DTN News: China TODAY March 15, 2010 ~ China Faces Tough Year, Wen Rejects Pressure On YuanSource: DTN News / Int'l Media & AFP
(NSI News Source Info) BEIJING, China - March 15, 2010: China faces a difficult year as it works to maintain economic growth and spur development, but will not be bullied into changing its exchange rate policy, Premier Wen Jiabao said Sunday. Customers watch the live broadcast of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's press conference after the closing of the National People's Congress in a shop on March 14, 2010 in Miyi County of Panzhihua City, Sichuan Province, China. Wen said adjusting the economic structure and transforming economic growth pattern will be top priorities. China has concluded its annual parliamentary sessions, the National People's Congress (NPC) and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
In a wide-ranging press conference at the end of China's annual session of parliament, Wen said Beijing was not ready to withdraw stimulus measures put in place in late 2008 to pull the world's third-largest economy out of crisis.
He also warned Beijing would not bow to foreign pressure to boost the value of its currency, nor allow the United States to push it too far on the thorny issues of Taiwan and Tibet.
"This year is going to be the most complicated year for the economy," Wen told hundreds of reporters gathered at the Great Hall of the People for his only formal press conference of the year.
"We will maintain the continuity and stability of our macroeconomic policies," he said, adding that as circumstances changed, Beijing would make its policies "more flexible".
The Communist government launched a 586-billion-dollar stimulus package in late 2008 to boost domestic demand as a way to make up for falling exports, which plummeted when US and European markets tumbled into recession.
Beijing has since returned to double-digit growth -- a blistering 10.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009 -- prompting fears of economic overheating and asset bubbles that could lead to a bust.
Inflation rose for the fourth straight month in February while new lending slowed sharply, official data showed last week, leading analysts to predict Beijing could wait a bit longer before implementing tough tightening measures.
Wen said China's focus remained on consolidating its economic recovery, adding that "the main global economic problems have not completely disappeared."
China's trade partners have repeatedly called for Beijing to allow the yuan to appreciate, saying it is kept artificially low to boost exports.
President Barack Obama last week called on China to adopt a "market-oriented" exchange rate policy, which he said would make an "essential contribution" to rebalancing the world economy after the crisis.
But Wen rejected those calls, saying the currency's value was not to blame for foreign trade deficits.
"We are opposed to the practice of engaging in mutual finger-pointing among countries or taking strong measures to force other countries to appreciate their currencies," he said.
The premier said China had made "strong efforts" since the outbreak of the international financial crisis to keep the yuan at a "stable level".
The value of the yuan has become a major sticking point in relations between China and the United States, which are badly strained over a number of issues including trade disputes, Tibet, Taiwan and Internet freedom.
Wen also said US arms sales to Taiwan and Obama's meeting last month with the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, violated China's sovereignty and it was up to Washington to repair the damage.
He reiterated the government's resolve to tackle a widening rich-poor gap increasingly seen as a threat to social stability.
China's "economic and social development must from now on pay attention to the poor and the disadvantaged as they are the majority," he said.
The parliament pledged during its session to widen the nation's much-criticised social safety net, increase representation from the peasant countryside and take other measures to spread wealth more evenly.
Calls have been mounting for the government to address a disparity that has seen rural regions largely left behind in China's economic boom and is increasingly viewed as a potential spark for unrest.
DTN News: Indonesia TODAY March 15, 2010 ~ Islamic Group Protests Obama's Visit To IndonesiaSource: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) JAKARTA, Indonesia - March 15, 2010: Thousands of followers of a conservative Islamic group held peaceful demonstrations Sunday in several Indonesian cities against the planned visit of President Barack Obama. Indonesian members of Hizbut Tahrir, a conservative Islamic group, march during a protest against the planned visit of U.S. President Barack Obama outside the U.S. consulate in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, Sunday, March 14, 2010. Obama is scheduled to travel later this month to the world's most populous Muslim country where he lived as a boy. Writings on the banner mean "reject Obama visit" and call him "colonialist."
Witnesses and police said members of the Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir protested in East Java's provincial capital of Surabaya, South Sulawesi's capital of Makassar and three other cities. The group, an international network which believes Muslims should unite in a single global state governed by Islamic law, urged the Indonesian government to reject the American leader's trip, scheduled for late March.
"We know Obama spent his childhood in Indonesia, but as president his policy contradicts the people's interests in Indonesia," protest organizer Nasrudin said in Makassar.
Hundreds of police monitored the protests, which drew around 2,000 people outside the U.S. Consulate in Surabaya and another 2,000 in the streets of Makassar. No violence was reported. Dozens of demonstrators also rallied in the Java city of Yogyakarta, the West Kalimantan town of Pontianak and the eastern town of Mataram.
Men and women wearing black veils held up yellow banners reading "Reject the visit of Obama" as they marched in the streets of the two larger cities.
"He doesn't work for a peaceful world ... on the contrary, Obama is the same as George Bush, who has destroyed the Muslim world in Iraq and Afghanistan. Therefore we have to reject the visit of Obama to Indonesia," said Nasrudin, who, like many Indonesians, uses only one name.
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation. Most of its nearly 200 million Muslims practice a moderate form of the faith.
The country's largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, and its second largest, Muhamadyah, have both welcomed Obama's visit.
DTN News: Afghanistan TODAY March 15, 2010 ~ Kandahar Bombings A 'Warning' To Nato Says Taliban
Source: DTN News / Int'l Media
(NSI News Source Info) KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - March 15, 2010: Thirty-five people were killed in an assault on Kandahar described by the Taliban as a pre-emptive response to Western plans to eradicate them from the strategic city, officials said on Sunday.
Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Islamist group, said the bombings proved the insurgents were still able to operate despite the buildup of Afghan and international troops in the south of Afghanistan in preparation for a push into Kandahar province.
A separate, Taliban-linked website called the attacks a "warning" to Gen Stanley McChrystal. The top Nato general has said Kandahar province is the next target for coalition forces, who recently drove the insurgents from a key stronghold in neighbouring Helmand province.
"Gen McChrystal has said that soon they will start their operations, and now we have already started our operations," Mr Ahmadi said. "With all the preparations they have taken, still they are not able to stop us."
Saturday's explosions - there were at least five blasts, four of them suicide attacks - killed at least 35 people.
Tooryalai Wesa, the governor of the province, said he had asked the central government in Kabul for more Afghan troops to protect the city in the run-up to the expected offensive in the province, which is the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban. He also said he wants to coordinate with Nato forces to improve security.
Residents say Taliban militants can operate with little restraint in Kandahar, the largest city in southern Afghanistan and capital of the province that shares its name.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the attacks, which hit the city's prison, police headquarters, a wedding hall next door and other areas on roads leading to the prison.
The main target was the prison, where investigators have found eight suicide vests, three rockets and AK-47 ammunition, police said.
The assault mirrored a 2008 suicide bombing at the Kandahar prison gates that freed hundreds of prisoners, many of them suspected insurgents. No inmates escaped this time from the lockup, which Canadian troops reinforced with cement block after the 2008 attack.
Among the dead were 13 policemen and 22 civilians, including six women and three children, the interior ministry said. Most of the casualties occurred at the police headquarters and at the wedding celebration in a hall next door.
Another 57 people were wounded, including 17 policemen, and 42 homes were damaged, the ministry said.
Kandahar city, population 800,000, was the seat of government for the Taliban when it ruled Afghanistan, imposing its vision of Islamic theocracy for five years before being toppled by US-backed forces in 2001.
The offensive that US, Nato and Afghan forces are planning in Kandahar later this year is a follow-up to the ongoing military operation in Helmand province's Marjah district.
DTN News: Venezuela Obtains K-8 Military Planes From China
Source: DTN News / AP
(NSI News Source Info) CARACAS, Venezuela - March 14, 2010: Venezuela has received its first shipment of six Chinese-made K-8 military planes, and President Hugo Chavez says his government aims to buy 40 in all.
Chavez announced plans last year to buy the trainer and light attack jets. Chavez reiterated Saturday that he turned to China and Russia for weapons because the United States has barred arms sales to Venezuela. Several planes flew overhead during the ceremony at an air base in the city of Barquisimeto.
Venezuela has bought more than $4 billion worth of Russian arms since 2005, including Sukhoi fighter jets, attack helicopters and assault rifles. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is to visit Venezuela soon. Chavez has said it could be next week, though no date has been announced.
DTN News: Pak Army May Be Paying Compensation To Slain 26/11 Terrorists' Kin Says US LawmakerSource: DTN News / The Economic Times Chidanand Rajghatta, TNN
(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - March 14, 2010: In a remark that further implicates Pakistan's domineering military in charges of supporting terrorism against India, a US lawmaker has alleged that it may be paying compensation to families of terrorists who attacked Mumbai on 26/11.
The stunning charge came from Congressman Gary Ackerman in course of a hearing he convened on the Lashkar-e-Taiba in his capacity if chairman of a House sub-panel on South Asia on Thursday.
"There is, in fact, no reason to doubt that Pakistan's military is likely paying compensation to the families of the terrorists killed in the Mumbai attacks," Ackerman said in his prepared remarks at the start of the hearing.
The lawmaker did not elaborate on the charge against the Pakistani military, which if true would be extremely provocative for India at a time New Delhi is pressing Pakistan to take action against masterminds of 9/11. His office had not returned calls at the time of writing.
Nine of the ten Pakistani fidayeen (suicidal) terrorists who attacked Mumbai landmarks eventually died after killing 173 people. A lone captured survivor Ajmal Kasab, is now on trial in Mumbai, largely disowned by Pakistan.
Ackerman’s remark about the Pakistani military’s complicity in terrorism was just one of several at the hearing by lawmakers and expert witnesses that repeatedly implicated country’s Army and intelligence agencies and barely stopped short of calling Pakistan a terrorist state.
The only token qualification to such characterization came from Shuja Nawaz, a Pakistani-American witness from Atlantic Council, who agreed that LeT was a ''Frankenstein's monster created for the purpose of assisting the Kashmiri freedom movement'' but insisted it ''ended up... with an independent agenda.''
"Successive civil and military leaders of Pakistan supported the movement as a strategic asset to counter a powerful India... by waging a war of "a thousand cuts"' Nawaz, who is the brother of a former Pakistan Army chief Asif Nawaz Janjua conceded, while contending that ''Over time, however, the sponsored organisation took a life of its own.''
Broadly expressing dismay over the Obama administration’s lackadaisical approach to the Pakistani military’s use of terrorism, the hearing also challenged the notion that the Kashmir issue was the root cause of the problem between India and Pakistan, a proposition advanced only by Congressman Dan Burton, a long-time supporter of Pakistan.
Congressman Ackerman described the idea that resolving the Kashmir issue will end terrorism as ''dangerous nonsense.'' ''The LeT's true goal is not Kashmir, it is India. And the LeT is not shy about announcing that its intention is to establish an Islamic state in all South Asia,'' Ackerman said. The witnesses broadly agreed with this assessment.
"There is no doubt in my mind that we have to find ways to resolve the issues relating to Kashmir. But I think resolving Kashmir is not going to solve the problems relating to LeT," Ashley Tellis, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said.
"The murder and mayhem is being conducted by groups that have absolutely no connections to Kashmir. To my mind that is story, the fact that this is a group that has operations in 21 countries, that has an ideology that is completely anti-Western, that is opposed to modernity and secularism and all the kinds of values that we take for granted. This group is not going to be satisfied by dealing with the issue of Kashmir," he added.
Heritage’s Lisa Curtis challenged Congressman Dan Burton’s proposition the terrorism problem would not be solved without resolving the future of Kashmir through a plebiscite, saying in her travels to the region she hasn’t heard any support for the idea of a plebiscite and even Gen Musharraf had dropped the demand in favour of more forward-looking solutions.