- - Wednesday, December 22, 2010

TURKEY

Summit lets Turkey flex diplomatic muscles

ISTANBUL | Turkey, a stable and fast-growing economy, hosts leaders from Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asian states at an economic summit on Thursday that illustrates Ankara’s growing regional influence.

Plagued by conflict but blessed with vast oil and gas reserves, the Eurasian region has seen its geopolitical significance increase.

The summit of the 10-member Economic Cooperation Organization is expected to produce few concrete results, but its significance lies in the attendance of some of the region’s high-profile political leaders.

The meeting, which will be attended by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, demonstrates Turkey’s ability to network in a region where world powers struggle for trust.

AFGHANISTAN

Medicines for soldiers disappear from stockpiles

KABUL | U.S.-donated medicines and pharmaceutical supplies meant to keep the new Afghan army and police healthy have been disappearing before reaching Afghan military hospitals and clinics, and the government said it is removing the army’s top medical officer from his post as part of an investigation into alleged corruption.

Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak told the Associated Press that Surgeon General Ahmad Zia Yaftali was being removed from his post as part of the inquiry.

Three officials from the country’s top medical facility, Dawood National Military Hospital in Kabul, have been fired, he said.

It’s unclear just how much has gone missing of the $42 million worth of medical goods the U.S. has donated this year, and whether any Afghan soldiers have died as a result. U.S. officials say they do not account for the supplies after delivering them to the Afghans.

UNITED STATES

CIA to assess WikiLeaks damage

A CIA task force is to assess damage done by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks’ mass release of classified U.S. documents, an official said Wednesday.

The WikiLeaks Task Force will “examine whether the latest release of documents might affect the agency’s foreign relationships or operations,” CIA spokesman George Little said.

Few of the thousands of confidential documents leaked by WikiLeaks were from the CIA, but many were secret communications by high-ranking diplomats discussing sensitive questions of world and U.S. affairs.

The task force, headed by the CIA’s Counterintelligence Center, is to make an inventory of the leaked cables and will report on the impact of the leaks, particularly regarding the ability to recruit informants, said a source who asked not to be named.

WEST BANK

Draft on settlements ready for U.N.

BETHLEHEM | A Palestinian draft resolution condemning Israel’s West Bank settlement activity is ready to be presented to the U.N. Security Council, a senior Palestinian official said Wednesday.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator in peace talks with Israel, said he expects the resolution would be put to a Security Council vote in February, after the United States ends its presidency of the council.

He said 15 nations had helped draft the proposal after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas requested a Security Council meeting to discuss settlement building in November.

BRITAIN

Wintry weather is Heathrow’s latest woe

LONDON | Managers at Heathrow Airport boasted last month that their snow team was working flat out to ensure the facility “will once again be prepared for the onset of winter.”

Then a few inches of snow fell, and Europe’s busiest airport shut down. People slept on floors under foil blankets, or were turned away outside terminals, Christmas travel plans in ruins.

Flights were returning to normal Wednesday, but the fallout continued, with Heathrow boss Colin Matthews renouncing his annual bonus as a gesture of contrition.

With passengers still deeply angry and politicians echoing their complaints, the most enduring damage from the snowstorm may be to the reputation of an airport that was already overcrowded, unloved and in need of an upgrade.

IRAN

Opposition predicts ‘dark future’

TEHRAN | Iran’s opposition leaders said Wednesday that a “dark future” awaits the economy because the government didn’t listen to economists when it slashed energy and food subsidies in a country already struggling under biting U.N. sanctions.

Former presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi support the government’s effort to rein in subsidies but said in a rare statement posted on their websites that it is being implemented badly.

The opposition leaders, who believe President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stole the June 2009 election through massive vote fraud, said the way the government is slashing subsidies only brings more hardship to the country.

Fuel prices have at least quadrupled, and bread prices have more than doubled in the past week since the government started dramatically reducing subsidies.