This summary briefing comes to us through the courtesy of Just Foreign Policy.
1) The US Treasury Department released a statement saying it is supporting the cancellation of Haiti’s external debt, and financing of recovery through grants.
2) A group of ex-Taliban officials have prepared a “road map” to promote a political settlement between the Taliban and the Karzai government, Gareth Porter reports for Inter Press Service. The first step would be an agreement between Karzai and the Taliban about no killing of doctors and no damage to roads by the Taliban, in return for no night raids and detention by the United States. The mediators and other close observers of the Taliban position do not expect the al Qaeda issue to be difficult to resolve, Porter writes. Arsullah Rahmani, an elected member of Afghanistan’s upper house, said the Taliban statement of Dec. 4 offering to negotiate “legal guarantees” against “meddling” beyond Afghanistan’s borders was a signal that the Taliban leadership is prepared to renounce ties with al Qaeda under a peace agreement. The immediate concern of the mediating team is that the US will block political moves toward a settlement. [One of the ex-Taliban officials interviewed by Porter was former Taliban foreign minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, who, at US urging, was just removed from the UN terrorist blacklist – JFP.]
3) Richard Barrett, the head of a U.N. group that monitors the threat posed by al-Qaida and the Taliban and among those who backed the decision to start removing Taliban leaders from the UN blacklist, said that “in areas that have been under Taliban control for some time – there aren’t al-Qaida there,” AP reports.
4) India has proposed high-level talks with Pakistan, the first of their kind since the attack on Mumbai by Pakistani militants in November 2008, the New York Times reports. Pakistan has said it is interested in resuming talks only if they cover a wide range of issues beyond terrorism. After months of inactivity, there have been signs in recent weeks of a new opening, the Times says.
5) China’s opposition to a new UN sanctions resolution against Iran could delay the US on a range of fronts, the Washington Post reports. China’s statement Thursday suggests that it may take months of haggling to achieve a new UN resolution. Some sort of U.N. resolution is necessary before France, Britain and Germany can win approval for what is hoped will be tougher EU sanctions. And EU sanctions must be in place before the US can try to persuade Japan and the UAE to join a coalition of countries willing to impose “crippling sanctions.”
6) Thousands of Pakistanis shouted anti-American slogans and burned the US flag in protest of a US conviction of a Pakistani woman accused of trying to kill Americans while detained in Afghanistan, AP reports. The U.S. says Siddiqui shot at US security personnel who came to interrogate her after her arrest in Afghanistan. But many Pakistanis believe the U.S. has fabricated the charges.
7) Iraq’s independent elections commission announced that the parliamentary elections campaign would be postponed for five days, to give officials time to determine which candidates are eligible to be on the ballots, following an appeals court decision that overturned a ban on hundreds of candidates, the New York Times reports. Some lawmakers suggested postponing the elections until the candidates’ eligibility was resolved. The elections commission asked the Supreme Court to rule whether the appeals court decision was binding; a government spokesman declared the appeals court ruling “illegal and unconstitutional.”
8) Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has agreed to evacuate a Jewish settlers’ house built illegally in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan – but also plans to demolish dozens of Palestinian buildings erected without permission in the area, AP reports. Palestinians say they cannot obtain building permits from Israeli authorities, and argue the planned demolitions are meant to assert Israel’s control over the city. “No peace process can survive and no negotiations can begin while people’s homes in Jerusalem are being demolished,” said an aide to Palestinian President Abbas.
9) Colombian union officials say 40 union members were murdered last year in Colombia as the country remained the world’s most dangerous country for labor activists, EFE reports. “60 percent of the trade unionists killed worldwide are Colombians,” said an official of the CUT labor federation. More than 2,700 labor activists have been murdered in Colombia since 1986, according to the CUT. The vast majority of those killings have gone unpunished.