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SOLDIER DEFIES MILITARY ORDERS TO JOIN DEMONSTRATION
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton is refusing an order from his
regimental commander that he returns to barracks and does not
attend the Stop the War Bring the Troops Home demonstration on
Saturday 24 October.
Lance Cpl Glenton faces court martial because he refuses to
return to fight in Afghanistan. In July he gave his reasons in
a letter to Gordon Brown.
He says, "I am marching tomorrow to send a message to Gordon
Brown. Instead of sending more troops, he must bring them all
home. He cannot sit on his hands and wait while more and more
of my comrades are killed.
"I am proud to be marching again - this time for Stop the
For more details on why Joe is defying the orders of his
military commander, go to: http://bit.ly/CYOUE
Joe Glenton will lead the demonstration tomorrow, together
with ex-soldiers, a number of military families and Peter
Azerbaijan could scuttle the Nabucco pipeline over the Turkey-Armenia rapprochement, Brian Whitmore writes for RFE/RL.
By Brian Whitmore for RFE/RL
Azerbaijan has apparently decided to play its energy card.
As much of the world applauded Turkey's historic rapprochement with Armenia last week, Azerbaijan felt left out in the cold and abandoned by its closest ally.
Baku had argued strenuously that a deal to reestablish relations between Ankara and Yerevan should not be signed while Armenia continued to occupy Nagorno-Karabakh, and it threatened to take unspecified countermeasures if one was.
Speaking at a nationally televised cabinet meeting on October 16, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev revealed one of those steps: "It is not a secret to anyone that for many years Azerbaijan has been selling its gas to Turkey for one-third of market prices."
Aliyev added: "What state would agree to sell its natural resources for 30 percent of world market prices, especially under current conditions? This is illogical."
Aliyev presented the move as a purely commercial decision and did not explicitly link it to the Turkish-Armenian deal. Azerbaijan currently sells Turkey natural gas at the bargain rate of $120 per thousand cubic meters. But the timing of Aliyev's announcement, less than a week after the accord between Yerevan and Ankara was signed, left little doubt.
If Baku follows through on the move, analysts say it could severely undermine - if not completely kill - the Western-backed Nabucco pipeline project to bring gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe via Turkey.
"Potentially this is very important because it could potentially deliver a knockout blow to Nabucco. Without Azerbaijan it would be even more difficult than it is," says Federico Bordonaro, an energy-security analyst with the Italian-based group equilibre.net. Read more.
SOLDIERS AND THEIR FAMILIES LEAD SATURDAY'S MARCH
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton (http://bit.ly/eO3V0 )will become
the first serving British soldier to openly attend an anti-war
demonstration when he leads marchers from Hyde Park to
Trafalgar square on Saturday 24 October calling for all troops
to be withdrawn from Afghanistan.
Joe, who is currently fighting a court martial for refusing to
return to Afghanistan, will be joined by families of soldiers
who have given their lives during the occupations in Iraq and
Joan Humphries' grandson Kevin Elliott, 24, from Black Watch,
was killed while on on foot patrol in the southern Afghan
province of Helmand on August 31 of this year. She says:
"I have supported CND all my life and have been involved in
Stop the War since the march in 2003 when more than a million
people were on the streets. Kevin knew my feelings. But there
were no jobs, education was poor and the politicians down
Lithuanian President Announces Investigation into CIA Secret Prison
Investigation a result of ABC News.com report on CIA 'Black Site' in Lithuanian Capitol
By Matthew Cole | ABC News
The president of Lithuania called for an official investigation Tuesday into an ABC News.com exclusive report in August that the CIA housed a secret prison for al Qaeda suspects in Lithuania for more than a year beginning in 2004.
"If this is true," President Dalia Grybauskaite said, "Lithuania has to clean up, accept responsibility, apologize, and promise that it will never happen again."
At a press conference with the Council of Europe Human Rights Commission, Grybauskaite announced the investigation after it was clear a previous attempt by the Lithuanian Parliament was insufficient, according to a Council of Europe official. Read more.
The justices above are clearly the most rational group of high level functionaries in the industrialized world. They did what no other court would do in Europe or the United States. They effectively outlawed electronic voting. On March 3, 2009, the German Federal Constitutional Court declared that the electronic voting machines used in the 2005 Bundestag elections for the German national parliament were outside of the bounds of the German Constitution.
They reasoned that electronic voting is not verifiable because citizen votes are counted in secret. It is obscured a technology inaccessible to all but a very few initiates. Most importantly, the German high court noted, electronic voting machines don't allow citizens to "reliably examine, when the vote is cast, whether the vote has been recorded in an unadulterated manner" Mar. 3, 2009.
The written opinion effectively bars electronic voting in future elections based on the complexity of voting machines and the inability of voters to watch their vote being counted. This raises the bar of acceptability well above the meaningless solutions offered by "paper trails" for touch screen voting or the so-called "paper ballots" for computerized optical scan voting machines, the most popular form of voting in the United States.
Germany's 2009 Bundestag elections were conducted with hand counted paper ballots.
In a stunning and refreshing decision, the British High Court has overruled the British government’s attempt to suppress torture evidence on the US and British treatment of Binyam Mohamed. From The Guardian:
David Miliband, the foreign secretary, acted in a way that was harmful to the rule of law by suppressing evidence about what the government knew of the illegal treatment of Binyam Mohamed, a British resident who was held in a secret prison in Pakistan, the high court has ruled.
In a devastating judgment, two senior judges roundly dismissed the foreign secretary’s claims that disclosing the evidence would harm national security and threaten the UK’s vital intelligence-sharing arrangements with the US.
In what they described as an “unprecedented” and “exceptional” case, to which the Guardian is a party, they ordered the release of a seven-paragraph summary of what the CIA told British officials – and maybe ministers – about Ethiopian-born Mohamed before he was secretly interrogated by an MI5 officer in 2002.
“The suppression of reports of wrongdoing by officials in circumstances which cannot in any way affect national security is inimical to the rule of law,” Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones ruled. “Championing the rule of law, not subordinating it, is the cornerstone of democracy.” (emphasis added). Read more.
For the sake of my son, why I refused to shake Blair's blood-covered hands
By Sheena Hastings | Yorkshire Post
"The service was to celebrate the end of the war in Iraq, those who had served and those who lost their lives," says Mr Brierley, who attended the ceremony at St Paul's Cathedral with his wife Christine. "Prince Charles and Camilla were there with Prince William. A lot of positive things were said, and the Archbishop made some very good points in his address. I felt that if this Government listened to his words they would end the war in Aghanistan now."
There were about 1,000 people at the reception afterwards, and someone pointed out that Tony Blair was present, across the room. "I hadn't seen him at the service, and felt that, as the man had taken us to war, who walked away from his job two years ago, it was wrong that he should be there at all at a non-political celebration.
"A while later I looked across and Blair was signing autographs for people, on the cover of the programmes we were given for the service. Suddenly a switch went in my head, and before I knew it I was over there. I said 'Mr Blair...' and he stuck his hand out to me.
"I told him 'I don't want to shake your hand. It has blood on it – the blood of my son, the blood of all the other soldiers who died and of the Iraqi people who also died in the war. You took us to war on a lie and you are responsible for all those deaths in Iraq. One day it will come back on you and you'll have to pay for what you did. I don't think you should be here, but I'm going to leave now.'"
As Mr Brierley turned away, Tony Blair was also ushered away. The bereaved father doesn't regret delivering the dressing down but wishes it had been in different circumstances. "It just happened the way it happened, but I don't really think it was an appropriate place, after such a positive, celebratory service." Read more.
Happy Columbus Day
Columbus sailed the ocean blue in Fourteen Hundred and Ninety Two ...
May the spirit of adventure and discovery always be with you.
Wishing you a great Columbus Day
- Columbus Day greeting card
To mark Columbus Day In 2004, the Medieval and Renaissance Center in UCLA published the final volume of a compendium of Columbus-era documents. Its general editor, Geoffrey Symcox, leaves little room for ambivalence when he says, "This is not your grandfather's Columbus.... While giving the brilliant mariner his due, the collection portrays Columbus as an unrelenting social climber and self-promoter who stopped at nothing - not even exploitation, slavery, or twisting biblical scripture - to advance his ambitions.... Many of the unflattering documents have been known for the last century or more, but nobody paid much attention to them until recently. The fact that Columbus brought slavery, enormous exploitation or devastating diseases to the Americas used to be seen as a minor detail - if it was recognized at all - in light of his role as the great bringer of white man's civilization to the benighted idolatrous American continent. But to historians today this information is very important. It changes our whole view of the enterprise."
But does it? Read more.
Mondoweiss today gives us a Youtube clip of Tony Blair dodging a tough question from a University of Buffalo student about the Goldstone report.
The student, Nick Kabat, asked Blair why the US and Israel should be allowed to get away with blocking the Goldstone Report, how (as the "Quartet"'s peace envoy) he could explain that proceeding with Goldstone's recommendations might harm the peace process, and whether he didn't think that the blocade on Gaza also harmed the peace process.
You could see Blair ducking and weaving. (The questions had all been pre-screened by the university; but Kabat submitted a bland dummy question then asked this one instead.)
Blair said he'd been to Gaza "twice-- in the recent period" and that the situation there is difficult... But you also "have to understand" that Israel has received a lot of rockets from there since it withdrew in 2005 and still has its young soldier Gilad Shalit held there as a prisoner...
No mention from Blair that there have been almost no rockets coming out of Gaza since Hamas announced the currently-operant ceasefire there on January 18-- but despite that lack of rocketings, the Israeli siege is harsher even than it was prior to last winter's war.
No mention of the roughly 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners and detainees being held in Israeli jails. Read more.
Former 6-term Member of the House of Representatives Cynthia McKinney wrote:
There were people there from all over Europe. A healthy contingent even took the bus or train from London. Many US ex pats came and heard Annie Machon tell of why she became a whistleblower at MI-5 (the British equivalent of our FBI); I spoke, and then after me, Giulietto Chiesa, former Member of Parliament, Italy, made a movie entitle "Zero," which was played. Then Dr. Nils (I can't remember his last name) [Note: last name is Harrit] who found the nanothermite material in the Ground Zero dust spoke about his research and that was totally fascinating. We are definitely hooked up with the right people in Europe and as a result, our coalition will be strong, diverse, and global.
Here are my remarks made tonight/this afternoon U.S. time:
Vers La Verité, Paris, October 10, 2009
President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize was not the only news yesterday. And in my opinion, it’s not even the biggest news. It’s not even the saddest news. But it does provide us with some critical information as we move forward. The three-part question for us, tonight however, is “What are we moving forward TO; is that the place we want to go; and if not, what do we do about it?
In other words, “What is our vision for the future and how do we define success?”
New Missile Plan Would Link Allies' Radar, Other Systems
By Walter Pincus | Washington Post
A breakthrough that enables the early targeting of ballistic missiles by linking radars and other sensors from different parts of the world is key to the Obama administration's new missile defense plans, according to senior administration officials.
The administration announced last month that it would scrap a Bush-era plan to protect European countries and American troops stationed there from any potential Iranian missile attack. Instead of putting 10 interceptors in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic to counter intercontinental missiles, officials said, they would focus on containing Iran's ability to fire short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.
Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, director of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, defended that decision Wednesday, saying that the linking of U.S. and allied radar systems with satellites and other sensors would allow officials to follow the path of launched missiles throughout their flight.
"This capability did not exist five years ago," O'Reilly said at a symposium sponsored by the Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan think tank.
He said the first elements of the system would be operational aboard some warships by 2011. By 2015, he added, the goal is to base additional SM-3 interceptor missiles on land. Read more.
Europe may be perched above the precipice of its first armed conflict since NATO's 78-day bombing war against Yugoslavia in 1999 and the resultant armed invasion of Macedonia from NATO-occupied Kosovo two years later.
With the formal accession of Albania into full NATO membership this April and the subsequent reelection victory (at least formally) of the nation's prime minister Sali Berisha, the stage is set for completing the project of further redrawing the borders of Southeastern Europe in pursuit of a Greater Albania.
Preceding steps in this direction were the U.S.'s and NATO's waging war against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia a decade ago on behalf of and in collusion with the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a criminal violation of international law that terminated in the Serbian province of Kosovo being wrested from both Serbia and Yugoslavia.
50,000 NATO troops poured into Kosovo in June of 1999, accompanied by KLA leaders and fighters based in Albania, under the auspices of United Nations Resolution 1244 which among other matters condemned "terrorist acts by any party" and "Reaffirm[ed] the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the other States of the region, as set out in the Helsinki Final Act and annex 2."
The U.S. and its NATO allies had no intention of abiding by the provisions of UN Resolution 1244 and demonstrated that contempt for a document they themselves had signed by rearming KLA fighters, who for years had attacked, abducted and murdered civilians of all ethnic backgrounds, and transforming the erstwhile armed secessionist group into the Kosovo Protection Corps.
Not content with expanding from 16 to 28 members over the past decade in a post-Cold War world in which it confronts no military threat from any source, state or non-state, and not sufficiently occupied with its first ground and first Asian war in Afghanistan, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization - the world's only military bloc - is eager to take on a plethora of new international missions.
With the fragmentation of the Warsaw Pact and the breakup of the Soviet Union between 1989 and 1991 NATO, far from scaling back its military might in Europe, not to mention returning the favor and dissolving itself, saw the opportunity to expand throughout the continent and the world.
Beginning with the bombing campaign in Bosnia in 1995, Operation Deliberate Force and its 400 aircraft, and the deployment of 60,000 troops there under Operation Joint Endeavor, the Alliance has steadily and inexorably deployed its military east and south into the Balkans, Northeast Africa, the entire Mediterranean Sea, Central Africa, and South and Central Asia. It has also extended its tentacles into the South Caucasus, throughout Scandinavia including Finland and Sweden, and into the Asia-Pacific region where it has formed individual partnerships with Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea along with recruiting troops from Mongolia and Singapore to serve under its command in the eight-year war in Afghanistan.
With the upgrading of its Mediterranean Dialogue program (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia), with the Persian Gulf component of the 2004 Istanbul Cooperation Initiative partnership underway and planned for the Gulf Cooperation Council states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and with the deployment of U.S.-trained Colombian counterinsurgency forces for its Afghan war, a military bloc ostensibly formed to protect the nations of the North Atlantic community now has armed forces and partnerships in all six inhabited continents.
Synchronized announcements on September 17 by President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the U.S. was abandoning plans to station interceptor missiles in Poland and a forward-based missile radar site in the Czech Republic are now ten days ago and information surfacing in the interim indicates that its new plans are more far-reaching than their predecessor.
Two days after the statements by the American president and defense chief the latter, Pentagon head Robert Gates, was granted a column in the New York Times.
The most representative segment of Gates' comments is arguably this:
"I have been a strong supporter of missile defense ever since President Ronald Reagan first proposed it in 1983. But I want to have real capacity as soon as possible, and to take maximum advantage of new technologies....American missile defense on the continent will continue, and not just in Central Europe, the most likely location for future SM-3 sites, but, we hope, in other NATO countries as well....We are strengthening - not scrapping - missile defense in Europe." 
Remarking that the earlier-envisioned system in Poland and the Czech Republic would not have been operative until 2015 and that opposition among both nations' parliamentarians would have delayed the process at least another two years, Gates evinced both impatience with and far grander designs for the European wing of the U.S.'s global missile shield program by asserting, "President Obama...decided to discard that plan in favor of a vastly more suitable approach. In the first phase, to be completed by 2011, we will deploy proven, sea-based SM-3 interceptor missiles - weapons that are growing in capability...."
The new deployments, which will be examined in depth later, are to be more mobile and less capable of being anticipated and defended against; will be implemented, according to Gates' own schedule, at least eight years ahead of the prior plan's timeline; and will extend worldwide missile interceptor networks into far broader swathes of Eurasia, the Middle East and ultimately the planet as a whole.
New revelations about Iran's nuclear ambitions are center stage at the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh today, where President Obama, French President Nikolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Iran has until December to reverse course or face stiff international sanctions.
Sarkozy said that "if by December there is not an in-depth change by the Iranian leaders, sanctions will have to be taken."
Obama called evidence of Iran's second, secret underground nuclear fuel plant a "direct challenge" to the principles of nuclear non-proliferation.
"Iran has a right to peaceful nuclear power that meets the energy needs of its people," Obama said. "But Iran is breaking rules all nations must follow… It's time for Iran to act immediately to restore the confidence of the international community by fulfilling its international obligations."
The president said Iran "must be prepared to cooperate fully" at the upcoming Oct. 1 meeting between Iranian officials and representatives of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council -- the U.S., Russia, China, U.K., and France -- plus Germany.
Obama said at that meeting Iran must "demonstrate that it is committed to establishing its peaceful intentions through meaningful dialogue and concrete actions." Read more.
By Stephanie Westbrook
On Monday, walking through the center of Rome, you couldn't help noticing the Italian flags on display at shops, bars and restaurants. Merchants associations had printed up color copies of the flag to be placed in shop windows with the words "In honor of the fallen soldiers," referring to the six Italian paratroopers killed by a car bomb last Thursday in Kabul, Afghanistan.
For days, news of the soldiers' deaths - and corresponding political debate on the Italian mission in Afghanistan - filled the pages of newspapers and was the lead story on the TV news. There was live coverage as the bodies of the soldiers arrived in Rome on Sunday morning. The President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, together with Defense Minister La Russa, and leaders of the center-right government were present for the solemn ceremony held at the airport.
NEW YORK, September 23, 2009, 2009 The Obama administration has canceled plans to deploy a military radar in the Czech Republic and Interceptor missiles in Poland. Excerpts from the recent victory statements of the Czech radar opponents are at the end of this release.
The majority of Czech and Polish people never supported these proposed U.S. military bases -- though one would never know it from reading the American media with its recent headlines about the cancellation of the bases such as "Eastern Europe Grumbles About Downgrade in US Ties," "Poles, Czechs: US Missile Defense Shift a Betrayal," or, perhaps most preposterous of all, "Eastern Europe Not Feeling the Love From Obama." These headlines make the classic error of presuming that the views of governments are necessarily the same as those of the people.
The Defense Intelligence Agency and its contractors conclude that a nuclear test was conducted jointly by South Africa and Israel.
An ad hoc presidential panel contradicts that analysis and suggests a meteoroid struck the satellite causing it to sound a false alarm.
Which was it? What should've been the U.S. response? Can you decide?
But perhaps the questions we should really be deciding is does Iran have nuclear weapons; and if so, should the U.S. attack Iran and North Korea”.
Since the surprise news from the White House and the Pentagon on September 17 that the United States was relinquishing plans to deploy ground-based interceptor missiles to Poland and a missile radar installation to the Czech Republic speculation has been rife on two scores.
First, was this move a sincere effort to "reset" relations with Russia, possibly part of a trade-off for Russian transit and logistical support for the American and NATO war in South Asia and for Moscow agreeing to tougher measures - sanctions at any rate - against Iran?
The people of the Czech Republic collected signatures, organized 130 mayors, went on hunger strikes, won a vote, and took down a government. You can expect none of this to be mentioned in US media coverage of their victory. Instead you will be told that this victory is Russia's. Never mind that when pushing for these outposts of empire the United States claimed they had nothing to do with Russia. Score one more victory for nonviolent people's resistance, and announce it, because nobody else will.
The White House will shelve Bush administration plans to build a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, according to people familiar with the matter, a move likely to cheer Moscow and roil the security debate in Europe.
The U.S. will base its decision on a determination that Iran's long-range missile program has not progressed as rapidly as previously estimated, reducing the threat to the continental U.S. and major European capitals, according to current and former U.S. officials.
The findings, expected to be completed as early as next week following a 60-day review ordered by President Barack Obama, would be a major reversal from the Bush administration, which pushed aggressively to begin construction of the Eastern European system before leaving office in January. Read more.
Moments ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed the first national standards to limit global warming pollution in U.S. history.
The proposal would:
- Reduce global warming pollution from automobiles by 21% by 2030.
- Cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 950 million metric tons.
- Save 1.8 billion barrels of oil.
- Save the average consumer more than $3,000 in fuel costs.
EDF President Fred Krupp issued this statement in response:
"This is a critical step to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and curb pollution that threatens our health. It will deliver immediate benefits for the country as Congress crafts comprehensive climate legislation."
Charles Darwin film 'too controversial for religious America'
A British film about Charles Darwin has failed to find a US distributor because his theory of evolution is too controversial for American audiences, according to its producer.
By Anita Singh | Telegraph UK
Creation, starring Paul Bettany, details Darwin's "struggle between faith and reason" as he wrote On The Origin of Species. It depicts him as a man who loses faith in God following the death of his beloved 10-year-old daughter, Annie.
The film was chosen to open the Toronto Film Festival and has its British premiere on Sunday. It has been sold in almost every territory around the world, from Australia to Scandinavia.
However, US distributors have resolutely passed on a film which will prove hugely divisive in a country where, according to a Gallup poll conducted in February, only 39 per cent of Americans believe in the theory of evolution.
Movieguide.org, an influential site which reviews films from a Christian perspective, described Darwin as the father of eugenics and denounced him as "a racist, a bigot and an 1800s naturalist whose legacy is mass murder". His "half-baked theory" directly influenced Adolf Hitler and led to "atrocities, crimes against humanity, cloning and genetic engineering", the site stated.
The film has sparked fierce debate on US Christian websites, with a typical comment dismissing evolution as "a silly theory with a serious lack of evidence to support it despite over a century of trying". Read more.
Fresh questions were raised tonight about the behaviour of British officials towards terror suspects by the disclosure that MI6 had referred one of its officers to the attorney general over allegations of complicity in torture.
The unprecedented move was disclosed in a letter from David Miliband, the foreign secretary, to his Conservative shadow, William Hague. He said MI6 had acted on its own initiative, "unprompted by any accusation against MI6 or the individual concerned".
The Metropolitan police specialist crime branch said Lady Scotland, the attorney general, had asked it to investigate "the conditions under which a non-Briton was held" and the "potential involvement of British personnel".
Officials were reluctant to say anything more about the case other than it was "unrelated" to that of Binyam Mohamed, a British resident who says he was tortured and ill-treated in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Morocco and Guantánamo Bay.
The police are separately investigating allegations of what the high court has called "possible criminal wrongdoing" by an MI5 officer involved in Mohamed's secret interrogation. Read more.
The United States and five partner countries have accepted Iran's new offer to hold talks, even though Iran insists it will not negotiate over its disputed nuclear program, the State Department said Friday.
Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters that although Iran's proposal for international talks - presented to the six powers on Wednesday - was disappointing for sidestepping the nuclear issue, it represented a chance to begin a direct dialogue.
"We are seeking a meeting now based on the Iranian paper to see what Iran is prepared to do," Crowley said. "And then, as the president has said, you know, if Iran responds to our interest in a meeting, we'll see when that can occur. We hope that will occur as soon as possible."
In its proposal, Iran ignored a demand by the six world powers - the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - for a freeze of its uranium enrichment, which is suspected of leading to production of a nuclear weapon. Iran insists that its nuclear work is strictly for peaceful non-military purposes.
Iran pronounced itself ready to "embark on comprehensive, all-encompassing and constructive negotiations." Read more.
On September 27, the Labour Party in Britain - which is currently the governing party - is having its annual policy conference. Last weekend, the Guardian reported  that members of the Labour Party who oppose the continuing war in Afghanistan are planning to offer a resolution  against the war at this conference.
Could you show your support for British efforts to withdraw from Afghanistan by signing our petition to the Labour Party? You can sign the petition here.
The leaders of France, Britain and Germany have called for a high-level international conference on Afghanistan, saying it is time to "take stock of progress . . . and to evaluate the challenges that lie ahead."
In a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the leaders said the conference, which they suggested take place outside Afghanistan under U.N. and Afghan sponsorship, would facilitate agreement on "new benchmarks and timelines" for gradually turning responsibility for the country over to Afghans.
The letter, dated Tuesday and released Wednesday by the office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, coincides with growing European concern about the direction and objectives of the international enterprise in Afghanistan. It clearly suggested that decisions should not be left solely to the United States, which fields about two-thirds of the nearly 100,000 foreign troops there.
Antiwar sentiment is strongest in Britain, where Prime Minister Gordon Brown last week delivered a major speech designed "to take head-on the arguments that suggest our strategy in Afghanistan is wrong and to answer those who question whether we should be in Afghanistan at all." In addition to Brown and Sarkozy, the letter was signed by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, where opposition has been fueled by an airstrike in northern Afghanistan last week that was initiated by German troops and that killed an unknown number of civilians. Read more.
Toward the latter half of last month the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, "citing officials and lobbyists in Washington," revealed that the Pentagon would reevaluate planned interceptor missile deployments in Poland and a complementary missile radar site in the Czech Republic and instead shift global missile shield plans to Israel, Turkey and the Balkans 
"Washington is now looking for alternative locations including in the Balkans, Israel and Turkey...." 
The news came a week after it was reported that at the annual Space and Missile Defense Conference hosted by the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency in Huntsville, Alabama the Chicago-based Boeing Company offered to construct a "47,500-pound interceptor that could be flown to NATO bases as needed on Boeing-built C-17 cargo planes," a "two-stage interceptor designed to be globally deployable within 24 hours...." 
This initiative, much as with the reports of plans to expand the American worldwide interceptor missile system to the Middle East and Southeastern Europe, has been presented as a way of alleviating Russian concerns over anti-missile components being deployed near its borders. But on the same day that Boeing announced the project for a rapid deployable missile launcher for NATO bases in Europe the First Deputy Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic, Tomas Pojar, was quoted as asserting that a "possible U.S. mobile anti-missile shield does not threaten the U.S. plans to build a radar base on Czech soil because the system is to be a combination of fixed and mobile elements." 
That is, what is being presented in both instances as substitutes for U.S. and NATO missile shield deployments in Eastern Europe may in fact be added to rather than replace plans for Poland and the Czech Republic.