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China, Pakistan formalise $10bn deals
ISLAMABAD (AFP) - China and Pakistan were set to conclude another $10 billion worth of deals yesterday, the latest signings on a trade focussed trip to South Asia for Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
Business leaders are scheduled to formalise deals at Islamabad’s five-star Marriott Hotel, where a devastating truck bomb killed 60 people in 2008, adding to the 20 billion dollar deals inked on Friday.
Boosting trade and investment have been the main focus of what has been the first visit in five years by a Chinese premier to the nuclear-armed Muslim nation on the front line of the US-led war on Al-Qaeda.
Pakistan regards China as its closest ally and the deals are seen locally as incredibly important to a moribund economy, which was dealt a massive blow by catastrophic flooding this year and suffers from sluggish foreign investment.
Pakistani Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said the countries signed 13 agreements and memorandums of understanding on Friday in fields ranging from energy to railways, from reconstruction to agriculture and culture.
Kaira said China had promised to fund “all the energy projects of Pakistan,” which he termed a “major breakthrough”. Pakistan suffers from a debilitating energy crisis and produces only 80 percent of the electricity it needs.
“China will provide assistance in 36 projects in Pakistan to be completed in five years,” he said. “Basically this is a five-year development plan.”
Although not specifically mentioned, behind-the-scenes talks are also expected on China building a one-gigawatt nuclear power plant as part of Pakistani plans to produce 8,000 megawatts of electricity by 2025 to make up its energy shortfall.
Gbagbo cronies face EU curbs
PARIS (AFP) - The international community is preparing a campaign of financial strangulation to prise Laurent Gbagbo from power in Ivory Coast, targeting key bank accounts, officials and experts say.
Former International Monetary Fund director Alassane Ouattara is widely recognised as the winner of last month’s presidential run-off vote, but the incumbent Gbagbo has refused to leave office amid rising violence.
“It is necessary to maintain the pressure, even increasing it through the fact that the only valid banking signatory for the Ivorian state is Ouattara,” said French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie.
France, the former colonial power, has called for Gbagbo to give up power by the end of the week.
The European Union is preparing sanctions against 18 of Gbagbo’s cronies, including freezing their personal bank accounts and issuing visa bans.
“Laurent Gbagbo faces measures which will gradually strangle him,” said a senior French official.
“Ouattara has started to name ambassadors, there are individual sanctions taken by the European Union, there is the closure of state accounts with the sole recognised signature, that of Alassane Ouattara,” he said.
The first goal of the campaign of financial strangulation is weakening Gbagbo’s grip on the military by rendering him unable to pay wages.
“It will take around a month for this recognition to produce concrete effects,” said the official.
But experts warn that the process could be slow as Gbagbo likely possesses financial resources outside international controls, and sanctions may also increase his support among the population.
“In the case of the Gbagbo clan, the lesson since the start of this crisis is that external pressures are used as a political resource, turned upside down by the logic of ultra-nationalist sovereignty,” said Richard Banegas, a historian specialising in Ivory Coast.
“Laurent Gbagbo controls the production and exports of petroleum and cocoa (the country’s key crop). If one wants to suffocate the regime, it is necessary for example to consider a blockade of the port of Abidjan,” he said.
Netanyahu rapped

RIYADH (AFP) - A Saudi-promoted Arab initiative is the best model for peace, Israeli-British “new historian” Avi Shlaim said in an interview in Riyadh, accusing Israel’s premier of sabotaging the process.
On his first visit to the Gulf state, the professor at St Antony’s College, Oxford said he had found Saudis “pragmatic” and ready to recognise Israel’s right to exist if a Palestinian state was created based on pre-1967 borders.
“I was surprised by ... the lack of any harsh rhetoric and condemnation of Israel,” Shlaim, an expert on Israeli-Arab relations, told AFP during a one-week visit to Riyadh.
Shlaim, a dual British-Israeli national who had to use his British passport to enter the kingdom, which does not recognise Israel, was invited by former intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal, a brother of Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal.
He has been meeting Saudi and foreign diplomats, scholars and businessmen, and spoke on Israeli-Arab relations at the King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “intransigence” was to blame for the failure to date of US-sponsored talks between the Palestinians and Israel, he said, voicing surprise Washington was not publicly blaming the Jewish state.
US President Barack Obama had gone “head-to-head” with Netanyahu three times over the crucial issue of Jewish settlements, said Shlaim. “Three times Obama lost” and was now “losing credibility in the Arab world.”
Shlaim is one of a group of Israeli “new historians” who have challenged the classic David vs Goliath portrayal of Israel’s founding -- the others include Benny Morris and Ilan Pappe.
Born in Baghdad in 1945, while he was still young his family moved to Israel, where he grew up and did service in the Israeli military.
He went on to study history at Cambridge, becoming an expert on Israel’s establishment and its conflicts. His books include portraits of Jordan’s King Abdullah I and King Hussein, and “The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World.”
Israel “bears a larger share of the responsibility for the political deadlock” with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbours since its establishment in 1948, he wrote in that book.
His visit as a Jew to Saudi Arabia, which practices an ultra-conservative version of Islam, was not an issue. “Saudis do not have problems with Jews, but with Israelis,” he said.
Shlaim praised Saudi King Abdullah’s Arab Peace Initiative, first advanced in 2002, offering Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for a Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders, with its capital in east Jerusalem.
The initiative is “the best plan imaginable,” he said. It “offers Israel what it always said it wanted.”
Shlaim, however, also blamed the Saudis for merely laying the plan on the table. “My one criticism of the Saudis is that there was no follow-up,” said the Oxford professor.

Beijing calls Tokyo’s stance ‘irresponsible’

China military a ‘global concern’

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan labelled the military build-up of rival China a global “concern” and said it would strengthen missile defences against the threat from North Korea, as part of a major strategic review.
The changes would also see Tokyo boost its southern forces and submarine fleet and upgrade its fighter jets as part of a shift in its defence focus from the Soviet Cold War threat to southern islands nearer China.
The cabinet of officially pacifist Japan approved the National Defence Programme Guidelines months after a territorial row flared up with China and weeks after North Korea launched a deadly artillery strike against South Korea.
Beijing called Japan’s stance “irresponsible”.
“No country has the right to appoint themselves the representative of the international community and make irresponsible comments on China’s development,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a statement.
The new guidelines labelled North Korea -- which in recent years has fired missiles over Japan, staged two nuclear tests and last month unveiled a new uranium enrichment plant -- an “urgent, grave factor for instability”.
Japan, like its top security ally the United States, again voiced concern over China’s recent military build-up and increased assertiveness in what Beijing sees as its ancestral waters in the East China and South China seas.
“China is rapidly modernising its military force and expanding activities in its neighbouring waters,” said the guidelines.
“Together with the lack of transparency on China’s military and security issues, the trend is a concern for the region and the international community,” said the paper, which sets out strategic planning for the coming decade.
Security analyst Akira Kato, a professor at Tokyo’s Oberlin University, said “the guidelines underline Japan’s clear shift of focus to counteracting China’s growing naval power, which is a major threat to Japan and the United States.”
Japan will increase its submarine fleet from 16 to 22 and modernise its fighter jets, but scrap more than 200 tanks and 200 artillery pieces, it said.
It also plans to double from three to six its land-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor missile systems, and increase from four to six the number of sea-based Standard Missile-3 interceptors on its Aegis destroyers.
Pledging a more nimble defence capability, it said: “We will build a dynamic defence force backed by sophisticated technologies and intelligence, with readiness, mobility, flexibility, sustainability and multiple disciplines.”
The outlook moves away from the perceived Cold War threat of a Soviet invasion and calls for drawing down troop strength on northern Hokkaido island.
Instead it says Japan will boost its ground, air and naval forces on the far-southern Nansei islands that take in Okinawa, a major base for US forces, and are closer to remote flashpoint islands near Taiwan.
The guidelines called the Japan-US alliance “indispensable”.
They also say Japan will enhance security ties with South Korea, Australia, Southeast Asia and India and “promote confidence and cooperation with China and Russia” while also enhancing ties with the European Union and NATO.
The defence guidelines are usually revised every five years but came a year late following Japan’s 2009 power shift in which the centre-left Democratic Party ended a half-century of almost unbroken conservative rule.
Japan’s new leaders initially quarrelled with the United States about the 50,000-strong US troop presence in the country -- but that row subsided as tensions grew sharply this year between Tokyo and Beijing.
The Asian giants argued early in the year over what Japan regarded as provocative Chinese naval manoeuvres off its far-southern islands.
Then in September, the war of words escalated when Japan’s coastguard arrested a Chinese trawler captain after two collisions in disputed waters, a row that for months plunged diplomatic ties to their lowest point in years.
“Regarding China ... annually its defence budget has increased in a non-transparent manner and we have experienced multiple situations in one year over which we had to lodge protests,” said top government spokesman Yoshito Sengoku. “These are matters of concerns to us.”
Regional tensions spiked again after North Korea’s November 23 shelling that killed four South Koreans. China has since then resisted calls by the United States, South Korea and Japan to publicly condemn its ally North Korea.
Emotional show

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Veteran CNN talk show host Larry King signed off for the last time on Thursday after 25 years in the same seat, in an emotional show including tributes from presidents and broadcasting rivals.
The 77-year-old, who will be succeeded by former British journalist Piers Morgan, is finally retiring from “Larry King Live,” the show he has presented on the now flagging Atlanta-based news network since 1985.
President Barack Obama sent him a video message calling him “one of the giants of broadcasting,” while a brace of rival TV hosts and anchors including Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric paid tribute.
Sawyer said they were his “proteges and groupies,” while Couric read out a poem including a reference to a notorious King gaffe when he asked comedian Jerry Seinfeld about his show being cancelled -- it had ended with top ratings.
California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger came on to announce that he had proclaimed the day Larry King Day in the western US state.
While critics say his interviewing style can be too soft-soap, others argue that’s why King got so many people to come on his show, winning scoops that some credit with helping establish CNN in its early days.
But the network that once dominated 24-hour international news has struggled with dwindling audiences and fierce new competitors, and King’s replacement by the more aggressive Morgan is seen as part of an effort to woo new viewers.
An ad for the younger Briton’s new show, in a break on the last hour-long King tribute-fest, promised an exciting “and slightly dangerous” new program me-- something few would claim for King’s nightly show.
Born Larry Zeiger in Brooklyn, the CNN icon has become one of the most recognizable figures on US television, after previously anchoring a national radio show for seven years.
Over the decades the gravel-voiced broadcaster has quizzed everyone who is anyone on his nightly program, including every US president since Gerald Ford.
Other highlights included Playboy founder Hugh Hefner with a bevvy of Playmate girlfriends; Mike Tyson interviewed inside the boxing ring at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas; and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
King’s private life has been almost as storied as his on-screen career: in April he filed for divorce from his seventh wife Shawn Southwick, citing “irreconcilable differences.”
Although Southwick was King’s seventh wife, it was the eighth time he had filed for a divorce. He was twice married and divorced to Alene Akins, with whom he split in 1972.
As his final show progressed Thursday, former president Bill Clinton came on from Little Rock, Arkansas, to exchange some fond repartee with the veteran interviewer.
When King mentioned that “We’re both in the zipper club” -- and explained that he meant they had both had heart surgery -- Clinton replied: “I’m glad you clarified that,” keeping a straight face as others chuckled.
King plans to do regular special shows for CNN, as well as radio work and watching more baseball. Clinton commented: “I’m kinda like you, I have to keep working.