The U.N. Security Council has unanimously condemned North Korea’s decision to carry out its first ever nuclear test. On Monday President Bush called for sanctions to be placed against North Korea.
The UN Security Council is weighing a draft resolution written by the United States that would include a trade ban on military and luxury items, the power to inspect all cargo entering or leaving the country, and the freezing of assets connected with its weapons programs. North Korea has said repeatedly that it would regard sanctions as an act of war. The nuclear test has been universally condemned.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said North Korea’s test marks a clear setback to international commitments to move towards nuclear disarmament. No nation has ever abandoned a nuclear arms program once it developed the capability to test the weapons. In Japan the mayors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima condemned the test, saying it threatened world peace.
The New York Times reports Japan might have the ability to build its own nuclear bomb within months. Japan is known to have stockpiles of weapons-grade atomic material, used in its civilian nuclear power and research programs.
At the United Nations, North Korea’s UN Ambassador Pak Gil Yon defended his country’s actions.
North Korea has maintained that the test was successful but scientists have begun to raise questions because the size of the underground explosion was smaller than expected.
President Bush’s handling of the North Korea situation is coming under increasing scrutiny. Three years ago investigative reporter Seymour Hersh revealed that Pakistan was helping North Korea build the bomb. Hersh reported that the CIA had concluded that Pakistan had shared sophisticated technology, warhead-design information, and weapons-testing data with the Pyongyang regime. But according to Hersh, the Bush administration sat on the CIA report because the White House didn’t want to divert the focus from Saddam Hussein, and Pakistan had become a vital ally in President Bush’s war on terrorism.
The former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, Donald Gregg has accused the Bush administration of making a “huge mistake” by refusing to hold talks with North Korea as well as Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. Gregg served as National Security Adviser to President Bush’s father when he was vice president. Gregg said “They seem not to see diplomacy as a tool to be used with antagonistic countries or parties.”
In other news… a car bomb exploded in Baghdad last night killing at least 13 people and injuring 46 others. It was the first large car bombing in the capital in almost a month. Iraqi authorities reported finding 57 mutilated bodies in the city on Monday.
A staffer for a Michigan-based Islamic charity has been killed in Iraq at a militia-run checkpoint in Baghdad. Abdul-Sattar Abdullah was the director of programs for Life For Relief and Development. Abdullah is the first staff member of the organization to be killed in Iraq. He was helping to open medical clinics, renovate schools and complete a major water treatment plant project in partnership with UNICEF. He is survived by four children. His pregnant wife is expecting to deliver a fifth child in two months. `
And the Pentagon has announced the deaths of four more U.S. soldiers in Iraq. At least 33 soldiers died in the first nine days of the month.
In news on Iran, the State Department is awarding 20 grants worth as much as one point five million dollars for projects that purportedly promote democracy and human rights in Iran. The Wall Street Journal reports the State Department has admitted there won’t be a lot of transparency on who gets the money because it could be seen as an attempt by the Bush administration of meddling in Iran’s affairs.
On Capitol Hill, Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich is leading a briefing on Wednesday on whether the Bush administration is ramping up for a war against Iran. Among the experts testifying are former UN nuclear weapons inspector David Kay and retired Air Force colonel Sam Gardiner. Gardiner has said evidence exists that the United States is already conducting covert military operations inside Iran. Time Magazine recently reported the aircraft carrier Eisenhower has been deployed to the Persian Gulf. In a recent campaign fundraising letter, Congressman Kucinich warned “The Bush Administration is preparing for war against Iran, using an almost identical drumbeat of weapons of mass destruction, imminent threat, alleged links to Al Queda, and even linking Iran with a future 911.”
At the United Nations, the Security Council unanimously backed South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon to become the new secretary general to succeed Kofi Annan. The full United Nations will now vote on his confirmation. On Monday Ban Ki Moon addressed the North Korea situation.
In news on Guantanamo Bay, the Navy attorney who took on the Bush administration in the landmark Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case is being forced to leave the military. Navy Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift represented the Guantanamo prisoner Salim Ahmed Hamdan in the Supreme Court case that rebuked President Bush’s war powers. About two weeks after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of his client, Swift was denied a promotion. Under the Pentagon’s policy of “up or out” Swift must now retire from the military. The National Law Journal recently named Swift one of the top 100 lawyers in America — he was the only military lawyer on the list.
Italian prosecutors have completed their investigation into the CIA kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric in Milan. The prosecutors are said to be preparing to ask that more than two dozen CIA agents and several Italian intelligence officials be ordered to stand trial. They are seeking the arrest of 26 Americans, all but one suspected to be CIA agents. The cleric, Abu Omar, was seized by the CIA agents as he walked from his home to a local mosque in Milan. He was taken to a joint U.S.-Italian base and eventually flown to Egypt where he says he was beaten and given electrical shocks on his genitals. He remains in an Egyptian jail. He has never been charged with a crime and has never appeared in a court of law.
Meanwhile Khalid el-Masri testified before a Spanish judge on Monday. Spain’s National Court is conducting a trial to determine whether CIA rendition flights stopped at Spanish airports. Masri is the German citizen who was kidnapped by the CIA along the Serbian-Macedonian and then flown to Afghanistan where he was tortured inside a secret prison. He was released without charge after five months.
In Mexico, thousands of protesters from the state of Oaxaca tried to force their way into the Senate in Mexico City to demand the resignation of Oaxaca governor Ulises Ruiz. Hundreds of federal police officers blocked them from getting inside. The protesters arrived in Mexico City after taking part in a 280-mile march from Oaxaca.
Mexico’s foreign secretary said his country may ask the United Nations to intervene in a dispute over the Bush administration’s plan to build a 700 mile wall along the Mexican border. Luis Ernesto Derbez said Mexican officials are examining whether the wall is legal under international law.
Two women living in the Pacific Northwest have pled guilty to setting off a firebomb in 2001 that damaged a lab at the University of Washington that grew genetically engineered trees. Lacey Phillabaum will serve up to five years in prison. Jennifer Kolar will serve up to seven years. They each faced a minimum of 30 years in prison if they had been convicted at trial. The government decreased their jail terms after the women agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and testify against other activists connected to the Earth Liberation Front.