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Fidel Castro doesn’t expect to be alive to witness the end of President Obama’s first term in office. That is according to an editorial written by the former Cuban president on an official website.
“I have had the rare privilege of observing events over a long period of time. I get information and meditate carefully over these events,” Castro wrote. “I don’t expect to enjoy this privilege in four years, when Obama’s first term in office concludes.”
Castro watched the US inauguration on television and proceeded to express a trust in Barak Obama’s honesty, breaking a silence which lasted more than a month. His last essay was published on the 15th of December. Castro lavishes praise on the new U.S. president:
“The intelligent and noble face of the first black president of the United States since its founding two and one-third centuries ago as an independent republic had transformed itself under the inspiration of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King into a living symbol of the American dream,” the ex-Cuban leader writes.
“But despite noble intentions, there are still many questions to answer,” Castro added, specifically pointing out the question of whether a capitalist system can protect the environment.
The long break in Castro’s essay writing has prompted speculation about his health. He has largely kept out of public view since being treated for an undisclosed stomach complaint in 2006.
New Jimmy Carter book less likely to rankle than last offering
Jimmy Carter poked into a hornet’s nest with his last book on the Middle East, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.” It provoked comparisons of Palestinian treatment under Israeli occupation to racial oppression in 20th-century South Africa.
The biggest question raised by the former president’s latest treatise on the subject, “We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land,” may be whether long-held ideas of peace remain relevant, considering Israel’s recent attacks on Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Carter, whose landmark peace efforts as president led to the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt 30 years ago, appears to consciously avoid the type of language that prompted critics to soundly condemn “Palestine,” especially among American Jewish groups.
When it was published in late 2006, Carter said he hoped to stimulate debate after six years of stalled Middle East peace talks. The apartheid comparison, which he actually drew from Israeli commentary on the occupation, induced so much outrage that one of his most trusted advisers at The Carter Center resigned, along with 14 members of an advisory committee.
“Holy Land,” published by Simon & Schuster on Jan. 20, the day President-elect Barack Obama takes office, is meant to encourage the new administration to embrace renewed peace efforts promptly, and to provide some guidelines.
Besides offering a defense of his last literary foray into the subject, Carter devotes much of the new book to recounting the history of conflict in the region, previous peace efforts and explaining various players’ positions in current and future talks.
He makes a strong case for involving Hamas, which has widespread support in both Gaza and the West Bank but has been spurned by Israel and the United States.
It is not until the final chapter that Carter provides a basic framework, returning largely to pre-1967 borders with some sort of sharing of Jerusalem, a measure of rights for Arab refugees to return to the occupied territories and an end to settlement expansion.
It is the penultimate chapter that raises the most intriguing prospect: the possibility of one state, from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River and from Lebanon to the Sinai. This territory is now home to about 5.5 million Jews and a like, but rapidly expanding, number of Arabs.
Carter notes that a growing number of Palestinians are beginning to lean toward this prospect as an eventual solution, but many Israeli leaders fear it could lead to the end of Israel
Iranian Holocaust book to be issued in English
TEHRAN (Reuters) – A student-linked Iranian publisher plans to launch English- and Arabic-language versions of a book of caricatures and satirical writings about the Holocaust, a semi-official news agency reported on Sunday.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad caused outrage in the West and Israel for saying in 2005 the state of Israel should be wiped off the map and for a Tehran conference in 2006 that sought to cast doubt on the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis.
The book deals with the “big historical distortion” of the Holocaust and the English and Arabic editions would be published at a ceremony in Tehran later this month when a message from Ahmadinejad would be read out, Fars News Agency said.
It appeared to be translations of a book which official media in September said had been published about the “fiction” of the Holocaust. Details could not immediately be confirmed.
“The presentation ceremony will be held on January 27 … with the attendance of a number of government officials,” said Mohammad-Mehdi Hemmati, who is involved in the project.
The Islamic Republic does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and refers to it as the “Zionist regime.” It has condemned Israel’s recent attacks in Gaza, which Ahmadinejad has described as “genocide.”
Iran’s IRNA news agency said in September the book had 52 caricatures plus satirical writings over 108 pages. It was published by Martyr Shahbazi Publications and the Islamic student movement of the Science and Industry University.
Iran staged an international competition and exhibition of cartoons about the Holocaust in 2006. That contest was held in response to cartoons published in Denmark that were deemed anti-Islamic, officials have said.
Israeli President Shimon Peres has called Iran’s nuclear program an “existential threat” to the Jewish state.
In September, Peres called Ahmadinejad a danger and a disgrace at the United Nations, after the Iranian president blamed “Zionist murderers” for everything from the Wall Street crisis to Russia’s invasion of Georgia.
Israel, believed to have the Middle East’s only atomic arsenal, and the West say Iran has a covert program to build nuclear weapons. Iran, the world’s fourth largest oil producer, denies this, saying it wants technology to generate electricity.
S. Korea on alert after
North’s military threat
The latest harsh rhetoric from the isolated regime appeared aimed at heightening tensions on the divided peninsula and could be a test for Barack Obama days before he is sworn in as the new U.S. president.
Pyongyang said it was adopting “an all-out confrontational posture” and warned of a “strong military retaliatory step.” South Korea immediately put its forces on alert.
Seoul’s Yonhap news agency reported Sunday that the South has significantly beefed up forces along its heavily armed land border with the North and near their disputed western sea border. But the presidential office and the Defense Ministry denied the report.
Defense Ministry official said Sunday that the South’s military will remain on alert, though there were no unusual moves by the North’s forces. The official spoke on condition of anonymity citing department policy.
The North has issued similar threats in the past in anger over the hard-line policies Lee has implemented since taking office last year. Lee ended previous administrations’ unconditional aid to North Korea, but has also called for dialogue.
Saturday’s threat from Pyongyang appeared more serious, however, because a uniformed military officer — flanked by military unit flags — read the statement instead of the usual television newsreader.
Analysts said the North’s latest saber rattling appears to be a negotiating tactic aimed at Seoul and Washington ahead of Obama’s inauguration Tuesday in the U.S.
“North Korean wants to draw Obama’s attention,” said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor at Seoul’s Dongguk University.
Kim said Pyongyang is trying to use raised tensions to make a case for its long-standing demand for a peace treaty and establishment of diplomatic ties with Washington — the regime’s top foreign policy goal.
South Korea, the U.S. and three other nations have sought to coax North Korea — which detonated an atomic device in 2006 — to give up its nuclear program by offering aid for disarmament. The pact has been deadlocked over how to verify North Korea’s past nuclear activities.
Despite the impasse, Seoul’s deputy nuclear negotiator has been visiting the North since Thursday. The trip — the highest-level visit to the North in a year — was seen as an indication Pyongyang has not abandoned the disarmament pact.
Nuclear envoy Hwang Joon-kook and his team visited the North’s main nuclear complex at Yongbyon on Friday. They will hold talks through Monday before returning home, said presidential spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye.
The two Koreas have been separated one of the world’s most heavily armed borders since a three-year war ended in a truce in 1953.
Ties warmed significantly following the first-ever summit of their leaders in 2000, but the reconciliation process came to a halt after Seoul’s conservative, pro-U.S. leader Lee came to power last year.