July 13, 2006

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Headlines (5:03)
British forces have handed over security responsibilities to Iraqi authorities in the Muthanna province in southern Iraq. Approximately 700 British and Australian troops had been watching the desert province since the 2003 invasion. In a joint statement, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and American commander in Iraq, General George Casey, said the handover “represents a milestone in the successful development of Iraq’s capability to govern and protect itself as a sovereign and democratic nation”. Muthanna is the first of 18 provinces the return to Iraqi control.

Police in Mumbai, India have rounded up some 350 people for questioning in the aftermath of the serial bomb attack on the city’s rail system. The death toll for Tuesday’s attacks has passed 200. The rush-hour blasts wounded over 700 passengers.

A man claiming to be an Al Qaeda spokesman says that the terrorist network has formed a group in Jammu and Kashmir. Shahnawaz Khan reports from Srinagar.

A man identifying himself as Abu Al Hadeed, called a local news service in Srinagar and claimed to the spokesman of Al-Qaeda Jammu and Kashmir. According to Current News Service (CNS), the caller told them that the group has already been formally launched, with Abu Abdur Rehman Ansari as its chief commander. The caller saluted the men behind the Tuesday Serial Blasts in Mumbai and described the attacks as a reaction to what he called India’s repressive measures against the minority community of Muslims. The self-described Al Qaeda in Jammu and Kashmir spokesperson told Current News Service that the new organization will soon announce its modus operandi and organizational motive. Police have yet to verify the authenticity of the claim. An army spokesman in Srinagar told AFP that investigators will evaluate the claim and, if found to be authentic, is a cause for concern. For FSRN, I’m Shahnawaz Khan.

The International Court of Justice in the Hague ruled yesterday that Uruguay can continue building two paper pulp mills on the river that forms its border with Argentina. Marie Trigona has more from Buenos Aires.

The UN’s highest court rejected Argentina’s request for an order to immediately halt the construction of the plants. Argentina had wanted the World Court to temporarily halt construction of the mills on the shared river, while it weighed its claim that the mills violated a bilateral treaty, which states both countries must consent to all issues that could affect the water of the shared river body. The court said it did not find evidence that the construction of the pulp mills posed an immediate and irreversible threat to the environment. British judge, Rosalyn Higgins said that work could continue while the judges weighed the potential environmental risks of the mills once they begin to operate. Uruguay may be ordered to tear down the mills, that are due to start operating in 2007 and 2008, if the court finds it in violation of the 1975 treaty. The paper mills project has strained diplomatic relations between Uruguay and Argentina, historically friendly neighbors. Argentina fears the mills will damage the environment and also hurt tourism and property values in the border region. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Marie Trigona in Buenos Aires.

The state of Washington has appealed a judge’s ruling that struck down a voter initiative preventing the federal government from shipping high-level nuclear waste to that state’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Leigh Robartes has more.

The Hanford Clean-up Initiative, I-297, passed with 70% of the vote in 2004; the largest margin of victory for any initiative in state history. It requires the federal government to finish its ongoing clean-up of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation before more radioactive waste can be shipped in. The clean-up has been plagued with cost overruns and delays – and is now expected to cost taxpayers $11.3 billion. After it passed, the federal government immediately sought to stay Initiative 297, saying it violated the Atomic Energy Act, as well as the federal government’s constitutional right to regulate interstate commerce. Federal Judge Alan Macdonald of Yakima agreed. Washington Secretary of State Rob McKenna has now appealed to the 9th Circuit Court, saying the State is not content to let the decision rest with a single district court judge. Leigh Robartes, FSRN.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions, an umbrella group representing some 2 million workers, has called on the South African government to break off diplomatic and trade relations with Israel in response to military actions against civilians in the Gaza Strip. COSATU president Willie Madisha called the “apartheid state” in Israel worse than the apartheid system that dominated South Africa, saying that heavy machinery and tanks were not used against the opposition in his country. South African Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Aziz Pahad dismissed the calls for diplomatic and economic sanctions, saying that it is important to maintain open lines of communication with both sides of the conflict.

Israel Bombs Lebanese Airport (4:19)
In the early morning hours today, Israel widened its offensive against Lebanon, hitting the Lebanese airport with missile fire and pounding over 40 targets throughout southern Lebanon. Official medical and government sources put the number of Lebanese dead from the Israeli attacks at over 50, with at least 10 of those casualties being children. Israel has also imposed a naval blockade, and official Israeli sources have said that the air force is prepared to strike anywhere in Lebanon, including the capital city of Beirut, if Hezbollah doesn’t return two soldiers it captured in raids on a military installation in southern Lebanon yesterday. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has called on the Lebanese government to help secure the release of the soldiers and honor UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls on Hezbollah to disarm. FSRN’s Eric Klein spoke with correspondent Jackson Allers in Beirut.

Israel’s New Two Front War (4:09)
Residents in the northern Israeli city of Haifa have been told to stay in bomb shelters following a rocket attack on the city today, which Hezbollah has so far denied. No injuries or deaths were reported from the blast. Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. called the Haifa attack “a major, major escalation” in the region. FSRN’s Irris Makler reports from Jerusalem on Israel’s strategy.

Effects of the 19 Day Attack on the Gaza Strip (2:30)
Israeli forces continue their massive military campaign across Gaza for the 19th consecutive day today, which has so far claimed the lives of at least 74 Palestinians and severely damaged major infrastructure including the early Thursday shelling of the Palestinian Foreign Affairs Ministry building, as well as the sole power plant and bridges. Rami Almeghari reports.

U.S. Reacts to Mid East Crisis (2:03)
Top U.S. officials are blaming what they call the lack of democracy in Lebanon for the spread of militias like Hezbollah, and are accusing Syria and Iran of harboring elements of Hezbollah. The Bush Administration, which has long been accused of neglecting the region’s deteriorating situation, is insisting that Israel has a right to self-defense, and echoed Israel’s view that Syria and Iran are partly to blame for the violence. Anastasia Gnezditskaia reports from Washington, DC.

Voting Rights Act (3:16)
After internal debate within the Republican Party derailed the Voting Rights Act renewal, the House is set to vote on it. Republicans pulled it from the floor last month because they were denied an opportunity to offer amendments that would dilute the Act’s protections for minority voters. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

G8 Meetings and President Bush Visits Germany Today (3:37)
Leaders from the world’s most powerful countries: Russia, the U.S., Britain, France, Japan, Germany, Canada and Italy, are meeting this weekend in St Petersburg, Russia for the Group of 8, or G8 Summit. The three issues of energy security, infectious diseases and education will dominate the agenda, but there is also serious concern over Iran’s nuclear program and the stalled WTO negotiations. Russia, a major supplier of gas to many European nations and the G8’s newest member, and is hosting the Summit for the first time amid serious concern regarding the country’s lack of democracy. Cinnamon Nippard reports.

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