Thursday, July 13, 2006

Tensions Building up to G-8 Summit

Rights Group Criticizes Russia for Silencing Critics, Urges Other G8 Members to Pressure Putin

Via Moscow News:
The U.S.-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch called on Russia Thursday to stop trying to silence critics, and urged the other members of the Group of Eight leading nations to press President Vladimir Putin to better respect human rights, AP reports.

“Russia’s attempts to stifle an independent gathering speak louder than the lip service it pays to democracy,” said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director for Human Rights Watch.

Cartner was referring to an opposition protest in Moscow last week, saying authorities had prevented dozens of would-be participants from reaching it. The G8 summit, which opens Saturday in St. Petersburg, is also expected to attract demonstrators.

Other G8 leaders should “remind President Putin of his obligations to promote democratic freedoms, not interfere with them,” said Cartner.

Bush Will Respectfully Press Putin on Democracy via Moscow News. U.S. President George W. Bush on Thursday said he would press Russian President Vladimir Putin privately on democracy and the need for non-governmental groups to be able to operate without intimidation, the Reuters news agency reports.

“I’ll be firm about my belief in certain democratic institutions. I’ll be firm in my belief about the need for there to be an active civil society,” Bush said at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

UN Sanctions Against Iran Will Not Affect Russian Military Cooperation With Tehran — Official via Moscow News.

Possible UN sanctions against Iran will not affect Russian-Iranian military cooperation, Russia’s foreign minister said Thursday, RIA Novosti news agency reports.

Sergei Lavrov said military and technical cooperation between Russia and Iran “is conducted fully in accordance with international norms.”

At the end of 2005, Russia signed a $700-million contract on supplies of 29 Tor-M1 air defense systems to Iran.

The Tor-M1 is a fifth-generation integrated mobile air defense system designed for operation at medium, low and very low altitudes against fixed/rotary wing aircraft, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle), guided missiles and other high-precision weapons. Despite strong criticism from the United States, Russia has maintained that the systems could be used only to protect Iranian air space.

Via South FL Sun-Sentinel by Terence Hunt AP
ROSTOCK, Germany -- President Bush blamed Syria and Iran for new Middle East violence Wednesday, faced further defiance from Iran and North Korea and got an acerbic retort from Russian President Vladimir Putin to U.S. criticism.

The stack of problems grew as Bush flew here for a 36-hour visit en route to St. Petersburg for difficult talks with Putin about Russia's retreat from democracy
, and then a summit of world powers. Arriving after dark, the president and his wife, Laura, walked down a red carpet lined by a military honor guard and headed straight to their hotel.
Thousands of police were deployed for Bush's protection. Stralsund's residents were forced to move their cars out of the Stralsund's historic center, and everything from bicycles to flower pots was ordered brought inside. Anti-Bush demonstrations were planned well away from the areas that he will tour.

As Bush left Washington, tensions with Iran and North Korea grew higher and there was a sharp escalation of problems in the Middle East. Israel launched a military offensive in southern Lebanon with warplanes, tanks and gunboats after Hezbollah militants captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid.
"This is a terrorist attack and it is clearly timed to exacerbate already high tensions in the region and sow further violence," National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones said. White House press secretary
Tony Snow, in a statement issued as Air Force One flew here, said: "We also hold Syria and Iran, which have provided long-standing support for Hezbollah, responsible for today's violence. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of the Israeli soldiers." [read full article here]

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