Friday, August 22, 2008

Spying from I.S.S.

Russia has claimed humanitarian motives in its use of the International Space Station (ISS) to collect overhead imagery of South Ossetia shortly after it invaded the breakaway Georgian province.

On Aug. 9 Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko used a digital camera equipped with an 800mm telephoto lens and a video camera to photograph "after-effects of border conflict operations in the Caucasus," according to the ISS status report for that day published by NASA on its website.

Use of the space station for military purposes would violate the Jan. 29, 1998, ISS cooperation agreement between NASA and the Russian Space Agency, which makes repeated references to the civil nature of the orbiting facility.

"The Space Station together with its additions of evolutionary capability will remain a civil station, and its operation and utilization will be for peaceful purposes, in accordance with international law," reads Article 14 of the agreement.

Apparently with that language in mind, Russia's space agency Roscosmos informed the U.S. space agency that Kononenko's actions two days after Russian forces moved into South Ossetia were not military in nature.

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The Deal: U.S. Withdrawal From Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have reached agreement on a proposal calling for a complete U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq by 2012, the head Iraqi negotiator said Friday.

A U.S. soldier patrols a street this week on the outskirts of Baquba, Iraq.

The deal still must be approved by both sides, said Mohammed al-Haj Hamoud, deputy foreign minister and head of the Iraqi negotiating team.

Hamoud said Thursday's meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was helpful in reaching the tentative agreement.

Hamoud said the proposal also says the last date for the presence of U.S. troops in cities and towns will be June 30, 2009.

There are clear caveats, however.

If the Iraqi government sees the necessity of keeping the American forces in cities and towns or in Iraq past December 31, 2011, it would ask that the Americans stay. A joint Iraqi-U.S. committee would help define the duration and number of forces that would be needed and regularly assess the security situation on the ground.

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