Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for May, 2012

Newsline: US Embassy urges PNG to adhere to constitution

The United States Embassy in Papua New Guinea is calling on the country’s politicians to respect the constitution and uphold democratic institutions. In a statement, the Embassy says recent political developments underscore the need for the 2012 national elections to move forward as scheduled. It says it hopes parliament’s recommendation that states of emergency be declared in parts of the country will not disrupt the election campaign or the voting process. The Embassy says the vote is a unique opportunity for Papua New Guineans to shape their country’s future at a critical time in the nation’s history.


Newsline: US journalist denies receiving money from Pakistani Embassy

David Frum, a contributing editor at Newsweek and The Daily Beast and a CNN contributor, who has allegedly been accused of receiving secret funds from the Pakistan Embassy, has strongly denied the charge in a column he wrote on CNN.com. “On Wednesday, Google Alerts brought me a piece of startling news: A lawyer speaking to a tribunal of the Supreme Court of Pakistan had accused me of acting as a paid agent of the government of Pakistan. No, seriously, that’s what the man said.” Frum was responding to a reported statement of prominent SC lawyer Akram Sheikh who, it was reported, had ‘claimed in a statement that Pakistani Embassy provided funds to Harlan Ullman and David Frum for damage control after the memo controversy’. In his response Frum wrote on CNN.com he was so taken aback by the claim that he telephoned Sheikh to ask whether it was true. “We had a short but intense exchange.” He said given that charges against him have gained a hearing inside Pakistan, some kind of answer seems due. Frum wrote: “Where is the fake evidence? The forged check, the bogus wire transfer, the suborned courier? Money always leaves a record.”


Newsline: U.S. Embassy officials among the targets of alleged Iran-linked assassination plots in Azerbaijan

In November, the tide of daily cable traffic to the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan brought a chilling message for Ambassador Matthew Bryza, then the top U.S. diplomat to the small Central Asian country. A plot to kill Americans had been uncovered, the message read, and embassy officials were on the target list. The details, scant at first, became clearer as intelligence agencies from both countries stepped up their probe. The plot had two strands, U.S. officials learned, one involving snipers with silencer-equipped rifles and the other a car bomb, apparently intended to kill embassy employees or members of their families. Both strands could be traced back to the same place, the officials were told: Azerbaijan’s southern neighbor, Iran. The threat, many details of which were never made public, appeared to recede after Azerbaijani authorities rounded up nearly two dozen people in waves of arrests early this year. Precisely who ordered the hits, and why, was never conclusively determined. But U.S. and Middle Eastern officials now see the attempts as part of a broader campaign by Iran-linked operatives to kill foreign diplomats in at least seven countries over a span of 13 months. The targets have included two Saudi officials, a half-dozen Israelis and — in the Azerbaijan case — several Americans, the officials say.


Newsline: Bahrain jails six for plotting attack on Saudi Embassy

Six Bahrainis have been jailed for 15 years each for being part of an Iran-backed terrorist cell planning attacks in Bahrain. They were also convicted of seeking to overthrow the government, suspend the Constitution and encroach on individual freedoms and rights by High Criminal Court. It is believed they planned attacks on targets in Bahrain, including King Fahad Causeway, the Saudi Embassy and the Interior Ministry. Three of them are still at large and were sentenced in absentia, including alleged masterminds. The convicted men, who confessed to the charges during initial questioning, caused chaos in court after the judge read out the verdict, shouting political slogans and police were forced to escort them out of the courtroom. Defence lawyers earlier requested judges to throw out the case, arguing it was unconstitutional as the country’s law is unclear with regard to terror cases. Four of the defendants are said to have been arrested in Qatar before being handed over to Bahrain’s security services, while the fifth was later arrested in Bahrain. They were reportedly on their way to Iran to receive training in explosives and firearms. A senior policeman earlier stated phone records were available showing the men had communicated with the head of the Iran-backed terror cell based in the UK.


Newsline: Al Qaeda-held Saudi diplomat appeals for release

A Saudi diplomat kidnapped nearly a month ago in Yemen’s south has appealed to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to meet Al Qaeda demands to secure his release, according to a video posted on jihadist Internet forums. “I appeal to King Abdullah… and the Saudi government to save me and release me from Al Qaeda organisation in return for releasing the sisters detained in (Saudi) general investigation prisons and fulfilling the remaining demands of the organisation,” Abdullah Al Khalidi said in the video. A Saudi interior ministry spokesman, cited by the official SPA news agency, warned that the abductors were “responsible for the security of Abdullah Al Khalidi.” The spokesman added that there was no indication of when the video was recorded.


Newsline: Russian diplomat dies in fall in Japan

A Russian diplomat in Japan has died after falling down a cliff while playing volleyball. The Russian embassy in Japan said Vladimir Pushkov, a consul-general aged fifty-five, fell while chasing a ball in the town of Agano in Niigata prefecture. He died of head injuries. Japanese police said he was on a camping holiday with colleagues.


Newsline: Freed Russian Bikers Await Visas to Exit Iraq

Four Russian bikers jailed for five days after entering Iraq without valid visas were stranded at the Russian Embassy in Baghdad over the weekend as they waited for paperwork allowing them to leave the country. The bikers obtained fake visas from an organization posing as a travel agency, Russian officials said. The Foreign Ministry said little could be done to secure exit visas for the bikers because all Iraqi government offices were closed on Friday and Saturday, the Iraqi weekend. The Russian Embassy planned to contact the Iraqi Foreign Ministry on Sunday and, if the visas could be obtained in one day, the bikers would return to Russia on Monday. The bikers — Oleg Kapkayev, Alexander Vardanyants, Oleg Maximov and Maxim Ignatyev — entered Iraq from the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region, which they did not need visas to enter, RIA-Novosti reported. After entering Iraq, the bikers were detained in the city of Kirkuk as they headed toward Baghdad. They were released after the Russian Embassy stepped in. The Foreign Ministry negotiated the bikers’ release on Thursday.


Newsline: U.S. Embassy intervenes to free VOA Correspondent in Ethiopia

Voice of America correspondent Peter Heinlein and his translator were released from police custody in Ethiopia, officials said. Heinlein and his translator Simegineh Yekoye were arrested on the outskirts of Addis Ababa upon leaving a local mosque where they had been filming. VOA said Saturday Heinlein and Simegineh were released and all charges were dropped after an official from the U.S. Embassy’s consular section appeared at the prison Saturday morning. VOA and the Committee to Protect Journalists expressed their relief in a statement Saturday, condemning the “restriction imposed by the Ethiopian government on foreign journalists.” VOA quoted Heinlein as saying he believed his arrest was linked to his reporting on a dispute between Ethiopia’s Muslim minority and the government over the leadership of the nation’s Muslim community.


Newsline: Lady Gaga’s Concert in Indonesia Cancelled After Protests Outside US Embassy

Promoters for American pop singer Lady Gaga said Sunday that her June 3 show in Indonesia has been cancelled after Islamic hard-liners threatened violence if she performs. Concert promotion lawyer Minola Sebayang said that the cancellation was not only about Lady Gaga’s security, but the safety of those who would be watching her. The Islamic Defender’s Front, or FPI, had threatened to deploy 30,000 members to physically prevent Lady Gaga from getting off the plane. More than 52,000 tickets were purchased in advance, making the sold-out show her biggest in Asia.


Newsline: Iranians protester outside German Embassy

Iran’s official news agency said protesters in front of the German Embassy in Tehran were seeking return of an Iranian-born singer who went into hiding after receiving death threats. Singer Shahin Najafi allegedly insulted a Shiite Muslim saint. The protesters also demanded that Germany apologize for hosting the singer, who has lived in Germany since 2005. They called the singer an apostate. Najafi first contacted German police about the threats May 8. A day later, an anonymous person posting on a Persian-language website put a $100,000 price on his head.



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