From Volume 5, Issue Number 40 of EIR Online, Published Oct. 3, 2006

Western European News Digest

Europeans Continue Iran Dialogue to Stall War Drive

"We are hoping that an agreement will come out of this dialogue [with Iran] as soon as possible," said French President Jacques Chirac Sept. 24, following his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The three expressed support for the meetings between EU foreign affairs representative Javier Solana and Iran's negotiator Ali Larijani. Chirac said he was "generally optimistic" that the talks would produce a solution, saying, "One must do everything to find a solution by dialogue, which is always the best way to settle problems. Only the international community can exercise the influence necessary on Iran to produce a political solution."

Putin was quoted by Ria Novosti saying, "The sides have demonstrated a joint commitment to a political and diplomatic resolution of the situation around the Iranian nuclear problem and the creation of conditions for long-term stability in other trouble spots in the world."

According to previews of an article to appear in Der Spiegel, the EU-3, France, Britain, and Germany would be willing to begin talks with Iran even if it has not suspended its nuclear enrichment program first, without Washington. Citing unnamed German diplomatic sources, Spiegel said the goal of this new strategy would be to bring Tehran to the negotiating table to discuss the 5+1 package of incentives. Talks could start if the Larijani-Solana discussions prove fruitful, Spiegel said. Secretary of State Condi Rice reportedly did not approve the idea, but did not or could not stop it.

Schäuble in U.S. Continues Criticism of Guantanamo

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who concluded three days of talks with U.S. officials in Washington, D.C. Sept. 26, commented on the military option in Iran, by saying: "there are none ... and that is wise, because you may throw the Iranian nuclear program back by two or three years only, and that is not efficient." The only way to solve the problem, Scháuble said, is dialogue and diplomacy, and there, the Russians play an "important role," he added.

Schäuble also criticized the prison at Guantanamo, again, saying that, "even if it is to prevent the notorious ticking time bomb from detonating, there must not be any compromise on values. We cannot defend our values, if we give them up." He added that his U.S. discussion partners assured him that Bush took the international criticism seriously, and that he wants U.S. practices at Guantanamo to change. Scháuble, on the other hand, said that the USA could count on Europe and Germany as reliable allies, that there would be no more Franco-German-Russian summitry as under former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. German military engagement abroad, against terrorism, was dependent on an assessment of whether it really fit German interests, though, he added.

Bundestag Votes To Keep Troops in Afghanistan

Discarding public warnings, the German Bundestag voted 472 against 71, with 9 abstentions Sept. 28 to keep the German troop contingent in Afghanistan for another 12 months.

Indicative for the dangerous reality which the Bundestag chose not to heed, was a briefing given by the German Ambassador to Afghanistan, Hans-Ulrich Seidt, to the defense committee the previous day, in which he warned in no uncertain terms that, "the situation in Afghanistan is rapidly deteriorating," thereby eliminating the basis for a meaningful mission of the German troops there. Within 12-18 months, he said, the government in Kabul might lose control of the country, the South already being de facto under the control of the Taliban now. There is no chance for NATO to deliver a lasting defeat to the Taliban in the South, Seidt warned, calling for a change of strategy, away from military considerations to economic reconstruction policies. Seidt's remarks resembled aspects of the warnings put out repeatedly by EIR over the recent weeks.

German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung called Seidt's assessment "too pessimistic," but he also hinted at certain changes that would have to occur in the Afghanistan strategy, so that the German and other foreign troops there would avoid being considered as "occupiers." That stated, Jung's endorsement of the 12-month extension of the mandate is inconsequent, a decision that Germany may soon regret.

Who Is Trying To Bring Down the Polish Coalition?

Several days after Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski dismissed Vice Premier Andrej Lepper, as result of which the government coalition collapsed, a new destabilization has hit Poland. In what looks like a sting operation, the Polish National TV transmitted a tape to the public which showed Adam Lipinsky, who is in charge of the Prime Minister's office, speaking in a hotel room to a deputy from Lepper's party Samoobrona. Lepper's deputy Renata Berger is said to have recorded herself in a discussion she had with Lipinsky. Lipinsky was shown on the tape offering her a cabinet post (and even money) if she would defect from Samoobrona and join the PiS.

After the Samoobrona left the government coalition, the ruling PiS needed 40 deputies to maintain a solid majority, and to remain in the government. If the PiS, which also recently began discussion with the Peasant Party, PSL, can find this majority, things will stabilize. If not, new elections will be called for Nov. 26.

Brown Attempts To Unify Labour, Continues Privatization

Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown opened his speech to the Labour Party conference Sept. 25 by apologizing to Tony Blair for occasionally letting disagreements get out of hand. His main theme was the parable of the talents in modern form as he learned it from his religious parents. Brown said that each person is given a talent, which, more than a program, it is the purpose of the "soul" of the Labour Party to encourage development and its expression. Otherwise, Brown tried to win labor backing by making the National Health Service independent, like the Bank of England, rather than "privatizing," it as is now slated to happen, starting with the outsourcing of part of NHS to the German firm DHL.

Three major items that were not debated at the Labour Party Conference, because they were removed by the rules committee from active debate, are: first, the leadership question was postponed; secondly, debate on "privatization" of the National Health Service was halted despite strong trade union opposition to this, and; thirdly, debate on rebuilding the 25 billion pound Trident nuclear submarine program, which comes up before the next Parliament, was killed.

Bad News for Labour: Poll Shows Public Dissatisfaction

According to a recent IoS poll, a majority of Britons (59%) think the Labour Party will lose the next general election. A measure of the damage inflicted on the government's image by recent events is that 71% of those questioned agreed that "the Labour Party leadership is split into warring factions," a view held by 61% of Labour voters. The poll also reveals strong support for the idea that Gordon Brown should face a challenge for the top job. Sixty-four percent and 57% of Labour voters agreed that "if Brown takes over without a leadership contest, the British people will feel cheated."

Transrapid Collision Could Not Happen on Commercial System

A police investigation has begun of the crash Sept. 22 in Lathen, Germany, of a high-speed train on a test track, that killed 23 people, when it hit a maintenance car shortly after its start. ThyssenKrupp, the manufacturer of the maglev train, has issued a statement, saying that all they know so far, is that there was no technical malfunction of the maglev system as such. However, a spokesman for the company rejected as "far too early" the conclusion that the cause of disaster was human failure. This leaves the door open for a third conclusion, which would be sabotage, although no one dares to pronounce that word.

Spiegel online has the best analysis so far, reporting that the maintenance vehicle on the track was performing its routine job. Every morning, the vehicle goes through the entire 30 km of track, to clean it of debris. Once it has finished, it transmits a radio signal to the control center, signalling that the track is cleared. The state attorney of the Oldenburg district said that all radio records have been seized, to find out whether there was a malfunction, a break-off, or interference with the radio communications, which would have accounted for the train's collision with the maintenance vehicle.

A former public affairs spokesman for Transrapid in the U.S., who has authored books about magnetically levitated systems and cofounded the International Maglev Board, explained that such an accident could not happen on the Shanghai-Pudong, or any commercial line, because there are sensors in the track that "lock down" the system if it detects any unusual weight on the tracks. But the Transrapid test track was considered to be a controlled-environment situation, and hence, that safety precaution was not taken. He recalled that this is the first fatality in 30 years the test track has been in operation, and that the accident was caused by operator error, and not the technology.

Japan has also reiterated its commitment to commercial development of maglev technology, despite the accident.

Strange French Claim Aids NeoCons

Are the French trying to "speed up" the U.S.-Pakistan hunt for Osama Bin Laden—by declaring him dead? French President Jacques Chirac refused to comment on a French intelligence document, leaked to the regional daily L'Est Republicain, that reports that Saudi Arabia is convinced that Osama bin Laden died of typhoid in late August. Chirac said on Sept. 23, at a press conference following a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that "This information is in no way whatsoever confirmed." He also said he has asked his Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie to investigate how the document was published.

All rights reserved © 2006 EIRNS