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October 9, 2012

News Briefs – October 9, 2012

Spain seals deal with U.S. over NATO missile shield

 

The Spanish government has agreed to participate in NATO’s anti-missile shield that will see specialized United States warships based at a Spanish base already used by the U.S. Navy.

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said Spain and the U.S. had sealed the deal Oct. 5 to use the base in southwestern Spain as part of the shield, enabling four U.S. Navy destroyers and some 1,400 operators to be deployed at the base.

Moscow has long opposed the shield and called for binding guarantees from the U.S. and NATO that it will not target Russia.

The Pentagon also has units at Moron air base in southwest Spain, with a presence of some 4,250 military personnel and 1,000 civilians in the country. AP

 

Russia, Tajikistan agree to military base deal

 

Russia and Tajikistan agreed Oct. 5 to extend the presence of Russian troops in the ex-Soviet nation on Afghanistan’s northern border until 2042.

An aide accompanying Russian President Vladimir Putin on a visit to the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, said Moscow would be assured use of the facility “virtually free of charge.”

Central Asian nations are apprehensive at the prospect of the NATO coalition’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 and have expressed fears that violence could spill over, prompting them to see security guarantees from their Russian and U.S. partners.

“The Russian base in Tajikistan is an important factor in stability in this republic, with which we are bound by special, brotherly and very close strategic relations,” Putin said.

Tajikistan is believed to have sought large rental payments from Russia for use of the base, but those requests appeared to have been successfully resisted.

“We are talking about certain sums, but we are getting this base virtually free of charge,” said Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov.

The current base lease is due to expire in October 2014. AP

 

Syria pulls back tanks from Turkish border

 

A Turkish official says Syria has pulled tanks and other military equipment away from its border with Turkey following deadly cross-border shelling this week.

The Foreign Ministry official in Ankara said Oct. 5 that the Syrian pullback was an effort to remove any “perception of threat.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations.

Syrian officials were not available for comment.

A Syrian shell struck a Turkish border town Oct. 3 and killed five civilians. Turkey retaliated with artillery strikes and warned Syria that it would not tolerate such a spillover again.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has tried to defuse the crisis with Turkey, the worst since an uprising against him erupted 18 months ago. AP

 

U.S. defense chief says Karzai should thank allies

 

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says Afghan President Hamid Karzai should say thank you now and then to the allied military forces that are fighting and dying in Afghanistan, rather than criticizing them.

Panetta Oct. 5 was responding to Karzai’s recent complaints that the U.S. is failing to go after militants based in Pakistan, and instead is concentrating on the insurgents in Afghanistan.

The uncharacteristic shot from Panetta comes as tensions between the two countries have escalated over the increase in attacks in which Afghan security force members or insurgents dressed in their uniforms turn their guns on coalition troops.

Panetta’s sharp retort comes just days before he and other NATO defense ministers meet in Brussels to discuss the war and the road ahead. AP

 

Israeli military downs drone that entered airspace

 

Israeli jets scrambled to intercept a drone that crossed into Israeli airspace Oct. 6 from the Mediterranean Sea, bringing it down without incident in the south of the country, a military spokeswoman said.

Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich said Israeli systems on the ground alerted the air force to the drone Saturday morning. She said it flew over the Gaza Strip but did not originate from the Palestinian territory. She said Israel didn’t know the drone’s starting point and an investigation was under way. Nobody was hurt in the incident.

Leibovich did not give more details, but Israel media reported that the aircraft was not carrying explosives and could have been a surveillance drone.

Leibovich said the operation was successful and the military was in control throughout.

“We had monitoring contact from the ground and from the air. We alerted jet planes that escorted the unmanned aerial vehicle and due to some operational considerations we decided to intercept the unmanned aerial vehicle in the northern Negev area, which has no population,” Leibovich said.

It’s not the first time that Israel has shot down drones entering its airspace, but such cases are rare. The Iran-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah has launched several such aircraft into Israel over the past few years. AP

 

Kodiak Launch Complex expansion faces delay

 

There will be at least a one-year delay in the plans to expand the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska.

The Kodiak Daily Mirror reports Alaska Aerospace Corp. CEO Craig Campbell told the board Thursday Oct. 4 the delays in constructing Launch Pad 3 are because Lockheed Martin has had its own delays in securing customers for a new, larger rocket that would be launched from Kodiak.

He’s now projecting 2015 for the launch of the Athena III rocket. That means the earliest construction would start in Kodiak is next summer.

Campbell says preliminary work continues, such as conducting environmental assessments which must be completed before construction can begin. AP

 




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