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Russia issues new missile defence threat

Luke Harding in Moscow

Wednesday July 4, 2007

Guardian Unlimited

Russia's first deputy prime minister, Sergei Ivanov. Photograph: Frank Maechler/EPA

Russia warned today that it would position its rockets close to the Polish border and point missiles at US bases in Europe if Washington rebuffed its latest offer of cooperation on missile defence. Russia's hawkish first deputy prime minister, Sergei Ivanov, made it clear that Moscow would be forced "to respond" if the Bush administration snubbed Vladimir Putin's offer to work together on missile defence using a Soviet-era radar base.

"If our proposal is not accepted we will take adequate measures. An asymmetrical and effective response will be found," he said. This response would include basing "new rocket forces in the European part of Russia" in the enclave of Kaliningrad, he said. The Russian missiles would be able to "parry the threats that will arise from the [US] missile defence system," he added.

The Kremlin's latest warning comes after two days of meetings between Mr Putin and George Bush at the US president's seaside family retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine. Ahead of the talks the Pentagon had incensed Mr Putin by announcing plans to place elements of its missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. Mr Putin has derided US claims that the system is aimed at dealing with rogue missiles fired by Iran and North Korea, saying it is actually aimed at Russia. Last month Mr Putin suggested the US scrap its existing plans and instead share a Soviet-era radar station in Azerbaijan. During talks this week he went further - offering to work with the US administration over missile defence within the framework of the Nato-Russia Council, and promising use of another early-warning system in southern Russia.

Mr Bush's answer, however, was decidedly lukewarm. Although the president praised Mr Putin's offer as "innovative and strategic", he made it clear that Washington was likely to go ahead anyway with its missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. "As I told Vladimir, I think that the Czech Republic and Poland need to be an integral part of the system," Mr Bush said.

Most experts now believe that Russia will take active military countermeasures. They include targeting the US's new defence bases in central Europe with Iskandar missiles based in Kaliningrad. Russia will also upgrade its nuclear missile arsenal, put more missiles on mobile launchers and move its fleet of nuclear submarines to the north pole, experts predict.

Mr Putin - who is in Guatemala to hear the fate of Russia's bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics - struck a conciliatory note today, describing US-Russian relations as "mutually satisfactory".

"I am sure that, despite known disagreements, which are unavoidable in an open and honest dialogue, the policy of comprehensive development of bilateral ties in all areas will continue," he said.

Mr Ivanov is, like his boss, a former KGB agent and he is a strong candidate to succeed Mr Putin as president next year. He said that if the Bush administration accepted Mr Putin's offer there would be no point in talking about a "new cold war".

"You, journalists, will forget the term 'cold war' after that. It will just disappear. Ground for using it will just cease to exist," Mr Ivanov said at a news conference in Tashkent.

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Irish firm to put free-energy machine on display today

04/07/2007 - 08:20:59

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The Irish company which claims to have designed a machine that creates energy from thin air is due to put the technology on display today.

Steorn claims its Orbo device uses the interaction of magnetic fields to generate a constant source of free and clean energy.

If true, the technology would defy the laws of physics.

It is currently being tested by 22 of the world's top scientists, who are expected to conclude their review sometime next year.

In the meantime, Steorn is putting the Orbo on display in London and on the Internet later today.

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Freed Iranians accuse US of mistreatment

08/07/2007 - 12:59:16

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Five of Iran's officials held by the US in Iraq have complained about their treatment in detention, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman said today.

Mohammad Ali Hosseini's comments came after Iranian diplomats met with their detained countrymen in Iraq for the first time.

"The five (detained) diplomats during the meeting were complaining about the Americans regularly breaking promises for their release," Hosseini said during his weekly news briefing.

"This was one of the psychological pressures that they complained about."

Hosseini did not provide additional examples of psychological pressure, and it was unclear to which promises he was referring. The US has not publicly promised to release the five Iranians, who were detained on January 11 in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

US authorities have said the five included the operations chief and other members of Iran's elite Quds Force, which is accused of arming and training Iraqi militants.

Hosseini said today that the detainees considered the US government's claims "false and baseless." Iran has consistently denied the US allegations and insists the five are diplomats in Iraq with permission of the government.

The detention has been a point of contention between Tehran and Washington at a time when the Iraqi government is trying to get the two to resolve their differences.

On Saturday, Iran's ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, and his staff made their first visit to the five detainees and repeated calls that they be immediately released.

The US military said the visit by the three Iranian diplomats lasted several hours and "took place at an MNF-I (Multi-National Forces - Iraq) detention facility in Iraq."

In a statement, it said the visit followed "standard procedures" for visits by foreign governments to their nationals, but it did not specify which facility the five were held at. The US military oversees some 21,000 inmates at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq and Camp Cropper, near the Baghdad airport.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman said the five Iranians had complained of limited access to facilities during detention, but did not elaborate.

However, Qomi indicated there had been "an improvement in terms of their detention situation.

"Their situation is different than the first time they were detained, they are staying today in a special room, they can be together at particular hours during the day, they spend part of their time doing sports and other activities," Qomi told the country's Arabic language Al-Alam television channel in a phone interview.

Qomi told Iran's official news agency IRNA from Baghdad that the diplomats would be allowed to meet with their relatives "in the coming days". He said the International Committee of the Red Cross had already facilitated phone conversations between the diplomats and their families.

The Iranian ambassador also told IRNA that two additional Iranians, Majid Dagheri and Heidar Alavi, were being detained by the US in the same prison.

Qomi said the men "were abducted by American forces one and three years ago respectively in Suleimaniyah in eastern Iraq," 31 miles from the Iranian border.

The Iraqi government, which is backed by the US but closely allied to Iran, has been trying to get the two sides together, hoping some co-operation will reduce violence in the country.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said he hoped the visit to the detainees would help ease tensions between Iran and the US

The visit came a week after Iran said it would consider "with a positive point of view" an Iraqi request for a new round of Iranian-American talks, but only after the US responds to the invitation.

But Hosseini said the meeting and Iran-US talks were "separate issues".

The US and Iran held groundbreaking ambassador-level discussions on May 28 in Baghdad to address security in Iraq.

But since then, bitterness has mounted further between them, partly due to Tehran's detention of four Iranian-American scholars and activists charged with endangering national security. The US has demanded their release, saying the charges against them are false.

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