Germany: Nuclear withdrawal a campaign issue
In the Bundestag April 24, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for “a new beginning on nuclear disarmament.” Three opposition parties, the Greens, Liberal Free Democrats and the Left Party, moved that the government press the U.S. to remove nuclear weapons from Germany, a position taken earlier by Steinmeier.
The Christian Democrats and Social Democrats had agreed that as one condition of their coalition government, the Bundestag would not vote on nuclear withdrawal. Yet in elections set for September, Steinmeier will be the Social Democrats’ candidate for chancellor. Observers say Steinmeier’s statement shows he’s already campaigning.
Opinion surveys show 75 percent approve nuclear weapons removal.

Ethiopia: Arrests pose quandary for U.S.
The Ethiopian government, widely seen as repressive, arrested 40 men last week including high army officers. Members of the year-old Ginbot 7 Movement for Justice and Democracy were allegedly preparing a coup. They are protesting parliamentary elections in 2005 that left Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in power, although “the ruling party had lost by a landslide,” according to the Carter Center.
In the bloody aftermath, many like Ginbot 7 leader Berhanu Nega were jailed. Released after two years, he now teaches economics in Pennsylvania. Unofficial extradition demands claim U.S.-Ethiopian collaboration on terrorism.
“Ethiopia was the linchpin of [the Bush administration’s] regional counterterrorism strategy,” said Newsweek.

Australia: Controversy over refugee rights
The Kevin Rudd Labor government is taking heat for ambivalence on refugees, especially after its condemnation of previous conservative exclusionary policies.
Right-wingers now protest Labor’s “softened stance on border protection.” The official response to an explosion April 16 that destroyed a boat and killed five refugees represents backtracking, say left-wing critics.
The wounded ended up in mainland hospitals, where legal processes prevail. Twenty-nine others were incarcerated on Christmas Island, beyond the reach of UN-recommended protective statutes.
The episode highlights prejudice against boat people, the Guardian newspaper said. Most of the 500 refugees arriving since last July are escaping disasters in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Ecuador: President Correa wins
President Rafael Correa will remain in office until 2013. In the April 26 election he won a 51.9 percent majority, with runner-up Lucio Gutierrez at 28 percent. For the first time since 1979 a second round was unnecessary.
Correa’s Country Alliance Party has 62 delegates in the 124-seat National Assembly. Majority control is assured through alliances. International observers commended the efficiency of the voting, which also embraced regional and municipal offices. In remarks to the media, Correa mentioned priorities: creating a structural framework for his “Citizens’ Revolution,” deepening alliances, and increased attention to public education, health care and housing.

United Arab Emirates: Small state, big arms buyer
Al Jazeera reported late last month that this year the UAE’s defense spending will exceed $7 billion, making the tiny federation of ruling families the world’s third-largest importer of U.S. weapons, behind India and China.
Recently $3 billion were spent on U.S. Patriot missiles and a $9 billion air defense and helicopter deal is in the works. Iran is held up as one threat, especially because of its promise to close the Straits of Hormuz should the U.S. and Iran go to war.
Every day 40 percent of the world’s oil supply passes through these adjacent waters. Foreign workers represent another concern. Exploited, single men outnumber citizens, 5 to 1.

Cuba: Foreign ministers hear from Raul Castro
At the Non-Aligned Movement’s ministerial meeting in Havana late last month President Raul Castro discussed the upcoming UN Conference on the world economic and financial crisis with UN General Assembly President Miguel D´Escoto. He also engaged with representatives of the Group of 77 nations to further that organization’s coordination with NAM.
The ministerial meeting was held in anticipation of the 15th NAM summit in Egypt July 11-16. There, Cuba will end its three-year term as chair in favor of Egypt.
President Castro greeted the ministers. Calling “a global order inspired in hegemonic pretenses and the selfishness of privileged minorities neither legitimate nor ethically acceptable,” he said “a system that destroys the environment and promotes unequal access to riches cannot last.”
Castro contrasted worldwide annual military spending of over $1 trillion with an annual outlay of $80 billion for 10 years that the UN estimates “would be enough to eradicate poverty, hunger and the lack of health and education services and houses all over the world. That figure is three times lower than what the South countries spend every year to pay their foreign debt.”

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney Jr. (