Archive for December, 2011

Pakistan rejects NATO attack report

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has rejected as bias the U.S. report on the last month’s NATO attack on its two border posts, which had killed 24 soldiers.

The November 26 NATO strike in Mohmand tribal region, bordering Afghanistan, has caused a severe blow to the Pakistan-U.S. relations.

The US investigation report has been rejected on the basis that with US Brigadier General Stephen Clark as head, the investigation can never bring out unbiased findings, the sources said.

Pakistan has dismissed the report as the head of investigating team Brigadier General Stephen Clark has been linked to the strategic team involved in the attack.

“Pakistan believes that General Clark is an inappropriate choice to carry out investigation as a neutral party”.

The U.S. defence department the Pentagon says that an American official in Islamabad had delivered the report to Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Kayani on Sunday.

The army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas has confirmed receiving of the report.

The full report from the joint US-Nato investigative team was not released publicly until Monday to allow time for the Pakistani leadership to read the findings first, the Pentagon spokesman said in Washington.

“We wanted General Kayani to be able to see the entire thing,” he said. The approach represented “an appropriate professional courtesy” to Kayani, he added.

A military investigation has concluded that it took about 90 minutes for NATO officers to notify a senior commander about Pakistan’s calls that its outposts were under attack, underscoring a lack of timely senior-level “override” measures to avoid deadly cross-border errors like last month’s air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

But by then, military communications between the two sides had sorted out a chain of errors and the shooting had already stopped.

The delays — by two different officers — raise questions about whether a faster response could have spared the lives of Pakistani soldiers.

An unclassified version of the report, released on Monday by the military’s Central Command on its website, also revealed for the first time that an American AC-130 gunship flew two miles into Pakistani territory.

The United States and Pakistan disagree about the sequence of events in the cross-border attack.

December 28, 2011 Posted Under: News update   Read More

U.S. warns against Iran’s plan to close key oil strait

TEHRAN, Iran — The U.S. warned Iran Wednesday that it will not tolerate any disruption of naval traffic through the Strait of Hormuz, after Iran’s navy chief said the Islamic Republic is capable of closing the vital oil route if the West imposes new sanctions targeting Tehran’s oil exports.

Iran’s Adm. Habibollah Sayyari told state-run Press TV that closing the strait, which is the only sea outlet for the crucial oil fields in and around the Persian Gulf, “is very easy” for his country’s naval forces.

It was the second such warning by Iran in two days, reflecting Tehran’s concern that the West is about to impose new sanctions that could hit the country’s biggest source of revenue, its oil sector. On Tuesday, Vice-President Mohamed Reza Rahimi threatened to close the strait if the West imposes such sanctions.

In response, the Bahrain-based U.S. 5th Fleet’s spokeswoman warned that any disruption at the strait “will not be tolerated.”

The spokeswoman, Lt. Rebecca Rebarich, said the U.S. Navy is “always ready to counter malevolent actions to ensure freedom of navigation.”

With concern growing over a possible drop-off in Iranian oil supplies if sanctions are imposed, a senior Saudi oil official said Gulf Arab nations are ready to offset any loss of Iranian crude.

That reassurance led to a drop in world oil prices. In New York, benchmark crude fell 77 cents to $100.57 a barrel in morning trading. Brent crude fell 82 cents to $108.45 a barrel in London.

Western nations are growing increasingly impatient with Iran over its nuclear program. The U.S. and its allies have accused Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has denied the charges, saying its program is geared toward generating electricity and producing medical radioisotopes to treat cancer patients.

The U.S. Congress has passed a bill banning dealings with the Iran Central Bank, and President Barack Obama has said he will sign it despite his misgivings. Critics warn it could impose hardships on U.S. allies and drive up oil prices.

The bill could impose penalties on foreign firms that do business with Iran’s central bank. European and Asian nations import Iranian oil and use its central bank for the transactions.

Iran is the world’s fourth-largest oil producer, with an output of about 4 million barrels of oil a day. It relies on oil exports for about 80 per cent of its public revenues.

Iran has adopted an aggressive military posture in recent months in response to increasing threats from the U.S. and Israel that they may take military action to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

The navy is in the midst of a 10-day drill in international waters near the strategic oil route. The exercises began Saturday and involve submarines, missile drills, torpedoes and drones. The war games cover a 1,250-mile (2,000-kilometre) stretch of sea off the Strait of Hormuz, northern parts of the Indian Ocean and into the Gulf of Aden near the entrance to the Red Sea as a show of strength and could bring Iranian ships into proximity with U.S. Navy vessels in the area.

Iranian media are describing how Iran could move to close the strait, saying the country would use a combination of warships, submarines, speed boats, anti-ship cruise missiles, torpedoes, surface-to-sea missiles and drones to stop ships from sailing through the narrow waterway.

Iran’s navy claims it has sonar-evading submarines designed for shallow waters of the Persian Gulf, enabling it to hit passing enemy vessels.

A closure of the strait could temporarily cut off some oil supplies and force shippers to take longer, more expensive routes that would drive oil prices higher. It also potentially opens the door for a military confrontation that would further rattle global oil markets.

Iran claimed a victory this month when it captured an American surveillance drone almost intact. It went public with its possession of the RQ-170 Sentinel to trumpet the downing as a feat of Iran’s military in a complicated technological and intelligence battle with the U.S.

American officials have said that U.S. intelligence assessments indicate the drone malfunctioned.

December 28, 2011 Posted Under: News update   Read More