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Iran, China seek to expand trade links
Tehran Times Political Desk

TEHRAN -- China is Iran’s leading trade partner in Asia, but both countries still seek to expand their economic relations, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Sunday.

“China is currently Iran’s main economic partner in Asia and also Iran’s third leading trade partner in the world,” he said at the Iran-China trade cooperation conference in Tehran.

Mottaki noted that the level of trade between the two countries increased from $400 million in 1994 to $29 billion in 2008 and said this shows Tehran-Beijing economic relations have grown at an average annual rate of 40 percent over the past few years.

The economic power of countries is the most important factor in all regional and international equations, and China, with the world’s fourth strongest economy and total foreign trade exchanges of $2 trillion in 2008, has a very significant role, he added.

He went on to say that Iran’s position in the manufacturing sector and its substantial share of the energy market as well as the recognition of Iran’s markets and its growing industrial centers have made the country a regional power.

However, Iran and China have yet to fully exploit their economic potential in various spheres, he said.

“Iran’s trade with China must be improved, and this objective will not be achieved without the assistance of the non-governmental sector,” the Iranian foreign minister pointed out.

Mottaki said that a number of steps must be taken to improve Iran-China trade relations, such as signing customs agreements, coordinating the two countries’ import-export regulations, removing financial and banking obstacles, and establishing legal arbitration boards.

Meanwhile, the Chinese ambassador to Tehran, Xie Xiaoyan, said here on Sunday that Beijing is determined to expand its trade with Tehran.

“The Chinese Embassy in Tehran will continue working with Iranian companies in order to expand cooperation between the two countries,” he said at the Iran-China trade cooperation conference.

The Iranian ambassador to Beijing, Javad Mansouri, said Iran and China are expanding their bilateral relations.

Senior Chinese officials have been actively involved in expanding relations with Tehran, and this has paved the way for great achievements, he added.

“There are currently many opportunities in education, research, technology, trade, and joint investment for businessmen from both sides,” Mansouri stated


Conservative Judge Andrew Napolitano: Bush Is a Felon
Written by Thomas R. Eddlem
Monday, 9 May 2009

Conservative Fox News Commentator and former district judge Andrew Napolitano said President George W. Bush is likely a felon in a May 8 broadcast over the Fox News Network. The criticism comes as the first nationally televised criminal accusation from both a prominent conservative as well as from a veteran judge.

Napolitano cited a May 4 New York Times report that President Bush personally authorized nine torture techniques to be used on detainees after both the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that detainees are entitled to Prisoner of War status and Bush himself signed into law a bill authored by Republican Senator John McCain that banned all nine torture techniques by name. Napolitano said he had independent confirmation from a “neutral” source that the New York Times report was accurate.

“If the New York Times article is accurate,” Napolitano said, “that would mean that the President of the United States of America committed a felony for each act of torture he authorized and which was carried out after the Supreme Court ruling or after he signed the McCain bill into law.”

A media furor ensued after the April release of Justice Department legal memoranda (i.e., the “torture memos”). The memoranda excused waterboarding (which the United States government judged a “war crime” when Japanese soldiers conducted it against Americans during the Second World War) and nine other torture techniques. The theme of the memoranda can be summed up as follows: it is okay for U.S. interrogators to inflict as excruciating pain as possible upon those they are questioning, so long as they don’t leave a permanent mark.

Napolitano is non-plussed about the 60 percent of Americans who now believe the Bush administration engaged in torture even though less than a majority of Americans support criminal charges. It's not about the numbers, Napolitano argues:

Is it right, is it proper, for the Obama Administration to prosecute someone in the Bush administration for doing what they thought was right. My answer is: Yes! We are a nation of laws and not of men. And when people break the law, no matter what their motivation is, they should be prosecuted… Is the motivation a defense to law-breaking? It is not.

Napolitano is simply ahead of the curve. While many self-professed conservatives backed the Bush administration's use against torture, it's only a matter of time before the more unsavory use of torture against innocent detainees becomes more widely known (click here, here, and here for a few of the many examples). Even if their hearts are not rendered by the price innocent men have paid for torture under the Bush administration, their heads will eventually be swayed by the recent efforts by the Obama administration's Department of Homeland Security to label all conservatives and military veterans as terrorist suspects. The power to torture terrorism suspects without trial is simply too dangerous a power to be left in the hands of the Obama administration or any other government official, which explains why the Founding Fathers banned "cruel and unusual punishments" in the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


Russia Parades New Missile Defense System
By Peter Fedynsky
09 May 2009

Russia has celebrated the 64th anniversary of its World War Two victory over Nazi Germany with its second show of military force on Red Square since the Soviet collapse nearly 18 years ago. The parade featured 1,000 more troops than last year and mostly the same Soviet-era tanks, missiles, and aircraft. But a new exhibit this year and a recent addition to the Russian arsenal was the S-400 missile defense system, which some experts said has advantages over its American counterpart, the Patriot.

9,000 Russian soldiers shouted a thundering "hurrah" following a speech by their commander in chief, President Dmitri Medvedev, who issued a warning to Russia's potential enemies.

"Any aggression against our citizens will be met with appropriate resistance, and the future of Russia will be peaceful, successful and happy," said Mr. Medvedev.

Dozens of Soviet-era heavy tanks, howitzers and missiles rumbled through Red Square for the country's annual Victory Day Holiday, and combat aircraft roared by just 300 meters overhead. Making a public debut was the S-400 missile defense system, which was first deployed around Moscow in 2007.

Vice Admiral Alexander Pobozhny, who retired from the Russian navy in 2003, told VOA the S-400 is in the same category as the American Patriot. The admiral considers his country's system to be better, but notes it does not affect any military balance.

Pobozhny said the S-400 is strictly a defensive system, so it won't change anything. He added that it simply increases the security of Russia.

Russian military expert Alexander Konovalov told VOA development of the system began about ten years ago following the advent of long distance precision-guided weapons.

Konovalov said the S-400 hits targets at a distance of 125 to 150 kilometers, which means it identifies them when they are still 400 kilometers away. He said the system can intercept incoming weapons from the very lowest altitudes to as high as 30 kilometers, which means it can hit airplanes, cruise missiles and tactical missiles that have a range of about 3,500 kilometers.

The S-400, code named the SA-21 Growler in the West, was first deployed around Moscow two years ago. However, Konovalov said Russia lacks the industrial capacity to produce the system quickly enough and in sufficient numbers to defend the entire country.

Independent military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer agreed. He traced the situation to the collapse of the Soviet Union, which built weapons with components supplied by republics that are now independent nations. Felgenhauer said another factor is a work force that is aging along with Russia's weapons, because of low salaries in the country's military industrial complex.

Felgenhauer said there are no young people (in defense industries) where the average age has now stabilized at 60, because people are either retiring or dying off.

Felgenhauer noted that Moscow has been buying weapons components abroad and may soon purchase entire weapons systems and know-how in the West. As an example, he cited Russia's deal last month to buy unmanned Israeli intelligence-gathering planes.

Nonetheless, the Red Square parade impressed virtually every veteran in attendance, and Felgenhauer said the aging weapons on display remain very deadly

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