The NewsFuror

Friday, September 21, 2007

Swiss join UN's dirty cash battle

Switzerland has become the first country to sign up to a global initiative to recover money looted by corrupt government leaders.

The joint UN-World Bank scheme aims to foster relations between developed and developing nations to ensure assets are returned to their rightful owners.

The World Bank says the campaign is a warning to corrupt leaders everywhere.

Switzerland has, so far, been famous for its secretive banks and a relaxed attitude to dirty money, observers say.

Clear message

Swiss banks provided a cosy home for $500m (£249m) looted by former Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos, says the BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Berne.

When the Philippines gained a democratic government, it took 18 years to retrieve that money.

Nigeria's former leader Sani Abacha also held $700m (£348m) in Swiss banks.

Switzerland is probably the worst place in the world now for anybody who wants to stack illegal money in a hidden bank account
Paul Seger
Swiss foreign ministry

The new initiative aims to make it easier for developing countries to recover money they often need badly.

By joining the campaign so quickly, Switzerland is keen to send the message that looted assets will not find a home there any longer, says Paul Seger, head of international public law at the Swiss foreign ministry.

"We do not want our financial centre being used by illegal money, and we have really developed quite an extensive framework to prevent such money from coming into Switzerland," he said.

"If it comes to restitute this money as quickly as possible - we have returned in the past years $1.6bn (£795m), which is far more than any other financial place in Europe or elsewhere."

'Fighting a cliche'

Mr Seger says the image of Swiss banks as easy places to hide cash will be hard to shake, despite new laws against money laundering.

"If you look at the last James Bond movie, or Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, there's always the mean Swiss bankers who hide all this money," he said.

"So we are fighting against a cliche but I think, really, we are fighting it successfully.

"Dictators who have put their money into Swiss bank accounts illegally will now think twice whether they will still do that in the future.

"I would say now that Switzerland is probably the worst place in the world now for anybody who wants to stack illegal money in a hidden bank account."

Switzerland, which once insisted that its banks could do no wrong, has now promised to provide support and expertise to an international campaign to make sure looted assets do not disappear for good, our correspondent says.

Storm fears hold oil prices high

Oil prices held close to $82 a barrel in Asian trade, as dealers kept a close watch on the development of a potential tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico.

The potential storm comes ahead of the US peak winter demand and after American inventories fell by more than expected last week.

Prices had reached a record $84.10 in trade on Thursday before falling back.

Early on Friday US crude for November delivery was at $81.65 a barrel, amid fears of a weekend storm.

Meanwhile, London Brent crude for November stood at $78.87.


Energy firms have shut over 360,100 barrels per day (bpd) of output in the Gulf of Mexico output - over a quarter of the region's crude production.

They have also shut down 16.7% of natural gas production as a tropical depression blew into the area.

It comes after US crude stocks in the fell for the fourth week running by a higher-than-expected 3.8 million barrels last week, leaving them 4% down from this time in 2006.

"I expect a lot of support for pricing as traders don't want to be caught short ahead of the weekend," said Victor Shum of Purvin and Gertz in Singapore.

"And folks will continue to watch how this storm develops over the course of trading."

Old mobile spectrum to be freed

Old mobile phone frequencies in the UK could get a new lease of life thanks to proposals by regulator Ofcom.

The telecommunications watchdog wants to loosen restrictions on who can use the portion of spectrum currently reserved for second-generation mobiles.

By opening it up, Ofcom hopes to boost 3G coverage in rural areas and speed up mobile downloads.

Ofcom plans to hold an auction to choose which company gets to use the liberated spectrum.

Currently the parts of the radio spectrum available for second generation mobile services are divided into two tiers.

One, operating at 900Mhz, is only used by O2 and Vodafone. The other, at 1800Mhz, is used by those two companies plus Orange and T-Mobile. Ofcom imposes restrictions on these frequencies which mean they can only be used for 2G.

If Ofcom's proposals win support, the 900Mhz frequency will be available for three other operators to use and both chunks of spectrum will be allowed to support both second and third generation services.

Owners of the right to use these parts of the spectrum would also be able to trade these rights to other companies.

By lifting restrictions, Ofcom said that operators would be able to boost the data carrying capacities of their 3G networks for relatively little cash.

The loosening of regulations could mean much better coverage for rural areas, boost download speeds and improve reception inside buildings.

Most of the benefit would likely come from greater use of the 900Mhz frequency as 3G equipment using this frequency is already starting to appear.

The consultation period will close at the end of November 2007.

Prince wows London fashion elite

US music legend, Prince, amazed fashionistas at one of London Fashion Week's catwalk shows when he leapt on stage to give a surprise performance.

The crowd at Matthew Williamson's show were astonished when the first two models on the catwalk started to dance.

Prince then began singing into a microphone from his seat before jumping up and performing on the runway.

The audience, including Sting's wife Trudie Styler, took to their feet and snapped photos on mobile phones.

"He really wanted to do this, and you don't say no to Prince," Williamson told Reuters after the show, which included identical twin dancers and a full band .

Tour finale

Prince, wearing sunglasses, a black suit and top hat, performed his 1987 hit single U Got the Look, originally a duet which Scottish singer Sheena Easton.

The show closed with one of his signature songs, Kiss, after which Williamson sent his models down the catwalk.

The star, whose career has spanned four decades, is reaching the end of his 21-night residency at London's 02 arena.

Tickets for the finale, on Friday night, are exchanging for hundreds of pounds on internet auction sites like eBay, with some aftershow tickets fetching more than £500.

Williamson, celebrating his first decade as a designer, was unveiling his 2008 Spring-Summer collection.

India bans faked report channel

An Indian television news channel has been taken off air for a month after broadcasting a false "sting" which led to riots and a woman being jailed.

India's Broadcasting Ministry said the report on Live India had been "defamatory, deliberate and false".

Delhi teacher Uma Khurana was accused of forcing students into prostitution. Police later said the report was faked.

Live India is the first news channel to be banned in India. The station says it was misled by its reporter.

The case follows a number of other so-called stings in which people allege they have been framed and has led to renewed calls for India's media to be regulated.

Experts blame a highly competitive media environment where 24-hour news channels are fighting for revenue and viewers' attention.


The Information and Broadcasting Ministry said on Thursday that Live India, also known as Janmat, had breached the Cable Networks Regulation Act, 1995, by broadcasting "an admittedly doctored sting operation" on Ms Khurana.

The said sting operation... criticised, maligned and slandered an individual in person and it denigrated children

Broadcasting ministry

The channel has been taken off air until 20 October.

"The telecast of said sting operation was defamatory, deliberate, false and contained suggestive innuendos and half-truths; incited violence and contained content against maintenance of law and order," a statement from the ministry said.

"It criticised, maligned and slandered an individual in person and it denigrated children and was irresponsibly aired by the channel without exercise of due diligence in preliminary verification of the facts of the case.

"Therefore, the central government thought it necessary to prohibit transmission or re-transmission of the said channel throughout the country."

Ms Khurana was ordered to be reinstated in her job by the Delhi high court earlier this month.

There were riots in the city and a mob attacked the school at which Ms Khurana worked, dragged her out and assaulted her after the secretly-filmed tape was broadcast on 30 August. She spent 10 days in prison.

A police investigation later revealed the sting had been faked and the teacher falsely accused.

The undercover journalist, Prakash Singh, who made the report has been arrested.

China installs Pope-backed bishop

A new Roman Catholic bishop of Beijing has been consecrated in the Chinese capital, the first for over 50 years to have tacit prior approval of the Pope.

Father Joseph Li Shan, 42, was made bishop at a ceremony in a cathedral near Tiananmen Square.

His predecessor, Fu Tieshan, was appointed by the government-controlled Catholic Church without consulting the Vatican, as has been China's habit.

But a recent letter from the Pope has led to some thawing of bilateral ties.

There has been no formal approval from the Vatican over the appointment.

But when it was announced in July, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, said that Father Li was "very good, well-suited", calling his appointment "a positive sign".

Pope's letter

China severed ties with the Vatican in 1951, amid anger at the Vatican's recognition of Taiwan.

The country's estimated eight to 12 million Catholics are split between the Beijing-backed Patriotic Church and an underground Church which remains loyal to the Vatican.

Relations between the two sides have been strained due to Beijing's insistence that the Patriotic Church has the right to appoint bishops without Rome's approval.

The Vatican excommunicated two bishops last year for being illegally ordained.

But Pope Benedict XVI has sought to improve relations between the two sides.

In June he sent a letter to Chinese Catholics urging reconciliation and offering dialogue with the Chinese authorities.

He also stressed that Rome had already accepted the full authority of many of the bishops appointed unilaterally by the Beijing-tolerated Church.

But, says the BBC's David Willey in Rome, as recently as last year there were bitter exchanges between Rome and Beijing.

The Pope expressed "profound sorrow" at the decision of the Chinese to appoint new bishops without referring to Rome and the Beijing government accused the Vatican of interfering in China's internal affairs.

Lebanese to rally at MP's funeral

Senior Lebanese politicians are expected to attend the funeral of the anti-Syrian MP, Antoine Ghanim, who was assassinated on Wednesday.

The government says Mr Ghanim's killers will not be allowed to succeed in their aims, and forthcoming presidential elections will go ahead on time.

The assassination of a number of anti-Syrian figures has reduced the pro-Western majority in parliament.

Syria has been blamed for the killings, but denies any involvement.

The funeral procession for Mr Ghanim and two of his guards who were killed with him is to head for the Furn el-Shebak district in mainly Christian east Beirut where he had his constituency and then to Sacre Coeur church in nearby Badara.

Banks, schools and government offices have been closed in Lebanon, as the country mourns Mr Ghanim, of the Christian Maronite Phalange party.

The education ministry said schools and universities would remain closed again on Friday.

Mr Ghanim died with at least six others in a car bombing in the mainly Christian Sin al-Fil district on Wednesday.

Determined government

Lebanon's pro-Western government says it is determined to hold a presidential election, despite the assassination.

Feb 2005: Ex-PM Rafik Hariri
April 2005: MP Bassel Fleihan
June 2005: Anti-Syria journalist Samir Kassir
June 2005: Ex-Communist leader George Hawi
Dec 2005: Anti-Syria MP Gebran Tueni
Nov 2006: Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel
June 2007: Anti-Syria MP Walid Eido
Sep 2007: Anti-Syria MP Antoine Ghanim

MPs are due to choose a successor to pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud next week.

The killings of several anti-Syrian figures have left Lebanon's government with only a slim majority, 68 out of 127 MPs.

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said the killers of Mr Ghanim would not be allowed to succeed in their aims.

Mr Siniora said on Thursday: "The hand of terror will not win and will not succeed in subduing us and silencing us.

"The Lebanese will not retreat and will have a new president elected by lawmakers, no matter how big the conspiracy was."

He has called for a UN investigation into the assassination of Mr Ghanim, who had returned to Beirut just a few days before his death to take part in next week's vote.

Syria accused
The country has been mired in an ongoing political crisis, with a deadlock between pro- and anti-Syrian factions in parliament.

Syria said it had no involvement in the attack, calling it a "criminal act" that undermined hopes for Lebanese national reconciliation.

But some Lebanese politicians were quick to blame Damascus for the blast.

Saad Hariri, son of Rafik Hariri, a former prime minister who was assassinated in a bomb attack in 2005, said responsibility lay with the "cowardly regime" of Syria.

Even pro-Syrian Mr Lahoud said it was no coincidence someone was killed whenever there were positive developments in Lebanon.

IAEA calls for N-free zone in ME

VIENNA, Sept 20: The UN atomic agency adopted a non-binding resolution on a nuclear weapons-free-zone in the Middle East with Israel and the US voting against and EU states except Ireland abstaining.
The lack of consensus weakened the impact of the measure, at a general conference of the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), diplomats said.
The Egyptian-sponsored resolution was backed by 53 votes, with two against and 47 abstentions.
The IAEA has a tradition of adopting resolutions by consensus, but the Middle East issue has become highly politicised, even though Israel backs a nuclear weapons-free-zone (NWFZ) within the framework of a Middle East peace settlement.Some western and non-aligned diplomats said the problem this year was that Iran was agitating behind the scenes for a showdown over Israel, in order to distract from its own nuclear programme.
One western diplomat said the large abstention vote, which included Australia, Canada, Georgia, Ghana and Zambia, “shows that the world is hanging together on these matters.”But the Iranian speaker blasted the vote as putting into question the views of “some members that full-scope safeguards” need be complemented by wider inspection measures, as Israel, which has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) seemed to be exempt from this.
An Irish diplomat said his country had voted for the text since Ireland favoured a NWFZ in the Middle East. “It’s as simple as that,” the diplomat said.
The general conference approves broad policy lines for the 144-member IAEA, the verification arm of the NPT. But the IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors makes decisions for the agency on how policy is implemented.
The contested resolution contained two new paragraphs that were added to past texts and which Israel felt expanded the scope of the resolution too much, diplomats said.The first called on “all states of the region, pending the establishment of the zone, not to develop, produce, test or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or permit the stationing on their territories ... of nuclear weapons.”

Bin Laden declares ‘war’ on Musharraf in new tape

DUBAI, Sept 20: Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden called on Muslims in Pakistan to wage holy war against the government of President Pervez Musharraf in a new audio message issued on Thursday.

Bin Laden declared Al Qaeda’s intention to retaliate for the blood spilled by “champions of Islam,” in the new recording produced by the terror network’s media arm As-Sahab and monitored by the US-based SITE Intelligence Group.

“It is obligatory on the Muslims in Pakistan to carry out jihad (holy war) and fighting to remove Pervez, his government, his army and those who help him,” said the voice in the tape.

The recording was accompanied by video footage of the Western world’s most wanted man, including scenes of him firing a machine gun and walking in a mountainous area with his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist websites, said the video footage had been previously released.

The threat from bin Laden was swiftly dismissed by Pakistan. “We are already committed to fighting extremists and terrorists -- there is no change in our policy,” chief military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad told AFP.“If someone is hurling threats at us, that is their view.

The whole nation is behind us and the Pakistan army is a national institution,” Arshad added.

The threat against Musharraf surfaced just as Pakistan’s election commission named October 6 as the date for a presidential poll in which the embattled military ruler will seek re-election in uniform.

A string of videos and audio messages have been issued by Al Qaeda to mark the sixth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001, some featuring bin Laden who had previously not been seen for three years.

“The imminent call by bin Laden to fight against Musharraf demonstrates Al Qaeda’s long-standing and deep hatred for the Pakistani regime, its principal enemy in the region,” said Yasser Serri, director of the Islamic Observatory based in London.

In another video released by Al Qaeda’s media arm, bin Laden’s number two also warned that Musharraf would be “punished” over the killing of leading rebel cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi in the storming of the Red Mosque in Islamabad in July.

Pakistan, which became a US ally after the September 11, 2001 attacks, has suffered a dramatic upsurge in violence since the siege and storming of the Al-Qaeda-linked mosque which left more than 100 people dead.

In the tape, the bearded and bespectacled Zawahiri branded Pakistani security forces “hunting dogs under (US President George W.) Bush’s crucifix.

“Let the Pakistani army know that the killing of Abdul Rashid Ghazi and his male and female students and the demolishing of his masjid and two madrassahs (mosque and religious schools) has soaked the history of the Pakistan army in shame and despicableness which can only be washed away by retaliation against the killers of Abdul-Rashid Ghazi and his students,” he said.

In the same Al Qaeda video, Zawahiri and others taunt the United States over alleged Islamist victories in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere and call for Muslim allies of Washington to be driven from power.

The 81-minute video is a compilation of old TV news clips mixed with new comments from Zawahiri.

Countdown begins, poll on Oct 6

ISLAMABAD, Sept 20: The Election Commission announced on Thursday the schedule for what has been termed the country’s most controversial presidential election, despite the fact that certain key issues relating to the election are at present being adjudicated by the Supreme Court.

According to the schedule, votes will be cast on Oct 6, six days ahead of the eighth anniversary of the coup that brought Gen Musharraf into power.Chief Election Commissioner Qazi Mohammad Farooq, who announced the schedule, will be the returning officer.

He will preside over a joint session of the two houses of parliament to conduct the poll proceedings. Chief justices of the four high courts will be presiding officers in provincial assemblies. The polling will be held from 10am to 3pm.

Returning and presiding officers will receive nomination papers till 12 noon on Sept 27. Papers will be scrutinised in Islamabad on Sept 29 at 10am, and Oct 1 is the date set for withdrawal of candidature with 12 noon as the time limit.

The list of final contestants will be issued at 1pm the same day.The chief justices nominated as presiding officers in the provincial capitals are Justice Iftikhar Hussain Chaudhry of the Lahore High Court, Justice Sabihuddin Ahmed of the Sindh High Court, Justice Tariq Pervez Khan of the Peshawar High Court and Justice Amanullah Khan Yasinzai of the Balochistan High Court.

Nomination forms may be obtained from the ECP Secretariat, Islamabad, offices of the high court registrar concerned and provincial election commissioners.

An Election Commission official told Dawn that the polling would be conducted by secret ballot.He said Article 63 of the Constitution would not apply to the polls following an amendment made to the Presidential Election Rules, 1988, bringing them in conformity with some judgments of the apex court.

He, however, said the returning officer might conduct a summary inquiry and reject a nomination paper if he found that the candidate was not qualified under the Constitution, the proposer or seconder was not a voter, the signature of the proposer or seconder was not genuine, the nomination was not filed before noon on the date set for the purpose, or if a proposer or seconder had signed the nomination papers of more than one candidate.

So far, only President Gen Pervez Musharraf and Prof Anwarul Haq, a pathologist currently serving in the Ministry of Health, have announced their intention to contest the polls.As a result of the amendment to the rules for the presidential election, serving government servants may not have to wait for two years after retirement to be candidates and even serving civil and military bureaucrats can run for the post.

Meanwhile, federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has said the president would contest the election in uniform but he would meet his commitment to doff the uniform after polls and would take oath as a civilian president.However, he said, President Musharraf would be in uniform during general elections if the assemblies were dissolved before his election.

He said Gen Musharraf would file his nomination papers after discussing the matter with the party leadership.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on Thursday said President Musharraf would be a candidate of the PML and its coalition partners, which had a clear majority in the electoral college.

Britain has plutonium for 17,000 Nagasaki bombs

LONDON, Sept 21(Reuters): Britain has amassed a stockpile of more than 100 tonnes of plutonium -- enough for 17,000 bombs of the size that flattened Japan's Nagasaki in 1945, a report from the country's top science institution said on Friday.
The toxic stockpile, which has doubled in the last decade, comes mainly from reprocessing of spent uranium fuel from the country's nuclear power plants, so to stop it growing the practice must end, the Royal Society said.

Israeli troops kill four Palestinians in Gaza

GAZA, Sept 21(Reuters): Israeli soldiers killed four Palestinians in the Gaza Strip during an incursion on Thursday, hospital officials said.
A local Hamas commander, a senior Hamas operative, a 22-year-old militant and a 16-year-old civilian were also killed, medical workers said.
Israel pulled soldiers and settlers out of Gaza in 2005 but has continued raids into the territory to attack Palestinians.

Bush to meet Abbas on Sept 24

WASHINGTON, Sept 21(AFP): President George W. Bush will meet on Monday with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in New York, the White House said on Thursday.
The two leaders will “continue discussions on helping the Palestinian Authority and on issues related to an eventual two state solution of Israel and Palestine said a spokesman.
The talks will come shortly after a visit to the Middle East by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and on the eve of the United Nations General Assembly.
Bush and Abbas also met last year on the sidelines of the annual assembly.