dezembro 29, 2009

‘Ataque terrorista de Detroit: uma ideologia criminosa tolerada por demasiado tempo‘ in Telegraph

Friday's attempt to blow up a transatlantic airliner by a British-educated Islamist was foiled by the bravery of its passengers and crew. We cannot assume that we will be lucky next time. And the indications are that there will be a next time. According to police sources, 25 British-born Muslims are currently in Yemen being trained in the art of bombing planes. But most of these terrorists did not acquire their crazed beliefs in the Islamic world: they were indoctrinated in Britain. Indeed, thousands of young British Muslims support the use of violence to further the Islamist cause – and this despite millions of pounds poured by the Government into projects designed to prevent Islamic extremism.

Is it time for a fundamental rethink of Britain's attitude towards domestic Islamism? Consider this analogy. Suppose that, in several London universities, Right‑wing student societies were allowed to invite neo-Nazi speakers to address teenagers. Meanwhile, churches in poor white neighbourhoods handed over their pulpits to Jew-hating admirers of Adolf Hitler, called for the execution of homosexuals, preached the intellectual inferiority of women, and blessed the murder of civilians. What would the Government do? It would bring the full might of the criminal law against activists indoctrinating young Britons with an inhuman Nazi ideology – and the authorities that let them. Any public servants complicit in this evil would be hounded from their jobs.

Jihadist Islamism is also a murderous ideology, comparable to Nazism in many respects. The British public realises this; so do the intelligence services. Yet because it arises out of a worldwide religion – most of whose followers are peaceful – politicians and the public sector shrink from treating its ideologues as criminal supporters of violence. Instead, the Government throws vast sums of money at the Muslim community in order to ensure that what is effectively a civil war between extremists and moderates is won by the latter. This policy – supported by all the main political parties – does not seem to be working. The authorities, lacking specialist knowledge, sometimes turn for advice to "moderate" Muslims who have extreme sympathies; supporters of al-Qaeda are paid to disseminate their ideology to young people.

Radical Islamist leaders are not stupid: they know how to play this system. The indoctrination of students carries on under the noses of public servants who are terrified of being labelled Islamophobic or racist. Therefore they fail to do their duty, which is to protect Muslims and non-Muslims alike from a terrorist ideology. If providing that protection requires fewer "consultations" with "community leaders" and more arrests, then so be it.

dezembro 27, 2009

‘Medo e heroísmo a bordo do voo 253 da Northwest Airlines‘ in Washington Post

First came an alarming popping sound, followed by silence, and then the unmistakable smell of smoke. Passengers began to shout and scream on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam.

"People were just running, and they were scared," said Veena Saigal, who turned from her seat on the Christmas Day flight and saw the fire's glow six rows back. "They were running toward the center of the plane, running to get away from the flames."

Jasper Schuringa, an Amsterdam resident, lunged toward the fire in Row 19, jumping from one side of the plane to the other and over several other passengers. He burned his fingers as he grabbed a piece of melting plastic held by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man accused Saturday of trying to bring down the passenger jet with a homemade explosive device.

Schuringa, a video producer, restrained Abdulmutallab as others used blankets and fire extinguishers to douse the flames.

"When I saw the suspect, that he was getting on fire, I freaked, of course, and without any hesitation I just jumped over all the seats," Schuringa told CNN on Saturday. "And I jumped to the suspect. I was thinking like, he's trying to blow up the plane."

The stretch of time from bafflement to abject fear to a calamity averted lasted just a few minutes on the flight, yet as they replayed those moments from their homes on Saturday, passengers described a drama that left many shaken long after the jetliner safely touched down.

"We heard a pop, then the smell and the reality kicked in for all of us. The reality was the fear in the flight attendants' eyes," said Charles Keepman, a Wisconsin businessman returning from Ethiopia, where he and his wife had adopted two children. "We're just thankful to the Lord that we were spared."

Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, praised the quick reactions of those on the plane, which recalled the heroism of passengers who had subdued so-called shoe-bomber Richard C. Reid as he tried to ignite chemicals on a flight in December 2001 and the actions of people on United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001.

"I am grateful to the passengers and crew aboard Northwest Flight 253 who reacted quickly and heroically to an incident that could have had tragic results," Napolitano said in a statement Saturday.

The flight from Amsterdam to Detroit seemed long and uneventful until the final minutes, passengers said. Witnesses told the FBI that Abdulmutallab, 23, spent about 20 minutes in the bathroom before returning to Seat 19A and complaining of an upset stomach. He pulled a blanket over his head.

Then came the loud and sudden popping sound.

"What I heard was a firecracker, like a champagne bottle opening. I thought maybe something happened to a window or something hit the plane," said Saigal, who was returning to Ann Arbor from India in Row 13. "Then I smelled the smoke. When I turned around, I could see the fire glow."

Schuringa, on his way to Miami for vacation, leaped from the other side of the plane toward the fire as it spread from Abdulmutallab's pants to pillows on the floor. He said he reacted without thinking, fearful that the fire would cause an explosion that would bring down the plane and nearly 300 passengers and crew members.

As other passengers shouted for water, Schuringa pulled the melted plastic syringe from Abdulmutallab, shook it and threw it to the floor, the FBI said in an affidavit. Flight attendant Dionne Ransom-Monroe asked the suspect what was in his pocket, the FBI said, and he replied, "Explosive device."

The fire out, Schuringa marched Abdulmutallab to the front of the plane, helped by a flight attendant. They stripped off some of his clothes, searched him for weapons and handcuffed him, Schuringa said on CNN, explaining that the suspect seemed almost in a trance. Abdulmutallab said nothing and did not resist, he said.

"He looked like a normal guy," Schuringa said. "It's just hard to believe he was actually trying to blow up this plane."

Saigal, 63, said Schuringa "was holding him from the back, with a strong grip."

"When he went back to his seat, we all clapped," Saigal said of Schuringa.

Passengers and crew members worked to restore calm as the jet sped toward Detroit. Syed Jafry, an engineering consultant from Ohio who watched from Row 16, said the captain told passengers over the intercom: "There was an incident, and everything is under control. It is over. Fasten your seat belts. We are about to land."

As investigators explore how Abdulmutallab allegedly smuggled power and chemicals aboard the flight, Saigal and Keepman voiced distinctly different views of security in Amsterdam, the airliner's last stop before reaching Detroit.

"They're very thorough," Saigal said. "Always in Amsterdam, you go through people questioning you . . . and they put your hand baggage, your purse -- not your shoes -- through security again."

Keepman, however, said security procedures in Amsterdam seemed less rigorous than the measures he had faced at the Detroit airport on his outbound flight.

"I have to be honest, it was lax compared to here," said Keepman, who co-owns a transportation logistics company. "They push you through quite quickly, especially on international flights, because there are so many people to get through."

Keepman was not impressed with the questioning session.

"They ask the questions," Keepman said. "But the person's going to look you right in the eye and lie to you: 'Are you carrying something that could explode on the plane?' 'Certainly not, sir.' "

dezembro 20, 2009

‘Cimeira de Copenhaga: EUA declaram-se vencedores‘ in El Pais

El destino de la lucha contra el calentamiento se ha decidido en una sala cerrada de la primera planta del centro de convenciones de la Cumbre del Clima de Copenhague. Allí, Barack Obama, el chino Wen Jiabao, el brasileño Lula da Silva y el indio Manmohan Singh no sólo acordaron un acuerdo que admitieron como insuficiente.

En esa sala, con poco más de 35 personas, EE UU impuso su ley y logró el cambio de eje de las relaciones internacionales en la lucha con el cambio climático y en el sistema de Naciones Unidas, incapaz de avanzar durante dos años. Los 119 líderes reunidos en Dinamarca regresaron a casa sin foto de familia. Algo, mucho, saltó por los aires en esa sala a puerta cerrada.

Con el pacto promovido por EE UU, a la UE y al resto de países no le quedó más que ratificarlo tras una noche de debate vacío en el que sólo Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba y Sudán se opusieron para ganar protagonismo.

El Acuerdo de Copenhague siempre fue cosa de dos, China y EE UU. Hasta tal punto han monopolizado los debates que en uno de los últimos borradores los países escribieron entre corchetes: "Introducir aquí la consideración de EE UU y China". Así figura en el cuarto borrador, junto al punto de cómo el acuerdo permitiría verificar las emisiones de los países emergentes, el punto al que China se opuso.

Así que Obama y Wen, en su segundo encuentro en el día, dieron con la fórmula: los países en desarrollo realizarán su propia "medición, declaración y verificación de sus emisiones", pero a la vez aceptan un sistema de "consultas y análisis internacionales bajo unas guías claras que asegurarán que se respeta la soberanía nacional".

Pekín vetó la palabra verificación como una opción de la ONU. Los recortes de emisiones financiados con dinero internacional -sea un parque eólico o una central hidroeléctrica- sí tendrán control internacional.

El lenguaje es enrevesado como todo en esta cumbre. Leer los tres folios del Acuerdo de Copenhague es sumergirse en conceptos aparentemente vaporosos pero que esconden detrás dos años -desde que en Bali en 2007 se acordó que en 2009 habría un tratado- de enconadas disputadas.

El texto también establece que "el cambio climático es uno de los grandes retos de nuestro tiempo", que "el incremento de la temperatura debería estar por debajo de dos grados" y que las emisiones habrían de tocar techo "lo antes posible". Y todo esto se conseguirá, supuestamente, con objetivos voluntarios de reducción de emisiones que los países presentarán antes de febrero de 2010.

"Científicamente el acuerdo es como una mesa de una sola pata: no se aguanta", resume un negociador. Las rebajas anunciadas, en caso de cumplirse, sólo reducirían un 18% las emisiones de los países desarrollados en 2020, lejos del rango de entre el 25% y el 40% que pidió el Panel Intergubernamental de Cambio Climático. Con las ofertas voluntarias la temperatura subirá unos tres grados, según un informe de la ONU. "El acuerdo no sirve para el objetivo de los dos grados", admitió el presidente de turno de la UE, Fredrik Reinfelt.

Los textos previos, incluso el acordado en la reunión G-8 del pasado verano o el pactado en Bali en 2007 eran mucho más precisos y pedían una reducción mínima de emisiones del 25%. Pero la Casa Blanca se opuso por poco realista. Europa confiaba en que, al dirigirse al mundo, Obama fuera más allá. "En reuniones informales nos habían dicho que con compensación de emisiones su bajada estaría entre el 26% y el 33%", explicó en los pasillos Josef Matthias Leinen, jefe de la delegación del Parlamento Europeo. Pero Obama, enrocado en elevar la presión a China no se movió de su postura.

En el acuerdo tampoco aparece que en 2050 las emisiones deberían situarse un 50% por debajo de las de 1990. Lo vetó China, como reveló el presidente de la Comisión Europea, José Manuel Durao Barroso. Lo más claro es el compromiso de financiación para los países en desarrollo, que permitió a los africanos sumarse al acuerdo.

El resultado no satisface a nadie. Obama, en una breve declaración antes de dejar Copenhague por la puerta de atrás, dijo: "Sabemos que el avance no es suficiente y que queda mucho camino por hacer". El presidente de EE UU, sin embargo, pidió realismo: "Creo que hace falta un tratado (vinculante). Pero esta era la típica situación en la que si hubiéramos esperado a que pasara no habríamos avanzado nada" y criticó a quienes hubieran preferido "dos pasos atrás antes que un paso adelante". Obama, cuyo discurso en Copenhague, fue recibido con una inusitada frialdad por el tono mecánico y tenso de sus palabras. Se defendió de que en el acuerdo todo sea voluntario: "Kioto era legalmente vinculante y a todo el mundo le pareció poco. Es importante avanzar en vez de tener palabras en un papel".

Como no había forma de acordar nada sobre cómo pasar de los objetivos voluntarios a un acuerdo legalmente vinculante en 2010 -como querían la UE y EE UU- la opción fue dejarlo en blanco. El papel no aclara si se prorrogara Kioto, si habrá un nuevo tratado ni cuándo. Simplemente no existe ninguna mención. En busca del consenso para salvar la cara se llegó a situaciones así.

Una vez pactado entre los cinco grandes, Obama anunció que se lo comunicaría "a los europeos" y luego al grupo de 28 jefes de Estado y de Gobierno de todos los grupos que preparaban el texto político.

El sistema de trabajo es el resultado de una inteligente estartegia de EE UU. Obama, con el Nobel de la Paz por el mutilateralismo, envió una delegación de altísimo nivel a la cumbre. Desde la primera semana, el enviado especial de Obama, Todd Stern, dirigió las negociaciones, mucho antes de que llegaran los ministros europeos. Por la cumbre han pasado siete seretarios (ministros) de su Administración, desde Hillary Clinton al premio Nobel de Física y secretario de Energía, Steven Chu.

Pero a la vez, Washington ha conseguido lo que Bush no logró: sacar la negociación fuera del plenario de Naciones Unidas, donde cualquiera de los 193 países puede vetar cualquier acuerdo y eternizar las discusiones. Obama negoció a puerta cerrada, lo entregó al pleno y se fue. Los delegados seguían enzarzados en discusiones sin final y en largos discursos con barrocas formas de cortesía diplomática -"con el debido respeto a esta presidencia y sin socavar su autoridad", y frases similares cuando el avión presidencia aterrizaba en Washington.

Bush intentó crear un foro paralelo a la ONU en el que las grandes economías se pusieran de acuerdo para, de forma voluntaria, afrontar el cambio climático. Fracasó. Igual que ha ocurrido en Copenhague pero dentro de un edificio de Naciones Unidas.

"Lo ocurrido, el pacto a puerta cerrada refrendado por la ONU, tendrá enormes cnsecuencias, no solo para la Convención de Cambio Climático, sino para todo el sistema de Naciones Unidas. Vamos hacia la Organización Mundial del Comercio donde todo se decide a puerta cerrada", lamentó resignado ayer por la mañana, después de más de 24 horas sin dormir, Kim Carsten, de WWF, uno de los únicos 300 miembros de ONG autorizados a entrar los últimos días de la cumbre. "Si la UE ha eliminado la unanimidad porque no sirve para 27 países con intereses comunes, ¿cómo va a servir para la ONU?".

El problema es que el espectáculo que ofreció la ONU como alternativa fue lamentable. 183 países estaban de acuerdo y pedían apoyar el texto como la única solución posible. Pero el bloque bolivariano -Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua y Cuba- y Sudán se oponían. El sudanés Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping llegó a afirmar que el texto "es producto de la misma ideología que llevó a los hornos crematorios a seis millones de personas en Europa", por lo que recibió reproches de decenas de Estados.

Durante 10 horas, toda la noche, decenas de países defendieron el texto, pero la ONU exige consenso y por la mañana Hugo Chávez y Evo Morales ya habían anunciado que bloquearían cualquier acuerdo porque no habían sido invitados a la reunión de 28 países y porque la ONU no funciona así. A las siete de la mañana, el ministro británico Ed Miliband, frenó en el último segundo, a base de dar golpes en la mesa para llamar la atención del presidente, que el texto quedara incluido como una simple propuesta, lo que habría impedido aplicar los fondos de ayuda a los países en desarrollo. Miliband, en una vibrante intervención advirtió de que si el acuerdo era rechazado "supondría romper la convención de Naciones Unidas", algo que planeaba en el ambiente ya que de ninguna forma lo acordado por los líderes de 183 países iba a depender de Chávez.

"Ha sido el plenario más vergonzoso al que he asistido. Si no somos capaces de ponernos de acuerdo en esto, ¿cómo vamos a alcanzar un tratado vinculante?", declaró el representante saudí.

Pasadas las 10 de la mañana, tras dos horas de parón para consultar con los servicios jurídicos, la cumbre "tomó nota" del acuerdo y el presidente golpeó con la maza a toda velocidad para que nadie pudiera protestar. La fórmula permite, según el secretario general de la ONU, Ban Ki-moon, que el acuerdo "entre en vigor inmediatamente", dijo tras observar mudo desde la presidencia 10 horas de descontrol.

La reacción de Miliband, una de las figuras clave del laborismo británico, salvó la cara de la UE. Apartada en la negociación clave, los europeos se van de Copenhague con la sensación de que les han robado la cartera, que el proceso que lideraron durante dos décadas ya no está bajo su control y que, los nuevos capitanes quieren ir en otra dirección. Barroso hizo malabarismos: "La UE lidera cuando se trata de elevar los objetivos, pero no está cuando lo que se busca es reducir la ambición". La UE se reserva su oferta de ampliar su recorte de emisiones del 20% actual al 30% hasta ver cómo evoluciona la negociación. Los delegados europeos musitaban por los pasillos las palabras "Decepción, desastre y fiasco". "Es el mundo que tenemos", lamentaban. Y, sin embargo, el pacto se salvó por el empuje de un británico, no por la representación estadounidense.

La reacción china al acuerdo también fue fría. Cuando Wen aceptó el pacto, uno de sus ministros comenzó a gritar en chino con gestos de desacuerdo. "La traductora no dijo qué gritaba", explica una fuente presente en el encuentro. En el plenario que después adoptó el pacto entre los cinco grandes, China no defendió ni una sola vez su aprobación frente a las críticas del bloque bolivariano. La delegación china aplaudía las declaraciones de estos países contra la forma "antidemocráctica en la que se adoptó el acuerdo", según negociadores en la sala, cerrada a la prensa por primera vez en 10 años. Fuentes de la ONU dudan de que Pekín buscara boicotear su acuerdo a través de otros países: "Probablemente lo hacían porque arremetían contra EE UU y los países ricos".

La dificultad para alcanzar un acuerdo puede parecer excesiva, pero es que las implicaciones de la lucha contra el cambio climático son inabarcables: para conseguir limitar la temperatura y estabilizar la concentración de dióxido de carbono en la atmósfera hace falta una revolución industrial con energía verde, dejar atrás el petróleo, actuar sobre el comercio internacional, tratar la aviación, evitar la deforestación... La española María Neira, de la Organización Mundial de la Salud, estuvo hasta el ultimo día: "Si esto sale adelante sera el principal tratado de salud pública del mundo. Los millones de muertes por contaminación en las ciudades y la mala calidad del aire interior por combustión de cocinas de mala calidad en países en desarrollo empezarán a caer".

El acuerdo incluye que el Fondo del Clima pagará a los países tropicales para que no talen sus bosques, imprescindibles para el planeta. Luz entre las sombras.

dezembro 15, 2009

‘Documentos secretos revelam que Irão testa componente de arma atómica‘ in Times

Confidential intelligence documents obtained by The Times show that Iran is working on testing a key final component of a nuclear bomb.

The notes, from Iran’s most sensitive military nuclear project, describe a four-year plan to test a neutron initiator, the component of a nuclear bomb that triggers an explosion. Foreign intelligence agencies date them to early 2007, four years after Iran was thought to have suspended its weapons programme.

An Asian intelligence source last week confirmed to The Times that his country also believed that weapons work was being carried out as recently as 2007 — specifically, work on a neutron initiator.

The technical document describes the use of a neutron source, uranium deuteride, which independent experts confirm has no possible civilian or military use other than in a nuclear weapon. Uranium deuteride is the material used in Pakistan’s bomb, from where Iran obtained its blueprint.

“Although Iran might claim that this work is for civil purposes, there is no civil application,” said David Albright, a physicist and president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, which has analysed hundreds of pages of documents related to the Iranian programme. “This is a very strong indicator of weapons work.”

The documents have been seen by intelligence agencies from several Western countries, including Britain. A senior source at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that they had been passed to the UN’s nuclear watchdog.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said yesterday: “We do not comment on intelligence, but our concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme are clear. Obviously this document, if authentic, raises serious questions about Iran’s intentions.”

Responding to The Times’ findings, an Israeli government spokesperson said: “Israel is increasingly concerned about the state of the Iranian nuclear programme and the real intentions that may lie behind it.”

The revelation coincides with growing international concern about Iran’s nuclear programme. Tehran insists that it wants to build a civilian nuclear industry to generate power, but critics suspect that the regime is intent on diverting the technology to build an atomic bomb.

In September, Iran was forced to admit that it was constructing a secret uranium enrichment facility near the city of Qom. President Ahmadinejad then claimed that he wanted to build ten such sites. Over the weekend Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian Foreign Minister, said that Iran needed up to 15 nuclear power plants to meet its energy needs, despite the country’s huge oil and gas reserves.

Publication of the nuclear documents will increase pressure for tougher UN sanctions against Iran, which are due to be discussed this week. But the latest leaks in a long series of allegations against Iran will also be seized on by hawks in Israel and the US, who support a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities before the country can build its first warhead.

Mark Fitzpatrick, senior fellow for non-proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said: “The most shattering conclusion is that, if this was an effort that began in 2007, it could be a casus belli. If Iran is working on weapons, it means there is no diplomatic solution.”

The Times had the documents, which were originally written in Farsi, translated into English and had the translation separately verified by two Farsi speakers. While much of the language is technical, it is clear that the Iranians are intent on concealing their nuclear military work behind legitimate civilian research.

The fallout could be explosive, especially in Washington, where it is likely to invite questions about President Obama’s groundbreaking outreach to Iran. The papers provide the first evidence which suggests that Iran has pursued weapons studies after 2003 and may actively be doing so today — if the four-year plan continued as envisaged.

A 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate concluded that weapons work was suspended in 2003 and officials said with “moderate confidence” that it had not resumed by mid-2007. Britain, Germany and France, however, believe that weapons work had already resumed by then.

Western intelligence sources say that by 2003 Iran had already assembled the technical know-how it needed to build a bomb, but had yet to complete the necessary testing to be sure such a device would work. Iran also lacked sufficient fissile material to fuel a bomb and still does — although it is technically capable of producing weapons-grade uranium should its leaders take the political decision to do so.

The documents detail a plan for tests to determine whether the device works — without detonating an explosion leaving traces of uranium detectable by the outside world. If such traces were found, they would be taken as irreversible evidence of Iran’s intention to become a nuclear-armed power.

Experts say that, if the 2007 date is correct, the documents are the strongest indicator yet of a continuing nuclear weapons programme in Iran. Iran has long denied a military dimension to its nuclear programme, claiming its nuclear activities are solely focused on the production of energy for civilian use.

Mr Fitzpatrick said: “Is this the smoking gun? That’s the question people should be asking. It looks like the smoking gun. This is smoking uranium.”

dezembro 09, 2009

UE acusada de ‘truques sujos‘ na cimeira de Copenhaga sobre o ambiente in EU Observer

Europe, the US and other advanced nations have been accused of pressuring developing countries to pull experienced negotiators and excluding them from access to draft documents in an effort to undermine their position at the bargaining table.

Ahead of the UN climate talks in Copenhagen that opened on Monday (7 December), Bernaditas Muller, co-ordinator for the G77 and China group of countries was suddenly dropped from the Philippine delegation without explanation.

"The exclusion of Bernarditas Muller, a long-time diplomat, is a cowardly acquiescence to the US, EU, Japanese, Canadian and Australian pressures to eliminate vocal defenders of developing countries' interests from the negotiations," read a joint statement of almost 40 environmental and development NGOs including Oxfam, the WWF, Christian Aid and Greenpeace condemning the move.

Ms Muller is one of the most experienced climate negotiators in the world, having been involved in similar international discussions dating back to the UN Conference on Environment and Development Rio de Janeiro in 1992 - the first major global talks on climate change - and has frequently been a thorn in the side of industrialised countries.

"She's an extremely experienced negotiator, with an in-depth knowledge of the convention," Lim Li Lin, a legal advisor with the Third World Network, a group of NGOs close to developing nation governments, told EUobserver. "Very few people in the developing world have her depth of institutional knowledge and negotiating capacity."

"It really destabilises them and their ability to act as a co-ordinated group. It upsets their strategy and capacity to negotiate," she added.

The group of NGOs suggested that the move followed a visit by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton to the Philippines.

According to the Philippine delegation and domestic NGOs, the decision to exclude Ms Muller was taken by the Philippine cabinet and the president herself.

"We can't confirm that this was as a result of pressure or promises, but clearly these things don't happen without this sort of activity," said Ms Lin.

Ms Muller was quickly re-adopted by the Sudanese delegation, allowing her to continue in her role as G77 co-ordinator.

A spokesperson for the European Commission denied that Europe was behind Ms Muller's removal. "We had nothing at all to do with this," said environment spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich.


Separately, an overlapping group of NGOs sharply attacked Denmark, holder of the presidency of the UN climate conference, of acting in a "biased, manipulative and nontransparent manner."

Some 25 groups, including Action Aid, the World Development Movement and Friends of the Earth criticised as "undemocratic" Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen's practice of convening small working groups of countries, which excluded poor nations, before the Copenhagen meeting.

Draft "Copenhagen Accords" circulated before the conference were given only to a small number of governments while others were excluded, the NGOs added.

The groups argue that the texts ignore the demands of developing countries, instead reflecting the position of developed countries on key issues.

Raman Mehta from Action Aid India said: "The global community trusted the Danish government to host a fair and transparent process but they have betrayed that trust."

A Danish official told this website that such criticisms were unwarranted as "it's no secret that there have been ongoing bilateral discussions for some time now."

dezembro 01, 2009

‘O Tratado de Lisboa entrou em vigor‘ in EU Observer

The European Union is celebrating the entry into force of a new set of rules today (1 December), hoping to put a full-stop behind the years of wrangling, set-backs and lowered ambitions that have marked this lengthy phase of institution building.

The Lisbon Treaty, named after the Portuguese capital where it was signed in 2007, is coming into place a full eight years after member states decided that the European Union needed both to address its democratic legitimacy - sometimes described as its democratic deficit - and allow for more flexible decision-making.

Since that time, the European Union has grown by 12 member states to encompass almost 500 million citizens, expanded the area where the euro is employed as the currency to 16 countries, and sees its main challenges as tackling climate change, dealing with the effects of globalisation, and lately trying to exit the economic crisis.

The path to today's ratification however has been far from smooth, leaving the European Union with barely a month since 2001 when the institutional question was not an issue up for debate.

The body of the treaty was drawn up via a one-year convention, hailed at the time for containing a broad mix of representatives including national and European politicians and civil society representatives and headed by former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing.

But the European Constitution that emerged was in 2005 torpedoed by voters in founding member states France and the Netherlands, shocking the EU and sending everyone back to the negotiating table.

Bumpy path

The resulting Lisbon Treaty contains most of the constitution's innovations but no longer the symbolically important and state-like elements such as an article covering an EU flag and anthem. It was also presented differently as simply an amending treaty, rather than a constitution in its own right.

This is largely a reflection of the nature of the European Union, made up of 27 member states, which to a greater or lesser degree want to further integrate in certain - but not all - areas.

Controversy and delays have continued to dog the treaty even in its new form. It too was rejected, this time by Irish voters in June 2008 who then changed their minds to embrace it a second referendum in the October of the following year. Meanwhile the Czech Republic's ratification, the final of the 27, was a drawn-out process involving multiple court assessments before the eventual reluctant signature by its eurosceptic president.

This meant that news that the treaty could finally to pass into force was marked rather by a sense of weary relief in member states than any sort of celebration.

New posts and new powers for MEPs

Its most prominent innovations include the creation of a permanent president of the European Council and a beefed up foreign policy chief, who will head a new large diplomatic corps.

These posts are supposed to give coherence to the bloc's external policy and supply it with a stronger voice on the world stage, although their success – ultimately awarded to a pair of low-profile politicians - will depend on the ability of member states to form united positions and support the new external policy chiefs.

The arguably more profound change is internally, with member states' ability to veto being markedly reduced and a corresponding significant boost to the European Parliament's powers. MEPs now have a say over a wide range of new areas including farm and fisheries policy, transport, structural funds and justice and home affairs.

Tax, social security issue, citizens' rights, the main aspects of foreign and defence policy and where EU institutions sit geographically are still subject to agreement by member-state unanimity, however.

National parliaments also gain some powers to scrutinise legislation to make sure it is proportionate and being enacted at the right level, while the signature of one million citizens across the EU obliges the commission to look into acting on the issue concerned.

The European Court of Justice gains the powers to rule in the area of freedom, security and justice as well as judging whether member states are implementing EU laws according to the Charter of Fundamental Rights – a rights document that all member states except Britain, Poland and the Czech Republic have signed up to.

The treaty, so long in the making, has both ardent proponents and vehement critics. Its admirers say it will make internal EU decision-making easier, more flexible and more democratic while its innovations will allow the EU to become a major player in the globe.

Its critics, however, say the central issue of the EU's democratic deficit has not been sufficiently addressed, meaning citizens will continue to perceive the European Union as being an elites-driven project.

novembro 29, 2009

‘Os suíços recusam a construção de mesquitas com minaretes por 57,5%‘ in Le Temps

Contrairement à ce qu’avaient prédit les sondages, l’initiative contre la construction des minarets est acceptée à une large majorité, avec 57,5% des voix (résultats officiels). La majorité des cantons est acquise. Dix-neuf et demi d’entre eux sont en faveur de l’initiative, la palme revenant à Appenzell Rhodes-Extérieures (71,5%) et Glaris (68,8%). Seules exceptions, à Genève (59,7%), Bâle-Ville (51,6%), Vaud (53%) et Neuchâtel, le Non l’emporte. Le Conseil fédéral prend acte du résultat dans un communiqué qui tend la main aux musulmans.

Le «Non» de Genève (59,7%), de Bâle-Ville (51,6%), Vaud et Neuchâtel sur l’initiative anti-minarets, fait figure d’exception. Au niveau national c’est bien le Oui qui l’emporte avec 57,1% des voix, la majorité des cantons étant désormais acquise.

Dans le camp des anti-minarets, Glaris (68,8%), Argovie, Appenzell Rhodes-Extérieures (71,5%), Schaffhouse et les Grisons (58,6%), acceptent nettement l’initiative. En Suisse romande, le Jura (51,2%) et Fribourg (55,9%) sont également en faveur de l’interdiction. Lucerne approuve également le texte, tout comme Zurich à 52,7%. Au Tessin, dont le résultat définitif n’est pas encore connu, on s’achemine vers un net Oui pour l’initiative. Des chiffres provenant de l’Institut GFS et de la SSR.

Tout au long de la campagne, les sondages avaient prédit le Non à 53% il y a encore deux semaines. Ces derniers jours cependant, le Oui avait légèrement remonté dans les intentions de vote.

Un mot revient dans la bouche de tous les commentateurs: la surprise. Les sondages avaient en effet annoncé le Non gagnant Le résultat de la votation faisait la une de plusieurs titres internationaux comme Le Monde ou la BBC en début d’après-midi.

Dans son communiqué publié à 16h00, le Conseil fédéral prend acte du résultat, et rappelle que seule la construction de nouveaux minarets est interdite mais que celle de mosquées continue , et que les musulmans peuvent continuer de pratiquer leur culte en privé ou en groupes. Un communiqué aux allures de main tendue vers les musulmans, qui est d’ailleurs aussi traduit en arabe sur le site du Conseil.

‘Irão anuncia construção de mais dez centrais nucleares‘ in Público

Num desafio ainda maior à comunidade internacional, o Irão anunciou hoje planos para começar a construir – dentro de dois meses – dez novas centrais de enriquecimento de urânio, informou a agência oficial IRNA, em Teerão. A capacidade de cada uma das novas centrais será igual à de Natanz, com uma produção anual de 200 a 300 toneladas.

Este anúncio surge no dia em que o presidente do Parlamento iraniano, o conservador Ali Larijani, avisou que a República Islâmica poderá romper a cooperação com os inspectores da Agência Internacional de Energia Atómica (AIEA), depois de este organismo das Nações Unidas ter exigido o encerramento da central de Fordo (próxima da cidade de Qom), cuja existência foi mantida em segredo até Setembro.

O consenso na AIEA e o tom invulgarmente duro da resolução que aprovou na sexta-feira (com o apoio da Rússia e da China) levam a crer que Teerão será submetido a novas sanções, se continuar a ignorar as pressões internacionais para suspender o seu programa nuclear.

Hoje, horas depois da ameaça de Larijani, a IRNA adiantou que a Organização de Energia Atómica do Irão já recebeu ordem para avançar com a construção de cinco novas centrais e de planear a edificação de outras cinco. A decisão terá sido tomada numa reunião do governo a que presidiu o chefe de Estado, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

A central de Natanz tem, segundo um relatório da AIEA apresentado no início deste mês, cerca de 8600 centrifugadoras em funcionamento, das quais 4000 estão a enriquecer urânio. Poderá vir a ter 54 mil. A central de Fordo alberga 3000.

novembro 24, 2009

Os novos rostos institucionais da UE - comentário de Honor Mahony in EU Observer

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso emerges as a clear winner from all this.

He had been nervous about being elbowed off the EU stage by a strong European Council president and undermined in his own Commission by an authoritative foreign policy chief.

Now he has to fear neither incidence. Belgian leader Herman Van Rompuy is discreet and modest. Just what member states, wary of being outshone, wanted. He will take these qualities to the presidency job as well as “subordinating” his own opinions to those of the council. So the internal fixer and not the traffic stopper.

Catherine Ashton, who has done well as a trade commissioner, has no foreign policy experience and has never held elected office. Her candidacy emerged largely as a result of a deal to have a socialist take the foreign policy post and preferably a woman and a Briton. The huge new job, as well as her relative inexperience, will mean she will need a lengthy adjustment period to find her feet. This plays into Barroso’s hands – although his aides stress that the commission president “has always said this is an extremely capable lady.”

Incidentally, they also say that Barroso will be happy to leave consensus-making among member states to Van Rompuy as this will “liberate” him to do other, as yet unspecified, “tasks.”

Van Rompuy will start on 1 January in order to have a longer handover time in Belgium where he has held together the fractious Walloons and Flemings since last year.

Ashton is to take up her duties as high representative and become vice president of the commission on 1 December. A legal tangle could ensue if the parliament, which holds hearings on all commission members, were to actually try and move against her. “On that there is no precise legal answer because the High Representative side is not in the gift of the parliament,” noted an official.

Thursday’s agreement throws open a few other questions – such as what to do with Benita Ferrero-Waldner, currently the external relations commissioner. She will be “given another substantial assignment” said the official. A solution also has to be found for the trade portfolio, which Ashton will soon vacate.

Meanwhile, Barroso is expected to have assigned the commissioner portfolios by the beginning of December. Only four countries have not yet named their next commissioners – the Netherlands, Denmark, Greece and Malta.

The commission president’s most immediate hurdle is to see that his commissioners are thoroughly prepared for MEPs, who as far as I can make out, are desperate to shed some political blood.

novembro 11, 2009

‘Planeta tem menos petróleo do que as estatísticas oficiais dizem‘

O planeta tem muito menos reservas de petróleo do que as previsões oficiais indicam. A afirmação não pertence a nenhum ‘petrocéptico’, mas a um elemento de topo ligado à Agência Internacional de Energia, citado sob anonimato na edição de hoje do diário britânico The Guardian.

Segundo esta fonte, a entidade tem afastado deliberadamente a ameaça de uma escassez de petróleo por receio de uma vaga de pânico consumista, uma acusação que acentua a polémica em torno do rigor das estatísticas oficiais que os países usam como referência para as suas políticas.

O jornal cita o quadro da AIE, de acordo com o qual os EUA têm usado a sua influência junto da organização para que esta estime em baixa a taxa de declínio dos campos petrolíferos em actividade, ao mesmo tempo que estima em alta as possibilidades de serem encontradas novas reservas petrolíferas. A suspeita já não é nova, muitos dos especialistas ligados ao movimento do chamado “pico do petróleo” alertam há anos para esse risco, defendendo que a produção mundial já ultrapassou o seu pico e se encontra já em declínio. A questão torna-se agora ainda mais séria quando se reconhece que os números reais não saem a público por receio de uma grave crise nos mercados financeiros mundiais e na fragilização dos interesses americanos no acesso aos recursos petrolíferos.

No centro das dúvidas, estão as previsões da AIE, segundo as quais a produção mundial de petróleo pode ser elevada de 83 milhões de barris diários para 105 milhões – projecção que os críticos consideram carecer de evidência firme, uma matéria que, para países como o Reino Unido é especialmente grave, sobretudo depois de se ter tornado importador de petróleo, com o fim das suas reservas no Mar do Norte, desde 2005.

A fonte citada pelo Guardian, que pediu anonimato para evitar represálias da indústria, usa os números da própria AIE para explicar como o problema tem sido gerido. “Em 2005, a AIE previa que a produção de petróleo podia subir até 120 milhões de barris diários em 2030. Desde então, tem baixado gradualmente essa previsão para 116 milhões, depois para 105 milhões no ano passado”. E acrescenta: “o número dos 120 milhões de barris nunca fez sentido e mesmo os valores actuais são demasiado elevados para serem justificados e a AIE sabe isso”.

Admitir valores mais baixos, embora alegadamente mais próximos da realidade, poderão criar uma situação de ruptura no mercado petrolífero e o “receio de que o pânico se espalhasse pelos mercados financeiros, sendo que os americanos temem o fim da supremacia do petróleo, proque isso pode ameaçar o seu poder de acesso aos recursos petrolíferos”, adiantou a mesma fonte.

Outro elemento que já foi quadro de topo da AIE reconhece também que conheceu uma regra interna segundo a qual era “imperativo não enfurecer os americanos”, ao mesmo tempo que se aceitava que não havia assim tanto petróleo no mundo como se fazia crer.

Para o Reino Unido, estas suspeitas podem dar uma nova importância à conferência de Copenhaga, que discutirá o pós-Quioto dentro de menos de um mês, e as medidas para uma economia mundial com menores emissões de gases com efeito de estufa.

Especialistas da indústria petrolífera como Matt Simmons, recentemente entrevistado pelo PÚBLICO, ou Colin Campbell, co-fundador do movimento do pico do petróleo reforçam a necessidade de prudência a olhar para os números oficiais. O primeiro há vários anos que diz que as estimativas de reservas estão sobrevalorizadas, a começar pelas da Arábia Saudita. O Segundo até admire que se os números verdadeiros viessem a público, causariam pânico nos mercados financeiros “ e no final não aproveitaria a ninguém”.

novembro 03, 2009

‘China avisa a UE sobre as negociações ambientais‘ in EU Observer

China has warned the European Union not to abandon the principle that rich nations bear a heavier burden in tackling climate change than their developing world counterparts.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao telephoned European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Monday (2 November) to say that for a successful deal to be reached at December's UN climate conference in Copenhagen, technology transfer and sufficient funding from the global north is required.

"Emphasis should be put on making clear and detailed arrangements for mitigation, adaptation, technology transfer and financing," Mr Wen told the commission president.

It is understood that while China, as a developing nation, has been pressing for a climate finance deal that would see substantial sums flow to the global south for climate adaptation and mitigation, as a wealthier emerging nation that has less need of the cash, the Middle Kingdom is in fact most interested in technology transfer.

However, the Chinese leader also reminded Mr Barroso that it is for the developed world to take on binding emission reduction commitments while the developing world takes action, but without binding targets.

"The key to success at the conference is to uphold the UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol, the principle of 'common but differentiated responsibilities' and the authorisation of the Bali Road Map," he said, according to a statement released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

While seemingly an uncontroversial and even bland phrase, "common but differentiated responsibilities" goes to the heart of the disagreement between developed and developing countries over climate negotiations.

Developing nations, including China, are keen to keep the Kyoto Protocol beyond its 2012 expiry date because of its insistence that while every nation has a responsibility to combat climate change, the burden for the industrialised north, which created the problem, is heavier.

The United States meanwhile wants a focus on the big emitters of today, including China, rather than historical emissions, and prefers an abandonment of the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" that is contained in the Kyoto pact.

The EU says it backs a continuance of the Kyoto Protocol, but developing countries say this is just rhetoric and that in the talks, Brussels is backing the US position.

The issue blew up at the last UN talks in Bangkok in September when Canada suggested scrapping Kyoto and starting afresh with a new framework for talks. A number of negotiators from developing countries walked out as the North Amercian delegation made its address.

Mr Wen also told Mr Barroso that his country, which will not back binding emission reduction targets for itself, is however willing to embrace a domestic plan for tackling climate change.

The plan would involve integrating climate change action into its economic and social development plan, implementing and improving the National Climate Change Programme, promoting a green economy, and boosting its ability to adapt to climate change.

For his part, the European leader told Mr Wen: "The EU hopes to strengthen co-ordination and co-operation with China in order to ensure the success of the Copenhagen meeting," according to the Chinese statement.

"The EU hopes to make common efforts with China to push co-operation to a new level."

The conversation took place as negotiators from 191 countries arrived in Barcelona on Monday for the final international climate negotiations ahead of December's UN conference.

Connie Hedegaard, the Danish climate and energy minister of climate and energy, said: "The world is watching. The world is waiting."

She warned against a fudge in December as talks go down to the wire.

"Our ambition must be not to accept a compromise that comes short of what science has told us in clear and compelling terms: Not to accept some short political statement or hollow declaration," she said.

novembro 02, 2009

‘Como Israel destruiu um reactor nuclear na Síria‘ in Der Spiegel

In September 2007, Israeli fighter jets destroyed a mysterious complex in the Syrian desert. The incident could have led to war, but it was hushed up by all sides. Was it a nuclear plant and who gave the orders for the strike?

The mighty Euphrates river is the subject of the prophecies in the Bible's Book of Revelation, where it is written that the river will be the scene of the battle of Armageddon: "The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East."

Today, time seems to stand still along the river. The turquoise waters of the Euphrates flow slowly through the northern Syrian provincial city Deir el-Zor, whose name translates as "monastery in the forest." Farmers till the fields, and vendors sell camel's hair blankets, cardamom and coriander in the city's bazaars. Occasionally archaeologists visit the region to excavate the remains of ancient cities in the surrounding area, a place where many peoples have left their mark -- the Parthians and the Sassanids, the Romans and the Jews, the Ottomans and the French, who were assigned the mandate for Syria by the League of Nations and who only withdrew their troops in 1946. Deir el-Zor is the last outpost before the vast, empty desert, a lifeless place of jagged mountains and inaccessible valleys that begins not far from the town center [...].

Ver artigo completo em,1518,658663,00.html

outubro 29, 2009

‘Detidos dois homens que preparavam atentado contra o jornal Jyllands-Posten‘ in Courrier International

Grâce à l'efficacité de la police, deux hommes soupçonnés de préparer des actions terroristes contre Jyllands-Posten ont été arrêtés aux Etats-Unis. En attendant la décision judiciaire, il convient de rappeler le fond de cette affaire.

Les premières menaces de mort à l'encontre du quotidien danois Jyllands-Posten qui avait publié "les visages de Mahomet" datent de l'automne 2005. Elles ont continué en flux régulier pour culminer début 2006. Puis, en février 2008, un attentat projeté par trois musulmans contre Kurt Westergaard [l'un des caricaturistes] a été déjoué, tandis que, quelques mois plus tard, l'ambassade du Danemark au Pakistan faisait l'objet d'une attaque terroriste qui tua plusieurs personnes. Un groupe lié à Al-Qaida revendiqua cette action en déclarant qu'il s'agissait de représailles après la nouvelle publication du dessin de Kurt Westergaard dans les journaux danois et que, par ailleurs, les actes terroristes continueraient tant que le Danemark n'aurait pas puni les responsables et donné l'assurance que ce genre d'événement ne se reproduirait plus.

Terrorisme et intimidation se combinent ainsi pour inciter les gens à modifier leur comportement dans le sens souhaité par les auteurs de ces menaces. Cela s'est déjà vu sous l'Occupation. C'est ce qui se passe dans le monde musulman lorsque des minorités ethniques et religieuses sont persécutées ou partout ailleurs quand des opposants à tel ou tel régime sont menacés d'emprisonnement ou subissent la torture. Mais c'est aussi ce qui se passe lorsque des médias jugés trop critiques sont censurés, voire carrément interdits.

Les auteurs des menaces et des actions préparées contre Jyllands-Posten n'ont pas apprécié la publication des caricatures de Mahomet. Ils ont exigé leur interdiction et tenté d'intimider la population danoise. Malheureusement - mais il fallait s'y attendre -, certains ont pointé du doigt le journal comme étant responsable des menaces terroristes visant le Danemark. C'est une erreur. Et rien ne peut justifier le recours à la violence et aux menaces contre des citoyens exerçant les droits que leur garantit la Constitution. Il s'agit d'un principe qu'il nous faut absolument préserver au nom de la liberté et de la sécurité.

L'Histoire nous enseigne en effet que, si l'on commence à céder à la terreur et aux menaces, celles-ci ne vont pas diminuer. Bien au contraire, elles ne feront que redoubler car, lorsqu'un individu, un média ou une société cèdent à l'intimidation, cela prouve aux terroristes que leurs actes odieux et méprisables ont eu l'effet souhaité.

L'arme la plus efficace contre les menaces terroristes, c'est donc de montrer que nous ne sommes pas disposés à céder sur les principes qui assurent notre liberté et notre prospérité. Nous signifions ainsi clairement aux adversaires de la liberté d'expression qu'en dépit de leurs actes et de leurs tentatives d'intimidation nous continuerons d'agir comme nous l'avons toujours fait - voire nous pratiquerons la dérision et le mépris.

Certains n'approuvent pas cette attitude car nous vivons à une époque où une nouvelle forme de fondamentalisme menace la liberté. Il ne s'agit pas de fondamentalisme religieux ou politique. Non, ce qui constitue la plus grave menace contre la liberté, c'est le fondamentalisme de l'outrage. C'est un courant de pensée selon lequel quiconque a subi un outrage a le droit de réagir violemment. Ce fondamentalisme-là sert de fil conducteur aux nombreuses tentatives pour limiter la liberté d'expression dont nous sommes témoins ces temps-ci. Il est grand temps de tirer la sonnette d'alarme.

outubro 24, 2009

‘Irão recusa proposta da agência nuclear das Nações Unidas‘ in Público

O regime de Teerão rejeitou hoje dar luz verde clara à proposta avançada pela Agência Internacional de Energia Atómica (AIEA), organismo das Nações Unidas, que visava uma acção concertada para reduzir a produção de urânio enriquecido no Irão. Em vez de aceitar a oferta de chamar Rússia e França a essa tarefa, os líderes iranianos vieram antes instar a que as potências mundiais respondam ao seu próprio plano para resolver a contenda sobre o seu polémico programa nuclear.

A proposta do organismo da ONU recebeu aprovação nas últimas horas de todas as outras partes envolvidas – Rússia, França e Estados Unidos. O Irão relançou à mesa a sua própria proposta, cujos pormenores não são conhecidos, no que indica a adopção da frequente estratégia iraniana de ganhar tempo para evitar um endurecimento de sanções internacionais.

As potências internacionais temem que o Irão desenvolva armamento nuclear a partir do programa de enriquecimento de urânio, que em Teerão é justificado com propósitos exclusivamente pacíficos de produção de energia.

“Agora estamos à espera de uma resposta positiva e construtiva à proposta do Irão vinda da outra parte o que toca ao fornecimento de combustível nuclear para o reactor de Teerão”, afirmou um dos negociadores iranianos que participou nas conversações desta semana em Viena. “Esperamos que a outra parte evite cometer os mesmos erros do passado, na violação dos termos de acordos... e que ganhe assim a confiança do Irão”, avançou a mesma fonte, citada mas não identificada pela televisão estatal do país.

Diplomatas ocidentais precisaram nos últimos dias que a proposta da AIEA determina que Teerão envie 1,2 toneladas de urânio enriquecido – das 1,5 toneladas que se sabe o país ter armazenadas – para a Rússia e França até ao final do ano para serem processadas a um nível superior de enriquecimento, em que se torna extremamente difícil que o material seja usado para a produção de ogivas nucleares.

outubro 18, 2009

‘Atentado suicida contra os guardas revolucionários iranianos provoca três dezenas de mortos‘ in Times

A suicide attack targeting Iran’s Revolutionary Guards killed about 31 people, including at least five senior commanders, Iranian state television said.

More than two dozen were wounded in the attack, which the local prosecutor blamed on a Sunni rebel group in Iran’s restless southeast region near the border with Pakistan.

The Jundollah, or Soldiers of God — ethnic Baluch Sunni insurgents who have been blamed for previous attacks in the region — have claimed responsibility for the attack.

However, a statement from the Guards has accused America and its allies, including Britain, of complicity.

“Surely foreign elements, particularly those linked to the global arrogance, were involved in this attack,” said the statement, reported on the English-language Press TV. Iran often uses the term “global arrogance” to refer to the United States.

The US rejected the accusation as "completely false", and condemned the bombing.

The state broadcaster IRIB said that the bombing happened this morning at the entrance to a sports complex in Sarbaz in Sistan-Baluchestan, a province that is the scene of frequent clashes between security forces, Sunni rebels and drug traffickers.

Guards representatives were due to meet local tribal leaders to promote unity between Sunnis and Shias.

Press TV said that the bomber approached the Guards on foot and detonated his suicide bomb vest. A number of civilians were among the dead.

News agencies named the most high-ranking casualties as the deputy head of the Guards’ ground forces, General Nourali Shoushtari, and the Guards’ commander in Sistan-Baluchestan province, General Mohammadzadeh. General Shoushtari was also a senior official of the Guard’s elite Qods Force, reports said.

It was the most severe attack on the Guards in recent years and underlined deepening instability in the southeastern region bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Revolutionary Guards is an elite and politically influential military conglomerate seen as fiercely loyal to the values of the 1979 Islamic revolution. Numbering 120,000 troops with its own ground, naval and air units, its duties include handling security in sensitive border areas and control of Iran’s missile system programme.

It also commands vast financial resources and has stakes in many sectors of the Iranian economy, ranging from oil and gas to telecoms and farming.

Jundollah has an escalating history of violence, claiming responsibility for a bomb attack on a Shia mosque in Sistan-Baluchestan province in May that killed 25 people. Thirteen members of the faction were convicted of the bombing and hanged in July.

In 2007 the group abducted nine Iranian soldiers in the same region, demanding that Tehran free 16 imprisoned members of the group.

Iran has accused the US of backing Jundollah in order to create instability in the country. Washington denies the charge. Jundollah says that it is fighting for the rights of the Islamic Republic’s minority Sunnis.

Iran, a predominantly Shia country, also claims that there are links between Jundollah and the al-Qaeda network. Most people in Sistan-Baluchestan are Sunnis and ethnic Baluchis. Iran rejects allegations by Western rights groups that it discriminates against ethnic and religious minorities.

The fresh outbreak of internal unrest comes at a time when the Islamic Republic is being tested politically by a reform movement that refuses to go away. Mir Hossein Mousavi, the Iran opposition leader, pledged today that Iran’s reform movement would continue, despite harsh judicial reprisals by the State, and made a fresh plea for prisoners to be released.

“Our people are not rioters. Reforms will continue as long as people’s demands are not met,” Mr Mousavi’s website quoted him as saying.

Mr Mousavi was defeated in the presidential elections on June 12. He and other moderates claim that the vote was rigged to secure the re-election of hardline President Ahmadinejad. Iranian authorities deny the allegation.

More than 100 people, including former senior officials, still remain in jail, and at least one reformist has been sentenced to death.

outubro 14, 2009

‘UE dá luz verde à abertura de negociações de adesão com a Macedónia‘ in EU Observer

The European Commission on Wednesday (14 October) issued a series of assessments of countries hoping to join the EU and said enlargement should not be made a "scapegoat" of Europe's current economic problems.

The reports contained the usual Brussels mix of criticism interspersed with praise and rewards for progress towards EU norms.

The small republic of Macedonia was told that it was ready to start membership talks, a move that would put it on the same level as Croatia and Turkey in terms of EU relations.

EU commissioner Olli Rehn, in charge of enlargement, said the Macedonian government should see the move as "very strong encouragement" to "finally settle the name issue," however. The reference concerns an 18-year old dispute between Macedonia and neighbouring Greece about the use of the name Macedonia.

Croatia, hoping to join the EU in 2011, is "nearing the finishing line" after years of negotiations, said Mr Rehn, but needs to further tackle corruption and organised crime "before negotiations can be concluded."

The commission report urges Turkey to do more to ensure freedom of expression and freedom of religion as well as bolster the rights of women and trade unions.

Ankara has been lagging far behind Zagreb in its EU progress in part due to poor relations with EU member Cyprus, with whom it still has to fully implement a customs agreement. Progress is also slow due to a lack of enthusiasm on the part of several member states for Turkish membership and the pace of Turkish domestic reform.

But with Turkey itself lately taking a more bullish tone about what it can offer the EU in terms of energy security, Brussels was careful to stress the country's importance for "energy supplies" and "promoting dialogue with civilisations."

Of the remaining five entities - Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo - that want to join the EU, Mr Rehn had the most to say about Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The war-torn country was recently given an ultimatum by the EU and the US to sort out internal problems between Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Serbs by 20 October.

Defining the country as of "paramount importance for the region and for the European Union," Mr Rehn said that Bosnia and Herzegovina could only consider an application for EU membership once it "can stand on its own two feet."

"No quasi-protectorate can join the EU," he said, spelling out that the Office of High Representative would have to be closed down first. The post was created as part of the peace deal that ended the 1992-1995 war in the country, and can only be closed after a positive international assessment.

Meanwhile, the Serbian government, which is being pushed to arrest two war crimes suspects from the 1990s, was praised for being "stable" and "demonstrating" a high degree of consensus on EU integration as a strategic priority."

But even as the EU tries to bind all of the countries of the western Balkans and Turkey ever more closely through political and economic ties and the promise of eventual membership, there are continuous doubts about whether it has the political appetite to go through with another large round of expansion.

Apart from Croatia, strongly supported by Germany and where EU membership is virtually assured, internal EU question marks remain over the rest.

"It's important we don't scapegoat enlargement" for some "ills" that were not caused by enlargement, Mr Rehn said, adding that the current economic crisis was not made in the streets of Belgrade but rather on Wall Street.

outubro 09, 2009

‘Decisão absurda de escolher Obama ridiculariza o Prémio Nobel da Paz‘ in Times

The award of this year’s Nobel peace prize to President Obama will be met with widespread incredulity, consternation in many capitals and probably deep embarrassment by the President himself.

Rarely has an award had such an obvious political and partisan intent. It was clearly seen by the Norwegian Nobel committee as a way of expressing European gratitude for an end to the Bush Administration, approval for the election of America’s first black president and hope that Washington will honour its promise to re-engage with the world.

Instead, the prize risks looking preposterous in its claims, patronising in its intentions and demeaning in its attempt to build up a man who has barely begun his period in office, let alone achieved any tangible outcome for peace.

The pretext for the prize was Mr Obama’s decision to “strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples”. Many people will point out that, while the President has indeed promised to “reset” relations with Russia and offer a fresh start to relations with the Muslim world, there is little so far to show for his fine words.

East-West relations are little better than they were six months ago, and any change is probably due largely to the global economic downturn; and America’s vaunted determination to re-engage with the Muslim world has failed to make any concrete progress towards ending the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

There is a further irony in offering a peace prize to a president whose principal preoccupation at the moment is when and how to expand the war in Afghanistan.

The spectacle of Mr Obama mounting the podium in Oslo to accept a prize that once went to Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi and Mother Theresa would be all the more absurd if it follows a White House decision to send up to 40,000 more US troops to Afghanistan. However just such a war may be deemed in Western eyes, Muslims would not be the only group to complain that peace is hardly compatible with an escalation in hostilities.

The Nobel committee has made controversial awards before. Some have appeared to reward hope rather than achievement: the 1976 prize for the two peace campaigners in Northern Ireland, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan, was clearly intended to send a signal to the two battling communities in Ulster. But the political influence of the two winners turned out, sadly, to be negligible.

In the Middle East, the award to Menachem Begin of Israel and Anwar Sadat of Egypt in 1978 also looks, in retrospect, as naive as the later award to Yassir Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin — although it could be argued that both the Camp David and Oslo accords, while not bringing peace, were at least attempts to break the deadlock.

Mr Obama’s prize is more likely, however, to be compared with the most contentious prize of all: the 1973 prize to Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho for their negotiations to end the Vietnam war. Dr Kissinger was branded a warmonger for his support for the bombing campaign in Cambodia; and the Vietnamese negotiator was subsequently seen as a liar whose government never intended to honour a peace deal but was waiting for the moment to attack South Vietnam.

Mr Obama becomes the third sitting US President to receive the prize. The committee said today that he had “captured the world’s attention”. It is certainly true that his energy and aspirations have dazzled many of his supporters. Sadly, it seems they have so bedazzled the Norwegians that they can no longer separate hopes from achievement. The achievements of all previous winners have been diminished.

Presidência do Conselho Europeu: Tratado de Lisboa abre a porta a um (ainda maior) domínio dos grandes países? in EU Observer

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has sided with smaller member states in trying to restrict the role of the proposed president of the European Council, a new post created by the Lisbon Treaty.

Addressing the European Parliament on Wednesday (7 October), Mr Barroso chastised MEPs for referring to the post as "president of Europe."

"I am sorry, there will not be a president of Europe. There will be, if we have Lisbon, the president of the European Council. It is important to understand that point because sometimes I think there are some ideas about certain derives institutionelles [institutional drifts]," he said.

Loosely defined in the treaty itself, talk about the nature of the president's role has become one of the main topics in Brussels in recent days, as national governments deliberate whether the post should go to a well-known personality from a big country or a more discreet politician.

The exact job description will be written by the first person holding the job, with ex British prime minister Tony Blair among the most-mentioned candidates for the post. It is widely agreed that a politician of Mr Blair's standing would take the post far beyond the largely administrative role foreseen in the treaty.

According to the treaty, which is still awaiting full ratification by all 27 member states, the president is supposed to chair the regular meetings of EU leaders - known as the European Council - and to drive forward their work.

Mr Barroso, who himself enjoys attending international summits on behalf of the EU, has a personal stake in the issue.

A powerful council president would upset the power balance in the EU and would likely see Mr Barroso relegated to a more much Brussels-based role.

The commission president has no formal powers in appointing the European Council president but he warned: "The European Commission will not accept the idea that the president of European Council is the president of Europe."

Mr Barroso's remarks came shortly after a leaked paper on the new Lisbon Treaty posts by Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg underlined the importance of maintaining the "institutional balance" of the union. The paper has been interpreted in some quarters as an anti-Blair move.

Poland has also prepared a document on the role of the president of the European Council. Earlier this week, Polish Europe minister Mikolaj Dowgielewicz indicated to EUobserver the limited role that Warsaw foresees for the new president.

"We have to recognise that the Polish minister of finance or agriculture will only take instructions from his prime minister. He will not take instructions from the president of the council," he said.

Some member states, such as France, have indicated they want to create a major player with the presidential job by appointing someone who can open doors in the US and China and who can give the EU some gravitas on the world stage.

Mr Blair's is not the only name that has been put forward in connection to the job. Other possible contenders mooted include Dutch leader Jan-Peter Balkenende; Luxembourg leader Jean-Claude Juncker and Felipe Gonzalez, a former Spanish prime minister.

setembro 28, 2009

‘UE processa Portugal por défice excessivo‘ in Expresso

Bruxelas irá fazer uma série de recomendações, colocar Lisboa sob "vigilância orçamental" e avançar com um calendário para sair da situação de desequilíbrio das contas superior a 3% do PIB (défice excessivo), seguindo as regras que estão estipuladas no Pacto de Estabilidade e Crescimento da União Europeia.

O período que será dado para corrigir o "défice excessivo" português será negociado com as autoridades nacionais. Os prazos já aplicados a outros Estados-membros variam entre 2010, para a Grécia, e 2013/14 para a Irlanda e Reino Unido.

Em Novembro adoptaremos propostas de correcção do défice para os oito países da zona euro que, segundo as previsões, vão violar o défice este ano", declarou no início de Junho o comissário europeu dos Assuntos Económicos e Monetários, Joaquin Almunia.

Ao todo, catorze dos 27 países da União Europeia, incluindo Portugal, vão em 2009 exceder o limite autorizado por Bruxelas para o défice.

Todos os Estados-membros comunicam (reportam) à Comissão Europeia e ao Eurostat (Abril e Outubro) o estado das suas contas públicas (últimos números do ano anterior e previsão para o corrente ano).

Em ano de crise económica, praticamente todos os países no espaço UE esperam apresentar défices orçamentais, à excepção da Bulgária, que conta com um excedente das suas contas públicas em 1,5% do PIB (ao nível do reportado no ano anterior).

O governo português já avisou que o seu défice deverá chegar este ano aos 5,9% do PIB, agravando-se assim o valor face aos 2,6% estimados pelo Executivo de José Sócrates para 2008.

Os países que esperam os maiores saldos negativos são, no entanto, o Reino Unido e a Irlanda, com os governos a esperarem défices de 12,6 e 10,7% do PIB, respectivamente, depois de ambos terem, em 2008, reportado uma estimativa de 7,1% do PIB.

Acima dos 3% ficam ainda os défices da Letónia (8,5%), Espanha (5,8%), França (5,6%), Roménia (5,1%, Polónia (4,6%), República Checa (3,9%), Grécia, Itália e Eslovénia (3,7%), Bélgica (3,4%) e Holanda (3,3%).

De acordo com os dados reportados em Abril pelos vários governos ao Eurostat, em 2008 já quebraram a regra dos três por cento o Reino Unido e a Irlanda, ambos com 7,1%, a Roménia (5,4%), a Grécia (5%), Malta (4,7%), a Letónia (4%), a Polónia (3,9%), a Espanha (3,8%), a Hungria e a França (3,4%) e a Lituânia (3,2%).

O executivo comunitário já iniciou em Fevereiro passado procedimentos por défice excessivo contra seis Estados-membros da União Europeia: Espanha, França, Grécia, Irlanda, Malta e Letónia que tiveram em 2008 um défice orçamental superior ao valor de referência permitido pelo Pacto de Estabilidade e Crescimento.

setembro 21, 2009

Referendo na Irlanda: ‘Não somos carneiros‘ (cartoon de Chapatte in Le Temps)

‘OCDE prevê que o comércio mundial se contraia 18% este ano‘ in Público

O comércio mundial vai contrair-se 18 por cento este ano e “recuperar ligeiramente” no próximo ano, indicam as últimas projecções da Organização para a Cooperação e Desenvolvimento Económico (OCDE).

No documento que analisa as principais tendências e desafios na Europa nos próximos anos, a OCDE considera que “as mais recentes projecções indicam um declínio do comércio mundial de 18 por cento em 2009, a maior queda em décadas, e uma recuperação ligeira em 2010”.

A contracção do comércio e as consequências internas em termos de combate ao comércio livre estão entre as preocupações da OCDE, que afirma que um dos principais desafios da União Europeia e dos Governos dos Estados-membros é a resistência à pressão para a adopção de medidas proteccionistas.

[A queda no comércio mundial] “está a pôr pressão em muitos países para aumentarem a protecção às empresas nacionais, o que implica que os próximos anos são um desafio à implementação de políticas de comércio global”.

Nas recomendações que os peritos da organização sedeada em Paris deixam aos Governos europeus e à Comissão Europeia, encontram-se o “aprofundamento da liberalização do comércio multilateral” e o apoio ao sucesso das negociações de Doha – através de uma “redução dos subsídios internos, que distorcem a concorrência”, e da “eliminação dos subsídios à exportação”).

setembro 12, 2009

‘Apoio ao Tratado de Lisboa em queda na Irlanda‘ in EU Observer

With just a month to go until Ireland's second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, a poll has shown that 46 percent support a yes vote, down eight points since May.

Published by the Irish Times, the TNS mrbi poll shows a rise of one point in those saying they plan to vote No to 29 percent with the Don't Knows registering at 25 percent, up seven points in comparison to a pre-summer survey.

The newspaper notes that most of the people who have left the Yes side have entered the Don't Know category rather than crossed to the No camp.

The drop in support for the treaty is reminiscent of the trend in the weeks ahead of the first referendum which resulted in a No in June last year. It is set to spur the government to place more focus on a strong and coherent campaign.

However, prime minister Brian Cowen's Fianna Fail party, grappling with the devastating effects of the economic crisis, has reached an historic low in polls, garnering just 17 percent support in another poll by the Irish Times.

The survey indicates that 85 percent are dissatisfied with the government's performance while 11 percent approve it.

Dan Boyle, chairman of the Green Party, the junior governing party, said that it will be a "challenge" for the government to survive until January, with general elections only due in 2012.

For his part, Mr Cowen has met with the main opposition parties to work out how to make the most effective Yes campaign ahead of the 2 October poll.

He has also tried to persuade to voters to rise above their feelings for the government and concentrate on the issue at hand in the referendum.

"I don't believe this is about the future of this government or the future of personalities, it's about the future of the country. This is not politics as usual. It goes beyond any issues of party, organisation or locality. It is about our country's future," said the prime minister on Wednesday (2 September).

Economic crisis

However, Irish citizens have been shocked by the gravity of the economic crisis and the austerity measures proposed by the government to tackle it. In addition, much of the discussion in recent days has concerned the government's controversial plans to set up a 'bad bank', or National Asset Management Agency, to swallow toxic assets but the plan is viewed with scepticism by the public.

The Irish vote is hugely anticipated in Brussels, where there is widespread hope that the Lisbon Treaty will be passed and a backlog of decisions and discussions can then take place in light of the result.

Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland must also complete ratification of the Treaty, which introduces a powerful EU foreign policy chief, a president of the European Council and gives greater powers to the European Parliament.
JPTF 7/09/2009

agosto 10, 2009

‘O jogo duplo da Turquia na segurança energética da UE‘ in EUObserver

Turkey has agreed to grant access to Russia's South Stream gas pipeline through its part of the Black Sea, in a move which could hurt the prospects of an EU-backed project to reduce Russian energy dependency.

The Turkish deal is a major breakthrough for the Russian pipeline, which has to cross the maritime economic areas of either Turkey or Ukraine, but with Ukraine very unlikely to give consent.

At a signing ceremony in Ankara on Thursday (6 August), Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, insisted that South Stream is not a rival to the EU-backed Nabucco pipeline project.

"Even with the construction of South Stream, Nabucco will not be closed," Mr Putin said at a news conference. "The more infrastructure projects, the better, because that will create reliability and stability of energy supply to Europe."

The European Commission also officially rejects the idea the two projects are in competition.

"We consider [South Stream] a complementary initiative to our ongoing Nabucco efforts," commission spokesman Martin Selmayr said at a press briefing in Brussels.

South Stream is designed to bring more Russian gas under the Black Sea to Bulgaria and Italy. Nabucco is to bring gas from Caspian Sea area countries to Europe via Turkey, bypassing Russia.

Experts warn that if South Stream is built the EU will be forced to buy Caspian gas at a much higher price, however.

"I argue that if South Stream is built, Nabucco will not be, at least not for Caspian gas," Zeyno Baran, a Turkish-American energy expert with the Washington-based Hudson Institute, told Euobserver.

"If South Stream is built, all that Caspian gas is going to pour into it. Nabucco is important not only for diversifying Europe's needs, but it's also freeing the Central Asian countries and the Caucasian countries from the hold of Russia. Now with this, Turkey sent a signal, whether it to wanted or not, that it doesn't really care about those countries, it just cares about becoming a gas hub."

Turkey just last month signed a legal framework agreement for Nabucco, raising hopes of the country's strategic backing of EU energy security interests.

"Europeans need to really understand what's going on in Turkey, how close it has gotten to Russia as opposed to Europe and the US," Ms Baran said.

In terms of geopolitical impact, South Stream would reduce the importance of Ukraine's transit pipeline network, which currently ships 80 percent of Russian gas to the EU.

The new situation would make it easier for Moscow to exert political pressure on Kiev by raising the price of its gas exports to Ukraine without the fear of a potential knock-on effect on its EU customers.

If South Stream is built before Nabucco, it could also see Azerbaijan sell its extra gas into the Russian pipeline, damaging prospects for Georgia's independence.

Georgia currently buys all its gas from Azerbaijan, with the country being forced to go back to Russian suppliers if its Azeri channels were blocked.

In a parallel development highlighting Russia's attitude to the energy sector, Mr Putin on Thursday also signed an executive order definitively rejecting the country's participation in the Energy Charter Treaty.

The 1991 multilateral agreement is designed to help EU companies invest in Russian energy firms and to grant access to Russia's vast pipeline system, effectively breaking its monopoly on Caspian zone exports.

JPTF 2009/08/10