Radio Havana Cuba Aug 5
- Radio Havana Cuba Aug 5
Vietnamese Parliament President Visits Cuba
Havana, August 5 (RHC)-- The President of the Vietnamese National Assembly,
Nguyen Van An, has met in Havana with Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage and
Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque, as well as his Cuban counterpart
Arriving in the Cuban capital over the weekend, Nguyen Van An has already
been carrying out a very busy agenda. During his five-day visit to the
island, the Vietnamese Parliament president will meet with Cuban officials
and tour places of historic and cultural interest.
Among the goals of this current visit, expressed by both Vietnamese and
Cuban officials, are increased economic relations between both countries and
a deepening of cooperation between Havana and Hanoi.
Venceremos Brigade Returns to U.S. from Cuba Without Problems
Buffalo, August 5 (RHC)-- The eighty members of the 34th Contingent of the
Venceremos Brigade have returned from their two-week stay in Cuba. Walking
across the one-mile long International Peace Bridge -- from Ft. Erie,
Ontario to Buffalo, New York -- the brigadistas were accompanied by Canadian
and U.S. supporters who joined them in Canada.
The Brigade's chant of "We Demand: End the Travel Ban" rang through the air
and was answered by a line of supporters who held signs that said "Welcome,
Venceremos Brigade!" and "End the Economic Blockade Against Cuba."
Returning members of the Venceremos Brigade report only minimal or no
questioning at all by the U.S. Customs officials, who generally scanned
their passports and waved them through. The few brigadistas who were asked
questions -- such as "Did you spend any money in Cuba?" -- refused to
answer, as is their legal right, and passed through without incident.
The 34th Contingent of the Venceremos Brigade was organized as a "Travel
Challenge" to directly confront the travel restrictions imposed by the U.S.
government against U.S. citizens. They joined with the 14th Pastors for
Peace Friendshipment Caravan in this campaign; the Caravan returned on July
29th through Mexico, also without harassment by U.S. Customs and Immigration
Bonnie Massey, a national spokesperson for the Venceremos Brigade, told
reporters on Monday that "the Bush Administration has greatly stepped up
harassment of individual travelers to Cuba, but our crossing shows that when
we unite in collective action to assert our right to travel to Cuba, we have
the political power to confront this unjust travel ban and prevent their
tactics of intimidation at the border." But, she emphasized that Brigade
leaders are fully aware that while their crossing was trouble-free at the
border itself, the U.S. government's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)
may still attempt to levy hefty fines against Brigade participants. Bonnie
Massey said: "This will also be met by collective action, both legal and
political. We will not stop our opposition to the travel ban until it is
Latin American and Caribbean Brigade Welcomed in Cuba
Havana, August 5 (RHC)-- The Tenth Contingent of the Latin American and
Caribbean Brigade of Friendship and Solidarity with Cuba was officially
welcomed last night at the Julio Antonio Mella International Camp, located
on the outskirts of Havana.
The work brigade is made up of 283 people from a number of regional
countries, including Mexico, Honduras, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru
and Colombia. Among the projects they will work on include remodeling a
medical clinic and two doctor's offices in the municipality of Caimito.
According to officials at the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People
(ICAP), members of the Latin American and Caribbean Brigade brought with
them tools and construction equipment, as well as cash donations to be used
to purchase materials in Cuba.
New Web Site -- www.cubadebate.cu -- Launched Today in Havana
Havana, August 5 (RHC)-- A new Web site was launched today in the Cuban
capital. The new electronic publication offered by Cuban journalists can be
found at: www.cubadebate.cu.
According to organizers of the Web site, the intention of the new cyberspace
connection is to denounce media lies and terrorism. And they announced that
the site would be open to contributions by colleagues from any part of the
Following the official launching ceremony, www.cubadebate.cu held an on-line
discussion forum regarding the international media campaign against Cuba,
led by the United States. Hundreds of cyber-users took part in the live
debate and many expressed their satisfaction with the on-line forum.
First West African Peacekeepers Arrive in Liberian Capital Monrovia, Greeted
by Overjoyed Residents
Monrovia, August 4 (RHC) - The first wave of West African peacekeepers
touched down in Liberia's war-torn capital Monday, raising the hopes of
increasingly desperate residents in Monrovia that two months of fierce
fighting may soon be over. As Nigerian troops leapt from white UN
helicopters onto the tarmac at Liberia's main airport they were greeted by
overjoyed civilians who spilled onto the airfield by the hundreds,
screaming, "We want peace!" A total of 192 Nigerian troops were expected to
arrive on Monday from neighboring Sierra Leone to secure the airport and
establish a base of operations. West African leaders have promised a
3,250-strong peacekeeping force in an attempt to end fighting between
government troops loyal to President Charles Taylor and two rebel groups
that control most of the country.
Two months of rebel sieges on Monrovia have killed more than 1,000 civilians
and all but severed food and water supplies to the refugee-crowded city of
more than 1.3 million people. The leader of one of the rebel groups -
Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy - said Monday that his
forces would withdraw once peacekeeping troops have established security.
The Nigerians have been deployed from a UN mission in Sierra Leone, where
large-scale military intervention by Britain, Guinea and the UN helped end a
vicious 10-year civil war. Taylor pledged over the weekend to cede power on
August 11, meeting one of the demands set by fellow African leaders and the
But his government has hedged on his promise to go into exile in Nigeria,
and said he would leave the country only when enough peacekeepers are on the
ground and when a war-crimes indictment against him is dropped. Taylor has
been promising to yield power since June 4, when a joint UN and Sierra Leone
court revealed the war-crimes indictment against him. He's blamed for 14
years of conflict in Liberia that has killed more than 100,000 people, and
is also accused of trafficking and arming insurgents across west Africa.
US Anti-War Activists Targeted By Secret Airport Ban
August 4 (RHC) - After more than a year of complaints by US anti-war
activists that they were being unfairly targeted by airport security,
Washington has admitted the existence of a list, possibly hundreds or even
thousands of names long, of people it deems worthy of special scrutiny at
airports. The British news daily The Independent reported Sunday that the
list had been kept secret until its disclosure last week by the new US
agency in charge of aviation safety, the Transportation Security
Administration, the TSA. And it is entirely separate from the relatively
well-publicized "no-fly" list, which covers about 1,000 people believed to
have criminal or terrorist ties that could endanger the safety of their
The strong suspicion of such groups as the American Civil Liberties Union,
which is suing the government to try to learn more, is that the second list
has been used to target political activists who challenge the government in
entirely legal ways. The TSA acknowledged the existence of the list in
response to a Freedom of Information Act request concerning two anti-war
activists from San Francisco who were stopped and briefly detained at the
airport last autumn and told they were on an FBI no-fly list. The activists,
Rebecca Gordon and Jan Adams, work for a small pacifist magazine called War
Times and say they have never been arrested, let alone have criminal
records. Others who have filed complaints with the ACLU include a left-wing
constitutional lawyer who has been strip-searched repeatedly when traveling
through US airports, and a 71-year-old nun from Milwaukee who was prevented
from flying to Washington to join an anti-government protest.
The ACLU says a list kept by security personnel at Oakland airport ran to 88
pages. More than 300 people have been subject to special questioning at San
Francisco airport, and another 24 at Oakland, according to police records.
In no case does it appear that a wanted criminal was apprehended. ACLU
lawyers on the case say they are troubled by several answers that the TSA
gave to their questions. The agency said it had no way of making sure that
people did not end up on the list simply because of things they had said or
organizations they belonged to, and that once people were on the list there
was no procedure for trying to get off it.
South Africa Seen at "Death" Phase of AIDS Epidemic
Durban, South Africa, August 4 (RHC) - Scientists participating in South
Africa's first national AIDS conference warned Monday that the country is
entering the "death" phase of its AIDS epidemic as mortality outstrips new
infections, presenting new challenges for a health care system struggling to
cope with the disease. Quarraisha Abdool Karim, a researcher at the
University of Natal, said South Africa's devastating epidemic is the world's
worst, and that this is just the beginning.
AIDS activists say the disease kills about 600 South Africans each day - a
mortality rate that Rod Hoff, a senior epidemiologists at the US National
Institutes of Health, said is really just starting and won't peak for
another three to four years. Hoff said that the social and economic impact
will be considerable - that industry is going to be hit hard. The national
conference opened Sunday amid a row over the safety of a key anti-AIDS drug.
Last week, the country's Medicines Control Council threatened to ban the
only approved anti-retroviral drug, Nevirapine, even though research has
shown it can cut mother-to-baby infection rates by nearly a half.
At the opening of the four day conference, South African Health Minister
Manto Tshabalala-Msimang was jeered as she attempted to defend the
government's controversial treatment policies. The health minister has also
caused a stir by proposing that AIDS sufferers eat garlic, onions, olive oil
and African potatoes to boost their immune systems. The Treatment Action
Campaign pressure group has voted to resume its campaign of civil
disobedience in its pursuit of anti-retroviral drugs for all. The group has
laid charges of culpable homicide against the health minister over the
hundreds of South Africans estimated to die every day of AIDS-related
Palestinians Condemn Israel's Prisoner Release List
Ramallah, West Bank, August 4 (RHC) - Palestinians have condemned a list of
prisoners that Israel plans to release from its jails this week, saying that
the number was below what had originally been promised. The names of 342
Palestinians scheduled for release was published Monday on an Israeli
government website. The figure includes 183 inmates convicted of activities
ranging from stone-throwing to membership of organizations Israel considers
terrorist, and 139 so-called "administrative detainees" held without charge
on security grounds.
Palestinian leaders noted that Israeli officials had said 540 prisoners
would be freed, though they want a general release of all of the more than
6,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. Hisham Abdel-Razek, the
Palestinian minister for prisoner affairs, called the move "a deceit."
President Yasser Arafat said the release list was inadequate. Israel gave no
explanation of why only 342 prisoners were being released. Israeli Defense
Minister Shaul Mofaz, responding to a claimed al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades
shooting attack Sunday in which a Jewish settler and her three children were
wounded, said that there would be no further releases or withdrawals from
the West Bank until Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas reined in
Militants have said that anything short of a general release of all
Palestinian prisoners could jeopardize the three-month truce in an uprising
for statehood that they declared on June 29. In a statement faxed to the
Associated Press, Hamas said that it was growing impatient, and called on
Palestinians to prepare themselves for confronting what it called the
"arrogance" of a "criminal enemy that denied the right of freedom for the
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Paraguay thanks Cuba for the Medical Assistance after Tragic Accident
Havana, August 5 (RHC)-Paraguay's Ambassador to Cuba Augusto Ocampo thanked
Cuban President Fidel Castro for the assistance the island is giving the
South American nation.
The Paraguayan ambassador told Radio Havana Cuba that "in the name of my
government and people, I sincerely convey my gratitude to Cuba". He added
that Cuba was one of the first countries to offer help after a huge fire
broke out in an Asuncion supermarket leaving over 400 dead and thousands of
Augusto Ocampo noted that the Cuban leader was highly moved by the tragic
accident and immediately sent a message of condolence to his Paraguayan
counterpart Nicanor Duarte, expressing his government's willingness to send
a plane load of medical aid.
The Cubana Airlinea plane arrived in Asuncion on Wednesday, transporting 15
specialists, three nurses and 15 tons of medication for the injured.
Meanwhile, Cuban doctors working in different zones in Paraguay began
assisting the fire victims, and forensic doctors from Brazil and Spanish
National Police Corps members helped identify bodies.
In Cuba, government officials, Communist Party members, social organizations
and citizens signed the condolence book at the Paraguayan embassy in Havana.
Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Arrives in Havana
Havana, August 5 (RHC) - The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Patrick
Manning arrived in Havana early Thursday on an unofficial visit where he
nevertheless faces a busy agenda, the Prensa Latina news agency reported on
its web site.
The top statesman told local reporters that the current relations between
Cuban and the Caribbean Community CARICOM are excellent and Cuba had a lot
of experience to offer its Caribbean partners.
Manning praised the Cuban medical specialists currently working in Trinidad
and Tobago and other countries in the Caribbean and across the globe.
The visiting prime minister highlighted the good relations between his
country and Cuba and spoke of his last visit to Havana where the possibility
of creating a regional school of medicine was discussed with Cuban President
Manning informed press that direct flights already connected the two
countries and his government would always encourage foreign tourists to
visit Cuba thereby strengthening regional cooperation and mutual promotion.
Pastors for Peace Leader says US Students May Continue to Study Medicine in
New York, August 5 (RHC)-The coordinator of the US religious/solidarity
organization Pastors for Peace, Reverend Lucius Walker has announced that
his government has reached an understanding to allow US students attending
the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana to continue their
scholarship program, according to Prensa Latina News agency.
This may be seen as the first, though still small, victory over the current
US administration´s plans to cut off all ties between its citizens and Cuba,
in an open attempt to destroy the Cuban Revolution.
In a letter to students, parents, friends and supporters of the Latin
American Medical School scholarship program, Walker said that the permission
resulted from persistent hard work, calls and letters and faxes to the State
and Treasury Departments.
He also cited the caring and strategic interventions by members of the
Congressional Black and Hispanic Caucuses; the specific intervention of
Secretary of State Colin Powell; the avalanche of concern expressed by
parents and friends of the medical students, and by members of IFCOs
national network of supporters.
Lucius Walker added that the arrangement includes 28 members of the US
Congress who are writing a joint letter to the State and Treasury
Departments on behalf of all the medical students.
The State and Treasury Departments, for their part, have announced that they
will grant travel authorization so that all the enrolled students will be
able to legally continue their studies, and to legally travel to and from
The Reverend highlighted that this is the only exception that has been made
so far to the Bush administrations draconian new restrictions on travel to
The Pastors for Peace solidarity group leader said that current students can
now make arrangements to resume their medical studies and new students will
be able to travel to Cuban on August 25.
The US solidarity activist expressed his gratitude to Reps. Barbara Lee
(D-CA) and Charles Rangel (D-NY) and to their staff members, who have worked
tirelessly to help achieve what he termed historic victory for the US
students at the Latin American School of Medicine.
University of Havana launches Summer Courses for Cuban Emigrants
Havana, August 5 (RHC)-The University of Havana launched several summer
courses for Cubans and their children living abroad for September in
compliance with the announcements made during the 3rd Nation and Its
Emigration Conference held last May in Havana, according to Prensa Latina
The participants will have the chance to share valuable information and
learn about history, culture, economic, politics and other sectors of the
national life of the island's past, present and future.
The teaching program will also include visits to social, cultural and
According to recent estimates 1.5 million Cuban emigrants live in some 100
countries, 1.3 along in the United States.
Cuba Promotes Increased Use of Renewable Energy Sources
Havana, August 5 (RHC) - A key element of Cuba's development strategy is the
increased use of renewable sources of energy to cut dependence on fossil
fuels and minimize environmental destruction, the electronic magazine
Invasor reported Thursday.
Cuba has invested in several experimental projects across the island using
solar, wind and biomass power and recently inaugurated a national training
centre for wind power specialists in Ciego de Ávila province in the centre
of the country.
The new centre, linked to the Coastal Ecosystems Research Unit on Cayo Coco,
is co-sponsored by the University of Ciego de Ávila and offers undergraduate
and postgraduate courses on renewable energy.
International experts have pointed to the wind power potential on the
island, much greater than most European countries where this alternative
energy source is already in widespread use. Estimates suggest that Cuban
windmills could generate up to 400 megawatts of electricity annually.
Currently the United Kingdom produces 145MW, the Netherlands132MW and Spain
55MW of wind-generated electricity annually.
Cuba already has a wind power exhibition park on Turiguanó island, also in
Ciego de Ávila province, which will be used to train technicians to install
and maintain the Cuban windmills of the future.
Guatemalan Health Minister Travels to Cuba to Broaden Links
Havana, August 5 (RHC) - The Guatemalan Health Minister, Marco Tulio Sosa,
began an official visit to Cuba Thursday in what sources from both
governments described as an initiative to increase bilateral cooperation in
health care education and provision.
Tulio Sosa met high level officials from the Cuban Family Doctor Programme,
the central strategy in the island's primary health care programme that
provides free attention and medicine to every single citizen.
The minister also toured the 'Julito Díaz' Rehabilitation Hospital and met
his Cuban counterpart, José Ramón Balaguer to analyse all aspects of the
bilateral health cooperation between the two countries.
700 Guatemalans are currently studying medicine in Cuba at the Latin
American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Havana to later return to their
country and work at the grass roots level. The Guatemalan students receive
full scholarships from the Cuban government, as do students from 20 other
Third World countries as part of the island's international health care
700 Cuban doctors and health care specialists are currently working in the
Caribbean region between Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Colombia.
Cuban Crafts to Take International Market by Storm
Havana, August 5 (AIN) - Joining the emblematic cigars and rum in the
overseas market this year will be the very best of traditional handmade
Cuban products thanks to the specialised company Cubartesanía, the Tribuna
de La Habana magazine reported Thursday.
Commercial Manager Rosa Martín reported that musical instruments are leading
the market, followed by wooden sculptures, handbags and accessories, hats
and various products made from natural fibres.
Martín predicts a total of $300 000 in handicraft exports to the Dominican
Republic, Panama, Italy, Holland and Cyprus, one of Cuba's most recent
The exports specialist went on to predict further growth with new contracts
signed with Guatemala and immense interest in Cuban arts and crafts being
shown by individuals and import companies in the Bahamas and Spain.
Cuba made 1.5 billion export dollars in 2002 with sugar, nickel and tobacco
as the three most important products.
International Red Cross Says Abuse Charges by Three British Detainees at
Guantánamo Bay Prison Camp Could Amount to War Crimes
Geneva/Washington/Sydney, August 5 (RHC) - The International Red Cross
asserted late Wednesday that the repeated abuses allegedly suffered by three
British prisoners at the hands of US interrogators and guards in the
Guantánamo Bay detention camp could amount to war crimes. The organization,
which maintains a rigidly neutral stance in public, took the unusual step of
voicing its concerns in uncompromising language after the former detainees,
known as the Tipton Three after the town in the English West Midlands where
they live, revealed that they had been beaten, shackled, photographed naked
and in one incident questioned at gunpoint while in US custody.
Their vivid account of the harrowing conditions at the camp, as told to
their lawyers and published for the first time in the Wednesday edition of
the British news daily The Guardian, has reignited the debate about the
treatment of prisoners and the British government's role in their
questioning and detention. The Red Cross was joined by the Medical
Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, which argued that if the
allegations were true they indicated systematic abuse, amounting to torture.
Sherman Carroll, spokesman for the Medical Foundation, said the report rang
true in light of revelations about techniques of interrogation and torture
The 115-page document detailing the abuse in accounts the Britons gave their
lawyer, Gareth Pierce, over a several-month period, was presented late
Wednesday to the US Senate Armed Services Committee. Meanwhile, the case has
led to further calls for an independent investigation into the treatment of
two Australians held at Guantánamo Bay. The Tipton Three detailed alleged
abuse of Australians David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib in their report.
According to Australian media, the dossier says Hicks was singled out for
mistreatment by his captors and Habib was refused medical treatment and was
in a "catastrophic" physical and mental state.
In early June, the US military promised Australia - one of its strongest
allies in the Iraq campaign - it would examine claims that the pair were
abused. But there has been no news of the inquiry, which the Pentagon was to
have originally completed by the end of June. And Habib's lawyer, Stephen
Hopper, said Canberra could not guarantee the impartiality of the US
military inquiry - stating with irony that "to have the US military
investigate the US military is like having Jack the Ripper investigate Jack
Israel Moves Ahead With Major Expansion of Biggest Illegal Jewish Settlement
in West Bank
Jerusalem/Maaleh Adumim, West Bank/Washington, August 5 (RHC) - Israel has
moved ahead with a major expansion of its biggest illegal Jewish settlement
in the West Bank. On Thursday, Israeli trucks and bulldozers were building a
road in the Maaleh Adumim settlement on a hilly rock-strewn area where
thousands of new housing units will be constructed. The project is intended
to link the sprawling Jewish settlement to Jerusalem four miles away, and
defies the internationally supported roadmap peace plan demanding a halt in
Israeli settlement activity.
Earlier this week, the United States publicly condemned a smaller plan to
expand Maaleh Adumim with the construction of 600 new housing units. Israel
said the plan was old and had already been discarded. But Israeli officials
now say they will seek US approval for other major expansion projects. New
construction at the settlement could cut Palestinians off from Jerusalem,
the city they seek to share as the capital of a future independent state,
and which would also be in violation of the roadmap.
News of the project drew fury from Palestinians, who charge that Israel is
strengthening its hold on big chunks of the West Bank while trying to
distract attention with a plan to uproot smaller settlements in the occupied
Gaza Strip next year. Maaleh Adumim alone already has nearly four times as
many residents as the 8,000 Jews who would leave the Gaza Strip. Israel's
latest move comes amid renewed concern about the impact of US support for
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on public opinion in the Arab world in
the wake of the Iraq war.
Last month, the bipartisan 9/11 Commission noted in its report that the rise
of Islamic terrorism was inextricably linked to policies pursued by Israel.
The report said the Commission had determined that several top al-Qaida
operatives, including the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Khalid
Sheikh Mohammed, were motivated in major part by rage over Israel's
occupation of Palestinian territories and Washington's support for Israel.
The report stated: "America's policy choices have consequences."
But with Bush in the middle of his reelection campaign, many observers
believe that he will be very reluctant to confront Sharon now both because
it may provoke disaffection from leaders of his Christian Right supporters
who oppose the roadmap and believe that Israel has the right to settle the
West Bank and alienate many Jewish voters who normally favor Democrats but
who have been favorably impressed by Bush's strong support for Israel during
the Palestinian intifada. Republicans have been hoping that they could get
as much as 35 percent of the Jewish vote - almost double Bush's performance
in 2000 - and thus tilt the election in his favor in several key
battleground states, such as Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New Jersey,
with relatively large Jewish populations.
Israeli Army Leaves Trail of Death and Destruction in Gaza Strip Town of
Beit Hanun, Gaza Strip, August 5 (RHC) - The Israeli army has left a trail
of death and destruction in Beit Hanun after a five-week siege and
occupation of the Gaza Strip's traditional bread basket which failed to put
a halt to rocket attacks by Palestinian militants. Tanks and armored
vehicles began leaving the center of town at first light Thursday and had
completed their pullout four hours later. Troops had also withdrawn from
around the nearby town of Jabaliya and its refugee camp.
Twenty Palestinians were killed during the course of the operation which
originally saw tanks seal off the entrance to Beit Hanun. They then later
moved into the center of the town and expanded their operations to include
Jabaliya, where three Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli forces on
Wednesday. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz had ordered troops into Beit Hanun,
home to some 30,000 Palestinians, in the aftermath of a rocket attack on a
southern Israeli town that killed two people.
Residents said that much of the town's infrastructure had been smashed in
the course of the operation as troops demolished buildings, tore up roads
and razed citrus groves. Palestinian Housing Minister Abdelrahman Hamad, who
comes from Beit Hanun, said the latest incursion had caused some 40 million
dollars worth of damage to homes, farms and general infrastructure. He said
that hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland in the northern Gaza Strip,
the region's only source of farming and citrus fruits, had been damaged or
destroyed by the incursion and now resembles a desert.
Beit Hanun is renowned for its orange and lemon trees but hundreds could be
seen smashed to pieces Thursday morning. At least 30 houses were totally
destroyed with residents trying to pick through the rubble to retrieve
clothes and possessions. Though the operation was purportedly designed to
put a stop to Qassam rocket attacks, Israeli army radio reported Wednesday
that more than 40 rockets had landed in Israeli territory since the start of
The head of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees cited
the Israeli operation in Beit Hanun in ordering all foreign staff based in
its Gaza City headquarters to temporarily move to Jordan on Wednesday. The
agency's commissioner general Peter Hansen and other staff came under
Israeli fire in Beit Hanun last month after they had overseen a food
delivery to besieged residents. Although troops had left the area, a hot air
balloon could be seen flying overhead with cameras directed towards the
Flare Up of Fighting Between US Forces and Iraqi Militia of Shiite Cleric
Moqtada al-Sadr Threatens Shaky Two-Month-Old Truce
Baghdad, August 5 (RHC) - Iraqi insurgents loyal to radical Shiite cleric
Moqtada al-Sadr battled fiercely with US forces in the holy city of Najaf on
Thursday and fighting quickly spread to other Shiite areas, threatening a
shaky two-month-old truce. Al-Sadr's men also fought with US troops in the
Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, shot at government offices in the
southern city of Amarah and clashed with British forces farther south in
Basra. Insurgents shot down an American UH-2 helicopter, with unconfirmed
reports of wounded among the crew, and for the first time declared a holy
war on British troops in southern Iraq.
The fighting was the worst flare-up between authorities and the Shiite
al-Mahdi militia since a series of truces two months ago ended weeks of
violence that began after the US occupation authority closed al-Sadr's
newspaper and arrested a key aide. The newspaper was recently allowed to
start printing again, but tensions between the militia and US forces had
been rising in recent days. Residents of Najaf said busloads of al-Mahdi
militants have been seen entering the city.
In Amarah, an appeal for militia members to mobilize rang out from mosque
loudspeakers and militants took to the streets, shooting at government
buildings and blocking roads. Residents in the north of Basra reported a
clash Thursday afternoon between al-Mahdi fighters and British troops. The
al-Mahdi Army earlier had said it was taking up positions close to where
British troops normally patrol after a noon deadline passed in its demand
for the release of four al-Sadr supporters detained by British forces two
No Country Offers Troops to Protect United Nations Envoys Set to Arrive in
United Nations, August 5 (RHC) - Meanwhile, as violence also raged in other
parts of Iraq, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan announced that no
countries have offered troops for a separate UN protection force. Ashraf
Jehangir Qazi of Pakistan is scheduled to take up his post as UN special
representative in Iraq before a national conference of political, religious
and civic leaders gets under way in mid-August. But Qazi will be deployed
with only a small team, and Annan is reported to have told Security Council
ambassadors Wednesday that at least 5,000 troops are necessary to protect
the much larger UN staff needed to help Iraq through elections and in
rebuilding the country.
Where those troops might come from - and when the United Nations might
return in force - is becoming an increasingly pressing problem because the
interim government's timetable calls for elections by the end of January
2005. Annan pulled all 600 UN international staff out of Iraq in October
following two bombings at UN headquarters and a spate of attacks. A Security
Council resolution adopted unanimously on June 8 authorized a separate UN
protection force under the overall command of the multinational force.
But nearly two months later, Annan said, the world body hasn't had much
success attracting reluctant governments to sign up, despite negotiations
with close to a dozen countries. The secretary general said his envoys will
therefore be forced to rely on US troops to give them protection, which
neither the US nor the UN wants. For the UN, a separate protection force is
seen as providing distance from the United States and the war it led, which
the Security Council refused to authorize. And for the US, UN security is an
international responsibility requiring wider participation.
Security is an especially sensitive issue as the first anniversary of the
August 19 bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad approaches. The blast killed
22 people, including top UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello, and led to
widespread criticism of Annan from his colleagues at the world body itself
for relying on US troops for protection.
With Iraq War Damaging Bush Re-election Campaign, Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld Takes Back Seat, Reports The Los Angeles Times
Washington, August 5 (RHC) - The Los Angeles Times has reported that Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the once popular administration spokesman for the
Iraq war, has reduced his public profile, trimming appearances as the war
has turned from a positive for the Bush campaign into a potential liability.
The newspaper asserted Thursday that Iraq policy and media analysts
attributed Rumsfeld's lower domestic profile to a broader strategy by the
Bush administration to shift the focus away from Iraq.
The man who gave daily progress reports at the Pentagon in the heat of the
war has appeared only twice at Pentagon briefings since May. And the White
House, which coordinates which administration officials appear on the
networks' news-making Sunday talk shows, has not lined up a Rumsfeld
interview for months. Among 19 television and radio interviews Rumsfeld has
done since May, many have been with local media or with supportive satellite
and cable networks, which often give more favorable coverage than other
The defense secretary has also faded from the briefing rooms and network TV
news sets where he earned his reputation as a war advocate, and has dropped
some of his speaking engagements. Following congressional calls for his
resignation after the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal broke in early May,
Rumsfeld dropped a scheduled appearance at the Philadelphia World Affairs
Council, leaving his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, to fill in. The LA Times
reported that his close identification with the Iraq war and the prison
scandal has affected his job approval ratings in surveys.
He drew enviable approval ratings of 71% just after the Iraq war started and
was still considered a good secretary of defense by 58% of Americans last
fall in a Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll. But his numbers continued to slide, and
the last such survey, in May, showed 46% approving of his job performance.
But Pentagon officials, Republicans on Capitol Hill and conservative think
tanks rejected the assertion that the nation's top defense official was
lying low to duck criticism or to get Iraq off the front pages.
P.O. Box 182
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