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Saturday, December 31, 2011

'US sets stage for war against Iran'

Sat, 31 Dec 2011 15:08:39 GMTThe recent allegations made by the United States against Iran have set the stage for a war against the Islamic Republic, an American analyst says. "With the typical backdrop of alarmist propaganda in place, the stage is now set for a new war, this time with Iran," Robert Parry said in an article on Global Research. "There is now a cascading of allegations regarding Iran, as there was with Iraq, with the momentum rushing toward war," he added. The analyst noted that "tougher and tougher Western sanctions against Iran have pushed the various sides closer to war… as happened with Iraq -- when harsher economic sanctions merged with a US troop build-up." Warning of "devastating consequences" of a "prospective war with Iran," Parry also said Washington's allegation that Iran is on pace to build a nuclear bomb resembles accusations that Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). In 2003, the US invaded Iraq under the pretext that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessed the Weapons of Mass Destruction. However, it was later revealed that not only Iraq was not in possession of WMDs but also that US and UK leaders were aware the non-existence of such weapons. The US analyst blasted the recent report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about Iran, saying that the report "was widely accepted as gospel truth without any discussion of whether the IAEA is an unbiased and reliable source." Parry said the documentary evidence showed that IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano was installed with the support of the United States and that he privately indicated to US and Israeli officials that he would help advance their goals regarding Iran. In November, the IAEA accused Iran of conducting activities related to developing nuclear weapons before 2003, adding that these activities “may still be ongoing.” Iran, however, rejected the report as “unbalanced, unprofessional and prepared with political motivation and under political pressure mostly from the United States.” Washington and Tel Aviv have repeatedly threatened Tehran with the "option" of a military strike, based on their allegation that Iran's nuclear program may include a covert military aspect. Iran insists that it has the right to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the IAEA.=======================Iran dismisses U.S. sanctions on its Central Bank -report01 Jan 2012 08:59Source: Reuters // ReutersTEHRAN, Jan 1 (Reuters) - Iran dismissed on Sunday Washington's move to impose new sanctions on financial institutions dealing with the Islamic state's central bank over the country's disputed nuclear programme, the Students news agency reported.President Barack Obama signed the bill, approved by Congress last week, which aims to reduce Tehran's oil revenues but gives the U.S. president powers to waive penalties as required.The head of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, Mohammad Nahavandian, rejected the move as "unjustifiable", saying such sanctions would have reciprocal consequences."The Iranian nation and those involved in trade and economic activities will find other alternatives," said Nahavandian.Washington and the European Union have already pushed four rounds of sanctions through the United Nations over Iran's nuclear programme and imposed unilateral measures that have deterred Western investment in Iran's oil sector, making it harder to move money in and out of the country.Imposing sanctions on the central bank would tighten that screw and make it more difficult for Iran to receive payments for exports -- particularly oil, a vital source of hard currency for the world's fifth-biggest crude exporter.Iranian officials insist that foreign sanctions have had no impact on the country's economy."The sanctions have raised the cost of trade and economic transactions but it has not managed to change Iran's political behaviour," Nahavandian said.So far, Iran's leaders have shown no sign of changing the country's nuclear course despite mounting international pressure to force it to stop.U.S. financial institutions are already generally prohibited from doing business with any bank in Iran, including the central bank, so the new measure by Washington would have to be carried out with international agreement.Nahavandian said European countries should not miss the investment opportunity in an emerging market like Iran."Considering the economic crisis in Europe, the European companies are after finding new markets ... political disputes should not have an impact on trade relations," he said.Senior U.S. officials said Washington was engaging with its foreign partners to ensure the sanctions can work without harming global energy markets and stressed the U.S. strategy for engaging with Iran was unchanged by the bill.Washington and its allies say Iran is trying to build nuclear bombs under the cover of a civilian programme. Tehran denies that, saying it needs nuclear technology to generate power. (Reporting by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Paul Tait)=========================Persian Gulf no place for arrogant powersSun Jan 1, 2012 3:38AM GMTThe commander of the Iranian Navy, Rear Admiral Habibollah SayyariThe commander of the Iranian Navy says the message of the ongoing Velayat 90 naval maneuver is that arrogant powers have no place in the Persian Gulf region.Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari made the remarks during a visit to the domestically- manufactured Jamaran destroyer on Saturday. “We (Iran) are diplaying our defensive and preventive capabilities in the free waters through the Velayat 90 maneuver,” he said. He noted that the presence of foreign navies in the region causes regional insecurity and emphasized that the establishment of sustainable security in the region in cooperation with neighboring countries is one of the goals of the naval maneuver. Iran's Navy launched the massive 10-day Velayat 90 naval exercise on December 24, covering an area stretching from the east of the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Aden. EU foreign ministers failed in their attempts to enforce an embargo on Iran's oil exports during a meeting in Brussels on December 1, about a week after the United States, Britain, and Canada imposed unilateral sanctions on the Islamic Republic's energy and financial sectors over Tehran's nuclear program. Iran has warned that it can respond to proposed Western oil sanctions and threats against the Islamic Republic by choking the oil flow through the Strait of Hormuz. Sayyari announced on December 30 that the country's naval forces can block the strategic Strait of Hormuz if necessary, saying, “Our (Iran's) intention is to bring stability and security to the region, and we would like to show everyone that we can provide security in the region without a need for extra-regional powers.” And Iranian First Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi warned on December 27 that the imposition of oil sanctions against the Islamic Republic would prompt Tehran to prevent oil from passing through the strategic route. “If they impose sanctions on Iran's oil, not even a drop of oil will be allowed through the Strait of Hormuz,” he added. =====================FACTBOX-Sanctions imposed on Iran02 Jan 2012 13:48Source: Reuters // ReutersJan 2 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law on Saturday new sanctions against financial institutions dealing with Iran's central bank, which if fully implemented could hamper Tehran's ability to sell oil on international markets.The bill gives the White House some discretion to issue waivers to protect energy markets, and U.S. officials say Obama will discuss with international partners how to impose the measures without causing major oil market disruption.The European Union is also expected to consider at the end of this month whether to impose an oil embargo.While Iran will still probably be able to sell oil to customers in Asia, they will demand a discount, which would cut Tehran's income from its main export sector.Following are details of major sanctions imposed on Iran by the European Union, the United States and the United Nations over the years.EU SANCTIONS:- On Aug. 12, 2010 the EU toughened its sanctions against Tehran, including banning the creation of joint ventures with enterprises in Iran that are engaged in the oil and natural gas industries and any subsidiary or affiliate under their control.- Member states must prohibit the provision of insurance and re-insurance to the government of Iran.- The import and export of arms and equipment that could contribute to uranium enrichment or have a "dual use" is banned.- The sanctions forbid the sale, supply or transfer of energy equipment and technology used by Iran for refining, liquefying natural gas, exploration and production. The EU expects the effects of the sanctions to increase over time as existing parts wear out.- In May 2011, EU foreign ministers significantly extended sanctions and added 100 new entities to a list of companies and people affected, including those owned or controlled by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL).- In October, the European Union imposed sanctions on 29 people, extending the list targeting individuals associated with human rights violations to 61.- On Dec. 1, EU foreign ministers decided new sanctions should be drawn up in time for their next meeting in Jan. 2012.Separately, they added 180 Iranian people and entities to a sanctions blacklist that imposes asset freezes and travel bans on those involved in the nuclear programme.U.S. SANCTIONS:- Initial sanctions were imposed after Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy and took diplomats hostage in 1979. Iranian products cannot be imported into the United States apart from small gifts, information material, foodstuffs and some carpets.- In 1995, President Bill Clinton issued executive orders preventing U.S. companies from investing in Iranian oil and gas and trading with Iran. Tehran has looked for other customers.- The same year, Congress passed a law requiring the U.S. government impose sanctions on foreign firms investing more than $20 million a year in Iran's energy sector.- In Oct. 2007, Washington imposed sanctions on three Iranian banks and branded the Revolutionary Guards a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction. The Treasury has since added numerous other Iranian banks to its blacklist.- The Treasury has identified about 20 petroleum and petrochemical companies as being under Iranian government control, an action that put them off-limits to U.S. businesses under the trade embargo.- Congress approved tough new unilateral sanctions on June 24, 2010, aimed at squeezing Iran's energy and banking sectors, which could also hurt companies from other countries doing business with Tehran.- The June, 2010 law imposes penalties on firms that supply Iran with refined petroleum products worth more than $5 million over 12 months. It also effectively deprives foreign banks of access to the U.S. financial system if they do business with Iranian banks or the Revolutionary Guards.- In May, 2011 the United States blacklisted a 21st Iranian state bank, the Bank of Industry and Mines, for handling transactions on behalf of two previously sanctioned institutions, Bank Mellat and Europaeisch-Iranische Handelsbank.- It also announced new sanctions on Venezuela's state oil company, PDVSA, and six other smaller oil and shipping firms for engaging in trade with Iran in violation of the U.S. ban, prompting fury from Hugo Chavez's government.- On June 11, it announced new sanctions applicable to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Basij Resistance Force, Iran's Law Enforcement Forces and its commander, Ismail Ahmadi Moghadam. The sanctions freeze any of the targets' assets under U.S. jurisdiction and bar U.S. persons and institutions from dealing with them.- On Nov. 21 the United States named Iran as an area of "primary money laundering concern", a step designed to dissuade non-U.S. banks from dealing with it. The United States also blacklisted 11 entities suspected of aiding its nuclear programmes; and expanded sanctions to target companies that aid its oil and petrochemical industries.- U.S. sanctions against Iran can be found on the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control website: http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/pages/iran.aspx- On Dec. 31, 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law a defence funding bill that imposes sanctions on financial institutions dealing with Iran's central bank, which is the main conduit for oil revenues. Sanctioned institutions would be frozen out of the U.S. financial markets.- The sanctions would take effect after a 2-6 month warning period. Under the law, the president can issue waivers if doing so is in the national security interest of the United States or otherwised necessary for energy market stability.OTHER COUNTRIES:BRITAIN: On Nov. 21, in a coordinated action with the United States and Canada, Britain ordered all British financial institutions to stop doing business with their Iranian counterparts, including the Iranian central bank. The sanctions were in response to a Nov. 8 IAEA report which said Iran has worked on developing a nuclear weapon design.CANADA: Canada announced on Nov. 21 it would immediately ban the export to Iran of all goods used in the petrochemical, oil and gas industry, as part of an international sanctions package, the government said.SWITZERLAND: Added five people and 111 organisations to its list of Iranian entities under sanction on Nov. 18. Earlier sanctions included a ban on certain financial transactions and Swiss companies selling or delivering so-called dual use goods.U.N. SANCTIONS:- The Security Council has imposed four sets of sanctions on Iran, in December 2006, March 2007, March 2008 and June 2010.- The first covered sensitive nuclear materials and froze the assets of Iranian individuals and companies linked with the nuclear programme.- The second included new arms and financial sanctions. It extended an asset freeze to 28 more groups, companies and individuals engaged in or supporting sensitive nuclear work or the development of ballistic missiles.- The third increased travel and financial curbs on individuals and companies. It expanded a partial ban on trade in items with both civilian and military uses to cover sales of all such technology to Iran.- A Security Council resolution passed on June 9, 2010, called for measures against new Iranian banks abroad if a connection to the nuclear or missile programmes was suspected.- It expanded a U.N. arms embargo against Tehran and blacklisted three firms controlled by IRISL and 15 belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The resolution called for setting up a cargo inspection regime.- Annexed to the draft resolution was a list of 40 companies to be added to an existing U.N. blacklist of firms. (Reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit, and Peter=========================Iran threatens action if US carrier returns-IRNA03 Jan 2012 09:27Source: ReutersMembers of Iran's Navy cheer after launching a long-range shore-to-sea missile called Qader (Capable) during the Velayat-90 war game on the Sea of Oman's shore near the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran January 2, 2012. REUTERS/Jamejamonline/Ebrahim Norouzi. This image has been supplied by a third party. It is distributed, exactly as received by Reuters, as a service to clientsTEHRAN, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Iran will take action if a U.S. aircraft carrier which left the area because of Iranian naval exercises returns to the Gulf, the state news agency quoted army chief Ataollah Salehi as saying on Tuesday. "Iran will not repeat its warning ... the enemy's carrier has been moved to the Sea of Oman because of our drill. I recommend and emphasise to the American carrier not to return to the Persian Gulf," Salehi told IRNA. "I advise, recommend and warn them (the Americans) over the return of this carrier to the Persian Gulf because we are not in the habit of warning more than once," the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Salehi as saying. Salehi did not name the aircraft carrier or give details of the action Iran might take if it returned. Iran completed 10 days of naval exercises in the Gulf on Monday, and said during the drills that if foreign powers imposed sanctions on its crude exports it could shut the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world's traded oil is shipped. The U.S. Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain, said it would not allow shipping to be disrupted in the strait. Iran said on Monday it had successfully test-fired two long-range missiles during its naval drill, flexing its military muscle in the face of mounting Western pressure over its controversial nuclear programme. Iran also said it had no intention of closing the Strait of Hormuz but had carried out "mock" exercises on shutting the strategic waterway. Tehran denies Western accusations that it is secretly trying to build atomic bombs, saying it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity. The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action against Iran if diplomacy fails to resolve the Islamic state's nuclear row with the West. The European Union is considering following the United States in banning imports of Iranian crude oil. U.S. President Barack Obama signed new sanctions against Iran into law on Saturday, stepping up the pressure by adding sanctions on financial institutions that deal with Iran's central bank. (Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Tim Pearce) ((parisa.hafezi@thomsonreuters.com)(+98 21 8820 8770)(Reuters Messaging: parisa.hafezi@thomsonreuters.com))=================Iran threatens U.S. Navy as sanctions hit economy=203 Jan 2012 23:23Source: Reuters // Reutersa hard bargain. China, which bought 11 percent of its oil from Iran during the first 11 months of last year, has cut its January purchase by about 285,000 barrels per day, more than half of the close to 550,000 bpd that it bought through a 2011 contract.The impact of falling government income from oil sales can be felt on the streets in Iran in soaring prices for state subsidised goods and a collapse of the rial currency."The rate is changing every second ... We are not taking in any rials to change to dollars or any other foreign currency," said Hamid Bakshi at an exchange office in central Tehran.The economic impact is being felt ahead of a nationwide parliame===============EXCLUSIVE-WRAPUP 1-In major blow, EU agrees embargo on Iranian crude04 Jan 2012 17:54Source: Reuters // Reuters(Corrects to 2.6 million bpd in paragraph 6, sted 2.6 billion bpd)* Oil move targets key sector of Iranian economy* Embargo would force Iran to seek business elsewhere* Ban could hurt Iran's revenues, stoke tensions at homeBy Justyna Pawlak and Parisa HafeziBRUSSELS/TEHRAN, Jan 4 (Reuters) - European governments have agreed in principle to ban imports of Iranian oil, EU diplomats said Wednesday, dealing a potentially heavy blow to Tehran that crowns new Western economic sanctions imposing real pain just months before an Iranian election.The prospective embargo from the European Union, along with tough U.S. financial measures signed into law by President Barack Obama on New Year's Eve, form a concerted Western campaign to impose sanctions over Iran's nuclear programme.Iran says its nuclear programme is strictly peaceful, but Western countries say a November U.N. report shows it has sought to build an atomic bomb. Talks between Tehran and major powers broke down a year ago.Diplomats said EU envoys had held talks on Iran in the last days of December, and that any objections to an oil embargo had been dropped - notably from crisis-hit Greece which gets a third of its oil from Iran, relying on Tehran's lenient financing. Spain and Italy are also big buyers."A lot of progress has been made," one EU diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The principle of an oil embargo is agreed. It is not being debated any more."The embargo will force Tehran to find other buyers for oil. EU countries buy about 450,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iran's 2.6 million bpd in exports, making the bloc collectively the second largest market for Iranian crude after China.The news caused a spike rise in oil prices, with Brent crude peaking at nearly $114 a barrel in intraday trading, up nearly $2 from Tuesday's close.Tehran insisted it would have no trouble: "We could very easily replace these customers," said S. M. Qamsari, International Director of the National Iranian Oil Co.But the new U.S. sanctions have already made it difficult for Iran to keep the customers it has, and could force it to offer steep discounts to countries willing to risk doing business with it, hurting its revenues.Biggest trading partner China, driving a hard bargain, has cut its order of Iranian oil by more than half this month.REAL IMPACTWestern countries have imposed various sanctions on Iran for years with little impact but the latest measures are qualitatively different, directly targeting Iran's oil industry, which forms 60 percent of its economy.Most traders expect Iran will still find buyers for its crude, mostly in Asia, but it is going to have to offer substantial discounts, cutting back the revenue that the state relies on to subsidise basic goods for its citizens.Tougher sanctions appear to be having an impact already on Iran's streets, where prices for foodstuffs are soaring. The rial currency has lost 40 percent of its value against the dollar over the past month.Currency exchanges have shut in Tehran and Iranians have queued to withdraw their savings from banks and buy dollars.That economic hardship is being felt by the public two months before a parliamentary election, Iran's first since a disputed 2009 presidential vote that led to massive street demonstrations, put down violently by Iran's rulers.Iran's leaders are anxious to prevent any popular unrest, especially after the Arab Spring revolts last year showed the vulnerability of Middle Eastern governments to street protest.Iran has warned that any steps to cut its oil exports could cause havoc in international oil markets at a time of global economic pain. In recent weeks it has also resorted to increasingly aggressive military sabre-rattling.Tehran threatened last month to shut the Strait of Hormuz - outlet to the Gulf through which 40 percent of traded oil flows - and on Tuesday threatened to take unspecified action if a U.S. aircraft carrier sails through the strait.Washington, which has a carrier strike group led by the USS John C Stennis in the Arabian Sea, brushed off that threat and said its navy would continue to sail the strait.Most analysts dismiss the sabre-rattling as a bluff and say they do not expect war."There's an anticipation that it might lead to an escalation of military activity in the region, but we think this is overplayed," said Gareth Lewis-Davies, energy strategist at BNP Paribas in London.The EU diplomats said member countries had not yet agreed on how soon the embargo should take effect and were still debating other possible sanctions.France has said it wants the EU embargo and other sanctions agreed at a meeting of the bloc's foreign ministers at the end of this month. Paris also seeks a ban on transactions with the Iranian central bank, similar to what Washington has imposed.The new U.S. financial sanctions, if imposed fully, would make it all but impossible for many refineries to pay for Iranian crude. The law grants Obama the power to issue temporary waivers to prevent shocks in energy markets.A Turkish energy official said Ankara, which buys about 30 percent of its oil from Iran, was seeking a waiver from Washington for its biggest refiner, Tupras.Washington says it is discussing with its allies how to implement the measures without causing an oil supply shock. (Additional reporting by Julien Toyer in Brussels and Peg Mackey in London; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Jon Boyle)======================Trading oil on Iran: untangling rhetoric from reality06 Jan 2012 20:17Source: Reuters // Reuters(Fixes typo in additional reporting by credit)* Some traders see oil supply disruption fears overblown* Memories of shipping continuing in Iran-Iraq war* Global economy concern, Saudi supply pledge caps pricesBy Dmitry Zhdannikov and Simon FalushLONDON, Jan 6 (Reuters) - How does an oil trader play the market when Iran threatens to shut the Strait of Hormuz and strangle Middle East oil supplies?"Buy!" some would say.But "Sell!" could come from cooler heads, the grizzled veterans who can cut through the bellicose( war like) rhetoric and who remember the 1980s Gulf "tanker war" in the Iran-Iraq conflict.Iran did not block the Strait then, nor during decades of tensions with the West."There's a lot of rhetoric," said Rob Montefusco, trader at Sucden Financial. "Some people who have been around a long time are saying 'we've seen it all before', so they are using the recent price spikes as an opportunity to sell."Back in the 1980s, the United States, with its mighty Fifth Fleet stationed in the region, threatened to go to war if the strait was closed."We've seen this movie before," said Cliff Kupchan, an Iran analyst at the Eurasia Group. "Neither side wants a war. A lot of this rhetoric is overstated."Iran is OPEC's second biggest exporter, but the prospect of the loss of a chunk of supply seems to be sparking fewer and fewer doomsday predictions that oil prices will soar to $200 a barrel, very common just a few months ago.Benchmark Brent oil prices have fluctuated around $110 a barrel, despite rising fears about Iranian oil supply as a result of tensions with the West over Tehran's nuclear programme.Prices have been capped by fears of a steep downturn in euro zone economies, which could upset the recovery around the world and crush demand for crude, and by expectations that OPEC leader Saudi Arabia's will fill the supply gap as it did last year when Libya's oil was lost.Doing without Libyan production in 2011, although less than half that of Iran, with only a manageable price spike gave the oil market a taste of coping with a supply shock.The most serious fears debated at oil trading desks include the possibility of Iran mining the straits, attacking ships as it did during the Iran-Iraq war, or challenging the legality of the passage of some vessels through its territorial waters."The Iranians have raised the rhetoric stakes hugely in the last two weeks, but for them the game has changed," said Philip Wiper from oil brokerage PVM."One could even envisage the Iranians putting a few mines in the Strait with little effort, and maximum inconvenience for a few days while the U.S. navy clears them up," he added.But bracing for even the second or third worse case scenarios may not be a feasible trading position for now."Everyone loves the idea of being long oil into an Iran situation but I can't just sit on the bid hoping that something will kick off. So to take it seriously, something serious needs to happen," a veteran products trader said."Until then it's something on the sidelines. Any rallies we are seeing on the news is purely day trading, and it may reverse just as quickly as it rallies."Nor has there been much evidence of big hedge funds or speculators rushing to the options market to buy cheap out-of-the-money calls in order to profit from a price spike.A call owner has the right to buy crude at a preset strike price. Calls begin to pay off when oil rises and when rising price volatility increases the odds the option will expire in the money.CBOE's oil volatility index has eased for the past three days, trading near its lowest since early August. Open interest in June $140 strike calls jumped by by more than 7 million barrels this week, but other key contracts for both Dec 2012 and Dec 2013 were all but unchanged, suggesting no great rush to buy upside insurance.Unusually, there's been a bias toward trading "puts", which confer the right to sell oil at a predetermined price if the market falls, a bearish trade."As the Iranian news has made its way into the market over the last few weeks, I've seen a greater influx of call and put buying than I normally see at this time of year, with an emphasis on the put side," said Anthony Rosado, options broker at GA Global Markets in New York.WORST CASE SCENARIOLate December was a lesson in the ups and downs of headline trading on Iran. Oil prices jumped by around 2 percent when Iran threatened to block Hormuz but pared most gains the next day after the U.S. Fifth Fleet said it would not allow any disruption to oil flows.On Friday, oil barely moved when Iran said it would hold new naval exercises in the Strait.The U.S. Fifth Fleet keeps one or two aircraft carrier battle groups either in the Gulf or within striking distance in the Indian Ocean."If Iran prohibits the U.S. warships from transiting in their territorial waters this is not by itself a case of "casus belli" to retaliate militarily on Iran. Furthermore, the U.S. warships could still transit the strait... on the Omani side," said Olivier Jakob from Petromatrix consultancy.Traders said that a full loss of Iranian oil would no doubt trigger a major spike in oil prices as Saudi Arabia would be forced to use all its spare output capacity, a crucial safety cushion for oil markets.But the European Union and the United States appear to be taking a calculated risk approach by planning a gradual phase out of Iranian oil which might take months.The EU is close to imposing sanctions on Iranian oil but with some exceptions while the United States, which has banned it since 1979, is talking to China, Japan and South Korea to persuade them to reduce purchases from Tehran.Jakob said he believed Iran will continue the soft escalation to keep the oil prices high to increase revenues amid what looks like an inevitable loss of exports volumes."I don't see any serious threat to supply even if there is a full blown war. It will last for two weeks during which the U.S. will kick the hell out of Iran and make sure all is fine in the Strait of Hormuz," said a veteran trader with oil majors and trading houses.In the event of a big stoppage the consuming nations' International Energy Agency would very likely release emergency government stocks to tame prices, as it did in June last year when Libyan output was lost.(Additional reporting by Christopher Johnson, Claire Milhench and Peg Mackey, and Jeff Kerr in New York, editing by Richard Mably and Alden Bentley)=======================U.S. slaps sanctions on China state oil trader over Iran13 Jan 2012 03:44Source: Reuters // Reuters* U.S. takes first swipe at China state energy sector* Move comes as U.S. seeks to squeeze Tehran* Sanctions seen as signal to China oil majors* Follows trip to China this week by U.S. Treasury Secretary (Adds no comment from China, Kuo)By Andrew QuinnWASHINGTON, Jan 12 (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on China's state-run Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp, which it said was Iran's largest supplier of refined petroleum products, as it sought to impress on Beijing and Tehran its resolve to increase economic pressure over Iran's nuclear program.Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also imposed sanctions on Singapore's Kuo Oil Pte Ltd and FAL Oil Company Ltd, an independent energy trader based in the United Arab Emirates, the State Department said in a notice.The State Department said the move was part of a broadening international effort to target Iran's energy sector and persuade Tehran to rein in its nuclear ambitions."The sanctions announced today are an important step toward that goal, as they target the individual companies that help Iran evade these efforts," the statement said.The sanction bar all three companies from receiving U.S. export licenses, U.S. Export Import Bank financing or loans over $10 million from U.S. financial institutions, the department said, stressing that the sanctions apply only to the companies and not to their governments or countries.The U.S. announced the decision after China's rebuff this week of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who traveled to Beijing to press China on U.S. demands it do more to help curb Iran's oil revenues.A Zhenrong spokeswoman and China's Foreign Ministry both said they had no immediate comment.'SHOT ACROSS THE BOW'Analysts said the U.S. move was largely symbolic, given that Zhenrong was unlikely to have much U.S. business exposure.But the move will send a signal to Beijing and its state-run oil giants such as China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), China Petroleum and Chemical Corp (Sinopec Corp) and China National Offshore Oil Corp. , they said.These companies have invested billions of dollars in the U.S. energy sector, and are much more exposed to the impact of potential sanctions."It's a good shot across the bow and signals the U.S. is serious about vigorous sanctions enforcement," said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington pressure group that favors stronger sanctions on Iran."This could be the beginning of a cascade of more sanctions on Chinese companies if China doesn't curtail its Iranian trade."Zhuhai Zhenrong - one of four dominant Chinese state oil traders - brokered the delivery of over $500 million in gasoline to Iran between July 2010 and January 2011 in contravention of U.S. sanctions law, the State Department said.While the U.S. move targeted Zhenrong for its gasoline sales, the Chinese company has a broader role in Beijing's energy dealings with Iran.It has been a major buyer of Iranian oil since at least 1995, typically selling the oil to Sinopec and PetroChina, the country's two dominant refiners.Zhenrong has been buying about 240,000 barrels per day for several years, representing about 5 percent of China's imports. Sources last week said China would cut crude imports from Iran for a second month in February.In mid-2010, Zhenrong joined Chinese state energy giants in filling a void left by Western oil companies and trading houses that had halted sales of gasoline to Iran because of toughening U.S. sanctions.Derek Scissors, an expert in the Chinese economy at the Heritage Foundation think tank, said the action against Zhenrong would send a message to other Chinese state oil majors."We don't want to be taking action against Sinopec, CNPC and CNOOC. They are huge, and politically powerful," he said."But Zhenrong is close enough to them, and won't really do that much harm beyond sending the signal."TARGETING COMPANIESThe U.S. announcement followed Western moves to tighten the economic noose on Tehran through unilateral sanctions.President Barack Obama has signed a U.S. law imposing sanctions on financial institutions that deal with Iran's central bank, its main clearinghouse for oil exports, while the European Union is expected soon to agree to a new ban on Iranian oil imports.Washington has sought to impress on friends and foes that it means business, sending U.S. officials around the world to warn of the dangers of dealing with Iran.A senior Obama administration official stressed that the purpose of sanctions was to draw Iran back to the negotiating table to discuss curbing its nuclear ambitions, the other half of the 'two-track' U.S. policy of pressure and engagement."The theory of the case here is that these two tracks will ultimately converge and Iran will make a decision that it is important to come to the table to try to remove some of these sanctions, to improve their economy," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.The other two companies listed by the State Department, both well-known names in the Asian oil trading world, are smaller, private trading firms that typically specialize in shipping bunker fuel or heavy residual products but, like Zhenrong, had also begun doing deals to sell gasoline to Iran.The State Department said Kuo Oil had provided over $25 million in refined petroleum to Iran between late 2010 and early 2011, while FAL provided over $70 million in refined petroleum to Iran over multiple shipments in late 2010.Kuo had no immediate comment, a senior official said.In all cases, individual deliveries were worth significantly more than the $1 million threshold under U.S. law and the total value of the transactions was well above the $5 million threshold for sanctionable activities within a 12-month period, the State Department said. (Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner, Jim Bai and Chris Buckley in Beijing and Randy Fabi in Singapore; Editing by Peter Cooney and Sandra Maler)=====================Japan policy on reducing Iran oil in doubt13 Jan 2012 10:38Source: Reuters // Reuters* PM Noda distances himself from cutting Iran oil imports* Some in Japan worry Iran sanctions will push up oil prices* French formin: sanctions won't necessarily boost prices (Recasts)By Stanley WhiteTOKYO, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Japan's policy on Iranian oil was left in doubt on Friday after the prime minister distanced himself from the finance minister's pledge to reduce oil imports in support of a U.S. push to prevent Iran from making nuclear weapons.Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said the pledge, made by Finance Minister Jun Azumi only a day before in a joint press conference with U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, was Azumi's "personal opinion" and that the government wants to discuss the matter with the business community.The foreign minister and the government's top spokesman also made comments suggesting Japan was not yet committed to reducing Iranian oil imports, which could potentially damage the credibility of its foreign policy and its dealings with the United States, its most important ally."The outlook shared by Finance Minister Azumi, I believe, was a personal one," Noda said in a press conference."Going forward, the government will deal with this issue by conducting working-level discussions."U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner travelled to China and Japan this week, seeking cooperation on stricter sanctions as the U.S. tries to choke off oil revenue to Iran, an OPEC member and the world's fifth-largest crude exporter.Iran denies Western suspicions that its nuclear programme has military goals, saying it is for purely peaceful purposes. Washington has rejected Iran's assertion and has pressed ahead with new sanctions.Other countries, including major Iran oil buyers such as South Korea and India, are also scrambling to react to the new sanctions law as countries fear that conduits for Iranian oil payments could snap under the U.S. pressure.Buying less Iranian oil is sensitive for Japan because its reliance on energy imports has jumped after the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year.But unless it does so, it will not win an exemption for Japanese banks from sanctions that would freeze financial institutions out of U.S. markets for facilitating trade in Iranian crude.On Thursday, a few hours after Azumi pledged to take "concrete" steps to lower oil imports, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said importing less Iranian oil was only one of many opinions on how to deal with the matter.Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba also said on Friday the government hasn't reached a decision, Kyodo News said.Iranian crude makes up 10 percent of Japan's overall oil imports and some in Japan are concerned the new sanctions could drive up oil prices, dealing a blow to its economy, which is recovering from last year's earthquake and nuclear power disaster.Separately, Gemba said in a joint news conference with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe that sanctions would be ineffective if they end up boosting oil prices, a negative development for the global economy, but a boon for oil producing Iran."The higher oil prices go, the better it gets for Iran ... We need to take steps in a careful, smart way," he said.Juppe, however, said he did not fully share Gemba's concerns, saying that when there was a similar situation with Libya, there was not much of an increase in oil prices and that there were other countries to turn to for oil.Iran faces the prospects of cutbacks in oil sales to China, Japan and India, its top three buyers who together take more than 40 percent of its crude exports. The European Union, a major buyer, has committed to banning imports of Iranian oil.President Barack Obama authorised a law on December 31 imposing sanctions on financial institutions that deal with Iran's central bank, the country's main clearing house for oil payments.The United States can waive some institutions if it deems it necessary for energy market stability or if the institutions' home country significantly reduces trade with Iran. (Additional reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Neil Fullick)===============China's Wen presses Saudi Arabia for oil accessRELATED QUOTES^DJI 12,422.06 -48.96^GSPC 1,289.09 -6.41^IXIC 2,710.67 -14.03By Chris Buckley – Sat Jan 14, 10:40 pm ETBEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao pressed Saudi Arabia to open its huge oil and gas resources to expanded Chinese investment, media reports said on Sunday against a backdrop of growing tension over Iran and worries over its crude exports to the Asian power.The Saudi kingdom is China's biggest source of imported oil, and securing energy security was high on Wen's agenda in Riyadh, in part reflecting concerns about how nuclear tensions and sanctions could unsettle ties with Iran."China and Saudi Arabia are both in important stages of development, and there are broad prospects for enhancing cooperation," Wen on Saturday told Prince Nayef, who is a senior member of the Saudi government, according to Xinhua."Both sides must strive together to expand trade and cooperation, upstream and downstream, in crude oil and natural gas," said Wen, referring to access to extracting oil and gas and then processing the them.The Xinhua report made no mention of any discussion of Iran, whose oil exports to China face pressure from new U.S. sanctions. The U.S. sanctions threat is a particular worry for China, the biggest buyer of Iranian oil. Only Saudi Arabia and Angola sell it more crude."Beijing is concerned with the potential response to Iranian bellicose statements and with the spike in oil prices that would ensue from greater turmoil in Syria and Iran," Michal Meidan, an analyst in London with the Eurasia Group who studies Chinese energy investment and policy, said in an emailed research note.Late on Saturday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry denounced U.S. punishment of China's state-run Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp.On Thursday, the Obama administration invoked U.S. law to sanction Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp, which it said was Iran's largest supplier of refined petroleum products."Imposing sanctions on a Chinese company based on a domestic (U.S.) law is totally unreasonable, and does not conform to the spirit or content of U.N. Security Council resolutions about the Iran nuclear issue," the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in a statement issued on the ministry's website (www.mfa.gov.cn)."China expresses its strong dissatisfaction and adamant opposition," said Liu.The Obama administration said its sanctions against the Chinese company and two other firms are part of a broadening effort to target Iran's energy sector and press Tehran to curb in its nuclear ambitions, which Western governments say appear aimed at developing the means to make atomic weapons.Iran says its nuclear activities are legitimate and entirely for peaceful ends.China cut oil imports from Iran in January and February in a commercial dispute over contract terms, and has been looking for alternative supplies.Yet China is unlikely to dramatically boost crude imports from Saudi Arabia, even with the Iranian worries, said Meidan, the analyst with the Eurasia Group."In the likely event that Iran will offer discounted oil, Chinese traders will buy more Iranian barrels and could consequently reduce their Saudi imports," she said."Wen will therefore need to convey both commercial and diplomatic realities to Saudi Arabia, China's number one source of crude imports, and ensure that bilateral ties remain on steady footing."MORE TRADE TOO, PLEASEWen also said his government wants "strong and reputable" Chinese companies to invest in Saudi Arabia's ports, railways and infrastructure, the Chinese Xinhua news agency reported.China and Saudi Arabia should keep deepening cooperation "in the face of changeable and complicated regional and international trends," he said, according to Xinhua.Crown Prince Nayef is King Abdullah's half brother and became heir to the throne in October. The Xinhua report paraphrased the prince as saying that Saudi Arabia is willing to expand cooperation in energy and infrastructure.China is already Saudi Arabia's biggest customer and the kingdom is keen to diversify its economic ties.On Saturday, the state-run Saudi oil giant Aramco and Chinese companies finalized an initial agreement signed last year to develop a 400,000 barrel per day (bpd) refinery in Yanbu, on the kingdom's Red Sea coast.Aramco will hold a 62.5 percent stake in the joint venture formed to develop Yanbu Aramco Sinopec Refining Co (YASREF), and Sinopec will own the rest.In the first 11 months of 2011, top supplier Saudi Arabia shipped 45.5 million tons of crude to China, a rise of 12.9 percent over the same period in 2010, according to Chinese customs data. Angola and Iran were China's second and third biggest suppliers.Wen is also scheduled to visit the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.(Reporting by Chris Buckley, Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)====================Obama vows to work with Israel to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear power2012-02-06 07:22:03 [ Big Normal Small ]  CommentWASHINGTON, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said on Sunday that the United States will work with Israel to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, signalling that a diplomatic resolution to the current crisis is still possible.In an interview with the NBC television from the White House, Obama said both the United States and Israel, which is "rightly" concerned about Iran's nuclear program, believe that "Iran has to stand down" on the current standoff.When asked if Israel is determined to attack Iran, Obama said he didn't think that Israel has made such a decision, adding that the United States and Israel will work "in lockstep" on dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue. "I will say that we have closer military and intelligence consultation between our two countries than we've ever had," he said.The president emphasized his goal in resolving the nuclear standoff diplomatically, though repeating that he was not taking any options off the table."We're going to do everything we can to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and creating an arms race -- a nuclear arms race -- in a volatile region," Obama said.When asked about the possibility of Iran launching a retaliatory attack on the U.S. soil, Obama said he didn't see "any evidence that they have those intentions or capabilities right now."Obama made the remarks after media reports revealed Thursday Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's suspicion on Israel's attack toward Iran this spring.Panetta believed there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June before Iran enters a "zone of immunity" to commence building a nuclear bomb, according to an article written by the Washington Post columnist David Ignatius.The article said Obama and Panetta had cautioned the Israelis that Washington opposes an attack, citing that it would derail an increasingly successful international economic sanctions program and other non-military efforts to stop Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold.While believing that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not made a final decision on attacking Iran, senior U.S. officials are still worried about "the guns of spring -- and the unintended consequences," the article added.The U.S.-led West and Iran have been in a standoff over the latter's nuclear program since last November, when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapons capacity. Iran has strongly dismissed the claims, stressing its nuclear program is solely for peaceful use of nuclear energy despite the West's suspicion that it is an attempt to acquire nuclear weapons.The standoff escalated in December 2011, when Iran held large-scale military exercises in the Gulf and threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, the strategic route in transferring one-fifth of oil traded worldwide, to protest the Western sanctions over its nuclear program.Washington warned Tehran against crossing the red lines to block Strait of Hormuz and to acquire a nuclear weapon, which will provoke dire consequences including a military strike. Washington has also been rallying its allies in imposing crippling sanctions on Iran, including a ban on its export of crude oil and financial transactions with Iran by foreign countries.On Dec. 31, Obama signed a bill on imposing new sanctions on Iran, targeting foreign financial institutions that do business with Iran's central bank, the main conduit for its oil revenues. In late January, the European Union (EU) imposed further sanctions against Iran's oil exports as well as its central bank, following the U.S. steps.U.S. Central Intelligence Agency director David Petraeus, who testified at a Jan. 31 Senate hearing, said the new sanctions on Iran "have been biting much, much more in recent weeks," though it remained to be seen whether they would force Iran to change its course on its nuclear program.=========================

Iran attack decision nears, Israeli elite locks down
Thu, May 17 12:39 PM EDT
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By Michael Stott

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A private door opens from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office in central Jerusalem directly into a long, modestly furnished, half-paneled room decorated with modern paintings by Israeli artists and a copy of Israel's 1948 declaration of independence. It contains little more than a long wooden table, brown leather chairs and a single old-fashioned white projector screen.

This inner sanctum at the end of a corridor between Netanyahu's private room and the office of his top military adviser, is where one of the decade's most momentous military decisions could soon be taken: to launch an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear program.

Time for that decision is fast running out and the mood in Jerusalem is hardening.

Iran continues to enrich uranium in defiance of international pressure, saying it needs the fuel for its civilian nuclear program. The West is convinced that Tehran's real objective is to build an atomic bomb - something which the Jewish state will never accept because its leaders consider a nuclear armed-Iran a threat to its very existence.

Adding to the international pressure, U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro said this week American military plans to strike Iran were "ready" and the option was "fully available".

The central role Iran plays in Netanyahu's deliberations is reflected in the huge map of the Middle East hanging by the door of his office. Israel lies on one edge, with Iran taking pride of place in the centre.

Experts say that within a few months, much of Iran's nuclear program will have been moved deep underground beneath the Fordow mountain, making a successful military strike much more difficult.

LOCKDOWN

As the deadline for a decision draws nearer, the public pronouncements of Israel's top officials and military have changed. After hawkish warnings about a possible strike earlier this year, their language of late has been more guarded and clues to their intentions more difficult to discern.

"The top of the government has gone into lockdown," one official said. "Nobody is saying anything publicly. That in itself tells you a lot about where things stand."

Last week Netanyahu pulled off a spectacular political surprise, creating a coalition of national unity and delaying elections which everyone believed were inevitable. The maneuver also led to speculation that the Israeli leader wanted a broad, strong government to lead a military campaign.

The inclusion of the Iranian-born former Israeli chief of staff and veteran soldier, Gen. Shaul Mofaz, in the coalition, fuelled that speculation - even though both Mofaz and Netanyahu deny that Iran was mentioned in the coalition negotiations.

"I think they have made a decision to attack," said one senior Israeli figure with close ties to the leadership. "It is going to happen. The window of opportunity is before the U.S. presidential election in November. This way they will bounce the Americans into supporting them."

Those close to Netanyahu are more cautious, saying no assumptions should be made about an attack on Iran - an attack with such potentially devastating consequences across the volatile Middle East that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas even went so far as to predict in an interview with Reuters last week that it would be "the end of the world".

Israelis particularly fear retaliation from Iran's proxy militias - the Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon and the Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip. Both are believed to possess large arsenals of rockets which could hit major Israeli towns and cities.

Hezbollah's deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem told Reuters in February that an Israeli attack on Iran would set the whole Middle East ablaze "with no limit to the fires". "Gone are the days when Israel decides to strike, and the people are silent," he said.

The Israeli Prime Minister and his key allies repeat for public consumption the mantra that economic sanctions against Iran must be given time to work and that now is not the time to speak about military options.

Top officials explain the new coalition on purely domestic grounds, saying it was needed to tackle the thorny and divisive issue of pressing Orthodox Jews into military service - in other words, that its formation has much more to do with the agenda inside Israel than abroad.

BURIED NUCLEAR STATES

Diplomats are divided. "I think the Iran thing is a red herring," said one senior Western envoy. "This is 98 percent about domestic politics". Others are less convinced.

Mofaz himself refuses to speak about military action against Iran, even in the theoretical.

A military veteran with almost 40 years' operational experience, whose office in the Israeli parliament displays a poster of Israeli warplanes flying low over the Auschwitz concentration camp, he scoffs at the idea that his Iranian descent gives him special influence on an Iran attack decision. He derides the idea any serious official in the know would talk to visiting journalists about such a sensitive military subject.

But behind the carefully evasive language of top officials, basic facts are clear. Time is running out. Iran's nuclear program - regarded by Netanyahu as an existential threat to the state of Israel - will soon be buried deep enough underground to render an Israeli attack impossible. The Jewish state's options are narrowing.

"I think they've gone into lockdown mode now," the senior Western diplomat said. "Whatever happens next, whatever they decide, we will not find out until it happens."

There are indeed those who see in Israeli posturing over Iran only bluff intended to press world powers into harsher sanctions and avoid war. Some military experts openly doubt how much damage Israel could inflict. The risk of a fiasco is big.

Perhaps the strongest clue as to Israel's real intentions is to be found in Netanyahu's private office, behind his desk. Officials say the Israeli premier was strongly influenced by his father, who died last month at the age of 102.

Benzion Netanyahu was a distinguished scholar of Jewish history and his strong sense of the past lives on in Benjamin, who laments to visitors that "most people's sense of history goes back to breakfast time".

On a shelf behind Netanyahu's desk, along with pictures of his family, is a photograph of Winston Churchill. Netanyahu admires the British wartime premier because he saw the true dangers posed by Nazi Germany to the world at a time when many other politicians argued for appeasing Hitler.

The parallels with modern-day Iran are obvious and Netanyahu is explicit about the dangers he believes are posed by militant Islam: as he puts it, its convulsive power, its cult of death and its ideological zeal.

But Churchill, although eloquent on the dangers posed by the rise of Nazi Germany during the 1930s, ultimately failed to prevent Hitler's ascent to power, the world war he unleashed or the Holocaust in which six million Jews were murdered.

Netanyahu, those who know him say, is determined to avoid going down in history as the man who shirked his opportunity to stop Iran going nuclear.
(Additional reporting by Samia Nakhoul and Crispian Balmer; editing by Ralph Boulton)

(Created by Michael Stott)

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China's crude imports from Iran rise 53.2 percent in April

A Chinese oil tanker (file photo)

Mon May 21, 2012 9:58AM GMT
China's oil imports from Iran have increased by 53.2 percent in April to 388,034 barrels per day (bpd) from 253,302 bpd a month earlier, Chinese customs data shows.


The jump in China's crude imports came after Tehran and Beijing "resolved disputes over annual contracts," Reuters reported.

The Monday data also indicated that China's oil imports from Iran stood at 355,989 bpd in January-April.

Last week, data released by Italy's oil refining industry body Unione Petrolifera (UP) showed that the country's oil imports from Iran increased by 6 percent in March to 425,200 tons, compared with the 401,600 tons in February.

The growth in Italy's crude imports from Iran came despite the oil embargo imposed by the European Union on the Islamic Republic.

On January 23, the European Union approved new sanctions on Iran's oil and financial sectors. The sanctions are meant to prevent EU member states from buying Iranian crude or doing business with its central bank. The sanctions will come into force as of July 1.

The US and the EU have imposed new financial sanctions as well as oil embargoes against Iran since the beginning of 2012, claiming that the country's nuclear energy program includes a military component.

Tehran refutes such allegations, noting that frequent inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency have never found any diversion in Iran's nuclear energy program toward military purposes.

Iran's Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Shamseddin Hosseini has warned that if EU sanctions against the Islamic Republic take effect, oil prices will soar to as high as USD 160 per barrel.

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Protesters burn buses after attack on Shias in Karachi

MHBalochNEWS KARACHI : Maqtul Askri raza milt e jafrya alegal acedmi k incharg . Jafrya aliynce k kanuni musher . Mukhtyar eeucade k mawun the. December 31, 2011 Despite of loud claims of the police on security arrangements of the violence-ridden city, the menace of “target killings” was again raising its head. – File Photo by AFP KARACHI: Angry demonstrators burn two buses on Abul Hassan Isphahani Road on Saturday after unknown motorcycle attackers injured two officials of Pasban-e-Aza, DawnNews reported. Despite of loud claims of the police on security arrangements of the violence-ridden city, the menace of “target killings” was again raising its head. Two unknown motorcycle attackers opened fire on officials of Pasban-e-Aza (Shia mourning organisation) in Gulshan-i-Iqbal neighbourhood which injured Askari Raza and Ali Mehdi. Both the injured were taken to a nearby private hospital. According to police, attackers were also got injured in a retaliatory fire from the car of the officials. “we have started search for the culprits,” said a police official. Earlier on Friday, unknown motorcycle attackers killed Dr Saleem Kharal of Jinnah Hospital. It’s important to note that three people have become the victim of targeted killings this week including a doctor and a religious scholar. Unkown terrorists, on December 27, also killed Mufti Abdul Samad Soomro in Gulbahar and chief of Sajjadia Scouts Nayyar Zaidi in Orangi Town. Later on, one of the injured Askari Raza succumbed to his wounds in a local hospital. ================ Askari Raza, 40, was attacked in Gulshan-e-Iqbal on Saturday evening and died of his wounds in hospital later. KARACHI: Thousands of angry Shia protesters marched to the Governor House on Sunday to protest the killing of a community leader. Askari Raza, 40, was attacked in Gulshan-e-Iqbal on Saturday evening and died of his wounds in hospital later. He was a leader of the Pasban-e-Jaferia Foundation. Members of various Shia organisations participated in his funeral prayers on Sunday and blocked Shahrah-e-Pakistan as they made their way with his body to the Governor House. As many as five to six thousand people were part of the procession and Shia leaders, including Maulana Nadir, Maulana Ali Muhammad, Maulana Munawar Naqvi, Allama Furqan Haider Abidi and Allama Hasan Zafar Naqvi, were in attendance. The protesters are demanding action against Chaudhry Aslam Khan, an SSP of the Crime Investigation Department’s Anti-Extremist Cell, who they say is involved in the target killing of Raza. Raza was actively involved in the legal affairs of the Shia community and had even gone to court in the case of a recent killing of a Shia man in Karachi. SSP Khan is named in the case. ================ 110madad1 Karachi Dharnaye ke tarah Aaenda bhe isi jaosh aur jazbaeye ke zaroorat raheye ge. Allama Sajid Naqvi, Chairman SUC PAK

Halfaya Oil Production Up Five-Fold, Ahdab 2nd phase 3 years ahead on schedule

Posted on 30 December 2011. Tags: Iraq, Oil & Gas, oil productionHalfaya is not currently the most exciting oil field, but it is growing fast. In less than two years, the large consortium of Chinese, Malaysian and French companies developing it has increased production from 3,000 barrels per day to around 15,000 bpd, with 2,000 bpd of those having just been added with a new well, according to Missan Oil Company, which is overseeing the project.CNPC, Total and Petronas are drilling 300 wells over five years to free up more than 500,000 bpd in an oilfield with as much as 15 billion barrels of reserves. The oilfield in the south-east of Iraq was initially believed to hold recoverable reserves closer to four billion.Back in summer, state-run Missan Oil Co. had expected Halfaya to be producing 90,000 bpd by the first quarter of 2012. Now it expects a more modest 70,000 bpd by the end of 2012. Still, it is a good growth rate from modest beginnings. (Sources: Bloomberg)=============CNPC says gets first payment for developing Iraq oilfieldThu, Dec 29 21:00 PM ESTBEIJING, Dec 30 (Reuters) - State-owned China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) has received its first cargo of crude oil as payment for helping develop Iraq's Al-Ahdab oilfield, the top Chinese oil firm said on Friday.A CNPC unit picked up the 650,000 barrels of oil on Dec 29, following a framework deal with Iraq's state oil sales company in June, CNPC said in its inhouse newspaper.The parent of PetroChina Co Ltd started work on the Al-Ahdab oilfield in March 2009 after successfully renegotiating an old development deal. The field had estimated reserves of 1 billion barrels.Output in the field in the first phase reached 60,000 barrels per day in June, half a year earlier than planned, and the construction of the second phase with capacity of 120,000 bpd was completed on Friday, three years ahead of schedule, CNPC said.CNPC, the first foreign oil company to sign an oil service contract in Iraq after former president Saddam Hussein was toppled, has also started to get paid for developing Iraq's largest Rumaila oilfield along with BP.CNPC is also developing Iraq's Halfaya oilfield along with France's Total SA and Malaysia's Petronas.
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China’s firm to drill 30 new oil wells at Halfaya by end of 2012



By Majid al-Baldawi



A Chinese firm has drilled 13 new wells at the Halfaya oil field and plans to drill 17 more by the end of the year, said the head of the state-run Maisan Oil Company, Ali Maarij.



Maarij said the drilling was being carried out by China Petroleum and Engineering Corp (CPECC) which last year won a $174 million to build crude processors and dig new wells.



Halfaya is one of Iraq’s largest oil fields with reserves estimated at 15 billion barrels of oil. The field also contains significant gas reserves.



The field is being developed by Iraq, China national Petroleum Company (CNCP) and other partners.



The contract awarded to CPECC is part of the overall strategy by Halfaya partners to eventually boost output to more than 500,000 barrels a day.



Maarij said the new oil wells were prolific with some of them producing as much as 5,000 barrels of oil a day.



He said Halfaya was expected to add more than 70,000 barrels of oil to national output by the end of 2012.



Iraq has a contract to develop Halfaya with CNPC, France’s Total and Malaysian state company Petronas. Under the deal the foreign partners will reap $1.40 per each barrel from Halfaya.



CNPC has a 37.5 percent interest in the consortium. === Petrofac Wins $90m Contract at Rumaila Posted on 29 June 2011. Tags: BP, China Petroleum Engineering & Construction Corporation, CPECC, Petrofac, Rumaila Petrofac Wins $90m Contract at Rumaila Update, RBC Capital Markets opinion: albeit the size of the contract is not material compared to Petrofac’s backlog, we believe that any positive developments from Iraq should be seen as a positive step for Petrofac. This region becomes increasingly strategic, especially for the newly created Integrated Energy Services (IES). This contract award follows the EPC for the early production facility of the Shell-operated Majnoon field ($240m in March) demonstrating PFC’s ability to build a presence in the country. Petrofac, the international oil & gas facilities service provider, announces that BP Iraq NV (BP) has awarded Petrofac and its joint venture partner, China Petroleum Engineering & Construction Corporation (CPECC), an inspection, maintenance and repair contract worth US$90 million for the Rumaila oil field in Southern Iraq. Petrofac’s Offshore Engineering & Operations (OE&O) business will lead the one-year contract, which is effective from 28 June 2011, and is worth US$63 million to the group. Work will commence following a short transition and the scope of the contract covers rotating machinery, degassing stations and cluster stations. The project is being undertaken in partnership with CPECC, a company which has well established operations and infrastructure in Iraq. As part of the agreement Petrofac’s staff will be based at CPECC’s accommodation facilities in Rumaila. Commenting on the award, Petrofac’s group chief operating officer, Maroun Semaan, said: “We continue to be focused on our ongoing activities in Iraq and this most recent contract win demonstrates our strategic intent to grow the breadth and depth of our service delivery within the country. It also provides an excellent opportunity for us to establish closer relations with the BP Iraq team and to continue to develop our own in-country knowledge and presence.” Bill Dunnett, managing director, Petrofac OE&O added: “We’re delighted to be able to continue to support our existing customer, BP, in its onshore operations and to build on our relationship which started in the UK North Sea and developed more recently when we took over the operatorship of the Sajaa asset in Sharjah earlier this year. This contract will be run from our operating centre in Sharjah and we hope it will further establish our capability both in the country and the region to maximise any future opportunities.“ The Rumaila oil field, discovered by BP in 1953, is located in Southern Iraq, 32km from the country’s border with Kuwait. ================== CPPES Kickoff Meeting in Beijing 2/12/2012 2/12/2012 Text Size:[Larger][Medium][Smaller] A successful CPPES kickoff meeting was held in Beijing on February 7 and 8, 2012.In the meeting, details on CPPES’s preparatory work and the first project to be initiated, i.e. Lot B of the Second Central Processing Facilities of Natural Gas Production in Bagtyjiarlyk Contractual Area, Turkmenistan, were mainly discussed. On February 7, both joint venture parties discussed the progress of CPPES’s office registration and establishment in Sharjah, CPPES’s work description and preparatory work such as designers’ relocation and outlook on future work. On February 8, the Joint Venture, together with CPECC Turkmenistan branch, further discussed the design work on Lot B of the Second Central Processing Facilities of Natural Gas Production in Bagtyjiarlyk Contractual Area, identified work scope of the Project, clarified key issues such as design standards and contents of site survey and finally reached a consensus. Both parties agreed to hold a detailed kickoff meeting as soon as possible in the future several weeks. Attendees of the meeting were Deputy General Manager of the Company (Mu Huadong), the consultant of the Joint Venture (Du Guangjian), heads of Turkmenistan branch, General Manager of CPPES (Bob Ballantyne), Chinese representative of Petrofac (Jiang Junyan), heads of relevant departments of the Company headquarters and representatives of Beijing design branch. ============== While CNPC/ CPECC built or allocated space for praying by building a shelter for Mosque/ Hessainyah purpose in oil fields of Rumaila, Ahdab, but its mostly dominated by arab/pak employees who are Salafists which is being rarely used by fellow Iraqi employees due to different school of thought. Malysians on other hand despite belonging to Mayasia, but tehir hatred towards Shia Islam caused recent conflict in Iraq, if its not going to change its attidue in Iraq, it should be expelled from Southern Iraq in the same way as Exxon. Canadians are right in rejecting their bid for Progress Energy as respect to local culture, sectarian harmony is basis for any business growth. Protestors storm Garraf oil field after religious dispute Workers operate a Weatherford drilling rig at the Garraf oil field. (STAFF/Iraq Oil Report/Metrography) By Staff of Iraq Oil Report Published November 30, 2012 GARRAF - Villagers near the Garraf oil field in southern Iraq's Dhi Qar province stormed the field offices of Malaysian oil company Petronas, injuring two people and damaging offices, vehicles and other equipment. The attack was prompted by a dispute over religious observances, which may have been amplified by misinformation, sectarian tensions, and prior resentments of the Malaysian company Petronas, which has a 2010 contract to develop the field. "They went in groups and attacked the company off... =========== Edgo and ICCB complete the construction of the Petronas camp Edgo has teamed up with the local Iraqi Construction and Consultants Bureau (ICCB) in an EPC project for the construction of Petronas Carigali’s base camp complex in Garraf, Iraq. The Garraf facilities, near the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, 230 miles south of the Iraqi capital, include accommodation, offices, catering and dining facilities, clinic, recreation zones, workshops and warehousing. The construction contract of the base camp facility will be followed with an Operation and Maintenance contract to include camp management, security and catering. The camp is accommodating Petronas personnel during the drilling, construction, commissioning and operations of the Garraf Early Production Facility. ========

Warning against CAPITAL INTEL GROUP

http://www.dfsa.dk/en/Nyhedscenter/Internationale-nyheder/Advarsler-fra-andre-tilsynsmyndigheder/2010/Warning-against-CAPITAL-INTEL-GROUP.aspx Investor warning The Financial Services Authority (“FSA”) of the United Kingdom would like to alert all recipients that: CAPITAL INTEL GROUP ONE CANADA SQUARE CANARY WHARF LONDON is NOT authorised under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (“FSMA”) to carry on a regulated activity in the United Kingdom. Regulated activities include, amongst other things, advising on investments and dealing and arranging deals in investments ("investments" include stocks and shares). The FSA believes that this organisation may be targeting UK customers. Therefore, we have added this firm to our list of unauthorised overseas firms operating in the United Kingdom. This list can be found at: http://www.fsa.gov.uk/pages/Doing/Regulated/Law/Alerts/overseas.shtml We note that the firm also has a website, www.capitalintelgroup.com If you have any further questions on this matter please email our Consumer Contact Centre at consumer.queries@fsa.gov.uk, or alternatively by telephone on 0845 606 1234 . Overseas callers can contact us on (+44) 20 7066 1000 . E14 5AX

Nigerian Christmas bomb death toll rises to 150

30 Dec 2011 21:01 Source: Reuters // Reuters * Boko Haram is Nigeria's top security headache * Church bombs may be aimed at igniting sectarian conflict * President Jonathan pledges to fight group (Adds Jonathan statement, violence in Maiduguri) ABUJA, Dec 30 (Reuters) - The death toll from a bomb attack on a church just outside Nigeria's capital Abuja on Christmas Day has risen to 37, with 57 people wounded, a source at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said on Friday. The bombing at St. Theresa's Catholic church in Madalla on Abuja's outskirts during a packed Christmas mass was the deadliest of a series of Christmas attacks on Nigerian churches and other targets by the militant Islamist sect Boko Haram. "As of just now, the latest death toll from the bombing of St. Theresa's church is at 37. Wounded, we have 57," a senior NEMA official said. The initial death toll had been 27. The official asked not to be identified because the victims were now in the hands of hospitals and morgues. President Goodluck Jonathan's office put out a statement late on Friday pledging that "the government will fight Boko Haram, the group of evil-minded people who want to cause anarchy, to the end". Jonathan held talks on Friday with Mohame Bazoum, Deputy Prime Minister of Niger. Security officials suspect the countries' porous common border is a gathering point for militants, and that Boko Haram may have made contact there with al Qaeda's north African wing. "The perpetrators pass through borders at will and we have to ensure that there are no safe havens for them in the sub-region," Jonathan said. He had summoned his security chiefs for an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss the growing Islamist militant threat and how to deal with it. National Security Adviser General Owoye Andrew Azazi told Reuters that Nigerian security services were considering making contact with moderate members of Boko Haram via "back channels", even though explicit talks are officially ruled out. EXPLOSIONS, SHOOTINGS IN NORTHEAST This year was the second in a row that Boko Haram has attacked churches at Christmas. Its strikes are becoming deadlier and more sophisticated, and suggest that it is trying to ignite sectarian strife in a country historically prone to conflicts between a largely Muslim north and Christian south. Three explosions struck the northeastern city of Maiduguri shortly after Muslim Friday prayers, but caused no casualties, the military said. In a separate incident, gunmen shot dead three members of a cleric's family. Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is sinful" in the northern Hausa language, has been blamed for a campaign of shootings and bombings against security forces and authorities in the north. Attacks in and around the capital - including one on the U.N. headquarters in August that killed at least 24 people - suggest the group is trying to raise its profile and radiate out from its heartland in the northeast. On Tuesday night, unidentified attackers threw a homemade bomb into an Islamic school in the southern Delta state, an apparent sectarian reprisal that wounded seven people, six of them young children. On Wednesday night, an explosion in a local bar in the northern city of Gombe wounded one person, police said. (Reporting by Tim Cocks; Editing by xxx) ==================== At least 120 killed in northern Nigeria attacks: Red Cross English.news.cn 2012-01-22 00:16:53 KANO, Nigeria Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- The death toll from Friday's coordinated attacks in northern Nigeria's Kano State has risen to 120, a competent source with the Red Cross told Xinhua on Saturday. According to the Red Cross official, the figure was recorded from the affected areas, noting that 52 persons were injured. State secretary for the organization Musa Abdulahi told Xinhua on phone that they picked corpses around the affected areas. The northwest cordinator for the National Emergency Management Agency ( NEMA) responsible for disaster and emergency management in Nigeria Musa told Xinhua that it is working with some government agencies to collate the actual casualty figure. "We moved round the streets of Kano and picked several bodies and moved them to hospitals around the state," he said. Corpse were taken to the Murtala General Hospital and the Aminu Kano Specialist Hospital, Musa added. Meanwhile, hundreds of Nigerian troops have been deployed to major streets in northern Kano to enhance security following the multiple explosions in the city on Friday. The state government on Friday imposed 24-hour curfew on the state as part of measures to forestall further attacks. Armed soldiers had also been drafted to some strategic public and private buildings in the metropolis to prevent possible attacks. The soldiers were on alert in their vehicles patrolling the major streets of the metropolis in readiness for any eventuality. A Xinhua reporter in the state said security had also been tightened around the government House area as motorists coming to the area were being subjected to thorough checks. All the major roads in Kano have been deserted while residents have remained indoors in compliance with the curfew, he added. Spokesperson for the Boko Haram troops Abul Qaqa told reporters that the attacks were in response to the refusal of the Kano state government to release some fellow terrorists arrested in the state. He said they were forced to resort to the attacks after an open letter sent in 2011 to prominent people in the state were ignored. Several persons were feared dead and many others sustained serious injuries following coordinated attacks on police and other security agency formations in Kano on Friday. The attacks are believed to be the handiwork of members of the dreaded Boko Haram sect. Places affected include Zone A Headquarters of the Nigeria Police, as well as Yar'akwa, Sharada and Farm Center Police divisions in Kano metropolis. Zonal police spokesperson Aminu Gusau told reporters that a similar attack was carried out at the state command of the State Security Service (SSS) and the passport office of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS). At the police office, a suicide bomber crashed a car into the premises and detonated the bomb. The suicide bomber died instantly. According to the Police Public Relations Officer, two policemen also died in the attack. However, at the SSS office when another suicide bomber entered the gate, operatives on duty opened fire on him before he detonated the bomb and he also died on the spot. Series of explosions were heard near the state police command more than two hour after the initial coordinated attacks. The explosions took place simultaneously in all the affected places. Editor: Mu Xuequan =============================

Friday, December 30, 2011

How old is old? It depends on the age of who you ask

30 Dec 2011 15:26 Source: Reuters // Reuters NEW YORK, Dec 30 (Reuters) - With 40 billed as the new 30 and baby boomers redefining the perceptions of aging, how old is old? The answer, it seems, depends on the age of the person being asked, according to a new survey of Americans. For Millennials, people born in the 1980s and 1990s, 62 is considered old, but Generations Xers, whose birth year fell between 1964 to 1970, don't think anyone is old until they reach 71, the Marist poll showed. Baby boomers suggest old is a description that fits seniors 77 and older and members of the Greatest Generation, who lived through World War Two, don't think it is applicable description until 81 years old. "Everybody has a different opinion about what being old is, where old age starts," said Roger Baumgart, the CEO of Home Instead Senior Care, which commissioned the telephone poll of 1,235 Americans across the country. "There is a 19-year disparity between what the Millennials and the Greatest Generation think is old age," he added." As you age, your perception of aging is going to change." Although the range for what is considered old was nearly two decades, the age to which each group wanted to live was more consistent at 89 to 92 years old. Despite thinking 62 was old, Millennials said they would like to reach their 90th birthday. "If you look at it, they are forecasting they will spend about a third of their lives in old age," said Baumgart. The poll also uncovered a difference in age perception between the sexes, with women pushing the boundaries further than men. Women don't think they or men are old until 75 and 74 respectively. But for men it drops to 70 for themselves and 69 for women.

Progress or regress : 1912ers would find the world strangely familiar

1912ers would find the world strangely familiar 30 December 2011 | By Martin Hutchinson, Edward Hadas After a century-long nap, I awoke in 2012. The world is changed, but not utterly. Much happened between 1912 and my new now. The fragile European peace I remembered was broken by huge wars and then restored, but the can-do spirit of my earlier era is hardly present in Europe and - this really surprised me - is in decline in the United States. In some ways, though, the world feels familiar. Passports are not necessary for travel in much of Europe, and capital movements are almost entirely free. Foreign investment takes up a comparable share of GDP (a useful measure that we did not have in my old life). And while the great powers have changed, I find it easier to understand the multiple competing blocs than the nap-time arrangements of Cold War stasis and unipolar dominance. (Stasis: A condition of balance among various forces; motionlessness: "Language is a primary element of culture, and stasis in the arts is tantamount to death" (Charles Marsh). ) I’m delighted with all the new technology, but not too surprised (I used to read what is now called science fiction). Modern pharmaceuticals, computers and the Internet all surpass my pre-sleep dreams. But I have to admit to some disappointments: planets are not colonized and people still rarely live past 100 years. One thing really bothers me - the expansion of governments. This whole “welfare state” business may sound good, better welfare than warfare and all that, but states are expected to do much too much. I’m not surprised that governments don’t seem to manage very well, either their operations or their finances. Maybe that judgment reflects my training as a banker; I love sound money and strong markets. And that’s another thing I don’t like about the new world order - the financial system. Why on earth did they abandon the Gold Standard? With governments in total control of the monetary system, inflation and financial crises are inevitable. I must say, banks now are grossly over-leveraged and these persistent government budget deficits are pernicious . The whole monetary system is gimcrack. New experts tell me that fiat money and leverage are good for the economy and society, but I simply don’t see it. It’s time for a monetary and finance refresher course. (Pernicious: Tending to cause death or serious injury; deadly: a pernicious virus.) gimcrack (jĭm'krăk') n. A cheap and showy object of little or no use; a gewgaw. adj. Cheap and tasteless; gaudy: "The shelves groan with an array of gimcrack gifts from fans: a stuffed piranha fish ... a ceramic ... bull, a papier-mâché replica of an Apollo moonwalker" (Harry F. Waters). Predictions: Breakingviews is publishing a series of articles over the holiday that look ahead to 2012. The pieces will be collected together in the annual ’Predictions Book’, produced in print and electronic form early in the New Year. ================

Quake rattles New Zealand's Christchurch - USGS

31 Dec 2011 01:29 Source: Reuters // Reuters Dec 31 (Reuters) - An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.3 struck close to the New Zealand city of Christchurch on Saturday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. The quake was measured only about 14 km (9 miles) northeast of the city. It was another in a series of quakes that have rattled the city since a major earthquake killed almost 200 people there 10 months ago. There were no immediate reports of a tsunami warning. A quake of a similar magnitude was felt in the area on Dec. 23, sending terrified residents from their houses but causing no casualties or major damage. Christchurch, the largest city in New Zealand's South Island, is still recovering from a quake measuring 6.3 that killed 182 people in February and caused up to NZ$20 billion ($15.5 billion) in damage. Large areas of Christchurch's business district are still off limits after the February quake, which toppled the city's famous cathedral, as well as shops, office buildings and homes. New Zealand straddles the boundaries of the Indo-Australian and the Pacific tectonic plates and is hit by about 14,000 quakes every year, of which only a small number top a magnitude of 5. (Editing by Paul Tait)

Car-bombing in Pakistan's Quetta kills at least 15

Car bomb kills 15 in southwest Pakistan Fri, 30 Dec 2011 18:07:29 GMT A car bombing targeting the house of a politician in southwestern Pakistan has killed at least 15 people and injured 23 others in the city of Quetta. On Friday, an explosives-laden vehicle was detonated outside the home of a local politician in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province. It was not immediately clear if the politician was home at the time of the blast. The explosion caused damage to nearby homes and cars and set several shops on fire. Police rushed to the scene of the bombing and cordoned off the area. No group has claimed responsibility for the bombing so far. Thousands of people have been killed in bombings and other militant attacks over the past few years in Pakistan, and thousands more have been displaced. ================ 30 Dec 2011 16:24 Source: Reuters // Reuters (Adds revised figure for wounded) By Gul Yusufzai QUETTA, Pakistan, Dec 30 (Reuters) - A bomber remotely detonated an explosive-laden car outside the home of a Pakistani former minister, killing at least eight people and wounding 30, police officials in the city of Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan, said on Friday. The car was parked outside the house of Naseer Mengal, a former minister of petroleum and natural resources, according to police officials. Several militants exchanged fire with private security guards after the blast. Paramilitary forces cordoned off the area and were searching for the assailants. The explosion shattered windows and knocked down electricity lines. Live video from local TV channels showed clouds of smoke rising from burning cars at the site of the bombing. Emergency services and police officials said they expected the casualty figure to rise. Baluchistan is Pakistan's biggest but poorest province, where Baluch separatists militants are fighting a protracted insurgency to demand more autonomy and control over the natural resources of their impoverished region. Much of the violence in the past has been blamed on separatist militants. Pro-Taliban militants are also active in the province which shares borders with Afghanistan and Iran. Pakistan, a key U.S. ally in its war on terror, has seen a wave of violence in past years, most of it in the northwest where troops are battling militants. (Writing by Qasim Nauman; Editing by Matthew Jones) ================ RSSToday's Paper Subscribe BETA 2.0 High: 26°C Low: 11°C HOME PAKISTAN BUSINESS WORLD SPORTS LIFE & STYLE MULTIMEDIA OPINION MAGAZINE BLOGS JOBS CLASSIFIEDS SINDHPUNJABBALOCHISTANKP & FATAJAMMU & KASHMIRGILGIT BALTISTANALERTS Kharotabad killings: ‘Tattling’ police surgeon silenced By Shehzad Baloch Published: December 29, 2011 QUETTA: The key witness to the Kharotabad incident, police surgeon Dr Syed Baqir Shah, was shot dead on Thursday afternoon while on his way home. Shah had carried out autopsies of five foreigners, including two women, one of whom was seven-months pregnant, who were shot dead by security personnel in Kharotabad on the pretext of being ‘terrorists’ on May 17. Shah’s testimony to a committee set up to probe the incident provided incriminating evidence against police and other law-enforcement agencies’ negligence. He had declared that all victims had died of gunshot wounds from the police and Frontier Constabulary weapons, instead of their own hand grenade, as claimed by the police. According to the police, Shah was on his way home from the Bolan Medical Complex (BMC) Teaching Hospital when two assailants on a motorbike opened fire at his car, killing him instantly. His companion, sitting next to him in the car, managed to escape unhurt. Shah was immediately shifted to BMC, but the doctors pronounced him dead on arrival. The police and law enforcement agencies rushed to the spot and cordoned off the area but the assailants managed to flee from the spot. “The victim was shot at from very close range and suffered five bullets,” doctors at the hospital said. “He was shot thrice in the head, and the bullet passed through his skull,” they added. Police chief Quetta Ehsan Mehboob claimed the attack was ‘an act of terrorism’ and said that investigations are under way. Second attempt Thursday’s attack was the second attempt on Shah’s life. The day he submitted his incriminating testimony against security forces, there was an attempt to whisk him away from a roadside eatery by a group of men. The doctor resisted, and was beaten up. He received serious wounds and had to be rushed to a hospital. The Inspector General of Balochistan Police, Rao Amin Hashim, later confirmed that Shah had been attacked by an intoxicated assistant sub-inspector. Following the first attempt, the National Assembly’s standing committee on human rights asked the Balochistan IGP to provide security to witnesses of the Kharotabad killings. The Balochistan High Court had also ordered protection for Shah when he disclosed that he had been receiving threats. Witness protection Shah’s killing has brought lack of witness protection in the country into sharp relief. An earlier report by the Punjab government claimed that over 75% of terror suspects were set free in the province, and cited lack of witness protection as the primary cause for low conviction rates. Shah was not the only witness fearing for his safety – the taxi driver, in whose vehicle the foreigners were travelling, had also testified before the tribunal that his passengers were unarmed and feared reprisal from the police. The cameraman, who filmed the shooting of foreigners and was initially detained by the police, has also expressed fears for his life, after receiving threats. Condemnations Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani strongly condemned the murder and ordered a probe. The cold-blooded murder of ‘a brave doctor’ is a clear failure of the local administration and law enforcement agencies, said Senator Haji Lashkari Raisani. The doctor was being forced to change his postmortem report, which he did not, the senator said. “The police are investigating the murder from all aspects, and also considering the threats which he had been receiving,” the Quetta police chief told the media. Shah is survived by his widow and two sons, aged eight and fourteen. His body was taken to his ancestral town of Jacobabad for final rites. Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2011. ==========================

Thursday, December 29, 2011

BREAKINGVIEWS-New Islamist democracies will be open for business

29 Dec 2011 11:01 Source: Reuters // Reuters (The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own) By Una Galani DUBAI, Dec 29 (Reuters Breakingviews) - The Arab revolutions have altered perceptions of the region. The new regimes may have democratic foundations but they won't look like anything the West or liberals may hope for, especially in Egypt. Still, even if they end up being governed or dominated by Islamist parties, the new regimes that have sprung up along the Mediterranean may look more like Turkey than Iran. The new governments, chosen by popular vote, will find it a struggle to shake off the deposed autocrats' legacies. Several months of protests, and elections, can't eliminate decades of corruption. Nor can they consign still-powerful armies to their barracks. Even if elections are free and fair, protesters in varying numbers and of different stripes will keep coming to Egypt's Tahrir Square. Meanwhile, exacerbated tribal differences will delay Libya's transition. It will be a painful adjustment for business. Dictators provided relatively safe and stable investment climates. Economic growth flourished while rampant cronyism ensured riches were held by a lucky few. True, private enterprise was stifled in Libya, but foreign oil companies were kept happy enough. The discrepancy between rich and poor will continue to widen in 2012 and cause more unrest. But it should narrow over time as politicians set policies that will help meet, at least partially, the economic aspirations of the poor that were at the heart of the revolution. Education, wealth and demographics will decide how that is achieved. Libya's riches will enable the country to open itself up to foreign investment and maintain a generous social net for citizens. In Egypt, new and higher taxes will help government finances, some privatisations will be reversed, but reform of subsidies could remove market distortions and present new business opportunities. Tunisia will come closest to the Western concept of a free market. The rise of political Islam will be a source of concern for some but shouldn't undermine the economy. Egypt will continue to welcome foreign investments. Islamic finance will boom alongside conventional banking. But hard line Islamists should be kept in check by the unlikely alliance of liberals and the army. The idea of an Islamist democratic free-market government may run counter to usual assumptions -- but it could be one of the ultimate surprises of the 2011 Arab Spring. Predictions: Breakingviews is publishing a series of articles over the holiday that look ahead to 2012. The pieces will be collected together in the annual 'Predictions Book', produced in print and electronic form early in the New Year. -- For previous columns by the author, Reuters customers can click on (Editing by Pierre Briançon and Sarah Bailey)

Iran says it recorded video of US aircraft carrier

AP – Iranian navy members take positions during a drill in the Sea of Oman, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011. Iran's … Slideshow:Iran Play VideoIran Video:Good Samaritan Meets Driver After Life-Saving Rescue CBS 13 / CW 31 Sacramento Play VideoIran Video:Iran warns of closing strategic oil route AP By NASSER KARIMI, Associated Press – 12 mins ago TEHRAN, Iran – An Iranian surveillance plane has recorded video and photographed a U.S. aircraft carrier during Iran's ongoing navy drill near a strategic waterway in the Persian Gulf, the official IRNA news agency reported on Thursday. The report did not provide details and it was unclear what information the Iranian military could gleam from such footage. But the announcement is an indication Iran is seeking to cast its navy as having a powerful role in the region's waters. IRNA quoted Iran's navy chief, Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, as saying the action shows that Iran has "control over the moves by foreign forces" in the area where Tehran is holding a 10-day military exercise. "An Iranian vessel and surveillance plane have tracked, filmed and photographed a U.S. aircraft carrier as it was entering the Gulf of Oman from the Persian Gulf," Sayyari said. He added that the "foreign fleet will be warned by Iranian forces if it enters the area of the drill." State TV showed what appeared to be the reported video, but it was not possible to make out the details of the carrier because the footage was filmed from far away. The Iranian exercise is taking place in international waters near the Strait of Hormuz — the passageway for one-sixth of the world's oil supply. Beyond it lie vast bodies of water, including the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet is also active in the area, as are warships of several other countries that patrol for pirates there. Lt. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the U.S. 5th Fleet, said the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay headed out from the Gulf and through the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday, after a visit to Dubai's Jebel Ali port. She described the passage through the strait as "a pre-planned, routine transit" for the carrier, which is providing air support from the north Arabian Sea to troops in Afghanistan. Rebarich did not directly address Iranian claims of possessing the reported footage but said the 5th Fleet's "interaction with the regular Iranian Navy continues to be within the standards of maritime practice, well known, routine and professional." Thursday's report follows U.S. warnings over Iranian threats to choke off traffic through the Strait of Hormuz if Washington imposes sanctions targeting Iran's crude exports. On Wednesday, Rebarich said the Navy was "always ready to counter malevolent actions to ensure freedom of navigation." Gen. Hossein Salami, the acting commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard rejected the warning. "The U.S. is not in a position" to affect Iran's decisions, Salami told the semi-official Fars news agency Thursday. "Iran does not ask permission to implement its own defensive strategies." ___ Associated Press Writer Adam Schreck contributed to this report from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.