Meditation Focus #124

Maintaining Our Focus On Global Peace


What follows is the 124th Meditation Focus suggested for the next 2 weeks beginning Sunday, February 6, 2005.


1. Summary
2. Meditation times
3. More information related to this Meditation Focus
4. Peace Vigil for the Middle East, Aceh and Sir Lanka



Despite the ongoing daily violence in Iraq, most of the rest of the world is experiencing a growing trend towards peaceful resolution of several long simmering conflicts, as is the case between Israelis and Palestinians, between the separatist insurgency in Aceh and the government of Indonesia, and between the Tamil Tiger rebels and the Sri Lankan government, just to mentioned those 3 examples. But there could be several more as in Sudan, despite the ongoing, still unresolved, humanitarian crisis in Darfur, and even in Chechnya where it appears that top leaders of the insurgency have allegedly called for a unilateral cease-fire in February.

This trend needs to be encouraged and sustained not only through local peace-making efforts but also through global peace-fostering support, which is what people meditating for peace can do. It is contingent upon our collective spiritual faith in the achievement of peace on Earth to create the conditions that will allow the natural desire in all humans to live and prosper in peace to flourish and become an unstoppable force that will help break down the resistance, often based on prejudiced views and unforgiving attitudes, preventing the gradual establishment of a lasting peace and harmonious relationships everywhere on this planet. This way, those who still try their utmost to detract humanity from rising to a new level of maturity and manifestation of our common innate goodness will see their efforts come to nil despite the hundreds of billions of dollars wasted in a bloated military apparatus whose sole purpose is to prop up regimes which otherwise could not exist.

Please dedicate your prayers and meditations, as guided by Spirit, in the coming two weeks, and especially in synchronous attunement at the usual time this Sunday and the following Sunday, to contribute in maintaining our focus on global peace so that the peace processes now under way may continue to gather momentum and eventually produce sustainable, peaceful solutions to still seemingly intractable conflicts. May we realize the illusion — or maya — that all too often is at the root of so many difficulties between human beings of different cultural, religious and/or racial backgrounds, a sense of separation and personal disempowerment that is driving people into fear-tinted reactions and false "solutions" such as rejection, defamation and vilification of others. Thus being aware of the need to focus our healing energies and loving compassion towards nurturing in every human being a sense of Oneness and common mutual appreciation, we shall become, in those holy moments of global communion of souls, in every dimension of existence, the living beacons of hope and faith in the power of Love to regenerate our bonds and recreate heaven on Earth, for the Highest Good of All.

This whole Meditation Focus has been archived for your convenience at

Also recommended to your attention:

Rising Phoenix Series #35: The Power of LOVE! archived at


i) Global Meditation Day: Sunday at 16:00 Universal Time (GMT) or at noon local time. Suggested duration: 30 minutes. Please dedicate the last few minutes of your Sunday meditation BOTH to the healing of the Earth as a whole and to reiterate our willingness and desire - if we so choose - to receive assistance from our space family in order to help set things on a path towards a new era of global peace, love and harmony for all. See the Earth as healthy and vibrant with life, and experience the healing of all relations as we awaken globally to the sacredness of all Life and to our underlying unity with All That Is.

ii) Golden Moment of At-Onement: Daily, at the top of any hour, or whenever it better suits you.

These times below are currently corresponding to 16:00 Universal Time/GMT:

Honolulu 6:00 AM -- Anchorage * 8:00 AM -- Los Angeles * 9:00 AM -- Mexico City, San Salvador & Denver * 10:00 AM -- Houston * & Chicago * 11:00 AM -- Santo Domingo, La Paz, Caracas, New York *, Toronto *. Montreal *, Asuncion & Santiago 12:00 AM -- Halifax *, Rio de Janeiro & Montevideo 1:00 PM -- Reykjavik & Casablanca 4 PM -- Lagos, Algiers, London *, Dublin * & Lisbon * 5:00 PM -- Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Geneva *, Rome *, Berlin *, Paris * & Madrid * 6:00 PM -- Ankara *, Athens *, Helsinki * & Istanbul * & Nairobi 7:00 PM -- Baghdad *, Moscow * 8:00 PM -- Tehran * 8:30 PM -- Islamabad 9:00 PM -- Calcutta & New Delhi 9:30 PM -- Dhaka 10:00 PM -- Rangoon 10:30 PM -- Hanoi, Bangkok & Jakarta 11:00 PM -- Hong Kong, Perth, Beijing & Kuala Lumpur +12:00 PM -- Seoul & Tokyo +1:00 AM -- Brisbane, Canberra & Melbourne +2:00 AM -- Wellington +4:00 AM

+ means the place is one day ahead of Universal Time/Greenwich Mean Time.

* means the place is observing daylight saving time (DST) at the moment.

You may also check at to find your corresponding local time for tomorrow if a nearby city is not listed above.


The Influence of Intentions on World Peace

Like wind in the leaves, the mutual feelings of crowds and nations stir us to action, and shape our daily lives. The depth of emotion felt within each of us, is a part of the intensity of feelings in distant places without names, the world over. Our interconnectedness is a fact of life from the most basic instinctual levels, to the most advanced intellectual plateaus. All states of mind set into motion the trends of action for the next moment, the next hour and even the next decade. Despair or delight are contagious things, traveling from person to person in a never-ending stream. They flow without international boundary and observe no cultural barriers. Just as the quality of inner emotion and intention of a given person molds the events of their personal lives, so too do the collective feelings and intentions of humanity continuously shape international relations. We cannot escape this fact of natural law, but we CAN take advantage of it for the betterment of our species. We can consciously hold those states of mind which create world peace, and thereby set into motion the psychic winds of change for the betterment of humanity. When we realize finally, that what we do on the inside of our being most profoundly effects the external, physical world, the people of all nations will then break the historical cycles of warfare that plague the globe today. They will use this self-realized power of intention and inner feeling, to create a world of progressive and mutual benefit.

The planetary conditions we see before us are a mirror of our own inner state. They are a reflection of both inner chaos and growing wisdom, and the test of our evolutionary fitness will be determined by which of these we choose to cultivate. The wars and civil strife going on RIGHT NOW AT THIS MOMENT, are but the collective symptoms of the inner unrest we all feel much of the time. Although the faces of generals and politicians may change, it is the same phenomena of inner struggle we see today that has been witnessed throughout history. Warlike intentions give rise to international disaster. History repeats itself, because our own inner hostilities and dissatisfaction keep repeating themselves. To recognize this fact is the first and most critical step for world peace and peacefulness. To truly progress we must stay focused upon spiritual good will, with the full knowledge that any intentionally held hostilities, are ultimately an intentionally held self-destructiveness. The body of humanity to which we belong is an indivisible collective, and it is important to view it as such. For our own sake and self preservation, we must render aid to our neighbors and neighboring countries with an enthusiasm born of this spiritual understanding.

It is our task to INTEND progressive relations into place, and to KNOW that there is simply no alternative for our survival and prosperity as a species. In this way love, clarity and progressive relations among nations and neighborhoods, will find their realization in world events.

Taken from




"Everyone wants to know and realize the Truth, but Truth cannot be known and realized as Truth unless ignorance is known and realized as being ignorance. Hence arises the importance of understanding Maya or the principle of ignorance."

- Meher Baba

"I dreamed I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of following my fancies (as a butterfly), and was unconscious of my individuality as a man. Suddenly, I awakened; and there I lay, myself again. I do not know whether I was then dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that it is a man."

- Chuang Tzu

Imagine it is the end of a beautiful summer day. The air is clear and the sun will set soon. The rays of sun come from low on the horizon, and everything you see is apparent in high contrast. The shadows are deep, but where the light strikes the reflection is brilliant. You are standing near a great old tree. You can see its ancient trunk with the sunlight creating deep shadows in the patterns of the bark. The limbs of the tree spread out in a canopy overhead. The leaves, moving gently in a light breeze vibrate slightly. You can see in this light that some of them brightly reflect the light in hues of green. Others are dark in shadow. You know at this moment that your image of this tree is dependent on this reflected sunlight. You are not seeing the tree. You are seeing the light reflected off parts of the thing your mind perceives as a tree.

Your image of this tree is happening in your eyes and in your brain/mind. You believe the tree is there, but if not for your mind's response to the patterns of light hitting your retina how would you know it is there? You believe the leaves are there, even those you can't see in the darkening shadows. You believe that the back side of the tree is there, even though you cannot see it. You understand that the "out there" is happening "in here." The entire phenomena of this tree that you experience is occurring within the confines of your nervous system.

How is the experience of seeing a tree different from dreaming it, except that the light bounced off the tree "out there" is the stimulus for the image in your mind?

How did you create the image of the tree that you just visualized? You constructed it out of your thoughts of "treeness" based on some symbols you read here. Amazing really. You can dream the tree. You can create it out of symbolic instructions, or you can create it out of light impulses striking your optical system. In any case, your conception of the tree does not exist independent of your mind.

We constantly make judgments based on our assumptions about reality. We believe that if we reach out and touch a tree that we see with our eyes it will be there, and our touch will confirm it. We normally live our lives completely convinced that our sensory experiences are real. It works so well that we assume that what we perceive is reality.

This is a characteristic of the Sanscrit concept of "maya." Maya, sometimes described as illusion or ignorance, is the way we measure off the world separating things into categories. We think the world is out there and I am in here. Yet our world and our perception of it are mutually arising. We are in it, of it, and creating it as we go along. There is no there there. It is you and the world happening together.

Imagine that you lived your life always aware of the ephemeral nature of your experience. How would that be different? From the point of view of the ego it might be terrifying, since suddenly you become alone in the great void. But with a little more understanding, your perception of your own ego would become clear as a manifestation of maya. You would know that the boundary between what you perceive as the limits of your own personal identity and the rest of creation is false. You would attend to your direct experience of the world as immediately sensed. You would not be misled by labels. You would know that you and everything else are not separate, and in that knowing you would find an immeasurable and profound sense of peace.


This week, and perhaps every week, develop the habit of spending some time experiencing clear awareness. Use a simple meditation practice (such as the one below) that will allow you the tranquility of mind to perceive the world in its pure essence unmarred by labels, limits, and conceptions. Allow yourself to give up boundaries between what is inside and what is outside your thinking mind. Allow the peace of understanding to fulfill you.



The following instruction for sitting meditation is from Buddha's Little Instruction Book by Jack Kornfield, New York: Bantam Books, 1994.

A Sitting Meditation

Let Your Mind Settle Like a Clear Forest Pool

To begin meditation, select a quiet time and place. Be seated on a cushion or chair, taking an erect yet relaxed posture. Let yourself sit upright with the quiet dignity of a king or queen. Close your eyes gently and begin by bringing a full, present attention to whatever you feel within you and around you. Let your mind be spacious and your heart be kind and soft.

As you sit, feel the sensations of your body. Then notice what sounds and feelings, thoughts and expectations are present. Allow them all to come and go, to rise and fall like the waves of the ocean. Be aware of the waves and rest seated in the midst of them. Allow yourself to become more and more still.

In the center of all these waves, feel your breathing, your life-breath. Let your attention feel the in-and-out breathing wherever you notice it, as coolness or tingling in the nose or throat, as a rising and falling of your chest or abdomen. Relax and softly rest your attention on each breath, feeling the movement in a steady easy way. Let the breath breathe itself in any rhythm, long or short, soft or deep. As you feel each breath, concentrate and settle into its movement. Let all other sounds and sensations, thoughts and feelings continue to come and go like waves in the background.

After a few breaths, your attention may be carried away by one of the waves of thoughts or memories, by body sensations or sounds. Whenever you notice you have been carried away for a time, acknowledge the wave that has done so by softly giving it a name such as "planning," "remembering," "itching," "restless." Then let it pass and gently return to the breath. Some waves will take a long time to pass, others will be short. Certain thoughts or feelings will be painful, others will be pleasurable. Whatever they are, let them be.

At some sittings you will be able to return to your breath easily. At other times in your meditation you will mostly be aware of body sensations or of plans or thoughts. Either way is fine. No matter what you experience, be aware of it, let it come and go, and rest at ease in the midst of it all. After you have sat for twenty or thirty minutes in this way, open your eyes and look around you before you get up. Then as you move try to allow the same spirit of awareness to go with you into the activities of your day.

The art of meditation is simple but not always easy. It thrives on practice and a kind of spacious heart. If you do this simple practice of sitting with awareness every day, you will gradually grow in centeredness and understanding.


For more such inspiring material review THE MEDITATION ARCHIVE A collection of writings previously presented as Interlude's "Meditation of the Week " at

Check also

4. Peace Vigil for the Middle East, Aceh and Sri Lanka

Here are some of the latest developments in the Middle East, Aceh and Sri Lanka. Please also keep these situations in mind during your meditations in the coming two weeks to help ensure that peace prevail there.


Mideast Relations Improve Before Summit

February 5, 2005

By STEVEN GUTKIN, Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM - The new Palestinian leadership has embraced nonviolence, deployed police to keep the peace in Gaza and won pledges from militants to halt attacks on Israel.

Israel has promised to release hundreds of prisoners, stop offensive military operations and gradually pull out of five West Bank towns.

While still characterized by great distrust, Israeli-Palestinian relations are improving dramatically ahead of Tuesday's historic summit between Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas' landslide election last month as Palestinian Authority president, Sharon's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip growing fatigue on both sides, and — perhaps most important of all — the Nov. 11 death of Yasser Arafat, have all helped break the 4-year-old deadlock in Mideast peacemaking.

Demonstrating that old ways die hard, however, Israelis and Palestinians on Friday accused each other of falling shamefully short of expectations.

Sharon said that unless the Palestinians did more to fight terrorism, the peace effort couldn't be revived. The Palestinians lambasted Israel for agreeing to release only 900 of the 7,000 Palestinian prisoners it holds, keeping those involved in deadly attacks behind bars.

While violence has decreased in recent weeks, continued outbreaks — including two attacks on Thursday that wounded six Israeli soldiers and left a Palestinian assailant dead — serve as constant reminders of the fragility of the rapprochement.

Amid the continued Israeli criticism, Palestinian security forces on Saturday arrested three leaders of a small militant party responsible for one of Thursday's attacks, the first such detentions since Abbas took office last month. However, the three were released hours later and Israeli officials said it was just a show before the summit meant to give the impression the Palestinians were serious about fighting terror.

The summit is to be attended by the leaders of the two Arab countries formally at peace with Israel — host Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah II of Jordan, and will take place in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheik, scene of past such gatherings.

But even the agenda itself is a significant point of contention.

The Palestinians want it "to put the peace process on track, to begin to resume the negotiations, the coordination, to be a summit of beginnings," Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat told The Associated Press.

Israel wants it to focus only on security matters.

Still, the summit is expected to produce a formal end to the bloodshed that has claimed more than 3,500 lives on the Palestinian side and some 1,000 on the Israeli side since Sept. 2000.

"I think the enormous efforts the Israeli government is making in the past few days, and some of them are dramatic, are all aimed at one thing: to jump-start the peace process," said Israeli Foreign Ministry official Gideon Meir.

"We are willing to pay a painful price to extend our hand for peace," he said.

The emerging thaw is rife with pitfalls.

Abbas has already persuaded the militant groups Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade to temporarily halt attacks. But Israel has complained that his forces have failed to arrest militants still engaged in violence. A recent deployment of hundreds of Palestinian police in the Gaza Strip has only partially succeeded in halting rocket attacks on Israelis.

"If Abu Mazen is not able to deliver a cease-fire, then everything on the Israeli side will grind to a halt," said Israeli analyst Yossi Alpher, using Abbas' nickname.

Abbas' ability to secure a truce will likely depend on whether he can deliver a better life to ordinary Palestinians.

That means fewer roadblocks, targeted killings, closures and incursions — the habitual responses to Palestinian violence that Israel says are necessary to protect its citizens, and which Palestinians denounce as collective punishment.

Senior Israeli Cabinet ministers approved a plan last week for an Israeli troop withdrawal from the West Bank town of Jericho, with four other towns to follow if the situation remains calm. Palestinians had hoped for a one-shot withdrawal from all five towns.

Palestinians also want Israel to stop building the contentious separation barrier between itself and the West Bank. Israel says the network of walls, fences, razor wire and trenches is needed for security; Palestinians say it amounts to a land grab.

Palestinians are also demanding a halt to expansion of West Bank settlements and the dismantling of illegal Jewish outposts there.

The perception in Israel is that Sharon, the warrior hawk who was long the leading champion of Jewish settlements, has mellowed.

He has staked his political future on a plan to withdraw all Israeli troops and civilians from Gaza and four West Bank settlements this year. He recently invited the dovish Labor Party into his coalition to help fend off opposition to the plan.

With Arafat gone and the moderate Abbas in power, Sharon has indicated a willingness to coordinate the Gaza withdrawal with the Palestinians, rather than "unilaterally disengage" as previously planned.

Israel and the United States had long shunned Arafat as an obstacle to peace, and his death set in motion a renewal of high-level contacts.

Adding to the new sense of optimism is President Bush’s State of the Union address in which he said he would seek $350 million in additional assistance for the Palestinians and said a democratic Palestinian state is "within reach."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is to arrive here Sunday for talks with Israelis and Palestinians.


See also:

Rice Dives Into Heart of Middle East Peacemaking (Feb 5)
ANKARA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hopes to drive the Israelis and Palestinians closer to peace in Jerusalem on Sunday on her first visit as secretary of state to the heart of their conflict. Criticized for too little involvement in Middle East peace efforts in his first term, President Bush sent his top diplomat to the region to back up his pledge to press harder for an end to the conflict in his next four years. The visit comes with renewed hopes around the world for a resolution because the sides' leaders have agreed to meet for the first time in years as they capitalize on goodwill created in the aftermath of President Yasser Arafat's death. On the eve of her visit, Rice said the United States was ready to help the sides sustain their momentum but the best way to achieve peace was to encourage the Israelis and Palestinians to go on making progress on their own. CLIP

Coverage on the Middle East conflict


Indonesia ready for new Aceh peace talks

By Shawn Donnan and Victor Mallet in Jakarta

February 5, 2005

Indonesia said yesterday it was ready for a new round of peace talks to end the separatist insurgency in Aceh, the region worst hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami in December.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told the Financial Times he expected a team of Indonesian ministers to fly to Helsinki at the end of the month for talks with the exiled leaders of the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

In his first international newspaper interview since the tsunamis struck, Mr Yudhoyono said Jakarta was intent on negotiating a final end to the conflict in Aceh province, where more than 220,000 died in the catastrophe.

He said his government would accept an invitation from the mediator, Martti Ahtisaari, Finland's former president, to follow up talks in Helsinki last month. "I have to say to GAM that it is a golden opportunity. I really hope that the GAM side does not miss the window of opportunity because it is time to reunite by adopting special autonomy."

Mr Yudhoyono's commitment to further talks will raise hopes that Indonesia and the rebels can negotiate an end to the 29-year conflict in Aceh.

After the tsunamis, both Jakarta and the rebel movement said they wanted to use the disaster as an opportunity to press for peace.

Mr Yudhoyono said he would send the ministers who took part in last month's talks to Helsinki for a second round "probably at the end of this month". The date of the meeting had not yet been set.

But the agenda, Mr Yudhoyono said, would include discussions on how to implement an Indonesian offer of "special autonomy" for the province, an amnesty for rebels, and what form monitoring of any settlement would take.

Stockholm-based GAM leaders said after last month's talks that they were willing to set aside their demands for independence for the time being. Aceh, at the northern tip of Sumatra, has been part of Indonesia since it declared independence from Dutch colonial rule in 1945.

The rebels have sought a formal ceasefire ahead of any push for a final deal.

But Mr Yudhoyono, a retired general who took office last October as Indonesia's first directly elected president, said he wanted to focus on negotiating a final end to the Aceh conflict rather than firming up the informal - and fragile - ceasefire in place since the tsunami disaster.

Past efforts to use ceasefires as the foundation for further talks have failed. "For me it is more important now to terminate the conflict by adopting special autonomy," he said. "We know that no single country in the world supports the independence of Aceh. They support Indonesian territorial integrity," Mr Yudhoyono said. "So special autonomy is a good solution, actually, to terminate the conflict."


Indonesia peace talks should be broad-based (Feb 3)
Banda Aceh (Indonesia), : Prominent Aceh officials and scholars are lukewarm about peace talks between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), saying these need to be more inclusive to have any credibility, reports UPI.They suggest the two sides should include other constituencies in Aceh during subsequent peace talks scheduled in the near future.Acehnese academics have long said inclusive talks are necessary to increase the credibility and legitimacy of the peace talks. Indonesian officials and rebel leaders held their first talks in 20 months in Finland's capital Helsinki last week.No Indonesian or GAM leaders were able to represent the Acehnese people, the scholars and officials said."They held talks for around three years and these resulted in nothing but violence," said scholar Syaifudin Bantasyam. "They have to change the strategy. They must involve other elements so as to elicit more views about a solution to the conflict."Peace negotiations between the Indonesia government and GAM leaders began in 2001. However, the talks failed to produce peace as both sides refused to budge from their predetermined positions.The failure of the negotiations led to violence in May 2003 when the Indonesian government launched a major offensive against GAM.



Japan sees tsunami recovery as new window for Sri Lanka peace bid

(Kyodo) _ Shuzen Tanigawa, a Japanese senior vice foreign minister, urged the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger rebels Tuesday to use the tsunami disaster that took nearly 40,000 lives in the country as an opportunity to unite and push forward the peace process deadlocked since April 2003.

"We hope the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam will use this situation to build mutual trust and confidence and make fresh progress in the peace process," Tanigawa said at the end of a short visit to offer Japan's condolences and assess the extent of tsunami damage.

Japan is Sri Lanka's single biggest aid donor and a major backer of the Norway-facilitated peace process to end more than three decades of civil war.

Officials say that nearly two-thirds of those who lost their lives in the disaster were from the northern and eastern provinces, extensive parts of which are rebel-held.

The tsunami battered three-quarters of the country's coastline including the areas claimed by the LTTE as a Tamil homeland.

The Tigers are pushing hard to directly receive international aid intended for the relief effort in the minority Tamil-dominated areas, which is being resisted by the government which claims direct aid would infringe national sovereignty.

"But both sides are under international pressure to work out a practical method of ensuring that the needy are not held hostage to these differences and some ground arrangements appear to be emerging," an Asian diplomat said on condition of anonymity.



UN warning on Sudan peace deal (Feb 5)
A PEACE deal that ended Sudan’s 21-year civil war will not hold unless a way is found to end the killing in Darfur, according to the chief United Nations envoy for Sudan. Jan Pronk made the comments to reporters after briefing the Security Council and urging them to approve a request by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for a 10,130-strong peacekeeping mission to enforce the north-south peace deal which was signed on January 9. In a report made public on Thursday, Mr Annan stressed that Security Council efforts to enforce the peace deal must include the Darfur crisis, in which conflict between government-backed Janjaweed militia and rebels has killed thousands and displaced 2 million more. "Without a solution in Darfur, north-south will not remain a sustainable peace agreement," Mr Pronk said. He spoke as the Security Council discussed findings of a report released on Monday by a UN commission that found evidence of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur, but stopped short of labelling the crisis genocide. CLIP

NATO could intervene in Darfur conflict, secretary general says (Feb 3)
LONDON (AFP) - The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) could, if needed, help end the conflict in Sudan's western Darfur region, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said. Interviewed by BBC radio during a visit to Britain, de Hoop Scheffer said the transatlantic military alliance could play a role if the African Union and the United Nations requested it. "As far as Darfur is concerned, NATO is not involved, because the African Union is trying to set up a peace-monitoring mission. The Security Council is divided, and NATO will not go and rush into Darfur. "NATO could, if the African Union and the UN would ask NATO, then NATO could, I think -- but that question is not on the table -- NATO could give support, in command and control and logistical support, to an operation," he said. "But I think that, quite honestly, we should leave it to the Africans and the African Union to find a way of solving this indeed tragic and horrendous conflict. "But if African leaders would come, through the UN, to NATO, and ask NATO what could you do to support what we are doing, I think the Allies would have a very serious discussion," the NATO chief said. (...) Around 70,000 people are estimated to have died in Darfur, many from hunger and disease, while some 1.5 million others have been displaced, many into squalid and dangerous camps.

Peace pact to bring oil exploration to Sudan (January 12, 2005)
NAIROBI - The agreement to end two decades of civil war in Sudan not only brings the opportunity for millions of people to return home and begin new lives but also gives investors an opening in a needy country with large oil reserves. Experts predict that oil and gas companies will rush in to expand Sudan's oil production from the 345,000 barrels a day recorded in June 2004. The country has proven reserves of 635 million barrels, much of which has not been accessible because of the war. Under the peace agreement signed on Sunday, oil leases granted by the government during the war will be respected. The largest leaseholders include China National Petroleum, Petronas of Malaysia, ONGC Videsh of India and Sudan's Sudapet. The accord, between the Sudanese government and rebels in the south, does not apply to the fighting in Darfur, a vast western region where tens of thousands of people have died in a conflict that has lasted almost two years, pitting rebels against government forces and allied Arab militias, known as the Janjaweed. CLIP

Sudan Says to Withdraw Antonov Planes in Darfur (Feb 5)
EL-FASHER, Sudan (Reuters) - Sudan said on Saturday it would remove all its Antonov planes and would not use them at all in its troubled Darfur region, where it has been accused of using the aircraft to bomb villages. "We are not going to use Antonov aircraft at all anymore," Interior Minister Abdel Rahim Hussein told Reuters during a trip to the remote west on Saturday. "We are not going to use them at all not for anything," he said. The governor of North Darfur state, Osman Kedir, said all the aircraft had been withdrawn from the region which is the size of France. "They have been withdrawn. All of them and they will not return -- from all of Darfur," he said. The top U.N. envoy Jan Pronk said earlier this week he had asked the government to stop flying Antonovs because they scared civilians into fleeing their homes and gave the impression of coordination with fierce attacks by Arab militias, who are accused of burning, looting, raping and killing in non-Arab villages. Tens of thousands have been killed in the violence and more than 1.8 million people have fled their homes. The government has said it needs to fly the planes for reconnaissance and said the cease-fire and security deals signed with the rebels only banned them from bombing, not from flying their aircraft. CLIP

EU wants Hague court to prosecute Darfur crimes (04 Feb 2005)
BRUSSELS, Feb 4 (Reuters) - The European Union called on Friday for war criminals in the Darfur conflict in Sudan to be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, putting the bloc on a collision course with the United States.A U.N.-appointed commission reported earlier this week that the Sudanese government and militia leaders had committed major crimes under international law.As a result Sudan officials and rebels involved in the conflict can be prosecuted as war criminals. The Sudanese government is accused of arming Arab militias to loot and burn non-Arab villages in the western Darfur region, where at least 70,000 people have died and 1.8 million been forced from their homes. CLIP

Chechnya Calls Rebel Cease-Fire a Bluff (Feb 3)
MOSCOW - Chechnya's Kremlin-backed government on Thursday dismissed as a bluff a report on a Web site linked to separatist rebels that top leaders of the insurgency have called for a unilateral cease-fire in February. Russian authorities announced new charges against the rebel leaders following Wednesday's report on the Kavkaz Tsentr Web site. The report said that Aslan Maskhadov, who was president of Chechnya in its period of de-facto independence in the late 1990s, signed an order on Jan. 14 for all offensive actions to be halted in February in Chechnya and bordering areas "as a sign of a display of good will." It cited an unnamed aide to Shamil Basayev, another Chechen warlord, as the source. The report said that Basayev had issued an order that all rebels under his command halt offensive actions in Chechnya and all of Russia until Feb. 22. Chechens mark Feb. 23 as a day of mourning in commemoration of the Stalin-era mass deportation of Chechens to Central Asia. Maskhadov is believed to command a relatively small portion of Chechen separatist fighters, his influence eclipsed by the radical Basayev. CLIP

Bush to Seek $419.3 Billion for Defense (Feb 5)
WASHINGTON - President Bush will ask Congress for $419.3 billion for the Pentagon (news - web sites) for next year, 4.8 percent more than this year's spending, as the administration seeks to beef up and reshape the Army and Marine Corps for fighting terrorism. The request will not include money for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congress already has appropriated $25 billion for those wars this year, and the White House is planning to request another $80 billion soon. The president plans to roll out his military spending proposal Monday as part of a roughly $2.5 trillion federal budget. But documents obtained by The Associated Press on Friday show that he will request $19.2 billion more for the Defense Department than its $400.1 billion budget this year. However, his request is $3.4 billion below the $422.7 billion the Pentagon estimated in January that it would need for next year.

Bush's State of the Union
Billions for Endless War and Empire--Cuts in Healthcare, Education, and Social Security George W. Bush's State of the Union Address, masked in talk of "freedom" and "democracy," was an outline of a brutal agenda of endless war, global empire, and the destruction of what remains of basic social services. (...) In addition to the continued occupation of Iraq, Bush listed new targets for U.S. aggression. Using the now-familiar and discredited accusation of possessing weapons of mass destruction, Bush made it clear that the people of Iran, Syria, and North Korea will suffer the same fate as the people of Iraq if he has his way. He swore that we must "confront regimes that continue to harbor terrorists and pursue weapons of mass murder." This same justification, proven to be an outright lie, was used for the war against Iraq. In Bush language, this means the intent to attack any country, anywhere, if it serves the interests of U.S. corporate Empire. The U.S. government, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., is "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world." Its death squads are at work in Colombia. The city of Miami is a base for terrorist attacks against the people of Cuba. The U.S. maintains the world's largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction: illegal chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. CLIP

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