» 11/28/2008, 00.00
IRAQ - UNITED STATES
Archbishop Sako: vote on U.S. troop withdrawal conceals Iraq's "fragile equilibrium"
The archbishop of Kirkuk curbs the enthusiasm, and points to the profound divisions still remaining in Iraq. He also reiterates the risk of civil war if the country is left to itself, and warns: the Iranian nuclear menace is a concrete threat for the entire Middle East.
Kirkuk (AsiaNews) - Speaking of a broad consensus over the approval of the plan to withdraw U.S. troops "is not correct." The president had asked for a large majority, but those who did not agree with the proposed law "preferred to avoid the session by going on pilgrimage to Mecca," leaving to their fellow lawmakers "the task of voting." These are some of the comments made to AsiaNews by Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk, over the plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.
Yesterday, the Iraqi parliament approved, by a vote of 148 in favor out of 198 lawmakers present - there were 35 votes against, and 86 lawmakers absent - the Status of Forces Agreement: it stipulates that the U.S. forces in Iraq - composed of 150,000 soldiers - would have to withdraw to the cities by June of 2009, remaining available for possible emergency operations. Their definitive departure is set for the end of 2011. Now the law must be ratified by the Iraqi presidency council, made up of head of state Jalal Talabani (Kurdish) and vice-presidents Tareq Al Hashemi (Sunni) and Adel Abdul-Mahdi (Shiite). The Iraqi citizens will have the last word on the measure, through a popular referendum - clamored for by the Sunni minority, in exchange for their vote in parliament - expected to be held by the end of July 2009.
"The vote represents a step forward," says Archbishop Sako, "but anything can happen, because the situation is still precarious. There is nothing stable or definitive, the country is going through a phase of fragile equilibrium that could collapse at any moment." The parliamentary session that approved the measure was anything but tranquil, with the radical Shiite fringe repeatedly chanting protest slogans against "the American occupation." The leader Muqtada al-Sadr is against the agreement, and has told his followers to display black banners as a sign of mourning, and to close the offices of the movement all over the country for the next three days. But there is partial satisfaction among the Sunnis, who have seen some of their requests for "political reforms" recognized; these include the revision of the law that prevents former members of the Baath party of rais Saddam Hussein from holding office in the country.
"Iraqis still profoundly divided within itself," emphasizes the archbishop of Kirkuk. "One cannot speak of national unity, and even the government recognizes this. Everyone is trying to gain greater influence in his own territory, and even the capital, Baghdad, which should represent the symbol of unity, is in reality subdivided into sectors controlled by very specific factions."
Planning the withdrawal of American troops could be positive for the country's journey toward autonomy, but there remains the concrete risk of "a civil war if the nation is left to itself." Archbishop Sako emphasizes two other essential points: the foreign policy stance that Barack Obama intends to take, and the Iranian nuclear threat. "It is not possible to predict what initiatives the new American president will take, but his decisions will have a fundamental effect on future developments in the entire region. The Iranian nuclear menace," the prelate concludes, "is a concrete threat for Iraq and for all the countries of the Gulf. The Middle East is hanging in the balance, and there is a long way to go on the journey of peace."
21/03/2009 IRAN - UNITED STATES
Iran, Khamenei dictates conditions for dialogue with Obama
The Iranian spiritual leader asks for changes in U.S. policy before opening diplomatic channels. The lifting of sanctions and unfreezing of assets are the first concrete steps. Khamenei's apparent closure is intended to prevent divisions inside the country.
Chaldean Christians, after five years the crestfallen dream of Iraq
Five years after the American invasion of Iraq, we publish the testimony sent to AsiaNews by a Chaldean Christian in Mosul. The community is still in shock over the loss of its pastor, Archbishop Rahho, killed by his kidnappers this month. The questions that still surround what is today the last stronghold of al Qaeda in Iraq.
07/11/2008 ASIA - UNITED STATES
Axis of evil countries "open" to Obama. Al Qaeda calls upon him to convert to Islam
Ahmadinejad congratulates the U.S. president-elect and asks for "fundamental and fair" changes on foreign policy. North Korea says it is ready "for dialogue," and calls upon Obama to relegate the errors of previous governments to the past. No official comment from Myanmar.
11/08/2008 PERSIAN GULF
War ships, planes, missiles amassing around Gulf
In preparation for the UN decision on new sanctions against Iran over of its nuclear program, while Tehran considers blockading the Strait of Hormuz, Western fleets are approaching. Saudi Arabia is buying jets, and Kuwait is activating its "emergency war plan".
Appeal from Archbishop Sako: politics is also trying to wipe out Iraqi Christians
The archbishop of Kirkuk launches an appeal to the government and to UN representatives, for the protection of Christians and other minorities, excluded from the new law that will regulate the provincial elections. Yesterday, in all of Iraqi Kurdistan, demonstrations were held after the Sunday Masses.
CHINA - VATICAN
The persecution of Catholics during the Cultural Revolution
The documentation of that violent period was burned or buried in archives. Only a few survivors speak. The persecutors are silent in fear. The burning of religious objects and furnishings in Hebei. Bishops humiliated and arrested in Henan; nuns beaten with sticks and killed, or buried alive. A persecution that "is not over yet"; Today it is perhaps only more subtle.
Silence shrouds 50th anniversary of Cultural Revolution in China and in the West
The bloody campaign launched by Mao Zedong killed nearly 2 million people and sent a further 4 million to concentration camps. Every Chinese has been marked by fear. But today, no memorial service has been planned and no newspaper article has appeared. The Party’s internal struggles and Xi Jinping’s fear of ending up like the USSR. Even today, as then, there are those in Europe who keep quiet and laud the myth of China. Many are predicting a return to the "great chaos".
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