Wednesday, November 9, 2011

DTN News - ITALY BREAKING NEWS: Italy Faces Limbo After Berlusconi Agrees To Go

Defense News: DTN News - ITALY BREAKING NEWS: Italy Faces Limbo After Berlusconi Agrees To Go
(NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada / ROME, Italy - November 9, 2011: Italy looks set for lengthy political uncertainty after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's pledge to resign, with his center-right party calling for elections and the main opposition for a national unity government.

After failing to secure the majority in a vote in the lower house, Berlusconi said he would quit as soon as parliament passed budget reforms urged by European partners to help Italy stave off a debt crisis that is threatening the euro zone.

"We no longer have the majority we believed we had so we need to recognize this and concern ourselves with what is happening on markets...we need to show markets we are serious," Berlusconi told Italian television by telephone.

Votes to pass the reforms in both houses of parliament are likely this month, and opposition leaders may try to bring this forward in order to end as soon as possible the flamboyant billionaire media tycoon's 17-year dominance of Italy.

Worries about the Berlusconi government's ability to implement reforms to boost Italy's sluggish growth and cut its huge debt have helped fuel a rise in Italy's borrowing costs to unsustainable levels, weighing on the euro and stock markets.

Global equity markets and the euro rose after Berlusconi's decision on hopes that a new leader will act more aggressively to tackle the crisis in the euro zone's third largest economy that is jeopardizing Europe's single currency project.

The 75-year-old prime minister and his party say an election is the only realistic next step but opposition leaders have called for the formation of a national unity.

President Giorgio Napolitano said he would start consultations with all political parties after the new budget measures are approved.

When a government is defeated or resigns, it is the president's duty to appoint a new leader to try to build a majority in parliament, or to call new elections.

Pier Luigi Bersani, leader of the opposition Democratic Party, called for the beginning of a new phase and reiterated the proposal to form a transitional government including representatives from across the political spectrum.

But members of Berlusconi's center-right People of Freedom (PDL) party, whose support would be needed for a broad-based government, said its formation would be difficult.

"All the leaders of the PDL prefer early elections, because it's hard to imagine a government of national unity," Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini told Italian television, pointing to major disagreement among political parties.

Berlusconi and his closest allies have also said that the appointment of a government of technocrats -- an option favored by markets and it is thought Napolitano -- would be an undemocratic "coup" that ignored the 2008 election result that brought the center right to power.

EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said Tuesday that EU inspectors are due to arrive in Rome on Wednesday to begin a monitoring mission aimed at ensuring economic reforms are carried out as part of an agreement reached at a G20 summit last week.

Even when Berlusconi goes, there is no guarantee that reforms will be quickly implemented and relief on markets may not last long.

Yields on Italy's 10-year benchmark bonds rose to 6.74 percent Tuesday, near levels at which Portugal, Greece and Ireland were forced to seek a bailout.

(Editing by Louise Ireland)

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DTN News - IRAN NUCLEAR FACTORS: China Warns Of Turmoil Over Iran, Mute On Sanctions

Defense News: DTN News - IRAN NUCLEAR FACTORS: China Warns Of Turmoil Over Iran, Mute On Sanctions
*Iran moved nuclear material to bunker: U.N. watchdog
(NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada / BEIJING, China - November 9, 2011: China warned on Wednesday against turmoil in the Middle East from action over Iran's nuclear program, but declined to comment on the possibility of new sanctions following a U.N. report that Iran appears to have worked on designing an atomic weapon.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China was "studying" the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report, and repeated a call to resolve the issue peacefully through talks.

"I wish to point out that China opposes the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and disapproves of any Middle Eastern country developing nuclear weapons. As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran bears the responsibilities of nuclear non-proliferation," he told a daily news briefing.

"The Iranian side should also demonstrate flexibility and sincerity, and engage in serious cooperation with the agency," Hong said, referring to the IAEA.

"I want to stress that avoiding fresh turmoil in the Middle Eastern security environment is important for both the region and for the international community."

Hong made no mention of sanctions, and indicated China was in no rush to take the matter back to the United Nations Security Council, saying only that all sides should do more to promote dialogue and cooperation.

"I've already pointed out that China has consistently advocating using dialogue and cooperation to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue," he said, when asked about the possibility of new unilateral U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Chinese policy-makers are caught between their demand for Iranian oil and worry that the United States and its allies will demand harsher sanctions against Iran, even risk military action, after the IAEA concluded Iran appeared to have worked on designing an atomic weapon.

China has kept close ties with Iran but has also backed past U.N. Security Council resolutions criticizing Iran's position on nuclear issues and authorizing limited sanctions.

But China has repeatedly resisted Western proposals for sanctions that could seriously curtail its energy and economic ties with Iran. As one of the Security Council's five permanent members, China holds the power to veto any resolutions.

China has also denounced the United States and European Union for imposing their own separate sanctions on Iran, and said they should not take steps reaching beyond the U.N. resolutions.


A Chinese state newspaper said a standoff between Iran and the West over Iran's nuclear plans could erupt in military conflict.

"It is clear that contention between the various sides over the Iranian nuclear issue has reached white hot levels and could even be on the precipice of a showdown," the overseas edition of the People's Daily said in a front-page commentary.

If Iran refused to back down in the face of growing U.S. conviction that it was developing nuclear weapons, "the risks of war will grow," said the paper, noting reports that Israel could consider a military strike on Iranian nuclear sites.

The People's Daily is the top newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party and broadly reflects official thinking, as well as the anxieties weighing on Beijing after the latest U.N. nuclear agency report.

China's official Xinhua news agency also suggested that Beijing would respond warily to the report. The U.N. watchdog still "lacks a smoking gun," Xinhua said in a commentary.

"There are no witnesses or physical evidence to prove that Iran is making nuclear weapons," it said.

"In dealing with the Iran nuclear issue, it is extremely dangerous to rely on suspicions, and the destructive consequences of any armed action would endure for a long time."

China is likely to face difficult choices as it tries to keep steady ties with the United States, which is likely to introduce new unilateral sanctions on Iran. [ID:nN1E7A71OB]

"If these sanctions harm China's substantive interests, then China will have to respond in some way," said Li Hong, the secretary general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, a government-controlled body.

"It would certainly have an impact on bilateral relations," Li said in an interview.


Iran is China's third-largest crude oil supplier, shipping 20.3 million tonnes in the first nine months of the year, up by almost a third on the same time last year, according to Chinese data. Overall trade between the two countries grew to $32.9 billion in value in the first nine months, up by 58 percent.

"The onus will really be on China, as the only country whose economic relations with Iran have grown," Suzanne Maloney an expert on Iran at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington, said in a telephone interview.

Over the past year or more, China has quietly stalled on oil and gas investments in Iran, seeking to ward off stricter unilateral sanctions from Washington while preserving a foothold in Iran. But that implicit deal will come under growing pressure, especially from Congress, said Maloney.

"They've had a compromise for the past 18 months of a go-slow in investment. But it's difficult to see how that bargain can hold in the wake of the latest revelations," said Maloney.

Citing what it called "credible" information from member states and elsewhere, the IAEA said Iran appeared to have carried out activities applicable to developing nuclear weapons, such as high explosives testing and developing a trigger that could be used for an atomic bomb.

This week and last, China urged Iran to show flexibility over its nuclear program and warned that the use of force to resolve the issue was the last thing the Middle East needed.

Li from the Chinese arms control association said Beijing was worried about the tension, but war remained a slim risk.

"Overall, I think the international conditions show governments couldn't stomach armed conflict over Iran," he said.

"The U.S. economy is in poor shape, and Europe has its debt crisis," he said. "Iran is not like Libya; it has the strength to counter attack."

(Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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DTN News - AFGHAN WAR NEWS: Up To 60 Afghan Taliban Killed In NATO Base Attack

Defense News: DTN News - AFGHAN WAR NEWS: Up To 60 Afghan Taliban Killed In NATO Base Attack
(NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada / KABUL, Afghanistan - November 9, 2011: Afghan and NATO-led troops killed 50 to 60 Taliban fighters during an attack by insurgents on a base in a volatile southeastern Afghan province near the border with Pakistan, a provincial government spokesman said on Wednesday.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed there had been an attack on a base in the Barmal district of southeastern Paktika province late on Tuesday.

Mukhlis Afghan, a spokesman for the Paktika governor, put the number of Taliban fighters killed at between 50 and 60.

An ISAF spokesman said a large group of insurgents attacked the ISAF base using small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. ISAF troops fought back, causing "significant" casualties among the insurgents.

He said two buildings used by insurgents were destroyed in the fighting, which included ISAF air strikes, but said there had been no reports of civilian or coalition casualties.

Paktika province lies on the border with the Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan, where the Taliban and allied insurgents like the Haqqani network have safe havens from which they launch attacks into Afghanistan.

Paktika and neighboring Paktia ands Zabul have been hit by a number of attacks this year.

ISAF troops and Afghan special forces killed more than 50 insurgents in Paktika during an operation in July to clear a training camp that ISAF said the Haqqanis had been using as a base for foreign fighters.

In September, a bomb killed six civilians in Paktika. The Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack there in March when three suicide bombers killed 24 construction workers.

Despite the presence of about 130,000 foreign troops, violence across Afghanistan remains at its worst levels since the Taliban were toppled by U.S.-backed Afghan forces 10 years ago, according to the United Nations.

On Sunday, at least seven civilians were killed and 15 wounded by a suicide bomber in an attack on a mosque in northern Baghlan province soon after prayers for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

ISAF says there has been a fall in the number of attacks by insurgents recently, but that data excludes attacks that kill only civilians, and attacks on Afghan security forces operating without international troops.

(Reporting by Mirwais Harooni, Jan Harvey, Elyas Wahdat and Christine Kearney; Writing by Jan Harvey; Editing by Paul Tait)

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DTN News - IRAN NUCLEAR FACTORS: Israeli Officials Silent On Nuke Watchdog's Iran Report

Defense News: DTN News - IRAN NUCLEAR FACTORS: Israeli Officials Silent On Nuke Watchdog's Iran Report
(NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada / JERUSALEM, Israel - November 9, 2011: Israeli officials were tightlipped on Wednesday following the release of a damning report by the UN nuclear watchdog into Iran's controversial nuclear programme.

"We are studying the report," said an official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bureau without saying whether or not Israel would respond formally.

Israel's military radio said Netanyahu had ordered his ministers not to comment on the matter out of concern that any statement or Israeli move would draw international criticism and would play into Iran's hands.

But opposition leader and Kadima party chairwoman Tzipi Livni said publication of the report meant Israel should push the world to act firmly to stop Iran.

"Now that the truth has been presented to the world, Israel must galvanise the free world to stop Iran," she said in a posting on her Facebook page. "Determination and diplomatic wisdom are crucial now."

Head of the Knesset's Foreign and Defence Committee Shaul Mofaz, also a Kadima MP, said the "severe report" provided the free world with the opportunity to "take action" against Iran.

"This is the moment of truth for the Western world's foreign policy, headed by (US) President (Barack) Obama," the Iranian-born former chief of staff said late on Tuesday.

"The report should be seen as an opportunity to change the trend, and the mission is not solely Israel's."

The world must "deepen" the sanctions on Iran, to the point of paralysing its economy, he said, stressing that military action remained the last option, Mofaz told army radio on Wednesday.

"Military action in general, and specifically by Israel, is currently the last and worst option -- but all options should be on the table now," he warned.

The official silence stood in stark contrast to the chatter in Israel in recent weeks suggesting a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities was being seriously considered by Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak.

At the weekend, President Shimon Peres had warned that the likelihood of an attack was becoming "more and more likely."

Haaretz newspaper quoted government officials as saying Israel was holding off from immediate comment "because it wants to evaluate the world's response to the IAEA findings and does not want to appear to be leading the international community."

The IAEA report, a copy of which was seen by AFP late on Tuesday, said the agency had "serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions" of Iran's nuclear programme, and said it had "credible" information that Tehran "has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device."

In Israel, media commentators had on Tuesday suggested the "unprecedented severity" of the report meant a strike on Iran was unlikely.

Television Channels 2 and 10 both said the release of the report would give Israel "some weeks or some months" to see if the international community slaps "crippling sanctions" on the Islamic republic.

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