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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Four die in NATO plane crash in Afghanistan

Four die in NATO plane crash in Afghanistan Sat, Apr 27 14:21 PM EDT KABUL (Reuters) - Four members of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were killed on Saturday when their plane crashed in southern Afghanistan, the coalition said in a statement. ISAF said there was no insurgent activity in the area when the plane went down over the volatile province of Zabul. The province's police chief Rogh Lewanai told Reuters that bad weather caused the plane to crash, in the district of Shahjoi. Zabul, wedged between Kandahar and Ghazni, has seen much violence over recent weeks, including a suicide bomb attack in early April which killed a young U.S. diplomat, several U.S. soldiers and an unnamed U.S. civilian. Dozens of Afghan civilians have also been killed there this month. (Reporting by Mirwais Harooni and Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Stephen Powell) Iraq watchdog suspends 10 TV channels for inciting violence Sun, Apr 28 11:19 AM EDT BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq has suspended the licenses of satellite news network Al Jazeera and nine other channels, accusing them of inciting violence through their coverage of recent sectarian clashes. The Communication and Media Commission (CMC) regulator criticized their reporting of violence triggered by a security forces raid on a Sunni Muslim protest camp in Hawija on Tuesday. None of the channels was immediately available for comment. More than 170 people have been killed in the fighting - the worst Iraq has seen since Sunnis started staging protests in December to complain about their treatment by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government. The watchdog said sectarian language used in the reports encouraged "criminal acts of revenge by attacking the security forces". "The CMC sees in the speech and content propagated by the channels...an incitement and escalation which leans towards misleading and exaggeration more than towards objectivity," the watchdog said in a statement published on Sunday. Most of the channels, including local stations such as "Baghdad" and "al-Sharqiya", are pro-Sunni and often critical of the Shi'ite-led government. Al Jazeera is based in Qatar, a Sunni-ruled kingdom. The watchdog is powerless to stop the channels broadcasting, but may make it harder for their local staff to cover events. Media rights group the Iraqi Journalistic Freedoms Observatory said the CMC was biased, as some officials in the body had been appointed by the government. "We do not deny there is an incitement to violence by some media outlets, but we consider the suspension of licenses of 10 satellite channels a blow for democracy," the Observatory's Executive Director Ziyad al-Ajili told Reuters. Last June, the CMC ordered the closure of 44 media outlets including the BBC and Voice of America. It does not have the power to stop them broadcasting from overseas. Violence, including bomb attacks that have killed dozens of people at a time, has increased across Iraq this year. Provisional figures from rights group Iraq Body Count indicate about 1,365 people have been killed so far in 2013. (Reporting by Aseel Kami; Editing by Isabel Coles and Angus MacSwan)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

38 killed in psychiatric hospital fire near Moscow

Get short URL Published time: April 26, 2013 00:50 Edited time: April 26, 2013 03:54 At least 38 people have been killed after a fire erupted in a psychiatric hospital on the outskirts of Moscow that housed as many as 41 people, including medical staff. The fire started around 2:30 am Moscow Time (22:30 GMT) in Psychiatric hospital 14 in Ramenskoe. By the time fire rescue arrived, the entire one-story building was engulfed in flames. The fire started in a wing housing special treatment patients. One nurse managed to escape the blaze, bringing two patients out of the building to safety where they were found by firefighters. The nurse told reporters that she was woken up by the fire alarm, and ran into the hallway where she noticed a chair burning. She remembers seeing a flash, she said. Photo from mchs.gov.ru Firefighters found the bodies of 12 dead, according to ITAR-TASS. Four were found near the exit of the hospital, while eight others were found in the wards. The hospital had bars on its windows, preventing people from escaping. Most of the bodies were found still in their beds.
“The fire started when they were asleep,” a law enforcement source told TASS, adding that people had little chance to escape. “Some of them tried to escape but were poisoned by the products of combustion," he said, using a technical term for smoke. The fire, meanwhile, has now been fully extinguished but the building "burned down almost completely.”
The fire, meanwhile, has now been fully extinguished.
“Some windows had bars, some did not,” doctor-in-chief of the facility, Murat Shahov told lifenews. He said that only two patients in the facility could not walk, the rest suffered severe psychological illnesses. “There were patients with acute psychosis, alcoholics and one drug addict. We also had patients with schizophrenia.”
Authorities point to faulty electric wiring and a short circuit as the possible cause. Forty five police have cordoned off the area and are investigating the cause of the fire. Currently there are 120 people working at the site of the tragedy, including 30 pieces of machinery. According to the Ministry of Health 18 ambulances were on site. The Emergencies Ministry has published a list of 41 patients and medical staff who were inside the facility when the fire started (full list in Russian). The patients ranged in age from 20 to 76. The two medical staff listed as “to be verified” are believed to be dead. Fire inspectors have made two visits to the hospital in 2012. During the first visit, a number of fire safety violations were found that were later fixed in time for the second inspection in August that same year. “Primary inspections discovered routine violations: no lampshades on lamps, exit signs were not everywhere, difficult reach fire water supply. In August 2012, they had a re-inspection - all violations had been corrected," Yuri Deshevih from the Emergency Ministry told RIA. Tragic history of fires in medical facilities Tragic blazes in medical facilities are common in Russia with at least 18 cases registered in the past seven years. One of the most notable was in 2009 in the Russian Republic of Komi, where a blaze in an old people’s home in the region took the lives of 23 people. Only three were saved in the incident. Two years earlier, a fire in the city of Tula, again in a home for elderly care, resulted in 32 victims. Luckily 247 patients, including medical staff were saved. That same year, in 2007, another inferno in a care home claimed the lives 61 of victims. Only 35 people were saved. ==================
"One of the patients who survived the fire told investigators that when he woke up, the blaze had already begun and a couch in a common room was burning. He added that a new patient was recently admitted who suffered from drug addiction and constantly smoked, disregarding safety rules"
=================== Fire kills dozens in Russian psychiatric hospital Fri, Apr 26 11:15 AM EDT 1 of 11 By Alexei Anishchuk RAMENSKY, Russia (Reuters) - Thirty-eight people were killed, most of them in their beds, in a fire that raged through a psychiatric hospital near Moscow on Friday, raising questions about the care of mentally ill patients in Russia. The fire, which broke out at around 2 a.m. (6 p.m. ET on Thursday), swept through a single-storey building at the hospital, a collection of wood and brick huts with bars on some windows that was home to people sent there on grounds of mental illness by Russian courts. By mid morning, a few blackened walls were left standing. The roof had caved in on top of the twisted metal frames of what were once beds. Bodies lay on nearby grass, covered with blankets. Only three people escaped from the fire in the village of Ramensky, 120 km (70 miles) north of Moscow, prompting speculation the patients were heavily sedated or strapped down. Irina Gumennaya, aide to the head of the chief investigative department of the Moscow region, dismissed suggestions they had been restrained as "rubbish" but promised blood tests to check whether there were high levels of sedatives. "The wards ... did not have doors, the patients could have escaped from the building by themselves," she said, adding that she believed the most likely cause of the blaze was patients smoking, or perhaps a short circuit. Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said none of the patients were strapped down or subjected to "any such measures that would not have allowed them to react quickly," the state-run RIA news agency reported. President Vladimir Putin called for an investigation of the "tragedy", the latest in a long line of disasters at state institutions that are often ill-funded. Russia's safety record is dismal, accounting for a high death toll on roads, railways and in the air as well as at the workplace. Psychiatrists said the fire was not the first and would not be the last of its kind. "(This happened) because of dilapidated buildings in psychiatric hospitals - a third of the buildings since 2000 have been declared unfit, according to health standards," Yuri Savenko, president of the independent psychiatric association of Russia, told Reuters. Furthermore, junior and middle-ranking staff had miserable salaries and "because of that the staff were asleep", he said. Legal standards governing Russian psychiatric patients "are on the whole satisfactory and on par with European standards, but compliance with them is very weak," lawyer Dmitry Agranovsky said. RUSSIA - "THE MADHOUSE" Putin's critics blamed the state for neglecting its most vulnerable people. "Terrible news ... Those patients who burned were there because they were forced to have treatment," said Dmitry Olshansky, former editor of Russian Life, an online journal. "I read all this and I wonder - what does this remind us of? And then I remember - this is our motherland, the madhouse. Flood, fire, bars on windows ... and we cannot deal with it," he said on his Facebook site. Officials said the blaze consumed the building quickly and firefighters had no chance to save any more people - an account that locals disputed, saying fire engines took more than an hour to reach the scene. "Don't trust anyone who says they (firemen) arrived quickly ... My wife woke me up, we went out on the street with our daughter. Flames were rising high," said a man, who was drinking an early-morning beer at a friend's garage nearby. Asked why the building caught fire, Alexander Yefimovich, an elderly man said: "Why? It's just the usual nonsense." More than 12,000 people were killed in fires in 2011 and more than 7,700 in the first nine months of 2012 in Russia, where the per capita death rate from fires is much higher than in Western nations including the United States. (Additional reporting by Ludmila Danilova, Maria Tsvetkova and Steve Gutterman; writing by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Timothy Heritage, Philippa Fletcher and Giles Elgood) ============== Dozens dead in psych ward fire near Moscow, 3 survive Get short URL Published time: April 26, 2013 00:50 Edited time: April 26, 2013 12:08 Emergency response team working on the fire scene at a mental hospital in the village of Ramensky. (RIA Novosti/Andrey Stenin) Share on Tumblr Download video (4.23 MB) Embed Tags Health, Russia, Accident, Yulia Shapovalova, Tom Barton, Marina Kosareva, Medicine At least 36 people have been killed in a fire at a psychiatric hospital on the outskirts of Moscow that housed as many as 41 people, including medical staff. A nurse and two patients were the only survivors. Russia’s Investigative Committee has opened a criminal investigation into the fire, reporting that 36 people died, including two nurses. However, the Emergency Ministry has said that 38 died in the blaze. Authorities point to faulty electric wiring and a short circuit as the possible cause. But, the investigators are looking into all possible causes of the fire, “including careless use of fire", Investigative Committee representative Irina Gumennaya told the media. The fire started around 2:30 am Moscow Time (22:30 GMT) in Psychiatric Hospital 14 in Ramenskoe in a wing for special treatment patients. By the time fire rescue arrived, the entire one-story building was engulfed in flames. The fire burned an area of about 420 square meters. One nurse managed to escape the blaze, bringing one patient out of the building to safety, while another patient managed to get out on his own. The nurse told reporters that she was woken up by the fire alarm, and ran into the hallway where she saw a couch burning. She remembers seeing a flash. Emergency response team eliminates fire at Mental Hospital No. 14 in the village of Ramensky of the Dmitrovsky District in the Moscow Region (RIA Novosti/Press-service of Russian Emergency Situations Ministry) Authorities have recovered 36 bodies at the scene. "Seven died from carbon monoxide poisoning, while others perished from burns", Gumennaya said. The Emergency Ministry reported that 38 people were found dead. Journalists are still not allowed close to the fire site, as rescuers are wrapping up their work. Experts have begun to identify the dead bodies at a local hospital, the Emergency Ministry reported. Rescuers found eight of the dead bodies by the exit inside the psychiatric hospital, suggesting that they were trying to escape but were prevented by the effects of carbon monoxide, RIA Novosti reported, quoting a source close to the investigation. Firefighters were delayed getting to the scene because of a closed river crossing – the trip took an hour instead of the expected 20 minutes, local media reported. “We got to the scene before the firefighters did and the doors were closed, so we broke them down. When we got inside we saw one person on the floor already dead from the smoke”, one of the first witnesses on the scene told local media. The hospital had bars on its windows, preventing people from escaping. Most of the bodies were found still in their beds. “The fire started when they were asleep,” a law enforcement source told TASS, adding that people had little chance to escape. “Some of them tried to escape but were poisoned by the products of combustion," he said. The fire, meanwhile, has now been fully extinguished but the building "burned down almost completely.” Emergency response team working on the fire scene at a mental hospital in the village of Ramensky. (RIA Novosti/Andrey Stenin) “Some windows had bars, some did not,” doctor-in-chief of the facility, Murat Shakhov told LifeNews tabloid. He said that only two patients in the facility could not walk, the rest suffered severe psychological illnesses. “There were patients with acute psychosis, alcoholics and one drug addict. We also had patients with schizophrenia.” Forty five police have cordoned off the area and are investigating the cause of the fire. Currently there are 120 people working at the site of the tragedy, including 30 pieces of machinery. According to the Ministry of Health 18 ambulances were on site. Emergency response team working on the fire scene at a mental hospital in the village of Ramensky. (RIA Novosti/Andrey Stenin) A half-meter-long tunnel was discovered dug out under the burned hospital, suggesting that one of the patients may have been planning an escape, according to Interfax. Investigators reported that the fire started in the hospital’s common room. "One of the patients who survived the fire told investigators that when he woke up, the blaze had already begun and a couch in a common room was burning. He added that a new patient was recently admitted who suffered from drug addiction and constantly smoked, disregarding safety rules", Gumennaya added. Another eyewitnesses described how firefighters could not extinguish the blaze due to a lack of water: “The first car arrived without water. Then another came – also empty. It was only the third car that had water,” local resident Yefim Volkov told the media. Emergency response team working on the fire scene at a mental hospital in the village of Ramensky. (RIA Novosti/Andrey Stenin) Some sources claimed that the patients were unable to escape the building in time because they were sedated by powerful drugs, Korrespondent.net reported. One of the firefighters at the scene told reporters that the"building itself was all wooden, which made it easier for the fire to spread”. The Emergencies Ministry has published a list of 41 patients and medical staff who were inside the facility when the fire started (full list in Russian). The patients ranged in age from 20 to 76. The two medical staff listed as “to be verified” are believed to be dead. Fire inspectors made two visits to the hospital in 2012. During the first visit, a number of fire safety violations were found that were later fixed in time for the second inspection in August that same year. Relatives of those killed in the fire will be paid 500,000 rubles ($16,000) in compensation, RIA Novosti quoted Moscow regional governor Andrey Vorobyov as saying. Moscow declared April 27 to be a day of mourning for those killed in the psychiatric hospital fire.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Exclusive: Looming divorce could threaten oil baron's empire

Exclusive: Looming divorce could threaten oil baron's empire Thu, Mar 21 21:01 PM EDT 1 of 2 By Brian Grow and Joshua Schneyer ATLANTA/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Continental Resources chief executive Harold Hamm, one of America's wealthiest and most influential businessmen, is embroiled in a contentious divorce that could lead to a record financial settlement and threaten his control of America's fastest-growing oil company. Sue Ann Hamm, Harold Hamm's second wife and a former executive at Continental, filed for divorce on May 19, 2012, Oklahoma court records show. Documents in the case are sealed. But in a March 7, 2013 filing obtained by Reuters, Sue Ann Hamm alleges that Harold "was having an affair" that she discovered in 2010, prompting her to later file for divorce. Harold Hamm, 67, is a leading force behind the U.S. oil boom and served as the senior energy adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign. Time magazine named him one of the most influential people in the world, and Forbes listed him last year among the 50 richest Americans. Ranked No. 35, Hamm is worth $11.3 billion, the magazine estimated. His estranged wife, Sue Ann Hamm, 56, has held key posts at Continental. She has led oil-industry trade groups in Oklahoma, testified to Congress on behalf of Continental and created Continental's oil and gas marketing units. She is no longer with the company, her lawyer said. The Hamms were married in April 1988 and have two adult children, Jane and Hilary. Harold Hamm has three children from a prior marriage that ended in divorce in 1987. Whether the Hamms signed a prenuptial agreement is unclear. Legal analysts who reviewed court filings said that without one, the case could lead to a record-breaking financial settlement - one that could exceed the $1.7 billion paid by News Corp. founder and chairman Rupert Murdoch to ex-wife Anna in 1999. One outcome could be a split of "marital property" that may include dividing Harold Hamm's controlling 68 percent stake in Continental, currently worth $11.2 billion. "I don't know of anything that's ever been this big," said Barbara Atwood, professor emeritus of family law at the University of Arizona. "There's just so much money involved." Continental was subpoenaed in the case last summer, and it was ordered by the Oklahoma court to hand over documents late last year. Four other companies controlled by Hamm also were subpoenaed. A review of Continental's Securities and Exchange Commission filings and company statements shows no mention of the divorce proceedings. Although corporate governance scholars said Continental had no legal obligation to disclose the Hamms' divorce proceedings to shareholders, "It's a lawsuit that involves a potential impact on the controlling shareholder," said Charles Elson, director of The Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware. "Certainly, it would be relevant to an investor if there is going to be or could be a shift in control." After receiving inquiries from Reuters, Continental put out a news release acknowledging the divorce case. The fight, the company said, "is not anticipated to have any impact or effect on the company's business or operations." Hamm couldn't be reached for comment. An attorney for Sue Ann Hamm declined to comment, citing a confidentiality agreement governing the case. After the pending divorce was confirmed by Hamm on Thursday, Continental shares fell by 2.9 percent to $86.17 in afternoon trading. Hamm, the 13th child of Oklahoma sharecroppers, started his career at age 20, scrubbing scum out of oil barrels. A few years later, he drilled a 75-barrel-a-day gusher in his home state, helping pay for university classes in geology. He founded Continental in 1967, two decades before he and the former Sue Ann Arnall were married. She is an economist and a lawyer. Hamm's biggest breakthrough came in the 1990s, when he helped discover the Bakken field of North Dakota, the largest new U.S. oil prospect since the 1960s. The discovery helped Continental lead a resurgence in U.S. oil production, using the controversial drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The technique pumps water laden with sand and chemicals underground to release previously unreachable oil reserves. Today, the Bakken yields nearly 700,000 barrels a day, roughly 10 percent of American output. Continental controls more than 1 million acres in the formation, which stretches from North Dakota to Montana. The firm also owns oil and gas rights in several other states, including Oklahoma. Continental has said the entire Bakken field - being developed by several companies - may contain 24 billion barrels of oil. That would be enough to meet U.S. oil demand for more than three years. Drilling by Continental alone added 649 million barrels to the company's proved oil reserves between 2008 and 2012. The firm says it controls drilling leases to more oil-rich Bakken acres than any other company, helping to make Hamm the largest oil baron in the United States. Hamm directly controls 126.3 million shares, or 68 percent, of Oklahoma City-based Continental and more through family trusts. Those shares alone are worth at least $11.2 billion. But his stake in Continental could change significantly as a result of a divorce settlement. The firm's massive growth occurred during the marriage. Its share price has surged nearly 500 percent in the five years since an initial public offering in 2007. Under Oklahoma family law, wealth accrued through the efforts of either spouse during a marriage would typically be subject to "equitable distribution" between the parties. "A court in Oklahoma may look closely at what each party has contributed," said legal specialist Atwood. "But it sounds to me like both spouses here were working hard in the business." "Where there are concerns about company control in a settlement, a spouse would usually get paid the value of the shares," she said. "This is going to be really interesting." Court records show that Sue Ann Hamm petitioned for divorce in May 2012. But earlier Oklahoma court records suggest the Hamms' relationship has been rocky. In 1998, Harold Hamm filed for divorce and demanded that Sue Ann undergo a psychological evaluation. He later withdrew the divorce petition and the case file was ordered destroyed this year, on February 13, according to Oklahoma court records. What prompted the destruction of the file is unclear. In 2005, Sue Ann Hamm subsequently filed for divorce; that case also was dropped. Her 2005 divorce filing is now a key issue in the Hamms' divorce battle, according to a court document reviewed by Reuters. Indeed, it could play a pivotal role in determining how property - including interest in Continental - will be divided, legal analysts said. According to Harold Hamm, the couple "actually separated in the fall of 2005 and have lived separate lives ever since," the court document says. But Sue Ann Hamm's attorneys counter that the Hamms "continued to reside together (although they do own four homes), travel together, attend public functions together, raise their children together, file joint tax returns, and work together." In May 2012, for instance, Harold and Sue Ann Hamm jointly hosted a fundraiser for Republican presidential candidate Romney at their $3 million mansion in Nichols Hills, Oklahoma, according to photos and media reports. The event raised more than $2 million for the Romney campaign. Last September, Reuters reported that Harold Hamm had made political contributions that exceeded federal legal limits by as much as 41 percent during the 2011-2012 election period. Continental said at the time that the donations were made from an account held jointly by Harold and Sue Ann Hamm and were intended to be split between Hamm and his wife, which would have kept the donations within legal limits. In 2011, Harold and Sue Ann Hamm also jointly gave $20 million to a diabetes center at the University of Oklahoma named for Harold Hamm, who has Type II diabetes. The same year, the couple signed up for Warren Buffett and Bill Gates' Giving Pledge initiative, indicating their intention to dedicate most of their wealth to philanthropy. In a court filing two weeks ago, Sue Ann Hamm's attorneys say the Hamms agreed "to engage in marriage counseling sessions in an effort to save their marriage" in November 2010, after Sue Ann Hamm concluded that her husband had been unfaithful. Whether the Hamms separated in 2005 or more recently is crucial as the court determines how Harold Hamm's assets will be divided, legal analysts said. Under Oklahoma family law, the increase in the value of an asset during marriage is considered part of the total pool of "marital property." "In general, if you own property prior to the marriage and you bring it to the marriage, it is separate," said Marianne Blair, a professor of family law at the University of Tulsa. "But that separate property can increase in value. To the extent the increase was due to marital efforts or marital funds," it can be divided by the court. Hamm divorced his first wife, Judith Ann, in 1987, according to Oklahoma court records. A document filed by Sue Ann Hamm's attorneys in the current case shows they received access to marital records in the prior divorce in March. Attorneys for both Hamms will present evidence about when the couple separated and the resulting "date of valuation of (the) business" on May 20, according to the court docket. What's decided could help determine whether their divorce settlement rivals the largest reported divorce settlement to date - the $1.7 billion paid by Murdoch to his ex-wife Anna in 1999. That settlement, in California, directly affected shareholders of News Corp. because it awarded Murdoch's three eldest children stakes in the voting shares of the company. Reports of the Murdoch divorce sent News Corp. shares lower. Daniel Jaffe, a family law attorney in Beverly Hills, California who represented Anna Murdoch, declined to discuss the Murdoch case. But after reviewing the court docket and document obtained by Reuters in the Hamm case, he said Sue Ann Hamm's decades of work for Continental was unique compared with most divorce cases. "She has a leg up because she worked for the company and she can claim that a portion of her efforts went into making the company what it is today," Jaffe said. "She was married to him when the value of the company went up. She has got to be looking for a couple of billion dollars." (Reporting by Brian Grow in Atlanta and Joshua Schneyer in New York; additional reporting by Jeanine Prezioso; editing by Blake Morrison and Michael Williams.) ============== Iraq Kurdistan doubles oil exports, shuns Baghdad 23 Apr 2013 - 16:48 * Trade via Turkey rises to nearly 60,000 bpd * Higher crude, condensate flows seen in May * Select Energy buys second Taq Taq crude cargo * Third Taq Taq cargo to be offered for second week May By Peg Mackey LONDON, April 23 (Reuters) - Iraqi Kurdistan's oil exports to world markets, deemed illegal by Baghdad, have doubled since the start of the year and flows from the autonomous region are set to rise higher still. Crude and condensates are being trucked over Iraq's northern border with Turkey, bypassing Iraq's federal pipeline system, in trade that's risen to nearly 60,000 barrels per day (bpd), say industry sources. Rates next month are expected to touch 70,000 bpd, which would require loading about 350 tanker trucks each day. "This trade is here and here to stay," said a source familiar with Kurdish oil operations. "But the ramp up has been more logistical – getting the requisite types and numbers of trucks and tanks – than political." Kurdish crude had been moving to world markets through a Baghdad-controlled pipeline to Turkey, but Kurdish exports via that route dried up last year due to a row over payments. The central government is still using it to ship its own oil to Turkey. Small amounts of condensate, or light oil, kicked off Kurdistan's direct trade last October and the first cargo of crude from the Taq Taq oilfield was exported earlier this month. [ID:nL5N0CS303] A second cargo of Taq Taq was bought by Germany's Select Energy and is expected to sail from Turkey next week, market sources said. A third Taq Taq cargo is being offered for the second week of May. Roughly a third of Kurdistan's current production - 170,000 bpd of crude and 15,000 bpd of condensates - is now being exported. And Kurdistan could be in a position to shift significantly more volume within months after a new pipeline is completed. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is on track to finish the pipeline in the third quarter, linking the Taq Taq oilfield with the existing Iraq-Turkey crude pipeline. [ID:nL5N0D3109] The move is likely to bring the payment row with Baghdad to a head and Turkey has said it could play an active role in settling the dispute. Oil lies at the heart of a feud between the central government and Kurdistan. Baghdad says it alone has the right to control exports and sign deals, while the Kurds say their right to do so is enshrined in Iraq's federal constitution. Iraq's central government says Kurdistan is expected to provide 250,000 bpd towards Iraq's 2013 oil export target of 2.9 million bpd. In 2012, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was to contribute 175,000 bpd to the federal budget, but supplied an average of only 61,000 bpd - roughly what it is now exporting independently. Iraqi Oil Minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi said in January the ministry of oil intended to sue Anglo-Turkish firm Genel Energy and other companies for the export of crude from Kurdistan. [ID:nL6N0ALCLB] At the same time, Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO) sent letters warning customers not to touch any oil that had not been marketed by SOMO. Major oil firms with interests in southern Iraq have opted not to participate in tenders offering Kurdish crude and condensate to avoid angering Baghdad. But buyers of Kurdish condensate have faced no major repercussions, with one notable exception - trading house Trafigura, which was banned from Iraq in December. [ID:nL5E8NBC44] The KRG says the Kurdish oil is being swapped for refined products with a private Turkish company with no cash involved. Kerosene and diesel are now moving into Kurdistan, said industry sources, with gasoline expected at a later stage. (Additional reporting by Julia Payne; editing by Jason Neely) ((peg.mackey@thomsonreuters.com)(+44 207 542 7714)(Reuters Messaging: peg.mackey.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net)) Keywords: IRAQ KURDISTAN/OIL ====================== At least 26 killed as Iraqi forces raid Sunni protest camp inShare1Share this Email Print Related NewsUp to 500 feared dead in Damascus suburb: activists Mon, Apr 22 2013 Assad's forces kill 85 in Damascus suburb, activists say Sun, Apr 21 2013 Bahrain stages F1 race amid protests, heavy security Sun, Apr 21 2013 Bahrain F1 race to go ahead amid tensions, protests Sat, Apr 20 2013 Bombs, mortars fail to stop first Iraq vote since U.S. exit Sat, Apr 20 2013Analysis & OpinionBoston and the future of Islam in America Radical Pakistani cleric tries his hand at politics, striking fear in Shi’ites Related TopicsWorld » BAGHDAD | Tue Apr 23, 2013 4:39am EDT BAGHDAD (Reuters) - At least 26 people were killed when Iraqi security forces stormed a Sunni Muslim anti-government protest camp near Kirkuk on Tuesday, starting a gun battle between troops and protesters, local officials and military sources said. Iraq's defense ministry had no official death toll and said troops responded after coming under fire from gunmen in the makeshift camp in a public square in Hawija, near Kirkuk, 170 km (100 miles) north of the capital. Protest leaders said they were unarmed when security forces opened fire during the early morning raid. Demonstrators and local officials gave conflicting accounts of the number of casualties but at least three military sources said six troops and 20 demonstrators were killed in the clashes. Thousands of Sunni Muslims have staged regular protests for months in several Iraqi provinces to demand an end to perceived marginalization of their sect by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government. Many Sunnis say they have been sidelined since the U.S.-led 2003 invasion that ousted Sunni strongman Saddam Hussein and allowed the Shi'ite majority to gain power through elections. (Reporting by Suadad al-Salhy; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Louise Ireland) =======================

Friday, April 19, 2013

U.S. near $10 billion arms deal with Israel, Saudi Arabia, UAE

U.S. near $10 billion arms deal with Israel, Saudi Arabia, UAE Fri, Apr 19 15:56 PM EDT By David Alexander WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is finalizing a complex $10 billion arms deal that would strengthen two key Arab allies while maintaining Israel's military edge, defense officials said on Friday ahead of a trip to the Middle East by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The deal, more than a year in the making through a series of coordinated bilateral negotiations, would result in the sale of V-22 Osprey aircraft, advanced refueling tankers and anti-air defense missiles to Israel and 25 F-16 Desert Falcon jets worth nearly $5 billion to the United Arab Emirates. The UAE and Saudi Arabia also would be allowed to purchase weapons with "stand-off" capabilities - those that can be used to engage the enemy with precision at a greater distance, defense officials said. The deal marks the first time the United States has offered to sell tilt-rotor Ospreys to another country, and the "stand-off" weapons would give Saudi Arabia and the UAE a more advanced capability than they have had in the past, said the defense officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "This is one of the most complex and carefully orchestrated arms sale packages in American history," one of the officials said. "That's not just because of the kinds of equipment that we're providing to Israel and Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. It's also a reflection of intensive defense shuttle diplomacy." The announcement comes amid mounting concerns over Iran's nuclear program, with little progress reported at talks this month between Iran and world powers. U.S. officials concede that crippling sanctions have so far failed to force concessions from Tehran, which insists its nuclear program is peaceful. Israel has renewed warnings it reserves the right to resort to military action to stop what it says is Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. ISRAEL'S MILITARY EDGE U.S. defense officials touted the arms deals as the culmination of President Barack Obama's effort to find a way to boost the military capabilities of key Arab allies in light of the threats in the region while still fulfilling the U.S. policy of maintaining Israel's military superiority. "This not only sustains but augments Israel's qualitative military edge in the region," one of the officials said. "This package is a significant advance for Israel. ... This is about giving all three partners in the region added capacity to address key threats that they may face down the road." The announcement of the deal came as Hagel was preparing for his first trip to Middle East since taking office in February. He planned to visit Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE and was expected to continue discussions about the arms sale at stops along the way. Defense officials said the Congress had not been formally notified of the arms sale as part of the approval process. That will come once the different countries finalize their purchase decisions and submit formal letters of request. While the arms negotiations with the different countries were carried out bilaterally, defense officials said they had been transparent with all sides about the effort to boost the military capacities of all sides to address regional threats. Sources familiar with the arms sales plans said Israel had asked to buy five or six V-22 Ospreys, built by Boeing Co and Textron Inc's Bell Helicopter unit, at an estimated price of about $70 million apiece. The UAE also is interested in purchasing the tilt-rotor aircraft, which takes off and lands like a helicopter but flies like a plane, the sources said. But that sale is likely to be included in a separate deal. The United States sold Saudi Arabia 84 F-15 jets for $29 billion in 2010, planes that are now beginning to roll off the assembly line and undergo testing, officials said. (Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Mohammad Zargham) ============= Pentagon in PR fight over F-35 fighter jets’ cyber vulnerabilities Get short URL Published time: April 26, 2013 18:45 Edited time: April 26, 2013 19:22 The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, built by Lockheed Martin Corp. (AFP Photo) Share on Tumblr Tags Military, USA, Planes, Security, Air Force, Hacking The United States Department of Defense is conducting damage control after the head of the Pentagon’s multi-billion dollar F-35 fighter jet program said he has doubts those planes could withstand a sophisticated cyberattack. The F-35 program manager, Air Force Lieutenant General Christopher Bodgan, told the US Senate Armed Service Committee on Wednesday that he was “not that confident” about the security measures that the plane’s manufacturers have allegedly implemented in the costly fleet of airships they’re supplying to the Pentagon. "I'm a little less confident about industry partners to be quite honest with you ... I would tell you I'm not that confident outside the department,” he told the panel. The fleet of F-35s is on schedule to be the most expensive weapons program in the history of the US, but has encountered numerous setbacks along the way. Speaking at a conference in February, Bodgan said that manufacturers Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney were purposely attempting to get as much money possible out of the Pentagon — even if the cost for acquiring and operating the fleet stands to come to close to $1 trillion when all is said and done. “What I see Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney doing today is behaving as if they are getting ready to sell me the very last F-35 and the very last engine and are trying to squeeze every nickel out of that last F-35 and that last engine,” Bogdan said in February at the Australian International Airshow. US Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) asked Bodgan this week to weigh in further, to which the F-35 program manager said relations between the Pentagon and its contractors have been better as of late — even if his suspicions remain about the cybersecurity abilities of the aircraft. “Doing business with both companies has been difficult and is getting better. I was seeing behaviors in which I thought over the next 30 or 40 years were not sustainable for us or either one of those industry partners,” Bodgan said before addressing staff changes that could explain the new attitude. “First and foremost, there have been significant leadership changes at Lockheed Martin over the last few months, all the way up and down the F-35 chain. The deputy program manager, the program manager, the president of Lockheed Martin aero and the CEO have all changed out,” he said. Bodgan’s remarks about the alleged security flaws of the fleet of fighter jets come amid heightened calls for improved national cybersecurity but also at the same time that the computer networks used onboard a $37 billion fleet of Navy warships have been called into question. RT reported earlier this week that a Navy official told Reuters that the fleet’s lead ship, the USS Freedom, was found to be vulnerable to cyberattacks during recent penetration tests. The Pentagon quickly refuted the Reuters article, and the Pentagon’s director of weapons testing said authorities acted to remedy those vulnerabilities as soon as they were discovered. Now the Defense Department is once again answering questions after yet another weapons program has been critiqued for what could be a critical security flaw. Responding to Bodgan’s remarks this week, the Pentagon says that it’s "fully aware of evolving cyber threats and is taking specific action to counter them for all fielded systems, including F-35." "The F-35 is no more or less vulnerable to known cyber threats than legacy aircraft were during their initial development and early production," spokesman Joe DellaVedova tells Reuters. Both manufacturers involved in the building of the aircraft answered questions fielded by Reuters as well, and both downplayed Bodgan’s suspicions. "We take this mission very seriously," says Lockheed spokesman Michael Rein. "We have placed special emphasis on intelligence analysis, characterization and prediction - an intelligence driven response in order to ensure agile response to attack and enhanced resilience of our systems." Matthew Bates, a spokesperson for Pratt & Whitney, adds, "We do not discuss details of our cyber security initiatives, but we have a well-established strategy in place to protect our intellectual property and company private data, as well as our customer's information, against cyber threats.” ===================

Reserves Replacement & Cost: Drilling a $30 Billion Hole in Caspian Sea

Author: sicilian_kan Date posted Apr19th-2013, Friday 14:31 Hub, "There are plenty of dreamers out there - but when it comes to the reality. Selling the entire biz is not that easy with only 2 of 4 assets properly proven up imho." No asset is properly proven up. One only needs to listen to JG recently to understand this. Selling the business before it is proven up is easy. It gives the next man in some opportunity enabling a higher value to be set over the part of the asset that one has proven up already. Whether one can sell the company for good value and to what extent GKP are in control of that process is the $64,000 question. Let's look at this from the next man in perspective: At present, the next man in gets quite a lot. He gets: (a) an under explored Shaikan and AB (b) a very under explored SA; and (c) a very very underexplored BB; in addition to (d) any increase at the macro level e.g. due to the POO going up (e) gas The next man in can therefore pay perhaps too good a price for GKP based on the current value of SH and AB, because he is getting so much opportunity included as well. That opportunity has value. This is what happened when the Genel deal was struck. They paid $1.5/bbl for resources and $6/bbl for 2P reserves. We can debate until the cows come home the precise amount that will be due to companies under the PSC, but it is quite clear that Genel were not paying $6/bbl because it was worth paying that price now and up front for an asset that might take 1-25 years to extract out of the ground for only a little more return over and above what was paid in the first place. No, Genel paid that price because of the opportunity cost to increase what was known, to find and develop something much, much bigger. To convert resources into reserves and to generate more resources. The risk is not, by the way, can GKP sell the whole company. When the time is politically right to sell SH, the KRG would be only too willing to allow GKP to sell SA and BB to a supermajor. I cannot see Hawrami saying "no please Todd, please stay, we don't want Exxon to have SA, we want you". In fact it is far more likely that GKP will be dictated to. Rather the risk is what if anything can GKP retain, and what should we as shareholders want it to retain, assuming that hypothetically the KRG was generous enough to allow us to retain assets. We can all sit here tapping into our computers saying how terrible it would be to not prove up all the assets before sale and how we would all be vastly more rich by holding each asset until its optimal moment. BUT will this actually be the case: - We are not going to get $5/bbl-$6/bbl for each individual asset, SH, AB, SA and BB, once all have been fully proven up. Though yes more oil, and a large amount, will inevitably be found. - But the short to medium term pain on such a route will be high. Unlike a takeover, that money would not go to shareholders. It would go to GKP, who would spend a sizeable amount of it very quickly exploring and developing assets etc. The share price would also be affected by the political and exploratory risks involved, the lack of a proven asset and the likely time delays etc. Most holders here can't wait 1 month, let alone the 3-5 years required to hold on to assets like SA and BB. And there would be more bonuses and share options being handed out and more manipulation of the sp etc. over the years diluting holders and / or dampening sentiment. Also, on asset sales, a special dividend would be taxed at a higher rate and over all sums and not just an individuals capital gain over the annual allowance (or none if on a spread bet). The share price would then not reflect the amount of money coming in. Only with a company sale will this happen, because it is still worth someone else buying a share being bought in a takeover for £8 for £7.75 as there is profit to be had. And if one waits, one gets the full £8. On the other hand it is not worth paying anything near £7.75 for a company with £8 cash coming in. Much of this cash will disappear to the taxman and to the company's coffers and will not be included in the value. So Hub, I am not a dreamer for wanting a sale of the entire company this year. It would suit all parties. Shareholders get fairly rewarded and no longer need to hold large amounts of money at high risk for years to come. Todd gets his pay day. The KRG get supermajors in for all the stakes held by GKP. Personally, I think this situation to be the most likely. It will also sell well to shareholders who will be attracted by the somewhat higher price per bbl oil than the buyer should arguably be paying or which he might pay later. It will be a clean solution, and it will in my view, and contrary to your suggestion, be to our advantage. There will be no arguments about what should happen to the money coming in or deductions along the way. It will go to shareholders who can each choose what to do with it. As for SA being manageable to get into production by GKP alone, how can you say that after just two drills and without seeing the FDP on Shaikan? We just do not know. Now there is lots to achieve in the coming months before a sale (though much less than there was previously). The completion of the pipeline, the conclusion of the court case etc. But it will not be long to wait, I hope, which is why I am here, and there is no guessing as to precisely when the sp will preempt the reality on the ground or what the end figure actually will be. ========== Reserves Replacement & Cost Fordian There is a fascinating article in the FT today re the struggle of the majors to replace their existing reserves, and the vast sums of cash they are spending to do just that. The average reserve replacement ration is at around 93% meaning that generally most company's reserves are declining. -Shell is said to have spent over 5 billion USD attempting to explore in Alaska yet has nothing to show for it. - Chevron's Gorgon LNG project in Oz has ballooned 41% to 52 billion USD so far (Chevron bucks the reserves replacement trend though as they have significantly upgraded over the past few years on the back of multiple gas finds in Oz) - Kashagan in Kazakhstan (phase 1..) has cost 46 billion USD so far (13 billion barrels recoverable). CNN estimated the cost so far to be 116 billion USD! These help put GKP and its resource in perspective. If a route to market is confirmed, then the multiples of billions in terms of value are easy to imagine. The gas issue is well understood and although not easy to deal with, can be effectively dealt with and safely handled. Kashagan has this issue and many others! how about pack ice, radioactive materials (NORM) and incredibly fragile ecosystems? GKP's oil is some of the cheapest to extract and treat for export in the world at between 4 and 6 USD a barrel, whilst in other parts, majors spend up to 25 USD barrel. The value is obvious to all and I'd expect Exxon, Hunt, Afren, MOL, Genel, GKP etc to be in some sort of discussions about they would all handle a single 'super-field'. i.e. rebalance their stakes, and back costs, take the operating role... We all wonder what, if anything, PW are doing on a day to day basis and I believe there is plenty to keep them busy behind closed doors. Exxon are notoriously secretive so if anything involves them, you can be fairly sure we wont find out until until the cat has been out the bag and run around the city a few times first! ====== Yes, but as the FT report shows, the options for IOC's and their shareholders are quite stark and becoming more so. Either they take the right options or their market cap will suffer greatly, also adding to that the huge risks that drilling in certain enviroments bring (just ask any BP shareholder) to their market cap and investment, certainly again in great contrast to what we have environmentally - politics aside. That still leaves a lot of potential happiness for us between £50 and a "I'll take £8 and run" mantra. Lets hope we all end happy, rather than out of breath, eh. ================ Total production by the top five oil majors has fallen by a quarter since 2004 Posted by Luis de Sousa on April 19, 2013 - 3:09am Topic: Geology/Exploration Tags: bp, chevron, exxon, matthieu auzanneau, shell, total [list all tags] This is a guest post by Matthieu Auzanneau, a freelance journalist in France, author of the Oil Man blog at Le Monde, where this post first appeared. The combined crude oil production of the five main international oil companies (Exxon, BP, Shell, Chevron and Total) hit an historic high in 2004. Since then, it has fallen by 25.8%, despite large increases in investments. Total crude oil produced by the majors was 10.760 million barrels per day (MB/D) in 2004. In 2012, it reached only 7.981 MB/D. It has decreased by 2.779 MB/D in 8 years (-1/4), as I have been able to calculate from figures that appear in the twelve latest annual reports of those five companies. Is this a clear early indication of an imminent decline in the worldwide production of black gold, a phenomenon predicted since 1998 by former oil company scientific executives, from the French Total group in particular? The majors are all facing a decline in their crude oil production, which began in each case before 2007. This comes despite extremely large growth in their investments, allowed by the significant increase in crude oil prices experienced since the late 2000s. Total, for example, has seen its production fall by almost 20% since 2007, although the French giant now has at least 40% more extraction wells. Since 2004, the total oil production by the majors has only increased once, between 2008 and 2009, and by just 0.13 MB/D, despite the unprecedented level of sales and purchases of oil assets experienced in recent years. So-called production sharing contracts, which allocate a larger share of production to the host country when the price per barrel rises, do not appear to explain the lowering of production by the majors, far from it. The production share of the five majors in worldwide production dropped from 13.39% in 2004 to 9.98% in 2011. It diminished further in 2012. Worldwide crude oil production rose by 4% between 2004 and 2011. It has hardly increased at all since 2006, however: since then it has been on an undulating plateau, within a small margin of less than 1.25%. The significant decline in extractions by the majors has been compensated for by the OPEC countries (+ 2.189 MB/D), primarily Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and also by the countries of the former Soviet Union (+ 2.131 MB/D). In the rest of the world, where the majors often occupy the key positions, oil production (excluding agrofuels) has fallen by 1.104 MB/D, once again between 2004 and 2011. In 2012, worldwide production appears to have increased significantly, firstly thanks to the boom in shale oil in the United States; full detailed information is not yet available (to follow). The case of BP Since 2011, the decline in the total production of the majors has been significantly amplified by the sale to the Russian national company Rosneft of parts of the BP group with TNK-BP, an important joint venture established in Russia in 2003. The sale of TNK-BP alone has eliminated around 40% of BP's previous production. This production reached its record level in 2005. If this sale had not taken place, total production by the five majors would have still declined by 17.7% in 8 years, reaching 8.86 MB/D in 2012. And BP's production would still have been in sharp decline. Since 2011, BP has had to sell other major production assets in order to settle the account for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. In this case, as in that of TNK-BP, it is the need to go in search of intact sources of oil in increasingly extreme conditions that has hindered BP's development: the drill site responsible for the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico holds a drilling depth record; the conflict between the TNK-BP shareholders at the root of the sale of parts of BP was about the opportunity of a huge drilling campaign in the Arctic Ocean, where the oil majors, notably BP, have recently met with a number of failures. The "seven sisters" have aged Exxon, Shell, Chevron, BP and Total are still forces to be reckoned within the oil industry, as much for their still considerable outputs, for their investment capacities and technical expertise, as for their strategic role as the preferred providers of consumers in the old Western industrial powers. These Western majors, starting with the most powerful, Exxon, remain, now more than ever, at the top of the ranks of the largest private companies on the planet. The majors came into existence between the late 19th century and the early 20th century. Long dubbed the "seven sisters", they are now only five in number as a result of the mega-mergers that have taken place over the last two decades. Until the 1960s, the Anglo-Saxon majors, as well as the forerunners of the French company Total, largely dominated worldwide production. The OPEC cartel of oil producing countries was created in 1960 to stand up to the restricted and secretive cartel of the "seven sisters", which reigned supreme outside the United States for half a century. Throughout the 1960s, and especially in the 1970s, as the OPEC member countries nationalised their oil fields in the wake of Algeria, Libya and Iraq, the control wielded over production by the Western majors was reduced. The response at the end of the 1970s broadly stabilised the balance of the market share, thanks in particular to the launch of the North Sea and Alaska, two extraction areas that have been in significant decline for more than a decade because of the exhaustion of their crude oil reserves. OPEC is now content with a little over 40% of worldwide production. But it controls more than 70% of the planet's proven reserves. Consequently, as the known oil fields are getting depleted, production should become more and more concentrated in the major OPEC countries, starting (or finishing) with Saudi Arabia, as well as, to a lesser extent, in the former Soviet Union. It seems unlikely for the moment that the development of non-conventional and extreme sources of oil, in particular shale hydrocarbons, will be able to change that fact. We will come back to this again. For this translation, a very big thank to Laura Bennett: culturetranslation.com ============== You are here: Home » Politics » Oil Policy » Oil autonomy spreading to Iraq’s provinces Oil autonomy spreading to Iraq’s provinces An oil worker walks past a line of trucks used for conducting seismic survey at the al-Ahdab oil field in Wasit province on March 11, 2009. (THAIER AL-SUDANI/Reuters) By Ben Lando, Patrick Osgood and Staff of Iraq Oil Report Published Friday, April 19th, 2013 Oil workers threaten Rumaila, Majnoon shutdown Workers of the South Oil Company have erected a tent outside the company headquarters to protest pay and working conditions. (ALI ABU IRAQ/Iraq Oil Report) By Ali Abu Iraq of Iraq Oil Report Published Saturday, April 13th, 2013 ============ $30Bn and still no oil flowing... broadford bay There are many posters who express positive opinions regarding the ultimate value and TO potential of our Kurdistan oil finds. A lot of other opinions highlight the Capex involved, how long or short the production plateau could be in relation to the contract length, what RF will be realised, the low API grade, the H2S problems, etc., etc. - all very pertinent, important but negative aspects. However, can I point out a very interesting article in today's WSJ that illustrates just how other major IOC's are also finding the going hard in other areas - an article which hopefully should bring some balance to the discussion about our chances of converting our assets into a good amount of cash when the time is right? http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324050304578412760496098192.html?mod=WSJ_hp_us_mostpop_read The article concerns the N. Caspian oil field "Kashagan", and as they say in the article: "Early exploration revealed more than 10Bn recoverable barrels of oil -along with great challenges. The reservoir is about 12,000ft below the NE Caspian sea floor and mixed with toxic sulphur gas..." Wait, the Schadenfreude is still to come: "And now, after a decade of work and more than $30 billion in expenses, it isn't clear when one of the world's biggest untapped fields will produce its first drop of oil." Backers are: Exxon Mobil, Eni and Shell. In comparison to Kashagan I must say our "heavy oil field" now looks and smells as sweet as a rose. I found the article VERY uplifting, quite makes my weekend! BB; Tengiz ( Chevron ) is a 'sister' field to Kashagan and was a doozy from the get-go with extreme depths, high-temps, high-pressure and H2S. One well blew out and the field taxed the shi't out of the Russians first and then Chevron / Mobil / Exxon and it still does. My business partner was one of the first Westerners to visit Tengiz in the early-1990s when the Russians were in control. Shaikan area is a walk in the park in comparison to these bleeding-edge sub-salt reservoirs. ============= April 18, 2013, 8:27 p.m. ET . A $30 Billion Hole in the Caspian Sea? After 10 Years, Setbacks Continue to Plague Massive Project to Find, Pump Oil in Kazakhstan. By JUSTIN SCHECK NCOC/Associated Press The offshore Kashagan project is drilling for oil about 12,000 feet below the Caspian Sea floor. . For more than a decade, the promised bonanza from Kazakhstan's giant offshore Kashagan oil field has been a costly mirage for its developers. And the wait still isn't over. The companies backing the project—which include Exxon Mobil Corp., XOM +0.96%Eni Spa ENI.MI +0.23% and Royal Dutch ShellRDSB.LN +0.51% PLC—in March missed the startup date Eni predicted last year. And now, after a decade of work and more than $30 billion in expenses, it isn't clear when one of the world's biggest untapped fields will produce its first drop of oil. Eni CEO Paolo Scaroni said last month the operators "are going to begin production in June." A spokesman for the North Caspian Operating Company BV, which represents all of the oil companies in the project, says "we are confident that we will deliver oil in the course of this year," though he said he isn't sure when. A person close to KazMunaiGas, or KMG, the Kazakh state oil company that owns close to 20% of Kashagan, said it may be 2014 before significant amounts of oil flow. Delays beyond Oct. 1 could subject the companies to new financial penalties on top of tens of millions of dollars worth of concessions they have already given the Kazakh government for missing earlier deadlines and cost overruns, according to energy consultancy IHS CERA. Setbacks could also heighten tensions with a frustrated Kazakh government, say several people close to the project—and will make it difficult for the firms to make more than a marginal profit from their investments. Kashagan is an example of the challenges energy companies face in a world where the easy oil has already been pumped. To find big new fossil-fuel deposits, companies must look in places that are remote, technically challenging or politically thorny, making huge upfront investments for uncertain returns. In Kashagan, cold weather, difficult supply routes and friction with government officials have contributed to the lag time. A spokesman for the North Caspian Operating Company said the biggest cause of delays is Kashagan's technical complexity and a cautious approach by the companies to avoid problems like oil or gas leaks. Kashagan's potential upside is enormous, said Laurent Ruseckas, a consultant with IHS CERA who advises companies in Kashagan. Oil is now trading at close to $90 a barrel, and the 370,000 barrels a day Kashagan is projected to produce in its first phase is supposed to triple as companies make further investments. But technical challenges and strained relationships among the operating companies and with the Kazakh government have made the project "a nightmare for almost 10 years," said Fadel Gheit, an oil-company analyst with Oppenheimer & Co. When production does start, it will largely be in Shell's hands, since a joint venture between Shell and KMG is operating that phase, according to the companies. A spokesman for Shell declined to comment. KMG didn't respond to requests to comment. Kashagan's challenges were evident from the time big oil companies—including Eni, Exxon, Shell, Total SA, FP.FR +0.74%StatoilSTL.OS +1.65% PLC, BPBP.LN +1.11% PLC and BG GroupBG.LN -0.48% PLC—explored the area after the Soviet Union's breakup. Companies signed a production-sharing agreement with the Kazakh government in 1997 that expires in 2041 and allows companies to recover much of their costs before paying a big portion of oil revenue to the government. Of the initial foreign oil-company players, only Eni, Exxon, Total and Shell remain. Early exploration revealed more than 10 billion recoverable barrels of oil—along with great challenges. The reservoir is about 12,000 feet below the northeast Caspian Sea floor and mixed with toxic sulfur gas. The sea freezes for several months a year, requiring companies to build concrete drilling islands since the deep freeze would destroy normal offshore equipment. The north Caspian harbors endemic seals and rare sturgeon. The companies debated who would take the project's lead, settling on Eni, though it had less experience with giant oil developments than Shell and Exxon. The companies projected first oil in 2005, though Eni soon began pushing back the projected startup date due to technical problems. Reuters Workers at the main processing hub for the Kashagan project last year pected when the project began. . Missteps, cost overruns and controversies have dogged the project. Eni has disclosed in public filings that Italian authorities are investigating whether it has paid bribes in Kazakhstan. An Eni spokeswoman said the company "has zero tolerance towards illegal acts and bribery" and is fully cooperating with the authorities. In 2003, Saipem SpA SPM.MI +1.57%—a company in which Eni owns about 43%—formed a joint venture with a company co-owned by a former Kazakh deputy energy minister, Nurlan Kapparov. Last year Mr. Kapparov became Kazakhstan's minister of environmental protection. Oil companies including the Kashagan operators have since 2003 awarded more than $100 million in contracts to the joint venture for projects like building pipe racks and rigs for Kashagan and other Kazakh oil projects. In an email, the Kazakh Ministry of Environmental Protection said Mr. Kapparov resigned from his management positions at his company when he became environment minister, and that his shares are in a trust that Mr. Kapparov doesn't control. The joint venture "is regularly checked by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, but Minister Kapparov has never taken any role in the review," the ministry said. The Eni spokeswoman said Saipem "has always been managed at arm's length" from Eni. She said the joint venture received the Kashagan work after a competitive bid process. A Saipem spokesman declined to comment. Meanwhile, some partners such as BP, Statoil and BG sold their stakes in Kashagan, as Eni pushed back its first oil production to 2008, and then to 2010. The Kazakh government briefly suspended construction in 2007 over environmental concerns. By 2008, Eni's projected budget for the project's first phase had risen from less than $10 billion to $25.6 billion, according to IHS CERA. That year, the companies renegotiated the management structure, taking Eni out of the lead role and putting North Caspian Operating Company, in which each company has a voting stake, in charge of development. The Kazakh government imposed increased penalties on the companies for production delays beyond October and said it would no longer sign production-sharing agreements that let companies recoup most costs before paying large percentages of profit to the state. Since then development has progressed and the companies finished drilling their production wells last year. But they have continued to delay oil production amid technical problems. Perhaps most significantly, the Kazakh government hasn't agreed to extend the Kashagan companies' production-sharing agreement past its 2041 expiration, according to the person close to KMG and a consultant advising companies in Kashagan. Without the extension, it would be difficult for the companies to make the profits that they expected when the project began. Write to Justin Scheck at justin.scheck@wsj.com A version of this article appeared April 19, 2013, on page B1 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Drilling a $30 Billion Hole in Caspian Sea?. ================== UPDATE 1-China eyes ConocoPhillips' Kashagan stake-Kazakh minister Tue, Apr 16 02:20 AM EDT By Raushan Nurshayeva ASTANA, April 16 (Reuters) - China has shown an interest in buying the stake of U.S. oil major ConocoPhillips in a multinational consortium developing Kazakhstan's giant Kashagan oilfield, Kazakh Oil & Gas Minister Sauat Mynbayev said on Tuesday. "Kazakhstan has not yet taken such a decision, but there is such a possibility," Mynbayev told reporters. He declined to say which company or government body represented China in talks with Kazakhstan over Kashagan. Kazakhstan, Central Asia's largest oil producer and the second-largest post-Soviet producer after Russia, has the pre-emptive right to buy out the 8.4-percent stake owned by ConocoPhillips in Kashagan. ConocoPhillips, which has been shedding overseas assets to cut debt and increase its investment in lower-cost domestic shale oil and gas, has said it intends to sell its Kashagan stake to India's state-run oil and Natural Gas Corp for about $5 billion. Kazakhstan has until late May to decide whether to buy out the stake of ConocoPhillips, and Mynbayev said that further options would depend on the terms to be proposed by other parties also wishing to own this stake. He declined to speculate whether India or China would have a better chance of owning the stake. "If the terms offered by one side are significantly better than those of the other potential buyer, then the logic (of choice) of the authorities of Kazakhstan will be crystal-clear," Mynbayev said. Kashagan, the world's biggest oilfield discovery in more than 40 years, holds an estimated 30 billion barrels of oil-in-place, of which 8 billion to 12 billion barrels are potentially recoverable, with first production expected in the middle of this year. Kazakhstan, a vast nation of 17 million, is home to 3 percent of the world's recoverable oil reserves. It has moved in recent years to exert greater management control and secure bigger revenues from foreign-owned oil and gas developments. Kazakh state oil firm KazMunaiGas first entered the Kashagan consortium in 2005 as a shareholder in 2005 and later doubled its stake to 16.81 percent. Identical stakes are held by Italy's Eni, U.S. major ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell and France's Total. Japan's Inpex owns 7.56 percent. UPDATE 1-Indian state firms make joint bid for Mozambique gas stake Thu, Mar 14 13:34 PM EDT * ONGC, Oil India submit bid for 20 pct in Mozambique block * First rounds of bids due Thursday By Prashant Mehra MUMBAI, March 14 (Reuters) - Indian state-owned oil companies ONGC and Oil India Ltd have bid for a 20 percent stake in a Mozambique oil and gas field being offered by U.S. explorer Anadarko Petroleum Corp and India's Videocon Group, a source directly involved in the matter told Reuters. Recent discoveries have turned the Rovuma offshore field into a major draw for global energy producers and boosted Mozambique's gas reserves to around 150 trillion cubic feet, enough to supply world number-one importer Japan for 35 years. First round bids for the Rovuma gas block that could fetch about $4.5 billion took place on Thursday. PetroChina , Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Exxon Mobil Corp are among others expected to submit indicative proposals, industry sources said last week. The source, speaking on Thursday on condition of anonymity, did not indicate the likely bid price by ONGC and Oil India. Project operator Anadarko is planning to trim its stake in block 1 of the Rovuma offshore field to 26.5 percent in order to share the cost of developing the project. Videocon, controlled by Indian billionaire Venugopal Dhoot, is also looking to sell its 10 percent stake. Italian oil firm Eni connected east Africa's gas riches to energy-hungry China on Thursday with the sale of a 20 percent stake in its Mozambique offshore project to Chinese oil company CNPC. Last year Thai state oil company PTT Exploration and Production PCL paid $1.9 billion for Cove Energy Plc and its 8.5 percent of the field, trumping Shell in a hotly contested battle. Officials at ONGC Videsh, the overseas arm of ONGC that is making the bid, and at Oil India, could not be reached for comment. State-owned ONGC, which is facing depleting supplies from its old oil and gas fields in India, has been on a buying spree in the past year to secure interests in overseas assets. It agreed to pay $5 billion for ConocoPhillips' 8.4 percent share of the Kashagan field in Kazakhstan in November, and months earlier signed a $1 billion deal for a small stake in oil fields in Azerbaijan. =============

Talibans Turning The Tables

Pakistan court puts former president Musharraf under house arrest Fri, Apr 19 03:05 AM EDT 1 of 4 By Mehreen Zahra-Malik ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A Pakistani judge placed former president and army chief Pervez Musharraf under house arrest on Friday in the boldest step yet by the country's courts against senior military officers long deemed untouchable by the law. Police escorted Musharraf from the courtroom to his residence on the edge of Islamabad where he must remain for two days ahead of a hearing over allegations he unlawfully detained judges during a 2007 showdown with the judiciary. Ramping up pressure on the former paratrooper who seized power in a coup in 1999 and resigned in 2008, the judge ordered the case be heard in an anti-terrorism court on the grounds that detaining judges could be considered an attack on the state. Naveed Malik, a lawyer who was present at the hearing, said the retired general had voluntarily presented himself at the court and had asked to be detained at his home rather than go to jail. "Now the police have to present him before the anti-terrorism court in two day's time," Malik told reporters outside the court. One of Musharraf's lawyers said he would file a petition to overturn the arrest order at the Supreme Court later on Friday. The spectacle of a man who once embodied the army's control over Pakistan being humbled by a court was a potent symbol of the way power dynamics have shifted. General elections to be held in Pakistan next month will be the first transition between elected civilian-led governments. Musharraf returned to Pakistan after almost four years of self-imposed exile last month to stand in the polls but he was disqualified by election officials. While the sight of a former army commander being arrested is sure to rankle some in the military, who see the armed forces as the only reliable guarantor of Pakistan's stability, Musharraf's ill-starred return has also bemused some former comrades. "I don't think the army was in favor of him returning and tried to dissuade him," said General Hamid Khan, a former senior army commander. "But he decided to come, and now he has to face this. The army is staying out of it." However, the order to place Musharraf under house arrest was surprising in a nation that has been ruled by the military for more than half of its 66 years as an independent nation and where the army's writ is almost never questioned even by civilian governments. It was also a turning of the tables by a judiciary whose senior members themselves faced detention while Musharraf was in power. Musharraf is accused of violating the constitution by placing judges under house arrest during the 2007 confrontation with the judiciary, when he sacked the chief justice and lawyers fought running battles with police. He has also been accused of treason for his decision to suspend the constitution and impose emergency rule. He also faces a raft of other legal challenges, including allegations that he failed to provide adequate security to prevent the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007. (Reporting by Matthew Green; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Baghdad suicide bomb blast at Internet cafe kills 27

Baghdad suicide bomb blast at Internet cafe kills 27 Thu, Apr 18 17:21 PM EDT By Kareem Raheem BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A suicide bomber blew himself inside a Baghdad cafe popular with young people using the Internet, killing a least 27 and wounding dozens more in one of the worst single attacks in the Iraqi capital this year. The late evening blast in west Baghdad came just two days before provincial elections that will be a major test of Iraq's political stability more than a year after the last American troops left the country. Police and witnesses said emergency workers struggled to extricate victims trapped when the blast collapsed part of the building that also housed a shopping center below the Dubai cafe which was on the third floor. "It was a huge blast," a police official at the scene said. "Part of the building fell in and debris hit people shopping in the mall below." Ten years after the U.S.-led invasion, Sunni Islamists linked to al Qaeda carry out at least one major attack a month, but insurgents have stepped up suicide attacks since the start of the year as part of a campaign to provoke confrontation between the country's Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims. More than 30 people were killed in a series of bombings across Iraq on Monday and more than a dozen election candidates have been killed in the run-up to the vote. Security officials have been expecting more attacks before Saturday's ballot for provincial councils that will be a measure of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's political muscle before the parliamentary vote in 2014. A surge in violence in Iraq has accompanied the political crisis in the Shi'ite premier's government, where Shi'ite, Sunni and ethnic Kurds share posts in a fragile power-sharing deal that has been mostly paralyzed since U.S. troops left in December 2011. Al Qaeda's local wing, Islamic State of Iraq, has said it will keep up attacks and security officials say the group is gaining ground and recruits in the western desert bordering Syria, thanks in part to a boost from the flow of insurgents and funds into the neighboring country's war. (Reporting by Kareem Raheem; Editing by Michael Roddy; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Michael Roddy) =============== How stable is Iraq? 13 candidates killed ahead of elections Iraq's provincial elections tomorrow, the first since the US withdrawal, are considered a strong indicator of the country's stability. Pre-election violence does not bode well. By Jane Arraf, Correspondent / April 19, 2013 Workers carry ballot boxes as they prepare for the upcoming provincial elections, in Baghdad Friday. Saturday's ballot will be a test of Iraq's political stability with the government mired in crisis over power-sharing among Shiite, Sunni and ethnic Kurds more than a year after the last US troops left. Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters Baghdad Iraq holds provincial elections tomorrow, the first elections since the pullout of US troops, against a backdrop of widening violence, a record number of assassinations of political candidates, and deepening political division. In Pictures: Iraq's delicate balance Sunni and Shiite Islam: Do you know the difference? Take our quiz. Terrorism & Security Pre-election violence rocks Baghdad, capped with cafe bombing today Iraq: At least 22 wounded, 60 injured in election-related suicide bombing Although overall attacks are at roughly similar levels as they were for the last provincial elections in 2009, at least 13 candidates and two political party officers have been killed in targeted attacks in the past few weeks – a record number. Almost 150 candidates have so far been struck off the list of candidates, most of them for alleged ties to the banned Baath Party of Saddam Hussein. “It’s a showdown,” says Iraqi political analyst Saad Eskander. “They use 'legal' methods – expelling the ones they don’t want or by force – physical liquidation. This is an extension of politics, not an extension of terrorism.” Violent politics In Baghdad, where explosions in Shiite areas have become common, residents were jarred last night by a bomb that ripped through a crowded internet café in the almost exclusively Sunni neighborhood of Amariyah. Police said at least 25 people were killed and more than 50 wounded when the explosion tore through a three-story complex packed with young men and families relaxing at the start of the weekend. RECOMMENDED: Sunni and Shiite Islam: Do you know the difference? Take our quiz. Amariyah was an Al Qaeda in Iraq stronghold and the first urban neighborhood in which Sunni neighborhood fighters joined US soldiers to drive out the organization. No group has taken responsibility for the blast, though an interior ministry official linked the explosion to the provincial elections. “I think this is a conflict between competing political parties,” said the official. He described it as a warning to supporters of moderate Sunni politicians allied with the Shiite-led government. Baghdad has been under heightened alert for weeks ahead of elections for provincial council, with restricted access to many Sunni neighborhoods believed by the Shite-led government to be particular security risks. Armored vehicles and tens of thousands of extra troops are being deployed in the capitol. The interior ministry says it has arrested several Al Qaeda leaders and seized more than 100 bombs over the past week. The elections will be the first secured completely by Iraqi forces since US troops pulled out of the country in 2011. It is also seen as a test of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s chances for re-election in national polls next year. A different story outside Baghdad In an indication of the growing divide between Iraqi provinces and the central government, the Iraqi cabinet decided to postpone elections in the mainly Sunni provinces of Anbar and Ninevah for security reasons. The move, though, is also seen as propping up unpopular incumbent politicians and Prime Minister Maliki’s own hold on power. With the Kurdish region holding separate elections in September, voters in only 12 of Iraq’s 18 provinces will be going to the polls tomorrow. Elections have also been postponed indefinitely in the disputed city of Kirkuk. In Baghdad, campaign posters have plastered roundabouts and concrete walls for weeks. Among the most prominent are those for Mohammad Rubai’e, elected four years ago on a campaign he modeled on President Obama’s slogan of "Change." “We aimed to produce change in four years but it’s difficult because there was so much destruction,” says Rubai'e, who switched allegiances from the largely Sunni Iraqiya to one of the main Shiite coalitions with wider support. “Iraq needs political reform that starts at the top to achieve visible change.” At a recent campaign event on the southern outskirts of Baghdad, Rubai’e, a secular Shiite, met with Sunni tribal leaders, pledging to bring clean water to their agricultural area. “We will vote for whoever listens to us and brings us services. We don’t trust the thieves. We know who they are now,” says Sheikh Raad Mutar al-Mehdi. 'Most democratic elections' Despite the fact that voter turnout is expected to be around only 50 percent, this election is considered to be perhaps the most democratic in Iraq’s post-war history. Parties and candidates needed a certain percentage of votes to win seats in previous provincial elections, meaning that if they did not reach that threshold, votes cast for them were discarded. That clause was removed after legal challenges. In a more controversial move, the percentage of guaranteed seats for women has also been raised to 25 percent of the total in each province and for the first time, Shiite Kurds have been included in seats set aside for Iraqi minorities. The guaranteed seats for women potentially mean that female candidates who won very few votes will be given seats over male candidates with more support. ================= Bombs, mortars fail to stop first Iraq vote since U.S. exit Sat, Apr 20 14:51 PM EDT 1 of 10 By Patrick Markey BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Bomb attacks and mortar fire failed to prevent Iraqis voting on Saturday in the first nationwide elections since the last U.S. troops left more than a year ago. The provincial elections will measure political parties' strength before a parliamentary election in 2014 to chose a new government in a country deeply divided along sectarian lines. A dozen small bombs exploded and mortar rounds landed near polling centers in cities north and south of the capital. Three voters and a policeman were injured by mortars in Latifiya, south of Baghdad, police said. The violence was relatively low key for a country where a local al Qaeda wing and other Sunni Islamists have stepped up their efforts to undermine the Shi'ite Muslim-led government and stoke confrontation along religious and ethnic divides. Preliminary results were not due for several days, but election authorities said 50 percent of eligible voters -- more than 6.4 million -- took part in Saturday's poll, a similar rate to the last vote for provincial councils in 2009. After polls closed, a local official in Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad, said disgruntled voters who were unable to find their names on the electoral lists burned four boxes of ballots at one polling station. Since U.S. troops left in December 2011, Iraqi politics has been paralyzed by infighting over power-sharing agreements, with Maliki's rivals accusing the Shi'ite premier of consolidating power at the expense of Sunni and Kurdish partners. For Maliki, a strong showing by his Shi'ite State of Law alliance may consolidate his plans to abandon the unwieldy power-sharing deal to form a majority government. Sunni rivals, deeply divided over how to work with his government, will look to chip away at Maliki's hold over provincial councils. Many voters appeared caught between hope for improvement, apathy and resignation about how much would change after the election of nearly 450 provincial council members who have the power to elect state governors. "People are not patient, they were not ready for how quickly we came to democracy," said Ahmed Abdel Hameed, voting in Baghdad a decade after U.S. troops crossed the border in an invasion that ousted President Saddam Hussein. "They thought everything would change in one election. We still need time, maybe we need three or four more elections," he said. "STRATIFIED, SECTARIAN POLITICS" Most Iraqis are frustrated with insecurity, unemployment, corruption and the lack of basic services 10 years after the invasion that was followed by sectarian bloodshed that killed tens of thousands of people. Violence has eased since a peak in 2006-2007 but insurgents are still capable of inflicting major damage. Attacks on one Sunni and one Shi'ite mosque on Friday killed at least eight people. A suicide bomber killed 32 at a cafe in a mostly Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad a day before. "Overall the elections are likely to see Iraq stumble further along the trajectory on which it has already been headed for some time: to stratified, sectarian politics," Eurasia Group analyst Crispin Hawes wrote in a report. Voting was postponed in two mostly Sunni provinces because local officials warned they could not provide security there, a decision that prompted Washington to call on the government to ensure it did not alienate Sunni voters. Since December, tens of thousands of Sunnis have taken to the streets each week to demonstrate against what they say is the marginalization of their minority, sidelined by the majority Shi'ite leadership and discriminated against by Iraqi security forces and tough anti-terrorism laws. Election authorities said voting that was suspended in Anbar and Nineweh provinces may go ahead in a month. "Suspending elections was the coup de grace for the demonstrations. We've lost everything," said Maitham Jalal, a college student in Anbar province. "Elections are a legitimate right which was taken away by the government without any fear." (Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed and Raheem Salman in Baghdad, and Aref Mohammed in Basra; Editing by Louise Ireland and Jason Webb) ================= Iraq on edge after raid fuels deadly Sunni unrest Wed, Apr 24 16:54 PM EDT By Patrick Markey and Suadad al-Salhy BAGHDAD, Iraq (Reuters) - More than 30 people were killed in gun battles between Iraqi forces and militants on Wednesday, a day after a raid on a Sunni Muslim protest ignited the fiercest clashes since American troops left the country. The second day of fighting threatens to deepen sectarian rifts in Iraq where relations between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims are still very tense just a few years after inter-communal slaughter pushed the country close to civil war. The clashes between gunmen and troops were the bloodiest since thousands of Sunni Muslims started protests in December to demand an end to what they see as marginalization of their sect by Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. On Tuesday, troops stormed one of the Sunni protest camps and more than 50 people were killed in the ensuing clashes which spread beyond the town of Hawija near Kirkuk, 170 km (100 miles) north of Baghdad, to other areas. Sporadic battles continued on Wednesday and hardline tribal leaders warned that protests could turn into open revolt against the Baghdad government even as Sunni moderates and foreign diplomats called for restraint. Militants briefly took over a police station and an army base and burned a small Shi'ite mosque in Sulaiman Pek, 160 km (100 miles) north of Baghdad, before army helicopters drove gunmen out of the town. At least 18 were killed, including 10 gunmen and five soldiers, officials said. An ambush on an army convoy near Tikrit with roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades killed three more soldiers. Three more troops were killed in an attack in Diyala province. Later on Wednesday, clashes erupted in the northern city of Mosul, where gunmen launched an attack after using a mosque loudspeaker to call Sunnis to join their fight. At least three police and four soldiers died in the assault, officials said. In a separate attack, at least eight people were also killed and 23 more wounded when a car bomb exploded in eastern Baghdad, police and medical sources said. A surge in Sunni militant unrest has accompanied growing turmoil among the Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish parties that make up Maliki's power-sharing government. A decade after the U.S.-led invasion, sectarian wounds are still raw in Iraq, where just a few a years ago violence between Shi'ite militias and Sunni Islamist insurgents killed tens of thousands of people. Sectarian bloodshed reached its height in Iraq in 2006-2007 after al Qaeda bombed the Shi'ite Askari shrine in Samarra, triggering a cycle of retaliation. Thousands of Sunnis have been protesting since December, venting frustrations building up since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the empowerment of Iraq's Shi'ite majority through the ballot box. "We are staying restrained so far, but if government forces keep targeting us, no one can know what will happen in the future, and things could spin out of control," said Abdul Aziz al-Faris, a Sunni tribal leader in Hawija. SS The two main Shi'ite militias, Asaib al-Haq and Kataeb Hizbullah, appear to have stayed out of the latest violence. But former fighters said they could take up arms again if needed. Maliki has set up a committee headed by a senior Sunni leader to investigate the violence at the Hawija camp, which left 23 people dead. He has promised to punish any excessive use of force and provide for victims' families. The prime minister has offered some concessions to Sunni protesters, including proposed reforms to tough anti-terrorism laws, but most Sunni leaders say they will not be enough to appease the demonstrators. The Shi'ite premier may also seek to consolidate his position before 2014 parliamentary elections by taking a tough stance against hardline Sunni Islamists. That may be a risk which could further alienate Sunnis. "What we are now likely to see in western Iraq is a deteriorating cycle of confrontation between the central government and protesters that will benefit extremist groups," said Crispin Hawes at Eurasia Group. Iraq's Sunni community is deeply divided between moderates more keen to work within Maliki's government and those who see resistance as the only way to confront Baghdad. "The Maliki government's aggression against our people in Hawija has forced us to take our uprising on another course," said Sheikh Qusai al-Zain, a protest leader in Anbar province. "We call upon all tribes and armed groups to begin supporting our brothers in Hawija." (Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad,; Gazwan Hassan in Samarra and Mustafa Mohammed in Kirkuk; Editing by Jon Hemming) ================ crackdowns Sectarian conflict ignites amidst protest crackdowns Mourners at a funeral procession in Hawija on April 24, 2013. (KAMARAN AL-NAJAR/Iraq Oil Report) By Kamaran al-Najar, Adam al-Atbi, Jamal Naji and Staff of Iraq Oil Report Published Thursday, April 25th, 2013 Violence continued to spread throughout Iraq's Sunni-majority provinces Wednesday, as militant protesters retaliated against government security forces in a swell of insurrections that raised the specter of a sectarian civil war. Peaceful protests have been supplanted by a call to arms against the Shiite-dominated government, which has recently escalated a crackdown on demonstrations. The crisis boiled over Tuesday when dozens of people were killed in a prolonged battle between protesters and... ===================

Iran dismisses Israel threat at Ahmadinejad's last army parade

Iran dismisses Israel threat at Ahmadinejad's last army parade Thu, Apr 18 11:41 AM EDT 1 of 2 By Marcus George DUBAI (Reuters) - Israeli threats to attack Iran's nuclear sites are the harmless barking of a dog, Iran's military said on Thursday, marking the last Army Day ceremony of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's presidency with trademark acerbic rhetoric against the Jewish state. Ahmadinejad, who steps down at elections in June after eight years at the helm of the Islamic Republic's government, has used the podium at previous Army Day parades to lash out at the United States and its allies. On Thursday Ahmadinejad confined himself to praise of the country's armed forces, and it was Iran's ground forces commander Ataollah Salehi spoke up against Iran's sworn foe. "A dog does nothing more than bark and we have no confidence in these threats," Iran's state news agency (IRNA) quoted him as saying. With little progress reported at talks this month between Iran and world powers, Israel has reiterated that it reserves the right to resort to military operations to stop what is says it Iran's attempt to build nuclear weapons. Iran has responded to Israel's threat with regular combat drills, announcements of new advances in military technology and threatening statements of its own. Iran denies it is seeking nuclear arms and says its atomic work is peaceful and aimed at generating electricity. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who as commander in chief has ultimate authority over the armed forces, said last month the Islamic Republic would raze the Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground if Israel "made the slightest mistake". New hardware unveiled in Thursday's parade included a radar-evading attack drone, called Sarir, and updates to its air defense systems. The Iranian air force also put on display an air-refueling maneuver by Russian-made Sukhoi 24 fighter jets, Fars news agency reported. Iranian officials regularly emphasize the country's ability to develop and construct its own military hardware and announce sophisticated new equipment but Western analysts say their real capabilities cannot be independently verified. "Iran does a good job of advertising its equipment for deterrence purposes," said Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the Bahrain offices of Britain's International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS). "There is a fair bit of exaggeration that accompanies claims but they've been very innovative and increasingly self-sufficient and have also shown their ability to leverage technology from places like China. "In terms of capability or accuracy, that's where they make wild claims," he said. Sanctions have prevented the Islamic Republic from buying U.S. and European weaponry, and so the basis of Iran's military hardware remains U.S. and Soviet equipment purchases made by the Shah of Iran before the 1979 revolution. It still boasts active U.S. fighter jets - F-4, F-14 Topcat and Chinook CH-47 helicopters. Commanders have resorted to reverse engineering hardware to produce indigenous versions of equipment. Its Saeqeh fighter jet is derived from the U.S. Northrop F-5, its Zulfiqar battle tank that incorporates design from Soviet and U.S. tanks, and the Toufan 2 attack helicopter is based on the U.S. Bell AH-1 Cobra. According to the IISS Military Balance 2013 reference book, Iran boasts 523,000 active armed forces personnel and 350,000 reservists. (Additional reporting by William Maclean; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Sonya Hepinstall)

Major earthquake rocks Iran, Gulf and India

Major earthquake rocks Iran, Gulf and India Tue, Apr 16 07:27 AM EDT DUBAI (Reuters) - A major 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Iran near the border with Pakistan on Tuesday and tremors were felt in India and Gulf states. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake hit at 5.44 a.m. ET at a depth of 15.2 km (9.4 miles). The epicenter was in southeast Iran in an area of mountains and desert. It was located 201 km (125 miles) southeast of the Iranian city of Zahedan and 250 km northwest of Turbat in Pakistan, USGS said. Tall buildings shook in India's capital New Delhi, sending people running into the streets, witnesses said. People also evacuated shaking buildings in Qatar and Dubai, residents said. A powerful 6.3 magnitude quake struck close to Iran's only nuclear power station on April 9, killing 37 people and injuring 850 as it destroyed homes and devastated two villages. Most of Iran's nuclear-related facilities are located in central Iran or its west, including the Bushehr nuclear power plant on the Gulf coast. A U.S. Institute for Science and International Security map did not show any nuclear-linked facilities in southeastern Iran close to Pakistan. (Writing by Angus MacSwan; Editing by Janet Lawrence) Major earthquake rocks Iran, Gulf and India Tue, Apr 16 07:27 AM EDT DUBAI (Reuters) - A major 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Iran near the border with Pakistan on Tuesday and tremors were felt in India and Gulf states. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake hit at 5.44 a.m. ET at a depth of 15.2 km (9.4 miles). The epicenter was in southeast Iran in an area of mountains and desert. It was located 201 km (125 miles) southeast of the Iranian city of Zahedan and 250 km northwest of Turbat in Pakistan, USGS said. Tall buildings shook in India's capital New Delhi, sending people running into the streets, witnesses said. People also evacuated shaking buildings in Qatar and Dubai, residents said. A powerful 6.3 magnitude quake struck close to Iran's only nuclear power station on April 9, killing 37 people and injuring 850 as it destroyed homes and devastated two villages. Most of Iran's nuclear-related facilities are located in central Iran or its west, including the Bushehr nuclear power plant on the Gulf coast. A U.S. Institute for Science and International Security map did not show any nuclear-linked facilities in southeastern Iran close to Pakistan. (Writing by Angus MacSwan; Editing by Janet Lawrence) ============= 10-degree Map Centered at 30°N,60°E MAP 7.8 2013/04/16 10:44:21 28.107 62.053 82.0 IRAN-PAKISTAN BORDER REGION Skip to earthquake lists Strong 7.8 earthquake hits Iran, tremors felt in UAE The National staff Apr 16, 2013 Save this article -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- A strong 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Iran, near the border with Pakistan, at 10.44 GMT (2.44pm UAE) today at a depth of 73 miles, the US Geological survey said. Related • ■ Earthquake: 37 dead and 850 injured in Iran by tremor that rocked UAE •■ Tremors from Pakistan quake ripple across UAE The epicentre was in south-east Iran in an area of mountains and desert, 201 kilometres south-east of the Iranian city of Zahedan and 250km north-west of Turbat in Pakistan, the USGS said. Tremors were felt across the Arabian Gulf and in New Delhi. Buildings in Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi were evacuated. Tall buildings shook in India’s capital New Delhi, sending people running into the streets, witnesses said. People also evacuated shaking buildings in Qatar and Dubai, residents said. A powerful 6.3 magnitude quake struck close to Iran’s only nuclear power station on April 9, killing 37 people and injuring 850 as it destroyed homes and devastated two villages. More to follow newsdesk@thenational.ae ================ Posted by Web Desk / Reuters / AFP QUETTA: A 5.4-magnitude earthquake struck parts of Pakistan and neighbouring countries on Tuesday killing 34 people, said officials. A major 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Iran near the border with Pakistan and tremors were felt in India and Gulf states. The US Geological Survey said the quake hit at 10:44 GMT at a depth of 15.2 km. The epicentre was in southeast Iran in an area of mountains and desert. It was located 201 km southeast of the Iranian city of Zahedan and 250 km northwest of Turbat in Pakistan, USGS said. Several people were injured in the Panjgur and Mashkeel areas of Balochistan, while around 50 people sustained injuries in Karachi in incidents of roof collapse. Over 1,000 houses were partially damaged in Balochistan. An Iranian government official said he expected hundreds of deaths from the earthquake. “It was the biggest earthquake in Iran in 40 years and we are expecting hundreds of dead,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The Iranian city of Saravan, which lies near the centre of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake which hit the country on Tuesday, has not seen serious damage, the Fars news agency said. Tremors were felt in Karachi, Hyderabad, Lahore, Larkana, Jacobabad, Quetta and other cities which created panic amongst people. However, no casualties were reported PPI reported. Office workers stand outside of their buildings following an earthquake tremor in Karachi April 16, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS Express News reported that the earthquake was felt in Rahim Yar Khan, Serai Desert, Faisalabad, and Shahdadkot. In areas near Multan and DI Khan the tremors were felt for around ten seconds, but people were scared and evacuated immediately. Buildings in Karachi were immediately evacuated after the tremors were felt. Express employees exit the Karachi office after the earthquake. PHOTO: JAHANZAIB HAQUE “My desk started shaking and we ran out of the building. Since then we are standing outside our office,” a Karachi-ite shared his experience. People anticipating aftershocks in all the main areas of Karachi refused to go inside the buildings. Shahra-e-Faisal, an area with numerous offices, was crowded with people who evacuated their offices and were hesitant to go back inside the buildings. People evacuating from buildings in Karachi. PHOTO: SARA MUZZAMIL “Two of my colleagues fainted during the tremor but we were successful in evacuating through our emergency exit,” a citizen expressed his experience. After the sudden halt in flights, airport authorities announced that they would take-off as per schedule. In Balochistan, the earthquake was felt in Gadani, Harnai, Chaman and Gwadar. According to Met Office sources, the intensity of the earthquake was 5.4 magnitudes in Balochistan, however, some other geological sources said that the intensity was recorded at 6.4 magnitude. People running after the earthquake tremors. PHOTO: Maazj94 Strong tremors shook tall buildings in India’s capital New Delhi on Tuesday. A 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck Papua New Guinea on Tuesday, the US Geological Survey said. The quake hit 125 kilometres (77 miles) southwest of the town of Panguna on Bougainville Island at 8:00 pm local time (10:00 GMT), at a depth of 10 kilometres. ============= Earthquake kills 157, injures 5,700 in China's Sichuan Sat, Apr 20 12:49 PM EDT 1 of 2 By Michael Martina YA'AN, China (Reuters) - China's worst earthquake in three years on Saturday killed at least 157 people and injured more than 5,700, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said. The magnitude 6.6 quake hit a remote mountainous area of southwestern China's Sichuan province at 8:02 a.m. (0002 GMT), close to where an earthquake killed almost 70,000 people in 2008. The quake struck in Lushan county, near the city of Ya'an, at a depth of 12 km (7.5 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said. It was felt in the provincial capital, Chengdu, and in neighboring provinces, causing many people to rush out of buildings, according to social network posts. Most of the deaths were concentrated in Lushan. Pictures on Chinese news sites showed toppled buildings and people in bloodied bandages being treated in tents outside the hospital. Water and electricity in the area were cut off by the quake. Premier Li Keqiang flew into the disaster zone by helicopter to voice support for the rescue operation. "The first 72 hours is the golden period for rescue," Li told officials, the Xinhua news agency reported. "We cannot delay by a minute." "Under the strong leadership of the party and the government, as long as we unite as one, and conduct the rescue in a scientific way, then there will be the conditions and the ability to minimize the losses to the greatest degree and to overcome the disaster," Li said. Chen Yong, the vice director of the Ya'an city government earthquake response office, told reporters: "We believe the number (of deaths) could rise somewhat, but it won't rise by much." Xinhua said 6,000 troops were in the area to help with rescue efforts. State television CCTV said only emergency vehicles were being allowed into Ya'an, although Chengdu airport had reopened. Rescuers in Lushan had pulled 91 survivors out of rubble, Xinhua said. In villages closest to the epicenter, almost all low-rise buildings had collapsed, footage on state television showed. "We are very busy right now, there are about eight or nine injured people, the doctors are handling the cases," said a doctor at a Ya'an hospital who gave her family name as Liu. The hospital was treating head and leg injuries, she said. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it was in discussions with the Red Cross Society of China on whether international support was needed. LANDSLIDE WARNING The China Meteorological Association warned of the possibility of landslides in Lushan county on Saturday and Sunday. Lushan recorded 789 aftershocks after the earthquake, the China Earthquake Administration said. A resident in Chengdu, 140 km (85 miles) from Ya'an city, told Xinhua he was on the 13th floor of a building when he felt the quake. The building shook for about 20 seconds and he saw tiles fall from nearby buildings. Ya'an is a city of 1.5 million people and is considered one of the birthplaces of Chinese tea culture. It is also the home to one of China's main centers for protecting the giant panda. "There are still shakes and tremors and our area is safe. The pandas are safe," said a spokesman for Ya'an's Bifengxia nature park which houses more than 100 pandas. Shouts and screams were heard in the background while Reuters was on the telephone with the spokesman. "There was just an aftershock, an aftershock, our office is safe," he said. Sichuan is one of the four major natural gas-producing provinces in China, and its output accounts for about 14 percent of the nation's total. Sinopec Group, Asia's largest oil refiner, said its huge Puguang gas field was unaffected. The U.S. Geological Survey initially put the magnitude at 7, but later revised it down. The devastating May 2008 quake was magnitude 7.9. In 2010, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake killed 2,700 people in Yushu, a largely Tibetan region in northwest China. (Additional reporting by Melanie Lee and Lu Jianxin in Shanghai, Sui-Lee Wee in Beijing and Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Jonathan Standing and Stephen Powell) ======= HOW TO: Measure an earthquake Source: IRIN - Mon, 3 Oct 2011 10:05 AM Author: IRIN BANGKOK, 3 October 2011 (IRIN) - While the Richter scale is the most easily recognized measure of an earthquake's magnitude, seismologists say several more dynamic measurement methods have eclipsed it since it was developed more than 70 years ago. IRIN considers current best practices around the world -from the standard magnitude indicators that replaced the Richter scale to prediction models that estimate an earthquake's economic impact on society. Moment magnitude scale (Mw) Today, the most common calculation method for magnitude - the amount of energy released by an earthquake at its source - is the moment magnitude scale (Mw). Developed in the 1970s by Hiroo Kanamori, professor emeritus at the California Institute of Technology, Mw was designed to succeed several magnitude scales, including the 1930s-era Richter scale, whose model was solely based on the geology of California, where earthquakes are mostly shallow. By taking into account the actual area of fault line ruptured, Mw gives a more consistent measurement to earthquakes no matter how deep. "The media still say Richter scale in news reports, but seismologists use magnitude only. Magnitude can be calculated with different formulas," Takeshi Koizumi, seismologist at the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) [ http://www.jma.go.jp/jma/indexe.html ], told IRIN. Koizumi said these data are very important for seismologists to predict tsunamis and other earthquake-induced hazards. Modified Mercalli intensity scale (MMI) Unlike the Richter scale and Mw, which assess the earthquake's size in terms of magnitude, the MMI [ http://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/topics/mercalli.php ] describes earthquakes in terms of intensity. Numbers are used to describe magnitude; Roman numerals are used to express intensity. Intensity - a completely different concept - indicates how much shaking is felt and the level of damage in a specific location, according to Peeranan Towashiraporn, an earthquake engineer at the Bangkok-based Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC). [ http://www.adpc.net/2011/? ] "Many people think high-magnitude earthquakes must result in greater damage, but this is not always the case, it depends on location. If you are far from the epicentre, intensity can be low and you may feel very little shaking," Towashiraporn explained. Amod Dixit, general secretary of Nepal's National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET), [http://www.nset.org.np/ ] says it is easier for non-scientists to understand earthquakes in terms of intensity. "Magnitude is a scientist's language. You and I are more concerned with the practical implications of an earthquake," he said. As a result, using magnitude to measure earthquakes often causes people to underestimate their impact. "Engineers here [in Nepal] claim to build houses that can withstand magnitude-7.0 earthquakes, but that doesn't mean it can withstand intensity IX. Low-magnitude earthquakes can also bring high intensity of shaking," Dixit said. Citing the magnitude-6.1 earthquake near Christchurch in New Zealand in February 2011 as an example, Towashiraporn agreed that magnitude alone can be misleading. "A moderate magnitude-6.1 earthquake can still cause significant damage and loss of life if it happens at a shallow depth and is very close to a highly populated area," he said. At least 181 people were killed, 1,500 injured and about 100,000 buildings destroyed or damaged, according to figures from the United States Geological Survey (USGS). [ http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/Quakes/usb0001igm.php ] The Japan Meteorological Agency seismic intensity scale (JMA) The JMA scale measures intensity in the units of "Shindo", and is analogous to the MMI. The only difference is JMA measures intensity from 0 to 7 and the MMI runs from I to XII. While the MMI is applied worldwide, JMA is only used in Japan and Taiwan. Koizumi said JMA gives the world's fastest intensity information. "The initial estimation comes in 1.5 minutes after an earthquake occurs. Then after a few seconds, a warning is issued to the general public on TV," he explained, adding that seismic intensity meters have been installed throughout the country, making calculation much faster. According to David Wald, seismologist at USGS, the USGS-developed ShakeMaps [http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/shakemap/ �] - an automatically generated shaking and intensity map that combines instrumental measurement and local geology and earthquake information of a region - can also compute earthquake intensity in near real-time. Prompt Assessment of Global Earthquakes for Response (PAGER) Against the decades-old debate of whether the magnitude scale or the intensity scale gives better earthquake measurement, the USGS developed this new technology in 2010. Taking into account the demographics, building types and economic and casualty data collected from past earthquakes, PAGER [ http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/pager/] estimates the shaking distribution, the number of people and settlements affected, and the possible fatalities and economic losses experienced. PAGER is still new to most people, but the information it offers is useful to governments and aid agencies. "The PAGER turns the estimates of damage into colour-coded alert levels, so local, national and international actors know what level of response is needed," Wald said. Apart from providing data for post-disaster mitigation, PAGER tops the other scales by generating information that helps prepare for earthquakes. "The PAGER highlights the most vulnerable structures that need improvement. This is especially important for developing countries where people don't always follow building codes," he said. "The system still awaits more awareness from governments, the scientific community and the media," Wald said. "To communicate the seriousness of earthquakes, magnitude and intensity alone are not enough." sh/nb/mw � IRIN. All rights reserved. More humanitarian news and analysis: http://www.IRINnews.org ==========================