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AJE - US president signs controversial defence bill

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  • Paul
    AJE - Aljazeera - 01 Jan 2012 US president signs controversial defence bill Barack Obama signs into law new provisions regarding counterterrorism and fresh
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2012
      AJE - Aljazeera -
      01 Jan 2012

      US president signs controversial defence bill

      Barack Obama signs into law new provisions regarding counterterrorism
      and fresh sanctions against Iran.
      Last Modified: 01 Jan 2012 04:44


      Barack Obama, the US president, has signed a wide-ranging defence bill
      into law, putting into place new provisions that regulate the detention,
      interrogation and prosecution of those suspected of terrorism, as well
      as imposing fresh sanctions on Iran.

      In a statement accompanying his signature to the $662bn bill, Obama said
      that he was signing it despite having "serious reservations" about the
      provisions relating to terrorism, contending that politicians in the US
      congress were attempting to restrict the ability of counterterrorism
      officials to protect the country.

      He argued that recent US successes against al-Qaeda had been possible
      because counterterrorism authorities had benefited from flexibility on
      dealing with suspects, which he said the bill called into question.

      Administration officials said that Obama only signed the measure on
      Saturday because certain minimally acceptable changes had been made to
      the controversial bill that allowed the president's office to retain
      certain overarching powers.

      Obama's signature caps months of wrangling over how to handle captured
      terrorism suspects without violating US constitutional rights. The White
      House initially threatened to veto the legislation unless certain
      changes were made.

      Among the modifications made at the last minute were the striking of a
      provision that would have eliminated the executive branch's authority to
      use civilian courts to try foreign nationals in terrorism cases.

      The new law now requires military custody for any suspect who is
      allegedly a member of al-Qaeda or "associated forces" and involved in
      planning, or attempting to carry out, an attack against the US or its

      The president, or a designed subordinate, has the power to waive the
      military custody requirement by certifying to congress that such a move
      would be in the interest of national security.

      The White House also pushed politicians to change a provision that would
      have denied US citizens suspected of terrorism the right to trial and
      could have subjected them to indefinite detention.

      Congress eventually dropped the military custody requirement for US
      citizens and lawful US residents.

      "My administration will not authorise the indefinite military detention
      without trial of American citizens," Obama said in the signing statement.

      "Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important
      traditions and values as a nation."

      Despite the changes, officials say serious concerns remain about the
      implications of the law.

      Robert Mueller, the director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation,
      has said that the measure would inhibit his agency's ability to persuade
      those suspected of involvement in terrorism to co-operate immediately
      and provide critical intelligence.

      New Iran sanctions

      The bill also imposed tough new sanctions against Iran's central bank
      and financial sector, marking the sharpest economic confrontation
      between Washington and Tehran yet.

      Officials said Obama signed the bill despite concerns it could
      complicate his bid to build an international front against Iran.

      The sanctions require foreign firms to make a choice between either
      doing business with Tehran's oil and financial sectors or central bank,
      or with the US economy and financial sector.

      Foreign central banks which deal with the Iranian central bank on oil
      transactions could also face similar restrictions under the new law,
      which has sparked fears of damage to US ties with Russia and China.

      Obama said in a statement issued as he signed the bill that he was
      concerned the measure would interfere with his constitutional authority
      to conduct foreign relations by tying his hands in dealings with foreign

      The bill, which passed with wide majorities in Congress, did reserve
      some flexibility for Obama, granting him the power to grant 120 day
      waivers if he judges it to be in the national security interests of the US.

      Senior US officials said Washington was engaging with its foreign
      partners to ensure the sanctions can work without harming global energy
      markets, and stressed the US strategy for engaging with Iran was
      unchanged by the bill.

      EU-Iran talks

      Earlier on Saturday, a European Union foreign policy spokesman said the
      bloc was open to meaningful talks with Iran provided there are no
      preconditions on the Iranian side.

      The EU statement was in response to remarks by Ali Reza Sheikh Attar,
      the Iranian ambassador to Germany, who announced that Iran's top nuclear
      negotiator, Saeed Jalili, is to send a letter soon to the EU's foreign
      policy chief to arrange a new round of negotiations over the country's
      disputed nuclear programme.

      EU foreign policy spokesman, Michael Mann, said in an email to the
      Reuters news agency that Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief,
      wrote to Jalili in October and had not yet had a response.

      "We continue to pursue our twin-track approach and are open for
      meaningful discussions on confidence-building measures, without
      preconditions from the Iranian side," he said.

      Attar did not say when the letter would be sent. His comments were
      reported by the semi-official Mehr news agency on Saturday.

      All talks between Iran and major powers, including the latest round in
      January in Istanbul, have failed so far to achieve any tangible result.

      The main reason is that Iran has constantly rejected the key Western
      demand - suspension of its uranium enrichment plan as a sign of goodwill
      until the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear programmes are proven.
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