Archive for July, 2007

One Week in July: Israel’s Human Rights Violations

July 31, 2007

Dissident Voice

One could be excused for thinking that Israel’s human rights violations against the Palestinians stopped since the Palestinian factions began fighting each other. Just about every report and article written in the Western media these past weeks have focused on the rift between Fatah and Hamas and US overtures to broker a peace deal that may finally allow the Palestinians a state of sorts. Any mention of Israel is in the light of urbane diplomatic discussions between it and the other main players minus, of course, Hamas with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert showing a most remarkable willingness to agree to a peace settlement that would see the Palestinians getting back around 90 per cent of the West Bank. If only there was reason to believe that the leopard has changed its spots.

The truth of the matter is that nothing has changed on the ground for the Palestinians. Israel is rolling into the occupied Palestinian territories with its tanks and armoured vehicles and using its war planes to fire rockets on an already severely beleaguered people in Gaza. Only in this past week, there were at least twenty-nine such military incursions that ended up with four Palestinian resistance fighters being executed by Israeli soldiers while a fifth Palestinian ended up dying from tank shell wounds. Palestinian civilians always bear the brunt of such incursions and eleven people were seriously wounded including five children and an elderly woman. The daily arrest of civilians has been routine for decades, but certainly the seventy-two civilians arrested this week make a mockery of the 250 prisoners just released as Israel’s goodwill gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

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Ex-VP Mondale accuses Cheney of power grab

July 31, 2007


Monday July 30, 2007

Vice President Dick Cheney has presided over an unprecedented power grab during his six years in the White House, former Vice President Walter Mondale wrote in a rare, scathing critique Sunday.

“The real question is why the president allows this to happen,” Mondale writes.

Mondale, the former number two to Democratic President Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s, in an opinion piece appearing Sunday in the Washington Post newspaper, fingered Cheney as the chief transgressor in a White House guilty of “great excess” and “exceeding its authority.”

He wrote that since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, “Cheney set out to create a largely independent power center in the office of the vice president.”

“His was an unprecedented attempt not only to shape administration policy but, alarmingly, to limit the policy options sent to the president,” he wrote, calling the George W. Bush administration “seriously off track” in the unprecedented amount of power it has ceded to Cheney.

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Guillotining Gaza

July 31, 2007

Information Clearing House, 30/7/07

By Noam Chomsky

THE death of a nation is a rare and somber event. But the vision of a unified, independent Palestine threatens to be another casualty of a Hamas-Fatah civil war, stoked by Israel and its enabling ally the United States.

Last month’s chaos may mark the beginning of the end of the Palestinian Authority. That might not be an altogether unfortunate development for Palestinians, given US-Israeli programmes of rendering it nothing more than a quisling regime to oversee these allies’ utter rejection of an independent state.

The events in Gaza took place in a developing context. In January 2006, Palestinians voted in a carefully monitored election, pronounced to be free and fair by international observers, despite US-Israeli efforts to swing the election towards their favourite, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party. But Hamas won a surprising victory.

The punishment of Palestinians for the crime of voting the wrong way was severe. With US backing, Israel stepped up its violence in Gaza, withheld funds it was legally obligated to transmit to the Palestinian Authority, tightened its siege and even cut off the flow of water to the arid Gaza Strip.

The United States and Israel made sure that Hamas would not have a chance to govern. They rejected Hamas’s call for a long-term cease-fire to allow for negotiations on a two-state settlement, along the lines of an international consensus that Israel and United States have opposed, in virtual isolation, for more than 30 years, with rare and temporary departures.

Meanwhile, Israel stepped up its programmes of annexation, dismemberment and imprisonment of the shrinking Palestinian cantons in the West Bank, always with US backing despite occasional minor complaints, accompanied by the wink of an eye and munificent funding.

Powers-that-be have a standard operating procedure for overthrowing an unwanted government: Arm the military to prepare for a coup. Israel and its US ally helped arm and train Fatah to win by force what it lost at the ballot box. The United States also encouraged Abbas to amass power in his own hands, appropriate behaviour in the eyes of Bush administration advocates of presidential dictatorship.

The strategy backfired. Despite the military aid, Fatah forces in Gaza were defeated last month in a vicious conflict, which many close observers describe as a pre-emptive strike targeting primarily the security forces of the brutal Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan. Israel and the United States quickly moved to turn the outcome to their benefit. They now have a pretext for tightening the stranglehold on the people of Gaza.

‘To persist with such an approach under present circumstances is indeed genocidal, and risks destroying an entire Palestinian community that is an integral part of an ethnic whole,’ writes international law scholar Richard Falk.

This worst-case scenario may unfold unless Hamas meets the three conditions imposed by the ‘international community’ — a technical term referring to the US government and whoever goes along with it. For Palestinians to be permitted to peek out of the walls of their Gaza dungeon, Hamas must recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept past agreements, in particular, the Road Map of the Quartet (the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations).

The hypocrisy is stunning. Obviously, the United States and Israel do not recognise Palestine or renounce violence. Nor do they accept past agreements. While Israel formally accepted the Road Map, it attached 14 reservations that eviscerate it. To take just the first, Israel demanded that for the process to commence and continue, the Palestinians must ensure full quiet, education for peace, cessation of incitement, dismantling of Hamas and other organisations, and other conditions; and even if they were to satisfy this virtually impossible demand, the Israeli cabinet proclaimed that ‘the Roadmap will not state that Israel must cease violence and incitement against the Palestinians.’

Israel’s rejection of the Road Map, with US support, is unacceptable to the Western self-image, so it has been suppressed. The facts finally broke into the mainstream with Jimmy Carter’s book, ‘Palestine: Peace not Apartheid,’ which elicited a torrent of abuse and desperate efforts to discredit it.

While now in a position to crush Gaza, Israel can also proceed, with US backing, to implement its plans in the West Bank, expecting to have the tacit cooperation of Fatah leaders who will be rewarded for their capitulation. Among other steps, Israel began to release the funds — estimated at $600 million — that it had illegally frozen in reaction to the January 2006 election.

Ex-prime minister Tony Blair is now to ride to the rescue. To Lebanese political analyst Rami Khouri, ‘appointing Tony Blair as special envoy for Arab-Israeli peace is something like appointing the Emperor Nero to be the chief fireman of Rome.’ Blair is the Quartet’s envoy only in name. The Bush administration made it clear at once that he is Washington’s envoy, with a very limited mandate. Secretary of State Rice (and President Bush) retain unilateral control over the important issues, while Blair would be permitted to deal only with problems of institution-building.

As for the short-term future, the best case would be a two-state settlement, per the international consensus. That is still by no means impossible. It is supported by virtually the entire world, including the majority of the US population. It has come rather close, once, during the last month of Bill Clinton’s presidency — the sole meaningful US departure from extreme rejectionism during the past 30 years. In January 2001, the United States lent its support to the negotiations in Taba, Egypt, that nearly achieved such a settlement before they were called off by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

In their final Press conference, the Taba negotiators expressed hope that if they had been permitted to continue their joint work, a settlement could have been reached. The years since have seen many horrors, but the possibility remains. As for the likeliest scenario, it looks unpleasantly close to the worst case, but human affairs are not predictable: Too much depends on will and choice.

Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the author, most recently, of Hegemony or Survival Americas Quest for Global Dominance.

Washington’s war spreads to Pakistan

July 30, 2007

Workers World

Published July 26, 2007

Pressures from the Bush administration on the regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan are pushing that country into an acute social crisis.

Pakistan-USA Freedom Forum meeting in<br>Brooklyn, N.Y., calls for end to Musharraf<br>dictatorship.

Pakistan-USA Freedom Forum meeting in
Brooklyn, N.Y., calls for end to Musharraf

WW photo: Deirdre Griswold

Frustrated in their efforts to conquer Iraq or even poverty-stricken Afghanistan, yet reluctant to deploy their own frazzled troops in even more combat zones, the U.S. imperialist leaders have been leaning heavily on Musharraf to attack Afghan insurgents and any Pakistanis in the border region who might be sympathetic to them.

A Reuters story filed from Miranshah, Pakistan, on July 25 reported that “Several thousand villagers fled a Pakistani tribal region on Wednesday, where an army offensive was expected any day following pressure on Pakistan from the United States to act against al Qaeda cells.”

With antiwar sentiment in the U.S. shaking up the political scene and George W. Bush’s popularity still in the cellar, the U.S. president is desperately playing the Qaeda card in all his public pronouncements, using the “fear factor” generated by 9/11 to justify his continued colonial occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

It remains a fact, however, that the aggressive thrust of the U.S. military into this oil- and gas-rich area of the world has outraged the peoples who live there and is what has inspired many to fight against the foreign invaders. Those fitting this description are not al Qaeda but the U.S. and its partner Britain, the former colonial master in much of the Middle East and South Asia.

In Pakistan, the opposition to Musharraf comes not only from militant Islamic groups—like the Lal Masjid mosque in Islamabad that was brutally attacked by the Pakistan Army on July 10 on orders from Washington, causing hundreds of casualties—but from secular, democratic forces and also from the Marxist left, which in the past was often the main target of government oppression.

Musharraf came to power in 1999 through a military coup but then managed to get himself named president. This year, according to Pakistan’s constitution, he must be reelected or stand down. He precipitated a constitutional crisis when, in March, he dismissed Chief Justice Muhammad Chaudhry. Huge demonstrations supporting Chaudhry erupted all over the country.

On July 20 the Pakistan Supreme Court reinstated the chief justice, ruling that Musharraf’s dismissal of Chaudhry had been illegal. Pakistanis at home and in the diaspora joyfully celebrated this rebuke to the regime.

However, Musharraf has the army and the backing of Washington. He has 80,000 troops in the northwest areas of Pakistan, where opposition to his rule has been most militant. And, should he falter in carrying out Washington’s wishes, the U.S. has already threatened to bomb Pakistan “back to the Stone Age,” according to Musharraf himself in an interview with “60 Minutes” last Sept. 24.

One way or the other, the war for empire begun in Iraq is surely coming to Pakistan. This rapidly deteriorating situation is just another reason why all who struggle for peace and justice should be preparing now to make the Sept. 22-29 anti-war actions in Washington a powerful effort to pull back the imperialists as they throw more troops and money into a war for global domination that even Bush admits is “endless.”

Articles copyright 1995-2007 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

8 million Iraqis need urgent aid, report says

July 30, 2007

Guardian Unlimited, July 30, 2007

James Sturcke and agencies
Monday July 30, 2007

An Iraqi boy drinks from a tap at a camp for displaced people in Najaf
An Iraqi boy drinks from a tap at a camp for displaced people in Najaf. Photograph: Qassem Neim/AFP/Getty Images

One third of the Iraqi population needs emergency aid because of the humanitarian crisis caused by war and ongoing violence, according to a new report.Around 8 million Iraqis are in urgent need of water, sanitation, food and shelter, a joint report (pdf) released today by Oxfam and the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq said.

The document said that although armed violence is the greatest threat facing Iraqis, the population is also experiencing another crisis of “an alarming scale and severity”.

It was published as Gordon Brown met the US president, George Bush, determined to shift the focus in UK-US relations from Iraq to less divisive issues such as trade.

Mr Brown wants a quicker withdrawal of troops than the Bush administration. A report by the US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, due in September, is expected to provide cover for a more rapid pullout.

Researchers found that 15% of Iraqis cannot regularly afford to eat, 70% do not have adequate water supplies (up from 50% in 2003), 28% of children are malnourished (compared with 19% before the invasion), and 92% of children suffer learning problems.

The report also said more than 2 million people – mostly women and children – have been displaced within Iraq and have no reliable income, while another 2 million Iraqis have fled the country as refugees, mostly to neighbouring Syria and Jordan.

The “brain drain” that Iraq is experiencing is further stretching already inadequate public services as thousands of medical staff, teachers, water engineers and other professionals are forced to leave the country, the report warned. At the end of 2006, an estimated 40% had left.

“Basic services, ruined by years of war and sanctions, cannot meet the needs of the Iraqi people,” Jeremy Hobbs, the director of Oxfam International, said. “Millions of Iraqis have been forced to flee the violence, either to another part of Iraq or abroad. Many of those are living in dire poverty.”

Mr Hobbs urged the Iraqi government, the UN and the international community to do more to help Iraqis.

“The Iraqi government must commit to helping Iraq’s poorest citizens, including the internally displaced, by extending food parcel distribution and cash payments to the vulnerable,” he said.

“Western donors must work through Iraqi and international aid organisations and develop more flexible systems to ensure these organisations operate effectively and efficiently.”

Oxfam called for a doubling of the monthly $100 (£50) cash allowances to households headed by widows, which would cost $2.4bn a year.

The UN, especially the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, has a vital role to play in the provision of humanitarian assistance, the report said.

Its role would come in coordinating the assessment and delivery of needs, advising the government, mobilising resources, and advocating for enhanced civilian protection.

Oxfam has not operated in Iraq since 2003 for security reasons.

Earlier this month, a report by the world’s principal intergovernmental body on migration, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), warned (pdf) that the scale of Iraqi displacement was “fast becoming a regional and ultimately international crisis”.

Iraq: One in seven joins human tide spilling into neighbouring countries

July 30, 2007

The Independent, July 30, 2007

Patrick Cockburn in Sulaymaniyah

Published: 30 July 2007




Two thousand Iraqis are fleeing their homes every day. It is the greatest mass exodus of people ever in the Middle East and dwarfs anything seen in Europe since the Second World War. Four million people, one in seven Iraqis, have run away, because if they do not they will be killed. Two million have left Iraq, mainly for Syria and Jordan, and the same number have fled within the country.

Yet, while the US and Britain express sympathy for the plight of refugees in Africa, they are ignoring – or playing down- a far greater tragedy which is largely of their own making.

The US and Britain may not want to dwell on the disasters that have befallen Iraq during their occupation but the shanty towns crammed with refugees springing up in Iraq and neighbouring countries are becoming impossible to ignore.

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Bush Administration Utterly Callous Toward Iraqi Refugees

July 30, 2007

The Progressive, July 27, 2007

By Amitabh Pal,

New definition of chutzpah: You send a country to hell, and then you refuse to assist the millions of people you have caused to suffer.

The Bush Administration is showing the utmost callousness toward the more than two million Iraqis rendered nationless due to its misadventure. A recent conference in Amman, Jordan, to deal with the situation only highlights the crisis. An estimated 1.5 million Iraqi refugees live in Syria, and 750,000 in Jordan. (An additional two million are internal refugees—out of a population of twenty-eight million—making this a catastrophe of truly staggering proportions.)

Iraq’s neighbors, economically ill-equipped to cope with the massive population flows, are having to bear the brunt. The fact that Syria is hosting, by far, the most refugees is made even more interesting by the fact that it is on the official enemies list and has been repeatedly accused by the Bush Administration of having a negative role to play in the war. Now, the refugees have often not been treated well in these countries, but at least they have managed to find asylum there.

In contrast, what has been the sum total of Bush Administration’s efforts to alleviate the distress it has helped create? Almost zero. Since the start of the war, in four long years, the United States has allowed in just 701 refugees. The grand number of 202 Iraqi refugees were admitted to the United States in 2006, while in the first half of this year, the State Department let in sixty-eight. You read those figures right. A single town (Sodertalje: population 60,000) in Sweden (a country not exactly responsible for creating the crisis) took in last year twice as many Iraqi refugees as did the whole of the United States (population 300 million). The situation would be laughable if the effects of the Bush Administration’s pitilessness weren’t so heartrending.

In fact, the Bush Administration has limited itself almost completely to aiding the entry into the United States of Iraqis working directly with the U.S. forces in that country. This lame endeavor has also been embroiled in snafus and security checks, with even (hold your hats!) Administration officials admitting “that there remained a gap between words and action on the issue,” The New York Times states.

The consequences of inaction are grave, as a recent Amnesty International report notes.

“This is threatening to create an humanitarian crisis that could engulf the region unless concerted international action is taken now,” says Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

The numbers are so staggering that the individual stories get lost in the thicket. Nir Rosen (a contributor, I must add, to The Progressive) has a superb recent cover feature in The New York Times Magazine that lays bare many of these tales. He encounters fighters who have ironically been forced out of their country due to the violence. He tells of an Iraqi doctor named Lujai, who fled to Syria along with her family after Shiite militias killed her husband. He encounters in Cairo Muhammad Abu Rawan, who has found refuge there from the endless civil strife in Iraq. And he comes across hundreds of Iraqi Palestinians who are stranded in tents in no man’s land on the Iraqi-Syrian border.

Juxtaposed with these accounts are the heartless words of John Bolton, former ambassador to the United Nations, who is unwilling to admit even the tiniest iota of U.S. responsibility for the situation.

“Our obligation,” he tells Rosen from his air-conditioned office at the American Enterprise Institute, “was to give them new institutions and provide security. We have fulfilled that obligation. I don’t think we have an obligation to compensate for the hardships of war.”

Bolton doesn’t think that the Bush Administration should even give aid to the refugees. “Helping [them] flies in the face of received logic,” says one of the architects of the Iraq War. “You don’t want to encourage the refugees to stay. You want them to go home.”

His ex-colleagues still in the current Administration share his notions, even if they can’t afford to be as blunt as he is. “The problem is one caused by the repressive regime” of Saddam Hussein, Ellen Sauerbrey, assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, informs Rosen.

The complete lack of a moral center in this crowd is incredible.

Abbas and West Bank government drop right of resistance from platform

July 29, 2007

Global Research, July 29, 2007

Palestinian Information Center – 2007-07-28

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The prime minister of the unconstitutional PA government appointed by PA chief Mahmoud Abbas and headed by Salam Fayyad has dropped the right of the Palestinian people to resist the Israeli occupation out of its political platform.

In spite of the continued IOF troops’ killing, wounding, and arresting of Palestinian citizens in Gaza Strip and the West Bank, member of that illegitimate government Ashraf Al-Ajrami has affirmed that the armed resistance option was deleted from Fayyad’s government’s program.

“Program of the [unconstitutional] government was very clear in ending the armed resistance because it is not related to establishing the Palestinian statehood”, Ajrami alleged.

Abbas had earlier issued a number of edicts outlawing the Palestinian resistance and ordering the dissolution of all armed wings of the Palestinian resistance factions, which the armed wings rejected, and drew wide popular condemnation in the Palestinian street.

But Fayyad found a supporter for his “harmful” step in the person of Nemr Hammad, Abbas’s political advisor, who blessed the step, alleging, “The Palestinian resistance symbolizes an armed mess, and its is about time to stop that mess”.

Fayyad’s step came at a time the IOF troops were killing and wounding tens of Palestinian citizens on daily basis and refusing to end its occupation of the Palestinian land.

Immediately after it was promulgated, Fayyad’s step was widely welcomed by the Israeli occupation government that described it as “a positive step in the right direction” and harmonizes with the intensive diplomatic efforts to nudge the peace process forward.

Meri Eisen, the spokeswoman of Israeli premier Ehud Olmert, opined, “We can feel new atmosphere on the ground from both sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, but we still have a lot to do”.

“We have to resume peace talks with the new PA government under Fayyad, especially regarding sensitive issues pertaining to the final status,” said Israeli minister and one of Olmert’s close associates Haim Ramon. He was apparently wishing to exploit the presence of Fayyad’s government to gain more concessions as far as the Palestinian legal rights are concerned.

Top military brass of the IOF command and Israeli intelligence departments expressed satisfaction with Fayyad’s government’s action against the Palestinian resistance in the West Bank that, according to them, the IOF troops weren’t able to do for many years.

Well-informed Palestinian sources affirmed that security coordination between the PA security apparatuses in the West Bank and Israel reached its peak after Hamas’s takeover of Gaza Strip in mid June.

According to the sources, the security coordination between the PA preventive security apparatus and Israeli intelligence departments botched at least three planned armed attacks by the Islamic Jihad and Fatah fighters inside the Hebrew state.

Sources close to the Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, also affirmed that prior to their defeat in Gaza Strip; the PA security apparatuses foiled a plan of the Brigades to capture two IOF servicemen at the Kissufim crossing point, east of Gaza Strip, more than two months ago.

PFLP to Abbas: Beware of the Israeli trap to divide the Palestinians

July 29, 2007

Global Research, July 22, 2007

Palestinian Information Center – 2007-07-21


Jamil Mizher, the PFLP political leader in Gaza, has warned PA chief Mahmoud Abbas not to fall in the Israeli trap designed for him in a bid to shatter the Palestinian national unity, saying, “The Israelis will only offer false promises to you (Abbas)”.

To substantiate his claims, Mizher cited the more than one decade of futile negotiations between the PA and Israel, in which, Israel offered only rosy promises to the PA leaders without implementing them on the ground.

In this regard, Mizher urged all Palestinian resistance factions, especially Hamas and Fatah, to consolidate their ranks, and to restore national unity in confronting the malicious schemes of the “Zionist enemy”, affirming that money of the PA is for all Palestinian people and not for a Palestinian party per se.

Although Mizher welcomed the release of 250 Palestinian captives, the bulk of them from the Fatah faction, including the PFLP prominent political leader Abdul Rahim Malloh, he viewed the entire deal as an attempt by Israel to deceive the world’s public opinion, and to portray itself as humanistic state releasing Palestinian prisoners, but the fact is that the IOF troops arrest more than that number every month.

As of now, there are more than 11,000 Palestinian captives, including women and children among other detainees languishing in Israeli jails in very harsh conditions.

The IOF troops arrest hundreds of Palestinian youths every month, making the release of the 250 captives (many of them almost finishing their jail terms) a big deception.

Furthermore, Mizher rejected the PLO’s central council’s call for early PA elections, affirming that no early elections of any kind in the PA-run lands could take place without national harmony.

He also warned that attempts to strangle the Palestinian national harmony will only deepen the geographical and popular rift among the Palestinian people.

Mikhail Gorbachev says USA makes major strategic mistakes

July 28, 2007

Source: AP, July 27, 2007

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on Friday laid the blame for the current low in Russia’s relations with the West squarely at Washington’s door, accusing the United States of making “major strategic mistakes” that had thrown the world into a period of “global disarray.”Russia has fallen out with the United States on a raft of issues, clouding relations and leading some commentators to draw parallels with the Cold War.

Gorbachev expressed strong support for President Vladimir Putin’s stance on most questions, and traced the roots of the chill with the West to the collapse of the Soviet Union, which, he said, put Washington in an empire-building mood.

After the Soviet Union’s collapse, “the idea of a new empire, of sole leadership, was born,” he said at a news conference. “Unilateral actions and wars followed,” he added, saying that Washington “ignored the Security Council, international law and the will of their own people.”

“These are major strategic mistakes,” Gorbachev said.

Gorbachev, whose liberal policies of glasnost and perestroika – openness and restructuring – set in play democratic forces that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, echoed Putin’s frequent endorsement of a so-called “multipolar world,” or one without the perceived dominance of the United States.

“No one, no single center, can today command the world. No single group of countries, like the G-8, can do it,” Gorbachev said. “There is no option other than to build a multipolar world order, no matter how complicated this is.”

That, he said, would not be achieved until the Bush administration had departed.

“Under the current U.S. president I don’t think we can fundamentally change the situation as it is developing now,” he said. “It is dangerous. The world is experiencing a period of growing global disarray.”

The Kremlin says the Bush administration’s plans for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe could spark a new arms race. It has refused to back Washington’s draft Security Council resolution on Kosovo’s independence and has suspended its participation in a key treaty on arms reduction in Europe.

Moscow is also in the midst of a bitter diplomatic squabble with Britain over Russia’s refusal to extradite a suspect in the polonium killing of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, which has seen a tit-fot-tat expulsion of diplomats.

Addressing the diplomatic dispute with Britain, Gorbachev called for calm. “What’s done is done – we need to stop and return to a dialogue and continue developing ties,” he said.

Still, he said the case was “politicized” and, therefore, “someone needs it to be so, and to spoil relations.” He said Britain “tries to be a good friend only for the United States.”

While conceding that there had been some rollbacks in media freedoms under Putin, Gorbachev said his policies were in the “interests of the majority” and stressed that Russia was in a “transitional period.”

With presidential elections slated for next year, speculation is rife over who will succeed Putin and what role he will play outside the Kremlin.

Gorbachev pitched in: “I am sure President Putin will find his place in future life. And this place will be a serious one. It will become clear very soon,” he said.

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