|Leaked cables expose British
‘paranoia’over links to US
(AFP) - US officials privately mocked the attitude of senior
members of then opposition leader David Cameron’s party who
vowed to run a pro-US regime if they won this year’s
election, in leaked cables yesterday.
Conservative party politicians also lined up to pledge that
they would buy more arms from the US if they came to power,
the US embassy cables released by the WikiLeaks website and
published in The Guardian show.
In meetings held before Cameron came to power in May’s
election, some US diplomats were amused by what they call
Britain’s “paranoid” fears about the so-called special
relationship between the two countries.
One said the anxious British attitude “would often be
humorous if it were not so corrosive” and suggested it would
be possible to take advantage of this neurosis to “make
London more willing to respond favourably when pressed for
Liam Fox, now defence minister, promised to buy US military
equipment, while the current foreign minister, William
Hague, offered the US ambassador to London a “pro-American”
Hague told an official the entire Conservative leadership
were, like him, “staunchly Atlanticist” and “children of
Thatcher”, in a reference to former Conservative prime
minister Margaret Thatcher.
Fox met ambassador Louis Susman a year ago. In a cable
marked “confidential”, Susman recorded: “Liam Fox affirmed
his desire to work closely with the US if the Conservative
party wins power -- adding that ‘we (Conservatives) intend
to follow a much more pro-American profile in procurement’”
than the then Labour government of Gordon Brown.
He reportedly went on: “Increasing US-UK ‘interoperability
is the key’ since the US and UK will continue to fight
together in the future” and “expressed confidence regarding
US leadership in Afghanistan and optimism about the way
In a meeting with another US official, Hague is said to have
stated “whoever enters 10 Downing Street as prime minister
soon learns of the essential nature of the relationship with
America... ‘We want a pro-American regime. We need it. The
world needs it.”
Other US cables released by WikiLeaks earlier this week
revealed disappointment at British forces’ performance in
the violence-torn Helmand province of Afghanistan.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday tried to
reassure Britain over its role in Afghanistan, saying she
wanted to express her “deep respect and admiration for the
extraordinary efforts” made by British forces.
Speaking at a security conference in Bahrain, Clinton said
she wanted to express “our regret if anything that was said
by anyone suggests to the contrary”.
More Wikileaks stories inside
|Tech pioneer converts waste into
BANGKOK (AFP) - Paijit Sangchai drops a
small piece of laminated paper into a jar of cloudy liquid
which he hopes will transform his start-up into a
multi-million dollar company and help revolutionise
“Now this is the fun part,” he says a few minutes later,
holding it under the tap to wash away soggy paper pulp and
reveal a clear plastic film.
His Thai firm, Flexoresearch, has developed a series of
blended enzymes that can recover pulp or fibre from
laminated paper such as cigarette packets, stickers or milk
cartons that were previously hard or impossible to recycle.
First one enzyme attacks the water resistant chemical
coating the surface, then others take over and tackle the
paper and adhesive layers. The resulting pulp, he says, can
be used to produce new paper products -- thus saving trees
-- or turned into building materials that can be used as an
alternative to asbestos, which is potentially hazardous to
The technique, believed to be the first of its kind, also
produces clean plastic that can be recycled and used to
produce new products.
The firm was recently named one of 31 “Technology Pioneers”
by the World Economic Forum, which said its products were
“poised to reduce the use of asbestos in the developing
world, positively impacting people’s health.”
|US winning Afghan war: Obama
President visits Kabul to greet troops
|BAGRAM AIR BASE (AFP) - President Barack Obama paid a
surprise visit to Afghanistan and assured cheering US troops
they are winning the war against the Taliban despite
“difficult days ahead”.
The president landed in Kabul under cover of darkness, with
aides announcing nothing of the trip beforehand due to
Obama, who has tripled US troop numbers in Afghanistan,
spent a mere four hours in the country during his second
visit as president, all at this air base outside Kabul.
A face-to-face visit with President Hamid Karzai was
replaced with a 15-minute phone call, as weather scuppered
plans to fly Obama by helicopter to the nearby Afghan
The trip came as the Obama administration faced new friction
with Karzai over embarrassing assessments of the Afghan
leader in leaked diplomatic cables, but war czar Douglas
Lute told reporters the topic did not come up between the
The White House is also preparing to release a review of its
war strategy later this month to an American public
increasingly weary of the nine-year conflict.
“You’re achieving your objectives, you will succeed in your
mission,” Obama told nearly 4,000 exuberant troops who
greeted him with cheers and applause.
“We said we were going to break the Taliban’s momentum.
That’s what you’re doing.”
But Obama warned “there are going to be difficult days
ahead” in the fight against insurgents, and appeared to
choke up as he described his visit to a base hospital where
he pinned Purple Heart medals on five wounded soldiers
spending the holiday season on the battlefront.
A year after Obama authorised a surge of 30,000 US troops,
Afghanistan is in the grips of growing violence that is
deadlier than ever before. More than 1,400 US servicemen and
women have been killed since the 2001 US-led invasion to
oust the Taliban -- a third of them this year alone.
|Sarkozy to push defence, nuclear deals
|PARIS (AFP) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy was due
in India yesterday, the latest in a line of global leaders
beating a trade-focussed path to the door of the world’s
second fastest growing economy.
Sarkozy, who will lobby on behalf of French companies
chasing multi-billion-dollar contracts for fighter jets and
nuclear technology, will be accompanied on the four-day trip
by his pop star wife Carla Bruni.
His visit comes a month after US President Barack Obama
travelled to India and will be followed in swift succession
by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Russian President Dmitry
Sarkozy is leading a high-powered delegation of seven
ministers and around 60 chief executives, including the
heads of aircraft-makers Dassault Aviation and EADS, and the
state-controlled nuclear group Areva.
The size and prestige of the delegation shows France’s
“recognition” of India’s position as “the world’s second
growth engine” after China, an Elysee aide said. “In this
very competitive environment, we have a special place in
India,” he added.
Dassault is hoping to pick up a 1.2-billion dollar contract
to revamp 56 Mirage-2000 aircraft that France sold India
nearly two decades ago.
India’s ambitious military spending plans, spread across all
three wings of its armed forces, are a source of intense
competition among foreign arms manufacturers.
According to global consultancy firm KPMG, India is about to
embark on “one of the largest procurement cycles in the
world,” with an expected 112 billion dollars in defence
acquisitions by 2016.
Dassault and EADS are both in the running, together with US
and Swedish rivals, for an 11 billion dollar tender by the
Indian Air Force to purchase 126 warplanes.
Sarkozy’s trip also carries a wider brief as his first visit
to a G20 state since France took the presidency of the group
of developed and major developing economic powers.
During talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he
is expected to push his plans for overhauling the global
monetary system and regulating commodities markets.
Sarkozy last visited India in 2008, just before he married
Bruni, the supermodel turned pop singer who is now a
goodwill ambassador for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS,
Tuberculosis and Malaria.
The couple plan to squeeze in a private visit today to the
Taj Mahal, the 17th century “monument to love” built by
Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his queen Mumtaz
On the official level, Sarkozy will be accompanied by
Defence Minister Alain Juppe, Foreign Minister Michele
Alliot-Marie and Economy Minister Christine Lagarde.
Indian officials said no contracts would be signed during
the visit but there are hopes of progress in talks for Areva
to build two nuclear reactors in western India.
Sarkozy’s trip kicks off with a visit to Indian Space
Research Organisation in the southern city of Bangalore,
India’s high-tech capital.
The symbolism of starting the trip there intends to “pay
homage to the India of the 21st century,” a Sarkozy aide
The French leader will tomorrow meet Indian Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh and President Pratibha Patil in New Delhi.
The French first lady plans to visit a foundation for
children suffering from AIDS and will also tour a hospital
in the capital.
Bruni, who lost her brother Virginio to AIDS in 2006, became
an ambassador for the Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS
On Tuesday, Sarkozy will travel to Mumbai, where he will pay
his respects to the victims of the 2008 militant attacks on
the city that claimed 166 lives.
|World powers urge Gbagbo to concede presidency
(AFP) - Ivory Coast’s bloody election standoff escalated
yesterday with world powers urging long-term President
Laurent Gbagbo to make way for his old rival Alassane
With both candidates claiming victory and the United
Nations, United States and European Union all throwing their
weight behind Ouattara, Ivorians waited anxiously for the
next move by Gbagbo, clinging on after a decade in power.
State television said early Saturday that a ceremony was
planned to confirm Gbagbo in office at midday and broadcast
pictures of him meeting military leaders who it said pledged
allegiance to him.
The Constitutional Council, the country’s highest court run
by the president’s allies, had declared Gbagbo the winner,
tightening the deadlock as fears mounted of more deadly
But Ouattara defied Gbagbo, declaring himself
president-elect as the international community began to fall
in behind him on Friday.
“I am the elected president of the Republic of Ivory Coast,”
Ouattara told reporters.
“The Constitutional Council has abused its authority, the
whole world knows it, and I am sorry for my country’s
Both sides had traded allegations of cheating in the vote
and Gbagbo’s camp tried to have results annulled in
Ouattara’s northern stronghold, but the United Nations
judged the polls sound overall.
Gbagbo’s camp remained defiant as Ouattara won international
backing, threatening to expel the United Nations envoy to
|South Korea promises air strike
|SEOUL: South Korea’s defence minister-designate has
promised a tougher response, including air strikes, if North
Korea attacks again.
Kim Kwan-jin was responding to questions in parliament
during his confirmation hearing.
North Korea shelled a Southern island near the two
countries’ disputed maritime border last week, killing four
people and destroying many homes.
South Korea’s spy chief has said another Northern attack was
Tensions have soared in the region since the North Korean
bombardment of Yeonpyeong island on November 23. Two
civilians and two South Korean marines were killed.
The shelling came after South Korean forces conducted
exercises in the area.
|Galaxy tablet vs iPad
|HONG KONG (AFP) - Last Christmas anybody asked if they
wanted a “tablet” probably thought they were being offered a
pill to ease indigestion caused by a little bit of festive
But this year, millions of people around the world will be
glued to their iPad or other tablet computer instead of
watching yet another re-run of a movie on TV.
Samsung Electronics says it has sold over 700,000 of its
Galaxy Tab device in the six weeks since its launch and
believes at least a million will be in people’s hands by the
end of the year.
But that’s still miles behind the iPad, which only went on
sale in South Korea -- Samsung’s home turf -- for the first
Apple has sold more than eight million of the gadgets since
it went on sale in April but could have sold more, experts
say, were it not for problems making enough to meet demand.
Sony, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM), Toshiba,
Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, Dell, Asus, Acer -- most of the
big global brand names in the technology sector have a
tablet computer on the market or in the pipeline.
Technology research firm Gartner last month said sales of
tablet computers are expected to soar from nearly 20 million
units this year to 55 million next year and over 208 million
The Galaxy Tab has a seven-inch (18-cm) touch screen --
significantly smaller than the iPad’s nearly 10-inch
display. But Samsung says it will introduce “new tablets of
different sizes in the near future”.
Apple’s first generation iPad does not have a camera, does
not function as a phone and the company does not allow the
Flash video standard on the gadget. These are all big
advantages for Samsung, the company says.
“The Tab sets itself apart from other similar smart media
devices by featuring optimal portability, Flash support,
dual cameras and phone-call functions,” Samsung Electronics
spokesman Nam Ki-yung said