Archive for September, 2011

Palestinian Statehood Bid at UN to Continue Wednesday

The U.N. Security Council says it will meet Wednesday to formally consider the Palestinian bid for statehood and full U.N. membership, a move many see as certain to fail.

Council President Nawaf Salam of Lebanon briefed reporters about the decision Monday after the group held preliminary talks in New York. He gave no further details.

Despite a U.S. threat to veto the Palestinian bid, the divided 15-nation body is expected to form a special committee later this week to examine the application submitted last Friday by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. A month or more could pass before the Council is ready to vote.

The United States and Israel are intensively lobbying Security Council members to oppose or abstain. Four non-permanent members – Bosnia, Colombia, Gabon and Nigeria – have yet to make definitive statements about how they will vote.

Earlier Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Makati at U.N. headquarters to argue against rushing to act on the Palestinian application. U.S. officials said Clinton made similar points in meetings with her Colombian and Chinese counterparts.

U.S. officials said Clinton told Makati Washington wants to see both Israel and the Palestinians accept a plan to resume peace talks issued last week by the Middle East Quartet – the U.S., U.N., European Union and Russia. That proposal calls for a preliminary meeting within a month, followed by a return to regular talks and progress on security and borders within 90 days. It envisions the completion of a peace deal no later than the end of 2012.

The Israelis and Palestinians remain divided on the issue of settlement construction in the West Bank, which derailed U.S.-mediated peace talks between the two sides last year when an Israeli moratorium on the building expired.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Israel will not renew a construction freeze in order to get Palestinians to agree to the Quartet plan for new talks.  He told the Jerusalem Post that Palestinian insistence on the settlement issue shows a lack of interest in negotiations.

Abbas told thousands of supporters in Ramallah Sunday that he would resume peace talks only if Israel stopped building settlements in occupied territory.  Palestinians oppose construction on land they want as part of a future state.

September 27, 2011 Posted Under: News update   Read More

Gilani calls for All Parties Conference on Thursday over US ultimatum

Islamabad, Sept 27 (ANI): Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has called for an All Parties Conference on Thursday to discuss ways to deal with the recent US allegations that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is linked to the Haqqani network.

On Sunday, Gianni had telephoned political leaders of various political parties and invited them to attend the national conference.

During the meeting, to be held on September 29 at the PM house, the concerned officials will brief the political leaders about the latest situation and ways to deal with it, The News reports.

Pakistan Muslim League-N chief Nawaz Sharif, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain, head of Awami National Party (ANP) Asfandyar Wali, head of Jamaat-e-Islami Munawar Hassan, are among few prominent leaders who Gilani telephoned and called for the meeting.

Last week, outgoing US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen had described the Haqqani network as a “veritable arm” of the ISI that was being used to fight a “proxy war” in Afghanistan, an allegation which was refuted by all top Pakistani ministers.

September 27, 2011 Posted Under: News update   Read More

China supports Pakistan’s sovereignty, says vice PM

ISLAMABAD: China on Tuesday extended its full support to Pakistan’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and vowed to work with Pakistan for progress and peace in the region and the world.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani who met the Deputy Premier of China Meng Jianzhu here at the PM House termed China as its close friend.

Jianzhu said Pakistan was the only country enjoying all-weather friendship with China.

Gilani said “a friend of China is Pakistan’s friend, its enemy Pakistan’s enemy and China’s security Pakistan’s security.”

He said the two countries together can progress and prosper and bring the dividends of development to their people.

The meeting was also attended by Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Foreign secretary Salman Bashir and ambassadors of the two countries.

September 27, 2011 Posted Under: News update   Read More

Pakistanis strike back at U.S. accusations of ties to Haqqani network

(CNN) — Pakistani officials hit back Friday at accusations from senior U.S. officials that Pakistan’s intelligence service supports the Haqqani terrorist network, but acknowledged that the country does maintain contacts with the group.

Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said Thursday that the Haqqani network, which has carried out a number of high-profile terror attacks in the Afghan capital Kabul and elsewhere, acted “as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s intelligence.”

Major General Athar Abbas, a spokesman for the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, acknowledged the service had contacts with the Haqqanis.

“Any intelligence agency would like to maintain contact with whatever opposition group, whatever terrorist organization … for some positive outcome,” he told CNN in a telephone interview.

However, those contacts do not mean that the ISI supports or endorses the organization, he added.

“If someone is blaming us [as] the only country maintaining contacts with the Haqqanis, there are others, too,” Abbas said. There is a huge difference between maintaining contacts with such a group to facilitate peace and supporting it against an ally, he said.Earlier Friday, Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Kayani said that “Admiral Mullen knows full well which countries are in contact with the Haqqanis. Singling out Pakistan is neither fair nor productive.”

Abbas said Pakistan had intelligence that other governments were in contact with the Haqqanis, though he declined to identify them.

He also described as “shocking” Mullen’s assertion that Pakistan was complicit in recent attacks against the U.S. Embassy and other targets in Kabul. He said Mullen’s public comments Thursday were especially surprising after his constructive meeting with Kayani in Spain last week. Pakistan has nothing to gain from supporting such attacks, Abbas said, adding that such claims and “media diplomacy” do not help the relationship between the two countries.

The United States has not shared any evidence with Pakistan detailing support from the ISI for the Haqqanis, nor of the Haqqanis’ presence or activities in Pakistan, Abbas said. Further, he said the Haqqanis no longer need Pakistani territory as there are large areas of eastern Afghanistan — in Kunar and Nuristan provinces — where they have sanctuaries. “They carry out attacks from that side,” he said, and had no infrastructure in Pakistan.

The relationship between Pakistani intelligence and the Haqqanis goes back to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan when Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United States supported the mujahedeen resistance. Intelligence officials believe Pakistan still regards the Haqqanis as an important tool in countering Indian influence in Afghanistan and helping shape any future peace process in line with Islamabad’s priorities. With an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 fighters, the Haqqanis’ close relationship with both the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban makes them an important player in the region.

Western counterterrorism officials believe that contrary to Pakistan’s assertions, the Haqqanis rely on Pakistani territory — specifically North Waziristan and the Khurram agency — to organize, resupply and raise funds.

The Haqqanis are widely regarded as one of the most effective militant groups in Afghanistan. Western intelligence officials believe the Haqqanis were involved in the assassination earlier this week of the Chairman of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, Burhanuddin Rabbani, and an attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul in June. Rabbani himself alleged that the group that attacked the hotel had been in phone contact with people in the town of Miranshah in the Pakistani territory of North Waziristan, long regarded as a stronghold of the Haqqani network.

Abbas rejected the suggestion, saying Pakistan had closed the cell-phone towers in the area to prevent terrorists from communicating and coordinating their activities within Waziristan. “We closed all the mobile towers on this side of the border, but unfortunately across the border in Afghanistan mobile towers are working.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declined Thursday to discuss options available to the United States to go after the Haqqani network, but added he did not think the Pakistanis “would be surprised by the actions we might or might not take.”

Abbas said any unilateral military action would fuel anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan.

It “would have grave consequences … and would put the government and the military’s backs to the wall,” he said.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar had a similar message for Washington. Speaking on Pakistani television, she said, “You (the United States) will lose an ally. You cannot afford to alienate Pakistan, you cannot afford to alienate the Pakistani people. If you are choosing to do so, and if they are choosing to do so, it will be at their own cost.”

A growing number of suspected U.S. drone strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan have been aimed at members of the Haqqani network, as have Special Forces operations in Afghanistan.

Reuters quoted Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the group that his father founded, as saying he would welcome a U.S. ground attack.”The United States will suffer more losses (in North Waziristan) than they suffered in Afghanistan,” he said in a phone interview Thursday with the news agency.

September 24, 2011 Posted Under: News update   Read More