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Monday, 25 September 2006 03:25

Gloria R. Lalumia's World Media Watch for September 25, 2006

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WORLD MEDIA WATCH FOR SEPTEMBER 25, 2006

1//The Daily Times, Pakistan--RUSSIA WARNS AGAINST IRAQ-STYLE ‘PROOF’ IN IRAN NUCLEAR STANDOFF (The United Nations must not rely on the kind of evidence used to justify slapping sanctions on Iraq ahead of the 2003 US-led invasion when considering Iran’s nuclear programme, Russia said Saturday. In an interview published in Saturday’s edition of Greek newspaper Kathimerini, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said the UN should only consider sanctions if presented with “concrete and incontrovertible evidence that Iran is attempting to build nuclear weapons and clear evidence that it is supporting international terrorism.” … . One of the reasons the United States and Britain gave for supporting sanctions against Iraq and invading was that Baghdad under former dictator Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction [WMDs]. Over three years after the invasion no serious evidence of WMDs has been found in the country. … . Moscow is opposed to the idea of imposing sanctions on Iran, despite the fact that Tehran ignored a August 31 UN Security Council deadline to suspend its uranium enrichment activities. Referring to the US take on the current crisis, Lavrov on Thursday criticised what he called “the obsession with sanctions.”)

2//Asia Times Online, Hong Kong--RUSSIA SETS THE PACE IN ENERGY RACE (Speaking at a conference under the rubric "Summit on Energy Security" at West Lafayette, Indiana, this month, the powerful chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar, characterized Venezuela, Iran and Russia as "adversarial regimes" that were using energy supplies as "leverage" in foreign policy. Lugar said: "We are used to thinking in terms of conventional warfare between nations, but energy is becoming a weapon of choice for those who possess it." Senior Russian figures were quick to dismiss Lugar's admonition as "groundless Russophobia", but the US administration is already opening new battle fronts against Russia in the energy war. Next week's meeting in Beijing on energy security involving the United States, China, Japan, India and South Korea is a dramatic manifestation of the new battle plans and war doctrines that Washington is conceptualizing. The conclave in Beijing, significantly, leaves out Western Europe. … . Among the many compulsions working on the policy calculus of the administration of US President George W Bush in abruptly navigating such a huge arc in policy toward China, the forthcoming talks on energy security in Beijing should figure in the first circle of concerns. The fact is that the Bush administration, which has been long on words over international energy diplomacy and has been short on results, finds itself at the receiving end from effective, calibrated, purposeful Russian energy diplomacy in recent months.)

RELATED: THE HUNGRY BEAR, Part 1: Promises that can't be kept
First article in a five-part report on Russia as an energy superpower.

3//The News International, Pakistan--EGYPT STUDIES NUCLEAR POWER OPTION (Egypt’s Supreme Council of Energy met on Sunday for the first time in 18 years, to discuss alternative energy sources, including nuclear energy, the official news agency MENA said. “The meeting decided to immediately begin studying a nuclear alternative in the light of increased need in Egypt,” cabinet spokesman Magdi Radi told MENA. … . On Sunday, Egypt’s minister of electricity, Hassan Yunes, told the state-owned Al-Ahram daily that his country would have an operational power plant within 10 years of the project’s approval. Egypt will build a 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plant at al-Dabaa on the Mediterranean coast at a cost of between 1.5 and two billion dollars, Yunes told the newspaper. He also said that Egypt would negotiate with foreign organisations over funding for the project. … . Key regional US ally Egypt is not expected to encounter the same problems faced by Iran in its controversial quest for nuclear energy.)

4//MercoPress News Agency, Uruguay--LULA SET TO WIN BUT SCANDALS COULD CONDITION SECOND TERM (With only seven days left for Brazil’s October first general election, a public opinion poll published this weekend shows President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his re-election bid has not been dented by the recent string of scandals, although it could affect his second term political leadership. According to Datafolha President Lula lost one point but still has a 49% support which means that subtracting void, annulled and abstentions he would comfortably win with 55% of valid votes. … . The latest polls have come as a relief for the Lula da Silva administration that feared the latest scandal in the heart of Government House (Planalto Palace) a week ago could have cost Lula da Silva the necessary points to win re-election in the first round. … . The Datafolha opinion poll showed a paradoxical situation since in spite of strong support for Mr. Lula da Silva’s, 75% of interviews said that corruption was rampant in government and 83% that the president has some responsibility on all the cases exposed.)

5//The Buenos Aires Herald, Argentina-- ‘CLOSER TO BIZ, FARTHER FROM CHAVEZ’
(Unlike his two previous trips to the US — dominated by a drive that led creditors to swallow a financial haircut that took Argentine debt from nearly 200 billion dollars to 125 billion — this trip was marked by efforts to lure private investment, mainly in the energy sector. "Kirchner made a strong bid to court investments and succeeded," observer Enrique Zuleta Puceiro told the Herald.

“This trip marks a real turning point in Kirchner policy,” the observer added from New York, where he witnessed the President’s activities. “Kirchner showed that the path he wants to follow is not that of [Cuban leader Fidel] Castro or Chávez, but rather that of [Chilean President Michelle] Bachelet and [Brazilian President Luiz Inácio] Lula da Silva, who are two of the leaders that businesspeople see with the greatest expectations.”)

* * *

1//The Daily Times, Pakistan Monday, September 25, 2006

RUSSIA WARNS AGAINST IRAQ-STYLE ‘PROOF’ IN IRAN NUCLEAR STANDOFF
AFP

ATHENS: The United Nations must not rely on the kind of evidence used to justify slapping sanctions on Iraq ahead of the 2003 US-led invasion when considering Iran’s nuclear programme, Russia said Saturday.

In an interview published in Saturday’s edition of Greek newspaper Kathimerini, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said the UN should only consider sanctions if presented with “concrete and incontrovertible evidence that Iran is attempting to build nuclear weapons and clear evidence that it is supporting international terrorism.”

Ivanov added that it would be “unacceptable to repeat the scenario of Iraq which had sanctions applied against it without complete evidence,” he said.

One of the reasons the United States and Britain gave for supporting sanctions against Iraq and invading was that Baghdad under former dictator Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Over three years after the invasion no serious evidence of WMDs has been found in the country.

(SNIP)

Moscow is opposed to the idea of imposing sanctions on Iran, despite the fact that Tehran ignored a August 31 UN Security Council deadline to suspend its uranium enrichment activities. Referring to the US take on the current crisis, Lavrov on Thursday criticised what he called “the obsession with sanctions.”

Asked separately about US sanctions slapped on two Russian arms companies that have contracts with Iran, Ivanov said the measures “would not lead to a revision” of his country’s technical and military agreements with Tehran.

Lavrov meanwhile on Sunday called for the sanctions against the two firms — Sukhoi and Rosoboronexport — to be lifted.

2//Asia Times Online, Hong Kong Sep 23, 2006

RUSSIA SETS THE PACE IN ENERGY RACE
By M K Bhadrakumar

Speaking at a conference under the rubric "Summit on Energy Security" at West Lafayette, Indiana, this month, the powerful chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar, characterized Venezuela, Iran and Russia as "adversarial regimes" that were using energy supplies as "leverage" in foreign policy.

Lugar said: "We are used to thinking in terms of conventional warfare between nations, but energy is becoming a weapon of choice for those who possess it."

Senior Russian figures were quick to dismiss Lugar's admonition as "groundless Russophobia", but the US administration is already opening new battle fronts against Russia in the energy war.

Next week's meeting in Beijing on energy security involving the United States, China, Japan, India and South Korea is a dramatic manifestation of the new battle plans and war doctrines that Washington is conceptualizing. The conclave in Beijing, significantly, leaves out Western Europe.

Lugar had first publicly floated the idea of a formal tie-up by the US with China and India at a major speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington in March when he proposed that an unusual coalition of interests over international energy issues among the three countries coincided with a "seminal moment in American history", quintessentially comparable to the late US president Richard Nixon "using his anti-communist credentials to open China".

Lugar underlined the crucial importance of a formal coordination of the US energy diplomacy with China and India at a juncture when 77% of the world's oil supply was controlled by "foreign governments"; when the US paid 17% more for its energy in 2005 than the year before; when energy costs accounted for a third of the US trade deficit; and when the US was bracing for a whopping US$320 billion bill for its oil imports in the current year.

Beijing was quick to respond to Lugar's kite-flying. Writing in the People's Daily on April 11, an expert from China's Institute of Contemporary International Relations, Su Jingxiang, signaled that if only Washington were savvy enough to "revalue the tremendous market potential" in China and "abate unnecessary doubts toward China", closer cooperation between Beijing and Washington on international energy issues could be realized.

Su rendered some practical advice to Washington's policymakers in this connection. He questioned the efficacy of past US policies that involved "seizing resources" through military intervention and expansion aimed at "safeguarding the oil supply". He pointed out that gunboat diplomacy was no longer workable either in the Middle East or Latin America as it produced only terrorism and resistance. At the same time, Su acknowledged that growing dependence of energy imports "weakened the competitiveness and injured the economic security of the US".

So what should Washington do? Su advised that the US should "steer away to more cooperation" with other major oil consumers (such as China and India). "The new type of strategic partnership will consolidate the negotiating capacity of oil consumers in their talks with the oil producers, thus helping boost the economic boom and national security of the US," he wrote.

Su concluded by pointing out that China and the US, "being the most active forces in the world economy", possessed "great potential to join hands" in oil exploitation, price moderation, energy-efficiency technology, nuclear power and biomass energy.

Evidently, Wednesday's announcement of the creation of a political framework of "economic dialogue", backed at the highest level of leadership in Beijing and Washington, cannot be a coincidence. (Nor, for that matter, can the International Monetary Fund's endorsement of the US-backed proposal on Tuesday to enhance China's "voting power" to 3.72% from 2.98%, sending an unmistakable signal to all corners of the international system that China is entering the heart of the world economy and that Washington is squarely backing this.)

(SNIP)

Among the many compulsions working on the policy calculus of the administration of US President George W Bush in abruptly navigating such a huge arc in policy toward China, the forthcoming talks on energy security in Beijing should figure in the first circle of concerns. The fact is that the Bush administration, which has been long on words over international energy diplomacy and has been short on results, finds itself at the receiving end from effective, calibrated, purposeful Russian energy diplomacy in recent months.

A charitable explanation of the dismal failings of US energy diplomacy could be that the heavy preoccupations over the five-year, open-ended "war on terror" are inexorably exacting their toll on all-around US diplomacy. This was starkly evident last week. While Washington was marooned in the somber introspections of the September 11, 2001, anniversary of attacks on the US, Russia quietly posted more gains on the chessboard of great-power energy politics that hold far-reaching consequences for the geopolitics of the 21st century.

(MORE)

RELATED: THE HUNGRY BEAR, Part 1: Promises that can't be kept

This is the first article in a five-part report on Russia as an energy superpower.

… . Putin heads a resurgent Russia that is racing ever faster toward the consolidation of its key global position as respects energy security, the unique global position where it, more than any other single energy exporter, can and in fact already is setting the global agenda and taking the unquestioned leadership role in defining and drawing the circle of international energy security.

3//The News International, Pakistan Monday, September 25, 2006, Ramzan 1, 1427 A.H.

EGYPT STUDIES NUCLEAR POWER OPTION

CAIRO: Egypt’s Supreme Council of Energy met on Sunday for the first time in 18 years, to discuss alternative energy sources, including nuclear energy, the official news agency MENA said.

“The meeting decided to immediately begin studying a nuclear alternative in the light of increased need in Egypt,” cabinet spokesman Magdi Radi told MENA.

(SNIP)

On Thursday, President Hosni Mubarak told delegates at the closing session of his annual party conference that Egypt needed to begin looking into nuclear energy.

“We must benefit from sources of new and renewable energy, including peaceful uses of nuclear energy,” he said. “The future of energy is a central element in the building of the nation’s own future,” Mubarak said.

On Sunday, Egypt’s minister of electricity, Hassan Yunes, told the state-owned Al-Ahram daily that his country would have an operational power plant within 10 years of the project’s approval. Egypt will build a 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plant at al-Dabaa on the Mediterranean coast at a cost of between 1.5 and two billion dollars, Yunes told the newspaper. He also said that Egypt would negotiate with foreign organisations over funding for the project. Egypt’s nuclear programme was frozen in 1986 following the accident at the Chernobyl power plant in what was then the Soviet Union in 1986.

Electricity is heavily subsidised in Egypt, with the government bearing the brunt of the cost while domestic consumers pay little.

Key regional US ally Egypt is not expected to encounter the same problems faced by Iran in its controversial quest for nuclear energy.

4//MercoPress News Agency, Uruguay Sunday, 24 September

LULA SET TO WIN BUT SCANDALS COULD CONDITION SECOND TERM

With only seven days left for Brazil’s October first general election, a public opinion poll published this weekend shows President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his re-election bid has not been dented by the recent string of scandals, although it could affect his second term political leadership.

According to Datafolha President Lula lost one point but still has a 49% support which means that subtracting void, annulled and abstentions he would comfortably win with 55% of valid votes.

The opposition’s main candidate Geraldo Alckmin from the Brazilian Social Democrat Party continued to benefit from the exposure of political scandals, which forced Lula da Silva to sack the chairman of his Workers Party and head of the re-election bid. Mr. Alckmin current support increased from 29 to 31%, equivalent to 34% of valid votes but insufficient to force a second round.

The latest polls have come as a relief for the Lula da Silva administration that feared the latest scandal in the heart of Government House (Planalto Palace) a week ago could have cost Lula da Silva the necessary points to win re-election in the first round.

The “gate-dossier” as was identified the operation discovered last week by the Brazilian Federal police, (recalling the Watergate exposure) was masterminded by the businessmen involved in a giant scam to sell hugely over-billed ambulances to the Health Ministry, who were offering documents and information allegedly incriminating the opposition in the state of Sao Paulo.

Social Democrat candidate Jose Serra is forecasted to become Sao Paulo’s next governor Sunday without the need of a run off. Sao Paulo is Brazil’s most powerful and influential state (over 60% of the country’s GDP) and control of this powerhouse is essential for any political project. Serra was Public Health Minister when the ambulances scam was first started under the administration of former president Fernando Enrique Cardoso.

Apparently members of Lula da Silva’s re-election campaign and leaders of the Workers Party were ready to pay 800.000 US dollars for the dossier which was to be leaked to Brazil’s main magazines. But the Federal Police caught them red-handed forcing the resignation of top officials, Ricardo Berzoni, co-ordinator of the campaign and the ruling party’s chairman; close aides of Mr. Lula da Silva who worked for him at the Planalto Palace and top managers in the Bank of Brazil.

The Datafolha opinion poll showed a paradoxical situation since in spite of strong support for Mr. Lula da Silva’s, 75% of interviews said that corruption was rampant in government and 83% that the president has some responsibility on all the cases exposed.

(SNIP)

5//The Buenos Aires Herald, Argentina Sunday, September 24, 2006 (and here)

‘CLOSER TO BIZ, FARTHER FROM CHAVEZ’

Unlike his two previous trips to the US — dominated by a drive that led creditors to swallow a financial haircut that took Argentine debt from nearly 200 billion dollars to 125 billion — this trip was marked by efforts to lure private investment, mainly in the energy sector.

"Kirchner made a strong bid to court investments and succeeded," observer Enrique Zuleta Puceiro told the Herald.

“This trip marks a real turning point in Kirchner policy,” the observer added from New York, where he witnessed the President’s activities.

“Kirchner showed that the path he wants to follow is not that of (Cuban leader Fidel) Castro or Chávez, but rather that of (Chilean President Michelle) Bachelet and (Brazilian President Luiz Inácio) Lula da Silva, who are two of the leaders that businesspeople see with the greatest expectations.”

The centre-left Peronist President boasted of Argentina’s economy is now poised to grow by more than nine percent this year after having grown about 30 percent since his coming to power amid a deep economic crisis in 2003.

He had adopted a very tough stance towards private firms, having gone so far as to suggest that a blackout in some areas of the country actually amounted to a boycott by companies pressing to increase fees, which have been frozen since the worst-ever Argentine economic crisis blew up in late 2001.

“On this trip, Kirchner adopted a more reasonable stance towards the modern world,” former finance secretary Marcelo Lascano told the Herald.

“The President has improved his international approach.”

(SNIP)

Eduardo Conesa, a professor of economics at Buenos Aires University, said the President’s trip had been very positive in dispelling “a somewhat rare atmosphere for business in Argentina.”

However, he criticized Kirchner for being, in his opinion, still too close to Venezuela’s President Chávez, who is furiously opposed to the US.

Venezuela has been buying Argentine debt bonds and Argentina is pinning its hopes on energy supplies from Venezuela to brave what many experts and even the US describe as a luring energy crisis.

But Conesa said that to cope with the energy shortage, Argentina should exploit its own resources.

“Depending on Chávez is simply ridiculous,” he said. “Much more so when the country has almost destroyed its armed forces, and humiliated them. Under those circumstances, Argentina should seek to side with the US, not confront them by its closeness to Chávez.”

Also, the economist said, Argentina should realize that Chávez’s anti-US stance is personal and that Venezuela is actually one of the largest economic partners of the US.

But Zuleta Puceiro said that during this trip the President has marked a clear distance from Chávez.

“Kirchner said that Argentina will not contribute to isolating Venezuela politically, but he failed to meet Chávez and chose rather to meet with (Italian Primer Minister Romano) Prodi.”

Copyright 2006, Gloria R. Lalumia