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Posts Tagged ‘defends’

Philippines defends error-filled peso notes

In Uncategorized on December 20, 2010 at 6:27 am

MANILA, Dec 20, 2010 (AFP) – The Philippines on Monday defended its new peso notes, mocked by critics for featuring error-strewn maps of the country and apparently inventing a new species of parrot.

The central bank started shipping the bills to banks last Friday and they should be publicly available by Christmas, deputy governor Diwa Gunigundo said.

He defended the artistic rendition of Philippine maps appearing on the 20-, 50-, 100-, 200-, 500-, and 1,000-peso notes (45 US cents-22.59 dollars), which excluded the Batanes islands near Taiwan and misplaced some of the country’s top tourist draws.

(AFP) Handout photo taken on December 16, 2010 and received from the Malacanang Photo Bureau (MPB) on December 18 shows Philippine President Benigno Aquino (C), Governor and Monetary Board Chairman Amando Tetangco Jr (L), and National Treasurer Roberto Tan displaying the new 500 peso notes.

“If we want to make the Philippine map that specific and accurate we would have had to draw all 7,000 islands,” Gunigundo said in an interview on DZBB radio.

“What we wanted to do was abstract the general location of all these important parts of the Philippines,” he said.

Map makers, including one of the experts drafted to delineate the boundaries of the Tubbataha Reefs natural park in 1994, have pointed out that the spectacular coral formation was misplaced by hundreds of kilometres (miles).

Gunigundo also defended the rendering of a rare native bird, the blue-naped parrot, on the 500-peso bill, saying it was patterned after the yellow colour scheme of the denomination.

The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, a birdwatchers’ organisation, has insisted the yellow-beaked parrot on the note does not exist anywhere in the country, since in real life the blue-naped parrot has a red beak.

“It took us three years to research (the design),” Gunigundo said, brushing off allegations of slipshod preparation.

The head of the government’s National Historical Institute was an adviser to the bank’s numismatic committee, he added.

“Our local artists who designed our six denominations also did research and they consulted many of our experts in the Philippines.”

More important than the design are the new bills’ security features to make their duplication by counterfeiters much more difficult, Gunigundo said.

It is not the first time the central bank has been left red-faced over currency design. It was forced in 2005 to withdraw bills that misspelled the name of Gloria Arroyo, the predecessor of current President Benigno Aquino, whose signature appears on the new legal tender.

The 2005 bill, which called her Gloria Arrovo, became a much sought-after collectors’ item.

Source: SGGP

WikiLeaks defends release of Iraq war documents

In Uncategorized on October 24, 2010 at 7:53 am

LONDON (AFP) – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has defended the unauthorised release of 400,000 classified US military documents on the war in Iraq, saying they revealed the “truth” about the conflict.

The mass of documents from 2004 to 2009 offer a grim snapshot of the conflict, especially of the abuse of Iraqi civilians by Iraqi security forces.

A news ticker flashes a headline on the release of 400,000 secret US documents about the war in Iraq on the WikiLeaks website in New York’s Times Square. AFP

“This disclosure is about the truth,” Assange told a news conference in London after the whistleblowing website published the logs on the Internet.

“The attack on the truth by war begins long before war starts, and continues long after a war ends,” he said, adding that WikiLeaks hoped “to correct some of that attack on the truth”.

He claimed they revealed around 15,000 more civilian deaths than were previously known about.

The heavily redacted logs appear to show that the US military turned a blind eye to evidence of torture and abuse of Iraqis by the Iraqi authorities.

Assange said the documents showed the war had been “a bloodbath on every corner”.

Washington and London warned that releasing the documents could endanger the lives of coalition troops and Iraqi civilians, although the rights ministry in Baghdad said the logs “did not contain any surprises”.

In an announcement which could further concern the United States, WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said the website would soon release a further 15,000 secret files on the war in Afghanistan which had been held back for line-by-line reviewing and redacting.

WikiLeaks enraged Washington by releasing 92,000 documents on the Afghan war in July, and drew criticism from rights groups who said the inclusion of Afghan informants’ names put lives at risk.

The files published Friday contain graphic accounts of torture, civilian killings and Iran’s hand in the Iraq war, documenting years of bloodshed and suffering following the 2003 US-led invasion to oust dictator Saddam Hussein.

In one document, US military personnel describe abuse by Iraqis at a Baghdad facility that was holding 95 detainees in a single room.

It says “many of them bear marks of abuse to include cigarette burns, bruising consistent with beatings and open sores… according to one of the detainees questioned on site, 12 detainees have died of disease in recent weeks.”

Other reports describe Iraqis beating prisoners and women being killed at US military checkpoints.

WikiLeaks made the files available several weeks ago to selected newspapers and television channels, including Al-Jazeera, Le Monde, The New York Times, Der Spiegel and The Guardian.

British newspaper The Guardian said the leaks showed “US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished.”

It said “US and UK officials have insisted that no official record of civilian casualties exists but the logs record 66,081 non-combatant deaths out of a total of 109,000 fatalities.”

The Guardian said WikiLeaks is thought to have obtained the material from the “same dissident US army intelligence analyst” who is suspected of leaking the material on Afghanistan. WikiLeaks has not revealed its source.

US soldier Bradley Manning, 22, is in US custody facing charges he gave WikiLeaks classified video showing a July 2007 US Apache helicopter strike in Baghdad that killed several people.

He is also suspected of possible involvement in the leak of classified documents related to the war in Afghanistan.

On Iran’s role in the Iraq conflict, the latest files show Tehran waging a shadow war with US troops in Iraq and Tehran allegedly using militias to kill and kidnap US soldiers.

The documents describe Iran arming and training Iraqi hit squads to carry out attacks on coalition troops and Iraqi government officials, with the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps suspected of playing a crucial role, The New York Times and The Guardian reported.

Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers told the London news conference that some of the deaths documented in the reports could have involved British forces and could now be the subject of legal action in British courts.

“Some of these deaths will be in circumstances where the UK have a very clear legal responsibility,” he said.

The US-based Human Rights Watch called for Iraq to probe mistreatment by its own forces, and said the US should investigate if it committed wrongdoing by transferring prisoners to Iraqi hands.

A Pentagon spokesman said the documents were “essentially snapshots of events, both tragic and mundane, and do not tell the whole story.”

Britain’s Ministry of Defence also condemned the unauthorised release, saying it made the job of British and allied troops “more difficult and more dangerous”.

Source: SGGP

China defends business ties with Iran

In Uncategorized on August 5, 2010 at 7:21 am

China has defended its business dealings with Iran after a senior US official called on Beijing to follow UN sanctions against the Islamic republic to the letter.

The statement from a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman published in state media Thursday also came after a senior US lawmaker called for sanctions to be imposed on Beijing over its major investments in Tehran’s energy sector.

“China’s trade with Iran is normal business exchange, which will not harm the interests of other countries and the international community,” the spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, was quoted as saying by the China Daily.

Banner bearing portraits of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (L) and his predecessor, the founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (R), are seen on a construction site for the South Pars gas field development in the Iranian port town of Asaluyeh on July 19, 2010.

“As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has always observed the council’s resolutions.”

In June, the UN Security Council imposed a fourth set of sanctions on Iran over its disputed nuclear drive, which the West and Israel say is a covert weapons drive, and especially over its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment.

China, which wields a veto on the council, backed the UN measures, but it has since voiced opposition to further unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union, instead calling for more negotiations.

On Monday, Robert Einhorn, the US State Department’s special adviser for non-proliferation and arms control, appealed to China to fully back sanctions on both Iran and North Korea, also suspected of developing nuclear weapons.

“We want China to be a responsible stakeholder in the international system,” Einhorn said during a visit to Seoul.

“That means cooperating with the UN Security Council resolutions and it means not backfilling or not taking advantage of responsible self-restraint of other countries.”

Einhorn is expected to make a stop in Beijing during his Asia tour.

Also on Monday, US lawmaker Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee — said investments by Chinese state-run firms in Iran’s energy sector were “effectively bankrolling” its nuclear programme.

Ros-Lehtinen did not offer details, but US officials have noted that Chinese firms have been stepping in to fill the void left by companies leaving Iran because of UN and US sanctions.

“It’s time to implement our sanctions laws and demonstrate to Russia and China that there are consequences for abetting Tehran and flouting US sanctions,” she said in a statement.

“Russia and China appear determined to continue to facilitate Iran’s dangerous policies. This must not be allowed to continue without serious repercussions.”

China has emerged as Iran’s closest trading partner and has major energy interests in the Islamic republic.

China is investing 40 billion dollars in Iran’s oil and gas industry, the Islamic republic’s deputy oil minister Hossein Noqrehkar Shirazi said Saturday. Iranian Oil Minister Massoud Mirkazemi is due in Beijing this week.

Source: SGGP

Vietnam defends title at Int’l Volleyball Tournament

In Uncategorized on August 1, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Vietnam defends title at Int’l Volleyball Tournament

QĐND – Sunday, August 01, 2010, 21:10 (GMT+7)

The national women’s volleyball team won the gold medal at the VTV-Ferroli Volleyball Tournament by beating Ukraine’s Vingroup 3-2 in the final on July 31.

Vietnam had a very favourable start, winning 25-23 and 25-15 in the first two sets. However, the Vingroup team equalized by winning 25-20 and 25-21 in the third and fourth sets.

In the final set, Vietnam played with spirit and defeated the opponent 15-10.

In addition to securing the gold medal, Vietnam’s Do Thi Minh won the best player award, while Vingroup’s 17-year-old Degtyarova was voted the most beautiful player.

Source: VOV

Source: QDND

Shell defends deep-water oil production, as profits soar

In Uncategorized on July 30, 2010 at 3:17 am

Royal Dutch Shell posted soaring profits on Thursday and defended deep-water oil production, arguing it has an “important role” to play despite the Gulf of Mexico disaster that rocked rival BP.

The Anglo-Dutch oil giant reported a 15-percent jump in net profit to 4.39 billion dollars (3.38 billion euros) in the second quarter to June as it slashed costs and raised output.

Shell’s performance contrasts with that of BP, which on Tuesday posted a second-quarter loss of 16.9 billion dollars — the biggest-ever quarterly loss for a British company — after the devastating Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

“This is a good performance from Shell, despite today’s challenging macro-economic conditions. We are on track for growth,” Shell chief executive Peter Voser said in a statement.

Peter Voser, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, speaks during a press conference in London in March 2010.

Voser also offered his sympathy to all those affected by the Gulf spill — the worst environmental disaster in US history — but insisted that there remained an “important role” for deep-water oil production.

“The BP … blow-out and the related Gulf of Mexico oil spill is a tragedy for everyone affected,” Voser said.

“We were all shocked by the loss of life there, and the on-going and wide-spread impacts from the spill.”

He added: “World-wide deep water production has an important role to play in the global energy supply equation, with potential for production growth with supply diversity, and sustained investment in technology, jobs and services.

“The recent announcement of Shell’s participation in a new, one billion dollar Gulf of Mexico oil spill containment system is an example of where we are working with governments and partners to improve the industry’s capabilities,” Voser added.

BP has been mauled by Washington since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and unleashing millions of gallons of crude into the sea and onto the US Gulf coast.

BP chief executive Tony Hayward on Tuesday said he will step down in October, while claiming he had been “demonised and vilified” over the spill.

It has taken more than three months to stem the flow, while up to four million barrels of crude have escaped.

The catastrophe has destroyed tourism, fishing and oil industries in the five US Gulf coast states and left BP facing soaring clean-up and compensation costs.

Shell on Thursday said that its net profit, when adjusted for the value of inventories of oil and gas, soared to 4.21 billion dollars in the three months to June.

This was above expectations of 4.02 billion dollars in a Dow Jones Newswires poll of 12 analysts. Shell’s production meanwhile increased by five percent to 3.1 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.

“We are delivering on our strategy. Shell’s cost programmes have delivered over 3.5 billion dollars of annualised underlying savings,” said Voser.

“Our investments have underpinned a five percent increase in oil and gas production for the quarter.”

In London trade, Shell’s ‘A’ shares closed 0.20 percent down at 1,783.50 pence on the FTSE 100 index of leading companies, which finished 0.11 percent lower at 5,313.95 points.

Source: SGGP

WikiLeaks founder defends release of documents: report

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2010 at 7:17 am

LONDON, July 29, 2010 (AFP) – The founder of WikiLeaks on Thursday defended the whistleblower site’s decision to release tens of thousands of classified US military files, amid fears the move has put Afghan informants at risk.

The site at first claimed the documents were vetted to ensure names of informants were not released, but reports since suggest details of Afghans said to have provided intelligence to the US can be uncovered with ease.

The Pentagon has warned that the disclosure has put the lives of informants at risk and threatens to undermine intelligence work in war-torn Afghanistan.

(FILES) In this photograph taken on December 19, 2009, an Afghan villager looks on as a US soldier from the Provincial Reconstruction team (PRT) Steel Warriors patrols in the mountains of Nuristan Province. AFP

But WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, told Britain’s Times newspaper in an interview that it was “extremely important” that the files were in the public domain.

And he risked further angering the United States, publicly accusing the White House of failing to respond to his requests for help before the release of the files to minimise the risk of informants being identified.

“No one has been harmed, but should anyone come to harm of course that would be a matter of deep regret — our goal is justice to innocents, not to harm to them,” said Assange.

“That said, if we were forced into a position of publishing all of the archives or none of the archives we would publish all of the archives because it’s extremely important to the history of the war.”

Any document that “clearly jeopardised innocent people” could be added to a bank of 15,000 documents already held back from publication, said Assange.

“If we made a mistake we will review our procedures and react,” he said. The more than 90,000 classified military files span a period from 2004 to 2009 as the US and NATO war effort in Afghanistan ran into a rising Taliban insurgency.

They contain a string of damaging claims, including allegations that Pakistani spies met directly with the Taliban and that the deaths of innocent civilians at the hands of international forces have been covered up.

Assange also lashed out at the US Thursday, saying he asked the White House last week for help to “minimise the chances of innocent informers being named” but received no response.

“We understand the importance of protecting our confidential sources. The United States appears to have given every UN soldier and contractor access to the names of many of its confidential sources without proper protection.”

The website founder said earlier this week that the documents were checked for named informants and that many had been held back from publication.

But The Times reported Wednesday that after just two hours of combing through the documents it was able to find the names of dozens of Afghans said to have provided detailed intelligence to US forces.

A Pentagon spokesman said the disclosure of documents could be put at risk the lives of anyone who is identified.

“Anyone whose name appears in those documents is potentially at risk,” said Colonel David Lapan.

“It could compromise their position, it could be a threat on their life, and it could have an impact on their future conduct,” he said, referring to fears the massive leak could dry up intelligence sources.

Source: SGGP

Obama defends his US oil slick response

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2010 at 12:29 pm

VENICE, Louisiana (AFP) – US authorities raced Monday to stem the tide of a disastrous oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico a day after President Barack Obama fiercely defended his response and promised federal help for as long as needed.

In drizzling rain and gusty winds in front of Venice harbor, the hub of the relief effort, Obama on Sunday described the unfolding nightmare offshore as “a massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster.”

Workers place oil booms in an effort to protect the Louisiana coast from the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on May 2. AFP photo

Rain running down his forehead as he spoke, Obama stressed that BP was fully responsible and must pay for the cleanup, as he acknowledged the pain of Louisianans in a strong presidential display designed to show he was there, side-by-side with the victims of the disaster.

“The oil that is still leaking from the well could seriously damage the economy and the environment of our Gulf states. And it could extend for a long time. It could jeopardize the livelihoods of thousands of Americans who call this place home.”

Louisiana’s 2.4-billion-dollar-a-year commercial and recreational fishing industry was dealt its first major blow from the oil spill during Obama’s visit when the US government banned activities in some areas for at least 10 days due to health concerns.

“Balancing economic and health concerns, this order closes just those areas that are affected by oil,” said US government weather agency administrator Jane Lubchenco. “There should be no health risk in seafood currently in the marketplace.”

Government data showed the thickest part of the sprawling 130-mile by 70-mile slick has been turned northward by strong southerly winds, sending sheen lapping ashore on the remote Chandeleur Islands.

The chain of uninhabited islets in eastern Louisiana is prime marsh and wildlife area, but officials said confirmation of any oil washing ashore would not be known until overflights could be conducted.

An overflight may not be possible for some time as blustery winds and high seas kept planes grounded and forced skimming vessels to abandon missions to mop up the growing slick for a third straight day.

Oil was also expected to reach the wetlands south of Venice by Monday morning.

Obama, meanwhile, laid the responsibility for the disaster firmly at the door of oil giant BP, which owns the leaking well and operated the stricken rig, refusing to countenance any notion his government had dropped the ball.

“So let me be clear. BP is responsible for this leak. BP will be paying the bill,” Obama said, slowing his delivery deliberately to emphasize the two points.

The government had “coordinated an all hands on deck relentless response to this crisis from day one,” he said, vowing to “spare no effort” in the future.

BP said in a statement Monday that it would pay “all necessary and appropriate clean-up costs”.

“BP takes responsibility for responding to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. We will clean it up,” said the statement posted on a site devoted to the official response to the disaster.

“BP has established a robust process to manage claims resulting from the Deepwater Horizon incident,” said the statement.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who has been scathing of BP’s response, warned on Saturday that his state’s “way of life” was under threat as fishermen and coastal communities struggling back to their feet after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina brace for yet more hardship.

But residents of neighboring Mississippi hear good news Sunday, with state Governor Haley Barbour and US Coast Guard commandant Admiral Thad Allen telling them that the spill might be contained without reaching Mississippi shores.

The wind has shifted, Allen said, but has never steered the oil toward Mississippi. “The sum total of what’s happened is, it’s pretty much remained within the vicinity of the well,” the admiral said.

However, one of the spill’s first victims was discovered Friday: a brown northern gannet that floated up to a survey crew out in the open sea and was pulled to safety after it hopped onto an outstretched fishing gaff.

Obama’s supposedly morale-boosting visit would provide little consolation to John Chem, one of dozens of local fishermen waiting outside a high school near Venice for training sessions to work on the cleanup.

BP said it would pay volunteers 10 dollars an hour while contractors would pay up to 18 dollars an hour to support shoreline clean-up. Fishermen would also be paid for the use of their boats.

“Right now we are trying to get some work but too many people are looking for work,” he told AFP. “I might be homeless, there are too many bills to pay and the bank might take my house.”

There was, however, a ray of light from BP’s head of US operations, Lamar McKay, who suggested that a giant dome could be deployed as early as next week to try and contain the spill.

With relief wells taking three months and the underwater submarines making no progress in activating the blowout preventer on the sea floor, the dome could be the all-important factor in shutting off the oil.

An estimated 210,000 gallons of crude has been streaming each day from the wellhead below the Deepwater Horizon rig that sank on April 22, two days after a massive explosion that killed 11 workers.

Source: SGGP

Blair defends Iraq war, even without WMD

In World on December 13, 2009 at 4:07 am

Britain would have backed the invasion of Iraq even if it had been known that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), former prime minister Tony Blair said Saturday.

Supporters wave a flag with a large image of deposed Honduran leader Manuel Zelaya on it. (AFP Photo)

Blair, who is to appear before a long-awaited official Iraq war inquiry early next year, said London would have used other ways to justify its support for the 2003 US-led war to oust Saddam.

“I would still have thought it right to remove him. Obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments, about the nature of the threat,” he told the BBC.

“I can’t really think we’d be better with him and his two sons still in charge but it’s incredibly difficult,” he added, according to comments released before the programme was broadcast.

He added: “It was the notion of him as a threat to the region, of which the development of WMD was obviously one, and because you’d had 12 years of United Nations to and fro on this subject, he used chemical weapons on his own people – so this was obviously the thing that was upper most in my mind.”

Blair, who controversially backed then US president George W. Bush in the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, accepted that families of those who died blamed him, but insisted relatives of soldiers could be proud of their sacrifice.

“You know there are parents who feel very very deeply angry and resentful and believe that the war was not worth it,” he said.

But he added: “It’s also important to understand that many of those who are in the armed forces .. they are very often proud of what their child has done and proud of the cause they fought in, so you’ve got to be.”

The former PM also stressed the importance of his Christian faith — and justified why he did not convert to Catholicism until after he left office in 2007.

“There would have been endless hassle,” he said.

“Maybe I should just have done it but, to be frank, you have got so much going on as prime minister and there are so many issues you are having to deal with, that you really wonder whether it’s a great idea to put the whole Catholic versus the established church thing into it.

“I had enough controversy to deal with.”

Blair is expected to appear before the so-called Chilcott inquiry into the Iraq war — which opened last month, after almost all British forces left the country — early in the new year, possibly in January.

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share

NY Times defends mission of kidnapped reporter

In World on September 11, 2009 at 7:37 am

The editor of The New York Times hit back at “simplistic” criticism that a reckless pursuit of news had caused the capture of one of its journalists in Afghanistan.

Times executive editor Bill Keller said on Thursday he had seen “no evidence” that reporter Stephen Farrell‘s visit to the site of a NATO air strike in northern Kunduz province was “reckless or irresponsible.”

Farrell and his Afghan colleague Sultan Munadi were snatched by Taliban rebels on Saturday as they were interviewing locals about the strike, which Afghan officials say killed dozens of civilians.

Farrell, who has dual British-Irish nationality, was freed Wednesday in a dramatic raid by British special forces. But four others — Munadi, a British soldier and two Afghan civilians — were killed.

“That Sultan and the soldier lost their lives in this episode is heartbreaking, and it’s human nature to look for someone to blame, but to blame the journalist is simplistic at best,” Keller said in an email to AFP.

“Steve consulted with American and Afghan colleagues and, like other journalists who made the same trip, concluded that it could be done safely,” he said.

“It was an important story — a report of scores of dead innocents at a very sensitive period in the politics of Afghanistan — that could not be verified by phone calls or the Afghan rumor mill.

A man holds a photograph of Afghan journalist Sultan Munadi at his grave in Kabul on September 10

“It called out for on-the-scene reporting if possible.”

Farrell and Munadi were the second team from The New York Times to be kidnapped in Afghanistan in less than a year. Their abduction highlighted growing insecurity in the once relatively peaceful north of the country.

The Times editor said the paper had begun a review of its security policies.

“We have, of course, begun a new round of internal discussion about whether our security protocols need improvement, given the increasing danger in Afghanistan in particular,” Keller said.

Farrell, writing about his captivity and the rescue operation in The New York Times blog, said he was “comfortable” with his decision to go to the riverbank where the NATO air strike hit two Taliban-hijacked fuel trucks.

But he said the team may have lingered at the site for too long.

Criticism has been mounting both of Farrell’s conduct and of the British government’s decision to launch the commando raid, with sources saying that negotiators were deep in talks with the Taliban to free the captives.

Source: SGGP