Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Israel accused of Gaza 'genocide'


D'Escoto has made a series of
outspoken attacks on Israel.
The president of the UN General Assembly has condemned Israel's killings of Palestinians in its Gaza offensive as "genocide".

Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann also told Al Jazeera he had never believed that the UN Security Council would be able to stop the violence in Gaza and that Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, had practically told the UN to "mind their own business" by continuing the offensive.

"The number of victims in Gaza is increasing by the day... The situation is untenable. It's genocide," d'Escoto said at the UN in New York.

About 970 Palestinians have been killed and 4,300 injured since Israel began its Gaza offensive on December 27, which it says is to stop Palestinian fighters attacking Israel with rockets.

Emergency session

The UN General Assembly said on Tuesday that it was set to hold an emergency session on Thursday to discuss the crisis after a previous session was postponed last week ahead of a UN Security Council vote on the issue.


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The Security Council adopted a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, but Israel has escalated its offensive and Palestinian rocket fire has also continued.

"There have been some who were under the illusion that the Security Council would do something that could help the situation," d'Escoto said. "I never thought so.

"Now we're faced with not only with a lack of compliance but with a prime minister of Israel who has practically responded to the Security Council by saying 'mind your own business'.

"It's unbelievable that a country that owes its existence to a general assembly resolution could be so disdainful of the resolutions that emanate from the UN."

D'Escoto, a former Roman Catholic priest and Nicaragua foreign minister, is known for his outspoken criticism of Israel and last year likened Israel's treatment of the Palestinians to the racist apartheid system previously used in South Africa.

Gabriela Shalev, Israel's ambassador to the UN, called d'Escoto an "Israel hater" for having hugged Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president and a vocal critic of Israel.

D'Escoto also said the UN had to bear some responsibility for the long-standing conflict in the Middle East as it had allowed the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, leaving the Palestinians stateless.

"You have to attack problems at their root cause and the Palestinian people have been subjected to subhuman treatment for decades and this [the Israeli offensive] is going to make matters worse."

Ban visit

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, is travelling to the Middle East to press for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Ban will first visit Cairo, where he will meet Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, for talks on a joint French-Egyptian ceasefire initiative.

He then heads to Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Kuwait where he said an Arab League economic summit will also hold talks on Gaza.

Officials said he would not visit Gaza because of the ongoing conflict.

Europe still without gas as quarrel continues

AFP - Russia's natural gas supplies bound for a freezing Europe were halted again on Tuesday only a few hours after a truce in its "gas war" with Ukraine, dashing EU hopes of an end to the crisis.

Gazprom accused Ukraine of blocking the gas, while Ukraine countered that the Russian energy giant had deliberately routed the gas in a way that made it impossible for Ukraine to pump it on to European consumers.

The European Union, which has sent its own experts to the region, expressed "disappointment" that Russian gas flow to Europe through Ukraine was still on hold.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said Russia was trying to destabilise his country as energy officials explained they would have to cut internal gas supplies to four regions in order to allow the Russian gas to transit.

The breakdown again infuriated the European Union as hundreds of thousands of people shivered in the depths of winter without gas-fired central heating and factories and schools remained closed for a second week in several countries.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev and Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, whose countries have been badly hit by the gas crisis, were expected in Moscow on Wednesday for emergency talks on the gas crisis.

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso expressed the "EU's disappointment" in a phone conversation with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin after the EU reported "little or no gas" reaching Europe from Russia.

"Ukraine has blocked all our actions in respect of renewal of the transit of natural gas, which is unbelievable," Gazprom's deputy chief executive Alexander Medvedev told journalists shortly after Russia announced supply had resumed.

According to Gazprom, foreign observers monitoring the gas flow also confirmed Ukraine's blocking the transit.

"The international monitoring commission's observers in Kiev signed a report which testifies to no pumping of Russian gas through Ukraine's transit pipelines to Europe, while the pressure in the pipeline at the border with Ukraine is 70 atmosphere," Gazprom said in a statement.

But a spokesman for Ukraine's state gas company Naftogaz said the transit route chosen by Gazprom "would have required us to stop supplying gas to eastern part of Ukraine," adding that Gazprom turned down an alternative route.

Ukraine also appealed to Europe to mediate in its dispute with Russia.

Putin took a more conciliatory tone on a visit to Gazprom offices in Moscow, saying there may be structural problems with Ukraine's gas pipeline network, a possibility that the two countries should look into together.

But in Kiev, Yushchenko launched a broadside at Russia, accusing it of "blackmail" against Ukrainians and saying Moscow was trying to use the gas crisis to destabilise eastern Ukraine and take control of its gas network.

"This attack against Ukraine has the goal of provoking a revolt in the eastern regions," a heavily industrialised and pro-Russian part of the country that relies to a large degree on Russian gas supplies, he said.

Yushchenko accused Russia of attacking Ukraine's independence.

Viktor Yanukovych, the leader of Ukraine's powerful pro-Russian opposition Regions Party meanwhile called in parliament for the start of impeachment proceedings against Yushchenko for his actions in the gas crisis.

Later on Tuesday, Gazprom's Medvedev said Russia would maintain pressure in the pipeline system for now "but we won't continue if there's no point," hinting that Russia could cut off supplies again if the standoff continues.

Russia earlier announced it had partially resumed supplies to Europe through Ukraine, with the help of EU mediation in the dispute which erupted on New Year's Day and led to cutoffs across Europe starting last week.

The crisis has had far-reaching effects, setting off alarm bells on Europe's energy security. The EU has sent emergency aid including electric heaters and generators to Moldova -- one of the countries worst affected by the cuts.

Russia said it would initially pump only "test" amounts of gas Tuesday, which would however have been enough to restore full supplies to Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania and Turkey.

But energy analyst Andrew Neff of US-based IHS Global Insight said there was little chance of the EU getting stable long-term supplies through Ukraine without a resolution of the payment dispute between Moscow and Kiev.

"Until they resolve the bilateral dispute there's zero chance of supplies not being disrupted... If the Europeans want to avoid the gas going off next January they need to stay engaged and push for a longer-term deal," Neff said.

The basic dispute between the two ex-Soviet neighbours involves Ukraine's debts to Russia, fines for late payment, and a new price for gas in 2009.

The EU relies on Russian gas pumped via Ukraine for a fifth of its supplies.

At an emergency meeting on Monday, EU energy ministers concluded that the 27-nation bloc needed to increase investment in energy infrastructure to reduce its dependence on Russia.

Fighting rages in Gaza as toll nears 1,000

Wednesday, January 14, 2009
GAZA CITY: Israel's army fought street battles with Hamas fighters in Gaza's main city on Tuesday and bombarded the southern border from the air as the death toll from its war on Hamas neared the 1,000 mark.

"This is the 18th day of the Israeli aggression against our people, which is becoming more ferocious each day as the number of victims rises," Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said as terrified Gaza residents fled for their lives.

"Israel is keeping up this aggression to wipe out our people over there," added Abbas, speaking from his base in the West Bank.

Israeli special forces backed by tanks and air strikes barrelled their way ever deeper into Gaza's City, advancing several hundred metres (yards) into several neighbourhoods in the south, witnesses said. The thud of tank shells and the crackle of gunfire echoed through much of the day.

Although there were no reports of air strikes in the evening, residents reported extensive gunbattles in Zeitun neighbourhood and Jabaliya refugee camp on the city outskirts, where Apache helicopter gunships were also in action.

Palestinian medical sources said around 70 people were killed on Tuesday, bringing the overall toll to around 975 Palestinians, with a further 4,400 wounded.

Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians have been killed in combat or by rocket attacks since December 27, when the Jewish state began its deadliest ever offensive on Gaza, ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement since mid-2007.

Scores of ANP activists quit party

NOWSHERA: Scores of disgruntled party workers and office-bearers of the Awami National Party have expressed anger over the “indifferent attitude” of the ANP’s central leadership and have left the party in protest.In a meeting held here Tuesday at the residence of Mian Rashid Ali Shah Kakakhel, former district secretary general of ANP, the dissident workers and office-bearers bitterly criticised central president Asfandyar Wali Khan, provincial chief Afrasiyab Khattak and NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain for their “unresponsive behaviour”.They dubbed Afrasiyab Khattak as an agent working for the United States of America and accused him of selling the Pakhtuns. On the occasion, the speakers said the ANP-led government could not stop killing of Pakhtuns in Bajaur Agency and Swat district rather it kept mum over “the ethnic cleansing”.Through a unanimous resolution the meeting condemned Israeli attacks on Gaza and appealed to the United Nation Organisation and Organisation of Islamic Countries to stop the genocide of Muslims in Palestine.The workers and local leaders of ANP decided to part ways with the party and empowered Mian Rashid Ali to decide on their behalf on joining of any other political party. During the meeting, the workers urged Kakakhel to hold consultation with the leadership of PML-N provided they supported the provincial autonomy and rights of the Pakhtuns.Those who addressed the meeting included former president ANP PF-14, Aslam Shah, former district deputy president Shafqat Babar and former president Kheshgi, Maarif Gul. Other party workers who spoke in the meeting were Mir Azam Khan, Jehanzeb, Zar Ali Khan, Subedar Gul, Tasleem Khan, Wazir Gul, Imran Khan and Zardad Khan.They said ANP had utterly disappointed the Pakhtuns as there was no change in sight in the lives of the common people living in the throes of lawlessness and poverty. The speakers said Mian Iftikhar was reluctant to face the party workers.

Obama threatens dissenting Democrats with first veto

(CNN) -- President-elect Barack Obama on Tuesday tried to persuade Senate Democrats to get behind his plan for the second half of the $700 billion bailout, warning he would veto a threatened disapproval resolution, according to senators who met with him.

Obama on Monday asked President Bush to inform Congress of his intent to use the remaining balance under the Treasury Department's $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Bush sent a request to Congress on behalf of the incoming administration.

Obama met with Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill to make his case for how he wants to spend the funds and to rally support for his economic stimulus plan.

Obama also attended the weekly lunch of Democratic senators in what was his final visit to the Senate before his inauguration next week.

Obama took about 15 questions, many of which were from Democrats skeptical of TARP, senators in the meeting said. Obama repeatedly promised to make the process more transparent, they said.

"I understand that the president-elect wants to move forward ... but I'm not going to be pushed into quick judgment on this, given all the circumstances," said Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska. "People back home generally didn't want the first go-round and I'm not going to jump out in front of a train on the second one."

Nelson had voted for the first TARP funding.

On Tuesday night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters that while there are problems with the economy, he believes "with transparency, accountability, creating jobs, that the future is good."

Republicans and Democrats have said they were upset by how the Treasury Department spent the first allotment of $350 billion.

Those voicing concerns said they don't feel like there was enough accounting for where the money went. Some Democrats also said homeowners facing foreclosure aren't getting enough help.

Obama made clear that he doesn't want to issue a veto as one of his first actions in office, but he insisted that he has no choice, the senators said.

Sen. Chris Dodd, chairman of the Banking Committee, reminded fellow Democrats what a bad political situation it would be to pass the disapproval resolution and force Obama use his veto pen on it as one of his very first acts, the senators said.

While some Democrats said they felt more comfortable after meeting with Obama, others said they still have a lot of questions and are unsure how they will vote on TARP.

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts, and his House Financial Services Committee met Tuesday to look at how the TARP money has been spent so far.

A bill by Frank would tighten restrictions on distributing the money and designate part of the funds for foreclosure relief.

Frank said Monday that the remaining funds should be made available "under the appropriate conditions."

"We should not allow our disappointment at the Bush administration's poor handling of the TARP program to prevent the Obama administration from using the funds in more appropriate ways," he said in a statement.

Frank said he hoped the House would pass a bill this week that would lay out the conditions necessary to assure the public gets "full benefit of these funds."

A vote on the House bill is expected as early as Wednesday.

On Tuesday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House is making "great progress" and that "we won't leave here without an economic recovery package."

Obama on Monday made his case to Congress for access to $350 billion in remaining federal bailout funds.

In a letter addressed to the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives, a top Obama economic aide laid out five priorities for the use of the remaining TARP balance. Read how Obama wants to use the money

Meanwhile, confirmation hearings continued Tuesday on Capitol Hill for a number of Obama's Cabinet nominees, most notably Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, Obama's pick for secretary of state.

Clinton was expected to face tough questions, specifically about her husband and his foundation, but she likely will be confirmed.

She told senators that her goals, if confirmed as secretary of state, will include a renewal of American leadership and a revitalization of diplomacy as a means of promoting the nation's security interests and advancing its values.

In addition to testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, she will submit answers to many of lawmakers' questions in writing, an Obama transition official said.

Afghan Schoolgirls Undeterred by Attack

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — One morning two months ago, Shamsia Husseini and her sister were walking through the muddy streets to the local girls school when a man pulled alongside Shamsia on a motorcycle and posed what seemed like an ordinary question.

“Are you going to school?”

Then the man pulled Shamsia’s burqa from her head and sprayed her face with burning acid. Scars, jagged and discolored, now spread across Shamsia’s eyelids and most of her left cheek. These days, her vision goes blurry, making it hard for her to read.

But if the acid attack against Shamsia and 14 others — students and teachers — was meant to terrorize the girls into staying home, it appears to have completely failed.

Today, nearly all of the wounded girls are back at the Mirwais School for Girls, including even Shamsia, whose face was so badly burned that she had to be sent abroad for treatment. Perhaps even more remarkable, nearly every other female student in this deeply conservative community has returned as well — about 1,300 in all.

“My parents told me to keep coming to school even if I am killed,” said Shamsia, 17, in a moment after class. Shamsia’s mother, like nearly all of the adult women in the area, is unable to read or write. “The people who did this to me don’t want women to be educated. They want us to be stupid things.”

In the five years since the Mirwais School for Girls was built here by the Japanese government, it appears to have set off something of a social revolution. Even as the Taliban tighten their noose around Kandahar, the girls flock to the school each morning. Many of them walk more than two miles from their mud-brick houses up in the hills.

The girls burst through the school’s walled compound, many of them flinging off head-to-toe garments, bounding, cheering and laughing in ways that are inconceivable outside — for girls and women of any age. Mirwais has no regular electricity, no running water, no paved streets. Women are rarely seen, and only then while clad in burqas that make their bodies shapeless and their faces invisible.

And so it was especially chilling on Nov. 12, when three pairs of men on motorcycles began circling the school. One of the teams used a spray bottle, another a squirt gun, another a jar. They hit 11 girls and 4 teachers in all; 6 went to the hospital. Shamsia fared the worst.

The attacks appeared to be the work of the Taliban, the fundamentalist movement that is battling the government and the American-led coalition. Banning girls from school was one of the most notorious symbols of the Taliban’s rule before they were ousted from power in November 2001.

Building new schools and ensuring that children — and especially girls — attend has been one of the main objectives of the government and the nations that have contributed to Afghanistan’s reconstruction. Some of the students at the Mirwais school are in their late teens and early 20s, attending school for the first time. Yet at the same time, in the guerrilla war that has unfolded across southern and eastern Afghanistan, the Taliban have made schools one of their special targets.

But exactly who was behind the acid attack is a mystery. The Taliban denied any part in it. The police arrested eight men and, shortly after that, the Ministry of Interior released a video showing two men confessing. One of them said he had been paid by an officer with the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, the Pakistani intelligence agency, to carry out the attack.

But at a news conference last week, Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, said there was no such Pakistani involvement.

One thing is certain: in the months before the attack, the Taliban had moved into the Mirwais area and the rest of Kandahar’s outskirts. As they did, posters began appearing in local mosques.

“Don’t Let Your Daughters Go to School,” one of them said.

In the days after the attack, the Mirwais School for Girls stood empty; none of the parents would let their daughters venture outside. That is when the headmaster, Mahmood Qadari, got to work.

After four days of staring at empty classrooms, Mr. Qadari called a meeting of the parents. Hundreds came to the school — fathers and mothers — and Mr. Qadari implored them to let their daughters return. After two weeks, a few returned.

So, Mr. Qadari, whose three daughters live abroad, including one in Virginia, enlisted the support of the local government. The governor promised more police officers, a footbridge across a busy nearby road and, most important, a bus. Mr. Qadari called another meeting and told the parents that there was no longer any reason to hold their daughters back.

“I told them, if you don’t send your daughters to school, then the enemy wins,” Mr. Qadari said. “I told them not to give in to darkness. Education is the way to improve our society.”

The adults of Mirwais did not need much persuading. Neither the bus nor the police nor the bridge has materialized, but the girls started showing up anyway. Only a couple of dozen girls regularly miss school now; three of them are girls who had been injured in the attack.

“I don’t want the girls sitting around and wasting their lives,” said Ghulam Sekhi, an uncle of Shamsia and her sister, Atifa, age 14, who was also burned.

For all the uncertainty outside its walls, the Mirwais school brims with life. Its 40 classrooms are so full that classes are held in four tents, donated by Unicef, in the courtyard. The Afghan Ministry of Education is building a permanent building as well.

The past several days at the school have been given over to examinations. In one classroom, a geography class, a teacher posed a series of questions while her students listened and wrote their answers on paper.

“What is the capital of Brazil?” the teacher, named Arja, asked, walking back and forth.

“Now, what are its major cities?”

“By how many times is America larger than Afghanistan?”

At a desk in the front row, Shamsia, the girl with the burned face, pondered the questions while cupping a hand over her largest scar. She squinted down at the paper, rubbed her eyes, wrote something down.

Doctors have told Shamsia that her face may need plastic surgery if there is to be any chance of the scars disappearing. It is a distant dream: Shamsia’s village does not even have regular electricity, and her father is disabled.

After class, Shamsia blended in with the other girls, standing around, laughing and joking. She seemed un-self-conscious about her disfigurement, until she began to recount her ordeal.

“The people who did this,” she said, “do not feel the pain of others.”

202 women victimised in last quarter of 08: report

PESHAWAR: Aurat Foundation Tuesday presented a quarterly report on violence against women, which said that 202 such cases were reported in the last three months.

The figures provided by AF were collected from media reports and two women crisis centers operative in the NWFP, which put the provincial metropolis at the top of the list where 87 cases of the violence were registered while no such incident was reported from Tank and Hangu districts in the last quarter of 2008.

Unveiling the figures Rubina Naz and Asad Ali Qureshi said most of the cases reported from Peshawar were from the rural parts of the city, such as Badhber, Tehkal, Daudzai and Pishtakhara.

Besides Peshawar other cities such as Mardan, Charsadda, Nowshera, Swat and Mansehra were among those districts where the rate of violence against women was high as compared to other districts.

The figures showed that 80 cases of murder, which constituted 39 per cent of the total cases, 43 cases of hurt and body injuries, 16 suicide cases, 20 kidnapping cases, 28 cases of domestic violence and nine cases of honour killing were reported during the period.

The report said the motives behind the violence included family disputes, refusal to marriage proposals, elopement, choice marriages, poverty, illicit relationship, prolonged illness, property disputes, ransom, forced marriages, casting aspersions on character and petty disputes.

The data provided in the report was collected from the newspapers, electronic media and two crisis centers and included those incidents, which were reported to the police. However, the actual number of incidents of violence could be higher than provided by AF, keeping in view the security situation of the province and tribal areas.

Responding to the questions put up by the newspersons, the civil society representatives said that unfortunately the incidences of violence were on the rise despite all the tall claims by the government.

AF Resident Director Shabina Ayaz, while speaking on the occasion, also expressed concern over the rising lawlessness that had hit Peshawar and other troubled areas of NWFP and Fata. “When a family loses a man, it obviously affects the women members of the household, hence we are equally worried about the deaths of men in the recent wave of terrorism,” said the rights activists, while calling for the compilation of the data on those men who lost lives in the terror acts.

Security beefed up at Nato supply terminals

PESHAWAR: Peshawar police have beefed up security in and around the Nato supply terminals and have launched joint patrolling together with FC’s paramilitary troops, police sources said.According to police sources, Nato supply terminals were being frequently attacked by militants therefore police and Frontier Corps will be securing the terminals from now and on. Sources also informed that suspected vehicles and passersby are being strictly monitored meanwhile, forces have been put on high alert to deal with any unpleasant incident.After paramilitary troops were withdrawn from Nato terminals on the Ring Road for Muharram in Peshawar, militants once again launched attacks on parking bays of two terminals in the wee hours of Tuesday, in all, firing six rockets.The parking lots were attacked six times during the first 13 days of December. At least, three persons were killed while over 300 Humvees, military trucks, trailers and containers laden with valuable goods were reduced to ashes in the attacks.“Militants attacked the Faisal Terminal and the Khyber Ittifaq Terminal at midnight with rockets from the nearby fields on Tuesday. Four containers were gutted in the Khyber Terminal and two in the Faisal Terminal,” a police official told this scribe.A head constable, along with eight constables, has been deployed at critical terminals while police vans patrol the nine-kilometre stretch to avoid future attacks on logistics being transported for the allied forces fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.Paramilitary forces were also directed to patrol the area between Hazarkhwani and Bara road. However, according to locals, the paramilitary forces were not seen patrolling the road after they were called to the city for Muharram duty.The Tuesday’s attack exposed loopholes in the security arrangements for the terminals, where containers are placed in open fields without even boundary walls. Reuters adds: The supply route through the border town of Chaman in Balochistan leading to Kandahar has been largely free of attacks, at least on the Pakistani side.

Clinton says 'we cannot give up on peace' in Middle East

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Hillary Clinton said "we cannot give up on peace" in the Middle East as she appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for her confirmation hearing for the position of secretary of state.

"As intractable as the Middle East problems may seem -- and many presidents, including my husband, have spent years trying to help work out a resolution -- we cannot give up on peace," she said.

Clinton said she and President-elect Barack Obama are "deeply sympathetic" to Israel's desire to defend itself, but added that they have also been reminded of the tragic humanitarian costs of conflict in the Middle East.

"This must only increase our determination to seek a just and lasting peace agreement that brings real security to Israel -- normal and positive relations with its neighbors, independence, economic progress and security to the Palestinians in their own state. We will exert every effort to support the work of Israelis and Palestinians who seek that result," she said.

Clinton also said that consultation is a commitment and "not a catchword" as she delivered her opening remarks.

"The president-elect and I believe that we must return to the time-honored principle of bipartisanship in our foreign policy, an approach that has served us well," she said. Watch Clinton talk about defense and diplomacy »

During her opening statement, Clinton also paid tribute to Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, by highlighting Dunham's work in women's rights.

Clinton noted that Dunham was supposed to attend the 1995 Beijing women's summit, but "unfortunately she was very ill and couldn't travel and sadly passed away a few months later."

Clinton said it was clear that Dunham's work in international development, as well as "the care and concern she showed for women and for poor people around the world, mattered greatly to her son and certainly has informed his views and vision."

Clinton said she would be honored to carry on Dunham's work "in the months and years ahead."

Clinton pledged in her opening statement to "renew America's leadership" in a world that has undergone an "extraordinary transformation" since the end of the Cold War and is now facing "great peril."

She said her "overriding duty" would be to protect America's interests through the use of "smart power" that utilizes all facets of American power. Military power should still be used, she noted, but only as a last resort.

She said that while the State Department has been underutilized in recent years, it will be "firing on all cylinders" if she is confirmed.

Clinton was introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, who called her "exactly the right person at the right time" to be secretary of state.

Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, opened the hearing by saying that Clinton's "presence overseas will send a strong signal immediately that America is back."

Kerry called Clinton an "alliance builder" who has "earned the respect of her colleagues" and could help overcome "the polarization of the last eight years," though he also noted the need for Clinton to address questions relating to the fundraising activities of her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Indiana, said Tuesday that he had proposed several transparency measures to make sure there are no conflicts with Clinton's fundraising actions.

When Clinton's name was first mentioned for secretary of state, Obama's team reviewed the relationships her husband had forged as part of his charitable foundation work. The Obama team was concerned that the relationships could create conflicts of interest.

To address those concerns, the former president agreed to disclose the names of the more than 200,000 donors to his presidential foundation, a move he had previously resisted.

He also agreed to separate his work with the Clinton Global Initiative from his foundation work and submit the text of future speeches and other activities to State Department officials for review, Obama aides said.

Clinton ran against Obama for the Democratic nomination in the longest primary season in modern history. One of the biggest issues she highlighted during the campaign was their differences on national security -- including how they would deal with some controversial leaders, including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Kerry anticipated a smooth confirmation process that would likely be completed in a day, committee spokesman Frederick Jones said.

Meanwhile, senior State Department officials told CNN that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley were hosting a dinner Monday for Hillary Clinton and retired Marine Gen. James Jones.

Jones is Obama's pick for national security adviser.

Saudi Intel Chief In Pakistan

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday dispatched the powerful head of its intelligence service to Pakistan to press the country’s ruling regime for immediate action in dealing with militants linked to the Mumbai terrorist attacks last November, a senior Pakistani government official and an Arab diplomat based in Islamabad told CBS News.

Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, the head of Saudi intelligence, met with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani but neither that meeting nor its details were publicly confirmed by the Pakistani government.

"The Saudi prince is here to urge Pakistan to do all that is necessary for diffusing tensions with India," an Arab diplomat stationed in Islamabad told CBS News on condition of anonymity.

A Pakistani official who also spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity said the Saudi prince conveyed his nation's support to Pakistan "in all areas," adding "they (Saudis) obviously have an interest in Pakistan’s stability and they do not want us to face any frictions including (friction) with our neighboring countries."

Saudi Arabia, the oil-rich desert kingdom, has built up close ties with Pakistan over the past four decades. In the 1970s, Pakistan began defense and military cooperation with the Saudis by training officers of the Royal Saudi Armed forces and subsequently by dispatching its troops to the Kingdom for security duties.

In the past, there have also been unconfirmed reports of Saudi Arabia using a portion of its very sizeable oil revenue to pay for Pakistan’s purchase of conventional weapons, though the secretive nature of Saudi Arabia has made it virtually impossible to confirm any of these reports.

But Saudi officials have traveled to Pakistan during periods of crisis for the country, indicating the Kingdom’s firm resolve to help the regime in Islamabad go through challenging times. Prince Muqrin’s last such high-profile visit took place in summer 2008 when Pakistan’s former president Pervez Musharraf faced a likely parliamentary impeachment by political parties which were opposed to his rule.

Musharraf eventually stepped down voluntarily rather than face an impeachment which would have sharply divided the country. Analysts then said, part of the reason for Musharraf to voluntarily step down was because he was privately urged by the Saudis to avoid further confrontation with his political opponents.

On Tuesday, the Arab diplomat who spoke to CBS News said, Pakistan’s foreign partners, notably the U.S., Saudi Arabia and China, had all privately urged the country to prosecute such militant hardliners who are thought to have been linked with those who carried out the Mumbai attacks.

Indian officials following those attacks accused members of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LET), a Pakistan-based and banned militant group for carrying out those attacks. Indian officials have also accused members of Jamaat-ud-dawa, an Islamic charity and allegedly a front for LET, for providing support to the Mumbai attackers. In December, Pakistan also banned Jamaat-ud-dawa and ordered a closure of its offices across the country. A group of militants including Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, a firebrand cleric and founder of LET, remain under house arrest in Pakistan since they were detained after the Mumbai attacks.
This story was written by CBS News' Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad.

U.S. Construction in Afghanistan Sign of Long Commitment

The Army is building $1.1 billion worth of military bases and other facilities in Afghanistan and is planning to start an additional $1.3 billion in projects this year, according to Col. Thomas E. O'Donovan, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Afghanistan District.

Massive construction of barracks, training areas, headquarters, warehouses and airfields for use by U.S. and Afghan security forces -- which could reach $4 billion -- signals a long-term U.S. military commitment at a time when the incoming Obama administration's policy for the Afghan war is unclear.

The new facilities will help house the three additional U.S. combat brigades already announced along with the planned expansion of the Afghan army. "We plan to support the flow of forces," O'Donovan said, "but some may have to sleep and eat in tents until we reach initial operating capacity."

Meanwhile, security problems are increasing, not only at construction sites but also in the effort to truck materials into landlocked Afghanistan from Pakistan, O'Donovan said. "Contract employees are being attacked, kidnapped and killed -- Afghans, Pakistanis, Filipinos, Turks -- by those who are trying to stop us," he said in a phone interview from Kabul. Contractors on the Afghan projects are required to provide their own security, "but there is close coordination with U.S. and Afghan forces," he said. Up to 15 percent of contractors' costs pay for security, he added.

With a constant flow of steel, lumber, cement and other supplies that must be transported into the country, "we have had a challenge," O'Donovan said, because supply convoys are being struck as they move inside Afghanistan. The U.S. Army in Kabul has advertised for civilian contractors to provide security escort teams for truck convoys once they enter the country, according to a December solicitation. The contract is for one year with an option for two additional years. If it were to run three years, the solicitation document said, the cost could reach $97 million.

The United States has been building major facilities in Afghanistan for years. By 2004, the Pentagon said the Army Corps of Engineers had built 186 barracks buildings and 22 administration buildings for the Afghan army.

One measure of the speed of new U.S. military construction in Afghanistan is the variety of projects put out for bid last month. On Dec. 2, bids were sought for a contract exceeding $10 million to build a compound that will serve as a new forward operating base in Badghis province in northwest Afghanistan. It is to house 650 Afghan soldiers and 25 U.S. trainers.

On Dec. 3, bids were sought on a contract that could exceed $10 million for new runways and other facilities at Shank Air Base, south of Kabul. This base has until now housed 150 U.S. troops, 200 Czech troops, eight Czech civilians and 50 employees of the U.S. military contractor KBR.

Also on Dec. 3, bids for what could become a $100 million contract were put out for three projects at the Kandahar airfield to house up to 3,000 U.S. soldiers. On Christmas Eve, two more solicitations for projects that each could cost $100 million were published for installations to handle new Afghan army battalions, one in Gardez, south of Kabul, and another in Kandahar.

A Defense Department audit, completed last month, evaluated 10 Afghan projects already underway valued at $250 million. They include a $40 million military training center near Kabul for the Afghan army that features a 600-person student barracks, four buildings for 1,000 more troops, a large dining facility and a multipurpose gymnasium.

An additional $25 million at the Kabul training center was for construction of four more student barracks, administrative and classroom buildings, and a military police compound.

Pakistan Rejects India’s Evidence on Mumbai Attack

Refusing to break away from denial mode, Pakistan on Tuesday rejected India’s evidence that links it with the perpetrators who carried out the brutal Mumbai attacks in November last year.
On 4 January, India’s High Commissioner of Pakistan handed a 60 page dossier to the Pakistan with detailed evidence on the Mumbai attacks that included information on interrogations, weapons, and data gleaned from satellite phones that officials said proved Pakistani “elements” were behind the deadly siege.
“All we have received from India is information, not proof,” Pakistan PM Yousaf Raza Gillani said in Pakistan Parliament. He said the ‘information’ was still being scrutinised.
He said that India had rejected Pakistan’s proposal for a joint probe into the attacks and that he hoped the merit of the proposal is recognised.
“We are also doing our own investigation. We are ready to share the result of the investigation in due time,” he said.
Gilani had said on Monday that Pakistan was not under pressure and that they are conducting their own enquiry.
India on Saturday said it has received no reply from Pakistan to the dossier of evidence on Mumbai terror attacks as claimed by Islamabad.
Gilani on Friday said ISI has given its “feedback” to India on “some information” about the Mumbai attacks that New Delhi had shared with the US intelligence agency CIA.

Clinton vows 'smart mix' of diplomacy and defense

WASHINGTON: Hillary Rodham Clinton is promising to renew U.S. leadership through a "smart power" mix of diplomacy and defense. President-elect Barack Obama's choice for secretary of state makes that assertion in testimony she has prepared for her Senate confirmation hearing. She also vowed to push for more American partnerships around the world. Clinton's prepared testimony says the United States cannot solve its most pressing problems "on our own" and says "the world cannot solve them without America.

Obama to Reassess US Mission in Afghanistan

A published report says the incoming Obama administration will conduct a complete review of the U.S. military's mission in Afghanistan.The Washington Post says Tuesday President-elect Barack Obama will approve a Pentagon plan to send up to 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, which would nearly double the current U.S. troop presence.
The newspaper says Mr. Obama's national security team does not expect the new deployments to significantly improve conditions in Afghanistan, but will help give the administration enough time to reappraise the situation and develop a comprehensive new strategy.Conditions in Afghanistan have worsened in the last year, with increasing attacks by Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents, and rising U.S. casualties. The Post says the new strategy will likely not be unveiled before early April, when Afghanistan and Pakistan will top the agenda at a NATO summit in France.
During his presidential campaign, Mr. Obama vowed to increase U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, saying efforts in the country had been compromised by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.The newspaper mentions that a recent review by the Bush administration acknowledged that a modern Afghan democracy may be unattainable and unaffordable.