JFP News, 9/25 - MoveOn: Exit Strategy, Not More Troops to Afghanistan
Just Foreign Policy News
September 25, 2009
[The editor of the JFP News will be traveling and presenting next week; the JFP News will resume on October 5.]
MoveOn to Obama: Exit Strategy, Not More Troops to Afghanistan
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1) Americans are more likely to say they would oppose (50%) rather than favor (41%) a possible decision by President Obama to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll. By an overwhelming 82% to 14% margin, those opposed to a troop increase say they favor withdrawal over keeping the status quo. As many Americans overall favor withdrawing troops from the country (41%) as favor increasing troop levels (41%).
2) The U.N. Security Council condemned "acts of intimidation" at Brazil's embassy in Honduras but did not discuss the wider issue of ousted President Manuel Zelaya's future at a meeting on Friday, Reuters reports. "We condemn acts of intimidation against the Brazilian embassy and call upon the de facto government of Honduras to cease harassing the Brazilian embassy," U.S. Ambassador and current Security Council President Susan Rice told reporters after a meeting on Honduras.
3) President Obama and the leaders of France and Britain blasted Iran's construction of a previously unacknowledged uranium enrichment facility and demanded Friday that Iran immediately fulfill its obligations under international law, the Washington Post reports. Iranian President Ahmadinejad insisted that Iran's actions were "completely legal" and indicated that new facility is at least a year and a half away from startup. Ahmadinejad said the IAEA can inspect the Qom plant. Iran acknowledged the existence of the facility on Monday in a letter to the IAEA. Iran claims that its notification complied with the original terms of the nonproliferation treaty - which required notice at least six months before fuel is introduced to a new facility, but the IAEA says Iran is bound by a 1992 amendment that said notice must be given at the time a decision is made to build a facility.
4) The UN Security Council unanimously passed a U.S.-drafted resolution that endorses the eventual goal of "a world without nuclear weapons," McClatchy reports. One aim of the resolution is to make it harder for nations to withdraw from the NPT.
5) The Senate approved legislation to triple nonmilitary aid to Pakistan to about $1.5 billion a year for the next five years, Reuters reports. The measure is expected to be approved soon by the House.
6) In Ukraine, which has borrowed 16.4 billion dollars of IMF money, the IMF expects the economy to shrink by 14 percent this year, Inter Press Service reports. In Latvia, which has taken a 7.5 billion euro loan from the IMF and the European Union, the economy is expected to shrink 18 percent, and the jobless figure is 16 percent. Critics say that the IMF is causing deep recessions and high unemployment with its demands for government budget cuts and higher taxes.
7) The IMF said Thursday it had consulted its member nations and decided to continue to recognize the government of President Zelaya the government of Honduras, AFP reports. [The significance of this is presumably that the IMF will not disburse any money to the coup regime so long as the IMF recognizes the government of President Zelaya - JFP.]
8) U.N. Secretary-General Ban said Wednesday that conditions in Honduras make "credible" elections impossible, leading him to suspend electoral assistance, EFE reports.
9) A new wave of anti-American sentiment in Pakistan has slowed the arrival of hundreds of U.S. civilian and military officials charged with implementing assistance programs, the Washington Post reports. In recent weeks, Pakistan has rejected as "incomplete" at least 180 U.S. government visa requests. But many more visa applications have been approved than rejected, one official said, and those sent back are "usually the ones without a clear description on the forms about what they're going to do" in Pakistan. "Sometimes the forms just say 'work for the U.S. government.' All we've done is returned those forms and said, 'Hey, what are you going to do?' " [The information that many of the visa applications were, in fact, incomplete, was buried at the end of the Washington Post article, which is odd since this was the lead example in the article of how "anti-Americanism" was hindering Pakistani cooperation - JFP.]
10) The decision by the US to engage the ruling junta in Burma drew the endorsement Thursday of the nation's most high-profile dissident, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the New York Times reports. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Clinton said the US would pursue engagement but maintain the economic sanctions that have been put in place to punish the junta for its human rights abuses and restrictions on political freedom. "Engagement versus sanctions is a false choice in our opinion," Clinton said.
11) President Chavez praised President Obama's calls for peace, but said some of his actions contradict his rhetoric, AP reports. In particular Chavez questioned why the US is expanding its military presence in Colombia.
1) Americans Tilt Against Sending More Troops to Afghanistan
Most who oppose also advocate that the U.S. begin to withdraw troops
Frank Newport/USA Today/Gallup Poll, September 25, 2009
Princeton - Americans are more likely to say they would oppose (50%) rather than favor (41%) a possible decision by President Barack Obama to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
The 50% of Americans who oppose a troop increase were asked whether they favored keeping troops at the current level, or whether they favored beginning a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. By an overwhelming 82% to 14% margin, those opposed to a troop increase say they favor withdrawal over keeping the status quo.
This leaves the overall disposition of Americans on the issue of troops in Afghanistan that is seen in the accompanying graph. Notably, as many Americans overall favor withdrawing troops from the country (41%) as favor increasing troop levels (41%).
How Americans feel about sending more troops to Afghanistan, by political identification:
2) U.N. condemns Brazil embassy harassment in Honduras
Andy Quinn and Claudia Parsons, Reuters, Fri Sep 25, 2009 12:55pm EDT
United Nations - The U.N. Security Council condemned "acts of intimidation" at Brazil's embassy in Honduras but did not discuss the wider issue of ousted President Manuel Zelaya's future at a meeting on Friday.
Zelaya has been sheltering in the Brazilian embassy since slipping back into the country on Monday, prompting a tense standoff with security forces surrounding the mission.
"We condemn acts of intimidation against the Brazilian embassy and call upon the de facto government of Honduras to cease harassing the Brazilian embassy," U.S. Ambassador and current Security Council President Susan Rice told reporters after a meeting on Honduras.
She said the situation of the Brazilian embassy was the primary focus of the meeting, rather than the broader situation in Honduras.
3) Iran Reveals Existence of Second Uranium Enrichment Plant
Michael D. Shear and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, September 25, 2009 4:47 PM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/25/AR2009092500289.html
Pittsburgh, Sept. 25 - President Obama and the leaders of France and Britain blasted Iran's construction of a previously unacknowledged uranium enrichment facility and demanded Friday that Tehran immediately fulfill its obligations under international law or risk the imposition of harsh new sanctions.
"Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow," Obama said, detailing how the facility near Qom had been under construction for years without being disclosed, as required, to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). "International law is not an empty promise."
The new Iranian plant, the country's second uranium enrichment facility, is believed by U.S. officials to be part of a broad effort by Iran's leadership to pursue the ability to build nuclear weapons. Iran has repeatedly denied having any such goal, insisting that its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity. U.S. officials said they believe the Qom plant is not yet operational but is intended to produce highly enriched uranium - suitable for nuclear weapons - and will be capable within months of producing enough material for at least one bomb per year.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is in New York for a U.N. General Assembly meeting, strongly rejected Obama's assertions, insisted that Iran's actions were "completely legal" and indicated that new facility is at least a year and a half away from startup. He warned Western officials against pressing their case about the new enrichment plant during upcoming talks with major world powers on nuclear issues.
Ahmadinejad later told a news conference in New York that the IAEA can inspect the Qom plant. "We don't have any problems with [IAEA] inspections of the facility," he said. "We have no fears."
He said the IAEA "will come and take a look and produce a report and nothing new." In apparent response to Western criticism Friday, he demanded, "What business of yours is it to tell us what we must do or not?"
Ahmadinejad also repeated - as he told The Washington Post on Wednesday - that Iran hopes to buy enriched uranium for medical purposes, and he said he hopes that the talks next week would help reduce tension.
In a statement, the Russian government said the new uranium enrichment plant "violates decisions of the United Nations Security Council." It said the IAEA "must investigate this site immediately, and Iran must cooperate with this investigation." The Kremlin also urged Iran to "provide proof of its commitment to a peaceful nuclear program" by a scheduled meeting Oct. 1 between representatives of Iran and six world powers: the United States, Russia, China, Britain France and Germany.
China said it hoped the IAEA would deal with the issue in accordance with its mandate and called for negotiation with Iran, rather than punishment. He Yafei, China's vice minister for foreign affairs, told reporters in response to a question, "You talk about punishment, and personally I don't like the word 'punishment,' and I think all issues can only be solved through dialogue and negotiation."
In Tehran, Ali Akbar Salehi, who was appointed by Ahmadinejad in July as head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said the country took "a new successful step toward building another semi-industrial nuclear fuel enrichment plant" as part of its effort "to preserve and enjoy its undeniable right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes."
He added in a statement: "Currently, Iran is building these facilities while observing all aspects such as passive defense." He asserted that the activities of the new plant and Iran's other nuclear installations "are within the framework of the IAEA regulations."
Salehi, a U.S.-educated nuclear physicist, later said on Iranian state television that the Qom facility was built to "guarantee the continuation of our nuclear activities," which he vowed "will not be stopped under any circumstances." He dismissed Western concerns as "propaganda" and asserted that Iran informed the IAEA about the site in a "timely" fashion. He said, "We act based on our obligations, and we do not need anybody's recommendation. This site has been announced on time . . . and there is no problem regarding this site."
Iran acknowledged the existence of the facility for the first time on Monday, in a letter to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency. The letter said "a new pilot fuel enrichment plant is under construction in the country," said Marc Vidricaire, a spokesman for the watchdog agency. "The letter stated that the enrichment level would be up to 5 percent." That level is far below the enrichment level needed for nuclear weapons.
Vidricaire said the agency responded by asking Iran to quickly provide more specifics about the facility - "to assess safeguards verification requirements." He said Iran told the IAEA "that no nuclear material has been introduced into the facility."
A key question regarding the Qom site is whether Iran violated its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty regarding when it has to inform international authorities of a new nuclear facility. Under the original treaty, such declarations were not required until six months before fuel was introduced into the facility.
In 1992, however, the IAEA board determined that six months was not enough time to organize required inspections, and it amended the rule to require nations to inform it at the time the initial decision was made to build a facility, before construction began. The amendment, called "Code 3.1," was mandatory; Iran and all other signatories agreed to it.
But in 2006, angered over an IAEA decision to refer its case to the U.N. Security Council, Iran said its parliament had decided it would revert to the non-amended treaty and six-month notification.
The IAEA took the position that no country could legally revert to the old system and that Iran and all countries were bound by the new rule.
In his news conference Friday in New York, Ahmadinejad defined Iran's compliance with the IAEA in terms of the former rules. He said the agency must be informed about a new enrichment facility "six months before it is infused with gas" and that "we still have a year left" before that deadline. He suggested that Iran should be congratulated for informing the IAEA about the Qom plant "18 months ahead of time."
4) UN Unanimously Backs Obama's Nuclear Disarmament Goal
Warren P. Strobel, McClatchy Newspapers, Thu Sep 24, 5:31 pm ET http://news.yahoo.com/s/mcclatchy/20090924/pl_mcclatchy/3319130
United Nations - With President Barack Obama in the chair at an unprecedented meeting of the U.N. Security Council, major world powers on Thursday endorsed his goal of a nuclear weapons-free world and pledged to strengthen the shaky international system for preventing the spread of nuclear arms.
The Security Council unanimously passed a U.S.-drafted resolution that endorses the eventual goal of "a world without nuclear weapons." It lays out steps for nuclear powers to trim their arsenals, while making it harder for other nations to convert civilian nuclear programs to military ones.
While it isn't clear how fast this will come about, diplomats and private security experts called it the most significant U.N. action on nuclear weapons proliferation in years.
U.S. officials said the council's endorsement significantly boosted the disarmament agenda that Obama laid out last April in Prague. Among his goals are new cuts in U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads and missile launchers; U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which bans nuclear weapons tests; and a major effort to secure "loose" nuclear materials.
The six-page resolution mentions neither Iran nor North Korea , both the focus of major proliferation concern, because other nations rejected U.S. attempts to include the two.
Thursday's Security Council action strengthens the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the cornerstone of efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
The treaty, which is up for review next year, calls on nations with nuclear weapons to reduce their arsenals. Nations without nuclear arms pledge not to acquire them and are guaranteed access to nuclear technology for civilian power, medical and research purposes.
One aim of the new resolution is to make it harder for Iran and other nations to withdraw from the NPT after they've used it to gain access to nuclear technology, and then proceed to develop nuclear arms. In that case, the countries that supplied nuclear technology could, at least in theory, repossess it.
5) Senate Approves Increase In Aid For Pakistan
Reuters, September 25, 2009
Washington - The United States Senate on Thursday approved legislation to triple nonmilitary aid to Pakistan to about $1.5 billion a year for the next five years as part of a plan to fight extremism.
President Obama had urged passage of the measure to promote stability in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country that is essential to the efforts by NATO to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan, despite concerns that the Pakistan military may support some extremist Islamic groups.
The bill, approved on a voice vote, had been agreed to by Senate and House sponsors of legislation passed during the summer. The measure is expected to be approved soon by the House.
6) G20: IMF Finds a New Unpopularity
Pavol Stracansky, Inter Press Service, Sep 25
Bratislava, - When some Eastern European states faced economic collapse as the financial crisis took hold, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stepped in and offered governments huge loans.
But, as the G20 summit in Pittsburgh considers reform of the IMF, some economists and sociologists are now asking whether the social and economic cost of adhering to the strict credit conditions that came with them may not be too high for some.
Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Washington-based think tank, the Centre for Economic and Policy Research told IPS: "The IMF loans have made the economic and social situations in these countries worse. "The IMF will say that if a country is living beyond its means then it has to adjust, but what they do is make the adjustment even harder with really austere (loan) conditions."
In Ukraine, which has borrowed 16.4 billion dollars of IMF money, the IMF expects the economy to shrink by 14 percent this year. The currency, the hryvna, has lost more than 40 percent of its value since last October, and subsequently the cost of most foods has doubled.
In Latvia, which has taken a 7.5 billion euro loan from the IMF and the European Union, the economy is expected to shrink 18 percent, and the jobless figure is 16 percent.
In Hungary, which took a 25.1 billion dollar loan from the IMF last October, the economy is expected to shrink 6.7 percent this year, and another 0.9 percent next year.
But the IMF loans to countries in central and eastern Europe have included conditions that governments must rein in public spending. The Hungarian government submitted a budget to parliament this month with substantial spending cuts, while in Latvia there has been an agreement to cut pensions by 10 percent.
And with no room for fiscal manoeuvre to boost the local economy, unemployment has also been rising in the private sector.
"It's a downward spiral in which spending is cut and people are laid off, they have no money to spend, are being taxed more heavily, banks are not lending to businesses, and revenues keep falling because nobody is spending, producing or exporting anything," Nils Muiznieks, head of the Advanced Social and Political Research Institute in Riga, Latvia, told IPS. "It's not a pleasant situation."
Experts say this vicious circle has made the IMF a very unpopular organisation in the eyes of many locals, and there have been demonstrations over the loan conditions.
In Romania, which took a 20 billion euro loan from the IMF in May, the opposition demanded a vote of no-confidence in the government over IMF- imposed wage reforms. Angry workers have protested over public sector wage freezes and job cuts.
Peter Kreko, analyst at the Budapest-based think tank Political Capital, told IPS: "People in Hungary are aware of the IMF loans and the conditions with them, and the IMF is not very well liked. It is seen as an organisation that imposes conditions no one wants."
Some experts argue that the IMF's strict fiscal loan conditions hinder poorer eastern European countries. They say that with their hands tied on public spending because of IMF demands, they do not have the opportunity to stimulate their economies as richer western states do.
"The rest of the world is implementing stimulus packages ranging from anywhere between one percent and ten percent of GDP but at the same time, Latvia has been asked to make deep cuts in spending - a total of about 38 percent this year in the public sector - and raise taxes to meet budget shortfalls," Muiznieks told IPS.
They also claim that the IMF is lending money to struggling countries solely to protect western banks which have recklessly invested too much in what has been revealed to be a risky region, and that local people are paying the cost with a rapidly shrinking economy which creates rising unemployment and higher taxes.
"The IMF is giving money to countries like Latvia or Ukraine, for instance, to stop their currencies failing because if they do then they would not be able to pay back loans, and that would cause western banks, which are heavily exposed in the region, problems," Weisbrot told IPS.
"But from a human point of view it is far better off to let currencies fail and countries to default on debts rather than let an economy completely shrink. But that would be bad for bankers. They want to collect on their debt so they don't want the currency to be devalued, even if it means putting an economy into a deep recession."
7) IMF still recognizes Zelaya as prez
Agence France Presse, 2009-09-24 2:23 PM http://www.thehimalayantimes.com/fullNews.php?NewsID=35827
Washington: The International Monetary Fund said Thursday it had consulted its member nations and decided to continue to recognize ousted President Manuel Zelaya as head of state of Honduras.
"In recent weeks, the Fund consulted its membership through its Executive Directors," the IMF said in a brief statement. "Based on this consultation, IMF Management has determined that it will recognize the government of President Zelaya as the government of Honduras."
8) UN Chief Says Honduran Electoral Process "Not Credible"
United Nations won't be sending electoral assistance to Honduras after the organization's chief Ban Ki-moon said that conditions in the Central American country make "credible" elections impossible
EFE, September 23, 2009.
United Nations - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday that conditions in Honduras, the scene in June of a military coup, make "credible" elections impossible, leading him to suspend electoral assistance to the Central American nation.
Ban made the decision in the wake of ousted President Mel Zelaya's surprise return to Honduras early this week, U.N. spokesperson Michele Montas said.
The European Union announced recently that it would not send observers for Honduras' Nov. 29 general elections, while the United States said it would not recognize the winner of the presidential vote if the de facto regime continues to defy demands for Zelaya's reinstatement.
Latin American nations, the United States and the European Union have been pressing Micheletti to accept the San Jose Accord, a proposal put forward by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.
The plan calls for Zelaya to return and lead a national unity government for the few months left in his term, and for a political amnesty that would protect both the coup plotters and the ousted head of state, who stands accused of various offenses by the de facto regime.
While Zelaya has accepted the plan, Micheletti flatly rejects the reinstatement of the elected head of state.
9) Anti-U.S. Wave Imperiling Efforts In Pakistan, Officials Say
Karen DeYoung and Pamela Constable, Washington Post, Friday, September 25, 2009
A new wave of anti-American sentiment in Pakistan has slowed the arrival of hundreds of U.S. civilian and military officials charged with implementing assistance programs, undermined cooperation in the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and put American lives at risk, according to officials from both countries.
In recent weeks, Pakistan has rejected as "incomplete" at least 180 U.S. government visa requests. Its own ambassador in Washington has criticized what he called a "blacklist" used by the Pakistani intelligence service to deny visas or to conduct "rigorous, intrusive and obviously crude surveillance" of journalists and nongovernmental aid organizations it dislikes, including the Congress-funded International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute.
"It would be helpful if the grounds for action against them are shared with the Embassy," Ambassador Husain Haqqani wrote in late July to Pakistan's Foreign Ministry and the head of its Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
Tension has been fueled by widespread media reports in Pakistan of increased U.S. military and intelligence activity - including the supposed arrival of 1,000 Marines and the establishment of "spy" centers in houses rented by the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Islamabad. U.S. Ambassador Anne W. Patterson has publicly labeled the reports false, and she told local media executives in a recent letter that publishing addresses and photographs of the houses "endanger[s] the lives of Americans in Pakistan."
At the highest levels, bilateral cooperation is said to be running smoothly. President Obama and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari met Thursday in New York with a gathering of Pakistan's international "friends." With Obama's enthusiastic support, the Senate on Thursday approved a $7.5 billion, five-year package that will triple nonmilitary aid to Pakistan. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, meets regularly with his Pakistani counterpart, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani.
But just below the top, officials in Islamabad and Washington say, the relationship is fraught with mutual suspicion and is under pressure so extreme that it threatens cooperation against the insurgents.
As Obama grapples with U.S. military proposals to greatly increase the number of American troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, other options on the table include a stepped-up counterterrorism campaign against al-Qaeda strongholds in Pakistan that would require more - rather than less - Pakistani support.
Recent Pew Research Center surveys in Pakistan found considerable support for the "idea" of working with the United States to combat terrorism. But only 16 percent of Pakistanis polled expressed a favorable view overall of the United States, and only 13 percent expressed confidence in Obama.
Pakistanis, who are extremely sensitive about national sovereignty, oppose allowing foreign troops on their soil and have protested U.S. missile attacks launched from unmanned aircraft against suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda targets inside Pakistan.
Much of the recent upheaval has focused on U.S. plans to expand the U.S. Embassy complex in Islamabad, a heavily guarded, 38-acre compound with nearly 1,500 employees, two-thirds of them Pakistani nationals. About 400 employees are to be added, half of them Americans. Reports of the expansion have led to rumors that at least 1,000 Marines also would be arriving, along with new contingents of U.S. spies.
In addition to repeatedly denying ulterior motives, the embassy has held news briefings and invited Pakistani reporters to tour its grounds. Patterson appeared on local television Saturday to reiterate that Washington has no takeover desires and that there are only eight Marines in the country, guarding the main embassy building.
Patterson also denied local media reports that the embassy has hired Blackwater, the security agency now known as Xe Services that was discredited in Iraq, to spy on and seek to kill insurgent leaders. Those reports apparently originated with U.S. media accounts this summer that the CIA had hired Blackwater to assist in a worldwide assassination program against al-Qaeda that was never activated and no longer exists.
But even those Pakistani officials who allege that the intelligence service has a blacklist say that the delay in issuing official visas is as much the United States' fault as it is Pakistan's.
Many more visa applications have been approved than rejected, one official said, and those sent back are "usually the ones without a clear description on the forms about what they're going to do" in Pakistan. "Sometimes the forms just say 'work for the U.S. government.' All we've done is returned those forms and said, 'Hey, what are you going to do?' "
10) Burmese Opposition Supports New U.S. Approach
Seth Mydans, New York Times, September 25, 2009
Bangkok - The decision by the United States to engage the ruling junta in Myanmar drew the endorsement Thursday of the nation's most high-profile dissident, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, but analysts cautioned that the change would not have a significant effect in the near term.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the United States would pursue engagement but maintain the economic sanctions that have been put in place to punish the government of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, for its human rights abuses and restrictions on political freedom.
"Engagement versus sanctions is a false choice in our opinion," she said. "So, going forward we will be employing both of these tools, pursuing our same goals. To help achieve democratic reform we will be engaging directly with Burmese authorities."
The shift in policy was the result of a review that was first announced by Mrs. Clinton in February when she said neither the sanctions imposed by Western countries nor the "constructive engagement" of Myanmar's Asian neighbors had succeeded in affecting the government's behavior.
It represented the most significant modification of administration policy toward Myanmar in decades. But analysts said it was likely to face opposition in Congress, where many members strongly support an unflinchingly antagonistic approach to the junta.
Analysts and activists said the new policy entailed a difficult balancing act between carrot and stick, and they said they did not expect it to produce significant effects in the near term.
Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi has been a long-time advocate of sanctions but has also tried to engage the ruling generals in a dialogue and has said any future government would have to include the military. "She said she accepts direct engagement but it must be on both sides," said her lawyer, U Nyan Win, after visiting her Thursday. By both sides, he said she meant both the government and the opposition.
11) Venezuela's Chavez applauds Obama UN speech, but says US not working for peace
Will Weissert, Associated Press, 09/23/09 8:30 PM PDT http://www.sfexaminer.com/world/ap/60840082.html
New York - The last time he was here, Hugo Chavez called then U.S. President George W. Bush "the devil," but on Wednesday Venezuela's leader offered slightly more-positive sentiments for Barack Obama.
"The arrival of President Obama, who can deny it, generates, has generated and will continue to generate big expectations," Chavez told a meeting of U.S. union leaders at the Venezuelan mission to the U.N.
In New York for his scheduled address before the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, Chavez praised Obama's Wednesday speech before the same body, noting that the U.S. president said Washington is ready to work to promote peace.
But Chavez also said the White House and the foreign policy it crafts is unlikely to live up to the president's lofty words. "Sometimes one gets the sensation that there are two Obamas. One, who gave the speech, is good. The other, really, makes decisions that are contradictory to his speech," he said.
Chavez said that when Obama talks about peace, "you have to applaud that," but added "if you are promoting peace, then why the seven military bases in Colombia?"
Later Wednesday, the Venezuelan president headed with Oliver Stone, actor Danny Glover and Bolivian President Evo Morales to the U.S. debut of Stone's documentary "South of the Border."
The director said the movie is meant to illustrate the sweeping progressive changes in Venezuela and elsewhere in South America in recent years as a counterpoint to what he sees as Chavez's depiction as a dictator by U.S. and European media. "We're hearing one side of the story in America and that's all," Stone said. "He's an underdog and I want to give him the fair shake."
Chavez softened his stance toward Obama a bit as the night wore on, saying "it's important the American public learns the truth ... we want peace, we are brothers and we want to be brothers." "We want good relations with Obama," he said.
Chavez also provided some - but not all - of the details about ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya's cloak-and-daggar return to his homeland, where he has been holed up for days in the Brazilian embassy in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa.
"It's not up to me reveal secrets and it was a secret operation," Chavez said. But he also said he called Zelaya and told him he would fly him to New York for the U.N. General Assembly aboard a Venezuelan plane, repeating the plans over and over by telephone because he was convinced agents of the new Honduran government had bugged his lines.
The plane took off as normal, but secretly landed in an undisclosed Central American location en route, Chavez said, and Zelaya rode in a series of car trunks and even aboard tractors to cross into Honduras by land.
"It was Zelaya who came up with the plan," Chavez said. "He's a cowboy like Pancho Villa. Brave and with lots of courage." Pancho Villa was a famous Mexican outlaw and revolutionary. "He told me, 'Chavez, if I die, I die, but I am going to get to Tegucigalpa," Chavez said, "and that's where he is now."
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