Abril de 2005

Russia, Germany close historic gas deal

ISN SECURITY WATCH (13/04/05) - Russia’s state-owned gas monopolist Gazprom and Germany’s BASF chemical concern signed a groundbreaking deal on Monday that for the first time allows a German company to be involved in production in Russia, and a Russian company to sell natural gas to end consumers in Western Europe.

The memorandum of understanding between the companies was signed at the Hannover Trade Fair, with Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder hailing the event as historic.

Under the deal, Gazprom and BASF will form a joint enterprise to build a
1’187-kilometer gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea. The construction of the
pipeline between the northern Russian port of Vyborg and Greifswald, Germany will begin this fall and is expected to cost US$5.7 billion.

BASF will have a 49-per-cent share in the joint enterprise and will finance the construction. Gazprom will cover its part of the costs with gas supplies. The pipeline is expected to deliver 20 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year.

The two companies will also create a second joint enterprise that will develop the Yuzhno Russkoye field in western Siberia. BASF’s Wintershall unit will have 50 per cent minus one share in the enterprise and will become the first German enterprise to be involved in production in Russia.

In return, Gazprom will receive 15 per cent of Wintershall’s daughter company, Wingas, raising its stake in Wingas to 50 per cent minus one share from the current 35 per cent. Gazprom’s CEO Alexei Miller told Russian media on Monday that that would allow Gazprom to participate in Wingas’ pricing and sales  policies in Central and Western Europe.

The estimated overall value of the joint investment project is about US$1
billion. Yuzhno Russkoye field is estimated to contain 700 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

For more than two years, Russia has been searching for a partner to build a pipeline to Western Europe that would bypass Ukraine and Belarus. Currently, more than 90 per cent of the Russia’s natural gas exports go through these two countries.

Russia has repeatedly accused Ukraine of stealing Russian gas from the existing Soviet-era pipelines. Russia also has being paying both countries for the transit of its gas through their territories.

(By Nabi Abdullaev in Moscow)

Lab mix-up sparks fear of deadly flu strain

ISN SECURITY WATCH (13/04/05) - Vials of a deadly 1957-1958 pandemic flu strain have been accidentally sent to thousands of laboratories in 18 countries and should be destroyed immediately, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Wednesday in an urgent message on its website.

Vials containing the lethal strain of the flu virus were accidentally sent to
3’747 laboratories between September last year and early April this year by the College of American Pathologists for routine testing of their ability to identify various viruses.

The lethal strains were mistakenly included in testing kits, and health
officials warn that it could spark another epidemic, as the strain of the flu is transmissible.

The mistake came to light on 25 March when the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba, identified the virus, which killed as many as 4 million people in the 1957-1958 Asian influenza pandemic.

Experts fear the strain could cause a global pandemic among those under age of 36 who have no immunity to it.

Health authorities have ordered all the samples to be destroyed and will closely monitor anyone who may have come into contact with the virus for signs of illness.

According to the WHO, the countries that received the lethal samples include: Bermuda, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and the US.

Donors pledge US$4.5bn for Sudan
ISN SECURITY WATCH (13/04/05) - International donors have pledged US$4.5 billion to help southern Sudan recover after a 20-year civil war, while the US said that its contribution depended on Khartoum’s efforts to end atrocities in the Darfur region.

The pledge, announced at the end of a three-day, 60-state conference in Oslo on Tuesday, exceeded a combined aid request of US$3.6 billion for 2005-2007 made by Sudan and the UN. The UN says it needs US$1 billion in immediate aid for this year, while Sudan separately sought US$2.6 billion for the next two-and-a-half years, beginning in July.

Sudan is one of the world’s poorest countries; one in four children dies before the age of five in the south. Aid is needed to stop hunger and help refugees to return, and to build schools, roads, and hospitals.

US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick said Washington would link plans to give some US$1.7 billion to strengthen the north-south Sudanese peace deal with efforts to end the separate conflict in Darfur.

He said “the violence and atrocities in Darfur cast a dangerous shadow” on Sudan, and urged Khartoum to do more to end attacks by Arab militia in the western region and to ensure better access for aid workers.

International community representatives have accused the Sudanese government of arming the Arab Janjaweed militias to fight rebels in Darfur. The militias have been accused of conducting a widespread campaign of rape, killing, and looting in the region. Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and an estimated two million others have been displaced in the two-year conflict in Darfur.

Sudanese authorities have repeatedly denied any link to the Janjaweed.

Last month, the International Crisis Group (ICG) - an influential Brussels-based think tank - criticized the international community for not doing enough to stop the terror in Darfur. “Two years into the crisis in Darfur, the humanitarian, security and political situation is deteriorating,” the ICG said in a report, adding that “the international community is failing to protect civilians itself or influence the Sudanese government to do so”.

In March, the UN Security Council voted to prosecute war crimes committed by Sudanese government and militia leaders at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The move had been delayed over the US' objections to the ICC, which the White House fears might unjustly accuse US citizens of war crimes. The US abstained from the March vote in the Security Council in return for guarantees that US citizens would be immune from ICC prosecution.

Under the north-south peace deal, Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement will set up a coalition government, decentralize power, share oil revenues, and form joint military units.

The UN's World Food Program said earlier this month that it would have to drastically reduce rations for the more than 1 million people that it is now feeding in Darfur.

US charges 3 Britons in alleged terror plot

ISN SECURITY WATCH (13/04/05) - The US on Tuesday charged three men who have been in British custody since last summer with plotting to attack the New York Stock Exchange and other East Coast financial institutions, news agencies reported.

Dhiran Barot, Nadeem Tarmohammed, and Qaisar Shaffi - whom the US suspects of having al-Qaida ties - were accused of conducting surveillance on the stock exchange and Citicorp building in New York, the Prudential building in Newark, and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington - including video surveillance in Manhattan around April 2001.

The three men - all British citizens - have not been accused of playing any role in the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

The charges include conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction against the US and conspiracy to damage and destroy buildings used in interstate and foreign commerce.

Their trial is expected to be held in Britain next January.

“These men were conducting sophisticated surveillance with very great patience. This conspiracy was alive and kicking until late 2004,” news agencies quoted James Comey, the deputy attorney general, as saying.

The case came to light last summer when Pakistani investigators seized a
computer allegedly containing information about the surveillance. They alerted British authorities, who arrested eight men on terrorism-related charges in August.

According to the indictment, Barot was a lead instructor at a jihad training
camp in Afghanistan in 1998 and applied to a college in New York in 2000 as a cover for his real purpose for visiting the US. The indictment also charges Shaffi with possession of a so-called terrorist handbook containing information on chemicals and explosives.

Last year, when Pakistani officials alerted Britain to the alleged plot,
Washington was harshly criticized for its reaction, with many observers saying the arrests were based on old intelligence information and motivated by Republican political interests in the run-up to the November presidential elections.

Last year, Britain introduced new anti-terrorism legislation that allows the US to seek extradition of British citizens without evidence of a crime.

If found guilty of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction against the US, the three face life sentences.

Serbia and Montenegro moves toward EU

ISN SECURITY WATCH (13/04/05) - The European Commission released a feasibility study on Tuesday giving Serbia and Montenegro the green light to start Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) talks, the first step towards joining the EU.

EC officials said the union of Serbia and Montenegro had made sufficient
progress in adopting European reforms and that accession talks, which could take months or even years, could now begin.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn refused to speculate on a date for full membership in the European club, saying that Serbia and Montenegro still had some way to go towards implementing all necessary EU legislation.

Rehn told EU parliamentarians on Tuesday that he hoped to win the approval of the bloc’s 25 member states to launch the SAA talks with Serbia and Montenegro in December, during the 10th anniversary of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

But Rehn said the pace of progress would still depend on Belgrade’s willingness to cooperate with the UN’s Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Several indicted war criminals are still at large in Serbia and Montenegro,
including Bosnian Serb wartime leaders General Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic. Rehn said the two fugitives had to be delivered to the UN court by December if SAA talks were to begin.

He reminded Serbia and Montenegro that neighboring Croatia’s EU membership talks had been delayed last month because of the failure to deliver indicted war crimes suspect General Ante Gotovina to The Hague.

The positive feasibility study for Serbia and Montenegro comes as the UN is preparing to move ahead with the political process in Kosovo, which is
officially part of Serbia, but has been administered by the UN since the end of the war in 1999.

But Kosovo was not included in the EC feasibility study, suggesting that Serbia and Montenegro would go it alone for EU membership. And observers and official European sources say that fact represents the EU’s unofficial position that Kosovo should some day be independent.

The only reference to Kosovo in the report urged Serbia to play a constructive role in the province’s development. Western diplomats have recently criticized Serbia for obstructing Kosovo’s development by preventing Kosovo Serb representatives from fully engaging in the province’s political institutions.

Also on Tuesday, the International Commission for the Balkans (ICB) in Brussels - which gathers former diplomats and politicians from around the world - presented a report saying that Kosovo should be independent from Serbia once it is a full-fledged member of the EU.

The ICB warned that the Western Balkans risked becoming a European ghetto of poverty, lawlessness, and political instability under the current status quo, and urged the EU to move ahead with membership for Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, and Albania.

The study suggested that the Western Balkan states should join the EU in June 2014, a dateline that many EU officials believe is realistic, provided that necessary reforms requested by Brussels are met.

In related news, Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian president, Ibrahim Rugova, on Tuesday ruled out talks with Serbia on the future of Kosovo.

His statement was in response to recommendations made earlier in the day by representatives of the six-nation Contact Group, who had said that Serbia and Kosovo should hold direct talks ahead of final status negotiations.

Ethnic Albanians, who make up about 90 per cent of the population of Kosovo, demand independence, but Serbia rejects this scenario.

(By Ekrem Krasniqi in Brussels)

Polish troops to leave Iraq this year

ISN SECURITY WATCH (13/04/05) - Poland announced on Tuesday that it would withdraw all its troops from Iraq when the UN’s mandate there expires in December, news agencies reported.

Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said the country would withdraw its 1’700 troops by the end the year, but suggested that the mission could be extended along with the UN mandate.

The government of Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka has no plans to deploy news troops elsewhere, Szmajdzinski told reporters.

Along with Spain, Poland was one of the nations that carried command
responsibility within the US-led coalition of 10’000 multinational forces in
south-central Iraq. Spain pulled its troops out of Iraq last year after
Socialist leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero won the elections. Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and the Netherlands have also withdrawn their troops from Iraq. Hungary’s mission there ends in December.

Poland was one of the staunchest supporters of the US-led invasion of Iraq. But public opinion changed when Pope John Paul II criticized the war. Corruption allegations and other scandals have also led to a decline in the popularity of Poland’s leftist government, which is expected to call general elections for this summer.

Despite the withdrawal of troops, Poland said it would continue to assist NATO with training Iraqi security officers in Iraq and elsewhere.


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