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Posts Tagged ‘Britain’

Britain, France embark on new defence partnership

In Uncategorized on November 2, 2010 at 8:42 am

Britain, India unite to pressure Pakistan over terror

In Uncategorized on July 30, 2010 at 7:19 am

Britain and India pressed Pakistan on Thursday to tackle militant groups operating from its soil as British Prime Minister David Cameron wrapped up a two-day, trade-driven visit to the country.

Cameron’s trip, seen as test of his much-hyped business-oriented foreign policy, was engulfed from the start by the issue of extremism in South Asia after remarks he made about the “export of terror” from India’s neighbour.

His initial aim — revitalising a bilateral relationship he thought had stagnated — did win support from his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh, however, who said the visit had injected “new momentum” in their partnership.

They agreed to try to double trade in five years and signed several relatively minor exchange agreements, but militancy in Pakistan, blamed for attacks in India and Afghanistan, dominated their final press appearance.

“No one is in any doubt, least of all the Pakistani government themselves, that there has been and still are terrorist organisations … that need to be cracked down on and eliminated,” Cameron said.

This was echoed by Singh, who again called on Pakistan to “honour its commitment given to us on a number of occasions that Pakistani territory will not be allowed to be used for terrorism.”

Pakistan has been under intense scrutiny this week after leaked secret US military documents detailed alleged links between Pakistan’s ISI intelligence services and Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is also held responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which left 166 people dead and derailed a slow-moving peace process between India and Pakistan, which have fought three wars since 1947.

British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrive for a meeting prior to delegation level talks and agreement signing in New Delhi.

Next week, newly-elected Cameron will host Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, with the relationship likely to have been strained by his sharp criticism of support for insurgents in Pakistan.

Asked about unrest in South Asia on Wednesday, Cameron responded that Pakistan could not be permitted to “look both ways” in promoting the export of terror while publicly supporting stability in the region.

Pakistan’s ambassador to Britain accused Cameron of “damaging the prospects of regional peace,” while the foreign ministry in Islamabad reminded him of the nation’s commitment and sacrifices in the fight against terror.

“I believe in speaking clearly and plainly about these matters,” Cameron told the news conference.

“What we will continue to do is to work with the Pakistani government to do everything we can to encourage them to crack down and take on these groups that have caused so much pain, so much suffering within Pakistan and outside.”

Cameron, despite the time spent discussing Pakistan, had been keen to focus on how to deepen bilateral economic ties with India, the former jewel in Britain’s colonial crown and now one of the world’s fastest growing economies.

He praised the recent investment in Britain made by Indian-run companies such as the car maker Tata and steel group Arcelor Mittal, but also pushed India to open up its tightly regulated retail and banking markets.

“With Prime Minister Cameron’s visit, we have set in place a new momentum to drive our strategic partnership forward,” said Singh, who endorsed the vision of a “renewed and enhanced partnership”.

Cameron headed the largest British delegation to travel to India in recent memory, including a host of senior cabinet ministers and corporate bigwigs.

In the only major commercial deal signed of note, BAE Systems finalised the sale of 57 Hawk trainer jets to India — to be built locally under licence — in a deal worth 500 million pounds (779 million dollars).

Rolls-Royce will provide the engines for the aircraft for another 200 million pounds.

In further comments designed to please his hosts, Cameron said he would continue to lobby for India to take a place on the UN Security Council and said Britain would push for the completion of a long-delayed EU-India trade deal this year.

The prime minister has come under fire back home after writing that he came to India “with humility” and accepted Britain was just one nation out of the “the whole world beating a path to (India’s) door.”


Source: SGGP

Britain works on crisis plan in case spill sinks BP: report

In Uncategorized on July 6, 2010 at 12:13 pm

LONDON, July 6, 2010 (AFP) – Britain is working on crisis action in case energy giant BP is ruined by the costs of coping with its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, The Times reported on Tuesday without citing its sources.

The talks, with officials from the British government’s Department for Business and the Treasury, show mounting concern that the company could collapse, the report said.

(FILES) In a file picture taken on June 15, 2010 a brown pelican covered with oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, swims at Sandy Point in the Gulf of Mexico, near Venice, Louisiana. AFP

The Treasury and the Department for Business were unavailable for comment on the newspaper report.

“It is not clear how bad this will get, but the government needs to be prepared for any eventuality,” said a person familiar with the talks cited by The Times.

The daily paper added that British Prime Minister David Cameron and Energy Secretary Chris Huhne would discuss BP’s future with US government officials in a trip to Washington later this month on July 20.

An insider also told the newspaper that the question has been raised as to whether, under extreme circumstances, the government should intervene to save BP.

That would spark a rescue similar to the British banking sector bailouts at the height of the global financial crisis.

On Monday, BP revealed that its costs over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill have soared above three billion dollars for the first time.

The company has now spent about 3.12 billion dollars on the cost of the spill response, containment, relief well drilling, grants to the Gulf states, claims paid and federal costs.

The latest estimate was far higher than the 2.65 billion dollars given by the energy firm on Monday of the previous week.

BP’s share price has collapsed more than 50 percent since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig it leased sank on April 22, two days after a blast that killed 11 workers.

Source: SGGP

Britain, Germany, UAE airports ‘refuse fuel to Iran jets’

In Uncategorized on July 5, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Airports in Britain, Germany and the United Arab Emirates have refused to refuel Iranian passenger planes since Washington imposed unilateral sanctions on Tehran last week, ISNA news agency said Monday.

An Iran Air plane at Paris-Orly airport. Airports in Britain, Germany and the United Arab Emirates have refused to offer fuel to Iranian passenger jets after unilateral sanctions imposed by Washington, ISNA news agency said

IRNA, the official state news agency, said in a separate report that Kuwaiti airports have also turned down fuel for Iranian passenger planes.

“Since last week, after the passing of the unilateral law by America and the sanctions against Iran, airports in England, Germany, the UAE have refused to give fuel to Iranian planes,” ISNA quoted Mehdi Aliyari, secretary of Iranian Airlines Union, as saying.

The decision by the airports in these countries comes at a time when a large number of expatriate Iranians, especially those in Europe, travel to and from Iran for summer holidays.

Aliyari said their refusal has so far impacted Iran Air, the national carrier, and a leading private airline, Mahan Air, as both operate several flights to Europe.

Pervez Sorouri, a lawmaker and member of Iranian parliament’s committee on foreign policy and national security, warned of a retaliatory action by Tehran, especially towards the United Arab Emirates.

He said Iran was an important trade partner of the UAE which is emerging from a financial crisis and “this (UAE’s refusal) can have some reaction from Iran,” ISNA reported.

Last Thursday, US President Barack Obama signed into law the toughest ever US sanctions on Iran, which he said would strike at Tehran’s capacity to finance its nuclear programme and deepen its isolation.

The measures, on top of new United Nations and European sanctions, aim to choke off Iran’s access to imports of refined petroleum products like gasoline and jet fuel, and to curb its access to the international banking system.

“With these sanctions — along with others — we are striking at the heart of the Iranian government’s ability to fund and develop its nuclear programmes,” Obama said before signing the sanctions into law.

“There should be no doubt: the United States and the international community are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

World powers led by Washington suspect Tehran is making nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian atomic programme. Iran says its nuclear programme is purely for peaceful purposes.

On June 9, the UN Security Council imposed a fourth set of sanctions against Iran, which was followed by unilateral punitive measures by the European Union and later by the United States.

Iran could lodge a complaint to the United Nations and the International Civil Aviation Organisation over the action of these airports, lawmaker Kazem Jalali was quoted as saying by the English-language Iran News.

“A special committee has been set up in the Iranian majlis (parliament) to study the US sanctions on jet fuel,” Jalali said. “The US president has done his best to isolate the Islamic republic of Iran but to no avail.”

On Monday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once again dismissed the sanctions imposed on Iran.

“The sanctions that they have imposed do not strike a blow at Iran … They have imposed these sanctions to defend themselves and they know they cannot do anything,” the hardliner said in the northwestern city of Bonab.

All the four set of UN sanctions have been imposed on Iran under the presidency of Ahmadinejad who has defiantly pursued Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Source: SGGP

Britain to unveil severe austerity plan

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2010 at 12:31 pm

(AFP file) A woman walks past a vacant shop in Cheshire, north-west England.

LONDON (AFP) – Britain’s new coalition government is expected to unveil big cuts in public spending and significant tax increases in its first budget due Tuesday, after inheriting a record public deficit.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne will deliver the Conservative-Liberal Democrats’ budget to parliament at 1130 GMT after the coalition took power following last month’s general election.

Osborne confirmed Sunday that his emergency budget would include a levy on banks.

“What I’m determined to do is to make sure that the measures are tough but they’re also fair,” Osborne told BBC television.

“What we’re clear about is that all parts of society are going to have to make a contribution.”

Meanwhile, preparing millions of public sector workers for savage cuts, Prime Minister David Cameron said it was “fair” that they should face a squeeze on pay and pensions.

“There is no way of dealing with an 11 percent budget deficit just by hitting either the rich or the welfare scrounger,” he said in a weekend interview with The Times newspaper.

Osborne was reportedly ready to announce a freeze in welfare benefit payments.

But the opposition Labour party, ousted at the May 6 general election after 13 years in power, warned moving too swiftly to make cuts could endanger a fragile economic recovery.

“We have to be very cautious about the rate at which money is taken out of the British economy,” said the party’s finance spokesman Alistair Darling.

Osborne is seeking to save tens of billions of pounds as state borrowing is forecast to reach 155 billion pounds (230 billion dollars, 185 billion euros), or 10.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), in the year to March 2011.

Britain’s public deficit had rocketed to a record-high of 156 billion pounds in the 2009/10 fiscal year which ended in March, as severe recession hit tax revenues and as the government spent billions of pounds on bailing out banks.

Reports late Monday meanwhile said Osborne’s announcement will include a sweetener in a bid to draw some of the poison from the toughest budget in decades, with the rate at which people start paying tax rising by 1,000 pounds.

The move, which was heavily trailed in the British media, will mean that nearly 900,000 people earning less than 7,475 pounds a year will pay no tax, said the BBC.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg warned in a message to his Liberal Democrat supporters the day before the budget that it would be “one of the hardest things we will ever have to do.”

“But I assure you, the alternative is worse: rising debts, higher interest rates, less growth and fewer opportunities.”

The government said last week that it had decided to axe or suspend projects planned by the former Labour government that would have cost about 11.0 billion pounds.

The coalition had already announced plans in May to cut spending by about 6.2 billion pounds in 2010/11.

Osborne is also expected to unveil tax increases in Tuesday’s budget. Media reports suggest that he will raise VAT — a tax on goods and services — to 20 percent from 17.5.

The chancellor is also set to raise capital gains tax — or profits from the sale of assets such as second homes — and introduce a levy on banks.

Britain’s economy is predicted to grow by only 2.6 percent in 2011 as it recovers from a record recession that ended late last year, according to the Office for Budgetary Responsibility (OBR), an independent fiscal watchdog set up by the new government.

That compared with a 3.25-percent expansion forecast by the previous Labour government.

Source: SGGP

Britain gives US strongest pledge to stay in war

In Uncategorized on June 9, 2010 at 12:16 pm

 Britain’s new government publicly assured the United States on Tuesday that it remains committed to its central role in the war in Afghanistan, despite heavy losses in what U.S. defense chief Robert Gates called the “absolute middle of the thick of the fight.”

Britain’s new coalition government is considered less invested in the eight-year Afghan war than its Labour predecessor, and eager to offer an exit plan to a public increasingly impatient with the stalemate.

British Defense Minister Liam Fox said that upon taking the job last month, “the first question I asked myself was, ‘Should we be in Afghanistan?'”

“The answer had to be, of course, yes. We still have a national security imperative,” Fox said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, left, is greeted by British Defense Secretary Liam Fox, right, in London, Tuesday, June 8, 2010. At center is protocol officer Mark Corbet Burcher

That was a relief to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, standing beside Fox following a meeting that also focused on the Iranian nuclear threat.

The Obama administration needs Britain most among its allies in Afghanistan as it expands the war this year and then looks for ways to shrink it in 2011.

With 9,500 forces in Afghanistan, Britain has the second-largest number of forces in the war after the United States. Britain helps manage the war’s heaviest fighting across southern Afghanistan and has also been a leader in recruiting help for the war from NATO nations, where the fight has always been unpopular.

“We’re committed to seeing it through to resolution,” Fox said.

Gates praised British forces for bravery and resolve in volatile Helmand Province.

British soldiers are in the absolute thick of the middle of the fight,” Gates said.

The Obama administration and war commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal bruised British feelings several months ago with a reorganization of war headquarters that many British military officials saw as insensitive or heavy-handed.

Fox all but dismissed the notion that British forces might be asked to expand next door to Kandahar Province as the U.S.-dominated coalition expands the war there this summer.

A full British pullout never seemed likely after opposition leaders David Cameron and Nick Clegg defeated Labour’s Gordon Brown, but allies including the U.S. have been waiting for an unequivocal statement.

When Fox visited Afghanistan last month he said he hopes to speed the withdrawal of British troops from the country.

“We have to reset ambitions and timelines,” he said then, adding in an interview with the Times newspaper that he “would like the forces to come back as soon as possible.”

On Tuesday, Fox said only that “we do not wish to be in Afghanistan any longer than we have to to fulfill the conditions that we set ourselves.”

Source: SGGP

Britain faces aggressive cuts in ‘age of austerity’: minister

In Uncategorized on May 22, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Britain faces an “age of austerity” as the new coalition government readies aggressive cuts in public spending to slash the deficit, Treasury minister David Laws told the Financial Times on Saturday.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, David Laws, speaks during a news conference. (AFP Photo)

Laws, chief secretary to the Treasury in Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition, will outline plans on Monday to make 6.0 billion pounds (6.9 billion euros, 8.7 billion dollars) of cuts in the current 2010/2011 year.

“We are moving from an age of plenty to an age of austerity in the public finances,” Laws told the FT in his first newspaper interview since taking office on May 12.

“We will make that austerity as progressive as we can, by protecting the things and the people who need protecting.”

Laws, who is a Liberal Democrat, added that he was “mentally prepared for getting a lot of representations from angry people” when the cuts are made.

Cameron, whose Conservatives are in an unlikely alliance with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems, has made a key priority of tackling the deficit amid mounting concern about soaring debt levels in the eurozone.

Britain’s public finances have been ravaged by enormously expensive banking-sector bailouts, and a record-length recession that has slashed taxation revenues and ramped up expenditure.

In a rare piece of good news, revised data showed Friday that the deficit hit 156.1 billion pounds in 2009/2010, or 11.1 percent of GDP. That was lower than the previous estimate of 163.4 billion pounds — but was still a record.

“I haven’t quite worked out whether this is a dream or a nightmare,” Laws told the FT on Saturday, adding that the government was facing a choice between “the unpalatable and the disastrous” in its bid to balance the books.

Finance minister George Osborne, who is a Conservative, will meanwhile unveil an emergency budget on June 22.

“The budget is going to have to set out, in a really credible and decisive and aggressive way, the action that we’re going to have to take to reduce the deficit,” Laws said.

He added: “I do think that people … will understand that the public finances are in a complete mess, that we can’t just go on building up debt, not only because it risks the economy but it lands on future generations.

“And I think people understand that there are no easy choices and while people won’t want to see big cuts in certain areas of public spending, they don’t want to see vast increases in taxation either.

“They understand that George and I, and the government, have got a really difficult job to do, to reconcile these things.”


Source: SGGP

Cameron pledges new direction for Britain

In Uncategorized on May 13, 2010 at 4:57 am

Britain’s new premier David Cameron vowed a “seismic shift” in how the country is governed Wednesday, unveiling a coalition deal and describing a record deficit as its “most urgent issue”.

A day after taking office in Britain’s first power-sharing government since World War II, Cameron said his Conservative party and its Liberal Democrat partners would take Britain in a “historic new direction.”

The detailed joint policy programme published by Cameron — Britain’s youngest prime minister for two centuries — included a pledge not to join the euro and confirmed plans for a fixed five-year term for British parliaments.

“We are announcing a new politics, a new politics where the national interest is more important than the party interest,” he said in an open-air press conference with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, his deputy.

Britain’s new Prime Minister David Cameron (L) and new Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, pose for pictures on the steps of 10 Downing Street in London.

In Downing Street’s leafy garden — a striking contrast to his predecessor Gordon Brown’s monthly indoor press conferences — Cameron added: “It can be a historic and seismic shift in our political leadership.

“Our liberal-conservative government will take Britain in a historic new direction,” he said.

The 43-year-old got down to work in Downing Street after striking a post-election deal with the Liberal Democrats late Tuesday.

Cameron — who has pulled the party once led by Margaret Thatcher closer to the centre ground — named Clegg and four other members of the centrist party in his cabinet.

Key points of the seven-page coalition accord included:

– a statement that cutting the country’s record deficit was “the most urgent issue” facing Britain.

– an emergency budget within 50 days.

– saying “Britain will not join or prepare to join the euro in this parliament.”

– the cancellation of plans to build a third runway at London’s Heathrow airport.

– stressing that “essential” reform to the banking system is needed to avoid a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis which it blamed on the last government.

Earlier, new Foreign Secretary William Hague insisted the coalition agreement, forged in five days of talks after an inconclusive May 6 election produced the first hung parliament since 1974, would stand the test of time.

“I don’t think it will be a weak coalition. It will be a strong government,” said Hague, adding that the conflict in Afghanistan — where Britain has around 10,000 troops — would be his “most urgent priority.”

New Finance Minister George Osborne added: “Now’s the time to roll up the sleeves, and get Britain working.”

London’s stock market and the pound recovered after a jittery few days ended with Tuesday’s deal, although the currency later gave up early gains.

Bank of England governor Mervyn King welcomed Cameron’s plan to make six billion pounds (seven billion euros, nine billion dollars) of public sector savings in 2010, deeply opposed by his Labour predecessor Gordon Brown.

Britain’s deficit stands at 163.4 billion pounds, or 11.6 percent of gross domestic product — the highest level since World War II. It emerged from recession at the end of last year.

Cameron was asked to form a government by Queen Elizabeth II late Tuesday after Brown resigned.

The race to be the Labour party’s next leader got under way Wednesday, with ex-foreign secretary David Miliband the first to throw his hat into the ring.

US President Barack Obama called Cameron within minutes of his appointment, inviting him to visit in July, Downing Street said — and on Tuesday the US leader called the British premier a “smart, dedicated (and) effective” leader.

Hague will also travel to Washington on Friday for talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, both sides said.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talked to Cameron, with Singh inviting him for an “early” visit to Delhi.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is to hold talks with Cameron in a visit on June 18.

Critics say the deal between the centre-right Conservatives and centrist Lib Dems is an unlikely alliance, since they have strongly differing views on a number of issues.

But between them, they have enough to secure a majority in the House of Commons which Labour and the Lib Dems, seen as more natural bedfellows, did not, although they held talks.

Clegg leads a Liberal party into British government for the first time since 1922.

Source: SGGP

Volcanic ash returns to parts of Britain, Ireland

In Uncategorized on May 4, 2010 at 8:34 am

Irish airports are due to reopen for normal operations from 1:00 pm (1200 GMT) after a six-hour closure due to ash from an Icelandic volcano, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said Tuesday.

An IAA statement said it had cleared Irish airports to open for full operations from 1300 hrs local time (1200 GMT).

Dublin, Shannon, Cork, Knock, Donegal, Waterford and Kerry may resume normal operations.”

Smoke and ash billowing from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano in April 2010. Irish airports are due to reopen for normal operations from 1:00 pm (1200 GMT) after a six-hour closure due to ash from an Icelandic volcano, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has said.

Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said airspace over Northern Ireland — a British province — would be closed from 0600 GMT.

The flight cancellations should not disrupt aircraft overflying Ireland from Britain or Europe, or southern British airports including Heathrow, Europe’s busiest air hub, authorities in the two countries said.

The cloud of ash came from the eruption of Iceland‘s Eyjafjjoell volcano, whose drifting dust was behind last month’s shutdown that left hundreds of thousands of travellers stranded across the globe.

Airspace was re-opened after about a week following emergency talks between European governments, airlines and regulators.

The IAA said all flights into and out of Ireland would be grounded from 0600 GMT to 1200 GMT Tuesday due to the dangers posed by the new volcano cloud.

“The decision is based on the safety risks to crews and passengers as a result of the drift south of the volcanic ash cloud caused by the north easterly winds,” said the authority in a statement.

It added that “over-flights of Ireland from the UK and Europe will not be impacted tomorrow. Flights in mainland Europe will operate normally.”

Information from the London-based Volcanic Ash Advice Centre (VAAC) suggested that the ?no fly-zone’ would affect Dublin and other airports across the country, said the IAA.

Hundreds of flights were due to depart and fly into Dublin airport throughout the day, with more from Shannon and Cork in the south of the country and Ireland’s smaller regional airports.

Ryanair said it had cancelled all flights into and out of Ireland between 0500 GMT and 1300 GMT Tuesday.

“The first wave is clearly one of the busiest parts of the day so it will have a fairly significant effect on the operation tomorrow,” airline spokesman Stephen McNamara told the BBC.

Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus said it had cancelled all British and European flights scheduled to depart and arrive into Dublin, Cork, Shannon and Belfast airports before 1200 GMT Tuesday.

The international airline industry body, IATA, said last month’s shutdown cost carriers some 1.7 billion dollars (1.1 billion pounds) and called on governments to pick up at least part of the cost, angered by their handling of the crisis.

Eurocontrol, the continent’s air traffic control coordinator, said more than 100,000 flights to, from and within Europe had been cancelled between April 15 and 21, preventing an estimated 10 million passengers from travelling.

Source: SGGP

New volcanic ash bound for Britain and Denmark: agency

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2010 at 9:44 am

TOULOUSE, France, April 20, 2010 (AFP) – A fresh cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland’s erupting Eyjafjoell volcano will pass over Britain and Denmark but spare France, the European Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) said Tuesday.

Passengers wait to complete check-in formalities at Schiphol Airport, near Amsterdam on April 20, 2010. AFP PHOTO

Air traffic has begun to return to normal in parts of Europe almost a week after ash from the eruption drifted south and forced aviation authorities to close the airpace over several European countries.

But a new cloud of ash is expected to arrive on Tuesday, and Britain in particular is expecting further disruption.

“Given the meteorological conditions, the volcanic ash should pass over the southern part of the North Sea, the British Isles, Denmark, Scandinavia and perhaps the extreme north of France,” said forecaster Didier Rosenblatt.

The VAAC in the southern French city of Toulouse is one of nine volcanic ash advisory centres around the world tasked by the International Civil Aviation Organisation to track possible threats to flights from eruptions.

Source: SGGP