South News Oct 17 

Libya Accuses US of obstructing Justice  

Libya on Tuesday accused the United States and Great Britain of adopting obstructive policies in the Lockerbie case, which opened Monday at the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Netherlands. 

The hearing opened five years after Libya's appeal to the Court, in the presence of the three main countries concerned in the explosion of A PanAm passenger aircraft over the Scottish city of Lockerbie in December 1988 killing 270 persons on board. 

The United States and Great Britain alleged that two Libyan nationals planted the bomb and have tried in vain to have the suspects extradited for trial. Libya has accused Washington and London of refusing to co-operate in the investigations into the case, thereby violating the 1971 Montreal Convention on the suppression of action against the Security of Civil Aviation. 

Libyan newspapers said Tuesday Washington and London are undermining the court's competence and seeking to transform a legal affair into a political case in order to destabilize Libya and its revolutionary government. They said for more than five years, the two Western countries have been making several efforts not only to avert the disclosure of the real causes of the tragedy but also to prolong the unjust sanctions imposed on the Libyan people through the pressure they brought to bear on the UN Security Council. 

Following Libya's refusal to extradite the two nationals, the UN Security Council on April 15, 1992 adopted an air transport, diplomatic and military embargo against the country. This was tightened in 1994 with the freezing of Libya's assets abroad and an embargo on equipment for the oil industry which accounts for 95 percent of the country's foreign exchange earnings. 

Libya has proposed that the two suspects be tried by a court in a third country in the presence of American or Scottish magistrates. This proposal has been supported by the Organization of African Unity, the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Conference and the Non-aligned Movement. At the United Nations last month, Russian Foreign Minister Yevegeny Primakov, whose country holds a permanent seat on the Security Council, said Libya's proposal to allow the suspects to stand trial in a neutral country before a Scottish judge "deserves attention.'' 

And despite U.S. and British attempts to isolate the North African country, South African President Nelson Mandela has announced a visit to Libya this month. Libya, which supported Mandela's African National Congress during its years as a banned organization, has maintained friendly ties with South Africa. 

The US State Department said Thursday it would be disappointed if South African President Nelson Mandela follows through on a plan to visit Libya. Spokesman James Foley noted that flights to Tripoli are a violation of U.N. sanctions against Libya. "We also believe that diplomatic contacts ought to be maintained at a low level, and we would be disappointed with the visit of any head of state,'' Foley said. 

On a humorous note  Muammar Qadhafi's  has insisted on the surrender of the American airmen who bombed two Libyan cities in 1986, killing 37 people, including Gadhafi's adopted daughter. "The situation is made up of `Locker A' and `Lockerbie,' and `Locker A' must be solved first,'' Qadhafi said. 

Security Council not meeting obligations says Iraq  

Iraq on Thursday charged that the UN Security Council was not meeting its international obligations to lift the seven year trade sanctions against their nation." Iraq continues its compliance but the Security Council does not meet its obligations under the resolutions -- the situation will become absolutely unacceptable,'' said  Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz , in a 14-page letter circulated to council members. 

Mr. Azis comments come after a mixed UNSCOM report cited some weapons inspection delays and incomplete responses. He said the UNSCOM raised questions about documents and refused to accept Iraq's response until years after it proved true. Iraq, he said, never imagined it would be `` subjected to inquiries by an international quarter about every minute detail of its activities.'' 

The United States wants the council to add travel restrictions to the list of sanctions slapped on Iraq  in 1990. On Tuesday it circulated a draft resolution providing for the imposition of visa restrictions against officials to punish the Iraqis for perceived non-compliance with the inspectors in September. 

Aziz, in his letter, noted that Charles Duelfer, an American, was the commission's deputy chairman and that Scott Ritter, another American, led a team that clashed with Iraqi officials. In addition, the United States monopolized intelligence information through U-2 flights and other means, thereby adding considerable delays to the commission work in cleaning up data. 

On biological weapons, Aziz contended that U.N. experts had concluded the program in 1990 was a fledgling one and that the site at al-Hakam used for this purpose was now destroyed. `` What does the special commission seek from keeping the picture of the biological program as if it still poses a threat to the security of the region? It behaves towards this as if we are still in 1991,'' he said. 

He said reports by Richard Butler, the current chairman of the commission, as well as his predecessor, Rolf Ekeus, were written in such a way that `` the past was mixed up with the present,'' making it difficult for a reader to distinguish between positive and negative factors. 

During the  closed-door Security Council meeting, on Thursday, French Ambassador Alain Dejammet opposed additional sanctions, saying there was no "deliberate strategy" by Iraq to deny access to the weapons inspectors. "Baghdad has for the most part respected its duties to cooperate," Dejammet told the Council. Russian ambassador Lavrov also said that Butler's report needed to be considered "objectively" by the Council. The non aligned countries  have not yet backed any new measures, expected to be discussed next week. 

Earlier Tareq Aziz said trade sanctions on Iraq were kept in place to halt Baghdad's quest for technological progress. Speaking at a seminar organised in Baghdad to review Iraq's post-Gulf War reconstruction, Aziz, said annihilation of Iraqi weapons was not the reason behind maintaining the sanctions on Iraq. 

`` The delay in lifting the embargo is not because we have not carried out the requirements of paragraph C of (U.N.) resolution 687 but to block the process of continuing revival which was preceded by reconstruction and subsequent technical achievements,'' Aziz said. 

Aziz said those persisting in keeping sanctions on Iraq intact feared that their lifting `` would improve the living standards of the (Iraqi) people and boost or make it easier for Iraq to acquire technical capabilities to continue the process of revival.'' Aziz said former U.S. secretary of state James Baker whom he met days before the start of the 1991 Gulf War over Kuwait had warned him that the U.S.-led coalition which ousted Iraqi troops from Kuwait would transform Iraq `` to the pre-industrial age'' and bring a new leadership to determine the future of Baghdad. Aziz said the same leadership was still ruling Baghdad and Iraq, despite difficulties, was optimistic about the future. 

A leading Iraqi newspaper further commented that the United States was using hunger as a weapon against the Iraqi people after it failed to defeat Baghdad militarily. `` The hostile U.S. taking forms and practices wilder and more barbaric than those characterising its military interference...,'' Al-Iraq paper said in a front-page editorial last Friday 

`` History has never seen anything like its military aggression against Iraq...but when it (U.S.) saw that its lethal weapons were useless against the Iraqi people it resorted to the weapon of sanctions and policies of hunger,'' the paper added. 

The Al-Iraq editorial coincided with a warning of malnutrition in Iraq by international food agencies who also urged donor countries to support programmes targeting vulnerable groups such as small children In a joint report from Rome following a fact-finding mission to Iraq, the agencies said a U.N. sanctioned oil-for-food deal launched in December last year had gone some way to improving food supplies in the country but malnutrition remained a serious problem. 

Meanwhile Iraq on Thursday conducted a national census that may shed light on the toll taken by Iraq's two wars and seven years of crippling U.N. economic sanctions. 

The last census put Iraq's population at 16,287,316, but that was in 1987, before the end of the 1980-88 war with Iran and the 1991 Gulf war with a U.S.-led alliance over Iraq's occupation of Kuwait. No official toll of the first war was ever disclosed, but it is estimated that about 1 million people died on both sides. Aid agencies claim that  the U.N. economic sanctions have killed tens of thousands of people, mostly children, due to malnutrition and lack of health care. 

Historians say Iraq was the first country in the world to conduct a census in ancient times, when Babylonian monarchs in 2000 BC were said to have carried out counts of their subjects, agricultural produce and livestock 

Mahathir says Southeast Asia needs common market  

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed said Southeast Asian nations should consider creating a common market, continue to welcome foreign investment, yet "be wary of operations which do not create any real wealth for us.'' 

Mahathir, opening Thursday a meeting of economic ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, asked trade ministers and delegates of the nine-member association whether, 25 years from now, the group should become a common market similar to the 15-nation European Union. "To make ASEAN relevant in the next millennium, we need to have a long-term vision of what we want to be as an association,'' he said. 

"Are we setting our sights to be a single market or an economic union a la the EU ?'' he asked. "What is certain is that we need to make the bold move toward greater economic integration, as we will have to face an uncertain environment.'' 

Mahathir said that while the region should continue to open its markets to foreign trade, it should also stand against those taking advantage of poorer nations. He has for several months lashed out at foreign currency speculators, blaming them for the dramatic fall of the Malaysian stock market and the ringgit currency since July. 

"Our recent experience with currency manipulation should be a big lesson for us,'' he said. "We must be perpetually alert to the possibilities of others exploiting our weaknesses in order to weaken us further.'' 

But he said the region should welcome the positive aspects of capital markets, and made a distinction between "hot'' speculative money and productive longer-term investments. "We should continue to welcome real long-term investments but must be wary of operations which do not create any wealth for us,'' he said. 

The Malaysian prime minister has repeatedly accused currency traders of conspiring to fell the Asian markets, and has singled out U.S. financier George Soros talked about the need to avoid herd behavior and herd instincts. "The different herds will wheel to the left or the right or will charge ahead, trampling upon whatever may be in the way,'' he said. "This does not speak well of the progress human civilization has made. But then, the history of human civilization is full of the exploitation of the weak by the strong and the powerful.'' 

Cassini Space Mission poses threat to Australia & New Zealand

NASA's plutonium-powered Cassini spacecraft rocketed  toward Saturn on Wednesday on a mission activists had tried to stop for fear an accident would shower Earth with radioactive fallout. Green activists in Australia and New Zealand are concerned that the Pacific Region may be a favored re-entry point in the event that NASA's "sling-shot maneuver" fails. They intend to start a Pacific Campaign, similar to the opposition to the French Nuclear testing, to urge the US Government to abort the mission before the scheduled "fly-by" in 1999! 

In November last year, a Russian probe, Mars 96, crashed back into the Earth with its 24 grams of plutonium. The Australian  Prime Minister was contacted by the US President over his breakfast toast at the Lodge, he called a meeting of the Cabinet National Security Committee and they prepared for an emergency crash over Australia. The radioactive material crashed into the Pacific Ocean. 

The 11-year, $4.65 billion mission got under way after protesters in the United States lost a legal battle to stop the launch of the craft which is powered by 33 kilograms of plutonium fuel. The plutonium  powers the instruments on board the craft. The apparently flawless blast-off from Florida's east coast did not ease the fears of anti-nuclear protesters about the probe's plutonium power source would be a threat again during its August 1999 flyby of the Earth and were seeking to sue the US in the World Court. Professor  Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois was seeking an emergency hearing of the world court to consider the safety of the mission. 

On Sunday NZ Green Party Co-Leader and Alliance Spokesperson on the Environment, Jeanette Fitzsimons said, "I have now written to the Minister urging him to take up the offer of presenting a case to the World Court. This is an eleventh hour option which needs to be recognised as an issue of national significance. Once the craft has been launched it will be too late to raise our concerns and the threat of an accident will remain. It is an unfortunate fact that the NASA space programme has had a fair share of accidents, despite the best laid plans. We do not want to be counted amongst the next casualties of such and accident,'" said Mrs. Fitzsimons. 

The New Zealand concerns follow concerns expressed by Australian Democrats' Science and Technology Spokesperson, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja who on 24 September questioned whether the Australian Government sanctioned sending 33 kilos of plutonium in space with its potential risks to contaminate the Earth and other celestial bodies. 

 Plutonium is the deadliest element known. Even minute amounts can cause deadly cancers. Medical radiation expert Dr. Helen Caldicott notes that even 500 grams, if evenly distributed, could give a fatal case of lung cancer to every person on earth.  

"The 33 kilos of plutonium is a dramatic increase in radioactive material that is being used in the space program. The risks of a crash may be small, but I question the consequences of an accident on Earth and elsewhere ", Stott Despoja said. 

"The Government's failure to provide assurances confirms our fears that the Government has no position on this matter. This reflects badly on their ability to deal with what would be a tragic accident and its very long term consequences. 

"NASA's Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Cassini Mission dated June 1995 considered some 5 billion people could be exposed to radioactive material following an accident in the Earth's atmosphere. That is a significant concern and a matter which we should assess carefully. 

"The Russian space probe, Mars 96, re-entered the Earth's atmosphere on 18 November 1996 with its cargo of 24 grams of radioactive plutonium. That raised considerable concern for this Government. Surely, 33 000 grams of plutonium should ring alarm bells for the Government? ", Stott Despoja said. 

Fallout over Mossad continues  

An Israeli newspaper said Wednesday that the Mossad secret service had planned to kill Hamas leader Khaled Meshal a year ago while he was visiting Turkey but called it off to avoid a rupture with the Turkish government 

The Haaretz newspaper, quoting a senior security source, said the plan called for Israeli agents to assassinate Meshal while he attended a conference of Islamic groups in Turkey. "The plan raised serious concern in Jerusalem over the fate of diplomatic and security ties with the neighbouring Muslim state," the report said. 

Opposition parties aimed their anger at the Israeli government and personally at Netanyahu who on Monday managed to unite the opposition again against his government with a decision he took to cancel his appearance before the Knesset. The Knesset, Israel's parliament, held a special deliberation session upon a request from the opposition to review Netanyahu's decision-making process in light of the failed assassination attempt in Amman. 

The opposition parties are furious that Prime Minister Netanyahu canceled his appearance. Netanyahu had declared, through his spokesman, that he would be willing to allow cabinet ministers to speak for him and that he would only join the session should his "busy schedule allow him to do so." The Knesset had convened for a special recess session to discuss the Labor and Meretz party proposals to review the Prime Minister¹s performance in the Mishal affair. 

Meretz Party MK Haim Oron said the prime minister is a coward who is afraid of a public debate or to give a public accounting of his actions on the Knesset floor. The communist bloc said Netanyahu's absence is further evidence of the Knesset¹s diminishing power and relevance and the contempt with which the Prime Minister regards Israeli parliamentary system. 

Meanwhile, the three-member committee reviewing the botched assassination in Jordan continued its sessions Monday . On its first day Sunday, the committee heard testimonies for up to 12 hours, including a statement from Mossad chief Danny Yatom, whose head is now being targeted by many in Israel for his supreme responsibility for the foiled attempt on the life of Khaled Meshal, Hamas political department head in Amman. 

Israeli Mossad agents tried to kill Meshal near his office in Amman last month in a bungled operation using a electronic device to stun Mr. Meshal and then injected a poison into his left ear. 

Mr. Meshal, who had been taken to a hospital, went into convulsions. The doctors were unable to treat his affliction, not knowing the identity of the toxic substance. The poison was intended to slowly kill the victim over 48 hours, eventually resulting in heart failure. 

A furious King Hussein of Jordan telephoned the United States President, Bill Clinton, to tell him he feared that if Mr. Meshaal died, there would be widespread rioting and his regime would be threatened. The attack was carried out on the eve of Jordanian parliamentary elections. 

The pressure from Jordan and the US resulted in Israel dispatching a doctor to Amman with the antidote. The cure had been specially developed for the unlikely event that a Mossad agent was accidentally injected with the lethal poison used in the attack. 

After his recovery, Mr. Meshal said: "It is the Zionist state that uses terrorist means and this attack is a striking example." He added that Hamas had gained strength from the attack because it had "destroyed the legendary image of the Mossad". 

Probe into secret police files  

The Victorian  ombudsman Dr Barry Perry on Thursday launched a special inquiry into covert intelligence operations by the Victoria Police and allegations of a cover-up during a previous investigation. The inquiry follows revelations in The Melbourne Age that members of the force's Operations Intelligence Unit infiltrated and spied on community groups, bugged a meeting of civil liberty groups and kept dossiers on 1200 people, including politicians and trade unionists. 

The ombudsman, said the special inquiry would investigate: Practices of the Protective Security Intelligence Group, which took over the OIU's work in 1993. Specific complaints about the unit's covert activities from individuals or community groups it targeted. Allegations by a former member of the unit that records from the disbanded police Special Branch were hidden from ombudsman's investigators during a 1989 inquiry. Whether former Special Branch files or records were improperly retained by police and, if so, whether they were still in use. 

The then Labor State Government ordered the destruction of more than 8000 records and files on individuals after the Special Branch was disbanded in 1983. But a former OIU member told The Age last week that records had been retained and were hastily removed from the unit's secret West Brunswick headquarters during a 1989 ombudsman's investigation. 

The Law Institute of Victoria said yesterday that a full judicial inquiry was needed into police surveillance and secret files to establish what had happened, whether it was lawful, who authorised the activity and how the information was used. 

On one occasion, the unit worked with ASIO to compile an "assessment" of the peace movement in Victoria. The unit's undercover officers were also asked by ASIO to collect information about community organisations attempting to recruit new members during orientation week at Melbourne's universities. Undercover police also liaised regularly with intelligence officers from the Australian Army, who wanted to monitor the activities of anti-war and anti-nuclear groups. 

Confidential records detail how an undercover army intelligence officer and an undercover Victoria police officer liaised while both were undertaking covert surveillance at the Palm Sunday peace march and rally in March 1989. 

The police intelligence unit also passed on information to army intelligence about planned anti US rallies and demonstrations by such groups as People Opposing Military Expansion and the Anti-Bases Campaign. In July, 1989, an undercover officer acting on information supplied by army intelligence covertly infiltrated a meeting at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology called to plan protests against the joint Australian-US base at Nurrungar. 

Members of the unit briefed US naval intelligence officers before a visit by US warships to Melbourne.. The unit also provided intelligence on feminist groups to the Western Australia police's special branch and briefed NSW police on the identities and activities of conservationists mounting anti-logging protests. 

In 1977, the recently elected NSW Labor government was forced by public opinion to reveal that the NSW Special Branch had 80,000 files on individuals and organisations. The number of “identified” communists was five times the national membership of the Communist Party of Australia in its heyday! Evidence showed that highly damaging and often ludicrously false material was routinely passed on to ASIO, other NSW police squads, the NSW Public Service Board, other state special branches and even foreign consulates. 

In South Australia, after a six-week investigation in 1977, Justice White found 40,000 index cards, 28,500 on individuals. The usual approach applied -- there were lots files on anti-apartheid demonstrators, none on racists. 

Related: Victoria's Special Branch Spooks 

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