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A Seismic Shift

Georgia showed the limits of US power and the beginning of a new multi-polar world. What happened next will be seen as a key moment in world history which changed the entire geo-strategic balance.

Stop the Slaughter

As we go to press the world watches in horror at the unfolding tragedy that is Gaza. Israel’s bombing campaign and ground offensive has left hundreds dead and thousands injured. Across the world millions have demonstrated their solidarity with the people of Gaza and the United Nations has called for an immediate ceasefire and lifting of the blockade

Global Zero Campaign

left A new international campaign for the abolition of nuclear weapons was launched in Paris on 8 December.  British supporters include billionaire Richard Branson, former Conservative Defence Minister Malcolm Rifkind and former Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett.  International supporters include former US President Jimmy Carter and ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

An international opinion poll asked about support for an agreement for all countries to eliminate nuclear weapons according to an agreed timetable.  Overall there was 76 % support for the proposal.  In Britain 55% were in favour.

www.globalzero.org

AWE Staff Should Resign

left Representatives of the Atomic Weapons Establishment near Aldermaston in East Berkshire have met calls for their resignation after they visited the University of Birmingham to recruit students into the development and manufacture of weapons of mass destruction.

Academic staff of the Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education, who are also members of the University community, denounced the nuclear weapons industry and the attempts to recruit students.

Who Funds Iraqi Intelligence Service?

 Patrick Cockburn's Independent Article

If it ever comes to court it should be one of the more interesting libel cases of the decade. The Iraqi National Intelligence Service is threatening to sue Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi politician, for asking who pays for it.

"It is somewhat curious," says Mr Chalabi, "that the intelligence service of a country which is sovereign � that no one really knows who is funding it."

Obama to Shut Guantanamo Prison

left As one of his first acts in the White House, Barack Obama is preparing to move hundreds of detainees from Guantanamo Bay prison to the US where they will be given legal hearings, trials or face yet-to-be-established special terrorist courts.

Mr Obama has a long-standing commitment to shut down Guantanamo, which has become a symbol of injustice for human rights campaigners, and a lightning rod for anti-US criticism since it opened eight years ago. Closing the prison, which is on a part of Cuba leased to the US, will bring to an end one of the most poisonous legacies of the Bush administration while sending a signal that the "war on terror" is under more enlightened management.

20 Killed In Russian Submarine Fire

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At least 20 sailors and shipyard workers have died following a fire on a Russian nuclear-powered submarine which was undergoing sea trials. A further 21 were injured when a fire extinguishing system in the bow of the vessel failed, and they have been ferried ashore by support vessels.

The submarine has been ordered to suspend trials and return immediately to port in Russia's far-eastern Primorye territory.

The name and class of the vessel, and its location when fire broke out, have not been released. But it was assisted by the Russian destroyer Admiral Tributs,which is normally based at Vladivostok, Russia's main Far Eastern naval port on the Sea of Japan.

The fire broke out in the nose of the vessel and its nuclear reactor, situated in the stern, was not affected by the fire, said Russian Pacific Fleet spokesman Captain Igor Dygalo. There were no radiation leaks, he added.

"I declare with full responsibility that the reactor compartment on the nuclear-powered submarine is working normally and the radiation background is normal," he said.Of the 208 people on board when the fire broke out, 81 were servicemen.

The Admiral Tributs took some of the injured back to port.

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev was  being kept abreast of developments, and Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Kolmakov and Navy Commander-in- Chief Vladimir Vysotsky were flying to the scene.

AWE Blockaded

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More than 30 people were arrested yesterday during one of the biggest anti-nuclear protests at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston for 10 years. The gates of the site were blocked as people attached themselves to concrete blocks which had to be broken apart by police. Others climbed scaffolding or lay in the road at the demonstration by about 400 people to mark the start of the UN World Disarmament Week.

They were protesting against a decision to modernise the Aldermaston plant in Berkshire and plans to develop a new warhead for nuclear missiles that the government wants to buy to replace the Trident system

Campaign group Trident Ploughshares said it successfully blocked the A340 for two hours using a tripod of scaffolding with a protester perched on top. Nine protesters locked together also blocked a gate into the site for five hours, it said. Thames Valley Police said around 150 people joined the protest which started at 6am.

"The majority of protesters were peaceful. However, 33 people were arrested, mainly for obstruction of the highway, and taken to custody at Newbury, Loddon Valley, Maidenhead and Abingdon police stations," a spokesman said.

For more information see:  blockawe.blogspot.com

 

International Commission on NNP

Former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans and former Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi co-chaired the first meetings of the International Commission on Nuclear Non Proliferation, which also includes former senior diplomats from Russia, France, Pakistan, the United States, China and six other countries.

The commission was announced by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on a visit to Japan in June. He said at the time its purpose would be to restore and strengthen fragmenting support for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which dates back to 1968 but has not been signed by nuclear powers India, Pakistan or Israel. The group aims to influence a review of the treaty that is due in 2010.

One topic on the agenda is a recent US nuclear accord with India, which would reverse more than three decades of US policy barring the sale of nuclear fuel and technology to countries that have not yet signed the treaty.

Commissioners from other members India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Britain were unable to attend the talks in Sydney.

Mr Evans, who was Australian foreign minister from 1988 to 1996 and who since 2000 has headed the Brussels-based nongovernment organization the International Crisis Group, said reining in the spread of nuclear weapons was as serious an issue the global financial crisis.

North Korea v United States

If you were keeping a scorecard of the nuclear brinkmanship between North Korea and the United States, today it would show game, set and match for Pyongyang over the world's only remaining superpower.

The totalitarian state secured a major strategic victory at the weekend over the US, which finally removed North Korea from its terrorism blacklist, consigning to history President George Bush's description of Pyongyang as a member of the "Axis of Evil".

The decision goes far beyond the realm of symbolism, however. The delisting, which had long been a prize sought by the reclusive and isolated North Korean regime, opens up trade and financial prospects that had been denied under US sanctions. it also comes after the North Koreans threatened to sabotage a hard-fought agreement secured through six-party talks with the US and its neighbours. it warned it would bar UN weapons inspectors from its partially disabled Yongbyon plant and move to restart its weapons programme, accusing the Americans of reneging on a pledge to delist it as a state sponsor of terror.

The US would doubtless argue that impoverished North Korea needed this deal more than the Americans. But the administration, castigated by the Republican right for yielding to North Korean blackmail yet again, clearly needed a diplomatic success in the dying days of George Bush's presidency. The outgoing President hopes to be able to proclaim that he has left the world a safer place by dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons programme under a strict verification process.