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Daily Archives: June 11, 2009

WTO not notified of Russia regional bid

The World Trade Organisation has not received formal notification of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan's intention to seek membership as a single customs bloc, a source close to the body told AFP.
"The WTO has not received the official request from the three candidates," she said.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that the three countries would "inform the WTO about their intention to start a negotiating process for membership of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia as a single customs union."
He added that the three countries had agreed to synchronize their customs tariffs from the start of 2010 and to implement a single customs area from mid-2011.
"Our priority is still membership in the WTO but as a single customs area," Putin declared.
The three ex-Soviet Union states have for the past decade been seeking membership of the WTO.
Russia and Belarus put forward their application in 1993 and Kazakhstan has been a candidate since 1996.
Putin's announcement came as a surprise as Moscow's application had appeared to have advanced in the past few weeks.
The latest move would neither simplify nor shorten the accession process, the source said.
"A customs union is a very complex legal question that requires specific, detailed and long examination by all of WTO's member states," she added.
All 153 member states of the WTO have to give their approval before any new country can accede to the trading body.
Russia's candidacy hit a snag last year due to its brief war with Georgia, which has been a WTO member state since June 2000.

Seventeen Taliban killed in Afghanistan

The US-led coalition said yesterday it used a precision air strike to kill a Taliban commander with reported links to Iran's Revolutionary Guards and up to 16 militants with him in western Afghanistan.
The strike was called in against rebel leader Mullah Mustafa, who commanded about 100 men, in the remote western province of Ghor on Tuesday, the US military said in a statement.
The militant was targeted while he was travelling. "When he stopped in a remote area, he was joined by multiple militants," it said.
"Determining no civilians would be endangered, forces used precision aerial munitions to strike the group, killing Mustafa and as many as 16 other associated militants," it said.
The statement said the commander "had recently met with senior Taliban leaders, and reportedly had connections to Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Quds Force."
He had been responsible for attacks along a highway linking Ghor with the province of Herat, on the border with Iran, it said.
Afghan police could however not confirm if the militant commander had been killed.
"We do know that his brother and his son were killed in the air strike," said the police commander for western Afghanistan, Ikramudin Yawar.
"We don't know the exact number of militants killed," he told AFP.
Yawar said there were also local reports of civilian casualties and officials had sent a delegation to the area to investigate.
Provincial police chief Abdul Baqi Nuristani said more than 10 militants were killed. "We do not know for sure if Mustafa was among them," he said. He had no information on any possible civilian casualties.
The Quds Force is the covert operations arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guards and is accused by US commanders of involvement in Iraq's bloody sectarian conflict.
Western officials have also said Tehran may be involved in the conflict in Afghanistan, where thousands of US troops are based, perhaps by supplying weapons to the Taliban or allowing them to transit through Iran.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has however insisted that Iran is an important ally of his government and part of a regional solution, also including Pakistan, to the growing conflict overshadowing Afghanistan.
When the largely Sunni Taliban were in government between 1996 and 2001, Shiite Iran supported efforts to remove them.