Daily Archives: November 30, 2010
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November 30, 2010 (KATAKAMI / FRANCE 24 / AFP) – Iran agreed Tuesday to a new round of talks in Geneva on December 6 and 7 with world powers on its controversial nuclear programme, an EU foreign affairs spokesman said.
Iran chief negotiator Said Jalili will meet for talks with EU chief diplomat Catherine Ashton, who will lead the international delegation, the spokesman said.
“We’ve now received a response from the Iranian authorities in which they have said that Dr. Jalili has accepted Catherine Ashton’s proposal to meet in Geneva,” the spokesman said.
“Talks between Catherine Ashton and Dr. Jalili will now take place on Monday and Tuesday next week in Geneva.”
Ashton would lead the so-called “3+3” or “5+1” group of nations negotiating with Iran made up of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the United States, Russia, China, France, and Britain) and Germany.
The talks will be the first between Iran and six world powers since October 2009.
Disagreement over the agenda has held up the talks. The world powers want the talks to focus on Iran’s uranium enrichment programme but Tehran wants a wider discussion that includes regional security issues.
The United States, Europe and Israel fear that Iran wants to use nuclear technology to build a bomb, but Tehran insists that its programme is a peaceful drive to produce civilian energy. (*)
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November 30, 2010 (KATAKAMI / Reuters) – President Barack Obama faces off with Republican congressional leaders over taxes on Tuesday in a test-of-wills that could foreshadow how the White House works with the opposition party in the coming two years.
Obama will host Republicans John Boehner, the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Mitch McConnell, the party’s leader in the Senate, as well as Democrats Nancy Pelosi, the current Speaker, and Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, at 10:30 EST at the White House.
Taxes will be at the top of their agenda.
With a broad victory in November 2 elections behind them, Republicans are eager to force Democrats to agree to extend Bush-era tax cuts for wealthy Americans as well as the middle-class constituency that concerns Obama the most.
Democrats have been in disarray about how to proceed, despite an impending deadline: the tax cuts expire at the end of this year, and Obama is keen to avoid a situation in which American families making less than $250,000 a year face a tax hike on Jan 1.
To prevent that, he may have to agree to extend cuts for Americans of all income levels for one to three years — an onerous option to many Democrats, but one that may be the most likely outcome if the two sides agree on anything at all.
Obama has said the United States cannot afford to pay the $700 billion it would cost to extend tax cuts for the rich, but he has also signaled a willingness to compromise after the “shellacking” his party received in this month’s election.
The White House said a deal was unlikely to be reached at Tuesday’s meeting, which Obama said he hoped would jump-start a better relationship between him and the newly empowered Republicans.
“My hope is that tomorrow’s meeting will mark a first step toward a new and productive working relationship,” Obama said. “Because we now have a shared responsibility to deliver for the American people on the issues that define not only these times but our future — and I hope we can do that in a cooperative and serious way.”
GET THE JOB DONE
Boehner and McConnell, who could become Obama’s main adversaries next year, wrote in an opinion piece that their party would insist on extending tax cuts for everyone during the “lame duck” congressional session that ends this year.
Republicans will control the House and have greater strength in the Senate next year.
“If President Obama and Democratic leaders put forward a plan during the lame-duck session to cut spending and stop the tax hikes on all Americans, they can count on a positive response from Republicans,” the two men wrote in a Washington Post piece published on Tuesday.
“If the president and Democratic leaders don’t act before the end of the year, however, House and Senate Republicans will work to get the job done in the new Congress. But we hope it doesn’t come to that.”
The Republicans will put that position on the table during the meeting with Obama, which will also be attended by Vice President Joe Biden, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, budget director Jack Lew and other congressional leaders.
Obama invited the congressional leaders for a White House dinner earlier this month, but it was put off for scheduling reasons, which some Democrats interpreted as a Republican snub of the president’s outstretched hand. (*)
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November 30, 2010 (KATAKAMI / Reuters) – President Dmitry Medvedev warned on Tuesday that a new arms race would be sparked within the next decade unless Russia and the West forged an agreement to cooperate on building a missile defense system.
In his annual State of the Nation address, Medvedev called for closer cooperation with the United States and the European Union, holding out the prospect of closer ties two decades after the Soviet Union’s collapse ended the Cold War.
But he said tension would ratchet up fast, forcing Russia to bolster its military arsenal, if Western offers of cooperation on a system to defend against missile threats failed to produce a concrete agreement.
“In the coming decade we face the following alternatives: Either we reach agreement on missile defense and create a full-fledged joint mechanism of cooperation, or … a new round of the arms race will begin,” Medvedev said.
“And we will have to take a decision about the deployment of new offensive weapons. It is clear that this scenario would be very grave.”
The remarks, in a speech of more than an hour to members of parliament and ministers, raised the stakes in sensitive discussions with the United States and NATO on missile defense.
The issue as divided Moscow and the West since the 1980s.
Medvedev agreed to NATO’s offer of missile defense cooperation at a summit with the alliance that was hailed as a fresh start, but the plans are sketchy and Russia has warned it wants an equal voice in evaluating threats and responses.
Medvedev has pursued warmer ties with the West and particularly Washington since he was steered into the presidency by his predecessor, Vladimir Putin.
He has embraced President Barack Obama’s efforts to “reset” a relationship that hit post-Cold War lows during Russia’s war with Georgia in August 2008, months after he took office.
The warning on missile defense appeared to reflect wariness in the Kremlin amid uncertainty about U.S. Senate ratification of the strategic arms limitation treaty that Medvedev signed with Obama in April, centerpiece of the push for better ties.
Russia has warned that it could withdraw from the treaty if a U.S. missile defense system develops into a threat to Russia’s security.
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November 30, 2010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev delivered his third state of the nation address to both houses of parliament in the Grand Kremlin Palace on Tuesday.
His speech to the Russian parliament was broadcast on state television and lasted for about one hour and 15 minutes.
Members of the government and State Council, heads of the Supreme, Constitutional and Higher Arbitration Courts, chairmen of the Audit Chamber and Central Election Commission, and religious leaders attended the event.
In line with the Russian Constitution, the president annually addresses the Federal Assembly, comprising the Federation Council and State Duma, about the domestic situation and the key areas of Russia’s foreign policy.
The Russian president said in his address:
– Agreement on missile defense system will either be reached within the next decade or Russia will need to deploy new strike forces
– Measures against major oil spills should be discussed globally
– Bribe takers should be fined 100 times the amount of the bribe and intermediaries in bribe taking should also be penalized under Russia’s Criminal Code
– Russia will discuss the scrapping of visas and Russia’s accession to the WTO at the Russia-EU summit in Brussels next week
– At least 50 percent of saved budget funds as well as additional income to the federal budget should be spent on modernization
– The rate of insurance premiums for Russia’s small businesses in 2011-2012 will be cut from 34 percent to 26 percent.
– Russian authorities at all levels must get rid of property unrelated to their work
– The government should prepare proposals on penalizing officials for not performing their duties in a timely manner
– Russia should reduce annual inflation to 4-5 percent in the next three years
– Use of maternity capital to pay mortgages must become the norm starting in 2011
– There should be no orphans in Russia because the main goal for orphanages is to help families to adopt children
– People convicted of child abuse will be banned from employment in the education sector
– Care of children should be a key state task
– All Russian regions should have child ombudsmen
– A law on the criminal responsibility for the sales of alcohol to minors will be adopted in the near future
– Russian families should be given a plot of land to build a house on, as well as tax breaks, after the birth of a third child
– Russia must build infrastructure that ensures favorable living conditions for disabled people
– Russia will spend 30 billion rubles (about $1 billion) on the joint research work of the country’s leading universities and major companies
– Russia will increase the share of national products on the pharmaceutical market from 20 to 50 percent in the near future
– Russia will spend 100 billion rubles on the development of children’s medicine in two years
– Russia will allocate 2 billion rubles for teacher training
– Heads of Russian regions should make annual reports on the environmental situation
– Environmental issues should be discussed with relevant non-governmental organizations before the construction of infrastructure and other facilities
– The Russian government and regional authorities should focus on the development of a military and patriotic movement in the country. (*)
MOSCOW, November 30
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SEOUL, Nov. 30 (KATAKAMI / Yonhap) — President Lee Myung-bak reproached his Cabinet members Tuesday for not having the right sense of crisis at a time when South Korea’s national security is at stake, Lee’s office Cheong Wa Dae said, apparently mindful of persistent public outcry over the administration’s response to North Korea’s latest military attack.
“We should recognize that (South Korea) is confronting the world’s most belligerent group,” Lee was quoted as saying in a weekly Cabinet meeting. But there seems to be a perception that dealing with a national crisis is a task for only the defense ministry, he said, according to Cheong Wa Dae spokeswoman Kim Hee-jung.
He was presiding over the first Cabinet meeting since the North’s attack on the populated island of Yeonpyeong, just south of the tense inter-Korean border in the Yellow Sea, a week ago. The attack killed two marines and two civilians, with nearly 20 others wounded.
“In a divided nation, national security is not relevant to the defense ministry alone. It is a matter for all ministries,” Lee said.
The president stressed that Cabinet members should enhance their own awareness of national security first before asking the public to do so.
Lee’s comments came amid unrelenting public criticism that the government had fumbled its initial response to the artillery barrage, leading to the resignation of Defense Minister Kim Tae-young and a wave of anti-Pyongyang protests here.
“In a national emergency situation, all Cabinet members must return to their duties regardless of whether they were at the National Assembly or elsewhere,” Lee said.
He was apparently referring to the defense minister, who was late to the emergency security meeting at Cheong Wa Dae convened shortly after the North’s attack last week due to his attendance at a parliamentary committee.
Delivering a Trade Day speech later in the day, meanwhile, Lee said South Korea is still on track to become the world’s seventh-largest exporter despite North Korea’s continued military provocations and threats, proof of the international community’s trust in the country’s economy.
“This is exactly the time for all of us to fulfill our duties in our respective places,” he said during an event marking the Trade Day.
South Korea’s exports are expected to jump more than 28 percent this year to a record high of more than US$460 billion and again by more than 11 percent next year to reach $520 billion. The major Asian economy is projected to top US$1 trillion in total trade volume next year.
Le said stable economic indicators, including stocks and the currency exchange rate, in spite of the soaring military crisis are evidence that South Korea’s economy has matured and that the international community has high confidence in it. (*)
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The final statement: Support for the achievement of justice and determination to consolidate relations between the two states.
November 29, 2010 (KATAKAMI / PM Saad Hariri Official Website ) — The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri concluded his official visit to Tehran this afternoon with a joint press conference held with the Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi. The visit resulted in the signing of nine memoranda of understanding in the social and educational sectors.
An expanded meeting took place today at the Saad Abad Palace between the Lebanese and Iranian delegations headed by PCM Hariri and First Vice President Rahimi during which the results of the visit were discussed and the memoranda of understanding were signed in the presence of Hariri and Rahimi:
The Memoranda of Understanding that were signed are as follows:
1. A memorandum of understanding on the rehabilitation of disabled people signed by the Lebanese Minister of Social Affairs Salim Sayegh and the Iranian Minister of Welfare and Social Security Sadeq Mahsouli.
2. A memorandum of understanding on elderly care signed by Ministers Sayegh and Mahsouli.
3. A memorandum of Understanding in the field of child care services signed by Ministers Sayegh and Mahsouli.
4. A memorandum of understanding in the field of administrative reform signed by the Lebanese Minister of Administrative development Mohammed Fneish and the Iranian Minister of Housing and Development Ali Nikzad .
5. A memorandum of understanding on the protection of women and family affairs signed by Ministers Sayegh and Nikzad.
6. A memorandum of understanding in the fields of education and training signed by Minister Sayegh and the Iranian Minister of Education Hamid Reza Hajji-Babayee.
7. A memorandum of understanding in the field of cultural heritage signed by the Lebanese Minister of Culture Salim Warde and the Iranian Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Seyed Mohammad Hosseini.
8. A memorandum of understanding in the field of drug combat signed by Ministers Sayegh and Nikzad.
9. A memorandum of understanding on the cooperation between the Lebanese and Iranian Ministries of labor signed by the Lebanese Minister of Labor Boutros Harb and the Iranian Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Abdol Reza Shaikhol –Eslami.
Joint press conference
After the signing of the MOUs, PCM Hariri and First Vice President Rahimi held a joint press conference during which Rahimi was asked about the impact of PCM Hariri’s visit on the relations between the two countries and whether Iran will play a role in easing tension in Lebanon regarding the Special Tribunal for Lebanon?
Rahimi said: Iran is very delighted with this blessed visit which will undoubtedly strengthen and support the foundations of the existing bilateral relations between our two countries. We highly appreciate the results of this visit because it will enhance the bilateral relations and the existing cooperation on the bilateral level. Thus, this visit comes immediately after the visit of President Ahmadinejad to Lebanon, and we see that it will enhance bilateral relations on all levels.
Regarding the tribunal, we do not see that the problems have reached this situation, and we believe that the wisdom and dexterity of PCM Hariri and of senior Lebanese figures can to contain and resolve this crisis easily, and we have full confidence in the wisdom and statesmanship of PCM Hariri to resolve all topics in this context and that the Lebanese government will solve all these problems. Concerning the Tribunal, the Islamic Republic of Iran supports the truth in its true sense, and we stress in this context the necessity for the International Tribunal to be very far from the political rhetoric, and to distance itself from this rhetoric, as we have also confirmed that we are with revealing the truth and solving the problems in this context.
We would like to emphasize as well that Iran always stands by the Lebanese unity and harmony, and we believe that all Lebanese groups and parties must unite and come together to resolve the quarrels on the Lebanese arena and to focus on their true enemy. Thus, we are with the unity and independence of Lebanon, as we are with strengthening the bonds of brotherhood between the Lebanese and we officially support this orientation.
Question: Prime Minister Hariri, how do you assess the results of your visit to Iran?
PCM Hariri said: “First, I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to the Supreme Guide Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the President, the government and the people of the Islamic Republic of Iran. I want also to underline the good results we reached during our talks with His Excellency President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, First Deputy President Mr. Rahimi and all the other ministers.
This visit reestablishes a good stage in the Lebanese- Iranian relations, and I was able to personally follow-up some of its aspects through the successive visits carried out by Martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri to Tehran. Today, we are following the same path and we continue to work for the development of relations between the two countries and follow up the steps which began with the recent visit of President Michel Sleiman to Tehran, and then the visit of His Excellency President Dr. Ahmadinejad to Beirut.
On this occasion, I would like to emphasize the following:
First: The political results of the visit were good and useful because they reaffirmed the common fundamentals of the relationship between the two countries, and that Iran is a friendly state that wants the best for Lebanon and all its citizens. And we, on behalf of the National Unity Government, which represents all the Lebanese people, express a national Lebanese will in building friendly and strong relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran based on common interests, mutual respect, and constant communication between the institutions and the concerned administrations in both countries.
Second: the economic results of the talks made great steps towards a serious and responsible dialogue, and we look forward for its continuation through the establishment of the higher joint Lebanese-Iranian Committee. This step comes together with the understandings that are agreed to implement during the next phase, including the electricity and gas sector, oil exploration, exchange of technical and vocational capabilities and the exchange of expertise in the field of administrative reform. The comprehensive economic vision which we heard from the Iranian leadership can be relied on for the sake of a wide–ranging economic and social development that would include in its positive results more than one Arab and Islamic state. Lebanon can constitute, with an equivalent Arab group, a vital chain of cooperation and coordination in the major regional economic positions, especially after the understanding which was signed by Lebanon, the Turkish Republic, the Syrian Arab Republic and the Kingdom of Jordan.
Third: Lebanon thanks the Islamic Republic of Iran for its support against the Israeli war and its repercussions on the Lebanese people in all areas and particularly commends the excellent support provided by Iran to our people in the South, the Bekaa, and the southern suburbs.
Fourth: The link between the Lebanese internal stability and the regional stability was at the core of the discussions we held. This necessitates reassurance on a number of political constants that stability should be based on, including Lebanon’s right to liberate its land in the South, Lebanon’s commitment to the implementation of Resolution 1701, considering the Arab peace initiative that was launched from Beirut the principle basis for the peace process in the region, and the refusal of the Israeli measures the latest of which was the referendum law on the withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories and the occupied Golan. There is also Lebanon’s declaration that it will not be part of any international group to put pressure on Iran and impose siege on the Iranian people. Lebanon also asserts Iran’s right to possess nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and calls on the international community not to spare any form of negotiations with the Iranian state for this purpose.
I know that you have questions about the internal situation and the Lebanese-Lebanese relations, therefore, I would like to assure everyone that the course of things is moving in the right direction and under two big umbrellas: the Lebanese national dialogue which will not be disrupted regardless of the tensed political rhetoric, and the joint and continued Saudi- Syrian support of the Lebanese issue. I am totally confident that the brotherly and friendly states, particularly the Islamic Republic of Iran, are accompanying this path with real responsibility and all the support that it deserves. Stability in Lebanon is the responsibility of the Lebanese in the first place, and the efforts of the brothers and friends are an added value to this responsibility. Thank you Mr. First Vice President and the media representatives for their attendance, and first and foremost, I thank the Iranian people and its leadership.”
The First Vice President said: In fact, we highly appreciate your current visit to Iran, and we salute the Lebanese Republic, because it defeated the enemy, we support a united, sovereign and independent Lebanon, and we are proud of Lebanon and its people. Our region and your region are related to the Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him and in fact, the fire which “alnamroudiyyoun” have sparked has gone and changed into paradise and happiness, and the fire they have set will burn them.
Today the fire of these enemies has reached us while you are among your brothers in Tehran, and assassinated this morning two Iranian scientists. Those who claim to be against terrorism are supporting terrorism and assassinating innocent people, and we will reveal their identities soon.
The Lebanese – Iranian friendship will blind the eyes of these terrible enemies and Lebanon will be more developed and proud, especially since it always stands victorious on the front lines.
I think it is my duty to offer sincere gratitude to Your Excellency and to the Lebanese leadership for the warm reception and generous hospitality received by President Ahmadinejad during his visit to Lebanon, and I must express my sincere thanking and appreciation to the ministers who accompanied you during this visit.
PCM Hariri said: Lebanon was honored to welcome President Ahmadinejad with hospitality as a token of appreciation to what Iran has offered to Lebanon and hopefully these relationships will last. As for the martyrdom of the two scientists today, we consider this to be a terrorist act and offer you our condolences and this act of terrorism must be fought.
In Lebanon, there is a national unity government with one essential equation: the army, the people and the resistance, and this is what we are committed to and our national unity is what will protect us. We will pursue this path and we thank you very much, and thank the Iranian people as well, for their love of Lebanon.
The final statement
The following is the text of the final statement on the occasion of PCM Hariri’s visit to Tehran:
“According to the historical ties and friendly relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Lebanese Republic, and after the successful visit of His Excellency Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Lebanon this year, and his meetings and consultations with His Excellency President Michel Sleiman, President of the Lebanese Republic and His Excellency PCM Saad Hariri, which resulted in the conclusion of 16 documents and memoranda of understanding in various areas related to the development of relations, PCM Saad Hariri, visited the Islamic Republic of Iran at the invitation of His Excellency Mr. Rahimi, the First Vice-President of the Republic. He met with High-level officials in the Islamic Republic of Iran, especially His Excellency Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Republic, and discussed with them bilateral relations and regional and international developments.
The two sides signed 9 new documents during this visit for cooperation in the economic, commercial, industrial, labor, social and cultural areas. After holding talks and exchanging views on issues of common concern, in an atmosphere of cordiality and understanding, the following was announced:
• In the light of the interest prevailing for the development and enhancement of relations between the two countries, both sides stressed their determination to consolidate these relations between the two states as well as between the institutions and to follow-up the implementation of agreements signed during the visit of President of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Lebanon, as well as the visit of His Excellency Saad Hariri to Tehran.
• The Islamic Republic of Iran supports national unity and stability in Lebanon and its maintenance, and stresses on the equation of coexistence as a model for the democracy of accord in the country.
• The Islamic Republic of Iran expressed its full support to the Lebanese state and the Lebanese people and the national and Islamic resistance in Lebanon against the Zionist enemy.
• The Islamic Republic of Iran emphasizes on the need of the Zionist entity’s withdrawal from all the occupied territories in Lebanon, including the Shebaa Farms, Kfarshuba Hills and the village of Ghajar.
• The Islamic Republic of Iran expressed its full willingness to put its potential and capacities in various technical, engineering and economic and agricultural areas at the disposal of the friendly countries, including Lebanon.
• The Lebanese side expresses its appreciation of the role of the Islamic Republic of Iran in supporting the achievement of national unity, security and stability in Lebanon, and the two sides express their support of the common Saudi – Syrian effort in this area.
• The Lebanese side supports the right of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the peaceful use of nuclear technology, and opposes the double standards and discriminatory policy with respect to the nuclear arsenal and weapons of mass destruction of the Zionist entity, which pose a threat to regional peace and security, and calls for a Middle East free of nuclear weapons.
• Both sides condemn the assassination that targeted the Iranian scientist and university professor in Tehran this morning, and consider this crime in the context of terrorism against the Iranian people.
• The Lebanese side announced its commitment to the Arab peace initiative, and the two sides confirmed their support to the struggles of the oppressed Palestinian people in order to liberate all Palestinian territories and the recuperation of their legitimate rights in an independent state and Jerusalem as its capital. The two sides highlight the right of return for the Palestinian people, and reject all Zionist attempts to impose any conditions on withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories.
• The two sides emphasize the necessity of unity and cohesion between all the Muslim States and people, and the need of all concerned parties to take the appropriate action and deal with the temptations of sectarianism, which is without a doubt in the benefit of the enemies.
• The two sides express their support for the achievement of justice and finding the truth in the assassination of martyr Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and his comrades, and for not exploiting the tribunal politically.
• The two sides agreed to form a higher joint committee under the presidency of the First Vice-President of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Lebanese Prime minister.
• The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri invited Mohammad Reza Rahimi, the First vice president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, for an official visit to Lebanon. Rahimi promised to respond to it as soon as possible. (*)