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re:even though surge worked,,

Republicans Threaten to Cut Aid to Iraq

Published: 11/27/07, 11:05 AM EDT


WASHINGTON (AP) - Two Republican senators said that unless Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki makes more political progress by January, the U.S. should consider pulling political or financial support for his government.

The stern warnings, coming from Sens. Lindsey Graham and Saxby Chambliss Monday, are an indication that while GOP patience on the war has greatly increased this fall because of security gains made by the military, it isn't bottomless.

"I do expect them to deliver," Graham, R-S.C., said in a phone interview upon returning from a Thanksgiving trip to Iraq. "What would happen for me if there's no progress on reconciliation after the first of the year, I would be looking at ways to invest our money into groups that can deliver."

Chambliss, R-Ga., who traveled with Graham as part of a larger congressional delegation, said lawmakers might even call for al-Maliki's ouster if Baghdad didn't reach agreement on at least some of the major issues seen as key to tamping down sectarian violence.

"If we don't see positive results by the end of the year I think you'll probably see a strong message coming out of Congress calling for a change in administration," he said in a conference call with reporters.

Republican support for the war is crucial, especially in the Senate where Democrats hold a narrow majority and routinely come up eight or so votes short when trying to pass anti-war legislation.

While GOP support stumbled this summer as voter opposition to the war grew, Republicans have since rallied behind President Bush's Iraq policies because of a sharp reduction in violence largely credited to a buildup of 30,000 additional troops. U.S. combat deaths in Iraq stood at 38 last month, down from 126 in May, 101 in June and 65 in September.

Congressional Democrats contend the troop buildup is only a temporary fix and that security will deteriorate again after the military reduces its force levels, which it plans to do this year.

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has said he wants to withdraw the 30,000 additional forces by July 1.

Graham and Chambliss said the recent military gains are remarkable, but they agree with Democrats that the political progress has been disappointing. Graham, an early ally of Bush's troop buildup, said he would lose confidence in al-Maliki's government if it could not pass by January a law that would ease curbs on former Baathists from holding government jobs.

Noting the large amounts of reconstruction and other economic aid provided to the central government, Graham said that if progress remains stagnant U.S. might want to consider "putting our money into some of the provinces where they have reconciled."

"There are no more excuses as far as I'm concerned not to achieve some benchmark success," he said.

Both senators expressed optimism that Baghdad would rise to the challenge.

"Time will tell," Chambliss said. "They have committed to doing everything they can," he added.

On their trip to Iraq, Chambliss and Graham were joined by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Utah's Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman



re:hamas leader continues to try to recoup 67 losses for Islamic Empire

~Hamas Leader Accuses Abbas of Treason

Published: 11/26/07, 2:46 PM EDT


GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Leaders of the Islamic militant group Hamas called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a traitor Monday and vowed to reject any decisions made at the Mideast peace conference in the United States.

In Jerusalem, meanwhile, more than 20,000 Israelis gathered at the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, to protest the conference. Many marched to a square near the residence of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for a noisy demonstration.

Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu also denounced the meeting. "The Palestinians are not lifting a finger to stop terror or recognize Israel as a Jewish state," he told Channel 2 TV. "I see this summit as a continuation of one-sided concessions."

Coming as the Israeli military killed four Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in an airstrike and a ground clash, the angry comments on both sides showed that both Olmert and Abbas face stiff opposition at home in trying to achieve a peace agreement.

Hamas has been staging daily demonstrations in Gaza against the conference and Abbas, restating their rejection of the existence of a Jewish state in an Islamic Middle East.

"The land of Palestine ... is purely owned by the Palestinians," Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said in a speech, referring to the territory that includes Israel. "No person, group, government or generation has the right to give up one inch of it."

Speaking at a meeting of 2,000 activists from local militant groups, Zahar declared, "Anyone who stands in the face of resistance or fights it or cooperates with the (Israeli) occupation against it is a traitor" - a clear reference to Abbas and his dealings with Israel.

Hamas militiamen seized control of Gaza from Abbas' security forces in June, leaving him in charge of a pro-Western government based in the West Bank. His lack of control over Gaza has raised questions about his ability to carry through on any peace deal.

Ismail Haniyeh, head of Gaza's Hamas government, joined fellow Hamas leaders in signing a document Monday saying Abbas has no right to make concessions in the name of Palestinians.

"Any recommendations or commitments made in the conference that harm our rights will not be binding for our people," Haniyeh said. "It will be binding only for those who sign it."

Israel has stepped up pressure on Hamas since the Gaza takeover, carrying out numerous airstrikes and ground operations trying to halt Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks on southern Israel.

On Monday, an Israeli aircraft fired at a Palestinian squad firing mortar shells into Israel, the military said. Hamas and hospital officials reported two dead and one wounded from the strike.

The Israeli military said soldiers also fatally shot two Palestinians who approached Israel's border with Gaza.

Countering the attacks on the U.S.-sponsored peace talks, Muslim, Christian and Samaritan leaders gathered in the West Bank city of Nablus to offer support for the conference in Annapolis, Md., and call for a peace deal fulfilling Palestinian demands.

President Bush hopes the conference will help Israel and the Palestinians restart formal peace talks that broke down in violence seven years ago. The sides hope to reach a deal within a year based on the "road map," a U.S. peace plan laying out a three-stage process for the creation of a Palestinian state.

Israeli newspapers published what they said were details from the speech that Israel's prime minister planned to deliver at the conference.

The daily Haaretz said Olmert would call for progress in negotiations, but would also insist on an end to militant activity in the Gaza Strip as part of the first phase of the road map.

With Hamas firmly in control of Gaza, this demand could severely constrain future peace efforts. Abbas has virtually no control over Gaza militants who fire rockets and mortars at Israel.

Recognizing this, Abbas wants a deal to be implemented in the West Bank, and only later in Gaza after Hamas is out of power. Palestinian officials did not immediately react to the report.~


re:where is the Islamic Empires Emergency Aid?

~US Navy Brings Aid to Bangladesh Victims

Published: 11/26/07, 12:05 PM EDT


DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) - U.S. Navy helicopters began delivering emergency supplies Monday to survivors of a deadly cyclone along the southern coast of Bangladesh in a joint relief operation, officials said.

Helicopters from the USS Kearsarge started airlifting 5,000 water containers to remote areas of Dublar Char, Bagherat and Barguna, the worst affected districts in the Nov. 15 cyclone that killed more than 3,200 people.

U.S. troops will also deliver food and other supplies, help set up water purification plants, and provide medical care to victims in the coming days, army officials said.

"Our first priority is get food, water and clothes to the survivors," said Gen. Moeen U. Ahmed, the chief of army staff, after meeting U.S. officials.

Aid workers' attempts to deliver critical supplies and medical services have been hampered by blocked or destroyed roads. On Saturday, a section of a bridge collapsed and fell into a river under the weight of thousands of survivors stampeding for food in southern Patuakhali district. One person died and dozens were injured.

"We will fill the requirements as identified by the Bangladesh military," said U.S. Brig. Gen. Ronald L. Bailey, who is coordinating the relief operation.

The official death toll rose to 3,243, the government said. Another 1,180 people were missing, and at least 34,500 were injured.

Bangladesh has received pledges of international aid of more than $500 million, including $250 million from the World Bank.

The U.S. will also help airlift 160 tons of relief goods from Bangladeshi government supplies, the American Embassy said.

A U.S. military KC-130 aircraft arrived at the international airport in the capital, Dhaka, to deliver water purification systems to affected areas. A second American ship, the USNS Concord, was nearby to re-supply the Kearsarge, the embassy said.

With many wells destroyed by the cyclone, there was a critical need for clean water to prevent the spread of cholera and diarrhea.

The U.S. embassy also said an Army medical team that had been in Bangladesh on a separate mission was deployed to Pataukhali district along with medics from the Kearsarge.

The Bangladesh military was constructing more than 200 helipads in the coastal region, said Ahmed. The government will give loans and materials to rebuild homes, he added. More than 450,000 homes were damaged by the cyclone.

At least 13 Bangladesh navy ships were also involved in relief work, distributing food and clothes. India and Pakistan have also sent military planes and hospital ships.

The Asian Development Bank said natural disasters in Bangladesh this year may bring down the country's GDP growth to below 6 percent, from 6.5 percent predicted earlier.

The ADB said economic losses from floods have amounted to $1.4 billion. The bank was still assessing the losses from the latest cyclone.~


re:Ahmadinejad is irking his own

~Iran Acquits Mousavian of Spying Charges

Published: 11/27/07, 1:05 PM EDT


TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - An Iranian court acquitted a former nuclear negotiator of spying charges but convicted him of acting against the Islamic government, a judiciary spokesman said Tuesday.

The Iranian government charged Hossein Mousavian earlier this month with passing classified information to foreigners, including the British Embassy. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called him a "spy" and made a veiled reference to Mousavian and other critics of his nuclear policies, branding them "traitors."

"There were three charges raised against Mousavian: Spying, keeping confidential documents and propagating against the ruling system. He was found not guilty of the first two but found guilty of propagating against the system," judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi told reporters Tuesday.

Jamshidi said the court suspended Mousavian's sentence, but he added that a sentence against him can't be ruled out if the prosecutor objects to the court's decision.

After the announcement, several dozen hard-line students protested outside the judiciary building and scuffled with police. The students chanted slogans against Mousavian, shouting "Death to compromisers" and "The nuclear spy must be executed." There were no reports of injuries or arrests in the scuffles.

Mousavian, who was a deputy to the top nuclear negotiator under reformist former President Mohammad Khatami, was briefly detained in May, allegedly on accusations of espionage.

Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, himself a former judge, had claimed that Mousavian's crime was "obvious and provable."

Mousavian's former boss, Hasan Rowhani, sharply criticized Ahmadinejad last week for prosecuting his colleague.

Rowhani's comments, published in several Iranian newspapers, were the latest in the mounting rivalry between Ahmadinejad and former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, a powerful figure in Iran's clerical leadership.

The former president's camp, which includes Rowhani, Mousavian and Iran's older more experienced politicians, has increasingly criticized the president for mismanaging the economy and creating enemies in Iran's nuclear standoff with the West.

Rafsanjani - head of the Assembly of Experts, one of the powerful cleric-run bodies that dominates the country's politics - has emerged as a leader of disillusioned conservatives who once supported the hardline president.

In October, Rowhani delivered an unusually sharp rebuke to Ahmadinejad's policies, saying they are turning more countries against Iran and failing to fix the struggling economy.

Rowhani is a member of the Supreme National Security Council and sits on the Experts Assembly and the Expediency Council, another influential clerical body.~


r:iran developes missile capable of hitting 'infidel' targets

Iran Says It's Produced New Missile

Published: 11/27/07, 7:47 AM EDT

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran said Tuesday it has manufactured a new missile with a range of 1,200 miles capable of reaching Israel and U.S. bases in the Mideast, the official news agency IRNA reported.

Iran's Defense Minister Gen. Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said the Ashoura missile was produced by factories affiliated with the ministry, according to IRNA. He did not say whether Iran has test fired the missile or has plans to do so.

Many of Iran's weapons development claims have not been independently verified.

Iran launched an arms development program during its war with Iraq to compensate for a U.S. weapons embargo. Since 1992, Iran has reportedly produced its own jets, torpedoes, radar-avoiding missiles, tanks and armored personnel carriers.

Recent weapons development has been motivated by Iran's standoff with the U.S. over its controversial nuclear program, which Washington claims is a cover for weapons development - a charge Tehran denies.

Iran is known to possess a medium-range ballistic missile known as the Shahab-3, with a range of at least 800 miles. In 2005, Iranian officials said they had improved the range of the Shahab-3 to 1,200 miles, equal to the new missile announced Tuesday.

Najjar did not elaborate about the differences between the Ashoura missile and the Shahab-3 missile.

In September during a military parade, Iran introduced the Ghadr missile, which has a range of 1,119 miles.

Experts also believe Iran is developing the Shahab-4 missile, thought to have a range between 1,200 and 1,900 miles, that would enable it to hit much of Europe.~


re:annapolis summit

~Summit Embraces Style and Substance

Published: 11/27/07, 8:25 PM EDT


ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - President Bush told his guests at the Mideast peace conference that Tuesday's gathering was off to a strong start, with an agreement between Israeli and Palestinian leaders to immediately restart peace talks.

But Bush, making his deepest foray into Mideast peacemaking in nearly seven years as president, had a bit of a rocky start himself.

Less than a minute into his opening address, Bush got tongue-tied and muffed the names of both the Mideast leaders standing at his sides.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert became "Ehud Ulmmm," and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas became "Ma-Mock-Mahmoud Abbas."

The two leaders had no expression as Bush stumbled, but smiled as he regained his footing and plowed on through the text of the long-sought joint agreement.


The White House says the Annapolis conference was all about substance - the search for lasting peace. But symbolism matters plenty, too.

So after Bush finished reading aloud the agreement among the parties, it happened: the Handshake Moment.

First, Bush shook hands with Olmert and Abbas. Then, the Israeli and Palestinian leaders did the same with each other. It was quick and sure.

Then - for maximum effect - the three men went through the gestures again.

This time, the three clasped hands together, with a beaming Bush in the middle. Photographers scrambled for the money shot.

Finally, Bush stepped back and raised his hands, as if to encourage Olmert and Abbas to step forward for another handshake. They did.

Just for a moment, it harkened back to a memorable image involving his predecessor: President Bill Clinton, on the South Lawn in 1993, presiding as then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin stepped up for a handshake.

The image of that time lasts. Since then, the peace process has endured several difficult chapters, a reminder that symbolism only lasts so long.


The handshakes weren't the only significant gesture to come out of the summit, where body language was closely watched.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal applauded after Olmert finished his speech, according to a member of the U.S. delegation.

That was seen as no small thing, coming from the leader of a nation considered the linchpin of Arab support for the coming talks.

Saud, a veteran of past peace efforts, had said before the session that he would not shake Olmert's hand.

Saudi Arabia has no diplomatic relations with Israel, and Saud told reporters he would do nothing to normalize relations until after Palestinian statehood and other territorial issues were resolved.


The invitations for the conference were barely issued last week when State Department phones started ringing with complaints from countries not on the list.

A handful of uninvited nations that consider themselves important international players and loyal U.S. allies called seeking tickets to the season's hottest diplomatic event, officials said.

As a result, several modifications were made, and the list of invitees grew from 49 countries, organizations and individuals, as announced on Nov. 20, to 53 when the final list of participants was released late Monday.

The officials declined to identify those who called to complain. But Denmark, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Vatican and the Organization of the Islamic Conference were added during the course of the last week.

Only Iraq, which had been on the original list of invitees, was a no-show at Annapolis.


Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley entertained Olmert for about an hour Tuesday afternoon, and the two talked politics and gambling over chicken salad sandwiches.

A red carpet and several Israeli flags greeted Olmert as he visited the governor's mansion, a short walk from the conference site at the U.S. Naval Academy.

The lunchtime talk was largely about American politics, both presidential and state level.

Olmert asked about a recent special session of the Maryland legislature, and the two talked about a looming constitutional referendum next year on whether Maryland should legalize slot machine gambling.

"I can't believe we're talking about this," O'Malley quipped as he explained the gambling debate to the prime minister.

The pair sat in wingback chairs and ate chicken salad sandwiches served with a cheese plate.

O'Malley and Olmert had met in 2005, when O'Malley visited Israel while he was mayor of Baltimore. O'Malley said the two "share a certain kinship and understanding."

"It was probably a nice break for him to kick back and relax and take a little break," O'Malley said after Olmert departed. "We hit it off when we met years ago."


Count Abbas in as a fan of Annapolis.

In his opening remarks at the conference, Abbas thanked Bush "for choosing this charming city, Annapolis, as a venue" for the summit.

"In addition to its beauty and distinctive location, it bears the symbol of freedom; the most sublime value in our life," Abbas said.

Annapolis has long played an important role in American democracy.

Congress met in 1783 and 1784 under the wooden dome of Maryland's State House, the nation's oldest state capitol in continuous legislative use.

The Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War, was formally ratified in Annapolis in 1783. And on Christmas Eve of that year, Gen. George Washington resigned his commission in the Continental Army - signaling that the new nation would be ruled by civilians, not military generals or kings.

Annapolis also was home for nearly 400 years to a poplar elm that became known as the Liberty Tree, under which the Sons of Liberty met before the Revolutionary War to hear patriotic speeches.


Naval Academy students and workers were under security restrictions Tuesday as Bush and Middle East leaders met on campus.

The 4,400 midshipmen were restricted to the grounds but still attending classes, academy spokeswoman Deborah Goode said. She noted that the mids normally don't have town liberty on Tuesdays anyway.

Campus workers were issued special green-striped identification tags. Those running the food concession at Alumni Hall for reporters covering the conference arrived as early as 4:30 a.m.

Contract workers hired to set up the media filing center on Alumni Hall's basketball court were happy to have a small part in the historic event.

"This is amazing for us," said Joya Brooks of Office Movers Inc. "This is the closest we've ever been to the president."


Associated Press writers Anne Gearan, David Dishneau, Kristin Wyatt and Ben Nuckols, and AP Photographer Pablo Martinez Monsivais contributed to this report.~


re:mushareff says he plans to give Islamic Empire what it wants,,he'll resign military position as the corrupt,hijacking Sharif returns from 'plea bargain' exile

~Musharraf to quit army 'this week'

Published: 11/26/07, 10:00 AM EDT

By CNN's Zein Basravi

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) - Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, under pressure to end a state of emergency that critics say he is using to keep his grip on power, is to quit as army chief and take an oath of office for a third presidential term on Thursday.

The announcement came as former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, ousted but Musharraf in a 1999 coup and banished to Saudi Arabia, returned to the country to register for forthcoming elections, ruling out an alliance with the president.

Presidential spokesman Brig. Gen. Rashid Quershi told CNN that the date for Musharraf's army exit was set Monday after the federal government approved an October parliamentary vote that handed him another five years in power.

The vote had faced a legal challenge because Musharraf's army role was seen as unconstitutional. He has been accused of using the emergency, to purge Pakistan's judiciary of opponents to ensure the vote met with full approval.

Musharraf has repeatedly tried to assuage critics, both home and abroad, by pledging to stand down as army chief, but there were fars that he would renege on the promise as he has done in the past.

Qureshi said Musharraf will make farewell visits to the army, air force and navy headquarters on Tuesday and Wednesday before standing down the next day.

Meanwhile Nawaz Sharif, who spent seven years in abroad after taking exile in return for an amnesty on convictions of corruption and hijacking, warned he would boycott January 8 elections unless the state of emergency was lifted.

Sharif said he will meet with other opposition party leaders in the coming days to discuss forming a unified front against the emergency that has been decried as a tool to crackdown on opponents since it was imposed on November 3.

Musharraf has rejected calls from Western countries, who count the nuclear-armed country as a major ally in efforts to combat terrorism, to end the emergency, saying he needs it to safeguard the upcoming vote from extremists.

Sharif returned to Pakistan on Sunday, ending seven years in exile in. He had tried to return in September, but was deported by Pakistani authorities.

Speaking to CNN before departing Saudi Arabia on Sunday, Sharif said he has refused to discuss a power-sharing agreement with Musharraf despite overtures from the Pakistani leader.

"Mr. Musharraf, the president of Pakistan, tried to meet me over the last two months ever since I was deported from Pakistan," Sharif said. "I said there is no point in talking because it would not serve any purpose because he is heading into a different direction.

"I am for democracy and I am for the rule of law for the restoration of the constitution."

Pakistani police launched a crackdown on Sharif supporters ahead of his arrival, arresting several hundred at their homes and stopping hundreds more who were traveling to Lahore to welcome him, authorities and eyewitnesses told CNN.

When former prime minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan in October after eight years in self-imposed exile, her motorcade was targeted in a sucidide attack that killed 136 people. She was unharmed.

Sharif -- who leads the opposition party Pakistan Muslim League -- said he had been talking to Bhutto "trying to find common ground" in uniting the opposition to Musharraf's government.

"We both have been interacting over the past few days, so let's see what comes out of it," Sharif said.

Sharif, like other opposition leaders, was highly critical of Bhutto for discussing a power-sharing government with Musharraf. Those talks ended when Musharraf imposed the emergency.

Sharif said that while his alliance -- the All Pakistan Democratic Movement (APDM) -- is preparing to participate in the January elections, they will only take part if Musharraf withdraws the emergency declaration and releases opposition members who have been jailed.

"Everything that was done must be reversed and drawn back completely," he said.

"Just withdrawing emergency will not be enough," he said. "You must have a level playing field for free and fair elections." ~



re:french arab agitators use 'unsafe driving' deaths to spark rioting

~French Youths Riot, Clash With Police

Published: 11/26/07, 12:26 PM EDT


VILLIERS-LE-BEL, France (AP) - Youths assaulted a police station, torched cars and vandalized stores in a weekend rampage that injured 21 police officers in this rundown Paris suburb.

Sunday night's violence, prompted when two teens were killed in a motorbike crash with a police patrol car, was a reminder of unresolved tensions that drove nationwide riots in 2005 in immigrant-heavy housing projects.

Questions remained Monday about the crash in Villiers-le-Bel, a town of public housing blocks home to Arab, black and white residents just a few miles north of the French capital.

Eight people were arrested and 21 police officers were injured - including the town's police chief who was beaten in the face after he tried to negotiate with the rioters, a police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Residents drew parallels with the 2005 riots, which were prompted by the deaths of two teens electrocuted in a power substation while hiding from police in a suburb northeast of Paris.

Violence raged across the nation for three weeks, as youth - many of them black or of Arab origin - torched cars and clashed with police in an explosion of anger over discrimination, unemployment and alienation from mainstream French society.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, on a visit to China, urged calm. "I want everyone to calm down and let the justice system determine who was responsible," he said.

Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie visited the scene of the violence Monday afternoon.

Villiers-le-Bel Mayor Didier Vaillant demanded a swift "impartial investigation."

"I ask for a stop to this violence, I ask all residents and especially the youth not to succumb to anger," Vaillant said on RTL radio.

The clashes came hours after the motorcycle crashed into the patrol car. A 15-year-old and 16-year-old were killed in the accident.

Police officials said the motorbike ignored traffic rules and ran into the police vehicle, and that the bike was unregistered and neither teen was wearing a helmet.

The police station was little more than a shell after youths lobbed Molotov cocktails at the building. Few shops in town were spared the violence. About 15 cars were torched, and several fires were set in garbage cans.

Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie was heading to the scene.

The head of the opposition Socialist Party, Francois Hollande, called the violence the result of "a social and political crisis."

"Promises were made. We want to see the results," Hollande said on France-Inter radio of government promises to address suburban tensions. "How long have we been talking about a 'plan for the suburbs'?"~


re:french rioters step up the intensity by 'firing' on officer

~Scores of Police Hurt in Paris Riots

Published: 11/27/07, 12:46 PM EDT


VILLIERS-LE-BEL, France (AP) Rampaging youths rioted for a second night in Paris' suburbs, firing at officers and ramming burning cars into buildings. At least 80 officers were injured, a senior police union official said Tuesday.

The overnight violence was more intense than during the three weeks of rioting in 2005, said the official, Patrice Ribeiro. He said "genuine urban guerrillas with conventional weapons and hunting weapons" were among the rioters.

On Monday night, youths were seen firing buckshot at police and reporters. About 30 of 82 injured officers were hit by buckshot, Ribeiro told The Associated Press. Rioters also hurled stones and Molotov cocktails at police, authorities said.

Police made six arrests, authorities said.

Youths, many of them Arab and black children of immigrants, again appeared to be lashing out at police and other targets seen to represent a French establishment they feel has left them behind.

"Police officers were targeted with hunting weapons; a certain number of them were wounded by lead shot," said Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie. "This is totally unacceptable," she said, adding there were six serious injuries, "people who notably were struck in the face and close to the eyes."

The use of firearms added a dangerous new dimension to the rioting. Firearms are widespread in France, and police generally carry guns. Such weapons, though, were rarely used in the 2005 riots that spread to poor housing projects nationwide.

The current riots were triggered by the deaths of two teens killed in a crash with a police patrol car on Sunday in Villiers-le-Bel, a blue-collar town in Paris' northern suburbs.

Residents claimed that officers left the crash scene without helping the teens, whose motorbike collided with the car. Officials cast doubt on the claim, but the internal police oversight agency was investigating.

The 2005 riots also started in the suburbs of northern Paris after two teens were electrocuted in a power substation while hiding from police.

The two teens killed Sunday were both black. They were identified in French media only by their first names, Lakhami, 16, and Mouhsin, 15.

A recent study by the state auditor's office indicated that money poured into poor French suburbs in recent decades had done little to solve problems vividly exposed by the 2005 riots, including discrimination, unemployment and alienation from mainstream society.

Despite decades of problems and heavy state investments to improve housing and create jobs, the depressed projects that ring Paris are a world apart from the glitzy boulevards and tourist attractions of the French capital. Police speak of no-go zones where they and fire fighters fear to patrol.

There have long been tensions between France's largely white police force and the ethnic minorities trapped in poor neighborhoods with high unemployment.

"The problem of bad relations between the police and minorities is underestimated," said criminologist Sebastien Roche.

Suspicion of the police and government officials runs high among residents of the bland housing project where the two teens were killed.

Rioting and arson first erupted in Villiers-le-Bel on Sunday night. It grew worse and spread Monday night to at least five other towns north of Paris.

Several hundred youths organized in small groups led the rioting in Villiers-le-Bel. Rioters rammed burning cars into buildings, trying to set them on fire, authorities said. Arsonists struck the municipal library, leaving burned books scattered on the floor. They attacked shops and other businesses and torched more than 70 vehicles, authorities said.

"There was a lot of fear," according to Villiers-le-Bel resident Farida Si Said.

Police face "a situation that is far worse than that of 2005," said Ribeiro, national secretary of the Synergie police union. "Our colleagues will not allow themselves to be fired upon indefinitely without responding," he warned on RTL radio.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is visiting China, appealed for calm and called a security meeting with his ministers for Wednesday on his return to France. The violence and the use of firearms against officers presented his government, in office since May, with a stern test.

The rioting youth "want Sarkozy. They want him to come and explain" what happened to the two teens, said Linda Beddar, a 40-year-old mother of three in Villiers-le-Bel. Beddar woke Tuesday to find the library across from her house a burned-out shell after youths set in on fire the night before.

Sarkozy was interior minister in charge of police during the 2005 riots and his government appears keen to avoid a repeat.

"We will not let go. We will fight with all the force the nation is capable of," Prime Minister Francois Fillon told firefighters in Villiers-le-Bel. He promised reinforced security for Tuesday night, and several trucks of riot police were on the outskirts of town.


Associated Press Writer Angela Doland in Paris contributed to this report.



~Youths Riot for 3rd Night Outside Paris

Published: 11/27/07, 11:25 PM EDT


VILLIERS-LE-BEL, France (AP) - Youths rampaged for a third night in the tough suburbs north of Paris and violence spread to a southern city late Tuesday as police struggled to contain rioters who have burned cars and buildings and - in an ominous turn - shot at officers.

A senior police union official warned that "urban guerrillas" had joined the unrest, saying the violence was worse than during three weeks of rioting that raged around French cities in 2005, when firearms were rarely used.

Bands of young people set more cars on fire in and around Villiers-le-Bel, the Paris suburb where the latest trouble first erupted, and 22 youths were taken into custody, the regional government said. In the southern city of Toulouse, 20 cars were set ablaze, and fires at two libraries were quickly brought under control, police said.

Despite the renewed violence, France's prime minister said the situation was calmer than the two previous nights. About 1,000 officers patrolled trouble spots in and around Villiers-le-Bel on Tuesday, he said.

The government was striving to keep violence from spreading in what was shaping up as a stern test for new President Nicolas Sarkozy. The unrest showed anger still smolders in France's poor neighborhoods, where many Arabs, blacks and other minorities live largely isolated from the rest of society.

The trigger was the deaths Sunday of two minority teens when their motorscooter collided with a police car in Villiers-le-Bel, a blue-collar town on Paris' northern edge.

Residents claimed the officers left without helping the teens. Prosecutor Marie-Therese de Givry denied that, saying police stayed on the scene until firefighters arrived.

Rioting and arson quickly erupted after the crash. The violence worsened Monday night as it spread from Villiers-le-Bel to other impoverished suburbs north of the French capital. Rioters burned a library, a nursery school and a car dealership and tried to set some buildings on fire by crashing burning cars into them.

Officials have pledged tough punishments for rioters: Eight people were convicted Tuesday in fast-track trials and sentenced to 3-10 months in prison, the regional government said.

Police reinforcements were moved into trouble spots north of Paris on Tuesday. Helicopters flew overhead, shining powerful spotlights into apartment buildings to keep people from leaving their homes.

"The situation is under control," said Denis Joubert, director of public safety for the region surrounding Villiers-le-Bel.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon, who was briefed by police in Villiers-le-Bel, said things were "much calmer than the previous two nights, but we feel that things are still fragile, and we need a large preventative force on the ground so that what happened last night does not happen again."

Patrice Ribeiro of the Synergie police union said rioters this time included "genuine urban guerrillas," saying the use of firearms - hunting shotguns so far - had added a dangerous dimension.

Police said 82 officers were injured Monday night, 10 of them by buckshot and pellets. Four were seriously wounded, the force said. Police unions said 30 officers were struck by buckshot.

One rioter with a shotgun "was firing off two shots, reloading in a stairwell, coming back out - boom, boom - and firing again," said Gilles Wiart, No. 2 official in the SGP-FO police union.

Youths, many of them Arab and black children of immigrants, again appeared to be lashing out at police and other targets seen to represent a French establishment they feel has left them behind.

"I don't think it's an ethnic problem," Wiart said. "Most of all it is youths who reject all state authority. They attack firefighters, everything that represents the state."

Suspicion of the police runs high among people in the drab housing project where the two teenagers died in the crash. The boys were identified in French media only by their first names, Lakhami, 16, and Mouhsin, 15.

There have long been tensions between France's largely white police force and the ethnic minorities trapped in poor neighborhoods.

Despite decades of problems and heavy state investments to improve housing and create jobs, the depressed projects that ring Paris are a world apart from the tourist attractions of the capital. Police speak of no-go zones where they and firefighters fear to patrol.

"The problem of bad relations between the police and minorities is underestimated," said criminologist Sebastian Roche.

Sarkozy, speaking from China, appealed for calm and called a security meeting with his Cabinet ministers for Wednesday on his return home.

Sarkozy was interior minister, in charge of police, during the riots of 2005 and took a hard line against the violence. He angered many in housing projects when he called delinquents there "scum."

The rioting youths "want Sarkozy - they want him to come and explain" what happened to the two teenage boys, said Linda Beddar, a 40-year-old mother of three in Villiers-le-Bel. Beddar woke Tuesday to find the library across from her house a burned-out shell.

The violence two years ago also started in the suburbs of northern Paris, when two teens were electrocuted in a power substation while hiding from police. The government is keen to keep the new violence from spreading.

In Villiers-le-Bel late Monday, arsonists set fire to the municipal library and burned books littered its floor Tuesday. Shops and businesses were also attacked, and more than 70 vehicles were torched, authorities said.

Rioters even rammed burning cars into buildings, trying to set the structures on fire, authorities said. Police reported six arrests.

Several hundred youths organized in small groups led the rioting in Villiers-le-Bel, and incidents were also reported in five other towns north of Paris, the regional government reported.

It refused to give specific figures on injuries among the police, rioters or other civilians, or the numbers of cars and buildings set on fire, saying it feared that doing so would encourage youths to try to wound more officers and destroy more property.


Associated Press writers Angela Charlton in Villiers-le-Bel and John Leicester in Paris contributed to this report.~


re:brit teaching in Islamic Empire faces 40 lashes for students pick for tebby bears name,,mohammad

Bid to stop whipping over toy bear

Published: 11/27/07, 11:00 AM EDT

LONDON, England (CNN) - UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Tuesday that officials were working to secure the early release of a British teacher who faces being whipped in Sudan after she allowed her class to name a teddy bear "Mohammed."

Gillian Gibbons, 54, has been accused of blasphemy and is being held by police in the capital Khartoum, Kirsty Saunders, British Foreign Office spokeswoman told CNN.

Police arrested the school teacher after she asked her class of seven-year-olds to come up with a name for the toy as part of a school project, according to widespread media reports.

Parents of students at the Unity High School in Khartoum informed the authorities and Gibbons was taken into custody Sunday, Saunders told CNN.

So far Gibbons has yet to be charged with any offense, however, under Sudanese law, insulting Islam is punishable with 40 lashes, a jail term of up to six months or a fine, she said.

However, a Sudanese official told CNN that if police decided that Gibbons had acted in good faith, she would most likely be spared punishment.

"If the intentions are good, definitely she will be absolved and will be cautioned not to repeat this thing again," Mutrif Siddig, Sudan's under secretary for foreign affairs, said.

Saunders said that under Sudan's laws a person can be held for no more than 24 hours without charge.

Asked if British authorities were concerned that Gibbons had been held for longer than that time, she said "we are happy that all the correct procedures are being followed."

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Tuesday he was "very sorry" about Gibbons' arrest and that the British embassy in Khartoum was "giving all appropriate consular assistance to her."

He said all efforts were being taken to ensure her early release and that government officials were in touch with the teacher's family in the northern British city of Liverpool.

A representative for her two grown up children -- her daughter Jessica and son John -- told CNN they wished to be left alone until their mother was released.

Gibbons had been working at the school -- popular with wealthy Sudanese and expatriates -- since August, after leaving her position as deputy headteacher at a primary school in Liverpool this summer.

On her entry on the social networking Web site MySpace, Gibbons wrote: "I am a teacher in a school in Khartoum, in Sudan. I like to make the most out of life."

According to the entry, she said her passion was travel and she was hoping to make the most of her time in Sudan by visiting nearby countries.

According to a report in The Times newspaper, Gibbons had asked the children to pick their favorite name for the new class mascot, which she was using to aid lessons about animals and their habitats.

A member of the Sudanese government told CNN Muslim parents at the school informed the authorities after considering that her actions were offensive to their faith.

Mutrif Siddig, Sudan's under secretary for foreign affairs, said: "To give the name of Mohammed to this teddy bear, it was considered as insult by some parents. And this school is mixed, it is not all Christian students."

Gibbons was recruited to work in Sudan by QTS Worldwide, an education consultancy based in the northern county of West Yorkshire.

Eric Liddell, who runs QTS, refused to comment on the incident but said that he had spoken to members of the Unity High School staff, who were hopeful that the British teacher would be released.

Separately, CNN contacted a member of staff, who confirmed the school had been shut down temporarily as a result of the incident involving Gibbons. He refused to give his name and said no other members of staff were available.

He said the school may open again soon, possibly as early as tomorrow.



re:afghan weed replaces opium,,shows disparity of 'war on free trade,,er,oops,,drugs'

~Afghanistan Cannabis Crop Up 40 Percent

Published: 11/27/07, 1:47 PM EDT


KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - The fields of Balkh province in northern Afghanistan were free of opium poppies this year, a success touted often by Afghan and international officials. But one look at Mohammad Alam's fields uncovers an emerging drug problem.

Ten-foot-tall cannabis plants flourish in Alam's fields. The crop - the source of both marijuana and hashish - can be just as profitable as opium but draws none of the scrutiny from Afghan officials bent on eradicating poppies.

Cannabis cultivation rose 40 percent in Afghanistan this year, to 173,000 acres from 123,550 in 2006, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime estimated in its 2007 opium survey. The crop is being grown in at least 18 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, according to the survey released last month.

The U.N. report singles out Balkh as a "leading example" of an opium-free province, saying other areas should follow "the model of this northern region where leadership, incentives and security have led farmers to turn their backs on opium."

However, a section of the report says the increase in marijuana cultivation "gives cause for concern."

"Cannabis has also spread to the north of Afghanistan and is observed to have increased particularly in Balkh province," the survey said.

One of those farmers, Alam, said he knows it's illegal to grow cannabis but he must do so to feed his children. He said the government cannot provide jobs or find markets for legal crops.

"The government cannot provide a good market for other crops like cotton, watermelon and vegetables, so I have to grow marijuana instead of poppy," he said.

Drug dealers from the southern poppy-growing provinces of Kandahar and Helmand travel north to buy marijuana and take it to Pakistan, Alam said.

Gen. Khodaidad, Afghanistan's acting counter-narcotics minister, said the government doesn't yet have a good handle on marijuana.

"This is also a big problem for Afghanistan," said Khodaidad, who like many Afghans uses one name. "It is very cheap. Hashish is more harmful (than poppies) to the people of Afghanistan."

The U.N. said cannabis yields around twice the quantity of drug per acre as opium poppies and requires less investment. The U.N. drug report estimated farmers growing cannabis could earn the same amount per acre as opium farmers.

"As a consequence, farmers who do not cultivate opium poppy may turn to cannabis cultivation," the report said.

Afghanistan already grows some 93 percent of the world's opium.

Akbar Khan, a 35-year-old farmer from Balkh province, said that if legal crops could command higher prices, farmers would grow those.

"We know marijuana is an illegal crop, but we are very poor and we have to grow it to help our families survive," he said. "I don't like growing poppy or marijuana. I don't want people to become addicted to these things, but I have to feed my children and I have no other way."~



re:even ONE of chavez's ex wives knows he's not worth following

~Venezuelan Students Protest Vote

Published: 11/27/07, 11:25 PM EDT


CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Rallies for and against constitutional changes proposed by President Hugo Chavez surged Tuesday as the Venezuelan leader declared that a weekend referendum on the proposed charter "cannot fail."

Such gatherings have increased tensions ahead of Sunday's referendum on reforms that would allow Chavez indefinite re-election, increase presidential terms from six to seven years and help the Venezuelan leader establish socialism in Venezuela.

While Chavez appeared before supporters to urge Venezuelans to approve the referendum and "open the path to a new nation," opponents held at least two protests and one of his ex-wives even held a press conference to urge voters to reject the slate of changes.

In Caracas, about 300 placard-waving students gathered outside the Catholic University Andres Bello, occupying a highway for four hours and causing rush-hour traffic jams, to urge Venezuelans to vote "no" on Sunday. The students contend the new constitution would give Chavez authoritarian powers.

"We students will keep coming out onto the street to demand freedom and democracy," said Roberto Diaz, a 21-year old law student at the university. Dozens of police and national guard monitored the demonstration that ended Tuesday evening without incident.

At the same time, about 5,000 mainly female Chavez supporters gathered in a stadium west of Caracas to back the referendum campaign. Participants in the "Women for Yes" rally, many dressed in Chavista red, waved posters with images of Chavez and Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

"The women in this process have much to gain and nothing to lose," said Chavez supporter Luzbelia Marin. "After Dec. 2, the Magna Carta will incorporate equality between men and women in the different electoral processes and policies."

In Puerto La Cruz, 150 miles east of Caracas, at least 300 students protesting the referendum clashed with Chavez supporters outside the private Santa Maria University, police said. Some Chavez supporters appeared to have guns, an officer said.

"They are hitting each other and there have been gunshots. Police are trying to calm down those involved," police officer Alexander Gonzalez said by telephone from Puerto La Cruz. "We have no reports of injuries, but we know that there has been a confrontation."

On Monday, a man was shot to death after he tried to cross a protest near the city of Valencia. Chavez blamed violent elements within the opposition for the killing.

Students have been one of the major sources of opposition to Chavez's referendum.

But some of the sharpest criticism of the constitutional changes Tuesday came from one of Chavez's two ex-wives, who compared approving the referendum to a "leap into the dark."

Maria Isabel Rodriguez, a journalist, urged government opponents to go to the polls to prevent possible fraud in Sunday's vote.

"It will be more difficult for fraud to take place if we all vote," said Rodriguez, who divorced Chavez in 2004.

In a speech Tuesday, Chavez said Venezuelans will vote "yes."

"On Saturday, the final attack begins, and Sunday ... it's written: the people will vote and will say 'yes' to the call we're giving to open the path to a new nation," Chavez said, alluding to the referendum that aims to modify 69 of the 530 articles in the constitution.

"We can't go backward, we cannot fail! We're obliged to win, to continue triumphing. This is a battle of world proportions," Chavez said.

Still, according to recent polls, the "no" could give Chavez his first defeat at the polls since he first won office in 1998.~


re:norwegian company does what American companies don't,,invest in American manufacturing

Norway Shipper to Make Tankers in Phila.

Published: 11/27/07, 1:47 PM EDT

OSLO, Norway (AP) - Norwegian-controlled Aker American Shipping ASA on Tuesday said it signed a deal with its Philadelphia shipyard unit to build up to 13 tankers worth $1.3 billion.

The deal, valued at 896 million euros, expands the number of tankers the ship owner can order from the Pennsylvania shipyard to as many as 25, with the latest 13 scheduled for delivery between July 2011 and July 2015, a news release said.

The tankers are an advanced, double-hull design, and can be used as shuttle tankers or for chemicals.

Aker American Shipping, which employs about 1,300 people, on Monday announced plans to spin off Aker Philadelphia Shipyard into a separate company as early as next month. The companies are controlled by the Oslo-based Aker ASA group.


On the Net:



re:sri lankans blame global warming for flood,,even tho they had a broke levee and are in an 18 yr hi water cycle

~Rising Sea Floods Indonesian Capital

Published: 11/27/07, 11:05 PM EDT


JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - Indonesia's environment minister said Tuesday that global warming was to blame after the capital of Jakarta was partially flooded, forcing thousands of people to flee homes and cutting off a highway to the international airport.

Authorities used pumps to lower water levels, which reached six feet in the worst-hit areas and washed more than a mile inland Monday, said Iskandar, an official at Jakarta's flood crisis center. At least 2,200 houses were inundated, some with chest-deep water.

"I haven't seen it this bad in several years," said Toki, a police officer who was directing traffic around a flooded area near Sukarno-Hatta airport, where thousands of passengers were stranded.

Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar said global warming was at least partially to blame, causing sea levels to rise and making coastal cities like Jakarta especially vulnerable to flooding and monsoon storms.

Authorities also ignored warnings about exceptionally high 18-year tide cycles, flood expert Jan Japp Brinkman told the Jakarta Post newspaper, and the situation was exacerbated by the failure to fix a sea barrier breached over a week ago.

The flooding came as Indonesia prepared to host the U.N. climate change conference from Dec. 3-14, which aims to start negotiations on a replacement for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions that expires in 2012.

The sprawling archipelagic nation is one of the largest contributors of carbon dioxide emissions, due to the rapid pace of deforestation, but experts say it is also at risk of becoming one of the biggest victims of global warming.


Associated Press Writer Ali Kotarumalos contributed to this report.~



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