- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2008

CUBA

Putin favors restoring Cold War ties

MOSCOW | Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is calling for Russia to regain its influential position in former Cold War ally Cuba, Russian news reports said Monday.

The statement comes amid persistent speculation about whether Russia is seeking a military presence in a country just 90 miles from the United States in response to U.S. plans to place missile-defense elements in Poland and the Czech Republic.

“We should restore our position in Cuba and other countries,” Mr. Putin was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

Mr. Putin spoke Monday while hearing a report on a recent Russian delegation’s trip to Cuba. Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin and others met with the Cuban leadership and discussed an array of cooperation projects.

Military issues were not mentioned in the reports. But separately, RIA-Novosti quoted an influential analyst and former top defense official as saying Russia could make a military return to Cuba.

“It is not a secret that the West is creating a ‘buffer zone’ around Russia, involving countries in Central Europe, the Caucasus, the Baltic states and Ukraine,” the agency quoted Leonid Ivashov, the head of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, as saying. “In response, we may expand our military presence abroad, including in Cuba.”

Russia opposes U.S. plans to put missile-defense elements in Eastern Europe, saying the facilities are aimed at undermining Russia’s missile potential. Russia has threatened an unspecified “military technical” response if the plans go through.

Last month, the Defense Ministry denied a major Russian newspaper’s report that the country was considering placing nuclear-capable bombers in Cuba - a move that would have echoed the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Soviet nuclear missiles stationed in Cuba during the height of the Cold War pushed the world to the brink of nuclear conflict on Oct. 22, 1962, after President Kennedy announced their presence to the world.

After a tense week of diplomacy, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev removed the missiles.

HONDURAS

9 dead as land row turns violent

TEGUCIGALPA | The Honduran government on Monday sent federal police to investigate the killings of at least nine people in a long-standing land dispute along the country’s northern coast.

But residents with guns and machetes kept the 50 officers from entering the area, Security Minister Jorge Rodas said.

Armed men firing their guns stormed into a farming cooperative in Silin on Sunday. The cooperative’s members chased the men into a home and set fire to it, burning at least six people to death. Three bodies were also found hacked to death along a nearby road.

About 400 families have lived in Silin since 2000, when they seized 79 acres of fertile, state-owned land, where the U.S. once trained troops from El Salvador and Honduras against armed leftists waging civil wars across Central America.

Landowners who want to buy the property have tried to run them off the land.

CUBA

Law professor heads U.N. rights body

GENEVA | A key United Nations human rights body on Monday appointed as its chairman for the next three years a Cuban law professor who has been a senior diplomat for the Havana government and spokesman for its foreign ministry.

The 73-year-old Miguel Alfonso Martinez, currently acting president of the Cuban Society for International Law, was elected to preside over its deliberations by the new 18-member Advisory Committee to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council.

Chosen as one of his two vice presidents was a Russian law expert, Vladimir Kartashkin, who served in the foreign ministry of the former Soviet Union in the 1970s and for many years worked in the U.N. Secretariat in New York.

The other vice president chosen by the committee - which replaces the former U.N. subcommission on the protection of human rights - was Egyptian company lawyer and campaigner for women’s rights Monar Zulfikar.

Members of the committee - which provides expertise to the 47-nation council - are nominated by their governments but are expected to work independently and to take decisions without reference to the authorities of their home country.

The council itself was set up two years ago to replace the U.N.’s discredited old Human Rights Commission.

But critics say the council has also become a battleground between blocs of countries in which Islamic nations - usually supported by Russia, China and Cuba - scrap with Western countries over competing visions of human rights.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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