Just Foreign Policy News
February 8, 2010
CEPR’s Haiti Relief Watch Blog
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1) The British defense secretary, Bob Ainsworth, said NATO should not seek the Taliban’s unconditional surrender and warned against "setting the bar too high" for peace talks, the Guardian reports. Ainsworth argued it was unrealistic to require insurgents to support western-style democracy before entering dialogue. "Afghanistan is a conservative Muslim country. It’s never going to be Bavaria or Surrey," Ainsworth said. "Neither must we wait until there has been victory before we try to reconcile and bring in those elements from the insurgency who are prepared to come across." US envoy Holbrooke "distanced" the US from talks, the Guardian says. But Ainsworth disagreed, saying: "I don’t believe that reintegration is something you do after victory. This is not total war. We’re not looking for unconditional surrender in Afghanistan. We’re looking for the stabilisation of a country and its participation in the world in a manner that doesn’t threaten its neighbours and doesn’t threaten us. "We mustn’t raise that bar too high in terms of our preparedness to bring people in. Neither should we wait until there is real victory before we try to reconcile or reintegrate those elements in the insurgency who are prepared to come across."
2) The Obama administration is reaching out to business-friendly Democrats to win support for trade policies that divide the party, The Hill reports. USTR Kirk met members of the business-friendly New Democrats Coalition to discuss the trade agenda. The Democrats spoke to Kirk about pending trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama that have stalled in the Democratic-led Congress. Legislation calling for existing trade deals to be re-negotiated has won the support of half the House Democratic caucus.
3) The G7 countries [these countries control a working majority of the voting shares at the IMF, World Bank, and other international financial institutions – JFP] called for Haiti’s multilateral debt to be cancelled, the BBC reports. The BBC article specifically cites the US, Britain, and Canada as endorsing the call for multilateral debt cancellation.
4) Japan’s new reformist government is questioning whether it should spend $2 billion a year to host 47,000 U.S. troops, AP reports. Japan covers much of the cost for supporting US troops, including utilities, maintenance and physical upgrades plus the wages of tens of thousands of Japanese civilians working on the bases. "It’s not a sacred cow, and we should cut deeper," the head of one of Japan’s three coalition parties in the Cabinet said after a budget review session in late November.
5) US and British troops poised to assault the Taliban stronghold of Marjah have begun targeting insurgent leaders for assassination, the Times of London reports.
6) Seven civilians were shot dead on Friday as they were apparently mistaken for a group of insurgents trying to cross the frontier from Pakistan, the New York Times reports.
7) Secretary of State Clinton’s effort on CNN to conflate the "threat" from Iran with that from nuclear-armed North Korea was "just bizarre," writes Juan Cole on his Informed Comment blog. Iran allows UN inspections of its nuclear facilities; there is no dispositive evidence of a weapons program. President Ahmadinejad made headlines by directing Iran’s (regularly inspected) nuclear research establishment to begin attempting to enrich uranium to 19.75% so that that country will eventually have the ability to supply its own fuel for its sole reactor that produces medical isotopes for treating, e.g., cancer. Iran is openly announcing this decision and is informing the IAEA, in accordance with the NPT. The list of countries capable of producing LEU of 19.75% includes Argentina, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Holland, North Korea, South Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the UK, and the US. There would be nothing extraordinary about Iran joining this list, and none of the others on it except N. Korea is being sanctioned – and that is for constructing a bomb, which Iran is not doing. It is not dangerous for Iran to produce low enriched uranium, whether for reactor fuel for the nuclear electric plants it is building or for its small medical isotopes reactor. It would be dangerous if Iran determined to enrich to 95% to make a bomb. In order to do so, it would have to evade all US electronic surveillance, withdraw from the NPT and throw out the UN inspectors. No country being actively and continuously inspected by the IAEA has ever developed an atomic bomb.
8) Doctors and patients say one child died and the condition of critically ill children from Haiti’s earthquake worsened amid stricter rules over medical flights to Miami hospitals and others in the United States, the Miami Herald reports. Doctors in Haiti say the new U.S. criteria for transporting Haitian quake victims is so strict that hardly anybody qualifies.
9) Iraq’s government indicated it would accept the jurisdiction of the appeals court whose ruling postponed the disqualifications of more than 500 candidates, the New York Times reports. Maliki’s government had denounced that ruling as unconstitutional, but after meeting with the country’s top judge and parliamentary leaders Saturday, he appeared to have backed down.
10) Costa Ricans elected ruling party candidate Laura Chinchilla as president, the New York Times reports. The dominant theme of the campaign was voters’ concerns over rising crime; Chinchilla promised to raise spending on security by 50 percent. Chinchilla promised continuity with the "free-trade" policies of outgoing President Arias.
1) Don’t Wait For Victory To Start Talks With Taliban, Ainsworth Tells Nato
Julian Borger, Guardian, Sunday 7 February 2010 21.55 GMT
Munich – The defence secretary, Bob Ainsworth, said today that Nato should not seek the Taliban’s unconditional surrender and warned against "setting the bar too high" for peace talks. In a debate in Munich about the conduct of the war and potential overtures to the Taliban, he argued it was unrealistic to require insurgents to support western-style democracy before entering dialogue.
"Afghanistan is a conservative Muslim country. It’s never going to be Bavaria or Surrey," Ainsworth said. "Neither must we wait until there has been victory before we try to reconcile and bring in those elements from the insurgency who are prepared to come across."
He spoke at a time of growing momentum in the search for a political settlement, which was the focus of a conference last month in London. Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, recently visited Saudi Arabia to seek support from King Abdullah as a broker for talks. The UN’s Afghan envoy, Kai Eide, has met representatives of the insurgency in Dubai, although the Taliban denied that and most accounts suggest the contacts involved only junior insurgents. Officials say there are also frequent "back-channel" contacts.
Speaking at the Munich security conference, an annual meeting of western defence officials, Karzai confirmed that reconciliation would be the priority of his second term in office, and said his government was close to creating a new national council to oversee the peace process. "We don’t want to do this against the will of our international partners," the president said, adding that such support had not always been apparent.
Washington is said to be sceptical about Karzai’s peace initiatives, and his invitation to the Taliban to take part in a peace council, a loya jirga, this spring.
The US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, said the US was not involved in any direct contacts with the Taliban, and he said the current extent of peace talks had been exaggerated by the press. Holbrooke distanced Washington from the talks, saying the US had not taken any direct part in them. "We appreciate this issue. We recognise its importance," he told the conference. "But it must go hand in hand with security success. It is not an alternative to the military campaign. It requires military success to make progress." Senator John McCain added: "You can’t put reconciliation ahead of success, because if the enemy is going to believe he’s going to succeed, he’s not going to reconcile."
But Ainsworth disagreed, saying: "I don’t believe that reintegration is something you do after victory. This is not total war. We’re not looking for unconditional surrender in Afghanistan. We’re looking for the stabilisation of a country and its participation in the world in a manner that doesn’t threaten its neighbours and doesn’t threaten us.
"We mustn’t raise that bar too high in terms of our preparedness to bring people in. Neither should we wait until there is real victory before we try to reconcile or reintegrate those elements in the insurgency who are prepared to come across."
2) Obama starts new push on trade
Ian Swanson, The Hill, 02/07/10 01:54 PM ET http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/80103-obama-starts-new-push-on-trade
The Obama administration is reaching out to business-friendly Democrats to win support for free-trade [the standard corporate media term for corporate-driven agreements that have little to do with reducing restrictions on trade and often increase restrictions – JFP] policies that divide the party.
The effort is part of President Barack Obama’s push on trade that was launched with his State of the Union address. Obama said he wanted to double exports over the next five years as part of an effort to grow the U.S. economy.
[…] U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk met members of the business-friendly New Democrats Coalition on Thursday to discuss the trade agenda. The Democrats spoke to Kirk about pending trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama that have stalled in the Democratic-led Congress, according to Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.).
Moving any of those deals will be difficult because of opposition in Obama’s own party.
Legislation calling for existing trade deals to be re-negotiated has won the support of half the House Democratic caucus. And administration officials from the president on down have been careful when addressing trade matters.
In the State of the Union, Obama spoke of strengthening "trade relations" with "key partners" like South Korea, Panama and Colombia, but did not call on Congress to pass trade pacts already negotiated with the three countries.
He also didn’t explicitly speak of the deals, which were all negotiated by the Bush administration. Striking a similar note, experts from Kirk’s speech to the New Democrats posted on USTR’s web site did not mention the three agreements, which are all opposed by organized labor.
In November, Obama said he wanted the South Korea trade deal passed in 2010. "Trying to boost exports is a fine goal, but until the administration implements President Obama’s campaign commitments to reform the trade agreements we now have in place, trade agreements that promote offshoring U.S. investment and jobs and flood us with imports, the possible job gains of export promotion will be swamped by the continuing damage of the failed, old trade deals so many Americans despise," Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, wrote in a statement this week.
3) G7 nations pledge debt relief for quake-hit Haiti
BBC, Sunday, 7 February 2010
The world’s leading industrialised nations have pledged to write off the debts that Haiti owes them, following a devastating earthquake last month. Canada’s finance minister announced at a summit in Iqaluit, northern Canada, that Group of Seven countries planned to cancel Haiti’s bilateral debts. Jim Flaherty said he would encourage international lenders to do the same. Some $1.2bn of Haiti’s debts to countries and international lending bodies has already been cancelled.
"We are committed in the G7 to the forgiveness of debt, in fact all bilateral debt has been forgiven by G7 countries vis-a-vis Haiti," Mr Flaherty said at the end of the two day gathering of finance ministers. "The debt to multilateral institutions should be forgiven, and we will work with these institutions and other partners to make this happen as soon as possible," he added.
[…] British Prime Minister Gordon Brown hailed the pledge, saying: "It must be right that a nation buried in rubble must not also be buried in debt".
"The UK has already cancelled all debts owed to it by Haiti and I strongly welcome today’s G7 commitment to forgive Haiti’s remaining multilateral debt," he added. "We will work with others to make sure this is delivered." On Friday, the US voiced support for the plan to extend international debt relief for Haiti.
4) Japan balks at $2 billion bill to host US troops
Eric Talmadge, Associated Press, Sunday, February 7, 2010; 12:00 AM
Ginowan, Japan – In a country where land is a precious commodity, many U.S. bases in Japan boast golf courses, football fields and giant shopping malls whose food courts offer everything from Taco Bell to Subway and Starbucks. They are the most visible point of grievance in a sharpening debate about the cost to Japan of supporting the 47,000 American service members here – about $2 billion a year. That’s nearly a third of the total, and about three times what Germany pays to host U.S. forces on its soil.
But facing economic woes and seeking a more equal relationship with the U.S., Japan’s new reformist government is questioning whether it should spend so much on U.S. troops – a topic that was taboo under the pro-Washington administrations that governed Japan for most of the post-World War II era.
[…] Japanese call their share a "kindness budget," implying the U.S. is getting a free ride, and its opponents say it is rife with waste. The opposition also reflects a long-standing feeling, particularly on the left, that the U.S. is taking its security alliance with Japan too much for granted.
[…] The flash point of the debate is the southern island of Okinawa, where most of the nearly 100 U.S. facilities in Japan are located. Futenma airfield, where several thousand Marines are stationed, was to have been moved from the town of Ginowan to Nago, in a less crowded part of the island. But that plan came into doubt last month after Nago elected a mayor who opposes having the base.
At the same time, the U.S. is shifting about 8,000 troops from Okinawa to the U.S. territory of Guam and expects Japan to pay an estimated $6 billion of the moving costs.
The frustrations run deep in cramped Ginowan. Local media regularly run images of the golf course at nearby Kadena Air Base and criticize the forces relentlessly whenever a service member is involved in a local crime. "When people who live in crowded areas in small houses drive by and see the situation on the bases, some feel angry," said Hideki Toma, an official dealing with the bases on Okinawa. "This is a bigger issue than the golf courses and free highway passes," Toma said. "It goes back to the fact that Okinawa was occupied after World War II and why the bases have to be here in the first place."
[…] Japan covers much of the cost for supporting American troops, including utilities, maintenance and physical upgrades plus the wages of tens of thousands of Japanese civilians working on the bases.
Previous governments were too willing to pay because they wanted to maintain a special relationship with the United States, said Eiichi Hoshino, professor of international relations at the University of the Ryukyus. "Japan had kept paying the kindness budget simply because it is the one that wanted the U.S. forces to stay," he said. "If the United States wants to stay here at any cost, it should be the one who is paying."
Tokyo’s share rose sharply until 2001 but has since decreased steadily, largely because of the shrinking economy and the objections of Hatoyama’s Democratic Party when it was in the opposition. Costs have been cut, in part, by reducing utilities payments and the salaries and number of Japanese base employees, a process members of Hatoyama’s party want to accelerate. "It’s not a sacred cow, and we should cut deeper," Mizuho Fukushima, the head of one of Japan’s three coalition parties in the Cabinet, said after a budget review session in late November.
5) Special Forces Assassins Infiltrate Taliban Stronghold In Afghanistan
Marie Colvin, Times of London, February 7, 2010
Camp Bastion, Helmand, Afghanistan – American and British troops poised to assault the Taliban stronghold of Marjah have begun targeting insurgent leaders for assassination.
Military sources said special forces had been infiltrating the town on "kinetic" missions – jargon for armed attacks. "Special forces guys have been going in on assassination missions with the aim of decapitating the Taliban force," one said.
6) Afghan Police Kill 7 Mistaken For Insurgents
Dexter Filkins, New York Times, February 7, 2010
Kabul, Afghanistan – Seven civilians were shot dead on Friday as they were apparently mistaken for a group of insurgents trying to cross the frontier from Pakistan, an Afghan police official said Saturday.
The official, Abdul Raziq, who leads the border police in Kandahar Province, said the seven men were from a village in Shorabak, a remote district on the Pakistani border. They were killed when they strayed close to a checkpoint staffed by the Afghan border police, who opened fire because they believed that their post was going to be overrun.
The border guards "thought they were insurgents," Mr. Raziq said. The guards were detained after the shooting as part of an investigation, Mr. Raziq said. The bodies of the civilians were taken back to their village, called Sortano.
7) More Nuclear Scaremongering about Iran
More Nuclear Scaremongering about Iran from Clinton; Neocons Quake at Ahmadinejad threat to make . . . gasp . . . Medical Isotopes
Juan Cole, Informed Comment, Monday, February 08, 2010
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton engaged in some fearmongering on Iran on Sunday on Candy Crowley’s CNN magazine show, State of the Union. Here is how the exchange went:
‘Crowley: If you were to say to the American people, this country is the most dangerous to Americans and to the U.S., where is that country?
Clinton: You know, Candy, in terms of a country, obviously a nuclear-armed country like North Korea or Iran pose both a real or a potential threat.
Crowley: And you’re convinced Iran has nuclear…
Clinton: No, no, but we believe that their behavior certainly is evidence of their intentions […]
Kudos to Crowley for not letting that ridiculous assertion pass. To put Iran in the same category as North Korea in 2010 and to make it among the primary ‘threats’ challenging the United States is just bizarre. The US intelligence establishment continues to doubt that Iran has or wants a nuclear weapons program. Tehran does have a nuclear enrichment program, which is permitted by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran allows United Nations inspections of it nuclear facilities. Although Iran is not as transparent as the UN International Atomic Energy Agency would like, there is no dispositive evidence of a weapons program. For the Secretary of State to frame Iran as she did is just muddled or dishonest.
Clinton again repeated that the new facility near Qom is evidence that Iran intends to build a bomb. But then head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohammed Elbaradei was invited to inspect it in late October and found a ‘hole in a mountain’ with no equipment or uranium on-site. The facility is too small to be an efficient producer of High Enriched Uranium for bombs, and is more likely intended to serve as a repository of equipment and know-how that cannot be bombed by the Israelis or Americans.
It is a trick of the Washington Establishment to scare apparently easily frightened Americans into a conviction that some small, poor, third world country is a dire threat to the most massively funded and armed military in the world. Repeating falsehoods is one way the Big Lie is implanted, that then allows US belligerence to be unquestioned at home.
Clinton did go on to defend the Obama administration’s attempts to engage North Korea and Iran (again, placing them on the same plane), but not on the grounds of success in negotiations. Rather, she argued that attempting to engage the problem countries made it easier, when the negotiations failed, to convince countries such as Russia and China (in N. Korea’s case) or Russia (in the case of Iran) to ratchet up sanctions at the UN. But if all engagement accomplishes is to make imposition of sanctions easier, it isn’t really engagement, it is just posturing.
[…] News from Iran will be spun by the US press to justify Clinton’s fears. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made headlines Sunday by directing Iran’s (regularly inspected) nuclear research establishment at Natanz near Isfahan to begin attempting to enrich uranium to 19.75% so that that country will eventually have the ability to supply its own fuel for its sole reactor that produces medical isotopes for treating, e.g., cancer. Any uranium enriched to 19.75% and fed through the reactor is transformed into isotopes and then used up.
Note that Iran is openly announcing this decision and is informing the International Atomic Energy Agency of it, in accordance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Nor is it something they’ll be able to accomplish soon.
[…] But if all Iran does is enrich to 19.75% (the upper level of low-enriched uranium) for the isotope reactor and then use up the isotopes, this step is the least dangerous one it could take.
Iran in the past bought the enriched uranium for the isotope reactor from Argentina. So it would be nothing new if Iran came to possess that grade of LEU. Iran’s government is horrible, but it is less dictatorial than that of the Argentinean generals of the 1970s and early 1980s who developed Buenos Aires’ nuclear enrichment capabilities to the point where it really could have made a bomb. But the country foreswore any such ambitions despite its knowledge. Iran likewise denies it wants a bomb, and there is no good evidence to the contrary. It is just that Washington adored the far rightwing generals in Argentina who made people disappear in the thousands, and didn’t care if they had the Bomb. And much of Washington is determined to lie about what is known of Iran’s capabilities and intentions.
The list of other countries capable of producing LEU of 19.75% includes Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Holland, North Korea, South Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. There would be nothing extraordinary about Iran joining this list, and none of the others on it except N. Korea is being sanctioned- and that is for constructing a bomb, which Iran is not doing. Argentina was sanctioned neither for enriching to 19.75% nor for selling that stock of LEU to Iran! And South Korea was never sanctioned for secretly enriching to 77%, near bomb grade, something Iran has never been accused of.
It is not dangerous for Iran to produce low enriched uranium, whether for reactor fuel for the nuclear electric plants it is building or for its small medical isotopes reactor (given to it in 1969 by the United States).
It would be dangerous if Iran determined to enrich to 95% to make a bomb. In order to do so, it would have to evade all US electronic surveillance, withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and throw out the UN inspectors. No country being actively and continuously inspected by the IAEA has ever developed an atomic bomb. The US National Security Agency can hear a walkie-talkie conversation in the jungles of Guatemala, and for Iran to hide a decision to make a bomb would be very difficult. The US has also been successful in enticing Iranian nuclear physicists into defecting, with insider knowledge and documents. The idea that Iran could conceal a major enrichment facility somewhere is far-fetched, because enrichment is a water- and electricity-intensive activity that can be detected. Even just the building activity for the new small facility near Qom showed up on US satellite surveillance.
Does the step Ahmadinejad announced on Sunday make sense for Iran? The answer is yes. Jeffrey Lewis of the New America Foundation writes that:
‘Iran has developed plans to use naturally occurring uranium as a "target" for producing an important medical diagnostic isotope of molybdenum, an isotope whose decay product can be used to scan for cancers in bone, heart, lung, and kidney. Iran already imports a sizable quantity of this pharmacological radionuclide but producing it indigenously would not only save Iran a considerable amount of money each year, much more than it would pay for the fuel for the reactor it would use to produce it, but also allow a more efficient use of this short lived isotope by preventing the decay of nearly half of the amount bought before it even reached the patients. Perhaps the biggest incentive indigenous production of 99Mo in Iran would be the encouragement of its entire nuclear medicine infrastructure; an infrastructure that might right the imbalance of medical isotopes into this developing country relative to other nations." ‘
Iran is already producing low enriched uranium for reactor fuel. That it has decided to produce a higher grade of it for its medical infrastructure is neither surprising nor a cause for panic. You’ll know if Iran decides to build a bomb. It will throw out the inspectors or refuse them access, including to places the US detects a huge electromagnetic signature but which Iran declines to declare as facilities. None of that has happened. Until then, the world should relax.
8) Medical flights slow for sick kids
Frances Robles, Miami Herald, Fri, Feb. 05, 2010
One child died and the condition of critically ill children from Haiti’s earthquake worsened amid stricter rules over medical flights to Miami hospitals and others in the United States, doctors and patients say.
While they await permission to fly her out, doctors manually pumped oxygen for day-old Guirland Fleurant, born at the University of Miami airport field hospital by cesarean section Thursday night. Until she was transferred to a Haiti hospital with an incubator late Friday, she was being kept warm with instant military meals.
Whitney Constant, 15, got gangrene three days after being told she would be heading to Miami for medical care. On Friday, she lost the lower half of one leg and the foot on the other. Another 14-year-old, whose name frenzied doctors can’t recall, died on Tuesday. "They want paperwork. We don’t have paperwork," said Miami Children’s Hospital Dr. William Muinos, who is running the pediatric unit of the field hospital built in Port-au-Prince to treat quake victims. "They don’t have passports. They don’t have IDs. They don’t have homes. They don’t have anything."
The issue of transporting patients from quake-ravaged Haiti exploded last week, when medical flights were temporarily suspended after Gov. Charlie Crist sent a letter to U.S. officials questioning who would pay for mounting bills at Florida hospitals. The Obama administration ultimately agreed to pay for the children’s care.
But doctors in Haiti say that the new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services criteria for transporting Haitian quake victims is so strict that hardly anybody qualifies. A person would have to be facing imminent death within 48 hours from injuries directly relating to the 7.0-magnitude quake that killed up to 200,000 people.
[…] Puzzled parents keep asking when their children will leave the country. "We don’t know what the holdup is. Our daughter is only getting worse here," said Josilin Constant, whose daughter Whitney had a double amputation days after being told she’d get to leave for Florida.
She was trapped in the rubble of her home for five days. Her 11-year-old brother and 23-year-old aunt died. Although her two legs were broken and wounded, she could move. "She did not look that bad," Constant said. "Then she got a fever. They didn’t realize until today that it was coming from her leg."
On Tuesday, Constant said, doctors told her she was approved for a medical flight. On Friday, she lost her leg and foot. "I did not ask for her to go to the United States," her father said. "The doctor decided it."
The child that died of a pulmonary embolism Tuesday would have survived had she been evacuated, he said. "She was told she would leave," Dr. Muinos said. "Within 24 hours, that promise was denied."
Site director Elizabeth Greig acknowledged that although efforts to fly baby Guirland out of Haiti are moving fast, paperwork for other children has not been submitted. They did not qualify for military flights, she said, and there is no way to get paperwork for the others. "The Department of Health and Human Services lifted the embargo on flights but made the criteria so strict that you can’t get anybody in," Greig said. "There just aren’t injuries like that anymore."
Since the flights resumed, Greig said she has moved just nine patients – six of whom were backlogged from during the five-day suspension.
Joanna Benedict Pierre Louis is still waiting to leave. The quake ripped the skin, muscles and tendons off her leg. She has to be completely sedated every time her dressing is changed. "We were told that our child has to be in the United States because her wounds are so deep," said her mother, Evelyn Antoine. "Everything seemed to be ready. At the last minute, the government said no."
9) Iraqi Court Given Time To Review Candidates
Steven Lee Myers, New York Times, February 8, 2010
Baghdad – Iraq staggered toward a resolution of its election crisis on Sunday as the country’s leaders gave an appeals court time to reconsider a ban on hundreds of candidates barred from next month’s election because of alleged links to Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.
On the day the monthlong election campaign was to have begun, the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki indicated that it would accept the jurisdiction of the appeals court, whose ruling last week postponed the disqualifications of more than 500 candidates until after the vote, scheduled for March 7. Mr. Maliki’s government had denounced that ruling last week as unconstitutional, but after meeting with the country’s top judge and parliamentary leaders behind closed doors on Saturday, he appeared to have backed down.
The seven-member court, officials said, has begun reviewing the disqualifications case by case and is expected to complete the process before the delayed election campaign begins, now scheduled for Friday. But the fate of some of the most prominent candidates accused of having Baathist ties remains unresolved, and the crisis could still worsen.
[…] An emergency session of Parliament called by Mr. Maliki to deal with the crisis failed to muster a quorum on Sunday and was postponed. Tensions over the dispute flared elsewhere, as thousands of protesters attended anti-Baathist rallies in Baghdad and Basra organized by Mr. Maliki’s political organization, the Dawa Party.
The Baghdad rally was broadcast at length on state television, showing Mr. Maliki’s aides denouncing those sympathetic to the Baath Party, which has been banned in Iraq since Mr. Hussein was overthrown in 2003.
[…] The crisis raised the specter of election-related violence. In Mosul, where a dozen candidates face disqualifications, a candidate allied with Mr. Allawi’s bloc was assassinated Sunday. The candidate, Suha Abed Allah, was shot near her home, according to security officials.
10) Voters of Costa Rica Elect Their First Female President
Elisabeth Malkin, New York Times, February 9, 2010
Mexico City – Costa Ricans elected a former vice president, Laura Chinchilla, as the country’s first female president, giving the ruling party a resounding victory.
Ms. Chinchilla, 50, won 47 percent of the vote, and both the second- and third-place candidates, the leftist Ottón Solís and the libertarian Otto Guevara, conceded before 10 p.m. Sunday.
[…] The dominant theme of the campaign was voters’ concerns over rising crime, and Ms. Chinchilla, a former minister of justice, has promised to raise spending on security by 50 percent. Speaking to the crowd, she said: "The greatest challenge we have is crime, violence and drug trafficking. I have said it in a dramatic way: Central America could be the last battlefield of the war taking place in Colombia and Mexico." She added, "We must recuperate our tranquillity."
Ms. Chinchilla, of the National Liberation Party, promised continuity with the free-trade policies of out-going President Óscar Arias, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize who helped guide Central America out of its cold war conflicts.
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