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 Friday, December 31, 2004

President Bush Undermines UN Efforts for Tsunami Victims

  Consultant and writer Nick Cater warns that undermining U.N. relief coordination efforts will be both costly and shortsighted. Read here full article on Reuters AlertNet

Other Breaking News
  • Israeli troops killed nine Palestinians on Thursday, including two teenagers, as tanks pushed into the southern Gaza Strip in what the army called a raid to stop mortar and rocket attacks on Jewish settlements.After the raid, medics and witnesses said Israeli soldiers killed two 17-year-old youths, including one with Down's syndrome, watching clashes.

  • The peak of a massive disaster is no time to deliberately undermine the one body charged with coordinating a global response to such a crisis.

    In its warped response to the Asian tsunami catastrophe, the United States is seeking not to support and foster the United Nations but to damage its political credibility and destroy its vital capacities in disaster management.

    U.S. President George W. Bush and his secretary of state, Colin Powell, have decided to set up a regional coordination group distinct from the United Nations, involving India, Japan, Australia and the United States.

    This will have its own assessment teams, funding channels and, one suspects, political priorities, given the United States’ position as a superpower that desperately needs to find new friends, especially among the area's Islamic populations.

    But the move, which amounts to an effective block on funding for the United Nations, is a vindictive decision, designed to punish the world body and, by its exclusion, the EU, for their stance over Iraq. It will be both costly - just wait for the duplication and waste, especially when military forces get involved - and shortsighted.

    For this may be a massive disaster, at least in its geographic spread, but it is an ideal one to hold the U.N. to its mandates and make its systems work, not least the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), so all future disasters are better handled.


    Most of the area involved is free of conflict; in each country the affected percentage of population is usually small; overall regional communications and logistics remain fairly good; international attention is very high; and many countries have economies and local government structures that - with some support - should be able to cope after this initial crisis.

    True, Jan Egland, the U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, should not have taken this moment to accuse various Western donors of being "stingy" with aid, although the initial U.S. response to his remarks appears to have been a welcome hike in its cash commitment to $35 million from $20 million.

    Of course, Egland's criticism was overdue, entirely accurate and mild by comparison with the wholesale failure of the United States and most donors to miss by a mile the globally agreed target for overseas assistance of 0.7 percent of gross domestic product.

    If such a target had been met, we might have seen serious and sustained investment in disaster preparedness in the region over recent decades, including the Pacific-style tsunami warning system that is now being demanded.

    It will be interesting to see if January's World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe, Japan, has any view on the generosity or otherwise of donors when it comes to cost-effective commitments to preparedness, rather than the scramble of today's relief efforts.

    Ahead of that, British Development Secretary Hilary Benn recently warned in a speech at the Overseas Development Institute in London that OCHA needed reform if its work was to improve.

    His most important point was that OCHA lacked both the power and resources to coordinate relief efforts effectively, a judgement shamefully and cynically confirmed when the United States denied OCHA both funding and legitimacy to tackle this crisis.

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     Tuesday, December 28, 2004

    Exposed! The Naked Manipulation of Fear and Rage by Bill O' Reilly


    Other Breaking News
  • Ttsunami death toll nears 23,000: rescue operations were scrambled along Asia's devastated coastlines Monday as the death toll from a powerful earthquake and the giant tsunamis it unleashed rose to almost 23,000 and hopes faded for many thousands more still missing. Horrific scenes of destruction met emergency teams as bodies piled up by the hour from Sri Lanka to India, Indonesia to Thailand, while international aid agencies rushed food and clothing to hundreds of thousands left homeless. Read here for more
  • An audio tape purportedly from Osama bin Laden and aired by Al Jazeera television on Monday praised attacks against US troops and Iraqi officials by al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The television said bin Laden backed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as the Islamist network’s leader in Iraq. The speaker also called on Iraqis to boycott January elections, saying those who take part in the poll would be “infidels”. Read here for more
  • By Geoffrey R. Stone
    Geoffrey R. Stone, is the author of "Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime," is a law professor at the University of Chicago

    Read full article in Chicago Tribune

    24th December 2004

    Dissent in wartime can be the highest form of patriotism.

    If citizens believe that our military or political leaders have blundered or our reasons for fighting are unjust, they must voice these concerns if they are to meet their responsibilities in a self-governing society.

    Dissent is not disloyal.

    Like those who support a war, those who dissent in wartime want to protect our soldiers, further our national interests and ensure that the United States is a nation of which they can be proud.

    But war breeds powerful and often dangerous passions. No one wants to hear that his son or daughter, brother or sister, is putting life and limb at risk for an ignoble or futile cause. In the throes of wartime, it is easy to lose sight of the essential difference between dissent and disloyalty.

    Throughout our history, a succession of irresponsible and opportunistic journalists and politicians has intentionally blurred this line to incite fear and hatred.

    I recently encountered just such a "journalist" firsthand.

    I was invited to appear on the TV show "The O'Reilly Factor" to debate the question: "Is dissent disloyal?"

    After the producer and I discussed the issue, host Bill O'Reilly (according to the producer) decided to redefine the question: "Can an American who wants the United States to lose the war in Iraq be patriotic?"

    Of course, this is a loaded question.

    It not-so-subtly implies that those who oppose the war in Iraq want the United States to lose and, worse, want American soldiers to die (as O'Reilly later actually charged).

    Sadly, this tactic is all too familiar in U.S. history.

    • In 1798, when the nation was on the verge of war with France, Federalist newspapers in defense of President John Adams characterized Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and their followers as the "worst and basest of men" who were "preying on the vitals of the country."

    • During the Civil War, defenders of the government attacked their critics as "artful men, disguising their latent treason under hollow pretensions of devotion to the Union."

    • In the 1919-1920 Red Scare, during which thousands of "radicals" were rounded up for deportation in the Palmer Raids, the Chicago Tribune screamed that "it is only a middling step from Petrograd to Seattle," and the New York Tribune fumed that strikers, "red-soaked in the doctrines of Bolshevism," were plotting "a general red revolution in America."

    • After Pearl Harbor, Henry McLemore, syndicated columnist of the Hearst newspapers, demanded "the immediate removal of every Japanese from the West Coast." He added, "Personally, I hate the Japanese. And that goes for all of them." The columnist Westbrook Pegler shrieked, "To hell with habeas corpus."

    • In the 1950s, Joseph McCarthy and his minions charged that there was a plot against America and that no one could support the Democratic Party "and at the same time be against communism." He decried "liberals" whose "pitiful squealing would hold sacrosanct those communists and queers" who had sold China into "atheistic slavery."

    • And during the Vietnam War, Vice President Spiro Agnew charged that "the leaders of the anti-war movement" were "avowed anarchists and communists who detest everything about this country and want to destroy it."

    This brings me back to Bill O'Reilly.

    In our "debate," O'Reilly protested that he did not mean to imply anything about the loyalty of those who "merely" oppose the war in Iraq, as long as they don't "root" for the enemy.

    Accepting his rather peculiar framing of the issue (it is, after all, his show), I argued that a patriotic citizen could in principle want his nation to lose a war--if the war is unjust and if "losing" means that fewer soldiers and civilians will die for no good reason.

    After all, patriotic Italians in World War II could well have hoped Italy would lose the war, the quicker the better.

    O'Reilly insisted that losing the war in Iraq would necessarily mean that more Americans would die than if we did not lose (whatever "lose" means in this context), and that no patriotic American could therefore want the United States to lose.

    Of course, this isn't necessarily so.

    A patriotic American could reasonably believe (rightly or wrongly) that we have no business being in Iraq and that the sooner we get out the better.

    To cover the evident weakness of his position, O'Reilly resorted to the time-tested spewing of such ugly invective as "despicable," "traitor" and "disloyal" (not at me, but at those who might hold the hypothetical view he was determined to excoriate).

    His purpose, of course, was to inflame his audience, without regard to the most fundamental values of the American system he claims to support.

    What is the consequence of such demagoguery?

    As always in our history, it is to foster rage rather than reflection.

    After the show, I received a flood of e-mails capturing the anger I believe O'Reilly deliberately incited.

    A few examples:

    - "You ought to be arrested, tried and convicted of wartime treason. And I don't have to tell you the penalty for that."

    - "You are not only despicable, but should go ahead and move out of the U.S.A."

    - "I must imagine that you will look over your shoulder a little bit, because maybe some soldier in a foxhole somewhere might be a tad angered with you. There may be a few GIs who would like to `speak' with you."

    - "There is the tendency for citizens to take the law into their own hands in these cases; that is not outside the realm of possibility."

    - "If anything happens to either of my loved ones serving overseas, I will hold you responsible."

    - "Simply, you are un-American."
    And so on.

    Of course, these individuals have every right to their views, and the 1st Amendment certainly protects O'Reilly's vile incitement of such hatred.

    But he dishonors the Constitution and his profession when he does so.

    This is not democratic deliberation. It is dividing Americans against Americans just for the sport of it.

    In my book, for people like political commentators O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh to exploit people's fears and anger in a time of war for nothing more than their own ratings is a pretty good definition of "unpatriotic."

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     Monday, December 27, 2004

    Milestone: China Issued First National Defence Policy

      Read here full article from AFP newswire

    Other Breaking News
  • The death toll rose above 14,000 after an earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the world's biggest in four decades, caused tsunami waves that devastated coastal towns from Thailand to India. Yesterday's magnitude 9.0 quake generated waves as high as 10 meters (33 feet) that struck tourist resorts in Thailand, Malaysia and the Maldives. Sri Lanka reported more than 5,000 dead, while in Indonesia at least 4,448 were killed, prompting the governments of both countries to declare national disasters. Read here for more

  • Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko declared victory today in Ukraine's fiercely contested presidential election, telling thousands of supporters they had taken their country to a new political era after a bitterly fought campaign that required an unprecedented three ballots and Supreme Court intervention against fraud.Read here for more

  • China has launched the first backbone network of the next-generation Internet, CERNET2, breaking the US monopoly and allowing the Communist giant to dramatically narrow its gap with world leaders, officials and experts said on Monday. Eight departments of the Chinese government said CERNET2 has become formally operational from December 25. CERNET2 is the biggest next-generation Internet network in operation in the world and connects 25 universities in 20 cities. The speed in the backbone network reaches 2.5 to 10 gigabits per second and connects the universities at a speed of 1-10 gigabits per second. A trial on CERNET2 between the Chinese capital Beijing and Tianjin, a port city in northern China, on December seven achieved a speed of 40 gigabits per second, the highest in the world in real applications, the China Daily reported. CERNET2 is also the first network based on pure Internet protocol version 6 (IPv6) technology. The IPv6 also helps a great deal in solving the problem of shortage of IP addresses. Read here for more

  • China has issued a national defence policy to crush "the vicious rise" of Taiwan independence forces at its core.

    It is the first time such a policy has been issued since President Hu Jintao became military chief.

    An 85-page white paper outlined a list of security threats, including nuclear issues on the Korean peninsula and Japan's constitutional changes, but its main thrust was on its strained relations with Taiwan.

    It describes them as "grim" and made clear any attempt at independence would be harshly dealt with.

    "Should the Taiwan authorities go so far as to make a reckless attempt that constitutes a major incident of Taiwan independence, the Chinese people and armed forces will resolutely and thoroughly crush it at any cost," the white paper said.

    "The Taiwan authorities under [President] Chen Shui-bian have recklessly challenged the status quo...and markedly escalated the Taiwan independence activities designed to split China."

    The document says it was the "sacred responsibility" of the Chinese armed forces to stop Taiwan independence forces from splitting the country.

    It accuses Chen and his Democratic Progressive Party of inciting anti-China sentiment and also slammed US arms sales to the island, which China considers part of its territory.

    "[The United States] continues to increase, quantitatively and qualitatively, its arms sales to Taiwan, sending a wrong signal to the Taiwan authorities," it said.

    "The US action does not serve a stable situation across the Taiwan Straits."

    The policy paper came as China's legislature deliberated a proposed "anti-secession law" aimed at preventing Taiwan from declaring formal independence.

    China sees Taiwan as part of its territory even though it broke with the mainland in 1949 after a civil war.

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    Tidal Waves Killed 8, 700 in S E Asia

      26th December 2004

    From AP Newswire

    More than 8,700 people across Asia were killed Sunday after one of the most powerful earthquakes on record triggered massive tidal waves that slammed into coastlines in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Thailand and Malaysia.

    Tourists, fishermen, hotels, homes and cars were swept away by walls of water unleashed by the 8.9-magnitude earthquake, centered off the west coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where at least 1,902 people were killed by floods and collapsing buildings, officials said.

    But the scope of the disaster became apparent only after waves as high as six meters (20 feet) crashed into coastal areas throughout the Indian Ocean and Andaman Sea.

    In Sri Lanka - some 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) west of the epicenter - the death toll stood aabout 4,500, according to a police chief in the capital.

    One million more were affected by the surging wall of water, the government said.

    Indian officials said as many as 1,900 had been killed along the country's southern coast.

    Another 198 were confirmed dead in Thailand, 42 in Malaysia and 2 in Bangladesh. Thousands of people were missing, many of them fishermen at sea, and rescue workers struggled against floodwaters to find and evacuate stranded victims.

    The death toll climbed throughout the day and was expected to grow even higher as more bodies were discovered.

    Hundreds of bodies were found on various beaches along India's southern state of Tamil Nadu, and more were expected to be washed in by the sea, officials said.

    "I was shocked to see innumerable fishing boats flying on the shoulder of the waves, going back and forth into the sea, as if made of paper,'' said P. Ramanamurthy, 40, a resident of the neighboring Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

    "Many boats were upturned, but fishermen were still holding on to them,'' Ramanamurthy said.

    "They also were pushed into the sea. It was shocking.''

    Among those killed along India's Andhra Pradesh state were 32 people, including 15 children, who had gone into the sea for a Hindu religious bath to mark the full moon day, police said.

    They said 20,000 people were evacuated in four districts.

    The U.S. Geological Survey's Web site recorded the magnitude 8.9 earthquake off the west coast of northern Sumatra, 1,620 kilometers (1,000 miles) northwest of Jakarta.

    It was centered 40 kilometers (25 miles) below the seabed.

    Aftershocks struck in the magnitude 7 range.

    The earthquake was the world's fifth most powerful since 1900 and the strongest since a 9.2 temblor slammed Alaska in 1964, U.S. earthquake experts said.

    The force of it shook unusually far afield, causing buildings to sway hundreds of miles away, from Singapore to the city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, and in Bangladesh, hours after the region's Christian communities had finished Christmas celebrations.

    Initial damage centered on the Indonesian province of Aceh on northern Sumatra. Dozens of buildings were destroyed, but as elsewhere, much of the death toll appeared to come from onrushing floodwaters.

    Towns nearest the epicenter were leveled by tidal waves, which killed at least 1,902 people and left bodies wedged in trees as the waters receded, Indonesian officials and witnesses said.

    Officials warned the death toll could rise dramatically.

    "I saw nine people killed by flooding, including four children,'' a witness who gave his name as Mustafa told el-Shinta radio station from Banda Aceh.

    A spokesman for Indonesian state-owned Garuda Airlines said Banda Aceh's airport was flooded and planes were unable to land.

    In Sri Lanka, the government called Sunday's events a national disaster and appealed for emergency relief.

    "It is a very tragic situation,'' said police spokesman Rienzie Perera, adding that some hospitals were unable to treat the injured.

    Holidays turned to disaster in southern Thailand, which welcomes hundreds of thousands of tourists to its southern beaches during the Christmas season.

    At least 198 people died, 1,900 others were injured and many more - reportedly including foreign tourists on diving excursions - were missing, authorities said.

    "Just out of nowhere, suddenly the streets (were) awash and people just running and screaming from the beach,'' John Hyde, a vacationing Australian state lawmaker, told Australian Broadcasting Corp. television.

    "People were getting swept along still on their motorbikes,'' Simon Morse, another Australian tourist, told the ABC.

    "There were cars that had been picked up by the storm surge and they were getting pushed down the road, taking things out as they went.''

    The owner of two resorts on Phi Phi island - where the film "The Beach'', starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was filmed - said that 200 of his bungalows were swept out to sea, along with some of his employees and customers.

    "I am afraid that there will be a high figure of foreigners missing in the sea, and also my staff,'' said Chan Marongtaechar, who was in the Thai capital of Bangkok at the time.

    He estimated that 700 people could have been on the beach.

    In India, 1,900 people were killed, many swept away in boats, homes and vehicles, officials said.

    The worst affected area was Tamil Nadu state where 1,567 people were killed, said the state's top elected official, Chief Minister Jayaram Jayalalithaa.

    At least 102 people were killed in the federally administered territory of Pondicherry near Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry Chief Minister N. Rangasamy said.

    Another 14 people were killed in Kerala state and 14 in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Patil said.

    Among those killed in Andhra Pradesh were 32 people - 15 of them children - who had gone into the sea for a Hindu religious bath.

    High waves inundated the Maldives, a string of 1,192 coral atolls off the southwestern coast of India, injuring one Italian tourist and forcing the airport to close, an official said.

    A British man died from a heart attack minutes before the waves hit.

    In Malaysia, authorities closed some beaches to the public after 42 people were swept away near the northern city of Penang.

    The victims were believed to be mainly tourists and included some foreigners, a police spokesman said.

    Their identities were not immediately known.

    At least 2 children were killed when a boat capsized in Bangladesh, local authorities said.

    Officials received reports that some vessels capsized at sea, but there were no further details, said Low Kong Chiew, director of the state government's Seismological Division.

    The figures:

    -Sri Lanka: About 4,500 reported dead, up to 1 million displaced. Massive tidal waves smash coastal villages.

    -India: More than 2,000 reported dead. Huge waves leave southern beaches strewn with bodies and flip over fishing boats and cars. Some flooding.

    -Indonesia: 1,902 reported dead. Towns leveled and bodies wedged in trees by walls of water. Aceh province on Sumatra island - torn by separatist violence for years - was near the Indonesian quake's epicenter and was the hardest-hit part of the vast archipelago

    -Thailand: 198 reported dead and many missing, mostly in idyllic southern islands packed with holiday revelers from around the world at the height of this country's tourist season. Swimmers are battered on coral reefs and sunbathers are swept out to sea.

    -Malaysia: 43 people, including an unknown number of foreign tourists, reported dead. Tens of thousands are temporarily evacuated from hotels and apartments after the Indonesian quake was felt around peninsular Malaysia. No major damage reported.

    -Bangladesh: A magnitude 7.36 temblor struck the southern port city of Chittagong. Tidal surges kill at least two children as a boat with about 15 tourists capsized. Reports said the quake was felt in the central, southern and western parts of the country, including the capital Dhaka.

    -Maldives: No deaths confirmed, but much of this low-lying country of coral atolls off India's southwestern coast, a popular high-end tourist destination, is reportedly inundated. The country's only international airport is closed.

    Ysunami or tidal waves

    Tidal waves, or tsunami, often set off by undersea earthquakes, have caused several major disasters in coastal communities over the years.

    References to these waves date back as far as ancient Greece and Rome, including a wave that shook the Eastern Mediterranean on July 21, 365, killing thousands of residents of Alexandria, Egypt.

    Among other notable tsunami:

    -December 26, 2004, the most powerful earthquake in 40 years triggers waves that travel thousands of kilometers (miles) to crash onto the coastlines of at least five Asian countries, killing more than 8,700 people and affecting millions of others.

    -July 17, 1998, an offshore quake triggers a wave that strikes the north coast of Papua-New Guinea killing some 2,000 people and leaving thousands more homeless.

    -Aug. 16, 1976, a tsunami kills more than 5,000 people in the Moro Gulf region of the Philippines.

    -March 28, 1964, Good Friday earthquake in Alaska sends out a wave swamping much of the Alaskan coast and destroying three villages. The wave kills 107 people in Alaska, four in Oregon and 11 in California as it sweeps down the West Coast.

    -May 22, 1960, a wave reported as up to 11 meters (35 feet) high kills 1,000 in Chile and causes damage in Hawaii, where 61 die, and in the Philippines, Okinawa and Japan as it sweeps across the Pacific.

    -April 1, 1946, Alaskan quake generates tsunami that destroys North Cape Lighthouse, killing five. Hours later the wave arrives at Hilo, Hawaii, killing 159 people and doing millions of dollars in damage.

    -Jan. 31, 1906, a devastating offshore quake submerges part of Tumaco, Colombia, and washes away every house on the coast between Rioverde, Ecuador, and Micay, Colombia. Death toll estimated at 500 to 1,500.

    -Dec. 17, 1896, a tsunami washes away part of the embankment and main boulevard of Santa Barbara, California.

    -June 15, 1896, the Sanriku tsunami strikes Japan without warning. A wave estimated at more than 23 meters (70 feet) high hits a crowd gathered to celebrate a religious festival, killing more than 26,000 people.

    -Aug. 27, 1883, the eruption of the volcano Krakatau generates a massive wave that sweeps over the shores of nearby Java and Sumatra, killing 36,000 people.

    -Nov. 1, 1775, the great Lisbon earthquake generates a wave up to 6 meters (20 feet) high that strikes coastal Portugal, Spain and Morocco. - AP

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     Saturday, December 25, 2004

    Iraq: French Hostages Released Due to Islamic World Intervention


    Read here full article

    December 24, 2004

    Pleas from across the Arab and Muslim worlds played a key role in turning the minds of Muslim militants who abducted two French journalists, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, in Iraq and freed them this week after a four-month ordeal, analysts say.

    "Never have Arabs and Muslims been so unanimous," said Abdelbari Atwan, chief editor of London’s Arab-language daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi.

    "Islamists, liberals, nationalists, leftists, all sorts of persuasions, called for their liberation," he said, referring to Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, who returned home to France on Wednesday.

    Chesnot and Malbrunot were seized along with their Syrian driver on a road south of Baghdad on August 20 by the Islamic Army of Iraq, which was demanding that France rescind a ban on the wearing of Muslim headscarves in state schools.

    "Islamic organisations, human rights associations, labour unions and journalists associations all played a role in the liberation, which would not have been possible without their admiration for the position of France with regard to the principal Arab-Muslim causes: Palestine and Iraq," Atwan told AFP.

    Among them were :

    • Mufti of Syria,

    • the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt,

    • Palestinian radical groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas,

    • the chief of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference,

    • Iraqi radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and

    • Sheikh Mohammed Tantawi, head of Cairo’s Al-Azar University and one of the highest authorities in the Sunni Muslim world.

    In a statement Tuesday announcing the liberation of the two pair, the Islamic Army said they were freed

    " because they were proven not to spy for US forces, in response to appeals and demands from Islamic institutions and bodies, and in appreciation of the French government’s stand on the Iraq issue and the two journalists’ stand on the Palestinian cause."

    The director of the London-based Islamic Observatory, Yasser al-Serri, said it was "undeniable that French policy was a determining factor" in the men’s release.

    Only days after the two were abducted, Serri called for their release, saying their reports in the war-shattered country gave an objective picture of Islam.

    "We call on the abductors to free the two journalists... who had been denouncing the American crimes in Iraq in their work," said Serri, whose organisation defends Muslims around the world and is widely respected by Islamic groups.

    Serri said the two journalists were known to "present the right image of Islam and of Islamic civilisation."

    He pointed out the irony of another journalist, Italian Enzo Baldoni, who was murdered by the Islamic Army.

    Serri said he was also preparing to denounce US actions in Iraq but "paid for the policy of his country." Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is a strong supporter of the US-led coalition in Iraq and his country has some 3,000 troops there.

    In a message to Sirri on November 19, the Islamic Army expressed its "respect for the ulemas (Islamic scholars)," adding that its "Islamic court would rule on the fate of the two Frenchmen."

    On television Wednesday, French President Jacques Chirac thanked "all those religious authorities in France and the world who provided cooperation and support with an exceptional burst of solidarity."

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     Saturday, December 18, 2004

    Israel's Fifth Column in Washington


    Justin Raimondo
    (Justin Raimondo is the author of the book "Terror Enigma: 9/11 And the Israeli Connection")

    Other Breaking News

  • For the second time in four months, the US has accused Israel of spying against Washington. This week, the FBI charged the Israeli Defense Ministry of industrial espionage, and accused it’s defense officials of trying to access US top secret technological and intelligence data.Washington allegedly is so furious over the spying allegations that it has demanded the resignation of Amos Yaron, director general of Israel’s Defense Ministry, according several news sources. Read here for more
  • Article by Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, represents Marin and Sonoma counties in Congress: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has finally gone too far. Confronted last week by a Guardsman who described soldiers rummaging through landfills for protective metal for their vehicles, Rumsfeld's cavalier reply was unconscionable: "As you know, you go to war with the Army you have ... not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time." As if Rumsfeld were dealt a poor hand and had no choice but to play it. Whose Army is this if not Rumsfeld's and George W. Bush's? They chose this war and its timing. For Rumsfeld to claim that we were caught flat-footed, forced to march into Baghdad without time to get our act together and assemble "the Army you want" is beyond disingenuous. Read here for more...

  • December 17, 2004

    Read here full article "Israel's Fifth Column in Washington"

    The AIPAC spy scandal points to a massive undercover operation

    In the 1950s, when the cold war was at its height, a series of spectacular espionage scandals – involving top-level spies for the Soviet Union, our former WWII ally – roiled American politics and defined the political culture for decades to come, giving us such additions to the American political lexicon as "McCarthyism" and "fellow traveler."

    In the new millennium, a similar drama is being reenacted, with another U.S. ally, Israel, in the role of friend-turned-adversary.

    The story of how and why Lawrence A. Franklin, who works as an Iran specialist under Pentagon policy director Douglas Feith, betrayed his country, and funneled American secrets to Israel, parallels the tragic saga of pro-Soviet American moles, who played a similar role in the administration of Franklin Roosevelt and into the Truman era.

    Larry Franklin is an Alger Hiss for our times. Law enforcement clearly believe him to be a key witness to crimes that could lead them to a spy nest in the top echelons of the U.S. government – one that surpasses anything the KGB ever dreamed of.

    In late August, when CBS News broke the story of an Israeli spy in the Pentagon who was observed by U.S. law enforcement handing over sensitive documents to an Israeli official, Israel's American amen corner passed it off as a minor kerfluffle.

    Oh, they said, it was nothing, really: just a draft presidential directive on U.S. policy toward Iran, and, besides, didn't the U.S.-Israeli "special relationship" merit this casual exchange of not-so-secret "secrets"?

    That this attempted hand-off of sensitive documents occurred in the presence of two officials of AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, was neither here nor there, as far as the Amen-ers were concerned: it was just a little lunch between friends, happens all the time, the whole thing was "a massive exaggeration" that was going to blow over soon enough, so move along, nothing to see here …

    On December 1, however, the FBI struck again, raiding AIPAC headquarters in Washington, D.C., in an early morning sweep, and staying until 4 p.m., serving subpoenas on four top AIPAC officials and hauling away boxes full of evidence.

    This really got the Amen Corner riled up, and they darkly muttered that it was all part of a Vast Anti-Semitic Conspiracy in the FBI: the chief investigator was "known" to hold a grudge against persons of the Jewish faith, and the whole thing was a "pogrom" aimed at Jews in government.

    While next to nothing about the second FBI raid was reported in the American media, except for a few perfunctory articles describing what happened in general terms, the Israeli media was in quite a lather. Maariv reported on "a growing suspicion" that an anti-Jewish conspiracy was operating at full throttle inside the Justice Department, and the Jerusalem Post weighed in with an "exclusive" report on how Franklin had been "set up" by the FBI. According to the Post:

    "FBI agents used a courier, Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin, to draw two senior AIPAC officials who already knew him into accepting what he described to them as "classified" information, reliable government and other sources intimately familiar with the investigation have told the Post.

    One of the AIPAC pair then told diplomats at the Israeli Embassy in Washington about the "classified" information, which claimed Iranians were monitoring and planning to kidnap and kill Israelis operating in the Kurdish areas in northern Iraq, the Post has been told. It is unclear whether the "classified" information was real or bogus."

    Lured into "a ticking-bomb situation," avers the Post, AIPAC officials Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, were entrapped by the FBI, which was recording their espionage in very the act of enabling it. FBI agents supposedly used the officials' concern for Jewish lives to trick them into committing treason.

    This "trick or treason" defense is interesting on a number of levels, not the least of which is the confirmation that Israeli agents are indeed active in northern Iraq, i.e. Kurdistan, as reported by Seymour Hersh.

    What are they doing there – and is their presence sanctioned by "Prime Minister" Iyad Allawi, who is now running for office in Iraq's first semi-free election on a nationalist ticket that decries "foreign influence"? He says a victory for the Shi'ite list will open the door to invasion and de facto annexation by Iran, but hasn't Israel already been allowed to slip in by the back door in Kurdistan – with his apparent compliance?

    In view of the Jersusalem Post's tacit admission, I believe Mr. Allawi has some 'splaining to do….

    On another level, the Post's lashing out at U.S. law enforcement agencies as vicious monsters, probably motivated by anti-Semitism, luring innocent Israelis and their American cohorts into compromising positions, is in itself interesting.

    After all, is this how one talks about the authorities of "a cherished ally," as one Israeli government statement referred to America in the wake of the scandal?

    In the same piece in which UPI's Richard Sale cites the Israeli statement, he reveals a number of interesting facts that add greatly to our knowledge of Israel's secret war against America.

    We already know that the investigation into AIPAC and Israeli espionage against the U.S. had been going on for at least two years prior to the FBI stumbling on Franklin's treachery.

    This larger investigation seemed to come out of mid-air: no previous reporting had been done on it, except for the "Israeli art students" story, broken by Carl Cameron, pursued by Christopher Ketcham in Salon, and a few others, as well as myself {See my short book, The Terror Enigma: 9/11 and the Israeli Connection], and then dropped into the journalistic ether.

    The Franklin affair, however, has revived the suspicion that Israel regards us as something other than a "deeply cherished ally," and Sale's reporting underscores the adversarial reality behind the "special relationship."

    He cites "a former federal law enforcement official" who told him:

    "During the Cold War, Israeli penetration of U.S. operations was second 'only to the Soviet Union. Few people realize that the Israeli Counterintelligence Desk at the Bureau was second in size only to the CI Soviet desk."
    And as the Cold War began to wind down, the pace of Israeli covert actions directed at the United States began to escalate:

    "One current FBI consultant said Rosen's name had first been given to the FBI in 1986, along with 70 possible incidents of Israeli espionage against the United States. No action was taken against him, this source said."
    The rot had set in, and the moles burrowed deeper:

    "A former very senior CIA counterintelligence official told UPI that in 1998-99, the CIA discovered an Israeli couple, who were subcontracted to a U.S. phone company, were working for Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service. 'They did incredible damage – they got incredibly sensitive data, including key words identifying individuals or projects,' this source said, adding he himself gave the case to the FBI."
    To understand what this "very senior" spook is talking about, you have to follow this link and watch the Fox News report detailing Israel's hi-tech infiltration of U.S. communications, including wiretapping and top-secret internal security systems.

    We report, you decide.

    The Sale piece also buttresses a case I have long made in this space, which is that Israel's secret army in the U.S. had established beachheads in New York and New Jersey:

    "In 2001, the FBI discovered new, 'massive' Israeli spying operations in the East Coast, including New York and New Jersey, said one former senior U.S. government official.

    The FBI began intensive surveillance on certain Israeli diplomats and other suspects and was videotaping Naor Gilon, chief of political affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, who was having lunch at a Washington hotel with two lobbyists from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobby group.

    Federal law enforcement officials said they were floored when Franklin came up to their table and sat down."

    The New Jersey connection recalls the infamous incident involving the "dancing Israelis," arrested on 9/11 when seen leaping and dancing for joy in a park overlooking the Hudson River as the World Trade Center burned.

    The five detainees were Israeli citizens who worked for a New Jersey moving company, Urban Moving Systems, and were held for months while being repeatedly interrogated as to their knowledge of the events surrounding 9/11. The owner, Dominick Suter, fled to Israel after the feds raided his business, and The Forward speculated that the company was a thinly-disguised Mossad front.

    From the Israeli "art students," who made such a nuisance of themselves at U.S. government buildings in the months prior to 9/11, to the counter-intelligence operation launched by the U.S. that eventually caught Franklin and the AIPAC crowd red-handed, is a straight-line narrative, one long continuous story of unremitting struggle between the U.S. and Israel – on American soil.

    In his Fox News four-part series exposing Israel's secret underground in the U.S., Carl Cameron reported that FBI and other officials claimed any attempt to investigate and expose undue Israeli access to highly sensitive information amounted to "career suicide," implying that highly-placed moles in policymaking positions effectively covered up the covert activities of their cohorts – much as Alger Hiss and other KGB agents protected their associates and stole nuclear and other secrets from the U.S. and shipped them off to Moscow.

    In both cases, the motives are the same: ideology, not money, motivates the most effective fifth columnists and spies.

    The success at embedding highly-placed agents may have been achieved by the Israelis, or else how have they been able to keep their operation intact and running, for all these years?

    Without cooperation from high-ups, and in view of the suspicions raised by other officials in law enforcement, Israel's spy nest would have been broken up long ago. That the feds are aiming high is rendered obvious by this tidbit from Sale:

    "The FBI was also interested in finding out if Franklin was involved or could name any Pentagon colleagues who were involved in passing to Israel certain data about National Security Agency intercepts, these sources said."
    He can only be referring to the FBI's recent interest in the matter of how Ahmed Chalabi got access to the intelligence that the U.S. had cracked the Iranian code, and was reading Iranian internal communications – a betrayal that led to the Bush administration breaking with Chalabi, and ordering a series of raids on the offices of his Iraqi National Congress. Because those are the only NSA intercepts that seem to have been mislaid recently.

    It wasn't Larry Franklin who had access to those highly sensitive NSA intercepts: that is way beyond his pay grade. It had to be someone much higher up in the chain of command – and the question now becomes how far up the ladder of power have the traitors in our midst managed to climb? Do the tentacles of this treasonous cabal reach into the White House?

    For a while, it looked as if Franklin might be leading law enforcement to the source of the cancer eating away at the inner councils of this administration, but Franklin did a turnabout, secured the services of a noted defense attorney who specializes in these sorts of cases, Plato Cacheris, and stopped talking.

    Now his former friends in the Amen Corner are turning on him, saying he "entrapped" his former buddies, and allowed himself to be used in what is portrayed in most of the Israeli press as an anti-Semitic witch-hunt.

    It is, for sure, nothing of the sort.

    Instead, it is a matter of life and death, involving the national security of the United States and its people, an entirely legitimate and necessary investigation into how a foreign country has manipulated us, covertly and overtly, on the policymaking level, all the while stealing us blind.

    Isn't it funny how the same people who jump at the chance to tar antiwar public figures as "anti-American" traitors and a "fifth column," as Andrew Sullivan infamously put it, have nothing to say about the AIPAC spy scandal.

    Those few neocons who have deigned to notice two raids in as many months on AIPAC headquarters have done nothing but apologize for and otherwise excuse and cover-up what is apparently a massive spy operation launched by Israel against the United States.

    The best our super- "patriotic" neocons can do is echo the complaints in the Israeli media that the whole thing is a "set-up" engineered by those notorious anti-Semites in the U.S. Justice Department.

    Who's "anti-American" now?

    Fox News, which basically broke the story, has dropped it, never following up or even mentioning it again.

    Rush Limbaugh, the great American patriot, has never breathed a word about it.

    National Review and the Weekly Standard have nothing to say on the subject, and Charles Krauthammer must have had another stuttering attack.

    The axis of treason, as I called it in a previous column, is not limited to Israeli spies in high places: these spies also had friends in even higher places, key policymakers whose influence was decisive in taking us to war in Iraq.

    When they weren't bending American policy in the Middle East to Israel's benefit, they were leaking U.S. secrets to AIPAC "cutouts," who then passed on sensitive data to Israel.

    (I would note that Sale reports the FBI's interest is in finding out if Israel gained access to those intercepts, who then passed them off to Chalabi – not that the neocons in the Pentagon passed them straight to the INC.)

    -Justin Raimondo

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     Friday, December 17, 2004

    FBI Intensify Investigation on AIPAC: Israelis Spying on US Government

      Read here for full article

    December 16, 2004

    The FBI has stepped up its investigation into alleged Israeli espionage against the US, United Press International reported last week, and in particular the operations of the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, also know as AIPAC.

    The FBI raided AIPAC's offices in early December. Time magazine reported that the raid, the second in four months, was "seeking evidence to determine whether two AIPAC officials received classified information from a former Pentagon analyst and passed the data to Israeli government officials."

    The FBI had a search warrant for "the files of officials Steven Rosen, AIPAC director of foreign policy issues, and AIPAC Iran expert Keith Weissman."

    The FBI also served grand jury subpoenas on four senior AIPAC officials.

    'It's okay to say once that the FBI is ticked at AIPAC, but a grand jury with subpoenas – that's not someone running a grudge campaign,' said an official with a major Jewish organization.

    'Clearly, somebody has thought this through. And they are looking for something.' Steve Pomerantz, a former FBI investigator who consults for Jewish organizations sounded a similar note.

    He said the nature of the subpoenas suggests that FBI investigators know what they're looking for. 'This is not a fishing expedition,' he said. 'It's clear to me they have some specific information which is leading them in a specific direction.'

    Time reported recently that government sources said the investigations into AIPAC had been ongoing for about two years, looking into allegations that the group was "obtaining sensitive data and passing it along to the Israeli government."

    United Press International reported that the initial investigations began when the FBI discovered "new, 'massive' Israeli spying operations in the East Coast, including New York and New Jersey."

    It was during surveillance of certain Israeli diplomats that the FBI became aware of Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin.

    Mr. Franklin, an Iranian expert at the Pentagon, appeared at a lunch meeting between Israeli diplomats and AIPAC officials.

    The New York Times reported in August of 2004 that the FBI had confronted Franklin about allegedly sharing sensitive US documents on Iran policy with AIPAC. As a consequence, he agreed to work with the FBI in their investigation into the activities of AIPAC and others.

    The Washington Post reported that the FBI said the Franklin investigation was part of a broader probe into whether officials in the Defense Department had given sensitive documents to AIPAC and Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi who many in the Pentagon had reportedly favored before the invasion of Iraq to run the country after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

    Franklin, however, suddenly stopped cooperating with the FBI in mid-September after he fired his public defender lawyer and hired well-known defence lawyer Plato Cacheris.

    The Washington Times reported that the FBI was "hopping mad" at this move, and that was when it decided to pursue a more aggressive course of action, including a second raid and subpoenas.

    Meanwhile, a few days after the FBI conducted their second raid on the AIPAC offices earlier this month, The Jerusalem Post reported that AIPAC was allegedly the target of an FBI sting. The Israeli daily Maariv reports on Thursday that "a senior Jewish source" told the paper that the FBI's investigation of AIPAC was "an improper sting operation aimed at targeting the organization."

    According to the source, Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin had come to the FBI’s attention during an investigation totally unrelated to AIPAC. During the course of this investigation, investigators discovered that he maintained a sporadic acquaintanceship with some senior AIPAC officials in Washington.

    At some point he was pressured and perhaps even coerced into cooperating with an FBI sting operation against AIPAC, in return for leniency for some minor technical infractions he may have committed, such as careless and improper storage and handling of classified information.

    The charges were not entirely new. Time magazine had reported in early September that Franklin had been asked to make a series of "scripted" phone calls to get possible evidence on those being investigated.

    But the Washington Post wrote in September, and the American Prospect in November, that more than anything else the "Franklin affair" revealed the "escalating fight over Iran policy" in the Bush administration.

    The Post reported that one side of the fight are neocons who want to "bring down" the government of Iran, and on the other side are intelligence officials who "view the neocons as too close to Israel."

    The Prospect alleged that the classified document - a draft copy of a National Security Presidential Directive - that Franklin wanted to give to AIPAC officials "concerned a controversial proposal by Pentagon hard-liners [neocons] to destabilize Iran."

    The proposal had been turned down by the White House.

    • Was it to this end that Franklin was allegedly observed by the FBI passing the draft NSPD on Iran to AIPAC?

    • Was he trying to inform AIPAC, or Israel, about the contents of the draft NSPD? Or rather, and

    • perhaps more plausibly, was he trying to enlist the powerful Washington lobbying organization in advocating for a Iran-destabilization policy?

    • In other words, is the Franklin case really about espionage, or is it a glimpse into the ugly sausage-making process by which Middle East policy gets decided in Washington and, in particular, in the Bush administration?

    Meanwhile, Israel's Army Radio reported this week that the US has accused Israeli defense officials of "industrial espionage."

    Also, Channel 2 TV in Israel reported that Washington was "demanding the resignation of the top official in Israel's Defense Ministry, Director-General Amos Yaron, for failing to disclose a weapons transaction with China."

    'These are not accusations, but rather claims about "aggressive collection," ' Rachel Naidek Ashkenazi, a Defense Ministry spokeswoman, told Israeli radio. 'And this regards information that isn't classified.'

    Ms. Ashkenazi acknowledged, however, that some of that information gathered by Israeli officials still is "protected by US officials, creating a gray area that has become the source of friction."

    The Forward reported that staffers at other pro-Israel organizations believe that the subpoenas "severely undermined [AIPAC]'s claim [see below] that it was the victim of a few rogue investigators."

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    The Legend of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi the Terrrorist of Modern Iraq


    Scott Ritter
    (Scott Ritter was a senior UN arms inspector in Iraq between 1991 and 1998. He is now an independent consultant)

    14th December 2004

    For months now, the Bush administration had been building up the image of a massive network of foreign terrorists using Falluja as a base for their terror attacks against targets associated with the interim government of Iyad Allawi and the US military which backs him.

    One name appeared in western media accounts, over and over again: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a wanted Jordanian turned alleged "terror" mastermind.

    Almost overnight, Zarqawi's terrorist group, al-Qaida Holy War for Iraq, expanded its operations across the width and breadth of Iraq.

    Al-Zarqawi was everywhere, his bombers striking in Mosul, Baghdad, Samarra, Najaf, Baquba, Ramadi and Falluja. Islamist websites published accounts of al-Zarqawi's actions, and the western media, together with western intelligence services, ran with these stories, giving them credibility.

    The al-Zarqawi legend, if one can call it that, was born.

    The problem is, there is simply no substance to this legend, as US marines are now finding out.

    Rather than extremist foreign fighters battling to the death, the marines are mostly finding local men from Falluja who are fighting to defend their city from what they view as an illegitimate occupier. The motivations of these fighters may well be anti-American, but they are Iraqi, not foreign, in origin.

    There is, indeed, evidence of a foreign presence. But they were not the ones running the show in Falluja, or elsewhere for that matter. As a result, the US-led assault on Falluja may go down in history as the tipping point for the defeat of the US occupation of Iraq.

    The January 2005 elections are now very much in doubt, and anti-coalition violence has erupted throughout Iraq (including from sources claiming to be aligned with - no surprise - Abu Musab al-Zarqawi).

    Reflecting back, one cannot help but wonder if al-Zarqawi was used as a lure to trap the Americans into taking this action.

    On the surface, the al-Zarqawi organisation seems too good to be true.

    A single Jordanian male is suddenly running an organisation that operates in sophisticated cells throughout Iraq. No one man could logically accomplish this.

    But there is an organisation that can - the Mukhabarat (intelligence) of Saddam Hussein.

    According to former Iraqi intelligence personnel I have communicated with recently, the Mukhabarat, under instructions from Saddam Hussein, had been preparing for some time before the invasion of Iraq on how to survive, resist and defeat any US-led occupation of Iraq. A critical element of this resistance was to generate chaos and anarchy that would destabilise any US-appointed Iraqi government.

    Another factor was to shift the attention of the US military away from the true heart of the resistance - Saddam's Baathist loyalists - and on to a fictional target that could be manipulated in an effort to control the pace, timing and nature of the US military response.

    According to these sources, the selection of al-Zarqawi as a front for these actions was almost too easy. The Bush administration's singling out of al-Zarqawi prior to the war, highlighted by Colin Powell's presentation to the Security Council in February 2003, made the Jordanian an ideal candidate to head the Mukhabarat's disinformation effort.

    The Mukhabarat was desperate for a way to divert attention from the fact that it was behind the attacks against Iraqi civilians. Iraqis killing Iraqis would turn the public against the resistance. It needed a foreign face, and al-Zarqawi provided it. A few planted CD disks later, and the al-Zarqawi myth was born.

    In its attempts to use the al-Zarqawi myth to distract and defeat the US military and the interim government of Iyad Allawi, the Mukhabarat is engaged in a dangerous game. In embracing the al-Zarqawi myth, the Mukhabarat has engaged the forces of Islamist activism to a degree never before seen in modern-day Iraq.

    According to my contacts, the goal in creating a foreign Islamist face for the violence taking place in Iraq is to get the Iraqi populace to turn away from Iyad Allawi and the US military as a source of stability, and endorse the return of the Baathists (under a new guise, to be sure), who would then deal with the Islamists by shutting down an operation the Mukhabarat thinks they control.

    But engaging these activists may not be without cost. Having created a fiction, there is a potential danger of it becoming a reality.

    Al-Zarqawi may not be the real force behind the anti-US resistance in Iraq, but many now, in Iraq and throughout the Muslim world, believe him to be.

    Having created this giant the Mukhabarat may not be able to control it.

    The real danger in Iraq is not the inevitable defeat of the United States and the interim government of Iyad Allawi, but the fact that the longer it takes for the United States to realise that victory cannot be achieved, the more emboldened the Islamists become.

    Right now, the Mukhabarat controllers of the al-Zarqawi network think themselves clever as they watch the US military play into their hands through the destruction of Falluja, and the futile search for a phantom menace.

    But the tragedy that is the war in Iraq is far from over, and it may very well be that it is al-Zarqawi and his followers, and not the Baathist Mukhabarat, who will have the last laugh.

    And, as always, it will be the people of Iraq who will pay the price.

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     Sunday, December 12, 2004

    US Expert:Bush manipulated N Korea Intelligence

      Read here article in AFP

    The United States manipulated intelligence on North Korea's nuclear program in a similar fashion to its use of weapons of mass destruction to justify the war on Iraq, a US foreign policy expert said in an article.

    Selig Harrison said in Foreign Affairs magazine:

    "Relying on sketchy data, the Bush administration presented a worst-case scenario as an incontrovertible truth and distorted its intelligence on North Korea (much as it did in Iraq), seriously exaggerating the danger that Pyongyang is secretly making uranium-based nuclear weapons.

    The danger posed by North Korea's extant plutonium program has grown since the United States announced it was no longer bound by the Agreed Framework, and it is much greater than the hypothetical threat posed by a suspected uranium enrichment program about which little is known.

    Unless conclusive new evidence comes to light, the entire uranium issue should be deferred so that the parties can focus on the more immediate threat: North Korea's known plutonium reprocessing capiabilties.

    By scuttling the 1994 agreement on the basis of uncertain data that it presented with absolute certitude ... the Bush administration has blocked action on the one present threat that North Korea is known to pose: the threat represented by reprocessed plutonium."
    Harrison, from the Washington-based Center for International Policy, chairs the Task Force on Korean Policy, a grouping of former senior US military officials, diplomats and Korean specialists.

    The Task Force, which includes a former joint chiefs of staff head and ex-US ambassadors, on Friday issued a report calling on the US immediately to back down on its insistence that North Korea come clean on its alleged uranium program.

    Instead, they should first negotiate the dismantling of Pyongyang's plutonium facilities, it said.

    Harrison said his claims were based on South Korean and Japanese intelligence sources who participated with the Central Intelligence Agency on the issue.

    He blames the US insistence on a uranium program for the stalling of six-party talks while Pyongyang moves closer to producing an atomic bomb with its plutonium program.

    The intelligence was manipulated for "political purposes," he said in the magazine's December 17 issue.

    This was largely to waylay South Korean and Japanese efforts at reconciliation with the North and ostensibly to keep open the option of "regime change" as in the case of Iraq, Harrison claimed.

    In late 2002 the Bush administration cited North Korea's alleged uranium program to pull out of the Agreed Framework. That deal had frozen Pyongyang's nuclear program since 1994 in exchange for energy aid and the construction of two billion dollar semi-proliferation-proof light water nuclear reactors.

    No concrete evidence of a uranium program has been presented publicly.

    In retaliation, Pyongyang kicked out international nuclear inspectors and resumed plutonium reprocessing at its Yongbyon facility.

    It is now believed to have reprocessed enough plutonium for four to six nuclear bombs, experts say.

    Harrison said the claim of a uranium capability was largely based on several failed attempts by Pyongyang to buy enrichment technology, including electrical-frequency converters and aluminum tubing to make centrifuges.

    The US also cites a 2002 conversation in Pyongyang between US Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun, in which Washington maintains Paek admitted his country had a uranium enrichment program.

    Pyongyang, however, insists Paek only said North Korea was "entitled" to have such a program, possibly referring to the processing of low-enriched uranium for nuclear energy.

    This is allowed by the rules of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Pyongyang also pulled out of in late 2002.

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