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News Supplement, 10-17/12/00

NEWS SUPPLEMENT, 10-17/12/00

*  Tougher sanctions [against the Taliban]
*  174,000 Afghan refugees voluntarily return home this year [from Iran]
*  Air Guard troops return from Gulf [this may be a rather frivolous item
but the thought that some of the pilots overflying Iraq are women from
Hawaii induced in me a state of culture shock]
*  Saddam's empty oil threat [a curious piece from the FT which starts off
ridiculing recent Iraqi policies and finishes by suggesting that they might
*  Putin slams Cuba sanctions
*  U.S. panel seeks anti-terrorism plan ['U.S. terrorism experts sources say
there were 392 acts of terrorism worldwide in 1999, and of the total 169
were aimed at U.S. targets, and the trend is upward. There are 858 known
U.S. anti-government extremist groups and 86 known non-U.S. groups with an
anti-U.S. agenda.' Scary, huh? Shows, the panel of anti terrorism experts
concludes, that we need a full time, well-paid panel of anti-terrorism
*  Military chairman: Armed forces under strain [New enemies. New threats to
America. The armed forces need more money]
*  U.S. Must Prevent China From Becoming Threat, Says Shelton [extract. More
of same]
*  US going it alone on Iraq ['Except for the British (and they are
increasingly wobbly) ...', so there's hope yet]
*  Anti-missile system that raises the ante [Scottish defence of the US
proposed National Missile Defence scheme. It seems that, without the US to
keep order in the world, the rest of us would all be at each other's
*  Putin Backs Cuban Goals
*  World Criminal Tribunal [the NY Times thinks the US should support it:
'As one of the nations most often asked to clean up the messes created by
troublemakers like Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein, the United States
would greatly benefit from the existence of a court that could try such men
and put them behind bars.']
*  Yemen sees new era in ties with Saudi Arabia
*  RAF crisis as personnel quit: Flight crews are frustrated by underfunding
and lack of adequate training, says senior officer [need more money]
*  The refugees' champion fights the tide: UNHCR is caught between growing
indifference in the west and ever greater need
*  Cleric's memoirs ignite a cyber war with Tehran leaders [on Montazeri,
whose memoirs should be very interesting, but are still, alas, only
available, on the web, in Persian]
*  UK demands speedy arrests after Saudi bombing

SPECIAL BUSH POWELL SUPPLEMENT, 10-17/12/00 (sent separately)

*  Bush, foreign policy novice, has set out principles ['He says he will
maintain tough sanctions on Iraq']
*  At last, a US president who won't meddle [Simon Jenkins being very
optimistic: 'This suggests ... that sanctions might be lifted from Iraq.'
They won't be. But they might be modified in a positive way]
*  Powell's speech - excerpts [quite a full account]
*  Powell says foreign commitments will be reviewed [short extract]
*  US spies likely to move out of 'cushy' Europe [On Powell's British

Dawn (Pakistan), 10th December

THE draft UN resolution against the Taliban jointly submitted by the US and
the Russian Federation constitutes a serious development in the context of
the acute human suffering prevailing in war-torn Afghanistan. It seeks to
tighten the economic and arms embargo imposed last year after the Taliban
refused to turn over Osama bin Laden for trial on charges of involvement in
terrorist acts, especially the bomb blasts at American embassies in East
Africa in 1998. The US State Department earlier spelled out seven fresh
sanctions which could be added to the aviation and financial curbs already
in place. The draft seems to be a recipe for fuelling further conflict in
Afghanistan, rather than promoting the cause of a peaceful, negotiated
settlement. The UN-brokered talks on Afghanistan, described as a glimmer of
hope by the UN secretary-general, are currently at a sensitive stage.

Without international support for the resolution of the protracted
internecine conflict, it is doubtful whether the current reconciliation
efforts can make any headway. Earlier, the UN chief had been at pains to
emphasize that the agreement signed between the United Front and the Taliban
committing them to UN-sponsored negotiations was only a first step in what
would be at best a long and difficult journey towards peace. For the effort
to succeed, he pointed out, the support of the international community,
especially the 'Six plus Two' group comprising Afghanistan's neighbours plus
the United States and the Russian Federation, was essential. In this
context, further punitive and discriminatory sanctions would surely
undermine the UN initiative to end the civil war in Afghanistan. This in
turn will only prolong the terrible suffering of the common people of the
country and would amount to punishing them for no fault of theirs. The
situation in Afghanistan today presents a strong parallel to the grim
picture of colossal human suffering, starvation and death in
sanctions-ridden Iraq.

A UN report earlier had painted a grim picture of the conditions in
Afghanistan which was facing the worst of a combination of war, with its
direct ravaging effects, widespread poverty exacerbated by the worst drought
in 30 years, continued gross violations of human rights, and the sickly
state and criminalization of the economy. This situation in fact is
deteriorating since the onset of winter, with women and children being the
worst sufferers. Pakistan recently donated 90 trucks to the UN World Food
Programme to help the food aid agency cope with daunting logistical problems
resulting from damaged infrastructure and the devastating two-year long
drought. At least 2.5 million people are suffering from grave food shortage.
Aid agencies are trying to accelerate food assistance schemes, distributing
some 20,000 tonnes of food a month. The hope is that this will help, to some
extent, in preventing mass migration of the suffering Afghan people to
neighbouring countries, especially Pakistan which is already under
considerable pressure to accommodate a new wave of refugees from
Afghanistan. While it is essential that relief efforts are expedited, aid
agencies have warned that they will have to wind up their programmes if the
proposed sanctions are slapped. It is necessary to spare the Afghan people
further suffering and dislocation and help promote efforts for a peaceful
settlement of the ongoing conflict. Political and diplomatic engagement
provides the best course to achieve the objective.


Mashhad, Dec 12, IRNA -- Some 174,784 Afghan refugees residing in Iran have
voluntarily returned home since March 2000, the representative of the United
Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in eastern Mashhad, Toshiro
Odashima said here on Tuesday.

He said the repatriation of some 133,612 refugees took place in line with an
agreement reached between Iran and the UNHCR over the voluntary return of
Afghan residents.

The rest, amounting to 41,172 people, returned home on their own initiative.
Those returning according to the plan are paid in cash and helped in other

The plan for voluntary repatriation started on April 8 for a span of six
months, but Iran agreed to extend the period for another three months during
a visit in September by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Sadako Ogata to the region.

Odashima said that centers have been established in Iran with the
cooperation of the UNHCR which looks after the case of those refugees who
have admissible reasons not to return home.

The center has handled some 46,312 cases so far and has admitted some 70,000
to stay, while dismissing 27,212 cases, he added.

Odashima put the total number of Afghans currently residing in Iran at 1.4
million, saying half of them are staying illegally.

He said over 27 percent of the refugees had returned from Tehran, while 22
percent were repatriated from Khorasan province, and 10 percent from Sistan

Iran hosts the largest number of refugees, mainly from Afghanistan and Iraq,
in the world.

by Treena Shapiro
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 11th December

Air Force 2nd Lt. Donna Mae Chun wore a different sort of dress uniform last
night at Hickam Air Force Base to welcome her husband back from the Persian
Gulf in time for Christmas.

Wearing a festive costume, she masqueraded as Santa's helper. Chun's father
and golden retriever Maile got into the act, as well, dressing as Santa and
a reindeer respectively.

Her husband, James, a Hawaii Air National Guard member, left Thanksgiving
night to fly missions in Iraq's southern no-fly zone. He was one of about
250 Guard members who are returning this week.

This was his first time in a combat zone, and the deployment came only a
month after the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in the Persian Gulf port in Yemen.

But Chun said she was not too worried while he was away. "I feel they know
what they're up against and they're prepared," she said. "I feel God is
watching over them."

James, an aircraft weapons specialist, returned in high spirits and said he
had never felt his life was in danger. "Security forces over there are
wonderful. They're really great just protecting our assets."

Squad commander Col. James Drake said there was a "measured amount of
danger" where the unit was stationed, about an hour's flight from the border
and "as close to Iraq as you can get." The squad participated in the
8-year-old Operation Southern Watch, flying over Iraq to make sure there is
no military aircraft or troop movement in the area.

Iraqi forces shoot anti-aircraft guns pretty regularly, he said.

Albert Bruhn and 11-year-old son Kainoa also met the flight last night.
Kainoa said he was worried when his mother Roxanne was gone, and now that
she is home, he plans to spend quality time with her and fix her breakfast
in bed.

After 14 years of marriage, Albert, who works for a distributor in the
plumbing industry, said he has gotten used to his wife's deployments, but it
is hard to have no control over her situation. "You can't help them if they
need help," he said. "All you can do is hope and pray."

Most returned feeling positively about the mission and said they would be
willing to do it again. Senior Airman Sonja Johnson, 35, said she would like
to go back, and this was the second time she has been to the Persian Gulf
since September.

"It was tough and strenuous and we worked long hours, but we tried to make
laughs, tried joking about things to break the monotony," she said.

Troop commander Brian Leong said that this was a good chance for the unit to
put all their training to use.

"It gives them a taste of what it takes and what they need to do."

by Roula Khalaf
Financial Times, 13th december [I think ­ PB. 12th, 13th and 14th December
are mentioned]

You can always count on Saddam Hussein to make a wrong move when his luck is
picking up.

As the Iraqi president's rehabilitation in the Arab world was gathering
steam and support for the 10-year-old United Nations sanctions was fast
eroding, he turned off the flow two weeks ago of Iraq's 2.3m barrels a day
of oil exports.

His aim was to provoke an oil crisis and wrest control of Iraq's oil
resources from the UN. However, his oil weapon proved an empty threat, as
prices lost more than $5 a barrel.

Yet the controversy sparked by Iraqi demands that oil buyers pay a 50 cent
surcharge into a special bank account unsupervised by the UN has not been a
complete setback.

It satisfied Iraq's strategy of keeping sanctions in the headlines. It also
led the UN to accept an Iraqi demand for the allocation of some funds out of
the UN-monitored oil-for-food programme for the running of the local oil

Iraq's next move is unclear. Although it has indicated that the crisis has
been defused, it has yet to resume exports, amid reports that it continues
to require companies to make an under-the-table payment, now reduced to 40

Some analysts say Baghdad could simply be delaying an embarrassing
climbdown. Others, however, believe Iraq is determined to pursue a full
assault on sanctions.

This would mean raising pressure on buyers to agree to an illegal surcharge
while hoping a longer disruption in sales would drive oil prices up.

Most companies, however, are loath openly to contravene UN sanctions. And,
in the current climate of oil prices, they have no reason to pay a
higher-than-market price for Iraqi oil.

In any case, Iraq's behaviour is its most blatant effort to undermine the

"The Iraqis are in the process of testing the boundaries of where sanctions
lie. They misperceived the oil market but they got concessions out of the UN
and they have consistently been getting concessions," says Raad al-Kadiri,
analyst at Petroleum Finance in Washington.

The UN security council passed Resolution 1284 a year ago, calling for the
return of UN arms inspectors and promising a lifting of sanctions when key
disarmament tasks are fulfilled. But Baghdad has refused to comply,
insisting the US would never agree to end the embargo.

Mr Saddam has nonetheless taken advantage of the carrots in the resolution,
including the lifting of the ceiling on oil sales. Increased oil exports
have led to a rise in smuggling. The expansion in revenues also has helped
Iraq lure Arab and western businessmen to Baghdad, with the promise of large
commercial contracts under the oil-for-food deal.

Bolstered by the attention and by the divisions over Iraq policy in the UN
security council, the Iraqi leader's challenges have become more serious in
recent months, with the aim of gaining direct access to Iraq's oil money.
Under UN rules, all funds in the oil-for-food programme are controlled by
the UN.

In the Baghdad trade fair in November, the largest since sanctions were
imposed, Baghdad asked companies to break the sanctions and sign contracts
outside the oil-for-food deal. Later that month, it made clear it was
preparing to reopen a pipeline to Syria to sell oil outside the UN

Iraq has been helped by a favourable regional and international environment.
The US has been eager to avoid a showdown with Baghdad during a presidential
election year. So it has not pressed for a return of UN arms inspectors.
Meanwhile, the collapse of the US sponsored Middle East peace process has
accentuated anti-US sentiment in the Arab world.

Officials have not lost all hope of rescuing UN resolution 1284. They insist
the core sanctions remain in place and Iraq's gains are marginal.

True, Iraq controls only a tiny fraction of the more than $20bn in oil sales
expected for this year. And it agreed to start a dialogue with the office of
Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, in January on ways to restore
relations. But Mr Saddam is unlikely to change his position on the UN
resolution or drop efforts to shatter the embargo unless he is assured that
the next US administration will have a softer policy on Iraq.

"Part of Iraq's strategy is to show the security council that if nothing is
done on Iraq policy, the sanctions will simply crumble," says a western

"The nightmare situation would be that sanctions erode, there are no
inspections, and the security council does nothing - the credibility of the
UN would then be at stake."

by Andrew Jack and agencies in Moscow
Financial Times, 13th December. Or 12th December. Or 14th December.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday criticised continued US
sanctions against Cuba ahead of the start of the first state visit in 11
years to the country which begins on Wednesday.

In a series of interviews in Cuban and Russian publications, Mr Putin called
the embargo launched by the US in 1960 against the Communist regime of Fidel
Castro "groundless" and said he did not believe it would yield any political
or economic results.

His visit is the first since that of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet
leader, in 1989, and was seen by analysts as representing an attempt to
rebuild links with the Communist state which had been neglected over the
past decade.

It comes following an intensive few months of foreign trips and meetings
with leaders for Mr Putin since his inauguration last May, including
attempts to re-establish Russia's relationship with a number of so-called
"pariah" states such as North Korea, Libya, Iran and Iraq.

The Russian president said: "I will say again that Cuba is our traditional
partner in the world and, in the first instance, in Latin America."

Mr Putin went on to say that he felt a cooling in post-Soviet relations with
Cuba had been a mistake and had not been well handled.

"Russia is right to be paying more and more attention now to the Latin
American aspect of its foreign policy. Cuba's role has been great and
extremely important for us because it always had an independent position ...
favouring the development of democratic principles in international

The Soviet Union once supplied nearly all Cuba's oil and oil products, basic
foodstuffs and machinery while accepting most of its sugar, citrus fruits,
nickel and cobalt in subsidised deals.

However, with trade now on a commercial basis, Russia has become Cuba's
fourth trading partner after Spain, Venezuela and Canada.

Mr Putin will fly from Cuba for a state visit to Canada, which has
maintained its economic ties with the Caribbean island in spite of the US
blockade. In his interview, Mr Putin said Russian companies had given way to
foreign competitors in Cuban deals. It was now logical, he said, for Russian
companies to finish what Soviet ones had started.


called Thursday for President-elect George W. Bush to develop a national
plan to combat terrorism within his first year in office. The panel
concluded that recent efforts have reduced U.S. vulnerability to these
attacks somewhat but that efforts lack ³coherence² and are not well
coordinated among the many U.S. agencies.

³THE UNITED STATES has no coherent, functional national strategy for
combating terrorism,² said Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, who heads the panel.
³Instead, we have a loosely coupled set of broad policy documents, plans and
specific programs.²

The plan should give local law enforcement, fire departments and emergency
medical services a major stake in planning and executing any new approach,
the panel concluded in its second annual report, which was presented to
Bush, President Bill Clinton and Congress.

After bomb attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998,
Congress established the advisory group in 1999 to assess the United States¹
domestic response capabilities to terrorism.

U.S. terrorism experts sources say there were 392 acts of terrorism
worldwide in 1999, and of the total 169 were aimed at U.S. targets, and the
trend is upward. There are 858 known U.S. anti-government extremist groups
and 86 known non-U.S. groups with an anti-U.S. agenda.

Among the countries believed to have biological and chemical weapons
capability are China, Russia, North Korea, India and Pakistan. Biological
weapons warheads discovered in Iraq at the time of the Persian Gulf War have
not been accounted for since.

³There are several graduates of major medical institutes in the United
States who are now working in biochemical programs in their home countries,²
said a U.S. government expert who asked not to be named. ³It is almost
impossible to differentiate between defensive and offensive biochemical

Among the measures taken in the last three years by individual agencies, the
FBI has expanded the number of its legal attache offices outside the United
States to 46 from 30 ‹ which allows the U.S. agents ³cop to cop² relations
in cross-border crimes cases including drug trafficking and terrorism,
official sources said.

However, Gilmore said: ³A terrorist attack on some level inside our borders
is inevitable, and the United States must be ready. ... We are not, as some
suggest, totally unprepared to meet the threat of terrorism in our own front
yard. But we can be better prepared.²

The panel also recommended that the White House create a national office to
deter, prepare for and respond to international and domestic terrorism.

The office would do extensive budget reviews and ³eliminate conflicts and
unnecessary duplication among agencies,² the report said.

While the panel recommended better intelligence gathering about terrorism
and increased sharing of that information among local law enforcement,
Gilmore emphasized the need to protect the rights of Americans.

³Preservation of the Constitution and protection of our civil liberties must
always come before what might be more efficient or expedient,² he said,
adding that the military should never head a domestic terrorism
investigation, instead lending support to a civilian agency in charge.

Here, at a glance, are some of the players and groups whose names have
surfaced in connection with possible millennium-related terrorism plots
against U.S. targets.

[There follows a long but confused and repetitive account mainly of the
activities of 'Ressam', arrested trying to smuggle explosives into the US
from Canada, and all his connections, mainly to do wiuth the Algerian GIA
and, perhaps, Osama bin Laden  PB]

The distinctions between international terrorism and domestic terrorist
attacks are eroding, said the report, noting the World Trade Center bombing
in New York, the attacks against the embassies in East Africa and the recent
strike in Yemen against the destroyer USS Cole.

Among the panel¹s findings: Executive branch programs for addressing
terrorism ³cross an extraordinary number of jurisdictions² and ³no one is
Œin charge¹ of all relevant capabilities.²

Congress ³shares responsibility for the inadequate coordination of programs
to combat terrorism,² the report said.

It made these points:

 Congress should consolidate authority over anti-terrorism programs into a
Special Committee for Combating Terrorism ‹ either a joint Senate-House
committee or a separate committee in each chamber.

 The government should ensure that high-level state and local officials help
develop and implement a national strategy for terrorism preparedness.

For example, ³adequate stockpiles of vaccines should be created and made
accessible for rapid response to a terrorist biological attack.² While the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently contracted for 40
million doses of effective smallpox vaccine, ³much remains to be done to
ensure effective distribution of vaccines, including better coordination
with state and local agencies.² A supply adequate to vaccinate the U.S.
population for a potential biological weapons attack using smallpox is
unlikely to be ready until 2006, according to one U.S. terrorism expert.
Smallpox, which is highly contagious, has about a 30 percent fatality rate.

[The article also includes a "look at the elite groups around the world
called upon to counter terrorism". The stars of the show appear to be the
SAS, doubtless as a consequence of their well known triumphs in Northern
Ireland ­ PB]

by Pamela Hess, 14 December 2000

 WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- The nation's top military officer warned
Thursday that the armed forces have been asked to do too much and are
beginning to fray. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Henry
Shelton, said that not only does the Defense Department need more money, but
it needs to limit the scope of its activities.

 "Executing the current strategy places an unsustainable burden on parts of
our forces," Shelton said in a speech at the National Press Club in
Washington, D.C. "We have plenty of strategy, not enough forces."

 The military is currently sized to fight two regional wars, but has been
keeping up a hectic pace of non-combat operations  -- peacekeeping missions
and humanitarian relief.

 "We were just unable to anticipate how high that demand would be...leading
to what has been termed a fraying of the forces," Shelton said. "The
long-term commitment to nation building and the like place our readiness
(for combat) at risk."

 "America is a prosperous nation. America can afford whatever defense it
wants," he said, adding the country just needs to decide what defense that

 Shelton predicted the flash points of the future will not be Iraq, North
Korea and the Balkans -- the problems of the last decade.

 "I don't believe the near-term threats will determine the shape of
security" in the coming years, Shelton said.

 Rather, emerging Russian nationalism, China's uncertain economic future,
the conflict between Pakistan and India over Kashmir, and the clash of
modernism and fundamentalism in the Middle East will determine where and
when the military fights.

 Noting China's distrust of the United States, Shelton said, "The focus of
our power should be to be sure China does not become the 21st century
version of the Russian bear."

 He warned that the inherent contradiction between China's burgeoning
capitalist economy and old-line communist attempts to control resources
could lead to instability.

 "The Balkans pales in comparison to events in Russia," he continued. "The
future of Europe swings on the path Russian nationalism takes."

 Shelton said a chief concern is the safety of Russia's stockpiles of old
nuclear and chemical weapons, as well as missiles still in the arsenal,
which could fall into the wrong hands.

 "There are many wrong hands over there trying to get them," he said.

 Shelton has one more year in his second term as chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff. He will serve under President-elect George W. Bush until
September 2001.

Inside China


While Iraq remains a trouble spot, instability throughout the Middle East is
the biggest challenge to U.S. interests in the long term, he said.

Shelton described Iraq as a "damaged regime, internally insecure, and its
armed forces a shadow of their former strength." He said the focal points in
the Middle East were the Israeli-Palestinian situation and the tension
between modernism and fundamentalism.

In Europe, the future would not swing on the status of Kosovo, but rather
"on the path that Russian nationalism takes," Shelton said. Also, the
thousands of nuclear and chemical weapons stored in Russia would be a danger
to U.S. security if they fell into the "wrong hands, he added.

Shelton will stay in his post next year and so will be President-elect
George W. Bush's senior military advisor.

Shelton, who will conduct next year's Quadrennial Defense Review, undertaken
every four years when a new U.S. president takes office, said increased
funding was needed to bolster U.S. armed forces.

The current $60 billion annual budget for acquisition and weapons
modernization is not enough, and others have estimated that $90 billion or
$100 billion would be more appropriate, he said. "While those figures are
probably closer to the mark, I cannot give you a precise dollar amount
today," Shelton said.

Parts of the military are "showing strain" and "fraying" and so steps must
be taken to keep it well-prepared not just for near-term activities, but for
the future, he said.

Army Secretary Louis Caldera told reporters earlier on Thursday he was not
worried the Bush administration might halt a multi-billion dollar thrust by
the Army to form lighter and more mobile forces to quickly and effectively
go to hot spots around the world.

But he warned the Army will need more people and more money to modernize and
handle a growing range of missions from warfare to peacekeeping.

The Army currently gets about $10 billion of the $60 billion annually
provided to the armed services for modernization. "You can't replace the
Army's equipment on $10 billion a year," Caldera said.

On another issue, Shelton said the military's current "don't ask, don't
tell" policy related to homosexuals struck the "right balance," but more
work was required to see that it was properly implemented.

by Charles Duelfer
Dawn (Pakistan), 14th December 2000, 17 Ramazan 1421

LOS ANGELES: In light of the present trend of events regarding Iraq, one
could be forgiven for asking: Who is containing whom? Virtually all the
continuing multilateral actions in the United Nations Security Council have
the effect of reinforcing the legitimacy of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Moreover, as Iraq continues to expand its oil capacity, and its contracts
grow under the UN' s "oil-for-food" programme, some members of the Security
Council have an increasing stake in keeping the Iraqi president around. This
has clearly been a large part of Iraq's strategy of dividing the United
States from its allies and other members of the Security Council.

Meanwhile, the US, virtually alone, spends billions of dollars to keep
Hussein in check. Imagine security in the region if US forces withdrew.
Except for the British (and they are increasingly wobbly), the rest of the
permanent members of the Security Council contribute only criticism as they
compete to win favour and lucrative contracts from Iraqis. The remaining
council checks on Iraq include sanctions, which are eroding, and control of
Iraq's legal oil-export revenues. These funds go to an escrow account, and
the UN must approve any expenditure by Iraq. This is the last serious UN
constraint on Baghdad's grander military visions.

The Europeans seem convinced that pragmatism and commercial interests
dictate that they must work with Hussein. Much of this is rationalized by
the need to reverse the harm to Iraq's civilian population that sanctions
cause. The US, they are convinced, has no choice but to remain vigilant in
the region in case the Iraqi leader gets aggressive again. Hence, they can
afford, and indeed profit, from being relatively open to the regime.

Given Hussein's track record and undiminished ambitions, the future does not
look good. His regime has an exquisite sense of the value and use of power.
Toward that end, it has acquired and now retains weapons of mass
destruction. The same logic drives its oil policy. Iraq's oil minister, Gen
Amir Mohammed Rashid, has said he can more than double current production
capacity, up to 6 million barrels a day, in three to four years. Iraq's goal
is to supplant Saudi Arabia as the dominant force in the Organization of
Petroleum Exporting Countries.

by George Kerevan

On Tuesday, lost amid the other ongoing news of Nice, American elections and
Christmas, came the rather dull information that China had successfully
fired its Shehab-3 intercontinental missile. Dull except that it will
confirm the new American president in his intention to build a National
Missile Defence (NMD) system to protect the continental US from rocket
attacks, and this move is likely to prove the most contentious issue in
international relations over the next decade.

It also involves the UK up to its neck. To make such a defensive system
work, you need super-fast radars close to where the incoming missiles might
be launched - the Middle East, say. That means locating these so-called
X-band detection systems in Fylingdales, Yorkshire. If Mr Blair, hob-nobbing
with his old friend, Bill Clinton, this week, refuses access to Bush¹s NMD
radars (as the Foreign Office minister, Peter Hain, has already publicly
hinted) then there are all the makings of a major crisis in NATO. Never mind
encouraging the enmity of Russia. Putin has already made belligerent noises
about NMD, which he views as a gross breach of the existing US-Russian
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Coming on top of the creation of the EU Rapid Reaction Force, any resistance
to NMD inside NATO could accelerate a rift between the unknown and uncertain
Republican presidency and a Europe in some disarray after the inconclusive
Nice summit. Putin has already been stirring this dangerous diplomatic brew
by putting pressure on Eurosceptic Denmark, which has responsibility for the
other potential X-band radar site in Greenland, to oppose NMD.

Do not think that NMD is pie in the sky. President Reagan¹s Star Wars
Project was a fantasy because you could never hope to kill every one of the
estimated 8,000 Soviet warheads coming in simultaneously. But the first
successful long-range - to avoid the dangerous nuclear debris - anti-missile
missile batteries already exist. Designed to knock out small numbers of
incoming rockets, they went operational in Israel this October. Called the
Arrow, this missile was paid for by America but developed in Israel to avoid
being technically in breach of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

What are the arguments for and against NMD? Let¹s begin with how George Bush
sees the world. Contrary to ignorant European opinion, the Republicans are
not neo-isolationists. Even with the end of the Cold War, US economic links
with the rest of the world - oil and capital imports more so than exports -
have made America a part of the global family in a way that was not true
even 20 years ago. Further, the very geopolitical destabilisation that has
resulted from the implosion of the old Soviet bloc has made US national
security analysts - especially Republican ones - aware that America must
take hold of the global reins firmly or precipitate international anarchy.

There is a surprising political consensus on the future between think-tanks
such as the Congressionally-mandated Commission on National Security, the
authoritative National Defence Panel and even the rightist Nixon Centre.
Namely, America should defend its own national interests rather than seek to
sublimate them in some volatile system of international agencies. (Think
Nice). But "interests" come in tiers, the top priority being national
survival in a world where weapons of mass destruction are ubiquitous and
everyone is jealous of America or blames it for every wrong - which leads
straight to NMD.

The next level of US priority interest is security of strategic economic
infrastructure - to be interpreted as oil and trade links. The new US
doctrine (which is also bipartisan) is to use US military force projection
as early as possible, anywhere trouble is brewing, to nip a crisis in the
bud without huge loss of American blood. This will make maximum use of the
growing US lead in sci fi technology: stealth, robot planes and smart bombs.
The key trouble spots identified are the oil-rich Caspian Basin, the
Mid-East and Taiwan.

The corollary of this unilateral police role is that the US wants to
encourage its regional allies to take a bigger role in their local theatres.
Hence its early support for the Euro Rapid Reaction Force - but only as a
theatre adjunct to global US-NATO or as a UN peacekeeper, not as an embryo
European counterweight to NATO. In other words, we do Kosovo by ourselves
but support US-NATO in the world-threatening Big Ones such as the Gulf war.
And NMD serves as the fort from which the US cavalry can sally forth.

If that benign American global hegemony fills you with horror, think on the
only plausible alternatives. Either: US isolationism and dog-eat-dog for the
rest of us (with yours truly emigrating sharpish to Brooklyn). Or Jacques
Chirac¹s fantasy of a tri-polar US-Chinese Super Europe co-dominion; ie the
end of NATO and global stability.

What are the arguments against NMD? It might encourage rather than hinder
the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. Not
so much in rogue states - it¹s goodbye Iraq if Saddam was ever daft enough
to try to take out New York. Rather, China and Russia will feel threatened
that NMD gives America too much leverage. China, soon to have the world¹s
second largest economy, is bound to react negatively. The American
counter-argument is twofold. First, the Chinese are already reacting. Not
only have they just demonstrated their new long-range rocket, there is every
reason to believe they have been secretly buying the Arrow anti-missile
missile technology from the Israelis - a little peccadillo that Clinton and
Gore somehow overlooked. Second, Bush sees a rapid deployment of NMD as
actually averting the likely proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,
at least for generation, by stymieing their effective delivery. Before you
criticise, remember that it was Bill Clinton who, sotto voce, established
the Ballistic Missile Defence Organisation in 1993 to fund the whole NMD
programme. Bush will merely pick up neatly where Clinton left off.

The next argument against NMD is more local. If we host the X-band radars,
Yorkshire might get the first rogue atom bomb. Leaving aside the fact this
is supposed to be why we have spent all that money on Trident submarines,
Bush has already offered to deploy an NMD anti-missile shield to cover the
UK. Clinton cannily offered to share the technology with Russia as a way of
removing Putin¹s objections to ending the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
That could also be a way of dealing with China and defuse the notion that
NMD only exists to facilitate American hegemony. Besides, some countries are
quietly happy with NMD. India - which America increasingly sees as a
valuable regional ally - thinks NMD would give the US the clout to threaten
Pakistan in the event of an incipient Indo-Pak nuclear confrontation.

Of course, a deadlocked Congress and an American economic recession next
year might kick the NMD into touch, but don¹t count on it. Deploying NMD is
a core US strategic decision. Britain would be better to buy into it now,
including its protective umbrella. Then scrap our over-expensive nuclear
subs at the earliest opportunity, diverting resources into an upgrading of
our conventional force projection in the Atlantic, European and
Mediterranean theatres. That package will not guarantee eternal security,
but it would be a basis for reaffirming our special relationship with the US
and reflect a determination to pursue our own national interests in a world,
post-Nice, where everyone else is doing likewise.

International Herald Tribune, 15th December

Reuters: President Vladimir Putin of Russia joined his Cuban counterpart,
Fidel Castro, on Thursday in condemning the U.S. embargo on the island,
while at the same time congratulating the U.S. president-elect, George W.

Mr. Putin and Mr. Castro signed a joint declaration at Havana's Revolution
Palace criticizing the U.S. sanctions, urging world "multipolarity" in the
face of American "hegemony" and warning of the perils of economic
globalization for Third World nations.

In a reference to events like the Balkans crisis, where Havana and Moscow
were united in their disapproval of NATO military action in 1999, both
leaders also underlined in their statement the "fruitlessness" of
"humanitarian interventions."

But it was the mention of the U.S. embargo that would have most pleased the
74-year-old Mr. Castro, hosting Mr. Putin since Wednesday night on the first
visit by a Russian leader to Latin America since the breakup of the Soviet
Union a decade ago.

"They have repeated their condemnation of the continued trade, economic and
financial blockade of Cuba by the United States, as well as any other
extraterritorial acts linked to the blockade," said a Russian-language
version of the joint communiqué, signed after a first round of formal talks.

That came just after Mr. Putin sent his message to Mr. Bush wishing him
"success in this important and responsible post" and looking forward to "an
intensive and constructive dialogue with you and your administration."

Mr. Bush has promised a tough line on Mr. Castro, defiantly maintaining one
of the world's last few bastions of communism and a longtime political thorn
in the side of Washington.

Although himself a proponent of multi party democracy and free-market
economics - both of which Mr. Castro has rejected in Cuba - Mr. Putin
nevertheless wants to rekindle Moscow's political and economic ties with its
former Cold War client and ally.

In addition to the bilateral trade and investment benefits for Cuba, Mr.
Putin is thought to want to rebuild Russia's global role, particularly in
the Third World, and has not been shy of making advances to other nations
viewed suspiciously by the West - including Libya, North Korea and Iraq.

On top of their joint communiqué, Mr. Castro and Mr. Putin also penned five
other agreements, covering legal and health cooperation, the avoidance of
double taxation, trade targets for 2001-2005 and a project on archives of
mutual interest.

The presidents, who met at Havana airport for Mr. Putin's arrival, were to
spend most of the day together, with a visit to the Russian operated Lourdes
electronic intelligence center outside the Cuban capital scheduled for the

Mr. Putin's two days of formal activities - prior to a weekend at the
world-famous beach resort of Varadero, at Mr. Castro's invitation - began
with a military guard of honor in front of the Revolution Palace.

Mr. Putin then placed a wreath to honor Cuba's 19th century independence
hero, Jose Marti.

The Russian also held an unscheduled 20 minute meeting with Mr. Castro after
his arrival shortly before midnight Wednesday, during which he invited Mr.
Castro to visit Moscow.

The last major visit to Cuba from Moscow was by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989,
who received an effusive bearhug from Mr. Castro and an open-top drive into
Havana past cheering masses, rather than the businesslike handshake and
quiet drive he shared with Mr. Putin on Wednesday.

The Soviet Union became Cuba's strategic partner shortly after Mr. Castro
came to power in his 1959 revolution, which toppled the dictator Fulgencio
Batista. But relations loosened dramatically after the collapse of the
Soviet empire in 1991.

Discussions are widely expected to center on the problem of Cuba's massive
debt to Moscow, estimated at $20 billion.

The New York Times, Friday, December 15, 2000

Two years ago, representatives of virtually every country met in Rome to
complete work on the design of an International Criminal Court. The finished
document was endorsed by 120 nations. Only seven voted against it - among
them Iraq, Libya, China and the United States. Now President Bill Clinton
has a last chance to reverse this mistake and embrace the court.

The United States, which has been a strong proponent of international
tribunals for war crimes in the Balkans and Africa, balked at a permanent
court that would be able to judge those accused of genocide, crimes against
humanity or war crimes worldwide. Despite safeguards that would allow the
court to take over only if national governments were unable or unwilling to
bring the accused to justice, the Pentagon worried that the court could be
used to try American soldiers unjustly.

The Pentagon's objections were misplaced, as the court will have sufficient
safeguards to prevent frivolous prosecutions. But the Defense Department has
been vehement enough to keep the United States from endorsing a court that
would further American interests. As one of the nations most often asked to
clean up the messes created by troublemakers like Slobodan Milosevic and
Saddam Hussein, the United States would greatly benefit from the existence
of a court that could try such men and put them behind bars.

Mr. Clinton's signature on the document creating the court would not make
the United States a party to the treaty that created the court. That would
require ratification by the Senate, which would be desirable but is unlikely
to happen soon. By signing, however, Mr. Clinton would encourage eventual
ratification, preserve American influence in continuing discussions about
the details of the court and maintain Washington's global leadership in
human rights and efforts to bring international criminals to justice.

Mr. Clinton can sign until the end of the year. After that, countries must
simply ratify the treaty. His signature now would further American interests
and the cause of justice worldwide for decades to come.

Sanaa, Reuters, 15th December

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said yesterday his country's relations
with its rich northern neighbour Saudi Arabia were set for a major
improvement that would include joint oil projects.

Saleh was speaking a day after the Saudi-Yemeni Cooperation Council (SYCC)
held its first meeting in 13 years on Wednesday and announced that Saudi
Arabia had agreed to reschedule Yemen's $331 million debts to it and extend
$300 million in fresh loans.

"I believe that this is a start that will be followed by more important
steps towards partnership and mutual interest leading to trust," Saleh told
Reuters in an interview at the presidential palace in Sanaa.

"Such joint projects covering various sectors will make the Yemeni and Saudi
citizens the guardians and protectors of those joint interests, despite the
political differences that might arise between the two leaderships of the
two countries," he said.

Saudi Arabia had frozen all aid to its poor southern neighbour after Yemen
was seen as siding with Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. It also
expelled hundreds of thousands of Yemenis in retaliation.

Saudi-Yemeni relations have been improving since the two countries signed a
border agreement in June this year, ending a long-running dispute which had
occasionally erupted into armed clashes since the 1930s when tribal
homelands and frontiers in the region were poorly defined.

Saleh said surveys in the area that was handed over to Yemen under the June
border pact gave "promising" results that showed there were good quantities
of oil. He gave no further details.

Asked what projects Yemen hoped to sign with Saudi Arabia, Saleh said: "If
there is oil on the joint border, then there will be joint investment. If
Saudi Arabia finds oil on its side of the border and wants to pump it to the
Arabian sea through Yemen, then we welcome that."

"We have a pipeline that can take Saudi and Yemen oil to the Arabia sea," he
said referring to the line built by Canadian Occidental, now called Canadian
Nexxen, that carries some 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Yemeni crude to
Al Sheher port. It has a capacity of 400,000 bpd.

"This way, Saudi Arabia will have a third outlet for its crude in addition
to the existing outlets in the Gulf and Red Sea," Saleh added. Yemen, one of
the Arab world's poorest nations, hopes improved relations with its
neighbour, the world's largest oil exporter and the region's wealthiest
economy, will boost investments and improve its general economic situation.

The SYCC statement, published by Saudi and Yemeni newspapers on Thursday,
said the new loans would help finance development projects in Yemen. "The
two sides agreed that a delegation from the Saudi Development Fund will
visit Yemen to discuss with officials at the finance and planning ministries
rescheduling Yemen's debts to Saudi Arabia," the statement said.

"The Saudi side promised to extend to Yemen $300 million in the form of
loans to finance some development projects," it added. The two countries
also agreed on other cooperation steps in education, agriculture, health,
trade and investment.

by Richard Norton-Taylor
The Guardian - United Kingdom; Dec 16, 2000

The RAF is suffering a severe loss of personnel, with 30% more leaving than
being recruited, according to figures released yesterday.

John Spellar, the armed forces minister, said that 2,320 people left the RAF
between May and October. Only 1,777 were recruited over the period.

He gave the figures in response to a question from the shadow defence
secretary, Iain Duncan-Smith, and disclosed that because of defects in the
RAF's Tucano aircraft, young pilots were completing their basic fast jet
training in Australia.

In a highly unusual public intervention earlier this month, Air Chief
Marshal Sir Peter Squire, chief of the air staff, told The Officer magazine
that RAF flight crews were becoming frustrated because inadequate funding
was depriving them of equipment to do sufficient training.

Sir Peter told The Officer it was increasingly difficult to meet the 3%
annual efficiency savings demanded by the Treasury. He said the RAF's
inability to buy enough 'mission critical' equipment had stretched bases in
the UK. 'There is a lack of quality training back at the main base,' he

Pilots were getting only half or two thirds of the flying hours needed to
refresh their skills. The problem is compounded by computer problems
involving long-delayed plans to upgrade Tornado bombers.

RAF engineers are having to rob spares from one aircraft to use in another -
'not an efficient way of doing business,' said Sir Peter.

Pilots on average earn about pounds 40,000 a year, including pounds 10,950
flying pay.

The maximum they could hope to earn as a squadron leader, the highest flying
rank, is about pounds 50,000. This is significantly lower than the salaries
paid even by short-haul airlines offering cheap flights.

'Pilots in their thirties can earn pounds 10,000 more at a civil airline and
the gap widens,' an RAF officer said.

The RAF is short of some 100 fast jet pilots. This has added to problems of
overstretch, with pilots spending more time on operations - including the
no-fly zones over Iraq.

'All the money is being put into overseas operations,' Andrew Brookes,
airforce expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and a
former pilot, said yesterday.

'The only way to save money is on fuel. It is a complete and utterly
ridiculous state of affairs,' he said.

He added that even flying scholarships for young pilots had been abandoned.
A flight simulator designed to save money on fuel had been shown not to be
up to the job.

Meanwhile, lack of funds and bad management meant that it took five years to
train a pilot in the RAF compared with two years in the US airforce.

He said many pilots were leaving flying altogether. They were not attracted
by the higher pay and allowances in the civil airline sector, because they
wanted a settled job with their families.

Many RAF personnel - not just pilots - were leaving for business where
skills they learned in the services and their military background were
sought after.

The armed forces review board is expected in its forthcoming awards to
improve pilots' pay by up to pounds 20,000 a year. There is a shortage of
navy and army helicopter pilots as well as pilots for RAF multi-engined
aircraft, the national Audit Office pointed out in a recent report.

It estimated that almost pounds 42m of pounds 155m spent on training RAF
fast jet pilots in 1998/99 was lost to wastage and delays in training.

The MoD also admitted recently that almost a third of the navy's trained Sea
Harrier pilots were considering resigning their commissions and leaving the
service. It admitted there was concern over the possible loss of up to 13
pilots - equivalent to the strength of one of the Fleet Air Arm's two Sea
Harrier squadrons.

by Frances Williams
Financial Times; Dec 16, 2000

The United Nations refugee agency, twice a Nobel peace prizewinner, marked
its 50th anniversary this week with some pride and considerable self-doubt.

Sadako Ogata, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, can claim important
achievements over her 10-year tenure, which has coincided with some of the
biggest refugee emergencies since the second world war.

But she will leave Ruud Lubbers, the former Dutch premier who takes the
UNHCR helm next month, an organisation under challenge from all quarters.

First among these is the threat to UNHCR's core mandate to protect refugees,
based on the 1951 UN refugee convention requiring countries to grant asylum
to those fleeing persecution by governments for their beliefs.

Over the past decade or so western governments, particularly those in
Europe, have erected ever higher barriers to refugee entry, on the pretext
of keeping out illegal immigrants and "bogus" asylum-seekers.

Research commissioned by the agency suggests that these restrictions deny
asylum to genuine refugees, who, alongside economic migrants, are turning in
ever greater numbers to traffickers and smugglers.

The other threat to UNHCR's core mandate comes from the changing nature of
refugee operations. Instead of a steady trickle of political dissidents from
the communist countries of eastern Europe, the agency has faced mass refugee
emergencies provoked by civil strife, in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans, the
African Great Lakes region and now in west Africa.

In becoming one of the world's biggest aid agencies, critics say, UNHCR has
lost sight of its original protection function, making sometimes dubious
compromises with warlords and politicians to keep aid flowing. That has
served to fuel conflict and put refugees in danger, critics argue.

Mrs Ogata denies that protection has been downgraded but says people cannot
be protected once they are dead. She also has harsh words for governments
that, she argues, have too often seen aid as a substitute for political
action to avert or resolve conflicts.

UNHCR is consulting governments and others on the 1951 convention to
reaffirm its protection mandate and adapt it to current circumstances. These
include mass exodus, the granting of temporary asylum during times of
conflict and the recognition for asylum purposes of persecution by non-state
actors such as rebel movements or religious bodies.

UNHCR also wants some form of international protection extended to the
estimated 20m 25m internally displaced people (IDPs) around the world, who
now outnumber by two to one the 12m or so refugees who have crossed national
borders. The refugee agency, which has a caseload of 22.3m, looks after
about 4m IDPs under ad hoc arrangements but most have no international legal

Mrs Ogata has also been unable to resolve UNHCR's recurring budget problems.
The agency, which yesterday launched its budget appeal for Dollars 953.7m
for 2001, is almost completely reliant on voluntary contributions from a
dozen or so governments, led by the US, Japan and some western European

[The article finishes with the UNHCR website address:]

Miami Herald, December 16, 2000,

PARIS -- Dissident cleric Hossein Ali Montazeri, once in line to be Iran's
supreme leader, has published his memoirs on the Internet, provoking a cyber
war with the leadership in Tehran.

Montazeri, 79, who had been chosen to succeed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini,
founder of the Islamic republic, has been living under house arrest in Qom,
south of Tehran, ever since he was forced to resign weeks before Khomeini's
death in 1989.

A fierce opponent of Iran's spiritual and political leader, Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei, Montazeri has managed to make his opinion known through his sons.

But he moved more forcefully Monday when he published a 600-page memoir on
an Internet site based in Britain, which his sons verified as his work.

The document, published in Persian and available at,
provides testimony to some of the most dramatic moments of the Iranian
revolution and the war with Iraq.

Authorities in Tehran have not publicly reacted to Montazeri's memoirs, but
on Thursday another website -- -- appeared on the Internet
and described itself as representing the office of Khamenei.

Most noteworthy on the first site are Montazeri's remarks on how he tried in
1988 to prevent the summary execution of thousands of opponents to the
Khomeini regime. He states that Khomeini ordered the executions after the
opposition launched a fierce offensive against Iranian troops from bases in

``All those against the revolution must disappear and quickly be executed,''
the cleric quotes Khomeini as saying in a written note.

Montazeri decided to intervene to prevent the killing of 2,800 to 3,800 men
by writing a letter to Khomeini in which he appealed for compassion.

``I told myself `I am after all the Imam's successor and I took part in this
revolution','' he says in his memoirs. ``If an innocent man is killed, I am
also responsible.''

UPI, Sat 16 Dec 2000

British Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain Saturday called for speedy
arrests of bombers responsible for the latest attack on a British expatriate
in Saudi Arabia on Friday night. Scotsman David Brown, a Coca-Cola
International executive in the Saudi city of Khobar, was the third Briton to
be targeted in an attack suspected to have been carried out by Saudi

Saudi security sources told news media the device went off as Brown tried to
remove a small parcel which looked like a pack of juice placed near the
windshield of his car. He suffered severe injuries to his hands and eyes and
was rushed to hospital where he underwent emergency surgery. His wife was
uninjured in the attack, officials said.

Hain said that Britons living in Saudi Arabia had been issued with special
security advice, especially concerning vehicles. In the past few weeks there
have been community meetings, and security guidance has been posted on the
internet. He said in a radio interview that Britons generally so far had "a
very happy coexistence" with Saudis but conceded that Britain's stance on
Iraq had "evoked a lot of criticism in the region" and "this may or may not
be related."

Security analysts told UPI that extremists might consider Britons in the
kingdom more vulnerable as so far they took less precautions than Americans
based in the region. Officials have said Britain now regards Saudi Arabia as
one of the countries where there is an increased threat to British
nationals. About 30,000 Britons work in Saudi Arabia, many of them in the
defense industry. "Our sympathy is with the injured man and his wife," Hain
said in a statement. "The safety of the British community in Saudi Arabia is
of paramount concern to us. This is a serious incident."

He is the third Briton to be targeted in a bomb attack in less than a month,
although Hain said it was too early to make a link Officials said a special
medical team was sent to the city in Saudi Arabia's Eastern province to help
care for Brown, who is in his mid-thirties and a customer services manager
for Coca-Cola International.

Hain said that the Saudi authorities were fully cooperating with British
officials but he called for a speedy resolution to their investigation.
Diplomats told United Press International a team of British investigators is
in the kingdom helping Saudi authorities with their quest for those
responsible for the two previous incidents. One Briton was killed and four
others were injured in two separate car explosions in the capital, Riyadh,
last month. The Saudi interior ministry said Friday that several suspects
had been arrested in connection with the explosions, including one American,
whom the authorities suspect because of his relationship with the Briton who
was killed in his car on Nov. 17. His wife was slightly injured. Officials
said that if the American suspect, Michael Sedlak, was formally charged in
the Nov. 17 car explosion, he would be tried in the kingdom under the
country's Islamic laws and could receive the death sentence if found guilty.

Four days after that incident, three Britons and an Irish woman were injured
in a second attack in the capital. Dr Saad Al-Faqih, head of a London-based
Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia, told the British Broadcasting Corp.
that all westerners in Saudi Arabia were potential targets. He said the
attacks are being carried out by small groups of Saudis who opposed the
presence of western military forces in the country. Al-Faqih said emotions
were also aroused by the clashes between Palestinians and Israelis. Although
most Saudis blame the U.S. for supporting Israel, Al-Faqih said, U.S.
citizens were harder to attack as they were more vigilant than Britons. U.S.
companies and residents in the area tightened security after two major
attacks in 1995 and 1996, in Riyadh and eastern Saudi Arabia's main oil
center of Dhahran, which together killed 24 American citizens.
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