Archive for the ‘Parliament’ Category

Mumbai: India Faces Reckoning as Terror Toll Eclipses 170

November 30, 2008

Why wasn’t intelligence better?  Who is to blame?  And why did it happen?

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Death still hung over Mumbai on Sunday, as the Indian government reckoned with troubling questions about its ability to respond to escalating terror attacks.

By Somaini Sengupta and Keith Bradsher 
The New York Times

This image taken from NDTV shows an man carrying an automatic ... 
This image taken from NDTV shows an man carrying an automatic rifle as he enters a train station in Mumbai late November 26. Indian police investigating who was behind the massive militant assault on Mumbai interrogated Sunday the only gunman who survived, as Pakistan insisted it was not involved.(AFP/NDTV/Ho)
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The morning after the standoff ended at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel, the official death toll remained 172. But the police said they were still waiting for the final figures of dead bodies pulled from the wreckage from the hotel, a 105-year-old landmark. Funerals were scheduled to continue throughout Sunday, for the second day in a row.

As an investigation moved forward, there were questions about whether Indian authorities could have anticipated the attack and had better security in place, especially after a 2007 report to Parliament that the country’s shores were inadequately protected from infiltration by sea — which is how the attackers sneaked into Mumbai.

All the while, tensions swelled with Pakistan, where officials promised that they would act swiftly if any connection to Pakistani-based militants were found, but also warned that troops could be moved to the border quickly if relations with India worsened.

It was still unclear whether the attackers had collaborators already in the city, or whether others in their group had escaped. And perhaps the most troubling question to emerge for the Indian authorities was how, if official estimates are accurate, just 10 gunmen could have caused so much carnage and repelled Indian security forces for more than three days in three different buildings.

Part of the answer may lie in continuing signs that despite the country’s long vulnerability to terrorist attacks, Indian law enforcement remains ill-prepared. The siege exposed problems caused by inexperienced security forces and inadequate equipment, including a lack of high-power rifle scopes and other optics to help discriminate between the attackers and civilians.

Amid the cleanup effort on Saturday, the brutality of the gunmen became plain, as accounts from investigators and survivors portrayed a wide trail of destruction and indiscriminate killing.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/30/world/
asia/30mumbai.html?_r=1&hp

Georgia’s President Defends Actions Prior to War With Russia

November 29, 2008

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili on Friday defended the decisions made in the run-up to the August war with Russia, telling a parliamentary commission that Georgia had responded to Russian “intervention.”

He also repeated assertions that his government had neither sought nor received advance approval of the Aug. 7 attack on the separatist region of South Ossetia, in particular from the United States.

Associated Press
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“We didn’t ask for a green light from anyone,” he testified. “We were telling our friends that Russia was conducting these provocations, which were completely out of any sort of framework.”

Russia’s military response to the attack was overwhelming. It routed the Georgian military, inflicted severe damage on Georgia’s economy and aggravated already troubled relations between Moscow and Washington – a staunch backer of Mr. Saakashvili.

Opposition politicians have been increasing their criticism of Mr. Saakashvili over the run-up to the war.

Georgia’s former ambassador to Russia said Wednesday that Georgian officials perceived a July visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as encouragement for the use of force against South Ossetia. Former Ambassador Erosi Kitsmarishvili also said people in Mr. Saakashvili’s circle told Mr. Kitsmarishvili that Miss Rice “gave the green light” – something Miss Rice herself has denied.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/nov/29/georgian
-president-defends-russia-war-moves/

Iraqi parliament OKs US troops for 3 more years

November 27, 2008

Iraq’s parliament approved Thursday a security pact with the United States that lets American troops stay in the country for three more years — setting a clear timetable for a U.S. exit for the first time since the 2003 invasion.

By Qassim Abdul-zahra, Associated Press Writer

The vote in favor of the pact was backed by the ruling coalition’s Shiite and Kurdish blocs as well as the largest Sunni Arab bloc, which had demanded concessions for supporting the deal. The haggling among the political factions highlighted sectarian-based tensions that hinder reconciliation efforts, nearly six years after Saddam Hussein‘s ouster.

The Shiite bloc agreed to a Sunni demand that the pact be put to a referendum by July 30, meaning the deal must undergo an additional hurdle next year. It took nine months of difficult talks for U.S. and Iraqi negotiators to craft the agreement.

Under the agreement, U.S. forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30 and the entire country by Jan. 1, 2012. Iraq will have strict oversight over U.S. forces.

Lawmakers voted with a show of hands, and an exact breakdown of the parliamentary vote was not immediately available. But parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani said an “overwhelming majority” of lawmakers who attended the session voted in favor. Parliament’s secretariat, which counted lawmakers as they entered the chamber, said 220 out of 275 legislators attended.

“This is a historic day for parliament,” said Deputy Speaker Khalid al-Attiyah, a close ally of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. “More than three-quarters of those present at today’s session voted for the agreement, and that was not expected.”

Al-Maliki appeared to have won the comfortable majority that he sought in order to give the agreement additional legitimacy.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081127/ap_on_re_mi_ea/m
l_iraq;_ylt=Ahl9YABVCQfN5pTDPhGRckes0NUE

Iraqi Lawmakers Brawl Over Security Pact

November 19, 2008

A session of Iraq’s Parliament collapsed in chaos on Wednesday, as a discussion among lawmakers about a three-year security agreement with the Americans boiled over into shouting and physical confrontation.

The session was dedicated to a second public reading of the agreement, which governs the presence of American troops in Iraq through 2011 and which the Parliament is scheduled to vote on Monday. Even before the session began, legislators were apprehensive.

“There is much tension inside the parliament,” said Iman al-Asadi, a Shiite lawmaker, shortly before the session was scheduled to start. “We worry that they will fight each other inside the room.”

Lawmakers who support the pact said they were worried in particular about the followers of the anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, who make up a bloc of 32 legislators in the 275 member Parliament. While there are those in Parliament, like many Sunnis, who have objections to elements of the pact, the Sadrists reject any agreement with the Americans in principle.

In a departure from protocol, security guards were present in the room, both because of the tension and because several Iraqi government officials, including the ministers of foreign affairs and finance, were in attendance to answer questions about the agreement. Hoshyar Zebari, the foreign affairs minister, said the guards were unarmed.

As soon as the session began, politicians in opposition to the pact stood up in the hall and volubly argued that the ratification process was unconstitutional, because a law governing the passage of international agreements has not been approved. Supporters say such a law is unnecessary, because Parliament had already ratified numerous agreements without one.

For the next two hours, the Parliament speaker, Mahmoud Mashhadani, lashed out at the objecters and refused their demands to change the Parliament agenda. He then invited Hassan al-Sneid, a Shiite lawmaker, to begin the second public reading of the agreement, a matter of parliamentary procedure.

As Mr. Sneid began reading, witnesses said, Sadrists and other opponents of the agreement continued to trade shouts with lawmakers who supported it. Then, Ahmed Masu’udi, a Sadrist lawmaker, approached the dais. Mr. Masu’udi said later in an interview that he was simply trying to reach Mr. Mashhadani to persuade him to stop the reading; several other witnesses said Mr. Masu’udi tried to attack Mr. Snied. The security guards rushed toward Mr. Masu’udi, who said that they grabbed him and struggled to push him away. At that point, witnesses said, the hall was filled with shouting, lawmakers rushed toward the front and the session ended in chaos.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/20/world/middleeast/20iraq.html?_r=1&hp

Pact, Approved in Iraq, Sets Time for U.S. Pullout

November 17, 2008

Iraq’s cabinet on Sunday overwhelmingly approved a proposed security agreement that calls for a full withdrawal of American forces from the country by the end of 2011. The cabinet’s decision brings a final date for the departure of American troops a significant step closer after more than five and a half years of war.

By Campbell Robertson and Stephen Farrell 
The New York Times

The proposed pact must still be approved by Iraq’s Parliament, in a vote scheduled to take place in a week. But leaders of some of the largest parliamentary blocs expressed confidence that with the backing of most Shiites and Kurds they had enough support to ensure its approval.

Twenty-seven of the 28 cabinet ministers who were present at the two-and-a-half-hour session voted in favor of the pact. Nine ministers were absent. The nearly unanimous vote was a victory for the dominant Shiite party and its Kurdish partners. Widespread Sunni opposition could doom the proposed pact even if it has the votes to pass, as it would call into question whether there was a true national consensus, which Shiite leaders consider essential.

US soldiers secure the area along with Iraqi troops following ...
US soldiers secure the area along with Iraqi troops following a roadside bomb in the northern city of Mosul, some 370 kms from Baghdad. The White House on Sunday welcomed the approval by Iraq’s cabinet of a military pact that requires the withdrawal of all US troops by the end of 2011.(AFP/Ali al-Saadi)

The proposed agreement, which took nearly a year to negotiate with the United States, not only sets a date for American troop withdrawal, but puts new restrictions on American combat operations in Iraq starting Jan. 1 and requires an American military pullback from urban areas by June 30. Those hard dates reflect a significant concession by the departing Bush administration, which had been publicly averse to timetables.

Iraq also obtained a significant degree of jurisdiction in some cases over serious crimes committed by Americans who are off duty and not on bases.

In Washington, the White House welcomed the vote as “an important and positive step” and attributed the agreement itself to security improvements in the past year.

Throughout the negotiations, the Shiite parties and the prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, under pressure from forces both within and outside the country, had been trying to strike a balance in forging a viable agreement with the Americans that would guarantee Iraq’s security and that would still stand firm against what many, including neighboring Iran, consider a hostile force

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/17/world/middleeas
t/17iraq.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

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BAGHDAD – Iraq’s Cabinet overwhelmingly approved a security pact with the United States on Sunday, ending prolonged negotiations to allow American forces to remain for three more years in the country they first occupied in 2003.

Read the Associated Press report:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081117/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_
iraq;_ylt=AgDMXJb9ChdxknE9ktwMJ6.s0NUE

Iran’s Parliament Impeaches Key Ahmadinejad Ally

November 4, 2008

Iran’s parliament impeached the head of the country’s police and security agencies on Tuesday after he admitted faking a degree from Oxford University, in a vote widely seen as a defeat for hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer

The dismissal of Interior Minister Ali Kordan was the first high-profile confrontation between the new parliament and Ahmadinejad. It was seen a vote of no-confidence in the president and a sign that the deeply unpopular leader may be losing favor even with his conservative allies.

Iranian Interior Minister Ali Kordan delivers a speech, prior ... 
Iranian Interior Minister Ali Kordan delivers a speech, prior to a vote by members of parliament to impeach him, during an open session of parliament, in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008. Iran’s parliament impeached the country’s interior minister for deception Tuesday in a vote widely seen as a defeat for hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Parliament’s no-confidence vote for Ali Kordan comes after he admitted he had a fake degree from Oxford University.(AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The interior minister in Iran is a powerful position, overseeing the police and security agencies, as well as organizing elections.

During Kordan’s confirmation debate, numerous lawmakers argued he was unqualified for the post, some claiming that his Oxford degree was a fake. Kordan was approved Aug. 5 by a relatively slim margin of around 160 of the 269 lawmakers present, a reflection of the concerns.

Kordan initially argued that his degree was real. The Interior Ministry put out a certificate, with an Oxford seal and dated June 2000, meant to prove its authenticity. It was riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes.

Oxford denied it had ever awarded an honorary doctorate of law to the minister, who then admitted the degree was fake.

Ahmadinejad defended Kordan, dismissing degrees in general as “torn paper” not necessary for serving the people.

The president was already under attack from both reformers and conservatives, who brought him to power but now complain he spends too much time on fiery anti-U.S. rhetoric rather than managing the country.

Middle-class Iranians, who have seen their standard of living fall, often speak scornfully of his economic naivete. In July, he predicted oil prices would never fall below $100 per barrel.

Oil prices, however, have plunged during the global financial crisis and hovered Tuesday around $63 a barrel. Tehran’s stock index last week plunged about 12 percent to its lowest close in years. And inflation is estimated at 27 percent or more.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081104/ap_on_re_mi_ea/
ml_iran_fake_degree

Pakistan Elects 1st Female Speaker

March 20, 2008

(ISLAMABAD, Pakistan) — Legislators elected Pakistan’s first female speaker of parliament Wednesday, seating a follower — and lookalike — of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Newly elected speaker of Pakistan's National Assembly Fehmida ...
Newly elected speaker of Pakistan’s National Assembly Fehmida Mirza presides over a session after her election at Parliament House in Islamabad March 19, 2008. Pakistan’s National Assembly elected its first woman speaker on Wednesday, a member of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) which won the elections last month.REUTERS/Stringer (PAKISTAN)

Fehmida Mirza’s elevation reflected the air of liberalism blowing through the country’s politics since voters delivered a resounding defeat to backers of President Pervez Musharraf, the former general who has been a close U.S. ally.

However, many Pakistanis are warily watching the victorious elitist parties, worried over whether politicians whose civilian governments in the 1990s were tainted by corruption and ineptitude will be able to deal with Islamic militants and economic hardships.

In a first sign of trouble, the new leaders are struggling to agree on who should be prime minister. There was less of a problem in picking the speaker.

Read the rest:
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1723872,00.html?xid=rss-topstories

Pakistan court meets amid looming showdown over judges

March 18, 2008

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan‘s top court met on Tuesday amid a looming showdown between the country’s new parliament and President Pervez Musharraf over his sacking of dozens of judges last year.

Pakistani lawyers and opposition parties supporters at a protest ... 
Pakistani lawyers and opposition parties supporters at a protest rally in Karachi on March 16. Pakistan’s top court was due to meet amid a looming showdown between the country’s new parliament and President Pervez Musharraf over his sacking of dozens of judges last year.(AFP/File/Rizwan Tabassum)

Supreme Court Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, who was appointed by Musharraf to replace the president’s arch-foe Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, was due to chair a rare full meeting of the court’s 15 judges.

No agenda has been announced for the court’s extraordinary meeting, which comes one day after the parliament dominated by Musharraf’s opponents convened for the first time following last month’s election.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080318/wl_sthasia_afp/pakistanpoliticscourt_
080318123310

Incentives package prepared for Iran

March 18, 2008

By Nicholas Kralev
The Washington Times
March 18, 2008

The United States and four other veto-wielding states on the U.N. Security Council are preparing a package of incentives aimed at Iran’s newly elected parliament in hopes of ending the country’s uranium-enrichment program — the main impediment to improved ties between Iran and the West.

A cleric casts his ballot in Iran's parliamentary election at ...
cleric casts his ballot in Iran’s parliamentary election at a polling station in the city of Qom, 120 km (75 miles) south of Tehran March 14, 2008.(Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters)

The proposal includes economic, technological and security benefits, spare parts for Iran’s aging fleet of Boeing aircraft and help developing a civilian nuclear energy program, U.S. and European officials said yesterday.

The effort resembles a 2006 offer that Tehran rejected, prompting a series of U.N. sanctions.
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (C) attends a ceremony ... 
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (C) attends a ceremony to mark the Iranian New Year holiday, called Norouz, in Tehran March 17, 2008. Iran’s New Year starts on March 20 this year.
REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah (IRAN)

This time, officials said, they will be more specific about the timing of the incentives. They also expressed hope it will persuade new members of parliament after elections Friday.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080318/FOREIGN/589530246/1001

Pakistan: Bhutto party says PM candidate to be named next week

March 15, 2008

By MUNIR AHMED,Associated Press Writer AP –
Sunday, March 16

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – After winning Pakistan’s parliamentary elections last month, the party of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto will name a new prime minister next week, a spokesman said Saturday.

Followers of Bhutto, a two-time prime minister who returned to Pakistan last year only to die in a December suicide attack, won the largest number of seats in Feb. 18 polls _ ousting allies of U.S.-backed President Pervez Musharraf and easing Pakistan back toward democracy after years of military rule.

Her Pakistan People’s Party has pledged to form a coalition government with the party of another former premier, Nawaz Sharif, after the new parliament convenes Monday.

Read the rest:
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/ap/20080315/tap-as-gen-pakistan-d3b07b8.html