Tag Archives: US

US, allies edge closer toward formulating military options to halt violence against Libya

By Bradley Klapper,Matthew Lee, The Associated PressThe Canadian Press

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama warned Libya‘s leaders that the U.S. and its NATO allies are still considering military options in response to what he called “unacceptable” violence perpetrated by supporters of Moammar Gadhafi.

“I want to send a very clear message to those who are around Colonel Gadhafi. It is their choice to make how they operate moving forward. And they will be held accountable for whatever violence continues to take place,” Obama said during remarks in the Oval Office Monday.

Libyan warplanes launched multiple airstrikes on opposition fighters in the second day of a government crackdown to thwart rebels advancing on Gadhafi’s stronghold in Tripoli.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said a military response was no more likely Monday than it was before the surge in violence. He said the U.S. and its partners are considering a wide variety of military actions, including a no-fly zone, but said deploying ground troops “is not top of the list at this point.”

Carney said the U.S. is also considering providing weapons to rebel forces, though he cautioned that there were still many unanswered questions about what groups comprise those forces. He said the U.S. is using diplomatic channels, as well as contacts in the business community and non-governmental organizations, to gather information about the opposition.

Obama said he has also authorized $15 million in humanitarian aid to help international and non-governmental organizations assist and evacuate people fleeing the violence in Libya. More than 200,000 people have fled the country, most of them foreign workers, creating a humanitarian crisis across the border withTunisia — another North African country in turmoil after an uprising in January that ousted its longtime leader.

Hundreds if not thousands of people have died since Libya’s uprising began, although tight restrictions on media make it nearly impossible to get an accurate tally.

The U.S. and United Nations have imposed sanctions on Gadhafi’s regime, and U.S. military forces have also moved closer to Libya’s shores to back up demands that Gadhafi step down.

Obama spoke alongside Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who is in Washington for meetings.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/obama-us-nato-allies-still-considering-military-action-20110307-083347-439.html

 


Gaddafi launches counter-offensive on Libyan rebels

By Maria Golovnina and Michael Georgy | Reuters

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Muammar Gaddafi vowed to die in Libya as a martyr in an angry television address on Tuesday, as rebel troops said eastern regions had broken free from his rule in a burgeoning revolt.

“I am not going to leave this land, I will die here as a martyr,” Gaddafi said on state television, refusing to bow to calls from his own diplomats, soldiers and protesters clamoring in the streets for an end to his four decades at the helm.

“I shall remain here defiant,” said Gaddafi.

Earlier, witnesses streaming across the Libyan border into Egypt said Gaddafi was using tanks, warplanes and mercenaries in an effort to stamp out the growing rebellion.

In the eastern city of Tobruk, a Reuters correspondent there said sporadic blasts could be heard, the latest sign that Gaddafi’s grip on the oil and gas exporting nation was weakening.

“All the eastern regions are out of Gaddafi’s control now … The people and the army are hand-in-hand here,” said the now former army major Hany Saad Marjaa.

The White House offered its condolences for the “appalling violence” in Libya and said the international community had to speak with one voice on the crisis.

The U.N. refugee agency meanwhile urged Libya’s neighbors to grant refuge to those fleeing the unrest, which was triggered by decades of repression and popular revolts that toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt.

On the Libyan side of the border with Egypt, anti-Gaddafi rebels armed with clubs and Kalashnikov rifles welcomed visitors. One man held an upside-down picture of Gaddafi defaced with the words “the butcher tyrant, murderer of Libyans,” a Reuters correspondent who crossed into Libya reported.

Hundreds of Egyptians flowed in the opposite direction on tractors and trucks, taking with them harrowing tales of state violence and banditry.

In the eastern town of Al Bayda, resident Marai Al Mahry told Reuters by telephone that 26 people including his brother Ahmed had been shot dead overnight by Gaddafi loyalists.

“They shoot you just for walking on the street,” he said, sobbing uncontrollably as he appealed for help.

Protesters were attacked with tanks and warplanes, he said.

“The only thing we can do now is not give up, no surrender, no going back. We will die anyways, whether we like it or not. It is clear that they don’t care whether we live or not. This is genocide,” said Mahry, 42.

Human Rights Watch said 62 people had died in clashes in Tripoli in the past two days, on top of its previous toll of 233 dead. Opposition groups put the figure far much higher. U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay said the killing could amount to crimes against humanity and demanded an international probe.

The revolt in Libya, the third largest oil producer in Africa, has driven oil prices to a 2 1/2 year high above $108 a barrel, and OPEC said it would produce more crude if supplies from member Libya were disrupted.

With no end in sight to the crisis, refugees fled to Egypt.

“Five people died on the street where I live,” Mohamed Jalaly, 40, told Reuters at Salum on his way to Cairo from Benghazi. “You leave Benghazi and then you have … nothing but gangs and youths with weapons,” he added. “The way from Benghazi is extremely dangerous,” he said.

Libyan guards have withdrawn from their side of the border and Egypt’s new military rulers — who took power following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak on February11 — said the main crossing would be kept open round-the-clock to allow the sick and wounded to enter.

Groups of rebels with assault rifles and shotguns, waved cheerily at the passing cars on a stretch of desert road, flicking the V-for-victory sign and posing with their guns, a Reuters correspondent reported.

Libyan security forces have cracked down fiercely on demonstrators across the country, with fighting spreading to Tripoli after erupting in Libya’s oil-producing east last week, in a reaction to decades of

As the fighting has intensified some supporters have abandoned Gaddafi. Tripoli’s envoy to India, Ali al-Essawi, resigned and told Reuters that African mercenaries had been recruited to help put down protests.

“The fall of Gaddafi is the imperative of the people in streets,” he said. The justice minister also quit and a group of army officers urged soldiers to “join the people.” Two pilots flew their warplanes to nearby Malta.

DEFIANCE AND CONDEMNATION

Gaddafi’s son Saif on Sunday vowed his father would keep fighting “until the last man standing” and the Libyan leader appeared on television after days of seclusion to dismiss reports he had fled to the Venezuela of his ally Hugo Chavez.

“I want to show that I’m in Tripoli and not in Venezuela. Do not believe the channels belonging to stray dogs,” said Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya with a mixture of populism and tight control since taking power in a military coup in 1969.

World powers have condemned the use of force against protesters, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accusing Libya of firing on civilians from warplanes and helicopters. The Security Council met in closed session to discuss Libya.

Washington and Europe have demanded an end to the violence and Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said: “A ruling family, threatening its people with civil war, has reached the end of the line.”

Demonstrations spread to Tripoli from the second city Benghazi, cradle of the revolt that has engulfed a number of towns and which residents say is now in the hands of protestors.

Residents said anxious shoppers were queuing outside stores to try to stock up on food and drink. Some shops were closed.

Spain’s Repsol suspended all operations in Libya and sources said operations at cargo ports at Benghazi, Tripoli and Misurata had shut due to the violence.

Trade sources said Libyan oil port operations had also been disrupted and others said gas supplies from Libya to Italy had slowed since Late Monday, though Italy said they had not yet been interrupted..

Shell said it was pulling out its expatriate staff from Libya temporarily and a number of states were seeking to evacuate their nationals.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/libyan-online-protesters-prepare-day-rage-20110216-164747-420.html


U.S. tells Gaddafi it is time to go as revolt closes in

By Maria Golovnina and Ahmed Jadallah | Reuters

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Muammar Gaddafi vowed to die in Libya as a martyr in an angry television address on Tuesday, as rebel troops said eastern regions had broken free from his rule in a burgeoning revolt.

“I am not going to leave this land, I will die here as a martyr,” Gaddafi said on state television, refusing to bow to calls from his own diplomats, soldiers and protesters clamoring in the streets for an end to his four decades at the helm.

“I shall remain here defiant,” said Gaddafi.

Earlier, witnesses streaming across the Libyan border into Egypt said Gaddafi was using tanks, warplanes and mercenaries in an effort to stamp out the growing rebellion.

In the eastern city of Tobruk, a Reuters correspondent there said sporadic blasts could be heard, the latest sign that Gaddafi’s grip on the oil and gas exporting nation was weakening.

“All the eastern regions are out of Gaddafi’s control now … The people and the army are hand-in-hand here,” said the now former army major Hany Saad Marjaa.

The White House offered its condolences for the “appalling violence” in Libya and said the international community had to speak with one voice on the crisis.

The U.N. refugee agency meanwhile urged Libya’s neighbors to grant refuge to those fleeing the unrest, which was triggered by decades of repression and popular revolts that toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt.

On the Libyan side of the border with Egypt, anti-Gaddafi rebels armed with clubs and Kalashnikov rifles welcomed visitors. One man held an upside-down picture of Gaddafi defaced with the words “the butcher tyrant, murderer of Libyans,” a Reuters correspondent who crossed into Libya reported.

Hundreds of Egyptians flowed in the opposite direction on tractors and trucks, taking with them harrowing tales of state violence and banditry.

In the eastern town of Al Bayda, resident Marai Al Mahry told Reuters by telephone that 26 people including his brother Ahmed had been shot dead overnight by Gaddafi loyalists.

“They shoot you just for walking on the street,” he said, sobbing uncontrollably as he appealed for help.

Protesters were attacked with tanks and warplanes, he said.

“The only thing we can do now is not give up, no surrender, no going back. We will die anyways, whether we like it or not. It is clear that they don’t care whether we live or not. This is genocide,” said Mahry, 42.

Human Rights Watch said 62 people had died in clashes in Tripoli in the past two days, on top of its previous toll of 233 dead. Opposition groups put the figure far much higher. U.N. rights chief Navi Pillay said the killing could amount to crimes against humanity and demanded an international probe.

The revolt in Libya, the third largest oil producer in Africa, has driven oil prices to a 2 1/2 year high above $108 a barrel, and OPEC said it would produce more crude if supplies from member Libya were disrupted.

With no end in sight to the crisis, refugees fled to Egypt.

“Five people died on the street where I live,” Mohamed Jalaly, 40, told Reuters at Salum on his way to Cairo from Benghazi. “You leave Benghazi and then you have … nothing but gangs and youths with weapons,” he added. “The way from Benghazi is extremely dangerous,” he said.

Libyan guards have withdrawn from their side of the border and Egypt’s new military rulers — who took power following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak on February11 — said the main crossing would be kept open round-the-clock to allow the sick and wounded to enter.

Groups of rebels with assault rifles and shotguns, waved cheerily at the passing cars on a stretch of desert road, flicking the V-for-victory sign and posing with their guns, a Reuters correspondent reported.

Libyan security forces have cracked down fiercely on demonstrators across the country, with fighting spreading to Tripoli after erupting in Libya’s oil-producing east last week, in a reaction to decades of

As the fighting has intensified some supporters have abandoned Gaddafi. Tripoli’s envoy to India, Ali al-Essawi, resigned and told Reuters that African mercenaries had been recruited to help put down protests.

“The fall of Gaddafi is the imperative of the people in streets,” he said. The justice minister also quit and a group of army officers urged soldiers to “join the people.” Two pilots flew their warplanes to nearby Malta.

DEFIANCE AND CONDEMNATION

Gaddafi’s son Saif on Sunday vowed his father would keep fighting “until the last man standing” and the Libyan leader appeared on television after days of seclusion to dismiss reports he had fled to the Venezuela of his ally Hugo Chavez.

“I want to show that I’m in Tripoli and not in Venezuela. Do not believe the channels belonging to stray dogs,” said Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya with a mixture of populism and tight control since taking power in a military coup in 1969.

World powers have condemned the use of force against protesters, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accusing Libya of firing on civilians from warplanes and helicopters. The Security Council met in closed session to discuss Libya.

Washington and Europe have demanded an end to the violence and Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said: “A ruling family, threatening its people with civil war, has reached the end of the line.”

Demonstrations spread to Tripoli from the second city Benghazi, cradle of the revolt that has engulfed a number of towns and which residents say is now in the hands of protestors.

Residents said anxious shoppers were queuing outside stores to try to stock up on food and drink. Some shops were closed.

Spain’s Repsol suspended all operations in Libya and sources said operations at cargo ports at Benghazi, Tripoli and Misurata had shut due to the violence.

Trade sources said Libyan oil port operations had also been disrupted and others said gas supplies from Libya to Italy had slowed since Late Monday, though Italy said they had not yet been interrupted..

Shell said it was pulling out its expatriate staff from Libya temporarily and a number of states were seeking to evacuate their nationals.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/libyan-online-protesters-prepare-day-rage-20110216-164747-420.html

 


Pakistan Flood Relief

U.N. says secured more Pakistan flood relief funds

By Alistair Scrutton
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Nearly half the $459 million needed for initial relief in Pakistan’s worst ever floods has been secured after days of lobbying donors and warnings that the country faces a spiraling humanitarian catastrophe, the United Nations said on Wednesday.
But despite the fresh funds, only a fraction of the six million Pakistanis desperate for food and clean water have received help after the worst floods in decades killed up to 1,600 people and left two million homeless.
“There has been an improvement in funding. Donors are realizing the scale of the disaster,” U.N. spokesman Maurizio Giuliano told Reuters. “But the challenges are absolutely massive and the floods are not over.”
“The size of (the area affected by) this disaster is equivalent to Austria, Switzerland and Belgium combined. That’s pretty scary.”

A few days ago, only a quarter of aid pledged had been received, prompting U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on a visit to Pakistan to urge foreign donors to speed up funding and avert more deaths.

So far, food rations and access to clean water have only been provided to around 700,000 flood survivors, the U.N said.

CHILDREN MOST VULNERABLE

The damage and cost of recovery could shave more than one percentage point off economic growth, analysts say. Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Britain, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, said the cost of rebuilding could reach up to $15 billion.

Victims are relying mostly on the military, the most powerful institution in Pakistan, and foreign aid agencies for help.

Nevertheless, a military coup is considered unlikely. The army’s priority is fighting Taliban insurgents, and seizing power during a disaster would make no sense, analysts say.

Hundreds of villages are isolated, highways and bridges have been cut in half by floods and hundreds of thousands of cattle — the livelihoods of many villagers — have drowned.

The United Nations has warned that up to 3.5 million children could be in danger of contracting deadly diseases carried through contaminated water and insects in a crisis that has disrupted the lives of at least a tenth of Pakistan’s 170 million people.

“Who will treat her? The doctors said she has a hole in the wall of her heart,” said Bakhmina Said, whose one-year-old Naeema slept on a mat in sweltering heat at a fly-infested camp in northwestern Pakistan.

She had no fan, no chance of seeing a cardiologist anytime soon and at risk of catching other potentially fatal diseases in cramped, un-hygienic conditions.

U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says Pakistan could face food shortages if its farmers miss the sowing season which is due to start next month.

Public anger has grown in the two weeks of floods, highlighting potential political troubles for President Asif Ali Zardari’s unpopular government which is a major U.S. ally in the war against Islamist militancy.

Some Pakistani flood victims blocked highways to demand government help and villagers clashed with baton-wielding police on Tuesday after opposition leader Nawaz Sharif tried to distribute relief in Sindh.

(Additional reporting by Michael Georgy in Charsadda; Writing by Alistair Scrutton; Editing by Michael Georgy and Miral Fahmy)

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/reuters/100818/world/international_us_pakistan_floods


BP Oil

In Gulf, good news is taken with grain of salt

Campbell Robertson NEW YORK TIMES

NEW ORLEANS—There is little celebration on the Gulf Coast.

Even with the news of the tentative plugging of BP’s well, the attention here has largely been focused elsewhere, on a week’s worth of reports, culminating in a federal study released Wednesday, that the oil in the Gulf of Mexico has been rapidly breaking down and disappearing. These reports have been met, for the most part, with skepticism if not outright distrust.

“It’s not gone,” said George Barisich of the United Commercial Fisherman’s Alliance, who has been making his money these days selling anti-BP T-shirts while also working in the Vessels of Opportunity program, a BP effort created to employ boats to help with the spill cleanup. “Mother Nature didn’t suck it up and spit it out.”

According to federal scientists, about a third of the oil was captured or mitigated by recovery efforts, a quarter naturally dissolved or evaporated and 16 per cent was dispersed into microscopic droplets. Just over a quarter remains on or below the surface or has washed ashore, and is either being collected or is degrading naturally.

But many here have grown skeptical after the false assurances following Hurricane Katrina, the early flow rate estimates from BP and federal agencies that turned out to be drastically low, and cautionary tales from Alaska about the Exxon Valdez disaster.

The skepticism has been stoked by environmental groups that came to the gulf in droves, lawyers who have been soliciting clients from billboards along roads leading south, a sensation-hungry news media and politicians who have gained broad popularity for thundering in opposition to response officials.

It has also been fed by continued discoveries of oil clumped in marshes, stratified underneath fresh sand or exposed in the surf at low tide. These sightings do not contradict the scientific reports, which acknowledge millions of litres of residual oil, but they fuel a broadly held fear: that the oil is merely hidden, liable to appear in a thick, brown ooze at any time.

Federal scientists and coastal residents agree in at least one respect: that the long-term effects of the spill are unknown, and that it is too early to make any conclusions about the true scale of the damage. That uncertainty leads to perhaps the most potent source of skepticism: a deep anxiety about the region’s economic future.

The anxiety begins in the short term. Billions of dollars have poured into the gulf during the response, supporting coastal communities that have had a dreary summer but also enriching contractors involved in the cleanup. Any news of dissipating oil hints at a looming end to that.

BP has promised full compensation, but that has not stopped officials and residents from pursuing lawsuits or seeking billions more in restoration payments.

Just as the problems were being ironed out in the Vessels of Opportunity program, which had left many hurting commercial fishermen on the outside, recoverable oil started disappearing on the surface.

Plenty are worried that there will be no revenue to take the program’s place as it wraps up.

“Even if it is true,” Barisich said of the reports of dissipating oil, “and I can go catch some shrimp right now, I can’t sell it. I don’t have a dealer or processor who can take it right now.”

Commercial fishing waters are being opened all along the coast, which can be done only with the approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and after a variety of tests. Many fishermen, who early on were angered at what they saw as premature closings of water where little oil was visible, are now among the most concerned that the waters are being opened too quickly.

The perception of healthy seafood is nearly as important for the business as the reality, and reassuring consumers can be a long and tricky process.

“Alaska, it took them almost five years to overcome their perception challenges,” said Ewell Smith, the executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.

And while BP has recently highlighted its efforts to speed up the claims process, more than two-thirds of claims have not been paid, mostly because adjusters are waiting on documentation that may be hard to come by for many in the largely cash-driven fishing business.

The economic worries still come back to a fundamental disagreement: Many residents simply do not believe that the oil is going away any time soon, whatever scientists are saying.

Fishermen are also keenly concerned about shrimp, crab and finfish larvae. If the larvae are in jeopardy, it may not be known until future fishing seasons, even after the cleanup ends.

Scientists have found hydrocarbons and possibly dispersant in samples of crab and fish larvae, but say that it is premature to draw any conclusions about the long-term effects.

Oil spill by the numbers

On June 2, the area closed to commercial and recreational fishing was at its largest measuring 230,000 square kilometres, which is approximately 37 per cent of Gulf of Mexico federal waters.

Approximately 31,400 people are involved in the cleanup.

More than 5,050 vessels have been chartered.

Almost a million metres of containment boom and 2.5 million metres of sorbent boom have been deployed to contain the spill.

More than 131 million litres of an oil-water mix have been recovered.

Approximately 6.9 million litres of total dispersant have been applied.

411 controlled burns have been conducted, efficiently removing a total of more than 42 million litres of oil from the open water in an effort to protect shoreline and wildlife.

More than 1,000 kilometres of Gulf Coast shoreline is currently oiled — mainly in Louisiana, but with serious impacts in Mississippi, Alabama, Florida.

Total oil spilled: 780 million litres.

BP has spent $3.12 billion US cleaning up the oil spill.

http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/843653–in-gulf-good-news-is-taken-with-grain-of-salt


BP says mud has plugged well……but for how long???!

Clifford Krauss NEW YORK TIMES

HOUSTON—An operation that pumped heavy drilling mud to plug BP’s runaway oil well in the Gulf of Mexico has been so successful that Obama administration officials said on Wednesday they are convinced it will never leak again.

BP began the effort, known as a static kill, late Tuesday and stopped pumping after about eight hours to verify that they had filled the Macondo well with mud without springing any new leaks.

Senior government scientists and BP engineers combed through data throughout the day to evaluate the condition of the well piping and whether it made sense to pour cement for a final plug from a surface ship above the well or through a relief well still being drilled.

Technicians said a decision whether to fill the well with cement this week might come later in day. But they said there was no doubt the static kill represented a major step in finally bringing the volatile well under control.

“We have reached a static position in the well that allows us to have high confidence that there will be no oil leaking into the environment,” retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad W. Allen, head of the federal spill response told reporters at a White House briefing. “And we have significantly improved our chances to finally kill the well with the relief well.”

The successful maneuver came almost four months after the well blew out, gushing nearly 780 million litres of crude into the Gulf of Mexico and killing 11 rig workers aboard the Deepwater Horizon platform on April 20. For nearly three months engineers repeatedly failed in their attempts to cap or contain the spill, until they finally were able to fit a tight fitting cap on the well three weeks ago.

President Obama, who had suffered political damage from the perception that he was slow to respond to the crisis, hailed what he called “the welcome news.” In a speech to the A.F.L.-C.I.O., he said, “The long battle to stop the leak and contain the oil is finally close to coming to an end.”

In the static kill procedure, engineers poured an estimated 2,000 barrels of mud at slow but gradually accelerating speeds from a surface vessel through a choke line into the blowout preventer on top of the well and into the oil reservoir.

Engineers still must determine if there are any leaks anywhere outside the production casing, an effort that requires careful readings of pressure fluctuations in the well. If there are no new leaks, government scientists and BP engineers will probably decide to plug the well with cement from the top, engineers following the process said.

But if they find leaks, the engineers said, they will need to fill the well with cement from the bottom through one of two relief wells being drilled. The first relief well, now 30 metres from intersecting the well, is scheduled to be completed by Aug.15. A second will be done shortly after that in case the first well misses its mark.

The static kill may only plug the centre of the well pipe, and not the portion of the well called the annulus between the inner piping and the outer casing. The relief well can intercept both, if the static kill cannot fill the entire pipe.

In the end, BP and government technicians may decide to plug the well with cement both from the top and the bottom for extra insurance that the well will never leak again.

http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/843660–bp-says-mud-has-plugged-well


Environment or Profit? Who should decide?

Some Republicans say open to climate bill

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Some prominent Republican senators expressed openness on Tuesday to a U.S. climate change bill that might be introduced next week and that would need bipartisan support to have any chance of advancing.

Senator Lamar Alexander, a member of the Republican leadership in the Senate, praised the sector-by-sector approach in a compromise bill aimed at reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

“I think a sector-by-sector approach makes a lot more sense for dealing with carbon,” the Tennessee senator told reporters.

Winning Republican support would be big breakthrough for Democrats and the Obama White House, especially as some Republican lawmakers have been sharply critical of climate legislation because of concerns industry would be hurt and also due to skepticism over the science behind global warming.

The sector-by-sector approach contrasts to an economy-wide approach taken by a bill passed last year in the House of Representatives that was also sharply criticized by Republican lawmakers.

Alexander said he “would consider a cap on utilities only if we could figure out the right way to do it that didn’t drive costs up substantially over the short term.”

Republican Senator Scott Brown, whose election in January robbed Democrats of their 60-seat supermajority, told Reuters, “I’m open to reading anything that’s being proposed” for climate change legislation.

A trio of senators — Democrat John Kerry, independent Joseph Lieberman and Republican Lindsey Graham — are trying to put the finishing touches on a climate change bill that aims to reduce carbon pollution by capping emissions, starting in 2012, from electric power utilities.

The transportation sector would see a new tax, probably after oil is refined, instead of a carbon cap, although the fee would be linked to pollution permits traded in the utility sector.

As for the third sector — manufacturers — Kerry, Graham and Lieberman have been weighing a cap-and-trade scheme like the one for utilities, but phasing it in starting in 2016. Alexander voiced opposition to capping factory emissions.

Kerry would not say whether he has succeeded yet in winning the support of any Republicans other than Graham for the bill he hopes to unveil next week.

RALLY AROUND A BILL

Graham told Reuters that the goal was to “put a bill out there the three of us can rally around” and see “the kind of reception it gets once it’s rolled out.”

But before being introduced, Kerry, Graham and Lieberman still have difficult issues to resolve.

Graham said the trio is “revisiting” how to allocate future carbon pollution permits for electric power companies, a thorny issue that has brought criticisms from various senators, including Democrat Carl Levin from Michigan.

“Things are coming together but there’s still some hurdles,” Kerry said, without specifying. He said more meetings were needed this week with senators and industry.

Some liberal Democrats attacked the bill’s planned inclusion of expanded offshore oil and gas drilling.

“Without very significant alteration of the drilling issues, they’ll probably lose my vote,” New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez told reporters.

Senator Frank Lautenberg, also from New Jersey who last year voted for an Environment and Public Works Committee climate bill that Kerry’s effort builds upon, said expanded offshore drilling could jeopardize his state’s beach resorts and related businesses if there was an oil spill.

“I’m not comforted by a 50-mile limitation,” on drilling offshore, he added.

The three senators writing the climate bill are hoping to introduce it early next week, according to sources, around the April 22 40th anniversary of Earth Day, an event that sometimes draws derision from some Republicans.

“We’re not going to do it on Earth Day,” Graham said, adding, “It’s going to be offshore drilling day when it’s introduced.”

(Editing by Philip Barbara)

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/reuters/100413/us/politics_us_climate_usa_congress


Barack Obama…US’ knight in shining armor???

Obama gives downbeat assessment of Mideast peace prospects, says 2 sides may give up

By Anne Gearan, The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama gave a surprisingly downbeat assessment Tuesday of the chances for a U.S.-brokered peace settlement in the Middle East, saying that the United States cannot help if Israel and the Palestinians decide they cannot negotiate.

The two sides “may say to themselves, ‘We are not prepared to resolve these issues no matter how much pressure the United States brings to bear,”‘ Obama said.

Obama reiterated that peace is a vital goal, but one that may be beyond reach “even if we are applying all of our political capital.”

Obama was responding to a question about whether the successful negotiation of a new arms control treaty with Russia and the agreements he won at this week’s nuclear summit could help him make gains elsewhere. His words are a recognition that although he pledged to work hard for a deal from his first day in office, Obama has gotten little traction in the decades-old conflict.

The United States is pushing for new Israeli-Palestinian talks in which the the Obama administration would be a go-between. Previous talks broke off more than a year ago, and despite shuttle diplomacy and unusual pressure on ally Israel, the Obama administration has been unable to reach even the modest goal of new talks.

Obama spoke at the close of a conference on securing nuclear materials. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu skipped the meeting because, a spokesman said, Israel thought it would devolve into “Israel-bashing.”

Israel sent a lower-level delegation instead. Israel is presumed to have nuclear weapons, although it does not say one way or the other.

Netanyahu acknowledged last week that his government has yet to resolve its differences with the United States over Israeli construction in East Jerusalem, a dispute that has stymied American efforts to restart peace talks.

Netanyahu said both countries still are working to find a solution but staunchly defended his government’s contentious settlement plans in the disputed holy city, calling them a long-standing Israeli policy.

“There are things we agree on, things we don’t agree on, things we are closing the gap on,” Netanyahu said of his talks with Washington. “We are making an effort.”

The worst crisis in U.S.-Israeli ties in years erupted last month when Israel announced plans to build 1,600 new homes for Jews in East Jerusalem during a visit by Vice-President Joe Biden, drawing sharp condemnation from Washington and calls to cancel the construction. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as capital of Palestine in any two-state solution.

The announcement derailed a plan for third-party talks, in which each side would talk to a U.S. mediator, who would relay messages to the other. Obama had wanted a resumption of full, direct talks between the Israeli leader and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. U.S. officials settled for a pledge from both sides to engage in the awkward indirect talks, saying it was a step toward something better. That lesser goal is now in doubt, with each side blaming the other for delaying the start of talks.

Meanwhile, the top U.S. commander for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan said he never claimed that inaction toward a peace deal puts American soldiers at risk, and that he does not blame Israel for the lack of a deal so far.

Gen. David Petraeus told a Washington audience that a policy statement he submitted to Congress last month was misconstrued and misquoted by media and online commentators. The statement lists the unresolved status of Palestinians as a complicating factor in the region, and says there is a sense among many who live there that the United States is biased toward Israel.

Petraeus did not back off those assertions, but he said that in hindsight he wishes his statement had made clear that Israel is a valued strategic ally and will remain one.

“That’s something we should and could have included,” Petraeus said during an address to the Woodrow Wilson Center, “just to make sure there was no misperception about what we were implying by this.”

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/100413/world/us_us_mideast


Nuclear Diplomacy????

No decision on new Iran sanctions

NEW YORK (AFP) – Six major powers considered new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear defiance here Saturday but reached no decision, a senior European Union official said.

The closed-door meeting hosted by the European Union at its mission in New York brought together senior officials from Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. China, signaling its reluctance to back tougher sanctions pushed by the West, sent a lower-level diplomat.

“Consideration of appropriate further measures has begun,” Robert Cooper, a top EU diplomat, said after the meeting, giving no details of the measures discussed.

He spoke as host and chair of the closed-door working luncheon, which lasted just over two hours.

Cooper said the six expressed concern over Iran’s building of a new secret enrichment plant “with no credible civilian purpose,” as well as its “insufficient cooperation” with the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The six were also concerned about Tehran’s rejection of a deal under which most of Iran’s low enriched uranium (LEU) stockpile would be shipped abroad to be further enriched into reactor fuel.

Tehran has ignored a US-set December 31 deadline to accept the offer, drawn up by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, and countered with its own proposal of a simultaneous and staged swap of LEU with reactor fuel.

Iran insists it is ready to send its LEU abroad only if there is a simultaneous exchange of fuel inside the country.

“The group remains united, remains committed to the two-track approach” of sanctions while pursuing negotiations, the EU official said.

“That implies that we will continue to seek a negotiation solution — but consideration of appropriate further measures (sanctions) has also begun,” he pointedly noted.

Earlier, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov emerged from the meeting, saying it was “inconclusive in the sense that we did not make any decisions right away.”

“We have started the next chapter of this saga, the next part of the process. As I said Russia has always been fully committed to the dual track approach,” he said.

“We have talked today about the second track, but it does not mean that we should abandon the first one, the engagement policy.”

US Under Secretary of State William Burns only aid that the six had a “useful discussion.”

His French counterpart Jacques Audibert stressed that “it was not a meeting to make decisions.”

Diplomatic sources said the EU-hosted meeting was preceded by a two-hour gathering of the four Western members of the group.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that the six would explore “the kind and degree of sanctions that we should be pursuing” as Iran doggedly refused to comply with UN demands to halt uranium enrichment.

Measures said to be under consideration include tougher sanctions targeting Iran’s insurance, financial and arms sectors.

The goal is to increase the pressure so Iran will accept a UN-brokered deal aimed at allaying suspicions about the nature of its nuclear program.

Washington and its Western allies fear that Iran is secretly developing fissile material for nuclear weapons under the cover of its uranium enrichment program.

But Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and solely geared toward generating electricity for its civilian population.

Washington along with Britain, France and Germany have for months sought to convince Russia and China that the time has come to get tougher with the Islamic republic, which has already ignored three sets of Security Council sanctions.

Diplomats noted that Moscow, having seen its mediation efforts rebuffed by Tehran, has signaled it is prepared to turn up the heat on the Iranians.

But China, which has close economic and energy ties with Iran, has said new sanctions would be premature and that more time should be given for diplomacy to work.

Also at the meeting were Kang Yong, a counselor at China’s UN mission, Geoffrey Adams of Britain and Emily Haber of Germany.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/afp/100116/usa/iran_un_nuclear_diplomacy


Canada in Charge???!!!…bout time eh…

U.S. surge in Afghanistan likely to highlight Canadian role in Kandahar

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – The United States is sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in the hopes of breaking an insurgency that has engulfed the country’s southern regions, where Canadian troops have been holding Kandahar city.

President Barack Obama outlined a new strategy for U.S. forces that included a military surge, a focus on improving civilian institutions and diplomatic pressure on Pakistan.

“We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum,” he said in the speech from the West Point Military Academy in New York.

“And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government.”

American soldiers gathered around television screens at Kandahar Airfield to watch the highly anticipated speech, though it failed to bump a hockey game between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs broadcast near the Canadian barracks.

The speech aired at 5:30 a.m., local time, in Afghanistan and is expected to prompt an official reaction from Canadian commanders later Wednesday.

Though he didn’t specifically mention Kandahar, where most of Canada’s 2,850 troops are based, officials say the bulk of the American reinforcements will be posted to southern Afghanistan.

In an effort to regain the initiative in Kandahar, NATO commanders are putting Canada’s military command in charge of the tactically vital Arghandab district north of Kandahar city.

As a result, two full battalions of troops already in the country – one American, the other Afghan – will come under the control of Brig. Gen. Dan Menard, the commander of the Canadian contingent known as Task Force Kandahar, by the new year.

“You’ll get all these guys together focused on Arghandab under the command of Dan Menard,” said Brig. Gen. Frederick Hodges, director of operations for NATO’s southern command.

“I think that’s a significant manifestation of the importance of that place on the city.”

Under U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, NATO has signalled its desire to shift the focus of counter-insurgency efforts to urban areas; Kandahar has been singled out among them.

McChrystal is expected to tour NATO bases in Afghanistan on Wednesday to outline how Obama’s strategy will be implemented.

In a statement released as Obama delivered his speech, McChrystal said his main focus will be to develop the capacity of the Afghan police and army.

“We will work toward improved security for Afghanistan and the transfer of responsibility to Afghan security forces as rapidly as conditions allow,” he said.

By hastening the training of both the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police, Obama hopes to create a sustainable security environment that will allow the U.S. to begin withdrawing its troops in 2011.

“After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home,” he said.

The timeframe coincides roughly with the planned end of the Canadian combat mission in Afghanistan.

Speaking in Ottawa, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said earlier the decisions to focus Canadian resources on Arghandab does not signal a change in direction for the mission, nor does it threaten the vaunted “model village” project in the Dand district to the south.

The model village concept, largely credited to Menard’s predecessor, Brig. Gen. Jonathan Vance, is a uniquely Canadian combination of security, development and political outreach designed to win over public support and drive out insurgents in smaller rural areas outside the city.

“The Americans have paid us an enormous compliment,” MacKay said of Canada’s added responsibilities. “They trust us. They appreciate our expertise.”

The move won’t change Canada’s mind about its own scheduled 2011 exit date, “nor does it affect our ongoing responsibility with Kandahar city” and the projects already begun, he added.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said he welcomes the increase in U.S. troops.

“We are pleased that the objectives of the U.S. policy are complementary to Canada’s own priorities,” Cannon said in a new release following Obama’s address.

“Canada has a significant civilian contingent on the ground in Afghanistan working alongside their military colleagues to ensure our programs and policies are helping the Afghan government to build a stable, democratic and self-sufficient society.”

Obama’s decision will put pressure on other NATO allies to either contribute more troops or in cases like Canada, extend existing commitments.

“I think it’ll have a positive influence on how other countries think about whether or not they should commit,” Hodges said in an interview prior to Obama’s announcement. “I personally… would love to see the Canadians stay here as long as is necessary, but I understand each nation has to make its own decisions.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already asked France for an additional 1,500 troops to add to the 3,750 already in the country. She is seeking up to 7,000 more soldiers in all from the NATO alliance.

And while Canada is slated to begin a military pullout in 2011, some say it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Obama’s plan could influence the popular perception of the Afghan mission in Canada.

“I would suggest that if Obama had a strategy that Canadians would be at ease with, it’s not inconceivable the government would change its direction,” said Maj. Gen. (ret.) Terry Liston, a former chief of planning and development with the Canadian Armed Forces.

But Liston questioned whether an additional 30,000 troops would be enough to conduct a counter-insurgency properly, forcing the U.S. to rely on airstrikes and drone attacks that put civilians at risk.

With insufficient force levels, Obama would be hard-pressed to distinguish his military approach from his predecessor, George W. Bush, who focused on the counter-terrorism dimension.

“The extent that it seems to be a continuation of the (former U.S. secretary of defence Donald) Rumsfield approach, it’s not going to cause a rethink in Canada,” Liston said.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/091201/national/afghan_cda_obama