Archive for September 2007

IRAQ: Closure of Iranian border affects Kurdistan region’s economy

September 30, 2007

Aid agencies in the northern semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan have said the continuing closure of Iraq’s border with Iran will not hamper their work as they do not use the Iranian border for getting supplies.

However, Azad Ahmed, a 45-year old pharmacist in Sulaimaniyah, said that although medicines are imported from neighbouring countries other than Iran some critical items do come from Iran as well.

“There are a lot of items which come from Turkey, Jordan and Syria but we have some important medical items which are imported from Iran such as painkillers, syringes, cough syrup and optic medicines,” Ahmed said.

“We have not seen any shortages so far as stores are still well stocked, but I think if this situation [the border closure] continues for another month, then we’ll see acute shortages,” Ahmed added.

On 24 September Iran closed five border crossings with northeastern Iraq to protest against the US detention of an Iranian official whom the US military accused of weapons smuggling. Other Iran-Iraq border crossings are still open.

The measure has affected Kurdistan’s economy, leaving travellers and cargo stranded, officials and local people said on 27 September.

“Nearly 35,000 people – truck drivers, workers and traders – are now deprived of work due to the closure and hundreds of trucks are stranded at the border, some of them with goods which can’t stay fresh for long, like vegetables, fruit and dairy products,” said Hassan Baqi, head of Sulaimaniyah Chamber of Commerce.

“The commercial sector… especially in Sulaimaniyah, has been particularly affected over the past three days as up to 60 percent of consumer items come from Iran, and there are over 80 Iranian trading companies operating in the region,” Baqi added.

Prices up

Since 24 September the prices of imported goods like vegetables, fruit, dairy products, potatoes and construction and industrial materials have risen sharply.

“I came to the market to buy five items: bananas, apples, watermelons, melons and oranges, but could buy only three as the prices had gone up by at least 500 Iraqi dinars (about 50 US cents) a kilogramme,” said Sazan Mohammed, a 35-year old employee at the city’s electricity directorate and a mother of five.

“If things go on like this, we will definitely, as employees, not be able to find anything to feed our children,” said Sazan at Sulaimaniyah main market. ”These are political things, why are we involved? Civilians have nothing to do with such things.”
Traders consider options
As hope of reopening the border crossing faded, Rashid Qadir, a 58-year-old dairy merchant, was thinking of sending his goods to another border crossing outside Kurdistan.

“I have 17 tonnes of dairy products in two trucks stranded at the border right now and 30 more tonnes at factories,” said Qadir, who with his three brothers, runs one of Sulaimaniyah’s wholesale stores.
“I have to find a way to get these goods in Kurdistan otherwise I will lose out, and of course the prices of these goods will go up,” he said.

According to Rustom Ahmed at the Bashmakh border crossing, the daily average number of trucks crossing this border used to be about 200. “Now the trucks are lined up on the Iranian side, the travellers have vanished and the workers have no work,” Ahmed said.

The arrested Iranian official has been identified as Mahmudi Farhadi and was arrested on 20 September in a raid on a hotel in Sulaimaniyah.

US officials said Farhadi was a member of the elite `Quds’ force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards that smuggles weapons into Iraq. But Iraqi and Iranian leaders said he was in the country on official business and with the full knowledge of the Iraqi government.

Source: IRIN


World defence developments

September 29, 2007

USN awards Raytheon Zumwalt-class MSE contract modification

Raytheon Systems has been awarded a USD993.4 million contract modification for mission system equipment (MSE) and engineering support services that are part of the ship design and integration effort for the US Navy (USN) Zumwalt-class destroyer programme. Work on the 14,564-ton destroyer will include: total ship’s computing infrastructure; acoustic sensor suite element – including the bow array sensor suite; dual-band radar; electro-optic/infrared sensors; ship-control system; identification friend or foe; commons array power and cooling systems; electronic module enclosures; and Mk 57 vertical launcher system

SRTZ-2TM system offers ARM protection
The SRTZ-2TM (stantsiya radiotekhnicseskoy zaschiti) self-protection system, offered as an optional part of Tedtraedr’s S-125-2TM Pechora-2TM upgrade of the S-125M Neva-M (SA-3 ‘Goa’) surface-to-air missile system, is intended to protect the battery’s SNR-125-2TM tracking and guidance radar from attacks by anti-radiation missiles (ARMs), writes Miroslav Gyurosi. It is intended to deal not only with basic ARMs, which rely solely on passive-radar homing, but also with missiles that incorporate an integrated inertial/GPS guidance system allowing the attack to continue if the target radar shuts down or switches to a blink operating mode
The deal is sealed: Project Salam secures UK-Saudi strategic alliance

The announcement on 17 September of the purchase of 72 Eurofighter Typhoon by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia looks set to start a wave of multibillion-dollar defence deals in the Middle East thanks to surging global crude oil prices. The long-trailed Saudi contract is the culmination of more than a decade’s work by BAE Systems and the UK government’s Defence Export Service Organisation to export the fourth-generation fighter to the UK’s biggest defence equipment customer
US may ratify UK defence co-operation treaty in 2008, says RUSI conference speaker

The Defence Trade Co-operation Treaty signed by the UK and the US is likely to be ratified by the current US administration before the end of 2008, according to a senior figure that played a key role in the transatlantic negotiations. He added that while the specific details remain to be clarified, it is expected that the treaty will be applicable to areas such as missile defence, surface-ship radar systems, the achievement of interoperability of tactical radio systems, co-operation to tackle improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and programmes such as ASTRA

US Congress hears further presidential request to increase spending on ‘war on terror’

US President George W Bush will ask Congress for further USD42 billion to fund operations in the ‘war on terror’ in 2008 (FY08), US defense Secretary Robert M Gates told the Senate Appropriations Committee on 26 September. According to the US Department of Defense (DoD), Gates added that the request would bring the total supplement for FY08 to USD190 billion
Source: Jane’s defence journal

Serbia and Kosovo discuss a split

September 28, 2007

Spain and Russia fear that Kovoso’s independence may set a dangerous precedent for other territories with nationalist leanings.
By Tom A. Peter
from the September 29, 2007 edition

Kosovo and Serbia are set to have their first face-to-face talks at the United Nations starting on Friday. The meeting is billed as the final attempt to forge an agreement between the two about independence for the breakaway province. The US and most EU states have said they will support Kosovo’s independence; however, opponents like Spain and Russia worry that granting the restive Serbian province independence may create worldwide instability by setting a precedent for areas like the Basque region and pieces of the former Soviet empire.

The UN has administered Kosovo since 1999, when a NATO bombing campaign forced Serbian troops from the province. Both sides are approaching the talks firm in their positions, reports the British Broadcasting Corp. Though Serbia appears ready to make concessions, they may not be enough to satisfy Kosovo.

The Serbs say they plan to propose a comprehensive blueprint for autonomy and hinted they might give up control over Kosovo’s borders.

But Kosovo has made clear it will accept nothing short of independence under UN supervision at the end of the negotiating process on 10 December.

In an address to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, Albania’s Prime Minister Sali Berisha said that full independence for Kosovo is the only solution that will “bring durable peace and stability to the region,” reports the United Nations News Wire. Mr. Berisha also denied claims that he was trying to create a “greater Albania” by urging for an independent Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians out number Serbs by roughly nine to one.

“The claim that the independence of Kosova may lead to the creation of Greater Albania cannot be farther from the truth,” Mr. Berisha added, using the Albanian name for the province.

“In reality, Kosova’s independence will only end the fluidity of Albanians in the Balkans, along with the idea of the creation of a single Albanian State in the territories where they are a dominant majority. The simple truth is that Kosova Albanians have decided in their project of the future to join Brussels, not Tirana.”

Using the right of reply, Serbia’s representative criticized Mr. Berisha for “openly calling for the violation” of the territorial integrity of a UN Member State, particularly on the eve of such crucial direct talks.

Serbian President Boris Tadic has accused the US of “undermining” negotiations by supporting Kosovo’s independence, reports the Financial Times. Mr. Tadic has charged that only the UN Security Council has the power to make a legitimate decision regarding the future of Kosovo.

“If there’s going to be a unilateral declaration of independence by the provincial institutions in Kosovo, and it is accepted by the US and others, it is a great danger for future stability,” Mr Tadic told the FT.

Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, said this week that only independence for Kosovo could bring stability in the Balkans. She hoped for an amicable outcome, even if the two sides did not agree on the province’s future status. “But there’s going to be an independent Kosovo. We’re dedicated to that. It’s the only solution that is potentially stabilising for the Balkans rather than destabilising for the Balkans.”

Mr Tadic countered that such an outcome would set a precedent for other breakaway movements and would have a destabilising impact. “All countries in the world would be in the same situation [as Serbia] if they were to lose part of their territory or the cornerstone of their identity.”

While the majority of European Union states, especially Britain and France, will back Kosovo’s bid for independence, Italy and Spain, among others, have expressed reservations. Although Italy is likely to offer support in the end, it has expressed concerns that Kosovo is too poor to function as a viable state and will become a hotbed for crime, reports Radio Free Europe. Spain is the only EU country to express strong opposition, as it fears that Kosovo’s independence may set a dangerous precedent for its own Basque region, which already possesses a strong separatist movement. Though hesitant EU states may impede Kosovo’s independence, Russia is likely to cause the biggest problems.

Spain is the only one of the large EU member states that has indicated strong opposition to Kosovo’s independence, although some reports suggest that Madrid’s opposition has weakened lately. Spain’s concern is not wanting to set a precedent for the possible independence of some of its regions, which, like Kosovo under the 1974 Yugoslav and Serbian constitutions, have strong legal guarantees of autonomy. Romania and Slovakia are similarly concerned about possible secessionist aspirations of their respective Hungarian minorities, which, however, do not enjoy constitutional autonomy on the Kosovar or Catalan models.

Romania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Greece, and Cyprus are all bound by traditional feelings of friendship toward Serbia and are sensitive toward Belgrade’s point of view.

Russian officials also repeat the Serbian argument that independence for Kosovo will destabilize the Balkans. The Russians stress that independence would create a “dangerous precedent” for resolving “frozen” and other conflicts in the former Soviet space and elsewhere in the world.

In an article from the Madrid-based daily ABC, summarized by the Serbian Tanjug news agency, the Spaniards reiterated their concerns about the spread of instability.

“This would, from the highest place in the international community, add wind to the sails of separatists who wish to cancel the principle of territorial integrity,” the daily writes in a lengthy analysis of the current Kosovo status process.

“Besides, independence would inevitably create renewed regional instability, with potential to seriously ‘infect’ all neighbors,” ABC says.

The article concludes that Kosovo’s independence would represent “a giant step backwards for all mankind’s efforts to build diversified communities made up of free citizens, capable of living in peace despite the differences.”

In a blog for the Guardian, Antonio Cassese, the first president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and a professor of law at the University of Florence, argues that an old and, now rarely used, UN measure may allow Kosovo and Serbia to reach a compromise. The measure would create a loose confederation, allotting Kosovo virtual independence, but allowing Serbia influence over its diplomatic decisions.

By means of a binding UN security council resolution, Kosovo could be granted full and exclusive authority over its citizens and territory, as well as limited capacity for action on the international scene. It could be authorised to enter into trade agreements as well as agreements concerning individuals (for example, admission and circulation of foreigners, or extradition), plus the right to seek admission to the UN (which does not require full sovereignty and independence).

Kosovo would thus gain some essential trappings of statehood. However, a decision-making body consisting of delegates from Kosovo, Serbia, and the European Union would be given full authority over major foreign policy issues (for example, alliances and relations with international economic institutions), defence, borders (in case Kosovo wished to join with Albania), and the treatment of Kosovo’s Serbian minority. As a result, Kosovo and Serbia would constitute two distinct international subjects, bound by a confederation hinging on a common decision-making body.
Source: CS Monitor

Cyprus-Korea set to sign maritime accord

September 27, 2007

Cyprus and the Republic of Korea are set to sign an agreement on maritime matters to help strengthen existing ties.

Speaking after a meeting with Acting Foreign Minister Fotis Fotiou, the Korean Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Kang Moo Hyun said he conveyed a letter from the Korean President to his Cypriot counterpart Tassos Papadopoulos.

“The purpose of my visit to Cyprus is to express our gratitude for the improvement of bilateral relations and for the support Cyprus has given us in staging EXPO 2012,” he added.

The Korean Minister said they discussed environmental concerns, tourism and the proposed bilateral agreement on maritime matters.

Mr. Fotiou said that areas of cooperation such as tourism, shipping and fisheries were on the agenda of the talks.

“We have agreed that these meetings will continue on at least the level of chamber of commerce of both countries and will signal a new era in bilateral relations,” he added.
Source: Cyprus foreign affairs ministry

Japan Successfully Launches Kaguya Lunar Orbit Explorer

September 25, 2007

The thirteenth H-IIA rocket carrying a lunar obiter to explore the surface of the moon was launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture on September 14. The orbiter, officially called SELENE (Selenological and Engineering Explorer) and nicknamed Kaguya, successfully separated from the rocket and went into orbit about 45 minutes after liftoff. Kaguya, which weighs about three tons, carries 14 observation devices, including an X-ray spectrometer, and high-definition television color cameras, among other equipment. After circling the Earth twice in an elliptical orbit at a height of around 280 to 233,000 kilometers, it will head for the moon. Kaguya is scheduled to enter a lunar orbit on October 4.

The nickname Kaguya comes from the name of the heroine Kaguyahime (“The Shining Princess”) in the romantic folktale Taketori monogatari (The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter), which was written by an unknown author some time between the end of the ninth and beginning of the tenth centuries. Kaguyahime, who is discovered shining in a bamboo stalk, is not from this world but was sent to Earth from a palace on the moon. For this reason, she is unable to accept the love of noble suitors and, on the moonlit night of August 15, ascends back to the moon. The nickname Kaguya connotes the Japanese people’s visionary and romantic feelings toward the moon.

Source: Foreign Press Center in Japan

Monthly Economic Report for Japan

September 25, 2007

Assessment of the current state of the Japanese economy
The economy is recovering, despite weakness in industrial production in some sectors.

Corporate profits are improving and business investment is increasing.
The employment situation is improving on a broader basis, though some severe aspects remain.
Private consumption is picking up.
Exports and industrial production are flat.
  As for short-term prospects, the economic recovery is expected to continue supported by the domestic private demand as high corporate profits feed into the household sector. On the other hand, attention should be given to an effect which developments of oil prices in particular have on both domestic and overseas economies.
Policy stance

  To realize “a beautiful country”, the Government will put together the “Basic Policies 2007(provisional title)” which aims at an enhance of growth potential by promoting an open economy, a construction of a system of administration and finance in the 21st century and a realization of a sustainable and secure society which we can hand over to the next generation with confidence.
  In order to secure the trend of price stability and ensure the sustainable economic growth led by private-sector under price stability, the Government and the Bank of Japan will make joint efforts, sharing their basic perspectives on macroeconomic management.
Detailed explanations
1.Demand trends such as consumption and investment

Private consumption is picking up.
  Private consumption is picking up. Although consumer confidence and income are moving horizontally, the Synthetic Consumption Index, which synthesizes demand-side statistics (Family Income and Expenditure Survey etc.) and supply-side statistics (Indices of Industrial Producer’s Shipment etc.), increased in April in comparison with the previous month, thus is picking up.

  As for short-term prospects, private consumption is expected to increase if improvement of the employment situation leads to improvement of the income environment.

Business investment is increasing.
  Business investment is increasing thanks to an improvement of corporate profits and increases in demand. The Quarterly Financial Statements Statistics of Corporations by Industry, which is a demand-side statistic, shows that business investment by both manufacturing and non-manufacturing industries increased in the January-March quarter of 2007.

  As for short-term prospects, business investment is expected to remain on an increasing trend, as corporate profits have continued to improve.

Housing constructionhas been generally flat.
  Housing construction has been generally flat. Construction of houses for sale has been increasing, although construction of owned houses and houses for rent has been decreasing slightly of late. Housing starts are expected to move steadily as long as income environments in households continue to recover along with improvement in the employment situation.

Public investment has been generally sluggish.
  Public investment has been generally sluggish.

  Although public investment in the January-March quarter of 2007 appeared to be on course to exceed that of the previous year due to the contracted amount of public works etc., orders received for public works were lower than in the previous year.

  Public investment in the April-June quarter of 2007 is considered to have been on a decreasing trend ,as public works orders etc. decreased from a year earlier and in view of the budget situations of the national and local governments.

Exports have been flat.Imports have been flat. The surplus in the trade and services balance is increasing.
  Exports have been flat. By region, exports to Asia have increased gradually as a whole, with exports of general machinery increasing. Exports to the U.S. have declined gradually as a whole, with exports of transportation equipment decreasing. Exports to the EU have been flat. As for short-term prospects, future movement of the U.S. economy should be closely monitored

  Imports have been flat. By region, imports from Asia have declined gradually as a whole, with imports of machinery equipment decreasing. Imports from the U.S. have been flat. Imports from the EU have been flat overall, with imports of foodstuffs decreasing.

  As for the international balance of payments, the surplus in trade balance has increased as export value has increased and import value has been flat. The deficit in the services account has remained flat, thus leading to an increase in the surplus of the trade and services balance.
2. Corporate activities and employment

Production has been flat.
  Industrial production has been flat due to horizontal movement in the production of transport equipment, information-related producer goods, etc., which showed strong growth at the end of last year.

  As for short-term prospects, industrial production is expected to increase moderately, reflecting the increase in business investment etc. In addition, attention should be given to the future movement of inventory for information-related producer goods.

Corporate profits are improving. Firms’ judgment on current business conditions is almost flat. The number of bankrupt companiesremains almost flat.
  According to the Quarterly Financial Statements Statistics of Corporations by Industry, corporate profits posted a year-on-year increase of 7.4% in the first quarter of 2007, a gain for 19 consecutive quarters, reflecting increased sales. By type of industry, profits of the manufacturing industry increased by 7.2% and those of the non-manufacturing industry increased by 7.6%, reflecting decreased profits in such industries as electrical machinery and transportation machinery, and increased profits in such industries as chemicals and services.

  The BOJ tankan shows that firms’ judgment on current business conditions is generally flat.

  The number of bankrupt companies has remained almost flat. Although, the number of corporate failures was 1,310 in May, which is a year-on-year increase of 20.9%, the aggregate amount of indebtedness decreased year-on-year by 48.2% to 368.5 billion yen.

The employment situation is improving on a broader basis, though some severe aspects remain.
  The employment situation is improving, though some severe aspects remain. Although the total unemployment rate is at a high level, it is on a downward trend.

  The number of new job offers has been moderately decreasing. Although the effective ratio of job offers to applicants has been on a downward trend, it rose in April. The number of employees has been increasing. Overtime hours worked in the manufacturing industry have been moving horizontally. While the proportion of business establishments that implemented employment adjustment such as “overtime restrictions” has been on a downward trend, there was a 2 percentage point rise during the January-March quarter in comparison with the previous quarter.

  As for the movement of wages, contractual cash earnings have been moving horizontally. The total amount of cash earnings has been moving in a weak tone.
3. Prices and the financial market

Domestic corporate goods prices have been rising recently due to increased material prices. Consumer prices have been flat.
  Domestic corporate goods prices have been rising recently.

  Consumer prices have been flat.

  The rate of year-on-year change in consumer prices has been in the neighborhood of zero percent if petroleum products and other special factors are excluded.

  However, we need to keep a close watch on the impact of overseas economic movements on future price movements.

After rising from the 17,700 yen (Nikkei Stock Average) level to the 18,000 yen level, stock prices are moving at the 17,700 yen level. Long-term interest rates rose from the high 1.6% level to the high 1.9% level.

Source: Embassy of Japan in Greece

From Bulgarian To Kosovo Syndrome

September 25, 2007

By Nodar Mosaki – senior research associate – Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS)
The Kosovo issue turned into one of the main issues in the international relations over the last years. Moreover it turned into an inexhaustible source of disagreements between Russia and the West. It is worthwhile to mention that Russia seems more pro Serbian oriented than Serbians themselves in the frame of the negotiations about the Kosovo problem.
It seems Kosovo is rather an exercise in internal political rhetoric for Serbians. Moreover neither Russia nor Serbia offers conditions that would solve the problem in a satisfactory way for all parties. And this means the issue for the Kosovo statute could be solved even without their participation.
The most painful outcome of the situation for Russia would be if Serbia succumbs to the pressure of the West and accept certain bonuses as economic aid from the EU or promises for joining the union in the near future against agreement with conditions set by the USA. This variant should not be excluded, as it would mean full defeat for the Russian diplomacy. The best variant for Russia would be it to make use of its discordances with the West about the Kosovo statute.
Russia criticized the USA time and again at the level of diplomatic rhetoric as it warned for possible “strategic mistakes” in the policy towards the Balkans. Russia traditionally gave as an example Yugoslavia where “NATO’s variant for solving the Kosovo crisis led to Albanian separatism provocation and put the region under the thread of permanent instability”. Compared to many “anti-Albanian” and “anti-Western” statements, Russia traditionally was perceived as “a defender of Serbians and Slav brothers as a whole”. But is this really so?

Together with the West

In the early 90-ties of 20th century “the passiveness, negligence and the carelessness towards national interests” was explained with the lack of experience of the Russian diplomacy, with the undefined foreign policy direction and pro Western attitudes of former Russian foreign minister Andrey Kozirev and president Boris Eltsin. The policy towards Serbians that the West developed was explained the same way. Russia supported all decisions and resolutions of the USA and NATO in the UN, though it acknowledged and criticized their anti-Serbian attitudes. Then Russia explained its solidarity with the West with the urge “the consent not to be disturbed and the complicated Yugoslavian crisis to be regarded”. The contradictory statements of Russian diplomats from this period are known.
Thus for example Russian politicians in Moscow showed their principal support for the Serbians whereas the Russian diplomacy in Belgrade played the role of a Trojan horse of the West. Moreover it persuaded Serbians to acknowledge several “illegal decisions”. Meanwhile Russian diplomats approved USA’s policy in Washington and New York and did not make a stand against passing “anti-Serbian resolutions”. The Russian foreign ministry was “definitely” against any NATO operations conducting in the post Yugoslavian area. Anyway Russia did not put a veto on USA’s decisions during discussions of these issues in the UN Security Council, though it boycotted them sometimes but this still did not mean their approval. Thus Russia apparently was pro Serbian whereas in the UN Security Council and in different negotiations (e.g. the Contact Group) it was completely solidary with the West as a state that “understands the meaning of international mediators’ consent”.
Primakov’s and Ivanov’s diplomacy towards the Balkans continued the policy from the first half of the 90-ties in fact. The authorities and the media in Russia fiercely criticized USA’s policy towards Belgrade but somehow nobody asked the question why Russia took part in passing the “anti Serbian” resolutions in the UN Security Council. In addition to this Russian representatives frequently criticized USA’s actions as the policy of the USA was based in a natural way on adopted (including by Russia) resolutions. All this might seem strange on first sight. The sources of such policy originate from the second half of 19th century, from the age of Eastern crisis that shook Europe.

More:       (Focus Agency-Bulgaria)