formalise $10bn deals
(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
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
“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
|Gbagbo cronies face EU
|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
“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.
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
“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
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
Born in Baghdad in 1945, while he was still young his family
moved to Israel, where he grew up and did service in the
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
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,”
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
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
“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
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.
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
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.