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Archive for January 13th, 2010|Daily archive page

JAL shares dive 81 percent in early trade

In World on January 13, 2010 at 4:49 am

Shares in ailing carrier Japan Airlines plunged by more than 81 percent to just seven yen in early trade on Wednesday, hit by a flood of sell orders amid fears it will be delisted from the bourse.


Investors have been dumping the stock on reports that the debt-ridden airline is preparing for a court-backed bankruptcy filing, possibly next week, and that its shares will be delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange.








A Japan Airlines aircraft taxis at Haneda International airport in Tokyo. Shares in ailing carrier Japan Airlines plunged by 81 percent to just seven yen in early trade on Wednesday, hit by a flood of sell orders amid fears it will be delisted from the bourse.

JAL’s share price dived by the daily limit of 30 yen for a second straight day to hit yet another record low of seven yen, down 81.08 percent from Tuesday’s closed.


The government has pledged to avoid a total collapse of the former state-owned carrier, but has refused to rule out bankruptcy proceedings, which could aid JAL’s restructuring but would likely leave investors out of pocket.


US carriers American Airlines and Delta Air Lines are in a bidding war for a slice of the airline, the largest in Asia.


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Airbus warns military plane failure threatens company

In World on January 13, 2010 at 4:49 am

 European aircraft maker Airbus pressed governments on Tuesday to open their wallets to save the troubled A400M military plane project, warning that the company’s viability depended on it.


Airbus chief executive Tom Enders warned that the company might be forced to scrap the long-delayed programme if European clients fail to put up more money to cover cost overruns by the end of the month.


“Now it’s high time for decision,” Enders told reporters in Seville, Spain, adding that the “viability of Airbus as a whole” was at stake.


Airbus has 52,000 employees, with some 10,000 working on the A400M project.


“We should not accept the situation and continue this stupidity that could seriously jeopardise Airbus and its commercial competitiveness,” Enders said.








The Airbus A400M military transporter lands after its first test flight in Seville, 2009.

Developing the high-tech A400M transport planes has proved much more costly and time-consuming than anticipated when the project was agreed in 2003 by NATO members Germany, Spain, France, Britain, Turkey, Belgium and Luxembourg.


A total of 180 aircraft have been ordered for about 20 billion euros (29 billion dollars) but clients are being asked to plough in more to cover unexpected costs and some countries have voiced unease about the extra costs.


Airbus and its parent group, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), have been in discussions over cost overruns for several months with the seven partner countries.


The negotiations are to be wrapped up at the end of this month.


Deliveries are at least three years behind schedule and the project could end up costing up to 11 billion euros more than expected.


EADS has put aside 2.4 billion euros in provisions and is spending 100 million euros per month on the A400M programme, Enders said.


“I ring the alarm bell,” he said.


Turkey said last week it did not want to provide more money.


France has insisted that the programme must go ahead, while Germany looks unwilling to plough more money into the project. Germany and France are the project’s biggest customers, with 60 and 50 orders respectively.


“We want this programme to be completed,” French Defence Minister Herve Morin said in a televised interview.


A source close to the German defence ministry was quoted last Wednesday in the newspaper Handelsblatt as saying: “It is out of the question for us to pay more than the 650 million euros extra stipulated in the contract.”


According to a report in the Financial Times Deutschland last week, Enders told a group of Airbus directors he “no longer believed in pursuing the programme” and had begun to prepare for it to be terminated.


“We made a big mistake when we (entered into) contracts for this aircraft six or seven years ago,” Enders said in an interview with BBC World Business Report late Monday.

“We should not again take a decision which would lead us to further problems in the years to come.”

EADS chief executive Louis Gallois said the programme “cannot go on without knowing” whether it will get the necessary funds.

“Our duty is to protect the interest, the capacity and sustainability of Airbus,” he told reporters in Seville.

Gallois expressed disappointment that no meeting was scheduled with the company while the client governments are scheduled to meet in London on Thursday.

“I regret there is no meeting scheduled with us,” he said.

Despite its A400M project problems, Airbus said it had outperformed US rival Boeing in 2009 with 498 plane deliveries and 310 orders — although net orders totalled 271 owing to cancellations caused by the global credit crunch.

Airbus commercial director John Leahy said the company is forecasting “between 250 and 300” orders in 2010.

But turnover dropped last year and Airbus only delivered 10 of its super-jumbo A380s in 2009 compared to 12 in 2008, company executives said.

Airbus’s turnover reached 41.7 billion euros in 2009, a drop from 43.2 billion euros in 2008, according to preliminary figures. Related article: Airbus says beats Boeing

EADS shares were down 3.14 percent at 14.025 euros in midday trade in Paris.


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Southern-most royal Kushite statues found in Sudan

In World on January 13, 2010 at 4:48 am

Huge granite statues of a pharaoh and other kings have been found in Sudan, a discovery that has shocked archaeologists at how far south the expansive Kushite empire extended, the dig directors said Monday.


The Pharaoh Taharqa, mentioned in the Bible for saving Jerusalem from the Assyrians, was a Kushite from north Sudan but ruled a wide empire through Egypt to the borders of Palestine. The southern borders are unknown. The Kushite civilization survived from 9th century B.C. to the 4th century A.D.


“It’s an amazing shock that we’ve found the statues there particularly Taharqa,” said Julie Anderson, co-director of the project in Dangail, about 350 km (217.5 miles) north of Khartoum.


“This is the furthest south that we know of that a statue of Taharqa has ever been found,” she added.


The dig found four royal statues, of Pharaoh Taharqa (690-664 B.C.), kings Senkamanisken (643-623 B.C.) and Aspelta (593-568 B.C.) as well as part of a crown of a fourth royal who they have yet to identify.


The granite life-size statues would weigh 1.5 tons but appeared to have been deliberately broken at the neck, knees and ankles in a ritual, which may have been due to internal dynastic disputes or an Egyptian pharaoh who came south to assert authority.


The names of the kings were written in hieroglyphics on the backs of the statues, Anderson said.


The Kushite empire ruled for so long because it had control of trade routes, the waters of the river Nile, gold and agriculture.


Salah Mohamed Ahmed, Director of Fieldwork in the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums, said Sudan had more pyramids than its better known neighbor Egypt and more were being discovered every day.


“These statues belong to kings from between the 8th century B.B. to the 6th century B.C.” he told Reuters, adding the site was some 300 km south (by Nile) of the previously known Kushite royal site.


Anderson, assistant keeper in the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan in the British Museum, said working in Sudan was “incredibly exciting” because so little had been excavated.


“The world is discovering Sudan and its fantastic and exciting history,” she said, adding more digs were being planned in the future.


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Campbell denies ‘sexing up’ Iraq dossier

In World on January 13, 2010 at 4:48 am

Tony Blair‘s former chief spin doctor Alastair Campbell has fiercely denied “sexing up” a dossier which claimed Iraq could launch chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes ahead of the 2003 war.


In a defiant appearance Tuesday at a public inquiry on the conflict, Campbell said that while the controversial document could have been “clearer”, he still defended “every single word” of it — and the invasion itself.


“I think Britain as a country should feel incredibly proud of the role it played in taking on one of the most brutal, barbarous regimes in history,” said Campbell, one of the former prime minister‘s closest allies.


The first big name to appear before the Chilcot inquiry, he appeared days before Blair gives evidence later this month or early next.








An anti-war protestor burns a mask outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in central London.

Current prime minister Gordon Brown — who Campbell said was one of the “key ministers” Blair consulted in the run-up to war — will appear after this year’s general election, expected in May.


Aside from his staunch defence of the infamous dossier, Campbell told the inquiry that while Britain pressed the United States to seek a diplomatic solution, Blair wrote notes in 2002 to then president George W. Bush saying he would support military action if this did not work.


“If that cannot be done diplomatically and it is to be done militarily, Britain will be there. That would be the tenor of the communication to the president,” he said.


A large part of Campbell’s evidence focused on a September 2002 dossier which the British government issued to explain its growing concerns over Iraq, six months before Britain joined the invasion.


The BBC subsequently reported that Campbell had “sexed up” the report, which claimed Iraq could launch a chemical or biological attack within 45 minutes, sparking an angry row with the prime minister’s office in Downing Street.


On Tuesday, Campbell again insisted he had never tried to “beef up” anything written by the dossier’s author, John Scarlett, then chairman of a high-level committee advising the government on intelligence.


“At no point did anybody from the prime minister down say to anybody within the intelligence services: ‘You have got to tailor it to fit this judgment or that judgment,'” Campbell said.


“The whole way through, it could not have been made clearer to everybody that nothing would override the intelligence judgments and that John Scarlett was the person who, if you like, had the single pen.”


Campbell, Downing Street’s former director of communications and strategy, resigned in August 2003, the month after Ministry of Defence weapons expert Dr. David Kelly was found dead near his home with slashed wrists.


Kelly believed he may have been the source of the BBC’s “sexing up” story and officials confirmed his name as such to some reporters.


At the time, Campbell insisted he wanted to resign to spend more time with his family well before Kelly’s death and a previous official inquiry exonerated him over the affair. The Chilcot inquiry is not covering Kelly’s death.


Its committee members have faced criticism over alleged soft questioning of witnesses but the ex-BBC journalist who made the original “sexing up” claim was among those to praise their hard line with Campbell Tuesday.


“Campbell, inevitably, ran a classic ‘no surrender’ defence,” Andrew Gilligan wrote on his blog for the Daily Telegraph.


But he praised Chilcot’s committee saying they “asked often exactly the right questions.”

Elsewhere in his evidence, Campbell insisted Blair was determined to deal with Saddam Hussein‘s regime peacefully right up to a crucial vote on the Iraq war in the House of Commons on March 18, 2003.

US-led forces began their invasion of Iraq two days after that vote, despite the lack of explicit backing from the UN Security Council. Britain was the second-biggest troop contributor, its deployment peaking at 46,000.

Campbell’s evidence came as an independent commission in the Netherlands found that the Iraq war lacked legitimacy under international law.

British newspapers devoted large amounts of space to Campbell’s appearance Wednesday, with the Guardian saying it reminded voters that “it was the Iraq war that broke the bond of trust between his government and the nation.”

The Telegraph said the “important lesson” of the inquiry was highlighted by the appearance — “Labour’s pathological obsession with spin and manipulation to mould public opinion is not a sound basis on which to invade another country.”


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Clinton gets no commitment from Japan on base row

In World on January 13, 2010 at 4:47 am

 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed her Japanese counterpart here to stick by a deal on moving a controversial US air base, but got no commitment from Tokyo during the meeting.


At hastily-arranged talks with Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada in Honolulu, Clinton said she had stressed the need to resolve the fate of the Futenma base on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa.


But she also expressed confidence the row would be resolved, saying Tokyo understands that the 50-year-old alliance with Washington is “fundamental to the future” of both Japan and the region.


The meeting with Okada was added to the beginning of an Asia tour by Clinton amid growing concerns of a rift between Washington and the new center-left coalition government in Tokyo, which includes elements opposed to the presence of the US base on Okinawa.


“I have stressed again today … that it is important to move on Futenma,” Clinton said at a press conference with Okada in the garden of a luxury hotel on the Pacific Ocean.








US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) greets Japan’s Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada as he arrives for a bilateral meeting at a hotel in Honolulu.

She reiterated the US view that a 2006 base deal known as the “realignment road map” is “the way forward”. The accord was to move the base from an urban area on the island of Okinawa to a coastal region.


Okada said the government of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama would decide by May where to relocate the base, even if the decision risks breaking up his coalition.


The government is considering alternative sites for the base, with various options including moving it off Okinawa altogether.


The 2006 accord was part of a broader realignment of US forces in Japan and includes the redeployment of around 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam.


Soon after coming to power, Hatoyama’s center-left government announced a review of the agreement, provoking irritation in Washington, which has long guaranteed security for Japan.


Hatoyama’s junior partners in government, the Social Democrats, have threatened to quit the coalition if it agrees to the original relocation plan.


The United States, which defeated Japan in World War II and then occupied the country, now has 47,000 troops stationed there, more than half of them on Okinawa, the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the war.


Clinton said the US view is that 2006 agreement offers the best solution for both the security of Japan and the residents of Okinawa.


“We want to get a decision by May because much of the rest of the work around the realignment roadmap has already proceeded,” the chief US diplomat said.


“The United States has already made decisions based on that roadmap, which was accepted by prior governments,” referring to the previous administration of president George W. Bush and the conservative government in Japan.


She did not answer a question on whether she received an explicit commitment from Okada not to move the base off Okinawa altogether.


She said she was confident the two sides would find a solution that reflects the “very best of our alliance” and provides the security guarantees Japanese want.


Okada said: “we must make the Japan-US. alliance sustainable for the next 30 or 50 years, and further deepen this alliance.”

The security treaty, signed on January 19, 1960, has formed the bedrock of the post-war Japan-US alliance, under which pacifist Japan relies on a massive US military presence to guarantee its security.

The two chief diplomats also discussed problems in Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, and Myanmar as well as global warming, nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, a broad range of issues that Okada said testify to the importance of the alliance.

Clinton will travel Wednesday to Papua New Guinea for talks on climate change and economic development before heading to New Zealand and Australia, where she will discuss similar issues as well as international security.

Making her fourth tour of Asia since she became secretary of state a year ago — the first stop of her first tour was in Japan — Clinton is due back in Washington on January 20.

In a speech at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Clinton said President Barack Obama‘s administration would work more closely with Asian countries and regional organizations than in the past.

“Half of diplomacy is showing up,” she said in a dig at the previous administration of president George W. Bush which skipped high-level meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“I want to underscore we are back to stay,” she said.


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