Wednesday, 30 April 2014


Congo president: Africa needs Russia

Russia Today

The resource-rich West African state of Congo plans to attract infrastructure investment from Russia, President Denis Sassou Nguesso told Russian media.

“We plan to develop co-operation in all areas: hydrocarbons, agriculture, minerals, logging and education and training,” he said to RIA Novosti.

Sassou Nguesso, who first became the leader of his country in 1979, was originally a committed Marxist, and relied on the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991.

He still thanks the USSR “for fighting for the freedom of the people of Africa,” and speaks warmly of the thousands of Congolese who studied and married in the Soviet Union. However, he realizes that the relationship had to be rebuilt anew, following wide-scale political and economic transformations in both countries.

Sassou Nguesso believes the foundation was laid during an official meeting with Vladimir Putin in November 2012.

“These extraordinarily important talks allowed us to re-launch our partnership,” he said. “A new stage has started and in the coming month an inter-governmental Russia-Congo commission will meet. As a result of these sessions we hope to establish new concrete aims and projects.”

The veteran politician, who won his fifth presidential term in 2009 and will be in office until at least 2016, is encouraged at the idea of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) providing an alternative source of support for the continent’s growth, apart from the IMF and the World Bank.

The five countries recently announced plans to start a development bank that will offer funding for African states.

Sassou Nguesso, who served two separate terms as the chair of the African Union, two decades apart, speaks warily of “colonialists” and believes that only through closer integration with each other will African powers be able to project a voice onto the world stage.

“All countries are trying to join large blocs, and Africa, which was divided by outside forces, cannot ignore this process.”

But for the moment, his focus remains on bringing prosperity to his own country, with a population of 4 million. It endured a devastating civil war in the late 1990s, and is nestled next to the troubled Central African Republic.

“Our country holds all the cards we need to modernize. Now, me and my countrymen must make sacrifices and make an effort to realize that potential,” said Sassou Nguesso.


Monday, 28 April 2014


from the enemy media: "This support is helped by the huge expansion in the country’s hydrocarbon revenues that has allowed Mr Bouteflika to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into public spending, building infrastructure, subsidising goods and increasing salaries. A country that was once near bankruptcy in the 1990s, Algeria now has some $195bn of foreign reserves. Unemployment has fallen from 30 to 10 per cent on Mr Bouteflika’s watch, even if joblessness is still higher among youths."

Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulated Abdelaziz Bouteflika Saturday on being re-elected president of Algeria.


China and Algeria enjoy a deep traditional friendship, and have been good friends, good brothers and good partners since the two countries established diplomatic relations 55 years ago, Xi said in a congratulatory message.

The two countries announced the establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership in February, which showed the high level of China-Algeria ties and created broader prospects for the development of bilateral relations, Xi said.

"I attach great importance to the development of China-Algeria ties and am ready to make joint efforts with President Bouteflika to consolidate and advance the China-Algeria comprehensive strategic partnership and bring benefit to the two countries and two peoples," Xi said.

Bouteflika won his fourth term as president with more than 80 percent of the vote, Interior Minister Tayeb Belaiz announced on Friday.


“All our policies are informed by our correct appreciation of the racialised history of our country. This is contrary to those who speak about an open society and equal opportunities without first addressing the damaging effects of more than 300 years of deliberate economic exclusion of black people. When we conceptualise policies such as affirmative action, broad-based black economic empowerment, Employment Equity Act and others, we proceed from the understanding that we need to correct the injustices of the past meted out against Africans, Indians, coloureds and women.

“We pride ourselves on our track record of non-racialism and in particular the unity of the oppressed. During our struggle for liberation, Indians, coloureds and Africans as black people shared a common fate. The liberation of one group was inextricably linked to that of the other. In other words, in the context of the struggle for freedom, Indian people just like the coloured people, have always been part of the oppressed black majority. Let me emphasise that our bias towards the Indian, African and coloured people all of whom are black is not meant to polarise society but is the most decisive intervention towards redress and social cohesion.”

Zuma reiterates ANC policy on black empowerment


Africans, Indians and coloureds were deemed to be black in terms of the affirmative action policy which is aimed at redressing the economic imbalances of apartheid, President Jacob Zuma said.

“All our policies are informed by our correct appreciation of the racialised history of our country. This is contrary to those who speak about an open society and equal opportunities without first addressing the damaging effects of more than 300 years of deliberate economic exclusion of black people,” Zuma told the audience at the 124th Annual Mount Edgecombe Easter Festival.

“When we conceptualise policies such as affirmative action, broad-based black economic empowerment, Employment Equity Act and others, we proceed from the understanding that we need to correct the injustices of the past meted out against Africans, Indians, coloureds and women,” he said.

“We pride ourselves on our track record of non-racialism and in particular the unity of the oppressed. During our struggle for liberation, Indians, coloureds and Africans as black people shared a common fate. The liberation of one group was inextricably linked to that of the other. In other words, in the context of the struggle for freedom, Indian people just like the coloured people, have always been part of the oppressed black majority. Let me emphasise that our bias towards the Indian, African and coloured people all of whom are black is not meant to polarise society but is the most decisive intervention towards redress and social cohesion,” he said.

He said white compatriots must never feel excluded in the important project of building a non-racial, non-sexist, prosperous and democratic South Africa.

“Working together for the past 20 years, we have managed to educate all our people to value diversity rather than see it as a source of division,” he said.

Zuma said the ANC had succeeded in building a nation with an overarching national identity and which celebrates diverse cultures, religions, sexual orientation, skin colours and ethnic groups.

The address ahead of the Easter long weekend and the coming May 7 elections, also saw Zuma reiterating his message that 20 years into governance, the ANC had a “good story” to tell the nation.

“We have a good story to tell. Our country is a much better place to live in now than it was before 1994. For that we are thankful to millions of South Africans for working with the ANC and its government, to bring about the change and transformation we see today,” he said.

He criticised those who tried to racially divide South Africans.

“Therefore, the Indian community have never been mere auxiliaries in the struggle for freedom as may be suggested by some whose sole intention is to divide the black majority for political expediency. Since the inception of democracy in 1994, we have implemented policies whose main objectives are to create jobs, eliminate poverty and reduce inequality,” he said.

Zuma said the ANC government would in the next five years relentlessly pursue these policies in order to ensure that the economy truly reflected the demographics of the country.

He said that the ANC was the only organisation capable of correcting the imbalances of the past.

“The ANC is the only movement with the necessary commitment, experience and capacity to resolve this issue in the interest of black people,” he said.

Zuma said despite progress to ensure economic redress and broad based black economic empowerment, much more remained to be done as indicated by the recent report released by the Commission for Employment Equity which showed that representation of black people in top management positions had only grown from 23.7% to 33.2% over the last 10 years. – 701198


Dear brits, you demand that some 'Muslim mothers stop their sons going to Syria' to join death squads destroying that country and beyond, but

1, YOU are the one encouraging them to go there by your long propaganda offensive against Assad (and Gaddafi, Iran, Hizbullah, Algeria etc),

2, YOU are the one who facilitate them practically and politically going there through your relations and work with your allies Turkey and the Gulf monarchies,

3, YOU *not* Musilm mothers are the mastermind and master player in funneling these fools and tools of empire.

And as such YOU should shut up, or more accurately you need to be shut down, once that happens the corroding, corrosive and colonial nonsense promoted as 'Islam' via Saudi Arabia will be the real strategic start to the decolonial anti-imperialist Liberation of the Ummah.

However, it is true that you brits have for the time being successful in your clever confusion/traumatising neo-colonial project, but more and more people are waking up to your fake 'war on terror', more like 'manafacturing and directing of colonial directed terrorism'.

- Sukant Chandan, Sons of Malcolm

Friday, 25 April 2014


'Koreans know more about us than we do about them'

Marcel Cartier

I had the unique opportunity to spend several days in three different parts of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, more commonly just referred to as “North” Korea. This was an exceptionally life-changing experience that challenged many of the pre-conceptions that myself and fellow western visitors who accompanied me from Beijing had going in. Here are some things about North Korea that may surprise you, as many of them surprised me, as well.

1. Americans Are Not Hated, But Welcomed

The Koreans have a very high level of class consciousness, and do not equate the American people with our government. They make no secret of their contempt for U.S. imperialism, but if you say you’re an American, the conversation will usually revolve around culture or sports more than politics. At the Grand People’s Study House in Pyongyang (think your local library on steorids, with over 30 million books), the most popular CD is The Beatles’ “Greatest Hits”, although Linkin Park is also requested a lot among local youth. The young men seem fascinated with the NBA, and know a lot more about the league than just Dennis Rodman.

2. Customs and Border Patrol Were A Smooth, Easy Experience

Many of the westerners who traveled to Pyongyang from Beijing with me were concerned that the immigration procedure would be a long and intense one. Everyone seemed quite surprised that passports were stamped with no questions asked, and that only a handful of passengers had a few items in their bags looked at. Prior to traveling, it is strongly advised by tour companies that people not bring any kind of books on the Korean War or items that have American flags on them. This may be solid advice, but immigration didn’t really seem too concerned about what was brought into the country.

3. Pyongyang Is Beautiful, Clean and Colourful

Probably the most gorgeous city in the world, Pyongyang is incredibly well kept. Considering that the entire city was carpet bombed by U.S. forces in the Korean War (what they call the Fatherland Liberation War) and that only two buildings remained in 1953, it is an impressive accomplishment. The statues and grand buildings are awe-inspiring, as are the large green spaces where you can see people relaxing. There are many new apartment buildings sprouting up across the city, but even the ones that are evidently older are maintained well. It is often said that Pyongyang at night is dark, and although it may be compared to a western city, it does have beautiful lights that illuminate much of the downtown area.

4. Kim Jong Un Haircuts Are Practically Non-Existent

There was one man who sported the Kim cut who I saw while en route from the airport to the city center, and it wasn’t a good look on him at all! The haircut was rumoured by BBC and TIME who picked up on a South Korean tabloid story to now be mandatory for all North Korean men of university age. Not only is this story not true, so is the allegation that the men in the DPRK only have a select few styles to choose from at the barber shop that are “state sanctioned.” It really works just as it would in the west – there are flyers at barbershops where styles are pictured, making it easier for customers to say, “I want a number seven cut.” But, just as in a New York barber shop, that doesn’t mean that you are restricted to that particular look.

5. North Koreans laugh, smile and joke – a lot

The question you’re asking is probably, “but isn’t that for show?” It would be a mighty accomplishment indeed if with all of the genuine laughs I shared with Koreans, they were putting on an act. Not only that, but for vehicles speeding by on the streets, those Koreans do an impressive job of making sure they’re aware when there are foreigners passing so they can pretend to laugh! Koreans have jokes for just about everything, from Canadians and ice hockey (“why did the Canadians have sex from the back? So they can watch the hockey game”) to Americans at the DMZ ("an American passes a DPRK soldier a cigarette across the demarcation line. The solider smokes it, but the American asks why if he hates Americans he is smoking something from the U.S. The solider replies, I am not smoking it but rather burning it.”)

6. Monolithic Ideology Does Not Mean Monolithic Personality

This is a good reminder that individualism and individuality are not one in the same. In fact, observing people interact with one another in North Korea provided the impression that a diversity of personality types was just as strong there as it is in the “open” west. People have a divergence of interests, from sports to culture, and are free to pick what they enjoy and dislike.

7. People are incredibly well dressed across the country

Even in the countryside, Koreans dress in a very dignified manner. There was not one place I traveled to where people appeared in the least bit sloppy, or wearing clothes that appeared to be old. Men and women also don’t all wear the same style of clothing, as we are often conditioned to think. It is common to see women wearing very bright clothes, including pink business suits as well as more traditional Korean dresses. Men may often wear ties, collared shirts and suit coats, but it is also not uncommon to see them in more casual wear such as tracksuits depending on the occasion.

8. Children Begin To Learn English At the Age of 7

The people’s command of English, particularly among the younger generation, is very impressive. While in previous decades, high school was the time when English began to be learnt, this has been changed to the third grade. Although many children are shy (they don’t see that many foreigners, after all), I was able to get many of them to shake my hand and even exchange a few words in English. Popular languages that are studied in high school include Chinese and German.

9. Tourism Will Be Boosted In The Near Future

One of the aspects of the economy that will be prioritized in the future appears to be tourism. The entire Pyongyang Airport is under construction at the moment and in the midst of major expansion. The Koreans are keen to open up to the outside world, but they are also certain to do it in a very different way than the Chinese (after being in Beijing, the omnipotence of some of the worst aspects of western culture their gives them every reason to be cautious in this regard). Air Koryo, which was given the only 1-star rating by the company SkyTrax, was in reality much better in terms of service and comfort than at least a dozen other airlines I had previously flown on. They have a new fleet of Russian planes that fly between Pyongyang and Beijing, provide in flight entertainment throughout the journey (the children’s cartoon Clever Raccoon Dog is hilarious), and serve a “hamburger” (not so good, but edible) and an assortment of drinks (coffee, tea, beer, juice). The whole experience was at least worthly of three-stars if we had to go the rating route!

10. Koreans Are Keen To Talk About The Country Candidly

People are very open about the problems facing the country, and don’t shy away from discussing some of the more difficult aspects of life. For instance, they would speak about the “Arduous March” (think the “Special Period” in Cuba) where drought, famine and floods coupled with the loss of the majority of the country’s trading partners brought big setbacks to a country that until the 1980s had a higher standard of living than the South. They will also discuss the narratives regarding the Korean War and are keen for a betterment of relations with South Korea in the eventual hope of reunification. However, they are also very firm on the fact that they will never renounce their socialist principles in order to facilitate this reunification.

11. Beer Is Considered A Soft Drink, Micro Breweries Are Popular

Almost every district in the country now has a local brewery that provides beer to the local area. There are a variety of different kinds that are enjoyed around the country, and most meals are served with a small quantity of beer. At Kim Il Sung Stadium where the Pyongyang Marathon started and ended, it was not uncommon to see locals having a drink as they watched the exhibition matches between DPRK football teams. Think Yankee Stadium, just without the aggressiveness of the crowd.

12. Most of the Tabloid Stories About the DPRK Are Utterly False

There were probably at least one hundred Americans in Pyongyang at the same time as me, due in large part to foreign amateur runners being allowed to compete for the first time in the marathon. One couple testified how this was their second visit after having traveled to DPRK the year before. They mentioned how they were a bit scared to come the previous time, because it was right after a story had hit the news about Kim Jong Un having had his ex-girlfriend and others killed for making a porn tape. The couple talked about how they walked into an Opera in Pyongyang, and as they sat down noticed that the very women who were supposed to be dead were sitting directly across from them. Walking dead, indeed! Other recent stories to hit the western press via South Korean tabloids regarding mass executions in stadiums or Kim Jong Un's uncle being fed to a pack of hungry dogs are also said to be non-sense by westerners who travel there frequently and know the country’s situation well. This isn’t to say anything about the existence of political re-education camps or prisons, but an all-out demonization campaign against the country that completely distorts it is of no service to the Korean people.

13. Koreans Will Not Hesitate To Make You Join In Their Fun

There were a number of events organized in Pyongyang on the occasion of Kim Il Sung’s birthday, which is a national holiday where people have two days off of work. Some of these were publically organized, like the “mass dances” where hundreds of people dance in large squares to popular Korean songs. Others involved people in the park having family lunches while the kids bought ice cream from vendors and drunk grannies danced hilariously because they had far too much home-made soju. But, just like in any authoritarian state, you must participate! Being shy is not an option, as they will pull you by the arm and teach you every dance move even if they themselves are not quite doing it correctly.

In short, I found the Korean people in the north to be some of the warmest, most authentic human beings I’ve ever had the chance to interact with. It would be silly to refer to the country as a “workers’ paradise” due to the depth of problems it faces. As in all societies, there are positive aspects and negative ones. However, considering that they have overcome centuries of imperial domination, the loss of about a quarter of their population in the Korean War, and continue to maintain their social system in the face of a continued state of war, they have done tremendously well. The accomplishments in free education through university, the non-existence of homelessness, and a proud and dignified people should be presented in order to gain a fuller, more nuanced picture of the country.

I must say that the way that the DPRK is portrayed in the western bourgeois media actually says a great deal more about the effectiveness of our propaganda apparatuses and brainwashing techniques than it does about theirs. The fact that I even have to write about the surprising things I witnessed in DPRK is evidence of the serious lack of understanding we have about the country. The problems facing Korea are never contexualized as they should be – as an oppressed nation aiming to free itself from servitude to big powers intent on gobbling up every remaining state free from a dying unipolarity.

Oh, and I almost forgot about nuclear weapons! Well, let’s consider if the North Korean military was holding military drills annually off the coast of New York that simulated the carpet bombing of Manhattan and the occupation of the entirety of the country, of which they already controlled the western half. Would it not be sensible given that context for Americans to develop a nuclear deterrent? The Koreans are not war hungry or even “obsessed” with the army or military. However, given the way that the situation in Libya played out, they are all the more convinced – rightfully so – that the only reason their independent state continues to stand is due to the Songun (“military first” policy) and the existence of nuclear capabilities. To be sure, they have no intention of using it unless put in that position to have to do so.

It is my sincere desire that there will be continued cultural and people-to-people exchanges in the near future between people from the DPRK and the western countries. Pretty much all of the people who traveled with me back to Beijing were in awe of just how different their experience was compared to what they had expected. They – like myself – gained a great deal from the humanizing experience of interacting with Koreans. Although westerners are relatively free to travel much more so than DPRK citizens, it’s ironic how the Koreans seemingly know a great deal more about us than we know about them. That will need to change in the years to come.


Wednesday, 23 April 2014


Egypt's interim president Adly Mansour (R) and Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy (L) meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil (C), at the presidential palace in Cairo on March 10, 2014. 

Hezbollah, Syria, and Egypt on the verge of an understanding?

Al-Akhbar English

A meeting in Beirut a few days ago between Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy and Lebanese Industry Minister and Hezbollah MP Hussein al-Hajj Hassan marked the beginning of a dialogue between the two sides. It also complemented a series of behind- the-scenes contacts between Cairo and Tehran to open new channels of communication and end the war in Syria. Documents of meetings that Al-Akhbar obtained reveal an initiative proposed by Iran a while ago that suggests gradually transferring presidential powers in Syria to a national government. Will Saudi Arabia accept it?

Not many people paid attention to the political breakthrough that took place in Beirut during the visit by Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy on March 20. The visit marked the first public meeting between the Egyptian diplomat and Industry Minister and Hezbollah MP Hussein al-Hajj Hassan. This meeting sends an important message to Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. But does it mark the beginning of a shift in Egypt?

At first, the party was reluctant to accept the Egyptian invitation but, as usual, it gave precedence to national interest over personal sensitivities and the meeting took place.There is information that Hezbollah, like Egypt, is interested in promoting openness and understanding. At first, the party was not very happy with the framework within which the meeting took place. There was a kind of disappointment with the Egyptian minister who began his quick visit to Lebanon by meeting the head the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea and most other Lebanese leaders. And instead of asking to meet Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, he asked that a Hezbollah minister visit him. At first, the party was reluctant to accept the Egyptian invitation but, as usual, it gave precedence to national interest over personal sensitivities and the meeting took place.
How did both sides read the meeting?

First, Hezbollah:

The party understands that Egypt needs to strengthen its relationship with Saudi Arabia right now for financial reasons and to complete the process of containing the Muslim Brotherhood and consolidating the authority of Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi so that he can become president soon, and he will.

This understanding does not rule out a sense of disappointment and disapproval however. Some of this disapproval has to do with the way the Egyptian authorities deal with Hezbollah on the judiciary and media level. How is it possible to lump the Lebanese party with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas in the legal case of the jail break at the 2011 Wadi al-Natroun prison as though Hezbollah is active inside Egypt? An accusation the party has denied repeatedly. The case is not based on any legal evidence according to Hezbollah, but is politically motivated.

The party denies that a Hezbollah cell played a role in releasing prisoners, including Hezbollah activist Sami Shihab, from Cairo prisons. First, Shihab was arrested on charges related to a nationalist cause, namely aiding Palestinians. The party bit its tongue when it came to arresting its activist in a case Shihab should have received honors for, not put behind bars. After he managed, with his comrades, to escape from an Egyptian prison during the chaotic period that followed the ousting of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, all the party did is smuggle him out of Egypt when they learned of his escape. Any other claims are false. This is Hezbollah’s firm position and it has evidence to support it.

Many parties close to Hezbollah see a lot of exaggeration in the Egyptian perception of the relationship between Iran and Hezbollah with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. There is currently no financial ties or direct support for the Muslim Brotherhood. And the relationship with Hamas is still being tested. The Palestinian movement is expected to reevaluate its position with respect to what happened in the past three years. It is also expected to reposition itself as a resistance movement inside Palestine and not as part of a Muslim Brotherhood project in the region.

Hezbollah never felt comfortable with former Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi. The Muslim Brotherhood president disappointed many when he went to Iran and gave a speech that was unworthy of the hospitality he received or the place he was visiting. His hostile position towards Syria and Hezbollah and his decision to cut ties with Damascus created even more disappointment. Furthermore, when former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to Cairo, he was not well-received and was badly treated even at Al-Azhar University. Nevertheless, Hezbollah and Iran faced two choices, either return to the ghost of Mubarak’s era with Ahmed Shafik who ran against Mursi in the presidential elections or back Mursi. They reluctantly backed Mursi.

Second, Egypt:

People close to Fahmy said that his visit to Lebanon is important even for Egyptian domestic politics because of what Lebanon represents in terms of diversity and pluralism as opposed to the ideas of religious intolerance and terrorism.Information indicates that there are four observations from the Egyptian side:

- The Egyptians stressed that starting their foreign minister’s Lebanon tour with a visit to Geagea was the result of a logistical mistake that has to do with the embassy and preparations for the visit. They realized later on the repercussions of this mistake.

- People close to Fahmy said that his visit to Lebanon is important even for Egyptian domestic politics because of what Lebanon represents in terms of diversity and pluralism as opposed to the ideas of religious intolerance and terrorism. That is why there is genuine interest in helping and training the Lebanese army and a willingness to contribute to the effort of arming it.

- A simple meeting between Fahmy and a Hezbollah minister means a lot. First, it broke the taboo placed on meeting with Hezbollah especially that it coincided with the trials in Cairo and because there is an Egyptian opposition to the role the Lebanese party is playing in Syria. Second, it is a meeting on a ministerial level. This saves Egypt any embarrassment while at the same time it paves the way to have other meetings in order to promote further cooperation through the ministries.

- The Egyptian side emphasized that the meeting with Hezbollah means that Egypt is open to all Lebanese parties and does not discriminate between one side or another. The Egyptian foreign minister was keen in all his meetings to avoid giving an opinion about the presidential candidates in Lebanon. Cairo does not want to interfere in this issue according to Fahmy’s inner circle.

What happened at the meeting?

The Egyptian minister said: “Cairo supports the role of Hezbollah as a resistance party.” He also said that there are many disagreements between the party and Cairo including its involvement in the war in Syria. But these disagreements do not rule out the desire for both sides to come together and to develop this rapport for the interest of both countries in order to protect Lebanon and the Resistance.

Al-Hajj Hassan explained that Hezbollah decided to participate in the war in Syria because of the great dangers that beset Lebanon. He said that the threat of terrorism was more serious than some people thought. He gave several examples including the issue of border areas and the town of Arsal. He also stressed that the party is worried about the targeting of the Lebanese army and that it supports the army and stands behind it. He emphasized that Hezbollah respects the constitutional frameworks and wants to elect a president according to these frameworks and the predetermined deadlines. He described the dangers of sectarian strife and how the party has worked hard to avoid them. He stressed Hezbollah’s desire to see Egypt resume its pioneering role at a very critical juncture in the history of Palestine.

In this sense, the meeting was fruitful and it coincides with an Egyptian desire to remobilize relationships on a regional level. Fahmy drew a very successful roadmap for Egyptian foreign relations. This meticulous diplomat, son of the diplomat Ismail Fahmy who resigned because of Camp David, was not close to the military establishment. Some viewed him with a measure of skepticism because of his relationship with Mohammed al-Baradei and for studying and teaching in the United States. Their view, however, changed dramatically after his success in establishing strategic relations with Russia and expanding Egypt’s choices and that of the military leadership towards India and China. Fahmy became the real architect of Egypt’s current foreign policy. Sisi realized his great potential especially when US Secretary of State John Kerry rushed to visit Egypt on the eve of the Russian delegation’s arrival in an effort to convince Cairo of the need to maintain the primacy of the US-Egyptian relationship. Kerry praised the Egyptian leadership in Cairo at the time but he was reprimanded in the White House while Fahmy, Sisi, and the new leadership smiled.

It is through the prism of this strategy that Fahmy regards the need to reestablish regional relationships with Saudi Arabia and Iran. He is certain that the Syrian crisis cannot be solved without Cairo, Tehran, Riyadh and Ankara. There have been several initiatives on this issue. Famed Egyptian writer, Mohammed Hassanein Heikal, visited Nasrallah. Some claimed that he was not officially tasked to do so. But people close to the Egyptian minister confirm that he was indeed asked to make this visit. This paved the way for the meeting between the Egyptian and Iranian foreign ministers a while back. Fahmy’s meeting with Hezbollah in Lebanon came in this context too. Paving the way towards Iran has begun despite the sensitivity of Egypt’s current relationship with Saudi Arabia.

The terms of a new Iranian initiative

Cairo was never, and will never be, happy with Turkey’s adventures in Syria.Ideas regarding the Syrian crisis were exchanged recently between Iran and Egypt. Iran proposed an initiative but Egypt believed it is weak because the other side might reject it. Information indicates that this initiative included four points.

- A comprehensive cease-fire at a national level.

- Forming a national unity government consisting of the regime and the internal Syrian opposition.

- Laying the grounds for a new regime by transferring presidential powers to the government whereby the government will enjoy wide-ranging powers in the years to come.

- Preparing for presidential and parliamentary elections.

Cairo believes that the basics of the Iranian initiative are good but not sufficient. This initiative might develop later if consultations expand to include Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey.

The Egyptian position is changing. Surely, Egypt did not head the list of Arab countries that refused to hand Syria’s seat at the Arab summit to the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) but Cairo did not oppose this decision. It preferred, however, to remain in the shadows for reasons having to do mostly with its relationship with Saudi Arabia and with the Syrian opposition.

Cairo knows that the SNC is in a tight position because of its current divisions. It is also aware that the legal grounds to hand over Syria’s seat to the opposition do not exist. It knows that the SNC’s head, Ahmad Jarba, who is seeking to renew his term, wants to get rid of nine members of the coalition. It is also aware of the difficulties that the opposition is facing on the ground. It is therefore weaving serious security relations with Syria. Reestablishing diplomatic ties, however, requires a Syrian initiative that has not materialized yet that would include the release of detainees from the opposition National Coordination Committee and other bodies such as Rajaa al-Nasser.

In addition, there is the position of the Egyptian army, which always repeats that Egyptian national security is organically tied to the national security of Syria and its army. Cairo was never, and will never be, happy with Turkey’s adventures in Syria. It might have even sent something of a warning in this regard.

There is no doubt that Cairo needs Syrian initiatives. There is also no doubt that its relationship with Saudi Arabia limits its ability to maneuver. But there are important changes on the Arab scene that might help it in the next phase. A prominent Kuwaiti MP for example says that Kuwait’s official position and that of some Gulf countries now supports Syria, fighting terrorism, preserving the Syrian army and encouraging a political solution that entails the survival of Syrian President Bashar Assad. He stresses that the emir of Kuwait literally told him so.

Does the meeting between Fahmy and Hussein al-Hajj signify the beginning of major changes? Definitely. But we are still at the beginning of the road.


SOURCES: Syrian jihad coming to Egypt with help from Turkey, Qatar and Obama


The struggle for Egypt is on the verge of a major escalation as the key sponsors of the jihadist cause in Syria are now committed to a similar campaign against Egypt.

The overall strategic objective is to prevent the emergence of an inward-looking regional order based on the Arab heartland, shielded by the Fertile Crescent of Minorities, and thus excluding the external forces. A strong and stable Egypt is considered a cornerstone of such a regional posture.

Because Russia is the primary supporter and sponsor of the emerging regional order, the sponsors of the jihadists are convinced the U.S. Barack Obama Administration supports them just as Obama is supporting their jihad in Syria.

Jihadist sources directly involved in the sponsorship of jihadist causes in Syria and Egypt just reported on the comparable effort against Egypt.

According to these jihadist sources, “attempts to create a Free Egyptian Army in Libya have been identified, with the participation of the Muslim Brothers and Al Qaida and under Qatari-Turkish-Iranian patronage, in addition to plans to target vital installations, including Cairo International Airport, the storming of prisons to free Muslim Brothers detainees, and spreading chaos to sabotage the presidential elections.”

The Libyan intelligence services allegedly permit — or at least cannot control or constrain — the advance preparations.

“Factories in Libya are making Egyptian Army uniforms and distributing them to members of the Free Egyptian Army, in preparation to enter the country in the future and implement those schemes and awaiting the zero hour, which will be set by the intelligence agencies that control them,” the sources said. Large quantities of weapons, vehicles and other equipment are being delivered to the Egyptian groups and stored in the Darna self-declared “Emirate” in Libya’s Cyrenaica region, pending dispatch into Egypt. Most of the combatants engaged were reported to be experienced jihadis, mostly not of Libyan citizenship, but including a considerable number of Sudanese and other fighters who had gained experience in Syria and elsewhere.

The Emir (Commander) of the Free Egyptian Army is Sharif al-Radwani. He is currently running the training camps and weapon storage site of the Free Egyptian Army in Libya. In recent years, Sharif al-Radwani participated in the jihads in Syria, Lebanon, and Afghanistan-Pakistan. The key commander responsible for coordination with foreign sponsors and intelligence services is Ismail al-Salabi. He is a senior member of the Al Qaida high command. Significantly, Ismail al-Salabi is a friend and confidant of the head of Qatari intelligence, Ghanem al-Kubaisi, and both meet frequently.

The senior commanders are also coordinating with the supreme leaders of the clandestine arm of the Muslim Brothers the launch of terrorist operations inside Egypt. The jihadist sources specified that “Kami al-Saifi and Ismail al-Salabi, who are both in Al Qaida, were in contact with the Muslim Brothers’ (Ikhwan) Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat al-Shater and have a special role to play in creating instability prior to the upcoming presidential elections”.

The overall activities in the training camps in Libya suggest that the Free Egyptian Army is comprised of a few distinct elements, each of which joined after building expertise and cohesion in other jihadist fronts, mainly Syria and Libya. The best organized and best trained are the “Al Qaida elements” under the command of Sufian al-Hakim. They joined the training camps as a cohesive unit with well-defined cells and networks, including inside Egypt. They receive weapons, ammunition and other sophisticated equipment in the camps.

The first cells are already being smuggled across the Libyan borders. The largest element of the Free Egyptian Army is comprised of Egyptian students who fled to Libya. The military commander of these forces is Abu-Fahd al-Zaz, a veteran of the fighting in Syria who returned to Libya to help launch the jihad in Egypt. The liaison officer with the Qataris in the training camps is Abu-Ubaida, a veteran al-Qaida commander who had worked with the Qataris in Libya, Syria and other sensitive projects. Qatari intelligence and military officers are present on Libyan soil and visit Abu-Ubaida frequently to inspect the camps and get progress reports.

Significantly, the Free Egyptian Army is being organized and run separately, but parallel, to the ongoing expansion of the armed jihadist groups in and out of the Sinai, particularly the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem) forces. The Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis started as Sinai-based and Egyptian off-shoots of the Hamas forces in Gaza affiliated with the Egyptian Muslim Brothers (of which the Hamas is an extension). [The U.S. Department of State has announced the designation of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity under section 1(b) of Executive Order (EO) 13224.]

In mid-July 2013, soon after the Egyptian military overthrew the Morsi Administration and saved Egypt from collapse, the Muslim Brothers established a command post at the Gaza Beach Hotel in the Gaza Strip. The primary mission of the command post is to organize and run the Islamist resistance and, should the need arise, a civil war in Egypt. The Muslim Brothers cooperate closely with the Hamas and the various Al Qaida-affiliated neo-salafist and jihadist forces in Sinai.

The Gaza Beach Hotel command post is run by Mahmud Izzat Ibrahim, a senior deputy of the Supreme Guide, known as “the Iron Man”. Hamas sources claim that he is Muslim Brothers senior leader Khairat al-Shater’s right-hand man and deputy for special projects in the underground/clandestine apparatus. Initially, there were at least six Egyptian senior operatives in the Gaza Beach Hotel, as well as a few Hamas and other Arab jihadist leaders help the Egyptians. In mid-August 2013, the number and seniority of the Egyptians at the Gaza Beach Hotel command post rose markedly.

Most important was the arrival of the supreme leader of the clandestine arm of the Muslim Brothers. Both the real name and nom-de-guerre of the commander are unknown. The most senior Hamas officials are referring to him as “Mr X” and hold him at great reverence.

The key to the power of “Mr X” is that he received his “takfiri” (ie: a Muslim who accuses another of apostasy) education from Sheikh Abdul Meguid al-Shazli, the mentor of both Shater and Supreme Guide Muhammad Badei. Some 20 senior commanders and operatives of the Muslim Brothers’ clandestine apparatus arrived with “Mr X”, bringing the total of Egyptians at the Gaza Beach Hotel command center to more than 30, on top of the few dozen Palestinians and other Arab jihadists who assist in running operations not only in Egypt but also throughout the Middle East.

The Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in its current structure and role was funded in late-August 2013 by the Muslim Brothers leadership. The turning point was a deal between Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat al-Shater and Muhammad al-Zawahiri — Ayman’s brother and leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad – which brought the Hamas special operations command and numerous takfiri networks inside Egypt into the deal. As part of the agreement, the Muslim Brothers committed to supplying both Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and Hamas with weapons from Libya which would be delivered through the Gaza tunnels.

Qatar agreed to fund these weapons and both Qatari and Turkish intelligence officials coordinated the weapons purchase and delivery with their Libyan counterparts. Little wonder that Hamas officials often refer to Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis as “the military wing of the Muslim Brothers” in Egypt. However, the Muslim Brothers’ supreme leadership remained apprehensive about their dependence on the Gaza Strip and the Sinai, and therefore, explained the jihadist sources, “kept planning to form its own militia”: the Free Egyptian Army.

Meanwhile, according to jihadist sources, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis was being converted into an elite jihadist force “made up of Hamas militants, youth of the Brothers, and fighters trained in Afghanistan”. Indeed, the Gaza Beach Hotel command post is coordinating closely with Ramzi Mowafi – the Egyptian Al Qaida leader known as the Chief of Sinai – and the jihadist army in the Sinai. The first manifestation of the new cooperation is the emergence in the Sinai of a new jihadist group – “The Communicators with the Mahdi” – which, although comprised mainly of Palestinian members of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad from the Gaza Strip, is focused on fighting the Egyptian Security Forces.

Autumn 2013 saw the beginning of sustained operations at the heart of Egypt.

The first strikes were amateurish and caused extensive harm to bystanders. The Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis apologized and explained that the attackers “did their best in terms of monitoring and planning so as to avoid injuring any innocent Muslim”. Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis stressed that the ultimate objective of the mujahedin was “attacking [the Government] without inflicting harm in the ranks of the Muslims” and called on all Egyptian Muslims “to come together around their mujahedin brothers in their war against” the security forces. An individual identified as Abu-Osama al-Masri emerged as the chief spokesman of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.

In Winter 2013-2014, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis became sufficiently strong and stable to escalate operations throughout the heart of Egypt, from Cairo to the Delta and Suez Canal cities.

The Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis networks have since carried out numerous car-bombings, shooting attacks and assassinations of senior security personnel. The jihadist commanders consider this the beginning of a long jihad which would ultimately restore Islamist government to Egypt. The jihadists are escalating their jihad to destabilize Egypt through “the battle for avenging the Muslims of Egypt.” According to the jihadist sources, the primary objectives of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis are “to target vital installations, mainly the bombing of the Aswan High Dam, which was at the top of their target list, in addition to targeting a number of churches, places of worship, and police and army facilities”.

The jihadist sources stressed that once the Free Egyptian Army, the new forces of the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, and a myriad of localized jihadist-takfiri networks are unleashed, Cairo would be shocked by the spread and magnitude of the violence. The jihadist leaders and their sponsoring states were convinced that “Egypt is in a real crisis” and that Cairo was incapable of meeting the new challenge.

“The ignorance of the security forces and intelligence services of these new elements of terrorism is disastrous,” the jihadist sources claimed.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014


Courtesy of brother Gamal Nkrumah, Kwame Nrukumah's son.

"April and May, two breathrakingly beautiful months, for me personally they have a particular emotional appeal. My Father left this earthly realm in April and my Mother in May. This is a 164 photograph of the opening of the presidential residence flagstaff house zoo in Accra. Father was estatic, he loved animals, and Mother was her most graceful self. Africa must unite. I feature with my dearest Sister Samia, CPP Chairperson."

Sunday, 13 April 2014

PUBLIC EVENT: Radical Black & Asian Publishing: Legacies & Continuing Challenges

Radical Black & Asian Publishing: Legacies & Continuing Challenges
Sat 10 May 1-230pm
Bishopsgate Institute
London EC2M 4QH

As part of the The London Radical Bookfair & Alternative Press Takeover

Chair: Sukant Chandan - Sons of Malcolm
Speaker: Eric Huntley - Bogle L'Overture Books / Radical Black and Third World Bookfair (1982-1995)
more speakers tbc

At the London Radical Bookfair & Alternative Press Takeover one day event, we will be holding a panel on the experience and legacy of radical anti-imperialist, Black and Asian publishing of previous generations, and the continuing challenges and importance of developing publishing today for the struggle of the GlobalSouth against white supremacy and imperialism and for our collective Liberation.

We are delighted to have on this panel Eric Huntley, who with Jessica Huntley and their Bogle Overture books (and the related Walter Rodney bookshop which used to be in West Ealing, in West London) helped to organise with several other Black and Asian radical publishers the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books between 1982 - 1995.

The challenges remain for those interested in the on-going Liberation struggles of the GlobalSouth to develop analysis, culture, theory, history and fictional and children's books in relation to the newer generations in new political contexts of the world struggle with new forms of publishing especially in the realm of the digital age.

(This event will be filmed, live streamed and uploaded onto youtube, by attending this event you are giving permission to be possible filmed)

Friday, 11 April 2014


President Jacob Zuma says the EU should not decide who attends the EU-Africa Summit.

SA joins other African countries in boycotting EU-Africa Summit


South Africa has come out in support of the African Union call to shun the European Union-Africa Summit in Brussels this week.

The countries are of the view that European Union is dictating the composition of Africa's delegation.

There are some controversial inclusions and omissions. President Jacob Zuma has joined leaders like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe boycotting the summit. Pretoria will be represented on a ministerial level.

The European Union-Africa summit is a gathering of 90 countries from two continents attended by 65 heads of states and government.

On the agenda is trade and political relations but there will be some notable absentees.

“I think that time must pass wherein we are looked as subjects, we are told who must come, who must not come, we have not attempted to decide when we meet Europe; who must come and who must not come. It is wrong and causes this unnecessary unpleasantness. I thought the AU and EU are equal organisations representing two continents but there is not a single one of them who must decide for others,” says President Jacob Zuma.

Eritrea has been barred from attending because of its human rights record. The SADR, also known as Western Sahara is also excluded because of its territorial dispute with Morocco, which is not an AU member.

Sudan was invited, but it’s President, Omar al-Bashir shunned the event. He is wanted by the ICC for human rights atrocities.

Grace Mugabe was not granted a visa to travel with her husband and Egypt, which has been suspended from the AU, got the nod.

Analysts say that the continent should decide on its own delegates.

"The position of the African Union is that it should be up to the African Union rather than the European Union to decide which African leaders are accepted or not .

It seems SA is taking a stand to say you have no right to exclude particular African leaders," says Political Analyst Steven Friedman.

Friedman adds that the diplomatic gesture will have no bearing on trade relations between South Africa and the EU, Pretoria’s biggest trading partner.

The EU finds itself in the midst of another diplomatic wrangle. It signed an agreement with Ukraine forging closer economic ties, in a show of support following Russia's annexation of Crimea.


Feds reportedly built secret social media network in Cuba to stir unrest


"The social media project began development in 2009 after Washington-based Creative Associates International obtained a half-million Cuban cellphone numbers. It was unclear to the AP how the numbers were obtained, although documents indicate they were done so illicitly from a key source inside the country's state-run provider. Project organizers used those numbers to start a subscriber base.

ZunZuneo's organizers wanted the social network to grow slowly to avoid detection by the Cuban government. Eventually, documents and interviews reveal, they hoped the network would reach critical mass so that dissidents could organize "smart mobs" -- mass gatherings called at a moment's notice -- that could trigger political demonstrations, or "renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society.""

The U.S. government masterminded the creation of a "Cuban Twitter" -- a communications network designed to undermine the communist government in Cuba, built with secret shell companies and financed through foreign banks, The Associated Press has learned.

The project, which lasted more than two years and drew tens of thousands of subscribers, sought to evade Cuba's stranglehold on the Internet with a primitive social media platform. First, the network would build a Cuban audience, mostly young people; then, the plan was to push them toward dissent.

Yet its users were neither aware it was created by a U.S. agency with ties to the State Department, nor that American contractors were gathering personal data about them, in the hope that the information might be used someday for political purposes.

It is unclear whether the scheme was legal under U.S. law, which requires written authorization of covert action by the president and congressional notification. Officials at USAID would not say who had approved the program or whether the White House was aware of it. The Cuban government declined a request for comment.

At minimum, details uncovered by the AP appear to muddy the U.S. Agency for International Development's longstanding claims that it does not conduct covert actions, and could undermine the agency's mission to deliver aid to the world's poor and vulnerable -- an effort that requires the trust and cooperation of foreign governments.

USAID and its contractors went to extensive lengths to conceal Washington's ties to the project, according to interviews and documents obtained by the AP. They set up front companies in Spain and the Cayman Islands to hide the money trail, and recruited CEOs without telling them they would be working on a U.S. taxpayer-funded project.

"There will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement," according to a 2010 memo from Mobile Accord Inc., one of the project's creators. "This is absolutely crucial for the long-term success of the service and to ensure the success of the Mission."

The project, dubbed "ZunZuneo," slang for a Cuban hummingbird's tweet, was publicly launched shortly after the 2009 arrest in Cuba of American contractor Alan Gross. He was imprisoned after traveling repeatedly to the country on a separate, clandestine USAID mission to expand Internet access using sensitive technology that only governments use.

USAID said in a statement that it is "proud of its work in Cuba to provide basic humanitarian assistance, promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to help information flow more freely to the Cuban people," whom it said "have lived under an authoritarian regime" for 50 years. The agency said its work was found to be "consistent with U.S. law."

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and chairman of the Appropriations Committee's State Department and foreign operations subcommittee, said the ZunZuneo revelations were troubling.

"There is the risk to young, unsuspecting Cuban cellphone users who had no idea this was a U.S. government-funded activity," he said. "There is the clandestine nature of the program that was not disclosed to the appropriations subcommittee with oversight responsibility. And there is the fact that it was apparently activated shortly after Alan Gross, a USAID subcontractor who was sent to Cuba to help provide citizens access to the Internet, was arrested."

The AP obtained more than 1,000 pages of documents about the project's development. It independently verified the project's scope and details in the documents through publicly available databases, government sources and interviews with those involved in ZunZuneo.

ZunZuneo would seem to be a throwback from Cold War, and the decades-long struggle between the United States and Cuba. It came at a time when the historically sour relationship between the countries had improved, at least marginally, and Cuba had made tentative steps toward a more market-based economy.

The social media project began development in 2009 after Washington-based Creative Associates International obtained a half-million Cuban cellphone numbers. It was unclear to the AP how the numbers were obtained, although documents indicate they were done so illicitly from a key source inside the country's state-run provider. Project organizers used those numbers to start a subscriber base.

ZunZuneo's organizers wanted the social network to grow slowly to avoid detection by the Cuban government. Eventually, documents and interviews reveal, they hoped the network would reach critical mass so that dissidents could organize "smart mobs" -- mass gatherings called at a moment's notice -- that could trigger political demonstrations, or "renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society."

The Cuban government has a tight grip on information, and the country's leaders view the Internet as a "wild colt" that "should be tamed." ZunZuneo's leaders planned to push Cuba "out of a stalemate through tactical and temporary initiatives, and get the transition process going again toward democratic change."

At a 2011 speech at George Washington University, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the U.S. helps people in "oppressive Internet environments get around filters." Noting Tunisia's role in the Arab Spring, she said people used technology to help "fuel a movement that led to revolutionary change."

Suzanne Hall, then a State Department official working on Clinton's social media efforts, helped spearhead an attempt to get Twitter founder Jack Dorsey to take over the ZunZuneo project. Dorsey declined to comment.

The estimated $1.6 million spent on ZunZuneo was publicly earmarked for an unspecified project in Pakistan, public government data show, but those documents don't reveal where the funds were actually spent.

ZunZuneo's organizers worked hard to create a network that looked like a legitimate business, including the creation of a companion website -- and marketing campaign -- so users could subscribe and send their own text messages to groups of their choice.

"Mock ad banners will give it the appearance of a commercial enterprise," one written proposal obtained by the AP said. Behind the scenes, ZunZuneo's computers were also storing and analyzing subscribers' messages and other demographic information, including gender, age, "receptiveness" and "political tendencies." USAID believed the demographics on dissent could help it target its other Cuba programs and "maximize our possibilities to extend our reach.".

"It was such a marvelous thing," said Ernesto Guerra, a Cuban user who never suspected his beloved network had ties to Washington.

"How was I supposed to realize that?" Guerra asked in an interview in Havana. "It's not like there was a sign saying, `Welcome to ZunZuneo, brought to you by USAID."'

Executives set up a corporation in Spain and an operating company in the Cayman Islands -- a well-known British offshore tax haven -- to pay the company's bills so the "money trail will not trace back to America," a strategy memo said. That would have been a catastrophic blow, they concluded, because it would undermine the service's credibility with subscribers and get shut down by the Cuban government.

Similarly, subscribers' messages were funneled through two other countries -- but never through American-based computer servers.

Denver-based Mobile Accord considered at least a dozen candidates to head the European front company. One candidate, Francoise de Valera, told the AP she was told nothing about Cuba or U.S. involvement.

James Eberhard, Mobile Accord's CEO and a key player in the project's development, declined to comment. Creative Associates referred questions to USAID.

For more than two years, ZunZuneo grew and reached at least 40,000 subscribers. But documents reveal the team found evidence Cuban officials tried to trace the text messages and break into the ZunZuneo system. USAID told the AP that ZunZuneo stopped in September 2012 when a government grant ended.

ZunZuneo vanished abruptly in 2012, and the Communist Party remains in power -- with no Cuban Spring on the horizon.

"The moment when ZunZuneo disappeared, (it) was like a vacuum," said Guerra, the ZunZuneo user. "In the end, we never learned what happened. We never learned where it came from."


Three Venezuelan Air Force Generals Arrested in Coup Plot


25th MARCH 2014.— Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro announced today that three generals of the Venezuelan Air Force have been arrested, after they were denounced by lower-ranking officials for their involvement in alleged coup plans.

Last night we captured three Air Force generals that we had been investigating thanks to the powerful moral force of our National Bolivarian Armed Forces: three generals that aimed to rise the Air Force against the legitimately constituted government," he said during a live broadcast on state TV.

Maduro argued that those arrested "have direct links with the opposition, and said that this week was decisive". According to the president, the alleged coup plot involves creating "psychological" chaos through attacking electricity and other services, and then striking against the government. The three generals are now under custody and will face an investigation.

The announcement was made on the same day that foreign ministers of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) arrive in the country to support dialogue efforts between the government and opposition.

Venezuela has been subject to a wave of opposition protests, riots and roadblocks since early February. The violence has left 35 dead, including National Guard officers, opposition activists and government supporters. Several hard-line opposition leaders openly call for the government’s resignation.

In his speech Maduro asked the country and UNASUR to support the Truth Commission established by the National Assembly last week to investigate the recent acts of violence. Opposition parliamentarians have not yet decided if they will participate in the commission, which would have five pro-government and four opposition legislators as members.

It remains to be seen whether the presence of UNASUR ministers will encourage the opposition to join peace talks, which have been underway between the government and business, religious, and a few moderate opposition politicians since last month. So far the majority of the opposition leadership has refused to dialogue, stating that political concessions, or "conditions", must be satisfied first.

"We hope that in its 48 hour visit the UNASUR commission can reach conclusions that help Venezuela strengthen the climate of peace and defend democracy even more, and likewise to collaborate with the people so that they can consolidate all mechanisms of social and political dialogue," Maduro stated.


China Ready to Work with CELAC


Beijing, Feb 7 (Prensa Latina) China declared today to be ready to work with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to establish, before the end of 2014, the common forum approved at the recent summit of the regional body held in Havana.

The spokesman of the Foreign Minister, Hong Lei, said that Beijing will maintain contact with the CELAC on the mechanisms and areas of cooperation, and will work for the formal establishment of the forum and hold the first joint ministerial meeting this year.

In the first contact with the press after a suspension during the holidays on the occasion the New Lunar Year (Tet), Hong referred to the special declaration adopted at the Second Summit of Havana, on 28 and 29 January.

He said that China and CELAC are committed to the establishment of this forum, that will be an important platform for the development of a comprehensive partnership China-Latin America based on equality, mutual benefit and common development.

Hong also recalled the expressions of praise by President Xi Jinping at the adoption of this document in the high-level meeting of that regional organization of Latin America and the Caribbean.

According to the spokeman, the statement adopted in Havana shows the common aspirations of Latin America and China in terms of cooperation.

Composed by 33 nations of that regionof the world, except the United States and Canada, CELAC emerged in 2011 and works with a pro tempore presidency occupied by Chile, Cuba and holds now by Costa Rica.


EU to Boost African Peacekeeping and Security Funding
Move Comes as Brussels Summit Between EU and African Leaders Gets Under Way


The Central African Republic took center stage at a summit here Wednesday between European Union and African leaders.

Top officials from 20 African and EU member states met at the opening of the two-day summit to discuss the crisis in the Central African Republic, where tens of thousands of Muslims have fled their homes after attacks by Christian militias.

The EU used the summit to announce fresh details of its military mission to that embattled nation and said it was stepping up security-related assistance for Africa.

The bloc has been drawn increasingly into African conflicts in recent years, with Paris often leading the way. France, which was a past colonial power in Africa, sent troops to Mali in early 2013 to put down an offensive by al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants. And French President François Hollande has placed 2,000 troops to the Central African Republic to stem bloodshed.

The EU is supporting the French intervention in both countries. Brussels has also launched other military operations in the region, including in Somalia, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It also operates a separate antipiracy mission off the Somali coast.

"We have also seen that although stubborn pockets of conflicts remain, causing immense suffering and devastation especially on women and children, progress is being made," said Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, president of the Commission of the African Union.

To bolster African military capacities, EU leaders said they would double spending on the African Peace Facility, a joint EU-African Union fund supporting African-run peacekeeping and conflict resolution missions. The EU will give €800 million ($1.1 billion) to the fund over the next three years.

"We wish to empower the Africans to set up their own security structures," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a news conference with Mr. Hollande.

Mr. Hollande said Europe will continue to "bring in its armed forces to prevent conflicts, to prevent massacres and to fight against terrorism" in Africa.

The EU on Tuesday formally launched its delayed military mission in the Central African Republic. The mission aims to restore calm in areas around the main airport and two districts in the capital, Bangui, freeing up French and African Union troops to stem violence elsewhere.

Violence spread in this country of 4.6 million after an alliance of Muslim rebel groups from the north united to overthrow the former president. Christian militias have attacked anyone perceived as supporting the now-defunct Muslim rebel government.

In a news conference, Major Gen. Philippe Pontiès said he plans to have 800 people on the ground, with the mission starting to carry out its main tasks by the end of April. The operation is supposed to be at full strength by late May and wind down nine months later.

Gen. Pontiès said nine countries will send troops as part of the mission, including France, Spain and Italy. Georgia, which isn't an EU member, will also participate.

Germany and Britain, which won't put combat troops on the ground, are among those sending strategic transport assets, including planes to carry troops and allow emergency medical evacuations.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said the EU's executive arm is also working on a new development package worth €100 million for Central African Republic to shore up a situation that "has severely deteriorated" over the past year.

Among other issues on the summit's agenda are trade and a joint initiative to give greater access to legal migrants from Africa in exchange for stepped-up border controls by African governments. Hundreds of Africans have died in recent months in efforts to enter Europe illegally.

The EU has longtime ties with Africa and is currently its biggest trade partner, its largest donor and its top provider of foreign direct investment. Trade in goods between the two regions reached almost €340 billion euros in 2012, the EU said.

As in the past, this week's summit has generated some controversy. Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe stayed away even after the EU waived his visa ban because the bloc didn't allow his wife, who also faces sanctions, to come.

The last EU-African summit was hosted in late 2010 by the late Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi. Months later, he was toppled in a U.K.-French led military mission.


Xi's 'socialism only way' remarks get mixed reaction at home

President's assertion during Belgium speech that experiments with other political systems ended in failure challenged by internet users


President Xi Jinping's claim that alternative political systems, such as multiparty democracy, were tried and failed in China set off an internet debate yesterday, with some people dismissing the remarks as an excuse for retaining power.

Xi told an audience at the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium, that China needed to follow a path that suited its own reality, as other political systems have proved unsuccessful since the end of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) and the formation of the Chinese republic in its wake.

"Constitutional monarchy, imperial restoration, parliamentary or multiparty systems and a presidential government were all deliberated and tried, but nothing really worked," Xi said. "Finally, China took the path of socialism. Admittedly in the process of building socialism we have had successes, but also made mistakes."

Xi said that not until late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping launched his "socialism with Chinese characteristics" in the early 1980s did China find "our path and achieve success".

Some internet users were disappointed, arguing that democracy was never given a fair chance and that socialism was chosen by a small group of Communist Party leaders.

"Have we really tried other forms of government?" one said. "That's what textbooks have been saying, but none of the people around me agree."

Others argued that socialism was a practical choice for a nation undergoing massive changes.

"Actually what he said was right," another internet user said. "There have been revolutions in the past and there are multiparty systems in parts of China, like … Taiwan, but the motherland comes out the strongest."

China's constitution enshrines the Communist Party's long-term "leading" role in government, although it allows the existence of various other political parties under what is calls a "multi-party co-operation system". But all are subservient to the Communist Party.

Jin Canrong , a professor at Renmin University's school of international relations, said Xi's remarks showed a desire to prove the one-party system was a legacy of history.

"It was akin to saying 'don't criticise us for our system now. It was left behind by former leaders and has endured with time. It wasn't man-made, so it cannot be unchallenged'," he said.

Jin said Xi's assertion that China had given other political systems a chance was debatable and that the republic between 1911 and 1949 was almost bound to amid the turmoil of the era.

Jia Qingguo, an international relations professor at Peking University, agreed with Xi.

"The political system of the Republic of China was democracy," Jia said. "People's lives were indeed miserable, but China did give democracy a chance."

Xi also said in his speech that China had a long, tortured past fraught with foreign invasions. Now that the nation's destiny was back in its own hands, the Chinese people wanted peace and opposed war, which explained China's non-interventionist foreign policy, he said.


China delivers communications satellite project to Bolivia

BEIJING, April 2 (Xinhua) -- The Great Wall Industry Corporation of China (GWIC) said late on Tuesday that it has delivered the communications satellite project to Bolivia.

A delivery ceremony was held on Tuesday in La Paz, the Bolivian capital, where the Chinese company also delivered the ground application system to the Bolivian Space Agency (ABE).

Chinese ambassador to Bolivia Li Dong said that the satellite project was an exemplary model for bilateral cooperation. "We hope that China and Bolivia will cooperate in more fields," Li said.

The satellite, with a designed life of 15 years, was produced by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the parent company of GWIC. It is Bolivia's first communications satellite.

The satellite, launched late last year, is named Tupac Katari in honor of an 18th century indigenous hero who fought Bolivia's Spanish colonizers.

ABE chief Ivan Zambrana said earlier that the successful launch of the satellite will bring Bolivia into an age of digital economy and make its people more connected.


Brazil installs spy-proof email network

BRASILIA, April 2 (Xinhua) -- Brazil's Ministry of Defense Wednesday began installing a secure digital communication network for federal government offices, a government source said.

The system, named Expresso V3, aims to protect official emails from the type of surveillance U.S. intelligence agencies were reported last year to have carried out on Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff and her top aides.

The coordinator of the federal government's data processing service (Serpro), Marcos Mello, said the system uses passwords and digital markers to safeguard emails from snooping, as well as certifying the authenticity of the email's origin.

The system employs "digital signatures and encryption to ensure the integrity and confidentiality of the message," he said.

"All the security tests were done" on the system, including "a simulated break in," Mello added.

Government intelligence worked on developing the software with the help of the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC).

The system, which includes such functions as instant messaging and web conferencing, is expected to be fully installed at the Defense Ministry by June 30, and throughout federal government offices by the end of 2014.

Last year, documents leaked by U.S. intelligence worker-turned- whistleblower Edward Snowden showed the Washington-based National Security Agency (NSA) monitored the email accounts of Rousseff, several members of her cabinet, and the state oil giant Petrobras.

Brazil accused Washington of corporate spying and Rousseff instructed Serpro to develop a secure email network for government use. She also denounced the spying at the United Nations and called for global internet governance to protect individual privacy.

The software is the third version of the secure email system, which is already being used by 700,000 users, and has attracted the attention of the governments of Argentina and Uruguay, which are interested in installing secure networks.


Venezuela slams EU criticism as unfounded

CARACAS, April 2 (Xinhua) -- The Venezuelan government on Wednesday rejected recent criticism from European Union (EU) spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic as unfounded foreign interference in its domestic affairs.

A statement issued by the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said the government "categorically rejects" the declarations issued Friday by Kocijancic, who serves as spokeswoman for Catherine Ashton, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Kocijancic's remarks about the situation in the country don't correspond with the reality, the ministry said.

"Our country is internationally known and respected as a land of peace, tireless defender of the integral human rights of all citizens," the ministry said.

"Freedom of expression, association and assembly are guaranteed by the National Constitution as inalienable civil rights and respected, observed and upheld by the Venezuelan government led by President Nicolas Maduro," said the statement.

According to the ministry, since mid-February, the EU "has issued a series of declarations and resolutions that question with the utmost impertinence the democratic institutions of Venezuela."

A few days ago, the EU spokeswoman called on the Venezuelan government to stop its repression of political protesters.

A wave of violent anti-government demonstrations organized since early February by hardline conservative opposition groups have left 39 people dead and more than 500 injured.

The ministry said "vandalism, violence, incitement to crime, xenophobia, and the killing of citizens and law enforcement officers carried out by violent armed groups from the Venezuelan opposition, runs counter to the Venezuelan people's vocation for peace and tolerance."

"The Venezuelan government demands the European Union respect our nation and its institutions," the statement said.

The government reiterated its desire to maintain and deepen ties with the EU and its member states, "but with full respect for the sovereignty and total adherence to the fundamental principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of states."


Argentine prez accuses Britain of turning Malvinas into heavily militarized NATO base

BUENOS AIRES, April 2 (Xinhua) -- Argentine President Cristina Fernandez on Wednesday accused the British of converting the disputed Malvinas Islands, known to the Brits as the Falklands, into a heavily militarized NATO base in the South Atlantic Ocean.

While addressing an event here marking the 32nd anniversary of the war over the islands between Argentina and Britain, Fernandez said the British have used the archipelago just off Argentina's coast to establish "a North Atlantic Treaty Organization military base in the South Atlantic."

As a result, the islands become one of the "most militarized areas in the world," with more "military personnel than civilians, " the president said.

The islands, located 600 kilometers off Argentina's southern coast, have been occupied by the British since a military detachment landed there in 1833. On April 2, 1982, the two nations went to war over the islands, after an Argentine navy ship landed there.

The bloody conflict, in which 649 Argentine soldiers, 255 British soldiers and three civilians died, ended with Argentina's withdrawal on June 14 that year, but the territorial dispute remains unresolved.

Last year, the mainly British community living in the Malvinas voted to remain a "British overseas territory," in a referendum organized purportedly to put an end to the dispute. Argentina, however, refuses to recognize the outcome as legitimate, since it involved a "transplanted population."

The United Nations has issued several resolutions on the dispute since 1965, urging the two sides to hold dialogues over the fate of the islands.


Putin renews Russia's backing to Syria in message to Assad

DAMASCUS, April 2 (Xinhua) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has reiterated Moscow's backing to support Syria in a message sent to his Syrian counterpart, the official SANA news agency reported on Wednesday.

The message was given to President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday by a visiting delegation of the Russia-based Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, headed by the society's chairman Sergei Stepashin.

In the message, Putin expressed his country's determination to continue supporting Syria in its war against "international terrorism" that he claimed was "backed" by some Western and regional countries.

Assad voiced his appreciation for Russia's "firm stance," according to SANA.

The Syrian president underscored the important role Russia is currently playing on the international arena, saying it "clearly contributes to drawing up a new map for a multi-polar world that achieves international justice and serves the interest of the countries."

Assad added that the Syrian people have no choice but to achieve victory in their war against "terrorism," adding that the victory could be achieved through "sticking to the diversity, moderation and intellectual enlightenment that have characterized the Syrian society throughout the decades."

Russia has emerged as the main international ally of the Syrian government, shielding Damascus from three UN resolutions that could have paved the way for foreign intervention in the war-torn country.

Syria has witnessed the killing of over 100,000 people the displacement of millions since opposition first started protests in 2011, which spiraled into a bloody military conflict between the Syrian army and armed rebels.