Litvinenko Was Killed Over Secret Dossier, Says Ex-Spy
By John Joseph, Reuters
LONDON (Dec. 16) - Murdered Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was killed because of an eight-page dossier he had compiled on a powerful Russian figure for a British company, a business associate told the BBC on Saturday.
Litvinenko died in London on November 23 after receiving a lethal dose of radioactive polonium 210. On his deathbed, he accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering his killing. The Kremlin has denied involvement.
Ex-spy Yuri Shvets, who is based in the United States, said Litvinenko had been employed by Western companies to provide information on potential Russian clients before they committed to investment deals in the former Soviet Union.
He said Litvinenko was asked by a British company to write reports on five Russians and asked Shvets for help. The British company was not named. Shvets said he had passed Litvinenko the information for the dossier on one individual in September.
The BBC said it had obtained extracts of the dossier, which British detectives also have, from an unnamed source. The BBC said the report contained damaging personal details about a "very highly placed member of Putin's administration."
"Litvinenko obtained the report on September 20," Shvets told the BBC. "Within the next two weeks he gave the report to Andrei Lugovoy. I believe that triggered the entire assassination."
Lugovoy is a former Russian spy who told Reuters on Thursday he had known Litvinenko casually for nearly a decade and had worked closely with him during 2005, meeting him about 10 times.
Shvets said Litvinenko had given the dossier to Lugovoy to show him how reports on Russian companies and individuals should be presented to Western clients.
However, Shvets said he believed Lugovoy was still employed by the Russian secret service the FSB, the successor to the KGB, and had leaked Litvinenko's dossier to the Russian figure.
Shvets said the report had led to the British company pulling out of a deal, losing the Russian figure potential earnings of "dozens of millions of dollars."
Lugovoy and businessman Dmitry Kovtun met Litvinenko at a central London hotel, soon after he had met Italian KGB expert Mario Scaramella at a sushi bar. Litvinenko felt ill that night and two days later was admitted to hospital.
"Litvinenko told me he met Lugovoy and other Russians and they offered him tea that wasn't made in front of him, said Shvets.
Lugovoy told Reuters in an interview that he met Litvinenko in October and November but he has repeatedly denied having anything to do with his death.
Litvinenko never blamed Lugovoy publicly for his murder before dying in the London hospital. However, Shvets said he had come around to that possibility.
"I asked Litvenenko who did you think did it?" Shvets told the BBC. "He immediately said Scaramella. For three days he stubbornly reiterated it was Scaramella and only on the fourth day did he admit he met Lugovoy and other Russians.
"I stopped communicating with Litvinenko when it was diagnosed he had been poisoned. But I spoke to his wife and she told me Litvinenko shared my opinion," Shvets told the BBC.
The BBC said senior Scotland Yard officers had interviewed Shvets.
Gibson Says 'Get Over It'
By Marco R. della Cava
"You got me at the wrong time. I'm probably a bit surly in the morning," Mel Gibson says. "I'm surly early."
Though as mornings go, Thursday cast a soft light on a man more accustomed to glare: Gibson's Apocalypto had just gotten a Golden Globe nomination for foreign-language film and was riding the week out as box office champ.
"Ah yes, the Golden Globes, it's nice, flattering," says Gibson, tweaking the awards' name.
He added that he's not concerned by his film's modest $15 million take. "I knew it wouldn't be like Passion (of the Christ, which earned $360 million worldwide), so this will just take a little more time to make its money back," he says. "I think it's lucky it got to No. 1. It was a soft weekend."
If Gibson sounds vaguely humble, don't be fooled. The director leaves no doubt about his feelings for those who assail his movies or his actions. When it's suggested that perhaps he move away from Hollywood, Gibson doesn't hesitate: "They can move."
Gibson and Tinseltown have been locked in an awkward dance since his double-Oscar triumph for 1995's Braveheart. First came his controversial take on Jesus' final hours and, more recently, a drunken-driving incident in which he railed that Jews were the cause of all wars. Now, with Apocalypto, come charges of excessive violence.
"I don't understand all the heat," says Gibson. "It's less violent than Braveheart, and yet they're calling it blood porn. To make it personal against me, that's a low blow."
Gibson concedes that his pre-Columbian chase scene-cum-love story does have nasty turns, as when a man gets his face chewed off by a jaguar, "but it's appropriate to the subject matter."
He dismisses charges that the film doesn't linger long enough on the cultural contributions of Mayan civilization. "That's on the History Channel, right?" Beat. "Seriously, I show you glyphs and temples and incredible architecture. It's there if you look. In the end, though, the main objective is to tell that story."
With Apocalypto's current success, Gibson's own Hollywood story remains on track, despite calls from the likes of super-agent Ari Emanuel for him to be shunned.
1 climber found dead in 2nd snow caveAstronauts prep for fourth spacewalkColo. may limit oil and gas emissionsPaparazzi sues celeb blogger for $7.6MTomlinson breaks Hornung's single-season scoring record "This place isn't like a club where you're in or you're out," says Gibson. "It's a sprawling place that you make of what you will. It's not a glee club, that's for sure."
He says he feels some empathy for Michael Richards, whose recent comedy club tirade against blacks finds him in the entertainment community's cross hairs. "He snapped, what are you going to do. … You don't always have to be picked to be off the hook."
Gibson says his next project is unknown ("It'll germinate"), and though he'd consider acting, "I'm not really anxious to jump up there again. … Maybe I'll just go get a dartboard tattoo on my chest."
The non- sequitur is revealing; Gibson's thoughts often return to the shake he's getting in his field.
"I'm doing well," he says. "But how many people do you know get a DUI and are kicked around for six months? It's out of proportion. I'm not saying I wasn't at fault. Hey, we're not perfect, we're all human, get over it. I've apologized, done the right thing, now get the hell over it. I'm a work in progress."
ISREAL LOBBY, CARTER'S PALESTINE APARTHEID, IRAQ STUDY GROUP, CONNECT THE DOTS IN US POLICIES (SEND YOUR COMMENTS)
By Eugene Bird
It has been a remarkable year for U.S. policy in the Middle East. The debate about U.S. Middle East policy has been enriched by the combined effect of three "controversial" events, the Isreal lobby, Jimmy Carter's Palestine Apartheid and the Iraq study group report. The first was "The Israel Lobby" study released last spring by Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, which caused an enormous debate, the first of its kind in the United States. "The Tipping Point: Changing Perceptions of the U.S.-Israel Relationship," which includes a debate in New York City featuring Prof. Mearsheimer and Walt and later at the National Press Club, The two professors are currently writing a book to be released in the fall of 2007 on the same subject.
The second was the publishing of former President Jimmy Carter's book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," last month. An extremely vicious campaign to villify him is underway, but the book is climbing on the bestseller list. A fox news jihad and fatua has been declared against the book, however the boyish smile faced ex-president and his public relations team seems for now to be one step ahead of the opposition.
Third, the Baker-Hamilton report is the highest-level statement to emphasize the connection between the Arab-Israeli dispute and an exit strategy for ending the war in Iraq. A high-level Israeli delegation, headed by its foreign minister and including the radical right-wing politician Avigdor Leiberman, is holding a session at the Brookings Institution this weekend, including a dinner at the Department of State. Damage control on the report is already underway.
In their testimony on Thursday, Pearl Harbor Day, before the Senate Armed Services Committee Lee Hamilton and Jim Baker made it clear that real progress towards a settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute would be the sine qua non of getting out of Iraq with honor and restoring American leadership in the Middle East.
With two million Iraqi refugees, perhaps twice that number, now living in neighboring countries, the administration has achieved a complete implosion of the forces of stability in the whole Middle East.
These events don't yet add up to a clear direction in American policy towards the middle east. TRANSATLANTIC TIMES would like our reading public to CONNECT THE DOTS AND SEND IN YOUR COMMENTS, let us know what direction you think the American foreign policy towards the Middle East should be heading and WHERE YOU THINK THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION OR THE NEWLY ELECTED CONGRESS WOULD MOVE THE US POLICIES IN THE MIDDLE EAST.
Add Your Comments, click here to send your comments.
Abbas calls for Palestinian poll
Mr Abbas was speaking in Ramallah Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called for presidential and parliamentary elections to be held at the "earliest opportunity". He was speaking live on Palestinian TV after days of escalating tensions between Hamas and his Fatah movement that have raised fears of civil war.
Hamas, elected in January, immediately rejected the move as a "coup attempt".
Hours after Mr Abbas spoke, armed supporters of Fatah and Hamas exchanged gunfire in the southern Gaza Strip.
Several gunmen are reported to have been injured in the clash in Khan Younis.
At the end of a major policy speech in Ramallah, Mr Abbas said: "I decided...to call for early presidential and parliament elections."
He blamed Hamas for the crisis triggered by the suspension of Western aid over the group's refusal to recognise Israel and renounce violence.
The Palestinian government rejects this call for early elections and considers it a coup against Palestinian legitimacy and the will of the Palestinian people
Hamas government statement
Mid-East 'at critical moment'
Risky political move
Q&A: Palestinian crisis
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The Palestinian people were suffering from an economic siege, which had halved incomes, he said.
It is not clear when the elections would be held, and actually organising them is easier said than done, says the BBC's Nick Thorpe in Ramallah.
Many Palestinians say the president has no right to dissolve the government, while President Abbas insists that he does.
It will be up to the Central Election Commission to try to find a legal way of carrying out the president's orders, our correspondent says.
The current Palestinian parliament was elected in January and is due to remain in office until the end of 2010.
Mr Abbas said the best solution would still be to form a national unity government of experts.
But months of talks between Hamas and Fatah on such an administration have foundered.
Tens of thousands of Hamas supporters rallied on Friday
At the end of a long and indignant speech, there finally came the moment supporters of Mr Abbas had been waiting for - a call for new elections. But the Hamas government reacted immediately, saying it was "a coup against Palestinian legitimacy and the will of the Palestinian people".
Ahmed Yousef, an adviser to the Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, said the call for elections was a recipe for internal strife.
"I think this will lead to bloodshed because this is something against the constitution. This is something which is not in his authority and I think the president by his call today became part of the problem, not part of the
Hamas members boycotted the speech by Mr Abbas to the Palestinian parliament.
Several Palestinian factions based in the Syrian capital, Damascus, also rejected the call for early elections.
In a joint statement, they said the move was unjustified and that Hamas and Fatah should instead meet again to discuss forming a government of national unity.
However the call by Mr Abbas was welcomed by White House officials in Washington and by UK Prime MInister Tony Blair on his Middle East tour.
The past week has been marked by attacks, counter-attacks and mutual accusations.
Hamas blamed Fatah for a shooting that targeted PM Ismail Haniya on Thursday, but Mr Abbas, in his speech, denied there had been any conspiracy to kill Mr Haniya.
The shoot-out at the Rafah border crossing led to more clashes on Friday, both in the West Bank and in Gaza City.
Some 32 people were injured when Palestinian police loyal to Fatah fought Hamas supporters in the West Bank town of Ramallah.
Egyptian diplomats based in Gaza have been trying to mediate in the current crisis.
They have stepped in a number of times before to calm the situation provoked by the chronically bad relations between Hamas, the largest faction, and Fatah but the current tensions are at their worst for years.