Saturday, February 12, 2011

Colombia's FARC rebels have released two more of the five hostages they had promised to free this week as a gesture of peace to the government.

Politician Armando Acuna was released by FARC rebels during a humanitarian mission started by former Colombian senator Piedad Cordoba.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country's largest rebel force, freed Jose Armando Acuna, a 48-year-old town councilman seized in 2009, and Henry Lopez, a 25-year old soldier kidnapped eight months ago, on Friday, AP reported. 

The hostages were handed over to a humanitarian delegation that included officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross and former Colombian senator Piedad Cordoba, who helped mediate their release. 

Two earthquakes have struck the central coastal area of Chile, rattling the same region hit by last year's magnitude 8.8 quake.

A magnitude 6.8 quake, followed by another with a magnitude of 6.3, occurred off the Pacific coast of Chile on Friday. 

The US Geological Survey and Chile's national emergency office said the first quake struck Friday in the Pacific, 70 kilometers (45 miles) from the city of Concepcion. 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has described talks with Japan over the disputed Kuril Islands as pointless as long as Tokyo adopts a radical position.

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara (R) leaves after a press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov after a meeting in Moscow on February 11, 2011.
"When radical approaches to signing a peace treaty take over in Japan...then talks have no prospects," state-run RIA Novosti quoted Lavrov as saying during a joint press conference with his Japanese counterpart Seiji Maehara on Friday. 

The senior Russian official also proposed the establishment of a commission of Russian and Japanese historians to resolve the long-standing dispute. 

Maehara, for his part, repeated Tokyo's claim to the four Russian-held islands -- known as the Kuril Islands in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan, saying they are an integral part of Japan “in terms of history and international law.” 

He noted that Japan and Russia will set up a high-level task force to study the feasibility of Tokyo participation in joint economic projects on the disputed islands. 

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited the island of Kunashir, one of the four disputed islands, on November 1, 2010. The visit was the first of its kind by a Russian official. 

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan quickly expressed regret over the controversial visit to the remote Pacific islands. 

“Japan's stance is that those four northern islands are part of our country's territory, so the president's visit is very regrettable,” Kan said. 

The Japanese foreign minister also said any such visit would “hurt the feelings of the Japanese people.” 

Lavrov denied that Medvedev's trip to the disputed islands was politically-motivated. 

"The Russian president does not take advice from anyone on which region of Russia he should visit,” Lavrov said. 

Japanese Ambassador to Moscow Masaharu Kono was temporarily recalled to Tokyo for consultations after Medvedev's visit to the Kunashir Island. He returned to Russia after a week. 

The Kurils Islands have rich fishing grounds, mineral deposits, as well as potential oil and gas reserves.

The archipelago of some 56 islands, which are home to about 19,000 people, has been controlled by Moscow since its seizure by Soviet troops in 1945. All of the islands are under Russian jurisdiction, but Japan claims that the four southernmost islands as part of its territory. 

Tension over the disputed Kuril Islands has snarled ties between Tokyo and Moscow, preventing the signing of a formal peace treaty to end WWII hostilities. source

Russian officials say Moscow will reconsider its strategic nuclear arms reduction treaty with Washington in case the US government builds up its missile system.

“If the US increases the size and quality of missile defense individually or together with NATO partners and the situation changes; a question will [then] arise: Should Russia comply with the treaty or take measures in response?” a Press TV correspondent quoted Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying in a news conference on Monday. 

The senior Russian diplomat noted that the new Russian-US Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) makes the link between strategic defensive and offensive armaments legally binding.

Russia has pledged to carry out an all-out clampdown on terrorism in response to a Chechnya-based militant group's admission that it was responsible for the deadly bombing at a Moscow airport last month.

"Russia will carry out an uncompromised fight against international terrorism and will always be a reliable ally of states that opposes terror by all legal means," AFP quoted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as saying on Tuesday during a presentation ceremony for foreign ambassadors' credentials in Moscow. 

He went on to say that terrorism, which "defies the fundamental rights, freedoms and democratic foundations of the society" and "denies the value of a human life," still poses a major threat to global security. 

Afghan blast kills Ex-US Customs man

A roadside bomb blast in southern Afghanistan has claimed the life of a retired US Customs officer and left three other customs workers wounded.

The attack at the Inland Customs Warehouse in the province of Kandahar killed David Hillman, a retired US Customs and Border Protection officer, on Monday.

According to a statement released by US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in Washington, Hillman had worked for the US government for 30 years, AP reported. 

France has decided not to send additional troops to Afghanistan in 2011 as US-led soldiers struggle to rein in the nine-year-old war in the country.

"We have a group of around 4,000 soldiers in the field and we do not intend to increase that," AFP quoted French Defense Minister Alain Juppe as saying during his meeting with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Washington on Tuesday. 

Juppe, however, noted that France will continue to redeploy some of its troops from around Sarobi -- located between Kabul and Jalalabad in Kabul Province -- in order to pave the way for handing over the security missions to Afghan forces. 

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has confirmed US plans to set up permanent bases in his country, enabling its troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond the 2014 deadline.

The decision comes after negotiations between Karzai and US officials and senators on a range of strategic issues, including the establishment of permanent military bases in Afghanistan, DPA reported.

"Yes they want this (permanent bases) and we have been negotiating with them," Karzai said at a press conference in his presidential palace on Tuesday. 

"We believe that a long-term relationship with the United States is in the interest of Afghanistan," Karzai added, expressing hope for the establishment of a relationship that brings security and economic prosperity to Afghanistan and an end to violence. 

Egypt's vice president says Hosni Mubarak has handed power over to the high military council, despite millions-plus pro-democracy demonstrations.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (C) shakes hands with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak (L) during a meeting attended by Egyptian Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi (R) in Sharm el-Sheikh on May 19, 2008.
In a brief announcement, Omar Suleiman said on Friday that Mubarak had "abandoned the presidency," handing over the power to the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces, which is headed by Defense Minister Gen. Mohammed Tantawi. 

The transition of power to the military comes while Mubarak, Suleiman and Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq are all former military men. Analysts believe despite the transition Mubarak would still remain in power. 

A high-ranking Iranian official says it has taken Hosni Mubarak and his American and European supporters 30 years to hear the voice of the Egyptian people.

In an exclusive interview with Press TV on Friday, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili said, "The United States and Europe must be answerable to the Egyptian people for supporting a dictatorship for 30 years." 

"The victory of the Egyptian Revolution coinciding with the victory of Iran's Islamic Revolution proved that 22 Bahman (February 11) is the day of triumph for regional nations and is the day of defeat for the US and the Zionist regime [of Israel]," he said. 

The UN human rights chief has sharply criticized Israel for ignoring the harm done to Palestinians by its illegal settlement policy and the construction of the apartheid wall.

Speaking at the end of a six-day visit to the region on Friday, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that she had been shocked at the apathy among Israeli officials when she raised the issue of the suffering of Palestinians living near the illegal settlements or close to the towering apartheid wall, which cuts across the occupied West Bank. 

“I have been struck by the complacency with which the entirely-avoidable predicament of Palestinians affected by the wall and settlements is treated by Israeli authorities with whom I have discussed these issues,” Pillay said. 

Turkey says it has unveiled its final inquiry report on the Israeli deadly attack on a Gaza-bound aid convey last year, which proves Israel used “excessive” force and trampled international law.

The Israeli commandos attacked the Freedom Flotilla in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea on May 31, killing nine Turkish citizens on board the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, and injuring about 50 other people who were part of the team on the six-ship convoy. 

The Turkish National Commission of Inquiry said in its final report to United Nations released Friday that Israel used “excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate force” against the unarmed civilians on board the aid convoy, reported. 

A top Iranian military official says the United States has failed to establish an American-style Middle East, as an Islamic wave is sweeping over the region.

“The US has failed to create a Great Middle East and now the Islamic Revolution has got a chance to develop its Islamic, spiritual model in the region,” ISNA quoted Brigadier General Yahya Rahim-Safavi, senior military adviser to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, as saying on Friday. 

“What we are witnessing after the defeat of the Zionist regime (Israel) in the 33-day and 22-day wars as well as the developments in Egypt and other Islamic Arabic countries show that … an Islamic Middle East has been formed,” he added. 

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that a new Middle East will be created in the near future without the United States and Israel.

"I assure you that despite all evil and complicated plans, and thanks to the resistance of nations, there will be a new Middle East but without the US and the Zionist regime [of Israel]," he told the Iranians gathering at Tehran's Azadi Square to mark the 32nd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. 

The Iranian president also urged the arrogant powers not to interfere in the internal affairs of the region's countries such as Egypt and Tunisia. 

At least 10 protesters have been killed and scores injured in the Egyptian city of El-Arish on the day that saw the historic overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak.

Hours before Mubarak announced his resignation, government vigilantes clashed with pro-democracy protesters who surrounded a police station in the Egyptian city of El-Arish late Friday to free prisoners held by the regime, a Press TV correspondent reported. 

Government forces then fired tear gas and live bullets to break up the demonstrators, killing at least 10 protesters and injuring 50 others. 

Indian administered Kashmir has remained closed as Kashmiris went on a general strike to honor the death anniversary of pro-independence leader Mohammad Maqbool Bhat.

Shops and businesses were shut in Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital, on Friday after pro-independence groups called for a shutdown in the region, a Press TV correspondent reported. 

To prevent any mass protests, police detained a number of demonstrators who were demanding the return of the mortal remains of the executed leader. 

Three bomb explosions have rocked Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province and gun shots have crackled in the area amid rising insecurity in the war-hit country, officials say.

There's no immediate report of possible casualties in the attacks, which reportedly targeted police headquarters in the volatile southern Afghan city of Kandahar, a Press TV correspondent reported Saturday. 

Local officials, who declined to be named, stated that firing is continuing in the city, adding that shots had been fired at the police office from a nearby hotel. 

A Pakistani court has issued an arrest warrant against former President Pervez Musharraf for his alleged involvement in assassination of ex-Premier Benazir Bhutto.

Pakistan's anti terrorism court responsible for conducting the trial of suspects charged with involvement in the murder case, asked the country's the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to present the former military ruler before court on 19th of February, a Press TV correspondent reported Saturday. 

The main opposition party in Egypt has called on the military to hand over power to a civilian-led government, following the transfer of power from Hosni Mubarak to a high military council.

The Muslim Brotherhood also called for the establishment of a constitution that "guarantees freedom and human rights."

The call came after Mubarak handed power over to the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces, which is headed by Defense Minister Gen. Mohammed Tantawi.

The transition of power to the military comes while Mubarak, Vice President Omar Suleiman and Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq are all former military men. Analysts believe despite the transition Mubarak would still remain in power.

The transition means that Egypt, which has been under a state of emergency for the past 30 years, will continue to be ruled by the military. 

McAfee: China-based hackers targeted big oil companies, stole sensitive data

McAfee: China-based hackers targeted big oil companies, stole sensitive dataAccording to a Thursday-released report by cybersecurity firm McAfee, China-based hackers conducted a “coordinated, covert and targeted” campaign of cyber-espionage against some of the leading Western energy firms, downloading sensitive data from their corporate networks.

The report notes that cyber-espionage by Chinese hackers was chiefly aimed at pilfering the computer networks of the world’s bigwig oil, energy, and petrochemical companies. The sensitive information downloaded by the hackers also included the companies’ “bid data”, which details oil discoveries around the world.

Despite the fact that law-enforcement agencies have mentioned that the hacking incidents are being investigated, the McAfee report claims that the attacks – termed as “Night Dragon” – have apparently been going on at least since late 2009. As per the company, these attacks appear to have begun in 2007; and are still continuing.

Thousands of Pakistani Army soldiers have begun to leave Swat Valley and return the security to the hands of the law-enforcement agencies operating in the Area which was once a Taliban stronghold.

Thousands of Pakistani Army soldiers have begun to leave Swat Valley and return the security to the hands of the law-enforcement agencies operating in the Area which was once a Taliban stronghold.
Officials stated that this soldier withdrawal is influenced by the military’s counter-insurgency strategy to clear, hold and transfer.
A part of the strategy is the joint police and military activities that have been conducted for capacity building and eventually leading to the entire handing over of the control to the law enforcement agencies operating in the region.

Pakistan rejects Afghan claims on airspace violation

Pakistani officials have refused the report made by the Afghan commanders which claims that the Pakistan Air Force has imposed an attack on a district in Nangarhar thus violating the Afghan airspace.
An anonymous senior official stated that such moves which are focusing on upsetting the understandings between Pakistan and Afghanistan will have serious consequences on the regional developments.
The Pakistani Consul General in Jalalabad, Muhammad Taufeeq also rejected the charges that a Pakistani aircraft has violated Afghan airspace or hit any civilian target. By his words, only one Pakistani helicopter has landed in the Anargi area in order to observe a border post.

The Pakistani warship PNS Shahjahan met with the HMS Cornwall in the Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Sea.The HMS Cornwall is involved in the security operations throughout the middle-east and both of the warship’s crews exchanged skills during the meeting.

The Pakistani warship PNS Shahjahan met with the HMS Cornwall in the Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Sea.The HMS Cornwall is involved in the security operations throughout the middle-east and both of the warship’s crews exchanged skills during the meeting.
The Pakistan warship has a big history as it was once a member of the Royal Navy and was a part of the Falklands war. According to HMS Cornwall’s Commanding Officer Commander David Wilkinson their connections with the Pakistan Navy have always been strong and will be strengthened even more in the future.
Samuel Cassidy is one of the engineering technician’s on HMS Cornwall. His father was once part of the team which handed a couple of Royal Navy warships to the Pakistan Navy. His words were that it was amazing to be able to be on a ship that his father knew so well and this visit brought back a lot of memories. He seemed very happy for seeing the PNS Shahjahan in such a good shape and at the center of Pakistan Navy operations.source

Pakistan on Thursday test fired a Babur cruise missile, a missile which has been a development of NESCOM.

Pakistan on Thursday test fired a Babur cruise missile, a missile which has been a development of NESCOM.
Pakistan’s Babur cruise missile with a max range of 700 KM, and subsonic speed is a deadly missile which rivals the Indian BrahMos cruise missile. The missile has the capability of remaining in the terrain hugging mode while being highly maneuverable with pin point accuracy. Babur cruise missile can carry either strategic or conventional warheads.
The test was witnessed by Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Khalid Shamim Wynne along with other senior officers from the armed forces. Officers from strategic organizations, scientists and engineers were also present.

PM said manufacturing of JF-17 in Pakistan with the help of China has proven to be a great positive in the Pak-China relationship.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani extended the government’s complete support of the JF-17 Thunder aircraft program. PM said this project has proven to be a great positive in the Pak-China relationship.
“This is the project that can become a true flagship of the historic cooperation and strengthen the relationship between our two countries”. These were the words of Gilani as he addressed a gathering of Chinese and Pakistani technicians during his visitation to the JF-17 manufacturing facility at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex.

Pak-US Defence Relation Base On The Issue OF Raymond Davis:American citizen who was accused of murdering two men in Lahore.

A visiting delegation of U.S. House Armed Services Committee conveyed a hidden threat that the joint defense cooperation between the Pakistan and US may be under a cloud if the standoff persisted on the issue of Raymond Davis – American citizen who was accused of murdering two men in Lahore.

A late-night press statement informed that a bipartisan US congressional delegation protested the continued illegal detention of Raymond Davis in Lahore. This happened during a meeting with Prime Minister Gilani.
Foreign missions are prohibited to officially revealing diplomatic norms, protestations or differences in the times of high-level interactions.
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