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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Saudi prince questions king's deputy appointment

Sat Mar 28, 2009 11:47am EDT


* A brother of Saudi king objects to deputy PM nomination

* He says nomination may make interior minister crown prince

* Prince Talal urges king to clarify his appointment

By Souhail Karam

RIYADH, March 28 (Reuters) - A brother of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has started a rare public debate over the succession by questioning the appointment of the kingdom's interior minister as second deputy prime minister -- a position that would normally place him second in line to the throne.

The statement, by Prince Talal bin Abdul-Aziz, came after the Saudi royal court announced on Friday the appointment of Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz as second deputy prime minister, a promotion that means he will run the kingdom when the monarch and crown prince are away.

The role would normally go to First Deputy Prime Minister Crown Prince Sultan, but he is convalescing in the United States after surgery earlier this year.

Prince Talal said the monarch needs to make sure the appointment served purely an "administrative purpose".

"I call on the royal court to clarify what is meant by this nomination and that it does not mean that he (Prince Nayef) will become crown prince," Prince Talal said in a faxed statement sent to Reuters.

"The latest nomination of the second deputy prime minister will give the impression that he will automatically become crown prince," said Prince Talal, who is also the father of billionaire businessman Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

The statement was authenticated by a personal assistant of Prince Talal, who like both King Abdullah and Prince Nayef is a son of the kingdom's founder, the late King Abdul-Aziz al-Saud.

A CONSERVATIVE FORCE

Prince Talal said the appointment of Nayef as crown prince should be decided by the Allegiance Council, made up of the most prominent members of the al-Saud family who would vote to appoint future crown princes.

The decision to set up the council in 2006 aimed at replacing an even more opaque previous policy consisting of naming "the eldest and most able" son of late King Abdul-Aziz to the post of Crown Prince.

Prince Nayef, believed to be 75, is perceived as one of the most conservative forces in the kingdom and an opponent of reforms that may reduce the clout of both the monarchy and the religious establishment in the kingdom, the world's leading oil exporter.

He told reporters earlier this week that he does not see a need either for women to be members of a quasi-parliament or elections to its membership.

Prince Talal, on the other hand, has long been one of the most vocal supporters of reforms among the ruling al-Saud family.

An Interior Ministry spokesman declined to comment on the statement saying that only the royal court was eligible to comment on such issues. The court's public relations officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Western diplomats and analysts said Prince Nayef's appointment improve his chances of becoming the next crown prince.

"There is no other explanation to this appointment. Prince Talal's statement reflects this," said Khalid al-Dakhil, a political science lecturer at King Saud University.

A diplomat added: "It is fair to talk about the Allegiance Council if there is a vacancy. Prince Nayef's appointment suggests the inevitability that he is to become crown prince".

A Saudi analyst close to official circles said Prince Nayef's appointment followed discussions among the top members of the royal family, but could not say if Prince Talal took part in these talks.

"Everything is possible behind those closed doors, they have agreed. The law allows the king to name one deputy or several deputies or remove them ... The allegiance council is not needed now since the position of crown prince is not vacant".

The appointment of Prince Nayef, which a royal decree said was "made in the interest of the public good", will put the interior minister in charge of running Saudia Arabia during an expected two-week absence by King Abdullah.

The monarch is expected to attend an Arab summit next week in Qatar before heading to London for a G20 summit early in April.

Diplomats and analysts say Prince Talal's push for reforms is shared by only a minority of several thousands of Saudi princes. "He has a history," one diplomat said.

Saudi authorities revoked in the early 1960s Prince Talal's passport when he sought to press for a constitutional monarchy and allied himself to late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, then an arch-foe of the Saudi monarchy.

Prince Talal later toned down his rhetoric to be able to return to the kingdom.

Over the more than 30 years he has spent as Interior Minister, Prince Nayef has had to deal with a bloody siege at the Grand Mosque of Mecca in 1979 and a wave of bombings led by al-Qaeda sympathisers and aimed at toppling the monarchy.

(Editing by Samia Nakhoul)

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Al Qaeda behind Libyan plot to murder Saudi prince



RIYADH: A leading Saudi-owned newspaper reported Saturday that four Libyan-recruited would-be assassins of Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz were members of Al Qaeda, the network blamed for the terror that has hit Saudi Arabia in the past 13 months.

Saudi officials have not commented on the alleged plot to murder Abdullah or spoken of retaliatory measures, but Asharq Al-Awsat’s claim came as other Saudi newspapers assailed Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi for the second day in a row.

The daily Okaz also sought to link Libya to the wave of bombings and shootings which began in Saudi Arabia in May 2003, quoting unspecified sources as “not ruling out the involvement of Libyan intelligence in some of the recent bombings and killings.”

The New York Times reported on Thursday that two people involved in a plot to fire rockets at Abdullah’s motorcade had been detained in the United States and Saudi Arabia and that the plot was being investigated by Washington, Riyadh and London.

The two were named as Abdurahman Almoudi, an American arrested in October for violating a US ban on travel to Libya, and Colonel Mohammed Ismael, a Libyan intelligence officer captured by Egyptian police in November after he fled Saudi Arabia where he tried to pay four Saudi militants. Libya has denied the allegations.

Reporting from Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat said Ismael fled from the Rea Sea port city to Cairo last November after he saw Saudi security forces besieging a hotel in nearby Mecca in which the four Saudis affiliated to Al Qaeda, and who were supposed to carry out the assassination, were staying.

The four were to use shoulder-held or armor-piercing missiles in the assassination, it said, adding that the hotel was located opposite the palace where Abdullah was due to stay.

The plot was uncovered thanks to the measures Saudi Arabia has introduced to monitor the flow of money into the country, the paper quoted reliable sources as saying in a reference to the tighter controls meant to prevent terror financing which began after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

An employee in a branch of Al-Rajhi Bank in Mecca became suspicious of a one-million-dollar transfer to Ismael, who said it was meant to cover the expenses of Gaddafi ‘s wife during a pilgrimage trip to the Muslim holy city.

Saudi authorities put Ismael under surveillance and eventually raided a hotel apartment where the four Saudi Al Qaeda recruits were staying and arrested them, prompting the Libyan intelligence officer to flee to Egypt.

Security authorities immediately contacted their Egyptian counterparts, who arrested Ismael as soon as he landed in Cairo and put him on a plane back to Saudi Arabia, the paper said.

The daily Al-Watan gave a slightly different account of the run-up to Ismael’s flight to Egypt but named a second Libyan security agent — Abdul Fattah al-Ghosh — who accompanied him and was sent back to Saudi Arabia. afp

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Saudi crown prince to convalesce in Morocco -SPA
29 Apr 2009 09:39:17 GMT
Source: Reuters
RIYADH, April 29 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz, who had surgery in New York in February, will spend time in Morocco before returning home, the official news agency SPA reported late on Tuesday.

Prince Sultan, deputy leader of the world's biggest oil exporter, will leave the United States on Wednesday to convalesce in Morocco, SPA quoted one of his sons Prince Fahd bin Sultan as saying.

"He then will return soon to the homeland, God willing, to perform his functions and duties for the service of religion and the nation," said Prince Fahd, governor of Tabuk region.

Prince Turki bin Sultan, another son of the prince and an assistant information minister, said in remarks carried by SPA earlier on Tuesday his father would return to Saudi Arabia soon.

Saudi media at the time described the treatment undertaken by Prince Sultan, who is thought to be 84, as successful but did not say what he was treated for.

Prince Sultan left the kingdom, an absolute monarchy closely allied to Washington, in November for medical tests in the United States, Saudi media said. He then returned to Morocco for a prescribed convalescence before flying back to New York for the surgery in February.

In March, King Abdullah appointed Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz as second deputy prime minister, a promotion that would normally place him second in line to the throne after Sultan. The position means he will run the kingdom when both the monarch and crown prince are away.

Al Qaeda launched a failed campaign of violence to destabilise the Gulf Arab country from 2003 to 2006.

Prince Sultan had an intestinal cyst removed in Saudi Arabia in 2005 and he visited the Swiss city of Geneva in April 2008 for what were described as routine tests. (Reporting by Souhail Karam; Editing by Andrew Hammond and Dominic Evans)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pakistan police academy attack: At least 10 dead

Militants armed with assault rifles and hand grenades attacked a police training academy in eastern Pakistan, killing at least ten officers and wounding about 50.


By Isambard Wilkinson in Islamabad
Last Updated: 6:32AM BST 30 Mar 2009

Police said between 20 and 25 gunmen, dressed as police officers, were involved in the attack. Details were still emerging, but it appeared the gunmen had taken several of the 500 trainees hostage within the Manawan centre's mosque.

The attack is the latest in a wave of violence against Pakistani security personnel less than a month after the deadly ambush of Sri Lanka's cricket team in the same city, Lahore.



An intelligence officer said 10 people had been killed and 50 wounded.

The attack occurred as dozens of police officers carried out morning drills.

Television news footage showed police officers and paramilitary rangers surrounding the parameter wall of the training centre.

A police armoured personnel carrier (APC) entered the compound and an exchange of fire, including what appeared to be a grenade explosion, broke out. The APC then withdrew.

Police officers sprayed the compound with sporadic, poorly-directed rifle rounds.

The attack came as Pakistan has become the centre of world attention, following President Barack Obama's new strategy to combat militancy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"It is a complete panic here. We do not have any idea how many the attackers are, and how many of them are dead, or hiding in nearby buildings," said police officer, Syed Ahmad. "We are fighting them."

Most of the attacks have been centred in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province.

However, in early March, a group of gunmen ambushed the visiting cricket team in a city square, sparking a battle that left six police officers and a driver dead and wounded several of the players.


------------


Militants storm Pakistani police centre


30 Mar 2009 07:00:44 GMT
Source: Reuters
(For a related FACTBOX click on [nSP461671]) (Adds quotes, details)

By Mohsin Raza

LAHORE, Pakistan, March 30 (Reuters) - Militants holed up in a police training centre in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Monday after storming the building, with estimates of the dead ranging up to 20.

Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said 52 police were wounded in the attack but gave no word on the number killed, while Geo News television channel said the toll was 20.

Paramilitary troops laid siege, firing from rooftops of surrounding buildings, while the gunmen returned fire and threw grenades to keep the police at bay.

"Our elite squad has surrounded the area. God willing, now we will get into the building," Mushtaq Sukhera, senior police official told journalists at the scene.

"I have counted 12 bodies but I dont know exactly how many have been killed," Mohammad Raza, another police officer said.

One wounded policeman said there were 15 to 20 gunmen in the building. It was unclear if any police were being held hostage.

The assault came less than a month after a dozen gunmen attacked Sri Lanka's cricket team in the city, killing six police guards and a bus driver. Those gunmen escaped.

The latest brazen attack will inevitably heighten fears about the mounting insecurity in nuclear-armed Pakistan.

Islamist militants have launched a campaign of violence to destabilise the Muslim state of 170 million people, and the one-year-old civilian government's ability to meet the challenge.

U.S. President Barack Obama made support for President Asif Ali Zardari's government a centrepiece of a review of policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan that was announced on Friday, and which made annihilation of al Qaeda the United States' principle objective.

ATTACKED DURING MORNING DRILL

Police official Sukhera said around 850 young cadets attended the training centre but police were unsure how many were inside at the time of the attack, which began at around 7 a.m. (0200 GMT).

Television channels said several hundred trainees were at the centre when the attackers, some dressed as policemen, struck.

"Some gunmen entered the centre, threw hand grenades and then started firing," said an intelligence agency official who declined to be identified.

Around 15 to 20 attackers were believed to be inside the training centre, a policeman told Geo News television channel while having his head bandaged.

The training centre is on the outskirts of the city, on the road to the nearby border with India.

"The gunmen attacked police recruits from four sides when they were doing their routine morning drills," said a police officer at the scene.

A police armoured personnel carrier (APC) entered the compound and an exchange of fire, including what appeared to be a grenade explosion, broke out, a Reuters photographer at the scene said. The APC then withdrew.

One television station showed pictures of about a dozen police lying on a parade ground. Some appeared to be lifeless while others were crawling to cover.

An army helicopter circled overhead, and police and soldiers were seen carrying wounded to ambulances.

Militant violence has surged in Pakistan since mid-2007, with numerous attacks on the security forces and government and Western targets.

Most of the violence has been in the northwest, in areas along the Afghan border, but there have been attacks in all main cities.

Despite the violence in Lahore, Pakistani stocks <.KSE> and the rupee were both firmer in early trade. (For additional Pakistan and Afghanistan stories see [nSP437509]) (Additional reporting by Kamran Haider and Zeeshan Haider; Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Jerry Norton)


------

Pakistani commandos end academy siege, kill militants
30 Mar 2009 12:33:08 GMT
Source: Reuters
* Pakistani police say academy siege over

* Four militants killed, three arrested

* Police chief says eight cadets killed, scores wounded

* Ten hostages rescued

By Kamran Haider

LAHORE, Pakistan, March 30 (Reuters) - Pakistani security forces took control of a police academy in Lahore on Monday after militants rampaged through the complex, killing at least eight cadets and wounding scores before holing up inside for hours.

"The operation is over. Four terrorists were killed and three arrested," Interior Ministry Secretary Kamal Shah told Reuters. Shah said 89 policemen were wounded.

Punjab police chief Khawaja Khalid Farooq said at least eight recruits were killed though there had been reports the toll would be higher as there were 900 cadets in the academy at the time of the attack.

Three of the militants blew themselves up during the final assault, and commandos rescued 10 police being held hostage.

Television news channels showed jubilant police shouting praise to Allah, making victory signs with their hands, and firing in the air in celebration minutes after a fierce firefight inside the main academy building.

The latest brazen attack will heighten fears about mounting insecurity in nuclear-armed Pakistan. The assault came less than a month after gunmen attacked Sri Lanka's cricket team in Lahore, killing six police guards and a bus driver. Those gunmen escaped.

Islamist militants have launched a campaign of violence to destabilise the Muslim nation of 170 million people, and the one-year-old civilian government's ability to meet the challenge.

U.S. President Barack Obama made support for President Asif Ali Zardari's government a centrepiece of a review of policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan that was announced on Friday.

The principle objective of Obama's strategy is the annihilation of al Qaeda in the two countries.

Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab province, said authorities had reports of four people confirmed killed, although television news channels put the number of dead at 20, including cadets.

One wounded policeman described how the attackers struck while police recruits were going through their regular morning drill on the parade ground in the eastern city.

"A grenade hit the platoon next to ours ... then there was continuous firing for about 20 minutes," the policeman told reporters gathered round his hospital bed.

"A man in light-coloured clothes -- I think they were white -- stood in front of us, firing at us. They wanted to do as much damage as possible."

One witness told Reuters the gunmen attacked in groups of three or four from all sides.

EIGHT-HOUR SIEGE

Some eight to 10 militants attacked the recruits as they performed a regular drill on the parade ground at around 7:30 a.m (0230 GMT), and then went on to occupy the academy's main building.

Another wounded policeman recounted how he escaped when the gunmen burst into a room and began firing indiscriminately.

"I jumped from the second floor," he said. "There were dead bodies all over the place."

Just before 4 p.m., commandos launched an operation to retake the building, according to Major-General Shafqaat Ali, who described it as a joint operation by the army, paramilitary rangers and a crack police squad.

"Our forces stormed the top floor where they were holding positions," Major-General Ali said.

"The operation is over the building is in our control."

The siege had lasted nearly eight hours, with security forces firing from rooftops of nearby buildings, while gunmen returned fire and threw grenades, at one point forcing an armoured personnel carrier to retreat.

Before the siege ended, the police chief said one of the suspected attackers had been caught. Footage showed police kicking a bearded man on the ground before leading him through a throng of journalists.

Reports said the suspect was caught with a grenade in his possession and had an Afghan passport, though a cadet who fled the carnage said he heard the attackers speaking a dialect common to southern Punjab. Lahore is the capital of Punjab province.

If those accounts are correct it would point to a nexus between militants from Afghan border areas in the northwest and Punjabi jihadi groups, like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, that have forged ties with al Qaeda.

LeJ was implicated in several assassination attempts on Pakistan's former president, General Pervez Musharraf, and was blamed for a suicide bomb attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad last September.

Despite the attack in Lahore, Pakistani stocks <.KSE> and the rupee firmed as investors registered relief that a recent political crisis had subsided.

Militant violence has surged in Pakistan since mid-2007, with attacks on security forces and government and Western targets.

While there have been attacks in all Pakistan's big cities, most violence has been in the northwest, near the Afghan border. (For related FACTBOXES click [ID:nSP461671] and [ID:nLU261211], for additional Pakistan and Afghanistan stories see [ID:nSP437509]) (Additional reporting by Mohsin Raza, Robert Birsel and Zeeshan Haider; Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

Birth Day Became Death Day

March 30, 2009
Man kills two sisters at birthday party
Claire Sweeney

A children's party turned into a bloodbath when the brother of a girl celebrating her fifth birthday decapitated her and fatally stabbed her 17 year old sister at the weekend.

After murdering the two girls, 23-year-old Kerby Revelus then turned towards his 9-year-old sister, Sarafina, with a knife in his hand before police shot him dead.

The bloody attack happened in the home Mr Revelus and his sisters shared with their parents and grandmother in the Boston suburb of Milton.

The children's parents were away, and their grandmother was doing laundry in the basement at the time.
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An officer on patrol in the area arrived at the house shortly after Sarafina called the emergency services. Hearing an altercation inside and unable to persuade the young girl to open the door, the officer broke through.

“As the officer entered the door, (Revelus) decapitated (Bianca) in front of him,” Milton police chief Richard G. Wells Jr said. “He actually walked into a killing field. He walked into such carnage, as far as the atrocity of it, I've never seen it.”

Within moments, four police officers were inside and two of them shot Revelus dead as he tried to get to Sarafina, Mr Wells said. Mr Revelus fell, still clutching the knife.

Details about the number of shots and who killed Revelus will be revealed folloiwng an autopsy.

Sarafina was admitted to hospital with wounds to her hands and stab wounds in her abdomen and one of her legs.

"In policing, we see the raw human emotion every day, but to think that a human being could afflict such an atrocious, violent act on his own family is unbelievable," Mr Wells said. "When I walked up to the first officer (on the scene), I could see the whole story right in his face. This just told me that this was something very bad."

Police do not know what sparked the attack but Mr Revelus had 24 hours earlier gotten into a fistfight with a man living next door.

“Blows were exchanged,” Mr Wells said. “I don't know the cause of it, but we're confident that did happen. He had been agitated in the hours that followed that, going into the day and last night.”

Mr Revelus recently served jail time on a gun charge, while in 2004 police were called to the family's house following the report of a domestic violence incident in which he had punched a woman living there.

Officers involved in the attacks on Saturday were receiving counselling from the Boston Police Department stress unit.

Shoddy wiring 'everywhere' on Iraq bases, Army inspector says

From Abbie Boudreau and Scott Bronstein
CNN Special Investigations Unit
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Thousands of buildings at U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan have such poorly installed wiring that American troops face life-threatening risks, a top inspector for the Army says.
These wires installed in Iraq are some of the most important to ensure safety. They all need to be replaced.

These wires installed in Iraq are some of the most important to ensure safety. They all need to be replaced.

"It was horrible -- some of the worst electrical work I've ever seen," said Jim Childs, a master electrician and the top civilian expert in an Army safety survey. Childs told CNN that "with the buildings the way they are, we're playing Russian roulette."

Childs recently returned from Iraq, where he is taking part in a yearlong review aimed at correcting electrical hazards on U.S. bases. He told CNN that thousands of buildings in Iraq and Afghanistan are so badly wired that troops are at serious risk of death or injury.

He said problems are "everywhere" in Iraq, where 18 U.S. troops have died by electrocution since 2003. All deaths occurred in different circumstances and different locations, but many happened on U.S. bases being managed by various military contractors. The Army has reopened investigations in at least five cases, according to Pentagon sources.

Of the nearly 30,000 buildings the Army's "Task Force Safe" has examined so far, Childs said more than half "failed miserably." And 8,527 had such serious problems that inspectors gave them a "flash" warning, meaning repairs had to be completed in four hours or the facility evacuated.

He said the majority of those buildings were wired by contractor KBR, based in Houston, Texas. KBR has faced extensive criticism from Congress over its performance in the war zone. KBR has defended its performance and argued it was not to blame for any fatalities.

Military electrocutions became a national issue about a year ago, after the January 2008 death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A decorated member of the Army's Green Berets, Maseth was electrocuted in his shower at a U.S. base in Baghdad that once served as one of Saddam Hussein's palaces.

His death was blamed on improper grounding and dangerous wiring on his living quarters. Soon after that, the Army asked Childs to help create "Task Force Safe," a team of master electricians assigned to inspect Army posts for electrical dangers.

Childs said the "large majority" of the buildings the task force examined in Iraq had been wired by KBR, which he expected would follow American standards. But the results, he said, were "just horrible."

In one building, "I had them pull a switch out of the wall to look at a switch, and when they pulled it out of the wall, the wires fell out of it," Childs said. Thinking that was an exception, "We pulled the one next to it. They fell off," he said. "It was just very, very poor quality work."
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Much of the work was done by crews from countries beyond Iraq, "with very little supervision by anybody." And many of the problems involved improperly grounded systems that allowed plumbing to conduct electricity, which he said could lead to electric shocks such as the one that killed Maseth.

Childs said service orders on at least two occasions warned of the hazard in Maseth's quarters, and "two simple electrical 101s" should have been checked out by electricians.

"A competent electrical contractor and electrician would have gone to that job site and tried to discover why pipes could have been energized," he said. If they had been, "then Ryan Maseth would not have been electrocuted, in my opinion."

Maseth's family is suing KBR. An Army investigator has recommended that his cause of death be changed to "negligent homicide," accusing the company of failing to properly supervise or inspect its work. The Army has yet to accept the recommendation.

KBR has repeatedly said it was not responsible for Maseth's death or for any of the others and defended its work.

"KBR has worked diligently to address electrical issues when asked," the company told CNN in a written statement. "What is important to remember is the challenging environment in which these issues exist.

"The electrical standards in Iraq are nowhere near those of Western or U.S. standards. Add to this the challenges that exist in a war zone. We have been and remain committed to fully cooperating with the government on this issue."

But Childs said the majority of buildings on U.S. bases were built and wired by KBR since the U.S. invasion.

"They installed the housing units, they installed the electrical, they installed the wiring. They installed it all. And it's wrong," he said. "It's all put in wrong."

KBR was not alone, however. He said the Army survey found problems with every contractor whose work it inspected.

Task Force Safe has yet to inspect another 70,000 buildings in Iraq and has just begun its review of bases in Afghanistan, where contractors have raised similar concerns. In written answers to questions from CNN, Pentagon spokesman Chris Isleib said, "We are correcting hazardous conditions every day."

"This is a huge undertaking but absolutely necessary for the life, health and safety of our service members and civilians," he said. "When we find a defect, we put in an emergency work order and take action immediately to protect the people working or living in those facilities."

But Childs told CNN he is surprised more Americans have not been hurt.

"All the potentials are there," he said. "It just hasn't happened." ================================================================ U.S. drops case against KBR over Iraq private security costs Thu, Nov 15 18:48 PM EST (Reuters) - The United States has dropped its case against the engineering and military contractor KBR Inc over the costs of KBR's private armed security in Iraq. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, in an order posted on Thursday, granted the Justice Department's petition from Wednesday to have its lawsuit dismissed without prejudice, a move that would leave it free to possibly refile the case at a later date. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment. The Justice Department had launched the lawsuit against the Houston-based company in April 2010 for alleged False Claims Act violations for impermissible security costs in billings to the U.S. Army from 2003 to 2006. "The use of armed private security contractors was both reasonable and necessary given the dangerous, life-threatening conditions under which KBR and its subcontractors were asked to perform in Iraq," KBR said in a statement. The contract at issue provided for logistical support, such as food services, transportation, laundry and mail, for military operations. The lawsuit involved KBR and 33 subcontractors. The lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., alleged that KBR violated the contract by failing to obtain Army authorization for arming subcontractors and by allowing the use of private security contractors who were not registered with the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior. But KBR countered that it had to hire private security to protect workers in Iraq because the U.S. Army failed to do so. The case was only one of many legal battles for KBR related to work in Iraq. KBR also faces a lawsuit by soldiers who say they were exposed to toxic chemicals at an Iraqi oil industry water treatment plant where KBR ran security. Earlier this month, a jury awarded the 12 plaintiffs in that case $10.2 million in actual damages and $75 million in punitive damages. KBR said it was deciding whether to appeal. The case is United States of America v. Kellogg Brown & Root, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 1:10-cv-00530 (Reporting by Braden Reddall in San Francisco; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Antarctica to Pyramids _ lights dim for Earth Hour

KRISTEN GELINEAU
Originally published 11:07 a.m., March 28, 2009, updated 10:09 a.m., March 28, 2009

SYDNEY (AP) - The floodlit cream shells of the famed Opera House dimmed Saturday as Sydney became the world's first major city to plunge itself into darkness for the second worldwide Earth Hour, a global campaign to highlight the threat of climate change.

From the Great Pyramids to the Acropolis, the London Eye to the Las Vegas strip, nearly 4,000 cities and towns in 88 countries planned to join in the World Wildlife Fund-sponsored event, a time zone-by-time zone plan to dim nonessential lights between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Involvement in the effort has exploded since last year's Earth Hour, which drew participation from 400 cities after Sydney held a solo event in 2007. Interest has spiked ahead of planned negotiations on a new global warming treaty in Copenhagen, Denmark, this December. The last global accord, the Kyoto Protocol, is set to expire in 2012.

Despite the boost in interest from the Copenhagen negotiations, organizers initially worried enthusiasm for this year's event would wane with the world's attention focused largely on the global economic crisis, Earth Hour executive director Andy Ridley told The Associated Press. Strangely enough, he said, it's seemed to have the opposite effect.

"Earth Hour has always been a positive campaign; it's always around street parties, not street protests, it's the idea of hope not despair. And I think that's something that's been incredibly important this year because there is so much despair around," he said. "On the other side of it, there's savings in cutting your power usage and being more sustainable and more efficient."

In Australia, people attended candlelit speed-dating events and gathered at outdoor concerts as the hour of darkness rolled through the country. Sydney's glittering harbor was bathed in shadows as lights dimmed on the steel arch of the city's iconic Harbour Bridge and the nearby Opera House.

Earlier Saturday, the Chatham Islands, a group of small islands about 500 miles (800 kilometers) east of New Zealand, officially kicked off Earth Hour by switching off its diesel generators. Soon after, the lights of Auckland's Sky Tower, the tallest man-made structure in New Zealand, blinked off.

Forty-four New Zealand towns and cities participated in the event, and more than 60,000 people showed up for an Earth Hour-themed hot air ballooning festival in the city of Hamilton.

At Scott Base in Antarctica, New Zealand's 26-member winter team resorted to minimum safety lighting and switched off appliances and computers.

The U.N.'s headquarters in New York and other of its facilities were dimming their lights for an hour to signal the need for global support for a new climate treaty in Copenhagen in December. The first round of climate negotiations this year begins Sunday in Bonn, Germany.

U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon called Earth Hour "a way for the citizens of the world to send a clear message: They want action on climate change."

"We are on a dangerous path. Our planet is warming. We must change our ways. ... We need sustainable energy for a more climate-friendly, prosperous world," Ban said.

China was participating in the campaign for the first time, with Beijing turning off the lights at its Bird's Nest Stadium and Water Cube, the most prominent venues for the Olympics, according to WWF. Shanghai was also cutting lights in all government buildings and other structures on its waterfront, while Hong Kong, Baoding, Changchun, Dalian, Nanjing and Guangzhou were also participating, WWF said.

However, the official WWF Earth Hour Web site appeared to be blocked in Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin on Saturday afternoon. While China rarely gives reasons for blocking Web sites, the campaign coincided with the 50th anniversary of the suppression of an uprising in Tibet that forced the Dalai Lama to go into exile.

In Hong Kong, the government planned to suspend its nightly "Symphony of Lights," which beams lasers and lights into the sky from 44 buildings on the city's famed Victoria Harbor. Landmarks along the harbor also were to switch off nonessential lights for an hour.

Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva pressed a button that switched off the lights on Khao San Road, a famous haven for budget travelers in Bangkok that is packed with bars and outdoor cafes. City officials then hosted an hour-long outdoor seminar on global warming that offered ideas for reducing energy consumption.

The lights also went out at the Grand Palace and other riverside monuments, and on several of the Thai capital's busiest boulevards.

On Bangkok's bustling Silom Road several street vendors hawking pirated DVDs, T-shirts and fake watches chipped in by turning off the bulbs that light their stalls.

Earth Hour organizers say there's no uniform way to measure how much energy is saved worldwide.

Earth Hour 2009 has garnered support from global corporations, nonprofit groups, schools, scientists and celebrities _ including Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett and retired Cape Town Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

McDonald's Corp. planned to dim its arches at 500 locations around the Midwest in the United States. The Marriott, Ritz-Carlton and Fairmont hotel chains and Coca-Cola Co. also planned to participate.

___

On the Net:

Earth Hour: http://www.earthhour.org

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Earth Hour video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v9bm7yR0HcVY

Friday, March 27, 2009

Maliki urges Iranian firms to invest in Iraq

AFP



Fri Mar 27, 11:20 am ET

BAGHDAD (AFP) – Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Friday urged Iranian businesses to invest in Iraq and help with the reconstruction of his war-ravaged country.

"We call on Iranian enterprises to come and work and invest in Iraq and to contribute to the construction process in the country, as we have already asked international businesses to do," he said at a meeting with Ali Larijani, speaker of Iran's parliament.

Maliki said his administration "wants to see relations with Iran make progress in all sectors," according to a statement.

Larijani said Iran is "ready to support the Iraqi government and to remain at its side to make the Iraqi economy grow."

Both Iran and Iraq, which was invaded by US-led forces in 2003 to oust the Sunni Muslim regime of the late Saddam Hussein, have Shiite majority populations.

Larijani, who has been visiting Iraq since Tuesday, has dismissed as "fine words" the recent message by US President Barack Obama to Iranian leaders.

On March 20 Obama proposed an end to three decades of animosity in a message marking the Iranian New Year, in a departure from the tough line adopted by his predecessor George W. Bush.

"Our dispute with the US is not an emotional issue and cannot be resolved by congratulatory messages or fine words," Larijani told reporters on Wednesday during a visit to the Shiite holy city of Najaf, south of Baghdad.

"Our differences have been going on for 30 years," he said.

FACTBOX-Afghanistan: Who are the insurgents?

27 Mar 2009 10:33:59 GMT
Source: Reuters
(For more stories on Afghanistan, click on [ID:nSP437509])

March 27 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama plans to announce on Friday the United States will deploy 4,000 extra troops to train Afghan security forces in a strategy to disrupt al Qaeda and roll back Taliban advances.

After their rapid collapse in the face of the U.S.-led invasion following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Taliban and their allies regrouped and launched an insurgency which has now spread from the south and east to the outskirts of the capital.

But who are the armed opposition groups in Afghanistan?

THE TALIBAN

The Taliban arose in 1994 near the main southern Afghan city Kandahar under the leadership of Mullah Mohammad Omar, the imam of a village mosque.

The group of puritanical religious students offered a simple but harsh form of Islamic justice that appealed to many who were weary of corrupt and brutal warlords who destroyed the country in endless infighting after the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989.

Capturing Kandahar in 1994, the Taliban made rapid gains in the mainly ethnic Pashtun south and east, but encountered more resistance in the mainly Tajik and Uzbek north.

The Taliban captured the capital, Kabul, in 1996 and enforced an austere rule, banning television, computers and photography and forbidding women to work and girls to go to school.

Mullah Omar also fell under the spell of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who used the refuge given him in Afghanistan to plot the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

A U.S.-led invasion, helped by northern Tajik and Uzbek groups, led to the rapid downfall of the Taliban government in late 2001 and most of its leaders are thought to have fled to the lawless tribal areas of neighbouring Pakistan.

With the Bush administration unwilling to engage in nation building and concentrating on the war in Iraq, the Taliban began to regroup in the south then relaunched their insurgency in 2005 with a wave of guerrilla attacks, suicide and roadside bombs that has grown steadily ever since.

The Taliban is still under the overall command of Mullah Omar, who heads a leadership council known as the Quetta shura after the Pakistani city where he is believed to be in hiding.

The Taliban leadership gives overall strategic direction to the insurgent groups on the ground, but day-to-day tactical decisions on where and when to launch attacks are left to commanders in the field, military officials say.

Despite suffering heavy casualties against NATO-led forces in 2006, the Taliban have increased the number of their guerrilla attacks, although in smaller groups. They also rely more on suicide and roadside bombs that Afghan and foreign troops can do little to stop without the active support of the people.

While there are often feuds and disagreements between local commanders, the Taliban have remained remarkably unified with few signs of major splits and resistant to attempts by the Afghan government to reconcile with moderate Taliban.

Some former Taliban officials are now involved in Saudi-sponsored talks aimed at finding ways towards full negotiations, but analysts say the Taliban have no reason to engage in dialogue while they sense they are winning the war.

AL QAEDA

Formed by wealthy Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden in the late 1980s, al Qaeda seeks to rid Muslim countries of Western influence and instate fundamentalist Islamic regimes.

The group is wanted by the United States for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as well as a string of other attacks on U.S. installations. The United States invaded Afghanistan after the 2001 attacks to destroy al Qaeda bases in the country and topple the Taliban, who had allowed bin Laden to operate there.

Following the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, al Qaeda leaders, including bin Laden, are believed to have fled to neighbouring Pakistan, seeking refuge in the tribal areas.

Al Qaeda is not now believed to play a leading role in Afghanistan but other militant groups operating inside Afghanistan, particularly the Haqqani network, claim to have close links to the group.

Some analysts believe the Taliban were upset with al Qaeda for bringing down the wrath of the United States on them after Sept. 11 and former Taliban officials have spoken of a readiness to abandon "foreigners" as part of a possible peace deal, something Washington would insist upon.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) said last year al Qaeda "remains the most clear and present danger to the safety of the United States".

HAQQANI NETWORK

Headed by Jalaluddin Haqqani, the Haqqani network is allied with the Taliban and is believed to be linked to al Qaeda. It has been behind several high-profile attacks in Afghanistan.

Effective leadership of the group has now passed from Jalaluddin, who is in his 70s, to his more radical eldest son Sirajuddin, security analysts say.

The senior Haqqani rose to prominence during the 1980s, receiving weapons and funds from the CIA and Saudi Arabia to fight the Soviet occupation and has also had long-standing links with Pakistan's military Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

After the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996, Haqqani sided with the austere Islamist movement and became a government minister.

Sirajuddin told Reuters in March his group was under the overall command of Taliban leader Mullah Omar and admitted ties with al Qaeda but said he did not need its support.

HEZB-I-ISLAMI

Founded by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Hizb-i-Islami was one of the main mujahideen groups fighting the Soviet invasion in the 1980s, receiving the lion's share of U.S. and Saudi arms and money channelled through the Pakistani intelligence service.

After the Soviet withdrawal Hekmatyar fought and made fleeting alliances with most other mujahideen factions during the resulting civil war and is credited with killing thousands in Kabul with indiscriminate rocket attacks on the capital.

Pakistan dropped the party in 1994 in favour of the Taliban and, after losing to Mullah Omar's forces, Hekmatyar fled to Iran in 1997. Many of his fighters joined Taliban ranks.

After the Sept. 11 attacks Hekmatyar declared himself against the U.S. invasion, was expelled by Iran and returned to his homeland to take up the fight in alliance with the Taliban.

Hekmatyar's revived forces are mostly active in northeastern Afghanistan fighting U.S. and Afghan forces in the area.

With many of his former lieutenants now either in parliament or government, Hekmatyar has declared himself against suicide bombings and there have been a number of false Afghan media reports that he has made peace with the Afghan government.

Having at one time or another either fought or been in alliance with almost every faction in Afghanistan, there is every chance that Hekmatyar may make another deal should that become politically opportune. (Writing by Jon Hemming; Editing by Paul Tait)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Four AP students killed in US car crash



مرگ 4 دانشجوي هندي بر اثر بي احتياطي پليس مست آمريكايي

سرويس: اجتماعي - حوادث
1388/01/05
03-25-2009
16:40:42
8801-00417: كد خبر

خبرگزاري دانشجويان ايران - تهران
سرويس: اجتماعي - حوادث

رسانه‌هاي محلي آمريكا اعلام كردند: چهار دانشجوي هندي در حادثه تصادف با خودروي يك پليس زن آمريكايي كه در حين رانندگي مست بوده است، در دم كشته شدند.

به گزارش سرويس «حوادث» ايسنا، به نقل از خبرگزاري پي تي آي، اين چهار دانشجو شامل سه دختر و يك پسر بودند كه هر چهار نفر آن‌ها در اين حادثه كشته شدند و يك دانشجوي ديگر نيز به شدت مجروح شده است.

گفتني است، پليس زن در حالي كه ظاهرا مست بوده با خودروي خود با وسيله نقليه اين دانشجويان در بزرگراهي در ايالت ميسوري تصادف مي‌كند. قربانيان اين حادثه سه جوان 23 ساله و يك جوان 25 ساله بودند كه در مقطع فوق ليسانس و در رشته فناوري اطلاعات در دانشگاه اسيترن ايلينويز مشغول به تحصيل بوده‌اند.

شواهد نشان مي‌دهد كه پليس مست از مسير خود خارج شده بوده و با خودروي دانشجويان برخورد مي‌كند.

به گفته كارشناسان، خودروي دانشجويان در مجموع پنج سرنشين داشته كه نفر پنجم در لحظه حادثه رانندگي مي‌كرده و هم اكنون به شدت مجروح است.

همچنين پليس زن آمريكايي به نام «كريسي ميلر» كه 41 سال دارد، در حال حاضر در مركز پزشكي سنت جان مرسي بستري و حال وي وخيم است.



3/24/2009 7:15:10 AM
A drunk policewoman crashed her car into their vehicle on a highway in Missouri.

Four Indian IT students, including three girls, were killed and another was injured when an off-duty and apparently drunk policewoman crashed her car into their vehicle on a highway in Missouri.

The five, all hailing from Andhra Pradesh and studying for MS degree in information technology in Eastern Illinois University, was returning home on a Honda Accord when the policewoman's SUV, speeding on the wrong lane, hit them head-on in Des Peres, authorities said.

Four of the students — Anusha Anumolu (23), Satya S Chinta (25), Anita Lakshmi (23) and Priya Muppvarapu (23) — died on the spot while 27-year-old Nitesh Adusumilli, who was driving the car, was seriously injured.

The policewoman, identified as 41-year-old Chrissy Miller, was off-duty from her job at the Sunset Hills Police Department. She is also in a critical condition at St John's Mercy Medical Center in Creve Coeur, media reports said.

"They had a plan to go to an Indian restaurant and going to bowling alley, and they were returning back to home," said Suren Pathuri, an acquaintance of the victims. He said the bodies of the four victims will be sent to India.

"We do suspect that alcohol may have played a part in this crash on Miss Miller's part," said Missouri State Highway Patrol Sergent Al Nothum. "The investigation is ongoing," he said.

----------

Four Dead, 2 Hospitalized Following Crash In Des Peres
Highway Patrol reports off-duty Sunset Hills police officer was driving in wrong lane
by Fran Mannino

03/22/2009 - Alcohol may have been a factor in a collision between two vehicles Saturday morning in Des Peres that took the lives of four people and left two in critical condition.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, a 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse driven by off-duty Sunset Hills Police Officer Christine L. Miller of Kirkwood was traveling eastbound in the westbound lanes of Dougherty Ferry Road at approximately 1:45 a.m. Saturday, March 21, when the accident occurred.

The second vehicle, a 1997 Honda Accord driven by 27-year-old Nitesh Adusumilli of Ballwin, was turning right onto westbound Dougherty Ferry Road from Des Peres Road when it was struck by Miller's vehicle.

Four passengers in Adusumilli's car were pronounced dead at the scene by Kirkwood emergency personnel. The victims are: 23-year-old Anusha Anumolu of Charleston, Ill.; 25-year-old Satya S. Chinta of Aurora, Ill.; 23-year-old Anita Lakshmi of Charleston; and 22-year-old Prya Muppvarapu of Charleston.

Miller and Adusumilli were both taken to St. John's Mercy Medical Center. Miller is listed as critical; Adusumilli has been upgraded from critical condition to serious.

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Miller, 41, was traveling the wrong direction on Dougherty Ferry Road at the time of the crash, said police.

"We do suspect that alcohol may have played a part in this crash on Miss Miller's part," said Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Al Nothum. "The investigation is ongoing."

Sunset Hills Police Chief William LaGrand offered his condolences to family members of the victims and to the families of those who survived the crash.

He said Miller is a patrol officer who has had a variety of different assignments on the force, and that everyone there was devastated.

"Officer Miller was a good police officer who to my recollection did not have any problems in the 12 years she was with us," said LaGrand.

Miller, who is unmarried, has one son, Brian C. Miller.

In 2008, Brian Miller was involved in a one-car crash in Laclede County in which one of his passengers, 23-year-old Salvatore R. Carrabino, was killed. According to police reports, Brian Miller lost control of the vehicle, left the roadway and struck a tree. Both Brian Miller and a second passenger, Aaron M. Stanton, were seriously injured in the crash. Brian Miller faces charges as a result of that crash including involuntary manslaughter and operating a vehicle while intoxicated. His trial is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 14, in Laclede County.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Five facts about Benjamin Netanyahu

FACTBOX-
24 Mar 2009 12:13:44 GMT
Source: Reuters
JERUSALEM, March 24 (Reuters) - Benjamin Netanyahu came closer to forming Israel's next government after reaching a coalition deal on Tuesday with Labour Party leader Ehud Barak.

Here are some key facts about Netanyahu:

* Netanyahu was born in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on October 21, 1949, and grew up in Jerusalem. His father, Benzion, is a renowned Jewish historian and supporter of the late hawkish Zionist ideologue Zeev Jabotinsky. Netanyahu, married three times, has three children -- an adult daughter with a former wife, and two sons with his current spouse, Sarah. They live in Jerusalem.

* Known by a boyhood nickname, Bibi, Netanyahu is the most fluent English speaker of Israel's current crop of politicians, having gone to high school in the United States where his father worked as a researcher and university lecturer. Netanyahu is also a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he also earned a masters degree in business management.

* In 1967, Netanyahu joined the Israeli army and served in an elite commando unit, taking part in secret missions and, with Barak, a 1972 rescue of hostages on a hijacked Sabena airlines jet. He fought in a 1973 war and attained the rank of captain before his discharge.

* Netanyahu entered politics after his brother, Yonatan, was killed while leading the 1976 raid to rescue hijacked Israeli hostages from Entebbe, Uganda. His first high-profile political assignment was Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, in 1984. He won a seat in parliament with the right-wing Likud party in 1988 and was also named deputy foreign minister.

* Though voicing objections to withdrawing from occupied land for peace, Netanyahu, as prime minister between 1996-1999, pulled Israeli forces out of part of the West Bank town of Hebron under an interim peace accord with the Palestinians. An early election triggered by a further U.S.-brokered deal with Palestinians ended his term in 1999. As finance minister in 2003, Netanyahu implemented market reforms credited with stimulating economic growth despite a Palestinian uprising. He quit his cabinet post in 2005 in protest at Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. (Jerusalem newsroom, Editing by Dominic Evans) (For news story on coalition deal, double-click on [nLO171667]; for factbox on Barak, double-click on [nLO763885]

UK bank shares leap after Obama's £680bn pledge to set banks free from 'toxic assets'

So What's A Toxic Asset?
A Closer Look At The Financial Black Holes That Are Clogging Up The Nation's Credit Flow

Comments Comments 16

March 23, 2009

'Toxic-Bank' Details Released

Public and private money will buy up bad assets in an effort to jumpstart the economy, reports Bill Plante. Harry Smith talks to Dr. Christina Romer, a White House adviser, on the economic strategy. | Share/Embed

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Q&A: Mortgage Help
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A look at the series of government moves to try and stem the financial meltdown.


Stories

* White House Embarks On Toxic Asset Purge

* Stocks Surge On Bank Plan, Housing News


Answers.com

(CBS) The Obama administration rolled out a plan Monday that could facilitate the purchase of up to $1 trillion worth of toxic assets from struggling banks in an effort to clean up their balance sheets and get them to start lending again.

So what exactly are these toxic assets, which have caused such huge problems in our financial system?

Every time you see foreclosure signs littering neighborhoods, you're probably looking at the makings of a toxic asset, reports CBS News correspondent Bianca Solorzano.

"Toxic assets are the ones that nobody wants to touch because they're just considered too dangerous," Doug Rediker, of New America Foundation, told CBS News.

Normally banks can sell their healthy assets, such as a borrower's timely paid mortgage, to other banks. This allows Bank A to get money quickly and Bank B to profit from the interest that the homeowner is paying.

But if you go into foreclosure and the price of your home drops below the value of the loan itself, then that asset, namely the mortgage, is losing money. It becomes toxic and sits on the banks' balance sheets like a black hole.

Since the banks can't tell how large the black holes are on other banks' balance sheets, they have no confidence to lend money to each other and they stop making new loans, clogging up the nation's financial system.

And although the Treasury Department's plan makes allowances for up to $1 trillion worth of these toxic assets, some economists think the toxic clog could be more than twice that size.


Timothy Geithner unveils $1 trillion toxic asset scheme

The treasury intends to use between $75bn and $100bn from its emergency bailout fund to generate co-investment from hedge funds, private equity funds and other private-sector investors

* Andrew Clark in New York
* guardian.co.uk, Monday 23 March 2009 14.56 GMT
* Article history

Timothy Geithner

US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner. Photograph: AFP/Getty

The Obama administration has kicked off an effort to clean up America's troubled banks through a programme matching private sector money with treasury funds to buy up to $1 trillion (£684bn) of toxic assets from the sagging balance sheets of failing institutions.

In an initiative greeted enthusiastically with a surge in stocks on Wall Street this morning, the US treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, sought to shake off criticism of vagueness and inertia which followed initial outlines of his approach towards the troubled banking industry last month.

The treasury intends to use between $75bn and $100bn from its emergency bailout fund to generate co-investment from hedge funds, private equity funds and other private-sector investors willing to participate in buying derivatives, mortgage-backed securities and other troubled financial instruments.

To help raise money, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which insures US bank accounts, will provide a guarantee for any debt financing issued by public-private entities to pay for their toxic purchases.

Geithner said that doing nothing was not an option, citing Japan's 1990s banking crisis: "Simply hoping for banks to work legacy assets off over time risks prolonging a financial crisis, as in the case of the Japanese experience," he said today.

Financiers agree that until banks find a way to dispose of troubled assets on their books, the flow of loans and credit to re-invigorate economic activity will be blocked. But one of the key stumbling blocks over the last year has been disagreement over how to price these assets which have plunged in value due to a collapse in the US mortgage market.

Geithner said that the involvement of private investors would help generate fair prices: "If the government acts alone in directly purchasing legacy assets, taxpayers will take on all the risk of such purchases - along with the additional risk that taxpayers will overpay if government employees are setting the price for those assets."

Within minutes of the opening bell on Wall Street, the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average was up by 156 points to 7435. In a clear indication of confidence in the administration's plan, shares in struggling banks leapt sharply higher. Citigroup's stock surged by 16%, Bank of America was up by 17% and Morgan Stanley rose 9%.

One of the biggest credit funds in the US, Pimco, declared that it would participate in the programme. Pimco's co-chief investment officer, Bill Gross, said: "This is perhaps the first win/win/win policy to be put on the table and it should be welcomed enthusiastically. We intend to participate and do our part to serve clients as well as promote economic recovery."

Treasury officials are hopeful that a relatively modest sum of seed money from government funds will be sufficient to generate an initial $500bn in purchasing power, rising to $1 trillion over time.

The government's $75bn to $100bn will be matched on a broadly dollar-for-dollar basis by private investors to form the equity component of investment vehicles. But with the help of the FDIC's guarantee, the Treasury expects these vehicles to be able to leverage their funding by borrowing on an up to six-to-one debt to equity basis.

Initial indications suggested that financiers see the proposals as credible - a reaction which will come as a relief to the White House after a tepid response to broad outlines set out by Geithner in early February. At the time, stocks plunged and Geithner was savaged in Congress over fudged details and a lack of specificity in his remarks.

But still, not everybody is convinced that Geithner's approach will work. The recent furore surrounding bonuses at insurer AIG has provoked wariness among Wall Street institutions about getting involved in government programmes for fear that their finances will be subject to scrutiny by lawmakers and to popular attack from the public.

David Trone, a banking analyst at Fox-Pitt Kelton, said he believed "hysteria" over AIG had created deep distrust among potential investors, with doubts arising over future restrictions over issues such as compensation and dividends.

"Credit and asset-backed securities investors do not like uncertainty, and rely very heavily on contracts' terms, since they can make or break the risk/reward equation," said Trone.

Economic commentators in the US have noted a few glimmers of hope of stability beginning to return - including a 30% rise in the number of people refinancing mortgages over the last month.

But in a television interview over the weekend, president Barack Obama made it clear that he still sees danger in the weakness of financial institutions.

"I think that systemic risks are still out there," Obama told CBS's 60 Minutes. "There are certain institutions that are so big that if they fail, they bring a lot of other financial institutions down with them. And if all those financial institutions fail at the same time, then you could see an even more destructive recession and, potentially, depression."

----------

By David Gardner
Last updated at 9:24 AM on 24th March 2009



British bank shares climbed this morning after Barack Obama's $1trillion buy-out of toxic bank assets prompted massive gains on global markets overnight.

Royal Bank of Scotland was up more than nine per cent, Lloyds Banking Group up six per cent and Barclays four per cent on the back of the U.S. Treasury's latest plan.

However, the FTSE-100, which rose 2.9 per cent yesterday after the measures to free up the frozen credit markets were announced, failed to build on earlier gains.

It appeared to keep hold of the rise in early trading, but by 9am had slid back into the red despite Asian markets soaring overnight.
President Barack Obama stands with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner as he makes remarks about AIG and his economic recovery last week

President Barack Obama stands with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner as he makes remarks about AIG and plans for the economy

Japan's Nikkei index closed up 3.3 per cent, while in Hong Kong the Hang Seng finished with a gain of 3.4 per cent - a 10-week high.

The Dow Jones in New York enjoyed its fifth largest ponits gain in its history as it ended the day up 497 points or 6.84 per cent at 7,775.

More...

* Obama's 'spend, spend, spend' budget will bankrupt America, warns man President wanted in his Cabinet


Mr Obama said there were 'glimmers of hope' in the housing market after February sales of previously owned U.S. homes rose at their fastest pace in nearly six years.

The global economic crisis started after U.S. banks sold too many mortgages and loans to high-risk customers with a negligible income or poor credit rating.

These 'toxic assets' have lost so much value that lenders have been unable to sell or even realistically value them.

Banks have become so burdened with debt that they cannot free up enough cash for new loans and mortgages - which is how the credit crunch got its name.

Mr Obama has now promised to remove as many bad assets as possible from the banks' balance sheets.

He will encourage private investors to take part in the scheme with lowinterest loans offering the possibility of big profits when the economy recovers and those assets hopefully rise in value.
'Are you punch drunk?': Barack Obama is interviewed by CBS' Steve Kroft for '60 Minutes'



Some analysts say the move is the last in a series of measures that have failed to work, but last night Mr Obama hailed it as a vital step to revitalise the U.S. economy.

'The good news is that we have one more critical element in our recovery,' he said.

But he downplayed expectations of a quick fix, adding: 'We've still got a long way to go. It's not going to happen overnight. But we think we are moving in the right direction.'

In Britain, the Treasury has taken a different approach, using taxpayer money to insure Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds against future losses on £600billion of poor loans and investments.

The U.S. Treasury dismissed that policy in a statement yesterday, saying its own strategy was more likely to bear fruit.

Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner said low-interest loans of up to £70billion will initially be offered to private investors from the bail-out fund approved by Congress, to entice private-sector investors to buy an estimated $ 500billion worth of toxic assets.

The administration said this effort could grow to cover $1trillion in toxic debts, and that it expected participation from a wide range of private sources, from pension funds to insurance companies and other long-term investors.

If investors sell toxic assets such as mortgages at a higher price later when the economy recovers, the investor pays back the treasury and pockets the profit.

But if the prices fail to improve, the loan is still guaranteed against any losses by the treasury and the investor only stands to lose a minimal initial investment.

The treasury chief said the plan was needed because the U.S. financial system as a whole was 'still working against recovery' and 'many banks, still burdened by bad lending decisions, are holding back on providing credit'.

He said encouraging the private sector to take part would be better for the taxpayer as the risks of purchasing toxic assets would be shared.
How the German economy is falling

Germany's economy is set to plunge as its traditionally strong export industries reveal emptying order books, analysts warned last night.

Commerzbank, the country's second largest lender, said gross domestic output in Europe's biggest economy would fall by up to 7 per cent this year - almost double the previous estimate.

Chief economist Joerg Kraemer said: 'January order intake and production data plunged at a dramatic pace that has no precedent in Germany's post-war history.

'This has pulled the rug from under our previous forecast. The global economy is in a state of shock brought about by uncertainty.'

----------

Obama's 'spend, spend, spend' budget will bankrupt America, warns top Republican



By David Gardner
Last updated at 8:15 AM on 23rd March 2009

* Comments (26)
* Add to My Stories


A top Republican who snubbed Barack Obama’s offer of a Cabinet post has dealt another damaging blow to the president by claiming his economic policies would bankrupt America.

Judd Gregg warned Mr Obama’s 'spend, spend, spend' budget plans would leave the U.S. trillions of pounds in debt.

‘This clearly creates a scenario where the country’s going to go bankrupt. It’s that simple,’ said the senator who changed his mind after initially accepting the Commerce Secretary job.

He spoke out as Mr Obama was preparing to address the nation in yet another attempt to sell his financial recovery plan to a sceptical public on Tuesday.
Judd Gregg
U.S. President Barack Obama

Bankruptcy road: Judd Gregg (left) has told Obama his budget plans would leave the country in massive debt

One of the president’s top financial aides, Christina Romer, head of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, went on Fox News Sunday to try to ease the gloom by declaring that the administration is ‘incredibly confident’ the economy will rebound within a year.

‘We will be seeing signs the economy is turning around,’ she said.

Mr Obama is desperate to regain the initiative after appearing to be blindsided and wrong-footed in his response to the bonus scandal at bailed-out insurance giant AIG.

The fury over the bonus payouts boiled over so dangerously that AIG executives have been flooded with death threats and they have employed security guards and been warned not to go out alone.


More...

* Iran rejects Barack Obama's olive branch, claiming his policies do not represent change
* 'Don't wear anything that says AIG on it': Insurer gives employees security tips as fury over bonuses grows

At the weekend, a bus company was even organising tours around the multi-million pound homes of AIG bosses in upmarket suburbs in Connecticut.

One tour stop was a mansion owned by Douglas Poling, a senior executive at the embattled insurer, who says he is giving back the biggest single AIG bonus of £4million, which he received a week ago.

But the debacle shows no sign of fading away.

Last night, Vice President Joe Biden’s economic advisor admitted a plan to impose a 90 per cent tax to reclaim the £100million paid out in AIG bonuses may have gone ‘too far.’
Christina Romer

Stay positive: Christina Romer has been on TV telling the public the economy will rebound

Jared Bernstein said a bill passed last week by the House of Representatives may face legal problems by using the tax code to ‘surgically punish a small group.’

Mr Obama was expected to announce a plan on Tuesday to help thaw America’s still frozen credit system that has compounded the recession by denying loans to businesses and consumers.

The Treasury Department hopes to take as much as £700billion in so-called toxic assets off the books of endangered banks.


Billions of taxpayer enticements will be shelled out to private investors to persuade them to buy the bad debts and hold on to them until the economy recovers.

In response to the AIG debacle, there is also likely to be much tighter regulation of executive pay at banks and financial institutions.

The president will follow up the announcement with a nationally broadcast news conference aimed at promoting his budget plans to create jobs by revamping US healthcare, education, energy and tax policies.

‘I realise there are those who say these plans are too ambitious to enact,’ the president said in his weekend radio address.

‘To that I say that the challenges we face are too large to ignore. I didn’t come here to pass our problems to the next president or the next generation – I came here to solve them,’ he added.

Appearing on CNN, Senator Gregg, a senior member of the Senate Budget Committee, said he had no regrets in withdrawing his nomination to join Mr Obama’s Cabinet.

He said the scale of the administration’s spending plan in the midst of a prolonged recession would leave the next generation with a country too expensive to afford.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said that the president’s policies would raise government spending to an all-time high.

The watchdog group said the huge deficits would mean the US would have to borrow nearly £6.5trillion over the next decade – £1.6trillion more than Mr Obama predicted when he first unveiled his budget last month.

The tour of AIG executive homes was dubbed ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Infamous’ by activist organizers, Connecticut Working Families, a small liberal political party.

But some of the recipients of the biggest cheques have already announced they are giving the money back.

Security guards met visitors at a mansion belonging to Douglas Poling, the AIG vice president for energy and infrastructure investments who got the biggest (pounds) 4 million payment.

A spokesman said Mr Poling was returning the money ‘because he thought it was the correct thing to do.’

==========

UPDATE 6-
AIG to sell $6 bln in AIA stock to repay US bailout

Mon, Mar 05 15:14 PM EST

* Selling via placement to institutional investors

* Selling at HK$27.15 to HK$27.50 a share - term sheet

* AIA stock trading suspended in Hong Kong

* Goldman, Deutsche 'active' bookrunners - sources

By Denny Thomas and Clare Baldwin

HONG KONG, March 5 (Reuters) - American International Group is selling part of its stake in AIA Group to raise about $6 billion, which will help the U.S. insurer repay part of its government bailout.

Markets reacted favorably, with AIG shares rising to their highest levels in 10 months on the news.

AIG is looking to sell about 1.7 billion AIA shares at HK$27.15 to HK$27.50 each, according to a term sheet Reuters saw on Monday. That would be a discount of up to 7 percent to Friday's closing price.

The shares will go to institutional investors. AIG expects to use the net proceeds to reduce the balance of the U.S. Treasury Department's preferred interest in a special-purpose vehicle that holds the AIA shares. As of last month, those preferred interests were worth about $8.4 billion.

The Treasury also owns 77 percent of AIG's common stock following a massive $182 billion bailout in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis.

At Friday's close, AIG's one-third stake in AIA was worth $14.9 billion. Following the share sale, the U.S. company will hold about 19 percent of AIA.

Institutions are expected to buy into the offering because of AIA's strong performance since the company's $20.5 billion Hong Kong IPO in 2010 -- Asia's third-largest public listing. But a big run-up in the stock price may have some feeling that the current offer is expensive.

With such a large sale and AIA's free float increasing, though, the company's weighting on benchmark indexes should rise, making the stock a target for fund managers tracking the Hang Seng and the Hang Seng Finance Index.

"The issue of getting the deal through shouldn't be a problem, plus there should be some index buying," said the head of a large U.S.-based asset manager in Hong Kong who was not authorized to speak publicly on the AIA sale.

Kenneth Yue, a Hong Kong-based analyst at CCB International Securities, said the sale looked well timed.

"If you look at AIA's new business growth last year, it went up 40 percent," he said. "I believe they've gone to the peak already -- it would be very challenging for them to increase their new business value going forward by 40 percent every year."

Pricing of the AIA share sale will occur no later than Tuesday, AIG said.


BANK CREDIT

Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs are the "active" joint global coordinators, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the process. Both requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Deutsche and Goldman were among the four banks that led AIA's IPO, along with Citigroup and Morgan Stanley. The sources said Citi and Morgan Stanley were taking "passive" roles in the current AIG sell-down.

The distinction is important, not just for the fees that such a large offering brings, but also in the league table credit that can help a bank's external marketing. For the AIA sell-down, the banks will get equal league table credit, but Deutsche and Goldman will take home the fatter fees, according to one of the sources.

The deal should be "well distributed" among different investors, instead of large chunks going to just a handful, the source noted.

Shares of AIA, headed by former Prudential Plc executive Mark Tucker, have risen 47 percent since early October and touched a seven-month high last week. The stock closed at HK$29.20 on Friday.= 3.76124 USD


AIG has been on a similar run, gaining 46 percent over the same period. Its shares rose 1.2 percent to $30.16 in afternoon trading, their highest level since last May. Fitch Ratings said on Tuesday that the sale would improve AIG's focus on its core operations and would help its credit rating profile.

CROWN JEWEL

AIA was founded in Shanghai in 1919 by U.S. entrepreneur C.V. Starr. Twenty years later, Starr temporarily relocated to the United States to avoid political instability in Asia and, following World War II, decided to run his U.S. businesses from New York. They came to be known as AIG, whose shares began trading in New York in 1984.

Now Asia's third-largest insurer, AIA has built a sprawling and successful business across the region, with an army of hundreds of thousands of agents.

AIG was forced to spin off AIA, widely considered its crown jewel, and other assets following the bailout by the U.S. government.

AIG Chief Executive Robert Benmosche has said little about his plans for the AIA stake. As recently as Feb. 24, AIG said it had not decided what to do with the stake and had earlier hinted it may even increase its holding.


But the company appears to have opted instead to start paying the government back and focus on other parts of its business.

============

Norman Finkelstein: "Israel Has to Suffer a Defeat"

anuary 20, 2008 Clip No. 1676
American Political Scientist

Following are excerpts from an interview with American Political Scientist Norman Finkelstein, which aired on Future TV on January 20, 2008. The questions were posed in Arabic, and Finkelstein’s responses are in English.

Norman Finkelstein: I was of course happy to meet the Hizbullah people, because it is a point of view that is rarely heard in the United States. I have no problem saying that I do want to express solidarity with them, and I am not going to be a coward of a hypocrite about it. I don’t care about Hizbullah as a political organization. I don’t know much about their politics, and anyhow, it’s irrelevant. I don’t live in Lebanon. It’s a choice that the Lebanese have to make: Who they want to be their leaders, who they want to represent them. But there is a fundamental principle. People have the right to defend their country from foreign occupiers, and people have the right to defend their country from invaders who are destroying their country. That to me is a very basic, elementary and uncomplicated question.

My parents went through World War II. Now, Stalin’s regime was not exactly a bed of roses. It was a ruthless and brutal regime, and many people perished. But who didn’t support the Soviet Union when they defeated the Nazis? Who didn’t support the Red Army? In all the countries of Europe which were occupied – who gets all the honors? The resistance. The Communist resistance – it was brutal, it was ruthless. The Communists were not... It wasn’t a bed of roses, but you respect them. You respect them because they resisted the foreign occupiers of their country. If I am going to honor the Communists during World War II, even through I probably would not have done very well under their regimes... If I’m going to honor them, I am going to honor the Hizbullah. They show courage, and they show discipline. I respect that.

Interviewer: That is an accurate description of the situation before 2000, but after 2000, the Israelis withdrew from South Lebanon. There was a rift within Lebanon between the Lebanese political players on the issue of the future of the weapons and the issue of the resistance. This rift, which has taken place... You are now taking sides. After all, you are saying that you are only visiting Lebanon, but you don’t see the ramification of the July war for the people.

Norman Finkelstein: Listen, if you want to close your eyes and believe it was all over in May 2000, you can do so. You can play that game. But the reality was – and everyone understood it – that the Israeli attitude was: We are going to knock out Hizbullah. They began planning for a new war right after they were forced to leave in 2000. They found their excuse, their pretext, in July 2006, but there is no question among rational people that Israel was never going to let the Hizbullah victory go by. They were determined to teach their...

Interviewer: The war could have been avoided.

Norman Finkelstein: It could not have been avoided. There is no way that the United States and Israel are going to tolerate any resistance in the Arab world. If you want to pretend it can be avoided, you can play that game. But serious people, clear-headed people, knew there was going to be a war sooner or later.

[...]

Do you think there is not going to be another war? Do you think Israel is going to allow that defeat in July 2006? Do you want to pretend it is Hizbullah that is causing the trouble? No, there will be another war, and the destruction will probably be ten times worse – maybe even more – than July 2006, because Israel is determined, with the United States, to put the Arabs in their place and to keep them in their place. Now, how can I not respect those who say no to that? You know, during the Spanish Civil War there was a famous woman – they called her “La Pasionaria” – Dolores Ibárruri, from the Spanish Republic. She famously said: “It’s better to die on your feet than to walk crawling on your knees.”

Interviewer: But that is up to the Lebanese people in its entirety.

Norman Finkelstein: I totally agree. I am not telling you what to do with your lives, and if you’d rather live crawling on your feet, I could respect that. I could respect that. People want to live. How can I deny you that right? But then, how can I not respect those who say they would rather die on their feet? How can I not respect that?

[...]

Israel and the United States are attacking, because they will not allow any military resistance to their control of the region. That’s the problem. If Hizbullah laid down its arms, and said: “We will do whatever the Americans say,” you wouldn’t have a war – that’s true, but you would also be the slaves of the Americans. I have to respect those who refuse to be slaves.

Interviewer: Is there no other way than military resistance?

Norman Finkelstein: I don’t believe there is another way. I wish there were another way. Who wants war? Who wants destruction? Even Hitler didn’t want war. He would much prefer to have accomplished his aims peacefully, if he could. So I am not saying that I want it, but I honestly don’t see another way, unless you choose to be their slaves – and many people here have chosen that. I can’t really say... I can understand it – you want to live. I can’t really say I respect it. You know, so many dead, so much destruction... Before the bodies are even buried, before the buildings are even rebuilt, the person who is responsible for it all – you can’t wait to welcome him. You can’t wait to roll out the red carpet. I can’t respect that.

In that respect, I like the Jews much more. I like their attitude. Do you know what the Jewish attitude is? Never to forgive, never to forget. I agree with that. Who roll out the red carpet less than two years after your whole country was destroyed by them? The Secretary of State said it was the birth pangs of a new Middle East. That’s the statement of a freak. A human freak would compare the birth of a child with the destruction of a country, and yet, there are people here who are so anxious to welcome her. They are trying to figure out what the Americans are thinking. They can’t wait for their banquets. How can anyone respect that? I respect the Jews a thousand times more - never to forgive, never to forget. All the death and all the destruction – and you can’t wait to welcome him.

Interviewer: Norman...

Norman Finkelstein: It’s disgusting!

[...]

Who the hell cares if Bush is coming?

Interviewer: But you say there will be another war.

Norman Finkelstein: You should have declared him persona non grata. He’s not welcome here. He destroyed your country. He was responsible for the war. You know full well that resolution could have been passed three weeks earlier. He destroys your country, and you can’t wait to greet him. You have no self-respect. How can you expect other people to respect Arabs, if you show no respect for yourselves?

[...]

If the Lebanese people overwhelmingly vote to let the Americans and Israelis have their way, I guess you have to accept that. I could see that. I couldn’t possibly say that they don’t have the right to make that choice. Listen, in Nazi-occupied Europe, you have to remember, most of the populations made the choice to live under the Nazis. All this talk about a French Resistance is just a joke – it never happened. The French Resistance... About 20% of the French population read the Resistance’s newspaper. There were maybe 10% of the French who resisted. The rest said: “Don’t resist,” because the Nazis were ruthless. You resist – four hundred are killed for each soldier who’s killed. That’s how the Nazis operated. So most of the French said, like you: “We want to live.” “Don’t resist.” But now I have to ask you, in retrospect: Who do we honor? Do we honor those who say: “Let us live,” or do we honor those who said: “Let’s resist”?

[...]

Leaders come last. There will be a leader who comes to power in Israel, who is willing to make the concessions, after the conditions have been created – namely, Israel has to suffer a defeat.

--------

The Israelis are swimming against the stream




It is for the good luck of Arabs and the hard luck of Israelis that a government led by terrorist Netanayhu is about to be formed. The opposition is led by the so-called Israeli ‘moderates’ the likes of Killer Livni and Assassin Barak. A government by Netanyahu-Lieberman is completely untimely, while America is on its knees economically and can’t possibly afford to support Israeli atrocities and adventures. Furthermore, Obama wants to improve relations with Iran and Syria who are demanding a change in US foreign policy which has been controlled by Tel Aviv. Many believe that the Jewish lobby in America is too strong for Obama, but populist Obama knows that the American Jewish financial mafia (e.g. Fuld, Reubens, Madoff …etc) is being blamed by the people for robbing the American banks. This will make it extremely difficult for Netanyahu to get an American green light for launching an attack on Iran while it is being invited to help America in Afghanistan. The Israeli war crimes in Gaza have added to Israeli isolation. In choosing a government run by extremists, the Israelis are trying to swim against a very strong stream which may cause them to sink in the process.

After the election of Netanyahu, I have completely given up on Israel, the Israelis and on the Israeli politics. Finding a reasonable Israeli is as easy as finding a moderate inside Himmel's SS. Israel is in a desperate need for an Ahmedinejad final solution.

Adnan Darwash, Iraq Occupation Times.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Wife of Imam Khomeini Passed away this morning in Tehran

News Code: 406114 GMT: 3/21/2009 9:17:22
http://www5.irna.ir/En/View/FullStory/?NewsId=406114&IdLanguage=3
EC Chief issues condolences over demise of Late Imam’s spouse
Tehran, March 21, IRNA – Expediency Council Chief Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani issued a message of condolences over the passing away of the spouse of the Late Founder of the Islamic Repulbli Imam Khomeini.
In the message, Rafsanjani described the demised Mrs. Khadije Saghafi as the closest and most patient supporter of the Late Imam in his struggle against the tyrannical Pahlavi regime.

Mrs Saghafi passed away in Tehran Saturday morning after a long illness.

The funeral session for the demised lady, Mrs. Khadije Saghafi, will be held in Tehran Sunday morning.

The lady’s body will be carried from her home in Jamaran to southern Tehran to be put in rest in the mausoleum of Imam Khomeini.

------------
http://english.iribnews.ir/incamera.aspx?camid=134

---------



26 ربيع الأول 1430 / سه شنبه 04 فروردين 1388 / Mar 24 2009
GMT - 03:26 / تهران - 07:56
گروههاي خبري

آرشيو اخبار :


گروه فضاي مجازي / حوزه وب سايتها
88/01/01 - 14:42
شماره:8801010121
نسخه چاپي ارسال به دوستان
گوشه‌اي از خاطرات همسر مومنه امام(ره)

خبرگزاري فارس: درگذشت همسر مكرمه امام راحل كه به‌حق از وي با عنوان "مادر انقلاب اسلامي " ياد شد، بهانه‌اي است براي بازخواني گوشه‌هايي از زندگي‌نامه و خاطرات وي.

به گزارش خبرنگار "سرويس فضاي مجازي " خبرگزاري فارس، خديجه ثقفي (قدس ايران)، در مورد ازدواج خود با امام(ره) خاطرات زيبايي بر زبان مي‌آورد: من متولد سال 1333 قمري هستم. پدرم 29 يا 30 ساله بود كه به فكر افتاد براي ادامه تحصيل به قم برود. در آن زمان من تقريباً 9 ساله بودم. پدر و مادرم به قم رفتند و 5 سال در آن‌جا ماندگار شدند اما من نزد مادربزرگم ماندم. در واقع، من از اول نزد مادربزرگم مانده بودم و با او زندگي مي‌كردم. من فرزند اول پدر و مادرم بودم. وقتي آنان به قم مي‌رفتند، 2 خواهر داشتم كه يكي از آنان فوت كرده بود و نيز 2 برادر.
در كتاب پا به پاي آفتاب به نقل از همسر امام راحل آمده است: پدرم خوش تيپ و شيك و خوش لباس بود. به‌طور مثال در آن زمان، پوستين اسلامبولي مي‌پوشيد و از خانه بيرون مي‌رفت و همه طلاب تعجب مي‌كردند. با وجود اين، هم عالم بود، هم دانشمند و هم اهل علم و اهل ايمان و متدين. يادم است كه پدرم اجازه نمي‌دادند ما بدون چاقچور به مدرسه برويم. كفش‌هايمان هم بايستي مشكي و ساده و آستين لباسمان هم بايستي بلند مي‌بود.
همان‌طور كه گفتم، من با مادربزرگم زندگي مي‌كردم. نام او خانم مخصوص بود و ما به او خانم ماماني مي‌گفتيم. زماني كه خانواده‌ام در قم بودند، من و مادربزرگ، هر 2 سال يك مرتبه به قم مي‌رفتيم. 2 شب در راه مي‌خوابيديم. يك شب در علي‌آباد و يك شب هم در جاي ديگر. پدرم در قم خانه آبرومندي در كوچه آسيد اسماعيل در بازار اجاره كرده بود. خانه بزرگي بود كه اندروني و بيروني و حياط خوبي داشت. صاحبخانه هم تاجر معتبري بود.
آن زمان مدرسه‌اي كه در آن دروس جديد تدريس مي‌شد، كلاسي داشت كه 20 شاگرد در آن حضور داشتند. تعداد كساني كه مي‌توانستند ماهي 5 ريال بدهند، خيلي كم بود، به همين دليل فقط دختران پزشكان، تاجرها يا... به مدرسه مي‌رفتند. ما 3 خواهر بوديم كه به مدرسه مي‌رفتيم. خواهرهايم درقم درس مي‌خواندند و من در تهران. خلاصه، تا كلاس هشتم درس خوانده بودم كه صحبت ازدواج مطرح شد. همان‌طور كه گفتم، در آن مدتي كه خانواده‌ام در قم بودند، ما چند بار به آن‌جا رفتيم. يك بار 10 ساله بودم، يك بار 13 ساله و يك بار هم 14 ساله. دفعه آخر، پدرم از مادربزرگم خواهش كرد كه من بمانم. مادربزرگم مي‌خواست پس از 15 روز به تهران برگردد. چون عيد بود. پدرم خواهش و تمنا كرد: (من قدسي جان را سير نديدم. بگذاريد 2 ماه پيش من بماند. ما تابستان به تهران مي‌آييم و او را مي‌‌آوريم.)
بالاخره مادربزرگم راضي شد و من با اين‌كه راضي نبودم، چند ماه در قم ماندم. آن موقع من تصديق ششم را گرفته بودم، به هر حال چند ماه در قم ماندم و بعد با مادرم به تهران آمدم.در مدت اين 5 سال، پدرم در قم دوستاني پيدا كرده بودكه يكي از آنان آقا روح‌الله بودند. هنوز حاجي نشده و مرد نجيب، متدين و باسوادي بودند. پدرم ايشان را كه با من 12 سال تفاوت سني داشت پسنديده بود. يكي ديگر از دوستان پدرم آقاي سيد محمد صادق لواساني بودند كه به آقا روح‌الله گفته بود: چرا ازدواج نمي‌كني؟
ايشان هم كه 26، 27 سال داشتند، گفته بودند: من تاكنون كسي را براي ازدواج نپسنديده‌ام و از خمين هم نمي‌خواهم زن بگيرم و كسي را در نظر ندارم. آقاي لواساني گفته بودند: آقاي ثقفي 2 دختر دارد و خانم داداشم مي‌گويد خوبند.
بعدها آقا برايم تعريف كردند كه وقتي آقاي لواساني گفت كه آقا ثقفي 2 دختر دارد و از آنها تعريف مي‌كنند، مثل اين‌كه قلب من كوبيده شد. اين طور شد كه آقاي لواساني از طرف امام آمد خواستگاري. قبل خواستگاري حدود 2 ماه طول كشيد. چون من حاضر نبودم به قم بروم. آن زمان هم كه به خانه پدرم مي‌رفتم، بعد از 10، 15 روز از مادربزرگم مي‌خواستم كه برگرديم. چون قم مثل امروز نبود. زمين خيابان تا لب ديوار صحن قبرستان بود و كوچه‌ها خيلي باريك بودند. به همين خاطر، زود از قم مي‌آمدم. آن 2 ماهي كه پدرم مرا به زور نگه داشت، خيلي ناراحت بودم. مراحل خواستگاري آغاز شد. پدرم مي‌گفت: از طرف من ايرادي نيست و قبول دارم. اگر تو را به غربت مي‌برد، اما آدمي است كه نمي‌گذارد به تو بد بگذرد.
پدرم به دليل رفاقت چندساله‌اش از آقا شناخت داشت، اما من مي‌گفتم: اصلاً به قم نمي‌روم.
گرچه بر اثر خوابهايي كه ديدم، فهميدم اين ازدواج مقدر است.
آقا سيد احمد لواساني از جانب داماد، هر شب مي‌آمد خواستگاري و مي‌پرسيد: چه شد؟
پدرم هم مي‌گفت: زنها هنوز راضي نشده‌اند.
آقا سيد احمد هم كه با پدرم دوست بود، 2، 3 روز مي‌ماند و برمي‌گشت. مدتي گذشت تا اين‌كه دفعه پنجمي كه در عرض دو ماه آمده بود، گفت: بالاخره چه شد؟
پدرم مي‌خواست رد كند و بگويد: من نمي‌توانم دخترم را بدهم. اختيارش دست خودش و مادربزرگش است و ما براي مادربزرگش احترام قائليم.
مادربزرگم راضي نبود، چون شريك ملك‌هاي مادربزرگم هم از من خواستگاري كرده بود. فرداي شبي كه آن خواب را ديدم، سرصبحانه جريان را براي مادربزرگم تعريف كردم، بلافاصله وقتي اسباب صبحانه را جمع كرديم، پدرم وارد شد، زمستان بود و كرسي گذاشتيم. همه اينها بر حسب اتفاق بود. وقتي پدرم وارد شد و نشست، من چاي آوردم، گفتند: آقا سيد احمد آمده، دفعه پنجمش است و حرفي به من زده كه اصلاً قدرت گفتن ندارم. حرف اين بود: با رفاه بزرگ شده و با وضع طلبگي نمي‌تواند زندگي كند و اين حرفها را كساني كه مخالفند، مي‌زنند. در واقع همه مخالف بودند، اول خودم، بعد مادربزرگم، مادرم و همه فاميل، پدرم هم گفت: ميل خودتان است، اما به ايشان اعتقاد دارم كه مرد خوب، باسواد و متديني است و ديانتش باعث مي‌شود كه به قدسي‌جان بد نگذرد.
پدرم گفت: اگر ازدواج نكني، من ديگر كاري به ازدواجت ندارم. سپس گزي را برداشتند و گفتند: من به عنوان رضايت قدسي ايران گز را مي‌خورم. باز من چيزي نگفتم، ابهت خوابي كه ديده بودم، مرا گرفته بود، خواب چه بود؟ خواب حضرت رسول(ص)، اميرالمومنين و امام حسن(ع) را ديدم، در حياط كوچكي كه همان حياطي بود كه براي عروسي اجاره كردند، همان اتاق‌ها به همان شكل و شمايل، حتي پرده‌هايي كه خريدند، همان بود كه در خواب ديده بودم، آن طرف حياط اتاق، مردها بودند، پيامبر(ص) و حضرت علي(ع) و امام حسن(ع) نشسته بودند و طرفي كه اتاق عروس بود، من بودم و پير زني با چادري شبيه چادر شب كه نقطه‌هاي ريزي داشت و به آن چادر لكي مي‌گفتند، در اتاق شيشه داشت و من آن طرف را نگاه مي‌كردم، از او پرسيدم: اينها چه كساني هستند؟ پيرزن گفت: آن رو به رويي كه عمامه مشكي دارد پيامبر(ص)، آن مرد هم كه مولوي سبز و كلاه قرمز با شال بلند دارد، علي(ع) است، اين طرف هم جواني عمامه مشكي بود كه پيرزن گفت: اين هم امام حسن(ع) است... خوشحال شدم و گفتم: اي واي، اين پيامبر است و اين اميرالمومنين، من اين افراد را دوست دارم، آن آقا امام دوم من است و از خواب پريدم، ناراحت شدم كه چرا زود از خواب پريدم، زماني كه براي مادربزرگم تعريف كردم، گفت: مادر! معلوم مي‌شود كه اين سيد حقيقي است، اين تقدير توست.
سرانجام آقا سيد احمد لواساني و 2 برادر امام(ره) و آقا سيد محمد صادق لواساني و داماد با يك خدمتگزار به نام مسيب براي خواستگاري نزد پدرم آمدند. پدرم هم مرا خبر كرد. ذبيح‌الله، خدمتگزار آقايم، آمد منزل مادربزرگم و گفت: خانم مهمان دارند، گفته‌اند قدسي ايران بيايد آن‌جا.
مادربزرگم گفت: مهمانش كيست؟
به او سفارش كرده بودند كه نگويد داماد آمده است. واهمه از اين داشتند كه باز بگويم نه. من هم رفتم خانه مادرم. آنجا كه رفتم موضوع را فهميدم. آن خواهرم كه يك سال و نيم از من كوچكتر بود، شمس آفاق، ديد و گفت داماد آمده! داماد آمده!
مرا بردند و داماد را از پشت اتاق نشانم دادند. مردها توي اتاق ديگري نشسته بودند و من از پشت در اتاق ايشان را ديدم. آقا زردچهره بودند و مويشان كمي به زردي مي‌زد. اتفاقاً رو به روي در، زير كرسي نشسته بود. وقتي برگشتم، مادرم و خواهرانم هم آمدند و داماد را ديدند. چون هيچ‌كدام قبلاً داماد را نديده بودند. من از داماد بدم نيامد اما سني هم نداشتم كه بتوانم تشخيص بدهم كه چه كار بايد بكنم.
ذاتاً هم آدم صاف و ساده‌اي بودم. پدرم آمد و آهسته از خانم جانم پرسيد: وقتي قدسي ايران برگشت، چه گفت؟
مادرم گفت هيچي نشسته است
بعداً به من گفتند: وقتي تو ساكت نشسته بودي، به زمين افتاد و سجده كرد.
چون خودش ايشان را پسنديده بود. پدرم هميشه مي‌گفت من دلم يك پسر اهل علم مي‌خواهد و يك داماد اهل علم. همين هم شد. آقا اهل علم بود و يكي از برادرهايم، يعني حسن آقا را هم اهل علم كرد. با وجود همه آنچه گفتم، پدرم هم به آساني رضايت نداد. روزي كه مي‌خواست جواب مثبت به آقا سيد احمد بدهد، به ايشان گفته بود خانم‌ها ايراد مي‌گيرند.
آقا سيداحمد پرسيده بود: ايرادشان چيست؟
پدرم گفته بود: يكي اين كه او را نمي‌شناسد و او مال خمين است و دختر در تهران بزرگ شده و در رفاه بزرگ شده است و وضع مالي مادربزرگش خيلي خوب بوده و با وضع طلبگي زندگي كردن برايش مشكل است. ما نمي‌دانيم آيا اصلاً چيزي دارد يا نه. اگر درآمدش فقط شهريه حاج عبدالكريم باشد، نمي‌تواند زندگي كند. ما مي‌خواهيم بدانيم كه آيا از خودش سرمايه‌اي دارد؟ از آن گذشته داماد زن ديگري دارد يا نه؟ شايد در خمين زن و بچه داشته باشد. بعدها خود امام به من گفتند كه ايشان اصلاً زن نديده بودند. آقا سيد احمد به پدرم گفته بود: خانم‌ها درست مي‌گويند. به من اطمينان داري يا نه؟ اگر به من اطمينان داري، خودم مي‌روم خمين و تحقيق مي‌كنم و از وضع زندگي ايشان مي‌پرسم. بعد هم رفت خمين و منزلشان را ديد. منزل خانواده امام مفصل و آبرومند بود. 2 تا حياط تو در تو داشتند و خودشان هم خيلي خوب و خوش برخورد و آقامنش بودند. بودجه او هم ماهي سي‌تومان بود كه از ارث پدر داشت. وقتي آقا سيداحمد لواساني مي‌آيد، ماجرا را به پدرم مي‌‌گويد. او هم رضايت مي‌‌دهد.
بعد هم كه من آن خواب را ديدم. عروسي ما در ماه مبارك رمضان بود و اين مسئله چند دليل داشت. اول اين‌كه امام مقيد بودند كه درس‌ها تعطيل باشد و دوم آن كه من نزديك تولد حضرت صاحب‌الزمان(عج) آن خواب را ديدم و به اين دليل، خواستگاران اول ماه رمضان آمدند. عقد ما مفصل نبود. پدرم در اتاق بزرگ اندروني كه تالار نام داشت، نشسته بود. مرا صدا كرد و گفت: قدسي‌جان! بيا. من تازه از مدرسه آمده بودم و چون بي‌‌چادر پيش ايشان نمي‌‌رفتيم، چادر خواهر كوچكم را انداختم سرم و نزدشان رفتم. پدرم گفت: آن طرف كرسي بنشين.
خانواده داماد روز اول ماه رمضان آمده بودند و آن روز، هشتم ماه بود. در اين مدت، چند روز در منزل پدرم بودند و مادرم هم خوب و مفصل از آنان پذيرايي كرده بود. آنان در پي خانه‌اي اجاره‌اي مي‌گشتند تا عروس را ببرند. بنا بود عروسي در تهران برگزار شود و بعد به قم برويم. بعد از 8 روز، خانه پيدا شد كه درست هماني بود كه در خواب ديده بودم. پدرم گفت: مرا وكيل كن كه من آقا سيداحمد را وكيل كنم كه بروند حضرت عبدالعظيم(ع) صيغه عقد را بخوانند. آقا هم برادرش آقاي پسنديده را وكيل مي‌كند.
من مكثي كردم و بعد گفتم: قبول دارم.
به اين ترتيب، رفتند و صيغه عقد را خواندند. بعد از اين‌كه خانه مهيا شد، پدرم گفتند: به اينها اثاث بدهيد كه مي‌خواهند بروند آن خانه. اثاث اوليه مثل فرش و لحاف كرسي و اسباب آشپزخانه و ديگر چيزها را فرستادند. يك ننه خانم هم داشتيم كه دايه مادرم بود. او را هم با دخترش عذراخانم فرستادند آنجا براي پذيرايي و آشپزي. شب پانزدهم يا شانزدهم ماه مبارك رمضان بود كه دوستان و فاميل را دعوت كردند و لباس سفيد و شيكي را كه دختر عمه‌ام با سليقه روي آن، گل نقاشي كرده بود، دوختند و من پوشيدم. مهريه‌ام هزار تومان بود. خانواده داماد گفتند: اگر مي‌خواهيد خانه مهر كنيد. ولي پدرم به من گفت: من قيمت ملك و خانه‌هايشان را نمي‌دانستم. نمي‌دانستم قيمت در خمين چطور است، به همين دليل هم پول مهر كردم.
من هرگز مهرم را مطالبه نكردم اما امام آخرهاي عمرشان وصيت كردند كه يك دانگ از خانه قم به عنوان مهر من باشد.
امام(ره) هميشه احترام مرا داشتند. هيچ وقت با تندي صحبت نمي‌كردند. اگر لباس و حتي چاي مي‌خواستند، مي‌گفتند: ممكن است بگوييد فلان لباس را بياورند؟ گاهي اوقات هم خودشان چاي مي‌ريختند. در اوج عصبانيت، هرگز بي‌احترامي و اسائه آداب نمي‌كردند. هميشه در اتاق، جاي بهتر را به من تعارف مي‌كردند. تا من نمي‌آمدم سر سفره، خوردن غذا را شروع نمي‌كردند. به بچه‌ها هم مي‌گفتند صبر كنيد تا خانم بيايد. ولي اين طور نبود كه بگويم زندگي مرا با رفاه اداره مي‌كردند. طلبه بودند و نمي‌خواستند دست، پيش اين و آن دراز كنند، همچنان كه پدرم نمي‌خواست. دلشان مي‌خواست با همان بودجه كمي كه داشتند، زندگي كنند، ولي احترام مرا نگه مي‌داشتند و حتي حاضر نبودند كه من در خانه كار بكنم. هميشه به من مي‌گفتند: جارو نكن. اگر مي‌خواستم لب حوض روسري بچه را بشويم، مي‌آمدند و مي‌گفتند: بلند شو، تو نبايد بشويي. من پشت سر ايشان اتاق را جارو مي‌كردم و وقتي منزل نبودند، لباس بچه‌ها را مي‌شستم. يك سال كه به امامزاده قاسم رفته بوديم، كسي كه هميشه در منزلمان كار مي‌كرد با ما نبود. بچه‌ها بزرگ شده و دخترها شوهر كرده بودند. وقتي ناهار تمام شد، من نشستم لب حوض تا ظرف‌ها را بشويم. ايشان همين كه ديدند من دارم ظرف‌ها را مي‌شويم، به فريده، يكي ازدخترها كه در منزل ما بود، گفتند: فريده! بدو. خانم دارد ظرف مي‌شويد.
امام در مسائل خصوصي زندگي من دخالت نمي‌كردند. اوايل زندگي‌مان، يادم نيست هفته اول يا ماه اول به من گفتند: من كاري به كار تو ندارم. به هر صورت كه ميل داري لباس بخر و بپوش اما آنچه از تو مي‌خواهم اين است كه واجبات را انجام بدهي و محرمات را ترك بكني، يعني گناه نكني