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World Events

I mee attack vessles awu ghi ihe kwesiri ime, kama ihe kachasi n’kpa unu ga eme wu I jikota aka were n’luka ga ebudali okporo n’manu ahu na ami nye manu na vessles ndia, gbakashia ha nile 4real…

Ihe emela anyi ebe anyi kwesiri imuta ife 4real.

Ebe owu ha buru n’manu, recha, kama ha ga eji ya mere anyi ife bara uru na obodoa, ha ewere ga na aru, emepe mba ndi ozo. Ha amila manu rue na otutu na ime ha enwe chala ebe a na a refine n’manu na mba ndi ozo wu ebe ha na ebula n’manu ndia ana ami na obodoa, ebe ndi nke anyi were ebe adi ghi, aru oru ma n’cha ma n’cha.

Ha refine ni cha ya na refinery ha, tupu ebula tara anyi ya ebe, oya bun a anyi ewela fueloooooooo. Umu nne obunu nu ihe kwesiri ekwesi? Anyi nile ewe siooooooo mbanu.

Ha emepe la anyi, ha ewe ghidele ego we ghide ego rue na out onye na ime ha na a control ego ga akwu madu nile na obodoa at list 80 to 100,000.00 for more than 3 years, ihe anya ukwu na akpata… ya mere ibe ha ana acho ghi ka emezie obodoa, ka anyi nile tinye aka nyere ha aka memara ha ya ebe o na aha ghi idi nma…

Ugbo miri obula nwara awa bia imi manu na mba miri ozo, were nu n’luka suba ya na miriooooooooooooooo… ha jikotara aka onu sin a obu abuoooooooo, anyi ekwela 4real.

Ka chifoooooooooooo…

What are the latest developments in the Israel-Palestine conflict?

The major recent development was the November 2004 death of Yasser Arafat from a sudden mysterious ailment. In January 2005 an election was conducted and the moderate Mahmud Abbas was elected. Abbas had briefly assumed the presidency of the Palestinian Authority in 2003 before disagreements with Arafat caused him to resign. Since the election here have been significant developments in the path toward a peaceful resolution of the problem. Israel has resumed its pullout from Gaza and for the first time in four years, Israeli and Palestinian officials met to mutually discuss peace possibilities. Sporadic violence from Palestinian extremists does continue however.

The Palestinian "intifada" consisting of periodic terrorist incidents and subsequent Israeli reprisal have caused the deaths of more than 3000 persons; the majority of them Palestinians.  (Click to see chart)   A major reprisal occurred in March 2004 with the Israeli assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin. The U.S. role as major broker in the peace effort has been significantly hampered by ill will throughout the Arab world in response to the Iraq invasion and occupation and by the Bush Administration's recent indication that it would support Israel's claim to certain West Bank settlements. This is a fundamental shift in U.S. policy regarding the dispute.

In 2003, a "road map" peace plan developed by the U.S, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations was presented to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The plan calls for the immediate cessation of hostilities and Israeli withdrawal from areas that it has occupied since September 2000 as a condition for further negotiations regarding the nature of a Palestinian state. In response to this initiative, there was some conciliatory rhetoric from both sides and actual peace negotiations but there has been little bilateral progress.

Against significant opposition from within his party, Ariel Sharon has pleged a unilateral removal of the Israeli settlements in Gaza, although he continues to take a very hard line on other issues, including the West Bank settlements. Under the Gaza withdrawal plan, full administration of the Gaza strip would be turned over to the Palestinian authority which presently controls 80% of the area. Israel would maintain control of Gaza's borders, coastline and airspace. While welcoming any withdrawal by Israel from lands it has occupied since the 1967 war, the Palestinians have reacted to Sharon's initiative with suspicion and insist on a return to the "roadmap", which calls for a negotiated step-by-step plan.

Another controversial development has been Israel's unilateral decision to construct a "security barrier" in the West Bank.  (Click to see map)  Construction on this prison-type fence began in June 2002 and its planned length will extend approximately 440 miles. It is only partially constructed. The actual and proposed route of the wall does significantly separate areas dominated by each population  and thus offers a "de facto" basis for a negotiated settlement. But Israel insists that the barrier does not constitute a proposed border but rather has been erected for security purposes only - to prevent suicide bombers from entering Israeli occupied areas. The construction of the barrier is controversial among Israelis as well as Palestinians. Right wing Israelis are concerned that the wall isolates Israeli West Bank settlements and is a signal that they will eventually not be supported. They are pressuring the government to construct additional walls which encircle such settlements. Palestinians object that the wall is another unilateral undertaking by the Israeli government in occupied territory and that it is a violation of international law. In an advisory opinion, the International Court of Justice ruled against the barrier in July 2004, and stated that it should be dismantled. The U.S. would certainly block any attempt by the Security Council to implement the opinion. Are the issues in the Israel-Palestine conflict impossible to resolve? No, the two major issues between the two sides have been resolved for almost a decade. These are:

  • The legitimacy of Israel. During much of the Israel-Mideast conflict this has been the issue and it has been conclusively resolved. While some fundamentalist Arab rhetoric continues to challenge Israel's right to exist, most Arab nations and Palestinians now accept that Israel has secured its status and is entitled to the pre-1967 borders. More importantly, the international community and the United States are committed to support Israel's right to exist.

  • The right of Palestinians to self-rule. The early rounds of peace agreements have achieved this limited degree of recognition from Israel and self-rule does exist in certain areas of the West Bank as a result of prior peace negotiations.

           What major issues remain?

  • The status of Jerusalem.

    Both sides made significant concessions on this issue at Camp David in 1999. The Palestinians agreed that the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall, which were under Arab control until the 1967 war, would fall under Israeli sovereignty. The Israelis offered the Palestinians control of some East Jerusalem neighborhoods. At center stage was one issue: the political fate of the Harem al-Sharif/Temple Mount area of Jerusalem, which is holy both to Muslims and Jews. The Israelis ultimately proposed that the Palestinian leader would be called "custodian" of Haram al-Sharif and would be able to fly his own flag on the mosques- but they would remain under Israeli sovereignty. This proposal was rejected by the Palestinians. President Clinton ultimately concluded that the Palestinians were most responsible for failing to achieve an agreement because they were not flexible on this issue.

  • The future of Israeli settlements.

    At Camp David in 1999, Barak agreed to eventually withdraw from 90% of the settlements. Arafat agreed that Jewish settlers on the West Bank could remain in settlement blocks in portions of the West Bank that would come under Israeli sovereignty as long as the Palestinians were compensated with new territories, probably near Gaza. However, the Palestinians maintain that the Israeli proposal would permit Israel to annex almost 9% of the Occupied Palestinian Territories in exchange for only 1% of Israel's own territory. The Palestinians observed that the proposal would create a Palestine of four separate cantons entirely surrounded by Israel. The Palestinians also objected to portions of the Israeli proposal which denied them control over their own borders, airspace and water resources.

  • Rights of Palestinian Refugees

    About 500,000 to 780,000 Palestinians were displaced during the 1948 Israeli War of independence, either because they fled Palestine or because they were forced out by the Israelis. UN General Assembly Resolution 194, issued in December 1948, stated that refugees wishing to return to the territory of Israel and willing to live at peace with their neighbors should have the right to do so. The resolution was never implemented. In the 50 years that followed, the refugee population has grown to about 4 million (estimates range from 3.7 million to 4.6 million), many living in camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the Gaza Strip and West Bank, in the most primitive conditions.

    At Camp David, Yasser Arafat agreed to separate the issue of the "right" of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes from the actual settlement of claims to that right. The Israelis agreed to consider the return of refugees under humanitarian grounds in the form of family reunions and agreed to the resettlement of an unspecified number of additional refugees. The resolution of this issue would also include financial support and assistance from the United States and other countries. But no progress was made on a detailed compromise based on these concessions because of the lack of progress on the other issues.

             The Palestinian groups involved in the conflict are the PLO, Hamas,  and Hezbollah. How do these groups differ?

    • The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) remains the popular name for the Palestinian Authority which is under the leadership of Yasser Arafat. The PA is an autonomous government that was established by a series of early 1990s Israeli-Palestinian peace pacts to rule over most Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and probably become the basis for a full-blown Palestinian state later in the peace process. The PA lacks many powers associated with a state such as complete control of its territory but is responsible for providing such varied government services as education, criminal justice, health care, and trash collection for some 3 million Palestinians. It rules virtually all of poverty-stricken Gaza and has shared or total control of about 40 percent of the West Bank; the rest of the West Bank, including more than 100 Israeli settlements, is under Israeli control. The regime is dominated by Arafat; opposition groups called for a boycott of the PA's 1996 elections, which were swept by Arafat allies. The PA has been criticized by human rights groups for authoritarian practices.

    • Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement)  (Click map to review terrorist activity) is a radical Islamic organization which became active in the early stages of the Intifada (the mainstream Palestinian resistance movement begun in 1987), operating primarily in the Gaza Strip but also in the West Bank. The Hamas has played a major role in violent fundamentalist subversion and radical terrorist operations against both Israelis and Arabs. Hamas is committed to a "holy war" for the liberation of Palestine and the establishment of an Islamic Palestine "from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River". By its participation in street violence and murder, it boosted its appeal in the eyes of the Palestinians, further enhancing its growth potential and enabling it to play a central role in the Intifada. As a result of its subversive and terrorist activity, Hamas was outlawed in September 1989. After the Gulf War, Hamas has become the leading perpetrator of terrorist activity throughout the territories as well as inside Israel. 

      Hamas and the PA sometimes cooperate, sometimes compete, and sometimes clash. Hamas has cut deals with the PA, but it accuses Arafat's regime of being corrupt and of selling out to Israel and America by participating in the peace process. U.S. officials have told Arafat that Hamas is as much of a threat to him as it is to Israel. The Israeli government believes that the level of cooperation between the PA and Hamas has increased during the past year and there is some evidence to support this claim. Yet the timing of terrorist activities initiated by Hamas continue to frustrate peace efforts which the PA at least ostensibly supports.

    • Hezbollah is a Lebanese group of Shiite militants that has evolved into a major force in Lebanon's society and politics. It opposes the West, seeks to create a Muslim fundamentalist state modeled on Iran, and is a bitter foe of Israel. The group's name means "party of God". According to the State Department, the group receives substantial amounts of financial, training, weapons, explosives, political, diplomatic, and organizational aid from Iran and Syria. Hezbollah is also an important player in Lebanon's politics, a key vehicle of Lebanese Shiite empowerment, and a major provider of social services to thousands of Lebanese Shiites. The group has been responsible for a series of kidnappings of Westerners, including several Americans, in the 1980s; the suicide truck bombings that killed more than 200 U.S. Marines at their barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983; the 1985 hijacking of TWA flight 847, which featured the famous footage of the plane's pilot leaning out of the cockpit with a gun to his head; and two major 1990s attacks on Jewish targets in Argentina-the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy (killing 29) and the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center (killing 95).

    Who are the Palestinian and Israeli leaders?

    Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, has a military and political track record which suggests a militant and uncompromising position on virtually all issues which continue to divide the two sides. However, in response to the most recent intiatives, he has been far less inflexible. He uncharacteristically has referred to the Israeli control of Palestinian territories as an occupation and has indicated a willingness to withdraw settlements. In February 2004, he announced his intention to unilaterally withdraw settlements from the Gaza strip. And after the death of Arafat, he has demonstrated a willingness to work with the new Palestinian leadership.

    Until his recent death, the Palestinian Authority was under the firm control of Yasser Arafat who by most accounts was less conciliatory than Israeli Prime Minister Barak at the 1999 Camp David peace negotiations.

    What are the backgrounds of Arafat and Sharon?

    Yasser Arafat was born in 1929 to a successful merchant father and a religiously devoted mother. He has been involved in the Palestinian cause since his teenage years. He studied civil engineering at the University of Cairo where he headed the Palestinian Students League and, by the time he graduated, was committed to forming a group that would free Palestine from Israeli occupation. In 1956 he founded Al Fatah, an underground terrorist organization and in 1968 he became the leader of the PLO.

    For two decades the PLO launched bloody attacks on Israel, and Arafat gained a reputation as a ruthless terrorist. But by 1988, when he told the United Nations that the PLO would recognize Israel as a sovereign state, Arafat had warmed to diplomacy. Then in 1993, the unthinkable happened. The terrorist leader, who had rarely been seen without his signature ghutra and scruffy beard, met with his avowed enemies. The secret peace talks in Norway led to the Oslo Peace Accords with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin. The agreement granted limited Palestinian self-rule and earned Arafat, Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize. In January 1996 Arafat was elected the first president of the Palestinian Council governing the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

    Ariel Sharon was born in 1928 in western Palestine, to Russian immigrants. Sharon's military activity began he joined the infantry of the underground Jewish military organization, the Haganah. He was an active participant when war broke out in 1948. Sharon gained a reputation as a very successful leader and soldier, but one that followed methods so unorthodox at times as to border on insubordination. He distinguished himself during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war by orchestrating the capture of an important Egyptian command post. His greatest victory came in the Yom Kippur War in October 1973, when he commanded 27,000 Israelis in a push across the Suez Canal into Egypt and helped to turn the tide of the war in his nation's favor.

    Sharon entered politics in 1974 when he won a seat in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, and served for right-wing parties. He was mainly responsible for planning massive Jewish settlements on the West Bank while Israel and Egypt were talking peace.

    In 1982, he also led Israel into an invasion of Lebanon that would leave Israel embroiled with its northern neighbor for many years. Thousands died in the conflict. And in 1983, two years after being appointed defense minister, he was forced to resign after a special commission determined he was indirectly responsible for the massacre of hundreds of civilians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon. His political comeback came through his election as Prime Minister on February 6, 2001 over Ehud Barak. He won 62% of the vote as Israeli voters had become frustrated with the failed peace negotiations and renewed Palestinian violence. In January 2003, he was reelected by a wide margin.

    The situation in Israel involves the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights. Where are these areas located?All of these areas came under Israel's control as the result of the 1967 Six Day War.

    • West Bank The West Bank  (Click to see map)  is the largest and most populous area in dispute. It includes much of what is traditionally referred to as the "Holy Land". Until the "6 Day War" in 1967, the West Bank was part of Jordan and was occupied primarily by Palestinian Arabs. Since 1967, the area has been under Israeli control. The West Bank includes East Jerusalem   which includes the "Walled City" of biblical significance.

    • Gaza Strip The Gaza Strip   is a coastal area located in southern Palestine. Under the terms of the U.N. Partition in 1948, this area was designated as Arabian territory and subsequent to the 1949 Armistice, it came under the control of Egypt. Subsequent to the "6 Day War" in 1967, the area has been under Israeli control.

    • Golan Heights The Golan Heights   is a small area northeast of Israel which was Syrian territory prior to its seizure by Israel in the 1967 "Six Day War". It has been under Israeli control since that time. Because of its geography, it has military value to Israel. It also is important as a source of water. Most of the 150,000 Arabian residents fled to Syria at the time of the Israeli occupation.

              How did the Israeli - Palestinian conflict originate?The conflict is the result of a unique history of immigration and emigration of two groups with very distinct religious and cultural traditions which occurred during the past century. A brief history:

    • 1516 - 1917 Ottomon Empire After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the area known as Palestine was primarily ruled by a succession of Muslim rulers. The Turkish Ottomon Empire   was the last of these dynasties. At the end of the 19th Century, Jews began to immigrate to Palestine in response to a Zionist campaign launched by influential Jewish Europeans.

    • 1917 - 1948 British Protectorate Subsequent to World War I, the area (including much of Jordan) came under British Administration.   The Zionist concept was encouraged by Britain and there was considerable Jewish immigration into the area. The immigration accelerated during the Nazi regimes in Europe and many Jews literally saved their lives by deciding to relocate. Conflicts between the new settlers and the Arabian native inhabitants resulted from this immigration. These conflicts had both economic and religious aspects. The Jewish immigration and land purchases displaced many natives and the problem was compounded because the two religions share historical places of worship. A British commission investigating the problem concluded that the only realistic solution would be to partition the area into Arab and Jewish sectors.

    • 1948 U.N. Partition The future of Palestine subsequent to World War II came under the jurisdiction of the United Nations. In a historic vote, the General Assembly voted to accept the concept of partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish sectors thus creating the Jewish country of Israel .   The plan also called for Jerusalem to be an international zone free of either Arab or Jewish rule. The plan was vehemently opposed by Arabian countries and immediately after the vote a war developed between Israel and the neighboring Arabian countries of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
    • 1949 Armistice to 1967 At the conclusion of the Israeli-Arabian war, Israel's boundaries considerably extended beyond the area identified in the U.N. Partition.   The area gained included much of the Gaza territory and eastward into Jordan as far as the Jerusalem area. Jerusalem itself was divided into areas under Jewish and Jordanian control. In 1950 Israel designated Jerusalem as its capital but this designation has not received recognition by the international community and most countries maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv. Subsequent to this war, many Palestinian Arabs emigrated from the area controlled by Israel to the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and other Arabian countries. This period is characterized by the development of Israel into a modern nation assisted by massive immigration. It was also characterized by continuing hostility between Jewish residents and the Arab Palestinian minorities who remained in Israel and those who were outside of the Israeli borders on the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon and Egypt. The surrounding Arab countries continued to refuse to recognize the existence of Israel's sovereignty. The situation erupted into a brief war in 1955 which did not result in a change of boundaries.

    • 1967 "Six Day War" to 1979 Two decades of Mideast tensions resulted in a major war in 1967. The actual war began with a coordinated Israeli attack on Egypt but the events immediately leading to the attack were Egypt's removal of a U.N. Emergency Force at the border and a blockade of Israeli shipping through the Tiran straits leading to the Red Sea. Jordan joined the war with an attack on Israel which was quickly repulsed. The result of this war was a total victory for Israel. It has also resulted in Israeli control of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the entire Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights.   The war had a significant implication beyond the Middle East because it resulted in the closure of the Suez canal and it remained closed until 1975. Israel's control of areas primarily populated by Palestinians has been the major source of unrest and conflict since this war. In order to facilitate control, Israel began sponsoring controversial settlements in these occupied areas.

    • 1979 Peace Treaty with Egypt to 1993 A major breakthrough for peace in the Middle East began in 1977 and culminated in a treaty facilitated by American President Jimmy Carter in 1979. Under the terms of this treaty, Egypt recognized Israel and permitted Israel to use the Suez Canal. Israel returned control of Sinai to Egypt  and agreed to negotiate the future of the Gaza Strip for possible Palestinian rule. Unfortunately, these developments did little to affect increasing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. Moreover, due to a higher birth rate and declining death rate, the Palestinian population began to grow at a greater rate than the Jewish population. In 1982, Israeli forces attacked areas in Southern Lebanon and Beirut which had been harboring Palestinian terrorists. In 1987, an Intifada uprising among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza began which involved massive civil disobedience. In 1989, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) recognized Israel's right to exist for the first time. This eventually led to peace talks and an agreement in 1993.

    • 1993 Oslo Peace Agreement to Present As the result of highly secret negotiations, an agreement was signed in 1993 which set forth a timetable for Palestinian rule in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Under the terms of the first agreement, Palestinian rule was to be provided to the Gaza Strip and Jericho and this was accomplished in 1994. Under a second agreement negotiated in 1995, Israeli forces were scheduled to be removed from six Arab cities and 400 villages in the West Bank by early 1996, after which elections would be held for a 82-member Palestinian council, which would possess legislative and executive power in the West Bank and Gaza.   The remaining issues which have not been resolved concern the remainder of the West Bank, particularly Jerusalem, and whether Israeli settlers can remain in formerly occupied territories under Palestinian control. In 1994, Israel also concluded a peace treaty with Jordan.

      The peace momentum was broken with the assassination of Israel Prime Minister Rabin by an Israeli right wing extremist in November 1995. During the remainder of the decade, progress toward a final peace has been elusive.

      One of the weaknesses of the 1990s Oslo peace process was that it deliberately left the most difficult issues - the status of Jerusalem, refugees and borders - until last, in the belief that this would make them easier to resolve. These issues were finally discussed when the former US President Bill Clinton made an all-out attempt to bring then Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat together at Camp David in Maryland, Virginia. An agreement was in sight, but talks broke down over failure to agree on the future of Jerusalem and - to a lesser extent - the fate of Palestinian refugees. Israeli leaders believed they had been generous to the Palestinians, while Palestinian negotiators rejected the proposals as inadequate. The two sides came even closer to agreement when they met in Taba, Egypt in January 2001. But this, too, ended in failure. There has been very little progress on the diplomatic front since Mr Sharon took office more than a year ago. He has accused his predecessor of offering the Palestinians unacceptable concessions at Camp David and that all Israel got in return was violence. One of the biggest obstacles to final status agreement is the issue of Jewish settlements, and Mr Sharon has long been seen as a champion of the settlers' cause. The Palestinian Authority currently controls most of Gaza but less than 40% of the West Bank, in non-contiguous chunks that are dotted with Israeli settlements. The Palestinians believe there can only be a purely Palestinian state if the settlements are dismantled.

      This failure has led to a second Intifada with accompanying violence which began in the fall of 2000. There have been frequent acts of terrorism and Israeli reprisals.

              What concepts form the basis of Israeli and Arab positions on this conflict?

    • Israeli position The overall Israeli position is based in some part on the Zionist philosophy that led to the Jewish settlement in Israel and mainly on its reaction to the fierce opposition of Arabs to Israel's existence. Through the peace initiatives during the past three decades there has been gradual recognition among the Arab countries and the Palestinians of the legitimacy of Israel. But the long history of Arab opposition has caused many Israelis to believe that only force, military defense and control are essential to internal security. This attitude, which is reflected in the recent election of the "hard line" Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, makes the compromise essential to a peace effort very difficult. Other Israelis have come to realize that the decades of occupation in the Arab areas of the West Bank and Gaza has been counterproductive. Instead of providing security, they realize this policy has led to an escalation of Palestinian resistance and international approbation. Opinion polls reflect the divide among Israelis on this issue.

    • Arab position The present Arabian position surrounds the demand of Palestinians for an Arab state which was contemplated by the 1948 United Nations partition. Historically, Israel's Arab neighbors have opposed its very existence but the reality of Israel as a viable military and economic power in the area with a large population base is now generally recognized. The focus during the past three decades has been support for Palestinian independence. Palestinian public opinion is also divided on the possibility of accomplishing this through a settlement.

    What has been the United States position on this conflict?The United States has exercised admirable diplomatic efforts over the past three decades in promoting a peaceful solution to the Israeli/Arab conflict. Present U.S. policy is consistent with the principles set forth in the 1978 Camp David Accords in that the status of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank is to remain unresolved until there is a final agreement between interested parties. The U.S. also recognizes that Jerusalem has a special status and the resolution of issues pertaining to Gaza and the West Bank might be different that those pertaining to Jerusalem.

    What has the United Nations done regarding this problem?In 1974, the General Assembly adopted a resolution recognizing the right of Palestine Arabs, including those in Israel, to nationhood. A second resolution gave observer status to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), a group approved by Arab countries to represent the Palestinians. This international designation of the PLO as an official representative for Palestinian interests was an important step in the peace process. The United Nations Security Council has consistently opposed Israel's practice of establishing settlements in occupied territories and its policy to settle East Jerusalem and to designate Jerusalem as its capital.

    Chinese president with Mrs rice eater

    The Secret of China’s Economic Success in the Face of a Global Recession

    The Three Gorges Project being built.Zeng Peiyan, minister of the State Development Planning commission, recently declared that China’s economy grew 7.9 percent in the first half of this year—a figure to be proud of, considering the declining global economy.

    China’s steady economic growth has attracted the attention of Wall Street. Economists, who had expected the economies of the U.S. and other developed countries to improve and thus salvage world economy, now predict that China will rescue the world from an economic crisis and drive global economy.

    Whether or not China can lead world economy is an interesting question to ponder. But it is true that China’s economy remains strong in the face of weak worldwide economic growth. What has sustained China’s stable economy is another interesting question to ponder.

    Domestic demand has played a leading role in China’s economic growth. China’s exports experienced a sharp decline in growth earlier this year, due to the negative effects of global recession. Domestic demand, on the other hand, rose considerably. In the first half of this year, investment in fixed assets by all sectors of society amounted to 1,189.9 billion yuan, up 15.1 percent—a growth rate 4.1 percentage points than that of the same period last year. Of the total, investment in fixed assets by the state sectors and units of other types of ownership reached 892.8 billion yuan, up 17.9 percent, while that by the collective sector and individuals rose 7.5 percent. As for the purpose, investment in capital construction was 468.5 billion yuan, up 11.8 percent; investment in technical upgrading and renovation was 177.6 billion yuan, up 26.9 percent; and that in real estate development 212.3 billion yuan, up 28.2 percent. Local consumption has also continued to grow at a steady rate. Under the circumstances of worldwide recession, enhanced domestic demand helped offset the negative impact of declining exports, thus contributing to the steady growth of China’s economy.

    Utilization of foreign capital has taken a turn for the better. Although China’s actual use of foreign capital had been falling since 1997, due to the Asian financial crisis, an improvement in world economy in 2000 enabled China to use more foreign capital. Foreign direct investment actually used in the first half of this year reached US$20.69 billion—a rise of 20.5 percent.

    Economic benefits of enterprises have continued to increase this year, and production and business operations of major industries, such as coal, metallurgy, building materials and petrochemicals, have maintained a favorable momentum. The contribution of the four sectors—electronic and information equipment manufacturing, metallurgy, machinery building and transportation—to industrial growth reached 41.5 percent. Agricultural restructuring has made much headway with quality and efficient agriculture developing rapidly.

    Low prices prevail. Rising domestic demand since the beginning of this year has produced little effects on prices. The general level of consumer price rose by 1.1 percent in the first half of this year. Of this, the prices of recreational, educational and cultural commodities rose by 9.3 percent, and housing prices by 1.8 percent; while the prices of food, garments, household appliances, service items, transportation and communications declined. The ex-factory prices of industrial products rose by 0.3 percent, and the purchasing prices of raw materials, fuel and power rose by 1.8 percent, with the growth rate lower than during the same period last year in varying degrees. All this demonstrates that domestic supply continues to exceed demand.

    Domestic investment will fall in the second half of this year, as will China’s exports, while consumer demand will remain stable. All these factors will combine to steadily reduce China’s economic growth. A recent survey by the economic forecast department of the National Information Center demonstrates that China’s economic situation this year heavily depends on a rise in investments, especially that by non-governmental sectors. China’s GDP is expected to grow between 7.5 percent and 7.8 percent this year, as long as its macro-economy and the international economy maintain steady.

    Pervez Musharraf

    My favorite headline ever- “Peace- irreversible”. Instead of the words “intractable, perpetual and preventable” it is warming to read a positive mention concerning a long standing conflict. Still I’m always wary of peace deals that stem from sporting events (cricket summit). Hopefully, the peace process will evolve without descending into clandestine terrorism and maybe Silverback can capture the story if he gets funding for his prospective.

    India and Pakistan aim to create a "soft border" in Kasmir

    NEW DELHI, April 18 (Reuters) – Declaring their peace process irreversible, nuclear rivals India and Pakistan agreed on Monday to open up the militarised frontier dividing Kashmir, capping a visit to New Delhi by President Pervez Musharraf.In a significant coming together, Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said they would work towards a “soft border” in Kashmir, opening meeting points for divided families and boosting trade, travel and cooperation across the frontier.Reading a joint statement as he stood next to Musharraf, Singh said the two, “conscious of the historic opportunity created by the improved relations and the overwhelming desire of the peoples of the two countries for durable peace…determined that the peace process was now irreversible”.But while the agreement on the approach was a breakthrough, there was, as expected, no major progress towards a final solution on Kashmir, at the heart of half a century of hostility and which almost sparked a fourth war in 2002.“This is what I call going towards a soft border,” Musharraf had said earlier. “But a soft border is not a final solution.”The joint statement said terrorism would not be allowed to derail peace efforts and clearly warned Islamic separatists fighting Indian rule that neither side would tolerate attacks on a just-launched bus service uniting the divided Himalayan region.The two leaders agreed to increase bus services across the ceasefire line and open the fenced and heavily guarded frontier, once dubbed the world’s most dangerous flashpoint by the United States, to freight trucks and pilgrims.“I think the outcome has been better than I expected,” Musharraf, due in Manila later on Monday, told reporters earlier.The two took no questions after Singh read out the statement.Some Indian analysts believe softening the ceasefire line could eventually lead to it forming a new border to end the dispute, although Pakistan rejects this.


    The three-day visit by the Delhi-born Musharraf was originally intended as an informal trip to watch Pakistan play India in cricket—Pakistan won on Sunday—but effectively turned into a summit with Singh, born in what is now Pakistan.

    Analysts welcomed the talks, four years after Musharraf walked away from a failed summit in the Taj Mahal city of Agra.“I was cautiously optimistic about the peace process. Now, I am optimistic,” said Uday Bhaskar, of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses and New Delhi.“The spirit of this round of talks as reflected in the joint statement showed that neither side is trying to score brownie points but is cognisant of the concerns of the other.”Amid heavy security, Musharraf has received a hero’s welcome since arriving in the northern Indian city of Ajmer on Saturday to pray for peace at South Asia’s most famous Sufi Muslim shrine.“Man of the match: Musharraf” declared the front page headline in India’s The Economic Times.“Flexibility had to be shown by both sides, but this is a major departure … it is an achievement for common ground, towards a solution and the original positions on both sides,” said Ershad Mahmood, of Islamabad’s Institute of Policy Studies.“This is the first time… (common ground) has happened in history. So this is major flexibility being shown by both sides.”On Sunday, Musharraf met Kashmiri separatist leaders, who he says must be brought into any peace process for it to work. The All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference leaders are due to meet Singh for the first time soon, although no date has been set.But on Monday, militants accused him of selling out.“Musharraf has agreed to a sell out on Kashmir in return of trade, tourism and devil cultural ties with India,” said a joint statement by four groups who have threatened the bus service.“Once hero of Kargil, the general has knelt down before India,” they said, referring to near war in Kashmir in 1999.Tens of thousands of people, many of them civilians, have died in a 15-year rebellion by Islamic rebels against Indian rule in Kashmir and violence continues unabated, despite the new thaw.South Asia’s military giants have fought three wars since Britain partitioned its Indian empire in 1947, two over Kashmir.


    Cardinal Ratzinger elected pope
    Benedict VXI

    VATICAN CITY — With unusual speed and little surprise, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany became Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday, a 78-year-old transitional leader who promises to enforce strictly conservative policies for the world's Roman Catholics.

    Appearing on St Peter's Basilica balcony as dusk fell, a red cape over his new white robes, the white-haired Ratzinger called himself "a simple, humble worker."

    The crowd responded to the 265th pope by waving flags and chanting "Benedict! Benedict!"

    From Notre Dame in Paris to the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City, cathedral bells tolled and prayers were offered. Millions watched live television broadcasts of St Peter's bells pealing at 6:04 p.m. and white smoke pouring from the Sistine Chapel's chimney — signs a successor to John Paul II had been chosen.

    Not everyone was happy, however. Jose Silvano, a 40-year-old travel agent from Brazil, called Ratzinger "the right pope for the cardinals, but not for the people. We were hoping for a South American, a Brazilian, a pope who would work for the neediest and the rights of women and children."

    Niels Hendrich, 40, of Hamburg, Germany, jumped up and down at the prospect of a new pope — but then gave only three halfhearted claps when he learned who it was.

    "I am not happy about this at all," he said. "Ratzinger will put the brakes on all the progressive movements in the church that I support."

    Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali, who worked for more than two decades in Vatican diplomacy, said the decision to choose Ratzinger was not made in the days leading up to the conclave or as a result of Ratzinger's moving homily at Pope John Paul II's funeral.

    "Decisions like this are not made on how a person impresses you in the last five minutes, the last hours, the last days," he said, adding that the cardinals were looking for a pope who would carry forward the work of John Paul.

    At the sound of the bells, nuns pulled up their long skirts and joined others jogging toward St Peter's Square to watch the new pope emerge. Many were delighted when Chilean Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estivez stepped onto the balcony and announced Ratzinger's election.

    "The cardinals elected a good and holy man who was close to Pope John Paul II," said Mark Wunsch, 27, a religious philosophy student from Denver. "He'll be a wonderful and good leader in preaching the truth and love."

    As head of the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger disciplined dissidents, backed John Paul in resisting reforms sought by liberals and urged caution in pursuing relations with other Christian denominations.

    Coming from a continent where many churches are empty, he has pushed for Europe to rediscover its Christian roots while suggesting that Turkey's bid for membership in the European Union may be incompatible with European culture.

    "Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me — a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord," the new pope said in heavily accented Italian after being introduced.

    "The fact that the Lord can work and act even with insufficient means consoles me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers," he said.

    Ratzinger went into the conclave a favorite. But the cardinals had appeared torn among choosing a short-term pope, returning the papacy to Italy after Polish-born John Paul's 26-year reign or electing a prelate from Latin America, home to nearly half the world's 1.1 billion Catholics.

    His election in four ballots over two days — the first of Tuesday's afternoon session — was one of the shortest in 100 years.

    Inside the Sistine Chapel, there was spontaneous applause as soon as cardinals realized Ratzinger had won, according to Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Germany.

    "And I burst out crying," Meisner said.

    Meisner gave a few clues about the new pope's emotional reaction on being named. He said Benedict XVI looked "a little forlorn" when he went to change into his papal vestments in the Room of Tears — which earned its nickname because many new pontiffs get choked up there, realizing the enormity of their mission.

    "I was worried, because when he came back dressed in his white vestments, I thought he had forgotten his skullcap," Meisner said. "But then I realized his hair is as white as his skullcap."

    Meisner added: "By the time dinner came around, Ratzinger was looking much better and very much like the pope."

    As dean of the College of Cardinals, Ratzinger had delivered a particularly sensitive homily at John Paul's funeral. He followed it up with a fiery speech to the cardinals before they entered their conclave Monday, warning about tendencies that he considered dangers to the faith: sects, ideologies like Marxism, liberalism, atheism, agnosticism and relativism — the ideology that there are no absolute truths.

    "Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church is often labeled today as a fundamentalism," he said. "Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and swept along by every wind of teaching, looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards."

    The contrast with the crowd-pleasing, world-traveling John Paul, elected at age 58, may be sharp, though the new pope, like his predecessor, is multilingual: He speaks German, Italian, French, Latin, Spanish and English, according to New York Cardinal Edward Egan.

    Ratzinger, the oldest pope elected since Clement XII in 1730, has no apparent history of chronic health problems but has been hospitalized at least twice since the early 1990s, according to records and reports.

    In September 1991, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage that temporarily affected his left field of vision, according to the veteran Vatican journalist John Allen in his 2000 book "Cardinal Ratzinger." There is no indication that it left any lingering health difficulties.

    In August 1992, he cut his head after slipping in the bathroom during a vacation in the Italian Alps, the Italian news agency ANSA reported at the time.

    According to Meisner, the new pope also plans to keep John Paul's appointment in August at the church's World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany.

    Ratzinger is the first Germanic pope in nearly 1,000 years. There were at least three German popes in the 11th century. The last pope from a German-speaking land was Victor II, bishop of Eichstatt, who reigned from 1055-57.

    Like John Paul, whose country was occupied by the Nazis, Ratzinger also has a World War II legacy.

    In his memoirs, he wrote of being enrolled in Hitler's Nazi youth movement against his will when he was 14 in 1941, when membership was compulsory. He says he was soon let out because of his studies for the priesthood.

    Two years later, he was drafted into a Nazi anti-aircraft unit as a helper, a common fate for teenage boys too young to be soldiers. Enrolled as a soldier at 18, in the last months of the war, he barely finished basic training.

    "We are certain that he will continue on the path of reconciliation between Christians and Jews that John Paul II began," said Paul Spiegel, head of Germany's main Jewish organization.

    Benedict XVI decided to spend the night at the Vatican hotel, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, and to dine with the cardinals. He was to preside over a Mass on Wednesday in the Sistine Chapel and will be formally installed Sunday.

    If Ratzinger was paying tribute to the last pontiff named Benedict, it could be interpreted as a bid to soften his image as a doctrinal hard-liner. Benedict XV reigned during World War I and was credited with settling animosity between traditionalists and modernists, and dreamed of reunion with Orthodox Christians.

    Benedict comes from the Latin for "blessing" and is one of a number of papal names of holy origin such as Clement ("mercy"), Innocent ("hopeful" as well as "innocent") and Pius ("pious").

    The bells of St Peter's rang after a confusing smoke signal that Vatican Radio initially suggested was black but then declared was too difficult to call.

    The cardinals took an oath of secrecy forbidding them to divulge how they voted. Under conclave rules, a winner needed two-thirds support, or 77 votes from the 115 cardinal electors.

    After the smoke appeared, the faithful poured into the square, their eyes fixed on the burgundy-draped balcony. Pilgrims said the rosary as they awaited the name of the new pope and prelates stood on the roof of the Apostolic Palace, watching as the crowd swelled.

    Antoinette Hastings, from Kent Island, Md, rose from her wheelchair, grasping her hands together and crying. She has artificial knees, making it tough to stand.

    "I feel blessed, absolutely blessed," she said. "I just wish the rest of my family were here to experience this with me."

    In the pope's hometown of Traunstein, Germany, a room full of 13-year-old boys at St. Michael's Seminary that Ratzinger attended jumped up and down, cheered and clapped at the announcement of his name.

    "It's fantastic that it's Cardinal Ratzinger. I met him when he was here before and I found him really nice," said 16-year-old Lorenz Gradl.

    Ratzinger succeeds a pope who gained extraordinary popularity over history's third-longest papacy. Millions mourned him around the world after his death on April 2.

    While John Paul, a Pole, was elected to challenge the communist system in place in Eastern Europe in 1978, Benedict faces new issues: the need for dialogue with Islam, the divisions between the wealthy north and the poor south as well as problems within the church.These include the priest sex abuse scandals that have cost the church millions in settlements in the United States and elsewhere; coping with a chronic shortage of priests and nuns in the West; and halting the stream of people leaving the church. (Wire reports)

    Maharaja Yadavinder Singh
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