Drone attacks not helping war on terror, says Zardari

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday told a US congressional delegation that drone attacks by the US were undermining the national consensus on the war against terror.

Talking to a four member US congressional delegation led by Senator John McCain which called on him, President Zardari urged the American lawmakers to persuade the US policy makers to give the drone technology to Pakistan, so that Pakistani security forces could carry out such attacks.

The president said that the economic cost of the war against terror amounting to $35 billion for the last eight years had almost paralyzed Pakistan’s economy.

President Zardari asked the delegation for the timely reimbursement of over $1 billion on account of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF).

Referring to President Obama’s new Afghan strategy, the president said that Pakistan had legitimate interests in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan, adding that US actions should remain on the Afghan side of the border.

The congressional delegation appreciated Pakistan’s role in the war against extremism and militancy and assured full US support in taking this war to its logical end.—DawnNews


War tours strain US military readiness

WASHINGTON: Strained by repeated war tours, persistent terrorist threats and instability around the globe, there is a significant risk the U.S. military may not be able to respond quickly and fully to new crises, a classified Pentagon assessment has concluded.

This is the third year that the risk level has been set at “significant” _ despite improved security conditions in Iraq and plans to cut U.S. troop levels there. Senior military officials spoke about the report on condition of anonymity because it is a classified document.

The risk assessment, drawn up by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, paints a broad picture of the security threats and hot spots around the world and the U.S. military’s ability to deal with them. Mullen has delivered it to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The assessment is prepared every year and routinely delivered to Congress with the budget. Because the threat is rated as significant, Gates will send an accompanying report to Congress outlining what the military is doing to address the risks. That report has not yet been finished.

source : jang.com.pk

Bangladesh moves to try war criminals

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s government said Tuesday it was pressing ahead with plans to put on trial people accused of war crimes during the country’s bloody liberation struggle in 1971.

Law Minister Shafiq Ahmed told reporters the United Nations had agreed to provide the government with assistance for the trial of hundreds of alleged war criminals.

“The government will try the war criminals as soon as possible as it was a key pledge in our election manifesto. We have to do it,” he said.

“We could set up a special war crime tribunal according to the International Crimes Tribunals Act 1973.”

Bangladesh’s newly elected Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who led her party to a landslide parliamentary election victory last month, has already said her government is “pledge-bound” to put war criminals on trial.

A private War Crimes Fact Finding Committee has recently unveiled a list of 1,597 people it alleges to be war criminals, including the top leaders of the country’s largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami.

Law Minister Ahmed said he hoped the trials would be finished by the end of the government’s tenure.

source : jang.com.pk

Could Israelis Face War Crimes Charges Over Gaza?

Israel likes to believe that its Defense Force is the world’s most “moral” army, and it insisted throughout the recent Gaza war that great care was always taken to avoid inflicting civilian casualties. It may surprise and rile many Israelis, then, that their government is trying to protect its citizens from war crimes charges that could be filed in foreign courts over the conduct of hostilities in Gaza. Fearful that Israeli commanders could be targeted for arrest while traveling abroad as private citizens on business or vacation, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz on Tuesday ordered the Israeli media to refrain from revealing the names of any military personnel who took part in the 22-day offensive. Officers involved in the operation who want to travel abroad are now required to first check in with the office of the Judge Advocate, which will determine if the soldier is on a foreign watch list that might lead to his arrest.

Israeli military experts insist that their forces are far more careful to avoid civilian casualties than, say, the U.S. military has been in Iraq and Afghanistan. Still, the high civilian casualty toll in Gaza has put the Israeli military’s conduct of operations there under scrutiny, and one senior U.N. official has suggested Israel may have committed “crimes against humanity” in the course of its campaign against Hamas militants hiding among Gaza’s civilian population. Palestinian medical sources claim that over 300 children and 100 women were among Gaza’s 1,200 fatalities. And the United Nations, Amnesty International, the International Committee for the Red Cross (I.C.R.C.), Human Right Watch, as well as Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups have all been investigating allegations of conduct that violates the laws of war. (See pictures of Israel’s ground offensive in Gaza)

Among the allegations being probed are claims that Israel targeted ambulances and medical crews, improperly used incendiary bombs such as white phosphorus in dense civilian areas (a claim also being internally investigated by the Israeli military), prevented the evacuation of wounded carrying white flags, and targeted schools, hospitals, supply convoys and a U.N. compound where over 1,000 civilians had taken shelter. Although Israel dropped thousands of leaflets and made phone calls to targeted buildings warning of impending bombardments, Palestinians argue that they had no safe places in which to take refuge amid Israel’s fierce bombardment.

Legal experts doubt that Israelis could be hauled before the International Court of Justice in the Hague, because Israel, like the U.S., is not party to the treaty that created it, and also because the U.S. and European governments would likely prevent such a course of action. What worries authorities in Jerusalem is that many European countries are signatories to a Geneva Convention that allows their courts to arrest and prosecute individuals accused of committing war crimes in other countries. Such legal options, Israel fears, may be used to bring politically motivated charges against its citizens. The daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported Wednesday that Israel’s Foreign and Justice ministries have begun drawing up lists of law firms in different European countries that could be enlisted to defend Israelis in any future cases.

Another influential newspaper, the leftist Haaretz, even urged Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to set up an independent inquiry into accusations of war crimes by the Israeli military in Gaza. “Has the IDF (the Israeli Defense Forces) crossed the line according to international law?” the paper wrote. “Was there no other way aside from such widespread killing and destruction?” The editorial argued that Israel needed its own inquiry because “We cannot wait until the world has its say, and perhaps takes legal steps of its own.”

Any international inquiry into Israel’s wartime behavior might be more palatable to Israelis if it also probed alleged violations of the Geneva Convention by Hamas. Before and during the conflict, Hamas had fired shot rockets into Israeli towns; inside Gaza, according to the Israeli army, the militants had used civilians as “human shields,” and had stored weapons in schools, hospitals and mosques – all illegal under Geneva.

But regardless of whether any legal action follows, the probes add to the pall of bitterness hanging over an operation whose ambiguous outcome has left many Israelis questioning just what was achieved by their war in Gaza.

source : news.yahoo.com


Israel’s Olmert says Gaza war achieved all its goals

TEL AVIV: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Saturday that Israel’s war in Gaza had achieved all its goals, after the country’s powerful security cabinet approved a unilateral ceasefire.

“We have reached all the goals of the war, and beyond,” Olmert said in a speech after the vote, which could bring an end to a three-week-long war that has killed more than 1,200 Palestinians and devastated the Hamas-ruled enclave.

source : jang.com.pk

Nearly 800 flee Sri Lanka’s war zone

COLOMBO: Nearly 800 civilians have fled Sri Lanka’s shrinking war zone in the last day as the army bears down on the last strongholds of separatist Tamil Tigers, the military said on Wednesday.

Troops are marching to the port of Mullaittivu across a small wedge of northeastern Sri Lanka still held by the Tigers, where aid groups say more than 200,000 people are trapped in an area of no more than 330 square km (127 square miles).

“In the last 24 hours, 796 people have come out of the war zone,” military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said. They have been provided with basic facilities and food, and will either be sent to the army-held Jaffna Peninsula or south to Vavuniya, site of the army’s rear headquarters for the war.
source : jang.com.pk

Obama to discuss trade, drug war with Calderon

WASHINGTON: U.S. President-elect Barack Obama will discuss the drug war and trade issues with Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Monday, in Obama’s first meeting with a foreign leader since his November election.

Obama has promised to nurture close ties with Mexico and with Latin American countries that complained of neglect by the United States after President George W. Bush’s foreign policy focused heavily on Iraq and the war on terror. With Mexico’s drug violence exploding and amid fears that Obama might seek changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement, Calderon is eager for a meeting with the incoming U.S. president.

Calderon plans to meet Bush on Tuesday. Beyond following tradition, a senior Obama adviser also said Obama “feels very strongly about the U.S.-Mexico relationship. This is obviously a priority.” Obama, who takes over from Bush on Jan. 20, in a speech last May accused the Bush administration of being “negligent” toward its friends in the Americas and pledged to renew ties with neighbors like Mexico.

source : jang.com.pk

Israel tells Gazans to brace for war escalation

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israeli forces pounded dozens of targets in Gaza Saturday and planes dropped leaflets warning residents of an escalation in attacks, as southern Israel came under more Palestinian rocket fire.

Egypt hosted talks aimed at ending the violence.

Flames and smoke rose over Gaza City amid heavy fighting. The Israeli threat to launch a “new phase” in its two-week-old offensive that has already killed more than 800 Palestinians came in defiance of international calls for a cease-fire.

“The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) will escalate the operation in the Gaza Strip,” the leaflets said in Arabic. “The IDF is not working against the people of Gaza but against Hamas and the terrorists only. Stay safe by following our orders.”

The leaflets urged Gaza residents not to help Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, and to stay away from its members.

The Israeli military said more than 15 militants were killed in overnight fighting. It said aircraft attacked more than 40 targets including 10 rocket-launching sites, weapons-storage facilities, smuggling tunnels, an anti-aircraft missile launcher and gunmen.

In the day’s bloodiest incident, an Israeli tank shell killed nine people in a garden outside a home in the northern Gaza town of Jebaliya. Separately, a woman was killed by an airstrike in the southern town of Rafah.

Israel has come under international criticism for the rising number of civilian casualties. Paramedics said the nine people killed in the garden were from the same clan and included two children and two women.

“Residents brought them to the hospital in a civilian car. They put them all in the trunk because their bodies were mangled,” said hospital administrator Adham Hakim.

The Israeli army had no immediate comment, but has repeatedly accused Hamas of using residential areas for cover. Earlier this week, an Israeli attack outside a U.N. school killed nearly 40 people. Both Israel and Palestinian witnesses said militants carried out an attack from the area moments earlier.

Israel launched the offensive on Dec. 27 to halt years of Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel. A week later, ground troops moved in.

Palestinian medical officials say more than 800 Palestinians have been killed, roughly half of them civilians. Thirteen Israelis have been killed — four of them by militant rockets, the rest in battle in Gaza. Five soldiers were lightly wounded in Saturday’s fighting.

Israel and Hamas ignored a U.N. resolution passed Thursday calling for an immediate and durable cease-fire that would lead to the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.

Israel has dismissed the Security Council resolution as impractical, while Hamas, whose government in Gaza is not recognized internationally, is angry it was not consulted in the diplomatic efforts.

source : news.yahoo.com

Death toll from Israel’s war in Gaza rises to 763

GAZA CITY: The death toll from Israel’s war on Hamas rose to 763 on Thursday after new raids and dozens of bodies were found during a suspension in Israel’s bombing, medics said.

About 20 people, among them many women and children, were killed in new raids by the Israeli military on Thursday, said Mouawiya Hassanein, head of Gaza’s emergency services.

Rescuers also found many bodies in debris while searching during a three hour suspension in hostilities across Gaza between 1100 GMT and 1400 GMT, he said.

The death toll passed 700 on Wednesday night, but Hassanein told foreign news agency: “The toll has gone up to 763 after the discovery of many bodies in zones that we could not get to before,” especially around Jabaliya and Atatra in the north and Zeitoun in Gaza City.

source : jang.com.pk


Pakistan seeks to reduce tensions after troop move

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan told India on Saturday it did not want war and was committed to fighting terrorism — a move apparently aimed at reducing tensions after Pakistan moved troops toward their shared border.

Intelligence officials said Friday that the army was redeploying thousands of troops from the country’s fight against militants along the Afghan border to the Indian frontier — an alarming scenario for the West as it tries to get Pakistan to neutralize the al-Qaida threat.

Islamabad also announced it was canceling all military leave — the latest turn of the screw in the rising tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors following last month’s terror attack on the Indian financial capital of Mumbai.

India has blamed Pakistani militants for the terrifying three-day siege. Pakistan’s recently elected civilian government has demanded that India back up the claim with better evidence but has also said it is committed to fighting the “cancer” of terrorism.

“We ourselves have accepted that we have a cancer,” said Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in a televised speech Saturday. “They are forcing their agenda on us.”

Zardari has pledged to battle militancy, repeatedly reminding critics that his wife, Benazir Bhutto, was herself killed in a gun-and-suicide bomb attack blamed on terrorists.

Tens of thousands of Pakistanis visited her grave Saturday to mark the first anniversary of her assassination.

But in the four months since Zardari took power — picking up the reins of her Pakistan People’s Party in the wake of her death — Islamist violence has continued largely unabated.

Many analysts have speculated that the assailants who carried out the Mumbai attacks sought to distract Pakistan by redirecting its focus toward India and away from the military campaign against al-Qaida and Taliban militants on the Afghan border.

Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said Saturday it was unfortunate that a “sort of war hysteria” has been created in Pakistan.

“I appeal to Pakistan and Pakistani leaders, do not unnecessarily try to create tension,” he said, according to the Press Trust of India news agency. “Do not try to deflect the issue. A problem has to be tackled face to face.”

Pakistan’s latest moves, including the troop redeployment, were seen as an indication that it will retaliate if India launches air or missile strikes against militant targets on Pakistani soil — rather than as a signal that a fourth war between the two countries was imminent.

The United States has been trying to ease the burgeoning crisis while also pressing Pakistan to crack down on the militants Washington says were likely responsible for the Mumbai attack. The siege left 164 people dead after gunmen targeted 10 sites including two five-star hotels and a Jewish center.

Two Pakistani intelligence officials — requesting anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation — said Friday that elements of the army’s 14th Infantry Division were being redeployed from the militant hotspot of Waziristan to the towns of Kasur and Sialkot, close to the Indian border.

The military began the troop movement Thursday and plans to shift a total of 20,000 soldiers — about one-fifth of those in the tribal areas, they said without providing a timeframe.

Witnesses reported seeing long convoys carrying troops and equipment toward India on Thursday and Friday, but there was no sign of fresh movement Saturday, suggesting the country was not rushing the troops to the frontier.

Another intelligence official said Saturday up to 1,300 troops had also been pulled out of Bajur region, the scene of a major Pakistani offensive against the Taliban. They were transported to a large base back from the Afghan border, said the official, also speaking on condition of anonymity. But their final destination was not immediately known.

The army has refused comment on any troop movement, but a senior Pakistani security official Friday denied that soldiers were being deployed to the Indian border.

He said a “limited number” of soldiers were being shifted from areas “where they were not engaged in any operations on the western border or from areas which were snowbound.”

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since their independence from Britain in 1947, two over Kashmir, a majority Muslim region in the Himalayas claimed by both countries.

India and Pakistan have said they want to avoid military conflict over the Mumbai attacks, and most analysts say war is unlikely, not least because both sides have too much to lose if conflict breaks out.

But India — which is under domestic pressure to respond aggressively to the attacks — has not ruled out the use of force.


Associated Press writer Sam Dolnick contributed to this report from New Delhi.

source : news.yahoo.com