Friday, November 26, 2010

NKorea warns region is on brink of war

Walter L. Sharp AP – U.S. Army Gen. Walter L. Sharp, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, is surrounded by media as his entourage …
YEONPYEONG ISLAND, South Korea – North Korea warned Friday that U.S.-South Korean plans for military maneuvers put the peninsula on the brink of war, and appeared to launch its own artillery drills within sight of an island it showered with a deadly barrage this week.
The fresh artillery blasts were especially defiant because they came as the U.S. commander in South Korea, Gen. Walter Sharp, toured the South Korean island to survey damage from Tuesday's hail of North Korean artillery fire that killed four people.
None of the latest rounds hit the South's territory, and U.S. military officials said Sharp did not even hear the concussions, though residents on other parts of the island panicked and ran back to the air raid shelters where they huddled earlier in the week as white smoke rose from North Korean territory.
Tensions have soared between the Koreas since the North's strike Tuesday destroyed large parts of this island, killing two civilians as well as two marines in a major escalation of their sporadic skirmishes along the sea border.
The attack — eight months after a torpedo sank a South Korean warship further west, killing 46 sailors — has also laid bare weaknesses in South Korea's defense 60 years after the Korean War. The skirmish forced South Korea's beleaguered defense minister to resign Thursday, and President Lee Myung-bak on Friday named a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the post.
The heightened animosity between the Koreas is taking place as the North undergoes a delicate transition of power from leader Kim Jong Il to his young, inexperienced son Kim Jong Un, who is in his late 20s and is expected to eventually succeed his ailing father.
Washington and Seoul have pressed China to use its influence on Pyongyang to ease tensions amid worries of all-out war, and a dispatch from Chinese state media on Friday — saying Beijing's foreign minister had met with the North Korean ambassador — appeared to be an effort to trumpet China's role as a responsible actor and placate the U.S. and the South.
The U.S., meanwhile, is preparing to send a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to South Korean waters for joint military drills in the Yellow Sea starting Sunday.
The North, which sees the drills as a major military provocation, unleashed its anger over the planned exercises in a dispatch earlier Friday.
"The situation on the Korean peninsula is inching closer to the brink of war," the report in the North's official Korean Central News Agency said.
A North Korean official boasted that Pyongyang's military "precisely aimed and hit the enemy artillery base" as punishment for South Korean military drills — a reference to Tuesday's attack — and warned of another "shower of dreadful fire," KCNA reported in a separate dispatch.
China also expressed concern over any war games in waters within its exclusive economic zone, though the statement on the Foreign Ministry website didn't mention the drills starting Sunday. That zone includes areas south of Yeonpyeong cited for possible maneuvers, though the exact location of the drills is not known.
China strongly protested an earlier round of drills in the region but has been largely mute over the upcoming exercises. Beijing could be withholding direct criticism to avoid roiling ties with South Korea and the U.S. and to register its displeasure with ally North Korea.
The North Korean government does not recognize the maritime border drawn by the U.N. in 1953, and considers the waters around Yeonpyeong Island its territory.
Yeonpyeong Island, home to South Korean military bases as well as a civilian population of about 1,300 people, lies only 7 miles (11 kilometers) from North Korean shores and is not far from the spot where the South Korean warship sank in an explosion in March.
Gen. Sharp said during his visit to the island that Tuesday's attack was a clear violation of an armistice signed in 1953 at the end of the three-year Korean War.
"We at United Nations Command will investigate this completely and call on North Korea to stop any future attacks," he said Friday.
Washington keeps more than 28,000 troops in South Korea to protect its ally from aggression — a legacy of the Korean War that is a sore point for North Korea, which cites the U.S. presence as the main reason behind its need for nuclear weapons.
Dressed in a heavy camouflage jacket, army fatigues and a black beret, Sharp walked down a heavily damaged street strewn with debris from buildings. Around him were charred bicycles and shattered bottles of soju, Korean rice liquor.
AP photographers at an observation point on the northwest side of Yeonpyeong heard explosions and saw at least one flash of light on the North Korean mainland.
There were no immediate reports of damage. Only a few dozen residents remain on Yeonpyeong, with most of the population of 1,300 fleeing in the hours and days after the attack as authorities urged them to evacuate.
Many houses were blackened, half-collapsed or flattened, the streets littered with shattered windows, bent metal and other charred wreckage. Several stray dogs barked as they sat near destroyed houses. A group of South Korean marines carrying M-16 rifles patrolled along a seawall as the sun rose from the ocean.
On Thursday, the South's president ordered reinforcements for the 4,000 troops on Yeonpyeong and four other Yellow Sea islands, as well as top-level weaponry and upgraded rules of engagement.
He also sacked Defense Minister Kim Tae-young amid intense criticism that Yeonpyeong was unprepared for the attack and that the return fire came too slowly. Lee named former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Kim Kwan-jin to the post, the president's office announced Friday.
Despite the criticisms, South Korea assured a meeting of the European Olympic Committees on Friday that it would be able to ensure security at the 2018 Winter Games if it's picked. The chair of the Pyeongchang 2018 bid committee presented their case Friday in Belgrade.
Lee, dressed in a black suit, visited a military hospital in Seongnam near Seoul Friday to pay his respects to the two marines killed in the North Korean attack.
Lee laid a white chrysanthemum, a traditional symbol of grief, on an altar, burned incense and bowed before framed photos of the two young men. Consoling sobbing family members, he vowed to build a stronger defense.
"I will make sure that this precious sacrifice will lay the foundation for the strong security of the Republic of Korea," he wrote in a condolence book, according to his office.
Foster Klug reported from Seoul. AP photographer David Guttenfelder on Yeonpyeong, and writers Kwang-tae Kim, Kelly Olsen and Jean H. Lee in Seoul and Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia, contributed to this report.

Saudi Arabia arrests 149 suspected of Qaeda links

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia arrested 149 people from 19 cells linked to al Qaeda over the past 8 months and foiled attacks against government and security officials as well as journalists, the Interior Ministry said on Friday.
It said in a statement it had confiscated 2.24 million riyals ($597,237) from al Qaeda when it tried to collect money and spread its ideology during the Muslim pilgrimages of Haj and Umra in Saudi Arabia.
"In the past eight months 149 people linked to al Qaeda were arrested, among them were 124 Saudis and 25 were from other nationalities," Mansour Turki told journalists at a news conference.
He said the attackers were also planning to target government facilities but did not say whether they included oil installations.
Al Qaeda's Yemeni and Saudi wings merged in 2009 into a new group, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in Yemen. A Saudi counter-terrorism drive halted an armed campaign in Saudi Arabia by al Qaeda from 2003 to 2006.
The arrests announced on Friday follow one of the largest al Qaeda sweeps in years by Saudi Arabia earlier this year. In March, the kingdom arrested 113 al Qaeda militants including suicide bombers who had been planning attacks on energy facilities in the world's top oil exporter.
The March arrests netted 58 suspected Saudi militants and 52 from Yemen. The militants, who also came from Bangladesh, Eritrea and Somalia, were backed by the Yemen-based AQAP.
(Reporting by Ulf Laessing; Writing by Erika Solomon; Editing by Samia Nakhoul)

Cuba Obliges U.S. On Mails Following Threat Perception

6 hours ago
(RTTNews) - Cuba has limited all mail service to the United States--of both letters and packages--to 453 grams (16 ounces) until December 8 following exceptional security measures being taken by the U.S. to counter threats from bombs likely to be mailed from abroad, the island-nation's postal service said Thursday.

The temporary measure was taken after the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) notified Cuba over "increased security measures concerning mail... from every point of origin," the Cuban Mail Service (ECC) said in a statement.

USPS will reject all such packages addressed to the US--where 1.5 million persons of Cuban origin live, mostly in the coastal state of Florida--and weighing more than 16 ounces until December 8 for fear of terrorism, but letters weighing less than the specified limit, however, could be mailed.

The ECC said the new regulations would be communicated to the public at the appropriate time.

Direct mail between the U.S. and the communist island-nation--separated by a small stretch of sea fronting Florida--was disrupted in 1963, two years after Washington and Havana severed diplomatic ties. Currently, Cuban mail to the U.S. is routed through Mexico and Canada.


Interview | Pablo Milanes...

"If demand changes in Cuba is because I think it is still possible to make that self-reflection '

El cantautor cubano, Pablo Milanés, en un concierto. | El MundoThe Cuban singer Pablo Milanes during a concert. | World
  • The Cuban singer opens this Friday in a brief tour Avila Spain
  • Consist of four concerts and end on December 2 in Burgos
The Cuban singer Pablo Milanes (Bayamo, 1943) begins this Friday, Municipal Center Conference and Exhibition 'Northern Canvas' of Avila, his Autumn Tour in Spain, Which provide four concerts,  the last one on 2nd December in Burgos. Tireless composer, singer, guitarist and songwriter, who along with Silvio  Rodríguez and Noel Nicola of the Nueva Trova Cubana, presents his latest album 'Gift', and is not abandoning its political struggle in challenging the regime of the Castro brothers in Cuba. Criticizes the evolution of the revolution, but continues to believe in it.
At 67 years, is uploaded to the stage and with critical and commercial success. What is your secret to staying in music?
Yes, sometimes I am surprised myself that there are more concerts ten people ... I really do not know what the secret to Climbing up to the stage to follow, likely to be constant working and very consistent with what one does, so if I can say is that I keep in the music because it is my natural state.
Just completed his first tour of Cuba in more than 20 years, how does it feel?
Very satisfied. The reunion with a wonderful audience, not has just the opportunity to see me live, I was filled with happiness.
Makes a break in their journey across America to travel to Spain and make a small tour of five cities, what's expected Spanish public?
In Spain I always received with great affection and respect.
During his tour, visit two towns of Castile and Leon, Avila (this Friday) and Burgos (Dec. 2), do you know?
Yes, for many years, particularly since the late 70's, visited Spain, Burgos has been part of my tour in several occasions. A Ávila go first to sing and I am very excited.  I have curiosity to see the public there. Although now in winter I think it is too cold for my taste.
Jacobean Holy Year 2010 is and you wrote a song specifically dedicated to this route, entitled 'The Long Road Santiago ', has had the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to see the apostle? In If not already done so, would you like?
No, I have made the pilgrimage to Santiago or religious grounds  or otherwise, there are many physical limitations. But with the song  if an alternative narrated journey to spiritual comfort, loving ... a metaphor for this beautiful route.
Changing of the third, it seems that the political situation and Cuba's social inspires his singers. What influence does situation in their music?
All political and social situations are a source of inspiration for artists of any kind. From music, it is clear that the operator also reflects the happenings of the world we live and  who would like to live. That is a function of troubadours, to chronicle the experience.
In his songs speak of a need for change, do you pay your voice in these lyrics to many who did not have in Cuba?
Yes, in my songs, for a long time and not just Now, I have raised and reflected on the ever necessary self-criticism that politicians should be accountable for courses of a society, a people, a country of people who do not  can have a channel to express and added to the message of the songs of a troubadour or a book writer.
In recent times has been critical to the Castro regime and called for changes in Cuba. Think it's possible?
If the claim is because I think it is still possible to make that self-reflection and change some things.
S: translates LPPNEWS FrontLine Results
Cuba suspends mail threats of terrorism
Cardinal Ortega asked the Chancellor released Spanish
U.S. mailing suspended Cuba (EFE)
Friday November 26, 201012:00 AM
Havana .- Cuba temporarily suspended shipments to the U.S. postal international measures against Washington by recent terrorist threats, officials said.

"The decision was taken in correspondence with a communication from the United States Postal Service about security measures regarding mail from any source," says a note from the Post Office of Cuba published in the local press, DPA quoted.

"The new provisions of the United States Postal Service to be implemented will be communicated promptly to the population," said the Cuban company.

Direct mail between Cuba and the U.S. was discontinued in 1963 after the rupture of diplomatic relations.

Cuban Church
The Archbishop of Havana, Jaime Ortega, met in Madrid with Spanish Foreign Minister, Trinidad Jiménez, to know the situation of former Cuban prisoners released by the government of Raul Castro and arrived in Spain within the framework of the agreement reached Catholic Church and the Cuban regime.

Ortega, however, did not meet with any of those released, although some had requested to be with him knew he was going to be in Madrid. The archbishop made a stop in the Spanish capital after spending this week at the Vatican.

According to sources from the Foreign Ministry in Madrid, the arzobismo and Spanish diplomat discussed the possibility that in the coming weeks more prisoners are released.

Ortega became interested in the "adaptation" of former Cuban prisoners living in Spain, as well as its "living conditions" and "future prospects", the sources said.

Castro's government and the Catholic Church agreed in July to release the 52 opponents belonging to the so-called Group of 75 who were still behind bars. Those 75 were arrested in the "Black Spring" of March 2003 and sentenced to up to 28 years in prison on charges of being "mercenaries" working for EEEUU.

Of the 51 convicts arrived in Spain from July, 40 members of the Group of 75. Ortega was the one on behalf of the Cuban Catholic Church led the dialogue with the authorities of the island.

Spanish Foreign Minister and the Archbishop also spoke about the general situation in Cuba and Castro's economic reforms launched. The priest, who was also the former Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, declined to comment to the media in Madrid.
S: translates LPPNEWS FrontLine Results