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News and commentary of the World for english-speaking readers.

Iran is not a good payer, according to Russia

World

Iran has yet to resume payments for a nuclear power plant Russia is constructing at Bushehr, and Moscow does not intend to pay for the plant’s construction, a Russian atomic energy official said Friday.
“We cannot finish this plant at our own expense,” Sergei Kiriyenko, chief of Russia’s Federal Atomic Energy Agency, said in comments run by Interfax. Kiriyenko’s comments come as Moscow says the plant’s planned launch date of September 2007 will be pushed back at least two months due to Iran’s failure to provide financing.

Negotiations on Bushehr’s construction begun in Tehran this week are to continue through the weekend. Atomstroiexport, the Russian state-controlled company overseeing construction, said Friday that it hoped talks would be completed early next week.
Russia has said Iran ended monthly payments of 25 million dollars in January, but Tehran claims it has provided all necessary financing.

Iranian leaders have also upped their rhetoric in the past week, with Tehran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, questioning Moscow’s “reliability” and saying it had “politicized” Bushehr. The 850 million-dollar plant was begun in the 1970s by Germany’s Siemens but then abandoned after the Shah’s overthrow. Atomstroiexport agreed in 1995 to finish the facility’s construction.

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Déjà Vu

Italy/World

The Taliban want Italy to quit Afghanistan in exchange for the release of a kidnapped reporter, Italian public broadcaster Rai reported today.

Rai interviewed a Pakistani journalist, Rahimullah Yousefzai, who claims to be in direct touch with the Islamists holding La Repubblica correspondent Daniele Mastrogiacomo. As well as the withdrawal of Italy’s some 2,000 troops, the Taliban wants NATO to halt an offensive unleashed Monday and release two Taliban spokesmen from jail in Kabul, Yousefzai said. However, the Italian ambassador in Kabul said Italy had received no such demands.

Italian diplomats and the country’s intelligence are working in Rome and Kabul to obtain the release of Daniele Mastrogiacomo, 52, a correspondent for Italian daily La Repubblica, gone missing while trying to talk to Taliban leaders in southern Afghanistan. Officials at the Foreign Ministry in Rome appeared certain on Wednesday that the reporter was abducted in the southern city of Kandahar by a “military structure” answering to the Taliban.

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Chavez, the model

Italy/World

Venezuela’s National Assembly granted President Hugo Chavez unprecedented power to rule by decree on Wednesday, vastly increasing his authority to move forward on his leftist agenda in every area of the country’s life from the oil industry to telecommunications to banking.

Chavez was given the special powers for 18 months by a legislature fully controlled by his party and a handful of allies. The lawmakers took their celebratory vote under the open air and tropical blue skies of Caracas’s main square, Plaza Bolivar, where ordinary Venezuelans also gathered.

National Assembly Speaker Cilia Flores asked for a show of hands from dozens of government supporters congregated below the statue of Venezuelan and Latin American independence hero Simon Bolivar. “Approved unanimously, with the vote of the people”, she proclaimed.

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From Multiculturalism to Integration

Italy/World

After 30 years of believing that multiculturalism had the power to hold their settler society together Australians are losing faith in what was always a tangled concept and are returning to the simpler formula of integration.
“We have moved from scepticism to disenchantment”, said ruling Liberal Party luminary Peter Coleman. “It has now sunk in that some immigrants and their children, many of whom know us well enough, profoundly despise our way of life and even consider themselves at war with it.”

As if on cue, 150 Serb and Croat youths provided further grounds for disenchantment by getting themselves thrown out of the tennis Open in Melbourne for fighting each other in a reprise of the 1990s Balkan Wars.

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Mixed marriages spark troubles in Europe

World

In Italy, marriages between ethnic Italians and foreigners have increased tenfold in fifteen years, according to the latest survey. Mixed marriages are up from 60,000 in 1991 to 600,000 last year, Catholic charity organisation Caritas/Migrantes said, citing data from statistics agency Istat.

The biggest problems in mixed marriages have to do with children, especially where Muslim or North African men are concerned.
By custom and religion these men have a high perception of their domestic entitlements: a fact that can lead to growing tension, Caritas and Istat said.

The Muslim tradition of female subservience often leads to marital break-down, even though most Italian women convert to Islam, the report said.
“In North Africa, children are considered the ‘property’ of the husband,” said one of the experts cited in the report, from Milan’s Bicocca University, pointing out that “Some of these fathers will end up kidnapping their children to bring them back to patriarchal domains”.

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Strange legitimacy

World

Muslims have a greater claim to Australia than non-Muslims because they arrived as fee-paying immigrants rather than “shackled convicts”, the leader of the 350.000-strong community said Thursday. Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali, mufti of Sydney’s biggest mosque, made his controversial comments on an Egyptian television station during his annual holiday in the country of his birth.
“We came as free people, we bought our own tickets, we are entitled to Australia more than they are”, al-Hilaly said in remarks broadcast on Australia’s Seven Network television station.
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A Man For All Seasons

World

French President Jacques Chirac said corporate taxes should be lowered to increase the country’s competitiveness. With a tax rate of about 33 percent, Chirac noted the levy in France is about 8 percentage points above the European average.
“The goal should be bringing it to 20 percent in five years” Chirac, whose second term ends in May, said in a speech to business leaders and union representatives in Paris yesterday.

France’s economic growth in 2006 lagged behind Germany’s for the first time since 1994 after a slump in exports pushed the trade deficit to a record and the weakness in industrial production reflected the loss of market shares suffered by french carmakers. In contrast to Germany, the world’s biggest exporter, France traditionally has relied on consumer spending for expansion.
“It would allow French companies to hire more”, Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, said after attending the speech. “These are excellent ideas to explore”.
Jean-Claude Mailly, general secretary of union Force Ouvriere, said the proposal reflected “dangerous logic” because French companies “will never be as competitive as those that pay their workers less or don’t pay taxes at all”.
Chirac didn’t tell how to fund the cut in corporate tax rate. Not really surprising. Maybe Chirac is thinking of new taxes to fund tax cuts, since he appears unwilling to cut public expenses.

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