US roasted over Cuba embargo
The United States suffered its annual roasting when the United Nations General Assembly, by a record majority, called for an end to Washington's economic embargo against Cuba on Wednesday.
The vote on the Cuban-sponsored resolution was 143 in favor and three against -- the United States, Israel and Uzbekistan -- with 17 abstentions. It was the sixth year in a row that the call was approved by the General Assembly. 143 in favor was an even bigger majority than last year when a virtually identical resolution was adopted by 137 votes to three against -- the same three countries -- with 25 abstentions. As in the past, even friends and allies of the United States -- including all 15 members of the European Union as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico -- voted for the resolution.
The vote has been growing in Cuba's favor each year since 1992, with 59 in favor, 3 against and 71 abstentions. 18 delegations participated in the debate leading up to the vote, in which countries like China, Argentina, Indonesia and Luxemburg -- in representation of the European Union -- condemned the US's unilateral and extraterritorial measures. Japan, which abstained last year, switched this time and also supported the resolution.
The resolution was introduced by the president of the Cuban National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, who said Washington "cannot cite a single intergovernmental, religious or trade union organization" that supported its conduct. Alarcon recalled that when debate on the blockade opened in the General Assembly in 1991, the United States distributed a document terming as false charges that Washington was attempting to prevent others from trading with Cuba. One year later, in 1992, the anti-Cuba Toricelli Law was enacted. In 1996, said Alarcon, came the Helms-Burton Law.
He said that since 1992 the Assembly had been analyzing the need to end the economic, commercial and financial blockade against his country, but the United States had ignored the five resolutions adopted and had taken new measures to strengthen the blockade. Washington could not cite a single intergovernmental, religious or trade union organization in support of its actions. No other government, parliament or political party endorsed it. The number and diversity of those around the world who demanded that the embargo come to an end was growing. Religious institutions, entrepreneurs and individuals in the United States were also joining in the universal protest.
Only a few weeks ago, he continued, President Clinton admitted that the policy was the responsibility of the most extremist elements in Miami. The United States had announced with great fanfare the understanding signed with the European Union on 11 April to implement minor modifications to the law, but had done nothing to honour it. On the contrary, many amendments and other proposals had been introduced in the United States Congress this year, some of them directly opposing the understanding, and others attempting to universalize the original measures against Cuba.
MARZUKI NOOR (Malaysia) said there was no justification for the United States to take unilateral trade measures against Cuba, which also impinged on the rights of other States to engage in free trade and navigation. The promulgation of the Helms-Burton law in the United States also contravened the principles and objectives of the World Trade Organization and created a bad precedent which would be detrimental to the promotion of international trade.
He said Malaysia firmly subscribed to the declaration of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Non-Aligned Movement in New Delhi in April 1997 and the communiqué issued by the movement in June 1997, rejecting the continued blockade against Cuba, and the legislative instruments on which it was based.
ALI MOHAMMED NAGEM (Libya) said the Assembly had previously discussed the embargo in the hope that the United States would respond and lift it. However, the United States had disregarded the will of the international community and expanded the scope of its embargo so that its provisions infringed on the sovereignty of other States. The actions of the United States showed how it sought to impose its policies on other countries. The sanctions against Cuba had created severe hardship for its people, limiting the import of foodstuffs and medicines and draining resources which could have been used to improve the people's standard of living.
He said the Libyan people also suffered from United States unilateral sanctions, which prevented American firms from doing business with Libyan oil firms. The sanctions also froze Libyan funds in American banks. Recently, the United States Congress had passed legislation to prevent American firms from doing business with Libya. The United States used "flimsy excuses" for its sanctions against Cuba. Its justification for its coercive measures against Libya -- that it threatened American national security -- were no less flimsy. How could a small country like Libya be a threat to any State, let alone the security of the United States which was thousands of miles away?
KHALED S.H. AL-HITTI (Iraq) said the United Sates of America "trampled shamelessly" on United Nations resolutions when it came to political action against some third world States. United States obstinacy in its hostile policy towards Cuba violated the sovereign right of Cubans to choose their economic and political regime. Among the reforms of the United Nations there was a need to stress the peaceful resolution of conflicts and to remove measures such as sanctions, blockades and embargoes.
He said it was regrettable that the United States Government had yesterday imposed global sanctions against Sudan without legal justification. Sanctions and embargoes were devastating measures which involved major damage to societies. Iraq reiterated that all States should give up such measures. Silence and indifference would only further encourage those who threatened international peace and security. The United States should respect free trade, something which it encouraged the rest of the international community to do.
Statements were also made by South Africa, Ghana, Colombia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Viet Nam, Mexico, Botswana, Zambia, Myanmar, Namibia, Jamaica, Venezuela, Syria, Russian Federation and the United Republic of Tanzania.
RICARDO ALARCON (Cuba), in right of reply, said the United States representative
had announced that it would not respect the sixth resolution by the Assembly
calling for an end to the blockade against Cuba. Once again a practice
which offended human intelligence by defying the will of the whole world
would continue. The United States was practising democracy by imposition
and through force and threats.
US readies for Iraq strike
The US sent four F-16s and a tanker plane to an airbase in Turkey on Thursday as the Turkish daily Hurriyet quoted Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz as saying the United States has asked Turkey to allow the use of an airbase for possible air raids against Iraq.
Mr Yilmaz said Washington has asked for restrictions on flights from Incirlik to be eased. The Incirlik base was used for bombing raids on Iraq during the Gulf War and is currently used by American and British warplanes patrolling the no-fly zone over northern Iraq
Meanwhile the Pentagon said it was keeping the aircraft carrier Nimitz at sea in the Gulf, postponing a scheduled port call in the United Arab Emirates this weekend. Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni, head of the U.S. Central Command, had decided to delay the port call by the Nimitz, which carries more than 50 attack planes, ``in light of the current situation.''
In Iraq Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz lashed out at Butler today, accusing him of trying to ``mislead the Security Council and to escalate the situation with the aim of misleading international public opinion.'' Aziz's statement was carried by the official Iraqi News Agency.
The Executive Chairman of UNSCOM, Ambassador Richard Butler had written a letter to the Security Council on Wednesday alleging that Iraq had moved the equipment and that there had been tampering with UNSCOM cameras. The Iraqi Foreign Minister denied that there had been tampering with the cameras.
In a letter to the Security Council, Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Said Al-Sahaf blamed UNSCOM for its failure to conduct inspections for more than a week. The inspections were scrubbed after Iraq refused to admit American members of the team. ``Iraq did not prevent the monitoring groups from conducting their inspection visits. Rather it requested the Americans not enter,'' Al-Sahaf said. He said Butler ``bears full responsibility for ... preventing the inspection teams from conducting their functions.''
Mohammed Al-Sahaf also said one surveillance camera was damaged Wednesday during an explosion while the Iraq military was testing two short-range missile engines. Short-range missiles are not banned by the United Nations. He acknowledged moving some equipment, but said Baghdad took the action only because it feared a U.S. air strike was imminent. He said the equipment would be returned to the original location and the United Nations would be allowed to inspect it once any threat of an air strike ends. ``We stress that these equipments will not be used for any proscribed military activity during this period,'' he said.
A UN Spokesman confirmed that the President of the Security Council received a letter from the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Mohammad Said Al-Sahhaf confirming that some equipment has been moved to distant sites. He said the Foreign Minister stated in the letter the equipment had been moved to avoid military attacks as happened in 1993.
Asked about the Security Council's reaction to the allegation that cameras have been tampered with, the President of the Security Council Qin Huasun told reporters that he thought "the important thing for the Security Council is to wait until the team of three persons returns to New York and then the factual story must be told by them." It contrasted with the sharp rebuke earlier in the week for Mr Butler from French Ambassador Alain Dejammet . ``Mr. Butler can give us his opinion,'' Dejammet said. ``But that's only his opinion.''
Meanwhile in the West Bank, Palestinian youths
demonstrated in support of Iraq Wednesday. ``Why are U.N. Security Council
resolutions imposed on Iraq but not Israel?'' chanted schoolchildren near
Dheisheh refugee camp in the Bethlehem area. ``Yes to President Saddam
Hussein and the Iraqi leadership!''
Arabs support Ottawa landmines ban
Representatives of 15 Arab governments meeting in Sana'a, Yemen, have called on the international community to increase its influential contribution towards the complete elimination of suffering and tragedies caused by landmines .
Adopting the "Declaration of Sana'a" on Tuesday, participating States invited governments to consider signing the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti- Personnel Mines and Their Destruction, which will be opened for signature in Ottawa from 3 to 4 December.
The Declaration also expressed the wish that those countries unable to sign the Treaty would continue to benefit from assistance provided for demining activities. It appealed to the international community, particularly landmine exporting countries, to shoulder their humanitarian responsibilities in assisting affected countries in general, and Yemen in particular.
At the UN Ambassador Qin Huasun of China, said on Thursday that the UN Security Council reiterated that the landmines have already caused several deaths and injuries among the civilian population and the peacekeepers and observers of the international community. He called on the parties to take all measures in their power to prevent mine-laying and intensified activities by armed groups and to cooperate fully with the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) and the peacekeeping force of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)
CIA lies enter fantasy-land
One of the CIA funded Iraqi opposition groups said the hidden documents about Iraq's chemical weapons, VX nerve gas, "and possibly nuclear arms" were hidden in the Palestinian Authority's embassy in Baghdad, according to report in the Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
"The material is in Yasser Arafat's house," the Iraqi exile said. "It's a fact." Arafat's residence, "which has just been designated as the PA embassy," he went on, has extraterritorial status and therefore "it is difficult for the UN arms inspectors to make a fuss about it," the article said.
Speaking for the Iraqi opposition, the source said, "we have had agents at the site who could see that the embassy building is used to hide documents." He said the nerve gas is stored in a solid state, "like salt," and probably is deposited in the Iraqi desert.
The Jerusalem Post also quoted a confidential letter sent by the Iraqi exiles to UNSCOM's Richard Butler. "We learned certain information from sources in Baghdad which will be of use to you. "We believe there are documents regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction hidden in St. Joseph's Church in the Dora district. The church is on the main street across from the Assyrian market."
That disinformation led to UNSCOM inspectors invading the church,
intimidating the resident nuns
Earlier in the week Britain's Observer newspaper on Nov 2 ran a new intelligence scare campaign quoting a former U.N. weapons inspectors as saying Iraq has secret stocks of a nerve gas that in minute quantities could kill millions of people.
Tim Trevan, UNSCOM spokesman from 1992-95, claimed the Iraqis had systematically obstructed the mission and admitted only what the inspectors had already discovered. In a provocative mood Trevan said Iraq had backed down in the past after acts of defiance prompted American military action, notably a 1993 cruise missile barrage.
The disinformation report in the Sunday newspaper quoted him as saying UNSCOM were on the verge of uncovering the VX liquid nerve gas agent when Iraq ordered the American members of the inspection team to leave the country.
The Observer claimed UNCOM inspectors had discovered that Iraq ordered 750 tonnes of the chemical agent required to make VX nerve gas and doubted Iraq's claim that most of the multi purpose chemical had been destroyed in Allied bombing raids during the 1991 Gulf War.
``One of the nasty things about VX is that because it's liquid, it is more efficient,'' Tim Trevan, a former adviser to the chairman of the UN Special Commission for Iraq, told the Observer.
Earlier in October, Trevan, who was a senior aide to Swedish diplomat Rolf Ekeus, who headed the U.N. team until last July told Reuters, ``We were playing a game of cat and mouse with the Iraqis, and the mouse clearly does not cooperate with the cat.''
Former Spokesman for UNCOM Tim Trevan (UK),
diplomat with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office served under
Executive Chairman of the Special Commission Rolf Ekus (Sweden) &
Deputy Executive Chairman Charles A. Duelfer (US). In September 1997
Trevan became news media spokesman for a British intelligence front
organisation- the International Institute for Strategic Studies,
23 Tavistock Street, London
Australia refuses to host US clandestine radio
Australia has reportedly turned down a request by a US funded clandestine broadcaster, to use a former Radio Australia transmitter in the Northern Territory to broadcast into Asia. The President of Radio Free Asia, Richard Richter, says the service has been told the decision was based on foreign policy and technical considerations.
Earlier this week the Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed concern at
the request, warning that any decision to allow such broadcasts would harm
Australia's relationship with China.
Australian government blasted over Wik legislation
The chairman of the Cape York Land Council, Noel Pearson, says the Australian Government has misjudged the feeling in the Australian community towards its Wik legislation. He said on Thursday that the government has wrongly assumed there is a moral lapse in the community, and that most people have switched off from the native title debate.
Mr Pearson says the legislation is racist because it extinguishes the property rights of Aboriginal people, in favour of non-indigenous Australians. "I've talked to a wide cross section of the Australian community," he said.
"And I can tell you there's deep anxiety that this country is about
to enter into a new era of formal legal racial discrimination against Aboriginal
people, so that the likes of [Deputy Prime Minister] Tim Fischer can get
bucket loads of extinguishment."