UN adjourns talks on NKorean rocket launch with no deal

UNITED NATIONS: The Security Council Sunday adjourned three hours of closed-door talks on North Korea’s long-range rocket launch with no agreement on how to respond to what Western members called a clear violation of UN resolutions.

“Members of the Security Council agreed to continue consultations on an appropriate action by the council in accordance with its responsibilities given the urgency of the matter,” Mexico’s UN Ambassador Claude Heller, the council chair this month, told reporters after the meeting.

The United States and Japan, which called for the meeting in response to what they view as Pyongyang’s “provocative act,” said that the launch of a three-stage Taepodong-2 missile, with an estimated range of 4,100 miles (6,700 kilometers) violated Security Council resolution 1718.

That resolution, adopted in 2006 after the North’s missile launches on July 5 and nuclear test on October 9 that year, demanded that Pyongyang refrain from any further nuclear test or another ballistic missile launch.

US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice told reporters that additional consultations would continue both here and in capitals around the world later Sunday and in the coming days, to try to agree “a clear and strong response from the council.”

Diplomats said there was general agreement on expressing concern over the launch and calling on Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks and to respect UN resolutions.

“The fact of the launch was in itself a clear violation of (1718). The use of ballistic missile technology is a clear violation of the resolution which prohibits missile-related activities,” Rice noted.

A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Rice, backed by her British and French colleagues, pressed for a “strong condemnation” of the North Korean action during the consultations.

But Russia, China, Libya, Uganda and Vietnam called for restraint in the council’s reaction so as not to endanger the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear disarmament, the diplomat added.


Russia still haunted by Afghan ghosts

MOSCOW: Russia on Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of the Soviet pullout from Afghanistan haunted by its catastrophic war against Islamists and convinced the trauma harbours lessons for Western forces today.

On February 15, 1989 the last Soviet soldier left Afghanistan, ending a war that Moscow initially saw as a brief incursion to bolster its Afghan supporters but became a protracted and bloody struggle that lasted almost 10 years. The war, which cost over 13,000 Soviet lives and may have killed as many as one million Afghans, led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the takeover of Afghanistan by the Islamist Taliban.

source : jang.com.pk

Russia welcomes Biden offer to “reset” ties

MUNICH: Russia welcomed on Sunday an offer by the United States “to press the reset button” on ties with Moscow, in a sign the former Cold War rivals could repair strained ties under U.S. President Barack Obama.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said in a speech to the annual Munich Security Conference on Saturday that it was time to end a dangerous drift in ties between Washington and Moscow. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov applauded that message ahead of a meeting with Biden on Sunday, the first high-level meeting between the United States and Russia since Obama took office last month.

Ivanov said Biden’s speech was “very positive”. Asked specifically what he had found positive in Biden’s comments, said, “restarting the button”.

source : jang.com.pk

Kyrgyzstan says decision on US base closure final

BISHKEK: Kyrgyzstan says its will not reverse its decision to close a key U.S. air base on its territory that is key to American and NATO operations in Afghanistan.

Kyrgyz National Security Council chief Adakhan Madumarov says there is no doubt that the base will be shut.

Madumarov told a news conference Friday that he was confident he would get parliament’s support for the decision. Parliament is due to consider the move next week.

Madumarov’s announcement appears to dash U.S. hopes of securing a last-minute reprieve for the Manas air base located just outside the Kyrgyz capital.

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced the closure of the base Tuesday on a visit to Russia after securing more than $2 billion in financial aid and credit from Moscow.

source : jang.com.pk

Russia, Ukraine sign gas deal, end standoff

MOSCOW – Russia and Ukraine have signed a deal that restores natural gas shipments to Ukraine and paves the way for an end to the nearly two-week cutoff of most Russian gas to a freezing Europe.

The agreement was signed Monday by the heads of the Russian state-run natural gas monopoly Gazprom and its Ukrainian counterpart Naftogaz. The signing was witnessed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko.

Putin says that Gazprom had received orders to resume shipments bound for Europe, which had been cut since Jan. 7 as Moscow and Kiev argued over price and allegations that Ukraine was stealing gas destined for Europe.

Officials say the restored gas shipments could take up to 36 hours to cross Ukraine and reach European customers.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

MOSCOW (AP) — The Ukrainian prime minister arrived in Moscow on Monday as Russia and Ukraine prepared to sign a deal ending a contentious dispute that cut off Russian natural gas shipments to Europe for nearly two weeks.

Yulia Tymoshenko and her Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, reached a preliminary agreement over the weekend to restore gas supplies to Europe and Ukraine. Tymoshenko’s office said a formal deal would be signed Monday by Russia’s gas monopoly Gazprom and Ukraine’s Naftogaz.

Naftogaz says it would take up to one and a half days to pump gas to its western border once Russia restarts deliveries.

Russia stopped shipping gas to Ukraine for domestic use on Jan. 1 in a dispute over prices. It then halted all gas shipments to Europe via Ukraine on Jan. 7, alleging that Ukraine was siphoning off Europe-bound gas. Ukraine disputed this, claiming that Russia was not sending enough “technical gas” to push the rest further west.

The confrontation has deeply shaken Europeans’ trust in both Russia and Ukraine as reliable energy suppliers, as more than 15 nations have been forced to scramble for alternative sources of energy. The dispute was further complicated by geopolitical struggles over Ukraine’s future and over lucrative export routes for the energy riches of the former Soviet Union.

After weeks of frustration and dashed hopes, the European Union responded cautiously to the news.

“So far, they have been unable to do it and of course this raises serious concerns about their credibility as our partners,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Monday.

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the proof of the gas is in the flowing,” EU spokesman Johannes Laitenberger said.

Tymoshenko and Putin negotiated a preliminary deal for Ukraine to get gas with a 20 percent discount from this year’s average European price, which Russia says is $450 per 1,000 cubic meters. That would double the price Ukraine paid in 2008.

However, natural gas prices for Europe are expected to fall sharply later this year, due to the fall in oil prices. By midsummer, Ukraine could be paying as little as $150 for 1,000 cubic meters, said Ronald Smith, a strategist at Moscow’s Alfa Bank.

Ukrainian Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn said Monday, citing Naftogaz and Russian officials, that the average price Ukraine will pay this year will be around $240 to $250. He did not elaborate.

Russia won a key principle, however, that Ukraine must pay more for its energy supplies. Russia also won’t have to pay higher transit prices to Ukraine to use its pipelines.

Putin said in 2010, Ukraine will have to pay full price for Russian gas, and Russia will pay market prices for transit.

In the long term, it is not clear how Ukraine will pay for the huge amount of Russian gas needed to run its outdated factories and heating systems.

Opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych said any gas price higher than $250 would be mean a “collapse” of the economy, which is already coping with a collapse of the national currency, a drastic fall in exports and a shaken banking sector.


Associated Press writers Yuras Karmanau and Maria Danilova in Kiev, Ukraine, and Aoife White in Brussels contributed to this report.

source : news.yahoo.com

Karzai: Russia in defense deal with Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan – President Hamid Karzai’s office said Monday that Russia is ready to cooperate on defense matters with Afghanistan. The announcement coincides with an increasingly public tussle between Afghan and Western officials.

Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev told Karzai in a letter that cooperation on defense issues would “be effective for both countries and also effective for maintaining security in the region,” Karzai’s office said in a statement.

“As a friendly government to Afghanistan, Russia is ready to offer its cooperation to an independent and a democratic Afghanistan,” the statement quoted Medvedev as saying.

The statement did not say how the two countries would cooperate.

A spokesman at the Kremlin in Russia said he did not immediately have any details about the exchange between Medvedev and Karzai.

Moscow would have little to gain if the U.S. and NATO mission to defeat the Taliban and install a strong central Afghan government failed. The relationship between NATO and Russia has been delicate for years, but Russia in November allowed Spain and Germany to use Russian rail lines to ship supplies for their forces in Afghanistan.

The correspondence from Karzai — on the eve of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama‘s inauguration — comes as Afghan officials are fighting criticism that Karzai’s government is weak and corrupt.

U.S. Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton recently used the term “narco state” to describe Afghanistan in recent written Senate testimony, a choice of words that drew the ire of Afghan officials. Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta told The Associated Press over the weekend that the use of the term was “absolutely wrong” and suggested the drug trade in the country’s south was a result of the presence of NATO forces there.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer wrote in an opinion column Sunday that the West has paid enough in blood and money “to demand that the Afghan government take more concrete and vigorous action to root out corruption and increase efficiency.”

In the country’s latest violence, a roadside bomb struck a police vehicle in southern Helmand province‘s Gereshk district on Monday, killing two policemen and wounding three civilians, said Daud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

Separately, a suicide car bomb attack near the gates of a U.S. base in eastern Afghanistan on Monday killed one Afghan civilian and wounded six more, officials said.

The attack targeted Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost City, near the border with Pakistan, said Lt. Cmdr. James Gater, a spokesman for the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.

A second suicide bomber was waiting for emergency officials to respond to the first attack, but he was detected by police and detonated his explosives early, killing only himself, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Violence has been rising across Afghanistan the last two years. Obama has promised to increase America’s focus on the deteriorating situation in the country while decreasing troop levels in Iraq.

The U.S. has said it will send up to 30,000 new troops into Afghanistan in 2009, including some 3,000 forces in two provinces adjacent to Kabul, where militants now have free rein. The U.S. now has some 32,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Russian soldiers were part of the Soviet Army that occupied Afghanistan throughout the 1980s, before being forced to withdraw in 1989 following years of a U.S.-supported insurgency that drained Soviet resources and contributed to the country’s collapse.


Associated Press reporters Jason Straziuso and Rahim Faiez contributed to this report.

source : news.yahoo.com

Russia and Ukraine reach gas deal

MOSCOW: The prime ministers of Russia and Ukraine announced a deal early Sunday to settle the gas dispute that has shut off supplies to Europe

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Ukraine would pay 20 percent less than the European price for this year. This means a substantial increase for Ukraine in the first quarter but the price could fall significantly later in the year as gas prices are expected to drop. Ukraine’s Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said gas supplies would resume once the two countries’ gas companies sign a contract. It was not clear how soon this would happen. Ukraine had insisted that Russia pay more to Ukraine for transporting gas to Europe through its pipelines. But Putin said the discounted transit price would remain in place for 2009. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2010, however, Ukraine will pay full price for gas and Russia will pay market prices for transit, he said.

source : jang.com.pk