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NightWatch 20110412

NightWatch

For the Night of 12 April 2011

North Korea-US: For the record. A US citizen has been detained in North Korea, according to US State Department officials. The State Department is working with the Swedish Embassy in the North Korean capital to release the man on humanitarian grounds. The Swedes have been granted consular access to the man and have visited him. A Swedish official in Stockholm confirmed that its embassy in Pyongyang is working on the case. Sources declined to provide additional information due to privacy concerns.

Comment: US officials have withheld the identity of the detainee for reasons of privacy and deny they know the reason for the detention. The timing of the detention, for whatever reason, will tend to strengthen the North's bargaining position with the US at a time when internal economic conditions and chronic mismanagement were driving the North to be more compromising in the interest of gaining food aid.

Turkey: For the record. Turkey is trying to arrange a meeting between the foreign ministers of Iran and Azerbaijan on 16 April in yet another initiative to mediate a regional dispute. This is the fourth Turkish initiative of this kind.

Libya: The rebel National Transitional Council has asked selected coalition members to supply weapons, according to an Italian Foreign Ministry spokesman. The spokesman said Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini met with Libyan envoys who also requested access to Libyan overseas financial assets that were frozen by a UN resolution and demanded that NATO intensify military operations in the country.

The National Transitional Council has requested military and technical equipment from countries that have recognized the council as the sole representative of Libya, which include France, Italy and Qatar, a council spokesman told reporters in Benghazi.

Comment: News service reports relate no significant change in the battlefield situation. Rebels in Misrata reportedly repulsed another attack by Qadhafi forces. Rebel groups reportedly still hold Ajdabiya and attempted to move west to Brega for the third time, after NATO air attacks on Qadhafi forces.

In political developments, rebel activists are using the media to try to organize a national "intifadah" day on Friday, 15 April. This is a potentially significant development. This call revives the successful tactics that initiated the uprising against Qadhafi and nearly worked in the first week of March. The rebels neglected making nationwide appeals for more than a month, relying on NATO airpower to effect political change.

The response to the uprising call also might provide a gauge of the strength of the anti-Qadhafi sentiment outside eastern Libya.

End of NightWatch for 12 April.

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