|US concerns over Iran
‘shared by neighbours’
MANAMA (AFP) - US
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said American concerns
over Iran’s suspected atomic weapons programme are shared by
the Islamic republic’s neighbours.
Speaking to journalists about talks due to start between
major powers and Iran tomorrow, Clinton said, “There is no
debate in the international community, and perhaps the
Iranians will engage seriously ... on what is a concern
shared by nations on every continent, but most particularly
right here in the region.
“Because obviously if you’re the neighbour of a country that
is pursuing nuclear weapons, that is viewed in a much more
threatening way than if you’re a concerned country many
thousand of miles away. But the concern is the same and we
hope that Iran will respond.”
Clinton is in Bahrain to open the annual Manama Dialogue
organised by the London-based International Institute of
Strategic Studies, which this year draws prime ministers,
defence ministers, military officials, intelligence chiefs
and private sector heads from across the region.
The meeting, billed as the “most important regional security
meeting in the Middle East and an excellent anchor for
regional security diplomacy,” comes as US diplomacy reels
amid a storm of anger from foreign governments scrutinised
in State Department cables published by WikiLeaks.
Some of the most prominent headlines highlighted widespread
fears among Arab countries in the Gulf about Iran’s
suspected nuclear weapons programme and their calls to nip
it in the bud.
Perhaps most famously, Saudi King Abdullah was quoted in a
cable saying the US should “cut off the head of the snake”.
And this weekend’s host, Bahrain’s King Hamad, told US
General David Petraeus the Iranian “programme must be
stopped ... The danger of letting it go on is greater than
the danger of stopping it.
Iran, which has downplayed the WikiLeaks disclosures and
said they will not affect relations with its neighbours, has
adopted a tough and uncompromising stance ahead of new
nuclear talks with world powers.
After months of stalling, it will resume talks in Geneva on
Monday and Tuesday with the so-called P5+1 grouping UN
Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France,
Russia and the United States with Germany.
The Security Council has called on Iran in six resolutions
-- four of which impose sanctions -- to halt its
controversial atomic work, as part of the international
community suspects Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons
Tehran denies the charge, insisting its nuclear programme is
solely aimed at peaceful ends and energy production.
Western powers “have used all the capabilities at their
disposal, like passing resolutions, imposing sanctions and
piling on political pressure but they did not gain
anything,” said chief negotiator Saeed Jalili, who will
represent Tehran in Geneva.
“They have (now) resorted to assassination, which shows
their desperation and the dead end they have reached,” said
That was a reference to the murder on Monday of a senior
Iranian nuclear scientist, that Tehran blamed on the United
States and Israel.
World powers have not reacted to Iranian accusations.
It took Iran and the P5+1 grouping one month to agree on a
date and venue for the talks, but the two sides have yet to
agree on an agenda.
The world powers want to focus on Iran’s uranium enrichment
programme, but Tehran wants a wider discussion that includes
regional security issues and archfoe Israel’s alleged
possession of nuclear arms.
To make things more complicated, Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad repeated this week that uranium enrichment,
which is the main issue of concern over Iran’s nuclear
activities, was “non-negotiable” and that pressure “will not
bear any results.”
And Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran’s presence
in Geneva “does not mean that we will make concessions or
retreat from our principled position”.
|MPs ‘misled’ over US cluster bombs
|LONDON: The British government “misled” parliament by
withholding a loophole allowing America to continue to store
its cluster bombs on UK territory despite a ban under the
Convention on Cluster Munitions to which Britain is a
signatory, according to classified diplomatic cables
released by WikiLeaks.
The information withheld from MPs related to an agreement
granting America, which has not signed the Convention,
temporary exemptions from the ban. A leaked cable reveals
that the Foreign Office wanted the decision, agreed in
principle by the then Labour Foreign Secretary, David
Miliband, to be kept secret in order not to “muddy” a
parliamentary debate on ratifying the Convention.
In a cable, dated May 21, 2009, the head of security police
at the Foreign Office, Nicolas Pickard, is quoted telling
American diplomats it would be better to delay formalising
the agreement until after the Convention was approved.
The cable quotes him as saying: “It would be better for the
USG [US government] and HMG [Her Majesty’s government] not
to reach final agreement on this temporary agreement
understanding until after the CCM ratification process is
completed in Parliament, so that they can tell
parliamentarians that they have requested the USG to remove
its cluster munitions by 2013, without complicating/muddying
the debate by having to indicate that this request is open
The cable also shows that most of the American cluster bombs
are stored on its ships off the British island of Diego
Garcia, apparently to circumvent the ban. It says that
Pickard “reconfirmed that off-shore storage on U.S. ships
would still be permitted”.
The Foreign Office denied deliberately misleading
“We reject any allegation that the FCO deliberately misled
or failed in our obligation to inform Parliament,” it said.
|Leaks ‘hurt diplomatic business’
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The massive leak of diplomatic cables has
put a chill on US diplomatic contacts at a time when
President Barack Obama’s administration is trying to rebuild
world trust in its foreign policy, experts said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senator John Kerry and
former State Department officials all stressed the need for
US diplomats to have candid conversations with foreign
interlocutors without fear of public exposure.
“Every country, including the US, must be able to have
honest, private dialogue with other countries about issues
of common concern,” Clinton said.
But the chief US diplomat also said she was confident “the
partnerships the Obama administration has worked so hard to
build will withstand this challenge” posed by the dump of
documents by the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks.
James Collins, a former US ambassador to Moscow, was not so
“It’s certainly going to complicate the ability to build
trust,” Collins said.
“It’s hard to say yet whether it’s going to undermine it or
not. But it’s certainly going to undermine the ability of
people to have confidence that what they talk about in
confidence will stay that way,” he said.
Collins, who heads the Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace’s Russia and Eurasia programme, said the leaks will
put a chill on talks with foreign powers and deny Washington
a source of information on which to build policy.
“It will also deprive them (foreign policy makers) of the
ability to get candid advice from our people in the field,”
He said it will complicate the US ability to conduct
multi-party negotiations on sensitive topics, such as
efforts to curb the nuclear ambitions on Iran and North
Korea or to stabilise Afghanistan.
“If you’re conducting negotiations, are these going to be
confidential or not?” Collins said. “Our partners are just
not going to know.”
On Iran, the US works with Russia, China, Britain, France
and Germany. On North Korea, it works with Russia, China,
Japan and South Korea.
He said he could not tell whether the leaks would undercut
the Obama administration’s policy to “reset” relations with
Russia which hit a low during the administration of former
president George W. Bush.
Nor could he tell whether it will undermine understandings
with partners on Iran.
Wendy Chamberlin, a former US ambassador to Pakistan, told
AFP that a “great deal of damage” had been done to the
conduct of diplomacy, adding that foreign interlocutors
“will be constrained to talk to us if they know it will go
immediately into the press and to their publics.”
Richard Haas, a former director of policy planning at the
State Department, said the massive leak “does not appear to
constitute a national security crisis,” but causes both
immediate and long-term problems for the United States and
“The longer term damage may be more real,” wrote Haas, the
Council on Foreign Relations president.
“Foreign governments may think twice before sharing their
secrets or even their candid judgments with American
counterparts lest they read about them on the Internet,” he
Haas said the WikiLeaks revelations may also create some
immediate security problems.
“Counterterrorism efforts in Yemen might also be set back as
the leadership there might well feel the need to distance
itself from the United States,” he said.
In January talks with US General David Petraeus, Yemeni
President Ali Abdullah Saleh admitted lying to his own
people by pretending that US military strikes against
Al-Qaeda are carried out by Yemeni forces, according to a
“If you look at something like Yemen, it may make them
unwilling to cooperate with respect to terrorism,” US
Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations
Committee, told reporters.
“It’s an outrageous, counter-productive effort and I think
that prosecution is what ought to happen,” he said.
|Europe debt crisis still serious, says
|NEW DELHI (AFP) - The head of the International Monetary
Fund (IMF) said the debt crisis in Europe was still serious
but he tipped Ireland to recover after its weekend bailout.
Last Sunday, the European Union and the IMF announced an
85-billion-euro (111-billion-dollar) rescue package for
Ireland to shore up its banking sector and enable the
country to meet its debt obligations.
The comments by IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn
came as the European Central Bank, holding a policy meeting,
was expected to signal action to fight the eurozone debt
crisis, notably with help for banks.
“The crisis in Europe is still strong” with some European
countries at the “cliff-edge,” Strauss-Kahn said in a speech
to business leaders and ambassadors in New Delhi.
But he said the Irish rescue “should fix the problems” and
the country’s economy “will come back on on track rather
rapidly,” adding the IMF stood poised to assist other
nations if needed.
The IMF bailout of Ireland has calmed fears about the Irish
economy but led to intensified speculation that fellow
eurozone debt-ridden financial stragglers Portugal and Spain
could also need help in the future.
Greece, another eurozone laggard with chronic public finance
problems, received a 110 billion euro-joint bailout in May
from the EU and IMF.
Strauss-Kahn contrasted Asia’s economic vitality with the
sluggish recovery in Europe and the United States, which are
still struggling from the effects of the global financial
A number of European countries needed to reduce their public
spending deficits to avoid running into trouble, he said,
adding that even small economies “may create a lot of
During and after the global financial crisis, all major
world powers stimulated their economies to increase demand
and to counterbalance the effects of the economic shock
caused by the banking sector meltdown.
In most developed countries, this spending was financed
through borrowing, leading to large deficits that have begun
to worry investors.
“Global recovery is moving along, but is still emerging and
fragile,” said Strauss-Kahn, who is under pressure to run
for the French presidency and whose one-day visit to New
Delhi came days before an official trip by French President
“In parts of world, in Asia, South America and parts of
Africa, growth is going well,” Strauss-Kahn added, paying
tribute to India which he said has “become an economic
|Berlusconi in Russia amid revelations
of US concern
MOSCOW (AFP) - Silvio Berlusconi
met Russian President Dmitry Medvedev amid revelations from
leaked US cables of growing anxiety in Washington about the
Italian prime minister’s ties to Moscow.
The talks were to be the seventh between Berlusconi and a
Russian president, most of which came during Russian Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin’s two terms as head of state.
And it was Berlusconi’s relations with his close personal
friend Putin that appeared to spark the greatest US concern
in documents revealed this week by WikiLeaks.
The anxieties were expressed both by US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton and the US embassy in Rome. One cable lists
a set of questions she forwarded in a document titled a
“request for information on Italy-Russia relations.”
Clinton asked about the basis of the leaders’ friendship and
whether the Italian government had “made decisions to
benefit Italian business or commercial interests at the
expense of political concerns about energy policy.”
That question appeared aimed at ENI, the partially
state-owned Italian energy giant that has been picked as a
partner by Russia for lucrative natural gas projects,
including the South Stream pipeline rivalling the US-backed
One US cable said that “ENI’s presence in Russia exceeds
that of Italy’s understaffed embassy.” It added that “What
is unclear is how much coordination occurs between ENI and
the Russian political structures.”
The Kremlin said energy and economic cooperation would be
high on Friday’s agenda and that South Stream would feature
prominently in the talks.
The two sides were also expected to discuss Russia’s missile
shield proposal for Europe that has been championed by
Berlusconi but looked on with scepticism by both Washington
|‘Eyes of a killer’
(AFP) - The European Union’s former external affairs
commissioner Chris Patten once said that Vladimir Putin had
the eyes “of a killer” when talking about Chechnya, a
confidential US cable showed.
Released by WikiLeaks, the 2004 dispatch from the US embassy
in Brussels described a conversation Patten had with US
officials a week after holding talks with then-president
Putin in Moscow.
Patten’s visit to Moscow came in the closing stages of
Russia’s second war in the predominantly Muslim republic, a
campaign that Putin spearheaded and described as an
“He seems a completely reasonable man when discussing the
Middle East or energy policy, but when the conversation
shifts to Chechnya or Islamic extremism, Putin’s eyes turn
to those of a killer,” the cable quoted Patten as telling a
top embassy official.
Patten cautioned, “I’m not saying that genes are
determinant,” but noted that “Putin’s grandfather was part
of Lenin’s special protection team, father a Communist party
apparatchik, and Putin himself decided at a young age to
join the KGB,” the dispatch to Washington said.
Putin joined the KGB as a foreign intelligence agent,
serving briefly in Dresden, which was then part of Communist
Russia’s offensive in Chechnya has been repeatedly
criticised for human rights violations while Putin has used
colourful language to describe the Chechen insurgents, at
one stage vowing to “waste them in the outhouse”.