Saturday, August 16, 2008

Russia could strike Poland over U.S. shield - Ifax

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A top Russian general on Friday said Poland's deal with the United States to set up parts of a missile defence shield on Polish territory lays it open to a possible military strike, a Russian news agency reported.

Col-General Anatoliy Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of the general staff, told Interfax that Russian military doctrine would allow for a possible nuclear strike.

Poland agreed on Thursday to host elements of a U.S. global anti-missile system after Washington agreed to boost Poland's own military air defences.

"The USA is engaged in an anti-missile defence for its own government, and not for Poland. And Poland, in deploying (elements of the system) opens itself to a military strike. That is 100 percent," Interfax quoted Nogovitsyn as saying.

Nogovitsyn said Russia allows nuclear weapons to be used in circumstances defined by its current security doctrine.

The Russian government revamped its national security doctrine in 2000, broadening the range of conflicts in which nuclear weapons could be used.

"It is written clearly: We will use it in instances against governments that have nuclear weapons; against allies of countries with nuclear weapons, if they somehow enable them," he said.

Washington says the missile system is aimed at protecting the United States and its allies from long-range missiles that could in the future be fired by Iran or groups such as al Qaeda.

The Kremlin has long said that was untrue, and has opposed the shield as a threat to Russia. The 10 interceptor missiles to be based at a site in northern Poland compare with Russia's own nuclear arsenal of more than 5,000 ballistic warheads.

In agreeing to deploy elements of the U.S. missile shield, Poland "becomes an actionable object. Those targets are destroyed in the first order," Nogovitsyn said.

Tension between Moscow and Washington has risen in the past week, since Georgia's attempt to re-take its separatist region of South Ossetia by force provoked a massive counter-attack by Russia.

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Georgia signs cease-fire with Russia

TBILISI, Georgia (CNN) -- A grim Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said Friday that he signed a cease-fire agreement that requires the immediate withdrawal of all Russian forces from Georgian soil.

Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili announces Friday he signed a cease-fire agreement with Russia.

Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili announces Friday he signed a cease-fire agreement with Russia.

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The agreement includes a provision for independent monitors and an eventual reconstruction plan for Georgia's economy, said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who brought the documents to Tbilisi, Georgia's capital.

The two met for almost five hours, the Georgian president said.

Later Friday, the office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who brokered the agreement, said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had confirmed Russia's cooperation.

"His country will sign a cease-fire accord with Georgia and scrupulously respect all agreements, including a troop withdrawal," Sarkozy's office said.

Fighting that started last week has died down in the region, but Russian forces remain. The warfare raged for several days until Sarkozy's diplomatic efforts helped lessen the violence. Sarkozy undertook the role because he holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.

Saakashvili opened a news conference announcing the agreement with a bitter tirade against what he characterized as European nations' appeasement in advance of a Russian invasion last week.

NATO's decision in April not to admit Georgia as a member encouraged Russia to build up forces and attack Georgia with impunity, he said.

"Who invited the trouble here?" he asked. "Who invited this arrogance here? Who invited the innocent deaths here? Not only those people who perpetrated this are responsible, but also those people who failed to stop it."

Rice emphasized that all Russian troops must return to the positions they held before the conflict began.

Georgia last week launched a military incursion into South Ossetia to rout separatist rebels. Russia, which supports the separatists, responded the next day, sending tanks across the border into South Ossetia. The conflict quickly spread to other parts of Georgia and to Abkhazia, another breakaway region.

"We support Georgia's sovereignty; we support its independence; we support its territorial integrity; we support its democracy and its democratically elected government," Rice said.

She said an independent monitoring force must be put in place as soon as possible and that talks were under way to assemble one.

"Never, ever will Georgia reconcile with the occupation of even one square kilometer of its sovereign territory," Saakashvili said.

Saakashvili had hesitated Thursday evening when asked whether he was ready to sign the cease-fire papers Rice was carrying.

"We'll have to see what she has to bring," Saakashvili said on CNN's "Larry King Live." "We are still in the negotiating process."

In Washington, President Bush chided Russia on Friday for Cold War-style behavior, saying, "bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century."

Bush said the United States stands "with the people of Georgia and their democratically elected government." He said the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity "must be respected."

"We will not cast them aside," he said.

Bush said Russia's invasion of Georgia has "damaged its credibility."

"Russia must respect the freedom of its neighbors," Bush said, calling Georgia a "courageous democracy."

Bush said he has been receiving updates from his national security team about the situation.

Bush said Rice would travel to his ranch near Crawford, Texas, where the two will confer.

He said Defense Secretary Robert Gates is briefing him on humanitarian assistance and that he is working closely with "our partners in Europe and other members of the G-7 to bring a resolution to this crisis."

Administration officials said this week the United States and its allies were considering kicking Russia out of the Group of Eight, the group of the world's most important international economies, as punishment for its actions in Georgia.

"Moscow must honor its commitment to withdraw its invading forces from all Georgian territory," Bush said.

He said Georgia has been part "of an inspiring and hopeful new chapter in Europe's history," and he noted that Europe "has moved beyond" the world wars and the Cold War, the standoff between Soviet-style communism and the West. Did you experience the Cold War?

"Unfortunately, Russia has tended to view the expansion of freedom and democracy as a threat to its interests," Bush said. "The opposite is true. Free and prosperous societies on Russia's borders will advance Russia's interests by serving as sources of stability and economic opportunity."

The United States is hopeful that Russia will embrace "a future of cooperation and peace" that would help all parties, he said.

"The Cold War is over," Bush said. "The days of satellite states and spheres of influence are behind us. A contentious relationship with Russia is not in America's interest. And a contentious relationship with America is not in Russia's interests."

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Penguin at Edinburgh Zoo may pick up Norwegian knighthood

By John Bingham

King penguin Nils Olav, mascot of the King of Norway's private guard
Nils Olav, mascot of the King of Norway's private guard Photo: JAMES FRASER

After a decades-long military career which has seen him rise to the rank of Colonel-in-Chief, Nils Olav has learnt to take promotion in his stride.

But when he waddles out to inspect his troops at a special parade at the city's zoo he is expected to pick up a knighthood.

Members of the Norwegian King's Guard visit to the zoo to honour the distinguished bird every few years when they are in the city for the military tattoo.

The practice dates back to the early 1970s when a young lieutenant called Nils Egelien came up with the idea of having one of its king penguins as a regimental mascot and honorary member.

Over the years the bird has achieved repeated promotions and has been decorated for his long service.

But now the loyal penguin is in line to receive a title, with the personal approval of Norway's King Harald V.

Although guardsmen are remaining tight-lipped about what the latest gong will be, rumours of a knighthood are rife.

The latest promotion will be bestowed at a special parade in which Nils will be invited to inspect a guard of honour and receive a fanfare from buglers.

Captain Rune Wiik, who is taking part in the ceremony, said that on previous visits the unlikely Commander-in-Chief seemed to be well aware of his exalted position.

"I think he remembers the uniform and I think he likes the ceremonial aspects," he said.

But the penguin being honoured today is not the original Nils Olav.

He died in the 1980s and was replaced by a two-year-old penguin at the Zoo.

Darren McGarry, animal collection manager at Edinburgh Zoo, added: "We're all very excited about his new promotion and we've all been wondering what it could be."

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