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Monday, 17 July 2006 02:01

World Media Watch for July 17, 2006

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WORLD MEDIA WATCH FOR JULY 17, 2006

1//The Independent, UK--FURY AS KARZAI PLANS RETURN OF TALIBAN’S RELIGIOUS POLICE (The Afghan government has alarmed human rights groups by approving a plan to reintroduce a Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the body which the Taliban used to enforce its extreme religious doctrine. The proposal, which came from the country's Ulema council of clerics, has been passed by the cabinet of President Hamid Karzai and will now go before the Afghan parliament. "Our concern is that the Vice and Virtue Department doesn't turn into an instrument for politically oppressing critical voices and vulnerable groups under the guise of protecting poorly defined virtues," Sam Zia Zarifi of Human Rights Watch said. "This is specially in the case of women, because infringements on their rights tend to be justified by claims of morality." Under the Taliban the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice became notorious for its brutal imposition of the Taliban's codes of behaviour. … Western diplomats have reacted with unease to the proposal. However, several told The Independent that they believed the move was partly designed to defuse Taliban propaganda which accuses the Karzai government of being un-Islamic. "This is an Islamic republic and sharia is a part of the constitution," one diplomat said on condition of anonymity. "If it is constitutional and within the framework of the International Convention on Human Rights [to which Afghanistan is a signatory] then it could represent a public information victory for the government.")

2//The Copenhagen Post, Denmark--NOT COMBAT READY, SAY SOLDIERS (Soldiers pending deployment to Afghanistan this October say they are not adequately prepared for dangerous situations in the field. Their worries stem from a lack of proper equipment in training, reported daily newspaper Politiken. Soliders shared their concerns with the newspaper, but asked that their names be disguised out of fear their families would be harassed. … Christian Mathiesen, the battalion commander who will be taking over leadership of Danish forces in Afghanistan, acknowledged that the situation heading into Afghanistan is not optimal, and he would work toward finding a solution. … Mathiesen said that he will make it clear to the British that Denmark will not be sending any forces until his superior feels they are prepared for the operation.)

3//The Daily Star, Lebanon--EX-MEMBER OF MUBARAK’S PARTY LAUNCHES RIVAL GROUP

(A former member of Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party [NDP] on Sunday launched a campaign rallying support for his breakaway liberal opposition party. Osama Ghazali Harb, editor of the quarterly Al-Siyassa Al-Dawliya, presented plans for the new party, the Democratic Front, which is based on "the build up of a true and complete democratic system" and a free market economy. "Oppression, corruption and hypocrisy have led us to suffocation," the party said in a statement. It highlighted the need for "a new social governance that is based on the rule of people by the people and which relies on the transition of power and the limitation of terms." Harb was joined by 77 founding members including former minister Yehya Al-Gamal and a handful of businessmen and celebrities. … The new party's logo, which is the number 77 in Arabic, represents the "77-percent silent majority that did not vote as a form of protest and disapproval of the present alternatives and the integrity of the elections," the statement said.)

4//The News International, Pakistan--INDIA SEEKS ‘FIRM’ PAK COMMITMENT ON TERRORISM

(India on Sunday demanded "firm commitment" backed by action from Pakistan on reining in terrorists, as investigators made slow progress in solving last week’s deadly train bombings. Also a foreign ministry official said New Delhi has put off peace talks with Pakistan due this week after suspicion over the Mumbai train bombings fell on militants based in that country. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India’s peace process with Pakistan cannot move forward if terrorism "aided and abetted from outside" continues to claim lives in India, the Press Trust of India news agency reported. … "There has to be a firm commitment that Pakistani territory is not used to support terrorist acts directed against our country ... but the commitment has to be backed by action on the ground," Singh was quoted as saying by PTI. Asked if India saw a direct Pakistani hand in the Bombay blasts, Singh said: "The terrorist acts were on a scale that could not be accomplished without some external involvement. That is what I would like to say at this stage.")

5//Middle East Online, UK--US LIFTS AIR SANCTIONS ON LIBYA (The United States has lifted sanctions on Libyan air transport, an official in Tripoli said on Wednesday, the latest sign of warming ties between the two former foes. … The announcement came two weeks after Libya was formally removed from a US list of state sponsors of terrorism, marking another step in its return to the international fold after years of isolation as a pariah state. On May 15, the United States also renewed diplomatic ties with Libya, ending a 25-year battle with Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, whom it says has renounced terrorism. The lifting of US economic sanctions on Libya opened a new era in relations - especially since the Libyan government selected US oil companies Occidental, Chevron and Amerada Hess in January 2005 to prospect for Libyan oil and modernize its oil facilities. Libya has Africa's biggest oil reserves.)

* * *

1//The Independent, UK Published: 17 July 2006

FURY AS KARZAI PLANS RETURN OF TALIBAN’S RELIGIOUS POLICE

By Tom Coghlan in Kabul

The Afghan government has alarmed human rights groups by approving a plan to reintroduce a Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the body which the Taliban used to enforce its extreme religious doctrine.

The proposal, which came from the country's Ulema council of clerics, has been passed by the cabinet of President Hamid Karzai and will now go before the Afghan parliament.

"Our concern is that the Vice and Virtue Department doesn't turn into an instrument for politically oppressing critical voices and vulnerable groups under the guise of protecting poorly defined virtues," Sam Zia Zarifi of Human Rights Watch said. "This is specially in the case of women, because infringements on their rights tend to be justified by claims of morality."

Under the Taliban the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice became notorious for its brutal imposition of the Taliban's codes of behaviour.

Religious police patrolled the streets, beating those without long enough beards and those failing to attend prayers five times a day. Widows suffered particular hardship because of the diktat that women be accompanied by a male relative when out of their homes, an impossibility for thousands of women widowed during decades of war.

The Ministry was also charged with the imposition of the Taliban's interpretation of sharia punishment. Executions at Kabul football stadium, which included female prisoners shot in the centre circle, did much to fuel the Taliban's international isolation.

However, the Minister for Haj and Religious Affairs, Nematullah Shahrani, defended the new body. "The job of the department will be to tell people what is allowable and what is forbidden in Islam," he said. "In practical terms it will be quite different from Taliban times. We will preach ... through radio, television and special gatherings."

He denied that the department would have police powers but said it would oppose the proliferation of alcohol and drugs and speak out against terrorism, crime and corruption. It would, he added, also encourage people to behave in more Islamic ways.

Nader Nadery, a spokesman for the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, said: "It will remind people of the Taliban. We are worried that there are no clear terms of reference for this body."

Western diplomats have reacted with unease to the proposal. However, several told The Independent that they believed the move was partly designed to defuse Taliban propaganda which accuses the Karzai government of being un-Islamic.

"This is an Islamic republic and sharia is a part of the constitution," one diplomat said on condition of anonymity. "If it is constitutional and within the framework of the International Convention on Human Rights [to which Afghanistan is a signatory] then it could represent a public information victory for the government."

With the Taliban making considerable gains in the south the Karzai government has been keen to establish a more conservative Islamic profile and to appear more critical of Western military operations.

(MORE)

2//The Copenhagen Post, Denmark 14.07.2006

NOT COMBAT READY, SAY SOLDIERS

Soldiers being sent to Afghanistan this autumn are speaking out, are saying they aren't trained on the same equipment they will use in the field

Soldiers pending deployment to Afghanistan this October say they are not adequately prepared for dangerous situations in the field. Their worries stem from a lack of proper equipment in training, reported daily newspaper Politiken.

Soliders shared their concerns with the newspaper, but asked that their names be disguised out of fear their families would be harassed.

'Missions are becoming more intensive and more dangerous, but materials and training don't follow suit,' said Poul, a senior sergeant of the preparedness squadron and group steward for soldiers being stationed in Helmand province of Afghanistan, effective October.

'I'm worried that the newest group won't be familiar enough with the routines to complete the mission satisfactorily,' he said.

(SNIP)

A shortage of Eagle light armed vehicles is part of the problem. There is also a shortage of the radio communication technology that is used in the Afghanistan mission.

Christian Mathiesen, the battalion commander who will be taking over leadership of Danish forces in Afghanistan, acknowledged that the situation heading into Afghanistan is not optimal, and he would work toward finding a solution.

'It's my role as mission commander to make sure that we don't declare ourselves operationally ready until everyone is fully educated.'

England, who is leading the international mission in the Helmand province, has already sent reinforcements to the area. Mathiesen said that he will make it clear to the British that Denmark will not be sending any forces until his superior feels they are prepared for the operation.

3//The Daily Star, Lebanon Monday, July 17, 2006

EX-MEMBER OF MUBARAK’S PARTY LAUNCHES RIVAL GROUP

By Agence France Presse (AFP)

CAIRO: A former member of Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) on Sunday launched a campaign rallying support for his breakaway liberal opposition party. Osama Ghazali Harb, editor of the quarterly Al-Siyassa Al-Dawliya, presented plans for the new party, the Democratic Front, which is based on "the build up of a true and complete democratic system" and a free market economy.

"Oppression, corruption and hypocrisy have led us to suffocation," the party said in a statement. It highlighted the need for "a new social governance that is based on the rule of people by the people and which relies on the transition of power and the limitation of terms."

Harb was joined by 77 founding members including former minister Yehya Al-Gamal and a handful of businessmen and celebrities.

Harb announced his resignation from the influential Policies Committee of the NDP headed by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's son Gamal Mubarak in March, accusing the regime of not fulfilling promises of reform.

In September 2005, Mubarak secured his fifth six-year term as president when he won the country's first ever multi-candidate presidential elections, in which only 23 percent of registered voters cast their ballot.

The new party's logo, which is the number 77 in Arabic, represents the "77-percent silent majority that did not vote as a form of protest and disapproval of the present alternatives and the integrity of the elections," the statement said.

(MORE)

4//The News International, Pakistan Monday, July 17, 2006, Jamadi-us-sani 20, 1427 A.H.

INDIA SEEKS ‘FIRM’ PAK COMMITMENT ON TERRORISM

Bombay: India on Sunday demanded "firm commitment" backed by action from Pakistan on reining in terrorists, as investigators made slow progress in solving last week’s deadly train bombings.

Also a foreign ministry official said New Delhi has put off peace talks with Pakistan due this week after suspicion over the Mumbai train bombings fell on militants based in that country. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India’s peace process with Pakistan cannot move forward if terrorism "aided and abetted from outside" continues to claim lives in India, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Singh was speaking to reporters on board his jetliner while flying to St Petersburg, Russia, where he would attend, as an observer, the summit of the Group of Eight leaders of industrialised nations.

"There has to be a firm commitment that Pakistani territory is not used to support terrorist acts directed against our country ... but the commitment has to be backed by action on the ground," Singh was quoted as saying by PTI.

Asked if India saw a direct Pakistani hand in the Bombay blasts, Singh said: "The terrorist acts were on a scale that could not be accomplished without some external involvement. That is what I would like to say at this stage."

"There has to be a firm commitment that Pakistani territory is not used to support terrorist acts directed against our country," Singh was quoted by the PTI as saying. Singh said he will urge leaders at the G-8 summit to show "zero tolerance" for terrorism.

Pakistan denies Singh’s charge. "Pakistan does not allow its territory for any terrorist activity," Foreign Office spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam told AFP in Islamabad. "We reject these allegations which are unsubstantiated," she said, while responding to the statement from Prime Minister Singh.

Tasnim Aslam said New Delhi has formally conveyed they have put off this week’s peace talks with Islamabad but declined to comment on it. "I’m not going to say anything today," she said.

Earlier, in New Delhi, an External Affairs Ministry official told Reuters on condition of anonymity India told Pakistan it had put off foreign secretary-level talks scheduled for July 20-21. "We told them the environment is not conducive," he said, referring to talks due to be held in New Delhi to reviewed progress in the peace process.

The decision to postpone the talks, however, did not mean that the peace process had been called off, the official said. "We are still committed to making peace with them. But they have to show that they can keep their promises to end terrorism before we can move forward," he said.

(MORE)

5//Middle East Online, UK First Published 2006-07-13, Last Updated 2006-07-13 11:16:37

US LIFTS AIR SANCTIONS ON LIBYA

Lifting of sanctions on Libyan air transport is latest sign of warming ties between Tripoli and Washington.

By Afaf Geblawi

Tripoli: The United States has lifted sanctions on Libyan air transport, an official in Tripoli said on Wednesday, the latest sign of warming ties between the two former foes.

The move was announced during a high-level US visit to Tripoli headed by senior State Department official Paula Dobriansky, who held talks with Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi.

"Mrs Dobriansky announced during this meeting that her country had lifted all air transport restrictions imposed on Libya, including the sale of aircraft," the official said.

The announcement came two weeks after Libya was formally removed from a US list of state sponsors of terrorism, marking another step in its return to the international fold after years of isolation as a pariah state.

On May 15, the United States also renewed diplomatic ties with Libya, ending a 25-year battle with Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, whom it says has renounced terrorism.

The lifting of US economic sanctions on Libya opened a new era in relations - especially since the Libyan government selected US oil companies Occidental, Chevron and Amerada Hess in January 2005 to prospect for Libyan oil and modernize its oil facilities. Libya has Africa's biggest oil reserves.

Dobriansky, who also met other Libyan officials, said that the United States was ready to cooperate with Libyan companies in other economic and trade fields as well as health and training.

(SNIP)

Washington severed ties with Libya in 1981 and began imposing sanctions, two years after radical students ransacked the US embassy in Tripoli.

An alleged Libyan-backed attack on a Berlin disco popular with Americans in 1986 spurred the United States to launch air raids against Tripoli, killing 41 people.

Libya in 2003 accepted responsibility for the bombing of a US Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988 that killed 270 people, and agreed to pay families of victims 10 million dollars each in compensation.

Late last month, Washington called on the Libyan government to honour its commitment by paying the final two million dollars of each settlement.