JFP News 7/22: Honduran Coup Regime Rejects Own Proposal for Compromise
Just Foreign Policy News
July 22, 2009
Urge Hillary to Increase U.S. Pressure on Coup Regime in Honduras
Talks in Costa Rica broke down after the coup regime refused to accept a compromise that would have allowed President Zelaya to return.
Call Secretary of State Clinton's Secretary Clinton's Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills at 202-647-5548 and urge her to support increased U.S. pressure on the coup regime, such as canceling U.S. visas and freezing U.S. bank accounts of coup leaders, as suggested by the Los Angeles Times editorial board on July 14.
Or send a letter to your Representative, in support of increased pressure, and in support of the Delahunt-McGovern-Serrano resolution [HRes 630], condemning the coup and calling for the restoration of President Zelaya.
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1) The coup regime in Honduras rejected a proposal by the head of its own negotiating team that would have allowed President Zelaya to return to power, the New York Times reports. Rejection of the proposal made it clear that coup leaders had hardly moved at all in their positions, the NYT says.
2) Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to, Iraq says he does not know of any evidence linking three Iranian Quds Force officers to specific acts against U.S. forces even though the three were jailed by U.S. authorities for more than two years, Barbara Slavin reports in the Washington Times. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told The Times the Iranians were conducting consular activities in northern Iraq before they were arrested.
3) Pakistan is objecting to expanded US combat operations in Afghanistan, the New York Times reports. Pakistani officials have told the Obama administration Marines fighting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan will force militants across the border into Pakistani Baluchistan, where Pakistan is already fighting an insurgency of Baluch separatists.
4) Former Guantanamo detainees and human rights groups allege abuse of detainees has continued at Guantanamo under the Obama Administration, Der Spiegel reports, including: force-feeding, extreme temperatures, denial of medical care, and beatings. "We never imagined that detainee abuse would continue after Jan. 20," says Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
5) The Senate voted 58 to 40 to kill an additional $1.75 billion for F-22 fighter planes, the Washington Post reports. Lawmakers said the Senate position will probably prevail when the defense bills are reconciled in a conference committee.
6) Supporters of President Zelaya are advocating targeted economic sanctions to pressure the interim government to allow his return rather than broader measures that might harm Honduras' poorest citizens, AP reports. Zelaya said he sent a letter to President Obama naming army officials and lawmakers who planned his ouster and asking for economic sanctions specifically targeting "those who conspired directly to execute the coup." Zelaya's wife supports seizing bank accounts or freezing assets of coup leaders.
7) Secretary of State Clinton appeared to sketch out how the US might cope with a "nuclear Iran" - by arming its neighbors and extending a "defense umbrella" over the region, Reuters reports. [Some have suggested that this breaks new ground for a U.S. official by acknowledging that the U.S. has options if Iran "goes nuclear" - JFP.]
8) The Pakistani army and the Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency insist they no longer support Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group believed responsible for the Mumbai attacks, but the relationship remains ambiguous, the Wall Street Journal reports. An ISI official acknowledged the spy agency still maintains informal contacts with Lashkar but insisted colleagues were purely monitoring the group, not aiding it. U.S. officials say they believe that some weapons and money still flow to the group but that the aid is limited and not provided on orders from top commanders.
9) Jewish-American bingo mogul Irving Moskowitz is the key figure in the latest dispute between Israel and the US, AP reports. The State Department called in the Israeli ambassador to demand that Israel halt plans to build 20 apartments for Jews in east Jerusalem, the section Palestinians claim for their capital; the land belongs to Moskowitz, who has long bankrolled the settler movement.
10) More than 47 percent of Mexico's 107 million people live in poverty, according to a report by the official National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy, EFE reports. Among the poorest 20 percent of the population, 44.1 percent of households received no type of public benefits or assistance in 2008, down from 50.1 percent in 2006 and nearly 70 percent in 1992.
1) Honduras Talks Postponed
Ginger Thompson, New York Times, July 23, 2009
Honduras's de facto government confirmed on Wednesday that a new round of talks with the country's ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, would be postponed, after efforts to break the political stalemate fell apart late Tuesday night.
The current Honduran foreign minister, Carlos Lopez Contreras, told local television reporters that talks would be put off pending a new proposal from the mediator, President Óscar Arias of Costa Rica, the Associated Press reported.
The delay was announced hours after the leaders of the de facto government rejected a proposal by López, the head of their own negotiating team, that would have allowed Zelaya to return to power.
Under the plan, the presidential election would be moved up one month, to October, and Zelaya would be barred from trying to change the Constitution to allow him to run for a second term. He also could not be prosecuted for at least six months for crimes that were cited when troops detained him in his home June 28 and then loaded him on a plane out of the country.
But that limited period of amnesty, according to sources close to the acting president, Roberto Micheletti, was rejected by members of the country's Supreme Court.
A copy of the proposal was provided to The New York Times by United States Congressional aides.
The plan would for at least six months have prohibited all political prosecutions involving people on both sides of the coup and provided for the formation of a truth commission to investigate the acts that led to Zelaya's removal.
Early in the day officials hailed the proposal as the first sign that at least some leaders in Micheletti's camp were willing to accept Zelaya back as president. But the rejection Tuesday night made it clear that after two rounds of talks, Micheletti - along with members of the Supreme Court, the Congress and the business community - had hardly moved at all and that prospects for a negotiated solution remained slim.
Indeed on Tuesday, Micheletti's position seemed only to harden further. The Associated Press reported that his government ordered Venezuelan diplomats out of the country, accusing them of interfering in Honduran affairs. President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, a staunch critic of United States policy in Latin America, has been one of President Zelaya's most outspoken supporters.
In Washington, Zelaya's ties to President Chávez, who is accused by critics of undermining democratic institutions in his own country, have set off a fierce debate on Capitol Hill, where conservative Republicans view Zelaya as more of a threat to democracy than those responsible for his ouster. Meanwhile, Democrats want Zelaya to be returned to power.
In addition to calling for Zelaya's return as president, the proposal would also establish a "verification commission," made up of monitors from the United Nations, the Organization of American States and the European Union to make sure that parties on both sides complied with the terms of the agreement.
2) Envoy: No Acts Against U.S. By Quds Detainees
Barbara Slavin, Washington Times, Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The former U.S. ambassador to Iraq says he does not know of any evidence linking three Iranian Quds Force officers to specific acts against U.S. forces even though the three were jailed by U.S. authorities for more than two years.
The prolonged detention put the United States at odds with elements of the Iraqi government, which long argued that the men were performing a liaison function with the Kurds in northern Iraq. Iraq released the three to Iran immediately after they were turned over by the Americans two weeks ago.
Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, defended the arrest and incarceration, arguing that the three were members of an organization that "arms, trains, funds, equips ... and directs" extremist elements in Iraq. He also said they were on an "intelligence-gathering mission."
But Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq from March 2007 to February 2009, told The Washington Times, "I was not aware of any specific information linking [the three Iranians] to specific acts against coalition personnel."
Crocker added that he thought the arrest and detention were justified because the three were members of the Quds or Jerusalem Force, which, he asserted, had been involved in attacks on Americans and Iraqis.
The Times, citing a former senior U.S. official and a currently serving U.S. official, reported July 15 that the Iranians were performing diplomatic duties when they were arrested in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Irbil on Jan. 11, 2007. It quoted the former U.S. official as saying that the three were essentially held as "hostages" to try to persuade Iran to halt its support for Iraqis taking part in anti-U.S. violence.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, an ethnic Kurd, told The Times this week that the Iranians - Abbass Jamie, Majid Ghaemi and Hussein Bagheri - were conducting consular activities in northern Iraq before they were arrested.
"Really, they were doing some consular work," Zebari said. He said that the Iraqi and Kurdish governments were in the process of formalizing the Irbil consulate at the time of the arrest. He said such a consulate was set up last year.
Zebari said Quds Force officers - who are responsible for overseas security matters for Iran and sometimes serve in diplomatic posts - had been sent to Iraqi Kurdistan after the 1991 Gulf War to issue travel permits to Kurds seeking to visit relatives in Iran and to authorize trade deals.
He attributed the decision to arrest the three to the George W. Bush administration's surge strategy, which he said had two parts: to increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq and "to interdict Iranian assets."
U.S. authorities, obliged to turn over prisoners to the Iraqi government under the provisions of a status-of-forces agreement, released the men July 9. The Iraqis then allowed them to return to Iran.
Asked about the timing of the release, Zebari said he thought the U.S. waited until Iran released Iranian-American reporter Roxana Saberi on May 11 after four months in jail on charges of spying. He said the release was also in line with the Obama administration's policy of engagement with Iran.
3) Pakistan Objects To U.S. Expansion In Afghan War
Eric Schmitt and Jane Perlez, New York Times, July 22, 2009
Islamabad - Pakistan is objecting to expanded American combat operations in neighboring Afghanistan, creating new fissures in the alliance with Washington at a critical juncture when thousands of new American forces are arriving in the region.
Pakistani officials have told the Obama administration that the Marines fighting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan will force militants across the border into Pakistan, with the potential to further inflame the troubled province of Baluchistan, according to Pakistani intelligence officials.
Pakistan does not have enough troops to deploy to Baluchistan to take on the Taliban without denuding its border with its archenemy, India, the officials said. Dialogue with the Taliban, not more fighting, is in Pakistan's national interest, they said.
The Pakistani account made clear that even as the United States recommits troops and other resources to take on a growing Taliban threat, Pakistani officials still consider India their top priority and the Taliban militants a problem that can be negotiated. In the long term, the Taliban in Afghanistan may even remain potential allies for Pakistan, as they were in the past, once the United States leaves.
The country's perspective was given in a nearly two-hour briefing on Friday for The New York Times by senior analysts and officials of Pakistan's main spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence. They spoke on the condition of anonymity in keeping with the agency's policy. The main themes of the briefing were echoed in conversations with several military officers over the past few days.
One of the first briefing slides read, in part: "The surge in Afghanistan will further reinforce the perception of a foreign occupation of Afghanistan. It will result in more civilian casualties; further alienate local population. Thus more local resistance to foreign troops."
A major concern is that the American offensive may push Taliban militants over the border into Baluchistan, a province that borders Waziristan in the tribal areas. The Pakistani Army is already fighting a longstanding insurgency of Baluch separatists in the province.
A Taliban spillover would require Pakistan to put more troops there, a Pakistani intelligence official said, troops the country does not have now. Diverting troops from the border with India is out of the question, the official said.
4) Freed Guantanamo Detainees Claim Post-Obama Mistreatment
Does The Abuse And Humiliation Continue?
John Goetz and Britta Sandberg, Der Spiegel, 07/21/2009 06:00 PM
An Algerian man spent seven and a half years at the Guantanamo prison camp. He claims that abuse of detainees at the prison continues, despite President Obama's order forbidding any forms of torture.
Today, Boumediene is a free man who can talk about his years in prison. What he has told SPIEGEL is likely to trigger controversy in the United States: Boumediene claims that the abuse and humiliation of prisoners continues in Guantanamo and that detainees there are still harassed and tortured. According to Boumediene, a special guard unit continues to beat prisoners to get them out of their cells, and any official claims that such treatment has stopped are untrue.
Boumediene had been living in Bosnia for more than four years working for the Red Crescent, the sister organization of the Red Cross, as one of several managers at an orphanage. Fifty of the organization's employees would later sign statements confirming that he had been a hard-working employee there.
In June 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the case of the six Algerians had to be tried in a civilian court. A short time later, in November, a US federal court acquitted Boumediene and four other Algerians. Kirsch and Oleskey had achieved a surprising victory, and Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly named them its "lawyers of the year." From then on, the Algerians were classified, according to military jargon, as "free detainees."
When Barack Obama moved into the White House on Jan. 20, Boumediene was still at Guantanamo. The files of each detainee had to be reviewed once again, which entailed a lengthy procedure. On top of that, no country had been found that was willing to accept Boumediene. He wanted to go to France - but not to Algeria, where he feared he would be the target of repression.
Believing that nothing would change and that his acquittal had been false, he launched another hunger strike. And, once again, he was force-fed. This entailed having a nurse insert a pencil-thick tube into his nose and snaking feeding tubes down into his stomach. It was a painful procedure, and Boudediene claims that he complained about the nurse taking more than 15 minutes to perform it - long enough to make his nose bleed. He believes that she deliberately took her time and claims that, despite the new president's claims in faraway Washington, such actions were par for the course in Guantanamo.
"They put him in a terribly cold cell with 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius)," says Kirsch. "For the first days he had no running water, and he had to sleep on a pad less than one-centimeter thick visibly stained and smelling of food, vomit and feces." According to Kirsch, Boumediene was "kept isolated there" for 10 days, until Feb. 10, and was "not permitted to shower, pray or change his clothes. He was force fed using violent methods that were intended to and did injure him, and there was no medical treatment" for a foot injury.
When Kirsch met with his client on Feb. 12, Boumediene showed the lawyer the bruises covering his body. Kirsch then complained to the Pentagon about Boumediene's treatment. "At that time, an American judge already had ruled my client should be a free man, but the military still would not deliver to him hundreds of letters his wife, daughters and other family members had written to him over the years he was imprisoned illegally," Kirsch adds. Boumediene eventually did receive a few of the letters, but only on May 15, the day of his release.
Other reports about the mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo have also emerged since Obama became president in January. Mohammed el Gharani, who was released and returned to his native Chad in April, claims that, until his last day at Guantanamo, soldiers beat him with sticks and used pepper spray on him whenever he refused to leave his cell. Another detainee has corroborated Gharani's claims.
"We never imagined that detainee abuse would continue after Jan. 20," says Michael Ratner, the head of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights. Ratner coordinates the legal defense of Guantanamo detainees. Across the ocean, the London-based organization Reprieve, which has defended many Guantanamo prisoners over the years, is now calling for an independent investigative commission to be appointed.
5) Senate Votes 58-40 To End Production Of The F-22
R. Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post, Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The Senate voted Tuesday to kill the nation's premier fighter-jet program, embracing by a 58 to 40 margin the argument of President Obama and his top military advisers that more F-22s are not needed for the nation's defense and would be a costly drag on the Pentagon's budget in an era of small wars and counterinsurgency efforts.
The decision was a key policy victory for Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who has been campaigning against the plane since April as a linchpin of his effort to "fundamentally reshape the priorities of America's defense establishment and reform the way the Pentagon does business - in particular, the weapons we buy and how we buy them," as he put it Thursday in a speech in Chicago.
The Senate's decision came on an amendment to reverse the Armed Services Committee's vote last month to spend an additional $1.75 billion for more planes. The House has already supported putting $369 million toward F-22 parts, but lawmakers said the Senate position will probably prevail when the defense bills are reconciled in a conference committee. If it does, the program will be halted at 187 planes, less than a third of what the Air Force sought at the program's inception.
The chief Senate critics of the F-22 were Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) and the committee's ranking Republican, John McCain (Ariz.). Levin said in a statement after the vote that his colleagues had faced a simple question: "When would we end a weapons program if not now, with the civilian and uniformed leadership of the Pentagon asking us to do so?"
McCain, who has long attacked pork barrel spending for weapons, also said the vote was a bellwether of congressional willingness to abandon "business as usual." The current weapons procurement system, he said in a floor speech Tuesday morning, "is out of control," and he went on to recall President Dwight D. Eisenhower's warning of excessive influence in Washington by the military-industrial complex, suggesting a tweak to call it the "military-industrial-congressional" complex.
6) Zelaya supporters rethink Honduras sanctions
Mark Stevenson, Associated Press, Wednesday, July 22, 2009 10:35 AM
Tegucigalpa, Honduras - Supporters of ousted President Manuel Zelaya are advocating targeted economic sanctions to pressure the interim government to allow his return rather than broader measures that might harm the Central American country's poorest citizens.
U.S. officials are considering sanctions on one of the hemisphere's poorest countries if mediation efforts by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias fail to resolve the crisis. The European Union has already frozen euro65 million ($92 million) in development aid and warned of further steps.
But with Honduras' defiant leaders vowing to tough it out, Zelaya is rethinking his support for measures that might only hurt the poorest.
From Managua, Nicaragua, Zelaya said late Tuesday that he sent a letter to President Barack Obama naming the army officials and lawmakers who allegedly planned his ouster and asking for economic sanctions specifically targeting "those who conspired directly to execute the coup."
Earlier this week, interim President Roberto Micheletti vowed to hang on until the scheduled end of Zelaya's term in January, saying, "We have an enormous willingness to bear up under this situation."
"When I hear them saying that they can last for months, I realize that they can get through it, "said Xiomara Castro, Zelaya's wife, who remains in Honduras and supports seizing bank accounts or freezing assets of coup leaders. "What they aren't thinking is what a strong blow this would be for the average people."
Annual foreign aid of about $300 million accounts for about 10 percent of all national government spending in Honduras.
But potential trade sanctions could have a far greater effect on Honduras, which relies heavily on export-assembly plants.
7) Clinton Outlines How U.S. May Deal With Nuclear Iran
Reuters, July 22, 2009
Bangkok - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared to sketch out how the United States might cope with a nuclear Iran - by arming its neighbors and extending a "defense umbrella" over the region.
She said crossing the nuclear threshold would not make Iran, which Washington believes is pursuing nuclear weapons, safer or more secure. "We will still hold the door open [for talks with Iran] but we also have made it clear that we'll take actions, as I've said time and time again, crippling action, working to upgrade the defense of our partners in the region," she said in a program taped for Thai television during a visit to Bangkok.
"We want Iran to calculate what I think is a fair assessment...that if the U.S. extends a defense umbrella over the region, if we do even more to support the military capacity of those in the Gulf, it's unlikely that Iran will be any stronger or safer because they won't be able to intimidate and dominate as they apparently believe they can once they have a nuclear weapon."
8) Pakistan's Ties To Terror Group Are Unclear
Matthew Rosenberg, Wall Street Journal, July 22, 2009
New Delhi - The sole surviving gunman in last year's Mumbai terror attacks may have sealed his fate with a dramatic courtroom confession Monday, but Pakistan's determination and ability to dismantle the group that plotted the assault remains an open question.
Pakistan, after initially denying that any of its citizens took part in the assault that left more than 170 people dead, has in the past six months sought to convince India and the U.S. that it is doing everything in its power to shut down the group thought to be responsible, Lashkar-e-Taiba.
"The Pakistani nation and its government fully understand the enormity of the challenge," said Farahnaz Ispahani, a spokeswoman for Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. "This nation has paid in blood for its commitment against terrorism."
Five of the alleged plotters arrested in Pakistan weeks after the attack are to go on trial in the coming days. Pakistani officials say Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani earlier this month gave his Indian counterpart a dossier detailing what Islamabad knows about Lashkar's involvement in the attack.
But U.S. and Indian officials still see worrying signs of business as usual. Lashkar's co-founder, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, was released last month from house arrest by a Pakistani court, which cited a lack of evidence to hold him. The group's infrastructure is still largely intact, even if its leadership is in disarray, say U.S. and Pakistani officials. "Lashkar has a pretty deep bench, and so from an operational perspective it can keep going," said Stephen Tankel, an expert at King's College London who is writing a book on Lashkar.
Lashkar is believed to have a few thousand active members and many more in reserve. The group, if left intact, could remain an obstacle to better relations between India and Pakistan. That would likely hamper the fight against the Taliban by keeping the bulk of Pakistan's large military focused on the border with India, not the militants.
Yet Lashkar's long ties to Pakistan's powerful security establishment - and deep roots it has put down in rural villages through its charity arm - leave the government with a difficult challenge. The army and the Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency insist they no longer support Lashkar, but the relationship remains ambiguous. An ISI official acknowledged in an interview that the spy agency still maintains informal contacts with Lashkar but insisted colleagues were purely monitoring the group, not aiding it. "We don't operate in a safe part of the world," the officer said. "It's our job to know what they are doing."
U.S. and other Western officials say they believe that some weapons and money still flow to the group but that the aid is limited and not provided on orders from top commanders. Intelligence field officers and Lashkar operatives "have definitely been growing apart," said a U.S. official. "But the relationship is still there on some level."
9) Bingo mogul key figure in latest US-Israel spat
Amy Teibel, Associated Press, Wednesday, July 22, 2009 3:18 AM
Jerusalem - A Jewish-American bingo mogul with a penchant for buying up land in politically explosive areas of Jerusalem is the key figure in the latest dispute between Israel and the United States.
Israeli officials confirmed that the State Department called in the Israeli ambassador to demand that Israel halt plans to build 20 apartments for Jews in east Jerusalem, the section Palestinians claim for their capital.
The land, it turns out, belongs to Irving Moskowitz, an observant Jew with deep pockets and a hand that has generously doled out funds to settlers determined to cement Israel's hold on disputed areas of the holy city.
Moskowitz's land purchases over the past two decades have made him a household name in Israel and the bane of Palestinians. "The holy city faces today a real threat with the continued attempts to Judaize it and change its Islamic and Christian features," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday.
Israel claims it carefully protects the holy sites of the three religions, but the hawkish government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has revoked the hints of compromise from previous governments, insisting that Israel must remain in control of the whole city.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. Unlike the West Bank and Gaza, Israel annexed east Jerusalem. Though no other country recognizes the annexation, Israel claims that construction there is not the same as building settlements. About 180,000 Israelis live in the east Jerusalem neighborhoods built over the past 40 years.
Moskowitz has been a key, if shadowy, figure in the drive by some to cement Israeli rule in all of Jerusalem. "For more than 20 years now, he has been bankrolling and supporting settler activity," primarily in east Jerusalem, said Danny Seidemann, a lawyer for Ir Amim, an Israeli group that supports coexistence in Jerusalem. "This is Netanyahu and Moskowitz coming back for a repeat performance," Seidemann added.
Also, he was involved in the restoration of an ancient tunnel in Jerusalem's Old City in 1996, during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's first tenure. That touched off Palestinian riots in which 80 people were killed.
In the past, Moskowitz has been quoted as saying that Israeli-Palestinian peace talks represented "a slide toward concessions, surrender and Israeli suicide."
Moskowitz, a former physician, made his fortune selling hospitals, then augmented his wealth with bingo and casino operations in the Los Angeles area.
Several months ago, he received a permit from Jerusalem city hall to build 20 apartments on the site of the abandoned Shepherd Hotel, which he bought in 1985.
This project has raised the ire of the Obama administration, which is trying to pressure a resistant Israel into announcing a total settlement freeze.
10) More than 50 Million Mexicans Live in Poverty, Government Says
EFE, July 20, 2009
According to a report by the official National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (Coneval), more than 47% of Mexico's 107 million people live in poverty and the proportion below the poverty line increased 5% between 2006 and 2008.
Mexico City - More than 47 percent of Mexico's 107 million people live in poverty, according to a report by the official National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy, or Coneval.
The proportion of Mexicans below the poverty line increased 5 percent between 2006 and 2008.
Coneval's figures show that 50.6 million Mexicans lack sufficient income to satisfy their basic needs in health care, food, housing, clothing and transportation.
Within that total, 19.4 million people struggle to even put food on the table.
The figures nonetheless show an improvement compared with the situation in 2000, when 53.6 percent of Mexicans lived below the official poverty line, though the ranks of the poor are larger now in absolute numbers.
Among the poorest 20 percent of the population, 44.1 percent of households received no type of public benefits or assistance in 2008, down from 50.1 percent in 2006 and nearly 70 percent in 1992.
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