Saturday, February 28, 2009




LUKE 21:25-26
25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity;(MASS CONFUSION) the sea and the waves roaring;(FIERCE WINDS)
26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

The Nation's Weather By WEATHER UNDERGROUND, For The Associated Press – Fri Feb 27, 5:55 am ET

AccuWeather Heavy rain was in store for the East Coast on Friday, while thunderstorms were possible in the Southeast.Balmy temperatures in the Northeast were to drop Friday as the front moved in, leaving chilly weather in place for the weekend.The same cold front was likely to bring thunderstorms to Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Strong storms were possible throughout the region, but Mississippi and central Alabama were at greatest risk for damaging severe weather. Large hail was possible.In the West, light nuisance snow was forecast for the Dakotas and Nebraska. But further west, a pleasant day was forecast for the West Coast, with temperatures well above seasonal normals in many locations.Temperatures in the Lower 48 states on Thursday ranged from a low of minus 7 degrees at Lallock, Minn., to a high of 96 degrees at Comanche, Texas.On the Net:Weather Underground: National Weather Service:


7 The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.

Australian firefighters keep blazes under control Fri Feb 27, 7:43 am ET

MELBOURNE, Australia – Firefighters in southeastern Australia managed Friday to keep four major blazes under control despite hot temperatures and erratic winds.Heat, winds and lightning strikes were forecast and residents were warned to have fire plans in place. Schools and parks were closed and people were advised not to travel into rural areas in an effort to prevent a disaster like the one that claimed more than 200 lives on Feb. 7.None of the four major ongoing fires breached control lines Friday, while several small fires which broke out during the day were quickly controlled.It just goes to show all the hard work that people put in, said Department of Sustainability and Environment spokesman Kevin Monk.We knew today would be hot and windy and people worked their butts off to put in control lines and do backburning. I think that has really paid off, he said.But officials nervously watched forecasts of gusty winds late Friday night which could propel flames or embers toward towns or past containment lines.Monk said as cooler temperatures moved across the state there was a chance lightning strikes would spark more fires.It is still very dry, it is very windy and we have had a few lightning strikes, he said.

The official death toll from the Feb. 7 blazes remains at 210, though officials have said it could climb slightly as they search for the remains of people still listed as missing. The fires destroyed 2,029 houses, leaving 7,500 people homeless.


JOEL 3:2
2 I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.


Heres the scripture 1 week = 7 yrs Genesis 29:27-29
27 Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years.
28 And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also.
29 And Laban gave to Rachel his daughter Bilhah his handmaid to be her maid.

DANIEL 9:26-27
26 And after threescore and two weeks(62X7=434 YEARS+7X7=49 YEARS=TOTAL OF 69 WEEKS OR 483 YRS) shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary;(ROMAN LEADERS DESTROYED THE 2ND TEMPLE) and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.(THERE HAS TO BE 70 WEEKS OR 490 YRS TO FUFILL THE VISION AND PROPHECY OF DAN 9:24).(THE NEXT VERSE IS THAT 7 YR WEEK OR (70TH FINAL WEEK).
27 And he( THE ROMAN,EU PRESIDENT) shall confirm the covenant with many for one week:(1X7=7 YEARS) and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease,(3 1/2 yrs in TEMPLE SACRIFICES STOPPED) and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

14 Wherefore hear the word of the LORD, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem.
15 Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:
16 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.
17 Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.
18 And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.
19 From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report.

Netanyahu and Livni fail to agree on coalition By ARON HELLER, Associated Press Writer Aron Heller, Associated Press Writer – Fri Feb 27, 1:24 pm ET

JERUSALEM – Israel edged closer to a government of hawks and right-wing religious parties Friday after Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu failed to persuade his chief moderate rival to join a coalition that could help avert a showdown with the Obama administration.Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni refuses to sign up unless Netanyahu openly endorses the vision of dividing the land into separate Jewish and Palestinian states.Two states for two peoples is not an empty slogan — it is the only way Israel can keep its existence as a Jewish, democratic state, Livni said after their meeting. Just as I cannot accept vague statements, neither can the world. This is a matter of principle, not semantics.Netanyahu said he had made Livni a generous offer of partnership, adding that he intended to promote the diplomatic process with the Palestinians. Nevertheless, he said he encountered a complete rejection of unity from Ms. Livni.The breakdown in their talks came as President Barack Obama's Mideast envoy George Mitchell was in the region meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.Livni did not shut the door completely on an agreement, and Netanyahu still has five weeks to cobble together a government. The two deadlocked in the Feb. 10 election, but Netanyahu was appointed to form a coalition because he had greater support from the elected lawmakers.

Netanyahu can form a hard-line government that will give him a 65-seat majority in the 120-seat parliament. But that means virtually any of his partners could bring down the government in a dispute. A centrist government with Livni also would help Netanyahu ward off international pressure and avoid a clash with a U.S. president who has promised to become aggressively involved in pursuing Mideast peace.Livni, who heads the centrist Kadima Party and served as chief negotiator with the Palestinians, supports the formation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Netanyahu does not.Diplomatic activity continued Friday, with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana touring Gaza. He was the highest ranking European official to visit the territory since it was overrun by Hamas in June 2007.

Solana did not meet with representatives of Hamas, boycotted internationally as a terror group. The international community has demanded the group recognize Israel and renounce violence, conditions it has refused.I came to express solidarity with the people of Gaza and to tell them that we will be helping them in the reconstruction process, Solana said, standing at the ruins of the American International School of Gaza, which was destroyed by Israeli bombs during its recent offensive against Hamas militants.On Monday, international donors will meet in Egypt for a conference on Gaza's reconstruction. The Palestinians are seeking $2.8 billion dollars. The EU's executive office, the European Commission, said Friday it was earmarking $556 million for the Palestinians in 2009, though it was not clear how much would go to Gaza. The U.S. is expected to pledge $900 million.Israel and Hamas are holding talks through Egyptian mediation meant to produce a long-term truce in Gaza in the aftermath of Israel's three-week offensive against Hamas, which ended Jan. 18. Hamas wants Israel to open Gaza's blockaded border crossings, a step Israel says it won't take until Hamas returns an Israeli soldier held since June 2006.Hamas is also holding talks with its Fatah rivals aimed at ending the violent spat between them, which culminated in Hamas' rout of Fatah and takeover of Gaza. The goal is to forge a power-sharing agreement.

Jewish Center attacked in Venezuela; no injuries By CHRISTOPHER TOOTHAKER, Associated Press Writer – Thu Feb 26, 5:07 pm ET

CARACAS, Venezuela – Assailants threw an explosive at a Jewish community center on Thursday, but nobody was hurt in the blast — the second assault against Venezuela's Jewish community this year.Abraham Garzon, president of the Jewish Community Center, told the local Globovision television news channel that a small explosive resembling a pipe-bomb was lobbed at the building in Caracas before dawn on Thursday. The explosion damaged the doors to the center.It seems there are people in the country dedicated to sowing terrorism, Garzon said.No one claimed responsibility for the attack, which immediately reignited fears of rising anti-Semitism in Venezuela.

It was the second attack against a Jewish institution this year.

A Caracas synagogue was ransacked and vandalized last month. The assailants shattered religious objects, spray-painted Jews, get out on the temple's walls and stole a computer database containing names and addresses of Jews living in Venezuela.

Authorities have arrested 11 people, including eight police officers, suspected of participating in the attack. Investigators believe the assailants forced their way into the temple to steal a large amount of cash they believed was inside. The vandalism, authorities say, could have been aimed at turning attention away from the true motive behind the crime.On Thursday, Sergio Widder of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center criticized Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for failing to take steps aimed at curbing anti-Semitism.Chavez should strongly criticize pro-government Web sites and newspapers that have carried articles and columns that many Venezuelan Jews perceive as anti-Semitic, he said.This is outrageous, it's turning into an escalation, said Widder, the center's representative for Latin America.It's the government's responsibility to stop this.During Israel's offensive in Gaza, Chavez fiercely criticized the Jewish state and ordered the Israeli ambassador out of Venezuela. Protests against the military incursion were held in Caracas and demonstrators hurled shoes at and sprayed graffiti on the Israeli embassy.Chavez, who has repeatedly condemned the Jan. 30 attack on the synagogue, denies being anti-Semitic. The socialist leader says he simply opposes Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. He accuses the Israeli government of acting as an arm of Washington.
Venezuela's Jewish community numbers nearly 15,000.


DANIEL 7:23-24
23 Thus he said, The fourth beast(THE EU,REVIVED ROME) shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth,(7TH WORLD EMPIRE) which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces.(TRADE BLOCKS)
24 And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise:(10 NATIONS) and another shall rise after them;(#11 SPAIN) and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.(BE HEAD OF 3 KINGS OR NATIONS).

German centre-right party calls for EU referendums
HONOR MAHONY 27.02.2009 @ 07:47 CET

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Germany's centre-right CSU party is hoping to tap into anti-European sentiment in the influential state of Bavaria to attract votes for the June European elections.Horst Seehofer, head of Bavaria's Christian Social Union, on Wednesday (25 February) made a campaign speech that was notable for its break with the more pro-European stance of its sister party, the CDU, currently the major party in Germany's governing coalition.In the speech, Mr Seehofer said Europe must become much closer to its citizens and that citizens should have the right to decide on important questions, specifically naming Turkish EU membership as a referendum-worthy issue.I want German citizens to be asked whether the European family should be extended to Turkey. Citizens should decide on that,he said.Earlier in the week, Alexander Dobrind, secretary general of the CSU said: More direct democracy and a clear no to full Turkish membership, for example, are demands that the CSU could make clearer in its election programme.We have to find new ways to allow people to take part more in Europe and to give them more say. More direct democracy, referendums and a change to the election system towards a European direct mandate would do this.Mentioning referendums and Turkish EU membership in the same breath in traditionally conservative Bavaria is a potentially explosive political cocktail.

There are about 2.7 million people of Turkish origin living in Germany. While most have integrated into German society, there remain Turkish communities with little contact with wider society and there is occasionally tension between the communities.Mr Seehofer's message against Turkey's full EU membership chimes with that of Angela Merkel and her CDU party. But the Christian Democratic Union – currently in a fractious coalition with the social democrats - has never campaigned on an EU referendum platform, pleading rather for representative democracy. It has also never played the eurosceptic card at election time.Mr Seehofer's line has largely been seen as a reaction to the fact that the party risks a wipe out in the European elections.At the moment, the CSU has nine euro-deputies in Brussels but it fears a haemorrhage of votes to the Liberals and independent parties. Parties need to get over five percent of the total vote to enter the EU assembly, seen as a high hurdle for the CSU, which only runs in Bavaria. In regional elections in September, while still the leading party, its electoral share dropped by 17.3 percent.The CSU's more populist approach to Europe has prompted speculation in German media about whether such policies – if they are seen to work – will find resonance in the party base of the CDU, which is also suffering in the polls.

ASEAN unveils rights body but it still lacks teeth By JIM GOMEZ, Associated Press Writer – Fri Feb 27, 8:10 am ET

CHA-AM, Thailand – A new Southeast Asian human rights body will promote fundamental freedoms, but will lack the power to punish violators such as military-ruled Myanmar, according to a draft proposal obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

Officials attending the annual summit of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations hailed the push to create the body as a historic first step toward confronting abuses.The confidential draft, which outlines the proposed powers of the future rights body, says it will promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.It falls short, however, of key demands voiced by international human rights groups, which say the body will have limited effectiveness unless it can impose sanctions or expel countries that violate the rights of their own citizens.

ASEAN traditionally shies away from criticizing its members, although some leaders said that issues of democratic reform in Myanmar and human rights abuses were being discussed on the sidelines of the meetings.The document was presented behind closed doors to ASEAN foreign ministers gathered at a coastal resort in Thailand ahead of the annual leaders' summit this weekend.The draft is the first to outline the body's proposed powers; a final one is expected in July.It is a historic first for Southeast Asia, said Rosario Manalo, a Philippine diplomat on the panel that drafted the human rights body's outline.But some officials acknowledged concern that the text's lack of clout would prevent the body from being taken seriously.Of course we are concerned, Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda told the AP. What we need to develop is a good mechanism in ASEAN to promote and protect human rights.Rights groups said the draft appeased violators of human rights and offered little in the way of human rights protections.

How can you promote human rights and not interfere in domestic affairs? said Yap Swee Seng, executive director of the Bangkok-based Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development.This is a victory for Myanmar and other ASEAN governments who want this principle included because they don't want outside interference.Despite the attention given to the human rights issue, leaders say the summit will focus on the global economic meltdown and how the export-dependent region can best cope with the crisis.ASEAN signed a free trade agreement with Australia and New Zealand on Friday, a pact that could boost the combined gross domestic product of all 12 nations by more than $48 billion by 2020.Officials sought to temper criticism of the proposed human rights body, saying that Myanmar's acceptance of a human rights group was a step forward and that the body's powers could evolve over time.According to the document, the body would follow the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of ASEAN member states and all decisions would be based on consultation and consensus,giving Myanmar and other violators veto power to block decisions.

International human rights groups have urged ASEAN leaders to press Myanmar's ruling military junta to end its rights abuses, including its detention of thousands of political prisoners.The summit, hosted by current chair Thailand, is the first since the group signed a landmark charter in December making ASEAN a legal entity and moving it a step closer to its goal of establishing a single market by 2015 and becoming a European Union-like community.ASEAN's 10 members — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — range from very poor to moderately rich. Associated Press writer Jocelyn Gecker contributed to this report.

Zimbabwe gets promises, not cash at regional group By CLARE NULLIS, Associated Press Writer – Fri Feb 27, 10:12 am ET

CAPE TOWN, South Africa – Zimbabwe has come away empty-handed from a regional meeting at which it asked for a $2 billion economic rescue package.Foreign and finance ministers of the 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) ended a two day conference Friday promising to pursue measures in support of Zimbabwe's economic recovery program.They said regional heads of state would meet to discuss the financing proposals submitted by Zimbabwe, but set no date and made no funding commitments in the meantime.At a meeting last week with Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, South Africa's president promised that the SADC ministers would finalize a package by the end of this week, saying that South African and the region should set an example in helping the stricken country.

Zimbabwe's finance minister, Tendai Biti, who belongs to the Movement for Democratic Change, attended the ministerial meeting in Cape Town and asked for $2 billion — half for emergency spending on schools, health care and infrastructure, and the rest on economic revival measures.We are all, as SADC, determined to help Zimbabwe mobilize the resources, said South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

But, I can't guarantee how much will be raised ... the economic environment globally is difficult, so we will do our best.Dlamini-Zuma said the regional bloc would lobby for the normalization of Zimbabwe at the International Monetary Fund and the lifting of political and financial sanctions against it.Zimbabwe's new unity government is trying to hard to change the country's status as an economic pariah, gained because of its failure to repay debts and its inflation of 321 million percent.But there are deep divisions within the government, as President Robert Mugabe remains reluctant to cede authority. The leadership of the Movement for Democratic Change, which was formerly in opposition, was scheduled to meet Friday to discuss Mugabe's defiance of the power-sharing accord. The United States and European Union are adopting a wait-and-see attitude before they lift targeted economic sanctions imposed to pressure Mugabe into change.Zimbabwe was once a regional breadbasket. Now, however, an estimated two-thirds of the population is dependent on food aid. There are shortages of all basic products, schools and hospitals are closed and a cholera epidemic has killed nearly 3,900 people and sickened 84,000.But South Africa and neighboring nations are also reeling from the global economic downturn. There is concern that Biti will be unable to rein in the central bank governor, Gideon Gono, who is close to Mugabe and is widely blamed for the hyperinflation. And there are unanswered questions about the fate of 300 million rands ($30 million) donated by South Africa last year to allow Zimbabwe to buy seeds and fertilizer.Dlamini-Zuma tried to play down concerns about aid.We think it will be used properly for what it is intended for. There's a government there, she said.

US criticises EU countries for human rights abuses
VALENTINA POP 27.02.2009 @ 09:32 CET

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Ethnic discrimination on the Belgian labour market, neo-Nazi extremism in Austria and abuses against Roma in nine EU countries are some of the findings of the 2008 US government report on human rights.The report, issued on Wednesday (25 February) by the State Department for each country of the world, says that the Belgian government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, but found several problems, such as overcrowded prisons, lengthy pre-trial detention, poor detention conditions prior to expulsion and ethnic discrimination in the job market.Labour discrimination was directed particularly against young men from the Muslim community, estimated at 450,000 people, principally of Moroccan and Turkish origin.Discrimination regarding housing, restaurant access and an increase of racism on the internet were also noted.On July 10, the European Court of Justice ruled that a manufacturer of automatic garage doors had discriminated when he refused to hire a Moroccan applicant under the pretext that his clients would object to having a Moroccan worker in their homes. The case was referred to a labour court for sentencing under the antidiscrimination law,the report states.Neo-Nazi incidents and rightwing extremism and xenophobia directed against ethnic minorities were a cause of concern in Austria.In 2007 the Ministry of the Interior recorded 240 neo-Nazi, right-wing extremist, and xenophobic incidents directed against members of minority groups. The government continued to express concern over the activities of extreme right-wing skinhead and neo-Nazi groups, many with links to organizations in other countries,the US report notes.

Despite being discriminated against in employment and housing, the situation of Roma people in Austria had significantly improved in recent years, with children being moved out of special needs into mainstream classes. The government also initiated programmes in recent years to document the Romani Holocaust and compensate its victims.This was however not the case in nine other EU countries: Italy, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria, where discrimination and even violence against Roma is on the rise. On Monday, a Roma man and his son were shot to death in a village in Hungary as they were fleeing their home, which had been set on fire. The Hungarian ministry of Interior promised to step up policing in rural areas, but admitted that it could not prevent all racist incidents, which had increased in the recent months.EU commissioner for social affairs Vladimir Spidla reacted to the incident, as well as other measures, such as Italy's controversial crackdown on Roma camps.The European Commission strongly condemns all forms of violence against Roma and calls upon the authorities of all Member States to guarantee the personal safety of all persons on their territory, he said in a statement.Mr Spidla was deeply concerned that in some member states, Roma have become the target of organised racist violence - fed by political populism, hate speech and media hype.In some cases, Roma are being made scapegoats for wider societal problems.


then the angel said, Financial crisis will come to Asia. I will shake the world.

JAMES 5:1-3
1 Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.
3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.

REVELATION 18:10,17,19
10 Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.
17 For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off,
19 And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate.

19 They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be removed: their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD: they shall not satisfy their souls, neither fill their bowels: because it is the stumblingblock of their iniquity.

16 And he(FALSE POPE) causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:(CHIP IMPLANT)
17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.(6-6-6) A NUMBER SYSTEM


Raw nerves ahead of snap EU summit,The EU summit venue in Brussels - will diplomacy or nationalism take over on Sunday? (Photo: The Council of the European Union)HONOR MAHONY 27.02.2009 @ 17:31 CET

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - EU member states will in Brussels on Sunday (1 March) gather for a high stakes summit that will test the bloc's ability to pull together in the face of the economic crisis.Pre-summit signs have not been encouraging. With unemployment rising, production going down and the financial turmoil intensifying, governments have reached for national solutions.The results have threatened the functioning of the internal market, the cornerstone on which the European Union is built.The European Commission is currently examining government aid for the car industry in six countries - Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Sweden and the UK - to make sure it does not breach state aid rules. EU competition law and the treaty underpinning the euro, the Stability and Growth Pact, are also under threat.The economic situation has caused tension between member states, notably EU presidency country, the Czech Republic, and France, which had a noisy exchange on the perils of protectionism.Relations between Prague and Paris have taken such a dive, some diplomats say the main reason Sunday's impromptu summit - ostensibly to combat protectionism - was called to stop French president Nicolas Sarkozy calling a summit exclusively for eurozone countries.Mr Sarkozy, who sparked talk of a downward spiral towards economic nationalism with his package to help the car industry, remains unrepentant ahead of Sunday's meeting.We were criticised everywhere, I was called protectionist but now others are imitating us,he said on Thursday.


The crisis has posed the question of what it means to be an EU member state and to what extent this implies extending solidarity to other members.Austria, whose banking sector is exposed in the east to a sum worth around 70 percent of the country's GDP, has been crying out for a European response to bail out eastern banks. Help arrived on Thursday in the form of loans from the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank.

EU governments have also been looking to Germany - the bloc's paymaster - for a lead. Until recently, it rejected all hints of bailing out fellow eurozone members, indicating that governments should take responsibility for past profligacy. But chancellor Angela Merkel this week indicated Berlin is prepared to help troubled euro members, such as Ireland and Greece, which have seen their cost of borrowing jump up. The catch would be stringent economic conditions - beneficial to Germany - on any aid that it gives.

East and west

In addition, the 27 member states are at risk of splitting into east and western camps.Poland has called a gathering of nine central and eastern European member states to meet before the main gathering on Sunday. The pre-summit event aims to present a united eastern front, amid fears richer western member states will try to buy their way out of the problem. The group of nine is also alarmed by talk of the creation of eurobonds - bonds guaranteed by the whole 16 member eurozone - in the belief it will push up the costs of their own borrowing.Feeling the cold winds of existence outside the eurozone, some are also trying to speed up the process of joining the single currency, but with little concrete response so far.

Diplomacy wanted

The Czech EU presidency has said the purpose of the summit is to feed into the EU leaders' regular Spring summit later in March and to simply get leaders round one table. But with EU leaders sniping at each other - on protectionism, on how to save the car industry or even the need for this extraordinary summit - it will be difficult to get a coherent response on Sunday. Much will depend on the skills of the Czech EU presidency to forge a peaceable atmosphere and the style of leadership displayed by Berlin and Paris.

Canada shuns aid to media, warns on bank stakes Fri Feb 27, 4:42 pm ET

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada has no plans to rescue hard-pressed media organizations and sees dangers in governments taking equity stakes in banks such as Citigroup, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Friday.The minister was speaking in a series of television interviews in which he stressed the need for Parliament to quickly pass his stimulus package and said money could start flowing in April.Speaking after the U.S. government said it would take a large stake in Citigroup, he told BNN television: It does have implications, certainly down the road, when we start looking at exit plans. We are going to recover from this. The world economy will recover, the Canadian economy will recover. We did in the early 80s and 90s.But we'll be in a situation where some of the large banks in the world are going to be partially or wholly owned by governments, and that might give them a competitive advantage over some of our Canadian banks. That's why we've taken some steps already to try to level that competitive disadvantage.As an example of Canadian help, he pointed to federal guarantees of Canadian banks' wholesale lending, which he said had not yet been used, and noted that the government has also bought a lot of insured mortgages, providing banks with more capital.I'm going to make sure we protect our financial institutions in a systemic sense in Canada, he said.Canada is also helping to bail out the auto industry, which is necessary to help preserve the Canadian share of this large industry, he said. But he said he did not plan to provide packages for other industries.We don't plan to get into the business of subsidizing media, Flaherty said when asked if the government might give more help to the publicly owned Canadian Broadcasting Corp or to hard-pressed private-sector media companies such as Canwest Global Communications Corp, the country's biggest media firm.

Canwest has a C$3.7 billion ($2.9 billion) debt load and analysts have said it might have to file for bankruptcy protection.Asked whether he might tide Canwest over, he told the CBC: I haven't heard from them. I'd certainly listen to them. But, no, we don't have plans to create packages for various industries in Canada that are going to suffer during the recession.He told CTV Television that Monday's release of Canadian gross domestic product data for the fourth quarter would show a sharp drop.(Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Peter Galloway)

Germany may bail out troubled eurozone states
ANDREW WILLIS 27.02.2009 @ 09:19 CET

German chancellor Angela Merkel has given the strongest signal to date that her country may come to the rescue of embattled eurozone economies. We have shown solidarity and that will remain so. We should use Sunday's summit [in Brussels] for member states affected to give an honest report of their situation,she said on Thursday evening (26 February) at a press conference in Berlin. We will have to discuss the situation in each individual country. It all depends on whether we are able to speak openly and honestly about the situation because there are a lot of rumours flying around.Certain conditions are likely to be attached to any support plan offered by Berlin. While Ms Merkel refused to be drawn on the exact nature of financial support, she made it clear that action to tackle excessive budget deficits would be a stipulation for receiving aid.She indicated such action could be carried out under Article 100 of the Maastricht Treaty that allows financial assistance to be given to countries experiencing difficulties caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control.Of course there is a certain interpretative room to manoeuvre in the stability and growth pact and a country like Ireland that has been hit quite hard by the banking crisis is clearly in a different situation to a country like Slovakia with fewer banks,said Ms Merkel.German officials hinted support for Ireland could be dependent on the country increasing its low corporate tax reports the Irish Times, an issue that Germany has complained about in the past.

The fight for funding

Many EU countries have signaled that they will run large budget deficits this year and competition on the money markets to raise capital is already acute. Germany, seen as the safest EU economy by investors, has twice failed this year to raise all the capital it was seeking when auctioning 10-year bonds.Ireland on the other hand was forced to issue three-year bonds this week at nearly 2.5 percentage points over equivalent German bonds. Before the credit crisis, Irish bonds traded at about the same level as German bonds.The credit shortage raises the prospect that one or more eurozone countries may be forced to default on current debt repayments and seek help from Germany or the IMF.The first will certainly be a small country, so that can be managed by the bigger countries or the IMF, former Bundesbank president Karl Otto Poehl said on Thursday in a further indication of possible German action. Germany has ruled out the possibility of a common eurobond for eurozone members, as it would increase the cost of German borrowing. Likewise, central and eastern non-eurozone states fear such a move would reduce market demand for their bonds. The tough situation faced by many central and eastern European states is likely to feature heavily on the agenda of Sunday's extraordinary summit of European leaders.

Currencies in the region have fallen heavily this week over fears western European banks are pulling out funds and speculation that the global recession may prompt a sovereign default by one or more states. Both Hungarian and Polish prime ministers this week pushed for a speedy entrance to the relative safe-haven of the eurozone. On Thursday, three large development banks announced they will offer €24.5 billion in financing to struggling banks in the region. The move by the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank is aimed to kick-start ailing cash flows in the region.Latvia's Prime Minister-designate Valdis Dombrovskis, warned on his first day on the job on Thursday that the Baltic state could run out of money by the summer.

Eastern European banks get €24.5 billion prop up
ANDREW WILLIS 27.02.2009 @ 17:29 CET

Three large multilateral banks announced a joint initiative on Friday (27 February) to lend up to €24.5 billion to central and eastern European banks currently struggling in the global credit shortage.The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD and the World Bank scheme is designed to enable eastern banks to restart lending to the real economy and in particular to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the region. This is a time for Europe to come together to ensure that the achievements of the last 20 years are not lost because of an economic crisis that is rapidly turning into a human crisis, said World Bank president Robert Zoellick in a statement. Under the plan, the World Bank will provide support of about €7.5 billion in funds. The EBRD will provide up to €6 billion for the financial sector over the next two years in the form of loans to banks and directly to SMEs. It will also provide capital to ensure trade transactions can be carried out effectively. For its part, the EIB will supply some €11 billion in SME lending facilities in central, eastern, and southern Europe, of which €5.7 billion is already available for quick disbursement, the bank says. Much of financial sector in eastern Europe is controlled by western European parent banks. In particular, Austrian and Swedish banks have poured money into the region in recent years, helping to fuel booming growth. The heads of the three multilateral lenders hope their new initiative will encourage parent banks to support their eastern subsidiaries and halt the flow of capital westwards seen in recent months.

The new loans would be available not only for countries in the European Union but also most of the former Soviet Union and Turkey. Oil and gas-rich Russia is considered to be able to support itself.

Region hungry for more

Hungarian prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany said on Thursday however that eastern European economies need €180 billion in loans to see out the current crisis. He asked the EU to set up what he called a Stabilisation and Integration Programme to help east European economies, banks and companies. The EU must take a lead role. This package can surely stop the quick depreciation of national currencies, which is the biggest risk in the region right now, he said in Budapest. The broad-reaching programme would include short-term financing for national governments, plans to help private companies restructure their debt obligations and funds to recapitalise banks in the region.He is expected to present the plan to EU leaders meeting for an extraordinary summit in Brussels this Sunday.

Nordic Council report backs EU and euro entry
LEIGH PHILLIPS 27.02.2009 @ 09:03 CET

EUOBSERVER / BLAA LONID - As the prime ministers of all the Nordic countries met in Iceland to discuss the financial crisis, a report published by the Nordic Council on Thursday (26 February) said the crisis should lead to a review of whether all Nordic states should join the eurozone and the EU.The experience of the Nordic countries in the current crisis ...leads to a need to review whether the other Nordic countries would be better off to follow the Finnish example and join the euro-zone, reads the Nordic Globalisation Barometer 2009 report, Global Pressure - Nordic Solutions? The Nordic Council of Ministers, bringing together the premiers of all the Nordic countries as well as delegations from associate members Greenland, the Faroe Islands and the Aland Islands, is currently meeting just outside Reykjavik for its second annual globalisation forum. Finland is the sole Nordic nation to belong to both the EU and the eurozone. Sweden and Denmark are also members of the bloc, but have maintained their domestic currencies. Norway and Iceland remain outside both.

Although this year's themes were intended to be innovation and climate change, the focus has been hi-jacked by the mounting economic crisis, with the Icelandic venue for the meeting only highlighting the situation, as delegates passed Liquidation and Closing Down Sale signs plastered on shops surrounding their hotels.Also focussing minds at the event, the Swedish krona fell to a fresh all-time low against the euro on Wednesday.The report, authored by Christian Ketels of the Harvard Business School and the Stockholm School of Economics, reflects the views of the authors and not the official line of the Nordic Council.The Nordic countries will have to discuss whether the changes in the global economy suggest more fundamental changes in their economic policy architecture,it said. The balance of costs and benefits from operating an independent currency and staying outside the European Union might have shifted.The prime ministers themselves, all personally backers of both euro and EU membership, spent time discussing their options on Wednesday, but, apart from Finland, face considerable political obstacles on the EU path.We find ourselves in the situation where Sweden in 2003 held a referendum [on the euro] and the answer was No.The party chair [of the governing coalition senior partner, the centre-right Moderate Party] has said that he understands that to be a 10-year No,and the opposition leader said she also doesn't expect a return to the question until 2014, Sweden's prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, said.However, the crisis has effected considerable change, he added. So we are following the ongoing discussions in Denmark very closely.A referendum on the introduction of the euro in Denmark is expected some time ahead of the next general election, due in 2011.We have announced we want a referendum at some point in this term of office, Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters. But the question is when, and we need clarification of the situation first, which means how the Irish referendum falls out.

Ireland will hold another referendum on the EU's Lisbon treaty later this year, after having rejected it first time around in June.Norway's premier, Jens Stoltenberg, issued a curt We lost a referendum on the EU and so it is not on the agenda now.Oslo has held two referendums on the matter, one in 1974 after negotiating an accession agreement and another in 1994. Both times membership was narrowly rejected.Icelandic Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir said that as part of the coalition agreement her centre-left Social Democratic Alliance had signed with the far-left Left Green Movement, the current caretaker government would not apply for membership of the EU.But let's see what happens after the elections, she said. At the same time, we need 30,000 Icelanders to demand a referendum.Nordic Council secretary-general Asgrimsson, asked about previous remarks that Iceland would join the EU by 2015, said: I believed it then and I believe it even more now.

Nordic leaders sceptical about EU bonds
LEIGH PHILLIPS 27.02.2009 @ 09:03 CET

EUOBSERVER / BLAA LONID - As the debate over the issuance of eurozone-level bonds heats up, Nordic prime ministers are lukewarm on the idea, with Sweden saying there are better answers to deal with the problem of spreads in the cost of borrowing across the union.[The EU] should try other things, Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt told reporters on Thursday (26 February) after a meeting in Iceland of the Nordic Council of Ministers - which brings together the premiers of Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Iceland and Norway - on Wednesday (26 February).There was a co-ordinated answer to the crisis decided [by the European Council] last autumn, many of which measures are still not in place, he continued.That should be the road forward. When these measures are in place thoroughly, that will open up credit markets.Mr Reinfeldt added that public funds used to stabilise western European banks are not only there to aid the mother banks, but also the daughter banks in eastern Europe. That is also sending a message of stability, especially in the Baltics in the Swedish case.The issuance of eurobonds, would see the sale of bonds guaranteed by all 16 members of the single currency group, instead of just individual governments.The new instrument has been suggested as a way to finance aid to eastern European EU states. But it would also help troubled eurozone members, such as Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain, borrow money more cheaply. At the same time, it could make the cost of borrowing go up for the 11 EU states outside the circle, which comprise mostly eastern European countries, but also the UK, Sweden and Denmark.The move has the support of Italy, Luxembourg and the International Monetary Fund. But Germany has repeatedly criticised the idea, knowing that as the largest eurozone economy it might have to pay out in the event of any sovereign default.Poland this week vowed to do everything it can to prevent the creation of eurobonds, saying it aims to pull together a coalition of eastern European countries, the Netherlands and Nordic states ahead of this Sunday's informal EU summit in Brussels.

The Nordic members of the EU - Finland (which is in the eurozone), Sweden and Denmark (which are not) - said in Iceland on Wednesday that they have not been approached by eastern European states to join an anti-eurobond group.But Finnish leader Matti Vanhanen told this website he has doubts if the EU treaty would allow the debt issuance.I'm a little sceptical that this can even happen. We have to check with our legal experts,he said.Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the EU should show some flexibility toward the plan, but also voiced concerns about the implications of the eurobond proposal.I still think that we should not water down national responsibility in financing public debt, he said.It is essential that each government feel responsibility for sound economic policies, including how to finance public deficits.Maybe this national responsibility could be combined with the issuance of EU bonds, but the bond spreads can also be seen as an honest indicator from the markets, a red signal, showing the way for governments.

U.S. pairs B-2 bombers, F-22s in Guam for first time By Jim Wolf Jim Wolf – Fri Feb 27, 6:10 pm ET

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) – The United States has begun operating two types of radar-evading aircraft, a bomber and a fighter, for the first time together in the Pacific, the head of U.S. air forces in the region said on Friday.The pairing of advanced B-2 bombers and F-22 fighters in the region follows what the United States and its allies suspect are preparations by North Korea to test fire a long-range Taepodong-2 missile capable of striking U.S. soil.North Korea said on Tuesday it planned to launch a satellite on a rocket as a part of a peaceful space program.Air Force General Howie Chandler, commander of U.S. Pacific Air Forces, said the deployment was not designed to deliver a political message. But the move showcases an element of advanced U.S. military power in the Pacific at a time of tension over North Korea.Chandler said the B-2s had been sent as part of a rotational bomber presence operating from Guam's Andersen Air Force Base since 2004.The F-22s were brought from Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska to take advantage of better winter flying weather, he added.So the opportunity to deploy them both together came together for us, he said in a brief interview at a symposium on air warfare hosted by the U.S. Air Force Association in Orlando, Florida.And it's a good opportunity for them to train together.Guam is a U.S. territory about 3,400 miles southwest of Hawaii. Its Andersen Air Force Base is a major operational hub for U.S. forces in the Pacific.Four Northrop Grumman Corp B-2 bombers from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri replaced a rotational B-52 bomber unit on February 25 on Guam, said Colonel Donald Langley, a spokesman for Chandler, who is headquartered at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.

A typical bomber rotation lasts four months, he said.It just so happens that this is the first time such a presence overlapped with the F-22s, built by Lockheed Martin Corp.Lockheed Martin has said it would start closing down the F-22 production line next week unless President Barack Obama opts to buy more than the 183 aircraft now on order.(Editing by Andrew Gray)

US will seek to end Iran's nuclear ambition By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer – Thu Feb 26, 9:07 pm ET

UNITED NATIONS – President Barack Obama's administration will seek to end Iran's nuclear ambition and its support for terrorism, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Thursday — drawing an immediate rebuke from Iran's envoy.Ambassador Mohammad Khazee said the statement contained the same tired, unwarranted and groundless allegations that used to be unjustifiably and futiley repeated by the previous U.S. administration of President George W. Bush.Iran has never and will never try to acquire nuclear weapons, Khazee said in a letter to the U.N. Security Council immediately after U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice spoke. He also dismissed the charge that Iran engages in terrorism as baseless and absurd.Iran insists it is enriching uranium to produce nuclear energy for civilian purposes, but the U.S. and many European countries accuse Tehran of secretly seeking to build nuclear weapons.

Rice brought up Iran at an open meeting of the Security Council on Iraq, saying the long-term U.S. commitment to Iraq and the reduction of the U.S. military presence there had to be understood in a larger, regional context that included Afghanistan, the Middle East and Iran.The United States will seek an end to Iran's ambition to acquire an illicit nuclear capacity and its support for terrorism, Rice said, adding that the U.S. will aim to encourage both Iran and Syria to become constructive regional actors.The U.S. Mission to the United Nations said Rice had no comment on Khazee's letter.Rice's comments came as the Obama administration is conducting what she has called an urgent and early review of U.S. policy toward Iran.Obama has signaled a willingness for dialogue with Iran, particularly over its nuclear program. At his inauguration last month, the president said his administration would reach out to rival states, declaring we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded by saying Iran would welcome talks with the United States — but only if there was mutual respect. Iranian officials have said that means the United States would need to stop making baseless accusations against the Islamic Republic.On Wednesday, Iranian state radio said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's choice of Dennis Ross as her special adviser on the Persian Gulf signaled no change in the U.S. stance toward Iran. Ross strongly backs stepping up sanctions against Iran ... (and) supports profound U.S.-Israeli cooperation to confront Iran's nuclear activities,the broadcast said.(AP) _

Iran's deputy foreign minister for the Americas, Ali Reza Salari, said Thursday he believes there is room for advancement in the nuclear dispute with the United States, but said Iran is getting mixed signals from the Obama administration.I think somehow in that domain we are witnessing more rationality in the present U.S. administration. They are not talking with the same tone that existed before, Salari told reporters during a visit to Mexico City. But still, the signal that is reaching Iran from the United States is not a very clear and proper one. It's a mixed signal.

The latest International Atomic Energy Agency report says Iran now possesses 1,010 kilograms — 2,222 pounds — of low-enriched uranium, raising concern that it now has sufficient uranium and the means to enrich it further to produce both nuclear fuel and the fissile core of nuclear warheads.In an interview last Friday on National Public Radio, Rice said the IAEA report confirms what we all had feared and anticipated, which is that Iran remains in pursuit of its nuclear program.Associated Press Writer Alexandra Olson contributed to this report from Mexico City.


Russian bomber neared Canada before Obama visit By David Ljunggren – Fri Feb 27, 2:32pm ET

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian fighters scrambled to intercept an approaching Russian bomber less than 24 hours before U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Ottawa last week, Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay said on Friday.The long-range Bear bomber did not enter Canada's Arctic airspace but the two Canadian CF-18 fighters had to order the plane to back off, MacKay told a news conference.He also told reporters that Russia had not warned Canada that the flight was coming, a statement that a Russian government source in Moscow dismissed as farcical.The Russian government source said Canada had been informed about the flight before it took off.

So the statements from Canada's defense ministry are perplexing to say the least and cannot be called anything other than a farce, Interfax news agency quoted the source as saying.Obama spent a few hours in the Canadian capital on February 19 on his first foreign trip since becoming president.I'm not going to stand here and accuse the Russians of having deliberately done this during the presidential visit but it was a strong coincidence, which we met with the presence, as we always do, of F-18 fighter planes ... and sent a strong signal that they should back off and stay out of our air space,MacKay said.MacKay also said Russia had stepped up its bomber flights toward the Canadian Arctic in the last few years, reviving a practice that was common during the Cold War.Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he was very concerned by the incident.I have expressed at various times the deep concern our government has with the increasingly aggressive Russian actions around the globe and into our airspace, he told a news conference in the western province of Saskatchewan.We will defend our airspace ... we will respond every time the Russians make any kind of intrusion on the sovereignty of Canada, he said.

MacKay did not say exactly when the incident occurred or how close the bomber came to Canadian airspace.It's not a game at all. These aircraft approaching Canadian or U.S. airspace are viewed very seriously, he said.We have asked on a number of occasions ... that we are given a heads up when this type of air traffic is to occur and to date we have not received that kind of notice.MacKay spoke after a meeting with U.S. General Gene Renuart, commander of the binational North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).They (the Russians) have been professional in the way they have conducted their aircraft operations, Renuart said.Canada's minority Conservative government has promised to spend billions of dollars boosting Canada's presence in the Arctic, which scientists believe has vast reserves of oil and natural gas.Our intention is very much to demonstrate our sovereignty, our capability to protect our territory, our airspace, our water (and) our people in the Arctic and that includes our resources, MacKay said. Five countries with an Arctic coastline -- Russia, the United States, Canada, Norway, and Denmark through its control of Greenland -- have competing claims to the region. Russia said this week it would respond to any moves to militarize the Arctic. Ottawa -- which plans to build a deep water port in the region -- has stepped up sovereignty patrols in the Arctic and last August it said it would toughen reporting requirements for ships entering its waters in the Far North. (With additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Saskatoon and Reuters Moscow bureau; Editing by Peter Galloway)

Russia: Arms control to top talks with Clinton By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, Associated Press Writer – Fri Feb 27, 4:46 pm ET

MOSCOW – Russia's foreign minister said Friday he will focus on arms control talks during his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton next week, while Moscow has demonstrated its revived military might by sending a bomber on patrol near Canada and putting a new military radar on duty.Sergey Lavrov said arms control talks will top the agenda for his meeting with Clinton in Geneva next week. He added that Russia expects the U.S. to form a team of arms-control negotiators quickly.

Russia has welcomed the new U.S. administration's intention to start talks soon on a successor deal to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START I, which expires in December. The treaty, signed by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and President George H.W. Bush, contains a comprehensive control and verification mechanism hailed by both Moscow and Washington.Last week, Lavrov put out a series of demands to Washington in the arms control sphere, signaling that the negotiations will be difficult.The Kremlin has taken a tough tone with Washington ever since Barack Obama's election. The day after his victory, President Dmitry Medvedev warned that Russia will deploy missiles to its westernmost Kaliningrad region in response to the U.S. missile defense plans.Medvedev and his mentor and predecessor as Russian president, Vladimir Putin, later said that Russia would only make the move if the U.S. deploys missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic. They voiced hope that Obama's administration will scrap the plan, which was a favorite of George W. Bush's administration.Obama has not said how he intends to proceed, but stressed the system must be cost-effective and proven, and that it should not divert resources from other national security priorities.Amid a growing strain in Russia-U.S. ties during George W. Bush's presidency, the Kremlin has sought to boost its military and flex muscles worldwide.Last fall, Russia has sent a naval squadron to the Caribbean where it held joint maneuverers with the Venezuelan navy and made port calls at several countries in a show of force close to the U.S.Russian strategic bombers also have regularly flown across the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific Oceans since Putin ordered to resume Cold War-style bomber patrols in August 2007 when he still was the Russian president.Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay said Friday that fighter jets were scrambled to intercept a Russian bomber in the Arctic as it approached Canadian airspace on the eve of Obama's visit to Ottawa last week.

MacKay said the bomber never entered Canadian airspace, adding that the flight was a strong coincidence.Russia's Defense Ministry expressed surprise, saying the flight had been conducted in conformity with international norms.In a separate development Friday, the Russian military announced that it put in service a new early warning radar intended to monitor potential missile threats on Russia's southern flank.The Russian Space Forces chief, Maj. Gen. Oleg Ostapenko, said in a statement that the new radar, located near the southern city of Armavir, has much higher performance than its Soviet-built predecessors.The Space Forces said that the new facility, which came online Thursday, will replace two Soviet-built military radars in Ukraine.

Russia ended the lease last year of radars in Ukraine's western city of Mukachevo and the Black Sea port of Sevastopol because of Ukraine's efforts to join NATO, the western military alliance.The Armavir facility is part of a Russian system of military early warning radars intended to spot missile launches. In 2006, the military commissioned a similar radar in Lekhtusi, near St. Petersburg. The Soviet Union built a network of military early warning radars on its flanks because of the need to detect incoming missiles as early as possible. After the Soviet collapse, they were left in the newly independent ex-Soviet lands, crippling the Russian military's early warning capability. Russia's post-Soviet cash shortage has made it difficult for the military to properly maintain other radars on Russian territory.

The nation's windfall oil wealth over the last decade allowed the Kremlin to boost defense spending and start upgrading aging arsenals. But prospects for military modernization look more bleak now that Russia is facing its worst financial crisis in a decade. On Friday, RIA-Novosti news agency quoted Vice Adm. Anatoly Shlemov as saying that the Russian navy plans to commission at least three new aircraft carriers. Russia now only has one Soviet-built carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, which is much smaller than U.S. carriers and has been plagued by mechanical problems and accidents.Shlemov's statement, however, sounded more like a lobbying effort than a specific government plan. Earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov in charge of weapons industries said that the navy should focus on smaller ships, no bigger than frigates or corvettes.

US-China military talks resume, obstacles remain By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, Associated Press Writer – Fri Feb 27, 10:07 am ET

BEIJING – China and the U.S. resumed military-to-military consultations Friday after a five-month suspension over American arms sales to Taiwan, but a top Chinese officer warned the exchanges remain in a difficult period.China froze military exchanges in October to register its anger over a $6.5 billion U.S. arms sale to Taiwan that included advanced weaponry such as Patriot missiles and Apache attack helicopters. China, which claims self-ruled Taiwan is part of its territory, complained that the sale interfered with its internal affairs.Contacts resumed with talks led by David Sedney, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense, and Maj. Gen. Qian Lihua, the Chinese Defense Ministry's head of foreign affairs.Qian was quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency as saying that contacts would remain tenuous unless the U.S. removes remaining obstacles to improvement.China-U.S. military relations still stay at a difficult period. We expect the U.S. side to take concrete measures for the resumption and development of our military ties, it quoted Qian as saying.Beijing retaliated for the U.S. arms sale by canceling a visit to the U.S. by a senior Chinese general and port calls by naval vessels. It also indefinitely postponed meetings on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction.Qian offered no timeline for the resumption of those exchanges. The stumbling blocks include weapons sales to Taiwan and U.S. legislative restrictions on bilateral military contacts, according to another officer cited by Xinhua, Rear Admiral Yang Yi of the National Defense University's Institute for Strategic Studies.Frankly speaking, it will take a long time to restore our military exchanges as not a single obstacle in military ties has been removed so far, it quoted Qian as saying.

Xinhua said the talks covered bilateral maritime security, international and regional security, and anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia.Writing in the official English-language China Daily newspaper, Yang said Beijing would continue to protest arms sales to Taiwan and rejected U.S. criticisms over a lack of transparency in China's military buildup.Nearly 20 years of annual double-digit percentage increases in China's defense budget have raised concerns from the U.S. and China's neighbors, although Beijing says any worries are unfounded. That figure will be closely scrutinized when the national legislature begins its annual session next month.Yang also contended that improved relations between Taiwan and China over recent months have deprived the U.S. of any excuses for continued arms sales to the island.Taiwan and China separated amid civil war in 1949, but decades of hostility have eased recently amid growing economic and civil links. The rapprochement has accelerated since the election last year of China-friendly Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, although Ma has made clear his intention to maintain a robust military and rejects Beijing's calls for unification talks.The U.S. Embassy said Sedney would brief reporters on the meetings before leaving Beijing for Seoul on Saturday.

NKorea lashes out over missile-test warnings By HYUNG-JIN KIM, Associated Press Writer – Thu Feb 26, 2:38 pm ET

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea lashed out at critics warning it not to test a long-range missile, saying Thursday that it would punish those trying to disrupt its plan to send what it calls a satellite into orbit.The latest harsh words from Pyongyang came as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced plans to send her new envoy on North Korea to meet with negotiators in Asia trying to revive stalled nuclear disarmament talks.North Korea announced earlier this week that it was preparing to shoot a communication satellite into orbit as part of it space program. The U.S., South Korea and other neighboring countries believe the launch may be a cover for a missile test-fire, saying the action would trigger international sanctions.On Thursday, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of (North) Korea accused South Korea of trumpeting about sanctions against its satellite launch, saying outsiders will know what will soar in the air in the days ahead.If the puppet warmongers infringe upon our inviolable dignity even a bit ... we will not only punish the provokers but reduce their stronghold to debris, the committee said in a statement carried by the country's official Korean Central News Agency.Kim Myong Gil, minister to the North's U.N. mission in New York, also told reporters in Atlanta on Thursday that his country would implement the satellite launch as scheduled, saying timing of its launch remains to be seen, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency. The report said Kim was in Atlanta to take part in an international academic forum.Analysts say the North's planned launch is seen as a bid for President Barack Obama's attention as international talks on its nuclear programs remained stalled for months and tensions with South Korea are at their highest level in a decade.Rodger Baker, director of East Asia analysis at STRATFOR, a global intelligence company, said the launch of the Taepodong-2 will most likely take place around the first week in March, around the time of elections for the North's rubber-stamp parliament.The long-range Taepodong-2 missile is believed capable of reaching Alaska. Some experts think the North is preparing to test an advanced version that could reach the western continental U.S.Baker said that North Korea's missile capability was fairly sophisticated given the country's isolation and lack of access to technology.They are really good with short-range and anti-ship missiles, mostly those they've modified from Soviet and Chinese missiles, Baker told The Associated Press.

Clinton announced Thursday that envoy Stephen Bosworth would soon travel to the capitals of four countries that have been working with Washington to get North Korea to give up its nuclear program — Russia, Japan, China and South Korea.Bosworth, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, was named last week as the Obama administration's special representative for North Korea.South Korea's Dong-a Ilbo newspaper reported Thursday that North Korea has built an underground fueling facility near its launch pad, making it harder for spy satellites to detect signs that a missile is being prepared for launch.Associated Press writers Kwang-tae Kim in Seoul, Pamela Hess in Washington, Carley Petesch in New York and Anita Chang in Beijing contributed to this report.

Iran eyes Mexico in deepening Latin America ties By ALEXANDRA OLSON, Associated Press Writer – Thu Feb 26, 5:27 pm ET

MEXICO CITY – Iran is exploring ways to expand anemic trade with Mexico as part of stepped up efforts to deepen ties with Latin America, a top Iranian diplomat said Thursday.Annual trade between Mexico and Iran is a mere $50 million, compared to $2 billion with Brazil, said Ali Reza Salari, Iran's deputy foreign minister for the Americas.We are here to investigate, why so low? Reza Salari told reporters in Mexico City, where he was to meet with diplomats and business leaders. With Mexico, there is absolutely no political problem between us. No cultural problems. It shows we have many shortcomings in our trade relations.Iran has a deepening alliance with some leftist-led Latin American countries, based partly on mutual antagonism toward the United States. Housing projects have brought hundreds of Iranian engineers and specialists to Venezuela, and Tehran has opened new embassies in Nicaragua and Bolivia.Deeper ties with Mexico's U.S.-friendly conservative government would necessarily be more practical in nature. Mexico has been trying to find new markets for its exports in a bid to ease economic reliance on the United States — especially since being dragged to the brink of recession by U.S. financial turmoil.That could provide an opportunity for Iran as it seeks to ease its international isolation. Reza Salari said he sees opportunities to expand tourism and energy cooperation with Mexico, but acknowledged that such efforts are at a tentative phase.Reza Salari said President Barack Obama's election raised hopes in Iran for better relations. But he suggested that concrete steps toward easing tensions are a long way off and complained that the Obama administration has sent mixed messages about its stance toward Iran's nuclear program.After President Obama, we think that the tone has changed in America, Reza Salari said. We want to be patient, give them some more time to thoroughly investigate and see for themselves what are the real solutions for the ambiguities and the crisis.Obama has signaled a willingness for dialogue with Tehran, particularly over its nuclear program. But Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Thursday that the Obama government would seek to end Iran's nuclear ambitions. That immediately prompted an angry rebuke from Iran's U.N. envoy.Iran insists its nuclear program has only peaceful energy purposes, while the U.S. and many European countries accuse it of secretly trying to build atomic weapons.


Friday, February 27, 2009




LUKE 21:25-26
25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity;(MASS CONFUSION) the sea and the waves roaring;(FIERCE WINDS)
26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.


Winter storm brewing for Midwest Chris Dolce – Thu Feb 26, 6:06 am ET

AccuWeather Fresh cold air has pushed south into the Upper Midwest from Canada. A developing area of low pressure in the Central Plains will eject east through the day Thursday spreading snow and a wintry mix from the Dakotas to the northern Great Lakes. Tonight, snowfall will spread eastward from northeast Wyoming across northern South Dakota. The snow will then spread east into central and southern Minnesota, central Wisconsin and into Northern Michigan. In general, totals in the 4 to 8 inch range are expected with locally 10" or more possible. Increasing northerly winds will cause some blowing and drifting of the snow across the Midwest. Some locations in the heaviest swath of snow include Pierre, S.D., Aberdeen S.D., Minneapolis, Minn., Eau Claire, Wis., and Green Bay, Wis. So far this season this corridor has a wide range of snowfall departures. Minneapolis has a deficit of 6 inches. Eau Claire is near their average seasonal snowfall while Green Bay is 32 inches above average! To the south of the significant stripe of snow will be a transition area of wintry mix with some icing. This corridor includes areas from around the Minnesota/Iowa border to southern portions of Wisconsin. An ice storm warning has been issued for a few counties in southern Wisconsin from Wisconsin Dells east to Sheboygan. On the southern end of this storm will be rain and thunderstorms spreading from the mid-Mississippi Valley and southern Great Lakes to the Ohio Valley by Thursday night. Rain in these areas could be heavy at times including the Chicago, Ill. area. A few severe storms are expected to erupt over far eastern Kansas, Missouri and west-central Illinois. Hail and wind would be the main threats, but and isolated tornado is possible near the warm front. This storm will head for the Northeast with rain and gusty southerly winds on Friday. The southern end of the front will sag into the Southeast with rain and thunderstorms. Some of the thunderstorms may turn severe in northeast Texas, central and southern Arkansas, extreme southeast Oklahoma, northern Louisiana, Mississippi and northern/western Alabama.


7 The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.

Australians brace for worsening wildfire weather Thu Feb 26, 5:13 am ET

MELBOURNE, Australia – Emergency officials warned residents in southern Australia that high temperatures, strong winds and lightning forecast for Friday could spark dangerous new flare-ups in the region's still-burning wildfires.Victoria state Emergency Services Commissioner Bruce Esplin said residents of southern Victoria — where wildfires this month killed more than 200 — need to decide quickly whether to defend their homes from the flames or flee.Exhausted firefighters on Thursday were still working to contain four major blazes in Victoria.Officials were increasingly worried that Friday's predicted temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) combined with strong, erratic winds and lightning could send the flames out of control.Schools and child care centers across the state will be closed Friday in anticipation of the extreme conditions, officials said. Parks Victoria told visitors to avoid camping in the region's national parks on Friday, with some parks closed completely.The official death toll from the Feb. 7 blazes remains at 210, though officials expect it to climb higher as more remains are identified from the rubble. On Wednesday, police said it could take another two weeks to conclude the search for dozens still missing. The fires also destroyed 2,029 houses, leaving 7,500 homeless.

Meanwhile, Victoria police on Thursday arrested two 18-year-old men accused of stealing items from a fire-damaged home — the first arrests associated with suspected looting from the Feb. 7 blazes.

US envoy, Netanyahu have 1st meeting on peace By ARON HELLER, Associated Press Writer – Thu Feb 26, 1:35 pm ET

JERUSALEM – Israel's next leader sat face-to-face Thursday with a man whose vision of Israeli-Palestinian relations is radically different from his own: the Obama administration's new Mideast envoy.Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu thinks negotiations on Palestinian statehood are pointless. But envoy George Mitchell wants Israel to resume negotiations to establish a Palestinian state.This is Mitchell's second Mideast visit since President Barack Obama took office last month. Hillary Rodham Clinton will make her first trip to the region next week as the new U.S. secretary of state.The attention follows Obama's promise to make Mideast peace a priority.Thursday's meeting was positive and productive, Netanyahu said, and the two still have a lot to talk about. Mitchell made no statement. He promised a vigorous push for Israeli-Palestinian peace on his first visit but offered no public glimpse into how the administration planned to do it. Mitchell was not expected to do so this time, either, a U.S. official said.Mitchell's visit comes amid ongoing talks on the region's future — on a Gaza cease-fire, Gaza reconstruction and Palestinian reconciliation.

Egyptian officials have been trying to mediate a long-term truce between Israel and the Islamic militant Hamas group that rules Gaza, to replace a fragile cease-fire that ended Israel's three-week offensive in Gaza last month.The two rival Palestinian groups, Hamas and the Western-backed West Bank government, are meeting this week for Egyptian-mediated talks on reconciliation.And dozens of countries will meet Monday in Egypt for a donors' conference to raise money for rebuilding Gaza after the Israeli offensive.One of Mitchell's immediate goals is to shore up the Gaza cease-fire, which continues to be shaken by low-level violence.On Thursday, militants fired two rockets at southern Israel and Israel later sent aircraft to raid southern Gaza. Hamas said the aircraft targeted five smuggling tunnels. Palestinian medical officials said three people were wounded, one critically. No one was injured in the rocket attacks.Mitchell is also expected to focus on the need to rebuild Gaza. The Palestinians hope to raise $2.8 billion at Monday's donor conference, where the U.S. is expected to pledge $900 million.

Mitchell and Netanyahu seem at odds on key underlying issues.

Mitchell wants to press ahead with peace talks that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu avoids any talk of Palestinian statehood and says peace efforts should focus on building up the Palestinian economy. Mitchell has urged a freeze of Jewish West Bank settlements, while Netanyahu says existing settlements must be allowed to expand.On his arrival from Turkey, Mitchell headed straight into a meeting with moderate Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.Livni has spurned Netanyahu's attempts to get her to join him in a broad coalition government. She said she and Mitchell discussed the donor's conference and how it could help the people of Gaza.

She said Israel's policy was to help when it comes to humanitarian needs but without strengthening Hamas as a terrorist organization that controls Gaza.Netanyahu and Livni also met Thursday with the European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana.

The success of Gaza's reconstruction will depend largely on Israel reopening border crossings into Gaza. Israel and Egypt blockaded their borders with Gaza after Hamas militants overran the territory nearly two years ago. Israel has since let in limited humanitarian supplies. Truce talks recently deadlocked over Israel's insistence that Hamas release a captured Israeli soldier before border crossings are opened. A power-sharing deal between Hamas and the West Bank government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is also seen as key to reconstruction. Many in the international community shun the violently anti-Israel Hamas and won't send it money directly. In a report obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad asked donors to channel aid first and foremost through his West Bank government.

Feb 26, 2009 11:59 pm US/Eastern
Jewish Leaders Blast Clinton Over Israel Criticism

Zuckerman, Lawmakers, Local Jews Say Secretary Of State Not The Hillary Clinton They Used To Know Hillary Pressuring Israel To Speed Up Aid To Gaza Reporting
Marcia Kramer NEW YORK (CBS) ― Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to members and guests of the Asia Society Feb. 13, 2009, in New York City. Secretary Clinton's speech was made ahead of her first official trip to the East Asian countries.

In a swift about face from her views as New York's senator, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is now hammering Israel over its treatment of Palestinians in Gaza.

As First Lady, Clinton raised eyebrows when she kissed Suha Arafat.Since she was then seeking a Senate seat the resulting brouhaha caused her to re-think her positions.I'm a very strong supporter of Israel, Clinton said back in February 2000.

On Thursday, as Secretary of State she had yet another about face in the form of angry messages demanding Israel speed up aid to Gaza. Jewish leaders are furious. I am very surprised, frankly, at this statement from the United States government and from the secretary of state, said Mortimer Zuckerman, publisher of the New York Daily News and member of the NYC Jewish Community Relations Council.I liked her a lot more as a senator from New York, Assemblyman Dov Hikind, D-Brooklyn, said. Now, I wonder as I used to wonder who the real Hillary Clinton is.Clinton's decision to hammer Israel comes as the Clintons and President Barack Obama are planning to give the Palestinians $900 million toward the rebuilding of Gaza in the wake of the Israeli offensive that was sparked by Hamas rocket fire. We are working across the government to see what our approach will be,Clinton said.

Is Hillary Taking Sides? Submit Your Comments Here.

I don't believe that we should be in a position at this point to do anything to strengthen Hamas,Zuckerman said.We surely know what Hamas stands for as I say they are the forward battalions of Iran.For some, Clinton's change of position is upsetting. I feel it's unfortunate that they don't continue the policy of the Bush administration, which was much more pro-Israel,said Akiva Homnick of Jerusalem. I happen to have a lot of family who live in Israel and I feel, personally, when you are dealing with people who are very strong against you, you have to stand up to them,said Tami Davudoff of Kew Gardens. Hillary had Mrs. Arafat here and she invited Mrs. Arafat for lunch when she was the first lady, added Babak Chafe of Great Neck. She is pro-Palestinian 100 percent, really. Of course, we always knew it.The easy way to make a peace agreement is to pressure Israel because you can't pressure the Arabs, said Solomon Loewi of Monsey, N.Y. All this could lead to a chilly reception when Mrs. Clinton arrives in the Middle East next week. The new U.S. envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, arrived in Israel on Thursday with a mission to inject new life into peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

then the angel said, Financial crisis will come to Asia. I will shake the world.

JAMES 5:1-3
1 Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.
3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.

REVELATION 18:10,17,19
10 Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.
17 For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off,
19 And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate.

19 They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be removed: their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD: they shall not satisfy their souls, neither fill their bowels: because it is the stumblingblock of their iniquity.

16 And he(FALSE POPE) causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:(CHIP IMPLANT)
17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.(6-6-6) A NUMBER SYSTEM




09:30 AM -19.91
10:00 AM -79.88
10:30 AM -60.77
11:00 AM -65.47
11:30 AM -64.76
12:00 PM -14.33
12:30 PM -23.57
01:00 PM -25.80
01:30 PM -27.48
02:00 PM -11.15
02:30 PM -53.12
03:00 PM -46.99
03:30 PM -82.11
04:00 PM -119.15 7062.93

S&P 500 735.09 -17.74

NASDAQ 1377.84 -13.62

GOLD 945.50 +2.90

OIL 44.29 -0.93

TSE 300 8123.02 -63.80

CDNX 861.66 -1.15

S&P/TSX/60 489.56 -4.30


Dow -18.17%
S&P -16.65%
Nasdaq -11.77%
TSX Advances 963,declines 576,unchanged 251,Volume 3,018,895,391.
TSX Venture Exchange Advances 409,Declines 368,Unchanged 334,Volume 184,936,921.

Dow -116 points at 4 minutes of trading today.
Dow -132 points at low today.
Dow +8 points at high today so far.
Natural gas at 6 year low.
Oil under $43.00,economic slide stalls oil rally.Before todays selloff ,gained 15% in 4 sessions.
Nasdaq big caps bounce today.

PAT ROBERTSON:This is the beginning of the end of America.Our finances are going into the toilet.Our dollar is not going to hold up anymore against the foreign currencies.We are no longer going to be the Economic leader of the WORLD.We will be paying off these debts for generations.This will usher in Inflation,possibly hyper-Inflation,the dollar will sink dramatically.This is a shocking,shocking budget.8,570 earmarks totaling $7.7 BILLION in pork.

GOLD opens at $960.80.OIL opens at $42.97 today.

Other Banks weak also today.
Bank of America -19%
Wells Fargo -13%
Suntrust -13%
KeyCorp -10%

Dow -147 points at low today so far.
Dow +8 points at high today so far.
GAP earnings fall 8% on lower sales and margins.
S&P at 12 year low.
S&P moves below NOV INTRADAY low of 740.61.

-Government expects US,GDP to be down 2% in 2009.
-Government expects US,GDP to grow 2.1% in 2010.
-worst case scenario:down 3.3% in 2009,up .5% in 2010.

NYSE Advances 1,554,declines 2,069,unchanged 103,New Highs 7,New Lows 416.
Volume 10,250,720.
NASDAQ Advances 1,323,declines 1,259,unchanged 153,New highs 1,New Lows 270.
Volume 991,563,352.
TSX Advances 539,declines 743,unchanged 276,Volume 1,224,645,497.
TSX Venture Exchange Advances 266,Declines 282,Unchanged 288,Volume 95,542,177.

Dow -147 points at low today.
Dow +15 points at high today.
Dow -1.66% today Volume 667,954,045.
Nasdaq -0.98% today Volume 2,147,483,648.
S&P 500 -2.36% today Volume N/A
S&P on track for worst ever February.
S&P worst month since OCTOBER.
S&P down 11% this month.
S&P closes at 12 year low.
Dow ends below FEB 23,09 closing low of 7114.78.
Dow fell to new bear market intraday low.
Dow closes at 11-year low.
Dow posts worst February decline since 1933.
Dow falls for 6th straight month.
Dow suffers biggest decline since last OCTOBER.
Dow down 11.7% in FEBRUARY.
Dow transports down 15% this month.
Russell 2000 down 12% this month.
Nasdaq falls 6.7% in FEBRUARY.
Stocks off days highs.
Stocks give back mid-day gains.
General electric to save $9 BILLION annually as a result of Dividend cut.

-Sept 30,1996 5,882.17
-Oct 30,1996 5,993.23
-Nov 6,1996 6,177.71
-Dec 16,1996 6,268.35
-Apr 15,1997 6,587.16
-Apr 21,1997 6,660.21
-Apr 28,1997 6,783.02
-May 1,1997 6,976.48
-May 7,1997 7,085.65

-Sept 5,1996 649.44
-Sept 6,1996 655.68
-Sept 11,1996 667.28
-Sept 12,1996 671.13
-Oct 1,1996 689.08
-Oct 28,1996 697.26
-Nov 4,1996 706.73
-Nov 5,1996 714.14
-Dec 17,1996 726.04

Dow -19.52%
S&P -18.62%
Nasdaq -12.63%
TSX Advances 709,Declines 799,Unchanged 286 Volume 2,688,688,130.
TSX Venture Advances 412,Declines 388,Unchanged 357 Volume 187,759,107.


CNBC Analyst: Global Bank, Global Currency Within 15 Years
Paul Joseph Watson Prison Friday, February 27, 2009

Head of market analysis for Schneider Foreign Exchange Stephen Gallo told CNBC yesterday that the financial crisis will lead to the creation of a global central bank and a global single currency within 15 years, echoing the call of top globalists who have exploited the problems they created to push for a new world financial order.Highlighting the significance of the introduction of the Euro, Gallo said that the single currency was where we are headed globally on a monetary basis over the course of the next 10 to 15 years.Stating that one of the things that caused the financial crisis was an over expansion of the money supply on a global basis, Gallo said, Over the course of the next couple of decades central banks are going to need to pay more attention to what’s going on with the global money supply rather than the money supply just in their own borders, a necessity that, might call into question the need for some kind of global central bank or a global central bank that’s united by central banks for bigger monetary areas underneath that global central bank.As we have highlighted before, the elite have exploited the problem that they created to push for increased centralization and regulation of the world economic system in the pursuit of a de-facto global financial dictatorship.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, EU heads such as Joaquin Almunia and establishment media outlets like the Wall Street Journal amongst many others have all used the economic crisis as an excuse to argue for greater financial power, a new world economic order in which control is concentrated into fewer hands - with the IMF and the World Bank enjoying the spoils.UK Business Secretary and top Bilderberg member Peter Mandelson has also pushed for a Bretton Woods for this century,to help build the machinery of global economic governance.Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy all made the same appeal at a conference in Paris on the future of capitalism last month.Merkel called for the creation of a new global economic body under the UN, similar to the Security Council, to judge government policy.Sarkozy called for a new world, new capitalism during his speech, as he commented In capitalism of the 21st century, there is room for the state.Meanwhile, Blair called for a new financial order which he said should be constructed upon values other than the maximum short-term profit.The globalists created the problem of wildly irresponsible fractional reserve banking, the debt bubble and the credit crunch by ceaselessly inflating the money supply and now they are offering their solution to the crisis by posing as the saviors and promising to fix the crisis, but only if complete control of the global financial system be signed over to them.As Ron Paul, Peter Schiff and their ilk have tirelessly argued, the only way to solve the financial crisis is to allow incompetent banks and companies to fail, not to reward their misdeeds by giving them billions in taxpayer money. The only way to re-capitalize the world is to provide incentives for people to work hard and save money, not by creating more credit out of thin air, which is what caused the problem in the first place.The globalists’ call for a centralized global economic order has nothing to do with providing solutions to the crisis but everything to do with providing themselves with more power and control over the world financial system.

Citigroup's Latest Bailout Gives US More Control By: With Reuters | 27 Feb 2009 | 01:14 PM

The US government agreed to boost its stake in Citigroup to as much as 36%, shoring up the bank's capital and taking on far more control of the ailing banking giant. The government will convert up to $25 billion in preferred shares to common stock in its third attempt to prop up Citigroup in the past five months.Existing shareholders will see their ownership of the bank fall as low as 26 percent. The government stake is now close to 8 percent.While the latest rescue does not inject more money into Citigroup, it gives the government more of a voting stake and far greater influence over the bank's operations, short of outright nationalization.Shares of Citigroup [C 1.55 -0.91 (-36.99%) ] fell to a new 18-year low on Friday. The government is the new boss, said Mike Holland, the founder of money manager Holland & Co in New York.Every major decision is something that is not going to come out of Park Avenue, but is going to come from Washington, D.C.Citigroup in October and November received $45 billion of taxpayer money, as well as a government backstop to cap losses on $301billion of toxic assets. The bank will shake up its board and install a majority of new, independent directors. Five of the board's 15 members are either not standing for reelection or will reach retirement age by Citigroup's annual meeting in April.

Investors want to see heads roll because they're so angry at the entire banking industry, said Marshall Front, chairman of Front Barnett Associates LLC in Chicago, which invests $500 million. But Citigroup management is as well qualified to deal with the problems the bank faces now as anyone, and would not have the learning curve that new people would face.Front said the drop in the stock was not steeper because the stock long ago discounted substantial dilution, which is now being formally recognized.Friday's agreement calls for Citigroup to offer to exchange common stock for up to $27.5 billion of its preferred shares at $3.25 per share. The government will match the exchange up to $25 billion, provided private investors do the same. Citigroup will halt dividends on preferred and common stock.The agreement may be a template for other lenders that have taken government money.It will boost Citigroup's tangible common equity ratio, a measure of capital, to between 5.4 percent and 8.1 percent from the fourth quarter's 3 percent. On a conference call, Chief Executive Vikram Pandit said senior executives completely remain in charge of day-to-day operations. Shares of other lenders also fell, including Bank of America [BAC 4.47 -0.85 (-15.98%) ] and Wells Fargo [WFC 13.27 -1.13 (-7.85%) ].

In an exclusive interview with CNBC, Citigroup Chairman Dick Parsons said there was no time frame for naming new directors. He also said that management has its arms around the situation and that the Obama administration has the right perspective on the financial crisis.Separately, Citigroup said it has recorded more than $8.9 billion of charges to write down goodwill and its Nikko Asset Management unit in Japan. The charges boost its fourth-quarter loss to more than $17.2 billion, and Citigroup's full-year loss to $27.7 billion.Citigroup and other large U.S. banks will soon undergo stress tests to assess their ability to cope with a severe recession, and whether they might need more capital.Referring to the new rescue, Pandit said, This capital should take confidence issues off the table, even in a stressed environment.Asked about nationalization, he added, This announcement should put those concerns to rest.The Obama administration has said it prefers to keep banks in private hands, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke this week rejected 100 percent government control of lenders.The United States already has a nearly 80 percent stake in insurer American International Group [AIG 0.45 -0.07 (-14.02%) ], while the British government owns 70 percent of Royal Bank of Scotland Group.There is so much going on in terms of trying to manage the continuing and unfolding drama around the credit crisis, said Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Equity Markets in Jersey City, New Jersey.At Citigroup, he said, the government didn't want to have to take any more than it had to.Pandit has split Citigroup into two: Citicorp, which has retail banking and other businesses that Citigroup wants to keep, and Citi Holdings, which includes troubled or underperforming assets it wants to sell or wind down.A higher government stake could complicate Citigroup's ability to operate in some of the more than 100 countries where it has businesses.Bank executives downplayed speculation that Citigroup might shed all or part of its ownership of Grupo Financiero Banamex, Mexico's second-largest bank.We're not open to the idea of offloading assets that we really want to keep, Edward Ned Kelly, head of global banking and Citi Alternative Investments, said in an interview.Banamex is a very important property to us, and we are intent on retaining it and maximizing its value. He also called the bank's Handlovy business in Poland an extraordinarily important franchise to us. Citigroup said the exchange could boost its share count as high as 21 billion from 5.5 billion now.It said investors including Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Singapore Investment Corp, Capital Research and Management and others have agreed to swap their preferred stock. The bank once had a market value about $270 billion. At its low on Friday, the value was below $9 billion.

No long-term inflation risk in Canada: Harper Thu Feb 26, 2:29 pm ET

VANCOUVER (Reuters) – The stimulus measures being taken by governments around the world could trigger higher inflation, although there are no long-term risks of inflation in Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Thursday.Harper told a news conference that despite the risks posed by stimulus measures, it is essential that governments spend more money to protect their economies.When governments and central banks are aggressively lowering interest rates and spending large amounts of additional money and doing large amounts of borrowing, there are risks as the economy improves that you would have inflation, that you would have crowding out of private investment, he said.We are worried about the short term and we've got to get things right now. I don't think in Canada we have long-term risks of inflation or crowding out because we've had better monetary policies (and) a stronger balance sheet and fiscal position.Last month Canada's minority Conservative government presented a budget that it said would rack up C$64 billion ($51 billion) of deficits over the next two years.Harper needs the support of one opposition party to pass the budget and warned against too many delays.Let's be very clear on this. These are confidence measures. We are not going to mess around with this, he said.Those votes are before Parliament so that this money gets flowing quickly. If the opposition doesn't like that they will find themselves in an election. So I tell them, Get it done, get it passed, and we'll get on with stimulating this economy, he said.(Reporting by Allan Dowd, writing by David Ljunggren and Randall Palmer; Editing by Peter Galloway)

Obama budget: Mammoth deficits but headed lower By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press Writer FEB 26,09

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama charted a dramatic new course for the nation Thursday with a bold but contentious budget proposing higher taxes for the wealthy and the first steps toward guaranteed health care for all — accompanied by an astonishing $1.75 trillion federal deficit that would be nearly four times the highest in history.Denouncing what he called the dishonest accounting of recent federal budgets, Obama unveiled his own $3.6 trillion blueprint for next year, a bold proposal that would transfer wealth from rich taxpayers to the middle class and the poor.Congressional approval without major change is anything but sure. The plan is filled with political land mines including an initiative to combat global warming that would hit consumers with considerably higher utility bills. Other proposals would take on entrenched interests such as big farming, insurance companies and drug makers.Obama blamed the expected federal deficit explosion on a deep and destructive recession and recent efforts to battle it including the Wall Street bailout and the just-passed $787 billion stimulus plan. The $1.75 trillion deficit estimate for this year is $250 billion more than projected just days ago because of proposed new spending for a fresh bailout for banks and other financial institutions.As the nation digs out of the most serious economic crisis in decades, Obama said, We will, each and every one of us, have to compromise on certain things we care about but which we simply cannot afford right now.Signaling budget battles to come, Republicans were skeptical Obama was doing without much at all.We can't tax and spend our way to prosperity, said House GOP leader John Boehner of Ohio. The era of big government is back, and Democrats are asking you to pay for it.

Obama plans to move aggressively toward rebalancing the tax system, extending a $400 tax credit for most workers — $800 for couples — while letting expire President George W. Bush's tax cuts for couples making more than $250,000 a year. That would raise the top income tax bracket from 35 percent to 39.6 percent for those taxpayers and raise their capital gains rate from 15 to 20 percent as well.Thursday's 134-page budget submission, a nonbinding recommendation to Congress, says the plan would close the deficit to a a more reasonable — but still eye-popping — $533 billion after five years. That would still be higher than last year's record $455 billion deficit.And the national debt would more than double by the end of the upcoming decade, raising worries that so much federal borrowing could drive up interest rates and erode the value of the dollar.Also, to narrow the budget gap, Obama relies on rosier predictions of economic growth — including a 3.2 percent boost in the economy next year — than most private sector economists foresee.There is already resistance from Democrats who are upset with the budget's plan to curb the ability of wealthier people to reduce their tax bills through deductions for mortgage interest, charitable contributions and state and local taxes.That tax hike would raise $318 billion over the upcoming decade toward a down payment on Obama's high-priority universal health care plan. Cuts to the Medicare and Medicaid federal health programs would supply an additional $316 billion, but that still wouldn't provide enough money to guarantee coverage for all, and Obama wants Congress to come up with hundreds of billions of dollars in additional hard-to-raise revenues to pay for the rest.Then there is the proposed clampdown on the Pentagon budget, which would get a 4 percent boost, to $534 billion next year, but would then get increases of 2 percent or less over the next several years. Domestic programs favored by Democrats would, on average, receive a 7 percent boost over regularly appropriated levels — even as many agencies are already swimming in cash from the just-enacted economic stimulus plan.Taken together, Obama's plan contains so many difficult-to-digest ideas that it's virtually certain to be significantly redrafted during debates later this year.

It's going to be a tough row to hoe, but he has large Democratic majorities and a lot of popular support and we're in times of crisis, said Robert Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute. So his prospects of him getting much of what he is seeking, while not good, are higher than ... we've seen in the past.Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., predicted Congress would pass much of Obama's plan, though with significant revisions. For instance, he's unimpressed with a proposal to reduce payments to farming operations with sales above $500,000 per year and says the plan to curb tax deductions for the wealthy faces uncertain prospects because of opposition from lawmakers from high tax states and universities whose endowments have shrunk.A plan to devote up to $250 billion to support as much as $750 billion in increased spending under the government's rescue program for banks and other financial institutions landed with a thud. Republicans scoffed at the idea that Obama's plan calls for much sacrifice on the spending front, citing the big increases for many agencies. they also pointed to tax increases and hundreds of billions in revenues from a contentious proposal to auction off permits for carbon emissions in a bid to address global warming. Obama and top aides emphasized that they didn't make the financial mess. Said the president: We cannot lose sight of the long-run challenges that our country faces and that threaten our economic health — specifically, the trillions of dollars of debt that we inherited, the rising costs of health care and the growing obligations of Social Security.For too long, our budget has not told the whole truth about how precious tax dollars are spent, he said. Large sums have been left off the books, including the true cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that kind of dishonest accounting is not how you run your family budgets at home. It's not how your government should run its budgets either.Among the many programs that would receive generous boosts are education and cancer research. The size of education Pell Grants would automatically increase every year by inflation plus 1 percent, while Obama promises to double cancer research over several years. He also wants to put the United States on a path to double foreign aid. Obama's budget contains almost $1 trillion in tax hikes over 10 years on individuals making more than $200,000 and couples earning over $250,000. About $350 billion more would be raised through a variety of other hikes, including raising taxes on hedge-fund managers by taxing their compensation as income rather than at the 15 percent capital gains rate. Obama would also increase taxes on corporate income earned abroad. Some $526 billion in revenue from carbon pollution permits would be used to extend the Making Work Pay tax credit of $400 for individuals and $800 for couples beyond 2010 as provided in the just-passed economic stimulus bill.

The budget would make permanent the expanded $2,500 tax credit for college expenses that was provided for two years in the just-passed economic stimulus bill. It also would renew most of the Bush tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003, and would permanently update the alternative minimum tax so that it would hit fewer middle- to upper-income taxpayers. Obama's $634 billion head start on expanding health care could easily double as lawmakers flesh out details in coming months on how to provide medical coverage to all of the 48 million Americans now uninsured while also trying to slow increases in costs. Health care costs now total $2.4 trillion a year and keep rising even as the economy is shrinking. Thursday's submission was an overview of a more comprehensive plan that will be submitted in April. Associated Press writers Martin Crutsinger, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Anne Gearan contributed to this report.

Financial crisis threatens east-west divide in EU
PHILIPPA RUNNER 26.02.2009 @ 09:24 CET

Eastern European member states' fears that they will be left behind by richer EU members in the economic crisis are growing ahead of the informal EU summit on Sunday (1 March).Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania and Bulgaria are hoping to pull Germany, the Netherlands and Nordic states into a coalition opposing the creation of eurobonds, Polish officials told daily Gazeta Wyborcza.We want to block the potential eurobond project. To do everything to prevent a two-speed Europe. The introduction of eurobonds for the eurozone only would mean precisely this, Polish deputy prime minister Grzegorz Schetyna said on Wednesday.A eurobond is a government I.O.U. guaranteed by all 16 members of the single currency group. The creation of eurobonds would help poorer eurozone members, such as Greece, borrow money more cheaply. But it could make the cost of borrowing go up for the 11, mostly eastern European states, outside the club.The eurobond idea was floated by Italian finance minister Giulio Tremonti at the Davos economic forum in January and has since been publicly backed by the International Monetary Fund.

Italy has the highest public debt in the eurozone, prompting a rise in the cost for borrowing money on the bond market as investors fear a default.German finance minister Peer Steinbruck and Carl Heinz Daube, the head of the German debt-issuing agency, the Bundesrepublik Deutschland Finanzagentur, are eurobond sceptics, however. Leaders from the group of nine eastern EU states will hold a pre-summit meeting together with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso at the Polish diplomatic mission in Brussels on Sunday morning.Polish prime minister donald Tusk will also meet German chancellor Angela Merkel in Hamburg on Friday.French, Italian and Spanish plans to pump billions into national car industries have also raised worries that western EU states will try to spend their way out of the crisis, no matter what the damage to single market principles.The fears strike at the heart of the post-2004 enlargement EU project, with former-Communist countries seeing the union as a chance to catch up economically after 60 years of unjust isolation.The Brussels summit must show that, while the crisis is hitting individual countries in various ways, the union speaks with one voice. That there is no division into better or worse [EU states],Polish Europe minister Mikolaj Dowgielewicz told the Polish daily.The crisis cannot be an excuse for dismantling the single market.

GMO maize strains move closer to approval
ANDREW WILLIS 26.02.2009 @ 17:53 CET

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - EU scientists failed on Wednesday (26 February) to approve or reject a commission proposal to grant biotech companies a licence to produce two strains of genetically modified maize. The two strains being considered by a European Commission scientific standing committee, Bt-11 maize produced by Swiss company Syngenta and 1507 maize produced jointly by Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Dow AgroScience, however have both already been approved by the European Food Safety Authority. This decision only adds to our frustration with the lengthy and unscientific process to get our safe Bt11 maize product approved in Europe, Syngenta said in a statement. However, European environmental groups who oppose the maize strains on ecological grounds fear EU voting systems will result in the licences being eventually granted anyway. This is despite the fact that a majority of EU states currently oppose the cultivation of genetically modified crops. The commission is pushing forward with its completely pro-GMO agenda, Greenpeace activist Marta Vetier told EUobserver. At Wednesday's expert meeting, six member states (with 91 votes) voted in favour of the proposal whereas 12 (with 127 votes) voted against it. Scientists from seven member states abstained, while those from Germany and Malta were not present for the vote. The 127 votes against the proposal does not represent the qualified majority (255 votes) necessary to end the licence application so the decision will now go to the Council of Ministers - representing member-state governments - for a decision.

All of the evidence before member states provides a firm basis for authorisation, said Syngenta. We hope that the council will seize the opportunity provided by the next vote to give EU farmers a choice to use a technology capable of making a significant contribution to sustainable agriculture.Again here, a qualified majority is needed amongst ministers to either approve or reject the commission proposal to grant the 10-year licences to the two companies.In the event that this qualified majority is not achieved, the commission may decide to go ahead and issue licences. Precedent suggests that it will. To date only one GMO product, a maize strain produced by Monsanto, has been licensed for production in the EU and that was as far back as 1998 when rules governing such crops were different.In recent years however, there has been an increase in the amount of GMO crops imported into the EU for both human and animal consumption.

Debate on GMO crops

Supporters of GMOs argue that they are a legitimate food source, with the potential to bring down food prices and greatly reduce world hunger. They point to countries such as Argentina and the US where such crops are grown successfully. There is also extensive debate as to whether the EU's almost total ban on GMO production is in breech of WTO rules.Additionally, advocates argue that genetic engineering of crops so that they resist common pests results in reduced levels of chemical spraying, something environmentalists should welcome, they say. Environmental groups, however, point to a series of ecological concerns. The Bt-11 maize currently up for debate contains a gene normally found in the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis that causes the host species to produce a pest-killing toxin. They point to US studies identifying extensive detrimental effects on insects that come into contact with such plants, whether they are considered pests or not. There are also fears in the scientific community that bacteria can transfer such toxin-producing genes from one plant to another, thus transferring the pest immunity to other plant species that may not be considered beneficial to humans. Likewise, new pests will frequently replace those avoided by genetic engineering of plants says Ms Vetier, so the argument for reduced spraying has little validity, she argues.

Estonian sentenced for NATO and EU secrets to Russia
VALENTINA POP 26.02.2009 @ 09:26 CET

Herman Simm, a former Estonian defence official, was sentenced on Wednesday (25 February) to 12 and a half years of prison and €1.288 million damages for passing NATO and EU classified information to Russian intelligence services.Yes, I did work for foreign intelligence services. Yes, I did know the people whom I was sending the information were members of the Russian services, Mr Simm conceded on a video tape shown by prosecutors after the trial, which was held behind closed doors, AFP reports.When you did such a thing, you have to live with the consequences, he added.

He pleaded guilty, that is why the trial was brief, Kristina Ots, the court's spokeswoman explained. This was Estonia's first treason case since it regained independence from the Soviet Union, in 1991.The 61-year-old Mr Simm was accused of treason for having passed on to the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) over 2,000 pages of secret documents on Estonia's defence policies and its external military relations.A graduate of a Soviet-era police academy in Moscow, Mr Simm started working for the Estonian defence ministry in 1995, as head of the information analysis office, and in 2001 was appointed head of the newly formed state secret protection department, responsible with issuing access to classified information and for handling NATO and EU data.We think that he started working for Russian intelligence in 1995, Gerrit Maeselu, a spokesperson for the Estonian prosecutor office told the New York Times, adding that Mr Simm was in a position to hand over intelligence on NATO starting in 2001, when Estonia began accession talks with the alliance, which it joined three years later.The Harju county court also ordered Mr Simm to pay €1.288 million to cover damage done to security systems and data systems, which must now be overhauled.

EU secrets compromised

The EU's internal security procedures were also compromised, as Mr Simm had total access to NATO and EU stuff and was handing everything he could find to his Russian handlers,one EU diplomat told the Financial Times.Prosecutors say Mr Simm delivered intelligence to two handlers from Russia's SVR, whom they identified as Valery Zentsov and Sergei Yakovlev. The Kremlin has denied working with Mr Simm.The former Estonian official had contacts in about 15 European countries, where he travelled for business or leisure, Mr Maesalu added. According to Estonian media, Mr Simm claimed to be a victim of Russian blackmail due to his former collaboration with the Soviet secret services, the KGB.Unlike other Eastern European countries, the KGB archives in Estonia were transferred to Moscow or destroyed before the country gained independence, after having been illegally annexed by the USSR. Former collaborators of the KGB were asked in the early 1990s to make themselves known. Approximately 1,000 people answered to this request after having been assured that they would not be prosecuted for the admission.Talking to EUobserver in November last year, after Mr Simm had been formally charged for treason, Estonian MEP Tunne Kelam said the case was rather grotesque,but probably not one-of-a-kind.Russia is interested in expanding its influence to all member states of the EU. It's part of their strategy to regain control over the former Soviet areas and to weaken the EU, Mr Kelam said, adding that the method used was a typically Soviet one.

Italy and Vatican threaten EU unity in drugs talks
LEIGH PHILLIPS 26.02.2009 @ 09:24 CET

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Italy is threatening to undermine EU unity in high-stakes UN talks on drug abuse, with Rome appearing to take the lead from the Vatican in a recent u-turn on issues such as needle-exchange.Heading into a UN conference on 11 March whose outcome will set the international anti-drugs policy agenda for the next 10 years, the European Union, negotiating as one bloc, has so far backed greater emphasis on harm reduction.Harm reduction covers programmes such as drug replacement therapy, needle exchanges to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids and keeping non-violent offenders out of prison. The EU-backed approach stands in contrast to the US, Japan and Russia's prohibitionist line of a War on Drugs, which in some cases stretches to the use of military force in Colombia or Afghanistan. Until February, Sweden was the only EU member which questioned harm reduction. Health minister Maria Larsson explained to EUobserver that Stockholm believes some aspects of the policy are not in accordance with the UN Convention on Drugs and Narcotics.

Sweden did not block an EU common position on the issue, despite its views.

But Italy has now come out against the common position on harm reduction, in a surprise move that could undermine EU effectiveness in the UN talks, Italian opposition MPs Marco Perduca and Donatella Poretti told this website.The move, made on the insistence of national anti-drugs czar Carlo Giovanardi, comes just days after the Holy See on 12 February issued a communique condemning harm reduction as anti life.So-called harm reduction leads to liberalisation of the use of drugs, to an increase in the number of addicted people and to blurring of consciences, leading also to the loss of one's free will, the statement said. The conservative parties in Italy, when it comes to these moral issues, regularly take their opinions from the position of the Holy See,Mr Perduca said. Mr Perduca's libertarian Radical Party is currently part of a broader centre-left opposition in Italy. The country's last centre-left administration supported methadone and needle exchange projects, but drew the line at medical use of heroin and marijuana.It's puzzling why Italy continues with some harm reduction measures domestically, while it seems now [to be] opposing them at the international level, Open Society Institute global drugs programme director, Kassia Malinowska, said. It looks like they have capitulated to a public health policy dictated to them by the Church.

US will seek to end Iran's nuclear ambition By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer – Thu Feb 26, 9:07 pm ET

UNITED NATIONS – President Barack Obama's administration will seek to end Iran's nuclear ambition and its support for terrorism, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Thursday — drawing an immediate rebuke from Iran's envoy.Ambassador Mohammad Khazee said the statement contained the same tired, unwarranted and groundless allegations that used to be unjustifiably and futiley repeated by the previous U.S. administration of President George W. Bush.Iran has never and will never try to acquire nuclear weapons, Khazee said in a letter to the U.N. Security Council immediately after U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice spoke. He also dismissed the charge that Iran engages in terrorism as baseless and absurd.Iran insists it is enriching uranium to produce nuclear energy for civilian purposes, but the U.S. and many European countries accuse Tehran of secretly seeking to build nuclear weapons.

Rice brought up Iran at an open meeting of the Security Council on Iraq, saying the long-term U.S. commitment to Iraq and the reduction of the U.S. military presence there had to be understood in a larger, regional context that included Afghanistan, the Middle East and Iran.The United States will seek an end to Iran's ambition to acquire an illicit nuclear capacity and its support for terrorism, Rice said, adding that the U.S. will aim to encourage both Iran and Syria to become constructive regional actors.The U.S. Mission to the United Nations said Rice had no comment on Khazee's letter.Rice's comments came as the Obama administration is conducting what she has called an urgent and early review of U.S. policy toward Iran.Obama has signaled a willingness for dialogue with Iran, particularly over its nuclear program. At his inauguration last month, the president said his administration would reach out to rival states, declaring we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded by saying Iran would welcome talks with the United States — but only if there was mutual respect. Iranian officials have said that means the United States would need to stop making baseless accusations against the Islamic Republic.On Wednesday, Iranian state radio said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's choice of Dennis Ross as her special adviser on the Persian Gulf signaled no change in the U.S. stance toward Iran. Ross strongly backs stepping up sanctions against Iran ... (and) supports profound U.S.-Israeli cooperation to confront Iran's nuclear activities,the broadcast said.(AP)Iran's deputy foreign minister for the Americas, Ali Reza Salari, said Thursday he believes there is room for advancement in the nuclear dispute with the United States, but said Iran is getting mixed signals from the Obama administration.I think somehow in that domain we are witnessing more rationality in the present U.S. administration. They are not talking with the same tone that existed before, Salari told reporters during a visit to Mexico City. But still, the signal that is reaching Iran from the United States is not a very clear and proper one. It's a mixed signal.The latest International Atomic Energy Agency report says Iran now possesses 1,010 kilograms — 2,222 pounds — of low-enriched uranium, raising concern that it now has sufficient uranium and the means to enrich it further to produce both nuclear fuel and the fissile core of nuclear warheads.In an interview last Friday on National Public Radio, Rice said the IAEA report confirms what we all had feared and anticipated, which is that Iran remains in pursuit of its nuclear program.Associated Press Writer Alexandra Olson contributed to this report from Mexico City.

Palestinian Hamas, Fatah to continue talking By MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press Writer – Thu Feb 26, 5:10 pm ET

CAIRO – Palestinian talks on finding a way for the rival Hamas and Fatah movements to form an interim unity government wrapped up after two days Thursday with a pledge to continue negotiations and to work toward elections for a new government.Although little substance emerged from the discussions in Egypt's capital, the pledge itself marked a modicum of progress toward ending bitter disputes dividing Palestinian factions.Fatah's envoy, Ahmed Qurei, said the parties agreed to set up five committees with representatives of all factions. They will deal with the issues of an interim government, presidential and legislative elections, restructuring security services, merging Hamas into the Fatah-run Palestine Liberation Organization and other matters.We have named the members of each of these committees and we have agreed on their general goals, Qurei told reporters.The committees will being work March 10, when the factions are to meet again in Cairo, with the understanding that their work will be completed by the end of March, Qurei added.

The groups would not speculate on what a unified government would look like or when elections could be held.The shape of the government, the members of the government and such matters will be discussed within the committees, said Mousa Abu Marzouk, Hamas' Syria-based deputy leader.Qurei and Abu Marzouk talked to reporters seated at a long table with representatives of 12 other Palestinian factions, all taking turns in answering questions in a bid to show a united front.This is a historical day, Qurei said. We pray to ensure that the train which has set in motion today will continue on the right path until it reaches the destination everyone is awaiting.

For host Egypt, which is mediating, the talks were a success, if only because a previous effort fell apart in November, when Hamas pulled out at the last minute in a dispute with Fatah over releasing Hamas prisoners.On Wednesday, Fatah and Hamas each agreed to release members of the other group that they have detained, but gave no specific numbers or other details.Gen. Omar Sulieman, Egypt's intelligence head and chief mediator, urged the Palestinians to work on ending their internal chasm. Your people are looking forward to seeing the beginning of your unity, he said on state TV.A senior Egyptian official said Egypt hopes a national unity government will be formed by April. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.Distrust between the Palestinians runs deep after a power struggle that included Hamas' violent takeover of Gaza in 2007, leaving Fatah in charge of only the West Bank.Tensions escalated after Israel's three-week offensive in Gaza last month, designed to stop Hamas rocket fire into southern Israel.Hamas claimed the government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ran a Gaza spy ring that fed Israel information about Hamas targets during the fighting. Abbas' Fatah accused Hamas of killing and wounding dozens of Fatah activists under the cover of the war.In a separate effort, Egypt is trying to mediate a more permanent truce between Israel and Hamas to replace the shaky cease-fire that ended the offensive.The Palestinians say they need $2.8 billion to rebuild from the war, and Egypt is hosting a donors conference Monday at which the U.S. is expected to pledge $900 million. A power-sharing deal between Hamas and Fatah is seen as key to moving ahead because the international community shuns the violently anti-Israel Hamas and won't send money directly to it.Associated Press writer Hadeel Al-Shalchi contributed to this report.

Russia slams State Department report Thu Feb 26, 2:17 pm ET

MOSCOW – The Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday criticized a new U.S. State Department report on human rights as biased.The annual human rights report, released Wednesday, accused Russia of worsening human rights problems and criticized the Kremlin's efforts to consolidate power by fashioning a compliant legislature through unfair elections.We hope Washington will correct its approaches in compiling such reports, the Ministry said in a statement.It said the report's conclusions about the war last summer between Russia and Georgia were odious and could not stand any criticism.The Ministry accused the U.S. of using double standards depending on the loyalty of a certain state to Washington's foreign policy course, the statement said. Georgia is pro-Western.The report cited numerous rights abuses, especially in the North Caucasus region, where disaffected social groups and insurgencies were active. It also decried the deaths, mostly unexplained, of five journalists.


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