February 22, 2008

Navjyot Sidhhu on Narendra Modi and congress

Narendra Modi's answer on Godhra

Narendra Modi’s Chennai speech - Offstumped Commentary


Source: OFFSTUMPED

Very interesting speech by Mr. Modi at the Tughlaq Magazine’s annual reader’s event.

Cho Ramaswamy’s introduction of Narendra Modi was an interesting twist to Sonia Gandhi’s Merchant of Death remark much to the pleasure of a cheering audience.

It was a speech that Modi delivered largely extempore without any prepared notes and interspersed with anecdotes and wisecracks at the Congress.

Few highlights that stood out worth commenting upon in Mr. Modi’s speech.

- He opened his remarks with a tribute to democracy and what makes Cho a true democrat. For someone who has been routinely bandied as a Hitler in the making it should strike even the most ardent Modi critic as important that he should have chosen to open his speech with a reference to democracy and not to Hindutva, not to BJP not to mundane politics but with a reference to that which is most paramount - a commitment to democracy.

- The next subject that Modi chose to comment on again was very interesting when he chose to highlight the importance of conviction and courage in being open to criticism not by those who despise you but especially those who are most dearest to you.

- A little known aspect of Mr. Modi’s work ethic also surfaces as well with an oblique dig at the mainstream media and its antipathy towards Modi for its praise of Manmohan Singh not taking a vacation in 3 years.

- Modi then went on to sound all the right notes on how he views the recent win in Gujarat as a burden and responsibility rather than as a trophy to be relished and enjoyed.

- More digs at the Congress on how “poor its arithmetic was” in its allegation that Modi had 250 pairs of clothes.

The most important aspect of his speech surfaces a full 15minutes into the meeting when Modi goes on to exude why the Nation must adopt a Positive Attitude towards Change. Very important given the overwhelming mindset of negativism that dominates the public discource that seeks to justify entitlements in the name of social justice. Modi makes a great example of his life story and backward origins to defy this mindset that seeks entitlements by making the point that with convictions, courage and commitment anything was possible.

- Modi then goes on to talk about his social commitment for education to the girl child to improve Gujarat’s performance in this area and how over a span of 4 years Gujarat was close to 100% enrollment from a situation of 49% dropout with a target of 0% dropout by 2010.

Point to be noted, the ease with which Modi references social performance indicators in his extempore speech and the mindset which is performance oriented and metrics driven. A stark contrast with the typical Indian Politician who is high on rhetoric and emotion and low on substance.

- Modi then goes on to talk about the poor village to gynaecologist ratio and the high rate of mortality in below poverty line pregnant women and how his public-private partnership for pregnant women, along the lines of the Milton Friedman Voucher System for education, benefitted 1.58 lakh women and how atleast 6000 maternal/infant mortalities were prevented.

- Interesting tid-bit on how the entire bureaucracy opposed his Jyotigram scheme to fix rural electricity problems and how usolicited advise from the Congress conveyed the impossibility of making the scheme work. Modi then goes on to talk about how he borrowed 10 crores from the Co-operative sector to pilot the scheme in 45 villages to then go onto make it a success across the state in 1000 days - 23 lakh electricity poles, 56,000 transformed, 75,000kms of cable Modi reels off statistics to make the point that if it wills the creaking State Machinery can deliver. A snide jab at Karunanidhi’s extended and unaccounted for family follows

- Another great example follows on how technology can be used to eliminate corruption with toll gates and cross border checkposts between Gujarat and Maharashtra with another Modiquet - “if you have the will you can win… against corruption”

- Some media bashing follows on how cliched the allegations of communalism had become and the ever changing definition of secularism.

Modi gives an interesting spin to the secualrism debate saying his model of development was inherently secular for it benefitted all making no distinction or discrimination of none.

- Another anecdote follows on how illegal immigration from Bangladesh in Assam was distorting the local labor market.

Modi makes a point of fiscal discpline on how Gujarat went from a revenue deficit to a revenue surplus and how he was not a tax and spend liberal with his track record of not introducing new taxes. Point to note for all those to the right of center on economic issues.

- Another anecdote on the profitibaility of the electricity board

Modi takes entitlements head on how Karunanidhi was doling out free color televisions in Tami Nadu and the Congress made a similar promise in Gujarat with his counter promise to crack down on tax evasion.

- Modi goes on to praise the maturity of the people of Gujarat for their rejection of entitlements and their faith in a government that stood for upholding the rule of law while taking a dig at the media for its rubbish on structural polarisation in Gujarat.

- Reference to a world bank study on recovery in Kutch after the earthquake with parallels to the Indian Ocean Tsunami

- More anecdotes on taking hard decisions in the financial sector even at the risk of taking tough action against partymen.

- Some chest thumping follows on rural broadband connectivity and a dig at the United States on denying him a visa. Modi elaborates on distant education using the broadband network.

Modi goes on to eulogise on how he intends to develop Gujarat with a scientific temper leveraging technology.

Very important point follows on role of Government in Wealth Creation. Modi articulates a clear philosophy of “Minimum Government and Maximum Governance”. Leave wealth creation to the Enterprenuer who is most capable of creating wealth, focus on Governance and make sure the opportunities to benefit from wealth are maximized.

Offstumped Bottomline: A lot of debate has ensued on this blog, INI and elsewhere on what Right of Center means and which political entity in India stands for Right of Center values and principles. This speech by Narendra Modi must rank as one of the most clear articulation of a Right of Center philosophy premised on “Minimum Government and Maximum Governance” that rejects subsidies, denies entitlements, stands up for National Security while being fiscally responsible and letting Enterprises the freedom to create wealth.

Narendra Modi’s Chennai speech - Youtube Video


Courtesy long time Offstumped reader KK, you can find the Youtube Video of the speech by BJP Leader and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on 14th Jan 2008 during the Annual meeting of Cho Ramaswamy’s Tamil magazine Thuglak in Chennai.

Narendra Modi’s Speech at Chennai - Part 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vPnKFhIgbg

Narendra Modi’s Speech at Chennai - Part 2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPaJiFKHRkE

Narendra Modi’s Speech at Chennai - Part 3
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ktu-p4d0wS8

Narendra Modi’s Speech at Chennai - Part 4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOONUoTfRx4

Narendra Modi’s Speech at Chennai - Part 5
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsmSf2n0hg4

Narendra Modi’s Speech at Chennai - Part 6
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjDW4DaIZVc

The playlist of these 6 parts are also available in
http://youtube.com/view_play_list?p=4F48C269FAE491D3

The Next Slum?



Source: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200803/subprime

For 60 years, Americans have pushed steadily into the suburbs, transforming the landscape and (until recently) leaving cities behind. But today the pendulum is swinging back toward urban living, and there are many reasons to believe this swing will continue. As it does, many low-density suburbs and McMansion subdivisions, including some that are lovely and affluent today, may become what inner cities became in the 1960s and ’70s—slums characterized by poverty, crime, and decay.




The subprime crisis is just the tip of the iceberg. Fundamental changes in American life may turn today’s McMansions into tomorrow’s tenements.

by Christopher B. Leinberger


trange days are upon the residents of many a suburban cul-de-sac. Once-tidy yards have become overgrown, as the houses they front have gone vacant. Signs of physical and social disorder are spreading.

At Windy Ridge, a recently built starter-home development seven miles northwest of Charlotte, North Carolina, 81 of the community’s 132 small, vinyl-sided houses were in foreclosure as of late last year. Vandals have kicked in doors and stripped the copper wire from vacant houses; drug users and homeless people have furtively moved in. In December, after a stray bullet blasted through her son’s bedroom and into her own, Laurie Talbot, who’d moved to Windy Ridge from New York in 2005, told The Charlotte Observer, “I thought I’d bought a home in Pleasantville. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that stuff like this would happen.”

In the Franklin Reserve neighborhood of Elk Grove, California, south of Sacramento, the houses are nicer than those at Windy Ridge—many once sold for well over $500,000—but the phenomenon is the same. At the height of the boom, 10,000 new homes were built there in just four years. Now many are empty; renters of dubious character occupy others. Graffiti, broken windows, and other markers of decay have multiplied. Susan McDonald, president of the local residents’ association and an executive at a local bank, told the Associated Press, “There’s been gang activity. Things have really been changing, the last few years.”

In the first half of last year, residential burglaries rose by 35 percent and robberies by 58 percent in suburban Lee County, Florida, where one in four houses stands empty. Charlotte’s crime rates have stayed flat overall in recent years—but from 2003 to 2006, in the 10 suburbs of the city that have experienced the highest foreclosure rates, crime rose 33 percent. Civic organizations in some suburbs have begun to mow the lawns around empty houses to keep up the appearance of stability. Police departments are mapping foreclosures in an effort to identify emerging criminal hot spots.

The decline of places like Windy Ridge and Franklin Reserve is usually attributed to the subprime-mortgage crisis, with its wave of foreclosures. And the crisis has indeed catalyzed or intensified social problems in many communities. But the story of vacant suburban homes and declining suburban neighborhoods did not begin with the crisis, and will not end with it. A structural change is under way in the housing market—a major shift in the way many Americans want to live and work. It has shaped the current downturn, steering some of the worst problems away from the cities and toward the suburban fringes. And its effects will be felt more strongly, and more broadly, as the years pass. Its ultimate impact on the suburbs, and the cities, will be profound.

Arthur C. Nelson, director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, has looked carefully at trends in American demographics, construction, house prices, and consumer preferences. In 2006, using recent consumer research, housing supply data, and population growth rates, he modeled future demand for various types of housing. The results were bracing: Nelson forecasts a likely surplus of 22 million large-lot homes (houses built on a sixth of an acre or more) by 2025—that’s roughly 40 percent of the large-lot homes in existence today.

For 60 years, Americans have pushed steadily into the suburbs, transforming the landscape and (until recently) leaving cities behind. But today the pendulum is swinging back toward urban living, and there are many reasons to believe this swing will continue. As it does, many low-density suburbs and McMansion subdivisions, including some that are lovely and affluent today, may become what inner cities became in the 1960s and ’70s—slums characterized by poverty, crime, and decay.

T
he suburban dream began, arguably, at the New York World’s Fair of 1939 and ’40. “Highways and Horizons,” better known as “Futurama,” was overwhelmingly the fair’s most popular exhibit; perhaps 10 percent of the American population saw it. At the heart of the exhibit was a scale model, covering an area about the size of a football field, that showed what American cities and towns might look like in 1960. Visitors watched matchbox-sized cars zip down wide highways. Gone were the crowded tenements of the time; 1960s Americans would live in stand-alone houses with spacious yards and attached garages. The exhibit would not impress us today, but at the time, it inspired wonder. E. B. White wrote in Harper’s, “A ride on the Futurama … induces approximately the same emotional response as a trip through the Cathedral of St. John the Divine … I didn’t want to wake up.”

The suburban transformation that began in 1946, as GIs returned home, took almost half a century to complete, as first people, then retail, then jobs moved out of cities and into new subdivisions, malls, and office parks. As families decamped for the suburbs, they left behind out-of-fashion real estate, a poorer residential base, and rising crime. Once-thriving central-city retail districts were killed off by the combination of regional suburban malls and the 1960s riots. By the end of the 1970s, people seeking safety and good schools generally had little alternative but to move to the suburbs. In 1981, Escape From New York, starring Kurt Russell, depicted a near future in which Manhattan had been abandoned, fenced off, and turned into an unsupervised penitentiary.

Cities, of course, have made a long climb back since then. Just nine years after Russell escaped from the wreck of New York, Seinfeld—followed by Friends, then Sex and the City—began advertising the city’s renewed urban allure to Gen-Xers and Millennials. Many Americans, meanwhile, became disillusioned with the sprawl and stupor that sometimes characterize suburban life. These days, when Hollywood wants to portray soullessness, despair, or moral decay, it often looks to the suburbs—as The Sopranos and Desperate Housewives attest—for inspiration.

In the past decade, as cities have gentrified, the suburbs have continued to grow at a breakneck pace. Atlanta’s sprawl has extended nearly to Chattanooga; Fort Worth and Dallas have merged; and Los Angeles has swung a leg over the 10,000-foot San Gabriel Mountains into the Mojave Desert. Some experts expect conventional suburbs to continue to sprawl ever outward. Yet today, American metropolitan residential patterns and cultural preferences are mirror opposites of those in the 1940s. Most Americans now live in single-family suburban houses that are segregated from work, shopping, and entertainment; but it is urban life, almost exclusively, that is culturally associated with excitement, freedom, and diverse daily life. And as in the 1940s, the real-estate market has begun to react.

P
ent-up demand for urban living is evident in housing prices. Twenty years ago, urban housing was a bargain in most central cities. Today, it carries an enormous price premium. Per square foot, urban residential neighborhood space goes for 40 percent to 200 percent more than traditional suburban space in areas as diverse as New York City; Portland, Oregon; Seattle; and Washington, D.C.

It’s crucial to note that these premiums have arisen not only in central cities, but also in suburban towns that have walkable urban centers offering a mix of residential and commercial development. For instance, luxury single-family homes in suburban Westchester County, just north of New York City, sell for $375 a square foot. A luxury condo in downtown White Plains, the county’s biggest suburban city, can cost you $750 a square foot. This same pattern can be seen in the suburbs of Detroit, or outside Seattle. People are being drawn to the convenience and culture of walkable urban neighborhoods across the country—even when those neighborhoods are small.

Builders and developers tend to notice big price imbalances, and they are working to accommodate demand for urban living. New lofts and condo complexes have popped up all over many big cities. Suburban towns built in the 19th and early 20th centuries, featuring downtown street grids at their core, have seen a good deal of “in-filling” in recent years as well, with new condos and town houses, and renovated small-lot homes just outside their downtowns. And while urban construction may slow for a time because of the present housing bust, it will surely continue. Sprawling, large-lot suburbs become less attractive as they become more densely built, but urban areas—especially those well served by public transit—become more appealing as they are filled in and built up. Crowded sidewalks tend to be safe and lively, and bigger crowds can support more shops, restaurants, art galleries.

But developers are also starting to find ways to bring the city to newer suburbs—and provide an alternative to conventional, car-based suburban life. “Lifestyle centers”—walkable developments that create an urban feel, even when built in previously undeveloped places—are becoming popular with some builders. They feature narrow streets and small storefronts that come up to the sidewalk, mixed in with housing and office space. Parking is mostly hidden underground or in the interior of faux city blocks.

The granddaddy of all lifestyle centers is the Reston Town Center, located between Virginia’s Dulles International Airport and Washington, D.C. Since it opened in 1990, it has become the “downtown” for western Fairfax and eastern Loudoun counties; a place for the kids to see Santa and for teenagers to ice skate. People living in the town can stroll from the movie theater to restaurants and then back home. A 2006 study by the Brookings Institution showed that Reston’s apartments, condominiums, and office and retail space were all commanding about a 50 percent rent or price premium over the typically suburban houses, office parks, and strip malls nearby.

Housing at Belmar, the new “downtown” in Lakewood, Colorado, a middle-income inner suburb of Denver, commands a 60 percent premium per square foot over the single-family homes in the neighborhoods around it. The development covers about 20 small blocks in all. What’s most noteworthy is its history: it was built on the site of a razed mall.

Building lifestyle centers is far more complex than building McMansion developments (or malls). These new, faux-urban centers have many moving parts, and they need to achieve critical mass quickly to attract buyers and retailers. As a result, during the 1990s, lifestyle centers spread slowly. But real-estate developers are gaining more experience with this sort of building, and it is proliferating. Very few, if any, regional malls are being built these days—lifestyle centers are going up instead.

I
n most metropolitan areas, only 5 to 10 percent of the housing stock is located in walkable urban places (including places like downtown White Plains and Belmar). Yet recent consumer research by Jonathan Levine of the University of Michigan and Lawrence Frank of the University of British Columbia suggests that roughly one in three homeowners would prefer to live in these types of places. In one study, for instance, Levine and his colleagues asked more than 1,600 mostly suburban residents of the Atlanta and Boston metro areas to hypothetically trade off typical suburban amenities (such as large living spaces) against typical urban ones (like living within walking distance of retail districts). All in all, they found that only about a third of the people surveyed solidly preferred traditional suburban lifestyles, featuring large houses and lots of driving. Another third, roughly, had mixed feelings. The final third wanted to live in mixed-use, walkable urban areas—but most had no way to do so at an affordable price. Over time, as urban and faux-urban building continues, that will change.

Demographic changes in the United States also are working against conventional suburban growth, and are likely to further weaken preferences for car-based suburban living. When the Baby Boomers were young, families with children made up more than half of all households; by 2000, they were only a third of households; and by 2025, they will be closer to a quarter. Young people are starting families later than earlier generations did, and having fewer children. The Boomers themselves are becoming empty-nesters, and many have voiced a preference for urban living. By 2025, the U.S. will contain about as many single-person households as families with children.

Because the population is growing, families with children will still grow in absolute number—according to U.S. Census data, there will be about 4 million more households with children in 2025 than there were in 2000. But more than 10 million new single-family homes have already been built since 2000, most of them in the suburbs.

If gasoline and heating costs continue to rise, conventional suburban living may not be much of a bargain in the future. And as more Americans, particularly affluent Americans, move into urban communities, families may find that some of the suburbs’ other big advantages—better schools and safer communities—have eroded. Schooling and safety are likely to improve in urban areas, as those areas continue to gentrify; they may worsen in many suburbs if the tax base—often highly dependent on house values and new development—deteriorates. Many of the fringe counties in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, for instance, are projecting big budget deficits in 2008. Only Washington itself is expecting a large surplus. Fifteen years ago, this budget situation was reversed.

T
he U.S. grows its total stock of housing and commercial space by, at most, 3 percent each year, so the imbalance between the supply of urban living options and the demand for them is not going to disappear overnight. But over the next 20 years, developers will likely produce many, many millions of new and newly renovated town houses, condos, and small-lot houses in and around both new and traditional downtowns.

As conventional suburban lifestyles fall out of fashion and walkable urban alternatives proliferate, what will happen to obsolete large-lot houses? One might imagine culs-de-sac being converted to faux Main Streets, or McMansion developments being bulldozed and reforested or turned into parks. But these sorts of transformations are likely to be rare. Suburbia’s many small parcels of land, held by different owners with different motivations, make the purchase of whole neighborhoods almost unheard-of. Condemnation of single-family housing for “higher and better use” is politically difficult, and in most states it has become almost legally impossible in recent years. In any case, the infrastructure supporting large-lot suburban residential areas—roads, sewer and water lines—cannot support the dense development that urbanization would require, and is not easy to upgrade. Once large-lot, suburban residential landscapes are built, they are hard to unbuild.

The experience of cities during the 1950s through the ’80s suggests that the fate of many single-family homes on the metropolitan fringes will be resale, at rock-bottom prices, to lower-income families—and in all likelihood, eventual conversion to apartments.

This future is not likely to wear well on suburban housing. Many of the inner-city neighborhoods that began their decline in the 1960s consisted of sturdily built, turn-of-the-century row houses, tough enough to withstand being broken up into apartments, and requiring relatively little upkeep. By comparison, modern suburban houses, even high-end McMansions, are cheaply built. Hollow doors and wallboard are less durable than solid-oak doors and lath-and-plaster walls. The plywood floors that lurk under wood veneers or carpeting tend to break up and warp as the glue that holds the wood together dries out; asphalt-shingle roofs typically need replacing after 10 years. Many recently built houses take what structural integrity they have from drywall—their thin wooden frames are too flimsy to hold the houses up.

As the residents of inner-city neighborhoods did before them, suburban homeowners will surely try to prevent the division of neighborhood houses into rental units, which would herald the arrival of the poor. And many will likely succeed, for a time. But eventually, the owners of these fringe houses will have to sell to someone, and they’re not likely to find many buyers; offers from would-be landlords will start to look better, and neighborhood restrictions will relax. Stopping a fundamental market shift by legislation or regulation is generally impossible.

Of course, not all suburbs will suffer this fate. Those that are affluent and relatively close to central cities—especially those along rail lines—are likely to remain in high demand. Some, especially those that offer a thriving, walkable urban core, may find that even the large-lot, residential-only neighborhoods around that core increase in value. Single-family homes next to the downtowns of Redmond, Washington; Evanston, Illinois; and Birmingham, Michigan, for example, are likely to hold their values just fine.

On the other hand, many inner suburbs that are on the wrong side of town, and poorly served by public transport, are already suffering what looks like inexorable decline. Low-income people, displaced from gentrifying inner cities, have moved in, and longtime residents, seeking more space and nicer neighborhoods, have moved out.

But much of the future decline is likely to occur on the fringes, in towns far away from the central city, not served by rail transit, and lacking any real core. In other words, some of the worst problems are likely to be seen in some of the country’s more recently developed areas—and not only those inhabited by subprime-mortgage borrowers. Many of these areas will become magnets for poverty, crime, and social dysfunction.

D
espite this glum forecast for many swaths of suburbia, we should not lose sight of the bigger picture—the shift that’s under way toward walkable urban living is a healthy development. In the most literal sense, it may lead to better personal health and a slimmer population. The environment, of course, will also benefit: if New York City were its own state, it would be the most energy-efficient state in the union; most Manhattanites not only walk or take public transit to get around, they unintentionally share heat with their upstairs neighbors.

Perhaps most important, the shift to walkable urban environments will give more people what they seem to want. I doubt the swing toward urban living will ever proceed as far as the swing toward the suburbs did in the 20th century; many people will still prefer the bigger houses and car-based lifestyles of conventional suburbs. But there will almost certainly be more of a balance between walkable and drivable communities—allowing people in most areas a wider variety of choices.

By the estimate of Virginia Tech’s Arthur Nelson, as much as half of all real-estate development on the ground in 2025 will not have existed in 2000. It’s exciting to imagine what the country will look like then. Building and residential migration seem to progress slowly from year to year, yet then one day, in retrospect, the landscape seems to have been transformed in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, the next transformation, like the ones before it, will leave some places diminished. About 25 years ago, Escape From New York perfectly captured the zeitgeist of its moment. Two or three decades from now, the next Kurt Russell may find his breakout role in Escape From the Suburban Fringe.

The URL for this page is http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200803/subprime.

Pakistan, our paradoxical partner in the war on terror

by Raspal Khosa
Friday, 22 February 2008


Pakistan has been under unpopular military rule for the last eight years and has been marked by widespread political and religious violence in the last year. This paper, authored by Raspal Khosa, examines Pakistan’s paradoxical role in the war on terror; at once a source of extremism and a key partner of the West in fighting it, as well as the policy implications for Australia.( DOWNLOAD )

West Magnifies Negative Points of IAEA Report on Iran

TEHRAN (FNA)- Western media launched a vast campaign to magnify the very few negative points in an almost entirely positive report by the IAEA chief on Iran to divert world attention from the outcome of the UN's four-year-long probe which revealed the peaceful nature of Tehran's nuclear drive.

"Following the Untied States' failure in Iran's nuclear standoff, the Bush administration ordered the US-dominated media and diplomats in the West to undermine the positive points in ElBaradei's report by magnifying the very few negative or two-sided parts," an informed diplomat in the IAEA told FNA Friday night a few hours after the Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog agency released its decisive report on Iran's nuclear activities and ended years of negative allegations by the US and EU trio (Britain, France and Germany) about Iran's nuclear intentions.

The report said that Iran has provided convincing responses to the questions posed by the International Atomic Energy Agency on its nuclear activities, and thus annulled legal or technical justification for continued UN Security Council sanctions against Iran.

In his eleven-page report to the Board of Governors, the IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei announced that Tehran has resolved all issues and removed all ambiguities about its nuclear activities within the framework of an action plan which was agreed by the two sides earlier.

The following is a synopsis of the main issues mentioned in ElBaradei's report.

"On 15 September 2007, the Agency provided Iran with questions relating to the source of the uranium particle contamination found on some equipment at a technical university, the nature of the equipment, the envisioned use of the equipment and the names and roles of individuals and entities involved, including the Physics Research Centre (PHRC) (GOV/2007/58, para. 24). This equipment was procured by the former head of PHRC, who had also been a professor at the university. He had also procured, or attempted to procure, other equipment, such as balancing machines, mass spectrometers, magnets and fluorine handling equipment, which could be useful in uranium enrichment activities (GOV/2006/27, para. 25).

"On 10-12 December 2007 and on 15-16 December 2007, meetings took place in Tehran between the Agency and Iranian officials during which Iran provided answers to the questions and the Agency requested additional clarifications regarding the intended purpose of the equipment, the persons and entities who had requested the items, the recipients, and the use and locations, both past and present, of the equipment. In a follow-up letter dated 18 December 2007, the Agency provided Iran with further details regarding the equipment.

"In a letter dated 8 January 2008, Iran provided answers to the questions raised by the Agency in its letter of 3 January 2008," ElBaradei said in his report.

"The Agency made a detailed analysis of the signatures of the contamination of the equipment and compared them with those of the swipe samples taken from the centrifuge components in Iran which had originated in Pakistan. The Agency concluded that the explanation and supporting documentation provided by Iran regarding the possible source of contamination by uranium particles at the university were not inconsistent with the data currently available to the Agency. The Agency considers this question no longer outstanding at this stage," he added.

Regarding procurement activities by the former Head of PHRC, the report said, "The Agency took note of the information and supporting documents provided by Iran as well as the statements made by the former Head of PHRC to the Agency and concluded that the replies were not inconsistent with the stated use of the equipment.

"Based on an examination of all information provided by Iran, the Agency concluded that the explanations concerning the content and magnitude of the polonium-210 experiments were consistent with the Agency's findings and with other information available to it. The Agency considers this question no longer outstanding at this stage," ElBaradei said in his report about IAEA's next question on Iran's nuclear activities.

The UN nuclear watchdog chief further touched on another item in question , and said, "On 22 and 23 January 2008, a meeting took place in Tehran between the Agency and Iranian officials during which Iran provided answers to the questions raised by the Agency in its letter dated 15 September 2007 (GOV/2007/58, para. 27) with a view to achieving a better understanding of the
complex arrangements governing the past and current administration of the Gchine uranium mine and mill (GOV/2005/67, paras 26-31).

"The Agency concluded that the documentation was sufficient to confirm the AEOI's continuing interest in and activity at Gchine in the 1993-1999 period."

ElBaradei further pointed to the results of the IAEA probe into the next item in question about Iran's nuclear activities, i.e. the origin and role of the Kimia Maadan (KM) Company, and said, " The Agency concluded that the information and explanations provided by Iran were supported by the documentation, the content of which is consistent with the information already available to the Agency. The Agency considers this question no longer outstanding…"

Regarding Iran's current enrichment-related activities, the report said, "On 12 December 2007, the first physical inventory taking was carried out at the Fuel
Enrichment Plant (FEP) in Natanz and verified by the Agency. Since the beginning of operations in February 2007, a total of 1670 kg of UF6 had been fed into the cascades. The operator presented, inter alia, about 75 kg of UF6 as the product, with a stated enrichment of 3.8% U-235. The throughput of the facility has been well below its declared design capacity. There has been no installation of centrifuges outside the original 18-cascade area. Installation work, including equipment and sub-header pipes, is continuing for other cascade areas. Since March 2007, a total of nine unannounced inspections have been carried out at FEP. All nuclear material at FEP remains under Agency containment and
surveillance."

"The Agency has continued monitoring the use and construction of hot cells at the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), the Molybdenum, Iodine and Xenon Radioisotope Production Facility (the MIX Facility) and the Iran Nuclear Research Reactor (IR-40) through inspections and design information verification. There have been no indications of ongoing reprocessing related activities at those facilities. In addition, Iran has stated that there have been no reprocessing related R&D activities in Iran, which the Agency can confirm only with respect to these facilities."

"On 5 February 2008, the Agency carried out design information verification at the IR-40 and noted that construction of the facility was ongoing. The Agency has continued to monitor the construction of the Heavy Water Production Plant using satellite imagery. The imagery appears to indicate that the plant is operating."

"During the current conversion campaign at UCF, which began on 31 March 2007, approximately 120 tonnes of uranium in the form of UF6 had been produced as of 2 February 2008. This brings the total amount of UF6 produced at UCF since March 2004 to 309 tonnes, all of which remains under Agency containment and surveillance. Iran has stated that it is carrying out no uranium
conversion related R&D activities other than those at Esfahan."

"On 26 November 2007, the Agency verified and sealed in the Russian Federation the fresh fuel foreseen for the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), before its shipment to Iran. As of February 2008, all fuel assemblies had been received, verified and re-sealed at BNPP," the report said about Iran's current nuclear activities, reiterating several times that all such activities by Iran are under supervision of the UN nuclear watchdog agency.

Summary
"The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran. Iran has provided the Agency with access to declared nuclear material and has provided the required nuclear material accountancy reports in connection with declared nuclear material and activities. Iran has also responded to questions and provided clarifications and amplifications on the issues raised in the context of the work plan… .

"Iran has provided access to individuals in response to the Agency's requests. Although direct access has not been provided to individuals said to be associated with the alleged studies, responses have been provided in writing to some of the Agency's questions.

"The Agency has been able to conclude that answers provided by Iran, in accordance with the work plan, are consistent with its findings - in the case of the polonium-210 experiments and the Gchine mine - or are not inconsistent with its findings - in the case of the contamination at the technical university and the procurement activities of the former Head of PHRC. Therefore, the
Agency considers those questions no longer outstanding at this stage," the IAEA report said.

With regard to the alleged studies on the green salt project, high explosives testing and the missile re-entry vehicle, the IAEA report said, "It should be noted that the Agency has not detected the use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies, nor does it have credible information in this regard."

"The Agency has recently received from Iran additional information similar to that which Iran had previously provided pursuant to the Additional Protocol, as well as updated design information. As a result, the Agency's knowledge about Iran's current declared nuclear programme has become clearer. However, this information has been provided on an ad hoc basis and not in a consistent and
complete manner. The Director General has continued to urge Iran to implement the Additional Protocol at the earliest possible date and as an important confidence building measure requested by the Board of Governors and affirmed by the Security Council. The Director General has also urged Iran to implement the modified text of its Subsidiary Arrangements General Part, Code 3.1 on the early provision of design information. Iran has expressed its readiness to implement the provisions of the Additional Protocol and the modified text of its Subsidiary Arrangements General Part, Code 3.1, 'if the nuclear file is returned from the Security Council to the IAEA'."

"…The Agency has no concrete information about possible current undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran," ElBaradei concluded.

Full Text of ElBaradei's Report on Iran

TEHRAN (FNA)- The following is the full text of the report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei on Iran's nuclear activities and cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog agency.





Board of Governors
GOV/2008/4
Date: 22 February 2008

Original: English
For official use only
Item 5(c) of the provisional agenda
(GOV/2008/6)
Implementation of the NPT Safeguards
Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions 1737 (2006) and 1747 (2007) in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Report by the Director General

1. On 15 November 2007, the Director General reported to the Board of Governors on the implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions 1737 (2006) and 1747 (2007) in the Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran) (GOV/2007/58). This report covers the relevant developments since that date.

2. On 11 and 12 January 2008, the Director General met in Tehran with
H.E. Ayatollah A. Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran; H.E. Mr. M. Ahmadinejad, President of Iran; H.E. Mr. G. Aghazadeh, Vice President of Iran and President of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI); H.E. Mr. M. Mottaki, Foreign Minister; and H.E. Mr. S. Jalili, Secretary, Supreme National Security Council of Iran. The purpose of the visit was to discuss ways and means of implementing all relevant resolutions of the Board of Governors and the United Nations Security Council as well as accelerating implementation of the work plan agreed between Iran and the Secretariat on 21 August 2007 aimed at the clarification of outstanding safeguards implementation issues (GOV/2007/48, Attachment).

3. During the discussions, the Iranian leadership stated that the country's nuclear programme had always been exclusively for peaceful purposes and that there had never been a nuclear weapons development programme. The Iranian authorities agreed to accelerate implementation of the work plan.

A. Implementation of the Work Plan on Outstanding Issues
A.1. Source of Contamination

4. On 15 September 2007, the Agency provided Iran with questions relating to the source of the uranium particle contamination found on some equipment at a technical university, the nature of the equipment, the envisioned use of the equipment and the names and roles of individuals and entities involved, including the Physics Research Centre (PHRC) (GOV/2007/58, para. 24). This equipment was procured by the former head of PHRC, who had also been a professor at the university. He had also procured, or attempted to procure, other equipment, such as balancing machines, mass spectrometers, magnets and fluorine handling equipment, which could be useful in uranium enrichment activities (GOV/2006/27, para. 25).
5. On 10-12 December 2007 and on 15-16 December 2007, meetings took place in Tehran between the Agency and Iranian officials during which Iran provided answers to the questions and the Agency requested additional clarifications regarding the intended purpose of the equipment, the persons and entities who had requested the items, the recipients, and the use and locations, both past and present, of the equipment. In a follow-up letter dated 18 December 2007, the Agency provided Iran with further details regarding the equipment.

6. In a letter dated 3 January 2008, the Agency reminded Iran that Iran needed to provide additional clarifications to allow a full assessment of the issue of the source of contamination and procurement efforts.

7. In a letter dated 8 January 2008, Iran provided answers to the questions raised by the Agency in its letter of 3 January 2008.

A.1.1. Use of Equipment and Source of Contamination
8. According to Iran, vacuum equipment was procured in 1990 on behalf of the technical university by the former Head of PHRC because of his expertise in procurement and PHRC's business connections. The equipment was intended to be used at the Physics Department of the technical university for the coating of items such as optical mirrors, optical lasers, laser mirrors, resistive layers
for solar cells and mirrors for use in medical operating theatres.

9. Iran stated that, upon receipt of the equipment in 1991, it was noticed that the delivery was incomplete and that some incorrect parts had been supplied. The equipment was therefore put into storage at the university. Iran further stated that a number of letters of complaint were written to the supplier company at intervals until 1994, but to no avail.

10. According to Iran, some individual pieces of equipment were used both inside and outside the university during the period 1994-2003 in research, operation and maintenance activities involving vacuum conditions, but other parts of the consignment were never used. As its explanation of how the contamination had come about, Iran said that, in 1998, an individual who was testing used centrifuge components from Pakistan at the laboratory at Vanak Square for the AEOI (GOV/2004/34, para. 31) had asked the vacuum service of the university to come and repair a pump. Iran stated that some items of the vacuum equipment mentioned above were used for this repair activity and that, when these items were eventually brought back to the university, they spread uranium particle contamination.

11. To assess the information provided by Iran, the Agency spoke with the individual from the Vanak Square laboratory and the vacuum technician from the university who had carried out the repairs. The Agency was also shown the pump that had been repaired using the equipment concerned.

The Agency made a detailed analysis of the signatures of the contamination of the equipment and compared them with those of the swipe samples taken from the centrifuge components in Iran which had originated in Pakistan. The Agency concluded that the explanation and supporting documentation provided by Iran regarding the possible source of contamination by uranium particles at the university were not inconsistent with the data currently available to the Agency. The Agency considers this question no longer outstanding at this stage. However, the Agency continues, in accordance with its procedures and practices, to seek corroboration of its findings and to verify this issue as part of its verification of the completeness of Iran's declarations.

A.1.2. Procurement activities by the former Head of PHRC
12. According to Iran, none of the equipment purchased or enquired about by the former Head of PHRC (see para. 4 above) was intended for use in uranium enrichment or conversion related activities, whether for research and development (R&D) or for educational activities in these fields. Procurements and procurement attempts by the former Head of PHRC were said by Iran to have also been made on behalf of other entities of Iran, as described below.

13. Iran stated that the vacuum equipment purchased by the Head of PHRC had been intended for educational purposes in the Vacuum Technique Laboratory of the university, specifically for use in experiments by students on thin layer production using evaporation and vacuum techniques, coating using vacuum systems and leak detection in vacuum systems. To support its statements, Iran presented instruction manuals related to the various experiments, internal communications on the procurement of the equipment and shipping documents. Agency inspectors visited the Vacuum Technique Laboratory and confirmed the presence of the equipment there.

14. Iran stated that some magnets had also been purchased by the Head of the PHRC on behalf of the Physics Department of the university for educational purposes in "Lenz-Faraday experiments". To support this statement, Iran presented a number of documents: instruction manuals related to the experiments; requests for funding which indicated that a decision had been made to approach the Head of PHRC to order and purchase the parts; and an invoice for cash sales from the supplier. Iran stated that the magnets were discarded after being used.

15. According to Iran, the Head of PHRC attempted twice - once successfully - to buy a balancing machine for the Mechanical Engineering Department of the university for educational purposes, such as in the measurement of vibrations and forces in rotating components due to unbalancing. To support Iran's statement, the Agency was shown laboratory experiment procedures, requests about procurement and a letter confirming the completion of the purchase. Agency inspectors visited the Mechanical Engineering Department and confirmed the presence of the balancing machine there.

16. According to Iran, the Head of PHRC also attempted to purchase 45 gas cylinders, each containing 2.2 kg of fluorine, on behalf of the Office of Industrial Interrelations of the university. Iran stated that the intended purpose of the fluorine had been to enhance the chemical stability of polymeric vessels. To support its statements, Iran presented a request to buy fluorine and a communication between the Head of PHRC and the President of the university about the proposed supplier's refusal to deliver the goods.

17. Iran stated that the AEOI had encountered difficulties with procurement because of international sanctions imposed on the country, and that that was why the AEOI had requested the Dean of the university to assist in the procurement of a UF6 mass spectrometer. According to Iran, in 1988, the
Dean of the university approached the Head of the Mechanics Workshop of the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG), which belonged to the Ministry of Sepah, and asked him to handle the procurement. According to Iran, the mass spectrometer was never delivered. The Head of the Mechanics Workshop, who was later appointed Head of PHRC when it was established in 1989, is the same person involved in the other procurement attempts mentioned above.

18. The Agency took note of the information and supporting documents provided by Iran as well as the statements made by the former Head of PHRC to the Agency and concluded that the replies were not inconsistent with the stated use of the equipment. The role and activities of PHRC will be further addressed in connection with the alleged studies as discussed below.

A.2. Uranium Metal Document
19. On 8 November 2007, the Agency received a copy from Iran of the 15-page document describing the procedures for the reduction of UF6 to uranium metal and the machining of enriched uranium metal into hemispheres, which are components of nuclear weapons. Iran reiterated that this document had been received along with the P-1 centrifuge documentation in 1987 and that it had not
been requested by Iran. The Agency is still waiting for a response from Pakistan on the circumstances of the delivery of this document in order to understand the full scope and content of the offer made by the network in 1987 (GOV/2006/15, paras 20-22).

A.3. Polonium-210
20. Polonium-210 is of interest to the Agency because it can be used not only for civilian applications (such as radioisotope batteries), but also - in conjunction with beryllium - for military purposes, such as neutron initiators in some designs of nuclear weapons. On 20-21 January 2008, a meeting took place in Tehran between the Agency and Iranian officials during which Iran provided
answers to the questions raised by the Agency in its letter dated 15 September 2007 regarding polonium-210 research (GOV/2007/58, para. 26). The Agency's questions included a request to see the original project documentation.

21. According to Iran, in the 1980s, scientists from the Tehran Nuclear Research Centre (TNRC) were asked to propose new research activities. A project called "Production of 210Po by the irradiation of 209Bi in the TNRC reactor" was proposed and eventually approved by the Scientific Advisory Committee of TNRC in 1988. The project consisted of fundamental research aimed at
enhancing knowledge about this process. According to Iran, it was not aimed at a specific immediate application. However, a potential use in radioisotope batteries, if the chemical extraction of polonium- 210 proved successful, was mentioned in the initial proposal.

22. Iran reiterated that the project was not part of any larger R&D project, but had been a personal initiative of the project leader. According to Iran, the chemist working on the project left the country before full chemical processing had been performed, the project was aborted and the decayed samples were discarded as waste (GOV/2004/11, para. 30).

23. To support its statements, Iran presented additional copies of papers and literature searches that had formed the basis for the request for approval of the project. Iran also provided copies of the project proposal, the meeting minutes and the approval document from the Scientific Advisory Committee of TNRC, as well as a complete copy of the reactor logbook for the entire period that the
samples were present in the reactor.

24. Based on an examination of all information provided by Iran, the Agency concluded that the explanations concerning the content and magnitude of the polonium-210 experiments were consistent with the Agency's findings and with other information available to it. The Agency considers this question no longer outstanding at this stage. However, the Agency continues, in accordance with its
procedures and practices, to seek corroboration of its findings and to verify this issue as part of its verification of the completeness of Iran's declarations.

A.4. Gchine Mine
25. On 22 and 23 January 2008, a meeting took place in Tehran between the Agency and Iranian officials during which Iran provided answers to the questions raised by the Agency in its letter dated 15 September 2007 (GOV/2007/58, para. 27) with a view to achieving a better understanding of the
complex arrangements governing the past and current administration of the Gchine uranium mine and mill (GOV/2005/67, paras 26-31).

26. According to Iran, the exploitation of uranium at the Gchine mine, as well as the ore processing activities at the Gchine uranium ore concentration (UOC) plant, have always been and remain the responsibility of the AEOI.

27. Iran stated that, by 1989, the extent of uranium reserves at Saghand in central Iran had been established in cooperation with Chinese experts. Considering the promising output of this region, a contract for equipping the Saghand mine and designing a uranium ore processing plant was concluded
with Russian companies in 1995. Insufficient funding was allocated in the Government's 1994-1998 five-year plan for the AEOI to pursue activities at both Gchine and Saghand. Since there was more uranium (estimated 1000 tonnes) at Saghand than at Gchine (estimated 40 tonnes), it was decided to spend the available funds on Saghand.

28. According to Iran, in the period 1993-1998, tasks such as the preparation of technical reports and studies, and some chemical testing of ores, were performed at the AEOI Ore Processing Center (OPC) at TNRC. The focus of some of the documentation work had been to justify funding of Gchine in the 1999-2003 five-year plan. These efforts were successful and funding for further exploration and
exploitation at Gchine was approved in the plan. A decision to construct a UOC plant at Gchine, known as "Project 5/15", was made on 25 August 1999.

29. During the 22-23 January 2008 meetings, Iran also provided the Agency with supporting documentation regarding the budget, the five-year plans, contracts with foreign entities and the preparation of studies and reports. The Agency concluded that the documentation was sufficient to confirm the AEOI's continuing interest in and activity at Gchine in the 1993-1999 period.

30. Regarding the origin and role of the Kimia Maadan (KM) Company, Iran stated that the OPC, in addition to its own staff, had hired consultants and experts for various projects, including for work relating to Gchine. When budget approval was given in 1999 for exploration and exploitation at Gchine, some experts and consultants had formed a company (KM) to take on a contract from the AEOI for the Gchine plant. Supporting documentation was provided to the Agency showing that KM was registered as a company on 4 May 2000. Iran stated that KM's core staff of about half a dozen people consisted of experts who had previously worked for the OPC. At the peak of activity, the company employed over 100 people. In addition to its own staff, KM made use of experts from universities and subcontractors to work on the project.

31. According to Iran, KM was given conceptual design information by the AEOI consisting of drawings and technical reports. KM's task was to do the detailed design, to procure and install equipment and to put the Gchine UOC plant into operation. The contract imposed time constraints and the time pressure led to some mistakes being made. After the detailed design was completed, changes had to be made which led to financial problems for KM.

32. Iran stated that KM had had only one project - the one with the AEOI for construction of the Gchine UOC plant on a turnkey basis. However, the company had also helped with procurement for the AEOI because of the AEOI's procurement constraints due to sanctions (GOV/2006/15, para. 39). A document listing items procured for the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) was provided by Iran. According to Iran, because of KM's financial problems, the company ceased work on the Gchine project in June 2003, when the three-year contract with the AEOI came to an end. Iran stated that KM was officially deregistered on 8 June 2003 and provided a document supporting this statement. After KM stopped work, the OPC again took over work on the Gchine UOC plant.

33. Iran stated that KM had been able to progress quickly from its creation in May 2000 and to install foundations for the UOC plant by late December 2000 because the conceptual design for the plant had been done by the OPC. This conceptual design and other "know-how" had been supplied to KM, which used the information for the detailed design of processing equipment. KM was therefore quickly able to prepare drawings and issue purchase orders. Documents supporting the conceptual work done by the AEOI were presented to the Agency by Iran.

34. Much of the supporting information provided by Iran had not been presented to the Agency during past discussions about Gchine. The Agency concluded that the information and explanations provided by Iran were supported by the documentation, the content of which is consistent with the information already available to the Agency. The Agency considers this question no longer outstanding at this stage. However, the Agency continues, in accordance with its procedures and practices, to seek corroboration of its findings and continues to verify this issue as part of verification of the completeness of Iran's declarations.

A.5. Alleged Studies
35. The Agency has continued to urge Iran, as demanded by the Security Council, to address the alleged studies concerning the conversion of uranium dioxide (UO2) into uranium tetrafluoride (UF4) (the green salt project), high explosives testing and the design of a missile re-entry vehicle, which could have a military nuclear dimension and which appear to have administrative interconnections, and in view of their possible link to nuclear material (GOV/2007/58, para. 28). As part of the work plan, Iran agreed to address these alleged studies.

36. On 27 and 28 January 2008 and from 3 to 5 February 2008, the Agency and Iran discussed the alleged studies at meetings in Tehran. During these discussions, the Agency provided detailed information about the allegations and asked for clarification concerning other issues that had arisen during the implementation of the work plan, including the roles of PHRC, KM, the Education Research Institute (ERI) and the Institute of Applied Physics (IAP) (GOV/2004/83, paras 100-101).

37. The Agency showed Iran certain documentation which the Agency had been given by other Member States, purportedly originating from Iran, including a flow sheet of bench scale conversion of UO2 to UF4. The documents show a capacity of the process of about 1 tonne per year of UF4. The flow sheet has KM markings on it and refers to "Project 5/13." The documentation includes communications between the project staff and another private company on the acquisition of process instrumentation. These communications also make reference to the leadership of the project concerning the missile re-entry vehicle. The Agency also presented a sketch of a process to produce 50 tonnes of UF4 per year.

38. Iran stated that the allegations were baseless and that the information which the Agency had shown to Iran was fabricated. However, Iran agreed to clarify its statement in detail. On 8 February and 12 February 2008, the Agency reiterated in writing its request for additional clarifications. On 14 February 2008, Iran responded, reiterating its earlier statements and declaring that this was its final
assessment on this point. Iran stated that the only organization that had been, and was, involved in fuel cycle activities was the AEOI and that the AEOI had had a contract with KM to develop a UOC plant in Gchine, which was the only project in which KM was ever involved. In Iran's view, the flow sheet was a fabrication and the accusation baseless.

39. During the meetings on 3-5 February 2008, the Agency made available documents for examination by Iran and provided additional technical information related to: the testing of high voltage detonator firing equipment; the development of an exploding bridgewire detonator (EBW); the simultaneous firing of multiple EBW detonators; and the identification of an explosive testing
arrangement that involved the use of a 400 m shaft and a firing capability remote from the shaft by a distance of 10 km, all of which the Agency believes would be relevant to nuclear weapon R&D. Iran stated that the documents were fabricated and that the information contained in those documents could
easily be found in open sources. During the meetings mentioned above, the Agency also described parameters and development work related to the Shahab 3 missile, in particular technical aspects of a re-entry vehicle, and made available to Iran for examination a computer image provided by other Member States showing a schematic layout of the contents of the inner cone of a re-entry vehicle. This layout has been assessed by the Agency as quite likely to be able to accommodate a nuclear device. Iran stated that its missile programme involved the use of conventional warheads only and was also part of the country's space programme, and that the schematic layout shown by the Agency was baseless and fabricated.

40. During the meetings of 27-28 January and 3-5 February 2008, the Agency asked Iran to clarify a number of procurement actions by the ERI, PHRC and IAP which could relate to the abovementioned alleged studies. These included training courses on neutron calculations, the effect of shock waves on metal, enrichment/isotope separation and ballistic missiles. Efforts to procure spark gaps, shock wave software, neutron sources, special steel parts (GOV/2006/15, para. 37) and radiation measurement equipment, including borehole gamma spectrometers, were also made. In its written response on 5 February 2008, Iran stated that 'PAM shock' software was enquired about "in order to study aircraft, collision of cars, airbags and for the design of safety belts." Iran also stated that the radiation monitors it had enquired about were meant to be used for radiation protection purposes. Iran's response regarding the efforts to procure training courses on neutron calculations, and enrichment/isotope separation, spark gaps, shock wave software, neutron sources and radiation
measurement equipment for borehole gamma spectrometers is still awaited.

41. During the same meetings, the Agency requested clarification of the roles of certain officials and institutes and their relation to nuclear activities. Iran was also asked to clarify projects such as the so-called "Project 4" (possibly uranium enrichment) and laser related R&D activities. Iran denied the existence of some of the organizations and project offices referred to in the documentation and denied that other organizations named were involved in nuclear related activities. Iran also denied the existence of some of the people named in the documentation and said allegations about the roles of other people named were baseless. Iran's response to the Agency's request regarding "Project 4" and
laser related R&D activities is still awaited 42. On 15 February 2008, the Agency proposed a further meeting to show additional documentation on the alleged studies to Iran, after being authorized to do so by the countries which had provided it. Iran has not yet responded to the Agency's proposal.

B. Current Enrichment Related Activities
43. On 12 December 2007, the first physical inventory taking was carried out at the Fuel
Enrichment Plant (FEP) in Natanz and verified by the Agency. Since the beginning of operations in February 2007, a total of 1670 kg of UF6 had been fed into the cascades. The operator presented, inter alia, about 75 kg of UF6 as the product, with a stated enrichment of 3.8% U-235. The throughput of the facility has been well below its declared design capacity. There has been no installation of centrifuges outside the original 18-cascade area. Installation work, including equipment and sub-header pipes, is continuing for other cascade areas. Since March 2007, a total of nine unannounced inspections have been carried out at FEP. All nuclear material at FEP remains under Agency containment and
surveillance.

44. On 8 November 2007, Iran stated that it "agreed that exchanging of the new centrifuge generation information" would be discussed with the Agency in December 2007 (GOV/2007/58, para. 33). On 13 January 2008, the Director General and Deputy Director General for Safeguards visited an AEOI R&D laboratory at Kalaye Electric, where they were given information on R&D
activities being carried out there. These included work on four different centrifuge designs: two subcritical rotor designs, a rotor with bellows and a more advanced centrifuge. Iran informed the Agency that the R&D laboratory was developing centrifuge components, measuring equipment and vacuum pumps with the aim of having entirely indigenous production capabilities in Iran.

45. On 15 January 2008, Iran informed the Agency about the planned installation of the first new generation subcritical centrifuge (IR-2) at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) and provided relevant design information. On 29 January 2008, the Agency confirmed that a single IR-2 test machine and a 10-machine IR-2 test cascade had been installed at PFEP. Iran reported that about
0.8 kg of UF6 had been fed to the single machine between 22 and 27 January 2008. Iran has continued to test P-1 centrifuges in one single machine, one 10-, one 20- and one 164-machine cascade at PFEP. Between 23 October 2007 and 21 January 2008, Iran fed a total of about 8 kg of UF6 into the single P-1 and the 10-machine P-1 cascade; no nuclear material was fed into the 20- and 164-machine cascades. At the end of January 2008, the single P-1 machine and the 10- and 20-machine P-1 cascades were dismantled and the space was used for the new IR-2 machines. All activities took place under Agency containment and surveillance.

46. On 5 February 2008, the Deputy Director General for Safeguards and the Director of Safeguards Operations B visited laboratories at Lashkar Abad, where laser enrichment activities had taken place in 2003 and earlier. The laboratories are now run by a private company, which is producing and developing laser equipment for industrial purposes. All the former laser equipment has been dismantled and some of it is stored at the site. The management of the company provided detailed information on current and planned activities, including plans for extensive new construction work, and stated that they are not carrying out, and are not planning, any uranium enrichment activities.

C. Reprocessing Activities
47. The Agency has continued monitoring the use and construction of hot cells at the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), the Molybdenum, Iodine and Xenon Radioisotope Production Facility (the MIX Facility) and the Iran Nuclear Research Reactor (IR-40) through inspections and design information verification. There have been no indications of ongoing reprocessing related activities at those facilities. In addition, Iran has stated that there have been no reprocessing related R&D activities in Iran, which the Agency can confirm only with respect to these facilities.

D. Heavy Water Reactor Related Projects
48. On 5 February 2008, the Agency carried out design information verification at the IR-40 and noted that construction of the facility was ongoing. The Agency has continued to monitor the construction of the Heavy Water Production Plant using satellite imagery. The imagery appears to indicate that the plant is operating. E. Other Implementation Issues

E.1. Uranium Conversion
49. During the current conversion campaign at UCF, which began on 31 March 2007, approximately 120 tonnes of uranium in the form of UF6 had been produced as of 2 February 2008. This brings the total amount of UF6 produced at UCF since March 2004 to 309 tonnes, all of which remains under Agency containment and surveillance. Iran has stated that it is carrying out no uranium
conversion related R&D activities other than those at Esfahan.

E.2. Design Information
50. On 30 March 2007, the Agency requested Iran to reconsider its decision to suspend the implementation of the modified text of its Subsidiary Arrangements General Part, Code 3.1. (GOV/2007/22, paras 12-14), but there has been no progress on this issue. However, Iran has provided updated design information for PFEP.

E.3. Other Matters
51. On 26 November 2007, the Agency verified and sealed in the Russian Federation the fresh fuel foreseen for the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), before its shipment to Iran. As of February 2008, all fuel assemblies had been received, verified and re-sealed at BNPP.

F. Summary
52. The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran. Iran has provided the Agency with access to declared nuclear material and has provided the required nuclear material accountancy reports in connection with declared nuclear material and activities. Iran has also responded to questions and provided clarifications and amplifications on the issues raised in the context of the work plan, with the exception of the alleged studies. Iran has provided access to individuals in response to the Agency's requests. Although direct access has not been provided to individuals said to be associated with the alleged studies, responses have been provided in writing to some of the Agency's questions.

53. The Agency has been able to conclude that answers provided by Iran, in accordance with the work plan, are consistent with its findings - in the case of the polonium-210 experiments and the Gchine mine - or are not inconsistent with its findings - in the case of the contamination at the technical university and the procurement activities of the former Head of PHRC. Therefore, the
Agency considers those questions no longer outstanding at this stage. However, the Agency continues, in accordance with its procedures and practices, to seek corroboration of its findings and to verify these issues as part of its verification of the completeness of Iran's declarations.

54. The one major remaining issue relevant to the nature of Iran's nuclear programme is the alleged studies on the green salt project, high explosives testing and the missile re-entry vehicle. This is a matter of serious concern and critical to an assessment of a possible military dimension to Iran's nuclear programme. The Agency was able to show some relevant documentation to Iran on 3-5
February 2008 and is still examining the allegations made and the statements provided by Iran in response. Iran has maintained that these allegations are baseless and that the data have been fabricated. The Agency's overall assessment requires, inter alia, an understanding of the role of the uranium metal document, and clarifications concerning the procurement activities of some military related institutions still not provided by Iran. The Agency only received authorization to show some further material to Iran on 15 February 2008. Iran has not yet responded to the Agency's request of that same date for Iran to view this additional documentation on the alleged studies. In light of the above, the Agency is not yet in a position to determine the full nature of Iran's nuclear programme. However, it should be noted that the Agency has not detected the use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies, nor does it have credible information in this regard. The Director General has urged Iran to
engage actively with the Agency in a more detailed examination of the documents available about the alleged studies which the Agency has been authorized to show to Iran.

55. The Agency has recently received from Iran additional information similar to that which Iran had previously provided pursuant to the Additional Protocol, as well as updated design information. As a result, the Agency's knowledge about Iran's current declared nuclear programme has become clearer. However, this information has been provided on an ad hoc basis and not in a consistent and
complete manner. The Director General has continued to urge Iran to implement the Additional Protocol at the earliest possible date and as an important confidence building measure requested by the Board of Governors and affirmed by the Security Council. The Director General has also urged Iran to implement the modified text of its Subsidiary Arrangements General Part, Code 3.1 on the early provision of design information. Iran has expressed its readiness to implement the provisions of the Additional Protocol and the modified text of its Subsidiary Arrangements General Part, Code 3.1, "if the nuclear file is returned from the Security Council to the IAEA".

56. Contrary to the decisions of the Security Council, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities, having continued the operation of PFEP and FEP. In addition, Iran started the development of new generation centrifuges. Iran has also continued construction of the IR-40 reactor and operation of the Heavy Water Production Plant.

57. With regard to its current programme, Iran needs to continue to build confidence about its scope and nature. Confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme requires that the Agency be able to provide assurances not only regarding declared nuclear material, but, equally importantly, regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran. With the exception of the issue of the alleged studies, which remains outstanding, the Agency has no concrete information about possible current undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran. Although Iran has provided some additional detailed information about its current activities on an ad hoc basis, the Agency will not be in a position to make progress towards providing credible assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran before reaching some clarity about the nature of the alleged studies, and without implementation of the Additional Protocol. This is especially
important in the light of the many years of undeclared activities in Iran and the confidence deficit created as a result. The Director General therefore urges Iran to implement all necessary measures called for by the Board of Governors and the Security Council to build confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme.

58. The Director General will continue to report as appropriate.

ElBaradei Dismisses US Claims about Iran's N. Drive

TEHRAN (FNA)- Results of a four-year-long probe into Iran's nuclear activities presented in a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency chief in Vienna on Friday rejected West's allegations about Iran's nuclear drive, and completed Washington's failure in the nuclear standoff with Tehran.


The report said that Iran has provided convincing responses to the questions posed by the International Atomic Energy Agency on its nuclear activities, and thus annulled legal or technical justification for continued UN Security Council sanctions against Iran.

In his eleven-page report to the Board of Governors, the IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei announced that Tehran has removed ambiguities about its nuclear activities within the framework of an action plan agreed by the two sides earlier.

A summary of the IAEA report follows - while interested readers could find the detailed text of the same report on FNA's main story page.

The following is a synopsis of the main issues mentioned in ElBaradei's report.

"On 15 September 2007, the Agency provided Iran with questions relating to the source of the uranium particle contamination found on some equipment at a technical university, the nature of the equipment, the envisioned use of the equipment and the names and roles of individuals and entities involved, including the Physics Research Centre (PHRC) (GOV/2007/58, para. 24). This equipment was procured by the former head of PHRC, who had also been a professor at the university. He had also procured, or attempted to procure, other equipment, such as balancing machines, mass spectrometers, magnets and fluorine handling equipment, which could be useful in uranium enrichment activities (GOV/2006/27, para. 25).

"On 10-12 December 2007 and on 15-16 December 2007, meetings took place in Tehran between the Agency and Iranian officials during which Iran provided answers to the questions and the Agency requested additional clarifications regarding the intended purpose of the equipment, the persons and entities who had requested the items, the recipients, and the use and locations, both past and present, of the equipment. In a follow-up letter dated 18 December 2007, the Agency provided Iran with further details regarding the equipment.

"In a letter dated 8 January 2008, Iran provided answers to the questions raised by the Agency in its letter of 3 January 2008," ElBaradei said in his report.

"The Agency made a detailed analysis of the signatures of the contamination of the equipment and compared them with those of the swipe samples taken from the centrifuge components in Iran which had originated in Pakistan. The Agency concluded that the explanation and supporting documentation provided by Iran regarding the possible source of contamination by uranium particles at the university were not inconsistent with the data currently available to the Agency. The Agency considers this question no longer outstanding at this stage," he added.

Regarding procurement activities by the former Head of PHRC, the report said, "The Agency took note of the information and supporting documents provided by Iran as well as the statements made by the former Head of PHRC to the Agency and concluded that the replies were not inconsistent with the stated use of the equipment.

"Based on an examination of all information provided by Iran, the Agency concluded that the explanations concerning the content and magnitude of the polonium-210 experiments were consistent with the Agency's findings and with other information available to it. The Agency considers this question no longer outstanding at this stage," ElBaradei said in his report about IAEA's next question on Iran's nuclear activities.

The UN nuclear watchdog chief further touched on another item in question , and said, "On 22 and 23 January 2008, a meeting took place in Tehran between the Agency and Iranian officials during which Iran provided answers to the questions raised by the Agency in its letter dated 15 September 2007 (GOV/2007/58, para. 27) with a view to achieving a better understanding of the
complex arrangements governing the past and current administration of the Gchine uranium mine and mill (GOV/2005/67, paras 26-31).

"The Agency concluded that the documentation was sufficient to confirm the AEOI's continuing interest in and activity at Gchine in the 1993-1999 period."

ElBaradei further pointed to the results of the IAEA probe into the next item in question about Iran's nuclear activities, i.e. the origin and role of the Kimia Maadan (KM) Company, and said, " The Agency concluded that the information and explanations provided by Iran were supported by the documentation, the content of which is consistent with the information already available to the Agency. The Agency considers this question no longer outstanding…"

Regarding Iran's current enrichment-related activities, the report said, "On 12 December 2007, the first physical inventory taking was carried out at the Fuel
Enrichment Plant (FEP) in Natanz and verified by the Agency. Since the beginning of operations in February 2007, a total of 1670 kg of UF6 had been fed into the cascades. The operator presented, inter alia, about 75 kg of UF6 as the product, with a stated enrichment of 3.8% U-235. The throughput of the facility has been well below its declared design capacity. There has been no installation of centrifuges outside the original 18-cascade area. Installation work, including equipment and sub-header pipes, is continuing for other cascade areas. Since March 2007, a total of nine unannounced inspections have been carried out at FEP. All nuclear material at FEP remains under Agency containment and
surveillance."

"The Agency has continued monitoring the use and construction of hot cells at the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), the Molybdenum, Iodine and Xenon Radioisotope Production Facility (the MIX Facility) and the Iran Nuclear Research Reactor (IR-40) through inspections and design information verification. There have been no indications of ongoing reprocessing related activities at those facilities. In addition, Iran has stated that there have been no reprocessing related R&D activities in Iran, which the Agency can confirm only with respect to these facilities."

"On 5 February 2008, the Agency carried out design information verification at the IR-40 and noted that construction of the facility was ongoing. The Agency has continued to monitor the construction of the Heavy Water Production Plant using satellite imagery. The imagery appears to indicate that the plant is operating."

"During the current conversion campaign at UCF, which began on 31 March 2007, approximately 120 tonnes of uranium in the form of UF6 had been produced as of 2 February 2008. This brings the total amount of UF6 produced at UCF since March 2004 to 309 tonnes, all of which remains under Agency containment and surveillance. Iran has stated that it is carrying out no uranium
conversion related R&D activities other than those at Esfahan."

"On 26 November 2007, the Agency verified and sealed in the Russian Federation the fresh fuel foreseen for the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), before its shipment to Iran. As of February 2008, all fuel assemblies had been received, verified and re-sealed at BNPP," the report said about Iran's current nuclear activities, reiterating several times that all such activities by Iran are under supervision of the UN nuclear watchdog agency.

Summary
"The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran. Iran has provided the Agency with access to declared nuclear material and has provided the required nuclear material accountancy reports in connection with declared nuclear material and activities. Iran has also responded to questions and provided clarifications and amplifications on the issues raised in the context of the work plan… .

"Iran has provided access to individuals in response to the Agency's requests. Although direct access has not been provided to individuals said to be associated with the alleged studies, responses have been provided in writing to some of the Agency's questions.

"The Agency has been able to conclude that answers provided by Iran, in accordance with the work plan, are consistent with its findings - in the case of the polonium-210 experiments and the Gchine mine - or are not inconsistent with its findings - in the case of the contamination at the technical university and the procurement activities of the former Head of PHRC. Therefore, the
Agency considers those questions no longer outstanding at this stage," the IAEA report said.

With regard to the alleged studies on the green salt project, high explosives testing and the missile re-entry vehicle, the IAEA report said, "It should be noted that the Agency has not detected the use of nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies, nor does it have credible information in this regard."

"The Agency has recently received from Iran additional information similar to that which Iran had previously provided pursuant to the Additional Protocol, as well as updated design information. As a result, the Agency's knowledge about Iran's current declared nuclear programme has become clearer. However, this information has been provided on an ad hoc basis and not in a consistent and
complete manner. The Director General has continued to urge Iran to implement the Additional Protocol at the earliest possible date and as an important confidence building measure requested by the Board of Governors and affirmed by the Security Council. The Director General has also urged Iran to implement the modified text of its Subsidiary Arrangements General Part, Code 3.1 on the early provision of design information. Iran has expressed its readiness to implement the provisions of the Additional Protocol and the modified text of its Subsidiary Arrangements General Part, Code 3.1, 'if the nuclear file is returned from the Security Council to the IAEA'."

"…The Agency has no concrete information about possible current undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran," ElBaradei concluded.



Western Media Ignore ElBaradei's Report

TEHRAN (FNA)- Western media ignored a decisive report issued in Vienna on Friday by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei on Iran's nuclear activities, which ended a four-year-long probe into the Islamic Republic's nuclear drive and activities.





Western, specially US, media made extensive maneuvers on ElBaradei's report in previous cases, but this time they refrained from informing the public opinion in the West about the positive report by the UN nuclear watchdog chief on Iran's nuclear activities and cooperation with the IAEA.

Western media started a vast coverage of a draft UN Security Council resolution on Iran officially presented to the UNSC on Friday, instead.

The United Nations Security Council has already slapped Iran with two sets of sanctions under US pressures and on the pretext of Washington's unfounded claims about non-peaceful drives of Iran's nuclear programs.

The Friday report by the IAEA chief demolished rationale of the US-led West for the imposition of fresh sanctions on Iran.

Washington laid much pressure on ElBaradei to include some negative or, at least, two-sided points in his Friday report in order for the US to be able to continue pressures, including fresh UN Security Council sanctions, on Iran.

The US is at loggerheads with Iran over Tehran's independent and home-grown nuclear technology. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Washington's push for additional UN penalties contradicted the recent report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran's programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and a similar report by the IAEA head in November which praised Iran's truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities, Russia and China increased resistance to any further punitive measures by the Security Council.

Tehran says it never worked on atomic weapons and wants to enrich uranium merely for civilian purposes, including generation of electricity, a claim substantiated by the NIE and IAEA reports.

Iran has insisted it would continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhovin.

Not only many Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but also many other world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports saying Iran had increased cooperation with the agency.

US President George W. Bush, who finished a tour of the Middle East earlier this month has called on his Arab allies to unite against Iran.

But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush's allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.

Bush's attempt to rally international pressure against Iran has lost steam due to the growing international vigilance, specially following the latest IAEA and US intelligence reports.

INDIA :Exploring p'ship in African diamond industry

22 Feb, 2008, 2015 hrs IST, PTI

NEW DELHI: With an aim to enhance collaboration with key diamond-producing regions in Africa in the field of polishing and training, Minister for State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh will visit the continent next month with a high-level trade delegation.

"We will visit diamond producing countries of Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and Angola from March 21 to 28 and explore possibilities for partnership for the Indian diamond industry," Ramesh said on the sidelines of Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council function on Friday.

The four African countries are emerging as the key diamond producing regions, with several global firms planning to set up polishing units in the region.

India has been a traditional cutting and polishing hub for diamonds and in return for the rough diamonds that it would import from the African countries, it would provide training in cutting and polishing as well as technical assistance to set up local units there, he said.

The Indian diamond industry is facing competition from countries like Dubai, China, Thailand and Israel that are offering tax holidays to firms wanting to expand their businesses. Ramesh said there is need to focus on creativity, design and technology to enable the domestic diamond industry face the growing competition.

Ramesh further said states such as Jammu and Kashmir and Orissa have approached the Centre to set up gemological institutes. He said there is a need to organise training programmes in North-Eastern states as well.

India's diamond exports to the US declined by over 50 per cent last fiscal, impacted by a costlier rupee and a 6.5 per cent duty on import of diamond. Several polishing units in the country have also been forced to shut shop in recent months, a GJEPC official said.

How to create a confrontation between two nations: Tying the loose ends

February 21st 2008, by Eduardo Dimas Progreso Weekly

The news that Exxon-Mobil, one of the world's largest oil companies, had sued Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) in a New York court before the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) has been closely covered by the international media.

Exxon-Mobil "arranged" for the New York court to order the freezing of about $300 million of PDVSA's funds in the United States. According to other information, there is a possibility that it will order the seizure of about $12 billion in PDVSA assets.

For its part, PDVSA announced the suspension of the delivery of 40,000 barrels of oil a day to Exxon-Mobil. The ICSID has not ruled on the matter, but we should remember that only in a very few occasions has it issued a ruling that favors a Third World government.

The ICSID is an instrument of the big transnationals and the visible portion of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), a monstrosity that the centers of world economic power tried to create in secret to render sacred and untouchable the investments of the big corporations in underdeveloped countries.

As is known, Exxon-Mobil's lawsuit claims as its "justification" the Venezuelan government's decision to nationalize some of the concessions held by oil transnationals in the Orinoco Basin, so the Venezuelan state may hold a majority of the shares. That is the right of any independent state. The United States government itself has exercised it on several occasions recently.

Exxon-Mobil refused to accept indemnification on the basis of value in its accounting books and demanded a larger sum of money. At the end, there was no agreement. Other oil transnationals accepted and are being paid by the Venezuelan state.

As expected, the U.S. State Department announced its support for the Exxon-Mobil lawsuit. We should remember that one of the large oil tankers owned by the company was named after Condoleezza Rice. A gesture of recognition? A community of interests?

But that's a secondary issue. In reality, support from the State Department is part of the White House's plans to destabilize and destroy the Bolivarian Revolution headed by President Hugo Chávez. To prove this, I will ask you to tie some not-so-loose ends.

In his last "Hello, President" for January, Chávez said: "I alert the world about the following. The U.S. empire is creating the conditions to generate an armed conflict between Colombia and Venezuela." The Venezuelan leader was not talking just to talk. The preparations for a conflict between the two countries are very evident.

First, the chief of the U.S. armed forces' Southern Command, visited Colombia. That same week, on Jan. 19, 2008 in Bogotá, Drug Enforcement Administration chief John P. Walters accused Chávez of having become "a great facilitator of cocaine trafficking to Europe and other parts of the hemisphere."

In other words, according to Mr. Walters, the Venezuelan government is part of the traffic in drugs, even though the United Nations and other international organizations say exactly the opposite.

On Jan. 24, 2008, Colombia's Minister of Defense, Juan Manuel Santos, declared that at least three chiefs of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) live in Venezuela. He gave no details.

At the same time, Colombia's Vice President, Francisco Santos, accused the mayor of Maracaibo, Gian Carlo Di Martino, of furnishing weapons to the Colombian guerrillas, specifically the National Liberation Army (ELN), on the basis of a video that appears to be false.

For his part, Di Martino denounced "the plot that reveals a plan by the United States and the Colombian government to unleash a process of destabilization on the Venezuelan border."

Almost simultaneously, the Colombian intelligence services accused the Venezuelan government of delivering weapons and munitions to the FARC and the ELN. The U.S. State Department had formulated similar accusations in the past. The message is obvious: the Venezuelan government protects the drug traffickers and the "terrorists."

What's most interesting in all those accusations is that they are made without presenting any proof. As it happened with Iraq and now with Iran, it is a way to prepare national and international public opinion, to discredit Hugo Chávez and to create a suitable environment to start a war between two Latin American nations.

These accusations are echoed by the main U.S. and European media and the press throughout Latin America. They grandly forget the proven links between the Central Intelligence Agency and drug trafficking. If this is not a conspiracy by the highest levels of world and regional oligarchy, it's the closest thing to one, in my opinion.

Something that has drawn the attention of observers is the fact that the famous march of Feb. 4 against the FARC became, in some Colombian public squares, an act of repudiation against Hugo Chávez and Venezuela. The objective is obvious: to create an anti-Venezuelan, anti-Chávez sentiment among Colombians that could justify any action.

To the above, add the internal campaign to destabilize the Bolivarian Revolution. More than 150,000 tons of food were removed from Venezuela through the border with Colombia. Meanwhile, the opposition media promoted hoarding of foodstuffs to create an artificial shortage and stir the population into anger. If that reminds you of Salvador Allende's Chile, you're not far off the truth.

The rumors about internal problems within the ranks of the Bolivarian Revolution are numerous. One states that President Chávez is a drug addict and needs to cure himself. Those rumors come regularly from abroad, from the Empire's think tanks, and are spread by its allies in Venezuela and the rest of the world.

Apparently, it's a new version of Operation Pincers, intended to keep the Constitutional referendum of Dec. 2 from succeeding. On one hand, an internal crisis is created; on the other, an aggression inside Venezuelan territory is prepared.

In this sense, it is opportune to note the presence on the Venezuela-Colombia border (2,200 kilometers long) of Colombian paramilitary groups, linked to the Colombian military high command, that act in coordination with Venezuelan land-holders. An unspecified number of revolutionary, peasant and labor leaders have been murdered in that region.

Those groups could provoke an incident that might "justify" a confrontation between the two countries. Needless to say, Colombia would receive total support from the White House, which is interested in quashing the Bolivarian Revolution, which today is the principal force of the process of Latin American integration, the struggle against neoliberalism and the true independence of Latin America.

In recent days, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega declared that he hoped that the Colombian people would prevent a confrontation between the two countries and defined Colombia as a country occupied by the United States. The Venezuelan side should also do all it can to prevent a confrontation.

That's because a war between the two countries would be a harsh blow for the process of integration of Latin America. You don't have to be a fortune teller to realize that a chasm would split the regional governments, because some would support Colombia and the United States, others would back Venezuela.

In the end, the big losers would be the Latin American people. I believe that today, more than ever, common sense must prevail. Our people must not play the game of the imperial and oligarchic interests. They must not be tricked by provocations and must make it very clear that the cost of a military adventure against Venezuela would be unpayable from every standpoint.

Empires are usually more dangerous in decadence than while in full power. In the case of Venezuela, there is a dual situation that is not at all convenient for the imperial interests. On one hand, Venezuela is a great producer of crude oil. On the other, it heads the process of integration, independence and social justice in Latin America.

Venezuela is an obstacle to the Empire's desire to control Latin America's wealth and markets. Therefore, the Empire will do everything possible to eliminate that obstacle, no matter how much blood is spilled. Only if the progressive peoples and governments of Latin America (which so far have not taken a stand) join in common cause, can that awful intent be prevented. I invite you to meditate.

Source:Progreso Weekly