Sunday, September 09, 2007

bin Laden appearance overshadows APEC

Changing faces of Osama bin Laden - 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2007

A tape purporting to be Osama bin Laden surfaced on Friday [BBC] only day's before the 6th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The blurred image of a man who resembled America’s most wanted terrorist read a long rambling speech containing all the familiar threats and rhetoric. The man pictured in the video had a much darker beard than in the last known appearance prompting The Times to comment; “he’s had a makeover”. The paper also linked recent events to the release of the video to emphasize the increasing threat of Islamic terrorism. Terror arrests in Germany and Denmark, extremists overtaking Britain’s mosques and the terrorist attack on Glasgow’s airport were all highlighted to show the threat the country faces. Discussing the morning papers on Sky News, one studio guest said, “People need a reminder that this stuff is for real”, adding that “People don’t take this as seriously as they should.”
George Bush took the new bin Laden statement seriously enough to comment. “He mentioned Iraq” he said, “And that’s why it’s important for us to remain” and defeat the terrorists. In the 30 minute tape, bin Laden is heard saying, “You permitted Bush to complete his first term, and stranger still, chose him for a second term, which gave him a clear mandate from you... to continue to murder our people in Iraq and Afghanistan" [BBC / full transcript PDF]. While officials in the US said the voice was that of Osama bin Laden, others were less convinced. Al Jazeera spoke to one ‘expert’ who suggested the nose was too big and that the voice could be faked electronically. He also questioned as to why al Qaeda couldn’t afford a decent camera.

Bin Laden had already interrupted the APEC summit earlier in the week, or rather an Osama look-alike. A fake cavalcade, complete with armoured vehicles, motorcycle outriders and security guards, came with thirty metres of the hotel where President Bush was staying. However when the entourage came to a halt it became apparent to the real security forces that there had been a serious security breach as a man dressed as Osama bin Laden alighted from one of the cars. It had all been part of a stunt by a TV comedy show. A statement from TV company ABC said the Chaser team members were wearing mock "insecurity" passes, which expressly stated it was a joke. But the police and Australia’s security services were not amused saying the 11 arrested could have been shot [CNN / BBC].

President Bush had everyone laughing with his mispronunciations and faux pas. He praised the “Austrian troops” in Iraq, and thanked Mr Howard for inviting him to Australia for the OPEC summit rather than the APEC summit. He then joked that Mr Howard had invited him to the OPEC summit next year (an impossibility since neither Australia nor the US are members of the oil exporting cartel). He went on to voice his abhorrence of terrorist groups operating in the Asia-Pacific region, including the evil "Jenna Islaaanah Nia". He meant to say Jemaah Islamiyah. Finally, as he began to leave the stage he set off in direction of a several metre vertical precipice. Fortunately for Mr Bush he was beckoned back and shown the stairs at the front of the stage [Herald Sun / Guardian].

The coverage of the APEC has been scant in general. CCTV-9 had the most in-depth coverage in their programme ‘Dialogue’. Lasting some thirty minutes, it brought viewers debate and analysis of the APEC summit from a Sino-Australian perspective. President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister John Howard were said to have “reviewed rapid progress of cooperation” according to the Chinese International broadcaster, as well as building “stronger ties and peace and prosperity initiatives on climate change.”
Running with the strap ‘Beijing & Canberra seek closer ties’, the two studio guests gave their views on the “relevance for China” at the 15th APEC meeting.
Trade was one of the most discussed topics. Last year there were in excess of $45 billion of deals with Australia. China buys more Australian wool than any other country. Michael Johnson MP and Federal Member for Ryan, Australia, said, “China has much to be proud of” and said he was pleased to develop bi-lateral ties.
Asked on his views about the environment Mr Johnson said, “Climate change is seen by many Australians as the number one threat” but added that “energy and education were two important aspects of how China and Australia could benefit” mutually.

Australia and China were in talks to discuss greater transparency and the Australian MP said he would resist any efforts to prevent the re-emergence or rise of China. And he said Japanese and US actions shouldn’t be interpreted as an attempt to contain China.

The Taiwan issue became the next topic. China has said it would not tolerate the cessation of Taiwan, but George Bush said he would not tolerate a change in the status quo. The Australian government, however, recognises China’s ‘one China policy’, the Australian correspondent Rowan Callick said.

And so to the worry of Chinese products. Asked whether Australia was panicked by safety and food concerns, Rowan Callick said, “naturally we are worried but not panicked”.

George Bush also met the Chinese Premier and apparently had “quite articulate” talks over product safety [BBC]. However, there was no mention as to whether he raised the issue of spying and the hacking of Pentagon computers. Sitting with the South Korean Prime Minister, he was asked if he would declare an end to the Korean War. He said he would do so if the North Korean leader “gets rid of his Nuclear weapons programmes and we can get the peace we all long for” [CNN]. The hostilities between the North and South ended in 1953 but a peace treaty was never signed. Meanwhile the DPRK has invited nuclear experts to the country to inspect the nuclear facilities and help set procedures for dismantlement.

The APEC summit ended with a few promises to save the environment [BBC / CNN]. But with increased free trade, it may in the minds of many environmentalists be difficult to reconcile. As the summit came to a close protesters clashed with the police resulting in at least 25 arrests and a number of injuries on both sides. The protests up to now had been peaceful [CNN] but clashes occurred late Saturday.

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