Facebook Slider
Get News Alerts!
Monday, 31 July 2006 02:13

World Media Watch for July 31, 2006

  • font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size
  • Print
  • Email

WORLD MEDIA WATCH

1//The Turkish Daily News, Turkey--IRAQI PARTIES DISCUSS THEIR FUTURE AT ISTANBUL MEETING (Representatives from the main political parties in Iraq gathered in Istanbul for a three day U.N.-sponsored meeting that ended on Friday. The meeting, served as a platform for them to discuss their views on reforms the country needs. The 36 representatives, drawn from Sunni, Shiite, Kurdish and Turkmen groups, addressed issues such as the functioning of public services, transparency of government action and the organization of the armed forces, during the meeting hosted by the Turkish government. In their conclusions, presented to reporters by the former president of the country's constitutional commission, Sheikh Humam Hammudi, they underlined the importance of the separation of powers within the state, civilian control of the armed forces and the disarming of militias. … As for the host country's part, Ambassador O?uz Çelikkol, Turkey's special envoy to Iraq, expressed Turkey's readiness for hosting such other meetings concerning Iraq in collaboration with the United Nations.)

2//The Daily Star, Lebanon--IRAQI OIL MINISTER UPBEAT ABOUT FOREIGN OIL COMPANIES’ WILLINGNESS TO HELP (International oil companies have shown "serious willingness" to help develop Iraq's oil industry, the country's oil minister said Sunday after a trip to the United States. Speaking before Parliament to discuss the United Nations plan for an "International Compact" to develop the Iraqi economy, Hussein Shahristani said that he met with several international oil companies, though the country's new investment legislation would not allow them to invest in upstream activities. … Shahristani also described a pair of laws that were now before Parliament to boost the sector, including the long-awaited Iraqi investment law. "This law will allow the domestic and international private sector to invest in all fields of oil production, except for exploration and drilling for crude oil," he said. "These areas are reserved for the Iraqi state," Shahristani said. … Shahristani said that moves were under way to expand the countries from which Iraq imports finished products, particularly from the "east" - suggesting Iran - following the disruption of imports from Turkey and the Mediterranean. A second law before Parliament will allow the private sector to import finished products and operate gas stations. Currently the government produces 10 million liters a day and imports another 7 million liters, well short of an estimated daily demand of 22 million liters.)

3//The Daily Times, Pakistan--PAKISTAN SAYS NUCLEAR SITE ‘SAFE IN OUR HANDS’ (Foreign Minister Khurshid Ahmad Kasuri said on Friday that a powerful new nuclear reactor under construction was “safe in our hands” and would not spark an arms race with rival India. It’s nothing new, the world knows about it, the world knows that it’s safe in our hands,” Kasuri told AFP in an interview late Friday at a meeting of Asia’s top security forum in Kuala Lumpur. “It’s five years old, it’s nearing completion now, I don’t know the timing,” he added. The United States has urged Islamabad not to use the reactor at the Khushab nuclear complex to bolster it’s atomic weapons capability. … Pakistan remains at the heart of an investigation into a nuclear black-market headed by its disgraced chief nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, who confessed in 2004 to passing atomic secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea. Kasuri, speaking at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] Regional Forum, did not specify whether or not the new nuclear plant would be used to produce nuclear weapons. … Asked why the giant reactor was needed if Pakistan and India were trying to make peace, he said: “The [nuclear] programme started with India so one might ask them first.”)

4//The Scotsman on Sunday, UK--PUTIN PICKS ALL THE KREMLIN’S MEN (They are now all the president's men. Having gained control of parliament, government, regional governors, the media, the judiciary, and oil and gas, Russian leader Vladimir Putin last week sealed his grip on power with an Orwellian twist: the support of the opposition. The two opposition parties last week declared they would form an alliance to fight United Russia, Putin's party, while at the same time backing, on a personal level, whoever takes over from the president in 2008. Even in the bizarre world of Russian politics it was a strange move, but it has at least served to sharpen debate on the growing question in the corridors of the Kremlin, that of Putin's successor. Such is his control of the country, and in particular the media, that whoever Putin anoints is a shoo-in for election in 2008. The bad news for the West is that there are no friendly candidates.)

5//The Moscow Times, Russia--NEW LAW REDEFINES EXTREMIST ACTIVITY (President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed of on controversial changes to the law on extremist activity that critics say could be used to silence opposition politicians and the press. The revised law expands the definition of extremist activity to include public slander of a government official related to his duties, using or threatening violence against a government official or his family, and publicly justifying or excusing terrorism. Supporters of the revised law argue that it will allow the state to combat racist and nationalist groups more effectively. Russia has seen a rise in hate crimes and xenophobia in recent years. But critics of the legislation, which sailed through both houses of parliament this month, say it could be used to stifle opposition political parties during the election cycle that begins next year. A related bill, passed by the State Duma in a first reading July 8, bars parties from contesting an election if one or more of their members are convicted of extremism. … "It's obviously a crackdown," said Dmitry Oreshkin, head of the Mercator think tank. Oreshkin said it was no coincidence that the Duma was considering Kremlin-sponsored changes to the country's election laws immediately after broadening the definition of extremism. While this new one-two punch provides Putin with a powerful new weapon against possible rivals, Oreshkin said the president would not rush to use it. "The new laws will be triggered as necessary," Oreshkin said. "It's a gentle form of coercion designed to restrict the rights of dangerous political opponents.")

* * *

1//The Turkish Daily News, Turkey Sunday, July 30,2006

IRAQI PARTIES DISCUSS THEIR FUTURE AT ISTANBUL MEETING
TDN with AFP

Ankara: Representatives from the main political parties in Iraq gathered in Istanbul for a three day U.N.-sponsored meeting that ended on Friday. The meeting, served as a platform for them to discuss their views on reforms the country needs.

The 36 representatives, drawn from Sunni, Shiite, Kurdish and Turkmen groups, addressed issues such as the functioning of public services, transparency of government action and the organization of the armed forces, during the meeting hosted by the Turkish government.

In their conclusions, presented to reporters by the former president of the country's constitutional commission, Sheikh Humam Hammudi, they underlined the importance of the separation of powers within the state, civilian control of the armed forces and the disarming of militias.

Most participants welcomed the chance to exchange views.

“It's a chance for discussion between the Iraqi parties and experts on critical issues with a lot of differences of views,” said Ayad Samarrai, a spokesman for the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), -- the major Sunni political organization in the country.

(SNIP)

“The spirit of the discussions was very healthy, the people have been trying to find solutions beyond political lines,” said Fink Haysom of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

“We hope they will be able to take the tone and the content of the discussions to Baghdad,” he said, while also thanking the Turkish government for hosting such a conference.

As for the host country's part, Ambassador O?uz Çelikkol, Turkey's special envoy to Iraq, expressed Turkey's readiness for hosting such other meetings concerning Iraq in collaboration with the United Nations.

(MORE)

2//The Daily Star, Lebanon Monday, July 31, 2006

IRAQI OIL MINISTER UPBEAT ABOUT FOREIGN OIL COMPANIES’ WILLINGNESS TO HELP
By Agence France Presse (AFP)

BAGHDAD: International oil companies have shown "serious willingness" to help develop Iraq's oil industry, the country's oil minister said Sunday after a trip to the United States.

Speaking before Parliament to discuss the United Nations plan for an "International Compact" to develop the Iraqi economy, Hussein Shahristani said that he met with several international oil companies, though the country's new investment legislation would not allow them to invest in upstream activities.

"Most of the companies have shown a serious willingness to help and to work with Iraqi oil companies and on their own" to develop the industry, he said.

"We are hoping the International Compact will give a chance to many more companies to come and cooperate with us to develop Iraq's oil fields."

Shahristani also described a pair of laws that were now before Parliament to boost the sector, including the long-awaited Iraqi investment law.

"This law will allow the domestic and international private sector to invest in all fields of oil production, except for exploration and drilling for crude oil," he said. "These areas are reserved for the Iraqi state," Shahristani said.

He added that the private sector could be involved in downstream activities such as refineries and distribution of refined products, as well as petrochemicals.

Under the previous regime of Saddam Hussein, Iraq's massive oil reserves - among the largest in the world - were off limits to foreign investors.

(SNIP)

Shahristani said that moves were under way to expand the countries from which Iraq imports finished products, particularly from the "east" - suggesting Iran - following the disruption of imports from Turkey and the Mediterranean.

A second law before Parliament will allow the private sector to import finished products and operate gas stations.

Currently the government produces 10 million liters a day and imports another 7 million liters, well short of an estimated daily demand of 22 million liters.

3//The Daily Times, Pakistan Sunday, July 30, 2006

PAKISTAN SAYS NUCLEAR SITE ‘SAFE IN OUR HANDS’

KUALA LUMPUR: Foreign Minister Khurshid Ahmad Kasuri said on Friday that a powerful new nuclear reactor under construction was “safe in our hands” and would not spark an arms race with rival India.

“It’s nothing new, the world knows about it, the world knows that it’s safe in our hands,” Kasuri told AFP in an interview late Friday at a meeting of Asia’s top security forum in Kuala Lumpur. “It’s five years old, it’s nearing completion now, I don’t know the timing,” he added. The United States has urged Islamabad not to use the reactor at the Khushab nuclear complex to bolster it’s atomic weapons capability.

International observers reacted with alarm after the Washington Post on Monday reported the reactor’s existence, citing the US-based International Institute for Science and International Security.

The group that said satellite photographs showed the heavy water reactor could produce more than 200 kilogrammes of weapons-grade plutonium a year – enough to make 40-50 nuclear weapons every year.

Pakistan remains at the heart of an investigation into a nuclear black-market headed by its disgraced chief nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, who confessed in 2004 to passing atomic secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

Kasuri, speaking at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, did not specify whether or not the new nuclear plant would be used to produce nuclear weapons.

However, he insisted that Pakistan had legislation in place to cover its use and that it abided by international regulations. “We passed comprehensive export-control legislation, we are adopting the best practices, this is in consonance with the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group guidelines,” he said.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said this week that the United States was aware of the plans, while another US official said Washington had been tracking it for “several years”.

Kasuri dismissed suggestions that new atomic plant could spark a fresh arms race with India, saying: “It’s nothing new, it’s five years old, if it had caused an arms race that was five years ago, not today.”

Asked why the giant reactor was needed if Pakistan and India were trying to make peace, he said: “The (nuclear) programme started with India so one might ask them first.”

(MORE)

4//The Scotsman on Sunday, UK Sun 30 Jul 2006

PUTIN PICKS ALL THE KREMLIN’S MEN
Chris Stephen in Moscow

They are now all the president's men. Having gained control of parliament, government, regional governors, the media, the judiciary, and oil and gas, Russian leader Vladimir Putin last week sealed his grip on power with an Orwellian twist: the support of the opposition.

The two opposition parties last week declared they would form an alliance to fight United Russia, Putin's party, while at the same time backing, on a personal level, whoever takes over from the president in 2008.

Even in the bizarre world of Russian politics it was a strange move, but it has at least served to sharpen debate on the growing question in the corridors of the Kremlin, that of Putin's successor.

Such is his control of the country, and in particular the media, that whoever Putin anoints is a shoo-in for election in 2008. The bad news for the West is that there are no friendly candidates.

In one corner is defence minister Sergei Ivanov, responsible for the Chechnya anti-terrorist campaign, which this week saw another judgment for human rights abuses issued by the European Court.

In the other is Dmitri Medvedev, currently chairman of Gazprom, which last January turned off the taps to Ukraine and caused a shudder to spread across Europe.

The rule of either man is likely to widen the chasm between Russia and the West on issues ranging from democracy to human rights to gas supplies and the Middle East.

Putin has no choice but to stand down. Under the terms of the constitution, he cannot stand for a third term in office. He himself has ruled out changing the constitution, but joked that he might run for office again "for 2012 and 2016".

Most think he wants to appoint an ultra-loyalist to "mind the shop" until he can return for a further eight years. At 50 he is young enough to contemplate such a course.

In the meantime, in the enigmatic style he has honed to a fine art in the past seven years, he has been careful to name not one likely successor but two - appointing both Ivanov and Medvedev as deputy prime ministers, seen as a vital stepping stone to power.

The problem for Russia, and for the West, is that party politics have ceased to exist in Russia. Instead, power is in the hands of a small number of barons, most of them former army or KGB men who are nicknamed the Siloviki, or strong men. Whichever baron gets handed the mantle of power will provoke the enmity of all the others.

When Putin came to power six years ago, he straddled two groups - the Siloviki, who wanted a strong nation on one side, and the economic liberals on the other. This second group has now crumbled following the dramatic resignation of its champion, Kremlin economics adviser Andrei Illarionov earlier this year. He quit in disgust at Putin's re-nationalisation of key industries, and publicly complained that "Russia is no longer a democratic country".

Certainly, democracy as practised in the West is impossible in Russia, where the TV news and most newspapers are slavishly loyal to the Kremlin. The nightly newscasts feature glowing portrayals of the president, whether on state visits or admonishing ministers for the various failures of an ever more top-heavy governing system.

In parliament, the decision of the opposition alliance - composed of the nationalist Rodina Party and the communist Party of Life - to support Putin looks bizarre, given that the ruling party, United Russia, is slavishly loyal to Putin anyway.

Other opponents have meanwhile been silenced by the law.

When oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky announced he was to run against Putin in 2003, he was jailed for eight years in Siberia in a trial described as a farce.

When former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov announced the same thing last year, he was slammed with charges of having stolen a state-owned summer house, the so-called Dachagate. Unsurprisingly, there are few new names ready to contest the 2008 election.

Yet opposition still springs up. Former world chess champion Gary Kasparov has jumped into the yawning political vacuum, holding an "alternative summit" earlier this month to denounce Putin's politics.

(SNIP)

With more and more decisions now resting on Putin personally, the wheels have begun to fall off the government machine. "The Russian government internally is not all that well co-ordinated," moaned one western diplomat. "It's a genuine problem."

Just how genuine was embarrassingly spelt out two weeks ago when finance minister Alexei Kudrin announced that America would shortly allow Russia into the World Trade Organisation. Two days later the US announced the opposite, leaving egg on the face of finance officials and questions about how such highly placed men could be misled.

Meanwhile, Putin's Russia has inequalities not seen since the days before the fall of the Tsar. While the rich, bloated on high oil prices, live it up with the most outrageous excesses in Moscow - top prostitutes now charge up to £600 a night - most of the rest of the country goes without.
Pensioners struggle on £30 a month, hospitals crumble and the once-proud education system is a shambles. The children of the poor are drafted into the never-ending war in Chechnya while those of the rich buy exemptions and are then sent to expensive universities in the West.

With the Kremlin united, these strains can be contained. But as the battle for succession looms, it is becoming ever more fragmented, and Putin is finding it ever harder to keep everyone happy.

5//The Moscow Times, Russia Monday, July 31, 2006. Issue 3464. Page 1.


NEW LAW REDEFINES EXTREMIST ACTIVITY
By Anastasiya Lebedev, Staff Writer

President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed of on controversial changes to the law on extremist activity that critics say could be used to silence opposition politicians and the press.

The revised law expands the definition of extremist activity to include public slander of a government official related to his duties, using or threatening violence against a government official or his family, and publicly justifying or excusing terrorism.

Supporters of the revised law argue that it will allow the state to combat racist and nationalist groups more effectively. Russia has seen a rise in hate crimes and xenophobia in recent years.

But critics of the legislation, which sailed through both houses of parliament this month, say it could be used to stifle opposition political parties during the election cycle that begins next year. A related bill, passed by the State Duma in a first reading July 8, bars parties from contesting an election if one or more of their members are convicted of extremism.

The revised law aroused fierce criticism both here and abroad. Opposition politicians, human rights activists and even Central Election Commission chief Alexander Veshnyakov all criticized the expanded definition of extremism contained in the law. Leaders of the Group of Eight nations urged Putin not to sign the law during the recent summit in St. Petersburg, Ekho Moskvy reported.

Leonid Gozman, deputy chairman of the Union of Right Forces, said Putin's decision to ignore the criticism and approve the amendments was part of a "dangerous trend."

"Almost any sort of political activity could be construed to fit the expanded definition of extremism, as was the case with 'Trotskyism' and 'anti-Soviet activity' in the Soviet era," Gozman said.

Gozman said his party believed the revised law was intended to tighten the Kremlin's control over the political process, not to combat extremist activity.

"It's obviously a crackdown," said Dmitry Oreshkin, head of the Mercator think tank. Oreshkin said it was no coincidence that the Duma was considering Kremlin-sponsored changes to the country's election laws immediately after broadening the definition of extremism. While this new one-two punch provides Putin with a powerful new weapon against possible rivals, Oreshkin said the president would not rush to use it.

"The new laws will be triggered as necessary," Oreshkin said. "It's a gentle form of coercion designed to restrict the rights of dangerous political opponents."

If the new laws were interpreted to allow for extremism by association, former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov — who has already declared his intention to run for president in 2008 — might be implicated, Oreshkin said. Earlier this month, Kasyanov took part in "The Other Russia" conference along with National Bolshevik Party leader Eduard Limonov and Viktor Anpilov, head of the Working Russia party, both of whom could well fall under the new definition of extremism, he said.

The new law also criminalizes incitement to extremist activity and public statements that legitimize or excuse such activity, whether these are made in person, in print or on audiotape or videotape. If these materials are "intended for public use," the people who produce them can be found guilty of extremist activity. This provision in the law could have a chilling effect on the independent media as they gear up for the 2007 and 2008 election season. If a prominent politician or party were convicted of extremism, the media would have to walk an extremely fine line in their coverage.

(MORE)

Copyright 2006, Gloria R. Lalumia

WORLD MEDIA WATCH