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Saturday, May 07, 2005

China, Japan clash over past, but look to move forward

China, Japan clash over past, but look to move forward: China, Japan clash over past, but look to move forward
Updated: 2005-05-08 08:42

Japan and China clashed over memories of the past but agreed to take small steps forward including a joint study of history to get their icy relations off rock bottom.

In talks between foreign ministers, China and Japan traded demands over rows including anti-Japanese demonstrations in China, the Taiwan issue, and Japanese PM Junichiro Koizumi's annual visits to a notorious war shrine.

But Nobutaka Machimura of Japan and China's Li Zhaoxing agreed to try to repair their relations. Li refused to apologize for Chinese protesters' damage to some Japanese interests in the past few weekends. The sometimes violent demonstrations were set off by Japan's approval of a textbook that many critics say whitewashes Japan's brutal and sometimes barbarous 1931-1945 occupation of China.

Japanese foreign ministry spokesman Hatsuhisa Takashima said the two countries agreed to study their contentious shared history together. "Both countries will select members of the joint study group, and will agree on modalities at the end of this year," Takashima said.

"The two parties expressed their strong wish that relations between Japan and China will be improved, with recognition that these relations not only have bilateral impact but also influence the situation in Asia and the whole world," he said.

But the two foreign ministers clashed openly about how each side's textbooks portray the other country, said another Japanese official.

"Juxtaposing our Chinese history textbook and the textbook of the Japanese rightists is like putting together right and wrong," Li was quoted as telling Machimura.

The Japanese official said Machimura responded by saying Japanese lawmakers had been concerned about "extreme expressions and small remarks about Japan's international contribution after the war" in Chinese textbooks.

The meeting in Kyoto, Japan, where Li was attending a 38-nation Asia-Europe Meeting, came two weeks after Koizumi offered a rare apology for Japan's past before a Jakarta conference, and held a summit with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said that Li "hoped that Japan can put into actions what it has expressed about the question of history -- that is to implement in action its introspection and apology over history."

The Japanese official interpreted the remark as the latest Chinese warning for Koizumi to stop his annual pilgrimages to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo which venerates Japanese war dead including some convicted war criminals.

Li also warned Japan to stay out of the Taiwan issue after Tokyo and Washington declared the island, which both countries admit is integral part of China’s territory, part of their “shared security concern”.

"I would like to say calmly to Japan: The Taiwan issue is a domestic affair and a matter of life or death to us. It is dangerous to interfere in China's matter of life or death," Li was quoted as saying.

But Qin, the Chinese spokesman, said China also hoped to increase people-to-people contact including by bringing students from prestigious Peking University to perform in Japan.

"We hope that by stepping up the two countries' exchanges, we can deepen both sides' mutual understanding and strengthen friendliness between the two sides," Qin said.

Friction steadily increased in recent months between East Asia's two leading powers. Japan's bid to play a greater global role has met Chinese demands that Tokyo must do more to atone for its wartime aggression. Japan has been struggling to overcome perceptions in Asia that it has not atoned for its wartime past as it lobbies to win a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, whose composition dates from World War II.

China rejects request to cut off N. Korea oil

China rejects request to cut off N. Korea oil
Updated: 2005-05-08 09:06

China rejected a U.S. envoy's proposal to cut off North Korea’s oil supply as a way to pressure N. Korea government to return to disarmament talks, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.

Chinese officials rebuffed the U.S. idea, claiming it would damage their pipeline, the newspaper said citing unnamed U.S. officials.

In a meeting in Beijing on April 26, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill raised the suggestion of a "technical" interruption of fuel. But Chinese official Yang Xiyu complained the Americans were focused on too narrow a range of tools for China to influence Pyongyang, according to The Washington Post.

Yang told Hill that a shutdown would seriously damage the pipeline running from its Liaoning province to North Korea because the fuel has a very high paraffin content. Paraffin wax can be a problem in the transportation of crude oil, clogging pipelines and requiring their replacement.

China provides much of North Korea's energy and food, and has boosted trade with its neighbor by 20 percent in 2004, the Post said.

The reported push for a Chinese fuel cutoff came amid signs that North Korea may be planning to test a nuclear weapon. That warning came as a U.S. defense official said U.S. spy satellite images had shown what may be preparations for an underground nuclear test, although the official said it might also be "an elaborate ruse".

In February, North Korea announced it was a nuclear power and said it would not return to six-nation talks on its nuclear programs, which have been stalled for 11 months, because of the Bush administration's "hostile policy."

U.S. officials have increasingly turned to China to help bring North Korea back to the negotiating table.

"China has done a very good job. But China alone is not enough," Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing told reporters on Friday while attending a meeting in Tokyo.

Signifying the divide between Washington and Pyongyang, Chinese officials also told Hill about an unofficial North Korean proposal for ending the impasse. The North Korean idea called for a secret bilateral meeting between the United States and North Korea, during which the United States would privately apologize for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's comment that North Korea was an "outpost of tyranny." After that secret session, North Korea would consider returning to six-nation negotiations, The Washington Post reported.

U.S. Warns North Korea Against Nuclear Test

May 7, 2005

U.S. Warns North Korea Against Nuclear Test

WASHINGTON, May 6 - The White House warned North Korea on Friday that conducting a nuclear test would be "a provocative act," and Japan's foreign minister raised the possibility of requesting United Nations sanctions against the North.

The White House statement came a day after The New York Times reported growing concern among administration officials and several intelligence agencies about signs that North Korea might conduct its first nuclear test at a site near Kilju in the northeast.

Several officials confirmed those reports on Friday, and two officials with access to the information said satellites were also watching the construction of some platforms and crates hundreds of miles from the possible test site, near a nuclear reactor at Yongbyon.

The construction there may suggest that preparations are being made to remove spent nuclear fuel rods from the reactor, which was turned off more than a month ago. "It's still something of a mystery," said one of the officials with access to the report. "It's not clear if this construction is related to the rods or not."

If the rods are reprocessed, they could yield enough plutonium for a couple of new nuclear weapons, officials said. But officials have not ruled out the possibility that the reactor was shut for maintenance or as part of a ruse by the North to heighten concern that it is proceeding full steam with its nuclear program.

A few intelligence officials urged caution in interpreting the satellite evidence. While they acknowledge finding signs of continued activity near tunnels in the Kilju area, there is clearly some disagreement among intelligence agencies about whether the latest evidence indicates a drive toward a test.

"What worries us most is that there is a progression of openness among the North Koreans about their nuclear capabilities," said one senior administration official who has been studying the evidence. "They have unfolded new phases of specificity about what they can do, and they seem to have been on a long-term path of ending the ambiguity about their capability."

Whatever the North's motivations, several governments issued carefully worded warnings on Friday. Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura of Japan noted that negotiations had gone nowhere for the past 11 months, and he added, "If there is no progress we have to think of other options, such as taking this matter to the United Nations Security Council." He stopped short of saying what types of sanctions might be sought.

In New York, where a United Nations meeting on the spread of nuclear weapons is under way, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, said the world must exert pressure on the North not to conduct a test, saying it would have "disastrous political and environmental consequences."

President Bush's spokesman, Scott McClellan, told reporters on Air Force One on the way to Latvia: "I don't want to get into discussing intelligence matters. But what I would say is that if North Korea did take such a step, that would just be another provocative act that would further isolate it from the international community."

Military and Pentagon officials said Friday that there was no unusual or accelerated planning under way for any military action to halt either a nuclear test or the removal of more nuclear fuel from a North Korean reactor. North Korea's ability to strike Seoul, the South Korean capital, with conventional mortar rounds from its emplacements north of the demilitarized zone between the two countries and to threaten Japan with missiles has long given the North protection from any American-led strike. These officials emphasized that a diplomatic solution to North Korean nuclear ambitions remained the No. 1 choice across the Bush administration.

At the State Department and the White House, officials said they were considering a range of options for taking the issue to the United Nations Security Council. One idea is to establish a quarantine operation - though the administration says it will not use that word - that would search shipments in and out of the country for weapons. But it is unclear whether China or Russia would be willing to allow such a resolution to pass in the Council.

Officials acknowledged that even if economic sanctions were approved, there would be no way to enforce them along the Chinese border, where most of North Korea's trade takes place.

Thom Shanker contributed reporting for this article.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Iraqi Cabinet Is Sworn In, but 6 Positions Still Remain Unfilled

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Iraqi Cabinet Is Sworn In, but 6 Positions Still Remain Unfilled: May 4, 2005
Iraqi Cabinet Is Sworn In, but 6 Positions Still Remain Unfilled

BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 3 - In a striking display of the divisions that have plagued Iraq's fledgling government, the new cabinet was sworn into office on Tuesday with at least six positions still undecided after days of polarizing negotiations.

In a protest over the stalled talks, Sheik Ghazi al-Yawar, one of two vice presidents, refused to attend the ceremony. He has been leading efforts to name candidates for the Defense Ministry and two other vacant positions allotted to Sunni Arabs and had threatened to boycott the ceremony if Shiite leaders continued to block Sunni nominees to the Defense Ministry, a key post.

On Tuesday Sheik Yawar, the government's top-ranking Sunni and a member of its three-member presidency council, carried out his threat, and his seat remained conspicuously empty as the other cabinet ministers swore the oath of office with their hands on a Koran.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, at a news conference after the ceremony, played down Sheik Yawar's absence, and said the remaining positions would be filled within two or three days. He said names had been agreed on for the Oil and Electricity Ministries and for a deputy prime minister and would be made public on Wednesday.

The persistent failure to fill the cabinet - and the public protest by one of the government's only Sunni Arabs - was a serious embarrassment for the effort to build a government of national unity. Dr. Jaafari made similar assurances of a speedy finale after the partial cabinet was approved on Thursday.

Instead, Iraq's first fully and freely elected government remains hobbled by sectarian divisions more than three months after January elections. In recent days, tensions appear to have worsened between the Shiite alliance that dominates the new government and the minority Sunni Arabs. Violence, too, has risen along with the discontent.

Asked about Sheik Yawar's absence, an aide to Dr. Jaafari said the Sunni vice president appeared to be "putting pressure" on the Shiite leadership to fill the remaining posts.

In his comments after the ceremony, Dr. Jaafari conceded that the failure to reach a final agreement on the cabinet was a setback. But he appeared to blame the Sunnis, who led the government under Saddam Hussein, for the deadlock.

"There are disputes among the Sunnis themselves," he said when asked about the failure to agree on cabinet posts. "We are eager to have the best choices, people who would be respected by Sunnis and by all Iraqis."

Dr. Jaafari said the leadership might name only three deputy prime ministers instead of the four initially planned, making a full cabinet of 35.

Ahmad Najati, a spokesman for Sheik Yawar, denied Tuesday night that Sunni political leaders had been unable to agree on their candidates. For weeks, Sheik Yawar has led an effort to propose nominees for defense minister, and Shiite leaders have rejected them all, saying they are too closely associated with Mr. Hussein's Baath Party, Mr. Najati said. As a consequence, Sheik Yawar boycotted the ceremony, he said.

Negotiations are continuing, Mr. Najati added, and "we will reach an agreement Wednesday, God willing."

Other Sunni leaders were less optimistic, saying some of their colleagues had considered withdrawing from talks altogether after having their proposals repeatedly rejected.

"We are losing a lot, and our people may not be happy with what we are doing," said Saleh Mutlak, another Sunni leader in the negotiations.

The gaps in the government illustrated once again the stark divisions among Iraqis over how to deal with their Baathist past. Sunni Arabs dominated the upper echelons of the military during Mr. Hussein's rule, and it is not surprising that Sunni nominees to run Iraq's Army should be linked to the Baath Party. Yet in recent weeks, as Sheik Yawar and other Sunni leaders have proposed names for the job, they have been shot down by Shiite leaders.

Aides to Dr. Jaafari have said that only those who held high positions in the Baath Party or who committed crimes will be barred from roles in government. But some Shiite leaders have spoken of more far-reaching purges of the security services, where a number of former Baathist officers now hold positions of power.

To some Sunni leaders, the so-called de-Baathification effort is little more than a campaign against Sunni Arabs. Sunnis also dominate the insurgency, and American officials - and some Iraqis - have hoped that a credible Sunni presence in the government would help to lure Sunnis out of the armed resistance.

For the moment, the effort to bring Sunnis into government appears to have stalled, and some Iraqi officials say that could provoke further insurgent attacks.

The announcement of a Shiite-dominated cabinet on Thursday was followed by four straight days of heightened violence that left at least 120 people dead and hundreds wounded.

The violence continued Tuesday. At least 12 insurgents were killed west of the capital in Ramadi when they attacked an American checkpoint, news services reported.

One American soldier was killed and another wounded on a patrol south of the Baghdad airport at about 9:45 p.m. Monday when their vehicle was struck by a homemade bomb, military officials said Tuesday. Two Bulgarian soldiers died when their Humvee overturned about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday near the southern city of Basra, officials said.

Early Tuesday morning, the United States military said it had found the body of one of two pilots from a pair of missing F/A-18 jets from the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson that are believed to have crashed about 10:10 p.m. Monday in south-central Iraq. There has been no sign that hostile fire brought the jets down, the military said.

A senior military official in Washington said that the planes had probably had a midair collision and that the body of the pilot had been found in his ejection seat, The Associated Press reported.

In Al Qaim, near the Syrian border, American troops killed at least nine insurgents on Monday after they stopped a truck carrying heavily armed men and were fired upon, the military said.

Tuesday also brought what appeared to be good news in the Iraqi government's battle against insurgents. A letter believed to have been written to the most-wanted terrorist in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, by one of his followers and captured during a raid on Thursday cites "low morale" among Mr. Zarqawi's followers, the incompetence of insurgent leaders and "weakening support for the jihad," military officials said.

The letter, seized during a raid in Baghdad that left five terrorists dead, also accuses "the sheik," as Mr. Zarqawi is said to be known to his followers, of abandoning them after the Marines invaded Falluja in November. Written by Abu Asim al-Qusaymi al-Yemeni, the letter was dated April 27, the day before it was found, the military said. Another document found during the raid listed "targeting information and sketch maps for kidnappings and bombings," the military said.

Three other insurgents were also captured during the raid and are now providing information about a large cell of Zarqawi followers, the military said. One of the men killed was Abu Rayyan, whom the military described as a Saudi leader of an insurgent cell based in Baghdad that specialized in car bomb attacks.

Abdul Razzaq al-Saiedy and Sabrina Tavernise contributed reporting for this article.

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Iran to Resume Nuclear Plans, Official States at U.N. Conference

The New York Times > International > Middle East > May 4, 2005
Iran to Resume Nuclear Plans, Official States at U.N. Conference

UNITED NATIONS, May 3 - Iran declared Tuesday that it would soon resume some of the nuclear activities it had suspended during negotiations with Europe, and it used a conference here to accuse the United States and other nations of using the fear of nuclear weapons proliferation to deny peaceful nuclear technology to developing nations.

The Iranian announcement, on the second day of the United Nations conference reviewing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, was made by the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Hamid-Reza Asefi. He stopped short of saying exactly what kind of work Iran would resume in breaking what it has termed a voluntary moratorium while it negotiated with the European Union. But he said he did not expect Iran would begin "the actual enrichment" of uranium, which can lead to production of bomb fuel.

European officials and the Bush administration have both said any breach of the moratorium would prompt a sharp response.

In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday at a news conference, "There needs to be a very clear commitment from the Iranians to live up to their international obligations not to seek a nuclear weapon under the cover of civilian nuclear power."

"We are all very clear that the international community has, as a step that it could take, referral to the Security Council," she added.

A senior State Department official said Tuesday evening that the Iranians "must know that everyone is prepared to take this to the U.N." for a debate over whether to impose economic sanctions.

In New York for the opening of the conference, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, urged the Bush administration and the Europeans to give Iran a far better sense of what kind of economic inducement they would be willing to offer in return for a much longer suspension of nuclear activity.

"I think in diplomacy if you offer more, you get more," he said during a visit to the editorial board of The New York Times. "Iran is no exception. If you offer trade, technology and security, you ought to be able to get good assurances on the nuclear issue."

Dr. ElBaradei urged the United States, which has declined to negotiate with Iran, to act much more forcefully. "I firmly believe that any grand bargain will have to involve the United States," he said, "because on the security side, only the U.S. can do the heavy lifting."

Iran did not repeat its threat during its formal presentation in the hall of the General Assembly, where the monthlong meeting is taking place. But the foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi, told the conference that the United States and Europe were trying to keep an exclusive hold on technological advancement, and he said Iran was determined to defy that effort.

"It is unacceptable that some tend to limit the access to peaceful nuclear technology to an exclusive club of technologically advanced states under the pretext of nonproliferation," he said. Iran, he added, will pursue "all legal areas of nuclear technology, including enrichment, exclusively for peaceful purposes."

He said the terms of the treaty permitted it to do so; the United States argues that because Iran hid much of its nuclear activity for 18 years, it could not be trusted with the technology.

In October in Paris, Iran agreed with France, Britain and Germany to freeze all enrichment of uranium and "related activities" while negotiations went forward. But Iran has complained that those talks have not included any substantive incentives, and its announcement on Tuesday seemed part of a strategy to press Europe and, by extension, the Bush administration.

Recently, Iran demanded that it be allowed to build and operate 3,000 centrifuges, which can produce low-enriched uranium to make fuel for nuclear power stations, or, unchecked, highly enriched uranium for bomb fuel.

At the conference on Monday, it became clear how far apart Iran and the United States are on the issue. Addressing the conference, Stephen G. Rademaker, an assistant secretary of state, said any solution to the impasse "must include permanent cessation of Iran's enrichment and reprocessing efforts, as well as dismantlement of equipment facilities related to such activity."

Mr. Rademaker's statement was intended to focus the conference on loopholes in the 35-year-old treaty, which he accused both Iran and North Korea of exploiting. Others among the more than 180 nations here want to direct attention at compelling declared nuclear states, especially the United States, to meet their own treaty obligations to move toward disarmament. The Iranians revived that argument on Tuesday.

"The continued existence of thousands of nuclear warheads in the nuclear weapon states' stockpile, which can destroy the entire globe many times over, are the major sources of threat to peace and security," said Mr. Kharrazi, the foreign minister.

The United States and its allies are confronting nuclear breakouts on opposite sides of the world. Iran's program has the longer lead time; the United States says that country is not likely to have a weapon for five to seven more years, according to testimony that intelligence officials gave to Congress earlier this year. But North Korea is widely thought to possess nuclear material already for six to eight weapons, much of it manufactured after the country pulled out of the treaty in 2003 and evicted inspectors.

Now American, Japanese and South Korean officials say North Korea may be preparing for an underground nuclear test, which would end debate about whether the research it conducted while a treaty member has yielded nuclear warheads.

Mr. Kharrazi insisted that Iran remained "eager" to provide European negotiators with guarantees of its peaceful intent, but he harshly criticized the demands being made on his country.

"This attitude is in clear violation of the letter and spirit of the treaty and destroys the fundamental balance which exists between the rights and obligations in the treaty," he declared. He said the treaty itself affirmed that nothing in the measure should affect the "inalienable right" of all to produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Mr. Kharrazi said countries that had not signed the treaty had exploited their freedom from its restrictions to build up nuclear stockpiles that posed more serious threats to world peace.

His reference was to India, Pakistan and Israel, though Israel was the only one he mentioned by name, saying it had continually rejected bids to join the treaty and open itself up to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Nazila Fathi contributed reporting from Tehran for this article.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The New York Times > International > Asia Pacific > On Path to China-Taiwan Détente, Strolling Pandas, Perhaps

The New York Times > International > Asia Pacific > On Path to China-Taiwan Détente, Strolling Pandas, Perhaps:May 3, 2005
On Path to China-Taiwan Détente, Strolling Pandas, Perhaps

TAIPEI, Taiwan, Tuesday, May 3 - Taking a chapter from Chinese-American diplomacy during the Nixon administration, China announced Tuesday that it would give a pair of giant pandas to Taiwan, the latest step in an evolving détente.

In gestures to mark the end of the weeklong visit to China by Lien Chan, chairman of Taiwan's opposition Nationalist Party, Chinese officials also said they would increase imports of Taiwanese fruit and allow more Chinese to visit Taiwan.

The moves, announced by the official New China News Agency, are clearly intended to appeal to public sentiment here and force President Chen Shui-bian to improve ties.

Many here have been pining for pandas - Taiwan has none now - and local media have been engaged in sometimes frenzied speculation that Taiwan's chance might have finally arrived.

The Chinese willingness to import more fruit is a direct appeal for moderation from some of the strongest advocates of Taiwanese independence, the farmers of southern Taiwan. They are also a cornerstone of the political base of President Chen, who grew up in a farming village there.

The Chinese decision to liberalize tourism could, if permitted by Taiwan, make the island's travel industry almost as dependent on the mainland as Hong Kong's, and turn hoteliers and restaurateurs into advocates of closer relations with Beijing.

President Chen and his Democratic Progressive Party have risen to power by confronting China, emphasizing a separate Taiwanese identity and flirting with independence. But Mr. Lien's visit, the first by a Nationalist leader since the end of China's civil war in 1949, has put pressure on President Chen to show he can also work with China's leaders.

The pressure is especially acute because elections will be held on May 14 for the National Assembly, an obscure body that has a role only in constitutional decisions and is separate from the legislature. The elections will be an indication of public sentiment, and President Chen wants to push through constitutional changes during his three remaining years in office.

Japan Today - News - China offers giant pandas to Taiwan - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News -

japantoday > asia > China offers giant pandas to Taiwan

Tuesday, May 3, 2005 at 17:07 JST
SHANGHAI — China announced Tuesday it was giving a pair of giant pandas to the people of Taiwan as a symbol of peace, unity and friendship, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The decision was announced by Chen Yunlin, director of the Chinese Communist Party's Taiwan Work Office, on behalf of the party's Central Committee and the State Council.

"For many years, the mainland compatriots have had the wish to present giant pandas to Taiwan compatriots, and many Taiwan compatriots have repeatedly expressed their expectations to see the cuddly pandas in Taiwan too," Chen was quoted as saying. (Kyodo News)

BBC NEWS | Middle East | New Iraq PM fails to fill cabinet

BBC NEWS | Middle East | New Iraq PM fails to fill cabinet: New Iraq PM fails to fill cabinet
Iraq's new prime minister has failed to put together a complete cabinet in time for ministers' swearing-in on Tuesday.

Seven posts in Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari's government - including the defence and oil ministries - remain empty amid partisan haggling.

The power broker for the minority Sunni community, outgoing President Ghazi al-Yawer, stayed away from the event.

Mr Jaafari must bring credible Sunnis into his government to undercut the insurgency, the BBC's Jim Muir says.

Without them, the new government's chances of reaching out to disaffected Sunnis - long-time rulers of Iraq who now find themselves out of power - would be greatly reduced, our correspondent in Baghdad says.

Not until the swearing-in ceremony was it clear that critical positions remained to be filled.

The failure to fill the seven posts is a considerable embarrassment for the prime minister, our correspondent says.

Violence has surged since the partial cabinet was agreed last week.


US-led forces were in action in several places around Iraq:

* At least 15 people are killed in a battle between coalition forces and insurgents in Ramadi, including 12 militants, an Iraqi soldier and two Iraqi civilians, the US military says
* The US military says its troops killed 12 insurgents at Qaim, near the Syrian border
* A US marine pilot is killed and another is missing after a suspected mid-air collision between two US F/A-18 Hornet jets.

Mr Jaafari highlighted the difficulties Iraq faces as he was sworn in, citing "corruption, lack of services, unemployment and mass graves", the Associated Press news agency said.

No government under occupation can be a fairly elected government
Atiq, San Francisco, CA, US

But he struck a positive note even as he outlined the challenges.

"I would like to tell the widows and orphans ... your sacrifices have not gone in vain."

Mr Jaafari is a Shia, the majority group in Iraq which was long denied power.

Last Thursday, Mr Jaafari announced a partial list, which was endorsed by the parliament by a large majority.

His government has 15 Shias, seven Kurds, four Sunnis and a Christian. One deputy prime minister is a Shia and another is a Kurd.

The seven posts left vacant are: oil minister, defence minister, electricity minister, industry minister, human rights minister and two deputy prime ministers.

Mr Jaafari himself is acting defence minister, while Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi is acting oil minister.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Malaysia to fingerprint babies

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Malaysia to fingerprint babies: Malaysia to fingerprint babies
Plans to fingerprint all newborn babies in Malaysia have come under attack from civil liberties groups.

Police officers hope to store the information on a computer database to help catch criminals in the future.

They are proposing that all newborns should also have their palm prints and footprints recorded.

Rights groups have described the proposal as ill-conceived and accuse the police of wanting to treat all children as potential criminals.

'Improved detection rate'

Police hope that computer software could allow for the growth of baby hands and feet to adult proportions, and match marks found at crime scenes to innocent dabs given years before.

Officers believe the move would improve the force's detection rate, and they may ask for a change in the law to allow it.

However, civil liberties groups in Malaysia have dismissed the fingerprinting proposal as poorly thought-out and illogical.

The rights group Voice of the Malaysian People, or Suaram, has accused the police of wanting to treat all children as potential criminals.

It says such a move would create a climate of fear and intimidation.

The national human rights society in Malaysia, Hakam, has called the fingerprinting suggestion ludicrous, saying it is worthy of Big Brother in George Orwell's novel 1984.

The BBC's Jonathan Kent in Kuala Lumpur says that if the Malaysian police get their way, the country's children will have their first brush with the law in the maternity ward.

Malaysia's home affairs ministry has declined to comment on the plan to the BBC.

The New York Times > International > Iran Says It Intends to Keep Pursuing Nuclear Technology

The New York Times > International > May 3, 2005
Iran Says It Intends to Keep Pursuing Nuclear Technology

UNITED NATIONS, May 3 - Iran told a conference reviewing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty today that it was determined to press ahead with uranium enrichment and accused the United States and Europe of trying to keep an exclusive hold on technological advancement.

"It is unacceptable that some tend to limit the access to peaceful nuclear technology to an exclusive club of technologically advanced states under the pretext of non-proliferation," Kamal Kharrazi, Iran's foreign minister, said from the podium of the General Assembly where the monthlong gathering is in its second day.

Iran, he said, would pursue "all legal areas of nuclear technology, including enrichment, exclusively for peaceful purposes." He said the terms of the treaty permitted it to do so.

In Tehran, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi, said Iran would soon resume some nuclear activities that had been suspended but indicated the nation would not restart uranium enrichment as long as talks continued with European negotiators.

France, Britain and Germany have been seeking guarantees from Iran that it will not use its nuclear program to make weapons, which the United States, pressing for more aggressive action, suspects is its goal. Enriched at a low level, uranium can fuel a power plant, but, further enriched, can be used to manufacture nuclear bombs.

Addressing the conference on Monday, Stephen G. Rademaker, an assistant secretary of state, described the American demands by saying that any solution "must include permanent cessation of Iran's enrichment and reprocessing efforts, as well as dismantlement of equipment facilities related to such activity."

Mr. Rademaker's statement was intended to focus the conference on loopholes in the 35-year-old treaty, which he charged that both Iran and North Korea have exploited. Others among the more than 180 nations here want to direct attention at compelling declared nuclear states to step up their own disarmament, but outside developments are keeping the emphasis on noncompliance.

American officials believe that North Korea, which pulled out of the treaty and evicted inspectors two years ago, may be preparing for a test that would end debate about whether the research it conducted while still a member has been successfully converted into a program to build nuclear warheads. In Washington there is concern that Iran may be following the same model.

Mr. Kharrazi insisted that Iran remained eager to provide European negotiators with the guarantees of its peaceful intent, but he harshly criticized the demands being made. They are "arbitrary and self-serving criteria and thresholds regarding proliferation-proof and proliferation-prone technologies," he said, and only serve to undermine the treaty.

"This attitude is in clear violation of the letter and spirit of the treaty and destroys the fundamental balance which exists between the rights and obligations in the treaty," he said. The treaty itself, he added, rejected these efforts in its language affirming that nothing in the measure should affect the "inalienable right" of all parties to it to produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

He said that the permanent cessation of such activity that was being demanded of Iran was not only no guarantee against so-called "breakout" of weapons developments, it was "a historically tested recipe for one."

He also told the delegates that they should work to get legally binding assurances from the United States and other nuclear weapons states that they will never threaten non-nuclear states with attack.

He said countries that were not signatories to the treaty had exploited their freedom from its restrictions to build up nuclear stockpiles that posed more serious threats to world peace. His reference was to India, Pakistan and Israel, though Israel was the only one he mentioned by name, saying it had continually rejected bids to join the treaty and open itself up to inspections by the International Atomic Energy.

As part of its negotiations with the European Union over the future of its nuclear program, which it insists is only for electricity production, Iran has demanded that it be allowed to install 3,000 centrifuges, which enrich uranium. Though the International Atomic Energy Agency has said it has yet to find concrete evidence of a weapons program in Iran, Mr. Rademaker expressed no doubts about what Iran had done.

"For almost two decades Iran has conducted a clandestine nuclear weapons program, aided by the illicit network of A. Q. Khan," Mr. Rademaker said, referring to the head of Pakistan's nuclear research laboratory, who was at the center of a huge black-market network in nuclear technology.

Mr. Rademaker addressed complaints that the United States was not living up to its commitments by noting that the Moscow Treaty signed with Russia three years ago required huge reductions in deployed nuclear warheads by 2012. But he did not mention the treaty provision that critics note permits the United States to keep thousands of additional warheads in nonoperational storage.

The dispute over what Iran should and should not be allowed to do encapsulates the challenges facing the review of the treaty, which takes place every five years.

The 184 signers insist that the central bargain of the 1970 accord allows any signer to build nuclear facilities as long as they are for peaceful purposes. The treaty gives the International Atomic Energy Agency, headed by Mohamed ElBaradei, the responsibility to inspect those facilities to make sure that they are not being turned to weapons production.

With the weapons and nonweapons countries so divided, Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general, and Dr. ElBaradei tried to find the middle ground in their remarks opening the conference on Monday.

Mr. Annan said that the former cold war rivals must commit "to further cuts in their arsenals, so warheads number in the hundreds, not the thousands." Dr. ElBaradei sought to calm the fears of non-nuclear states that they would be cut off from nuclear technology as a result of the growing effort to keep it out of the hands of such nations as Iran and North Korea.

Dr. ElBaradei argued that his agency needed broader rights to inspect any facilities it desired, and to enforce stricter control over the most sensitive technology. But he also renewed his call for guarantees that any country that needed reactor technology or nuclear material for power generation would be guaranteed a supply, saying that "is clearly a prerequisite" for acceptance of international controls on technology.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Violence in Iraq Claims More Than 100 Lives in Past 3 Days

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Violence in Iraq Claims More Than 100 Lives in Past 3 Days: "Violence in Iraq

Published: May 1, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 1 - Insurgents used car bombs to attack a Kurdish funeral near Mosul and children playing next to an American military convoy in Baghdad while gunmen ambushed a squad of Iraqi police officers in the capital, killing at least 35 people today and wounding 80 more.

American and Iraqi officials hoped the formation of a new government last Thursday would dampen the insurgency and reassure Iraqis. Instead, insurgents have launched coordinated attacks that American officials describe as a clear effort to undermine and challenge the confidence and authority of the new government. Since Friday, more than 100 Iraqis have been killed and 200 more have been wounded.

Senior officials from the new Shiite-led government insisted today that they were getting closer to naming the remaining cabinet ministers needed before the new government can be sworn in and assume power on Tuesday. Political leaders have been deadlocked for days over Sunni Arab choices for one of the most important posts, minister of defense. Sunni leaders say they remain angry at having been shortchanged in the formation of the cabinet."

Xinhua - English

Xinhua - English:KMT spokesman: Development of cross-Straits relations trend of times 2005-05-02 02:37:56

SHANGHAI, May 1 (Xinhuanet) -- A spokesman for the Chinese Kuomintang (KMT) party said here Sunday the development of cross-Straits relations is a trend of the times.

The meeting between top leaders of the Communist Party of China(CPC) and the KMT is of both far-reaching historic and realistic significance, said spokesman Chang Jung-kung at a press conference.

He explained that the realistic significance lies in pushing forward cross-Straits relations. The "common aspiration" written in the press communique issued by the two parties marks another height of major cross-Straits exchange following the "1992 Consensus."

The fruit of KMT Chairman Lien Chan's visit to the mainland would be acknowledged by the Taiwan people and supported by the international community, he said.

Lien is leading a KMT delegation on an eight-day visit to the mainland, which began on Tuesday and culminated in talks on Friday with Hu Jintao, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee.

Taiwan's leader Chen Shui-bian on Sunday said Lien's trip did not go beyond the boundary of an opposition party. Commenting on this, Chang said the KMT is happy to see Chen make fairly positive comments and hopes the authority could keep the same voice within itself.

What the opposition party could do is to promote the development of cross-Straits relations, and it is not important whether the KMT delegation will exchange views with the authority when it returns to Taiwan, he said.

"The key issue is whether the authority is willing and sincere to jointly promote the cross-Straits relations in the direction of the press communique," Chang said.

The press communique calls for, in the first place, promoting the resumption of cross-Straits consultations on an equal footing, and the KMT is playing the role of building a bridge and paving the way, he said.

Chang said he believed Chairman James Soong of the People First Party also hopes to play such a role, or have the same intention to advance the relaxation of cross-Straits relations.

The KMT hopes Chen Shui-bian could accept the suggestions it has continued to offer him over the last few years -- to resume cross-Straits consultations on an equal footing with the "1992 Consensus" as the basis.

When answering a question on the establishment of a platform for regular exchanges between the CPC and KMT, Chang said this is the opinion of both Lien and Hu, and immediately after the delegation is back in Taipei, the KMT would begin a study to find "a proper way" to invite people from all walks of life to join in the exchanges, via the links between the KMT and CPC.

Asked to comment on the impact of Lien's visit on Taiwan business people's investment in the Yangtze River Delta, Chang said that this region has become a key investment target for Taiwan businessmen.

In the 10-item agreement reached between the mainland and KMT Vice-Chairman Chiang Pin-kung a month ago, said Chang, the mainland for the first time expresses the wish to sign an agreement on investment guarantee for Taiwan businessmen, which has been strongly proposed by Taiwan over the past decade.

If both sides could work to this direction, Taiwan businessmen's investment in the Yangtze River Delta would increase faster and trade and economic cooperation across the Taiwan Straits would produce mutually beneficial results, he said.

The New York Times > International > Asia Pacific > Taiwan President's Ally to Carry Message to China

The New York Times > International > Asia Pacific > Taiwan President's Ally to Carry Message to China:May 1, 2005
Taiwan President's Ally to Carry Message to China

TAIPEI, Taiwan, Sunday, May 1 - President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan said Sunday morning that he had called another prominent Taiwanese politician, James Soong, on Saturday night and asked him to carry a message to China's leaders during Mr. Soong's visit to China beginning later this week.

The president's decision to open any kind of dialogue with mainland China, even by sending messages through an informal intermediary, is another hint of possibly warming relations across the Taiwan Strait.

President Chen provided only a broad outline of the message to reporters while flying to Guam on the first leg of a state visit to the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean, the state-owned Central News Agency said here.

He said China should respect the sovereignty of the Republic of China - this country's legal name - and should understand the 10-point consensus on cross-Strait relations and other issues he reached Feb. 24 with Mr. Soong, the chairman of the smaller People First Party.

The People First Party ardently supports closer relations with Beijing, and Mr. Soong's broad political alliance in February surprised many here because the president's own Democratic Progressive Party leans toward greater independence.

The February consensus between the two parties' chairmen was somewhat vague on how to seek an understanding with the mainland, and the alliance was widely viewed at the time as a way to isolate the Nationalist Party, the main opposition party and also an advocate of closer relations with the mainland.

But President Chen's decision now to send a message raises the importance of a planned visit to the mainland beginning Thursday and lasting until May 12, with the last three days in Beijing, by Mr. Soong.

"James Soong understands the government's views and mine," Mr. Chen said, according to the Central News Agency.

A visit to Beijing by Lien Chan, the chairman of the Nationalists, seems to have increased public support here for improved relations with China, but may have also damaged the cooperation among political parties needed for an actual shift in policy.

Separate polls published by three Taiwanese newspapers on Saturday showed that 51 to 60 percent of the population supported a trip by Mr. Lien, who met President Hu Jintao of China in Beijing on Friday.

Interest in the trip has been so intense that Taiwanese television stations have even broadcast earnest discussions of the earrings and clothing that Mr. Lien's wife wore to the meeting, as though it were a royal wedding.

Joseph Wu, the chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, the cabinet-level agency here that handles relations with China, said late Saturday afternoon that the polls may have been tainted by methodological problems. The council hopes to finish its own broader, more in-depth poll by Friday.

Mr. Wu, who has been a strong critic of the Nationalists' efforts to conduct their own diplomacy while in the opposition, predicted that Mr. Lien's trip would have little long-term effect on attitudes toward China, a subject on which most people here already have strong opinions that seldom change.

Yet heavy media coverage of the trip may have produced at least some short-term public interest in working more closely with the mainland, he acknowledged.

Mr. Wu said before making any policy decisions, the government would wait until after Mr. Soong's trip.

President Hu's remarks during Mr. Lien's visit were little more than rhetoric that repeated or rephrased previous statements by Beijing officials, and the government here wants to see if Communist leaders make more concrete proposals during Mr. Soong's visit, Mr. Wu said.

"So far, what we see is only rhetoric," he added.

But Mr. Wu said twice in a telephone interview that it was possible that the government here might formulate an initiative of its own after Mr. Soong's return.

But Mr. Lien's effusive praise for mainland Chinese leaders while in Beijing, and his strong criticism of independence supporters in Taiwan, have infuriated independence advocates here, and they may limit Mr. Chen's flexibility, said Hsiao Bi-khim, a senior Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker.

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Taiwan head seeks Beijing talks

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Taiwan head seeks Beijing talks
Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian has urged the Chinese government to open talks with his administration.

The call comes as Taiwanese opposition leader, Lien Chan, continues a visit to China, where he has held historic talks with President Hu Jintao.

Mr Chen said Beijing had to talk to the leader chosen by the people of Taiwan, and he was sending a personal message to Mr Hu through an envoy.

Mr Lien heads the KMT, who were driven out by the Communists in 1949.

The leader of the smaller opposition People First Party, James Soong, is also due in the mainland for talks this week. President Chen has asked him to take his undisclosed message to leaders in Beijing.

The Taiwanese president favours formal independence from China, whereas Beijing regards Taiwan as a renegade province.

Regardless which political party or leader China wants to meet, eventually it must talk with Taiwan's popularly elected leader
President Chen Shui-bian

The nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) has previously said it favours eventual reunification, so long as China is by then democratic.

The People First Party also favours Taiwan's eventual unification with mainland China.

Beijing's strategy has been to reach out to Taiwan's opposition politicians, in a bid to isolate Mr Chen and force him to moderate his pro-independence stance, says the BBC's Louisa Lim in Beijing.

But big obstacles still remain to cross-straits ties, our correspondent says.

China refuses to talk to Mr Chen until he signs up to their one-China policy - something which would be political anathema for him, she says.

Happy momentum

Lien Chan has been feted by massive crowds as he continues his trip to China. Thousands turned up to greet him as he paid his respects at his grandmothers' graveside in Xian, where he was born before World War II.

The crowds in Xian waved the flags of both communist China and the nationalist Kuomintang party which fled to Taiwan in defeat in 1949.

Ruled by separate governments since end of Chinese civil war in 1949
China considers the island part of its territory
China has offered a "one country, two systems" solution, like Hong Kong
Most people in Taiwan support status quo

"To come here today is very moving," Mr Lien said.

Mr Lien is being treated like a head of state, with lavish receptions everywhere he goes, a sign that Beijing's happy with the momentum created by his visit, our Beijing correspondent says.

But President Chen said: "Regardless which political party or leader China wants to meet, eventually it must talk with Taiwan's popularly elected leader and the Taiwan government, and this will be the normal dialogue to start normalization of relations."

Mr Lien and his family moved to Taiwan in 1946, while the civil war was still raging.

The next stop on his mainland tour will be Shanghai, which has seen large-scale Taiwanese investment.

Japan Today - News - Vietnam marks 30th anniversary of war's end - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Vietnam marks 30th anniversary of war's end - Japan's Leading International News Network: "

Sunday, May 1, 2005 at 07:31 JST
HO CHI MINH CITY — Tens of thousands of people marked the 30th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War Saturday with a colorful commemoration that pushed aside communist ideology to focus on economic prosperity.

The entire city center was decked out with large, colorful banners and flowers on Saturday to remember the fall in 1975 of the southern hub then known as Saigon, and the defeat of US-backed South Vietnamese regime. "

Japan Today - News - Jailed Falun Gong member on hunger strike in Singapore - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Jailed Falun Gong member on hunger strike in Singapore - Japan's Leading International News Network: "

japantoday > asia
Jailed Falun Gong member on hunger strike in Singapore

Sunday, May 1, 2005 at 13:46 JST
SINGAPORE — A 38-year-old female member of the Falun Gong spiritual group who was jailed this week has gone on a hunger strike, the local Sunday Times newspaper reported Sunday.

Cheng Lu Jin and fellow Falun Gong member Ng Chye Huay, 40, were arrested by Singapore police recently for distributing video compact disks about the sect and taking part in an illegal public assembly. The daily quoted a prisons spokesman as saying Cheng has refused all food since she started serving her 24-week jail term, to protest her prison sentence. (Kyodo News)

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iran issues nuclear warning to US

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iran issues nuclear warning to US: "Iran issues nuclear warning to US
By Frances Harrison
BBC News, Tehran

The spiritual leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has warned the United States to stay out of his country's nuclear programme.

Speaking on a tour of south-east Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei said the US was arrogant, rude and deserved a punch in the mouth.

He also said Iran's presidential elections in June would not make any difference to its nuclear policy.

The US has expressed fears Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons.

Enrichment warning

Ayatollah Khamenei said it was not up to the US to decide which countries needed nuclear technology.

He also warned that Iran's forthcoming presidential elections were nothing to do with the Americans.

No president would dare violate the country's national interests because the people would not allow it, he said.

His comments came as Iran warned on Saturday it might resume suspended enrichment-related activities next week in defiance of an agreement that is underpinning nuclear talks with Europe.

Iran is concerned that negotiations are dragging on too long and has proposed a phased resumption of its nuclear activities."

BBC NEWS | UK | UK Election 2005 | Election 2005 | Blair plays down new Iraq claims

BBC NEWS | UK | UK Election 2005 | Election 2005 | Blair plays down new Iraq claims:
Blair plays down new Iraq claims
Tony Blair has played down a leaked memo indicating he was looking at ways to justify war with Iraq in July 2002 - eight months before the conflict.

He claimed the Lib Dems and Tories were focusing on Iraq because they have "nothing serious to say" about the issues facing Britain.

Michael Howard accused the prime minister of deceiving the Cabinet and the Commons over the war.

The Lib Dems said Iraq will "dog" Mr Blair if he wins the election.

Leaked memo

The Sunday Times has published what it says is a leaked memo dated 23 July 2002 by Matthew Rycroft, a former Downing Street foreign policy aide.

In the memo, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is quoted as saying US President George Bush had "made up his mind to take military action even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin".

If the UN resolution had been adhered to by Saddam that would have been the end of it, despite the fact it was the most appalling regime
Tony Blair

It adds: "Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would help with the legal justification for the use of force."

The memo followed a meeting, attended by Mr Blair, Mr Straw, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and the attorney general.

Mr Blair told BBC One's Breakfast with Frost the decision had not been taken at that point to attack Saddam Hussein.

"You have got to discuss everything as you go along, but the point is that after that meeting we decided to go back to the UN and give him a last chance.

"If the UN resolution had been adhered to by Saddam that would have been the end of it, despite the fact it was the most appalling regime."

Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell said: "Regime change was always the objective - weapons of mass destruction have become the cloak behind which that had been hidden."

In a separate interview with Independent Radio News, Mr Blair repeated his apology for the erroneous intelligence presented by the government in the run-up to the war.

He added: "We do say sorry for all those people who have died but I cannot apologise for taking the country to war...".

Asked how many British personnel had died in Iraq he said: "Well you know the figures for that it's ... seventy to eighty people who died...".

According to the Ministry of Defence the number of service people who have died in Iraq is 86, 49 of whom were killed in action.

Legal assurance

Former chief of defence staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, meanwhile told the BBC that he remains satisfied that he had unequivocal "top legal cover" for his forces when they went to war in 2003.

He was responding to an article in The Observer which suggested he had concerns over whether he could face prosecution over the Iraq war.

Lord Boyce told the BBC he sought, and received, "in black and white terms", the legal assurance he needed prior to the war.

This came in the form of "four or five lines" from the attorney general's office, after the collapse of efforts to secure a second UN resolution on Iraq, he said.

He said that he had been seeking legal assurances since February, and that after the failure to secure a second UN resolution, it was "imperative to have something I could show my troops, for their peace of mind and their families' peace of mind".

Complacency warning

Michael Howard told the Sunday Telegraph Mr Blair had though it legitimate to "dissemble" on Iraq to Lord Boyce.

Defending his accusation that Mr Blair had lied about the war, he told the paper: "What's worse? Accusing someone of lying? Or taking the country to war on a lie? This is perfectly justified.

"Whatever the consequences, you can't maintain a position which says that it's legitimate to trick the Cabinet, to deceive the House of Commons and to dissemble to the Chief of the Defence Staff. That's not the way government should be conducted."

Latest polls suggest Labour still has a strong lead while the Liberal Democrats are in their best position since the party was formed.

Three polls published on Sunday give Labour a vote share of between 36%-39%.

SavannahNOW | Savannah Morning News on the Web > North Korea may have fired short-range missile toward Sea of Japan, reports say

SavannahNOW | Savannah Morning News on the Web: "North Korea may have fired short-range missile toward Sea of Japan, reports say
The Associated Press

TOKYO — The U.S. military informed Japan that North Korea may have fired a short-range missile toward the Sea of Japan on Sunday morning, Kyodo News service and national broadcaster NHK reported.

The reports quoted unidentified government sources as saying that the U.S. military informed Japan's Defense Agency of the possible missile launch. The government was attempting to confirm the information, the reports said.

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and the U.S. military both refused to comment, and an official at the Japanese Defense Agency said he could not confirm the report. The South Korean defense ministry also said it could not confirm the account.

NHK said the missile was believed to have been fired from the reclusive nation's east coast and to have traveled 65 miles into the Sea of Japan.

Word of the possible test came just days after a top U.S. military intelligence official told a U.S. Senate committee that North Korea has the ability to arm a missile with a nuclear weapon, a potentially significant advance for the communist state.

Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, in testimony on Thursday, did not specify whether he was talking about a short-range missile or a long-range one that could reach the United States."