The CIA and the AQ Khan nuclear network

Report says the US intelligence agency recruited Swiss engineers in the Khan network and supplied Iran with defective equipment in an effort to sabotage Iran's nuclear programme. The Iraqi prime minister says all foreign troops must leave by the end of 2011. Pakistan's coalition government collapses. Russian legislators call for recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

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Under pressure from the CIA, the Swiss government destroyed thousands of documents that would have revealed the CIA's relations with a family a Swiss engineers, Friedrich Tinner and his two sons, who are suspected of supplying Iran and Libya with nuclear technology, The New York Times reported. Last May, when the Swiss president announced the documents' destruction, he claimed that it was to make sure that detailed plans for nuclear weapons never fell into the hands of terrorists. The real explanation, according to US government officials, was that the United States had urged that the files be destroyed in order to conceal ties between the Tinners and the CIA. "Over four years, several of these officials said, operatives of the CIA paid the Tinners as much as $10 million, some of it delivered in a suitcase stuffed with cash. In return, the Tinners delivered a flow of secret information that helped end Libya's bomb programme, reveal Iran's atomic labours and, ultimately, undo Dr Khan's nuclear black market." While efforts to dismantle the Khan network have been widely reported in recent years, The New York Times indicated that the CIA was also in effect making use of the network in an effort to undermine the targeted nuclear programmes. The report said: "The Tinners played an important role in a clandestine American operation to funnel sabotaged nuclear equipment to Libya and Iran, a major but little-known element of the efforts to slow their nuclear progress. "The relationship with the Tinners 'was very significant,' said Gary S Samore, who ran the National Security Council's nonproliferation office when the operation began. 'That's where we got the first indications that Iran had acquired centrifuges,' which enrich uranium for nuclear fuel." The report said: "The sabotage first came to light, diplomats and officials said, when inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency traveled to Iran and Libya in 2003 and 2004 and discovered identical vacuum pumps that had been damaged cleverly so that they looked perfectly fine but failed to operate properly. They traced the route of the defective parts from Pfeiffer Vacuum in Germany to the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the birthplace of the bomb. There, according to a European official who studied the case, nuclear experts had made sure the pumps 'wouldn't work.' "A more serious disruption involved a power supply shipped to Iran from Turkey, where Dr Khan's network did business with two makers of industrial control equipment. "The Iranians installed the power supply at their uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. But in early 2006, it failed, causing 50 centrifuges to explode - a serious, if temporary, setback to Iran's efforts to master the manufacture of nuclear fuel, the hardest part of building a bomb."

Iraqi prime minister says all foreign troops must leave by the end of 2011

"Iraq and the United States have agreed on a date for the departure of all American troops, as part of a broader security pact they are negotiating, the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, said Monday," The New York Times reported. " 'There is actually an agreement concluded between the two parties over the definite date, which is 2011, to end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil,' Mr Maliki said, echoing what other officials have described as the content of the latest draft. "Mr Maliki made the comments in a speech to tribal leaders in Baghdad's Green Zone, but it is far from clear that the issue has been settled. The Bush administration has consistently stressed that the agreement - needed to legalise the presence of American forces after the United Nations mandate expires at the end of this year - is still in draft form." The Associated Press reported that last month President Bush reversed course and agreed to set a "general time horizon" for withdrawing American troops, based on Iraq's ability to meet its own security needs. "But the Iraqis insisted they want a specific schedule. " 'We find this to be too vague,' a close al-Maliki aide told The Associated Press on Monday. 'We don't want the phrase "time horizons." We are not comfortable with that phrase,' said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations. "Another top al-Maliki aide, also speaking on condition of anonymity for the same reason, said the Iraqi government had 'stopped talking about the withdrawal of combat troops. We just talk about withdrawals,' including trainers and logistics troops."

Pakistan's coalition government collapses

"The five-month-old coalition government in Pakistan collapsed Monday when the head of the minority party, Nawaz Sharif, announced his members would leave the fractious alliance, citing broken promises by Asif Ali Zardari, the leader of the majority party," The New York Times reported. " 'We have been forced to leave the coalition,' Mr Sharif said in Islamabad. 'We joined the coalition with full sincerity for the restoration of democracy. Unfortunately all the promises were not honored.' "The exit by Mr Sharif's party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, had been expected in the last few days, and was finally spurred by the decision of Mr Zardari to run for president, in an electoral college vote set for Sept 6. President Pervez Musharraf resigned last week under threat of impeachment." The Australian said: "In a move aimed at challenging Mr Zardari and exploiting widespread doubts about his political ambitions, Mr Sharif nominated a highly regarded judge, Saeed us Zaman Siddiqui, to contest the presidential election... "Mr Zardari had been hoping to stand unopposed. But last night he was confronted by the prospect of his character and partisanship becoming the central issue in the campaign when Mr Sharif highlighted Judge Siddiqui's reputation as 'a non partisan and non party person'. "Political analysts described the nomination of Judge Siddiqui as 'potentially political masterstroke', saying there was every chance that he could defeat Mr Zardari."

Russian legislators call for recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia

"Lawmakers in the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, have unanimously adopted a resolution calling on President Dmitry Medvedev to recognise the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia," RFE/RL reported. "Just hours earlier, the same resolution sailed through the upper house, the Federation Council. "Until now, the Kremlin has supported Georgia's two separatist regions financially and politically, but has stopped short of officially recognising their sovereignty. "Federation Council speaker Sergei Mironov said it is now time for Russia to take that step." The Associated Press reported that President Bush urged Russia's president not to recognise the independence of the two regions, while the White House announced that Vice President Cheney is heading abroad on Sept 2 for stops in three former Soviet Republics - Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine. Reuters reported: "The conflict between Russia and Georgia may indirectly benefit Iran by making it more difficult for the West to reach consensus with Moscow on new UN sanctions, Iranian newspapers said on Sunday. "Russia, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, has long been a reluctant backer of the US-led push to pressure Iran with sanctions, although Moscow has eventually backed three sanctions resolutions after watering them down. "The daily Iran News said the Georgia conflict, which has heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow, may now make it more difficult for the United States and its Western allies to secure Russian backing for a fourth round of sanctions." In Open Democracy, Fred Halliday wrote: "There is still a reluctance among many analysts of international relations to believe that local and/or 'small' actors in a political situation - in this case the Georgian leadership - have their own agency, freedom of manoeuvre, and responsibility (a flaw that is shared by that particular kind of American - and of course 'anti-American' - leftist for whom everything that happens in the world must by definition be the United States's responsibility: an understudied genre of vulgar imperialism). "In fact, it is routinely impossible to make sense of almost any conflict or region without registering how much local states, opposition groups, or minority movements can act with considerable autonomy in pursuit of their own interests - even to the extent of manipulating (and on occasion deceiving) distant and more powerful 'allies'. There are many cases during the cold war, for example, where 'third-world' states attacked their neighbours on their own accord yet were widely characterised as having acted on orders - as 'clients', 'proxies', 'agents', 'pawns'. They include: Israel in attacking Egypt in 1967, and Lebanon in 1982; Turkey in invading Cyprus in 1974; Egypt in attacking Israel in 1973; Cuba in sending troops to Angola in 1975; Iraq in attacking Iran in 1980, and Kuwait in 1990. "The international context matters, but it is not determinant: what is determinant is the reading of that international situation, and the calculation of risks and opportunities, which the local leaders and political forces make."