WikiLeaks: ‘US had multiple conversations with India’

Washington, Nov 30 (PTI) The US had multiple conversations with Indian officials on the release of secret documents pertaining to India by the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks, according to the State Department.


President Barack Obama talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the Oval Office during the Prime Minister's state visit to the White House, Nov. 24, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

“We have had multiple conversations with officials in India. And like India and other countries, we’ll continue those conversations in the coming days,” State Department spokesman P J Crowley said at his daily news conference.

Ahead of WikiLeaks’ release of a quarter million classified US documents, the State Department had reached out to India warning it about the impending leak.

“We have reached out to India to warn them about a possible release of documents,” Crowley had said. “We do not know precisely what WikiLeaks has or what it plans to do.

We have made our position clear. These documents should not be released,” he had said.

Gibraltarian Chief Minister suggests joint sovereignty with Spain

Chief Minister of Gibraltar Peter Caruana has been discussing the possibility of the British overseas territory having joint sovereignty with Spain. He suggested that Gibraltar take an Andorra-style status.

Caruana’s suggestion has caused controversy in both Gibraltar and the United Kingdom. Many people in Gibraltar have said they want to remain British and Gibraltarian. The media in Gibraltar has also spoken out against the move using the phrase “Give Spain an inch and they will take a mile!” His decision has come as a surprise; in 2002 Caruana announced a referendum against joint sovereignty. If the plan goes ahead, another referendum would be held.

Celebrations with the flags of Gibraltar and the United Kingdom Image: Gibnews.

Andorra received their joint sovereignty in 1993. The move forced the European Union to change its constitution. Andorra has a joint deal with Spain and France.

Some Spanish politicians are worrying that the suggestion will be too heavily looked into during the 2012 Spanish general election. Trinidad Jiménez, Spain’s minister for foreign affairs, has asked that it not be a part of their election agenda.

Liberal member Dr Joseph Garcia also commented on the event. He said “The Spanish claim to Gibraltar has always featured to a greater or lesser extent in every general election in Gibraltar and the next ones are not likely to be any different.”

He added that “There is serious concern on the Rock at the number and scale of Spanish incursions into Gibraltar’s territorial sea. We had pointed out that the Guardia Civil were becoming increasingly reckless and cavalier in their intrusions into Gibraltar’s waters. This was seen at the end of last year when they entered the Port of Gibraltar and actually landed on Gibraltar soil. There was also another extremely serious incursion in September of this year where the Guardia Civil removed a suspect who was about to be arrested by the Royal Gibraltar Police inside our territorial waters. They have shown a complete lack of respect for British sovereignty, jurisdiction and control over Gibraltar’s territorial sea and it is imperative that these incursions cease forthwith before the matter escalates even further. Spain must understand that under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Gibraltar is legally entitled to claim territorial waters of its own.”

Wikileaks cable disclosure shows Arab fears of Iranian ambitions

Sunday night’s release of leaked United States diplomatic cables shows widespread concern in the Arab world over Iran’s ambitions to build a “Persian Empire in the 21st Century”.

Wikileaks, so far, have released under 300 of the quarter million plus diplomatic communications posted to them on a memory stick. The small sample shows, over several months, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait and Bahrain asserting that further sanctions against Iran will likely have no effect.

President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Early November last year, General David Petraeus discussed the situation with King Hamad of Bahrain, who argued for the use of force to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions; stating: “The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.”

In that meeting concern was expressed that more Arab involvement in Iraq was needed to frustrate Iranian plans. Petraeus was told Bahrain sought Egyptians and Saudis support, but talks with the latter revealed no interest in taking a leading rôle.

The King did welcome the prospect of India becoming involved in the region as a stabilising influence.

A mid-December meeting between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the UAE and US Deputy Secretary of Energy, Daniel Poneman, saw the subject brought up again. In a discussion that touched on the two countries renewable energy plans, and reliable movement of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, the Prince asserted Iran saw itself as spearheading a campaign for a “Persian Empire in the 21st Century.” Alleging Iran has established “emirates” in Kuwait, Bahrain, Eastern Saudi Arabia, Southern Iraq, Yemen, and South Lebanon, his picture of Iranian nuclear ambitions is “Al-Qaeda is not going to get a nuclear bomb; Iran is a matter of time.”

The Prince was keen to stress that those in power are the same people who, in 1979, seized the US embassy in Tehran.

Subsequent talks between a congressional appropriations sub-committee and UAE’s Foreign Minister were the scene of equally serious predictions. The sub-committee, consisting of Nita Lowey, Tom Cole, Barbara Lee, and Donna Edwards, heard from Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan that if Iran became a nuclear state the rest of the region would likely follow suit.

Plans to keep the fifteen-millions-plus barrels of oil passing through the Strait of Hormuz each day moving were discussed. Whilst keen to weaken Iranian ties with China, Sheikh Abdullah stressed the US$50 billion in trade between the two; this being considered an obstacle to China backing, and enforcing, a stronger sanctions regime.

The sub-committee’s Emirates host, like many in the region, stated progress on the Israeli peace process was a good route to de-escalation.

A meeting in Febuary this year with Kuwaiti Interior Minister Jaber Al-Khaled Al Sabah was the scene of comparable warnings. Alongside discussions on travel restrictions to be enforced against former Guantanamo Bay detainees, he described Iran as the “beating heart” of Islamic Extremism.

Concerns over Iran’s involvement in Yemen were discussed, with the minister saying Iran is intent on exporting its revolution; that its nuclear ambitions can only be thwarted by force.

Updating the US on perceived Iranian actions, he claimed they were attempting to infiltrate Egypt by recruiting the poor. And, they were becoming involved in the drugs trade, shipping narcotics into Yemen to fund millitants.

The cable on the Kuwait meeting closes referring recipients to a wiki page: Wikinews believes this is probably a page on the US State Department’s Diplopedia; an internal project, based on the same technology as Wikipedia and intended for use building dossiers on countries, regions, their politicians, and diplomats.

A cable originating in London from January this year is corroborated by later U.S. news reports; hinting that the Iranian government may indeed be using tactics more reminiscent of the cold-war.

In the opening weeks of the year, London-based Voice of America commentator, Ali Reza Nourizadeh was advised that Mohammed Reza Sadeqinia intended to target him for assassination, along with others. Sadeqinia was previously arrested in California, and prosecuted for attempting to hire a hit man. The target at that time was reported to be Iranian-American broadcaster Jamshid Sharmahd, one of the main figures behind Tondar — a loose collection of in-exile Iranians opposed to the current regime.

Tehran insists Tondar is a terrorist organisation, accusing it of being responsible for a 2008 bombing that killed 14.

Sadeqinia, who worked as a painter in Ann Arbour, was arrested on July 28, 2009 near Los Angeles International Airport in posession of thousands of dollars and an Iranian passport. FBI investigations into his possible Iranian government ties were still ongoing a month before his scheduled release in July this year.

Found guilty by Los Angeles Superior Court of attempting to hire someone to murder Sharmahd, he had been expected to spend around a year in jail. Tondar spokesman Iman Afar, in the lead up to Sedeqina’s release, expressed concern for his own safety and that of others in the L.A. area.

HYLAS Satellite Reaches Geostationary Orbit

HYLAS (Highly Adaptable Satellite), which was launched successfully on November 27, 2010 by the European Ariane-5 V198 launch vehicle, has reached the geostationary orbit.

HYLAS (Highly Adaptable Satellite).

It may be recalled that the HYLAS, the satellite jointly built by ISRO/Antrix and EADS/Astrium of Europe for Avanti communications of U.K. was initially injected into an elliptical Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) with a perigee of 250 km, apogee of 35,906 km and inclination of 1.99o.

ISROs Master Control Facility at Hassan immediately took over the control and command operations of the satellite. The perigee was raised from 250 km to 35,521 km by firing the satellite’s Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) of 432 Newton thrust level in three phases on Nov 28th (for 1 hour 19 minutes), on Nov 29th (for 30 minutes) and today (for about 4 minutes).

The HYLAS Satellite, presently in an orbit of 35,521 km (perigee) x 35,800 km (apogee) is in good health and in continuous radio-visibility from Hassan. One of its communication antennas has also been deployed successfully.

European Commission to investigate anti-competitive allegations against Google

The European Union’s executive body, the European Commission, has started investigating web search giant Google over anti-trust allegations by price comparison service Foundem and French legal services website At-stake are allegations that Googles AdWords results are manipulated to prioritise certain advertisers.

European Commission's headquarters; the Berlaymont building in Brussels, Belgium

The complainants allege price comparison sites receive a lower ‘quality score’, thus being knocked out of fully automated, unpaid-for results; or, being required to pay more for advertising through the search giant’s AdWords program. Google rejects Foundem’s allegations, arguing the majority of content on price comparison sites is duplicated from other sites, asserting Foundem “duplicates 79% of its website content from other sites, thus adding no value.” The company line is, “[w]e have consistently informed webmasters that our algorithms disadvantage duplicate sites”.

The European Commission has a history of carrying out anti-trust investigations involving technology companies. Microsoft was ordered to pay substantial penalties for ‘bundling’ Windows with their Media Player; and, within the EU, must distribute a version of Windows that does not have said bundled software. A similar battle was fought over the automatic inclusion of Internet Explorer with their operating systems.

Google has previously been the subject of anti-trust allegations and investigations. United States authorities blocked Google from buying Yahoo!, citing concerns over a near-monopoly in search; Google’s purchase of mobile advertising company AdMob was also subject to anti-trust scrutiny by the US prior to being allowed to go ahead.

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