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161  General / General Discussion / Oil and troubled waters on: February 17, 2010, 01:36:27 pm
Oil and troubled waters

Feb 17th 2010 | BUENOS AIRES | From The Economist print edition

Plans to drill for oil in the Falklands provoke angry words from Argentina

EACH year a well-rehearsed performance takes place at the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation. Argentina’s government protests that Britain’s sovereignty over the islands it calls the Malvinas is a colonial injustice, and that the principle of territorial integrity demands that they be reunited with the mainland. Representatives from the Falkland Islands counter that they have a right to self-determination; that they have no wish to be part of Argentina; and that they do not consider themselves to be a colony of Britain anyway. Most of the time the argument gets no further than that. After going to war over the islands in 1982, Britain and Argentina have enjoyed diplomatic relations for 20 years now. But the arrival of an oil exploration rig in the Falklands this month will give new fuel to dispute that dates back to 1833.

On February 16th Aníbal Fernández, the presidential chief of staff, announced that ships sailing between Argentina and the Falklands would henceforth require a permit. Earlier the government barred a ship which it said had previously called in the islands from loading a cargo of pipes. (Techint, the Argentine manufacturer of the pipes, said they were destined for the Mediterranean.) Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina’s president, said she would “work unceasingly for our rights in the Malvinas, for human rights.” A spokesman for the British embassy in Buenos Aires said that the application of laws in and around the Falklands was a matter for the islanders, and that Britain had no doubts over the sovereignty issue.

Exploratory wells were drilled in the waters of the Falklands in 1998. While suggesting there might be oil, further exploration was not seen as profitable at the low price then prevailing. Subsequent seismic surveys and the surge in the price of oil prompted Desire Petroleum, a small British company, to hire the rig, which will drill up to ten wells for it and Rockhopper, another British outfit. Most will be in the north Falklands basin, with perhaps one or two in the south Falklands basin, which has not yet been explored at all. By the end of this year the 2,500 islanders will have a better idea of whether the Falklands are to become the Saudi Arabia with penguins.

If recoverable oil is found, it will be doubly galling for Argentina. Since the war, income per head in the once-poor islands has substantially overhauled that in the would-be motherland. While the Falklands have grown rich on squid (and more), Argentina’s long decline has continued. Because Ms Fernández’s government, like that of her husband and predecessor, Néstor Kirchner, is unfriendly to foreign oil companies, its own oil and gas industry is steadily shrinking.

Ms Fernández is deeply unpopular, thanks to rising inflation and evidence that the first couple have grown rich while in office. But her outrage over the Malvinas plays well at home, even if few Argentines believe that it will achieve much. When Mr Kirchner suspended charter flights to the islands and banned Argentine scientists from taking part in a binational commission on fishing, he was applauded for this. With a presidential election next year, the only thing that will pour oil on the dispute is if the wells prove to be dry.
162  General / General Discussion / Russia warns US against attacking Iran on: February 17, 2010, 01:35:39 pm
Russia warns US against attacking Iran

Press TV
Feb 17 2010

The chief of Russia's General Staff, Nikolai Makarov, has warned the US against striking Iran over the country's nuclear program.

"The consequences, I believe, would be dreadful for Iran, as well as Russia, the entire Asia-Pacific community," Makarov said on Wednesday.

The Russian military chief further suggested that the United States might turn its military attention on the Islamic Republic once its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have been completed.

Amid a US campaign to drum up support for new anti-Iran sanctions, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned on Tuesday that world powers would "regret" any moves against the country.

"If anybody seeks to create problems for Iran, our response will not be like before," Ahmadinejad said at a press conference in Tehran.

"Something will be done in response that will make them (the world powers) regret [their action]," the Iranian chief executive added. "However, we prefer they steer towards cooperation [with Iran]."

President Ahmadinejad made the remarks as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was wrapping up her visit to the Middle East, where she stopped in Qatar and Saudi Arabia to seek the backing of the Arab world's heavyweights against Tehran's nuclear drive.

Tehran says its nuclear program is directed at the civilian applications of the technology and has called for the removal of all weapons of mass destruction around the globe.

The West, however, accuses the country of seeking military ends in its pursuit. The United States has spearheaded efforts to slap new UN Security Council sanctions against Iran, after the country announced the production of the first batch of 20 percent-enriched uranium to make fuel for a medical research reactor in Tehran.
163  General / General Discussion / Ukrainian court suspends presidential election result after appeal [SORROS] on: February 17, 2010, 01:34:43 pm

Ukrainian court suspends presidential election result after appeal

17 Feb 2010

Court to rule on complaint by prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, that poll won by her rival, Viktor Yanukovych, was flawed

Ukraine's highest court today suspended the results of this month's bitterly contested presidential election following an appeal by Yulia Tymoshenko against the victory of her rival, Viktor Yanukovych.

The court said it would rule on complaints by Tymoshenko that the election narrowly won by Yanukovych on 7 February had been flawed. Tymoshenko, the prime minister, has refused to concede defeat and appears intent on sabotaging Yanukovych's inauguration on 25 February.

International observers certified the election as free and fair. Today experts said that Tymoshenko's legal action was unlikely to overturn the result of the poll – although it may put off heads of state from attending Yanukovych's swearing-in ceremony.

"I don't think this will throw a spanner in the works," Andrew Wilson, senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said. The court was considering complaints of fraud in Crimea and Donetsk – both Russian-speaking Yanukovych strongholds, he said.

Yanukovych's Party of the Regions said it was unperturbed by the court ruling, and added that world leaders including Barack Obama and Gordon Brown had congratulated him on his victory.

Ukraine's higher administrative court is likely to decide by the weekend on Tymoshenko's appeal. Anna German, the vice-chair of Yanukovych's party, dismissed its deliberations as a "mere formality".

"These proceedings can't overturn the obvious: The majority of Ukrainians have voted for Yanukovych," she said, according to AP. "The entire world has recognized Yanukovych's victory."

Viktor Nebozhenko, the head of the Ukrainian Barometer polling agency, predicted that the court would rule against Tymoshenko because many judges on the court support Yanukovych.

"Tymoshenko knows quite well that she has little chance of winning, but she will use the proceedings to make strong accusations," he said. "Tymoshenko's key goal is now to stay in the prime minister's seat. She has nothing to lose and is ready to offer promises and jobs."
164  General / General Discussion / Oil "discovered" in Falkland Islands - 2nd WAR for East India Co ??? on: February 17, 2010, 11:21:32 am
This isn't Falklands II

Feb 17 2010

Sabre-rattling over Malvinas oil serves a useful political purpose for Argentina's President Kirchner. But she's no Galtieri

It was Karl Marx who said "history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce" – and in the case of the abruptly reigniting dispute over the Falkland Islands, aka Las Malvinas, there is reason to hope he was right. Argentina's latest protests, sparked by the prospect of an oil bonanza around the islands, could easily be dismissed as hot air. But that was the mistake Britain made last time, and almost 1,000 people paid with their lives.

The parallels with the runup to the 1982 war, echoing eerily down the years, are uncanny, although susceptible to exaggeration. The Iron Lady star of today's supposed sequel is not Britain's Margaret Thatcher. It is Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina's president and wife of her immediate presidential predecessor, Néstor Kirchner. She once styled herself "Evita with a clenched fist". She has shown she's not scared of a fight.

Like Thatcher, Kirchner has spent much of her time in office battling trade unions while trying to resuscitate an indebted, moribund economy. Regional analysts say the government, dependent on continuing international support since the country's $100bn debt default in 2001, is wary of unleashing a patriotic furore. But next year is presidential election year in Argentina.

If Kirchner and her husband can overcome corruption accusations arising from their substantial personal wealth, one or the other may seek a second term in office. And how better to set the blood racing, and the voters voting, than a noisy, passionate spat with frigid, faraway Britain? Kirchner is on record as describing Argentina's claim to sovereignty over the Falklands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich islands as "inalienable". It was a national duty, she said in 2008, to remove "the shameful presence of a colonial enclave".

Argentina's action this week in requiring shipping to obtain permits to travel to or through the disputed waters around the islands was immediately characterised as a "blockade' – another echo of 1982.

But islanders say they have been under economic siege by Argentina for many years and have survived. And there is no need this time for an exclusion zone of the type imposed by Britain after the invasion. A 500-square mile sovereign economic zone now surrounds the Falklands, protected by a Royal Navy destroyer, Typhoon jet fighters and about 1,300 military personnel.

Britain accepts Argentina is within its rights to impose rules on shipping that uses its ports. If the new regulations are enforced, oil industry experts say it will inevitably push up the cost of oil exploration. But suggestions in Buenos Aires that Argentina will attempt to enforce its authority on the high seas – or over what it calls its "national territory" around the Falklands – appear highly impractical at this point.

The first offshore oil rig to work the area since 1998 arrives off the islands this week, with drilling scheduled to start next year. Britain says such activity is entirely legal. "We have no doubt about our sovereignty over the Falklands islands and the surrounding maritime area," the British embassy in Buenos Aires said in a statement.

So exactly what foreign minister Jorge Taiana meant when he warned Argentina will try to stop the oilmen is unclear. "What they [the British oil company Desire Petroleum] are doing is illegitimate ... it's a violation of our sovereignty," Taiana said on Tuesday. "We will do everything necessary to defend and preserve our rights."

The capabilities to make good such declarations, however interpreted, are not wholly lacking. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Argentina's army and navy currently comprise 72,000 personnel. Its navy boasts three submarines, five destroyers and nine frigates (mostly secondhand), and a few patrol boats. The warships are armed with the feared Exocet missiles that inflicted so much damage in 1982. Argentina also has about 140 combat-capable aircraft, including Mirage fighters.

But unlike the dark days of the late, unlamented dictator, General Leopoldo Galtieri, nobody is seriously talking about resorting to main force. One possible avenue for Buenos Aires is to take its grievances back to the United Nations. It can also put pressure on Britain through regional organisations and bilaterally. Or – and this may be the smart move – it can bide its time while British firms and capital do the heavy lifting.

By some estimates, 60bn barrels of oil may be sitting under the sea around the Falklands, a potential North Sea-scale bonanza. But previous exploratory drilling has been disappointing and so far not a drop of sellable "black gold" has been extracted. Added to the political strains are the physical strains of working in such a southerly region. The sea in some areas reaches depths of 3,000 metres, rainfall is high, storms are frequent, winter temperatures are typically near freezing, and the cost of operating a rig in such an environment can run to $1m a day.

These are formidable challenges that may yet prove insuperable. Just as historical tragedy replays as farce, black gold often turns to fool's gold. Before doing anything silly, Kirchner's Argentina might be best advised to wait and see whether there is anything worth fighting over.
165  General / Introductions / Welcome on: February 17, 2010, 09:54:18 am
Thought I would be social and start a thread.
 Roll Eyes
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