UN: Agency rejects U.S. spin on Iran findings

In a blistering letter dated Aug. 23 and leaked to the press, the UN International Atomic Energy Agency castigated as “erroneous” and “misleading” a U.S. Congressional Intelligence Committee report that distorted the agency’s findings on Iran’s nuclear activity.

The IAEA objected to the Washington panel’s conclusion that Iran possessed weapons-grade uranium, despite the agency’s having detected only small quantities of barely enriched material.

The letter, signed by senior director Vilmos Cserveny, also denounced as “outrageous and dishonest” a reference to an “unstated IAEA policy barring IAEA officials from telling the whole truth.” The congressional panel used that fiction to account for the removal of Chris Charlier as investigator in Iran. In fact, Iran had requested Charlier’s removal, and he still works with the UN program.

Democrat Rush Holt, an intelligence committee member, defended the report as relying “heavily on unclassified testimony.” The BBC report quotes a “Western diplomat” reflecting on “déjà vu of the pre-Iraq war period.”

Israel: Military actions ‘insane and monstrous’

A reserve commander of an Israeli rocket battalion has condemned his nation’s recent use of 1,800 cluster bombs to release 1.2 million bomblets over southern Lebanon, saying, “What we did was insane and monstrous.” Other soldiers have criticized Israel’s heavy reliance, especially at the end of the war, on phosphorus bombs that cause extensive burns and a slow, painful death.

The unnamed commander, according to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, wrote to Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz and said Israel “flooded” wide areas of Lebanon with cluster bombs that almost certainly claimed a high proportion of civilian victims.

UN officials say that 500,000 bomblets are lying unexploded on the ground, and at least 12 Lebanese civilians have been killed by the bomblets since the war’s end Aug. 11. Phosphorous shells are proscribed under international law, and some experts place cluster bombs in the same category, although Israeli officials disagree.

S. Africa: Cleaning workers get global support

Sept. 13 became a “Day of Global Action” for janitorial workers in many cities of the world as they leafleted and showed support in other ways for 20,000 striking South African cleaning workers.

Since Aug. 1 the workers there have been striking against poverty level wages, averaging $1.19 a day, paid by cleaning contractors. The buildings they clean are owned by the likes of Bayer Corporation and JP Morgan with profits last year of $2 billion and $8.5 billion respectively.

The workers are demanding a 12 percent wage increase.

On Sept. 1, South African workers in other industries conducted sympathy strikes and held mass rallies. Union Network International, a global union of service workers, is coordinating the strike that involves 15 local South African unions. According to the Labourstart web site, U.S.-based Service Employees International Union, a UNI member, has pledged $20,000 to support the striking workers.

Indonesia: Forest fires rage

Forest fires are raging across the Indonesian island of Sumatra, once a lush tropical rainforest. Greenpeace attributes yearly infernos to huge commercial logging operations.

Thick haze now extends over Indonesia and across Southeast Asia, with dire effects on the health of millions and on the world’s climate. Scientists say that Indonesian forests once enjoyed fire protection from the soil’s moisture. But private conglomerates are clearing Indonesian forestland to make way for oil palm plantations and to harvest acacia pulpwood for paper production, and nurturing peatland soils dry out after they are laid bare.

Greenpeace demanded that “the Indonesian government … reconsider allowing any type of land clearing to be done in these areas.”

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney Jr. (atwhit@megalink.net).