Wednesday, May 27, 2009

World Agenda: Tehran summit could be a turning point

Though it attracted little attention, the meeting on Sunday between the leaders of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan could prove to be a turning point in international efforts to control drug smuggling, defeat the Taleban and stabilise one of the world’s most dangerous regions.

President Karzai of Afghanistan joined President Zardari of Pakistan in Tehran for a one-day meeting hosted by President Ahmadinejad. It came at a critical time for all three countries, beset by armed uprisings, domestic political struggles and the growing menace of drug smuggling and addiction.

It is the first time that the radical Iranian leader has held a joint meeting with his two neighbours, which are both battling Taleban insurgencies.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are heavily dependent on Western support in their fight against Sunni Islamist extremism. Iran, which is mainly Shia, is an enemy of the Taleban, who regard regard Shia Muslims as apostates. But Tehran has given covert support to the Taleban to encourage their opposition to Nato forces in Afghanistan and to prevent Nato determining a settlement on Iran’s eastern flank.

Until now, the three countries have had strained relations and very different strategic aims. Afghanistan has been intensely suspicious of Pakistan, which it accuses of harbouring Taleban leaders and failing to halt the movement of weapons and fighters across the border.

Pakistan, both under President Musharraf and President Zardari, is wary of the huge Nato presence in Afghanistan and hostile to the growing Indian influence in Kabul. And Iran has long been obsessed by the presence of American troops on both its eastern and western borders, which it has seen as a greater threat than either the instability in Iraq or the Taleban in the east.

Their joint commitment to “eradicating extremism, terrorism and drugs” is therefore deliberately bland, with no detail of the talks or hints of any changes in policy. But it marks a significant shift in Iran at a time when President Ahmadinejad is facing a tough fight for re-election in June and when Iranian hardliners have been put on the spot by President Obama’s conciliatory tone.

For Iran, the immediate threat is the vast drug smuggling operation based in Afghanistan, which supplies 90 per cent of the world’s heroin. Iranian troops have fought battles along the eastern border against well-armed smugglers, sometimes suffering heavy casualties. Within Iran the incidence of drug use and addiction is growing alarmingly.

With the drug trade now controlled by the Taleban, Iran is ready to make common cause with Kabul in halting the trade. At the same time, Pakistan, increasingly alarmed by the groundswell of anti-American opinion in the wake of drone strikes on Taleban hideouts, is looking for regional support in its fight with extremists in the Swat Valley and along its tribal northwest frontier.

Pakistan also has an important economic interest in securing energy from Iran, and at the summit reached broad agreement on a multibillion-dollar pipeline to bring Iranian natural gas to Pakistan within four years. The deal is vital to Iran, which is suffering from Western sanctions on energy investment and is falling behind in exploiting its huge oil and gas reserves.

For all these reasons, President Ahmadinejad is under pressure to improve relations with his two neighbours. The danger for him is that this will be welcomed in the West and will be seen as a sign of a pragmatic moderation of the anti-Americanism that has been Iran’s driving policy.

Iran tried to use the summit to bolster anti-American feeling by insisting that the presence of foreign forces had not stabilised Afghanistan. Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, Iran’s supreme leader, told the two visiting presidents that “the United States is hated by the peoples of the region because it is considered responsible for these problems”. That appears to have cut little ice with either man, however: neither has any reason to alienate the United States at the moment.

Nevertheless, the three leaders declared that they would hold regular future meetings, and create a mechanism for joint consultation. That can only help Washington in its attempt to focus regional efforts on defeating the Taleban, rebuilding Afghanistan and drawing Iran out of its self-imposed isolation. And that could be the first step in Washington’s long and difficult talk of re-establishing a working relationship with Iran. The Tehran summit could be more significant than the headlines suggested.

OPEC set to hold output steady, hopes for price rise

VIENNA- OPEC ministers set their sights on oil prices above $70 a barrel as they gathered for talks in Vienna, but they were expected to hold output steady and rely instead on economic recovery to push the market up.

Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said on Wednesday the world was ready to cope with oil at $75-$80 a barrel, the price range the leading oil exporter considers enough to sustain energy investment for the long term.

He said it could be reached before the end of this year.

Previously, Saudi Arabia signaled it could live with oil around $50 to help nurse the economy back to health.

Oil has already climbed from a low of $32.40 last December to six-month highs above $63 a barrel on Wednesday.

"The price rise is a function of optimism better things are coming in the future," Naimi told reporters.

"We see offshoots of recovery," he added. "There are a lot of positives in what I say because I am seeing a recovery."

Representing the world's biggest fuel consumer, the U.S. government's Energy Information Administration said too high an oil price could damage a fragile economy.

"I certainly would think that we are still in some pretty thick economic woods and that it would make sense to not push things with respect to the oil market," Howard Gruenspecht, acting head of the EIA, said on Wednesday.

"Keeping oil markets well supplied is pretty important."

U.S. President Barack Obama and Saudi King Abdullah were expected to discuss oil prices at a meeting next week in Riyadh.

Naimi said Thursday's meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna did not need to change the group's output policy.

Saudi Arabia has always been regarded as a moderate and ally of the United States. Venezuela, by contrast, which has big social spending plans to finance, has typically been among the first to seek higher prices.

On arriving in Vienna on Wednesday, Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said he hoped oil would reach $75 in the fourth quarter, but was concerned about "very, very high" levels of inventory.

He did not expect OPEC to change its supply targets, but said it should focus on stronger output discipline.


When OPEC last met in March, oil was below $50.

Citing the need to restore the economy, which in turn would boost oil demand, the group then called only for tighter adherence to existing output curbs, rather than making new ones.

Since September last year, OPEC has lowered output by 4.2 million barrels per day (bpd) and has implemented around 80 percent of the promised cuts.

The historically high compliance has helped to drive the oil price rally, which has also been sustained by expectations across financial markets that the worst is over economically.

Algerian Energy and Mines Minister Chakib Khelil predicted oil prices would be around $60-$65 by the end of the year, rising to $65-$70 next year and said fundamentals of supply and demand did not justify the current price.

"Normally we shouldn't have these kind of prices, but we have them so we are happy with them and I hope they will continue going up," he said.

Some analysts said Naimi could be better placed than many to gather evidence of a recovery in fuel demand.

"I think Naimi's comments are very significant indeed," said Mike Wittner of Societe Generale.

"Nobody on the planet sells more crude to more refineries than Saudi Aramco. So when Ali al-Naimi says that he is seeing demand picking up in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, you have to believe him because he has the facts."

Provided energy demand indeed recovers, Naimi said oil inventories would shrink back to the equivalent of 52-54 days of forward cover, a measure closely monitored by OPEC.

The International Energy Agency, which represents consumer countries, said in a report this month oil inventories in developed countries had risen to the equivalent of 62.4 days of forward cover, the most since 1993.

While stating fundamentals are bearish in the near term, the IEA has also argued any recovery in demand could be accompanied by a rally back to the record levels of nearly $150 hit last year because cheaper oil has stymied investment in new supply.

Naimi too has said that is a risk and the difficulty was to keep prices in a range, fair to producers, but that does not destroy demand.

"That is the biggest challenge," he said when asked how to contain any price rise. "It's very difficult. There are too many players in the market. It's impossible with so many players."

Hypocrite leaders

The Frontier Post
Commitment to Journalism
Hypocrite leaders
M Waqar New York
Hypocrites of religious parties had a protest against military operation in Swat, its really amazing that leadership of these so-called religious parties never made any statement what Taliban did and doing to the nation, country as well as innocent people, where were their protest rallies when cruel, criminal, thug Taliban were beheading innocent people, hanging dead bodies on trees and poles? While Army is locked with Taliban in fierce battle in the Malakand Agency, especially in the Swat region, some of the hypocrites like Imran Khan and religious parties have started raising hell just to demoralize the nation and to show their inner filth and to just blackmail the government to get more attention and the perks and privileges. Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the ex-chief of Jamaat-e-Islami has announced a three-day sit-in in the Melody Chowk, Islamabad, against the military operation in Swat. Where was he and his clowns, when there was no military operation and government was trying to appease the Taliban by dialogues, deals and accords? Not even once Qazi or his people went to Swat or talked with Sufi Muhammad or Fazlullah. They remained silent. Now just to record their attention they are raising hell. This is the time when they should be helping the IDPs and not creating fissures and fuss. But they have always disappointed the nation. Does our religion propagate this type of politics?. No, never.... These religious leaders actions have nothing to do with religion. This is sheer hypocrisy. These people are using religion and their religious attire to fool the masses who are illiterate, religious minded and tend to fall prey to any religious gimmick. We must not allow these people to take control of our lives and affairs of our country. We need a totally different band of able political leaders who are sincere, honest, dedicated and work with a vision. We must look around, pick such people and encourage them to come forward. We must get rid of these stale feudal and maulvis who only play dirty politics for their interest. Why did not JI leadership go to Swat and talk to those ignorant mullahs Sufi and company, why JI did not say anything when Taliban were destroying schools and harassing girls if they were going to schools. Why did not they protest when Taliban were killing innocent people, sending suicide bombers across the country, destroying music centres and internet café, what Taliban are doing that was encouraged during MMA Govt in Pakhtunkhwa, nation should realise that JI is supporting Taliban. Imran Khan and JI leadership is deaf, dumb and blind, Imran Khan has forgotten when he used to party and clubbing in Europe , he forgets about his playboy past but now he talks about Islam and supports Taliban. Jamaat-e-Islami’s Munawar Hasan is criticisng those politicians who are supporting military operation but why did not Qazi Hussain or he himself go to Taliban and ask them to stop thei barbarian activities and stop killing innocent people. Extremism is death of sanity and a tricky shrewd extremist in high place has potential to ruin the nation. Unfortunately in Pakistani political chess board still some religious extremists command the events. These are the people who exploit the conflict and get benefits from every side. Let’s not forget that Maulana Fazlur Rehman who is the leader of Pakistan’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam or JUI is a person who benefits from every situation and every government. JI also opposed the creation of Pakistan. It supported Gul Badin Hikmatyar during so-called Afghan Jihad. Its leadership is vocal critic of army operations against extremists and spreading bitter propaganda against Army and forces fighting Taliban. Fazlur Rehman is “ideological mentor” of the Taliban. JI also opposed the creation of Pakistan. It has deep connections with international Islamist Parties like Akhwan ul Muslimeen of Egypt. Leaders of these religious parties supported every military dictator in Pakistan. Gen Zia and the so-called Afghan war in 1980 played an important role in the growth of religious parties. Several new parties were formed. One more Political party who is trying to exploit the situation is PML-N. Taliban are involved in crimes against humanity and they must be punished. Army has full support of educated civil society and the gains in Swat will be useless if we don’t act against the real bases of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the tribal areas. Better suffer some casualties now, and suffer collateral damage, than see the whole country become Taliban’s playground. Salute to martyres of Rah-e-Rast and all those police officials who sacrificed their lives for Pakistan.
Saved from:
Dated: Thursday, May 28, 2009, Jamadi-us-Sani 03, 1430 A.H.

27 killed, nearly 326 injured; ISI agents, 11 policemen among the dead : ISI, police attacked

Daily Times
LAHORE: Suicide bombers detonated a vehicle loaded with 100 kilogrammes of explosives near offices of the capital city police officer (CCPO) and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Lahore on Wednesday – killing at least 27 people and wounding 326, in addition to destroying a two-storey building of the Rescue 15 police service, according to police.

Attack: Witnesses said the attack started midmorning when two gunmen stepped out of a white van – which had pulled up in a narrow street separating the police and ISI buildings – cautioned civilians to take cover, themselves took cover behind concrete barriers protecting the buildings and started firing at security personnel deployed down the street. The driver remained in the van as his accomplices exchanged fire with the security personnel, to clear the path for the vehicle to move towards the ISI and CCPO offices – located about a hundred feet down the street opposite each other. The gunmen also hurled a grenade at the security personnel. As the firing continued, the driver managed to cross the concrete barrier, but could not get further and was forced to blow up the vehicle there.

SP Sohail Sukhera said two policemen were injured in the gunbattle. He said a threefold security cordon prevented the attackers from getting to the offices CCPO and ISI offices. He said the terrorist in the vehicle was shot – which prompted him to blow up the vehicle about a hundred feet away from the intended target, in front of the Rescue 15 building.

Officials said at least three suspects had been detained.

Civil Defence District Officer Mazhar Abbas told Daily Times a suicide jacket and two Russian-made hand grenades had been found from the blast site. Sukhera said 27 people – including 11 policemen – died in the attack. The AP news agency reported that “several intelligence agents” were among the dead. The APP news agency said 50 of the injured people were in critical condition, but Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said 20 were in critical condition.

Sukhera said nobody had claimed responsibility for the attack. The blast left a crater eight feet deep and several yards in diameter. There was no trace of the vehicle used in the blast – which destroyed an area nearly the size of a city block, with cars on the street left mangled and bricks strewn dozens of yards in all directions.

A nearby filling station was totally destroyed and several car showrooms damaged. The ceilings of several operating rooms in a nearby hospital caved in, and windows of buildings in a two-kilometre radius were shattered.

Most of the outer wall of the ISI office was destroyed and the building partially damaged, while the CCPO’s office was also damaged and SSP (Discipline) Farooq Mazhar injured. DCO Sajjad Bhutta said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber. Rangers, Rescue 1122, police, Civil Defence and the Edhi Foundation immediately started rescue operations.

Sources in the Police Department told Daily Times that there were 35 police officials in the CCPO’s office at the time of the blast, and only three of them were unhurt – “all others were either injured or they died”.

The president and the prime minister condemned the attack in separate statements, and said their government remained committed to rooting out terrorism.

Compensation: According to APP, the Punjab chief minister has said that Rs 3 million would be given as compensation to families of policemen killed in the attack, and the government would also pay for their children’s education. Financial assistance would also be provided to the civilians killed or injured.