Friday, February 20, 2009

Netanyahu asked to form Israel's next government

JERUSALEM- Right-wing leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday accepted a mandate to form Israel's next government and immediately called for a broad, national unity coalition with centrist and left-wing partners.

Such a coalition might create a stable, middle-of-the-road government immune to the sort of pressure from fringe parties that has hamstrung previous Israeli administrations.

But there was no sign that his rivals would accept, and Netanyahu may have no alternative but an alliance with far-right and ultra-religious parties, which could tie his hands on making peace with the Palestinians and tightening fiscal discipline.

Palestinians and Arab neighbors were likely to see his nomination as confirmation that most Israelis are in no hurry to pursue peace deals with them.

Netanyahu, 59, leads the hawkish Likud party. He was prime minister before in the late 1990s and now has six weeks to put together a coalition for a second turn at the helm.

Likud more than doubled its seats in the election 10 days ago in which the security of the Jewish state was the paramount issue, after a 2006 conflict with Hezbollah Islamists in Lebanon and a war with Islamist Palestinian Hamas in Gaza last month.

But there was no clear winner.

With 27 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, Netanyahu ended up one seat behind the centrist Kadima party of Tzipi Livni, the dominant partner in the outgoing coalition.

The electorate's rightward drift, however, gave him a better chance of achieving a majority with like-minded parties.

But his nomination by President Shimon Peres on Friday was a break with Israeli tradition, which has always given a governing mandate to the leader of the first-placed party after elections.

Netanyahu urged his opponents to close ranks.

"I call on Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni and Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak and I say to them -- let's unite to secure the future of the State of Israel."

Repeating his campaign message, he said Iran was seeking nuclear weapons that could threaten Israel and was challenging Israel through Islamist proxies, Hezbollah in south Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

In the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the ruling Palestinian Hamas movement predicted conflict and instability.

"This means that Zionist policy is going from bad to worse," he said. "The nomination of Netanyahu does not point to security, peace or stability in the days ahead."


Livni, 50, said on Friday she was not interested in joining Netanyahu in any coalition "that doesn't allow me to pursue my path, the path of Kadima as we promised the voters."

Yoel Hasson, who leads Kadima's parliamentary group, told Reuters the party's lawmakers would meet on Sunday.

"I imagine the decision will be that we are going into opposition," he said. "We won't enter any government headed by Netanyahu."

But some in Kadima urged Livni to negotiate a coalition with Netanyahu, and the two may meet on Sunday after Netanyahu telephone to invite her for talks, party officials said.

"We didn't go to the elections in order to sit in opposition," Parliament Speaker Dalia Itzik of Kadima said told Channel 2 television. "I hope very much we can set up a government where Kadima has a central role."

Netanyahu's rivals to the left favor pursuing talks with secular Palestinian leaders, backed by U.S. President Barack Obama, that could hand most of the occupied West Bank and parts of Jerusalem to a new Palestinian state in return for peace.

U.S.-educated Netanyahu, who had poor ties with the Clinton administration as premier, says Israel's unilateral ceding of occupied Arab land, notably Gaza in 2005, has backfired.

"I don't see much (peace) progress happening regardless of which coalition he forms," said analyst Eliezer Don-Yehiya.

Accepting his mandate, Netanyahu also noted that "the most serious world economic crisis in 80 years threatens the jobs of hundreds of thousands of Israelis."

The former finance minister championed welfare cuts and free-market practices in the early part of this decade, but to close a coalition deal with smaller parties he may have to agree to budget for more social benefits.

Pak-Afghan policy review to complete by March: Clinton

SEOUL: The U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday that situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan is interconnected with each other.Talking to media here in South Korean capital, Clinton said that Pak-Afghan policy review would complete in March. “Pakistan and Afghanistan have been asked to submit their recommendations on policy review,” she said, adding that both countries are cooperating in this regard.
To a question, she said that US envoy of Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke is in contact with Pakistani government to obtain information about progress made in Swat truce deal. “I will comment on the Swat accord only after receiving more informations,” she commented.

RUSSIA.....130 languages under threat in Russia

Over 130 languages in Russia are in danger of extinction and 20 of them are already dead, according to UNESCO.The organisation measured the viability of languages by nine criteria, including the total number of speakers, the passing-on of language between generations, and the availability of materials for language education and literacy. The researchers also rate a community’s attitude towards their own language.Languages are classified into six categories: safe, unsafe, definitely endangered, severely endangered, critically endangered and extinct.According to UNESCO’s research, the majority of severely and critically endangered languages in Russia were once spoken in Siberia and the country’s Far East. Definitely endangered languages are still spoken in southern Russia and the Caucasus, Urals and Russia’s North.Twenty languages have already been declared extinct. Among them are Arman, Kerek and Ainu in Russia’s Far East; Soyot and Kamas in Siberia; Karelian in the North West.Almost 50 languages have been declared on the brink of extinction, including Kalmyk, Udmurt and Yiddish. Twenty more languages, including Belarus, Chechen, Yakut and Tuva are also endangered.Udmurt, Kalmyk, Yakut, Tuva and Chechen languages are considered to be state languages of Russian Federative republics.
In total, UNESCO recognised 2,500 threatened languages out of 6,000 existing languages in the world; 199 languages are listed as being spoken by groups of fewer than ten people. In the last few decades, approximately 200 languages have completely disappeared.

Russia among top-10 smoking nations

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), which is the UN’s authority for health issues, Russia ranks fourth according to the number of smokers per capita.
The WHO report reveals that two-third of the world’s smokers live in just ten countries – China, India, Indonesia, Russia, US, Japan, Brazil, Bangladesh, Germany and Turkey.Russia leads the US and Brazil in the total number of smokers, although it has a much smaller population. Moreover, first-ranked China, followed by second- and third-place India and Indonesia respectively have much larger populations than Russia, yet the latter finds itself in the same smoky neighborhood.

President Zardari arrives in China on four-day official visit

WUHAN: President Asif Ali Zardari arrived here Friday on his second visit to China in four months, seeking cooperation in energy and agriculture sector. He was warmly received at the airport by Vice Governor of Hubei Duan Lun Yi, Pakistan’s Ambassador to China Masood Khan, Chinese ambassador in Islamabad Lou Zhao, senior Chinese and Pakistani government officials. Two children in traditional Chinese dresses presented President Zardari with bouquets.During the important visit, at the invitation of Chinese government, President Zardari will seek China’s cooperation in the fields of power generation and improving agriculture output in Pakistan. The two sides will also sign agreements in the fields of agriculture, hydro electric power and free trade in services.Wuhan, one of the biggest cities of China and capital of Hubei province, in recent years has seen phenomenal growth in power generation as world’s largest dam - Three Gorges Dam - is located here.
Like the rest of China, Wuhan is fast becoming a hub of industrial, trade and commercial activities and old buildings are giving way to new multi-storied structures. While in Wuhan, President Zardari will visit Three Gorges Dam and attend a conference on agriculture.China’s progress has been phenomenal in power generation and President Zardari will avail himself of the opportunity to study first hand the institutions involved, their working and the way they managed the power generation at such a large scale.He will also have in-depth interaction with the relevant Chinese agriculture officials who will brief the President on various measures they are taking to enhance agricultural produce and development of hybrid seeds.“The focus of the President’s visit is promoting cooperation in the fields of agriculture and hydro-power projects as well as financial sector”, said a foreign office statement issued in Islamabad.In Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, the President will attend a China-Pakistan Agriculture and Water Resources Forum. The President will then proceed to Yichang for a day trip to see the Three Gorges Dam Project, the biggest hydropower project in the world.In Shanghai the President will have an interaction with Chairman/CEOs of leading Chinese banks and financial institutions to discuss ways to further intensify cooperation between Pakistan and China in this important field.The President will have an interaction with intellectuals and scholars from important think-tanks and universities in Shanghai.
The President will have meetings with the Governor of Hubei and the Mayor of Shanghai.State Councillor Dai Bingguo will meet the President in Wuhan to discuss the entire range of bilateral and regional issues and will also host a banquet in honour of the President and his delegation.
Several Memorandums of Understanding and agreements including FTA on Trade and Services will be signed during the visit.
President will also meet representatives of the Chinese print and electronic media in Hubei and Shanghai.
“The President’s visit to China is focused on further strengthening the relationship of trust and friendship between the two countries and enhancing mutually-beneficial cooperation in the areas of common interest”, the statement added.
Chinese officials here fondly recall the memories of late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s visit to China in early 70s when he was given an unprecedented welcome and laid a solid foundation for Pak-China friendship. These ties were further nurtured by his illustrious daughter Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.
Relations with China have always been the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy which has been reciprocated by the Chinese in the form of cooperation in trade and business. Gawadar Port is one such symbol of the two countries’ friendship that both sides say is “higher than Himalyas and deeper than oceans.”
Pakistan has always maintained its full support for the One China Policy and the return of Taiwan to China.Pakistan and China hold unanimity of views on various international issues and the two countries are also cooperating closely in counter-terrorism, which the two countries consider greatest hindrance to world peace.