Archive for August 2007

Negotiating for Peace in Kosovo

August 30, 2007

By Dan Burton
Washington Times
In coming weeks, an international confrontation is likely to occur among the United States , the European Union, and Russia over an issue most Americans have long since forgotten: Kosovo, where a few hundred Americans remain deployed as part of a NATO force protecting a shaky interim peace that ended the 1999 U.S.-led intervention.

For most Americans this obscure Serbian province, with its mainly Albanian Muslim population and its hundreds of Serbian Christian churches and monasteries, may be a little-remembered footnote to the breakup of Yugoslavia . However, now is the time for clear thinking about next steps if Kosovo is to avoid revisiting its history as a hotbed of regional instability and violence.

The international mission in Kosovo for the last eight years has not met its original goals regarding establishment of an open, multiethnic and multireligious society. True, there has been no return to large-scale fighting. But remaining Christian Serbs are confined to NATO-protected enclaves for fear of endemic Muslim Albanian violence. A quarter of a million expellees – some two-thirds of the Serbs, Roma, Croats, and all the Jews – still cannot return safely to their homes. More than 150 Christian holy sites have been burned, blown up or desecrated. Organized crime is rampant, with allegations of corruption reaching into the upper levels of the U.N.-supervised local administration and unemployment outside these criminal elements remains more than 50 percent.

Even Albanian officials have expressed concern at the growth of radical Wahhabist influence, and the reality of a dangerously segregated society, as hundreds of Saudi-financed mosques have sprung up to replace the destroyed churches.

Although the situation on the ground in Kosovo has been a case study in U.N. mismanagement, there is no question of Kosovo’s legal status as part of Serbia . U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244, which ended the 1999 war, reaffirmed Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty while calling for substantial autonomy and self-government for Kosovo within Serbia.

But against this clear standard for Kosovo’s future, the U.S. State Department has insisted the only possible solution for Kosovo is not autonomy, but independence – even though Serbia refuses to give up 15 percent of its territory. Even worse, during his recent trip to Albania , President Bush suggested that if a Russian veto blocks any new Security Council Resolution to separate Kosovo from Serbia , the U.S. might take the lead in recognizing a unilateral declaration of Kosovo independence with no legitimate claim of authority at all. Within Europe itself there are growing misgivings and decisions about this course.

This is a terrible idea. To start with, our policy is in contravention of international laws and will create a dangerous precedent. Also, there is no reason to suppose an independent Kosovo would be a viable state, either economically or politically. Terrorist and organized crime influences, already rampant in Kosovo, would be granted a consolidated haven for their operations. Independence would likely be followed by renewed anti-Serb attacks, at least against the smaller enclaves, if not against Northern Mitrovica , where most of the remaining Serbs enjoy relative security. Unrest in neighboring Albanian-dominated areas of southern Serbia , Montenegro and Macedonia , even Greece , could be reignited.

Perhaps most damaging, an imposed separation of Kosovo from Serbia would send a message to other trouble-spots, not just in the Balkans, that state borders are up for grabs.

The American relationship with Serbia would suffer badly if we insist on inflicting on a democratic country of 10 million people an offense they cannot accept and never will forget. An imposed separation of Kosovo, the cradle of Serbia ‘s national and spiritual life, would alienate Serbs of all political stripes and could very well result in the implosion of Serbian democracy, with incalculable negative consequences. In short, an imposed independence of Kosovo could set the region back another decade.

As an original cosponsor of a House resolution calling for the U.S. to support a mutually agreed solution for the future status of Kosovo and reject an imposed solution, I believe we can no longer proceed on a policy that is trapped in assumptions formed years ago. Instead of an imposed preconceived outcome, any viable solution for Kosovo must result from give-and-take negotiations between Serbia and the Kosovo Albanians, balancing Serbia ‘s legitimate concern for its sovereignty and the Albanians’ legitimate right of self-governance.

It must be consistent with accepted international principles, including guarantees of both the territorial integrity of states as well as of human rights and self-determination. The U.S. , the U.N., the European Union, Russia , or any other interested actor must not impose a solution on either of the parties, or bow to threats of violence if one of the parties’ demands is not met.

As with any genuine negotiation, the eventual outcome cannot be foreseen with certainty. However, it is certain that unless we hit the reset button and reevaluate the situation, Kosovo may once again become a trouble-spot requiring American and NATO attention at a time we can least afford it. As Kosovo re-emerges from years of obscurity, we need now to take another serious look at America ‘s options and long-term interests. As I stated before, the solution must come from negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo Albanians.

Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, is ranking member of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere and serves on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific
 

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Bosnia: International envoy to unveil police reform plan

August 30, 2007

The international community’s top official in Bosnia, Slovak diplomat Miroslav Lajcak, said on Wednesday he has a blueprint for reform under wraps which would pave the way for pre-entry talks with the European Union.

Lajcak said he would reveal his plan at a series of meetings with the political leaders of Bosnia’s parliamentary parties later on Wednesday.

Serb entity president Milan Jelic, said Serbs wouldn’t consent to the abolition of their police force. He said they would begin court proceedings to have powers returned to their entity which have been “unconstitutionally” transferred to the central government.

“There is no alternative to the Bosnian police force. It must remain,” Jelic said.

Bosnian Serbs have “no feeling for Bosnian patriotism” which local Muslims and the international community is trying to impose, because Bosnia is “stalling the RS’s development,” Jelic added.

Lajcak hopes to reach a compromise solution on police reforms. However the outcome of the party talks is as yet uncertain. Bosnian Serb leaders share Jelic’s opposition to abolishing the Serb entity’s police

Under the Dayton peace accord that ended Bosnia’s bloody 1992-1995 civil war, the country was divided into a Serb and a Muslim-Croat entity, each with most state attributes.

Police and constitutional reforms remain the last barrier along Bosnia’s road to European membership. However, the country’s Muslim majority has called for the RS’s abolition, claiming it is a “creature of genocide.”
Croats, the country’s third largest ethnic group, want their own entity.

The international community, which safeguards peace in Bosnia, has gradually stripped the entities of their powers in an effort to strengthen the central government – a process which Serbs say must stop.
 

Source: AKI

Annnouncement by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese

August 28, 2007

GREEK ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE OF AMERICA
8-10 East 79th St. New York, NY 10075-0106  
Tel: (212) 570-3530 Fax: (212) 774-0215
Web: http://www.goarch.org
Email: communications@goarch.org
Protocol Number 111/07
August 27, 2007

To The Clergy and the Faithful of the Holy Archdiocese of America  

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Eparchial Synod of the Holy Archdiocese of America concerning a tragic event.  Over the past few days we have shared great concern and sorrow with the people of Greece and the leaders of the Hellenic Republic regarding the devastating fires that continue to threaten people and homes.  This tragedy has already taken dozens of lives and destroyed communities in the areas of Peloponnesos and Evia and has received international attention and offers of assistance.  As Greek Orthodox faithful in America we must continue to offer fervent prayers for the victims and surviving families of this catastrophe with the hope that favorable conditions for life and peace will be restored soon.

Therefore, on Sunday, September 2, we ask all of the parishes of our Holy Archdiocese to offer petitions for the safety and comfort of all those affected by the fires and for the rapid end of fires and acts of arson.  In addition, at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy a special Memorial Service should be held for all those who have lost their lives as a result of the fires.  It is also requested that our parishes take a special collection on this Sunday, September 2 or on Sunday, September 9 to assist with the efforts to bring comfort, aid, and hope to those whose communities and homes have been destroyed.  All collections either from parishes or individuals should be sent to the Archdiocese and designated for the “Greek Fire Relief Fund.”  Our prayers and our gifts of love will assist those in need and will also be a witness of the strong bonds of Faith and heritage that we share with the people of Greece, especially in this time of tragedy.  

As our good and gracious Lord is merciful, may we offer our love and gifts to our brothers and sisters.  Knowing the boundless generosity and love of you, the faithful of America, we are confident that you will respond most generously to this appeal to help those people who have lost loved ones, their homes and their livelihoods and who will need our assistance both on a short and long term basis to recover from this devastating tragedy.

With paternal love in Christ,
         

+DEMETRIOS
Archbishop of America

AFGHANISTAN: Afghan opium production soars to record levels

August 27, 2007

Opium production in Afghanistan increased by 17 percent in 2007, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said on 27 August.

“No other country in the world has ever produced narcotics on such a deadly scale,” said the Afghanistan Opium Survey 2007, an annual assessment prepared by UNODC and the government of Afghanistan.

Afghan farmers have cultivated poppies on 193,000 hectares which will produce 8,200 metric tonnes of opium in 2007, the survey indicated. Afghanistan alone accounts for 93 percent of the heroin processed in the world.

The UN has warned that Afghanistan’s opium production has reached a “frighteningly new level” which threatens the war-battered country’s painful struggle for stability, reconstruction and development.

Over three million Afghans are said to be involved in the narcotics trade (cultivation, processing and smuggling) and the UN believes the illicit opium income fuels insurgency and other criminal activities in Afghanistan.

Opium production in Afghanistan in 2007 “may kill, directly or not” over 100,000 people worldwide, UNODC reported.

Most narcotics deaths are likely to happen in China, India and southeast Asia where Afghan opium exports have increasingly found new markets. Europe is another potential buyer of drugs produced in landlocked Afghanistan. Over 90 percent of the heroin sold on black markets in the UK originates from Afghanistan, according to the UN.

On 26 June UNODC said there was a significant reduction in drug addiction and abuse everywhere in the world, except in Afghanistan where more people are falling prey to narcotics.

Over one million Afghans are addicted to narcotics – 3.7 percent of Afghanistan’s 24.5 million population, according to the Afghan government.

Poverty driving cultivation

Most Afghans involved in the opium trade have opted for this unlawful business in order to alleviate their poverty, the 2007 opium survey found.

What is driving farmers to defy the government’s ban and cultivate poppy is a price for opium that easily outstrips that of any other agricultural products.

“Most farmers (98 per cent) said they would be ready to stop opium poppy cultivation should access to alternative livelihoods be provided,” the UNODC report said.

Afghan farmers will earn about US$1 billion (farm-gate price) from their opium harvest in 2007, representing 13 percent of the country’s $7.5 billion total gross domestic product (GDP), the UN survey said.

The opium survey noted the vast difference in income of farmers who cultivate opium and those who grow wheat. Gross income for wheat per hectare of land was $546 while for opium it was $5,200.

Opium-free provinces

However, the Afghan government has been able to take some comfort from the UNODC report: In 2006 out of 34 Afghan provinces six were assessed as poppy-free, while in 2007, 13 provinces, mainly in central and northern Afghanistan, were assessed as opium-free.

“We should increase the number of poppy-free provinces every year and gradually get Afghanistan rid of this vicious phenomenon,” Zalmai Afzali, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Counter Narcotics, told IRIN on 27 August.

Afghan officials, however, warn that unless the international donor community provides generous funding for counter-narcotics efforts, including funding for alternative livelihoods and institution building, opium production would remain a disturbing challenge.

Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of UNODC, has also called for more funding to be used to curb Afghanistan’s growing opium production.

“Expenditure [on counter narcotics] is abysmally low because of ministerial competition, corruption and bureaucratic inertia – nationally and internationally,” Costa said.

The UNODC has also called on the government of Afghanistan to intensify its opium eradication activities and target “rich landlords especially in the south of the country”.

Afghanistan poppy/opium statistics 2006-7
 
2006 Difference

in 2006

2007

Net opium poppy cultivation area in hectares  165,000 ha  +17%  193,000 ha
Percent of agricultural land  3.65%  4.27 % 
Number of poppy-free provinces 6   13 

Eradication area in hectares 15,300ha  +24%  19,047 ha 

Potential production of opium (in metric tonnes) 6,100mt +34%  8,200 mt 

Percent of global production  92%  93% 

Number of persons involved in opium cultivation  2.9 million +14% 3.3 million

Total farm-gate value of opium production US$0.76 billion +12% $1 billion
 
Total farm-gate value of opium as percent of GDP  11%   13% 

Indicative gross income from opium per hectare  $4600 +13% $5200
 
Indicative gross income from wheat per hectare  $530 +3% $546

Source: UNODC, Afghanistan Opium Survey 2007
 

World defence update

August 25, 2007

France appoints a general for its Libreville headquarters

France put the finishing touches to an overhaul of its permanent force in Africa on 1 August by appointing a general to command a new headquarters staff in Libreville, Gabon, the French Ministry of Defence announced earlier this month. Brigadier General Claude Reglat took charge of French forces in Gabon as part of a re-organisation that began in mid-2006 to bring all troops in Africa under four inter-service regional commands based in Libreville, Dakar, Djibouti and the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean
Somalia calls for more support from UN

Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamen Gedi has expressed disappointment in the UN, which he sees as not paying serious attention to the situation in Somalia. “I feel reluctance” on the part of the UN regarding Somalia, Gedi said. Pointing to the UN’s strong focus on Darfur, he contrasted this with the fact that the UN Security Council has still not sent an assessment mission to Somalia
UN Security Council extends DRC arms embargo

The UN Security Council has extended by six months its arms embargo against militia groups operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). At the same time it condemned the continuing illicit flow of weapons into and around the country. The council voted unanimously on 10 August to maintain the sanctions until at least 15 February 2008 after receiving the final report from the Group of Experts – which was also re-established as a result of the 10 August resolution – on the monitoring of illegal arms flow
Firing trials prove G-2000 range capability over M-21 unguided rocket
Firing trials performed on the Adriatic Sea coast, in Montenegro, have confirmed that Serbia’s G-2000 rocket for the widely used Russian-made Grad 122 mm multiple rocket launcher is capable of achieving almost double the range of the original version of the unguided rocket. The new rocket shows a significantly tighter hit pattern even when fired at the maximum range. According to the Belgrade-based company EDePro (Engine Development and Production), which developed the G-2000, the circular error probable (CEP) has been reduced to less than 25 per cent than that of the standard rocket
Serbia unveils details of Kosava rocket system
Serbian defence organisation Yugoimport-SDPR announced a new tactical surface-to-surface guided rocket – created by mating a semi-active laser-guided bomb (LGB) with a solid-propellant rocket motor – at the ‘Partner 2007’ exhibition in Belgrade in June. According to Yugoimport-SDPR, the system has been developed for export only. The Kosava (Whirlwind) system consists of the guided rocket, a transporting and launching vehicle, a command vehicle and a logistic vehicle
 

Boeing and US MDA carry out ABL’s first target lasing
Boeing and the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) have carried out the first lasing of an airborne target by the YAL-1A Airborne Laser (ABL) aircraft. The trial demonstrated most of the engagement sequence that the aircraft would use to engage a ballistic missile. The modified Boeing 747-400F took off from Edwards Air Force Base, California, on 13 July, then used its infrared sensors and its Track Illuminator Laser (TILL) to find and track an instrumented target board mounted on the US Air Force’s NC-135E Big Crow test aircraft

Global: Microbes don’t know geography – WHO report-

August 23, 2007

Regardless of capability or wealth, no country is immune to the increasing risk of disease outbreaks, epidemics, industrial accidents and other health emergencies, according to a new World Health Organisation (WHO) report.

Public health is threatened on a global scale, and the prospect of a safer future will depend on countries working together to identify risks and acting to contain and control them, warned the WHO World Health Report 2007, entitled A Safer Future, released on Thursday.

“Some of the most serious threats to human existence are likely to emerge without warning. It would be extremely naive and complacent to assume that there will not be another disease like AIDS, another Ebola, another SARS [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome], sooner or later,” it said.

With infectious diseases emerging faster than ever before, closer global cooperation is vital to tackle the growing health threat, and “no single country … can alone prevent, detect and respond to all public-health threats.”

According to WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan, “New diseases are emerging at the historically unprecedented rate of one per year … given today’s universal vulnerability to these threats, better security calls for global solidarity. International public health security is both a collective aspiration and a mutual responsibility.”
Scary new world

With the advent of globalisation, health threats have become much more serious in an increasingly interconnected world, characterised by higher mobility of people, animals and goods, economic interdependence and electronic connectivity.
 

“The world has changed dramatically since 1951, when WHO issued its first set of legally binding regulations aimed at preventing the international spread of disease. At that time, the disease situation was relatively stable: people travelled internationally by ship, and news travelled by telegram,” Chan commented.

The report noted that “Airlines now carry more than two billion passengers annually, vastly increasing opportunities for the rapid international spread of infectious agents and their vectors – an outbreak or epidemic in one part of the world is only a few hours away from becoming an imminent threat somewhere else.”

Population growth, movement into previously uninhabited areas, rapid urbanisation, environmental degradation, and the misuse of antimicrobials – substances that kill or inhibit the growth of microbes, such as bacteria, fungi, viruses or parasites – constitute profound changes that “have disrupted the equilibrium of the microbial world – infectious diseases are now spreading geographically much faster than at any time in history”.

According to WHO, at least 39 new pathogens have been identified since 1967, including HIV, Ebola and Marburg haemorrhagic fevers, and SARS. In addition, “centuries-old threats” like influenza, malaria and tuberculosis continue to thrive due to a combination of biological mutations, rising resistance to antibiotics and weak health systems. In the last five years, WHO has verified more than 1,100 epidemic events worldwide.

Global cooperation is essential

The report argues that the world has a collective responsibility to ensure public health security. “More than at any previous time in history, global public health security depends on international cooperation and the willingness of all countries to act effectively in tackling new and emerging threats,” WHO said in a statement.
Poverty in some countries meant there were “serious gaps, particularly in health services”, WHO warned, and the open sharing of medical know-how, technology and supplies between rich and poor countries was particularly essential.

More than at any previous time in history, global public health security depends on international cooperation 
The report described quarantine, sanitation and immunisation as three advances that had been vital to global public health security; they “came about separately, but gradually came to be seen as requiring international coordination” in order to be effective.

The microbes are out there, waiting
The ambitious aim of fostering collective international health action still has substantial challenges to overcome: the report cited the rapid global emergence of HIV/AIDS in the 1970s as an example of the disastrous consequences of inadequate surveillance.
“The presence of this new health threat was not detected by what were invariably weak health systems in many developing countries. It only belatedly became a matter of international concern with the first cases in the United States,” the authors pointed out. Poor health systems in many developing countries were still not capable of monitoring their national health status.

Other influences could have lethal and costly repercussions, even with reliable systems in place. The report referred to unsubstantiated claims in Nigeria in 2003 that oral poliomyelitis (polio) vaccine was unsafe and left young children sterile. The result was a large outbreak of polio across northern Nigeria and the reinfection of previously polio-free areas in the south of the country. “This outbreak eventually paralysed thousands of children”.

WHO also considered the public health consequences of conflicts, such as the outbreak of Marburg haemorrhagic fever during the 1975-2002 civil war in Angola, and the cholera epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in the aftermath of the crisis in Rwanda in 1994, when up to 800,000 people sought refuge across the border.

“During the first month after their arrival, close to 50,000 refugees died in a widespread outbreak of combined cholera and shigella dysentery” on the outskirts of Goma, in eastern DRC near the Rwandan border, due to poor housing and sanitation, and contamination of the only available source of water.
Mutating microbes

The prospect of microbial adaptation merits focused attention: “an organism that can replicate itself a million times within a day clearly has an evolutionary advantage, with chance and surprise on its side”, WHO pointed out.

Other threats to world health include the use and misuse of antibiotics, infectious diseases following extreme weather-related events, the acute public health impact of sudden chemical and radioactive events, and the deliberate use of biological and chemical agents.

In 2002, SARS sparkerd a degree of public anxiety that virtually halted travel to affected areas and drained billions of dollars from economies across entire regions; the virulence of the disease is still fresh in global memory, and the prospect of a global (possibly Avian) influenza pandemic should raise an immediate alarm around the world.

Global efforts to control infectious diseases have already been “seriously jeopardised” by widespread drug resistance, a consequence of poor medical treatment and misuse of antibiotics, the report warned.

Besides the growing number of cases of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) worldwide, and in southern Africa in particular, “drug resistance is also evident in diarrhoeal diseases, hospital-acquired infections, malaria, meningitis, respiratory-tract infections and sexually transmitted infections, and is emerging in HIV”.

The WHO report focused on these issues mainly in the context of the revised International Health Regulations (2005), and called for their full implementation. The regulations are an international legal instrument designed for collective defence “to achieve maximum security against the international spread of diseases”.
 

Key reports on small arms and related issues

August 23, 2007

General

Who Takes the Bullet? The impact of small arms violence ­– Norwegian Church Aid, 2005
http://english.nca.no/

Shattered Lives: the case for tough international arms control – Control Arms, 2003
www.controlarms.com
Putting People First: Human Security Perspectives on Small Arms Availability and Misuse – Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, 2003.
www.hdcentre.org
Putting Guns in their Place: A resource pack for two years of action by humanitarian agencies – Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, 2004.
www.hdcentre.org
The Arms trade

Global database on arms transfers
www.nisat.org
The G8: global arms exporters – failing to prevent irresponsible arms transfers — Control Arms, 2005.
www.controlarms.org
Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 1997-2004 – Congressional Research Service Report, 2005.
 www.fas.org

Dead on Time: arms transportation, brokering and the threat to human rights – Amnesty International and TransArms, 2006.
 www.controlarms.org
The Arms Fixers: Controlling the Brokers and Shipping Agents – BASIC, NISAT and PRIO, 2003.
www.nisat.org

Small Arms and development

Guns or Growth? Assessing the impact of arms sales on sustainable development – Control Arms, 2004.
www.controlarms.org

Securing Development – UNDP, 2005.
www.undp.org
“Development Held Hostage”: Assessing the Effects of Small Arms on Human Development – UNDP, 2002.
 www.nisat.org

Why Fighting Crime can Assist Development in Africa : Rule of Law and Protection of the Most Vulnerable – UNODC, 2005
 www.unodc.org
Humanitarianism Under Threat: The Threat of Small Arms on Human Development –Small Arms Survey and Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (Robert Muggah and Eric Berm an), 2001
 www.smallarmssurvey.org

Impact of small arms on women

The impact of guns on women’s lives– Control Arms, 2005
www.controlarms.org

Impact of small arms on children

Tageting Children: Small Arms and Children in Conflict – Rachel Stohl, Senior Analyst, Center for Defense Information, 2002
 www.watsoninstitute.org

Forgotten Casualties of War: Girls in armed conflict – Save the Children, 2005
 www.savethechildren.org.uk

The Impact of Conflict on Children – the role of small arms – Julia Freedson, in Disarmament Forum, 2002
 www.unidir.org
Neither War Nor Peace: International comparisons of children and youth in organized armed violence – Luke Downdney.
www.coav.org.br
Impact of small arms on Humanitarian workers

No Relief: Surveying the Effects of Gun Violence on Humanitarian and Development Personnel – Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, 2005
www.hdcentre.org