Foreign Policy

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  Putin Ups Stakes In Missile Shield Row | International | ReutersApril 26, 2007 13:18 A row between the United States and Russia over U.S. plans to build a missile shield in eastern Europe escalated on Thursday when President Vladimir Putin declared a moratorium on a key European arms control treaty.

Putin's announcement came hours before NATO and Russian officials were to discuss a project U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted was no threat to Moscow, brushing off such Russian concerns as "purely ludicrous".

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said he would ask Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to explain Putin's decision to suspend the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE) and rejected Putin's accusation that NATO was ignoring it.

"The NATO allies attach great importance to the CFE treaty and are of the opinion that it is important that the adapted CFE treaty will be ratified," de Hoop Scheffer told reporters in Oslo ahead of a NATO meeting with Lavrov. "There are a number of hurdles in the way, the Istanbul commitments."

He was referring to NATO's longstanding insistence that Russia withdraw its remaining troops from Georgia and Moldova before its members ratify a revised version of the CFE.

The CFE Treaty was negotiated in the months after the Cold War among the then-22 member states of NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries with the goal of achieving verifiable reductions in conventional military equipment. Only Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine have so far ratified an adapted 1999 version.
  House Votes to Limit Canadian Trash ImportsApril 25, 2007 09:28 The U.S. House of Representatives moved Tuesday to sharply restrict trash imports from Canada despite Bush administration warnings that the bill could spark an unnecessary trade spat.

The legislation, though, faces much more uncertain prospects in the Senate, where two Michigan senators have already forged a deal with Ontario to phase out municipal waste imports by 2010.

The House bill would empower states for the first time to limit how much waste they take from the north until the Environmental Protection Agency issues regulations.

Michigan, which gets about 400 trucks of southern Ontario trash a day, has long complained about health problems, security dangers and road hazards.

It's ironic, said Michigan Republican member Candice Miller, that Canada has such a reputation for being environmentally conscious when it's using the state as its "own personal garbage can.''

"God forbid they'd pollute their own environment and endanger their own citizens with this trash.''
  McCain Jokes About Bombing IranApril 20, 2007 11:02 Another genius presidential candidate at work...
Republican presidential contender John McCain, known for having a quirky sense of humor, joked about bombing Iran at a campaign appearance this week.

In response to an audience question about military action against Iran, the Arizona senator briefly sang the chorus of the surf-rocker classic "Barbara Ann."

"That old, eh, that old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran," he said in jest Wednesday, chuckling with the crowd. Then, he softly sang to the melody: "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, anyway, ah …" The audience responded with more laughter.

His quip was prompted by a man in the audience who asked: "How many times do we have to prove that these people are blowing up people now, nevermind if they get a nuclear weapon, when do we send 'em an airmail message to Tehran?"

The campaign stop was in Murrells Inlet, S.C.

After his joke, McCain turned serious and said that he agrees with President Bush that the United States must protect Israel from Iran and work to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. McCain has long said the military option should not be taken off the table but that it should be used only as a last resort.

  Uk Splits With Bush Over 'War On Terror'April 17, 2007 09:33 A BRITISH cabinet minister has rejected US President George W. Bush's argument that there is a "war on terror", saying the term is simplistic, misleading and counterproductive.
The attack, by Hilary Benn, a strong contender to become deputy prime minister or foreign secretary, is the most open sign yet that Britain's Labour Government is preparing to distance itself from Mr Bush when his close ally Prime Minister Tony Blair resigns.
Mr Benn, the Secretary for International Development, is campaigning to be deputy prime minister under Mr Blair's expected successor, Chancellor Gordon Brown.

Mr Bush coined the term "war on terror" soon after the World Trade Centre attacks in 2001, insisting the US and its allies were up against a global terrorist threat led by Islamic extremists.

In Australia, John Howard enthusiastically adopted the concept and has joined Mr Bush in often using the phrase to describe the context of their foreign and defence policies.
  Trade Deficit Falls For Second Month As Oil Bill DropsApril 13, 2007 08:58 The U.S. trade deficit improved for a second month as oil imports fell sharply and the politically sensitive deficit with China narrowed to its lowest point in nine months.

The gap between what America sells abroad and what the country imports dipped by 0.7 percent to $58.4 billion in February, the smallest imbalance since November, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

The improvement came even though exports fell by $2.8 billion during the month, reflecting lower sales of a variety of manufactured goods from computer accessories to industrial machinery and civilian aircraft.

But imports declined by an even larger $3.2 billion with the tab for foreign oil falling to the lowest level in 20 months. However, with oil prices again rising on global markets, that improvement could be short-lived.

The deficit with China, which had shot up in January, declined by 13.3 percent to $18.4 billion in February, the smallest gap since last May.

But even with that improvement, the trade gap with China is still running 25 percent above the pace set at the beginning of 2006, a year when the imbalance for the entire year soared to $232.5 billion. That was the largest deficit the United States has ever recorded with a single country and accounted for one-third of the total U.S. trade deficit last year.

The Bush administration is facing increased pressure from Congress, now in the hands of Democrats, to deal with America's soaring deficit with China.

In response, the administration has toughened its approach this year, filing two cases against China alleging unfair trading practices and imposing stiff penalty sanctions in a dispute involving Chinese government subsidies to paper manufacturers.

China has denounced these moves, raising the question of whether the new get-tough approach will achieve its desired end of lowering the trade gap or whether China will retaliate in some fashion that could spark an all-out trade war between two of the world's major economies.

  US-British War On Terror 'Backfires'April 10, 2007 20:00 THE US-led and British-backed war on terror is only fuelling more violence by focusing on military solutions rather than on root causes, a think tank has warned.

"The 'war on terror' is failing and actually increasing the likelihood of more terrorist attacks,'' the Oxford Research Group said in its study, titled Beyond Terror: The Truth About The Real Threats To Our World.

It said Britain and the United States have used military might to try to "keep the lid on'' problems rather than trying to uproot the causes of terrorism.

It said such an approach, particularly the 2003 invasion of Iraq, had actually heightened the risk of further terrorist atrocities on the scale of September 11, 2001.

"Treating Iraq as part of the war on terror only spawned new terror in the region and created a combat training zone for jihadists,'' the report's authors argued.

It pointed out that the Islamist Taliban movement was now resurgent, six years after it was overthrown in 2001 by the US-led invasion in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

"Sustainable approaches'' to fighting terrorism would involve the withdrawal of US-led forces from Iraq and their replacement with a United Nations stabilisation force, it said.
  Iraqis Rally, Call For U.S. Forces To LeaveApril 09, 2007 22:37 Tens of thousands of people waving Iraqi flags staged a peaceful rally in the southern city of Najaf on Monday to demand the withdrawal of U.S. forces, four years to the day after Baghdad fell to invading American troops.

The streets of the Iraqi capital itself were largely empty after authorities clamped a 24-hour ban on vehicles to prevent any insurgent attacks, especially car bombings.

The anniversary comes as Iraq's Shi'ite-led government is trying to avert full-scale civil war between majority Shi'ites and minority Sunnis who were dominant under Saddam Hussein. Sunni and Shi'ite clerics marched side by side in Najaf.

The protesters in Najaf were responding to a call by powerful anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who blames the March 2003 invasion for the country's woes and wants a timetable set for a U.S. troop withdrawal.

Waving red, white and black Iraqi flags, marchers choked the 7 km long road between Najaf and neighboring Kufa and clogged streets leading to Sadrayn Square, the main rallying point. Many had come from Baghdad and Shi'ite towns and cities in the south.

  Pelosi Pushes Syria On Hamas, Hezbollah LinksApril 04, 2007 10:13 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held talks with Syria's president Wednesday despite White House objections, saying she pressed Bashar al-Assad over Syrian support for militant groups and passed him a peace message from Israel's prime minister.

The meeting was an attempt to push the Bush administration to open a direct dialogue with Syria, a step that the White House has rejected. Congressional Democrats insist the U.S. attempts to isolate Syria have failed to force the al-Assad government to change its policies.

Rep. Tom Lantos, the head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who was in Pelosi's delegation, said the meeting "reinforced sharply" the potential benefits of talking to Syria. "This is only the beginning of our constructive dialogue with Syria and we hope to build on this visit," he said.

On Tuesday, President Bush denounced Pelosi's visit to Syria, saying it sends mixed signals to al-Assad's government. "Sending delegations doesn't work. It's simply been counterproductive," Bush said.

Washington says Syria is fueling Iraq's violence by allowing Sunni insurgents to operate from its territory. It also accuses it of backing terrorism because of its support for the Hezbollah and Hamas militant groups and of destabilizing the Lebanese government.