Press TV – January 31, 2010
Police guard protesters outside the Iraq Inquiry on January 29, 2010, as former premier Tony Blair gives his evidence.
Two days after former British premier Tony Blair gave his evidence before the country’s independent inquiry into the Iraq war, a former cabinet minister has described his testimony as “ludicrous.”
Clare Short told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that it was fallacious to suggest that al-Qaeda would team up with “rogue states,” after the September 11 attacks.
Short, who quit the cabinet soon after the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, defended Prime Minister Gordon Brown, saying he had been “marginalized” when the decision to go to war was made.
Brown was chancellor of the exchequer when Blair ordered the country’s troops to join the US-led invasion.
The incursion was based on a now notorious dossier claiming the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Short said Brown’s political priorities laid elsewhere at the time and that he neither opposed nor supported the invasion but was “preoccupied” by other concerns.
During his six-hour testimony, an unrepentant Blair said he still believed he had made the right decision and would do so again, if it meant deposing Saddam, whom he described as a “monster.”
He said he believed the executed dictator “threatened not just the region but the world,” and that the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, had “dramatically” changed British and US position towards that threat.
Notably, Blair steered away from Iraq towards new alleged threats, including Iran.
He argued that the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, which Tehran has repeatedly affirmed is for peaceful purposes such as electricity generation, was dangerous.
Blair urged world leaders to take on a tough stance towards Iran.
On January 12, a Dutch inquiry into Netherland’s support of the 2003 invasion said the US and Britain had rushed to war without sufficient legal backing under international law.
The commission’s 551-page report said UN resolutions prior to the outbreak of the war did not provide a legitimate mandate for the attack.
By Eddie Barnes |The Scotsman | 31 January 2010
TONY Blair should be tried in a Scottish court for his decision to take the country to war in Iraq, according to a group of SNP MSPs.
The Crown Office, which leads prosecutions, is examining their arguments following the former prime minister’s appearance at the Chilcot Inquiry last week, in which he expressed “no regrets” over deposing Saddam Hussein.
A parliamentary motion calling for Blair to be prosecuted has been laid down at Holyrood and has been signed by eight MSPs. It cites the verdict of a Dutch commission of judges earlier this month, which concluded that the United Nations resolution used to go to war in 2003 was insufficient to justify military action.
The Nationalists claim that, as Scots law complies with international law, Scottish prosecutors have the power to investigate the findings. They say that if the Crown Office then finds that evidence compelling, they should prosecute Blair.
The call is being led by MSP Bill Wilson, but an SNP spokeswoman confirmed last night that it “reflects the views many still hold” about the decision to take military action.
But Labour claimed their opponents were guilty of trying to make “infantile political capital” out of the Iraq issue, saying they should focus their attention on jobs and the economy.
In his letter to the Lord Advocate, Wilson declares: “It would seem you have the power to investigate the conclusions of the Dutch commission and, should you find the evidence against them compelling, prosecute the former UK prime minister. I urge you to do so.”
The Dutch commission, which studied the country’s own political backing for war in Iraq, concluded that UN Resolution 1441 fell short of supporting full military action.
That resolution, passed in November 2002, warned Iraq of “serious consequences” if it continued to obstruct UN weapons inspectors, offering it one final opportunity to comply.
Britain’s own top legal adviser, the Advocate General, Lord Goldsmith, eventually decided that 1441 was enough to justify war, although it emerged last week that he had initially had his doubts.
Wilson is citing Scots law, which declares that a rule of “customary international law” is followed automatically in this jurisdiction.
He said: “Those responsible for misleading the public and initiating such bloodshed should be brought to book. I look forward to seeing the detention and trial of Tony Blair, and I urge the Lord Advocate to look into the matter.”
He believes Scottish courts, and not the International Criminal Court at the Hague, should conduct an investigation.
His demand is being backed by fellow SNP MSPs Jamie Hepburn, Bill Kidd, Aileen Campbell, Christine Grahame, Dr Ian McKee, Gil Paterson and Sandra White.
The move is the second time the SNP has tried to bring Blair to book over the war. First Minister Alex Salmond attempted to have him impeached as part of a move that would have seen the former prime minister effectively tried by parliament.
He argued that Blair had lied to the country about the case for war in Iraq, specifically on the weapons of mass destruction, which allied forces failed to find after the invasion.
A spokesman declined to reply on whether Salmond backed the latest legal bid.
He said: “Mr Salmond strongly supports the Chilcot Inquiry, although it would have benefited from having more legal expertise among the questioners on the panel.”
He added: “Nonetheless, the next stage in that process will be to examine the inquiry’s conclusions.”
A portion of a cooling tower at the Vermont Yankee reactor collapsed Wednesday, August 22, 2007. A broken 52” pipe was photographed spewing water into the ground, in the latest embarrassment for Yankee owner Entergy Corporation, the nation’s second-largest nuclear utility. - © 2010 Boston Globe
Search continues for radioactive Vermont Yankee leak
By Terri Hallenbeck, Free Press Staff Writer • Saturday, January 23, 2010
MONTPELIER — Crews will start drilling more monitoring wells today at Vermont Yankee as the Vernon nuclear power plant’s owners continue the search for the source of a leak of the radioactive isotope tritium.
The tritium leak was revealed three weeks ago after heightened radioactive levels were found in a monitoring well outside the plant. Tests continued this week to show a range of tritium — from 14,000 to 28,100 picocuries per liter, Vermont Yankee spokesman Rob Williams said. The most recent tests were at 20,900, he said.
The Environmental Protection Agency safety standard for tritium in drinking water is 20,000 picocuries per liter.
More heightened levels — as high as 2 million picocuries — have since been found in a concrete trench on the plant’s campus. No heightened levels of radioactive substances have been found in nearby drinking wells that are monitored.
Other radioactive isotopes — cobalt-60 and zinc-65 — have also been found in the trench, which is a locked and confined building where radioactive waste is stored and treated. Williams said Friday that those were found in the Jan. 13 sampling along with tritium.
Neil Sheehan, Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman, said 13,000 picocuries per liter of cobalt-60 and 2,460 picocuries of zinc-45 were found in the standing water in the trench. Those are well above federal drinking-water limits of 100 picocuries for cobalt-60 and 300 picocuries for zinc-65. Officials cautioned that the substances aren’t in the drinking water but are in an enclosed part of the nuclear power plant.
Williams said it’s not a surprise to find those other isotopes, nor does the discovery likely help in the search for the source of the leak.
“That’s the kind of material you’d expect to find in the basement of a building that processes nuclear waste,” Williams said. “What we’re looking for is the source of the tritium.”
The leak — and the fact that Vermont Yankee owner Entergy Corp. had told state officials that pipes that might play a role in the leak didn’t exist — have raised concerns about the plant as its owner seeks permission to continue operation for another 20 years after its license expires in 2012. Friday, Vermont’s three-member congressional delegation wrote a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission calling for an immediate investigation.
“This investigation should not only determine whether there was an attempt by Entergy Vermont Yankee to mislead state officials regarding the plant’s safety and underground piping, but also provide a complete and accurate assessment of the full scope of the contamination at and near the plant as soon as possible,” the delegation said.
Meanwhile, Vermont Yankee has constructed a barrier to seal a connection between the trench and an evaporator tank that could be contributing to the accumulation of tritium-contaminated water in the trench, according to the state Health Department, which started posting online updates on the situation Thursday. The seal appears to have stopped condensation of tritium-contaminated water vapor on the corrugated roof over the concrete trench, according to the Health Department.
Engineers are studying the trench’s structural integrity to see if it is contributing to the leak, according to the Health Department.
Also Friday, the NRC extended Entergy’s deadline for spinning off Vermont Yankee and other Northeast nuclear power plants into a new company. Because Entergy has not won approval from Vermont or New York regulators for the move, the deadline has been extended from Jan. 28 to Aug. 1.
By Emad Drimly, Saud Abu Ramadan
GAZA, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) — Hamas officials as well as observers expected on Saturday that the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior Islamic Hamas movement commander in Dubai on Jan. 20, ” would sooner or later move the battle between Hamas and Israel outside the Palestinian territories.”
They said the ambiguous assassination of al-Mabhouh might be “a new turn” in the military confrontation between Hamas and Israel, that could develop to mutual avenge attacks in some Arab and foreign countries. Hamas has directly accused the Israeli Mosad ( foreign intelligence) for being behind his death.
Observers close to Hamas said that the movement hasn’t yet expressed full commitment to a declared ceasefire with Israel after last winter’s “Cast Lead” Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip, adding that al-Mabhouh’s murder in Dubai “would oblige Hamas to respond to his killing.”
Mustafa al-Sawaf, a Gaza-based political analyst, specialized in Hamas affairs expected that “Hamas response to the killing of al-Mabhouh, who has a high-ranking position in Hamas armed wing, would be equal to an assassination of a senior Israeli leader.”
“Although Hamas response to the killing of al-Mabhouh would be linked to certain political and military considerations in the field, but I still believe that the movement would keep the demand of revenge in order to re-account itself among its supporters,” said al-Sawaf.
He added that the assassination’s circumstances and the place where it occurred “would be a justification to open a new field of confrontation and adopt a new strategy of attacking Israeli targets abroad, which will be contrary to its strategy that focuses on fighting Israel in the Palestinian territories.”
Al-Sawaf explained that this shows Israel is able to infiltrate the security of the Arab countries by targeting Hamas leaders who live abroad. “Israel sends a message to Hamas that it can carry out more assassinations abroad against Hamas prisoners who will be released after the prisoners swap is finalized.”
Hamas has deliberately calmed down the confrontation with Israel by stopping homemade rocket attacks from Gaza at southern Israel after the end of January 2009 Israeli war on Gaza, which has left more than 1,440 people killed and 5,000 wounded.
Hamas officials said that al-Mabhouh, who was killed by an electric shock in Dubai, is one of the founders of Izzedien al- Qassam Brigades, Hamas armed wing in the Gaza Strip in 1988. Since then, al-Mabhouh has been living in Syria.
When he arrived in Dubai, a day before he was killed, he was holding a fake Syrian passport. Leaders in Hamas said that he was in charge of arming Hamas movement abroad over the past several years.
Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal’s calls for immediate revenge hours after al-Mabhouh was killed shows the importance of the man, where Hamas strongman in Gaza Mahmoud al-Zahar had on Saturday warned Israel of conveying the battle outside the Palestinian territories.
“We have maintained that the confrontation between us and the Israeli enemy be in the occupied land,” said Zahar. “Israel wants to change the rules of the game and to open the international field for battles so it will be responsible for this,” Zahar told reporters during a visit to a Jordanian-run hospital in Gaza.
He also said that “Hamas can reach its targets in any place.” However, he emphasized that Hamas “is keeping the game inside the occupied Palestinian land,” where he called on Arab states that have ties with Israel “to assess and rearrange these relations over the crimes that Israel commits.”
Meanwhile, Abu Obeida, spokesman of al-Qassam Brigades said that “when Hamas threatens to revenge, it means what it says,” adding that “the movement will revenge for the blood of the leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. The Zionist enemy will never escape from the punishment.”
The spokesman declined to say when and where the response will be, but said “the gun-battle with the occupation is opened and complicated. The resistance will find the proper time and place for the response,” adding “This response will not contradict with the current political strategy of the movement.”
However, Naji Shurab, the political science teacher at the Gaza- based al-Azhar University ruled out that Hamas would immediately respond to the killing of al-Mabhouh, adding “any Hamas response would be tied to delicate political and regional considerations.”
“The killing of al-Mabhouh was an Israeli message to Hamas to pressure on the movement to drag it to the circle of escalation to justify another large-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip,” said Shurab.
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Abdul-Fattah Abed Rabbo has lived in a cave adjacent to his agricultural land for the last ten years, in the village of Walaja, west of Bethlehem, to protect his land from being annexed by nearby Israeli settlements.
The Popular Committee for Resisting Settlements and the Separation Wall visited Abed Rabbo in his cave to offer their support to him and all Palestinians faced with land confiscation.
Coordinator for the committee, Awad Abu Swayy, described Abed Rabbo as an example to be followed, pointing out that he refused significant financial offers made by Israeli settlement agencies wanting to buy his land.
Abu Swayy said that the popular committee would try to erect a sit-in tent near the cave to host international solidarity activists and a tin roofed gallery which will be connected to the nearest water network.
The committee will also organize regular visits by international activists and Palestinian Authority officials, Abu Swayy said.
In December, coordinator of the popular committee in Nablus, Arafat Abu Ras, visited Abed Rabbo along with international human rights activists and journalists.
AFP | 1/31/2010
MADRID: Spain’s top investigating judge Baltasar Garzon is to probe suspected torture and ill-treatment of inmates at the US prison of Guantanamo Bay, the daily El Pais reported yesterday.
The paper gave no sources and the report could not be immediately confirmed officially.
It said Garzon would be acting on complaints lodged by a number of associations, focussing on one prisoner, Ahmed Abderraman Hamed, who has Spanish nationality. Three other detainees, Moroccan Lahcen Ikasrrien, Palestinian Jamiel Abdulatif al-Banna and Libyan Omar Deghayes would also be concerned as they had links with Spain, El Pais said. In 2005, Spain declared itself competent to investigate any crime committed abroad, but after diplomatic problems the scope of the inquiries was reduced in 2009.
Spanish courts can now deal only with cases that have a clear link with Spain, or cases that are not being investigated in countries where the offences are alleged to have been committed.
El Pais said Washington had not replied to a request made seven months ago from Madrid as to whether it was investigating the allegations now being taken up by Garzon.
The Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister Riyad al Malky said in Madrid last week that Spain had agreed to accept a Palestinian Guantanamo Bay detainee. The unnamed man will be transferred to Spain in early February along with another man whose nationality has not been confirmed.
Press TV - January 31, 2010
Iran and Iraq have signed one hundred memorandums of understanding since 2003 to boost their economic cooperation, an Iranian official says.
The plenipotentiary envoy of the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran (TPOI) to Iraq noted that the high number of agreements reflects the two countries’ determination to enhance the level of their economic ties.
“Iran has exported $15 billion of goods to Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein,” Mehr news agency quoted Kheirollah Khadem as saying.
Khadem noted that Iran has formed a committee under the supervision of the Iranian President’s Office to review and implement initiatives to enhance the level of economic ties between the two neighboring countries.
He added that Iran also plans to further activate the Arvandroud Special Economic Zone near the border with Iraq to facilitate trade between the two countries.
Al Jazeera | January 31, 2010
The Yemeni government has turned down a truce offer from the country’s Houthi fighters.
A government official said on Sunday that the ceasefire deal should have included a pledge by the group not to attack neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
The offer, made by Abdel-Malik al-Houthi, the Houthis’ leader, on Saturday, was also rejected because he demanded that the government end its military operations first, the official said.
“The government rejects al-Houthi’s initiative to accept the five points of the government terms for peace, because it does not include a sixth point, which demands a pledge from the Houthis not to attack Saudi territory,” the Yemeni official said.
Yemen laid down ceasefire terms in August that included removing checkpoints, ending banditry, handing over all military equipment and weapons, and releasing civilians and military personnel.
Government officials said Houthi leaders twice rejected the terms, while al-Houthi said Saturday that his fighters had twice declared they wanted to end the conflict.
The failure of the two sides to reach a deal coincided with renewal of fighting.
Clashes overnight between Yemeni government forces and the Houthis left 24 fighters dead, military officers said on Sunday
The fighting broke out on three fronts near Saada, 240km north of the capital Sanaa, and government jets were carrying out raids in the area, officials said.
The Yemeni defence ministry news website said a Houthi leader, identified as Qaed Abu Malik, was killed along with 20 other comrades in the Safia area of Saada.
The website also claimed that three other fighters were killed while they tried to sneak into farms near al-Aqab, also in Saada.
In an audio message released via the internet on Saturday, al-Houthi said the government must not allow the conflict to be used by “international and regional forces” as an excuse to drag Yemen into a wider war.
“It was these forces and the stupidity of the government that led them to launch attacks on its own people,” he said.
“Nevertheless, and for the fourth time, I announce our acceptance of the [the government’s] five conditions [for an end to the conflict] after the aggression stops … the ball is now in the other party’s court.”
Al-Houthi’s statement came on the heels of an announcement from his group on Monday that they would withdraw from Saudi territory they had occupied since November.
The Houthis have been engaged in sporadic fighting with government forces since 2004, in a war they say is to defend their community against discrimination and the aggression of local government representatives in the northern Saada province.
The latest stage of the conflict broke out on August 11, when the military launched Operation Scorched Earth – an all-out assault against the group.
According to international aid organisations, more than 200,000 people have been displaced by the fighting since 2004.
Bethlehem – Ma’an – President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters in London on Friday that his government was not interested in US guarantees and denied reports that Arab ministers exerted pressure on him in Washington to resume negotiations with Israel.
“The US continued to contact us and the Israelis, and they intended to give what they call ‘guarantees,’ but we said frankly that we didn’t want guarantees,” Abbas added.
Abbas said US President Barack Obama proposed a freeze to settlement construction, yet failed to convince Israel to halt settlement activity completely. Obama’s suggestion, he said, was a moratorium which is unacceptable, being only a partial standstill for 10 months, excluding Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank.
The PA, according to Abbas, gave suggestions on how to restart negotiations with Israel. The first suggestion necessitated a decisive moratorium for a given period, including East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and all Palestinian territories. Additionally, Israel must recognize the 1967 borders, he said. The second suggestion was to discuss all issues, including final status issues, which was undertaken with the former Israeli government, but nothing followed such talks, Abbas added.
Abbas also highlighted that the US suggested “proximity talks” but “we, the Palestinian side, didn’t give an official reply, which will be given in 10 days after consulting with Arab and ally countries,” he said.
Meanwhile, Abbas added, Obama gave Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu five steps to be taken in order to rebuild trust with the Palestinians. Firstly, all military incursions into the West Bank must be brought to halt, as they can no longer be justified while security measures are imposed solely by the PA. Secondly, all military checkpoints erected during the second Intifada must be dismantled, as there is neither an uprising nor security chaos, he said.
The third step includes the release of Palestinian prisoners. Abbas highlighted that Hamas is currently negotiating the release of one Israeli [occupation soldier] prisoner for potentially hundreds of Palestinian detainees, while the PA transfers all Israeli citizens illegally in the West Bank back to Israeli military officials.
Israel must allow the transfer of construction material into the Gaza Strip for reconstruction, and finally, Israel is to redefine the Palestinian areas A, B and C in order to allow Palestinians to move freely.
Press TV – January 31, 2010
The Haitian police have arrested 10 US citizens after they tried to take 33 Haitian children out of the earthquake-stricken nation.
One of the suspects, who says she is the leader of an Idaho-based charity called New Life Children’s Refuge, denied they had done anything wrong.
The suspects were detained at Malpasse, Haiti’s main border crossing with the Dominican Republic, after Haitian police conducted a routine search of their vehicle.
The Haitian authorities said the 10 US citizens had no documents to prove they had cleared the adoption of the 33 children — aged 2 months to 12 years old — through any embassy and no papers showing they were made orphans by the quake in the impoverished Caribbean country.
In addition to outright trafficking in children, Haitian officials have also expressed concern that legitimate aid groups may have flown children believed to be orphans out of the country for adoption before efforts to find their parents had been exhausted.
As a result, the Haitian government halted many types of adoptions earlier this month.