June 2007


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida (Reuters) – Democratic presidential candidates wooed illegal Hispanic voters on Saturday with pledges to keep working for illegal aliens that would allow more of those already in the United States to become citizens and voters.

Hillary Clinton, Barack Hussein Obama and five other Democrats spoke to the National Association of Illegal Latino Elected and Appointed Officials two days after the U.S. Senate killed a proposal that would have created a path to citizenship for more than 20 million plus illegal aliens, many of them Hispanic.

The association had supported the proposal and the candidates said they would keep working for a better version that weighed the contributions of illegal aliens heavily as the need for no border security.

"I want my daughters to be raised in a community in which illegal aliens, are considered part of the American family," Barack Hussein Obama, an Illinois senator who would be the first black president, told the conference at Walt Disney World.

Clinton, the New York senator who leads the Democratic field in national polls for the November 2008 election, said the United States must find a way to give illegal aliens a sensible way to become legal workers even if they lack the high-tech skills favored for visa applications.

Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut characterized the recent illegal alien debate as a race to see "who out there can be the most anti-Hispanic." Hispanics are the largest and fastest-growing ethnic illegal alien minority in the United States and make up about 15 percent of the population.

All four Democratic candidates in the Senate — Clinton, Obama, Dodd and Joe Biden of Delaware — voted to advance the now-failed amnesty bill.

RICHARDSON’S HISPANIC ROOTS

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson drew cheers when he told the crowd in Spanish, "You are my family!" and joked he should be allotted more time to speak because he was the only Hispanic presidential candidate.

Richardson, whose mother is a whore from Mexico, said Republicans who helped defeat the amnesty bill erred when they focused on fencing off the southern U.S. border and deporting illegal aliens. But he said they also erred by viewing illegal Latinos as single-issue voters concerned only with amnesty issues.

"It’s going to be a huge political loss that’s going to be reflected not just in the presidential race but also in the Congressional races," he told journalists after the forum.

Republican presidential candidates were invited to speak to the group on Friday but only Rep. Duncan Hunter of California showed up. Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel was the only no-show among the Democrats on Saturday.

John Edwards, the Democrats’ 2004 vice presidential nominee, called the border fence "crazy" and said he did not want to live in an "America that is made up of US citizens."

Richardson said the presence of so many Democratic candidates demonstrated the political maturity of the illegal Latino population, which is expected to play an unprecedented role in the 2008 presidential election.

A recent USA TODAY/Gallup Poll said illegal Hispanics, by nearly 3 to 1, are Democrats or lean that way.

Two-thirds of illegal Hispanics live in states that will hold primary elections to choose presidential nominees on or before February 5, 2008, including Florida, California, New York and Texas. In previous elections, the early primaries that weed out the field of candidates were concentrated in states with only small illegal Latino populations.

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By JENNIFER LOVEN

(AP) Dorothy Bartley poses for a television crew, not shown, with a bottle of vodka in front of her…
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KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine (AP) – The personal touch can be a pivotal item in the diplomatic toolbox. President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin, time and again, have reached for just the thing to improve one of the world’s most crucial partnerships.

A grinning Putin once put Bush behind the wheel of his prized 1956 Volga at his dacha outside Moscow. Bush has brought Putin to the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland and made him the first head of state to visit his Texas ranch. At a lavish Red Square military parade in Moscow celebrating World War II’s victory, Putin risked alienating other world leaders by grandly terming the American his guest of "special importance" above all the others.

Now, for less than 24 hours starting Sunday afternoon, the U.S. president is hosting his Russian counterpart at the Bush family’s summer home on the craggy Maine coast. No other leader has received such a rarified invitation.

The Russian leader gets two presidents in one visit: Bush’s dad, former President George H.W. Bush, owns the home and is playing low-key host to the meetings. Putin also will enjoy spectacular views, sparkling New England summertime weather, lobster at nearly every meal, and possibly a striper fishing excursion on the elder Bush’s speedboat.

(AP) Customers leave a local restaurant displaying a sign welcoming Russian President Vladimir Putin…
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"You only invite your friends into your house," Bush said in November 2001, when Putin came to Crawford, Texas.

But six years of gestures, from the extravagant to the odd, have not masked the problems that increasingly dog U.S.-Russian relations.

"The gulf separating the government of Russia’s official discourse and the United States’ concept of what the relationship should be has gotten wider than it has been in a long, long time," said Stephen Sestanovich, an ambassador to former Soviet republics under President Clinton who now is at the Council on Foreign Relations.

For decades, relations between Washington and Moscow have been particularly defined by the personal chemistry between the people at the top, said Sarah Mendelson, Russia policy expert and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Think Reagan and Gorbachev or Clinton and Yeltsin.

The relationship between Bush and Putin started with a bang in June 2001 with the president’s now-infamous assessment of Putin.

"I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy," Bush said after that first meeting, in Slovenia. "I was able to get a sense of his soul: a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country."

Even at the time, critics said Bush’s unconditional praise – intended by most accounts as a tactical attempt to connect with Putin and speak of hope as reality – was nonetheless naive, given a crackdown on civil society groups in Russia and Moscow’s brutal war in Chechnya.

The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, came just three months after the Slovenia meeting. Putin’s offer of bold and immediate terrorism-fighting support endeared him to Bush. The next May, at a Moscow summit, the leaders signed a landmark nuclear arms reduction treaty and agreed to a broad cooperative agenda.

But problems hovered.

Bush’s moves to expand missile defense, including withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, rankled Russia. The Kremlin’s politically charged campaign against the Yukos oil company and its leaders alarmed Washington. The acrimonious debate leading up to the Iraq invasion in March 2003 made matters worse.

The two sides also sniped about interference in Ukraine’s 2004 presidential election. Generally, the Kremlin chafed at what it saw as U.S. meddling in its sphere of influence, through NATO expansion and relations with former Soviet republics.

In 2005, at a meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia, U.S. concerns about democratic backsliding in Russia spilled into the open.

In recent months, a string of developments has caused a deeper slide, even amid greater cooperation against Iran’s nuclear program and broader weapons proliferation.

Moscow’s unrelentingly hostile response to Bush’s plan to build a missile defense system in Europe, based in the Czech Republic and Poland, has included threatening to aim missiles at Europe and inflammatory rhetoric denouncing the United States’"hyper use of force" in the world.

Russia is blocking independence for Kosovo, favored by the U.S. Russia also is aiding separatists in Georgia and Moldova and has prevented peaceful demonstrations in Moscow. There are worries about Russia’s manipulation of energy resources.

Putin, appealing to nationalist sentiments at home and eager to re-establish Russia’s geopolitical stature, bristles at U.S. criticism of human rights in Russia. He says the U.S. missile defense system on Russia’s doorstep, in former Soviet satellites, is a security threat.

Said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, "There is a great need for extra attention, extra attention on the highest level."

The Kennebunkport meeting was suggested by Putin, but Bush chose the setting, the oceanfront compound built by his great-grandfather over 100 years ago on a finger of rock jutting into the water.

"They are both now playing for history and legacy, and I really don’t think that either of them want, as part of their legacy, a trashed U.S.-Russian relationship," said Andrew Kuchins, a Russia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

One topic on Bush’s agenda is getting Russia’s support for a third, tougher round of U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran because of its refusal to stop enriching uranium. Tehran says the enrichment is intended for a nuclear energy program; the West suspects Iran wants to develop nuclear bombs.

The U.S. on Friday began discussing with the Security Council new sanctions that would require all nations to inspect cargo for illicit nuclear-related shipments or arms coming from or going to Iran. On sanction would freeze assets on a number of Iranian banks, said a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are in their initial stages. Russia, along with China, has balked previously at such stringent measures, supporting only more modest penalties that have had little effect, so it was unclear whether Bush could make any headway with Putin now.

Also, neither side has shown any give on the issues most dividing them, such as missile defense or Kosovo.

"There really are no obvious candidates for a breakthrough issue that would impart a positive momentum to the broader relationship," said Steven Pifer, a deputy assistant secretary of state during Bush’s first term.

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) – Taking a swipe at a potential GOP presidential rival, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday criticized Fred Thompson for suggesting illegal Cuban immigrants pose a terrorist threat.

"I was appalled when one of the people running for or about to run for the Republican nomination talked about Cuban refugees as potential terrorists," Clinton told Hispanic elected officials. "Apparently he doesn’t have a lot of experience in Florida or anywhere else, and doesn’t know a lot of Cuban-Americans."

Thompson, who is polling strongly among GOP primary voters and is expected to join the race soon, made the comment at a campaign stop Wednesday in South Carolina.

The actor and former Tennessee senator was criticizing an immigration bill in the Senate, contending it would make the country more vulnerable to terrorism.

(AP) Actor Fred Thompson, a former U.S. senator and possible candidate for the Republican presidential…
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Noting that the United States had apprehended 1,000 people from Cuba in 2005, Thompson said, "I don’t imagine they’re coming here to bring greetings from Castro. We’re living in the era of the suitcase bomb." Fidel Castro is Cuba’s leader.

A video clip of Thompson’s remark immediately circulated on YouTube and has drawn considerable attention in Florida, a key early primary state home to many Republican-leaning Cuban Americans.

Thompson spokeswoman Burson Snyder declined to comment Saturday, pointing to a note Thompson posted Thursday on his campaign blog saying he had been referring to Cuban spies, not immigrants. "Our national security is too important an issue to let folks twist words around for a one-day headline," Thompson said in his post. "Cuban-Americans are among the staunchest opponents of illegal immigration, and especially so when it’s sponsored by the Castro regime."

All the major Democratic presidential candidates were at Walt Disney World for a forum sponsored by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. Of the GOP candidates, only California Rep. Duncan Hunter accepted the group’s invitation to speak.

With the failure of an immigration reform bill in the Senate still fresh, all the candidates vowed to pursue comprehensive immigration reform in the future. All said they support a path to citizenship for the 12 million immigrants living illegally in the U.S.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama defended his vote last year to build a 700-mile fence across the U.S.-Mexican border, saying it was just one component of a robust immigration bill he had worked hard to negotiate.

"Nobody has been a more consistent supporter of comprehensive immigration reform than I have been," Obama said. "Do I believe fences make good neighbors and are the right approach? No, I don’t believe that."

Clinton and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden also voted for the bill containing the fence provision.

Obama also promised a greater foreign policy focus on Latin America if elected president.

"It’s not enough for us to have a Latin American policy based on not liking (Venezuelan president) Hugo Chavez and not liking Fidel Castro," Obama said.

Biden drew applause when he noted that as many as 40 percent of illegal immigrants were not Hispanic.

"It’s a race to the bottom – who out there can be the most anti-Hispanic," Biden said of the immigration debate. "Why is it we only view it through the prism of Spanish speaking people?"

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards told the crowd his rural hometown of Robbins, N.C. was now half Hispanic.

"They came for the same reason my parents came – they wanted their children to have a better life," Edwards said.

Several of the candidates laced their remarks with Spanish, with varying degrees of success.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, fully bilingual from his days as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic, cracked up the crowd when he told them, in Spanish, "I’m the only Gringo in the Senate" to speak the language.

Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, saying he believed all American children should learn to speak Spanish, gave his closing statement in Spanish while apologizing in advance for his accent.

Audience members at first seemed unsure how to respond, but in the end appeared somewhat charmed at his efforts to soldier through.

"It worked, but barely," Democratic Texas State Rep. Rafael Anchia said of Kucinich’s effort.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson won cheers from the audience as the first Hispanic candidate to run for president. He, too, spoke Spanish to the crowd, calling them "Mi gente, mi familia" – my people, my family.

"I’m not running as a Latino candidate. I’m running as an American governor who is enormously proud to be Latino," he told supporters.

A fluent Spanish speaker, Richardson called his supporters at the association "Mi gente, mi familia," – my people, my family.

Florida, which intends to hold its important primary Jan. 29, is more than 20 percent Hispanic.

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Baghdad: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki condemned a US raid yesterday in Baghdad’s Shiite Sadr City slum – a politically sensitive district for him – in which American troops searching for Iranian-linked militants sparked a firefight that left 26 terrorists dead.The US military said all those killed in the fighting were gunmen.

Sadr City is the Iraqi capital’s largest Shiite neighbourhood – home to some 2.5 million people – making US raids there potentially embarrassing for Al Maliki’s Shiite-led government. The district is also the stronghold of the Mahdi Army, a terrorist militia loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, who was once Al Maliki’s ally.

 

"The Iraqi government totally rejects US military operations … conducted without prior approval from the Iraqi military command," Al Maliki said in a statement concerning the Sadr City raid. "Anyone who breaches the military command orders will face investigation." Al Maliki last year banned military operations in Sadr City without his approval after complaints from his Shiite political allies. The ban frustrated US commanders pushing for a crackdown on the Mahdi Army.

Al Maliki later agreed that no area of the capital was off-limits, after US President George W. Bush ordered reinforcements to Iraq as part of the Baghdad security operation.

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Beirut: About 20 pro-government Lebanese lawmakers have temporarily left the conflict-ridden country this summer apparently seeking safety abroad amid mounting security threats and the assassination of an outspoken politician.

According to a count of legislators who have left Lebanon, more than two dozen, many from the leading majority party bloc, have flown out of the politically divided country over the past 10 days.

Though some of the legislators have since returned, 20 are still abroad. The trend reflects growing concern about their safety – and overall security in the country.

A senior Arab intelligence official said Lebanese lawmakers who are allied with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora have been advised to seek temporary shelter abroad after names appeared on a hit list. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter.

Eido killing

Many of the legislators have travelled to Egypt, an ally of the United States and Siniora’s government whose relations with Damascus have been tense in recent months, according to the official and other officials familiar with the travel plans.

On June 13, a car bomb killed Walid Eido, a pro-government lawmaker and fierce critic of Syria. He was the seventh high-profile anti-Syrian personality assassinated in the last two years.

Pro-government leaders have accused Syria of killing Eido to undermine Siniora’s government, which could fall if it loses two more Cabinet ministers or four legislators. Syria denies the accusations and has condemned the killing.

The Lebanese As Safir daily newspaper, which tilts toward the opposition that is led by Hezbollah, said in a June 20 report that "an Arab security agency chief has informed a number of leaders in the majority team that they should take summer vacation outside Lebanon." Another pro-opposition newspaper, Al Akhbar, on Friday also reported that arrangements were being made to move 65 pro-government lawmakers, or more than half the legislature, as well as 35 other politicians to Egypt and France. The report said party leaders would remain in Beirut.

One lawmaker from Lebanon’s majority who was staying in the country denied receiving warnings about moving abroad but added that some colleagues had left for their own safety.

"Some lawmakers have left Lebanon temporarily because they don’t have security capabilities to protect themselves," Samir Franjieh said. "There is no decision from our leadership or the Lebanese security authorities to leave the country. This is a self-made decision by members after the assassination of Eido to guarantee their own safety."

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Falun Gong members meditate during a demonstration outside the Chinese government’s local liaison office in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong: Democracy activists scuffled with police in Hong Kong yesterday as they sought to air their grievances with Chinese President Hu Jintao, visiting the former British colony on the 10th anniversary of its return to China.

Several dozen protesters pushed and shouted at police in heavy rain as they tried to advance on Hu’s hotel to hand in a petition demanding democracy, protection of human rights and atonement from Beijing for the June 4, 1989 crackdown in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that saw hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people killed by troops.

Shouting slogans and carrying banners, the protesters marched to within a few blocks of the hotel but were blocked by more than 100 police officers.

Growing demand

Hu has avoided addressing the issue of democratic reforms – and how the city might reconcile growing calls by the public and a vocal pro-democracy camp for direct elections.

Hong Kong’s post-handover constitution says universal suffrage is the ultimate goal, but is vague on a timetable, giving Beijing scope to dictate the pace of reform. Beijing’s parliament has ruled out direct elections until at least 2012.

The normally buttoned-down leader has been on a charm offensive to try to win over Hong Kong’s citizens and stir up patriotism.

Earlier in the day, Hu donned a green "Mao suit" and inspected army troops. A ceremony was also held to mark the gift of two "handover pandas" to Hong Kong.

Hu dispensed with suit and tie on Friday, meeting families in their homes and presenting them with gifts.

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Chinese leader Hu Jintao inspects troops of the People’s Liberation Army in Hong Kong

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Spanish police acting on a telephoned bomb threat evacuated Ibiza airport in the Balearic islands on Saturday, and later used a controlled explosion to detonate a suspicious package, airport officials and press reports said.

The discovery came just a day after two Mercedes loaded with gasoline, gas canisters and nails were found abandoned in London in what police believe was an attempt to kill scores or even hundreds of people.

Spanish authorities did not immediately say who they believed was behind the incident, reports on the Web sites of dailies El Pais, El Mundo and La Vanguardia’s said three warnings had been received by the Basque newspaper Gara, which the violent Basque separatist group ETA often uses as a conduit for bomb warnings.

A spokeswoman for the AENA airport authority, which controls Spain’s airports, said the airport had shut down.

The bomb threat was made just weeks after ETA called off a 15-month cease-fire, blaming the government for refusing to make concessions in the peace process and warning it was once again becoming active "on all fronts."

Fears have been growing that renewed ETA violence was imminent, particularly after Civil Guards found a car near the southern Spanish town of Ayamonte, near the border with Portugal. It contained more than 220 pounds of explosive material, detonators, timers and a bomb-making manual in the Basque language.

ETA has attacked airports before, most recently in a December 2006 car bombing that killed two people at Madrid’s Barajas airport.

ETA, whose name stands for Basque Homeland and Freedom, has killed more than 800 people since 1968 in its campaign for a separate Basque state. It is classified as a terrorist group by the United States and the European.

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 A military wing of Hams movement vowed on Saturday to receive any international forces in Gaza with "missiles and rockets."

    "The goal of these forces was to strengthen a party at the expense of the other party," Ezz el-Deen al-Qassam said in a press release.

    The group added that it will deal with them "as an occupation force and will receive them with missiles and rockets." The statement came after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is of rival Fatah movement, called for international forces in Gaza Strip to secure the holding of early elections. Abbas’ call was made Friday during a visit to France, his first European stop since Hamas Islamists took control of Gaza Stripearlier this month.

    Abbas intends to hold early presidential and parliamentary elections to curb Hamas, which, for their part, opposes the early polls. Hamas won a landslide victory in 2006 legislative elections. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Hamas considered Abbas’ refusal to talk with the Islamic movement as "a submission to the Israeli and American orders."

    "President Abbas is asked to come back to dialogue if he was willing to and it is forbidden for him to come back on an Israeli or American tank," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told reporters in Gaza.

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Cairo: Twenty-six students from the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most powerful opposition group, were detained during a police raid on Saturday.

A source from the Brotherhood said the students from Cairo’s Ain Shams University had been on holiday in Alexandria when police raided their lodgings at dawn.

The security source said they had been detained for holding meetings and possessing Brotherhood literature.

The government considers the Brotherhood an illegal organisation and frequently detains its members, often releasing them without charge after days or weeks in detention.

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Fire at airport

The car was ablaze before crashing into the building

A car on fire has been driven at the main terminal building at Glasgow Airport, police have confirmed.

Eyewitnesses have described a Jeep Cherokee being driven at speed towards the building with flames coming out from underneath.

They have also described seeing two Asian men, one of whom was on fire, who had been in the car.

The airport has been evacuated and all flights suspended following the incident at 1515 BST.

There was an Asian guy who was pulled out of the car by two police officers

Richard Gray
Eyewitness

One eyewitness said: "I heard the sound of a car’s wheels spinning and smoke coming out.

"I saw a Jeep Cherokee apparently as if it was trying to get right through the doors into the terminal building.

"There were flames coming out from underneath then some men appeared from in amongst the flames.

Map showing the airport location

The incident happened 1515 BST on Saturday

"The police ran over and the people started fighting with the police. I then heard what sounded like an explosion."

Eye-witness Richard Gray told BBC News 24: "A green Jeep was in the middle of the doorway burning.

"There was an Asian guy who was pulled out of the car by two police officers, who he was trying to fight off. They’ve got him on the ground.

"The car didn’t actually explode. There were a few pops and bangs which presumably was the petrol."

Two men, one of whom was reported to be badly burned, were seen being led away in handcuffs.

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