Monthly Archives: October 2011

US Attorney General Eric Holder (R), Preet Bharara, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York (C) and FBI director Robert Mueller (L) announce a plot was foiled involving men allegedly linked to the Iranian government to kill the Saudi ambassador to the US. Photo credit: Getty Images

By David Gardner, international affairs editor

The US accusations that Iran is behind a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US – possibly by blowing up a Washington restaurant he frequents – are, frankly, weird.

There is presumably some substance to it; it is the US attorney general and head of the FBI announcing the charges, and the Obama administration is clearly taking the plot very seriously.

But there are obvious objections. Why would Iran so up the ante in its three decades-long cold war with the US, by carrying out an outrage on American soil? While what we are accustomed to thinking of as the Tehran theocracy is no monolith, and a rogue operation is possible, what urgent motive could there be to strike the US and the Saudis now? 

Gideon Rachman

You do not need to believe that Yulia Tymoshenko is an angel, to find the news of her seven-year prison sentence deeply depressing. The imprisonment of the former prime minister of Ukraine suggests that the high hopes of the Orange Revolution of 2004 have now dwindled away – and Ukraine is relapsing into crooked authoritarianism. The debate will now begin on “Who lost Ukraine?” 

John Aglionby

 

Welcome to our continuing coverage of the eurozone crisis. All times are London time. This post should update every few minutes, but it may take longer on mobile devices. By John Aglionby and David Crouch on the world news desk in London, with contributions from FT correspondents around the world.

José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, has set out his bank recapitalisation plans, while the temperature is rising for Silvio Berlusconi after he lost a parliamentary vote last night, and Slovakian politicians are plotting their next moves after blocking the expanded eurozone rescue fund. 

David Pilling

“I almost left the country thinking they’re moving a little too fast. I never thought I would say that about Myanmar.”

Those are the words of Espen Barth Eide, Norway’s deputy foreign minister, after a trip this week to Burma, which the Norwegians call by its official name of Myanmar. Mr Barth Eide said that political reformers in the country “have the upper hand” and were moving quickly to try to consolidate their position before there was a counter-offensive from hardliners. “The danger is not that it’s not sincere,” he said of the push to open up the political process, “but that the counter forces will set in.” 

Slovakian PM Radicova listens to the leader of the Freedom and Solidarity Party Sulik. Credit: Petr Josek/Reuters Welcome to our continuing coverage of the eurozone crisis. All times are London time. By Esther Bintliff and John Aglionby on the world news desk in London, with contributions from FT correspondents around the world.

Today’s main events are in Greece – where the troika published a long-anticipated statement, and in Bratislava, where the Slovakian parliament is voting on whether to back the expanded eurozone rescue fund, the EFSF.

21.38: As we close up for the day, a markets update. The S&P 500 closed flat at 1,195.54 as investors remained cautious after the delay in the vote to expand the rescue package. The euro surrendered all gains and changed little against the dollar at $1.3642. That’s all from us.

21.30: Here is the latest FT story and Alphaville blog post.

21.20: Slovakia’s government has lost a confidence vote on a plan to bolster the EFSF rescue fund, toppling the government. But it is expected that the package will go through in a later vote with help from the opposition. Smer, the largest opposition party, said it would support the changes in a second vote. A total of 55 lawmakers of the 124 present backed the motion, falling short of the required majority of 76.

19.30: We’re going to take a little break on the blog now – but we’ll be sure to update you when (if?) the Slovak deputies vote. In the meantime, thanks for reading, and for all your comments! You can follow our coverage at ft.com and of course on twitter, @ftworldnews

19.20: European authorities plan to set a higher-than-expected capital threshold for the region’s banks and give them six to nine months to achieve that level or face government recapitalisations under the auspices of the eurozone’s €440bn rescue fund, senior regulators have told the FT. Patrick Jenkins in London, Ralph Atkins in Frankfurt and Peter Spiegel in Brussels report:

The European Banking Authority’s board of supervisors has approved in principle the idea that banks should be made to raise their core tier one capital ratios – the key measure of financial strength – to 9 per cent, well beyond the current expections of banks and analysts, even after absorbing writedowns on the value of their sovereign debt holdings.

Officials cautioned, however, that the 9 per cent threshold – which could see dozens of banks forced to raise a combined €275bn, according to Morgan Stanley estimates – is still being debated in national capitals and in Brussels.

Some senior officials at the European Commission, which is due to unveil its own plan for bank recapitalisations, support the higher levels and could announce their backing as early as on Wednesday.

Full story.

 

By Gideon Rachman

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s admirers stretch from the Arab street to the western salon. In the Middle East, the Turkish prime minister is regarded as a courageous champion of the Palestinians. Many western intellectuals also admire Mr Erdogan, believing he has made Turkey a model for an Arab world in turmoil.

John Aglionby

Today, the Financial Times launches a three-day series looking at the growth of the cyber industrial complex. Joseph Menn, who writes about tech security and privacy from the San Francisco bureau, looks at the fast-growing start-ups in the sector — and the establishment defence groups that are swallowing them up. Check out our interative guide to M&A in the sector, and read about how hackers are going legit.
On Tuesday Joe will look at what an attack on the US grid would look like, while Vint Cerf, one of the founders of the internet, explains what he would do differently if he could start over from scratch. The third and final part of the series looks at the world of China’s secret cyber militias and whether global powers will ever agree on a treaty to govern internet warfare.

 

Roula Khalaf

Egypt’s rulers are making a dangerous mess of the political transition. Long before the latest violence against Christian demonstrators – which left 24 people dead on Sunday night in Cairo – the military council which ousted Hosni Mubarak was losing the confidence of many of the activists who had seen it as their saviour.

On the surface, Monday’s violence was a reflection of the sectarian tensions that have flared up since the fall of the Mubarak regime, as attacks on churches by ultraconservative Muslims have escalated.

But they quickly turned into a condemnation of the military council ruling the country since the toppling of Mr Mubarak – and the Christian protesters were joined by Muslims. 

Gideon Rachman

Something has always puzzled me about Amsterdam’s famous bikes. While cyclists in London often ride flashy, modern bicycles, the cyclists of Amsterdam seem to favour old, black boneshakers – often without gears.

I had thought that this might be some sort of retro fashion statement. But – chatting to students in Amsterdam – I discovered that the real explanation is crime. Apparently, bicycle-theft is so common that it is pointless having an expensive bike in Amsterdam. Instead, if you need a bike, you simply buy one for 10-15 euros from a thief and/or junkie. Then, when its stolen, you buy another one. 

By Lina Saigol

Steve Jobs: Hero of the Arab spring. Or so say the tweeting foot soldiers of the unrest sweeping the region.

Their (somewhat tenuous) accolade is thanks to the biological father of the visionary co-founder and former chief executive of Apple who died on Wednesday, aged 56, being Syrian.

Abdel-Fattah Jandali, 81, was born in Homs, Syria’s third largest city and epicentre of the seven-month uprising against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

A former professor of political science, Mr Jandali put Mr Jobs up for adoption because his girlfriend’s father was extremely conservative and would not let him marry her.