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China may send ships to help fend off pirates

BEIJING: China said yesterday that it was considering sending warships to help fight pirates off the Somali coast, a sign of its increasing willingness to flex its military muscle. Although China has participated in U.N. peacekeeping operations in Africa, its navy has seldom left the Pacific region. China is the only permanent member of the U.N. Security Council that has not joined the United States in a growing international fleet fighting a brazen wave of piracy launched from Somalian shores. For the Chinese, the urgency of the mission was underscored by an attack yesterday against a ship owned by the China Communications Construction Co. in the Gulf of Aden. The 30 crew members barricaded themselves in their cabins until they were rescued by a multinational force that reportedly swooped in with helicopters.

Russia to give Lebanon 10 MiG-29 fighter jets

BEIRUT, Lebanon : In a move that could raise concerns in the U.S. and Israel, Russia will donate 10 MiG-29 fighter jets to Lebanon and commit to supplying the teetering Arab democracy with more war machines, an official said yesterday . Though the jets aren't likely to pose a strategic challenge to Israel or even Lebanon's other neighbor, Syria, the move signifies Moscow's military resurgence in parts of the globe long dominated by the U.S. Moscow said the move was meant to help stabilize Lebanon, which has descended frequently into war during the last four decades. In announcing the donation, Mikhail Dmitriyev, the director of Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, said Moscow might also sell Lebanon tanks and artillery.

Suit filed to block sale of oil, gas leases

WASHINGTON: Environmental groups filed a lawsuit yesterday to try to block the sale of oil and gas leases that the Bush administration plans for tomorrow . The leases concern 110,000 acres of wide-open redrock country in Utah near Arches and Canyonlands national parks. The suit says that the sale would result in oil wells, electricity lines and roads through wilderness that includes Desolation Canyon, one of the largest roadless areas in the Lower 48. The suit also argues that oil and gas development would make the air dirtier in the two national parks and Dinosaur National Monument, and also would harm Nine Mile Canyon, which contains archaeological sites and prehistoric rock art.

Blackwater warned it may lose Iraq license

WASHINGTON : An internal State Department report says Blackwater Worldwide could lose its license to work in Iraq and recommends that the agency prepare alternative ways to protect its diplomats there. The 42-page report by the State Department's inspector general says the department faces "numerous challenges" in dealing with the security situation in Iraq, including the prospect that Blackwater may be barred from the country. The department would then have turn to other security arrangements to replace Blackwater, officials said. The report is labeled "sensitive but unclassified."

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