action against Iran because of its nuclear ambitions.

It comes as the Bush administration, in its final months, has told some of its closest allies that the United States was moving forward with a plan to establish an American diplomatic presence in Tehran for the first time since the rupture in bilateral relations.

But for some, it is hard to understand why the Americans have made a diplomatic gesture with Mr. Burns’s participation at this time. America’s negotiating partners, particularly Britain, had wanted an American presence when they traveled to Tehran last month to present an enhanced package of incentives. That moment, officials said, would have been meaningful and more logical.

Instead, Mr. Burns came to the table when the Iranians were giving their reply, and there had never been a strong signal that it was going to be different from the past.

Despite the shift in American willingness to talk, one point of policy clearly has not changed: the Bush administration wants to avoid the impression that it is negotiating with Iran before it suspends its production of enriched uranium, which can be used to make electricity or fuel bombs.

Even the subject of a joint photograph was one of dispute. The only photo accepted by the American side was one with all parties at the table. The Americans objected to the idea of a photo of Mr. Solana and Mr. Jalili at a joint news conference with Mr. Burns and the other participants standing behind them.

Complicating the diplomacy was the fact that before Saturday’s talks, the six powers were not united on a joint strategy on how to proceed. The American delegation had told its partners that Mr. Burns’s appearance was a one-time event and that Iran had two weeks to decide whether to accept the “freeze-for-freeze” formula.

Germany, Russia and China, by contrast, argued that there should be time to explore the negotiating track with Iran.

There were other disagreements among the six powers as well. France and Britain have argued that there should be a precise definition of what the Iranians would have to freeze to open the way to formal talks.

But those disagreements evaporated during the talks with Iran. The six powers presented a united front in pushing the Iranians to give a clear answer on whether they were willing to make the good-faith gesture of halting new nuclear activity to pave the way for formal talks.

    U.S. Is Present, but Iran Nuclear Talks End in Stalemate, NYT, 20.7.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/20/world/middleeast/20nuke.html?hp






Obama’s Visit Renews Focus on Afghanistan


July 20, 2008
The New York Times


KABUL, Afghanistan — Senator Barack Obama arrived in Afghanistan on Saturday, on a high-profile foreign trip in a country that is increasingly the focus of his clash with Senator John McCain over whether the war in Iraq has been a distraction in hunting down terrorists.

Even as Mr. Obama met privately with American troops, military leaders and Afghan officials in the eastern part of the country, Mr. McCain was questioning his judgment on foreign policy. In a radio address on Saturday, he said Mr. Obama had been wrong about the increase in troops in Iraq, a strategy Mr. McCain said should be the basis for addressing deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan as well.

As the American presidential campaign unfolded across borders and time zones, Mr. Obama received support from an unexpected corner: Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, told a German magazine that he endorsed the Obama plan to withdraw most American troops in a gradual timeline of 16 months.

Mr. Obama flew to eastern Afghanistan, near Pakistan, to get a firsthand look at the region where American troops are feeling the brunt of increased attacks from militants infiltrating the border. In selecting Afghanistan as an early stop in his first overseas trip as the presumptive Democratic nominee, he was seeking to highlight what he says is the central front in the fight against terrorism. He made no public statements on his first day here.

The visit was part of a weeklong tour that will take him to Iraq, Israel and Western Europe on a trip intended to build impressions, and counter criticism, about his ability to serve on the world stage in a time of war. It carries political risk, particularly if Mr. Obama makes a mistake — the three broadcast network news anchors will be along for the latter parts of the trip — or is seen as the preferred candidate of Europe and other parts of the world. But his advisers believe it offers an opportunity for him to be seen as a leader who can improve America’s image.

“I’m more interested in listening than doing a lot of talking,” Mr. Obama told reporters before leaving Washington for a trip cloaked in secrecy because of security concerns. “And I think it is very important to recognize that I’m going over there as a U.S. senator. We have one president at a time.”

Even as the fragile economy has emerged as the chief issue on American voters’ minds, the arguments that reverberated from the United States to Afghanistan served as a reminder that the nation is at war and that the candidates offer very different backgrounds and approaches when it comes to national security.

Mr. Obama touched down here just before noon on Saturday, his aides said, after stopping to visit, and play basketball with, American troops in Kuwait. In Afghanistan, he received a briefing from military commanders at Bagram Air Base and Afghan officials at an American base in Jalalabad. He was scheduled to meet on Sunday with President Hamid Karzai before heading to Iraq.

While the Iraq war has been one of the dominant issues in the presidential campaign, Afghanistan has moved to the forefront of the foreign policy plans of both candidates. President Bush’s agreement to a “general time horizon” for withdrawing American troops in Iraq has opened the door to new consideration of strengthening the American and NATO presence in Afghanistan, which Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain agree on in principle.

For months, Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, has criticized his rival for failing to visit Afghanistan and taking only one trip to Iraq. Even on Saturday, in a radio address, Mr. McCain renewed his criticism and sought to minimize Mr. Obama’s trip. “In a time of war,” Mr. McCain said, “the commander in chief’s job doesn’t get a learning curve.”

Mr. McCain, whose campaign spokeswoman suggested that Mr. Obama was embarking on a “campaign rally overseas,” said his rival was not going to Afghanistan and Iraq with an open mind. “Apparently,” Mr. McCain said in his radio address, “he’s confident enough that he won’t find any facts that might change his opinion or alter his strategy. Remarkable.”

But Republicans were carefully watching Mr. Obama’s trip, which is rare in its profile and scope for a presidential candidate. The White House also made clear Saturday that it was monitoring Mr. Obama’s travels; it accidentally sent e-mail to a broad list of reporters with the news report that the Iraqi prime minister supported Mr. Obama’s proposed 16-month timeline for withdrawing combat troops from Iraq.

In an interview with Der Spiegel magazine in Germany that was released on Saturday, Mr. Maliki said he was not endorsing Mr. Obama’s candidacy, but called his proposal “the right timeframe for a withdrawal.”

The magazine interview was far from helpful to the McCain campaign, and aides to Mr. McCain sought to clarify Mr. Maliki’s remarks.

“John McCain believes withdrawal must be based on conditions on the ground,” Mr. McCain’s senior foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, said in a statement. “Prime Minister Maliki has repeatedly affirmed the same view, and did so again today. Timing is not as important as whether we leave with victory and honor.”

Besides visiting Iraq, Mr. Obama is also set to meet with presidents, prime ministers and opposition leaders as he travels to Jordan, Israel and three European capitals, including Berlin, where he is to give a major speech on Thursday. On the Afghanistan and Iraq leg of the trip, he is being joined by Senators Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, and Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island; the two men have been mentioned as possible running mates for Mr. Obama.

The three senators, all of whom have been critical of the administration’s policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, were casually dressed as they flew on Saturday to Jalalabad, one of 13 provincial bases that are commanded by American forces in the Regional Command East of the NATO force in Afghanistan. Many of those provinces, including Kunar, Nuristan, Nangarhar, Khost and Paktika, line the border with Pakistan’s turbulent tribal areas, where militant groups allied with the Taliban and Al Qaeda have gained in strength and have increased attacks by some 40 percent in recent months.

The governor of Nangarhar Province, Gul Agha Shirzai, was the only Afghan official to meet the senators, along with the United States ambassador and generals. A former mujahedeen commander with a brutal past, Mr. Shirzai is nevertheless favored by the United States as someone who can get things done, and has been praised for his tough action against poppy cultivation and official corruption in his province. He is thought to have his own aspirations in Afghan presidential elections next year.

“Barack Obama thanked the officials of Nangarhar and the people of Nangarhar for eliminating poppy cultivation, fighting corruption,” Mr. Shirzai said by telephone after the one-hour meeting, “and he promised that the United States would give more help to Afghanistan and especially to Nangarhar.”

The senators flew back to Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, at 5 p.m., the governor said. At 6 p.m. two Chinook military helicopters landed at the United States Embassy, as two more attack helicopters circled above.

Afghans in Kabul said they knew nothing of Mr. Obama’s visit; some interviewed on the streets near the embassy did not even know who he was. But some who had heard of him said they liked his message, in particular that he would pursue Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

“So far what he is talking about is what Afghans want to hear: reduce troops in Iraq, focus on Afghanistan and focus on Pakistan,” said Ashmat Ghani, an influential tribal leader whose home province of Logar, just south of the capital, is suffering from growing instability by insurgent groups.

Mr. Ghani, a critic of Mr. Karzai’s leadership who opposes his running for another presidential term next year, also welcomed Mr. Obama’s recent criticism that the Afghan president had not come out of his bunker to lead efforts in reconstruction and building security institutions.

“We would welcome such a direct voice that would close up this problem,” Mr. Ghani said.

Yet other Afghans interviewed were skeptical that a new American president would make much difference for them.

“What have we seen from the current president that we should expect anything from a future president?” said Abdul Wakil, 28, who runs a juice stall in the street near the heavily guarded embassy in central Kabul.

Carlotta Gall reported from Afghanistan, and Jeff Zeleny from Washington. Larry Rohter contributed reporting.

    Obama’s Visit Renews Focus on Afghanistan, NYT, 20.7.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/20/us/politics/20obama.html?hp






A Cast of 300 Advises Obama on Foreign Policy


July 18, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — Every day around 8 a.m., foreign policy aides at Senator Barack Obama’s Chicago campaign headquarters send him two e-mails: a briefing on major world developments over the previous 24 hours and a set of questions, accompanied by suggested answers, that the candidate is likely to be asked about international relations during the day.

One recent Q. & A. asked, for example, whether Mr. Obama supported the decision by Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, to include a timetable for American troop withdrawal in any new security agreements with the United States. The answer, provided to Mr. Obama with bullet points, was yes — or “a genuine opportunity,” as he put it in a speech on Iraq this week.

Behind the e-mail messages is a tight-knit group of aides supported by a huge 300-person foreign policy campaign bureaucracy, organized like a mini State Department, to assist a candidate whose limited national security experience remains a concern to many voters.

“It is unwieldy, no question,” said Denis McDonough, 38, Mr. Obama’s top foreign policy aide, speaking of an infrastructure that has been divided into 20 teams based on regions and issues, and that has recently absorbed, with some tensions, the top foreign policy advisers from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign. “But an administration is unwieldy, too. We also know that it’s messier when you don’t get as much information as you can.”

The group is on the spot this week as Mr. Obama is planning to make his first overseas foray as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, with voters at home and leaders abroad watching closely to see how he handles himself on the global stage.

Unlike George W. Bush, who entered the presidential race in 2000 with scant exposure to national security issues, Mr. Obama has served since his election to the Senate in 2004 on the Foreign Relations Committee and has had a running tutorial from aides steeped in the issues. His campaign says that he is well prepared and that he often alters and expands on the talking points provided to him by his foreign policy advisers.

Most of the core members of his team served in government during President Bill Clinton’s administration and by and large were junior to the advisers who worked on Mrs. Clinton’s campaign for the Democratic nomination. But they remain in charge within the campaign even as it takes on more senior figures from the Clinton era, like two former secretaries of state, Madeleine K. Albright and Warren Christopher, and are positioned to put their own stamp on the party’s foreign policy.

Most of them, like the candidate they are working for, distinguished themselves from Mrs. Clinton’s foreign policy camp by early opposition to the Iraq war. They also tend to be more liberal and to emphasize using the “soft power” of diplomacy and economic aid to try to advance the interests of the United States. Still, their positions fall well within centrist Democratic foreign policy thinking, and none of the deep policy fissures that have divided the Republicans into two camps, the neoconservatives and the so-called pragmatists, have opened.

Mr. Obama’s core team is led by Susan E. Rice, an assistant secretary of state for African affairs in the Clinton administration, who has pushed for a tougher response to the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan, and Anthony Lake, Mr. Clinton’s first national security adviser, who was criticized for the administration’s failure to confront the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and now acknowledges the inaction as a major mistake.

The core group also includes Gregory B. Craig, a former top official in the Clinton State Department who served as the president’s lawyer during his impeachment trial; Richard J. Danzig, a Navy secretary in the Clinton administration; Mark W. Lippert, Mr. Obama’s former Senate foreign policy adviser, who just returned from a Navy tour of duty in Iraq; and Mr. McDonough.

Mr. McDonough and Mr. Lippert are paid by the campaign and based in Chicago, and the rest are outside advisers who volunteer their time from Washington.

The group no longer includes Samantha Power, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvard human rights expert who resigned in March after she was quoted calling Mrs. Clinton a “monster.” But Mr. Lake still talks to Ms. Power, and Mr. Obama sent a long personal tribute that was read at her wedding in Ireland this month.

Mr. Obama’s Republican rival, Senator John McCain of Arizona, has a far smaller and looser foreign policy advisory operation, about 75 people in all, and none are organized into teams. In 2004, the Democratic presidential nominee, Senator John Kerry, had a foreign policy structure similar in scale to Mr. Obama’s, but it had limited influence on the candidate, who had spent 20 years in the Senate, former advisers said. Mr. Obama is not yet receiving the government intelligence briefing that is typically made available to a presidential candidate upon becoming his party’s nominee.

Mr. Obama’s infrastructure funnels hundreds of e-mail messages and reams of position papers and talking points each day to members of the core group, who in turn seek advice or make requests for more information to team members down the line. Dennis Ross, the Middle East envoy for Mr. Clinton and the first President Bush and a member of the Obama campaign’s Middle East team, is frequently asked by Ms. Rice, Mr. Lake or Mr. McDonough for help on framing Mr. Obama’s comments on Iran’s nuclear program and its potential threat to Israel.

“They’ve asked for substantive help: ‘Can I take a look at language on Iran?’ ” Mr. Ross said. “Or sometimes I’ve been asked questions to explain the administration’s approach on Iran.” Mr. Ross participated in a conference call last week with Mr. Obama and other advisers to prepare for the senator’s foreign trip, and he will travel with Mr. Obama in Israel and the West Bank city of Ramallah and at other stops. Mr. Ross described Mr. Obama in the conference call as focused on “drilling down” into the issues on the trip.

Another person who has contributed outside advice is former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, whom Mr. Obama has been wooing. Mr. Powell, a Republican, has a friendship of decades with Mr. McCain, but friends say he has felt excluded from Mr. McCain’s foreign policy operation and was impressed when Mr. Obama called on him in June. Mr. Powell also met around the same time with Mr. McCain.

From day to day, the main point of contact with Mr. Obama and his foreign policy team is Mr. McDonough, who is soon to be joined in Chicago by Mr. Lippert. “If there’s something big in the morning, we will either e-mail or call Obama,” said Mr. Lippert, who performed a similar job, although on a smaller scale, when he was Mr. Obama’s foreign policy adviser in the Senate. “So instead of having 20 people at your fingertips, you have 300. The pressure is there, the time is much shorter, but the principle is the same — lining up the calls, briefing the candidate, e-mails, op-eds, statements.”

Out in the netherworld of the 300, advisers often say they are unclear about what happens to all the policy paragraphs they churn out on request. “It’s all mysterious what we send him and what gets to him,” said Michael A. McFaul, a Russia scholar at Stanford University who leads the Russia and Eurasia team for the Obama campaign.

Other team leaders include Ivo H. Daalder, a scholar at the Brookings Institution who has organized his 40-member nuclear nonproliferation team into eight working groups, and Philip H. Gordon, another scholar at the institution, who is in charge of Mr. Obama’s Europe team.

Although Mr. Obama’s team has yet to show any public evidence of deep policy divisions, it has its share of personal tensions, not least those born of integrating Mrs. Clinton’s former advisers into the effort. In that process, the old Clinton administration hierarchy has been turned upside down.

One person who is not a team leader — and who was not included in a 13-member “senior working group” that the Obama campaign announced last month — is Richard Holbrooke, a United Nations ambassador under Mr. Clinton who was mentioned as a potential secretary of state if Mrs. Clinton had won the presidency. Mr. Holbrooke has long had a rivalry with Mr. Lake, who was widely criticized in Washington for his performance as national security adviser in the Clinton White House.

The Obama campaign has since said that Mr. Holbrooke, who mediated an end to the war in Bosnia in 1995, is on the team. But Mr. Holbrooke, who declined to comment, has found himself in the position of a general from a defeated army who must now seek peace.

    A Cast of 300 Advises Obama on Foreign Policy, NYT, 18.7.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/18/us/politics/18advisers.html






News Analysis

Policy Shift Seen in U.S. Decision on Iran Talks


July 17, 2008
The New York Times


PARIS — The Bush administration’s decision to send a senior American official to participate in international talks with Iran this weekend reflects a double policy shift in the struggle to resolve the impasse over the country’s nuclear program.

First, the Bush administration has decided to abandon its longstanding position that it would meet face to face with Iran only after the country suspended its uranium enrichment, as demanded by the United Nations Security Council.

Second, an American partner at the table injects new importance to the negotiating track of the six global powers confronting Iran — France, Britain, Germany, Russia, China and the United States — even though their official stance is that no substantive talks can begin until uranium enrichment stops.

The increased engagement raised questions of whether the Bush administration would alter its stance toward Iran as radically as it did with North Korea, risking a fresh schism with conservatives who have accused the White House of granting concessions to so-called rogue states without extracting enough in return.

The administration sought to describe the talks as a continuation of the same strategy it has always pursued: halting Iran’s nuclear activities without having to resort to military force.

The presence of William J. Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, at the meeting with Saeed Jalili, Iran’s nuclear negotiator, in Geneva on Saturday, will send “a strong signal to the Iranian government that the United States is committed to diplomacy,” the State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, told reporters on Wednesday. Mr. McCormack insisted that there had been no change in policy.

All of the Bush administration’s diplomatic partners, as well as Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief and the leader of the talks, have been pressing Washington for some time to join in. They argue that the Iranians will take any proposal seriously only if the United States is a full partner.

European officials hailed the decision as an important shift signaling that with just six months left, the Bush administration is seeking to avoid a war with Iran.

“We are very pleased by the administration’s decision,” said Cristina Gallach, Mr. Solana’s spokeswoman, in a telephone interview. “It is a clear signal to the Iranians of the engagement of the United States and its commitment to a negotiated solution. At the same time, it is a clear message to the Iranians of the seriousness of this exercise.”

A senior European official directly involved in the diplomacy also welcomed the decision to send Mr. Burns, the State Department’s third-ranking official, calling it a “major change” in American policy.

Dana M. Perino, the White House press secretary, said it was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who had approached the president about sending Mr. Burns. One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Ms. Rice had decided to test Iran’s willingness to consider an international package of incentives meant to coax Iran into making concessions on its nuclear program.

The combination of diplomacy and increasing sanctions, including those by the European Union against Iran’s largest bank last month, had produced some signals within Iran that it might being softening its stance, and Ms. Rice “decided it was a chance to press the advantage,” the official said. Vice President Dick Cheney and other senior aides discussed the idea as well, said the official, who was not identified because he was speaking about internal discussions.

The extent of American involvement remains unclear. Mr. McCormack described Mr. Burns’s participation in the talks as “a one-time-only deal.” Ms. Perino would not rule out additional meetings with the Iranians, saying it depended on the outcome of the meeting.

Some administration officials have even discussed whether to post American officials in Iran without established diplomatic relations, as in Cuba, but have said a decision has not yet been made.

The presence of an American at the talks this weekend may help quiet the mounting calls in both the United States and Israel for military strikes against Iran because of its recent expansion of its uranium enrichment program and its unwillingness to fully explain its suspicious past nuclear activities.

In Tehran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, said Wednesday that his country had “clearly defined red lines” that had to be respected in negotiations, a reference to Iran’s insistence that it has the right to peaceful nuclear energy.

But “if the negotiating parties enter negotiations with respect toward the Iranian nation” and “with the observance of these red lines, the officials of our country will negotiate,” the ayatollah said in a speech quoted by state radio, Reuters reported.

Ms. Perino said that if Iran’s government rejected the incentive package, the United States would seek further sanctions against the country’s leaders and state-owned companies, and encourage others to do so.

Still, the decision to attend the talks came under attack from some conservatives, who criticized the White House for not standing by its policy of refusing to negotiate until Iran suspended its uranium enrichment.

“Just when you think the administration is out of U-turns, they make another one,” said John R. Bolton, a former ambassador to the United Nations, who was highly critical of the administration’s decision to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism last month. “This is further evidence of the administration’s complete intellectual collapse.”

From the opposite side of the spectrum, Senator John Kerry, Mr. Bush’s Democratic opponent in 2004, said the decision could be “the most welcome flip-flop in recent diplomatic history.”

American and Iranian midlevel envoys, including the American ambassador to Iraq, Ryan C. Crocker, have met episodically in several face-to-face talks in Baghdad in an effort to discuss common concerns over Iraq.

But there have been very few other direct encounters between American and Iranian officials since relations between the countries were severed after Iran seized the American Embassy in late 1979.

During the hostage crisis, President Carter once secretly sent Hamilton Jordan, his chief of staff, dressed in disguise as a potential negotiator.

In 1986, in an effort to free several American hostages in Lebanon, President Reagan sent his national security adviser, Robert C. McFarlane, on a secret arms-for-hostages mission to Iran. He went bearing a key-shaped chocolate cake and a Bible that Mr. Reagan had inscribed with a New Testament passage.

The first President Bush was so eager to begin a dialogue with Iran that he once answered a phone call expecting to find Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, then the president, on the line. The call was a hoax.

There were also unannounced midlevel contacts involving American and Iranian officials on the sidelines of six-country talks on Afghanistan in Geneva several years ago.

A determining factor in the American decision to attend the meeting this weekend appeared to have been Iran’s reaction to the fact that Ms. Rice signed a letter that was part of the package of political and economic incentives presented by the six powers in Tehran last month.

Iran’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, was described by participants in the meeting as being visibly stunned by her signature on the document along with those of her counterparts.

Mr. Mottaki formally responded to the proposal in a letter this month, addressing it to Ms. Rice as well as Mr. Solana and the five foreign ministers of the five other countries. The gesture to include Ms. Rice was seen as a sign of Iran’s willingness to engage directly with the United States.

The Iranian letter ignored the important issue of its uranium enrichment activities but said Iran sought to “find common ground through logical and constructive actions,” according to officials who read it.

Under the incentives proposal offered to Iran, the two sides would agree to a brief mutual “freeze for freeze” under which Iran would not increase its uranium enrichment activities and the six powers would not seek additional international sanctions.

For substantive negotiations to officially begin, Iran would first have to halt its production of enriched uranium, which, depending on the enrichment level, can be used to produce electricity or fuel bombs.

But some European officials engaged in the diplomacy conceded that negotiations had already started, and that Iran had successfully opened a negotiating process while continuing its nuclear activities.

Elaine Sciolino reported from Paris, and Steven Lee Myers from Washington.

    Policy Shift Seen in U.S. Decision on Iran Talks, NYT, 17.7.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/17/world/middleeast/17iran.html?hp






Rice Warns Iran That U.S. Will Defend Allies


July 11, 2008
The New York Times


MOSCOW — The confrontation between Tehran and Washington seemed to sharpen on Thursday as Iran said it tested missiles for a second day and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States would defend its allies and protect its interests against an attack.

Ms. Rice was speaking in the former Soviet republic of Georgia at the end of a three-day tour of Eastern Europe. Shortly after she spoke, state-run media in Iran began reporting the new missile tests, which followed a warning from an Iranian official earlier this week that Tehran would strike Tel Aviv and United States interests if Washington attacked it first.

Iranian state television showed a missile blasting off in darkness, trailed by a fiery exhaust plume. The television said the new tests took place during the night into Thursday. A commander in the Revolutionary Guards had said earlier that night missile maneuvers would take place but did not give details.

“Deep in the Persian Gulf waters, the launch of different types of ground-to-sea, surface-to-surface, sea-to-air and the powerful launch of the Hoot missile successfully took place,” state radio said, without giving further details of the missiles. The missile’s name is sometimes spelled Hout.

Iran claimed to have first tested the Hoot, which means “whale” in Persian, in April 2006. A senior military official at the time described the torpedo as a sonar-evading underwater missile capable of traveling at about 230 miles per hour, about three times the speed of Western torpedoes. Military analysts have said that the Hoot, also spelled Hout, resembles a Russian rocket torpedo called the VA-111 Shkval, or Squall, a limited range weapon used in close-proximity combat.

The latest tests came a day after Iran said it test-fired nine missiles, including one with the range to strike Israel.

At a news conference in Georgia with President Mikheil Saakashvili, Ms. Rice declared:

“We will defend our interests and defend our allies.”

“We take very, very strongly our obligations to defend our allies and no one should be confused of that,” she said.

The remarks come amid increasingly tense exchanges between Iran and the United States over Iran’s civilian nuclear program, which Washington and many Western governments have warned could be used to cloak the development of a nuclear weapon, a charge Tehran has denied repeatedly.

The United States has hinted that it could use military force against Iran, but officials have made diplomacy a priority. Negotiations between Iran and the West on Iran’s nuclear ambitions are scheduled to resume this month.

Washington has been pushing the deployment of an antiballistic missile shield in Eastern Europe that officials say will help defend against a possible missile attack from Iran. Ms. Rice was in the Czech Republic on Tuesday, where she signed a landmark agreement to allow the Pentagon to begin construction of the first elements of this system.

The accord provoked strong criticism from Russia, which has said that the system could undermine Russia’s nuclear response capabilities. After the signing, Moscow threatened to respond militarily if the missile shield was put into operation.

Ms. Rice’s remarks seemed to go further than comments on Wednesday by Gordon D. Johndroe, the deputy White House press secretary, who said in a statement at the Group of 8 meeting in Japan that Iran’s development of ballistic missiles was a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

He urged Iran’s leaders to “refrain from further missile tests if they truly seek to gain the trust of the world,” and said, “The Iranians should stop the development of ballistic missiles which could be used as a delivery vehicle for a potential nuclear weapon immediately.”

Some in the United States saw the Iranian tests on Wednesday as essentially deterrent in nature. A senior American intelligence official said the missile tests, together with belligerent comments by Iranian officials, seemed part of a strategy to warn Iran’s neighbors of its “capacity to inflict pain.”

“I think Iran has a hedgehog strategy: mess with me and you’ll get stuck,” said the official, Thomas Fingar, the deputy director of national intelligence for analysis and head of the National Intelligence Council, during remarks at the Center for National Policy, in Washington.

Iran’s Arabic-language Al Alam television said the missiles launched on Wednesday included a “Shahab-3 with a conventional warhead weighing one ton and a 2,000-kilometer range,” about 1,250 miles. Cairo, Athens, Istanbul, New Delhi and the Arabian peninsula are within that distance of Iranian territory.

Iranian television showed what appeared to be two Shahabs lifting off within seconds of each other.

“That’s surprising,” Charles P. Vick, an expert on the Iranian rocket program at GlobalSecurity.org, a research group in Alexandria, Va., said in a telephone interview. “Historically, it’s always been single launches.”

Mr. Vick added, however, that the Shahab display might be less formidable than Iran had claimed. The missile’s conic warhead appeared to resemble an older Shahab model with a range of about 1,500 kilometers, or about 900 miles, rather than the newest one.

The Iranians fired their first Shahab a decade ago, Mr. Vick said, and are now replacing all models with a more advanced missile that burns solid propellants, which are considered better for quick launchings.

Hossein Salami, a commander of the Revolutionary Guards, was quoted as saying: “The aim of these war games is to show we are ready to defend the integrity of the Iranian nation.”

Michael Schwirtz reported from Moscow, and Alan Cowell from Paris. Reporting was contributed by William J. Broad from New York, Myra Noveck from Jerusalem, Sheryl Gay Stolberg from Rusutsu, Japan, and Mark Mazzetti from Washington.

    Rice Warns Iran That U.S. Will Defend Allies, NYT, 11.7.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/11/world/middleeast/11iran.html?hp






Iran Reports Missile Test, Drawing Rebuke


July 10, 2008
The New York Times


PARIS — One day after threatening to strike Tel Aviv and United States interests if attacked, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were reported on Wednesday to have test-fired nine missiles, including one which the government in Tehran says has the range to reach Israel.

State-run media said the missiles were long- and medium-range weapons, among them a new version of the Shahab-3, which Tehran maintains is able to hit targets 1,250 miles away from its firing position. Parts of western Iran are within 650 miles of Tel Aviv.

The reported tests coincide with increasingly tense negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program, which Iran says is for civilian purposes but which many Western governments suspect is aimed at building nuclear weapons. At the same time, United States and British warships have been conducting naval maneuvers in the Persian Gulf — apparently within range of the launching site of the missiles tested on Wednesday. Israel insisted it did not want war with Iran.

“Israel has no desire for conflict or hostilities with Iran,” Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said. “But the Iranian nuclear program and the Iranian ballistic missile program must be of grave concern to the entire international community.”

The missile tests drew a sharp response from the United States. Gordon D. Johndroe, the deputy White House press secretary, said in a statement at the Group of 8 meeting in Japan that Iran’s development of ballistic missiles was a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

“The Iranian regime only furthers the isolation of the Iranian people from the international community when it engages in this sort of activity,” Mr. Johndroe said.

He urged Iran to “refrain from further missile tests if they truly seek to gain the trust of the world. The Iranians should stop the development of ballistic missiles which could be used as a delivery vehicle for a potential nuclear weapon immediately.”

Energy traders reacted to the news by bidding up oil prices, which had been falling in recent days. Light, low-sulfur crude for delivery next month, the most-watched oil price benchmark, rose more than $2 a barrel in early-morning electronic trading, though by late morning in New York the gain had been pared somewhat.

Iran displayed its military capability just a day after the United States and the Czech Republic signed an accord to allow the Pentagon to deploy part of its contentious antiballistic missile shield, which Washington maintains is designed to protect in part against Iranian missiles.

In the United States, both presidential contenders took the missile tests as an opportunity to demand measures to restrain Iran.

The Republican candidate, John McCain, said the tests “demonstrate the need for effective missile defense now and in future, and this includes missile defense in Europe as is planned with the Czech Republic and Poland,” according to Reuters. His Democrat challenger, Barack Obama, said on NBC’s “Today” show that the tests showed a need for stronger restraints and incentives to head off “rising tensions that could lead into real problems,” The Associated Press said.

Iran’s Arabic-language Al-Alam television and English-language Press-TV channel both reported the missile firings, which were shown on Iranian television.

Al-Alam said the missiles, fired from an undisclosed location in the Iranian desert, included a “Shahab-3 with a conventional warhead weighing one ton and a 2,000 kilometer range,” or about 1,250 miles. Cairo, Athens, Istanbul, New Delhi and the whole of the Arabian peninsula are within 1,250 miles of Iranian territory. Iran was first known to have fired a Shahab-3 in November, 2006.

The other missiles in the tests were identified as the Zelzal, with a range of 250 miles and the Fateh, with a range of 110 miles, Agence France-Presse reported. Iranian television showed what was said to be the Shahab-3 missile rising amid clouds of dust from the desert launch site.

Hossein Salami, a commander of the Revolutionary Guards, was quoted as saying: “The aim of these war games is to show we are ready to defend the integrity of the Iranian nation.”

“Our missiles are ready for shooting at any place and any time, quickly and with accuracy. The enemy must not repeat its mistakes. The enemy targets are under surveillance,” he said.

The missile tests followed remarks by a senior Iranian official who was quoted Tuesday as warning the United States against attacking Iran.

“In case that they commit such foolishness, Tel Aviv and the U.S. fleet in the Persian Gulf would be the first targets to burst into flames receiving Iran’s crushing response,” said Ali Shirazi, a representative of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, according to the Iranian state news agency.

Like the missile tests, the bellicose rhetoric seemed part of an effort by Iran to couple offers of negotiation with warnings of military preparedness.

Negotiations between Iran and the West are scheduled to resume this month and Iranian officials have sounded mounting alarms about speculation that the United States or Israel could attack Tehran’s nuclear facilities. On a European tour last month, President Bush repeated Washington’s warning that no options had been ruled out.

Last weekend, Iran signaled that it would not comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions requiring it to stop enriching uranium. During his European visit, Mr. Bush won pledges from some European leaders to tighten sanctions against Iran.

But Iran’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said his country was prepared to open comprehensive negotiations with the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, and the six world powers — the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — that have proposed a set of incentives to resolve the impasse over its nuclear program.

Myra Noveck contributed reporting from Jerusalem and Sheryl Gay Stolberg from Rusutsu, Japan.

    Iran Reports Missile Test, Drawing Rebuke, NYT, 10.7.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/10/world/asia/10iran.html?hp






Freed American hostages in "good condition"


Thu Jul 3, 2008
8:54pm EDT
By Jim Forsyth


SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - Three U.S. defense contractors freed after five years as rebel-held hostages in Colombia are in good health and could go home within a few days, U.S. Army doctors said Thursday.

Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves and Thomas Howes arrived in San Antonio late Wednesday after being rescued by Colombian armed forces.

"They are in very good physical condition, very strong," Army physician Col. Jackie Hayes told a news briefing. "The results of their tests are pending at this time, but everything looks really well," he said.

Stansell was reunited privately with family members in San Antonio Thursday, and reunions with family were planned for Gonsalves and Howes later in the day, Army officials said.

How long the men remain in Army medical care is up to them, said Maj. Gen. Keith Huber, commander of U.S. Army South, the unit handling their transition back into civilian life.

"If their physical condition is excellent, the time they spend in this hospital could range from two to four days," Huber said.

The three employees of Northrop Grumman Corp, were captured in 2003 after their plane crashed during a counternarcotics operation in the jungles of Colombia.

A fourth contractor, Tom Janis, was killed by FARC shortly after the crash, Northrop Grumman said in a statement. The company also said it was "ecstatic" about the survivors' return.

The men were among 15 hostages, including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, whom Colombian armed forces rescued from FARC guerrillas who are fighting the government.

Hostage-taking and demands for ransom or other political advantage have been favored tactics of FARC, the Spanish acronym for Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Colombian officials say FARC, which the United States has declared a terrorist organization, still holds more than 700 hostages.

"The conditions that they lived under were very cruel and very spartan," Huber said. "They are very grateful to the government and the armed forces of Colombia."

(Writing by Bruce Nichols)

    Freed American hostages in "good condition", R, 3.7.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN0341320820080704






Bush Asks for Help, Abroad and at Home, in Sending Aid to Africa


July 3, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — Amid signs that his quest for more aid to Africa is in danger of unraveling, President Bush called Wednesday for Congress to renew his global AIDS initiative and urged other nations to live up to their own promises to fight poverty and disease on the continent.

“We need people who not only make promises, but write checks, for the sake of human rights and human dignity, and for the sake of peace,” Mr. Bush said in the White House Rose Garden. “Accountability is really important when it comes to our work on the continent of Africa.”

The White House regards aid to Africa, including the AIDS program, which focuses primarily on Africa, as one of Mr. Bush’s signature foreign policy achievements. But as Mr. Bush heads to Japan next week for his last meeting as president with the industrialized nations known as the Group of 8, the effort has run into roadblocks abroad and at home.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are stalled over a plan to renew Mr. Bush’s global AIDS program by providing $50 billion for the initiative over the next five years. The White House had hoped to have the renewal in hand by the time Mr. Bush arrived in Japan, but a handful of Senate Republicans object to certain provisions in the bill and are blocking it.

Among them is Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who has said the bill is too expensive at a time of budget deficits.

The White House deputy press secretary, Tony Fratto, said Mr. Bush remained “very optimistic” that Congress would pass the global AIDS bill. “All of the discussions have been positive,” he said.

But there are signs that other Group of 8 countries may backtrack on a promise they made in 2005 to double development assistance to Africa by 2010 for an increase of $25 billion. In addition to the United States, the Group of 8 includes Japan, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Russia.

A communiqué being prepared for this year’s meeting says the countries are “firmly committed” to doubling the assistance, but it makes no mention of the $25 billion figure, according to people familiar with the draft.

Aid to Africa tops a long list of agenda items for Mr. Bush, including climate change and the global food crisis, as he goes to the meeting next week.

The president also used Wednesday’s Rose Garden appearance to say anew that he favored diplomacy as the best course to deal with Iran.

While Mr. Bush has used that language before, his remarks followed a major military exercise by Israel last month that American officials say appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

At the Pentagon on Wednesday, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stressed the “need for better clarity, even dialogue at some level” with Iran to avoid a military confrontation that could further destabilize the Middle East.

Thom Shanker contributed reporting.

    Bush Asks for Help, Abroad and at Home, in Sending Aid to Africa, NYT, 3.7.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/03/world/africa/03prexy.html






Bush Keeps Up Pressure on Iran


July 3, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — President Bush said Wednesday that the United States still strongly preferred diplomacy as it confronts rising tensions and uncertainty over Iran, but that, as always, “all options are on the table.”

He also acknowledged that it had been a “tough month” in Afghanistan as more American and coalition troops had died there in June than in any month since the American-led forces invaded in 2001, making it the second straight month when combat deaths exceeded those in Iraq.

But Mr. Bush asserted that it had been a tough month for the Taliban and Al Qaeda as well, and he declined to say whether he might order more troops sent there before the end of the year, ahead of the end of his presidency. Violence has spiked in Afghanistan even as the foreign troop presence has neared its highest level in seven years.

The president’s comments came as he took reporters’ questions while explaining his hopes for the summit meeting of the Group of 8 leading industrialized countries next week. Leaders of those countries are expected to focus on soaring global energy prices, the urgent food crisis affecting many nations, climate change, trade and terrorism. The meeting is to begin Monday in the city of Toyako, on the northern island of Hokkaido.

Mr. Bush again emphasized his administration’s support for a “strong dollar,” even as the dollar’s weakening has contributed to record oil and gasoline prices; and he said any climate change agreement could only be effective if it included India and China.

He also issued a strong call for the Group of 8 countries to show “accountability” on commitments made at earlier meetings, and he linked that to an issue he has hoped will be a significant foreign achievement of his presidency: making progress against the HIV/AIDS virus in Africa. “We need people who not only make promises but write checks,” Mr. Bush said. “Accountability is really important when it comes to our work on the continent of Africa.”

Yet, even as Mr. Bush fears that some countries might backtrack on the aid they promised at the 2005 Group of 8 meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland, his administration has had trouble gaining reauthorization for its own aid program, stalled for now in Congress amid objections from some Republicans.

The president’s comments on Iran essentially restated administration policy, but they came as the region has seen a confusing succession of warnings, threats and, just this week, signs of a suddenly more-conciliatory tone emanating from some Iranian officials.

A major Israeli military exercise last month appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential airstrike on Iranian nuclear facilities, American officials said. In response, Tehran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a chokepoint at the mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 40 percent of the world’s oil passes, if it were attacked by Israel.

Then on Wednesday, the commander of United States naval forces in the Persian Gulf said the United States Navy and its regional allies would stop any such Iranian action. "We will not allow Iran to close it," Vice Admiral Kevin J. Cosgriff, commander of the Fifth Fleet, told reporters after a regional security meeting in Abu Dhabi, The Associated Press reported.

When asked about the threat involving the Strait of Hormuz, Mr. Bush spoke emphatically. “I have always said that all options are on table, but the first option for the United States is to solve this problem diplomatically,” he said. “That is why we’ve been pursuing multilateral diplomacy” in an effort to resolve the crisis of the Iranian nuclear program.

Asked whether he would strongly discourage Israel from attacking Iran, the president said that he had made it “very clear to all parties that the first option” should be a diplomatic resolution, and he repeated his warning to Tehran that it would be increasingly isolated if it continued its nuclear enrichment activities.

At a Pentagon briefing just after Mr. Bush’s Rose Garden briefing, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, underscored the Bush administration’s preference for diplomatic pressure, saying it would be "extremely stressful" for a severely stretched United States military to be drawn into a fight with Iran. "Just about every move in that part of the world is a high-risk move,” he said.

On Tuesday, two top Iranian officials sounded conciliatory notes about the prospects for ending the impasse over the country’s nuclear program.

In Tehran, Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned against ”provocative” remarks on the nuclear crisis. And in New York, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, struck a soft tone in a talk with reporters, and refused to repeat the usual Iranian statement that it would never give up its right to uranium enrichment.

On Afghanistan, Mr. Bush said: “It has been a tough month in Afghanistan but it has also been a tough month for the Taliban. One reason why there have been more deaths is because our troops are taking the fight to a tough enemy.”

Senior military leaders have pledged to increase troops in Afghanistan next year. But in the meantime, Bush said, “We’re constantly reviewing troops needs, troop levels.”

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Helene Cooper contributed reporting.

    Bush Keeps Up Pressure on Iran, NYT, 3.7.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/03/washington/03prexycnd.html?ref=africa






U.S. Food Aid Arrives in North Korea


July 1, 2008
The New York Times


SEOUL, South Korea — A U.S. freighter carrying humanitarian aid docked in North Korea on Monday, as the regime agreed to give international aid workers unprecedented access to its isolated, hunger-stricken territory, the United Nations food agency said.

The ship’s visit and the North Korean agreement to invite an additional 50 international relief experts from the World Food Program, as well as a consortium of U.S. relief agencies, followed recent progress in six-nation talks on ending the North’s nuclear weapons programs.

For years, North Korea has guarded its people from contact with outside aid workers. The WFP, the largest international aid group operating in North Korea, currently has only 10 international personnel based in North Korea.

The North’s agreement came as internal and external factors drive the country toward a major food crisis. Two consecutive years of bad harvests and rising grain prices make it harder for the impoverished North to import food, and bilateral assistance from South Korea and China, traditionally its two most generous aid providers, is dwindling.

“To some degree, this agreement is part of a greater openness by North Korea and that certainly is demonstrated in this agreement,” said Paul Risley, a Bangkok-based spokesman for the WFP.

After sailing for several weeks from the U.S. west coast, the American-flagged M/V Baltimore arrived in Nampo, the North’s main port near Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, on Sunday evening.

On Monday, it began unloading half of its cargo of 37,000 tons of U.S.-grown wheat, Risley said. The ship will discharge the other half of its cargo at Hungnam and Chongjin, ports on the North’s eastern coast.

The shipment is the first installment of 500,000 tons in promised U.S. aid that will be distributed by the WFP and U.S. aid groups, such as Mercy Corps.

Before the ship’s arrival, North Korea agreed on Friday to allow the WFP to deploy the largest number of international workers since it began operations there in 1996 amid a famine that eventually killed an estimated 2 million North Koreans.

For years, the WFP has asked North Korea for more access, believing that far more North Koreans than the 1.2 million currently being fed by the agency were in dire need of help.

Until now, the WFP has had access to only 50 of the North’s 200 counties, distributing its aid through nurseries, schools, hospitals and orphanages. Under the new agreement, the agency will have access to 128 counties, including the remote and traditionally deprived northeast region and some counties never before accessible to humanitarian agencies.

“We will have a much greater degree of randomness to our monitoring visits,” said Tony Banbury, the WFP Asia regional director, in a telephone interview. “If the agreement is successfully implemented, as I expect it will be, we will indeed have the strongest assurances we have achieved that food aid is going to the intended beneficiaries,” Mr. Banbury said.

Concern that the North Korean government may be diverting aid to feed its military has been a major hindrance in obtaining donations for the North Koreans.

The wheat shipment arrived just days after North Korea delivered a long-delayed nuclear declaration. In exchange, Washington said it would lift some economic sanctions and remove the country from a U.S. State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Meanwhile, the North rejected a South Korean offer to ship 50,000 tons of corn, the Seoul government said on Monday.

Since he took office in February, the conservative president of South Korea, Lee Myung-bak, has suspended delivery of 500,000 tons of rice his liberal predecessors had sent to the North each year.

The North called Mr. Lee an “impostor” and said it could live without South Korean help.

Aid groups have issued increasingly dire warnings about the food situation in the North. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said the country faced a cereal shortfall of more than 1.5 million tons — the largest since 2001.

Domestic prices for rice, wheat, corn and potatoes have doubled or tripled in recent months, the WFP said.

    U.S. Food Aid Arrives in North Korea, NYT, 1.7.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/01/world/asia/01korea.html?hp






U.S. to Take North Korea Off Terror List
as Pyongyang Hands Over Nuclear Statement


June 27, 2008
The New York Times


TOKYO — North Korea took a step on Thursday toward reintegration into the world community and rapprochement with the United States by submitting for outside review a long-delayed declaration of its nuclear program.

The Bush administration almost immediately announced it was preparing to remove the country it once described as part of the “axis of evil” from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism and also lifted some sanctions.

The 60-page declaration from North Korea, one of the world’s most isolated and impoverished nations, was expected to describe in previously undisclosed detail its capabilities in nuclear power and nuclear weapons — meeting a major demand of the United States and other countries that consider the North a dangerous source of instability.

“This can be a moment of opportunity for North Korea,” said President Bush, announcing the declaration at the White House. “If it continues to make the right choices it can repair its relationship with the international community.”

With issues like Iran and Iraq still unresolved, the Bush administration considers the North Korean declaration a notable diplomatic achievement in the waning months of his presidency.

But officials acknowledged that the document fell short of the full and complete accounting that the administration had originally demanded, since it omits important details like the extent of North Korea ’s nuclear proliferation activities around the globe and its suspected efforts to enrich uranium.

However, Mr. Bush said in the principle of “action for action,” the United States would lift some restrictions on commercial dealings with North Korea and within 45 days end its designation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. “Today we have taken a step toward a nuclear free Korean peninsula,” he said.

American officials expected that the declaration, which had been due at the end of last year, would provide important details about North Korea’s nuclear facilities and programs, including the amount of plutonium produced at its nuclear reactor in Yongbyon.

Partly to deflect criticism from hard-line critics in Washington that the current deal was too soft on North Korea, American officials have emphasized the importance of the information on plutonium. The North is believed to have produced enough weapons-grade plutonium at its reactor in Yongbyon to make as many as half a dozen bombs.

But, significantly, the North’s declaration was not expected to reveal details on three critical points: the nuclear bombs the North has already produced; its alleged attempts to produce nuclear arms by secretly enriching uranium, which triggered the ongoing crisis in 2002; and accusations that the North helped Syria build a nuclear plant.

Some of the missing details, particularly on the North’s existing nuclear bombs, are expected to be revealed at the next stage of the step-by-step agreement when Pyongyang is bound to dismantle and abandon its weapons.

Stephen J. Hadley, the United States national security adviser, said the administration had been willing to allow the omissions on uranium and proliferation in order to keep the process going and said he was confident a system had been set up that would soon address these issues. Mr. Bush also insisted these details must emerge soon.

“The U.S. is under no illusion about the regime in Pyongyang,” Mr. Bush said. “We remain deeply concerned about North Korea’s human rights abuses, uranium enrichment activities, nuclear testing and proliferation, ballistic missile programs and the threat it continues to pose to South Korea and its neighbors.”

In its document, North Korea said that it was not involved in uranium enrichment, Mr. Hadley said. However, that did not mean the country had never been involved in uranium enrichment, Mr. Hadley said. In fact, he suggested that the United States possessed intelligence of the country’s continuing uranium activities.

Mr. Hadley said the North Koreans also stated in the document that they were not involved in nuclear proliferation, but he insisted there were still unanswered questions about several sites in Syria and in other countries where North Korea may have provided nuclear assistance.

Even so, administration officials pointed out the declaration’s benefits.

"I do think it’s important to note that if we can verifiably determine the amount of plutonium that has been made, we then have an upper hand in understanding what may have happened in terms of weaponization," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said after arriving in Kyoto, Japan, on Thursday for a meeting of the Group of Eight industrialized powers.

Ms. Rice added that the declaration was “a natural step on the way to dealing verifiably with the devices or weapons themselves."

Choe Jin Su, the North Korean ambassador to Beijing, submitted the report to Wu Dawei, the main Chinese envoy to the six-nation talks, South Korean government officials said.

“This declaration completes this stage of the talks, as far as plutonium-related activities are involved,” said Yoon Duk-min, a senior analyst at the Institute for Foreign Affairs and National Security in Seoul. “But as far as negotiating on the other issues, that will have to be handled by the next administration in Washington. There’s realistically not enough time left for the Bush administration.

“And North Korea, which got what it wanted by being removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, is probably waiting for the next administration,” Mr. Yoon said.

The North was scheduled to follow up on Friday by blowing up a cooling tower at its Yongbyon reactor, about 60 miles north of Pyongyang.

Pyongyang has invited officials and television networks from the five nations negotiating with the North on its nuclear program — the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia — to witness the tower’s demolition. But the destruction, which is expected to be broadcast live, will be largely symbolic since the reactor was disabled late last year under American supervision.

The White House — which emphasized that the agreement could not have been reached without the help of its allies in the talks — said American officials would verify the North’s declaration over the next 45 days, a process that could eventually remove North Korea from the terrorism list and make the North eligible for American aid and for loans from international institutions like the World Bank, a goal long sought by the cash-starved country.

The North was initially put on the list two decades ago after its agents blew up a South Korean airliner carrying 115 passengers.

The United States said it would also lift some sanctions imposed on North Korea as part of the World War I-era Trading with the Enemy Act, which prohibits commercial transactions with countries deemed to be hostile to the United States, a move that would leave Cuba as the only nation subject to it. However, Mr. Hadley said this move was largely symbolic and that North Korea was still subject to heavy sanctions under other acts and international agreements.

Thursday’s developments reflected the change in the Bush administration’s policy towards the North. After years of confronting the North — Mr. Bush famously said he “loathed” the North’s leader, Kim Jong-il, and described him as a “pygmy” — Mr. Bush allowed Christopher R. Hill, an assistant secretary of state, to start engaging in full-fledged negotiations with Pyongyang in early 2007, under the guidance of Ms. Rice.

The about-face drew fire from hawks in the administration, centered around Vice President Dick Cheney, and also from Japan, which had sometimes taken an even harder line on the North.

Japanese politicians like former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe complained this week that the United States should not remove North Korea from the terrorism list until there is a full accounting of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in the 1970s. Doing so would harm relations between Tokyo and Washington, Mr. Abe warned.

On Wednesday, President Bush talked to Japan’s Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda by telephone and assured him that he had not forgotten about the abductees. And in a nod to Japan in his comments Thursday, Mr. Bush said the United States would “never forget” the abductions of Japanese citizens.

On Thursday, Mr. Fukuda, a moderate, rejected criticism inside Japan that Tokyo now had little leverage over Pyongyang because of its removal from the terrorism list. He said working with the United States “will be really necessary to realize the denuclearization and, at the same time, pave the way for solving the abduction issue, which is a major task for our country.”

North Korea recently agreed to reinvestigate the abductions, while Japan said it would lift some minor sanctions against the North. But so far, Tokyo has refused to contribute energy aid to the North as part of the six-nation nuclear agreement, and Japanese participation is expected to become crucial as considerably more assistance has been promised to the North.

Both Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice addressed the strong sentiment in Japan that the Bush administration had abandoned Tokyo, its most important ally in Asia, for the sake of reaching an imperfect agreement with the North.

“We’re continuing to expect the North Koreans to take this issue seriously because it is a major issue for Japan and it’s a major issue for the United States," Ms. Rice said of the abductions issue.

In Beijing, the chief negotiator for China, Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, said at a news conference that North Korea “will submit its nuclear declaration to the chair of the six-party talks, and that the United States will implement its obligations to remove the designation” of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism and to end economic sanctions based on an American federal law that restricts trade with any nations deemed hostile to the United States.

Mr. Wu said all the nations have agreed the declaration must first be verified according to a set of principles that have already been established. A monitoring process will be set up to ensure that all governments involved in the talks follow through with their promises, including pledges of nonproliferation as well as economic and energy assistance, he added. The move by North Korea shows that the talks have “made positive progress,” he said.

Mr. Wu made the announcement by reading from a brief statement and declined to answer questions afterward, instead walking quickly out of the regular news briefing room at the Foreign Ministry.

Norimitsu Onishi reported from Tokyo and Graham Bowley from New York. Reporting was contributed by Edward Wong in Beijing, Helene Cooper and Steven Lee Myers in Washington, and Choe Sang-Hun in Seoul, South Korea.

    U.S. to Take North Korea Off Terror List as Pyongyang Hands Over Nuclear Statement, NYT, 27.6.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/27/world/asia/27nuke.html?hp






Rice in Beirut on Unannounced Visit


June 17, 2008
The New York Times


BEIRUT, Lebanon — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an unannounced visit to Lebanon on Monday, the first by a senior American official since the political agreement here that strengthened the power of Hezbollah, the militant Shiite group that the United States considers a terrorist organization.

After the agreement was reached late last month among the country’s political factions, American officials described it as a positive step although it was clearly a setback for the United States, which had consistently urged Lebanon’s government not to make any concessions to Hezbollah.

The political deal gave Hezbollah decisive new powers, such as the power to veto any cabinet decision. But Ms. Rice on Monday voiced support for the new agreement.

“Congratulations,” Ms. Rice said as she shook hands with Gen. Michel Suleiman, who was elected last month as president following the power-sharing agreement, filling a post that had been vacant since November. “We are all just very supportive of your presidency and your government.”

It was the first visit to Lebanon by Ms. Rice since the 2006 monthlong war waged by Israel against Hezbollah in Lebanon. American support for the Israeli side during the war deeply angered many Lebanese. On her flight to Beirut, Ms. Rice told reporters her message would be one of American support for Lebanese democracy and that she would discuss “how the United States can support the institutions of a free Lebanon,” The Associated Press reported.

Ms. Rice flew to Lebanon from Israel, where she said Sunday that thousands of housing units that Israel is building on captured land were harming peace talks with the Palestinians. The trip to Israel was the latest of her nearly monthly visits to push along Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and this time she was more explicit than usual in asserting that the construction was reducing confidence in the talks.

In Lebanon, the election of a new president was the first formal step after 18 months of grinding political conflict.

Although the political agreement — brokered by Arab mediators in Doha — was a clear victory for Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and Syria, and its allies in the opposition, many Lebanese across the political spectrum have since greeted it with relief and even joy, preferring a compromise at almost any cost to the resumption of a conflict that crippled the government and brought Lebanon once more to the brink of civil war.

Since the agreement, conditions in Lebanon have improved. The deal did not resolve the country’s longer-term political problems but it provided a truce, and since then much of the city has returned to normal, with even the tents where opposition members had camped out for 18 months in downtown Beirut being slowly dismantled.

The agreement brought to an end a tumultuous period in May when heavily armed Hezbollah fighters seized control of much of western Beirut, dealing a humiliating blow to the government after it had tried to shut down Hezbollah’s private telecommunications network.

Robert F. Worth reported from Beirut, Lebanon, and Graham Bowley from New York.

    Rice in Beirut on Unannounced Visit, NYT, 17.6.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/17/world/middleeast/17lebanon.html?hp






Brown Says Britain Will Tighten Iran Sanctions


June 17, 2008
The New York Times


LONDON — After talks with President Bush, Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised tougher measures in Iran and Afghanistan, saying that Britain would freeze the assets of Iran’s biggest bank and increase its troop strength in Afghanistan.

Appearing with Mr. Bush at a news conference, he sought to speak directly to the Iranian people, saying that Tehran’s refusal to resolve international concerns over its nuclear activities would only lead to further isolation.

“Our message today to the Iranian people is that you do not have to pursue the path of confrontation,” he said during the news conference.

“Today, Britain will urge Europe and — Europe will agree — to take further sanctions against Iran,” Mr. Brown said.

Specifically, he said, the sanctions would be designed to freeze the assets of Iran’s biggest bank, Bank Melli.

“We will take action today that will freeze the overseas assets of the biggest bank in Iran, the Melli bank, and secondly, action will start today for a new phase of sanctions on oil and gas,” he said, without elaborating.

For his part, Mr. Bush refused to rule out any action in Iran, saying “all options” were on the table — a formula he has used that has been interpreted as not precluding military strikes.

Mr. Brown said that Britain would “do everything possible to maintain the dialogue” with Iran over its nuclear program. “But we are also clear that if Iran continues to ignore United Nations resolutions and continues to ignore our offers of partnership, we have no choice but to intensify sanctions.”

Mr. Brown also announced that Britain would send additional troops to Afghanistan to bolster the NATO mission there at a time when the alliance has been accused of faltering in its response to reemerging threats from the Taliban and other militant groups.

The increase in troops levels was announced as the bodies of five British soldiers killed in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province were being flown home in coffins draped with the Union flag. The latest casualties came last week when five members of the same paratroop unit were killed in two attacks, bringing the total to 102.

Britain has 7,800 troops in Afghanistan, and Mr. Brown said the numbers would be increased to “the highest level.”

An announcement by the Defense Ministry was scheduled for later Monday, but news reports said that the increase would include 200 additional troops.

On Iran and Afghanistan, Mr. Brown put himself squarely behind Mr. Bush, who is ending a weeklong visit to Europe that has focused on the confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program. The two men also expressed solidarity on Iraq, a war whose unpopularity in Britain and the United States has led to calls for more rapid withdrawals that both leaders have resisted.

“Britain is playing and will continue to play its part in Iraq,” Mr. Brown said, dismissing media speculation that a rift was emerging between the United States and Britain over the pace of withdrawals.

Steven Lee Myers reported from London, and Alan Cowell from Paris.

    Brown Says Britain Will Tighten Iran Sanctions, NYT, 17.6.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/17/world/17prexy.html?hp






Pakistan Angry as Strike by U.S. Kills 11 Soldiers


June 13, 2008
The New York Times


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — American air and artillery strikes killed 11 Pakistani paramilitary soldiers during a clash with insurgents on the Afghan border on Tuesday night, a development that raised concerns about the already strained American relationship with Pakistan.

The strikes underscored the often faulty communications involving American, Pakistani and Afghan forces along the border, and the ability of Taliban fighters and other insurgents to use havens in Pakistan to carry out attacks into neighboring Afghanistan.

The attack comes at a time of rising tension between the United States and the new government in Pakistan, which has granted wide latitude to militants in its border areas under a new series of peace deals, drawing criticism from the United States.

NATO and American commanders say cross-border attacks in Afghanistan by insurgents have risen sharply since talks for those peace deals began in March.

Although Pakistani government officials softened their response through the day on Wednesday, the Pakistani military released an early statement calling the airstrikes “unprovoked and cowardly.”

Shaken by the initial Pakistani reaction, administration officials braced for at least a short-term rough patch in relations with Islamabad.

“It won’t be good,” said a Pentagon official who followed developments closely throughout the day. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

The precise circumstances surrounding the reported deaths remained unclear, and American officials said an American-Pakistani investigation was expected to begin immediately.

But according to accounts from American officials, the incident started when Taliban fighters from Pakistan crossed about 200 yards into Kunar Province, on the Afghan side of the border, and attacked American-led forces with small-caliber weapons and rocket-propelled grenade fire.

After coalition forces returned fire, driving the insurgents back into Pakistan, two United States Air Force F-15E fighter-bombers and one B-1 bomber dropped about a dozen bombs — mostly 500-pound munitions — on the attackers. An Air Force statement said the militants were struck “in the open and in buildings in the vicinity of Asadabad.”

On Thursday, the United States released video footage purporting to show the airstrike, according to the BBC and news agencies. The film footage, carried by the BBC on its Web site, shows fighters on a ridge exchanging fire with coalition troops, and coalition forces later responding with a series of precision bombs.

A spokesman for the Taliban said their forces had attacked an American and Afghan position near the border, and said eight of their fighters had been killed and nine wounded in the fighting.

Before the airstrike, a Pentagon official said, American forces alerted a Pakistani military liaison officer, trying to ensure that friendly troops were out of harm’s way.

But the Pakistani officer was either unaware that Pakistani paramilitary forces had moved into the area near the insurgents, or the Pakistani forces never got the word to get out of the way, American officials said.

“They got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time,” the Pentagon official said.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani of Pakistan denounced the attack in Parliament and said he had instructed the Foreign Ministry to make a formal protest to the American ambassador, Anne Patterson.

But the Pentagon press secretary, Geoff Morrell, told reporters in Washington that “every indication we have at this stage is that it was a legitimate strike in self-defense.” American rules of engagement bar American forces from crossing or firing into Pakistan except to protect themselves.

By Wednesday afternoon, Pakistan’s new ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani, had softened his government’s reaction, telling Reuters, “We do look upon it as not an act that should cause us to reconsider our partnership but rather to find ways of improving that partnership.”

Seth Jones, an analyst with the RAND Corporation who was conducting research in Kunar Province last week, said: “It’s almost surprising more of this hasn’t happened given the vast amount of traffic across the border. This creates a real serious impetus for the U.S. to coordinate more closely with Pakistan forces.”

American officials in Pakistan and in Washington, while expressing regret for the Pakistani deaths, said the episode underscored the need to improve the equipping of and coordination with Pakistani security forces operating near the border, including the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force of about 85,000 members recruited from ethnic groups on the border.

American and Pakistani officials say the Frontier Corps, which is drawn from Pashtun tribesmen who know the language and culture of the tribal areas, is the most suitable force to combat an insurgency over the long term in the border region, where the regular Pakistani military often is not welcomed.

It was unclear whether the Pakistan liaison officer involved in the airstrike on Tuesday was from the Pakistani Army or the Frontier Corps, an important distinction because the two security forces have not always worked together smoothly, American officials said.

Gonzalo Gallegos, a State Department spokesman in Washington, said, “This is a reminder that better cross-border communications between forces is vital.”

The Pentagon has spent about $25 million so far to equip the Frontier Corps with new body armor, vehicles, radios and surveillance equipment, and plans to spend $75 million more in the next year.

Over all, administration officials have said the United States could spend more than $400 million in the next several years to enhance the Frontier Corps, including building a training base near Peshawar.

Until recently, the Frontier Corps had not received American military financing because the corps technically falls under the Pakistani Interior Ministry, a nonmilitary agency that the Pentagon ordinarily does not deal with.

Gen. David D. McKiernan, the new NATO commander in Afghanistan, said last week that one of his first trips as commander would be to meet with the Pakistani Army’s chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, to try to resurrect a commission created by NATO and the Afghan and Pakistani militaries to address border issues. In recent months, Pakistan has not taken part in the commission.

The United States, which has about 34,000 military personnel in Afghanistan, part of an international presence totaling about 60,000, is also in the midst of building six border coordination posts that will be operated by Pakistani, American and other allied forces.

At the Pentagon, Mr. Morrell said, “It is incumbent upon both of us not to let an incident like this or any other interfere with that fundamental shared goal of making sure the F.A.T.A. is not a refuge for terrorists.” He was referring to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the contested border area.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was expected to discuss the event with her Pakistani counterpart on Thursday at the Afghan donors conference in Paris, American officials said.

There have been several American strikes recently on insurgents inside Pakistani territory. In March, three bombs, apparently dropped by an American aircraft, killed nine people and wounded nine others in the tribal area of South Waziristan that officials say provides sanctuary to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

In late January, one of Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenants, Abu Laith al-Libi, was killed by two Hellfire missiles launched from a Predator surveillance aircraft.

The clash on Tuesday occurred at a border post called Chopara on the frontier with the Afghan province of Kunar, where American and Afghan forces have battled insurgents for several years. The insurgents have been using Mohmand and the adjacent area of Bajaur as a base for attacks into Afghanistan.

Fighting has been reported on the Afghan side of the border between insurgents and Afghan and American forces. According to one news report, one militant was killed and three wounded in a firefight on Monday.

The dead on the Pakistani side included a major and were all from the Mohmand Rifles, a paramilitary detachment of the Frontier Corps, the force deployed in Pakistan’s tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, a security official said, speaking in return for customary anonymity.

Officers in the Frontier Corps are generally assigned from the Pakistani Army. The bodies of the dead were being flown to Peshawar on Wednesday morning, the government official said. Among five wounded were three civilians, he said.

Local tribesmen with rocket launchers and Kalashnikov rifles gathered Wednesday near the checkpoint to show their outrage after the attack, Agence France-Presse reported.

Earlier this month, the American commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan said that Taliban forces in southern Afghanistan were fleeing to the Pakistani border after being routed in recent operations by the United States Marines.

Gen. Dan K. McNeill, who stepped down last week as NATO commander in Afghanistan, seemed to warn Pakistan to contain the threat emanating from its land, and said the Taliban and drug traffickers had long used refugee camps across the border as a sanctuary from American firepower.

He said that if the Taliban and foreign insurgents continued to enjoy free sanctuary outside Afghanistan, their numbers would continue to grow.

The new Pakistani government sought peace deals with the militants after many Pakistanis saw a drastic increase in suicide bombings in Pakistan as being in retaliation for American strikes.

Carlotta Gall reported from Islamabad, Pakistan, and Eric Schmitt from Washington. Ismail Khan contributed reporting from Peshawar, Pakistan, and Graham Bowley from New York.

    Pakistan Angry as Strike by U.S. Kills 11 Soldiers, NYT, 13.6.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/13/world/asia/13pstan.html






Bush says strong dollar in U.S. interest


Mon Jun 9, 2008
9:43am EDT
By Tabassum Zakaria


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush acknowledged economic concerns as he left for Europe on Monday, saying the United States was committed to a strong dollar and that energy prices were high.

"I'll talk about our nation's commitment to a strong dollar. A strong dollar is in our nation's interests. It is in the interests of the global economy," Bush said at the White House before departing for a U.S.-European Union summit in Slovenia.

The dollar tumbled on Friday after a jump in the unemployment rate underscored the U.S. economy's weakness and was a factor that contributed to the biggest one-day price gain in the history of the oil market. Oil surged by nearly $11 a barrel to a record above $139.

Europeans are concerned about the dollar's weakness and have urged the Bush administration to speak up more forcefully in defense of the U.S. currency.

Since oil is priced in dollars, Europeans blame some of their inflation pressures on the dollar's weakening value and fear the cheap dollar will make their products more expensive in U.S. consumer markets.

Bush will discuss the economy with European leaders during his June 9-16 trip, which will include stops in Germany, Italy, France and Britain.

"Our economy is large and it's open and flexible," Bush said. "Our capital markets are some of the deepest and most liquid. And the long-term health and strong foundation of our economy will shine through and be reflected in currency values."

He said he recognized the public was concerned about the U.S. economy in the face of rising energy prices.

"A lot of Americans are concerned about our economy," Bush said. "I can understand why. Gasoline prices are high, energy prices are high."

He said he would discuss with European allies the need to advance technologies to become less dependent on hydrocarbons. Bush reiterated his stance that the United States should increase domestic oil production and that Congress should allow drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Record-high oil prices have raised concerns about the impact on the U.S. economy, which is barely growing. The U.S. unemployment rate jumped to 5.5 percent in May, its highest in more than 3-1/2 years, contributing to renewed fears that the U.S. economy was at risk of sliding into recession.

"The U.S. economy has continued to grow in the face of unprecedented challenges," Bush said.

"We got to keep our economies flexible. Both the U.S. economy and European economies need to be flexible in order to deal with today's challenges," he said.

Bush said he also would discuss with European allies the need to do more to help Afghanistan. His wife, Laura, visited Afghanistan during the weekend and reported that she saw progress but also "there's a lot of work to be done," Bush said.

(Editing by Bill Trott)

    Bush says strong dollar in U.S. interest, R, 9.6.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSN0944596220080609







Why Bush Must Still Confront

Rogue States


June 2, 2008
The Wall Street Journal


With less than a year to go in office, the Bush administration may feel powerless as it attempts to deal with rogue states that support terrorists and proliferate weapons of mass destruction.

But there is still a lot President Bush and his team can do about the likes of Iran and Syria if they act now to keep these regimes in the international spotlight. On Sunday, the United States assumed the presidency of the United Nations Security Council (the seat rotates every month). This gives Mr. Bush an opportunity to launch a campaign to isolate these countries.

The first step could be to present the known and internationally accepted facts of the regimes' misdeeds. At the very least, this would put Mr. Bush back in the driver's seat of the domestic debate, compelling Barack Obama and John McCain to spell out how they would deal with such problems.

The case against Iran is especially strong. Even among rogue governments, Tehran stands alone, mixing disgusting deeds and despicable words. The State Department has fingered Iran as a state sponsor of terror since 1984; today it has become Terrorism Central.

Tehran has signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), but has pursued a nuclear weapons program anyway. There is compelling evidence that the regime has trained and funded Iraqi insurgents who target U.S. and Iraqi soldiers. Iran has furnished weapons – particularly long-range missiles – and training to Hamas and Hezbollah. These weapons are used for indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilians. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has openly called for Israel to be "wiped off" the map and freely dispenses anti-Semitic propaganda and Holocaust denial.

There is a similarly compelling case to be made against Syria, which has been listed as a state sponsor of terror since 1979. Damascus gives sanctuary to terrorists from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah – and has done so for years. It has also, judging by recent intelligence disclosures, embarked on a clandestine nuclear program in conjunction with North Korea and in defiance of NPT obligations.

Syria's brutal campaign to dominate Lebanon also makes it an international problem. Damascus is blocking, through Lebanese proxies, the U.N. investigation and prosecution of Syrian officials for the 2005 assassination of Rafiq Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister. Lebanese authorities have arrested Syrian terrorists for two February 2007 bus bombings – attacks that Lebanese officials say Syria carried out. Lebanese politicians, military officers and journalists opposed to Syrian dominance have been assassinated. These acts violate the U.N. Charter and U.N. Security Council resolution 1373, forbidding the "active or passive" support of terrorism by member states.

Mr. Bush's critics claim the real problem is that the U.S. hasn't opened high-level talks with Iran and Syria. But opening up talks at this point – while these regimes are engaging in abhorrent behavior – would be a serious mistake, particularly when the West faces a major security challenge from state-sponsored terrorism. Doing so would certainly bolster these leaders in the region and normalize their behavior.

When private groups like al Qaeda launch terror campaigns, they create critical security problems. When sovereign states behave in this manner, they challenge international law itself. And when this challenge remains unanswered, unlawful conduct is legitimized and it becomes extremely difficult to restore civilized norms.

In short, our policy should be to isolate Tehran and Damascus.

The administration should make it clear that Iranian efforts to destabilize Iraq are themselves an act of war – and could constitute a legitimate casus belli for the U.S. This is a matter that the Security Council must consider.

The administration should also focus on Iranian ideology. It is a malignant force that needs to be challenged with as much vigor as we summoned during the ideological battles of the Cold War. So far, Iran has been allowed to "dumb down" global moral and legal norms. America is now in a position to challenge U.N. inaction and even hypocrisy, whereby the international body dispatches one rapporteur after another to investigate racism in the U.S., while Mr. Ahmadinejad spews poisonous propaganda without opprobrium.

Mr. Bush should make it clear that international law does not selectively burden the U.S. or other Western democracies. All states must comply with the same legal and moral rules. And there can be no special rules or shortcuts for Third World regimes or "national liberation movements" that allow them to skirt their international obligations.

A diplomatic and legal offensive touched off by the U.S. at the Security Council would not resolve all of the problems presented to us by state sponsors of terror. It may not even result in any new resolutions.

However, such a campaign would enable the administration to frame the problem clearly and compellingly, and thereby bequeath to its successor a viable framework for sustained pressure on Iran and Syria. Armed with this Bush legacy, the next president would be better positioned to exercise robust diplomatic, economic and – should it become necessary – military options down the road. This is the best that can be done at this time. And it must be done.

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey, Washington attorneys, served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

    Why Bush Must Still Confront Rogue States, WSJ, 2.6.2008, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121236453066036411.html?mod=hpp_us_inside_today







Cluster Bombs, Made in America


June 1, 2008
The New York Times


On Friday, 111 nations, including major NATO allies, adopted a treaty that sets an eight-year deadline to eliminate stockpiles of cluster arms — pernicious weapons that scatter thousands of small bombs across a wide area, where they pose a long-term deadly threat to innocents. The Bush administration not only failed to sign the treaty but vigorously opposed it.

After marching in lockstep for years, even Britain broke with America’s position and agreed to withdraw its weapons from use. That dealt a much-needed blow to Washington’s long-standing opposition to this sort of sensible arms control, and in particular to this treaty-averse administration.

The campaign to ban cluster munitions, pressed by human rights activists, never attained quite the high profile of the one to ban land mines, a treaty that Washington also refused to sign. But the two weapons have this in common: Both wreak more damage on civilians than soldiers and present a threat long after war ends.

Cluster munitions, fired from aircraft or artillery, spray small “bomblets” over an expanse the size of two or three football fields. Many do not explode on impact but can be easily triggered by unsuspecting civilians. The most appalling of these devices can look like a desired object — a can of food or a toy.

No one has more invested in cluster munitions than the United States, which Human Rights Watch says has been the largest producer, stockpiler and user, using them in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Others that have used them include Britain, France, Sudan, NATO, Israel and Hezbollah.

United States officials insist the Pentagon must have such munitions. That is what the Clinton administration said when it opposed the land-mine treaty in 1997. It is a weak argument: cluster bombs are weapons for conventional wars with conventional battlefields. America is less likely to fight big conventional wars than counterinsurgency conflicts in population centers, no place for munitions that kill indiscriminately.

As the main holdout, the United States gives cover to countries like Russia and China, which also rejected the ban. The treaty is weaker for it: together, these three nations have more than a billion cluster munitions stockpiled, far more than the number of weapons expected to be destroyed. Also weakening the pact is a loophole that will let America continue military cooperation with treaty signers, even if it uses cluster munitions.

At least this treaty, like the land-mine ban, will stigmatize cluster munitions and make it harder to use them. Since the land-mine treaty entered into force, experts say more than 40 million have been destroyed, trade in land mines has virtually ended, and in 2007 only two countries — Russia and Myanmar — used them. The United States has paid $1.2 billion (more than any other nation) to defuse land mines and clean up war zones.

Modern nations need a range of weapons to protect their legitimate interests. Cluster munitions that disproportionately harm civilians are not among them. President Bush must resist the temptation to further sabotage this worthy treaty and let it take effect. It is not clear where the candidates stand on the treaty, but the next president, whoever it is, should repudiate Mr. Bush’s opposition and sign it.

    Cluster Bombs, Made in America, NYT, 1.6.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/01/opinion/01sun1.html





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