Uzbekistan: U.S. base worries neighbors

In fall 2001 Uzbekistan let the Pentagon use a former Soviet airbase at Karshi-Khanabad – K2 for short – the first U.S. deployment in the former USSR. Since then the U.S. has doubled the parking space for planes and built new barracks to accommodate 1,750 U.S. military and civilian personnel, the Associated Press said after a rare visit to the tightly secured base.

The base, 90 miles from the Afghan border, earlier was home to U.S. special operations forces and combat aircraft. It is still a key support point for military personnel, and for civilian contractors working for Halliburton-subsidiary KBR. Uzbek President Islam Karimov said the U.S. would remain only while operations continue in Afghanistan. But lately other Uzbek officials have opened the door to a longer stay.

Russia, China and Iran are reportedly uneasy about K-2 and its sister U.S. regional base near Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, just 175 miles from China.

Sudan: Peace closer in south, west continues to suffer

The Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army are near agreement on issues of power-sharing and the legal status of the capital, Khartoum, the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) said May 7. A Sudanese diplomat told IRIN that remaining differences were expected to be worked out “within the next few days.”

At the same time, IRIN said, in western Sudan one of the world’s worst and most neglected humanitarian crises continues despite an April 8 cease-fire agreement between the government and two rebel groups.

IRIN said the conflict has displaced over a million people, while another 110,000 have fled to Chad. Pamela Delargy of the UN Population Fund emphasized the conflict’s devastating effect on women and girls. “As in many other recent conflicts, rape has become a weapon of war in western Sudan, with disastrous consequences for women and girls,” she said.

Gaza: Israel builds new fence

Israeli military officials confirmed last week that a four-and-a-half mile fence is to be built on a “settlers-only” road leading to Gush Katif Jewish settlement in Gaza, following the killing of an Israeli settler and her four daughters in the area, the Palestinian organization MIFTAH reported. According to Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the fence is a temporary measure until Israel pulls out of Gaza.

Though Olmert pledged a complete pullout, Israel’s defense and foreign ministers said a limited withdrawal is needed to silence the settlers’ protests. Press reports indicated Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would present an alternative plan for removal of just three settlements from Gaza instead of 21, and two settlements instead of four from the West Bank.

“These are measures to prolong the occupation and deepen it,” said Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat.

Haiti: Caricom asks OAS investigation

The 15-member Caribbean Community last week called on the Organization of American States (OAS) to investigate the forced removal from office of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Trinidad’s Foreign Affairs Minister Knowlson Gift said opposition by Washington and Paris makes a UN investigation unlikely. Although Caricom has promised to provide personnel for the UN mission in Haiti, to date it has not recognized the U.S.-installed interim government.

Meanwhile, the Let Haiti Live coalition on April 30 issued the first in a series of reports on the human rights situation in Haiti, describing many murders and assaults by armed gang members against ordinary people including Aristide supporters, as well as killings of Haitians by the U.S.-led occupation force. The report is also highly critical of some U.S.-funded “human rights organizations” active in Haiti. The report is available on www.americas.org, under the “countries” listing for Haiti.

Cambodia: Hotels fire hundreds

Luxury hotels in Cambodia responded to a peaceful one-week strike last month by firing hundreds of hotel workers, the IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural and Other Workers) said. Union members at six hotels walked off the job April 5 when employers unilaterally rejected government arbitration rulings telling the hotels to distribute 100 percent of hotel service charges to employees on a regular monthly basis.

When the Cambodian Arbitration Council requested a return to work and negotiations under its auspices, hotel owners fired the workers, members of the IUF-affiliated Cambodian Tourism and Service Workers’ Federation.

“At issue is the employers’ determination to unilaterally reject the collective bargaining process and impose on employees a massive loss of income in one of the world’s poorest countries,” the IUF said. The Singapore-based Raffles Hotel Group, with hotels in Phnom Penh and Siem Riep, is leading the union-busting drive.

International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (mbechtel@pww.org).

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