Somali pirates have accused European firms of dumping toxic waste off the Somali coast and are demanding an $8m ransom for the return of a Ukranian ship they captured, saying the money will go towards cleaning up the waste.
The ransom demand is a means of "reacting to the toxic waste that has been continually dumped on the shores of our country for nearly 20 years", Januna Ali Jama, a spokesman for the pirates, based in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, said.
"The Somali coastline has been destroyed, and we believe this money is nothing compared to the devastation that we have seen on the seas."
The pirates are holding the MV Faina, a Ukrainian ship carrying tanks and military hardware, off Somalia's northern coast.
According to the International Maritime Bureau, 61 attacks by pirates have been reported since the start of the year.
While money is the primary objective of the hijackings, claims of the continued environmental destruction off Somalia's coast have been largely ignored by the regions's maritime authorities.
Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy for Somalia confirmed to Al Jazeera the world body has "reliable information" that European and Asian companies are dumping toxic waste, including nuclear waste, off the Somali coastline.
"I must stress however, that no government has endorsed this act, and that private companies and individuals acting alone are responsible," he said.
Allegations of the dumping of toxic waste, as well as illegal fishing, have circulated since the early 1990s.
But evidence of such practices literally appeared on the beaches of northern Somalia when the tsunami of 2004 hit the country.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) reported the tsunami had washed up rusting containers of toxic waste on the shores of Puntland.
Nick Nuttall, a UNEP spokesman, told Al Jazeera that when the barrels were smashed open by the force of the waves, the containers exposed a "frightening activity" that has been going on for more than decade.
"Somalia has been used as a dumping ground for hazardous waste starting in the early 1990s, and continuing through the civil war there," he said.
"European companies found it to be very cheap to get rid of the waste, costing as little as $2.50 a tonne, where waste disposal costs in Europe are something like $1000 a tonne.
"And the waste is many different kinds. There is uranium radioactive waste. There is lead, and heavy metals like cadmium and mercury. There is also industrial waste, and there are hospital wastes, chemical wastes you name it."
Nuttall also said that since the containers came ashore, hundreds of residents have fallen ill, suffering from mouth and abdominal bleeding, skin infections and other ailments.
"We [the UNEP] had planned to do a proper, in-depth scientific assessment on the magnitude of the problem. But because of the high levels of insecurity onshore and off the Somali coast, we are unable to carry out an accurate assessment of the extent of the problem," he said.
However, Ould-Abdallah claims the practice still continues.
"What is most alarming here is that nuclear waste is being dumped. Radioactive uranium waste that is potentially killing Somalis and completely destroying the ocean," he said.
Ould-Abdallah declined to name which companies are involved in waste dumping, citing legal reasons.
But he did say the practice helps fuel the 18-year-old civil war in Somalia as companies are paying Somali government ministers to dump their waste, or to secure licences and contracts.
"There is no government control ... and there are few people with high moral ground ... [and] yes, people in high positions are being paid off, but because of the fragility of the TFG [Transitional Federal Government], some of these companies now no longer ask the authorities they simply dump their waste and leave."
Ould-Abdallah said there are ethical questions to be considered because the companies are negotiating contracts with a government that is largely divided along tribal lines.
"How can you negotiate these dealings with a country at war and with a government struggling to remain relevant?"
In 1992, a contract to secure the dumping of toxic waste was made by Swiss and Italian shipping firms Achair Partners and Progresso, with Nur Elmi Osman, a former official appointed to the government of Ali Mahdi Mohamed, one of many militia leaders involved in the ousting of Mohamed Siad Barre, Somalia's former president.
At the request of the Swiss and Italian governments, UNEP investigated the matter.
Both firms had denied entering into any agreement with militia leaders at the beginning of the Somali civil war.
Osman also denied signing any contract.
However, Mustafa Tolba, the former UNEP executive director, told Al Jazeera that he discovered the firms were set up as fictitious companies by larger industrial firms to dispose of hazardous waste.
"At the time, it felt like we were dealing with the Mafia, or some sort of organised crime group, possibly working with these industrial firms," he said.
"It was very shady, and quite underground, and I would agree with Ould-Abdallahs claims that it is still going on... Unfortunately the war has not allowed environmental groups to investigate this fully."
The Italian mafia controls an estimated 30 per cent of Italy's waste disposal companies, including those that deal with toxic waste.
In 1998, Famiglia Cristiana, an Italian weekly magazine, claimed that although most of the waste-dumping took place after the start of the civil war in 1991, the activity actually began as early as 1989 under the Barre government.
Beyond the ethical question of trying to secure a hazardous waste agreement in an unstable country like Somalia, the alleged attempt by Swiss and Italian firms to dump waste in Somalia would violate international treaties to which both countries are signatories.
Switzerland and Italy signed and ratified the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, which came into force in 1992.
EU member states, as well as 168 other countries have also signed the agreement.
The convention prohibits waste trade between countries that have signed the convention, as well as countries that have not signed the accord unless a bilateral agreement had been negotiated.
It is also prohibits the shipping of hazardous waste to a war zone.
Abdi Ismail Samatar, professor of Geography at the University of Minnesota, told Al Jazeera that because an international coalition of warships has been deployed to the Gulf of Aden, the alleged dumping of waste must have been observed.
"If these acts are continuing, then surely they must have been seen by someone involved in maritime operations," he said.
"Is the cargo aimed at a certain destination more important than monitoring illegal activities in the region? Piracy is not the only problem for Somalia, and I think it's irresponsible on the part of the authorities to overlook this issue."
Mohammed Gure, chairman of the Somalia Concern Group, said that the social and environmental consequences will be felt for decades.
"The Somali coastline used to sustain hundreds of thousands of people, as a source of food and livelihoods. Now much of it is almost destroyed, primarily at the hands of these so-called ministers that have sold their nation to fill their own pockets."
Ould-Abdallah said piracy will not prevent waste dumping.
"The intentions of these pirates are not concerned with protecting their environment," he said.
"What is ultimately needed is a functioning, effective government that will get its act together and take control of its affairs."
Source: Al Jazeera
Also, the GREATEST SONG EVER WRITTEN--EVAH'!!!--is "PIRATES" by Emerson Lake & Palmer.
"and any other laden fancy, WE WILL TAKE HER BY SURPRISE!"
"sfas" is "A Song For All Seasons", the second greatest song ever written.
Bush has been seeking diplomatic solutions to this problem since mid-2006, so the diplomats won't "start" being diplomats under Obama.
"Ahmadinejad and his hard-line faction could be replaced in March elections" - I don't see this happening anytime soon. The hardliners will likely use our presence in the region to stay in power.
"giving Iran an incentive to give up its nuclear program" - a pitiful economy and starving citizens hasn't changed the Dear Leaders mind and it didn't prevent these guys from starting on this program back when oil was cheap. I know there are different dynamics in the two countries, but I don't think the hardliners see the nuclear program as negotiable.
The biggest hurdle is negotiating with people whose worldview is so completely different from our own that we have a hard time understanding the other sides wants and needs.
Excellent piece. I do hope this queasiness in Franco-American relationship will go away soon.
I was going to write to you a few weeks ago when you actually quoted the US unemployment stat and did not bother to note that it is a sham statistic. This stat only counts persons collecting unemployment insurance, period. If you are unemployed for 7 months or longer, you are not counted. If your last job only survived 5 months or less, you aren't eligible, so not counted. If you are collecting SS and need to work but aren't, you're not counted. If you get out of college or HS and haven't found a job, you're not counted. If you worked just one day in the last 2 weeks, you're not counted. In other Westernized countries, with socialized economies, they count everyone unemployed, because they are actually trying to do something about it
Then this week you went off on Chavez like you had just been reading the Bush revised CIA file on him.
The "capitalists" in Venezuela have been trying to bring him down and do nothing to help him, for absolutely selfish reasons. The CIA is actively invloved down there and quite frankly 4.4 billion over 3 years spent on the military doesn't seem like so much, considering the US has made getting rid of him a priority. You dismiss the coup as nothing, but in actuality the US, in violation of international law overthrew an elected leader of a country and put in a military dictator. I'd spend a billion $ a year to prevent that from happening again.
Okay, perhaps he isn't an economic genius, but the industrialists of the nation do eerything in their power to thwart his efforts.
You didn't mention that he sells cheap heating oil to poor people in the Northeastern US, or that he swaps oil for doctors with Cuba and then distributes them in the poorest areas of his country.
I'd say, compared to our leaders, he's the better option.
What bug got up your ass last week?
Since when do you go into an office?
Your comments on Iraq are well taken. The point of the surge was reconciliation, not military stalemate. I don't pretend to understand the "real" agenda of the Carlyle Group, but there are some strange things going on outside the purview of the public.
1. The Kingdom is brokering a peace between the Taliban and Karzai. Gates appears to approve of the process.
2. Every knowledgeable expert (Michael Weir) on Iraq admits that Iraq is simply a civil war waiting to happen. We seem to be declaring victory on our way out the door.
3. It would appear that the US (and the Saudi's) will provide sufficient support to the Sunni militias to underwrite a counterbalance to the Shia controlled government. If we are lucky Iraq will morph from a nation state to an oil company.
At the end of the day, one must ask, what was the point? Is there any scenario that doesn't leave Iran in a stronger position than it was before the invasion? Given it's history, what plan will produce a positive result in Afghanistan?
Obviously you know little or nothing about Pakistan. Zardari and the late Ms Bhutto are some of the most crooked politicians to ever come down the Pak pike.
Musharraf is actually the most honest and well meaning of all the political luminaries in Pakistan. His big error was dismissing the judges and listening to US please to allow Benazir and Nawaz Sharif back into the country.
Neither Zardari nor Sharif is fit to lead Pakistan. I travel to Pakistan frequently and fear for the future of the country.
If Ike were around he'd tell you so. He warned 60 years ago about the military industrial complex.
During the Cuban missile crises Kennedy sent a back channel message to Kruschev, that he may not be able to contain the Armed forces and that nuclear war would be inevetible. Ploy or fact?
you are one bitter poor soul.
your life is awful huh?
Amen! and Amen!
And if you'd care to collectively disagree, there's going to be an anti-war (on Iran) demonstration tomorrow 8/2/08 from 11am to 12:30pm at Midtown Place, 650 Ponce de Leon across from City Hall East.
Even the venerable Rep. John Lewis is a co-sponsor of House Resolution 362 which calls for a blockade of Iran - an act of war. Word is, AIPAC is putting pressure on him and other members of Congress that failure to sponsor this resolution is tantamount to a lack of support for Israel.
There is a comparable Senate Resolution 580.
If this is passed, then Bush can once again say that he had total bipartisan support to invade a country that posed no threat whatsoever to the US.
Should be a nice day to get outside with the family, do a little demonstration, a little shopping, get a bite to eat, see a movie...what could be more American, eh?
Since the war on Iraq was based on lies and deception and thus illegal, there should be no military advisors left there period. But now we consistently are being brainwashed into accepting that war itself will go on and on after Iraq by moving the lucrative war business to Afghanistan and trespassing our way through Pakistan, ignoring their sovereignty. Innocent Afghanistani's will suffer in the bloodbath and destruction. But it will be, we are told, a "just" war. Another one of those! Iran will be surrounded as pit-bull US bi-partisan politicians bark, growl, sneer at their borders, constantly yapping threats based on more lies about the threat of Iran, which has never invaded another nation. To make a long war short, well, it ain't gonna happen. I know, because everyday we are bombarded with the lie that we must stay in the Persian Gulf for eons. If we collectively agree to all this crap, so it shall be.
The connections and funding held by the Iranian government will make war with them a virtual nightmare thrusting the US government into what will surely become another world war; one in which a former Superpower is sure to weigh-in. Also to be noted is that covert operations are run by the US in almost every country. Pointing out singularly that there are covert operations in Iran is like saying that spies exist. Point being that if War is declared on Iran it will be nothing like previous wars other than a HUGE bang in the beginning followed by years of chaotic fallout. I second previous comments...buckle your seatbelt...
This story is really all about Israel gaming the US into war with Iran.
As you say, there is no underestimating Bush and the neocons' lust for war. They are outdone in that regard by no one except the Likud block in Israel (and maybe Fox News and also John Hagee and the so called 'Christian Zionists' - whose insane ultimate goal is to rid the earth of Jews and the Jewish religion and so are the text book case of anti-semites - but that's another story).
Only one country in the world urged the US to invade Iraq and that same country is now urging the US into war with Iran - and hinting that if the US doesn't do it, they will, and then will turn the mess over to the US to solve. Another sad irony here is that in the long run, this is not going to work out for the improvement of Israel's overall security situation.
There is no telling where this might go, especially with Hezbollah now in the mix, but your and my only choice is to fasten our seat belts because no politician in America is going to go against the will of AIPAC. Whatever Likud tells George Bush to do, he is going to do - no matter what the consequences for our country.
I don't think there is any limit to where the Republicans might take this country, especially if they think they are going to loose control of the executive branch. And all they have to do to cow the Democrats is say 'weak on terror' a couple of times and watch them go scurrying for cover. After all, both parties are now in the service of the war industry and no longer have to answer to the American people - who apparently will remain silent no matter what happens to their country and their rights.
I'm looking for a declaration of 'Emergency' any day now.
Should be an interesting ride.
The author mentions this little fact, "Remember the only secular, democratic government Iran ever had was overthrown in 1953 by a covert CIA operation."
In fact, our government overthrew many western-friendly governments in the 50's - all of which have come back to haunt us in huge ways today. Whatever our government is up to in Iran, chances are we'll pay for it big time in the decades ahead.
The author of this column has by his own admission been wrong so many times that he should think about a new career.
as we discovered, Iraq under Hussein 's leadership did not have WMD shortly be for our military invaded. However, we also know that that Iraq did have WMDs previously and used them both their fellow citizens and before that against Iran when they were at war with each other. Additionally, we were led to believe that Iraq had WMDs in 2002 because Hussein and his fellow leadership claimed that their military possessed WMDs (when they did not) in an attempt to scare Hussein's enemies from acting against him.
After you get past the conjecture and the worthless metaphors we have an article that says "the surge" is not a success. However, the surge is never even defined except to imply the myth that it was all about increasing troop levels.
Why is the author so condescending when he is the person who writes such substandard journalism? Are we CL readers so dumb that we can only handle complex issues in metaphors? Eminem would have written a better article, at least his metaphors would have been clever.
From website: www.nation.com.pk Musharraf knows best about nuclear deal with NKorea: AQ
Source: Our monitoring desk July 5, 2008 Musharraf knows best about nuclear deal with NKorea: AQ
Source: Our monitoring desk July 5, 2008
NUCLEAR scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan has said that President Musharraf knew best about the shipment of centrifuges to North Korea from Pakistan in 2000.
Talking to a private TV channel on Friday, AQ Khan said Pyongyang received the shipment in 2000 under the rule of President Musharraf. Musharraf wrote this in his book, so he knows best about this deal, he added.
Responding to a question about his interview with an American news agency, he said the news agency twisted his words which gave the wrong impression.
He said that President Musharraf had mentioned in his book about the dispatching of centrifuges to North Korea and that his (Dr Qadeers) statement was carried by the foreign news agency in a distorted manner.
AQ Khan said when he was asked by a foreign news agency whether the centrifuges were sent to North Korea he replied that this had already been published in the Presidents book.
He said that any question regarding the dispatch of centrifuges be put to President Musharraf. Nothing could be sent without the supervision of the security forces, he added.
To a question, he expressed hope that his detention will end soon.
The American news agency quoted AQ Khan as saying that North Korea received centrifuges from Pakistan in a 2000 shipment supervised by the Army during the rule of President Pervez Musharraf.
He further said that the uranium enrichment equipment was sent from Pakistan in a North Korean plane that was loaded under the supervision of Pakistani security officials.
He said the Army had complete knowledge of the shipment and that it must have been sent with the consent of Musharraf, the then-Army Chief who took power in a 1999 coup.
AQ Khans claims contradict his 2004 confession that he was solely responsible for spreading nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya - and Pakistans repeated denials its army or government knew about Khans nuclear proliferation activities.
AQ Khan said the Army had complete knowledge of the shipment of used P-1 centrifuges to North Korea and that it must have been sent with the consent of Musharraf. It was a North Korean plane, and the Army had complete knowledge about it and the equipment, he said. It must have gone with his (Musharrafs) consent.
Army and Foreign Ministry spokesmen declined immediate comment Friday. Musharrafs spokesman said he would respond to AQ Khans allegations after speaking to the President.
Asked why he had taken sole responsibility for the nuclear proliferation, AQ Khan said he had been persuaded that it was in the national interest by friends including a key figure in the ruling party at the time.
AQ Khan said that in return he had been promised complete freedom, but those promises were not honored. He also said that he had travelled to North Korea in 1999 with a Pakistan army general to buy shoulder-launched missiles from Pyonyang.
Agencies add: AQ Khan disclosed that North Korea got already used centrifuges from Pakistan in year 2000.
He said this in an interview with Japanese news agency Kyodo News in which he disclosed that he had visited North Korea twice in 1999. North Korea had no uranium enrichment programme at that time. As far as I know North Korea had only plutonium-based programme, he said.
He denounced the news that Pakistan nuclear technology was exchanged for North Korean Nodong Missile programme, saying that Pakistan had purchased missiles from North Korea for cash and the initial negotiations in that regard were done by the then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December 1993 during her visit to Pyongyang.
He said his first visit to North Korea in 1994 was meant for giving final shape to the accord and some other high-level officials had also accompanied him in this trip.
He termed it only a Western propaganda that he had visited North Korea 13 times, adding that he had only visited twice. I was sent to North Korea first in 1994 to finalise an accord regarding ballistic missiles and secondly in 1999 to get 200 SA155 ,issiles, he said.
Meanwhile, Dr AQ Khan has alleged that intelligence agencies have installed bugging device in his home. This he said while while talking to his old friend and counsel Barrister Iqbal Jaffri Friday.
Giving details of the meeting, Jaffri told mediamen that AQ Khan was in poor health as he was hit by eczema in abdomen and feet.
The secret agencies had installed bugging devices in AQs bedroom and the room of his granddaughter. Dr Khan told me that he had defused these devices by cutting the cable, he said.
Dr Qadeer further told me if Musharraf who considers himself a popular public figure should come along with me to Raja Bazaar and see of whose clothes the people will tear apart first, Jaffri said.
AQ Khan further said that he would proceed to Karachi after hearing of his case on July 15 where his sister would undergo operation, Jaffri said.
He quoted AQ Khan as saying I have not committed any such crime for which I am being punished. I did not leak out missile technology to anyone. However exchange of views took place at experts level which is not a crime.
AQ Khan had conveyed a secret message to Attorney-General Malik Qayym through his counsel Iqbal Jaffri but Barrister Jaffri declined to comment on it.
Dr Qadeer told me his morale was very high and he being pathan would never pardon those who perpetrated excesses on him, Jaffri said.
Meanwhile, a Foreign Office spokesman said that Pakistans nuclear proliferation issue is a closed case.
The spokesman was reacting to an interview nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan gave to a foreign wire service.
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