No announcement yet.

Insider notes from United Press International for March 22

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Insider notes from United Press International for March 22

    United Press International
    March 22, 2004 Monday 13:11 PM Eastern Time

    UPI Hears ...

    WASHINGTON, March 22 (UPI)

    Insider notes from United Press International for March 22,


    An increasing issue for the Pentagon as it extends its global
    military presence is its "Status of Forces Agreement" (SOFA) with the
    host country. SOFA agreements are frequently seen as shielding U.S.
    servicemen committing criminal acts from local justice, as the
    agreements provide for trial by the U.S. military rather than local
    jurisdictions. Japan, host to U.S. forces since 1945, is particularly
    concerned about modifying its SOFA agreement with Washington. SOFA
    currently does not require the United States to hand over military
    suspects alleged to have committed crimes until Japanese prosecutors
    indict them. The two countries are expected shortly to agree to a
    compromise allowing U.S. officials to attend interrogations of U.S.
    military personnel suspected of such serious crimes as murder or
    rape. Washington and Tokyo are expected to resume official
    negotiations later this month and formally agree on changes in
    implementing SOFA.

    As Turkey holds its breath over its possible accession to European
    Union membership, the EU is casting its eyes even further afield. The
    EU's special envoy on South Caucasus, Heike Talvitie, told a meeting
    of Azerbaijan's permanent parliamentary commission on human rights in
    Baku that a special project was being developed to admit Georgia,
    Azerbaijan and Armenia to the EU and that the dates and condition for
    admission of the three countries will be made public after the
    project is developed. In broadening the EU's contacts with the
    country's political opposition, Talvitie met with MP Ali Karimli,
    chairman of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, Musavat Party
    leader Isa Gambar and Etibar Mammadov, chairman of the Party for
    National Independence of Azerbaijan. Before flying to Yerevan,
    Talvitie stressed that he would make every effort to settle the Upper
    Karabakh conflict and take advantage of all opportunities to reach
    peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

    One of the few certainties in the wake of Israel's "targeted
    assassination" of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin is that
    in the short-term the Middle East is likely to become an even more
    dangerous place as Hamas militants seek to avenge their fallen
    leader. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's counter-terrorism adviser Avi
    Arditi has underlined that the Israeli government's recent travel
    advisory warning citizens against visiting Sinai is based on hard
    intelligence and not just general information. Among other areas
    Israeli travel advisories warn Israelis to avoid visiting are
    Istanbul, Bangkok, northern India, and Philippine islands that have
    been the site of Muslim insurgent activity. Insurance companies use
    travel advisory lists to determine whether to issue life insurance
    policies to travelers putting themselves in harm's way. All the
    countries covered by the Israeli advisory -- Egypt, Turkey, Thailand,
    India and the Philippines -- are heavily dependent on tourism
    revenues, and inclusion in advisories frequently has a devastating
    economic impact.

    Qatar's feisty satellite television channel al-Jazeera has annoyed
    governments from Washington to Baghdad, with Riyadh recently claiming
    that their broadcasts incite terrorism. Now Saudi Arabian Imam
    Al-Hushan has taken the Western route, suing the channel in the
    courts over a documentary that a film crew shot in his mosque in
    Asir. The Western reporters in the broadcast version of the film
    described the mosque as a base for terrorism, adding that four of the
    9/11 suspects regularly attended prayer services there. Al-Hushan
    claims that the broadcast ruined the mosque's reputation, and is
    seeking unspecified damages. Perhaps the filmmakers were onto
    something; Asir province abuts Yemen, ancestral homeland of Osama bin
    Laden, while nearly one-third of the Guantanamo detainees are Saudi
    or Yemeni.

    It might just be coincidence, but as U.S. troops prepare for
    Operation Mountain Storm in Afghanistan, Russian and Tajik troops
    across the border today began three days of joint command and staff
    exercises in southern Tajikistan. The exercises are designed to
    improve the country's ability to interdict the flow of terrorists the
    border. Motor-rifle regiments of the Russian 201st division and the
    Tajik Armed Forces will be practicing joint maneuvers with armored
    vehicles and attack aircraft. Chief of the army staff of the Volga
    region-Urals Military District Col. Gen. Nikolai Tkachev and Maj.
    Gen. Abdulnazar Abulasanov, commander of Tajikistan's land forces are
    overseeing the exercises. In case any Taliban or al-Qaida fighters
    still in Afghanistan miss the point, joint artillery exercises will
    be held at the Mumirak range along the southern Tajik-Afghan border
    on March 24.