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Daily Archives: June 17, 2007

Rebel says French-Colombian politician is alive

 Image A jailed rebel leader freed at the request of French President Nicolas Sarkozy said kidnapped French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt was alive and well, and that he would soon travel to Cuba.
Rodrigo Granda, the so-called foreign minister of Colombia's largest rebel group, told AFP that Betancourt was still in rebel hands.
"Ingrid is not dead," he said Saturday. "She is well in body and mind, but it is impossible to send further proof that she is alive because of military operations in the area" where she is held.
Betancourt was a senator running for Colombia's presidency when the group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), kidnapped her and a campaign aide on February 23, 2002.

Members of her family, many of whom live in France, prevailed on Sarkozy to persuade Colombian President Alvaro Uribe not to rescue her by force, for fear she would be killed.
At Sarkozy's request, Uribe released Granda from a 21-year prison sentence on June 4, when the rebel leader moved into the residences of Bogota's archbishop.
Granda is the second person to have reported seeing Betancourt, 45, in recent months, after a police officer, one of 56 rebel hostages, managed to escape and said she was alive.
After much speculation that Granda had been released to negotiate a swap of rebel hostages for some of 500 imprisoned rebels, he said that his FARC superiors had not authorized him to do so.
However, he reiterated FARC demands that Uribe clear two municipalities of all military presence, creating an enclave where rebel and government negotiators can safely agree a swap of prisoners for hostages.
And in a separate interview with AFP Granda said he would soon make a brief trip to Cuba, without indicating what he planned to do there. Since December 2005, Cuba has hosted exploratory contacts between FARC and Bogota.
"I'll leave (Colombia) and return later. I'm going to Havana, although I still don't have an exact date or time" for the flight, said Granda, adding that the FARC leadership had authorized his trip.

Poland marches to EU summit under banner ‘Square Root or Death!’

 Image Poland's twin leaders Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski have a mathematical war cry as they try to impose their views on how a new EU governing treaty should allocate voting clout to member states: "Square Root or Death!"
The slogan is at odds with diplomatic-speak, but sums up Warsaw's uncompromising stance within the 27-nation European Union ahead of the bloc's crucial June 21-22 summit.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the prime minister, has said that Poland is "willing to die" to push through the changes it wants to the way EU members' voting powers are calculated, and that there will be "no horse-trading" on the issue.

Germany, which holds the rotating EU presidency until the end of this month, released a report Thursday for the summit on efforts on a new treaty to reform the bloc's institutions after French and Dutch voters spiked efforts to adopt a constitution two years ago.
The report did not mention Poland's demands, angering Warsaw, which fears losing its punch in decisions affecting the whole EU.
President Lech Kaczynski, the premier's identical twin, held talks on Saturday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to address his country's deep reservations.
Poland's conservative, eurosceptic government has repeatedly threatened to veto the start of an intergovernmental conference to debate and draft a new EU treaty, unless it gets its way.
Warsaw claims the backing of a host of EU members, but only the Czech Republic's eurosceptic leadership has expressed public support.
Poland, the biggest of 10 mostly ex-communist nations that joined the EU in 2004, wants the number of votes a member state wields in decisions affecting the entire bloc to be calculated using the square root of the country's population.
The double majority method that Germany wants in the new treaty would give too much weight in crucial votes to the biggest players, Poland has argued.
With 82 million people, Germany is the largest country in the EU in population terms; Poland, with 38 million, is the sixth biggest.
Poland's former Social Democratic government begrudgingly signed the EU constitution, which reduced the country's voting power.
With French and Dutch voters rejecting the constitution, EU decisions are still being made using a complex system outlined in the 2001 Treaty of Nice.
Under that treaty, Poland was allocated a disproportionately heavy voting weight compared to its population, and Warsaw does not want to give too much ground.
The Kaczynskis won power in 2005 and have flexed their muscle within the EU ever since.
Last year, Poland vetoed the start of talks on a new economic accord with Russia, its communist-era overlord, in retaliation for Moscow's embargo on imports of Polish meat.
The Kaczynski administration appears far less trusting of Germany than its predecessors, reviving the spectre of Poland's suffering at the hands of the Nazis during World War II to justify Warsaw's wariness.
Polish officials have blasted Germany for allegedly putting its national interests above those of all 27 EU member states.
Since last month, more than a dozen European leaders have visited Poland to try to convince the Kaczynskis not to block a new treaty.
After hosting France's President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday, Jaroslaw Kaczynski said that there was a "glimmer of hope" for an agreement.
Marek Cichocki, the Polish government's EU "sherpa" who is preparing its platform for the summit, told AFP that the square root plan was just one possibility.
Cichocki said that Poland wants a "system which will ensure that everyone in the EU, whatever their passport, will have the same influence on the decision-making process."
At the very least, he said, Warsaw wants the voting issue put on the agenda of the intergovernmental conference, which would aim to draft the new treaty in the second half of 2007 in order to have the accord in place by 2009.
"If we don't even discuss this, we don't see any point in having an intergovernmental conference," he added.

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