Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Russia sees reserves tumble during September

MOSCOW, September 30 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Central Bank's international reserves, which saw strong growth for most of this year, have lost $40 billion in the past few weeks, an analyst at a leading brokerage said on Tuesday.
The international reserves, comprising foreign currency, gold, and a range of other assets, started the year at $478 bln, making strong gains each month to reach $596 bln on August 1, before slipping to $582 bln as of September 1 as the global financial crisis worsened.
"In the past few weeks, with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and other financial institutions, we have seen across-the-board selling of all possible assets, including in Russia... Russia has lost almost $40 billion in gold and currency reserves," Yevgeny Gavrilenkov, chief economist at Troika Dialog, told a RIA Novosti news conference.
He said the loss had largely resulted from a revaluation of the euro- and pound-denominated part of the reserves.
Over the last few days the situation on Russian markets has been somewhat improving, despite the continued share price declines, he said.
The most recent Central Bank data puts the international reserves at $559 billion as of September 19. The bank said on Monday it would grant state-controlled Vnesheconombank $50 billion from the reserves to support the financial system.
Most of the funds will be loaned on to Russian companies to pay down their debt to foreign creditors, which totals around $300 billion, the Central Bank said.
Vnesheconombank (Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs) was established by the Russian government last year as a national development vehicle to modernize and diversify the Russian economy and make it more competitive.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Russian companies had encountered problems in obtaining loan extensions or new loans amid global financial woes.
Russian stocks nose-dived on September 17 to their lowest point in nearly three years, and around 60% lower than their May high. The market rebounded on September 19 after the government scrambled to inject billions of dollars into the financial sector to shore up liquidity.
Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin earlier said the government could opt to buy back stock of Russian companies, including those with government interest, if they remained undervalued, spending up to 500 billion rubles ($20 billion).

Russian ambassador leaves Georgia

TBILISI, September 30 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Ambassador Vyacheslav Kovalenko left Georgia along with 22 embassy officials on Tuesday, a month after Tbilisi severed diplomatic ties with Moscow.
Relations were broken off after a short military conflict with Russia over South Ossetia in August and Russia's subsequent recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the other Georgian breakaway republic.
"Several diplomats will stay here [in Tbilisi]. Maintenance staff will remain to take care of the embassy building, which is Russia's property," Kovalenko told reporters before leaving.
A civil aviation source told RIA Novosti that a plane had left Moscow early this morning to collect the Russian diplomatic staff from Tbilisi.
Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states on August 26, two weeks after it had expelled Georgian troops from South Ossetia following Tbilisi's August 8 military offensive against the republic.

Iran minister admits to fake uni degree

Tuesday, 30 September, 2008

Iran's interior minister has admitted that the honorary doctorate from Oxford University that he presented to parliament was a fake, Fars news agency reported.
In a letter to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Interior Minister Ali Kordan confirmed the certificate was a fake but claimed that he was victim of a swindle by a man who allegedly posed as a representative of the British university in Tehran.
Ahmadinejad last month ordered Kordan's doctorate to be verified and the minister himself reportedly took a lawyer to follow up the case in Oxford.
Presentation of false documents, especially in government service, is a crime punishable by a prison sentence in Iran.
It was unclear whether Kordan would keep his job or be dismissed by the president. SBS

Czech military counterintelligence confirms reports of Russian spying

PRAGUE, Czech Republic-30.09.2008
The Czech military counterintelligence says that foreign spies have tried to gain classified information about a planned US radar base in the Czech Republic. In its annual report for 2007, published on Monday, the Czech agency said that intelligence services of some countries were interested in recruiting Czech citizens with access to classified information. The report also said that in 2007, concrete interest was registered in information relating to the construction of the US anti-missile radar on Czech territory. The report came after the Czech civilian intelligence service said last week that Russian spies attempted to increase opposition on the part of Czech politicians, media and citizen groups to the radar base. Radio Prague

More here:

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) — A Czech intelligence agency says foreign intelligence services operating in the Czech Republic have been trying to gather information about a planned U.S. missile defense facility on Czech territory.
The Military Intelligence says in its annual report it has observed "a concrete interest" by foreign services in information about a radar base the U.S. plans to build near Prague as part of a missile shield Washington says is intended to counter a threat from Iran.
The report, released Monday, did not provide details.
Last week another Czech agency, the counterintelligence service BIS, said Russian agents have tried to increase public opposition to the radar.
Russia opposes the missile defense plan. AP

Monday, September 29, 2008

Italy's answer to the Mafia: an Anti-Mafia school

I want to cry...!!!

Rome, 29 Sept. (AKI) - A university course to teach 'secret agents' how to fight the Mafia is to begin on Saturday in the southern Italian region of Calabria, a Mafia stronghold. A group of 35 agents will be trained by the University of Calabria and Cosenza on how to fight the Mafia known as 'Ndrangheta, reported the Italian weekly, Gente.
"The master's first objective is to create an 'intelligence' to contrast with organised crime," said programme director, Mario Caligiuri." In Calabria there is not even a shred of a university course that deals with the 'Ndrangheta. The Turkish language is taught, but nothing about the history of 'Ndrangheta. "The students will learn about economic intelligence and the role of new technologies in criminal activities. Former Italian President Francesco Cossiga as well as the former director of the Italian intelligence agency SISDE, Vittorio Stelo and Judge Rosario Priore will play a role in teaching the course.
The course lasts 19 days, with classes lasting 8 hours, followed by 100 hours of internship. The course costs 4,000 euros per person. Italy's four main criminal organisations are the Sicilian Mafia, the Camorra in Naples and the surrounding Campania region, the 'Ndrangheta in the southern region of Calabria, and the Sacra Corona Unita in the southern Puglia region.

My advice to the 35 agents: if they don't teach you Calabrian, you're wasting your time and money! Read my lips: "U Calabrisi first"!
See that guy in the pic above? It took the Italian authorities 20 bloody years to arrest him! His main strength? He never spoke a word of Italian!!! (Link to article-in English!)

Iran tells Russia off

Iran expects Russia to fulfill commitments on Bushehr N-plant: MP

TEHRAN, Sep. 29 (ISNA)

The Rapporteur of Iran's Parliament Energy Commission Ali Adyani-Rad declared on Monday that Iran expects the Russian contractor to abide by articles of Iran-Russia agreement on building Bushehr nuclear power plant.
"It seems that Russia's approach on the joint project follows its own interests and some political deals in the international scene, but such strategies violate bilateral agreement," he said.
"Russia's failure to fulfill commitments to run Bushehr power plant on the determined timetable will bring a negative image for Russia and make it difficult for Moscow to get access to the global market," said the Rapporteur.
"The time for operating the project is still unclear," he said adding according to agreements between Iran and Russia the power plant should have been come on line so far.
Russia is helping Iran to build its first nuclear power plant in the southern port of Bushehr.
The plant was expected to launch early this year, but its operation was put off for several months due to some reasons.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Satanic fatwa for paedophiles

Original title: "Une fetwa satanique pour pédophiles" (Click)
(Une fetwa provoque l’indignation et la colère des Marocains. Cheikh Mohamed Ben Abderahman Al Maghrawi n’a rien trouvé de mieux que d’autoriser le mariage des filles à l’âge de 9 ans. Sur son site internet Maghrawi.net, ce disciple du wahhabisme, idéologue fondamentaliste, a publié, le 12 août 2008, un décret religieux intitulé L’âge du mariage, où il dit clairement que la physionomie d’une fillette de neuf ans lui permet d’avoir des rapports sexuels.Donc, d’assumer des responsabilités matrimoniales. Pour donner une légitimité à ses dires, Cheikh Mohamed Ben Abderahman Al Maghrawi s’est appuyé sur l’exemple du Prophète Sidna Mahammed qui, selon les haddith rapportés tant par Mouslim que par Boukhari, s’est marié avec Lalla Aïcha, sa troisième épouse et fille d’Abou Bakr, à l’âge de 6 ans mais n’a eu des relations sexuelles avec elle qu’à l’âge de 9 ans.)

Rabat - Authorities in Morocco have shut down about 60 Qur’anic schools belonging to a Muslim theologian who argues that girls as young as nine can marry. (Link)

The authorities also plan to close down the internet site on which Sheikh Mohamed Ben Abderrahman Al-Maghraoui decreed earlier this month that the marriage of nine-year-old girls is allowed by Islam.
The sheikh said his decree was based on the fact that the Prophet Mohammad consummated his marriage to his favourite wife when she was that age.
Lawyers, the media, and finally Muslim scholars rounded on Maghraoui for effectively seeking to legalise paedophilia.
The authorities finally took action on Wednesday, shutting down his headquarters in Marrakesh and dozens of his small Qur’anic schools dotted around the country.
“The internet site ‘Maghrawi.net’ is going to be closed (still open though...), while the headquarters of the Mohamed Maghraoui association in Marrakesh and his ‘Qur’anic Houses’ have already been closed,” a security official said.
Sheikh Maghraoui’s ‘fatwa’ or religious decree was condemned on Sunday by Morocco’s top body of Islamic scholars.

Read also:
"Morocco shuts 60 Muslim schools" (Link)
"Le bimbe si sposino a 9 anni" (Link)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Damascus bombing was carried by Iraqi suicide bomber

(NOW LEBANON-Sep 27, 2008)
Well-informed Syrian sources told NOW Lebanon on Saturday that the Damascus bombing was performed by an Iraqi suicide bomber who belonged to al-Qaeda. The sources added that the bomber had recently entered Syria and had been in communication with al-Qaeda members in the country.
The sources said that the attack targeted the security installation that was in close proximity to the bombing. “It was a message to the Syrian authorities, who were exerting pressuring on the al-Qaeda network in Syria, especially following increased Syrian openness toward the West, particularly with France, the indirect Israeli-Syrian negotiations and the Syrian decision to establish an embassy in Iraq,” said the sources.
They said that the message that al-Qaeda wanted to send to the Syrian regime was that increased Syrian pressure would lead to confrontation. The sources added that this suicide bombing was a warning that al- Qaeda would turn Syria into a “jihad land.”
The sources said that Syrian security forces had carried out a series of arrests and taken more than 35 people, mostly Syrians and other Arab nationals, into custody. (Link)

Zhirinovsky: "Abkhazia will be our Las Vegas"

The leader of the LDPR, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, has his own ideas regarding the newly appointed republic of Abkhazia!

"Abkhazia is not worse than Monaco or Las Vegas".

«Abkhazia should be an independent state, no visa, free travel, dual nationality. It should be just like Monaco and Liechtenstein. We could build a casino in Abkhazia and make it our Las Vegas and Monaco. Business will be as profitable in Abkhazia as it is in the Bahamas. And don't forget that Moscow-Sukhumi is only a two-hour flight». KP.ru

Russia-South Ossetia border may vanish - Putin

The border between Russia and South Ossetia may cease to exist, according to the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

He says there are corresponding mechanisms in the recently signed Moscow-Tskhinval agreement on friendship and co-operation. “As far as integration is concerned, currently it will be enough if we essentially eliminate borders between the Russian Federation and South Ossetia, assisting to restore the republic’s economy, if we give people an opportunity to live quietly and bring up their children, develop their republic and communicate without restrictions, without formalities at the frontier,” Putin said. He has added that one more document should be signed – on the one side it will be protecting Russia’s interests in respect to its outer boundaries, and on the other side it will give people an opportunity to communicate freely, “without any administrative barriers”. Russia has recognised the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia on August 26 as a result of Georgia’s aggression. On September 9 diplomatic ties have been established between Russia and the two republics, and on September 17 agreements on friendship and co-operation have been signed. As far as Georgia is concerned, Vladimir Putin believes diplomatic relations between Moscow and Tbilisi will be restored in the future. And so far the countries should maintain bilateral public relations. (Source)

Germany Recalls Envoy from Iran

27.09.2008 - Deutsche Welle

Germany has recalled its ambassador to Iran because a German diplomat attended a military parade in Tehran, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said Saturday.

The spokeswoman confirmed a report in the news magazine Der Spiegel that Ambassador Herbert Honsowitz had been told to report to Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Monday morning.

The magazine said the foreign minister was "very angry" that the embassy's defense attache attended the parade after ambassadors from EU member states had agreed to boycott it.

A banner reading "Israel should re erased from the world" was displayed at the event, which was addressed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the report said.

Der Spiegel said Monday's meeting was intended to clarify whether the ambassador had failed to give proper instructions to his defense attache.

On Friday, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Charlotte Knobloch, warned that Iran presented a threat "to all democratic states" because of its nuclear ambitions.

The United Nations has imposed sanctions on Iran for refusing to cease uranium enrichment, a process some states fear is geared towards producing a bomb, but which Tehran says is needed to generate electricity from nuclear power.

Germany joined the five permanent members of the UN Security Council on Friday in a resolution calling on Tehran to halt its nuclear activities.

DPA news agency

Russia refuses to allow NATO inspectors at its missile bases

MOSCOW, September 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will not allow Czech and Polish inspectors at its missile bases but is ready for further talks on the presence of its observers at U.S. missile shield sites in central Europe, the Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.
Foreign media reported last week that both the Czech Republic and Poland oppose a permanent Russian presence at planned U.S. missile defense facilities on their territories claiming that the permission could be granted only on the basis of reciprocity.
"The U.S. missile bases are being deployed near our borders and they demand that we must open access to our strategic sites for U.S. allies - Poland and the Czech Republic. There is not even a trace of logic in such demands," the ministry said in a statement.
"All we can see in these demands is the unwillingness to hold a professional dialogue aimed at getting concrete results. It seems that neither Poland nor the Czech Republic is interested in the constructive dialogue at this point," the statement said.
However, the Foreign Ministry reiterated that Moscow will seek further talks on the U.S. missile shield in central Europe "whenever our partners are ready to sit at the negotiation table."
Russia fiercely opposes the U.S. plans to deploy 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a tracking radar in the Czech Republic as a threat to its national security. Moscow has warned it would be forced to target its missiles at Poland if the former Soviet-bloc state hosts the interceptor missiles.

Read also today's "Russian spy activity reaches fever pitch over U.S. radar base" (Link)

Czech F. M. Schwarzenberg on U.S. Missile Shield: delay would be more likely if Obama wins

Photo from AP Photo by Petr David Josek

"Schwarzenberg said Czech officials had been in contact with the campaigns of both presidential candidates, Democratic Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain, to discuss the future of the missile shield. He said a delay would be more likely if Obama wins the November 4 election." NYT

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The current financial crisis could delay a U.S. missile shield due to be built in the Czech Republic and Poland but both U.S. presidential candidates are committed to it, the Czech foreign minister said on Friday. Asked if the U.S. economic strife could slow down the project, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, "I could imagine that there will be a slowing up but both (candidates) agree that it is all right.
"Of course, it's up to the Americans when they build it."
Schwarzenberg said Czech officials had been in contact with the campaigns of both presidential candidates, Democratic Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain, to discuss the future of the missile shield. He said a delay would be more likely if Obama wins the November 4 election.
"But basically both consider it important for the defense of the United States and the European continent," he said.
The Czech government signed an agreement with the United States to host a radar in July and, last month, Poland agreed to host 10 missile interceptors as part of the shield. The deals still must go through the parliaments of the two countries.
The Czechs hope to get parliamentary approval of the radar pact by the end of the year.
The Bush administration wants a tracking radar system southwest of Prague as part of a plan to protect the United States and Europe against the perceived threat of missile attacks from countries such as Iran.
Moscow, at odds with Western governments over its invasion of Georgia, has said the plan is really aimed at Russia and that it would respond militarily to the deployment of U.S. missile interceptors close to its borders.
Schwarzenberg reiterated the Czech position that Russia had nothing to fear from the shield.

The problem for Moscow, Schwarzenberg said, was not the radar or interceptors but the fact that it will be located on what had been the territory of the Warsaw Pact, the alliance of the former Soviet Union and its satellite states. This is an area where Russian leaders believe they still have a say, he said.
The Warsaw Pact included Czechoslovakia, which split in 1993 into separate Czech and Slovak republics.
The Czechs take over the rotating presidency of the European Union from France on January 1, and Schwarzenberg said he expects the Russians are preparing a test for them and the EU.
"They will find a way to test us, I have no doubt," he said.
It was impossible to say what the test would be, though it could take the form of a reduction in oil deliveries, he said.
Schwarzenberg recalled a speech by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in 2007 at a security conference in Munich in which Putin, then Russia's president, vowed to prevent the United States from taking over the world.
Washington dismissed the speech at the time. The Czechs and others said it was like a declaration of a new Cold War.
The Czech foreign minister said Russia's invasion of NATO-aspirant Georgia, which Moscow wants to keep out of the alliance, showed people should have taken Putin seriously.
"This was a clearly revisionist speech. Few people understood that it was meant seriously." Asked if people were taking Putin seriously now, he said, "At least some, yes." NYT

Russian spy activity reaches fever pitch over U.S. radar base

The Czech counter-intelligence service (BIS) has said Russian spies are trying to stir up public opposition to a planned U.S. radar base to be built on Czech soil. In its annual report, the agency claimed Russian intelligence activity in the Czech Republic had reached fever pitch, and suggested the wider aim could be to weaken NATO and isolate the United States.

BIS spokesman Jan Šubert spoke to Czech Television.
“Russian spies have been trying to infiltrate several groups in our society, establishing contact with the aim of influencing various people including politicians and members of the media.”
Russia is deeply suspicious of Washington’s plan to build the radar base – part of the U.S. missile defence shield – in the Czech Republic, and has threatened to retaliate by targeting the radar base with its own missiles. Repeated threats by Russian generals have done little to slow the progress of the project – U.S. and Czech officials have signed the deal, although it must be still approved in parliament, perhaps its greatest test.
The Czech public has remained stubbornly opposed to the radar base plan from the outset, and it's hard to estimate how much - if any - of that opposition was forged by Russian spies.
But the BIS also said Russian intelligence might have a more ambitious goal - to drive a wedge between the United States and its European allies. The agency’s report speculated that Russia’s measures were part of a wider campaign aimed at damaging the integrity of the EU and NATO, isolating the United States and renewing control over the lost Soviet security perimeter in Europe.
Reaction to the report has been mixed. The Czech parliament’s security committee has invited the head of the service to a hearing to give further details of what several MPs say is an extremely worrying report. But a spokesman for the Russian foreign intelligence service denied its agents were interested in the base, and a member of the anti-radar group No To Bases – which some claim has been financed by Russian intelligence – suggested the report was released to divert attention away from the government’s current political troubles. (Radio.cz)

SANA: Car bomb explosion kills 17 in Damascus

Saturday, September 27, 2008 - 09:35 AM

Damascus, (SANA)- A car bomb explosion killed 17 and wounded 14 others in the Syrian capital this morning, the Syrian government television reported . The Syrian TV added that the car was loaded with 200 kg of explosive materials. The explosion took place near a security establishment on the road to Damascus international airport at a crossing leading to Lady Zeibab Tomb frequently visited by Shiite Moslems coming from Lebanon and Iraq. Eyewitnesses said that the security forces cordoned the area. This is the second explosion took place in Syria following the explosion that led to the assassination of the military commander of Lebanese Hizbullah party, Emad Maghniya last Feb. Last month a senior security official was mysteriously assassinated in Tartous summer resort.