10 Oct.10, 2009 Rare Meeting Myanmar’s junta leader allowed detained Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi a rare meeting with western diplomats on Friday to discuss sanctions imposed against the military-ruled country. World UN Seeking Stronger Afghan Mission The UN Security Council voted unanimously to extend the mandate of NATO-led troops in Afghanistan for a year and urged that it be reinforced. A resolution called on “member states to contribute personnel, equipment and other resources” to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), BBC wrote. The renewal comes as the Obama administration is locked in a series of meetings on future troop deployment. The top US commander has recommended sending an extra 40,000 troops. However, sources close to the series of talks have suggested the administration is discussing whether it could work with “reconcilable” elements of the Taliban and concentrate on targeting Al-Qaeda. This might mean a lower number of additional troops, analysts say. However, a decision on this is not expected for several weeks. The UN mandate renewal was fully expected but the resolution also stressed the need for reinforcement. The ISAF force in Afghanistan has about 67,000 troops from 42 countries, about two-thirds from the US. US Urged to Advance Disarms Arms Reduction Issue Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called on Friday on the United States to advance the process of strategic arms reduction. “While dealing with non-proliferation, we must simultaneously deal with the limitation and reduction of strategic offensive potentials--both carriers and nuclear warheads,” Medvedev said in an interview with Russia’s Channel One to be broadcast on Sunday, RIA Novosti reported. “Today we have the chance to advance this process. We will be dealing with this. And I call on our American partners to do the same,” he said. The president added that Russia and the United States also had a good chance of agreeing on a new strategic arms reduction treaty. “There is definitely a chance for the agreement, since the new US administration has demonstrated interest in this issue. This was not so with the previous administration, as it did not consider this issue a priority in its foreign policy,” Medvedev said. Medvedev and his US counterpart Barack Obama agreed in July in Moscow on the outline of a deal to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-1), which expires on December 5, including cutting their countries’ nuclear arsenals to 1,500-1,675 operational warheads and delivery vehicles to 500-1,000. No Aid Unless N. Korea Leaders of South Korea and Japan called on Friday for a new approach to force North Korea to give up atomic arms as Pyongyang planned to send an envoy to the United States, a trip which could revive dormant nuclear talks. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and new Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama showed a united front at a summit in Seoul in confronting one of the most pressing security risks in the region. They said they wanted to avoid previous mistakes in the sporadic, sixcountry nuclear negotiations, Reuters reported. “Unless there is a precise change in North Korea’s actions, we should not provide economic cooperation. North Korea’s will to change must be seen.” Hatoyama told a joint news conference. Lee is looking to offer North Korea what he called “a grand bargain” of incentives in return for lasting steps to end its nuclear arms program. “The two countries should strictly enforce UN Security Council resolutions while leaving the door open for dialogue and make all diplomatic efforts so that the North will return to the six-party talks,” Lee added. Honduras Meeting Ends in Stalemate Talks on ways to resolve a political crisis in Honduras have ended in deadlock after the interim government refused to reinstate ousted president Manuel Zelaya. The talks were held in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa on October 7-8 and mediated by the Organization of American States (OAS), RIA Novosti reported. However, despite the lack of results, the OAS mission remains hopeful of a resumption of discussions. “We are convinced that dialogue will be continued and the sides will overcome the political crisis in Honduras,” the mission said in a statement read by Costa Rican Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno. The talks involved foreign ministers of South American states, representatives of international organizations, as well as delegations representing Zelaya and the de facto government. Zelaya was bundled out of Honduras on June 28 by the military, acting on instructions from the Supreme Court and parliament, for his efforts to seek an unconstitutional second presidential term. He was flown to Costa Rica. He returned to the country on September 21 and took refuge in the Brazilian Embassy. The OAS also called on de facto leader Roberto Micheletti, the parliamentary speaker named interim leader, to observe civil rights and to lift a ban on the opposition media. In Focus Armenia-Azerbaijan Talks Constructive Armenia said on Friday that talks with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorny Karabakh region had been “constructive” but made no mention of a potential breakthrough in the long-running conflict. Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev met late Thursday in the Moldovan capital Chisinau on the sidelines of a summit of ex-Soviet countries, the Armenian presidency said in a statement, AFP reported. “During the three-hour meeting, the sides demonstrated constructive attitudes for continuing the negotiations on the conflict’s peaceful resolution,” the statement said. The US, French and Russian co-chairs of the Minsk Group, which is mediating the talks, said the meeting showed negotiations were moving forward. “This was the fifth meeting between the two presidents in the last 10 months and confirmed the positive dynamic of their negotiations,” the group said in a statement from Chisinau, where the co-chairs took part in the meeting. Backed by Yerevan, ethnic Armenian separatists seized control of Nagorny Karabakh and seven surrounding districts from Azerbaijan in the early 1990s, in a war that claimed an estimated 30,000 lives. The two countries have cut direct economic and transport links and failed to negotiate a settlement on the region’s status despite years of talks. Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize P resident Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said, citing his outreach to the Muslim world and attempts to curb nuclear proliferation. The stunning choice made Obama the third sitting US president to win the Nobel Peace Prize and shocked Nobel observers because Obama took office less than two weeks before the Feb. 1 nomination deadline. Obama’s name had been mentioned in speculation before the award but many Nobel watchers believed it was too early to award the president, AP reported. Speculation had focused on Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, a Colombian senator and a Chinese dissident, along with an Afghan woman’s rights activist. Rebels Kill 17 Indian Police Security forces were searching forests in central India on Friday after suspected Maoist rebels ambushed a patrol team, killing at least 17 policemen, a top official said. A patrol team of 40 policemen was conducting a security drill Thursday in Gadchiroli, in northeast Maharashtra state, when the rebels attacked, said Johny Joseph, state’s chief secretary, AP reported. About 300 rebels surrounded the patrol team, opening fire and leaving at least 17 dead before fleeing into neighboring Chattisgarh state, he said. Security forces combed the forests near Gadchiroli, more than 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) southeast of New Delhi, in search of the rebels, Joseph said. Additional troops were also sent to the region, which is considered a rebel stronghold. It was not immediately known if any of the insurgents were killed or wounded. Rebels usually retrieve the bodies of their comrades. The attack came a day after India’s home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram ordered the rebels to lay down their arms and begin negotiations with the government. Move to Help End Bosnia Deadlock The US and European Union have brought together Bosnian politicians from all sides for a meeting aimed at breaking the political deadlock in the country. Friday’s talks are expected to include the subject of constitutional reform, BBC reported. The aim of the talks as a whole is to move the country forward towards eventual membership of the EU and NATO. Bosnia struggles with an unwieldy government and 14 years after the devastating war of independence, there are still deep political divisions. The 1995 Dayton peace accords created a federal state with two highly autonomous entities: the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Lingering hostility between each ethnic group has led to a steady increase in nationalist rhetoric, with the Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik repeatedly threatening to call a referendum on secession. That, say some Muslim politicians, could lead to a new outbreak of violence. Creation of New Climate The Nobel committee praised Obama’s creation of “a new climate in international politics” and said he had returned multilateral diplomacy and institutions like the UN to the center of the world stage. The plaudit appeared to be a slap at President George W. Bush from a committee that harshly criticized Obama’s predecessor for resorting to largely unilateral military action in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Rather than recognizing concrete achievement, the 2009 prize appeared intended to support initiatives that have yet to bear fruit: reducing the world stock of nuclear arms, easing American conflicts with Muslim nations and strengthening the US role in combating climate change. “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future,” Thorbjoern Jagland, chairman of the Nobel Committee said. “In the past year Obama has been a key person for important initiatives in the UN for nuclear disarmament and to set a completely new agenda for the Muslim world and EastWest relations.” President Theodore Roosevelt won the award in 1906 and President Woodrow Barack Obama Wilson won in 1919. The committee chairman said after awarding the 2002 prize to former Democratic President Jimmy Carter, for his mediation in international conflicts, that it should be seen as a “kick in the leg” to the Bush administration’s hard line in the buildup to the Iraq war. Five years later, the committee honored Bush’s adversary in the 2000 presidential election, Al Gore, for his campaign to raise awareness about global warming. Incredulity Over Award Incredulity followed the Nobel Peace Prize award for Obama, less than a year after his historic election and as he grapples with two wars, DPA reported. The move was seen as an expression of high expectations by the world that the country’s first African-American president will move forward on a raft of international issues, rather than as acknowledgement of what he has accomplished in just nine short months. Those issues include the nuclear crisis with Iran, the Middle East peace process and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At home, the award comes just as the US public’s honeymoon with Obama is coming to an end, with growing impatience with continuing economic malaise and ongoing loss of life of US soldiers in Afghanistan. “It’s very clear they have wanted to encourage President Obama to move on those issues he has been talking about,” Martti Oiva Kalevi Ahtisaari, the 2008 peace prize winner, told CNN. Taliban Condemns Prize The Taliban on Friday condemned the prize, saying rather than bring peace to Afghanistan he had boosted troop numbers and continued the aggressive policies of his predecessor. “We have seen no change in his strategy for peace. He has done nothing for peace in Afghanistan,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP. “We condemn the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for Obama,” he said by telephone from an undisclosed location. Obama was praised as a worthy Nobel Peace Prize winner although many admirers said the award was based on his potential, not his accomplishments. The youthful president is seen as having changed the stance and substance of US foreign policy, reversing many of his predecessor’s unilateral policies and emphasizing the need for diplomacy, cooperation and mutual respect. Sarkozy Popularity Dips Amid Minister Scandal The sex scandal surrounding France’s culture minister has come at a bad time for President Nicolas Sarkozy whose popularity among voters took another dip, according to a poll published Friday. The survey was conducted this week, when Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand had to defend his honor over a book he wrote describing paying young men for sex, AP reported. Mitterrand has kept his job so far, but the controversy has posed yet another challenge for Sarkozy, who is struggling with France’s worst economic slump since World War II. Sarkozy hasn’t spoken publicly about Mitterrand’s book, though Mitterrand said the two met privately Thursday and Sarkozy “confirmed his confidence” in the culture minister. The poll by the CSA agency shows 41 percent of respondents trust the president to confront the country’s problems, down 6 percent from a month earlier. The poll of 1,003 people was conducted by telephone Tuesday and Wednesday. No margin of error was given. The polling agency noted a particular drop in support among Sarkozy’s core voters, who oppose his policies of reaching out to those outside his right-wing circle--such as Mitterrand, nephew of the late former French president, Socialist Francois Mitterrand. Politicians and voters remained divided over the culture minister, after he went on national television Thursday night to tamp down calls for his resignation and explain his complicated personal past.