US troops out of Iraq by end of 2010

The Iraqi prime minister backs a two-and-a-half year timetable for the withdrawal of US troops, echoing a plan being promoted by Barack Obama during his presidential campaign. Arabs are sceptical about Obama bringing change to the Middle East and expect the US to continue favouring Israel. The arrest of the fugitive Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, provides a boost to Serbian government as it wins praise from the European Union.

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"Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki took advantage of Barack Obama's internationally watched visit Monday to set a two-and-a-half-year timeline for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq," McClatchy Newspapers reported. "Minutes after the Democratic presidential candidate met the Iraqi leader at his private residence, Maliki's spokesman, Ali Dabbagh, announced that Iraq wants American combat troops to leave by the end of 2010, a few months later than Obama has proposed. "The timing of a withdrawal from Iraq is a key election issue in the United States, where Republican candidate John McCain has advocated an indefinite American military presence, and in Iraq, which holds provincial elections later this year." The Times said: "The remarks [by Mr Dabbagh] appeared to boost Mr Obama but left the White House and the McCain campaign with a dilemma. The Republican candidate's representatives found themselves in the extraordinary position of implying that the Iraqis did not really mean what they were saying. "Randy Scheunemann, a senior foreign policy adviser to Mr McCain, said that the Republican had received personal assurances from Mr al-Maliki and Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi President, earlier this year that they opposed a withdrawal deadline." The New York Times noted: "The central tenet of Mr Obama's foreign policy is suddenly aligned with what the Iraqis themselves now increasingly seem to want. Not only have the developments offered Mr Obama a measure of credibility as a prospective world leader in a week when his every move is receiving intensive attention at home and abroad, but it has complicated Mr McCain's leading argument against him: that a withdrawal timeline would be tantamount to surrender and would leave Iraqis in dangerous straits. "Mr McCain is hardly conceding the point. He continued to hammer away at Mr Obama's judgment on national security, saying on Monday that Mr Obama had gotten it badly wrong when he opposed sending additional American troops last year to help stabilise Iraq. Republicans said Iraq would never have reached the point where it could reasonably call for a reduction in the American presence without the troop increase, a policy championed by Mr McCain over the objections of Mr Obama and most other Democrats... "For a day, at least, the images of the two presidential candidates offered a sharp contrast. In an interview on 'Good Morning America' on ABC, Mr McCain talked about securing the 'Iraq-Pakistan border,' a momentary misstatement of geography. (American forces are pursuing terrorists along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border; Iraq does not border Pakistan.) His aides staged an event where he was seen riding in a golf cart in Maine with the first President George Bush, while Mr Obama flew over Iraq in a helicopter with Gen David H Petraeus, the top American military commander." In The Washington Post, Eugene Robinson commented: "It's not a 'timetable' for extricating US troops from Iraq that George W Bush is suddenly talking about, and heaven help anyone who accuses him of proposing a 'timeline.' No, the Decider says he is now amenable to a 'time horizon,' which apparently is a whole different kind of time thing - not at all like the sensible course of action that Democrats and other critics of the Iraq occupation have been demanding. "If Bush were known for exquisite subtlety in his use of the language, I'd note that a horizon is, by definition, a line that can never be reached. But pigs will streak across the sky at Mach 2 before this president displays a diabolical mastery of semantics. His new 'time horizon' formulation is just smoke, intended to obfuscate and stall. In six months, Iraq becomes somebody else's problem."

Arabs sceptical about Obama bringing change to the Middle East

"As Barack Obama heads into the world's most complicated region in a bid to establish his foreign-policy credentials as a presidential hopeful, Israelis and Palestinians are voicing a mixture of hope, skepticism and curiosity," McClatchy Newspapers reported. "Mustafa Barghouti, an independent Palestinian Authority lawmaker... said Obama 'represents the best possibility for change in the United States, and I think the United States needs change now more than anytime before.' But he implored Obama not to focus too heavily on appealing to conservative Jews in the United States. "'The Jewish vote is not monolithic, and if he takes the right stand he will get all the Muslim votes, all the Arab votes and all the moderate Jewish votes,' he said." The New York Times said: "For what feels like forever, Israelis and their Arab neighbours have been hopelessly deadlocked on how to resolve the Palestinian crisis. But there is one point they may now agree on: If elected president, Senator Barack Obama will not fundamentally recalibrate America's relationship with Israel, or the Arab world. "From the religious centre of Jerusalem to the rolling hills of Amman to the crowded streets of Cairo, dozens of interviews revealed a similar sentiment: the United States will ultimately support Israel over the Palestinians, no matter who the president is. That presumption promoted a degree of relief in Israel and resignation here in Jordan and in Israel's other Arab neighbours. "'What we know is American presidents all support Israel,' said Muhammad Ibrahim, 23, a university student who works part time selling watermelons on the street in the southern part of this city. 'It is hopeless. This one is like the other one. They are all the same. Nothing will change. Don't expect change.'"

Arrest of Karadzic provides boost to Serbian government

"For much of the 1990s, Radovan Karadzic, leader of the rump Serb republic in Bosnia-Herzegovina, was the face of 'ethnic cleansing' in the Balkans," the Chicago Tribune reported. "With his trademark quiff of silver hair, Karadzic, the poet and psychiatrist, spoke of the 'necessity' of subjecting the civilians of Sarajevo to a siege that lasted nearly four years, and of how his campaign to force Muslims and Croats from their homes in Bosnia was really doing them a favor. "He wrote the darkest chapter of recent European history in July 1995 when he allegedly ordered the execution of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica." The New York Times reported: "Serbian officials said he had transformed his identity and appearance so successfully that he was able to go out freely in public. He used false documents and false identities, and worked at the clinic, in New Belgrade, a working class neighborhood that is known as a stronghold of Serbia's radical far-right party. "Why the arrest occurred now is not clear. But just weeks ago, on July 7, a new pro-Western coalition government was formed in Serbia whose overriding goal is to bring Serbia into the European Union, the world's biggest trading bloc. The European Union, meanwhile, has made delivering indicted war criminals to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague a precondition for Serbia's membership, and has been particularly scathing about the continued liberty of Mr Karadzic." In a separate report, The New York Times said: "Mr Karadzic had lived under the alias Dragan Dabic and had adopted a 'very convincing' false identity, Mr Ljajic [a senior government official] said. "He said Mr Karadzic had been captured not far from Belgrade, the Serbian capital, 'while he was traveling from one location to another,' but the exact spot was not disclosed. "Mr Vukcevic said Mr Karadzic had remained silent since his arrest, but a judge had concluded that he should be transferred to The Hague. Mr Karadzic has three days in which to appeal the decision, the prosecutor said." In The Guardian, Martin Bell, who covered the war in Bosnia for the BBC, said: "Now, half the job is done. The arrest of Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serbs' military commander, must surely follow. This is the harder task in terms of public opinion and possible physical resistance. He has well-placed friends and supporters. He will almost certainly go into deeper hiding. But for much of the past 12 years, the Belgrade authorities have known where to find him. All that was lacking was the political will to act." Deutsche Welle reported: "EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn called Karadzic's capture and arraignment 'historical,' adding that the bloc should immediately reward Belgrade. "'It proves that the new government of Serbia has the determination to turn the page, leave the nationalist past behind and move towards a European future,' Rehn told reporters. "Rehn said that the EU should now start implementing the trade-related part of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with Serbia, which was signed this April."

Zimbabwean deal marks the beginning of negotiations

"Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai agreed Monday to start urgent negotiations toward forming a new government, a first but very tentative step toward ending the nation's political stalemate," The Washington Post reported. "The deal signed on national television was vague, leaving aside nearly every key question about Zimbabwe's future after almost a decade of ruinous decline. But it included clear language vowing an end to state-sponsored political violence, and set a deadline requiring that the talks conclude within two weeks." In The Guardian, Chris McGreal wrote: "Ask Zimbabwe's opposition leaders about sharing power with Robert Mugabe and they point back a couple of decades to the last time he lured a political opponent into his fold. "His arch-foe, Joshua Nkomo, accepted the position of vice president and assurances of a real slice of power when he could no longer hold out against the army's assault on people in his Matabeleland stronghold, which left about 20,000 murdered. But Mugabe swiftly neutered his rival and tightened his stranglehold on power."