It seems the US and Russia, acting in concert to protect their mutual ally Islam Karimov, exerted pressure at a NATO meeting in Brussels to make sure language calling for an investigation into last month's bloody repression in Uzbekistan would be excized from the meeting's final document. Nice to see Washington and Moscow putting aside their differences, and this certainly indicates that Karimov has been playing his cards very well. Pentagon officials of course invoked the need for continued access to Uzbekistan's military bases. Interesting that the State Department dissented, indicating a possible split in the administration between sleazy pragmatists who see Karimov as "our son of a bitch" and hubristic visionaries who support "regime change" in favor of a less equivocal client who won't have to be shared with the Russians...
More explosions are reported in Iran this morning, this time in the southeastern city of Zahedan, near the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. The three blasts took no lives, but injured two people and caused property damage. Authorities were unclear on a link to the June 12 blasts in Ahvaz and Tehran, noting the presence of drug-smuggling networks in the Zahedan area. (AP, June 14)
Bomb blasts struck Iranian government buildings June 12 in Ahvaz, capital of oil-rich Khuzestan province bordering Iraq, followed within hours by two other bombs in central Tehran, killing nine and injuring over 85. The attacks come days before presidential elections. Iran's security service blamed the bombings — the deadliest in Iran in more than a decade — on supporters of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
Speaking in Algeirs, Polisario Front leader Mohamed Abdelaziz called for a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. "We won't opt for violence. We will continue to fight through peaceful means," he told a news conference. But he also called on the international community to investigate the recent repression and especially the ongoing detention of dozens of people following last months protests in Western Sahara.
The Pentagon is rapidly expanding its little-noted "anti-terrorist" training program in the nations of Africa's Sahel. From page 11 of the New York Times, June 10:
As Africans Join Iraqi Insurgency, U.S. Counters With Military Training in Their Lands
A growing number of Islamic militants from northern and sub-Saharan Africa are fighting American and Iraqi forces in Iraq, fueling the insurgency with foot soldiers and some financing, American military officials say.
President Bush says today he has receieved reports of covert Syrian interference in Lebanon, and the White House charged that it had information that Damascus had drawn up an assassination hit list targeting Lebanese political leaders. "Obviously we're going to follow up on these troubling reports, and we expect the Syrian government to follow up on these troubling reports," Bush told reporters. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said afterward that Washington had received information about a "Syrian hit list targeting key Lebanese public figures of various political and religious persuasions, for assassination."
Violence continued in Nepal June 7, with 14 soldiers and six Maoist guerillas killed in a clash in the southwest, even as the rebels publicly apologized for killing 38 civilians in a land mine blast the day before. The civilians were killed and 70 others wounded in the worst attack on civilians since the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), or CPN(M), launched its armed struggle in 1996. The rebels said they had intended to attack a passing army convoy, but instead hit a bus carrying civilian passengers.
On May 27, Servicio Paz y Justicia (SERPAJ) Paraguay condemned an agreement approved by the Paraguayan Congress which will allow US troops into the country for an 18-month training and advisory mission from June 1, 2005 through December 31, 2006. The agreement grants full immunity from prosecution to all US personnel involved in the mission. Congress approved the agreement--apparently at the end of last year--with no debate and behind closed doors, and the public was largely unaware of it, according to SERPAJ Paraguay. "No one knows the extent of these accords and the dangers of a US strategy to violate them," the group warned.