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Friday - March 17, 2017

Two new flags will be flying high at the Olympic Games in Rio.

(Kosovo's Majlinda Kelmendi. © AP)For the first time, South Sudan and Kosovo have been recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Kosovo, which was a province of the former Yugoslavia, will have 8 athletes competing; and a good shot for a medal in women's judo: Majlinda Kelmendi is considered a favorite. She's ranked first in the world in her weight class.

(South Sudan's James Chiengjiek, Yiech Biel & coach Joe Domongole, © AFP) South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, will have three runners competing in the country's first Olympic Games.

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Friday
May042012

`Raising Resistance' - telling, exposing and thought provoking
 (FILM REVIEW) 

(Raising Resistance, trailer)

By Grace Philip

Synapsis:  RAISING RESISTANCE is about the fight of the small farmers of Paraguay, South America against the aggressively expanding production of genetic soy in their country. It describes the global impact that the use of most modern genetic engineering in the 21st century has on people, on nature and on our worldwide food supply - a parable about the suppression of life, about the diversity of plants and cultures, and about how resistance arises both in people and in nature.

Over the last ten years, Paraguay has changed dramatically due to the world’s increasing demand for soya. Approximately 80 per cent of the world’s animal feed is made of the crop, while our food is rich in it. The market for soya is set to grow further still with the implementation of bio fuel policies.

(PHOTO: Soya Beans, raw/Wikipedia)The land in Paraguay offers the perfect environment for opportunists wanting to make money from this aggressive, growing industry – cheap property, fertile soil and legislation means there is little to stop soya farmers forever expanding. This is why Paraguay has become the fourth largest exporter of soya, meaning that the world has become dependent on Paraguay to supply the demand for soya, while the economy of the Republic relies on continued investment in the industry. The major problem is that the local communities are resisting, and as `Raising Resistance' shows, they are not prepared to give up.

By weaving us through panoramic views of Paraguay’s soya growing zone and including interviews and scenes of the soya production process, `Raising Resistance' provides a balanced profile of the soya industry and how the small-scale farmers (campesinos) are horribly disadvantaged. The aggressive growth in the soya industry affects every aspect of life – their human rights, environment and society are all damaged and, as `Raising Resistance' shows, they are under-prioritized, sidelined and dismissed.

As part of the farming process, the soya producers spray herbicide on their land once a year (and sometimes more) and shockingly, they are not required to dispose of the agrochemical containers carefully. Instead, they are left in streams where the campesinos bathe. One child interviewed in `Raising Resistance' provides us with his account of how the poison in his bathing water has left him blind - Silvio Peralta has been left scarred by the soya industry, and `Raising Resistance' shows that he is not the only one.

The campesinos are not accepting the costs imposed on them and are standing up against their subordination. 'Raising Resistance' shows how they protest by setting up camps in the soya fields to stall production. The campesinos are committed and prepared to face trouble with the police – a determination that becomes clear at the end of the film. One of the final scenes shows the broadcast of a march in Asuncion, the capital, in which militant-looking police beat protesters to the sound of gunfire, whistles and chaos.

(PHOTO: A recent `Day of Action' against GMO chemical companies in Paraguay/RainForest Action Network) While the desperation of the campesinos is represented, we are also left appreciating a note of irony. The soya producers spray an indiscriminate herbicide on their land to protect their crop from strangling weeds - the soya being safe because it has been genetically modified to become transgenic soya, and is therefore immune to the herbicide. The wind carries these herbicides onto neighboring farms - these crops are not genetically modified to be resistant, leaving farmer, Juana Gonzales, with ‘rotten peanuts’ for her crop.

Ironically, the weeds in the soya fields are adapting and growing resistant to the herbicides that are designed to kill them. The evolved weeds spread across the field in the wind, strangling the transgenic soya plant.

`Raising Resistance' is telling, exposing and thought provoking – the creators, Bettina Borgfeld and David Bernet, force us to appreciate the effect such a powerful industry can have, while portraying the ironic parallels between the resistance growing among the campsinos and the weeds that are becoming resistant to the soya farmer’s herbicides. The film portrays this resistance against the injustice brought on by unchecked growth, both in the fields and in an industrial sense, making the title apt and the message strong.

`Raising Resistance' has been shown at film festivals in various locations around the world - the UK premiere being at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival of March this year – and is available online.

-- This review originally appeared at the ECOLOGIST

Monday
Apr302012

NGO's Under Threat in Pakistan After Red Cross Official Beheaded (REPORT)

(PHOTO: British Red Cross worker Khalil Rasjed Dale killed in Pakistan/The Australian)

(HN, 4/30/2012) - A Yemen born, Scottish UK citizen and senior official of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Dr. Khalil Asjad Dale, 60 who had been kidnapped in January in southwestern Pakistan, was killed by his captors and his bullet-riddled body was beheaded and found in an orchard near Killi Umar, on a road leading to the airport in Quetta on Sunday.  Dr. Dale was engaged to be married to a nurse, Anne, in Australia.  He changed his name from Ken when he became a Muslim.

Dr. Dale had been taken by unidentified armed men from the Chaman Housing Complex in Quetta earlier this year.  Police said they received some tips about the presence of a dumped bag and when it was opened a body was found in it that was later identified as that of Dr. Dale.  

The body was “fresh” and had been slaughtered, said doctors at the Civil Hospital where his body was taken for autopsy.  A letter recovered from his pocket said: “This is the body of Dr. Khalil Asjad who had been kidnapped four months ago and was killed because our demands were not accepted.”  Demands that included a $30 million ransom.

The note further said "we (Taliban) claim responsibility for his murder. We will release video of this killing as the organization did not fulfill our demands despite repeated warnings."

(Video ICRC)

The ICRC has been active in Pakistan since 1947, providing humanitarian services in the field of healthcare, in particular physical rehabilitation.  Director-General Yves Daccord said, "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this barbaric act".  

Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, lies close to the Afghan border and for decades has hosted thousands of refugees from that country. The Red Cross operates clinics in the city.

"All of us at the ICRC and at the British Red Cross share the grief and outrage of Khalil's family and friends. We are devastated," Daccord said, adding that the aid worker - who had worked in Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq for the ICRC - was a "trusted and very experienced Red Cross staff member".

The ICRC had announced a reduction of its activities in Pakistan just days before Dale's abduction with the closure of three of its centers in the restive northwest. But after Dale's abduction, the organization vowed to continue its work in the troubled country.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said London had tried tirelessly to secure Dale's release. "This was a senseless and cruel act, targeting someone whose role was to help the people of Pakistan, and causing immeasurable pain to those who knew Dale," he said in a statement.

Pakistan also condemned "the barbaric act" and vowed "to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice".

Officials of the Balochistan government said they had already asked all foreigners working with NGO's and UN organizations to restrict their movements and not to go anywhere without informing the provincial home and tribal affairs department.

Much of Balochistan and the tribal regions close to Afghanistan are out of Pakistani government control, and make good places to keep hostages. Ransoms are often paid to secure their release, but such payments are rarely confirmed.

Abductions are `Common'

The parents of five kidnapped employees of the Balochistan Rural Support Programme (BRSP), a foreign NGO, were collecting donations by setting up a fund raising camp at the Bacha Khan Chowk to pay over Rs220 million as ransom to the captors for their release. "Please help us so that we can pay the ransom and secure the release of our children," said one banner at the fund raising camp.

Meanwhile, five persons were killed in separate incidents of violence in different localities of Balochistan on Sunday. Unknown armed men opened fire on a motorcycle carrying a man and his son near Hub city, killing them both. In a separate incident in Dast Goran area of Kalat two persons were killed in another firing attack.  Also, unknown men blew up a portion of the 16-inch diameter gas pipeline in the Pirkoh area of Dera Bugti district on Sunday. On Saturday night, unidentified men blew up a portion of the Quetta-Taftan railway track damaging a portion of the track passing through the Ahmadwal area of Noshki district. 

Last August, a 70-year-old an American contractor, and director in Pakistan for J.E. Austin Associates, Warren Weinstein, was kidnapped from his house in the Punjabi city of Lahore. Al-Qaeda claimed to be holding him and said in a video he would be released if the US stopped airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

(PHOTO: Swiss couple Olivier David Och & Daniela Widmer wave at the Qasim base in Rawalpindi, March 15, 2012/Telegraph)A Swiss couple Olivier David Och and Daniela Widmer  who were seized last year by the Pakistani Taliban were released in March. An Islamist extremist group said a ransom had been paid, but the Swiss and Pakistani government denied the claim.

Dr. Dale, of the Red Cross, had previously been awarded the MBE for his humanitarian work overseas by the British government.  "It's unbelievable what they've done to Ken," a friend and former colleague, Sheila Howat, said. "It's soul-destroying. For someone who has ... devoted their life to caring for others - it's just so wrong. Ken was an absolutely lovely person who saw good in everybody. He wanted to make the world a better place for people who had nothing."

---HUMNEWS, agencies

Friday
Mar232012

A New World {Bank} Order? (REPORT)

(Video, The White House)

(HN, March, 23, 2012) - And then there were two.  When US President Obama nominated his World Bank candidate Jim Yong Kim today just hours before the deadline, the choice was a surprise.  

(The World Bank Logo) The deadline for nominations to replace the current president, Robert Zoellick, is 18:00 (6:00P) Washington time (22:00 GMT) tonight.

"I am nominating Dr. Kim to be the next president of the World Bank", said Obama.  "I can think of no one more able to help families, communities, and entire nations break out of poverty, which is the stated goal of the World Bank," he said.

Obama pointed to Dr. Kim's international experience in his statement "He has worked in rural villages and squatter settlements just as he has worked in the halls of power and privilege."

Dr. Kim is a US academic who currently heads Dartmouth College and is by career, a doctor and former director of the HIV/Aids department at the World Health Organization. Dr. Kim also co-founded the health organization `Partners in Health' in 1987 along with Dr. Paul Farmer; and has been lauded on innovation lists from Time to Fast Company.

Paul Farmer, chair of the Department of Global Health at Harvard University, praised the nomination.  "It is time for a development professional to lead the world's leading development agency," he said.

The pick for one of the world's leading development banks could have also gone to another well-known American who openly campaigned for the job, global economist Jeffrey Sachs.

(PHOTO: Dr. Jeffrey Sachs/The Earth Institute) Earth Institute founder, UN advisor, emerging market government consultant Jeffrey Sachs announced his own bid for the World Bank presidency last Fall saying, "The inside process has produced 11 out of 11 politically-orientated appointments.  Not one of them has been a development professional. It has been seven bankers, three defense or military officials, and one congressman."

But following Dr. Kim's nomination, Sachs announced his withdrawal from the race tweeting,   "Jim Kim is a superb nominee for WB. I support him 100%. I thank all who supported me and know they'll be very pleased with today's news".

Sachs had support from several developing countries of the G20 including Costa Rica, Kenya, Haiti, Jordan, Malaysia, East Timor, Bhutan, Guatemala and Chile who openly backed his bid.

Dr. Kim, 52, had not been among the names rumored to be under consideration by President Obama, which included former White House adviser Larry Summers, Pepsi head Indra Nooyi,  UN ambassador Susan Rice, economist Laura Tyson, Senator John Kerry and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"This is one of the most critical institutions fighting poverty and providing assistance to developing countries in the world today," Dr Kim said in a letter to students at his university.

AFRICA'S CHOICE

The nomination has set up a two person race for the Bank's top spot as three African countries - Angola, Nigeria and South Africa have pledged their support to Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, the Nigerian Finance minister and a respected economist, diplomat and former World Bank managing director, as their World Bank choice.

(PHOTO: Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala/The Nation) Of the competition Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala has said: "I consider the World Bank a very important institution for the world, and particularly for developing countries deserving of the best leadership, so I look forward to a contest of very strong candidates.  And am I confident? Absolutely."

It was also believed that Brazil was set to nominate former Colombian finance minister, Jose Antonio Ocampo, but on Thursday, Colombia's current finance minister, Juan Carlos Echeverry, said the country was instead focused on a bid for the presidency of the International Labor Organization which it felt it could win.  Mr. Ocampo had agreed to stand for the World Bank post, but Brazil, needed Colombia's support to proceed.  It is unclear if they will nominate someone else by tonight's deadline.

HOW DOES THE WORLD BANK CHOOSE ITS LEADERS?

A US citizen has led the Bank since it was founded in 1944, but developing nations say it is time for change.  The World Bank presidency is chosen by the organization's board, which has 25 representatives of the Bank's 187 member countries.  Some, like the US and the UK have their own seats, like the UN Security Council. Others are grouped by constituencies.

The goal is to choose a new president by consensus, but a simple majority will do. Votes in the World Bank - and in the IMF too - are weighted by financial contribution.  The US accounts for 16% of the vote; EU countries have 29% and Japan as the next largest voting partner.

The World Bank has 13,000 staff in more than 100 countries, and loan funding is expected to reach $26 billion this year.

G8 ECONOMIC DOMINANCE

In recent years the emerging markets of the world have loudly voiced their opinion that the 'monopoly' of G8 dominance over the world's economic system must be changed to incorporate the fastest growing, largest populations of the world such as Asia, Africa and Latin America into the decision making process.

The United States will now face its first unprecedented challenge to its hold on the World Bank presidency with at least one candidate in opposition; setting up the first contested bid for the top job at the global development lender.

The rise of emerging economies such as China, India, Russia and Brazil has put pressure on the United States and Europe to throw open the selection process for both the Bank and the IMF tho these giants have quietly accepted the situation. Mexico, to its credit as this year’s chair of the G20 did not hesitate to make a bid for the IMF leadership last year.

(PHOTO: Christine Lagarde/Wikipedia) The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were created at the conference at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire in 1944 as a way to standardize trade between nations after the devastation of the Great Depression and World War II.  An unspoken agreement has  traditionally seen a US national head the World Bank and a European run the IMF - currently France's Christine Lagarde.

And it seems the `Geographic Gap' (tm) countries (*HUM research) have support in their arguments for more inclusion.  Recently three former chief economists of the World Bank - Francois Bourguignon, Nicholas Stern and Joseph Stiglitz wrote an editorial saying about the World Bank selection process, "To say it is merit-based, and to choose an American repeatedly, shows scant respect to the citizens of other countries". 

Other critics - from academics to non-governmental organizations - have long argued that the World Bank is ineffectual and even damaging to developing countries because of its emphasis on free market economics. 

The current president, Robert Zoellick, is to step down from his role at the institution when his five-year term comes to an end on 30 June.

(PHOTO: Paul Wolfowitz/Wikipedia) Mr. Zoellick, 58, was nominated for the role in 2007 by then US President George W. Bush, following an employee relationship scandal between then World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz who resigned when it was discovered he had negotiated preferential compensation treatment  for his girlfriend Shaha Riza with the US State Department, shortly after he became bank president in 2005.

The deadline for nominations is 6 p.m. Washington time (2200 GMT). Then the World Bank board of member countries will shortlist the names of two or three candidates and finalize its choice by the time of IMF and World Bank semi-annual meetings on April 21.

--- HUMNEWS, (c) 2012

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Thursday
Feb232012

The Slide Towards War (PERSPECTIVE) 

By Conn Hallinan

Wars are fought because some people decide it is in their interests to fight them. World War I was not started over the Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination, nor was it triggered by the alliance system. An “incident” may set the stage for war, but no one keeps shooting unless they think it’s a good idea. The Great War started because the countries involved decided they would profit by it, delusional as that conclusion was.

It is useful to keep this idea in mind when trying to figure out whether the United States or Israel will go to war with Iran. In short, what are the interests of the protagonists, and are they important enough for those nations to take the fateful step into the chaos of battle?

Israel’s Political Problem

According to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran is building nuclear weapons that pose an “existential” threat to Israel. But virtually no one believes this, including the bulk of Tel Aviv’s military and intelligence communities. As former Israeli Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said recently, Iran “is not an existential” threat to Israel. There is no evidence that Iran is building a bomb, and all its facilities are currently under a 24-hour United Nations inspection regime.

So from a strictly security perspective, Israel has little reason to go to war with Iran. But Israel does have an interest in keeping the Middle East a fragmented place, driven by sectarian divisions and dominated by authoritarian governments and feudal monarchies. If there is one lesson Israel has learned from its former British overlords, it is “divide and conquer.” Among its closest allies were the former dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia. It now finds itself on the same page as the reactionary monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman.

Iran is not a military threat to Israel, but it is a political problem: Tel Aviv sees Tehran’s fierce nationalism and independence from the West as a wildcard. Iran is also allied to Israel’s major regional enemy, Syria—with which Israel is still officially at war—as well as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and the Shiite-dominated government in Iraq.

In the Netanyahu government’s analysis, beating up on Iran would weaken Israel’s local enemies at little cost. Tel Aviv’s scenario features a shock-and-awe attack followed by a UN-mandated ceasefire, with a maximum of 500 Israeli casualties. The Iranians have little capacity to strike back, and if they did attack Israeli civilian centers or tried to close the Strait of Hormuz, it would bring in the Americans.

Of course, that rose-colored scenario is little more than wishful thinking. Iran is not likely to agree to a rapid ceasefire; it fought for eight long years against Iraq, and war has a habit of derailing the best-laid plans. A war between Israel and Iran would be long and bloody and might well spread to the entire region.

Iran’s leaders dispense a lot of bombast about punishing Israel if it attacks, but in the short run there is not a lot they could do, particularly given the red lines Washington has drawn. The Iranian air force is obsolete, and the Israelis have the technology to blank out most of Tehran’s radar and anti-aircraft sites. Iran could do little to stop Tel Aviv’s mixture of air attacks, submarine-fired cruise missiles, and Jericho ballistic missiles.

The United States and Its Allies

For all its talk about how “all options are on the table,” the Obama administration appears to be trying to avoid a war. But with the 2012 elections looming, could Washington remain on the sidelines? Polls indicate that Americans would not look with favor on a new Middle East war, but a united front of Republicans, neoconservatives, and the American Israeli Political Action Committee is pressing for a confrontation with Iran.

Israeli sources suggest that Netanyahu may calculate that an election-season Israeli attack might force the Obama administration to back a war and/or damage Obama’s re-election chances. It is no secret that there is no love lost between the two leaders.

But the United States also has a dog in this fight. American hostility to Iran dates back to Tehran’s seizure of its oil assets from Britain in 1951. The CIA helped overthrow the democratically elected Iranian government in 1953 and install the dictatorial Shah. The United States also backed Saddam Hussein’s war on Iran, has had a longstanding antagonistic relationship with Syria, and will not talk with Hezbollah or Hamas. Tel Aviv’s local enemies are Washington’s local enemies.

When the Gulf monarchs formed the GCC in 1981, its primary purpose was to oppose Iranian influence in the Middle East. Using religious division as a wedge, the GCC has encouraged Sunni fundamentalists to fight Shiites in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria, and largely blocked the spread of the “Arab Spring” to its own turf. When Shiites in Bahrain began protesting over a lack of democracy and low wages, the GCC invaded and crushed the demonstrations. The GCC does not see eye-to-eye with the United States and Israel on the Palestinians—although it is careful not to annoy Washington and Tel Aviv—but the GCC is on the same page as both capitals concerning Syria, Lebanon, and Iran.

The European Union (EU) has joined the sanctions, although France andGermany have explicitly rejected the use of force. Motivations in the EU range from France’s desire to reclaim its former influence in Lebanon to Europe’s need to keep its finger on the world’s energy jugular.

Setting the Stage for Tragedy

In brief, it isn’t all about oil and gas, but a whole lot of it is — and, as CounterPunch’s Alexander Cockburn points out, oil companies would like to see production cut and prices rise. Another war in the Persian Gulf would accomplish both.

Iran will be the victim here, but elements within the regime will take advantage of any war to consolidate their power. An attack would unify the country around what is now a rather unpopular government. It would allow the Revolutionary Guard to crush its opposition and give cover to the Ahmadinejad government’s drive to cut subsidies for transportation, housing, and food. A war would cement the power of the most reactionary elements of the current regime.

There are other actors in this drama—China, Russia, India, Turkey, and Pakistan for starters, none of whom supports a war—but whether they can influence events is an open question. In the end, Israel may just decide that its interests are best served by starting a war and that the United States will go along.

Or maybe this is all sound and fury signifying nothing?

Israel, the West, and the Gulf Cooperation Council share many of the same interests. Unfortunately, they also share the belief that force is an effective way to achieve one’s goals.

On such illusions are tragedies built.

Conn Hallinan is a columnist with Foreign Policy In Focus. His work can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com and middleempireseries@wordpress.com

Originally published  by Institute for Policy Studies licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Friday
Feb172012

The Falkland Islands, AKA The Malvinas issue takes another turn 

(VIDEO: `CrossTalk: Falklands-Malvinas'/RT)

The Malvinas AKA as The Falklands issue has taken another turn, which could heighten diplomatic tension regarding sovereignty between Argentina and Britain after one of the drilling platforms hired by a Malvinas company was found exploring in Argentine waters on Thursday.

The LeivEiriksson platform bears the Bahamas flag and was contracted by Borders & Southern Plc and Falkland Oil and Gas Ltd and can be added to the same list as the Ocean Guardian, the oil rig hired by Rockhopper Exploration Plc which has been exploring to the north of the islands since 2010.

The LeivEiriksson, which is 120 metres long and 86 metres high, moves with the support of two ships: the Toisa Intrepid and the multipurpose ToisaSonat.

At the end of last month, the LeivEiriksson was located very close to 200 miles from the Argentine continental shelf, which caused alarm among local authorities.

However, in recent days both the LeivEiriksson and its accompanying vessels have violated the borders of what Argentina denominates the nation’s Economic Exclusion Zone.

Its mission, according to the oil company, is to drill two deep wells to the south and southeast of the archipelago, at the edge of Argentina’s national territory.

According to what Ambito.com could learn, the platform advanced between 8-10 nautical miles beyond the pre-determined limits, to 190 miles off the Argentine coast.

(PHOTO: The area where the platform has allegedly been spotted, located in Argentine territorial waters/Buenos Aires Herald) The oil rig and companion ships spent over 90 hours in that location exploring or carrying out exploratory tasks, which led to speculation that the company is considering a third well, located within Argentine territorial waters. Irrefutable satellite images show that on Wednesday the platform was located at the coordinates -53°59’54’7 south -58°76’51’1 west. However, by midday yesterday it had retreated and briefly sailed toward the Islands before dropping anchor at 53°35’44’63 south and 58°45’55’13 west. According to sources with access to the Mompesat satellite monitoring system, the positioning of the platform was brought to the attention of the authorities.

"In recent months we detected that they were on the point of violating our economic exclusion zone and for this reason we have been constantly monitoring," said the source.

Meanwhile, sources linked to the Foreign Ministry confirmed that this is not the first time that an oil rig violates the zone limits, although it is the first time that this has happened since the diplomatic conflict bubbled to the surface in January. According to those sources, the Ocean Guardian, exploring to the north of the archipelago since 2010 is also positioned within Argentina's continental shelf.

The same sources also stressed that Argentina has often protested to the United Kingdom and that organizations like the UNASUR, CELAC and the UN Convention on Rights to the Sea (CONVEMAR) have often been notified of these infractions.

"This exploration is illegal. The coastal state which should be providing exploration licences for this area is Argentina and not the United Kingdom," revealed a source. Argentina also sent notes of discouragement to the companies involved — both the oil companies as well as the accompanying ships and support vessels.

The real conflict between Great Britain and Argentina is that they do not agree on the limitations of the continental shelf. For the Argentine state, according to the presentation by COPLA (National Committee for the Limit of the Continental Shelf) to the United Nations, "the continental shelf of a bordering state includes the sea bed and sub-marine layers which extend beyond its territorial sea and across the length of the natural extension of its territory to the outer border of the continental margin, or to a distance of 200 miles counted from the base lines from which the borders of the territorial sea are measured, when the outer border of the continental margin does not reach the same distance."

However, this position conflicts with the United Kingdom, who, taking the "bordering state" to be the Malvinas Islands, consider a large part of the waters around the islands to be their exclusion zone.

-- Originally appeared in the Buenoes Aires Herald

RELATED

The Malvinas AKA The Falkland Islands inhabitants face food shortage

(PHOTO: The Malvinas AKA The Falkland Islands/PressTV) Egg shortage came as the first sign of difficulties faced by the inhabitants of the Falklands AKA the Malvinas islands after South American countries unanimously decided to help Argentina move ahead with its peaceful efforts to resolve the issue of sovereignty over the archipelago as Britain compounds the situation by ruling out the possibility of negotiations.

On Saturday 11 February, the state-run BBC reported that the inhabitants of the islands are facing shortage of eggs and fresh vegetables, blaming the South American countries for the shortage and saying that they are “working hard to cut the islands off.”

Nevertheless, the state-funded BBC made no mention of the fact that the South American countries’ support for Buenos Aires over the issue came after Britain “militarized” the South Atlantic by sending a nuclear-armed destroyer to the area.

In response to Britain’s intimidating acts, Mercosur members, including Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, decided to turn vessels carrying the Falklands’ flag away from their ports.

Furthermore, the Chilean government that had announced plans in early January to join the South American countries in denying entry to its ports to Falklands-flagged vessels expressed its solidarity with Mercosur members.

The Chilean government also operated the only air link between the islands and the South American countries. There is one flight a week from Punto Arenas in southern Chile to the islands.

However, in response to Britain “militarizing” the area, Argentina raised the possibility of closing the only air route to the islands which passes through Argentina’s airspace.

In line with Argentina’s peaceful efforts to resolve the issue through diplomacy and negotiations, Argentinean Foreign Minister Hector Timerman submitted an official complaint to the United Nations Security Council against Britain’s militarizing the islands.

Nevertheless, Britain’s UN envoy Mark Lyall Grant said the militarization issue was “rubbish” claims made by Buenos Aires while he refused to make any comments on whether Britain has sent a nuclear-armed destroyer to the South Atlantic.

Grant also insisted that Britain would not take part in any negotiations over the sovereignty of the islands as it would only take the interests of the inhabitants into consideration.

However, Britain’s determination to dodge negotiations, despite UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon’s call for negotiation, and the shortage faced by the islands’ inhabitants, shows that the country is not concerned about the inhabitants’ wellbeing as it claims to be.

-- Originally published on PressTV

Tuesday
Jan312012

Amidst diplomatic tensions, UK Royal Navy plans to send warship to Falklands (AKA the Malvinas)  

(PHOTO: Foreign UK Secretary William Hague & the UK Dauntless/TELEGRAPH) One of the UK Royal Navy’s most powerful new warships, the HMS Dauntless, is to be sent to patrol the South Atlantic including the Falkland Islands (AKA the Malvinas Islands) after the latest diplomatic tensions between Buenos Aires and London, the UK's Royal Navy Senior Press Officer