Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for December 24, 2010

Newsline: Italian police say anarchists behind bombs

Italian police say a known anarchist group, the FAI, claimed responsibility for two parcel bombs that wounded two people at the Swiss and Chilean embassies on Thursday. The bombs were similar to devices sent to foreign governments and embassies in Athens last month, but the FAI was last involved in a bombing in December 2009, when a device partially exploded in a tunnel under Milan’s Bocconi University. Rome was on edge with the sound of sirens all afternoon. “This was a serious threat to diplomatic headquarters, and we are sending a warning to our embassies around the world,” said Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. Neither the Swiss nor Chilean ambassadors could offer an explanation as to why their embassies had been attacked. “We had no prior information that could have led us to think that something like this could happen to our embassy,” said Chile’s man in Rome Oscar Godoy.




US embassy cables: US intervened in Michael Moore NZ screening

Whatever else WikiLeaks may have revealed, one fact has been repeatedly confirmed: the US government under George Bush really loathed the documentary filmmaker Michael Moore. After a leaked cable from US diplomats in Havana falsely claimed Cuba had banned Moore’s documentary Sicko – when in fact it was shown on state television – another cable reveals US officials flying into a panic after hearing a rumour that a New Zealand cabinet minister was hosting a screening of Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11, labelling the event a “potential fiasco”. Michael Moore, appearing on the Rachel Maddow Show, said the New Zealand cable uncovered by WikiLeaks showed the unsettling reach of US influence. “If they were micromanaging me that much, if they were that concerned about the truth in Fahrenheit 9/11 that they have to go after a screening in a place I don’t even really know where it is – I know it’s way too long to sit in coach for me – I want to know. Because I think it speaks to a larger issue: if they have the time for that, what else are these guys up to?” Sadly for the world’s only superpower, the New Zealand government wasn’t concerned in the slightest, based on the puzzled responses recorded by the US deputy chief of mission, David Burnett, to his protests. Burnett contacted the prime minister’s office, to be told they knew nothing about a screening. He then called Hobbs, only to be rebuffed by a receptionist. “The minister’s office declined to make her available to discuss the matter,” Burnett sniffed. The US ambassador to New Zealand at the time was Charles Swindells, appointed to the post by George Bush in 2001.



US embassy cables: Feigned US neutrality on Kashmir

The WikiLeaks US embassy cables reveal that the US argued against visas for Kashmiri separatists and counter-insurgents who worked with Indian security forces to combat terrorism in Kashmir. The US embassy cable of June 4, 2007, notes that the US should reject visa application of Kashmiri Ikhwani leader and then MLA Usman Abdul Majid “in the interest of remaining balanced” following their denial of Hurriyat hardliner Sayeed Ali Shah Geelani’s visa request. “Kashmiri J&K state MLA Usman Abdul Majid applied for a US visa on May 22nd to attend functions held by the United States Institute of Peace starting on June 7th in Washington, DC. Majid is a leader of the pro-GOI Ikhawan-ul-Musilmeen paramilitary group, which was formed by India’s security forces to combat terrorism in Kashmir. The group is made up of terrorists who have surrendered to the Indian government and agreed to fight against their former brethren,” said the cable. Ikhawan, the cable added, “has a reputation for committing brutal human rights abuses — including extra-judicial killings of suspected terrorists and their family members, as well as torturing, killing, raping, and extorting Kashmiri civilians suspected of facilitating terrorists. “Majid’s reputation in the Kashmir Valley is one of the worst among those associated with the GOI. In light of our rejection of the Geelani visa, we will not be able to maintain our record of neutrality in the Kashmir dispute if we grant this visa. Nonetheless, denying his application may have some repercussions with GOI officials, especially those from India’s Intelligence Bureau who have been close to his case. As with the Geelani case, this will be a very delicate matter, but in light of Ikhawan’s history, Post recommends that the US government deny the visa,” the cable mentioned.