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International News Briefs

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July 11, 2003

International News Briefs

Headlines:In it for the Oil: Polish Foreign Minister ¶ Israel Occupies New Land ¶ Terrorism Suspects: Confess or Die? ¶ Dell Stops Using Prison Labour ¶ Apartheid by Any Other Name ¶ US and Iraq Briefs

In it for the Oil: Polish Foreign Minister

Prisoners at camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay, their faces and eyes covered: unnamed detainees are denied access to lawyers and face secretive tribunals. photo: US Navy
Poland's Foreign Minister, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, admitted that Poland was motivated to support the US invasion of Iraq by the possibility of access to Iraq's natural resources. "We have never hidden our desire for Polish oil companies to finally have access to sources of commodities," he told a Polish News Agency.

Poland currently has 250 soldiers in Iraq, but the country will send 2,500 more in September as a part of a peacekeeping force. Poland has been a staunch supporter of the US-led invasion. At the time of Cimoszewicz's interview, a group of Polish companies had signed a deal with Halliburton, which has been granted multi-million dollar contracts in Iraq by the US government. US Vice President Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton before entering the 2000 Presidential campaign. (Middle East Online, Washington Times)

Israel Occupies New Land

Even as Israeli forces relinquished control of Bethlehem and parts of Gaza, the government appropriated hundreds of acres of the West Bank, north of Jerusalem. The first phase of the road map requires Israel to stop confiscating Palestinian property and to freeze all settlement activity.

Palestinians and Israeli human rights activists say Israel is taking land to further a plan for a "greater Jerusalem". The Israeli official in charge of the land seizures told the Guardian, "this is nothing special. My work is enforcing the law. I can't talk". (Guardian)

Terrorism Suspects: Confess or Die?

According to American legal sources cited by The Observer, "two British terrorist suspects facing a secret US military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay will be given a choice: plead guilty and accept a 20-year prison sentence, or be executed if found guilty." The sources said the dilemma was designed to ensure "maximum cooperation". Prisoners in the US prison at Guantanamo have not been allowed access to lawyers, and Amnesty International has alleged that many captives have suffered "severe abuse". According to the Associated Press, the Pentagon has said that it may "continue to hold the suspects even if they are acquitted by a tribunal". Military officials asserted that prisoners' status as "unlawful combatants" is separate from guilt or innocence on charges brought before a tribunal.

Amnesty International has also condemned US interrogation methods in Iraq. One Iraqi businessman claimed that U.S. interrogators "deprived him of sleep, forced him to kneel naked and kept him bound hand and foot with a bag over his head for eight days," according to the Associated Press. Other journalists have witnessed detainees "wearing only underwear and blindfolds, handcuffed and lying in the dirt 24 hours after their capture." US officials have declined to comment on specific cases.

(Observer, New York Times, Associated Press)

Dell Stops Using Prison Labour

Dell Computer has cancelled a recycling contract with UNICOR, a Washington D.C. based company that makes use of prison labour. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, a California environmental group, had recently released a report calling Dell's UNICOR operation a "primitive" system that exposed inmates to dangerous chemicals. CEO Michael Dell claimed the report had nothing to do with the company's decision.

Prison labourers in the US are paid as little as one dollar per hour for their work, though contracters pay the federal minimum wage to the prison. One prison official quoted by the Daily Texan said that "the idea was started to get prisoners to pay for their own incarceration." UNICOR (also known as Federal Prison Industries) is run by the US department of justice, and offers prison labour for work in electronics, textiles, graphics, services, and other areas. Over two million people are currently incarcerated in the US.

(AP, Daily Texan, www.unicor.gov)

Apartheid by Any Other Name

Of 45 million South Africans, 31 million are black, 5 million white, 3 million colored and one million are Indians. Whites, however, still control roughly three quarters of equity in South African businesses, leaving the majority of the population at a major economic disadvantage.

The recent introduction of legislation of "Broad-based Economic Empowerment", also known as "Black Economic Empowerment", has highlighted existing political divisions in the country. White business groups claim that the legislation places too many restrictions on investors, and could scare away internation investment. Labour leaders and black business groups say the plan doesn't go far enough to create jobs and basic services for the country's poor and unemployed.

Manila Times

US and Iraq Briefs

George W. Bush appointed a pharmaceutical executive to administer US AIDS relief funds. The Council on Foreign Relations released a report which concluded that US government agencies were vastly underprepared to deal with a terrorist attack.

US official Richard Perle told the American Enterprise Institute that "we have a responsibility, a stewardship, not to turn [Iraq] over to institutions incapable of seeing this through to a successful conclusion... the last thing the Iraqis need is French statism or German labour practices." According to the Washington Post, "cities and towns outside of Baghdad are largely administered by former Iraqi military and police officers and people who had close ties to the Baath Party". UNICEF officials claimed that the US invasion and occupation has made Iraq's entire population dependent on food aid.

George Bush reportedly told Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas that "god told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them." (Observer, Ha'aretz, Washington Post, Inter Press News Service)

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