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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Michael's Morning 7 - 3 June

Al Qaeda's second-in-command urged Egyptians not to be seduced by the 'polished words' of what he called the criminal Barack Obama when the U.S. President makes a speech in Cairo seeking to repair ties with the Muslim world. "O, Egypt's free, righteous and honorable people and mujahideen; stand united in the face of this criminal," Ayman al-Zawahri, an Egyptian, said in an audio recording posted on an al Qaeda-linked Islamist website. "(Obama's) bloody messages have been received and are still being received and they will not be concealed by public relations campaigns or theatrical visits or polished words." Obama has chosen Egypt to make an address to the Islamic world that he had promised for early in his presidency. He will seek to dispel resentments inflamed by U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington by militant Islamists.

UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, has said that the leaders of the island’s two communities discussed Wednesday the chapter of economy and the Limnitis issue, (relating to efforts to open a crossing point to and from the northern Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus to facilitate movement). In statements after the leaders’ 31st meeting, which took place in the framework of direct negotiations for a solution, under UN auspices, Downer said that the leaders, Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat will begin discussing the issue of territory during their next meeting to take place June 11th. Invited to comment on information that he is in favor of Turkish army and settlers remaining on the island, after a solution is achieved, Downer said that as a ''politician for many years I am used to people putting words in my mouth. 'I don't have any model that I think should be imposed on Cyprus and I am not promoting any particular model privately or publicly'', he remarked. The UN, he added, do what they can to help with the process but ''do not have a position on the Treaty of Guarantee, on troops and that sort of questions'', noting that the leaders have not begun discussing those issues yet.

Al Qaeda's North African wing said on Wednesday it had carried out its threat to kill a British hostage it was holding in the Sahara. An official source in Algeria told Reuters: "The Briton, according to our information, has been killed by AQIM (al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) in Mali." An official source in Algeria told Reuters: "The Briton, according to our information, has been killed by AQIM (al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) in Mali." The group had said it would kill the Briton if the British government did not release Abu Qatada, a Jordanian Islamist it is holding in prison. "The British captive was killed so that he, and with him the British state, may taste a tiny portion of what innocent Muslims taste every day at the hands of the Crusader and Jewish coalition to the east and to the west," the statement said. The announcement of the killing came as U.S. President Barack Obama headed to the Middle East hoping to start mending U.S. ties with the Islamic world in a speech that will tackle issues including extremist violence.

There are few feuds more dreadful than family feuds, where common blood excites both love and hatred, and familiarity breeds a never-ending contempt. And so it is with Ukraine and Russia. For centuries, the territory now known as ‘Ukraine’ was practically synonymous with Russia, and vice versa. But since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the rise of nationalistic passions across the CIS, relations between Moscow and Kiev have come to resemble a bitter battle between competitive siblings. For Russia, Ukraine, besides serving as a (somewhat) reliable transit route for its gas exports to European markets, is a vital landmass that would absorb, or at least slow down, any hypothetical attack that might emerge from the West. NATO has already signed up Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the insanely anti-Russian Baltic countries that all border parts of Russian territory. And with ongoing speculation over a US missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland, Moscow will fight against any further NATO-ization in its sphere of interest, and that means Ukraine, and to a lesser degree perhaps, Georgia. If there were not gas supplies to bicker over, Moscow and Kiev would certainly find another source of disagreement. But hopefully the ongoing antagonism will amount to nothing more tragic than two competitive brothers who, argue though they may, will never forsake the other due to their common heritage.

New Zealand, the Pacific island nation of 4.2 million people and 40 million sheep, is the planet’s most peaceful country this year, according to a global index. The U.S. is ranked 83rd. Denmark and Norway follow, while Iceland dropped to fourth place. The index, compiled by the Institute for Economics and Peace in Sydney, ranks 144 countries on 23 areas, from military spending and support for United Nations peacekeepers to economic indicators, murder rates and human rights protection. Iraq is ranked as the world’s least peaceful country, followed by Afghanistan, Somalia and Israel. Bosnia and Herzegovina rose the most, climbing 23 places to 50. The return of refugees from the Balkan wars of the 1990s, and improving relations between the Bosnian Serb state and the Muslim-Croat Federation reduced both murders and the number of police officers in the country. Fourteen of the top 20 countries are in Western or Central Europe, down from 16 last year, as rising inflation and political unrest drove down the peace rankings of Slovakia and Hungary this year. Russia fell three places to 136. According to the report the key elements of peace include “human rights, gender equality, democratic participation, tolerant solidarity, open communication and international security."

As has been the case since 2004, U.S.A. and Germany are the number one and two countries respectively measured by the number of international meetings organised in 2008. The numbers 4 and 5: Spain and France had a considerable increase by amount of meetings compared to 2007: 40 and 79 respectively. For the first time in three years, Vienna shares the top with Paris as the most popular city. Barcelona on third place had an increase of 30 meetings over 2007. Remarkable newcomers in the top 20 are Athens, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and Tokyo. Stockholm and Seoul both climb in the rankings to 8th and 9th position respectively. This year the ICCA Data researchers have identified 7,475 events which took place in 2008, a rise of approximately 800 over 2007. Partly this reflects the strength of the market, partly it is thanks to a record number of ICCA members sending us their calendar information to help identify new events.

The Russian Orthodox Church believes a religious factor will play more significant role in future policy of the European Union. “There is potential for this..., there are quite a lot of secularism followers in the European Union, but they don’t make a majority. Especially today, when two big countries with Orthodox culture, Bulgaria and Romania, have entered the European Union... Let’s remember about millions of Russians and Russian-speaking people who live in the Baltic States - these people belong to jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate..., membership in the European Union is an accomplished fact” for the Russian Orthodox Church “in contrast to the Russian state... “Thus, our Church being an important part of Russia’s civil society is a participant of internal discussion about future of Europe.”