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Eleven South African cabinet members have quit in the wake of President Thabo Mbeki's resignation, prompting fears of instability and the ruling ANC leader to downplay any panic.

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The cabinet members stepped down shortly after parliament voted 299 to 10 to approve Mbeki's exit from office, ending the nine-year administration of the man who succeeded anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.

The African National Congress (ANC) has picked its deputy chief, Kgalema Motlanthe, to replace Mbeki until April elections.

Lawmakers will vote on Motlanthe's nomination on Thursday.

“The (cabinet) resignations do not pose a crisis and there is no need to panic,” said ANC chief Jacob Zuma during a speech in Secunda, in the northeast province of Mpumalanga.

“The situation will be managed carefully to avoid any disruption of services,” added Zuma, considered likely to be voted president in next year's elections.

Finance Minister steps down

The country's widely-respected Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel, seen by investors as vital to the country's stable economy and impressive growth, was among the 11 ministers of the 31-member cabinet who handed their resignations.

Manuel's spokesman made it clear that he was ready to serve the new administration, but his announcement led to market jitters with the rand slipping from 7.98 to 8.16 to the US dollar.

The president's office said the ministers' resignations would also take effect on Thursday.

The ministers resigning include Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who spearheaded a turnaround of the country's AIDS policies, and Local Government Minister Sydney Mufamadi, a key negotiator in the Zimbabwe crisis.

Resignation scare

Opposition parties expressed concern about the resignations, with Inkatha Freedom Party Chief Whip Koos van der Merwe telling parliament it was an “unmitigated disaster” and a “watershed moment in history.”

The main opposition Democratic Alliance's Sandra Botha said events showed “the division (in the ANC) is not a crack, it is a canyon.”

Mbeki is believed to have asked cabinet members to stay put in the interests of stability, and analysts have said the country would not face a crisis if the transition was well managed and government ministers did not bail out en masse.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said the exodus was not a crisis, as only six of them had indicated they would not serve in a new government.

“The rest of the ministers have confirmed that they (are stepping) down to allow the new president to make his own appointments,” Mantashe told reporters.

Political scores

The resignations came after Mbeki bowed to pressure from the ANC to stand down in what the opposition described as a settling of political scores.

Zuma said the decision to recall Mbeki had been “one of the most painful and difficult decisions” taken in the party's history.

The outgoing president had been increasingly at loggerheads with his party, which split into two camps behind him and Zuma, after deciding to run for a third term as party president at a crunch ANC conference in December last year.

Mbeki, 66, who succeeded Mandela in June 1999, becomes the country's first democratically-elected president to be forced out of office before the end of his term.

Mbeki attempted to salvage his reputation in the Constitutional Court on Monday, as he challenged a court ruling which he says cost him his job as president.

In a September 12 ruling, Judge Chris Nicholson dismissed a corruption case against Zuma, hinting that Mbeki had interfered in the decision to prosecute his foe.

“It is unfair and unjust for me to be judged and condemned on the basis of the findings in the Zuma matter,” said Mbeki in his application.

“The interests of justice, in my respectful submission would demand that the matter be rectified.

“These adverse findings have led to my being recalled by my political party, the ANC — a request I have acceded to as a committed and loyal member of the ANC for the past 52 years,” Mbeki said.Read More →

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The Sky application allows users to view and navigate through 100 million stars in far away galaxies, all depicted in high-resolution images.

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The application labels which stars make up the constellations, shows users what they might be able to see from their own backyards with the naked eye or small telescopes and includes images from the Hubble space telescope.

It also displays the phases of the moon, the positions of the planets for now and up to two months in the future, offers virtual tours through different galaxies and details the different stages of a star's life cycle.

"Sky is a very cool new feature for anyone who has ever looked up at the sky and wanted to know more," said Sally Ride, a former astronaut. "I think this is a great tool for satisfying that curiosity."

Carol Christian of the Space Telescope Science Institute, who helped develop the application, said she hoped the new program would encourage more people to learn about space.

"Never before has a roadmap of the entire sky been made so readily available," she said.

"Anyone interested in exploring the wonders of our universe can quickly see where the stunning objects photographed by Hubble actually dwell in the heavens," she added

"Sky in Google Earth will foster and initiate new understanding of the universe by bringing it to everyone's home computer."

The interface and navigation of the new feature are similar to those on the current Google Earth function, which allows users to drag, zoom and search their way around the planet.

To access the new feature, users need to download the latest version of Earth, available on the website from today.

The application was created by Google engineers stitching together images from sources such as the Space Telescope Science Institute and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

Google launched its Earth application in 2005, allowing people to zoom in on satellite images of almost any point around the world.

The program has since been downloaded more than 200 million times.

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On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light sweet crude for December tumbled $US3.

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08 lower to close at $US59.33.

Earlier the New York futures contract hit a low of $US58.32, a level last seen on March 21, 2007.

In London, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in December dropped $US3.37 to settle at $US55.71 on the InterContinental Exchange. In intraday trade it had plunged to $US54.92 per barrel – a level last seen on January 30, 2007.

Prices more than halved

Prices have shed about 60 per cent since scaling historic highs above $US147 in July on mounting evidence of slowing global economic growth and energy demand.

The market extended earlier losses in line with Wall Street's dive into negative territory, with investor fearing a collapse of General Motors and digesting more grim corporate news amid the credit crisis.

European stock markets closed sharply lower as corporate problems highlighted concerns about the spreading damage from the global credit crunch to the underlying world economy.

“The short-term focus continues to be on weak demand,” Barclays Capital analysts wrote in a research note to clients on Tuesday.

China slowdown

Crude oil prices closed almost two dollars higher on Monday, with sentiment boosted by hopes that China's huge economic stimulus package would lift demand for energy.

But traders banked profits on Tuesday as poor data from the US – the world's biggest energy consumer — reignited fears about recession.

“It eventually had to dawn on market participants that any Chinese economic stimulus would take time to work through an economy whose maladies are more immediate. Focus on these problems has been restored with the obvious result: prices are lower,” said John Kilduff, analyst at MF Global.

The oil market was also undermined by the strengthening US dollar which tends to dampen demand because dollar-priced crude becomes more expensive for buyers holding weaker currencies.

OPEC president Chakib Khelil indicated over the weekend the cartel may cut production again if oil prices remain below its preferred range of $US70 to $US90.

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which pumps more than 40 per cent of the world's crude, announced in October that its daily output would be cut by 1.5 million barrels per day to 27.3 million barrels per day from November.

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Riccardo Fraccari, the president of the International Baseball Federation, told Reuters that baseball and softball were not giving up hope of getting back in the Olympics.

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The two sports joined forces as the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) to bid against wrestling and squash for the one available berth on the Olympic programme for the 2020 and 2024 Games.

But they missed out after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) members voted overwhelming to reinstate wrestling. Baseball-softball finished second in the three-way ballot.

“Congratulations to wrestling and FILA. It’s an honour to have presented before the IOC, alongside great competitors like squash and wrestling,” Fraccari said.

“The WBSC will continue working hard and will continue listening and learning from the IOC, so that baseball and softball can come under the Olympic umbrella to serve and strengthen the Olympic Movement, as our sport expands and globalises further.”

The odds were stacked against baseball and softball winning the vote. Wrestling was only kicked off the Olympic programme seven months ago, but immediately introduced a raft of reforms to win back its place.

Baseball and softball were on the Olympic programme from 1992 to 2008 but were voted out in a secret ballot in 2005, becoming the first sports to be removed from the Olympics since polo in 1936.

FAILED ATTEMPTS

Although they were still allowed to participate at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the sports have failed in their attempts to get back in since.

“While we are obviously disappointed with the decision of the International Olympic Committee to not move forward with baseball and softball for inclusion on the Olympic program in 2020, we continue to believe the combined efforts of baseball and softball provide a great platform for international competition,” USA Baseball executive director Paul Seiler said in a statement.

“USA Baseball will continue to promote baseball and softball both internationally and domestically through our various initiatives, and we look forward to the opportunity to return to the Olympic program in the future.”

The IOC have never specified exactly why the sports were dropped, the most commonly cited reasons are baseball’s refusal to comply with all the World Anti-Doping Agency rules and the absence of Major League Baseball players from the Olympics.

However, with MLB recently cracking down on doping, suspending more than a dozen players linked to the Biogenesis scandal, and pledging their support to the Olympic movement, baseball-softball remain optimistic of a recall.

At their presentation to the IOC on Sunday, WBSC co-president Don Porter gave an emotional speech, choking up while tears welled in his eyes.

“I hope today that you will find a place for those little girls in the Olympics and help restore their dreams,” Porter told the members.

Tony Castro, the son of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, also addressed the IOC in his role with the WBSC, as a demonstration of the sport’s global appeal and popularity in some smaller countries.

“In my country Cuba, it is the top sport and the cement of a social tradition” he said.

(Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by Alison Wildey)

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Coach Joachim Loew said his side had “done their duty” after their seventh win in eight Group C games left them on 22 points, five clear of Sweden, who beat Kazakhstan earlier in the day.

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Per Mertesacker gave the Germany a 1-0 halftime lead although they had to wait until the last 20 minutes for further goals when Mesut Ozil converted a penalty won by Thomas Mueller, who scored the third goal himself.

The hosts had Atli Gregersen sent off for the foul which led to the penalty.

“It was our duty to get the three points and we did it,” Loew told German television, looking distinctly unenthusiastic.

“We saw that the Faroes can defend well. It was not easy to come through. We must especially improve our final pass and our finishing,” added the coach, who had suggested in March that teams such as the Faroes should take part in a preliminary competition rather than go straight into the group stage.

The Germans next host Ireland before finishing off away to Sweden and need two points from the two games to guarantee top spot.

Like many other teams before them, Germany found the Faroese part-timers to be a tough proposition on home ground. They were made to battle for their points although there was never any doubt about the outcome.

Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was called into action early on when he had to turn over a shot by Pol Johannus Justinussen. Julian Draxler and Miroslav Klose had already struck the woodwork for the visitors when Mertesacker opened the scoring in the 23rd minute.

The Arsenal defender sidefooted in from close range after Jerome Boateng flicked on a corner at the near post.

Germany predictably dominated the match but created surprisingly few chances as the hosts defended doggedly.

They finally made the game safe when Mueller was tripped as he raced in on goal and Ozil sent Gunnar Nielson the wrong way.

Mueller then fired in the third with six minutes left, completing the Faroes’ eighth straight defeat in the group.

Germany’s players sounded just as uninspired as their coach by the workmanlike win.

“It’s a mental thing,” said forward Miroslav Klose. “When you switch on to the fact that you have the better players and better team, you win this sort of match.”

Mueller added: “We have completed our task, so we are going home satisfied.”

(Reporting by Brian Homewood in Berne, editing by Mitch Phillips)

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Argentina, who lead the South American group, have a bye on Friday but could secure their berth at the 2014 finals in Brazil with a victory in Asuncion on September 10.

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Gago, making his first appearance of the season after recovering from injury, made a fine homecoming at La Bombonera on Sunday and laid on the opening goal for Uruguayan defender Ribair Rodriguez in the opening minute of a 2-1 victory over Velez.

Striker Ezequiel Rescaldani equalised for Velez after nine minutes and Nicolas Blandi scored the winner in the 37th. Velez had midfielder Francisco Cerro sent off in the 64th.

“I think we were more explosive in midfield because we had more ball holders, with Fernando (Gago) we owned the ball more,” Boca coach Carlos Bianchi told reporters.

“It was special because I returned to Boca’s ground after so many years,” said Gago, who left for Real Madrid in 2007.

Boca have taken nine points from five matches in the Inicial championship, first of two in the season, and are two points behind leaders Newell´s Old Boys.

The downside for Boca is that they will be without Gago and goalkeeper Agustin Orion at Olimpo next weekend when both are with Argentina, but they hope Juan Roman Riquelme can return from an injury that kept him out of Sunday’s match.

Boca’s arch-rivals River Plate had an unhappy night at San Lorenzo, going down 1-0 to a twice-taken, 62nd-minute Julio Buffarini penalty after goalkeeper Marcelo Barovero had saved the first effort but was judged to have moved early.

River have only four points after three defeats in five matches having started out as title favourites.

Racing Club, another of Argentina’s so-called Big Five clubs with Boca, River, San Lorenzo and relegated Independiente, lost 1-0 at modest All Boys and remain bottom with one point.

Former Velez and Boca coach Carlos Ischia was set to take charge at Racing on Monday after Luis Zubeldia was sacked a week ago.

As well as Gago and Orion, Sabella added three other players from the local first division after Sunday’s matches including Maxi Rodriguez of champions Newell’s to the squad he named 11 days ago.

(Reporting by Rex Gowar; editing by Justin Palmer)

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Inter Milan also kept pace with league leaders Napoli after an easy 3-0 win at Catania.

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AC Milan bounced back from last week’s defeat at Hellas Verona with a 3-1 win at home to Cagliari in an entertaining evening during which 32 goals were scored in eight games, making it a total of 43 in an action-packed weekend.

Alberto Aquilani put Fiorentina ahead at Genoa after 10 minutes before Giuseppe Rossi doubled their lead four minutes later after a howler from Genoa keeper Mattia Perin and Gomez tapped in his first four minutes before the break.

“I’m looking to score as many goals as I can for Fiorentina, I look to score goals because I’m an attacker,” said Rossi, who has been left out of Cesare Prandelli’s Italy squad for their qualifiers against Bulgaria and Czech Republic.

“I think Prandelli knows better than me what Rossi is capable of,” added Fiorentina manager Vicenzo Montella.

Alberto Gilardino gave the home side some hope nine minutes after the break with a stunning volley, but Rossi tapped in his third in two games almost immediately afterwards.

Francesco Lodi reduced the deficit again on the hour with a penalty following a foul on Gilardino. However, an injury time penalty from Mario Gomez ruined Genoa’s celebrations for their 140th anniversary, in which cricket was played on the Stadio Luigi Ferraris pitch before the match.

The club’s official name is Genoa Cricket and Football Club and it has a cricket team which was re-established in 2007 and who play in Italy’s top division.

It was one-way traffic in Sicily as Inter look to have put last season’s troubles behind them after thumping a fired-up Catania team who have no points after two defeats.

Manager Walter Mazzari refused to be drawn on talk that they could mount a title challenge.

“The only aim we have is to do what we did tonight, prepare well for every match and give the best account of ourselves possible, exactly what I’ve with my teams throughout my career,” he said.

Three smartly worked goals from Rodrigo Palacio and Yuto Nagatomo and an exceptional individual effort from Ricky Alvarez were enough for Inter in a impressive performance, and they joined four other sides, including Fiorentina, on six points.

Goals from Robinho, Philippe Mexes and Mario Balotelli were enough for AC Milan against a plucky Cagliari team.

Brazilian Robinho and Mexes put Massimiliano Allegri’s side two goals up after half an hour, only for Marco Sau to pull one back for the away side three minutes later.

However, Balotelli’s first league goal of the season in the 62nd minute put the result beyond doubt.

Earlier on Sunday Roma moved into second place on goal difference after splendid goals from Miralem Pjanic and Adem Ljajic gave them a comfortable 3-0 win over newly promoted Hellas Verona.

The home side were playing with the Curva Sud section of the Olympic Stadium shut after racist chanting directed at Balotelli from hardcore fans at the end of last season.

(Reporting by Terry Daley; Editing by John Mehaffey)

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Horner, who is already cycling’s oldest Grand Tour stage winner and race leader after his stage three triumph at Lobeira last weekend, proved equally unstoppable on Monday’s 10th stage.

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The RadioShack veteran attacked four kms from the summit of the Alto de Hazallanas ascent to stop the clock at the summit of the sun-drenched 15 kms climb, 48 seconds ahead of race favourite Vincenzo Nibali.

Spain’s top contender Alejandro Valverde was in third place

With the first rest day scheduled for Tuesday, Horner leads by 43 seconds from Nibali with Ireland’s Nicolas Roche third 53 seconds further back.

“I knew if I attacked and got 10 or 15 seconds then they would start playing games and start marking each other,” Horner, a rider with the RadioShack-Leopard squad who turned professional in 1995, told reporters.

“Nibali was the strongest there, but things got very tactical.”

Horner was pessimistic about his chances of retaining the lead in Wednesday’s 38.8 kms time trial in Tarazona.

“It’s been a long time, a good couple of years, since I did a good time trial,” he said.

“I expect Nibali will get the (leader’s) jersey there. But sometimes, just sometimes, I do do a good time trial.”

After making the pace on the lower slopes of the final climb, and seeing overnight leader Dani Moreno of Spain fall back, Nibali staged a lone, fruitless, pursuit of Horner.

Asked if he had wanted the lead, Nibali responded: “I always do, but Horner did a brilliant ride.

“I’m not too worried, though, we’re not even halfway through yet and the hardest part of the Vuelta is yet to come.”

Although none of their riders won and their best rider, Spain’s Igor Anton, finished eighth on the stage, the Euskaltel-Euskadi team were all smiles at the finish.

They had been told that their 17-year-old team would no longer fold at the end of 2013 with Formula One driver Fernando Alonso, a long-standing fan of the sport, poised to buy the team’s licence for the WorldTour, cycling’s top league.

“This news is way better than any victory” said team leader and 2008 Olympic gold medallist Samuel Sanchez of Spain.

“Now, at least, we can get on with the Vuelta without being worried about our jobs for next year.”

The race finishes in Madrid on September 15.

(Editing by John Mehaffey)

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MARK DAVIS: Robert Baer, you’ve been predicting the downfall of the Saudi regime for some time now.

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Will this US withdrawal – is it likely to hasten or prevent or delay the demise of that government?

ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA ANALYST: It’s going to delay the demise. I mean, the average Saudi on the street is happy the United States is leaving. They’re looking at the royal family as saying they’ve finally realised the relationship with the United States isn’t going to work, that the United States is hostile to Saudi Arabia and I think the people are looking at the royal family in a new light now that they’ve asked the Americans to leave.

MARK DAVIS: So this is, in your opinion, helping the royal family, not undermining them?

ROBERT BAER: In the long run it’s not going to do much good, but in the short run it will give a breather. They will be able to survive a little bit longer and, if they make some other reforms – I mean, ultimately they could save their own kingdom but my opinion is that they can’t, they’re just too greedy.

MARK DAVIS: Does America now have any interest in saving the royal family or their kingdom for that matter?

ROBERT BAER: Well, they do because the United States has no idea what’s going to happen afterwards. Is it going to be an Islamic Republic, is it going to be third generation Saudi princes who are going to be hostile to the United States, is it going to be a democracy – they have no idea.

MARK DAVIS: This is the key question, this announcement has come out of the blue. Why would America want to pull out at all and why now in particular?

ROBERT BAER: Well, not being in the government, I can’t tell you with 100% certainty how this came about but my guess is that the Saudis asked us to leave. We saw indications of this in the ‘New York Times’ before the Gulf, the recent Gulf War, and it’s come about as predicted, and it was – and at the time the ‘New York Times’ said it was because Saudi Arabia was very unhappy with the United States, with its policy vis-a-vis Israel and Saddam Hussein.

MARK DAVIS: But is America in such a benign mood that a simple request is sufficient for it to pull out of a strategic location such as Saudi Arabia?

ROBERT BAER: I would guess it wasn’t given much of a choice. It was “Leave, we don’t want you here. It’s risky for us, it’s risky for you” and I’ve heard a lot of rumours – and I emphasise that it’s rumours – that the Saudis told the Americans “We can’t protect your soldiers, your 5,000 soldiers or your bases”, because there’s so much hostility against Americans there’s nothing they can do, including inside the security services and the police.

MARK DAVIS: I won’t dwell on the issue, but it’s hard to imagine that America is in such a state of mind as to really care whether they’re wanted or not, or whether they’re threatened or not. This – Saudi Arabia in particular and the region in general has become a key issue for them.

ROBERT BAER: Well, I think that what the United States worries about is a war in Saudi Arabia or against the Saudi regime or Americans refusing to leave would lead to the sabotage of Saudi oil production or just taking it off the market which, at 25% of the world’s reserves, and really the only swing producer. Unlike Iraq, there’s a real risk that chaos in Saudi Arabia could gravely affect the US economy.

MARK DAVIS: I guess this is all pretty good news to Osama bin Laden. One of his key objectives has been the removal of US forces from the holy land of Saudi Arabia and now he’s achieved it?

ROBERT BAER: Exactly, he’s won – we’re out. The war in Iraq is going to make things worse as well. You cannot impose an American government on the Iraqis long term. They may accept it a year, a couple of years but not in the long term they won’t.

MARK DAVIS: Well, the links between some of the Saudi princes to Osama bin Laden and al-Qa’ida have become clearer. Also their links with senior American political figures are also becoming clear. Is the American public aware of how closely their own political leadership has been associated with Saudi Arabia, and will those relationships continue?

ROBERT BAER: No, I don’t think they’re aware. Look, the Americans still think that Saddam Hussein had something to do with September 11 and there’s no evidence. I can’t tell you whether he did or not. I mean, they take their lead from the White House and, as you know, the White House, this White House in particular, is very close to parts of the Saudi royal family and they just don’t want to talk about the problems, they’re in polite company. So, to answer your question, the Americans don’t really realise what they’re facing in Saudi Arabia.

MARK DAVIS: Is it just a coincidence that America can withdraw from Saudi Arabia now after it’s secured Iraq and secured that alternative oil supply and potential bases?

ROBERT BAER: Well, if you’re Machiavellian, you’d say the Americans have bases in Iraq, they’re there to stay and if the Saudis decided to take their oil off the market or do something else that we disapprove of, we can land on their oilfields and take them, paratroopers.

MARK DAVIS: But that does that timing surprise you? Is this part and parcel of a long-term strategy…given their reliance on oil?

ROBERT BAER: Well, I think now that – we’re pretty sure now that the war against Iraq was not for weapons of mass destruction and it wasn’t to protect human rights, otherwise we’d be at war in Africa. So I think it’s coming down to this, you know, it’s treated like this conspiracy theory but it really is about oil and I think the war in Iraq is about Saudi Arabia ultimately.

MARK DAVIS: So, with Iraq in hand, America can afford to isolate or even undermine Saudi Arabia if it needs to – it’s not so valuable or so precious to it now?

ROBERT BAER: I think in extremis, the United States would surely consider taking oilfields in eastern Saudi Arabia, in eastern provinces, if it came to the point the Saudis took their oil off the market or played with the market to a degree that made the United States go into a depression. I think there’d be no hesitation at all.

MARK DAVIS: Well, you’ve called the Saudi royal family dysfunctional criminals, out of touch, hated by the people they rule. Damning the royal family – whether it’s you or American officials – is one thing, but what is likely to replace them?

ROBERT BAER: Well, that’s the problem. If you let events take their course – and there’s this strong support for Osama bin Laden in the Saudi street, there are polls that have been done on this, which I think are legitimate – if you had democracy in Saudi Arabia you would get a fairly strongly Islamic government. So we don’t want democracy there but, you know, maybe some sort of military government takeover. I mean, the point of what I’m writing about is something needs to be done now to either address the royal family’s concern, clean the royal family up, stop all this corruption which is taking any sort of livelihood for the people and returning the money, the oil revenues to the people. Or you’re going to face a much bigger problem later down the line.

MARK DAVIS: Well, as you say, if an election was held today the Wahabi fundamentalists may well win that election. Is America in the mindset to accept such results, such a power shift, whether it be through the ballot box or via a revolution?

ROBERT BAER: I don’t think so. I think that the United States would come up with a pretext for overthrowing an Islamic government. We can’t afford an Islamic government in Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately we, the West, particularly the United States, is dependent on their oil. You can’t have a hostile government in Riyadh that’s going to manipulate oil to that degree and expect to survive this economically.

MARK DAVIS: If that’s the case, what would America do if such a situation arose?

ROBERT BAER: Drop the 82nd Airborne on the fields in the eastern province. What else can you do? I think we all have to accept the Middle East is a mess. Forget the Iraq war – it’s not a long-term solution. I mean, there’s chaos there now, it’s going to be a long time before this is settled. Will there be wars in Iran and Syria? I think we’ve passed a threshold that anything goes now in the Middle East, including the invasion of Saudi Arabia.

MARK DAVIS: Robert Baer, thanks for joining us.Read More →

MARK DAVIS: David Rivkin, first, why not go through conventional legal process with these cases, with proper judges, proper rules of evidence, the type of conventions that we in democracies are used to?

DAVID RIVKIN, TERRORISM LAW EXPERT: We’re going for a process which is indeed proper to the offences that are in issue.

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It’s important to understand we’re not talking about criminal offences, we’re not even talking about terrorism, we’re talking about individuals who’ve engaged in combat, had been captured as enemy combatants and very importantly are unlawful combatants which is to say participated in war without complying with the most fundamental precepts of the laws of war.

Traditionally, most types of offences have been dealt with in a military justice system. That is specifically designed to deal with them, because, again, it is appropriate for the offences we’re dealing with.

MARK DAVIS: Frank Camatta, is this ordinary procedure?

FRANK CAMATTA, DAVID HICKS’ LAWYER: Well, I wouldn’t perhaps have such a disagreement with David if it wasn’t for the fact that the American combatant was treated differently and was applied the normal sanctions of US criminal law.

MARK DAVIS: Well, let’s a little bit broader than that perhaps. Would these cases, in your understanding of Australian, British and American law, would these cases have any chance of success in – under the ordinary legal conventions?

FRANK CAMATTA: In this regime that we’re having with these commissions, we have got an entirely different creature where, although the benefit of a denial is there, it still leaves substantial inroads into the normal civil liberties of a person charged with a criminal offence.

MARK DAVIS: David Rivkin.

DAVID RIVKIN: Look, the whole essence of being an unlawful combatant is that you’re using force without privilege. So what you’ve done can either be tried in a military justice system as violations of international laws of war, or can be tried as a criminal offence, common law crime of murder, assault, battery, etc, etc, so there is some flexibility.

The whole civilian justice system, in at least the United States and I believe in Britain and Australia, operates in such a way that there are enormous burdens on the side of a prosecutor and those burdens are very difficult to satisfy in instances where you do have to protect sources and methods, where overriding concern is to prevent new attacks.

So you just approach those issues differently in the military justice system. And again it’s very important to appreciate that this is not a kangaroo court. One piece of information that might be interesting for you, if you look at the conviction rate…

MARK DAVIS: Well look, that’s exactly what it is being called, of course, and America’s reputation is on the line on this very issue. If you don’t have an evidentiary standard that can…

DAVID RIVKIN: They’re very high evidentiary standards but let’s look at the fundamental issue here.

If you look, for example, at the way military commissions operated in the aftermath of World War II, these are very professional, very ethical juries. My point is if you’re innocent, you actually have a far better shot at winning your case in a military commission.

If you’re guilty and you hope to get off for technicalities, the sort of O.J. Simpson type technicalities of the glove does not fit then it’s the wrong venue for you. But these are far from being kangaroo courts.

MARK DAVIS: But is there clarity here as to even what the charge is? I mean, what is the specific accusation that say on these six, that they’re being accused of? What is the actual event, the actual act that they’re being accused of?

DAVID RIVKIN: Fundamentally, in order for you to be processed, thank you, by military commission, you have to be an enemy combatant. What that means is you have to be a part of an organisation, al-Qa’ida or Taliban, that has been waging war against the United States without complying with a so-called four key criteria reflected in the Geneva and Hague convention and customary international law and the very fact that you join this organisation, even if you didn’t pull the trigger, let’s say even if you were captured before you got to the front line, is sufficient to punish you very harshly. Frank Camatta, did David Hicks know that he was joining an illegal organisation when he joined the Taliban?

FRANK CAMATTA: Well, when David went to Pakistan and then off to Afghanistan to join the Taliban, he was fighting the Northern Alliance with the government forces at the time.

It’s so transpired that subsequent to that, he was captured by the Northern Alliance and handed over to the American military. Hence he comes before these tribunals or these commissions.

Now, this person who it appears has – is unlikely to have committed an offence under Australian law, is now facing the commissions without the capacity, the normal capacities that he would have in the event of an ordinary criminal trial and given the extreme nature of the penalties that can fall from those commissions, albeit from a decision which has to be unanimous, nevertheless it can go down to a death penalty. Now that really concerns us here in Australia.

DAVID RIVKIN: I hear you. I do not, by the way, know the individual facts pertaining to Mr Hicks’ case and perhaps just like Mr Lindh he was a misguided young man who got into this whole enterprise without fully realising what was going on.

But look, in any prosecution, you have to balance individual equities with sort of a broad impacts on overall body policy, overall society.

It’s important for your viewers to appreciate that the dawn of the 21st century, we, the entire civilised world, not just the United States, are dealing with enormously grave threat. I would even call it an existentialist threat.

What is essential here is to this strictly affirm the norms that prohibit private individuals without sanction of states, without compliance of the laws of war, from joining organisations like Taliban and al-Qa’ida.

MARK DAVIS: Yes, but it wasn’t an offence…

FRANK CAMATTA: The Taliban was the government. The Taliban was the government.

DAVID RIVKIN: No, no, I was coming to that. It’s very important again for you all to appreciate. Taliban did not, repeat did not become a bunch of unlawful combatants, their need to give al-Qa’ida launch attack to the United States.

They have always been unlawful combatants and I will just quote one statement from Mullah Omar who was their supreme leader. The statement was to the effect that “We do not buy always Judo-Christan, international humanitarian laws of war stuff because it’s incompatible with our beliefs.”

That was an affirmation at the institutional level they had no intention to comply with the laws of war. That statement alone rendered all of them unlawful combatants.

MARK DAVIS: But David, who says it renders them unlawful combatants, the victor and the captor?

DAVID RIVKIN: International law says that.

MARK DAVIS: Well, international law is not saying that really, America is saying that, aren’t they? America is saying they’re not prisoners of war. I think the world scratched its head when you came up with unlawful combatants. No-one had heard of it for 50 years.

DAVID RIVKIN: Forgive me well again, nobody heard it for 50 years. International law does not get vitiated that easily. If you look at the Geneva convention, if you look at The Hague regulations of 1907.

If you look at modern international law going back to 16th century, but think for a second, what is the impact on an armed force if their supreme leader, if their commander in chief says “To hell with the laws of war, we are not going to comply with them.” It’s like having a corporation that says at the outset “We’re not going to comply with tax laws, we’re not going to comply with environmental laws, we’re going to do whatever we will.”

That behaviour ought to be strictly discouraged and punished and I’m very sorry for Mr Hicks but he joined the wrong bunch of people.

MARK DAVIS: But if I could just quickly, Frank, isn’t the logic of what you’re saying though that all 100,000 members of the Taliban who believed in fact they were in government, they could all be in Guantanamo Bay under your criteria?

DAVID RIVKIN: That’s indeed the logical implication of what I’m saying, that everybody who fought with Taliban and al-Qa’ida are unlawful combatants.

MARK DAVIS: Frank Camatta?

FRANK CAMATTA: But the only reason for that, David, isn’t the only reason for that because of what transpired, very sadly, but what transpired on September 11?

If in fact September 11 had not occurred, and I know that’s a big if, but if that was the case, then the Taliban fighters in your view would still be enemy combatants and it’s only that particular action that involved the United States that made these offences arise and made these tribunals come to fruition, because otherwise you’re saying these offences are being committed there every day in many countries of the world and that these people deserve to be brought before a commission.

Isn’t this really a situation of the US military saying “We’ve now got control of the situation, we’ve got these people, we’re going to put them through a process and we’re going to treat them differently to giving them the rights of a normal criminal trial like Walker Lindh”?

DAVID RIVKIN: Taliban were a bunch of unlawful combatants long before September 11. However, you’re absolutely right, because we were not in a state of war with the Taliban, we would not have, prior to September 11, had a particular interest in prosecuting.

But I want to clarify and underscore it was not the attack of September 11 that rendered them to be unlawful combatants. It was their own behaviour from the very beginning that rendered them unlawful combatants.

But we didn’t appreciate seriously what kind of threat this posed until after September 11 and the final point, you keep talking about criminal trial, don’t you appreciate the fact, and I’m sure you do, but even if they were lawful combatants, even if they were POWs, they still would not be tried in a normal civil justice system, because lawful combatants who commit individual violations of law war get trialled by court marshall which are very close to those commissions.

Some differences but traditionally, individuals involved in war never ever have been tried by civil court system because it just doesn’t fit. The difference here is the military commissions versus court marshalls.

MARK DAVIS: That’s assuming there is an individual action that is of a criminal nature, which in this case, is certainly unclear.

DAVID RIVKIN: Of course, of course. Well, but again this would be something that would be looked at the trial which, by the way would be open, I get frankly – and you have not mentioned it – but I get frankly very unhappy with references to closed proceedings.

If you look at the rules for military commissions, the proceedings would be open and I’m sure, you know, the Australian TV and other news organisations would be able to cover it. They would have defence counsel.

If in addition to their military lawyers they want to have civilian lawyers, they can ask for it. It would be a fair, transparent process and let’s reserve judgment until it takes place. It’s not going to be a kangaroo court.

MARK DAVIS: Frank Camatta, a final comment, reserve judgment until it takes place?

FRANK CAMATTA: I think it’s fair to say as far as the Hicks family’s concerned, they’re very concerned, very concerned, and that the trial by the military commissions where there are limitations, despite everything that David’s said, there are limitations on the rights of an attorney with his client, there’s limitations on the presence even of the accused during the presentation of the prosecution case, there’s a capacity for the presiding officer to have evidence in camera or to hear evidence in camera or make it only available to the detailed defence counsel without having the accused present.

There are a number of safeguards which cause us concern. It’s all very well to say “Let’s wait for the event to happen.” David is actually in the custody of the US military. He’s now going to be tried by the US military.

MARK DAVIS: We’re about to lose our satellite so gentlemen, I’ll have to leave it there. Thanks again for joining us.

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