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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

China can be rich or neutral - not both

01 Feb 2012 03:27 Source: Reuters // Reuters (Corrects figure in fifth paragraph to 1 mln, not 10 mln) By John Foley HONG KONG, Feb 1 (Reuters Breakingviews) - The kidnapping of 29 Chinese workers in Sudan shows that China's "don't intervene" policy is coming under strain. As the world's most populous country guns for the economic number one spot, it will not be as easy to keep out of conflicts. Even if China desires a softer alternative to the Pax Americana, history suggests that with power comes aggression. Fence-sitting has been a central pillar of China's foreign policy since the 1950s, when Premier Zhou Enlai promised not to interfere in India's domestic business. Whereas the United States values governance and democracy, China prefers trade and investment. That strategy makes sense for a resource-hungry latecomer to the game of economic colonialism, even if it leaves the country open to accusations of turning a blind eye to undesirable regimes. But not taking sides is not always enough. The kidnapping will push Beijing towards taking a more active role in the dispute over oil revenue between Sudan and newly independent South Sudan. Iran is another challenge. China can refuse to support Western sanctions, but it would not be happy about major disruptions to the oil market or a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic. With so much self-interest at stake, non-interference looks self-defeating. If China finds a way to get rich and remain mostly peaceful, it would be good for everyone. So far the signs are good. President Hu Jintao talks of a "harmonious world", and has tackled regimes like Sudan's with aid and dialogue -- while sending peacekeeping troops to countries like East Timor, and deploying a naval force to the Aden Gulf in 2008 to protect merchant ships from pirates. But the "Pax Sinensis" has two major challenges. One is China's skewed birth rate, which produces 1 million surplus boys every year. The other is its interconnectedness. China is already the world's largest importer of coal, soybeans and iron ore. When global markets are threatened, it can no longer sit by. Much as China might like to return to the way it was five hundred years ago -- rich, self-sufficient and largely left alone by the world -- that's no longer an option. CONTEXT NEWS -- China sent a team of officials to Sudan to seek the release of 29 workers being held by rebels on the border state of South Kordofan. A report by the Sudanese state news agency saying that 14 of the workers had been freed was denied by Chinese and Sudanese officials on Jan. 30. -- The Philippines has held talks with the United States on expanding the American military presence in South-East Asia in response to China's growing assertiveness, the Washington Post reported on Jan. 26. Beijing and Manila both claim sovereignty over some islands in the South China Sea. -- China invested $60 billion overseas in 2011, 1.8 percent more than the previous year, not including bank loans. That brought the total stock to $322 billion, according to the Ministry of Commerce. Investment into China totaled $116 billion in the same year. -- Reuters: China sends team to Sudan seeking release of workers -- For previous columns by the author, Reuters customers can click on (Editing by Edward Hadas and Martin Langfield) ================ China's outgoing leader sees unprecedented opportunity, unknown risks Wed, Nov 07 20:52 PM EST By Sui-Lee Wee and Ben Blanchard BEIJING (Reuters) - China formally opened a congress of its ruling Communist Party on Thursday, ushering in a once-in-a-decade leadership change against a backdrop of growing social unrest, public anger at corruption and a yawning gap between rich and poor. More than 2,000 hand-picked delegates gathered at Beijing's cavernous Great Hall of the People for the start of the week-long session, which will see President Hu Jintao give up his role as party chief to anointed successor Vice President Xi Jinping. Xi then takes over state duties at the annual meeting of parliament in March.
"At present, as the global, national and our party's conditions continue to undergo profound changes, we are faced with unprecedented opportunities for development as well as risks and challenges unknown before," Hu said in the customary speech signaling the start of the meeting.
The government has tightened security in the run-up to the congress, even banning the flying of pigeons in the capital, and has either locked up or expelled dozens of dissidents it fears could spoil the party. Security was especially tight on Thursday around the Great Hall and Tiananmen Square next door, the scene of pro-democracy protests in 1989 that were crushed by the military. Police dragged away a screaming protester as the Chinese national flag was raised at dawn. The party, which came to power in 1949 after a long and bloody civil war, has in recent years tied its legitimacy to economic growth and lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty. But China experts say that unless the new leadership pushes through stalled reforms, the nation risks economic malaise, deepening unrest, and perhaps even a crisis that could shake the party's grip on power. Advocates of reform are pressing Xi to cut back the privileges of state-owned firms, make it easier for rural migrants to settle permanently in cities, fix a fiscal system that encourages local governments to live off land expropriations and, above all, tether the powers of a state that they say risks suffocating growth and fanning discontent. The congress may also see cautious efforts to answer calls for more political reform, although nobody seriously expects a move towards full democracy. Party spokesman Cai Mingzhao said on Wednesday there would be greater efforts at promoting "inner-party democracy" - in other words, encouraging greater debate within the party - but that one-party rule was inviolate. "The leading position of the Communist Party in China is a decision made by history and by the people," he said. "Political system reform must suit China's national reality. We have to unswervingly stick to the right path blazed by the party." And that path includes control over what people can see and hear in the news and on the internet. "My internet has been cut off, I can't receive telephone calls and three people follow me when I leave the house to walk my dog," Xinna, the wife of one of China's longest-serving political prisoners, Mongol rights activist Hada, told Reuters. "All I want from this congress is my husband to be released and for our lives to get back to normal," she said from her home in the frigid northern Chinese city of Hohhot. A Tibetan rights group reported that three teenaged Tibetan monks in the southwestern province of Sichuan set themselves on fire on Wednesday in protest against Chinese rule, bringing to almost 70 the number of self-immolations by Tibetans in 18 months. China has branded the self-immolators "terrorists" and criminals and has blamed exiled Tibetans and the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, for inciting them. (Editing by Nick Macfie and Raju Gopalakrishnan) ============

W.House defends birth control rule against religious protest

W.House defends birth control rule against religious protest 31 Jan 2012 23:06 Source: Reuters // Reuters * White House says contraceptive rule helps millions * Republican VP-hopeful introduces bill to counteract rule By David Morgan WASHINGTON, Jan 31 (Reuters) - The White House on Tuesday defended a new federal rule requiring religiously affiliated nonprofit groups to provide free birth control coverage to women, as opponents ratcheted up pressure to alter the provision. The decision, announced on Jan. 20 by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, has spurred angry opposition from social conservatives. Roman Catholic officials are mulling a possible legal or legislative challenge. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican seen as a possible vice presidential candidate in this year's election campaign, introduced legislation late on Monday that would prevent the government from requiring contraceptive coverage if it violated the religious beliefs of the sponsoring individuals or entities. "While there are those who take issue with the decision, millions and millions of Americans -- American women will have access to preventive services, as they should," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at a briefing. "The president concurs in the decision," he added. The new federal rule exempts places of worship such as churches, synagogues, mosques and temples. But under the authority of President Barack Obama's 2010 healthcare law, the government will require religiously affiliated universities, hospitals and charities to provide free coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptives by August 2013, including the morning after pill and sterilization. The overarching policy won wide praise from family planning and women's organizations. It had been recommended to the Obama administration by scientists at the influential Institute of Medicine, a nonprofit agency that advises U.S. policymakers. U.S. officials, saying the change would reduce abortions, unwanted pregnancies and reduce healthcare costs, sought to strike a balance by giving religious groups an extra year to adapt to the change. But the gesture did nothing to stem the ire of Catholic authorities, who regard contraception as a sin and the new rule as a violation of religious freedom. During weekend religious services, Catholic bishops and priests across the country read out letters protesting the rule. The rule has also been assailed by Republican candidates on the presidential campaign trail, including Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, who are both Catholic. It is unclear how strong the opposition is likely to be among rank-and-file parishioners, particularly Catholic women. A study published by the Guttmacher Institute found that 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women have used contraceptive methods banned by the church. Catholic organizations had no immediate response to Rubio's bill, titled the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012, which he introduced on the eve of Tuesday's Florida Republican primary. (Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Cynthia Osterman)

UPDATE 1-Thyssen to sell stainless steel unit in $3.5 bln deal

Tue, Jan 31 03:57 AM EST * ThyssenKrupp agrees sale of Inoxum to Outokumpu * Deal includes cash, Outokumpu taking Inoxum debt * Union says gets pledges on German production sites * Thyssen shares up 1.3 pct, Outokumpu down 2.2 pct FRANKFURT, Jan 31 (Reuters) - ThyssenKrupp will go ahead with the sale of its stainless steel business to Finland's Outokumpu after clearing the 2.7-billion-euro ($3.5 billion) deal with its powerful trade unions. Germany's largest steelmaker said on Tuesday it will hold a 29.9 percent stake in the new combined company, moving towards a long-awaited consolidation of a sector that has struggled to combat overcapacity and cheap Chinese imports. ThyssenKrupp and Outokumpu said last week they were in early stage talks over a stainless steel tie-up. The German company said it would receive an unspecified cash payment from Outokumpu, which will also assume the debt and pension liabilities of ThyssenKrupp's stainless steel unit Inoxum. ThyssenKrupp shares were up 1.3 percent at 21.39 euros by 0821 GMT, outperforming the German blue-chip index, which was up 0.5 percent. Outokumpu shares were down 2.2 percent. ThyssenKrupp is being advised on the deal by Rothschild , Citigroup and Deutsche Bank, while Outokumpu's advisers are JP Morgan and Nordea. ThyssenKrupp, a steelmaking conglomerate whose business stretches from submarines to lifts, is in the throes of a radical restructuring that will see it shed non-core assets with revenues of 10 billion euros to slash debt. German trade union group IG Metall said Inoxum's Krefeld plant will be shut down by Dec. 31, 2013 while the meltshop in Bochum will not be closed before the end of 2016. It added the two companies had guaranteed not to close the remaining German production facilities until at least the end of 2015.

Sectarian & ethnic attacks?: One killed in Gulberg, 3 in New Karachi

Faraz Khan Published: January 30, 2012 Taseer Abbas Zaidi was killed in FB Area Block 20 when two men on a motorbike open fired on him. KARACHI: A wave of killings continue to plague Karachi, as another man from the Shia sect was targeted in the limits of Gulberg Police Station on Monday. Taseer Abbas Zaidi was killed in FB Area Block 20 when two men on a motorbike open fired on him. He was the brother of noha khawan Raza Abbas. The deceased will be buried at Wadai-e-Hussain. Tension gripped the area immediately after the incident and unidentified men forced shopkeepers to close their stores in Ancholi and the Water Pump areas. Shara-e-Pakistan is also reported to be blocked. Protestors also blocked the media and targeted media personnel. They were present on the Ancholi side of the Sohrab Goth bridge and members of Pashtun community were on the other side. Protestors clashed with the security forces deployed in the area. Police fired shots into the air and arrested 20 men. Booths under the bridge and a bus were also set on fire during the protests. The city has been under the grip of sectarian and political violence during the last couple of weeks, with the death toll standing at above 20 in the month of January. In another act of targeted killing, 59-year-old Jaffar Mohsin Rizvi, alias doctor, the son of Syed Baqar Rizvi, was gunned down in Gulberg on Saturday. Three men killed in New Karachi attack Three men were killed on Monday when unidentified men opened fired at their vehicle in New Karachi. The men were fired upon outside Pir Bazaar near Powerhouse roundabout in North Karachi. SHO Ilyas Shah of Bilal Colony police station, who immediately reached the spot, said that three men were sent to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital in an injured condition. However, they succumbed to their injuries while being moved to the hospital. The dead were identified as Adnan, a resident of New Karachi, Nizamuddin alias Adil, a resident of Orangi town and Irfan alias Shahrukh. SP Chaudhry Asad though told The Express Tribune that the men belonged to the MQM. However, he refused to confirm whether this was an ethnic attack. “Investigations are still underway,” he said. Police has set up a cordon at the scene of the crime. Shops in the area have been closed following the incident. Reports of tensions from New Karachi, North Karachi, Nazimabad, FB area and Nazimabad have been received. Read more: shiakilling , targetkilling =============== Karachi under Attack By Imran Hussain - Jan 31st, 2012 (2 Comments) 8 After some peaceful days in recent months of bloodshed in Karachi, we are again watching the breaking news coming from different parts of the city about the targeted killings. Innocent men, women and youth of my great city are being targeted on ethnic and sectarian basis by unknown assailants riding on motorcycles. These mass murderers have so much organized field intelligence from different neighborhoods of Karachi that they choose the time and place to kill according to their need and convenience. They are targeting people of Karachi and enjoying this killing spree as if they are eliminating the enemies of Pakistan or allies of India. As these different killer groups or mercenaries target the engineers, doctors, lawyers, intellectuals and educated class of Karachi, they have one agenda in common which is to keep the political voice of Karachi under extreme check. This is an open war imposed on the city of Karachi by the powerful elements who loves to work under the shadows of their own created monsters. Their master plan is very simple, hit and run and force the people of Karachi to run away for their safety by leaving the houses and neighborhoods on the disposal of these powerful elements. It is nothing but an organized massacre of the people of Karachi under the umbrella of imposed banned sectarian and externally funded ethnic groups who have no support within the masses. These groups are freely running their operations in Karachi to disturb the law and order situation. They have asked their handlers not to worry about the funds anymore as they have become more capable of generating their own funds. Some of these groups are targeting the owners of big industries, some are collecting the extortion money from small traders and few have chosen the bank robberies as the easiest way to produce their resources. The sudden increase in target killings, kidnappings for ransom, grenade attacks on the shops of small traders and successful bank robberies in recent months are very visible signs that the port city and financial hub of Pakistan is under attack. Forces which have no stakes and nothing to lose in Karachi are just using this city as the launching pad for their attacks inside and outside the city. Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives have been captured from Karachi who were planning attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan and who can forget the attackers responsible for Mumbai massacre in November 2008. They used Karachi, the financial center of Pakistan as their plan and execute center to infiltrate into the city of Mumbai and carried out the worst attack on India’s financial capital. The lawlessness and violence in Karachi have now transformed from domestic into the international dimensions with more horrifying results. Banned sectarian and militant organizations like Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Lashkar-e-Taiba have sleeping cells in Karachi who are awakened by the handlers on their chosen time and desire. Similarly, the extortion mafia, land grabbing mafia, drug and arms mafia is using the flags of different political parties to run their illegal business in the city of Karachi. These organizations and gangs are supporting each other in different parts of the city to establish their rule and dictate the terms to the common Karachiite. The agenda and role of Al-Shams and Al-Badr in East Pakistan was similar to the ones being carried out by the extremist, sectarian and militant organizations in Karachi. They were assigned the responsibilities to target the most educated class in East Pakistan and we are seeing the same phenomenon in the city of Karachi. 40 years have passed since the disintegration of Pakistan but our ruling elite and their powerful allies are repeating the same mistakes to conquer the hearts and minds of people with the use of force, cache of arms and ammunition. The faces of terror are aligned with each other to disfigure the liberal, moderate and progressive face of Karachi. They should not forget that Karachi is not an orphan city but millions of people take the ownership of Karachi with the political stakeholders on the ground ready to defend their beloved city from this act of war. =================

Monday, January 30, 2012

Tonen buys 99 pct of refinery stake from ExxonMobil for $3.94 bln

UPDATE 1- Sun, Jan 29 04:41 AM EST * ExxonMobil to retain 22 pct of voting shares in TonenGeneral * Deal to be closed on June 1 TOKYO, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Japan's second-largest refiner TonenGeneral Sekiyu KK said on Monday it is considering how to reduce its oil refining capacity, taking into account how fast domestic demand is projected to fall. CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-Tonen: $4 bln buyout of Exxon stake not due to govt Mon, Jan 30 00:22 AM EST * Japan regulation wasn't trigger for move * ExxonMobil to give up control for $3.9 bln TOKYO, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Japanese refiner TonenGeneral Sekiyu KK said on Monday its decision to buy out a controlling stake in it held by U.S. oil major ExxonMobil for nearly $4 billion was not triggered by Tokyo's moves to force industry re-alignment. TonenGeneral, Japan's second-biggest refiner, said at a news conference that the buyout was to improve efficiency, and it is considering how to reduce refining capacity amid falling domestic demand. Japanese government rules effectively require TonenGeneral to either build a new secondary unit or cut its crude refining capacity. ExxonMobil will retain a 22 percent voting share in the Japanese oil giant, down from 50 percent, with the 302 billion yen ($3.94 billion) transaction set to be completed by June 1, TonenGeneral said on Sunday, confirming a Reuters report. TonenGeneral officials also told Monday's briefing that it has no plans to form capital alliances with state-run oil companies in the Middle East. Showa Shell Sekiyu is owned 15 percent by state oil giant Saudi Aramco, while Cosmo Oil Co is owned one-fifth by the Abu Dhabi government. Oil demand in Japan, the world's No.3 consumer, has been falling steadily for more than a decade, now standing at about 3.4 million barrels per day (bpd) from a record 4.2 million bpd in 1999. The TonenGeneral move could encourage realignment among Japan's oil refiners, which have been cutting capacity to cope with falling demand caused by a weak economy and a shift to more efficient and environmentally friendly forms of energy. TonenGeneral, which imports and distributes Exxon oil in Japan, ranks as the country's No.2 refiner behind JX Holdings . ============== TOKYO, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Japan's second largest refiner TonenGeneral Sekiyu KK said on Sunday it will buy 99 percent of the shares in ExxonMobil's Japanese unit, ExxonMobil Yugen Kaisha, for 302 billion yen ($3.94 billion) to improve efficiency. ExxonMobil will give up its controlling stake in TonenGeneral, but retain a 22 percent voting share in the Japanese oil giant, completing the transaction by June 1, 2012, a statement said. ExxonMobil currently holds about 50 percent of the Japanese refiner. TonenGeneral said it has no plans to change a 38 yen per share dividend forecast for 2011 and expects to maintain the same dividend in 2012. The deal marks a de facto retreat from the world's third-largest economy by ExxonMobil, which is focusing its resources on emerging markets and the development of natural resources. The move could also spark realignment among Japan's oil refiners, which have been cutting capacity to cope with falling demand caused by a weak economy and a shift to more efficient and environmentally friendly forms of energy, analysts have said. "Oil demand in Japan has declined in recent years and the domestic operating environment has been characterized by continuous pressure on both margins and volumes," TonenGeneral said. The deal is aimed at enabling the group to cope with the challenging environment more effectively, it said. Reuters reported on Saturday that ExxonMobil was in talks to sell most of its stake back to TonenGeneral. TonenGeneral, which imports and distributes ExxonMobil oil in Japan, ranks as the country's No. 2 refiner behind JX Holdings. Smaller rivals include Idemitsu Kosan Co , Cosmo Oil and Showa Shell. TonenGeneral will seek funds from Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp, Sumitomo Trust Banking, Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ and Mitsubishi Trust Bank to buy back the stake, industry sources told Reuters. ============ MISS: $9.4 Billion In Earnings Not Enoug... PFC30 17 This came up when I just cut and pasted this article... kurdish exxon iraq Look at the photo infor(right click)...Weird...? MISS: $9.4 Billion In Earnings Not Enough For Exxon Mobil http://www.businessinsider.com/exxon-earnings-q4-2012-1 Exxon Mobil missed earnings expectations this morning, when it reported net income of $9.4 billion, or $1.97 per share. Analysts polled by Bloomberg had expected earnings per share of $1.98. The oil giant also missed revenue forecasts by nearly $3 billion, coming in at $121.6 billion during the fourth quarter. “ExxonMobil recorded strong results while investing at record levels to develop new supplies of energy that are critical to meeting growing world demand, and supporting economic recovery and growth," the company's chairman Rex Tillerson said. Capital and exploration costs during the period were $10 billion, while oil-equivalent production declined 9 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2010. Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/exxon-earnings-q4-2012-1#ixzz1l2gxIJDs

Sunday, January 29, 2012

China says contact cut with workers held in Sudan

30 Jan 2012 01:49 Source: Reuters // Reuters BEIJING, Jan 30 (Reuters) - China's embassy in Sudan has lost contact with 29 Chinese construction workers held by rebels in the strife-troubled border state of South Kordofan, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Monday. The rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) said on Sunday it was holding the Chinese workers for their own safety after a battle with the Sudanese army. The army has been fighting the SPLM-N in South Kordofan bordering newly independent South Sudan since June. But Beijing has said the workers were abducted and a Chinese Embassy official in Sudan told Xinhua they were out of contact. "The abducted Chinese personnel have had all communications links with the outside world cut," the unnamed official said, according to Xinhua. The fate of the workers has become a major news story in China, where the nation's expanding presence abroad -- and awareness of its rising status -- has triggered intense public sensitivity about nationals killed or taken hostage. "The unstable political situation is the root reason for attack, and the possibility cannot be excluded that the rebels are targeting Chinese as a bargaining chip with the government," Li Xinfeng, a researcher on African affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the China Daily newspaper. Sudan, where China maintains major interests in oil and infrastructure building, has been a focus of those anxieties. Sudan and South Sudan, at odds over a range of issues including oil revenues, regularly trade accusations of supporting insurgencies on each other's territory. South Kordofan is the main oil-producing state in Sudan. The SPLM is now the ruling party in the newly independent south of Sudan and denies supporting SPLM-North rebels across the border. SPLM-North is one of a number of rebel movements in underdeveloped border areas which say they are fighting to overthrow Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and end what they see as the dominance of the Khartoum political elite. Initial Chinese reports said 20 or more workers were taken by the rebels, who attacked the compound of a Chinese construction company operating in the area between the towns of Abbasiya and Rashad in South Kordofan. Wang Zhiping, a manager for Sinohydro Corp Ltd that employs the workers, said the company and government agencies were "doing everything possible to rescue the missing workers", Xinhua said. (Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Nick Macfie) ================= China urges Egypt to seek release of kidnapped workers 01 Feb 2012 01:51 Source: Reuters // Reuters BEIJING, Feb 1 (Reuters) - China urged Egypt on Wednesday to secure the release of 25 Chinese workers kidnapped by Bedouin tribesmen, Beijing's latest attempt to free citizens held captive in other countries amid growing concern about the safety of its workers overseas. China had already declared it was "shocked" by the abduction of 29 Chinese workers held by rebels in the Sudanese border state of South Kordofan and wants their urgent release, highlighting growing fears over such incidents. Bedouin tribesmen kidnapped 24 Chinese cement factory workers and a translator in Egypt's Sinai region on Tuesday. China's foreign ministry later said it had launched an "emergency response mechanism". "The Chinese embassy in Egypt has made urgent representations to the Egyptian side and has asked Egypt to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of Chinese nationals being held, work for their release as early as possible, and strengthen the security for Chinese personnel and businesses in Egypt," the ministry said in a statement on its website. The safety of workers overseas has attracted widespread attention in China and any deaths could become a more serious headache for the government, which Chinese citizens assume can wield its influence to protect nationals abroad. The foreign ministry also said Chinese institutions and people should "improve their risk awareness and strengthen security". The Chinese workers in Egypt's Sinai were on their way to a cement plant. Their kidnapping came just three days after the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) said it had taken the other 29 Chinese workers in South Kordofan for their own safety after a battle with the Sudanese army. The Sinai workers were being held in a tent near a road that the Bedouin had blocked for the past three days to press their demands that authorities free fellow Bedouin from prison, tribal sources said. They were riding in a bus to their cement plant when they were stopped in the morning by local residents and then taken to a makeshift tent nearby, Ma Jianchun, the commercial affairs counsellor at the embassy, told Xinhua news agency. The foreign ministry said the workers had not been harmed. The incidents in Sudan and Egypt dramatise China's difficulties with companies and workers who venture into dangerous places generally shunned by Western companies. A team of officials sent by China to Sudan to seek the release of the 29 workers held there arrived in the capital, Khartoum, on Tuesday, state news agency Xinhua said later in the day. (Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Ken Wills and Paul Tait) ==================

Trio's 'honour' killing stuns Canada

UPDATED8:41 AM Monday Jan 30, 2012 Email Print EXPAND Mohammad Shafia, right, Tooba Yahya, center, and their son Hamed Mohammed Shafia, left, were found guilty of killing Mohammad's three teenage daughters and other wife. Photo / AP A jury has found an Afghan father, his wife and their son guilty of killing three teenage sisters and a co-wife in what the judge described as "cold-blooded, shameful murders" resulting from a "twisted concept of honour." The jury took 15 hours to find Mohammad Shafia, 58; his wife Tooba Yahya, 42; and their son Hamed, 21, each guilty of four counts of first-degree murder in a case that shocked and riveted Canadians from coast to coast. First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. After the verdict was read, the three defendants again declared their innocence in the killings of sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar 17, and Geeti, 13, as well as Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, Shafia's childless first wife in a polygamous marriage. Their bodies were found June 30, 2009, in a car submerged in a canal in Kingston, Ontario, where the family had stopped for the night on their way home to Montreal from Niagara Falls, Ontario. Prosecutors said the defendants allegedly killed the three teenage sisters because they dishonored the family by defying its disciplinarian rules on dress, dating, socializing and going online. Shafia's first wife was living with him and his second wife. The polygamous relationship, if revealed, could have resulted in their deportation. The prosecution alleged it was a case of premeditated murder, staged to look like an accident after it was carried out. Prosecutors said the defendants drowned their victims elsewhere on the site, placed their bodies in the car and pushed it into the canal. Defence lawyers said the deaths were accidental. They said the Nissan car accidentally plunged into the canal after the eldest daughter, Zainab, took it for a joy ride with her sisters and her father's first wife. Hamed said he watched the accident, although he didn't call police from the scene. After the jury returned the verdicts, Mohammad Shafia, speaking through a translator, said, "We are not criminal, we are not murderer, we didn't commit the murder and this is unjust." His weeping wife, Tooba, also declared the verdict unjust, saying, "I am not a murderer, and I am a mother, a mother." Their son, Hamed, speaking in English said, "I did not drown my sisters anywhere." But Judge Robert Maranger was unmoved, saying the evidence clearly supported their conviction for "the planned and deliberate murder of four members of your family." "It is difficult to conceive of a more despicable, more heinous crime ... the apparent reason behind these cold-blooded, shameful murders was that the four completely innocent victims offended your completely twisted concept of honor ... that has absolutely no place in any civilized society." Hamed's lawyer, Patrick McCann, said he was disappointed with the verdict, but said his client will appeal and he believes the other two defendants will as well. But prosecutor Gerard Laarhuis welcomed the verdict. "This jury found that four strong, vivacious and freedom-loving women were murdered by their own family in the most troubling of circumstances," Laarhuis said outside court. "This verdict sends a very clear message about our Canadian values and the core principles in a free and democratic society that all Canadians enjoy and even visitors to Canada enjoy," he said to cheers of approval from onlookers. The family had left Afghanistan in 1992 and lived in Pakistan, Australia and Dubai before settling in Canada in 2007. Shafia, a wealthy businessman, married Yahya because his first wife could not have children. The prosecution painted a picture of a household controlled by a domineering Shafia, with Hamed keeping his sisters in line and doling out discipline when his father was away on frequent business trips to Dubai. The months leading up to the deaths were not happy ones in the Shafia household, according to evidence presented at trial. Zainab, the oldest daughter, was forbidden to attend school for a year because she had a young Pakistani-Canadian boyfriend, and she fled to a shelter, terrified of her father, the court was told. The prosecution said her parents found condoms in Sahar's room as well as photos of her wearing short skirts and hugging her Christian boyfriend, a relationship she had kept secret. Geeti was becoming almost impossible to control: skipping school, failing classes, being sent home for wearing revealing clothes and stealing, while declaring to authority figures that she wanted to be placed in foster care, according to the prosecution. Shafia's first wife wrote in a diary that her husband beat her and "made life a torture," while his second wife called her a servant. The prosecution presented wire taps and cell phone records from the Shafia family in court to support their honor killing theory. The wiretaps, which capture Shafia spewing vitriol about his dead daughters, calling them treacherous and whores and invoking the devil to defecate on their graves, were a focal point of the trial. "There can be no betrayal, no treachery, no violation more than this," Shafia said on one recording. "Even if they hoist me up onto the gallows ... nothing is more dear to me than my honor." Defence lawyers argued that at no point in the intercepts do the accused say they drowned the victims. Shafia's lawyer, Peter Kemp, said after the verdicts that he believes the comments his client made on the wiretaps may have weighed more heavily on the jury's minds than the physical evidence in the case. "He wasn't convicted for what he did," Kemp said. "He was convicted for what he said." - AP

Former Imambargah trustee killed in Karachi

By Faraz Khan Published: January 28, 2012 A former trustee of Aal-Aba Imambargah was shot dead in the Gulberg area of Karachi on Saturday. KARACHI: A former trustee of Aal-Aba Imambargah was shot dead in the Gulberg area of Karachi on Saturday. Dr Jaffar Mohsin, 58, was sitting outside his house in Gulberg Block 12 when two men on a motorbike opened fire on him and fled. Dr Mohsin was taken to Ziauddin Hospital immediately after the incident and was declared dead by the doctors. The body was later shifted to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital for legal formalities. Station House Office (SHO) Raja Tariq said that there was a possibility the incident was linked to the recent wave of sectarian killings in the city, but the police was investigating it from “different angles”. He said the family was not cooperating with the police right now as they were busy with funeral arrangements, but added that an FIR will be registered when they have given a statement. Karachi has been hit by a wave of target killings during this week, which started when the Ahle Sunnat wal Jammat’s legal adviser and a party activist were shot dead in the Old City area. This was followed by the killing of three Shia lawyers in the Pakistan Chowk area. Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelt trustee. The correction has been made.

الصدر يعتبر رغبة العصائب بحضور مهرجان سينظمه التيار الصدري "توبة خجولة"

Sadr is the desire of the presence of Alasaúb Festival will be organized by the Sadrist movement "repentance shy" Editor: HAH | HL Saturday, 28 K 2 2012 07:25 GMT Moqtada al-Sadr Alsumaria News / Baghdad Considered the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Saturday, the intention of League of the Righteous festival of victory and liberation celebration that Office of the Martyr Sadr, "repentance shy" and informal, with the condition of the use of what is known to them during the festival. Sadr said in response to a question by one of his followers on the desire of League of the right to attend the festival of victory and liberation celebration that Office of the Martyr Sadr in the coming days that "this is a step towards repentance are shy and non-official", stressing that he would agree to attend "without nothing to indicate to them and to their address and without harm to them. " The Sadr movement, "is expected of them true repentance to return to the cave possession of the arms of al-Sadr", telling supporters, "O loved ones waiting for us to reference at a later time for that true repentance and Alan remains the case as it is from the province and without is not aggression." The cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the 15 of this January, to celebrate it clear of U.S. troops from Iraq in a week the Prophet's Birthday, called upon the League of the Righteous, the first Thursday (January 26 cur) supporters to participate in the festival, which intends to Sadrists residence. He described the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the 11 of January current, the words of League of the right to "bark" and called on supporters to avoid contact with them or confront them. And escalated the differences between the Sadrist movement led by Muqtada al-Sadr and the League of the Righteous, it was considered in the chest (27 December 2011), as a group Alasaúb killers nor religion to them, stressing that these are the chairs and fans followed is one of them. Alasaúb responded with, in (28 December 2011), the charges "politically Tsagita," calling to deal with evidence and not to launch unfounded accusations. The League of the Righteous group led by Qais al-Khazali one of the splinter groups from the Sadrist movement led by Muqtada al-Sadr, has been attributed to several murders and claimed responsibility for many of the insurgency in central and southern governorates against U.S. forces. The League of the Righteous is split from the Sadrists, the committee in the November 29, 2011, the relationship trend, "close", referring to those who gathered with him, "the martyr Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr," asserting that "the media tendentious" The promotion is aimed to split the current.

Romanians protest against gold mine plan

28 Jan 2012 21:38 Source: Reuters // Reuters * Critics say gold mine will harm western Romanian town * Town residents rally in favor of the project * Anti-govt protests held for the past two weeks By Luiza Ilie BUCHAREST, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Hundreds of Romanians protested on Saturday against a plan to set up Europe's biggest open-cast gold mine in a small Carpathian town((A major mountain system of central Europe in Slovakia, southern Poland, western Ukraine, and northeast Romania. Extending in an arc about 2,253 km (1,400 mi) long, the range links the Alps with the Balkan Mountains and is a popular year-round resort area. )), joining a wave of anti-government rallies. For the past two weeks, thousands of citizens have gathered in cities across Romania to demand the resignation of President Traian Basescu and his close ally, Prime Minister Emil Boc, as anger over austerity measures and falling living conditions have spread. The protesters have also criticised Basescu and the centrist coalition government for backing the gold mine project in the western town of Rosia Montana. However, most town residents support it, and also held a rally on Saturday. The project, which aims to use cyanide to mine 314 tonnes of gold and 1,500 tonnes of silver, has drawn fierce opposition from civic rights groups and environmentalists, who say it would destroy ancient Roman gold mines and villages. It is led by Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, majority-owned by Canada's Gabriel Resources Ltd with the Romanian government holding 19 percent. Waving Romanian flags and banners saying "United for Rosia Montana", about 300 protesters gathered outside parliament in Bucharest. They called on the government to deny Gold Corporation an environmental permit it needs to open the mine. "Never mind that this project is an utter environmental catastrophe waiting to happen, but it is also the worst possible business from a financial point of view for the Romanian state," said Vlad Rogati, a 61-year-old retired engineer at the rally. "We are being misled. The promised jobs for miners are an illusion." Most of the 2,800 residents of Rosia Montana hope the project will bring jobs and money to their impoverished town, which took a hit when a state-owned gold mine closed in 2006. Only a small group of residents refuse to sell their property to make way for the mine. Television footage showed hundreds of people at the rally. "We are standing on gold but dying of hunger", said one banner. Gold Corporation has valued the mine at $7.5 billion, of which it said Romania would get about $4 billion in direct taxes, dividends, service providers and jobs. The Environment Ministry said on Saturday it was still evaluating Gold Corporation's permit request, and that it would propose that the government grant it "only if there is certainty the investor will respect the best mining practices so that it will not harm the environment", according to local news agency Mediafax. The company proposes four gold quarries over the mine's lifespan, which would destroy four mountaintops and wipe out three villages of the 16 that make up Rosia Montana, while preserving the historical centre. (Editing by Alessandra Rizzo) ======================= INTERVIEW-Romania opposition wants new IMF deal, early election 02 Feb 2012 15:43 Source: Reuters // Reuters * Opposition leftist USL favourite to win November vote * USL leader wants early election, easing of IMF conditions * Aims to cut VAT gradually to 20 percent by 2016 * Analyst says new IMF deal would ensure predictability (Adds analyst comment) By Sam Cage and Radu Marinas BUCHAREST, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Romania's government is unable to push through reforms and should resign now to give the austerity-hit country the chance to right itself under new leaders, opposition head Victor Ponta told Reuters on Thursday. In an interview, Ponta said his leftist USL alliance - favourite to win a November parliamentary election - would continue to work with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) but aims to ease austerity measures such as value added tax (VAT). Anti-government protests spread around the country last month and opinion polls show the USL with more than 50 percent of votes. Ponta said he was keen for elections to be brought forward even if that meant temporarily installing technocrats. "To have early elections like in Spain, or to have a technocratic government like in Italy, that would be a solution to cool down a little bit the social unrest and to give fresh air and fresh energy," he said. Some analysts say the USL may not stick to the fiscal discipline of centrist Prime Minister Emil Boc, who cut public sector pay and raised VAT to maintain a 20 billion euro ($26.4 billion) IMF-led bailout. "Every day that a government which has lost the support of the people and even the support of the parliament stays in power, it's a day lost for reforms and the stability which we need," said Ponta, a 39-year-old lawyer from Bucharest. "The austerity measures were something necessary not only in Romania but across Europe," he said at the USL's offices by Bucharest's version of Paris's Arc de Triomphe. "But our economy is perhaps still the weakest in the EU." Romania is the European Union's second poorest member with an average wage of less than 350 euros a month and, while the economy grew about 2.5 percent last year, austerity and the euro zone debt crisis will keep a lid on a slow recovery. Income per capita is less than half the EU average and Boc and his ally, President Traian Basescu, have been rocked by three weeks of occasionally violent protests demanding their resignation over austerity cuts and perceived corruption. Ponta marks a change of guard for his PSD party, founded chiefly by former communists and now the dominant force in the USL, though some analysts and opponents say he remains under the influence of its founder, Moscow-educated Ion Iliescu. A keen sportsman and former national rally champion who speaks five languages, Ponta is young enough to have no links to former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. He spoke confidently of the USL's plans and said he would work with the IMF. "It's an agreement signed by the Romanian government and whether it's that government or a new one, we should keep it," he said. The USL would sign a new deal when the existing one expires in 2013, but does not plan to draw on the available funds, he said. "It is premature to talk about post-electoral plans or alliances, though a fresh deal with the IMF would be beneficial for ensuring much needed predictability," said Ionut Dumitru, chief economist at Raiffeisen Bank in Bucharest. Ponta said he would not immediately cut value added tax to 19 percent from 24 percent - as pledged - but would aim to cut it gradually to 20 percent by 2016. The USL would also stick with the flat 16 percent tax rate on income and profit if possible, a change from a previous commitment to a progressive tax policy which some businessmen say deters investment. "Predictability of taxation is very important," Raiffeisen's Dumitru said. "If it is implemented it would create premises for a healthy economic policy." ($1 = 0.7577 euros) (Editing by Louise Ireland and Alessandra Rizzo) ====================

Ukraine says has enough gas for winter

Tue, Jan 24 09:17 AM EST KIEV, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Ukraine, which this month announced plans to cut Russian gas imports, said on Tuesday it had enough fuel to run heating stations throughout the cold season. Neighbouring Russia, which ships large volumes of gas across Ukraine to Europe, has in the past accused Kiev of siphoning gas from the transit pipelines for domestic needs in extremely cold weather. Ukraine is also at odds with Russia over the price and volume of gas supplies and such disputes briefly disrupted European supplies in 2006 and 2009. Playing down fears of fresh disruptions ahead of an expected cold snap in the region, state gas company Ukrtransgaz said on Tuesday its underground gas storage facilities held enough fuel for the winter. "The volume of usable gas in underground storage facilities is 14.8 billion cubic metres," it said in a statement. "This volume is enough to last through the heating season." Weather forecasters expect air temperature in Ukraine to drop to -27 degrees Celsius (-17 degrees Fahrenheit) this week after hovering at around zero (30 degrees Fahrenheit) since the beginning of the winter. (Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; editing by James Jukwey)

Keeping on top of the Drills......

http://www.iii.co.uk/investment/detail?code=cotn%3AGKP.L&display=discussion&action=detail&id=9196529 Author scaramouche View Profile Add to favourites Ignore Date posted Monday 10:52 Subject Keeping on top of the Drills...... Votes for this Posting Voted 152 times. Message With today’s Operational Update IMO offering strong hints that SH-4 results could be truly amazing, I thought it might be a good time to update my list of drills and their statuses, previously posted about 3 months ago. The list has several purposes - a history of where we have been; an indication of where we are right now; and a possible glimpse into the future of where we ought to be quite soon! For ease of reference, I have separated the drills according to their blocks... 1. SHAIKAN (operated by GKP): Shaikan-1 = spudded on 27 Apr 2009- target 3000m-completed 1 July 2010- Final depth 2950m- Drill took 14 months. Shaikan-2 = spudded on 1 Dec 2010- target 5000m- completed 18 Aug 2011 - Final depth 3300m- Drill took 8.5 months. Shaikan-3 = spudded on 2 Sep 2010- target 1100m -completed 5 Jan 2011- Final depth 1157m- Drill took 4 months. SHAIKAN-4 = spudded on 27 May 2011- target 3760m)- completed 13 December 2011- Final depth 3387m- Drill took 6.5 months. ***TESTING ON SH-4 ONGOING WITH TWO TESTS (OUT OF 7) COMPLETE *** SHAIKAN-5 = spudded on 28 Oct 2011- target 3500m- currently at 1571m about 3 months into the drill. *** At the current rate, SH-5 IS LIKELY TO COMPLETE IN MAY 2012 ***. SHAIKAN-6 = spudded on 16 December 2011- target 3800m- currently at 844m after about 5 weeks. *** At the current rate, SH-6 IS LIKELY TO COMPLETE IN MAY 2012 *** Shaikan-7 = a contingent well, originally planned to spud in March 2012, but not referred to in latest RNS! It looks as though this is now unlikely to be required. 2. SHEIKH ADI (operated by GKP):- Sheikh Adi-1 = spudded 4 Aug 2010- target 3850m- completed 10 Aug 2011- Final depth 3780m- Drill took 12 months. Sheikh Adi -2 = expected to spud in February/March 2012 and complete about 7 months later. 3. AKRI-BIJEEL (operated by MOL): Bijeel-1 = spudded 11 Dec 2009- target 4300m- completed 8 Nov 2010- Final depth 3967m- Drill took 11 months. Bekhme-1 = spudded 21 Mar 2011- target 3000m- completed late October 2011- Final depth 5000m- Drill took 8 months. Aqra-1 = Spudded on 17 January 2012 target 4700m- Drill expected to take 7 months. Bakrman-1 = originally expected to spud in November 2011, but has been moved to the second half of 2012. *** SALE OF AKRI-BIJEEL LIKELY TO BE CONCLUDED IN APRIL 2012 (JG comments in Jan 2012) ***. 4. BER BAHR (operated by Genel): BB-1 = spudded 10 October 2011- target originally 2100m but recently revised to 3000m- currently at 2778 m (3.5 months into the drill). **** BB-1 IS EXPECTED TO COMPLETE IN FEB 2012, WITH RESULTS IMMINENT *** MY CONCLUSIONS: • AKRI-BIJEEL is likely to be sold in April 2012 but will include ONLY the results from Bijell-1 (2.4 Billion OIP) and Bekhme-1 (apparently not commercial). MOL seems however to be confidently planning a series of exploration and appraisal wells on the block.... after GKP has sold! • SHAIKAN should be fully explored and appraised in May,June 2012 in readiness for sale. The OIP figures are subject to TWO further major upgrades by then according to JG, when the plan for the development by a super-major can also be finalised for submission to the KRG. • BER BAHR is currently only about 3 months into a long-term plan for its exploration and appraisal, with clealry massive upside. Given that it is expected to be 1.5 times the size of Shaikan, GKP should be looking to ensure that its 40% WI in the block is not sold off too early or too cheaply IMHO. • SHEIKH ADI has had only one exploration well drilled to date and is believed to be about half the size of Shaikan. It has clearly been put on the back burner with all hands to the pump at Shaikan! It is however important to remember that we have a huge 80% Working Interest in that block (double that of Ber Bahr). It too should not be sold off too early or too cheaply IMHO. Finally, whether or not you agree with my interpretation, the evidence is very clearly that Big News IS just around the corner... and GKP has some difficult decisions to make very soon as to how best to deal with the present state of play on every one of its blocks. IMO, one clear sign as to what the future may hold is whether GKP makes further progress in its previously declared intention to join the FTSE.... presumably in March. I will save my comments on that possible future scenario for another day. AIMHO and please DYOR. GLA, scaramouche =============== 01:26 No stopping the momentum now investor48 14 Hi All, Total's entry into Kurdistan,clearly demonstrates the failure of the TSC,which Shahristani thought was the best ever deal for Iraq! The Times also reported Exxon's entry into Kurdistan sometime in June last year,and in most cases,most reputable media seldom report news if they do not know the authenticity of their source. ExxonMobil,BP,SHELL,TOTAL,CNPC,CNOOC,etc,etc bidded for these TSC's towards the end of 2009,thinking that by putting a foot into Southern Iraq,will allow them to negotiate better deals with Baghdad in the future.These oil companies,IMHO were also probably promised that the Oil and Gas Law would be passed after the March 2010 elections. As such,with no Oil Law in placed,no Oil Major or even NOC will invest billions on secondary recovery,such as the massive water flood project by using treated seawater,with a meagre return of between USD 1.50-3.00 per barrel profit oil!Please bear in mind that these Majors have their own targeted IRR for their investments! Having put a foot in Southern Iraq,these Majors and NOCs were hoping that the new exploration acreages in the South could be negotiated amongst themselves with Baghdad,since they participated in the 1st round of the provened oil fields TSC,but unfortunately,round 2 will also be bidded,and still no Oil Law in sight!! Total's entry into Kurdistan is the beginning of the end of Shahristani's oil policies and game over for Baghdad!!How many more oil Majors and NOCs can Baghdad blacklist??!! Baghdad should now sit with down with Kurdistan to draw up a comprehensive oil policy that makes it fair to Oil Majors and NOC's,pass the Oil Law, than continue with political rhetoric that do not benefit the ordinary Iraqi,and should now put the face and pride isuues behind them,to recognise that Ashti Hawrami's oil policies have worked and benefited Kurdistan and will also benefit Iraq. For those that fear Kurdistan,one should now see the writings on the wall that politics in Baghdad do not deter the people in the oil industry from investing in Kurdistan! The Tony Hayward and Nat Rothschild of the world,do not blindly invest in Kurdistan!!GKP has discovered Shaikan,one of the largest discovery in 30years and it makes us all GKpians to realise how much value Shaikan is to GKP,just by itself! At Friday's closing price of 275p,we will test the Management's stock options of 325p and 375p soon!!The momentum is too strong now,and unstoppable! Whilst many derampers of GKP have belittle the intelligence of most Pi's the last 12months with their conjecture of a nuclear war,their little price predicting machine,etc,etc the fundamentals of GKP continues to strengthen by the month and that Kurdistan is clearly the preferred investment region of Iraq. Great ties with Turkey,with plans of their own pipelines and payment mechanism sorted with Turkey,are clear signs that Kurdistan is not waiting for Baghdad to pass the Oil Law!!With or wiithout the Oil Law,Kurdish oil will flow and according to Ashti,it will breach 1million barrels per day by 2015. Interesting days and weeks ahead!This is the most exciting stock,IMHO the next couple of weeks! Goodluck and best wishes to all,be steadfast,since most of you have already been so patient holding GKP for the last 24-36months! =============== Re: Total joins Kurdistan oil grab Fruit n Veg 13 Total also has a minority stake in the Halfaya oil field in southern Iraq. What is significant here is that Total has a southern contract. If this story is correct, it means Total’s is the second western oil major allegedly with ‘something to lose’ to blow a very large raspberry to Baghdad’s blacklist. We suspected the game was up for Shahristani when Exxon stomped into Kurdistan – and into disputed territory at that. Now Total’s reported move has validated the industry’s view that the blacklist is not worth the paper it is written on. This also puts the O&G law firmly on the back burner. Monday will be interesting, what with this breaking news and Exxon Q4 results. ============ Be careful out there with your "its done" attitude, you know how the Markets can draw you in then spit you out as if nothing had happened...... 3D ------ 60 -70 bagger in 36 months ----------------------------------------- 5p-6p 18th March 2009 http://uk.finance.yahoo.com/q/hp?s=GKP.L&a=08&b=8&c=2004&d=00&e=29&f=2012&g=d&z=66&y=660 263p - 350p 12th Jan 2012 http://uk.finance.yahoo.com/q/hp?s=GKP.L&a=08&b=8&c=2004&d=00&e=29&f=2012&g=d&z=6 ------------ ==================== 08:00 From stranglehold to stampede? GKP.L 141 Nearly 3 months ago, I posted details of all the companies that had TSCs in Southern Iraq, and the stringent terms under which they were operating. http://www.iii.co.uk/investment/detail?code=cotn%3AGKP.L&display=discussion&threshold=0&action=detail&id=8915923 Here’s an extract from that post: Anyway, BBBS, from the details above I have concluded that there are 15 large oil companies operating in Southern Iraq: • BP of the UK • SHELL of the UK/Netherlands • Exxon Mobil and Occidental of the USA • PETRONAS of Malaysia • CNPC of China • LUKOIL and GAZPROM NEFT of Russia • TOTAL of France • ENI of Italy • STATOIL of Norway • TPAO of Turkey • SONANGOL of Angola • JAPEX of Japan • KOGAS of South Korea Those in the top half of the list are perhaps the most likely contenders to move into Kurdistan, and could be the reason that Shamaran declares “Additional Industry Interest Imminent”... perhaps also signalling the end to the ICG imposed ‘blacklist’!” >> Well, we already know the impact that EXXON taking up 6 exploration licences in Kurdistan (announced by the KRG in early November 2011) has had, plus the inference that GKP’s SHAIKAN oil field is very firmly on their watchlist. And now it seems that we have confirmation too that TOTAL have joined them there. Who can blame them? TOTAL have an 18.75% share in the Halfaya licence, which offers a paltry $1.40 per barrel for production, even less than the $1.90 per barrel that Exxon was getting at West Qurna-1! And what has always struck me as odd about those TSCs is that the payment was fixed throughout the life-time of the contract, even if oil goes to $200 per barrel - a seemingly miniscule return for the extreme risk of operating in Southern Iraq where ethnic tensions are high the Maliki regime has been becoming ever more authoritarian. Shahristani might be a very tough negotiator but there had to be some incentive to foreign oil companies, which the Maliki government's failure to agree a unified Oil and Gas Law more than a year after taking office has clearly negated. Assuming that Total’s entry into Kurdistan is soon confirmed, it seems obvious that what was just a single super-major choosing to break the stranglehold previously applied by Baghdad will soon become something of a stampede. It is interesting too that Ashti Hawrami (Kurdistan’s Natural Resources Minister) made these comments to the FT in an interview published on the KRG website on 22 November 2011 only 2 weeks after the Exxon news broke http://web.krg.org/articles/detail.asp?lngnr=12&smap=02010200&rnr=73&anr=42363 Extract: FT: Do you expect other super majors to follow EXXON into Kurdistan? Dr Hawrami: Yes. I think the region is becoming very dynamic, in fact, it has been dynamic over the last 12 months. There is a lot of activities going on, and you are aware of the acquisition of Genel Energy by Vallares. That’s just an example; I think there will be others to follow Hmmm.... Does ENI-one really think that the release of the news at this time (with the OGL continually having obstacles put in its path) is purely OCCIDENTAL? Or can we expect to see several more super-majors breaking rank in Southern Iraq and SHELL-ing out huge sums for prospects in the much more business-friendly environment of Kurdistan, I wonder? There is little doubt that confidence is building. And in the next few weeks, it looks very likely that long-term holders will be well rewarded, and their resolve to stick it out throughout the very testing Iraqi political impasse.... TOTAL-ly EXXON-erated! Yes, CJ, the 'landscape' is definitely changing! AIMHO and please DYOR GLA, scaramouche ==================== What exactly is a hostile bid??? -------- its when the company making the offer wear camouflage jungle warfare gear at their meetings, and pretend its normal behaviour. -------------- 02:14 Exxon still quiet but for how long? pathai 17 http://dinarvets.com/forums/index.php?/topic/103837-exxon-still-quiet-on-kurdish-deals/ Let's not forget the following taken from Iraq Oil Report 01 Feb 12: Some observers expected Exxon to go public with the Kurdistan deals in its quarterly Form 8-K legal filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). On Tuesday, Exxon released that filing, which made no mention of Kurdistan. In a review of ExxonMobil's filings over previous years, Iraq Oil Report found that in the past, some developments related to the company's holdings and exploration activities were not listed in 8-Ks, which largely concern financial matters. Those unlisted items did appear in the company's annual 10-K, for which the SEC's disclosure requirements are far more exhaustive.  Exxon typically files its 10-K toward the end of February, and seems likely to acknowledge the Kurdistan deals then. If so, it will be a welcome admission for analysts and shareholders alike. ------------------- 01:12 Very important to TO valuation - 23rd Fe... minimini 19 Capital Markets Day Genel Energy plc will be hosting a Capital Markets Day presentation in London on the afternoon of Thursday 23 February 2012. Tony Hayward, Chief Executive Officer of Genel Energy will deliver a presentation on Group strategy and set out milestones for 2012. There will also be operational, pipeline and exploration updates following the first 90 days since the Genel Energy listing. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The above is taken from Genel BB Some very important news expected that day. I would think TH will be saying to the world "look what we have found ..... Invest in us " I know most here know this presentation is happening and I know we all know how important this is to GKP valuation etc but I think we may be forgetting right now due to T/O rumours and pending SH4, SH5 and SH6 results just what kind of impact it could have on us and how important it is to any future T/O valuations put on GKP. My opinion is, our recent climb is being valued on 2 fronts right now. Shaikan (recent SH4 news and pending) and BB (eagerly awaited drilling results) We have gone up substantially over last month since Jan 9th. Genel have also too although not quite as much as GKP as a percentage. Our recent gain must also have had to factor the anticipated and imminent news waiting to be heard from Behr Bhar. What ever is said on Feb 23rd by Genel will have a huge impact on GKP share price and valuation but more importantly of a T/O valuation. This result alone will change all figures and new valuations/calculations will have to be taken into account for whoever will take us over. Very interesting and exciting times indeed. So to say our recent climb is nothing to do with BB as some have suggested doesn't work for me. If we hadn't found any oil right now and we were merely waiting on BB news then our share price would have risen in anticipation just like what Genel's has done. (20%) And we are still being massively undervalued on Shaikan with 100% upside to come too. The potential share price increase with great news from BB will be exceptional and we may end up seeing the eagerly added value regarding Shaikan as a result. A lot of questions may be answered on the 23rd Feb regarding the licences Genel / GKP hold in respect of our beliefs right now. If it is half as good as Shaikan then we would think we will then have 2 massive plays ongoing. 23rd of February - Remember that date. I'm not sure we will hear any news from Genel till then. Our price is being managed right now and hopefully we see a gradual increase up to 4 pounds in next week or 2. From then it wouldn't surprise me seeing it double in space of a week or 2 there after. We really are on the brink of massive increases. Happy times ahead. We aint seen nothing yet ! GLA minimini ========================= Exxon & Total deals with Kurds + impending Statoil withdrawal from Qurna = significant Big Oil rebuke to disorganised Baghdad oil ministry Total has signed a #PSA accord with the #Kurdistan Regional Government (#KRG) to develop four blocks, two of them ha... http://bit.ly/wm6cwu Total Signs PSA Accords With Iraqi Kurdistan Government By Editorial Staff 0 Published on Wednesday, 08 Feb 12:33 pm TEXT SIZE Total has signed a PSA accord with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to develop four blocks, two of them had previously been allocated to IOCs and since relinquished ( Canada’s Sham Aram Petroleum and Turkey’s Petoil). Total’s move follows ExxonMobil deal with the KRG. ================ Re: 3 quid.... TSC dickie3times a Jewish joke before bedtime (told to me by a Jewish tailor?) Maurice...asks his dad.... "Papa, I'm taking Rachael out for the first time, and i'm brassic, can you lend me 30 quid so i can give her a good time, pleeeease"? Papa...replies " THIRTY QUID" ? (loud) ........................"TWENTY FIVE POUNDS" ? (louder) ........................................................................."FIFTEEN NICKER" ? (shouting even louder) ....."Maurice, where on Earth are you going to get a TENNER to pay me back a FIVER ? A Jewish boy goes to his dad and asked him 5 franks pocket money. The father answers: - What?! 4 Franks?! What you gonna do with 3 Franks, nothing can bought by 2 Franks. look, take 1 frank and share it with your brother ================================= Author scaramouche View Profile Add to favourites Ignore Date posted Tuesday 20:33 Subject The fulfilment of Dreams... Votes for this Posting Voted 173 times. Message I have for some time been trying to get to grips with what the best solution might be for GKP to achieve maximum value for its shareholders, while recognising that, although Shaikan is only a few months away from being fully appraised, NONE of the other main assets in the GKP portfolio are anywhere near the same stage of development. Add to this the challenges of seemingly irreconcilable Iraqi politics; the KRG ‘s obvious desire to swiftly remove their dependence on Baghdad and get the oil flowing as quickly as possible; the USA’s probable expectation of 'preferred bidder' status for Shaikan, and the obvious unfairness should the Chinese be completely prevented from bidding for GKP’s assets... and what you have is undoubtedly an unholy mess! So, while I believe that TK may be doing his best to benefit all shareholders (no doubt as well as himself), it is becoming obvious to me that attempting to serve a number of different masters is probably well nigh impossible. Furthermore, all shareholders have varying holdings, varying personal and financial commitments, varying degrees of ‘investor fatigue’, and varying levels of resolve to see the story though to the bitter end... whenever that might be. Some it seems want the whole company sold now, some would like to see just Shaikan and Akri-Bijeel disappear in the relatively near future, and some of our younger holders or relative newbies have no specific requirements at all. The truth is that everyone is different, so how can any solution suit everyone? IMHO, the key has therefore to be a solution that is completely FLEXIBLE, and I have an idea which MIGHT be just that. Please think about this... When all Government rights, BIR’s etc have been assigned for SHAIKAN, the picture will be something like this: GKP (54.4%), MOL (12.8%), Company 'X' (32.8%) - and GKP holding the operatorship to Shaikan. So, suppose that GKP was to agree to sell HALF of its interests in Shaikan to Company X (let us assume it is Exxon) for say £5 BILLION in the next few months and they gave up operatorship of the field. Exxon would then have 60% of Shaikan, GKP 27.2%, and MOL still 12.8%. Exxon’s presence would totally de-risk the block (for all participants) and allow Shaikan to be developed rapidly to maybe one million barrels per day (satisfying the KRG). Exxon would be able to book about 2-3 BILLION OF RESERVES (satisfying Exxon and the USA) And GKP would have £5 billion cash PLUS a clear indication of the minimum value of their remaining 27.2% share in Shaikan. *** The market would probably re-rate GKP to somewhere near £10 a share, I imagine ***. Over the next few months, GKP could then enter the FTSE, Shaikan could be fully appraised and GKP could THEN sell its remaining interest in Shaikan to the Chinese for say £7 BILLION, adding at least a further £2 BILLION (£2 per share) to the market cap. The ‘market’ would also value GKP’s other assets in terms of how far they had been explored and appraised and the OIP numbers achieved at that time. In short, £12-15 per share would then be perfectly feasible. And what then? This is where it gets interesting IMHO.... Well, how about a merger with GENEL with ‘new’ shares issued based on the relative capitalisation of the two companies? THE EFFECT • GKP/GENEL would be the new kid on the FTSE100 block, and surely destined to become a major player. • GKP would add its 40% in Ber Bahr and 80% in Sheikh Adi to Genel’s 40% of Ber Bahr -giving 80% shares in one prospect believed to be 1.5 times the size of Shaikan and another reputed to be half Shaikan’s size) plus interests in several other prospects in Kurdistan. This would offer enormous upside potential and I am sure attract the interest of every self-respecting fund manager! • GKP/GENEL would already be a major oil producer too, as GENEL is currently responsible for much of the present production in Kurdistan. • There would be a very strong combined board of Directors including Tony Hayward (ex CEO of BP), with access to virtually unlimited funds via the Rothschild connection, and considerable technical expertise in both Production and Exploration. • And our own TK (Chairman) would be able to oversee the continued exploration and appraisal of 2 prospects which could ultimately dwarf even Shaikan.... surely the perfect sequel to the original Oilman’s dream. v.intr. To become stunted or grow smaller. *** And not least, we as shareholders would be able to sell our shareholdings AT ANY STAGE IN THE JOURNEY subject to our individual needs, risk tolerances and circumstances... and make the best of use of ISAs, CGT allowances all along the way ***. Yes, I am sure that most of us would happily take £20-25 per share from the Chinese if it was on the table right now. But, realistically, even in 3-4 months time, when T/O fever is likely to be at its height, I am not convinced that we will have that option. The unhappy mess that politicians of the world seem invariably to create makes that perhaps an unrealistic objective. So, a FLEXIBLE SOLUTION (perhaps along the lines of that described above) might be the best way to ensure that we have the opportunity of 'Fair Value' right now... AND the opportunity of fulfilling our ultimate dreams. AIMHO and please DYOR, GLA, scaramouche ============================= Author scaramouche View Profile Add to favourites Ignore Date posted Monday 14:34 Subject GKP - a Global Phenomenon Votes for this Posting Voted 145 times. Message Looking back, I see that the GKP SP first closed above £2 on 5 January 2012, above £2.50 on 11 January, and above £3 on 3 February. Having seen the price test 340p earlier today, it is very apparent that people are now looking at when we will see £3.50 and beyond. I would be surprised if we have very long to wait! Whether the rise is based on institutional accumulation ahead of a likely FTSE listing; a general re-rating based on a better understanding of the value of GKP’s assets; rumours of a possible initial bid for Shaikan or the whole company; or continued political de-risking due to the arrival of first Exxon (and now Total) in Kurdistan... is very far from certain. But what is IMHO absolutely certain is that GKP has now broken through into the Big League.... and become a truly Global Phenomenon. In March 2009, this was a company with a Market cap of just £25 million. Today, at 324p, it has a market cap of around £2.75 BILLION, around 110 times higher. And since, in December 2011, Mark Leftly of the Independent on Sunday first highlighted the strong possibility of a £7 BILLION bid from Exxon, while stating also that TK reputedly believes the company to be worth “double-figure billions”, there has been little doubt in my mind that that a valuation of £10 BILLION is perfectly reasonable... and £20 BILLION (in a matter of just a few short months) certainly not entirely out of the question. To understand the truly 'global' phenomenon that GKP has become, you need only to take a look at Spidy’s GKP NAV calculator http://www.navcalculator.com/GKP_NAV.php , which has now been visited by people from no less than 156 different countries (with Papua New Guinea on 2 February 2012 being the latest addition). Since those halcyon days of 2009, the small pony that GKP used to be has clearly grown up into a wonder-horse, a Champion thoroughbred.... and one now tipped to be ready to go for the ultimate Prize. But while those thundering hooves now seem to be covering the ground at breakneck speed it is well worth remembering how easy it can be to unseat its rider - I have to admit that I will now be hanging on to the reins tighter than ever before! Yes, if GKP perhaps struggled to achieve positive media attention in the press throughout 2010 and the bulk of 2011, it does now seem that, with the exception of the Alphaville comic, most of the mainstream media are at last beginning to recognise the truly Global importance of the oil discovery that GKP has made in Kurdistan. Today, it looks as though we will see about 20 million shares changing hands at around the 325p mark (a total value of around £65 million), an astonishing figure and one that would put it squarely amongst many of the FTSE100 stalwarts. And speaking of the FTSE, by market cap our company has now sneaked into the lower reaches of the FTSE100 http://www.stockchallenge.co.uk/ftse.php This is simply staggering for a company that is still on AIM. So, is it any wonder then that GKP itself now seems to be talking ever more confidently about joining the FTSE shortly? To me, it is very apparent how far this company has come in such a short space of time – but it is equally apparent that it is perfectly positioned to go considerably further... IF we all do our best to give it that chance! We are eagerly waiting for SH-4 results (imminent) which could result in a massive increase in those OIP numbers and potential production figures. SH-5 and SH-6 could further enhance the OIP and deliver us news of the elusive OWC and ‘full to spill’ scenario. And later this month Ber Bahr-1 should give us some idea of what an exciting prospect that is too, and the possibility of connectivity between Shaikan, SheikhAdi and Ber Bahr. It all adds up - and IMHO the next few months will be the most important of all in the whole of GKP's chequered history. So, my key message today is to keep one eye firmly on what is just around the corner, which could (only 3-4 months from now) take those OIP figures somewhere into the upper stratosphere... and the Market valuation up there with it. And if by some chance, Exxon or another super-major comes knocking with an early offer that fails to adequately recognise that potential, my suggestion is simply to remember that well-known negotiating maxim – “NEVER ACCEPT the very FIRST OFFER” .... unless, of course, it is one that you quite literally CANNOT refuse! With a PRIZE as great as GKP, IMHO you can be almost 100% sure that very soon there will be a number of other super-majors beating on the door! They can beat as hard as they like as far as I am concerned - as Todd is claimed to have said - I want "AT LEAST double-figure billions". AIMHO and please DYOR GLA, scaramouche ================================== Author scaramouche View Profile Add to favourites Ignore Date posted Thursday 18:27 Subject NOT Going for a song.... Votes for this Posting Voted 280 times. Message I always like to hear what JG has to say, because he comes across as cautiously optimistic... and not a man who is likely to let the story get ahead of itself. He has told us many times that he thinks a recovery rate of 30-35% is reasonable, and he continues to report upgraded OIP figures much in line with those forecast. In essence, he never seems to say anything other than what he can subsequently prove. So, it is worth reminding ourselves that he recently mentioned that Akri-Bijeel should command a price tag of between $350 and $500 million, despite the disappointment of Bekhme. GKP’s 12.8% Net WI in AB currently amounts to 2.4 billion x 0.33 x 12.8% = 100 MILLION barrels of estimated reserves. So, that suggested that JG was expecting between $3.50 and $5 per barrel based on the results to date. According to HamishNY’s notes from the presentation yesterday, JG also said “what they do know of Shaikan so far is worth about double the current share price....” So, what do they KNOW so far? Latest OIP figures 10.5 billion (P50), JG assumes one-third recoverable, and there is a Net WI 54.4% (after Texas Keystone’s current interest is applied). 10.5 billion x 33%RF x 0.544 = 1900 MILLION barrels of estimated reserves. Furthermore, GKP’s share price yesterday when he gave his presentation was 279p and gave us a market cap of about £2.4 billion. So, if we were then about half of what JG thinks Shaikan is currently worth, he must see Shaikan as presently worth around £4.8 billion (or $7.6 billion). And $7.6 billion for 1900 million barrels = $4 PER BARREL, very much in the same ball park as his mid-point estimate for a barrel of AB reserves. It seems to me then that this is the second indication of how JG appears CAUTIOUSLY to consider what a buyer would pay for GKP’s oil. But what else does JG say about Shaikan? He estimates that it will hold 18 BILLION barrels OIP (Note: that is still quite CAUTIOUS compared to TK’s forecast the other day of a 100% upside from where we are now). *** On the same basis as the figures above, JG's estimate would mean about 3.2 BILLION barrels of reserves attributable to GKP from Shaikan alone ***. Think about this... 3.2 billion x JG’s very cautious $3.5 per barrel = $11.2 billion = £7 BILLION And 3.2 billion x JG’s more optimistic $5 per barrel = $16 billion or £10 BILLION. Now where have I heard those figures before? Oh yes... http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/exxon-woos-gkp-to-gain-kurdish-base-6278531.html Extract: < US oil supermajor Exxon Mobil is understood to have sounded out London-listed Gulf Keystone Petroleum (GKP) over a possible deal that could value the Kurdistan-focused group at around £7bn. GKP has a market capitalisation of around £1.5bn and is listed on the junior Aim market, but its chief executive, Todd Kozel, believes the group could eventually go for double-figure billions.> But, of course GKP then famously denied that there were any talks regarding the sale of the COMPANY.... leaving the door wide open for the fact that there might still have been talks about the sale of SHAIKAN. Hmmm... hasn't GKP’s very own Chief Operating Officer (JG) just told us that he believes that SHAIKAN alone should soon command a price tag of about £10 BILLION under a competitive bidding process? Let us also remind ourselves of what HamishNY stated this morning in his notes on JG’s presentation about the rest of the company. “More on figures. BB - 5bn to 10bn expected, SA - 3bn to 6bn, SH 18bn, AB - MID 20s. (yes, big number). Said if they don't get good price for AB share (process to start this week) then they would hang on as could be v profitable.” On the same basis as above, this would mean... 1. AKRI-BIJEEL (mean figure of 25 billion barrels OIP) 25 billion x 33% RF x 12.8% Net WI = 1 BILLION barrels of estimated reserves 2. SHEIKH ADI (mean figure of 4.5 billion barrels OIP) 4.5 billion x 33% RF x 80% Net WI = 1.2 BILLION barrels of estimated reserves. 3. BER BAHR (mean figure of 7.5 billion barrels OIP) 7.5 billion x 33% RF x 40% Net WI = 1 BILLION barrels of estimated reserves. And when you add all that lot up, intriguingly you get.... 3.2 BILLION reserves... exactly the same figure as 18bn OIP would give for GKP’s attributable reserves at Shaikan. In conclusion, I think that JG has just told us in his own cautious manner that he believes Shaikan commands a realistic price tag of £10 BILLION for a super-major.... AND that much the same value can be attributed to the rest of the company. Hmmmm.... £20 BILLION for GKP anyone (based on just $5 per barrel).... or maybe our friends from China might like to offer us a little bit more!!! For any of those of a certain vintage, JG has IMO just told us all that GKP will certainly NOT be ‘Going for a Song’. AIMHO and please DYOR. GLA, scaramouche ====================================================================

Saturday, January 28, 2012

US embassy in Iraq declines to comment further on helicopter landing in Baghdad this morning. @AFP

#US embassy #Iraq declines to comment further on helicopter landing in Baghdad this morning. @AFP FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, January 28 28 Jan 2012 08:56 Source: Reuters // Reuters Jan 27 (Reuters) - Following are security developments in Iraq as of 0800 GMT on Saturday. BAGHDAD - The death toll from a suicide bombing on a Shi'ite funeral procession in Baghdad on Friday rose to 32 killed and 71 wounded, according to health officials. The suicide bomber detonated his explosive-filled taxi in Baghdad's mainly Shi'ite Zaafaraniyah district near the funeral of a local real estate broker who was murdered a day earlier by gunmen. SINJAR - Gunmen killed a man and his wife from Yazidi minority community on Friday after storming in their house in a village near Sinjar 390 km (240 miles) northwest of Baghdad, according to police. GHAZALIYA - A bomb planted near a play ground went off killing one young football player and wounding six others on Friday in Ghazaliya district, western Baghdad, police said. MAHAWEEL - A civilian was killed and his brother wounded when two sticky bombs were attached to their cars in Mahaweel 60 km (35 miles) south of Baghdad, according to Babil province police. TUZ KHURMATO - Gunmen in a speeding car opened fire and killed a civilian near his house in Tuz Khurmato 170 km (105 miles) north of Baghdad, a police source said. TUZ KHURMATO - A sticky bomb attached to a policeman's car exploded and wounded a passer-by in Tuz Khurmato, Tuz Khurmato police said. TUZ KHURMATO - A sticky bomb was attached to a soldier's car went off, wounding the soldier and a passenger, according to police. (Reporting by Baghdad newsroom)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Suicide bomber kills 29 in Baghdad-police

ارتفاع حصيلة تفجير الزعفرانية إلى 41 شخصا بين قتيل وجريح المحرر: SS | NQ الجمعة 27 ك2 2012 10:39 GMT السومرية نيوز/ بغداد أفاد مصدر طبي عراقي، الجمعة، بأن حصيلة ضحايا تفجير الزعفرانية الانتحاري ارتفعت إلى 41 شخصا بين قتيل وجريح. وقال المصدر في حديث لـ "السومرية نيوز"، إن "حصيلة تفجير السيارة المفخخة في منطقة الزعفرانية، جنوب بغداد، ارتفعت إلى 41 شخصا بين قتيل وجريح". وأوضح المصدر الذي طلب عدم الكشف عن اسمه أن "القتلى بلغ عددهم 11 شخصا وغالبيتهم من النساء"، مبينا أن "الجرحى بلغوا أكثر من ثلاثين شخصا بعضهم في حال حرجة". وكان مصدر في الشرطة العراقية أفاد، أمس الخميس (26 كانون الثاني الحالي)، بأن أربعة أشخاص قتلوا بهجوم مسلح على محل للدلالية في منطقة اليرموك غرب بغداد. وكان مصدر في الشرطة العراقية قال في حديث سابق لـ "السومرية نيوز"، اليوم إن الحصيلة الأولية لتفجير السيارة المفخخة في منطقة الزعفرانية، جنوب بغداد، بلغت سبعة قتلى بينهم أربع نساء و20 مصابا، مبينا أن السيارة استهدفت المشاركين بتشييع قتلى الهجوم المسلح يوم أمس على مكتب الدلالية، فيما أكدت قيادة عمليات بغداد، مقتل وجرح 22 شخصا بالتفجير، وأشارت إلى أن الانتحاري فشل بالوصول إلى هدفه، وفجر نفسه بعد محاصرته. وشهدت بغداد، اليوم، مقتل مسلح وضبط كمية من العتاد والمتفجرات بعملية دهم نفذتها قوة من فرقة المشاة 17 بالجيش العراقي في منطقة الشاخة/1 التابعة لناحية اللطيفية جنوب بغداد. 27 Jan 2012 09:46 Source: Reuters // Reuters * Suicide bomber hits Shi'ite Baghdad neighbourhood * Latest attack since political crisis began last year (Adds details, updates death toll) BAGHDAD, Jan 27 (Reuters) - At least 29 people were killed when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives near a Baghdad marketplace on Friday, the latest attack on a mainly Shi'ite neighbourhood since a political crisis erupted in December, police and hospital sources said. The bomber exploded his vehicle near a passing Shi'ite funeral procession by a small street market in the Zaafaraniya neighbourhood, killing at least 29 and wounding around 60 more, police officials and sources at three hospitals said. Iraqi authorities blame Sunni Islamist insurgents for attacks targetting Shi'ites in an attempt to stoke the kind of sectarian violence in 2006-2007 which killed tens of thousands. "The suicide car bomber failed to arrive at the Zaafaraniya police station so he blew himself up close to shops and the market," said an official at the office of Baghdad security spokesman Qassim al-Moussawi. The funeral was for a Shi'ite real estate agent who was killed by gunmen in Baghdad a day earlier, police said. A string of attacks has targeted Shi'ites during the crisis triggered when Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government sought the arrest of a Sunni vice president and asked lawmakers to remove a Sunni deputy prime minister shortly after the last U.S. troops left Iraq on Dec. 18. Violence has eased since the heights of sectarian strife unleashed by the 2003 invasion that ousted Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein. But Iraqi forces are still battling Sunni insurgents and rival Shi'ite militias. Maliki, a Shi'ite, says his moves against Sunni leaders were legal decisions and not politically motivated. But many Sunnis, already feeling alienated, worry measures are part of a drive by Maliki to consolidate his power at their expense. (Reporting Kareem Raheem; writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Myra MacDonald)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

BP and partners invest $35 bln in Azerbaijan

26 January 2012, 17:21 (GMT+04:00) Azerbaijan, Baku, Jan. 26 / Trend E. Ismayilov / The volume of investments made by BP and its partners in Azerbaijan amounted to $ 35 billion during its activity in the country, BP Azerbaijan company head Rashid Javanshir said during a ceremony of signing the agreement on the support with the National Olympic and National Paralympic Committees. He said that the company has made a significant contribution to the development of oil and gas sector and the Azerbaijani economy over 20 years of activity in Azerbaijan. The company plays an important role in the oil and gas sector in the country. It is the operator of the major international oil, gas and oil, gas transportation projects. BP will continue its activity to develop the economy as a whole and oil and gas industry in particular in subsequent years, he said. Do you have any feedback? Contact our journalist at agency@trend.az ================ Shah Deniz consortium may fall back on SEEP 26 January 2012, 10:31 (GMT+04:00) Azerbaijan, Baku, Jan.26 / Trend A.Badalova / The consortium of Azerbaijani Shah Deniz gas field development may fall back on the South-East Europe Pipeline (SEEP), if the pipeline partner is not chosen by late March, Reuters quotes BP Shah Deniz Development marketing manager Steve Garlick, as saying. "If it can not choose a pipeline partner at the end of March, the group could fall back on its South-East Europe Pipeline to buy time to sort out any remaining issues", he said SEEP, which was proposed by BP, envisages gas transportation through existing or expanded infrastructure of Turkey to the Balkan Peninsula, and then the distribution of ten billion cubic meters (that Azerbaijan intends to sell on the European market in the second phase of development of the Shah Deniz gas condensate field) to small buyers, including Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and others via the existing gas pipelines system. "We have put a lot of resource behind our own SEEP project just to make sure that we do have an option when we get to the middle of 2013 where you have to press the button on $15 billion plus of expenditure" for Shah Deniz II", Garlick said. Garlick also expressed hope that the Shah Deniz consortium can propose a pipeline partner within weeks. "We are moving towards hopefully forming a recommendation, certainly by the end of the first quarter," Garlick told the European Gas Conference. He also added that the consortium has not yet eliminated any suitors in the pipeline contest. "Everyone is still in the running, very much, he said. None of the three projects is sufficiently de-risked that we would want to choose one of them. Each of them we feel needs to do some work," he underscored. At present, Azerbaijan considers different options to transport its gas to the European markets, including the Southern Gas Corridor. On Oct. 1, Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), Nabucco and ITGI projects submitted the final proposals to the Azerbaijani side, which will review them in accordance with the previously announced criteria. The decision on the preferable transportation route is expected to be made in the first quarter of 2012.Azerbaijan plans to export 10 billion cubic metres of gas within the Shah Deniz-2 project. Do you have any feedback? Contact our journalist at agency@trend.az ===================== Flagship EU gas pipeline project near collapse: Analysts Sunday, 05 February 2012 Nabucco, the pipeline would head up to Austria to serve more lucrative European markets, but at less cost due to its lower initial capacity and use of existing infrastructure. (File photo) By AFP ANKARA Europe’s flagship project to bolster its energy security by building a major gas pipeline to the Caspian that skirts Russia is near collapse, analysts say, with a newly confident Turkey playing a key role. Recent developments, including decisions by Ankara, have undercut the viability of the Nabucco pipeline, a project to ship more than 30 billion cubic meters of gas per year from the Caspian and beyond to Europe. Repeated disputes between Russia and Ukraine over transit tariffs that led to supply cuts pushed the EU in 2009 to launch its Southern Gas Corridor initiative, of which Nabucco is the biggest project, to reduce its dependence on Russian gas supplies.
But in December, Turkey gave Russia the green light for its South Stream project to run through its Black Sea waters, with construction of the 63 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year pipeline to start by the end of this year. “The Nabucco project was in a coma long before the South Stream agreement,” said Necdet Pamir, a former deputy director of Turkey’s TPAO oil company. “But nobody dares to say Nabucco is already dead,” he told AFP.
Nabucco was to run some 3,900 kilometers (2,400 miles) across Turkey then up through Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary to reach Austria where it would link up with a major distribution network. Turkey also signed in December a deal with Azerbaijan to build the Trans-Anatolia Pipeline (TANAP) to carry 10 bcm per year of Azeri gas to European markets, plus 6 bcm for itself, casting further doubt on Nabucco which is having difficulty getting commitments of gas supplies. Publicly, officials say Turkey, one of six partners in Nabucco, still supports the pipeline. “We continue our efforts for this project to come true,” Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said recently. However, analysts believe Ankara is not wedded to the project.
“Turkey was not completely onboard on Nabucco,” said Andrew Neff, senior energy analyst at IHS Global Insight, adding: “Turkey sees itself as a power arbitrator.”
Ross Wilson, a former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey and now director of the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council in the United States, noted that approving South Stream may have improved Ankara’s position as jostling continues over a final project. “None of the recent developments regarding South Stream undermine or threaten in any way the Southern gas corridor -- recognizing that this corridor may be Nabucco, ITGI, TAP or the new Southeast Europe line,” he said. It “may increase Turkey’s leverage in the end-game negotiations over the coming months to finalize the Southern Gas Corridor pipeline, sales purchase agreements and the like,” Wilson told AFP. Modest projects Two of the other competing pipelines are more modest projects to ship gas from Turkey across Greece to Italy -- the Interconnector Turkey-Greece-Italy (ITGI) and the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) -- and both have said they are willing to cooperate with TANAP which would be able to provide them with sufficient supplies. “Nabucco has been an incomplete project since the very beginning,” said Mete Goknel, former director of Turkey’s state-owned pipeline company, Botas, which is one of the Nabucco consortium partners. “Who will ship the gas through the pipeline?” Central Asia is Moscow’s backyard and Russia’s Gazprom has most supply tied up, while sourcing from Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region is fraught given the political frictions with the central government in Baghdad. The EU’s dispute with Tehran over its nuclear programme takes Iran off the list of potential suppliers while unrest in Syria also currently rules it out. Elnur Soltanov, Director of the Caspian Center for Energy and Environment at the Azerbaijani Diplomatic Academy, said recently that the Southeast Europe Pipeline (SEEP) promoted by British energy giant BP provides the best solution. Like Nabucco, the pipeline would head up to Austria to serve more lucrative European markets, but at less cost due to its lower initial capacity and use of existing infrastructure. The EU could present the pipeline as a short-term Nabucco, while its lower capacity would unlikely provoke Russia into a dispute, according to Soltanov. “In the imperfect world of gas pipelines, SEEP represents the best of possible options for all parties involved,” he wrote in a paper for Italy’s International Affairs Institute, calling the the pipeline a “Nabucco Junior.” Analysts point out that even with a major pipeline like Nabucco that Europe’s growing need for gas means that it won’t be able to significantly reduce its dependence on Russia. BP forecasts use of gas for power production in industrialized European countries will jump from around 40 percent currently to 60 percent in 2030, with Europe’s import requirements likely to double by 2030 as a result. Imports accounted for 444 bcm of the 553 bcm of gas the 27 EU member states used 2010, according to Eurostat. ======================

Bahrain kills 4 activists in 24 hrs: Pope Allies With Ayatollahs In Syria Mediation Effort

'Saudis modern gladiators serving US'

Published on May 19, 2012 by RussiaToday

Demonstrations have taken center stage in the Gulf, where tens of thousands rallied in Iran and Bahrain against the latter's integration plans with Saudi Arabia. In Bahrain crowds chanted that their country was 'not for sale', while Tehran said the proposed deal was a plot aimed at wiping the entire state off the map.

Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, US independent researcher talks to RT. She says the United States has typically used Saudi Arabia similar to the Roman Empire used gladiators.

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LAST UPDATEThu, 26 Jan 2012 02:12:09 GMTA Bahraini police car runs over a protester in the town of Sitra south of the capital Manama, bringing the number of the opposition activists murdered at the hands of the regime over the past 24 hours to four, Press TV reports. The victim, identified as Muhammad Ali Ya'qhoub, died from the incident on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, Saudi-backed Bahraini forcers tortured a protester to death. Saeed Fakher's body, which bore horrific signs of torture, was found one day after his arrest. On Tuesday, two other protesters died due to teargas inhalation during an anti-regime rally outside Manama. The Bahraini revolution began in mid-February 2011, when the sheikhdom's public, inspired by the popular revolutions that had toppled the dictators of Tunisia and Egypt, started holding massive peaceful protests. The Bahraini government promptly launched a brutal crackdown on the rallies and called in Saudi-led Arab forces from neighboring Persian Gulf states to assist the suppression campaign. Dozens of people have been killed in the crackdown and the security forces have arrested hundreds, including doctors and nurses accused of treating injured revolutionaries. A report published by an independent committee in November, 2011 found that the ruling Al Khalifa regime had used excessive force against the protesters and accused Manama of torturing political activists, politicians, and demonstrators.


A Tale of Two Countries: Bahrain and Libya
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Published: 15 February, 2012, 00:10
Edited: 16 February, 2012, 12:17

Waving the newly adopted flag, members of the new Libyan military force under the ruling National Transitional Council parade along a main street in the Libyan capital Tripoli on February 14, 2012. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Turkia)
TRENDS: Egypt unrest Arab world protests

TAGS: Conflict, Military, Middle East, Protest, Politics, Opposition, Libya

Society-wide, violent social upheavals triggered throughout the Muslim World were dubbed an “Arab Spring” by the Western governments. But when comparing Libya and Bahrain, the full force of US and European double-standards becomes flagrantly evident.

A year ago, two Muslim countries – Bahrain and Libya – went into “Arab-Spring” mode. Revolt in Bahrain, a country aligned with Western interests, began February 14, 2011. The next day, a revolt followed by war and invasion was unleashed on Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, a sovereign country not aligned with foreign interests.

The question here is: Why were Libya and its leadership so utterly overrun, bombed and murdered by the Western powers using the deceitful UN Resolution 1973 and NATO forces, while Bahrain was meted out soft treatment based on Western understanding, patience and goodwill?

First and foremost, both Bahrain and Libya literally float on OIL.Naturally, the UK, US and French governments – and the boys financing them at Exxon Mobil, Texaco, BP, Shell, Total, ENI, Elf, Chevron – will swear time and again that oil has nothing to do with all of this. That all they want is to see Arabs enjoy “democracy,” “human rights” and “free trade…”!

The Case of Bahrain

Run by a king – Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa – and his uncle, Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the government (almost all manned by the Al Khalifa family) immediately cracked down on protesters with tremendous violence. So much so, that a month later (March 2011) Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates sent in troops to “restore order”… so the US could smile again.

More torture; more bloodletting. An independent report issued last November by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry concluded that the government systematically tortures prisoners, commits gross human rights violations and refuses to allow international human rights organizations into the country. Somehow, that never seems to bother the Obamas, Camerons and Sarkozys of the world.At one point it got so bad that Obama sent his then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to Bahrain to see what was up.

Question: Why send the Pentagon boss and not, for example, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who in mid-March 2011 visited Tunisia and Egypt to ensure those countries installed “the kind of democracy we want to see”?

Answer: Because Bahrain is home to US Naval Forces Central Command’s Fifth Fleet.

So, dear King and PM Al Khalifas: take your time, clobber as many protesters as you need, get your act right, and please make sure our fleet is safe and sound and happy. End of story.
The Case of Libya

Libya was run by a long-governing, popular revolutionary leader – Muammar Gaddafi – who in the last decade of his rule, had begun to re-approach Western Powers, and was implementing a gradual (too gradual!) succession, transferring power to his well-educated and articulate elder son, Saif-al-Islam.

Gaddafi even organized meetings and summits with EU partners, in one of which – an Arab League Summit in his home-town Sirte in September 2010 – Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi even kissed Gaddafi’s ring, Mafia-style!

But all of that came too late. The Gaddafis made the worst mistake any sovereign country can make nowadays: they trusted the Western Powers. Huge lesson there!

Contrary to Bahrain, which houses US Naval forces; or Egypt, which is aligned to Israeli geopolitical interests; or Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and UAE, which are playing fields for Western oil companies, Gaddafi’s Libya kept its oil revenues for the Libyan people. They ran a central bank totally independent of the US Fed, Goldman Sachs, European Central Bank, JP Morgan Chase, HSBC…

They even planned to introduce a gold currency – the Gold Dinar with real intrinsic value – to trade North African oil, which would have swept aside the US Dollar and Euro funny-money paper currencies that have been hugely eroded by the bail-out of the Mega-Bankers running the US, UK and EU, as the Chinese understand so well… In other words, Libya was a sovereign country.

To add insult to injury, once the uprising began a year ago, Gaddafi immediately accused one of the West’s favorite sons: Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda! It seems the Western media forgot to tell you that the very first country that requested that Interpol issue an international arrest warrant against Osama was… Libya!

Yes! Gaddafi ordered that, after Osama and his CIA-trained al-Qaeda boys murdered several Germans in Libya in 1998 (only Sky News seems to have briefly mentioned this on May 2, 2011).

That was long before all the “al-Qaeda bombed our embassies in Kenya and Sudan, blew up the USS Cole, and did 9/11” rhetoric.

Quite embarrassing for the US, UK and Israel!Particularly now that Al-Qaeda is joining forces with Syrian “freedom fighters.” Ah… one can almost see them fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with John McCain and Joe Lieberman, who recently called for the US to “arm Syrian rebels.”

Funny world, isn’t it? All these violent revolts, bombs, civil wars, invasions and murders done in the name of “democracy” and “freedom,” where the Western Powers and their media tell us in glittering lights who are the “good guys” and who the “bad guys” …but, are the Arab people better off today than a year ago?

Are Bahrainis and Egyptians happier today? Are Libyans, Syrians, and Yemenis better off today? Did the “Arab Spring” reach Palestine?Is there more peace, sovereignty and true democracy in the region?

Take a second look at what’s happening in the Middle East and the world; think with your brain and not with the Global Power Masters' – and maybe then things will start looking mighty different!

Adrian Salbuchi for RT

Adrian Salbuchi is a political analyst, author, speaker and radio/TV commentator in Argentina. www.asalbuchi.com.ar

­The statements, views and opinions expressed in the story are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.


Saudi flexes Gulf grip with Bahrain 'union' plans

By BRIAN MURPHY, Associated Press – 19 hours ago

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — During a sermon last week at Bahrain's Grand Mosque, the pro-government prayer leader offered sweeping praise for one of the Arab Spring's counter-revolutions: Gulf rulers bonding together against dissent with powerful Saudi Arabia as their main guardian.

The widening Saudi security stamp on the region is already taking shape in Bahrain, where more than a year of Shiite-led unrest shows no sign of easing and the Saudi influence over the embattled Sunni monarchy is on public display.

Portraits of the Saudi King Abdullah — some showing him praying — dot the airport in Bahrain's capital Manama. Bahrain's red-and-white flag and the green Saudi colors are arranged with crossed staffs. State media continually lauds the Saudi-led military force that rolled into Bahrain last year as reinforcements against the uprising by the kingdom's Shiite majority.

"Gulf union is a long-awaited dream," said Sheik Fareed al-Meftah at Friday prayers in Manama's main Sunni mosque, referring to proposals to coordinate defense affairs and other policies among the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council stretching from Kuwait to Oman.

"The first step is here," al-Meftah added.

Abdullah and Bahrain's king, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, have met to discuss "union" plans, which are expected to be outlined in May. For the moment, few details have emerged. Gulf leaders have stressed the need for greater intelligence and military cooperation. It's unclear, however, how deeply Bahrain and Saudi Arabia will attempt to merge in the first steps.

The increasingly blurred national lines in Bahrain are a possible sneak preview of the wider Arab Spring backlash in the oil-rich Gulf, where Saudi power seeks to safeguard the region's Sunni leadership and its strong opposition to possible attempts by Shiite giant Iran to expand influence. Meanwhile, Gulf rulers have selectively endorsed rebellions elsewhere, such as in Libya and Syria.

So far, the Gulf agenda has dovetailed with Western partners, which unleashed NATO-led airstrikes against Moammar Gadhafi's regime in Libya and are showing increasing support for possible aid to the rebels trying to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad — Iran's key Arab ally.

But Bahrain brings the potential for friction.

Washington has stood behind Bahrain's dynasty for strategic reasons as hosts of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, which is a pillar of the Pentagon's frontline forces against Iran. Yet rights groups and others have increased pressure in the U.S. and Europe to scale back support for Bahrain's rulers, who are struggling against a Shiite majority claiming it faces widespread discrimination and second-class status.

There are no signs of any significant Western reduction in support for Bahrain's dynasty, but the quandaries highlight how the tiny island kingdom has the potential to open rifts between the West and crucial ally Saudi Arabia.

"Bahrain can be looked at as something of a Saudi colony now in the sense that policies are merged," said Toby Jones, an expert on Bahraini affairs at Rutgers University. "But this is more than just a meeting of minds. It's motivated by the fears of the Arab Spring."

While there have been some rumblings of opposition — including protests in Shiite pockets in Saudi Arabia — nothing in the Gulf region has come close to Bahrain's upheaval. More than 45 people have died in the unrest, which includes near daily street clashes that include tear gas from security forces and firebombs from demonstrators. Some rights groups place the death toll above 60.

There have been no confirmed reports of Saudi soldiers directly involved in the crackdowns. But the troops in Bahrain have protected key sites, such as power plants, to free up local police. The military intervention also send a broad message that Saudi considers Bahrain a line that can't be crossed.

Gulf Arab leaders repeatedly claim that Iran is pulling the strings behind Bahrain's Shiite protests, although no clear evidence has been produced to support the allegations. The Gulf bloc fears the fall of Bahrain's 200-year-old Sunni dynasty would give Iran a beachhead in their midst.

Last month, Saudi's King Abdullah claimed "unnamed hands" were behind the upheavals in Bahrain and other unrest against Sunni leaders in the Arab world. Abdullah did not specifically cite Iran, but similar terms have been used by Saudi officials and others in the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

The Saudi defense minister, in an interview published Sunday in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Seyassah, called the regional security force, known as the Peninsula Shield, the " nucleus" of protection against any threats to the Gulf states.

"Iran is our neighbor, but we draw a line when it comes to intervention in our internal affairs," Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz was quoted as saying. "Whenever we feel that anybody is interfering in our internal affairs, through internal mercenaries or people from outside, we will resist it appropriately."

A Bahrain-based economic researcher, Jassim Hussain, said a Gulf union could involve more unified economic help from the super-rich Saudi Arabia to prop up Bahrain, whose role as a regional financial hub has taken a sharp blow from the unrest. In a rare boost for Bahrain's economy in the past year, Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal selected Manama in December as the base for a 24-hour news channel, Alarab.

"Bahrain's rulers have always been dependent on the generosity of Saudi Arabia," said Simon Henderson, a Gulf analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "It's all part of the larger story — the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran for regional power."

Shiite groups in Bahrain, however, were wary that the planned union would leave Saudi Arabia the de facto ruler and further tighten crackdowns on the opposition.

"We welcome the idea of closer Gulf union if the people of nations approve it," said Sheik Ali Salman, head the largest Shiite political group, Al Wefaq. "But if the purpose is just to turn Bahrain into an emirate of Saudi Arabia, then it will not be accepted and it will be disastrous."

Associated Press writers Adam Schreck and Barbara Surk contributed to this report.


The Prince and the Ayatollah
Published: May 1, 2012


When I was invited to visit Bahrain by members of the royal family, I hesitated. They had crushed peaceful protesters last year, and their police had used tear gas against human rights activists. Like everybody else, including some of the Bahraini policemen I later spoke with, I was appalled at the violence and thought the monarchy had blood on its hands. But I felt that declining the offer was irresponsible. I wanted to know the monarchy’s side of the story. So I accepted the invitation — on the condition that I was free to meet Bahrain’s opposition.
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Andrea Bruce for The New York Times

Security forces guarding a landmark in Manama, Bahrain, known as Pearl Square, where protesters stayed for weeks.
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Bahraini Court Orders Retrials for Activists (May 1, 2012)
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Bahrain is a tiny island nation of 600,000 citizens, with a Parliament of only 40 members, and it cannot be understood if looked at in isolation. For one thing, it stands at the forefront of a regional cold war. Saudi Arabia lies to the west, connected by a 25-kilometer causeway built jointly by the Saudis and Bahrainis. To the east, across the waters of the Gulf, lies Iran. Both Tehran and Riyadh have major stakes in Bahrain.

En route to Bahrain, I stopped by in Riyadh and had many conversations with top government officials, journalists and academics. Their views were clear: Saudi Arabia would not stand by and see Bahrain’s ruling al-Khalifa family fall from power. The Saudis sent in soldiers to help the al-Khalifas regain control of Bahrain in March 2011 and are prepared to do so again.

If King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa abdicates, they asked, then who would be next among Arab kings? What consequences would the ensuing chaos have on global energy supplies? If power falls into the hands of the main Shiite opposition group, Bahrain could join Hamas, Hezbollah, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon under the Iranian sphere of influence in the Middle East.

In Bahrain, I was a guest of the king’s son, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, who, in the context of the country’s current political climate, is a liberal’s liberal. Educated in Washington and Cambridge, England, the 42-year-old prince spoke about Britain’s constitutional monarchy, the dire need for political reform in his country, and his yearning for a political settlement with the opposition.

He appeared genuinely contrite about the excesses of the government in Bahrain, but also convinced that the opposition has no vision of how to improve matters. “The path to hell is paved with good intentions,” he said. Constantly, he referred to the need for “evolution” rather than “revolution.”

Within the ruling family, he led the charge for reform last year, but was abandoned by Al Wefaq, the main opposition party, midway through discussions. The party kept changing its demands and the leaders were divided over what they wanted. This strengthened the hand of the more conservative wing of the royal family, led by the conservative, long-serving prime minister, Prince Khalifa bin Sulman al-Khalifa, 74.

The opposition wants the prime minister to resign, but neither the king nor the crown prince can dare ask a family elder to depart in ignominy.

Just as there are divisions within the royal family, there are serious splits in Bahrain’s Shiite political scene. Not all the Shiites in Bahrain want to topple the monarchy. Nor is the opposition composed only of democrats who simply want to oust a monarchy.

Again and again, in villages and in meetings with Shiite opposition figures, one name kept coming up: Ayatollah Issa Qassim, spiritual leader of Al Wefaq, whose writ runs large across the Shiite opposition movement. Educated in Iran, his sermons are generally anti-American, anti-democracy and vehemently pro-Iran. When Iran’s green movement challenged the mullahs in Tehran, Ayatollah Qassim accused the West of “trying to divide an otherwise peaceful country” and of “hatred toward Islam.”

He is also intolerant of Shiites with divergent views back home. Three Shiite members of Bahrain’s Parliament explained to me the consequences of daring to challenge Ayatollah Qassim. When they decided not to honor Al Wefaq’s call to boycott elections last October, Al Wefaq-controlled mosques called on people to attack them; firebombs were thrown at their homes and their children were harassed on the streets. They live in fear for their lives, and they are not alone.

Ayatollah Qassim’s supporters not only undermined the crown prince’s efforts at reconciliation, but in recent weeks have taken to rioting in villages across Bahrain. In Sitra, one such village outside Manama, I spoke in Arabic with a police official, a Shiite, who said: “I am Bahraini before I am Shiite. We must live as Bahrainis and do what’s right for our country, and not be controlled by Iran’s clerics.”

Like Bahraini Sunnis, the official felt the monarchy was not giving him the means to respond to the rioters. They have no guns, he complained, which left them at the mercy of rioters with home-made arrows and Molotov cocktails. “Last year, my colleagues in the army and interrogation units were wrong to torture protesters,” he said. “But what about the attacks on us now? How are we do defend ourselves?”

Ayatollah Qassim has not called on his supporters to cease violence against the police, government and dissenting Shiite leaders. Instead, he has demanded that Jawad Hussain, one of the legislators I spoke with, and other dissenting Shiite political leaders and clerics come to the ayatollah’s mosque during Friday services and publicly repent for betraying “the community.”

Ayatollah Qassim’s message does not justify the torture and human rights violations exercised by the government of Bahrain. The demands of the opposition for an end to discrimination in government jobs and for greater political freedoms are valid. But calls for greater human rights must not be selective. Last year the opposition blocked bills that gave women equality and freedom in Bahrain because the ayatollahs opposed it, while the monarchy and Sunni parties supported it.

Bahrain is an important nation because it is a focal point of what is happening in the Middle East today — the battle to find a balance between preserving the best values of the Islamic tradition while the region eases its way into the modern world.

It is crucial that Western nations help the country achieve this balance, and that they not provide diplomatic cover for rioters and clerics in the name of human rights and democracy.

Instead, they should be using every pressure point to strengthen the reformist strands within the monarchy in support of political change, equal rights for women and an end to the language of Shiite sectarianism in Bahrain. Negotiations around the political table are the only way forward in Bahrain.

Ed Husain is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. ============ Pope Allies With Ayatollahs In Syria Mediation Effort Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives to lead his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican, Oct. 17, 2012. (photo by REUTERS/Tony Gentile) By:Nidal al-Lithi posted on Friday, Oct 19, 2012 Pope Benedict XVI has started mediating to solve the crisis in Syria, with the support of the religious authority Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani — the highest authority of Najaf — and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Qom's highest authority. Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's number two official, said that the delegation would travel to Damascus next week. About this Article Summary: A Vatican delegation plans to head to Damascus next week to help mediate the increasingly bloody conflict in Syria, reports Nidal al-Lithi, and apparently has the support of Iraq and Iran's religious authorities, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Publisher: Azzaman (Iraq) Original Title: Pope Starts Mediation for Syria with Support of Al-Sistani and Khamenei. SNC Reveals to Azzaman Content of its Letter to Vatican for the First Time Author: Nidal al-Lithi Published on: Thu, Oct 18, 2012 Translated on: Fri, Oct 19, 2012 Translated by: Sami-Joe Abboud Categories : Syria George Sabra, a member of the executive committee of the Syrian National Council (SNC), told Azzaman that the council warmly welcomes the visit of the Vatican delegation. He said [the SNC] welcomed the role of the Pope. Sabra revealed to Azzaman the content of a letter he and Abdul-Basit Sida, head of the SNC, delivered to the Pope during their meeting at the Vatican last month. Sabra said the papal delegation's visit to Damascus is part of a broader move involving Iran and Iraq. Meanwhile, the Vatican’s ambassador in Baghdad, Giorgio Lingua, met with Sistani during his visit to Najaf. Raad Jalil, head of the Christian Endowment office, told Azzaman that the topics discussed between the Vatican ambassador and the highest authorities of Najaf did not include political issues. When asked by Azzaman about the planned visit of the Vatican’s ambassador in Baghdad to Tehran to meet with the Iranian leader Ali Khamenei, Jalil said he did not know of the matter. The Italian Cardinal Bertone said that the bishops cannot remain idle when there is a tragedy that won't end politically. He stressed that the delegation would encourage all parties who have committed themselves to search for an agreement that respects the rights and duties of all, with particular attention to the provisions of humanitarian law. However, Sabra told Azzaman: “We are optimistic about the papal envoy's visit to Syria, following the Pope’s visit to Lebanon and his apostolic guidance to the Middle East, in which he said that what is happening in Syria is part of the Arab Spring.” Sabra stressed that Christians are part of Syrian society and they share in the suffering. He added: “We hope that the visit of the papal envoy will be a continuation of what was started by the Apostolic Exhortation, and we hope that [the Pope] makes another step toward solidarity with the Syrian people, all the while ensuring a peaceful and democratic transition of power in which Christians will have a role.” Sabra added: “Sida — head of the SNC — and I have met with the Pope and explained to him the suffering of the Syrians, and we delivered a letter to him regarding this painful situation.” Asked by Azzaman about the demands delivered to the Pope, Sabra said: “We did not ask for any specific demands.” He also added that the Vatican cardinals do not lack wisdom in dealing with such things, as they are fully aware of the situation. The Pope’s Spokesperson Father Federico Lombardi said that the protocol for the visit would be announced soon. Lombardi added that the mission highlights the commitment of the Church as a whole and will include — in addition to the Vatican's foreign minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who is responsible for inter-religious dialogue — high-level figures from different countries, including Archbishop of Kinshasa, the Congolese Laurent Monsengwo who played a major role in the peace efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Colombian Fabio Suescún Mutis, Vietnamese Joseph Nguyen Nang and American Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, who has began to climb to prominence within church circles. A Syrian bishop noted that this announcement had surpassed all expectations of Arab bishops, who constantly expressed during the Synod their fears of Islamic dominance, which raised doubts about the possibility of conducting a real dialogue. For a long time, the majority of Catholics in Syria were in favor of the secular regime of Bashar al-Assad, who was protecting their rights as a minority. However, the increasing repression led some of them to join the opposition, but another part is seemingly still supporting the regime for fear that Islamists will come to power. But the Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai objected, telling AFP: “I tell Westerners who say that Christians are with the Syrian regime that the Christians are with the state, not with the regime. They are worried about the stability of their country, not the stability of the regime.” Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics/2012/10/pope-benedict-ayatollah-sistani-to-mediate-syria-crisis.html#ixzz29tMX8wAy =============