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Friday, 04 August 2006 12:52

World Media Watch for August 4, 2006

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WORLD MEDIA WATCH

1//The Independent, UK--BRITISH AMBASSADOR SAYS CIVIL WAR IN IRAQ ‘LIKELY’ (A confidential report by the outgoing British ambassador in Baghdad says civil war and the break-up of Iraq is more likely than the country developing into a stable democracy. The bleak assessment of the situation by William Patey, who left Iraq last week, is wholly at odds with more optimistic claims by George Bush and Tony Blair. The memo, leaked to the BBC, admits the most likely outcome in Iraq is "a low-intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq". The warning was disclosed as two of America's most senior generals also admitted the surge in sectarian violence in Baghdad in recent weeks raises the possibility of Iraq descending into civil war. General John Abizaid, the US commander in the Middle East, and General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said all-out civil conflict was a distinct possibility. ... Mr Patey sees the main Shia militia, the Mehdi Army loyal to the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, as a growing threat. He says: "If we are to avoid a descent into civil war and anarchy then preventing [the Mehdi Army] from developing into a state within a state, as Hizbollah has done in Lebanon, will be a priority.")

2//The Daily Star, Lebanon--CDR BOSS SAYS RECONSTRUCTION CAN START AS SOON AS WAR ENDS (The vast destruction of infrastructure and properties caused by the Israeli strikes on Lebanon will be countered by a massive building effort immediately following the cessation of hostilities, a top development official said Thursday. The initial cost of the destruction was estimated by Fadel Shalak, chairman of the Council for Development and Reconstruction [CDR], at more than $2.5 billion. ... Shalak said that funding for reconstruction would not be a problem for Lebanon because some Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have already pledged over a $1 billion toward the purpose. Shalak said Lebanese contractors will be very busy in the next three years and these projects will help revive their sector. "In addition, the CDR has billions of dollars in soft loans for this purpose," Shalak said. "We hope that reconstruction will trigger some growth in the coming years." ... experts say that Beirut's southern suburbs, home for 500,000 mostly Shiite residents, bore the brunt of the Israeli attacks, leaving most parts of this area in total ruin. "We are talking about building a new city in this area alone. But no one knows for sure how will this city look," Shalak said. One contractor wondered who would finance the rebuilding of the suburbs and whether Hizbullah's leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, would raise money for this purpose.)

3//The Toronto Star, Canada--MIDEAST TAKING A TOLL ON TORIES (A new poll suggests Tory support is sliding over voter concern that Canada has become too cozy with the United States on Middle East policy. The latest results by Decima Research, released to The Canadian Press, put the Conservatives and Liberals in a virtual tie nationally. The Tories had 32 per cent support compared with the Liberals' 31 per cent and 16 per cent for the New Democrats. But in a gesture Tory officials predict will halt the slide, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is poised to announce a greater contribution from Canada to the Mideast humanitarian crisis. Rahim Jaffer, chairman of the Conservative caucus that meets this week for a retreat in Cornwall, hinted last night at an aid announcement. ... Harper and his government have taken the line that Israel's attacks on Lebanon are a "measured" response to attacks by Hezbollah guerrillas. That stance has resulted in harsh criticism from many in Canada's Lebanese community and frontrunners in the Liberal leadership race. Jaffer said he expects to see a shift in the polls once the Tories "have a chance to clarify our position.")

4//MosNews, Russia--RUSSIA ALLOCATES MILLIONS IN FUNDS FOR DEVELOPMENT OF ISLANDS WANTED BY JAPAN (The Russian government has backed a 17 billion-rouble [$630m] plan to develop the Kuril Islands in the Pacific Ocean, BBC reported Thurday. The draft plan for 2007-2015 aims to improve the islands’ energy and transport infrastructure, including the construction of an all-weather airport. Russia has a long-standing territorial dispute with Japan over four Kuril islands, seized after World War II. Meanwhile, Russia plans to expand its restricted border zones that could be as big as in Soviet times, reports say. ... “This is an important Russian region. It is a remote region that has been ignored for a long time,” Russia’s First Vice-Premier, Dmitry Medvedev, was quoted as saying at the meeting by the NEWSru.com website. ... Gref also said that Moscow had no plans for a handover of the islands to Japan, according to Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency. In the past, Moscow had said it may surrender two of the islands seized during World War II, but Japan wants all four returned. The four southernmost islands are known as the southern Kurils in Russia, and the Northern Territories in Japan. The dispute has prevented the two sides from signing a peace treaty formally ending World War II hostilities.)

5//IRINNews.org (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), UN--MADAGASCAR: WATCHDOG CALLS FOR TRANSPARENCY AS OIL BOOM TAKES OFF (Madagascar is becoming the next staging post of Africa's energy boom as oil conglomerates descend on the poverty stricken island to contend for a share of the recent discovery, but a global watchdog cautions that the windfall could challenge the island's fledgling democracy. ... Gavin Hayman, spokesperson for the anti-corruption watchdog Global Witness, warned that oil revenue did not automatically lead to poverty alleviation. ... Hayman said some of the smaller oil companies rushing to secure concessions in Madagascar had been "soiled by corruption and bribery in Africa and Asia in the past. Government officials in Madagascar may be tempted into murky deals that may never benefit the millions of poor people." Among the global oil giants scrambling for a share of Madagascar's oil resources are US-based Exxon-Mobil and Chevron Texaco; British-based Madagascar Oil and British Petroleum; Total, a French company; Royal Dutch Shell, Stat-Oil of Norway, China's National Offshore Oil Corporation and South Korea's SK Corporation.)

* * *

1//The Independent, UK Published: 04 August 2006

BRITISH AMBASSADOR SAYS CIVIL WAR IN IRAQ ‘LIKELY’
By Patrick Cockburn in Washington

A confidential report by the outgoing British ambassador in Baghdad says civil war and the break-up of Iraq is more likely than the country developing into a stable democracy. The bleak assessment of the situation by William Patey, who left Iraq last week, is wholly at odds with more optimistic claims by George Bush and Tony Blair.

The memo, leaked to the BBC, admits the most likely outcome in Iraq is "a low-intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq". The warning was disclosed as two of America's most senior generals also admitted the surge in sectarian violence in Baghdad in recent weeks raises the possibility of Iraq descending into civil war. General John Abizaid, the US commander in the Middle East, and General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said all-out civil conflict was a distinct possibility.

"Iraq could move toward civil war" if the violence is not contained, General Abizaid told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I have seen it." US and British officials have persistently denied there is a civil war although UN figures show at least 3,000 people being killed in June.

The Foreign Office, seeking to put the most positive gloss on Mr Patey's words yesterday, could only point out that he had said the situation in Iraq "is not hopeless". The memo says: "Even the lowered expectation of President Bush for Iraq - a government that can sustain itself and is an ally in the war on terror - must remain in doubt."

This means the Iraqi government has no real power or authority despite the addition of 100,000 US-trained Iraqi troops and police over the past year. By this June, there were 264,000 Iraqi soldiers and police under arms but their increasing numbers have failed to provide more security since the civilian death toll has risen each month.

This fatally undermines the US and British policy which is based on the supposition that, as more Iraqi security forces become available, they will be able to draw down the number of troops they have in Iraq. But the US decided last week to increase the number of troops it has in Baghdad by some 5,000 soldiers because control of the capital is slipping further and further out of government hands.

(SNIP)

Mr Patey sees the main Shia militia, the Mehdi Army loyal to the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, as a growing threat. He says: "If we are to avoid a descent into civil war and anarchy then preventing [the Mehdi Army] from developing into a state within a state, as Hizbollah has done in Lebanon, will be a priority."

But the growing US and British pressure on the Mehdi Army is seen by many Shia as an attempt to rein back their community, 60 per cent of Iraqis, from taking power despite its success in elections last year.

2//The Daily Star, Lebanon Friday, August 04, 2006

CDR BOSS SAYS RECONSTRUCTION CAN START AS SOON AS WAR ENDS
Some funds are already on the way to finance recovery

By Osama Habib, Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: The vast destruction of infrastructure and properties caused by the Israeli strikes on Lebanon will be countered by a massive building effort immediately following the cessation of hostilities, a top development official said Thursday. The initial cost of the destruction was estimated by Fadel Shalak, chairman of the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR), at more than $2.5 billion.

"This war has ruined everything the previous governments built over the past few years," Shalak told The Daily Star. "But what is certain is that the rebuilding of these areas will kick off immediately once a real cease-fire is declared."

Shalak said that funding for reconstruction would not be a problem for Lebanon because some Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have already pledged over a $1 billion toward the purpose.

Shalak said Lebanese contractors will be very busy in the next three years and these projects will help revive their sector.

"In addition, the CDR has billions of dollars in soft loans for this purpose," Shalak said. "We hope that reconstruction will trigger some growth in the coming years."

Lebanese economists echoed similar views.

"Rebuilding the devastated infrastructure in Lebanon will help achieve economic growth in the medium- and long-terms and give a shot in the arm of the contracting sector," economist Marwan Iskandar said.

But Iskandar ruled out any major rebuilding this year, even if a cease-fire were declared within a few days.

"It will take several months to clear the rubble in different areas and this means that the GDP will be on the negative side," Iskandar said.

(SNIP)

But experts say that Beirut's southern suburbs, home for 500,000 mostly Shiite residents, bore the brunt of the Israeli attacks, leaving most parts of this area in total ruin.

"We are talking about building a new city in this area alone. But no one knows for sure how will this city look," Shalak said.

One contractor wondered who would finance the rebuilding of the suburbs and whether Hizbullah's leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, would raise money for this purpose.

Shalak pledged to issue a report on the total damages once a week until the crisis ends.

He said reconstruction efforts would take two years to complete if all political, financial and technical requirements were met.

(SNIP)

But Iskandar said that the government wants to see a positive political signs from all sides before commencing with the projects.

Many investors made it clear that no money would be spent in Lebanon if the country's Southern border with Israel remains tense.

3//The Toronto Star, Canada Aug. 3, 2006. 01:00 AM


MIDEAST TAKING A TOLL ON TORIES
Harper seen as too cozy with U.S.: Poll
PM likely to boost humanitarian aid

OTTAWA—A new poll suggests Tory support is sliding over voter concern that Canada has become too cozy with the United States on Middle East policy.

The latest results by Decima Research, released to The Canadian Press, put the Conservatives and Liberals in a virtual tie nationally. The Tories had 32 per cent support compared with the Liberals' 31 per cent and 16 per cent for the New Democrats.

But in a gesture Tory officials predict will halt the slide, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is poised to announce a greater contribution from Canada to the Mideast humanitarian crisis.

Rahim Jaffer, chairman of the Conservative caucus that meets this week for a retreat in Cornwall, hinted last night at an aid announcement.

"There are a lot of issues that can come up in discussions — how to deal with refugees that are currently displaced, humanitarian assistance — and there is a host of issues that we can actually deal with that Canada has a long-standing tradition of helping nations that are in need," Jaffer said.

Harper and his government have taken the line that Israel's attacks on Lebanon are a "measured" response to attacks by Hezbollah guerrillas. That stance has resulted in harsh criticism from many in Canada's Lebanese community and frontrunners in the Liberal leadership race.

Jaffer said he expects to see a shift in the polls once the Tories "have a chance to clarify our position."

The Decima poll shows the Liberals widened their Ontario lead to 42 per cent of voter support compared with 33 per cent for the Conservatives, and have pulled in front of the Tories in Quebec for the first time since last winter's campaign. The two parties had been neck-and-neck in Ontario as recently as mid-June.

"When we look at the combination of the alignment of the government with the current U.S. administration policy on the Middle East — and in particular with respect to the Lebanon-Israel conflict — it's reasonable to assume it's one of the factors that's driving Conservative support down in the near term," said Decima CEO Bruce Anderson.

(MORE)

4//MosNews, Russia Created: 03.08.2006 17:51 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 23:15 MSK

RUSSIA ALLOCATES MILLIONS IN FUNDS FOR DEVELOPMENT OF ISLANDS WANTED BY JAPAN
MosNews

The Russian government has backed a 17 billion-rouble ($630m) plan to develop the Kuril Islands in the Pacific Ocean, BBC reported Thurday. The draft plan for 2007-2015 aims to improve the islands’ energy and transport infrastructure, including the construction of an all-weather airport.

Russia has a long-standing territorial dispute with Japan over four Kuril islands, seized after World War II. Meanwhile, Russia plans to expand its restricted border zones that could be as big as in Soviet times, reports say.

The government plans to spend nearly $1,000 for every resident of the chain of 56 Pacific islands a month — more than in any other region in Russia. “This is an important Russian region. It is a remote region that has been ignored for a long time,” Russia’s First Vice-Premier, Dmitry Medvedev, was quoted as saying at the meeting by the NEWSru.com website.

Among the priorities is the construction of an all-weather airport, that Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said “must be built” in 2006. He said that currently the Kurils did not have “a reliable air link” with mainland Russia, citing several instances when bad weather forced travellers to wait for weeks for their flights.

Gref also said that Moscow had no plans for a handover of the islands to Japan, according to Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency.

In the past, Moscow had said it may surrender two of the islands seized during World War II, but Japan wants all four returned. The four southernmost islands are known as the southern Kurils in Russia, and the Northern Territories in Japan. The dispute has prevented the two sides from signing a peace treaty formally ending World War II hostilities.

The backing of the Kurils plan comes as Russia’s security service FSB plans to expand the country’s restricted border areas, according to Russia’s Kommersant newspaper.

It said that large swathes of land near the border could be closed to outsiders unless they had a special permit. Some border zones had already been expanded to as deep as 30km (19 miles), it said, and now the total area under the FSB control amounted to the size of France.
(MORE)

5//IRINNews.org (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), UN 3 August 2006


MADAGASCAR: WATCHDOG CALLS FOR TRANSPARENCY AS OIL BOOM TAKES OFF

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

JOHANNESBURG, 3 Aug 2006 (IRIN) - Madagascar is becoming the next staging post of Africa's energy boom as oil conglomerates descend on the poverty stricken island to contend for a share of the recent discovery, but a global watchdog cautions that the windfall could challenge the island's fledgling democracy.

At current prices, industry estimates were that the oil could translate into annual revenue of one billion dollars for the Indian Ocean island. Energy analysts are predicting an oil price of US$100 in the short term, caused by a combination of geopolitical tensions, diminishing world reserves and high demand that has sent oil prices soaring.

Gavin Hayman, spokesperson for the anti-corruption watchdog Global Witness, warned that oil revenue did not automatically lead to poverty alleviation.

"President Marc Ravalomanana has taken a strong public stand against corruption, but the problem remains with members of the government. Our fear is that oil revenues will be squandered easily unless the international community steps in to guarantee transparency and accountability of oil revenues."

The threat of a privileged elite benefiting from huge oil wealth, while the majority remained excluded has been played out in other oil-producing nations. Oil revenue in Angola, the continent's second largest producer, has not benefited the poor. Britain's Department for International Development noted that "although growing revenues from oil and diamonds have boosted the country's economy, extreme poverty is still a daily reality for 68 percent of Angolans".

Hayman said some of the smaller oil companies rushing to secure concessions in Madagascar had been "soiled by corruption and bribery in Africa and Asia in the past. Government officials in Madagascar may be tempted into murky deals that may never benefit the millions of poor people."

Among the global oil giants scrambling for a share of Madagascar's oil resources are US-based Exxon-Mobil and Chevron Texaco; British-based Madagascar Oil and British Petroleum; Total, a French company; Royal Dutch Shell, Stat-Oil of Norway, China's National Offshore Oil Corporation and South Korea's SK Corporation.

Initial projections were that Madagascar could produce 60,000 barrels per day in three to four years, which would quickly make the oil industry the main contributor to the country's gross domestic product (GDP). In 2003 Madagascar's GDP was $5.5 billion dollars, or $240 per person annually.

Hayman said it was imperative that Madagascar join the international Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a forum of oil producers and consumers seeking to promote accountability in oil revenues.

Under the transparency initiative, governments, civil society and oil producers are required to make public details of financial deals, exploration rights and profits.

(SNIP)

The promise of billions of petrodollars for a country the World Bank ranks at 146 out of the world's 177 poorest countries could place immense pressure on the fragile democracy.

In 2001 Madagascar was on the cusp of a civil war after the former president Didier Ratsiraka refused to accept Ravalomanana's presidential victory. The island was cut in half, with two capitals, two governments and a divided army. It was not until the following year that the crisis was defused, after Ratsiraka fled to France.

The next presidential polls are scheduled for December this year. Among the 10 declared candidates so far is Phillipe Tsiranana, son of the country's first post-colonial president. Talks between Ravalomanana and opposition parties to defuse rising political tensions ahead of the December elections fizzled out in June, and Ravalomanana has yet to announce whether he will contest the poll.

The government has already begun auctioning oil-drilling rights. Hugues Rajaoson, head of the energy ministry, told the media recently that "the potential for production is very, very high. The sector could contribute up to 15 percent of GDP within five years." Official estimates put offshore reserves as high as five billion barrels of oil, but the exact size remains unknown.

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), 70 percent of the population live on less than a dollar a day and the country has to contend with regular occurrences of natural disasters such as drought, cyclones and floods. WFP information officer Patricia Lucas said 300,000 people could need food aid before the end of the year because of a drought.

This week, the International Monetary Fund injected more than $80 million into the country's Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility, the fund's concessional facility for debt support to low-income countries. Under the facility, beneficiaries can repay the loan over 10 years at an interest rate of 0.5 percent.

Copyright 2006, Gloria R. Lalumia

WORLD MEDIA WATCH