Archive for  December 2007

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BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iran gives early date for reactor

Iran gives early date for reactor

Bushehr nuclear reactor, photographed in April 2007

The US has backed Russian fuel deliveries to Bushehr

Iran says its Bushehr nuclear power will start working in mid-2008. The announcement seems to contradict the state-run Russian contractor building the site which gave a start date of the end of the year.

The Iranian announcement came two days after Iran received a second delivery of enriched uranium from the company. The plant is still being built.

Tehran says it will not stop its domestic enrichment programme despite the threat of more UN sanctions.

“The Bushehr nuclear power station will launch at a capacity of 50% next summer,” Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki was quoted by the Iranian news agency as saying.

BUSHEHR NUCLEAR PLANT

Map of Iran nuclear sites

Begun in 1974 with German assistance

Work halts after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution

Resumed in 1992 with Russian help

13 Dec: Russia and Iran agree to finish plant after numerous delays

Two pressurised water reactors

First to be completed in a year at the earliest

Cost: $1bn

Key nuclear sites

Russia ignores West’s fears

The nuclear fuel cycle

No explanation was forthcoming for the apparent contradiction.

The United States has said it believes Iran is planning to build a nuclear bomb. But Iran has always insisted its programme is for peaceful purposes only.

And earlier this month the US released an intelligence report which suggested Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons programme in 2003.

It was soon after the release of that report that Russia began shipping nuclear fuel to Iran.

Washington says it supports the supply of enriched uranium to Iran as long as Moscow retrieves the fuel.

Enriched uranium is used as fuel in nuclear power stations. When it is more highly enriched, it can be used to make nuclear weapons.

This is an interesting piece from the  the Swedish Paper Dagenst Nyheter:

En UD-källa säger:

– Bhutto hade en rad möten med utrikesministern och andra medarbetare. Hon uttryckte oro över vissa personer och vi tog upp detta med myndigheterna i Pakistan och bad dem att vidta striktare säkerhetsåtgärder.

Samtidigt varnade brittiska UD Bhutto för att gå för långt i sin kritik av president Musharraf.

So basically,  Bhuto had warned about elements inside the Pakistani government who would do everything to assasinate her in order to stop the regime change in Pakistan.

The question is why we do not hear an outcry for justice and an independent investigation of this crime the same way the world did for the Lebanese prime minister Hariri last year to be performed to find the truth about the elements inside Pakistani government involvement in this crime?

Where is the pressure from the UN, US, EU to find the truth? Or maybe they “can not handle the truth”?

Bhutto fruktade att tre utpekade planerade mörda henne

Bhutto fruktade att tre utpekade planerade mörda henne

 

Jens Littorin   Jens Littorin

LONDON. Benazir Bhutto fruktade att tre personer som stod president Musharraf nära planerade att mörda henne. Det skrev hon i ett e-mejl bara två månader före sin död. En av de utpekade är en person som var ansvarig för hennes säkerhet.

Att Bhutto fruktade för sin säkerhet när hon återvände till Pakistan är ingen nyhet, men hon pekade också ut de personer som hon misstänkte var ute efter hennes liv.

Det visar ett e-mejl som hon skickade till den brittiske utrikesministern David Miliband i oktober.

Wajid Shamsul Hasan, tidigare diplomat och på senare tid nära rådgivare till Bhutto, bekräftar brevets existens för tidningen Mail on Sunday och förklarar att Bhutto namngav sina tre personer. Enligt rådgivaren skrev Bhutto:

“Följande personer planerar att mörda mig och om jag kommer till någon skada ska de hållas ansvariga.”

Tidningen känner till namnen på personerna, men har valt att inte namnge dem. Däremot beskrivs de utförligt.

En är en chef inom underrättelsetjänsten, som fått sitt jobb via president Musharraf och som var en av de ansvariga för att hindra attentat mot Bhutto.

Den före detta armeofficerens försök att bli diplomat stoppades sedan landet där han skulle posteras inte beviljade honom inresetillstånd.

Han anses också ha haft nära kontakt med Omar Sheik, som dömts för kidnappningen av den avrättade amerikanske journalisten Daniel Pearl.

Den andre mannen som Bhutto namnger är en politiker som länge legat i fejd med hennes familj. En av hans släktingar påstås ha blivit mördad av den militanta gruppen Al Zulfiqar, som drivs av Bhuttos bror.

Den tredje personen är en politiker som ses som en av Bhuttos främsta politiska fiender. Han gick till attack mot henne i ett framträdande bara timmarna före hennes död, enligt tidningen, som hävdar att Bhutto genom brevet ville få den brittiske utrikesministern att använda sitt inflytande på president Musharraf för att få honom att flytta personerna från deras inflytelserika poster.

Enligt tidningen skickade Bhutto även brevet till Musharraf, men hon väntade sig inte att han skulle vidta några åtgärder.

Det brittiska utrikesdepartementet bekräftar kontakten mellan Bhutto och Miliband under hösten. Hennes återkomst till Pakistan omgavs av omfattande diplomatiskt arbete från brittiskt och amerikanskt håll.
En UD-källa säger:

– Bhutto hade en rad möten med utrikesministern och andra medarbetare. Hon uttryckte oro över vissa personer och vi tog upp detta med myndigheterna i Pakistan och bad dem att vidta striktare säkerhetsåtgärder.

Samtidigt varnade brittiska UD Bhutto för att gå för långt i sin kritik av president Musharraf.

Johann Hari: Bush has been chasing the wrong nukes – Independent Online Edition > Johann Hari

Johann Hari: Bush has been chasing the wrong nukes

We don’t currently know how many nuclear weapons Pakistan has: some say 50, others up to 120

Published: 31 December 2007

 

The suicide-murder of Benazir Bhutto by her moral and intellectual inferiors seems to have made the world notice – just for a moment – the nuclear warning-light that has been flashing angrily all year.

Punctuating 2007 there has been a string of nuclear break-ins, accidents and screw-ups that should have us sweating. How many people know that Congo’s main nuclear scientist was arrested in March for flogging off enriched uranium to anyone who wanted it, in a kind of radioactive eBay? Or that this summer six bombs with more explosive power than Hiroshima were accidentally flown across the continental United States, and left unguarded on a landing strip in Louisiana for ten hours before anyone in the Air Force wondered where they’d gone? Or that this November, four unknown men managed to shoot their way into South Africa’s main nuclear facility, which has material enough for 25 nuclear bombs – and could rummage through the enriched uranium storage vault for 45 minutes before they escaped?

It has taken the groaning and potential collapse of a nuclear state for us to see, even flickeringly, the risks of having so much nuclear material scattered across the globe. We don’t currently know how many nukes Pakistan has: some estimates say 50, others go as high as 120. The Pakistani dictator General Pervez Musharraf assures us they are all securely locked up and locked down. Yet interviewing experts about the programme, and poring through the major academic studies, has led me to conclude this is not the case.

But first, the good news. Some worthwhile safety precautions have been put in place in Pakistan over the past five years. The country’s nukes are not kept on hair-trigger alert, ready to fire at any moment. Instead, the warhead cores are kept in different places from the weapon detonation components. To put them together and make a shootable nuke would take around three days – providing a long(ish) fuse in a crisis. Even if jihadis managed to seize one nuclear weapons site, they would still need to seize another one – and secure transportation between the two – to go nuclear.

Nothing else about this picture is reassuring. Professor Shaun Gregory of the Pakistan Security Research Unit has discovered that almost the entire nuclear arsenal is kept in the most fundamentalist part of Pakistan – the west. This is one of the main jihadi gathering-places, where the 7/7 bombers trained and Osama Bin Laden is almost certainly hiding out. They are stored there because it is the furthest possible point from Pakistan’s nuclear rival, India, giving the country maximum warning time in a nuclear war or hypothetical invasion.

The big danger is that this part of the Pakistani state shatters into competing fragments, and control of the nukes becomes contested. Already, today, Musharraf finds it impossible to control great swathes of the country’s territory. It’s not hard to see this loosening yet further. Pakistan is a cobbling together of conflicting linguistic and tribal groups, many of whom want to go it alone. If the military begins to fracture, the experts fear three potential scenarios – none of them probable, but all of them possible.

Nightmare One: a jihadi group manages to seize a nuclear weapon outright, by force, from the vacuum. Osama Bin Laden has, after all, told his fanatical followers it is an “Islamic duty” to acquire a “Muslim bomb” (presumably followed by Islamic radiation sickness and Islamic cancer). This scenario is highly unlikely. If the army breaks up, it will be a major prestige-prize to keep control of the weapons, establishing that you are the Top Dogs. They will not relinquish them without a hard fight, or lots of cash.

Nightmare Two: One of the broken shards of the Pakistani army that manages to hold onto some of the nukes turns out to be sympathetic to al-Qa’ida. This is more likely, because parts of the Pakistani army have already helped al-Qa’ida, repeatedly and enthusiastically. For example, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was about to be seized in Karachi a year after the attacks – until he was tipped off by friends within the Pakistani military establishment. He was passed from serving military officer to serving military officer, until he was captured in a military safe-house in Rawalpindi. The senior Pakistani nuclear scientist, Pervez Hoodbhoy, estimates today that 10 per cent of his colleagues are Talibanists, noting, “There is potential for dark things to happen.”

Nightmare Three: As Pakistan falls apart, the soldiers at the nuclear sites start to sell off the nukes to whoever will pay for them. Again, this is more likely – because it has already happened. A Q Khan, the father of the country’s nuclear bomb, effectively opened an international branch of Tesco for nuclear weapons. He merrily sold to North Korea, Libya and others. The former UN weapons inspector David Albright says: “As loyalties break down … you may not be able to get a whole weapon, but you might get the core.”

So while the Bush administration has been chasing two WMD programmes that long-since stopped – Iraq’s and Iran’s – a real WMD danger has been swelling unnoticed. What can be done now? Figures close to the Bush administration are mooting short-term “solutions” that could actually make the problem even worse. Frederick Kagan – the architect of Bush’s surge policy in Iraq – has drawn up hellish plans to surround the Pakistani nuclear bunkers with tens of thousands of high-powered landmines and cluster munitions to prevent anyone getting in or out. Scott Sagan, a US counterproliferation expert, warns: “If Pakistan fears they may be attacked, they have an incentive to take [the weapons] out of the [more secure] bunkers and put them out in the countryside,” where they are more vulnerable to being grabbed by fanatics.

Every time the US military has war-gamed, sending in troops to seize the unknown number of weapons, it has ended in a horrific blood-bath – and the weapons still eluding their control. As Professor Gregory puts it: “Condoleezza Rice’s remarks about ‘contingency plans’ to secure Pakistan’s nuclear weapons were really only a rhetorical exercise aimed at reassuring the American public. If the situation really did disintegrate to the point where Pakistani control of the weapons eroded there would be very little the US, or anyone else, could do.”

There is only one long-term solution, long since left for dead by the dedicated followers of political fashion. We need, steadily, to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world through determined multilateral negotiations. A fiercely proud Pakistan will not reduce its arsenal alone. But in lockstep with India and the rest of the nuclear powers, there is a chance.

So far, on the international stage, only Barack Obama has mooted this. But the only alternative is to wait, and wait, until somewhere, one of these weapons is seized – and used.

j.hari@ independent.co.uk

Guardian Unlimited | Comment is free | Only real understanding can cure Pakistan’s problems

Only real understanding can cure Pakistan’s problems

Kamila Shamsie
Sunday December 30, 2007
Observer.co.uk

I find myself replaying chronology over and over, reflecting that both I, and the Pakistan that exists today, grew up with Benazir Bhutto, political figure. Although 1947 may be the nation’s official date of inception, the civil war in 1971 means that the current form of Pakistan is only two years older than I am, with its existence coinciding with the first stage of Bhutto’s political education as the daughter and chosen political heir of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

I’m little beyond a spectator in this story of the co-mingling narrative of Bhutto and Pakistan, of course, but as I listen to much that is said, and has been said, in the world these last days and months about both Bhutto and Pakistan, it strikes me that the co-mingled narrative is one that demands three-and-a-half decades of close attention from its spectators if it is to truly reveal its complexities and interlacings.

If you drop in only at the most operatic crescendos – a hanged father; a military dictator who history turns into the closest ally of the guardians of the free world; exile; a triumphant return; faltering democracy; exile again; another military dictator who history turns into the closest etc …; rising militancy; another triumphant return; a close escape, then no escape – well, then perhaps you get an extraordinary five-act drama, but what you don’t get is that rather more murky and tangled story of history as reflected through and acted on by a single individual.

In fact, too often of late it seems even the condensed and simplified version of the story of Bhutto and Pakistan is being replaced by a text message length version doing the rounds: secular, pro-Western woman is sole hope for country which is enveloped by forces of darkness, so they kill her.

But here is the more complicated version: to understand that co-mingled story you need to understand so much more. You need to understand, for instance, nearly six decades of deals, double-deals, broken-deals between the military and the politicians; you need to understand the intricacies of inter-provincial politics in Pakistan, particularly the extent of power concentrated in the Punjab and how that played a part in the story of the Bhuttos from Sindh; you need to understand the feudal structure of which Bhutto was a product and replicated itself in the composition of her political party that concentrated such power in her hands that after her death no one knows how the party will continue or who will take charge (ironically for those who make the democracy versus fundamentalism argument, the only major political party to carry out regular internal elections is the right-wing religious party Jamaat-e-Islami).

You also need to understand how marginalised the Pakistan-Afghan border area has been in the political history of Pakistan, and how post-9/11 policies disrupted a long-standing tacit understanding that the centre and the frontier would remain largely disengaged from each other; you need to understand all the distorted manifestations of religion sown in the Zia years and never uprooted by any succeeding leader – not Benazir, not Nawaz, not Musharraf; you need to understand the secrecy and terror that surrounds the intelligence agencies; you need to understand that reports from parts of the country such as Waziristan strike most Pakistanis as news from a foreign land, one we’ve never visited and know little of; you need to understand the failure of governments both civilian and military to provide education, health and security to the majority of its citizens. And that’s just the beginning of the list.

Let me add just one more item. Any version of the story that says that Pakistan was created as an ideological Islamic state in 1947 and then fast forwards 60 years to suicide bombings as though to say that one inevitably leads to the other ignores the plain awful choices and grotesque events of history that caused history to unfold as it did.

It still surprises me sometimes to discover how many people engaged with world events remain unaware of how little support Pakistan’s religious parties had prior to 9/11 (in the 1993 elections the three religious alliances received less than 6.7% of the ballots cast, with the 1997 elections boycotted by the Jamaat-e-Islami, and only the JUI-F managing to secure any presence in parliament with a meagre two seats.) Today, those parties have a much stronger following – directly due to the events of the last six years – but they still trail far behind Bhutto’s PPP, Nawaz’s PML(N), and the Musharraf-allied PML(Q)at the national level. Trying to understand Pakistan through the sole prism of Islamic fundamentalism, let alone Islamic militancy will not get you tremendously far.

It may sound as though I’m winding up to say, if you understand all these different aspects to the story you’ll see things in Pakistan aren’t really as bad as they seem. I wish I could. But this has been a year of ever-accelerating horror and violence during which suicide bombings have become weekly, sometimes daily, events that were almost unheard of until a couple of years ago, while those forces of civil society that seemed the counterpoint of light to the darkness have been stamped on, shackled or eliminated entirely. My point here is to place the horror and violence into a vastly complicated web, in which responsibility for the desperate state of the nation does not merely belong to al-Qaeda affiliates and is not the result of having a populace who overwhelmingly support and encourage nihilistic practices and militant extremism.

When I think of how many people have played a part in bringing the nation to this point, I can’t help thinking about a documentary I saw a couple of years ago about the demise of the film industry in Pakistan. At the end of it my sister turned to me and said, “It’s amazing. Everyone interviewed is so passionate and so articulate, and analytical – and every single person blames absolutely everyone else without accepting any responsibility themselves.”

‘Ah,’ I replied. ‘That’s Pakistan.’

· Kamila Shamsie is the author of Broken Verses.