25 May 2008

* British Arms Combine BAE Could Face ‎RICO Charges in U.S. Probe

‎Career prosecutors from the U.S. Department of Justice are escalating ‎their investigation into the British arms cartel BAE Systems, centered on billions of ‎dollars in bribes, paid to top Saudi officials, including former Saudi Ambassador to ‎Washington, Prince Bandar bin-Sultan. According to sources close to the ‎investigation, in addition to charges of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, ‎DOJ investigators are now considering adding RICO (racketeering conspiracy) ‎charges, based on BAE evasion of U.S. tax payments. In further signs of escalation ‎of the targeting of BAE, the Justice Department has issued subpoenas against five ‎executives of the company, in recent days. On May 12, two top executives, CEO ‎Mike Turner, and outside director Sir Nigel Rudd, were detained as they arrived in ‎the United States. Both men had their laptop computers, cell phones, and personal ‎papers confiscated, and they were served with subpoenas to appear before a U.S. ‎grand jury. Sir Nigel Rudd is the chairman of BAA, an airport management firm, ‎and is deputy chairman of the leading City of London bank, Barclays.

While the BAE probe is ostensibly centered upon the alleged bribes to Prince Bandar ‎and other top Saudi officials, U.S. intelligence sources confirm that there are two ‎other, far more significant issues, that are driving the probe.

The first issue is the role of Prince Bandar in the 9/11 attacks, and the possibility ‎that some of the BAE bribe money was actually used to fund the hijackers. The ‎‎9/11 Commission obtained evidence that between $50-75,000 was provided by ‎Prince Bandar and his wife, Princess Haifa, to two men in California, both believed ‎to be Saudi intelligence officers, who, in turn, shared some of the funds with two of ‎the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackers. Sources report that a 28-page section of the official ‎‎9/11 Commission Report, dealing with the Bandar funds, was redacted from the ‎declassified final version. U.S. Senate intelligence committee investigators were ‎reportedly stymied from interviewing FBI agents, who had probed the Bandar fund ‎flows, causing further anger and suspicion, that the full 9/11 story has yet to be ‎told. ``The 9/11 issue is still radioactive among many U.S. intelligence and law ‎enforcement officials,'' one senior U.S. intelligence source acknowledged.

The second issue is the Anglo-Saudi covert fund, accumulated under the ``Al ‎Yamamah'' deal, brokered by Prince Bandar with then-British Prime Minister ‎Margaret Thatcher in 1985. Under the oil-for-arms deal, which continues to this ‎day, MI6 has accumulated an offshore, off-the-books fund estimated at more than ‎‎$100 billion, according to current and former U.S. government officials, interviewed ‎by Executive Intelligence Review. Those funds have been reportedly used to ‎promote wars and destabilizations around the globe, dating back to the Afghanistan ‎War of the 1980s, when BAE funds were covertly funneled to the Afghan ‎mujahideen. In a recent authorized biography of Prince Bandar, details of the ``Al ‎Yamamah'' slush fund were provided, indicating that some of the funds also went to ‎the purchase of U.S. weapons, bypassing U.S. Congressional oversight.
The Bandar issue is particularly sensitive to the White House, given the Prince's ‎longstanding close ties to the Bush family. Despite these connections, career ‎prosecutors are moving aggressively forward with the BAE probe.
And there are signs that the U.S. Senate may be getting into the act as well.
On May 21, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings on a pending ‎U.S.-British treaty, that would grant British defense firms full access to Pentagon ‎contracts, on an equal standing with American defense firms. While the Chairman ‎of the Committee, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) and the ranking Republican, Sen. ‎Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), both indicated that they supported the treaty in principle, ‎they both agreed that the State Department had not provided the Committee with ‎sufficient details on the treaty's implementation, and they have postponed, for at ‎least another three months, any action on the matter. Given that BAE Systems is ‎already the largest foreign contractor with the U.S. Department of Defense, the ‎ongoing DOJ probe could have dramatic implications for the future of the bilateral ‎treaty--and U.S.-British relations in general.

Lyndon LaRouche has emphasized that the conflict between the United States and ‎the British ``BAE'' imperial faction, is the key to understanding the current global ‎strategic situation. Were the United States to break, decisively with London, and ‎align with the three great Asian powers, Russia, China and India, in the tradition of ‎Franklin Roosevelt, all of the major crises facing the planet today could, over time, ‎be peacefully resolved. It is in this context that the BAE case takes on a profound ‎significance.‎

(lapc)

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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.