Monday, November 24th, 2008

Choose Your Language Of Preference Below 

French Version German Version Russian Version Spanish Version 

Portuguese Version Chinese Version Arabic Version   

By Manuel Farias


SANTIAGO, Nov 24 (Reuters) – Global copper prices will average about $1.60 a lb in 2009, less than half the levels for most of this year and well below record highs in July of over $4.00 a lb, Chile’s state copper commission said on Monday.


Cochilco, considered one of the world’s top authorities on the copper market, said prices would stay low for the next year at least as they are pummeled by a global financial crisis that is nipping at the heels of China, which consumes 25 percent of the world’s copper.


Cochilco said copper prices would come in between $3.15 and $3.20 per lb this year, cutting an earlier forecast of $3.70.


The 2009 estimate compared with earlier forecasts for prices near $3.40 per lb.


The sudden downshift in prices comes as world inventories jump, and the supply/demand equation shifts into a surplus of about 459,000 tonnes next year, compared to earlier deficits.


Cochilco said global copper supply in 2008 would be about 18.130 million tonnes, up 1.7 percent from the year-ago period. That compares to demand of about 18.2 million tonnes.


For 2009, supply is seen growing 6.6 percent as 1.2 million tonnes of new output comes on line from Australia, Zambia, Chile, Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia. In the same period demand is seen growing only 3.4 percent.


“In 2009, a clear surplus is expected due to the deteriorating (global) economy and lower-than-expected demand for copper,” Cochilco said in its report.


The commission also cut its copper output forecasts for Chile, the world’s largest copper producer. It said output would come in at 5.57 million tonnes in 2009, less than a forecast in October for output of 5.8 million tonnes.


For 2008, the commission said Chile’s copper output would be 5.36 million tonnes, below a previous forecast for 5.45 million tonnes. (Reporting by Manuel Farias; additional reporting by Pav Jordan; editing by Jim Marshall)  


Choose Your Language Of Preference Below 

French Version German Version Russian Version Spanish Version 

Portuguese Version Chinese Version Arabic Version   

APA-Lusaka (Zambia) Journalists in Zambia on Monday rejected suggestions from the authorities to form a statutory body to regulate the media in the country.

Five journalists groups said on Monday that it was wrong for anyone to try and regulate the media in the country because this would stifle freedom of expression.

Speaking on behalf of other media organisations, chairperson of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia Chapter, Henry Kabwe, said journalists in the country would not accept the idea of being regulated by the state in their work.

Members of Parliament from both the governing party and the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) have suggested passing a law to form a regulatory body for the media.

The UPND, who brought up the motion in parliament which was supported by government side, was apparently upset at what they termed biased media coverage during last month’s presidential election.

The UPND alleged that its presidential candidate Hakainde Hichilema was sidelined by both the public and private media in preference for other candidates and felt this had occurred because the media organisation enjoyed unlimited freedom.

But MISA said any moves to enact a law to create a statutory body to control media organisations in the country would be an affront to press freedom.

Journalists in the country have instead been pushing for the enactment of the Freedom of Information bill which they say would give the media in the country more access to information.

However, Members of Parliament who have previously been in support of the bill, now say they would only support it after they introduce regulatory laws for the media which would place the media in the country in a compromising position.

Other media organisations that are opposed to the proposed regulation include the Zambia Union of Journalists (ZUJ), the Zambia Media Women Association (ZAMWA) the Press Freedom Committee of the Post Newspaper and the Media Council of Zambia.
African Press Agency – Copyright upon prior authorization

Choose Your Language Of Preference Below 

French Version German Version Russian Version Spanish Version 

Portuguese Version Chinese Version Arabic Version   

By Margaret Mangani

DURING his inaugural Press conference on November 14, at which he named his Cabinet, newly-elected President Rupiah Banda kept all who attended the function at State House guessing as to who would be named vice-president.

Only Mr Banda knew who his successor as vice-president would be. For others, it was still a mystery.  There was so much speculation regarding the position in the newly constituted Cabinet.

Some organisations were even suggesting that the position should go to a female for a change as a way of maintaining gender equality in the Government.

Strangely though, others were supporting the idea that the opposition should have been considered in a spirit of power-sharing.

Such was the debate that went on before the veil was lifted.

Alas! All that was never to be; it was just wishful thinking.

The prerogative of appointing members of Cabinet lies solely with the head of State.

He knows what is best for the Government.

Of course, some known names of politicians were on people’s lips as they were being floated around as possible candidates.

But when the moment of reckoning came, when President Banda broke the news of the day, the one who got it was far from those on the people’s lists.

This was evident when George Kunda’s name was announced.

All heads turned and mouths were agape as if in a state of shock.

What! George Kunda for vice president as well as Minister of Justice?

No! Perhaps it was a mistake.

But it was real. President Banda had just conferred Kunda with a dual honour.

And when the cameras zoomed closer on him in the audience where he sat humbly listening to the proceedings, his reaction was as cool as a cucumber.

While other excited members of Cabinet openly expressed their joy on being appointed, Mr Kunda simply nodded his head in approval accompanied with a grin.

It was amazing that the second top most job of the Government had landed on Mr Kunda.

Son of Jackson Kunda and Eginala Mwelwa, Mr Kunda was born on February 26, 1956 in Luanshya,

His parents, who are quite advanced in age, hail from Serenje’s Mashimani Village where they still live.

Mr Kunda is the first born in a family of nine.

It was once a balanced family of 10 – five brothers and five sisters but, unfortunately, one brother died.

Mr Kunda is married to Irene, a fellow lawyer and runs the family’s legal firm, George Kunda and Company in Lusaka.

The couple met at the University of Zambia (Unza) while Mr Kunda was studying law and now have six children.

Howard is a businessman in Ndola married to lawyer Anne Grey.

The second is Georgina, currently studying in Canada, followed by Marion who is married to singer Wilson Lungu, popularly known as Wile.

George Jnr is pursuing accountancy studies.

Godfrey is the only child who has followed the parents’ footsteps- studying law while the last child, Chiluba, is in grade 12.

The Kundas also have seven grand children.

Mr Kunda did his primary school education at Fisansa in Luanshya’s Roan township and then went to Mpatamatu primary school where some of his senior schoolmates were Dr Joseph Temba, Dr Kalombo Mwansa and the late Lagos Nyembere.

He then qualified to Mpatamatu Secondary School where he was influenced to study law after he came into contact with a few lawyers.

He admired their smartness and big briefcase.

In 1975, he went for the mandatory military training offered by the Zambia National Service (ZNS) in Ndola and later Solwezi for the production unit.

After that, he went to Unza to fulfil his dream of studying law.

After being admitted to the bar, he worked for the then Luanshya District Council as a solicitor advocate.

He then joined Niranjan Patel and Company and later worked for Cave Malik before he resigned with a view to establishing his own private firm, George Kunda and Company, in 1991.

It was during that time that he was inspired to join politics to serve the Zambian people as he felt obliged to offer himself and contribute to national development.

It is common that the legal profession is associated with wealth and prestige but Mr Kunda decided to venture into politics with a desire to serving the nation.

Mr Kunda can aptly be described as hard working, honest a perfectionist at his work, and leaving nothing to chance.

Those are his wise words passed on to the upcoming lawyers in the legal fraternity.

Mr Kunda emphasises on mutual respect, punctuality and efficiency as some of the virtues of a good advocate that can lead one to scoring many positive strides in life’s long journey.

Lawyer Eric Silwamba who first met Mr Kunda in Ndola in 1985 while he was working for Ellis and Company had this to say .

“I came to know him as a thorough and conscientious legal practitioner. A stickler for detail. A typical example is the last presidential election petition. He kept a meticulous record of all the court proceedings, which he had personally typed. During our Ndola days, It was always a pleasurable challenge to meet him on the other side in court.

” I remember with fond memories an election petition involving a councillorship in the Kabushi parliamentary constituency. This was during the one party state,” he said.

Mr Kunda describes his new appointment as a big challenge and assures the nation that he has already settled down to work, as that is what is demanded of him.

Why was there a pose at the mention of his name?

The answer is simple.

It is because this is the man who has served Zambia, first as Minister of Legal Affairs. when the late president Levy Mwanawasa appointed him at the age 45 in 2002.

Within the same year he was conferred with the highest honour of the land as state counsel by virtue of his appointment as Legal Affairs minister.

Previously, he held the position of Law Association of Zambia president from 1996 to 2000.

Mr Kunda refers to this period as the best moment of his lifetime as he was elected for two terms consecutively scooping the chairmanship with a landslide victory in a highly competitive race.

“As LAZ president, I was committed to it such that I thought that it was the highest achievement that I had scored in life. I was the longest-serving president, having been unanimously elected consecutively,” he said.

Mr Kunda has also experienced the dark side of his politicial career and he cites the serious accusations levelled against him and the Mwanawasa Government as the most trying time but he could not stand up to defend himself in the midst of all that even when he knew deep down that he was innocent.

“I was bound by the leadership ethics as well as the oath of secrecy not to divulge information that may jeopardise State security. As a lawyer representing the State as my client, my hands were tied I had to protect its interests and that is what we were taught at the law school,” he said.

It is not his first time to handle dual responsibilities in the Government.

He previously held the position minister of Justice as well as that of Attorney-General, an action that triggered a lot of controversy in certain circles.

Mr Kunda recalls that period as the most challenging time of his political career because the Government had to tackle the issue of the Constitutional Review Commission, the presidential petition, the removal of the immunity for former president Frederick Chiluba and the impeachment bid on Dr Mwanawasa.

“I contributed greatly to ensure that there was good governance, peace and order and I rendered the necessary legal advice,” he said.

Nevertheless, he served in the same portfolio diligently while serving in the National Assembly as a nominated member of Parliament until 2006.

That year, Dr Mwanawasa decided that the two portfolios be separated, and that saw him appoint Mr Mumba Mulila as Attorney-General while Mr Kunda retained his position as minister of Justice.

Mr Kunda then stood for parliamentary elections in Muchinga constituency in Serenje and won with a landslide victory.

Again, he was appointed to serve as minister of Justice, this time with added responsibility.

” I wanted to go back to identify myself with my roots where I come from. People were challenging me to stand because as a nominated member of Parliament (MP), I was not representing anybody.

“My interest in politics was growing. So I wanted to have a constituency that I could represent although some people doubted if I would make it. But I won those elections with a landslide victory,” he said.

Contrary to complaints that some MPs did not visit their constituencies regularly in order to acquaint themselves with the problems of the local people as well as monitor on-going developmental projects, Mr Kunda said he devotes time from his busy schedule to visit the constituency.

Sometimes, using his personal resources to be with his people, alleviating poverty levels as he considers Muchinga his second home.

His parents are resident there where he has built them a house.

Mr Kunda says his constituency is vast, making it difficult for him to touch all corners within a short time whenever he is touring because of other pressing national duties.

“I have done so much in my constituency. Schools have been constructed and several other projects. The MPs try their best to visit their constituencies. It’s only that national duties demand that they strike a compromise so that they also attend to other needs for them to maintain a balance,” Mr Kunda says.

Mr Kunda feels that he will accomplish his mission, having reached the peak of his political career as vice-president.

He will discharge his duties diligently without leaving a vacuum in the ministry of Justice as the role of dealing with policy issues will be adequately covered by new Deputy Minister, Todd Chilembo while he will be there to offer guidance.

With Mr Malila and Solicitor-General Dominic Sichinga, alongside Permanent Secretary Getrude Inambwae in place, this makes the ministry of Justice fully established.

He says, unlike in the past when the ministry of Justice lacked a deputy minister, now it has one .

Mr Kunda does not doubt that Mr Chilembo, a senior lawyer, will be able to handle the bulk of the policy work.

In his own words, President Banda said he was appointing Mr Kunda as one of the longest and most experienced Cabinet ministers in the MMD government and was confident that he would deliver to the best of his ability in his new appointment.

Humbly accepting the appointment, Mr Kunda assured the nation that he was ready to discharge his functions to the fullest.

A former soccer player during school days, having played as a member of Buseko Club in Luanshya with former Zambia coach Patrick Phiri, Ghost Mulenga, System Chilongo and Bernard Chanda, he is no longer active in sports.

But Mr Kunda enjoys listening to gospel music, Zambian music from John Chiti, his son-in law, Wile and rhumba.

Being Catholic, he sometimes goes to church on Sundays.

He plans to revert to his private law firm and offer consultancy services after retiring from active politics, of course with a rich curriculum vitae.



Choose Your Language Of Preference Below 

French Version German Version Russian Version Spanish Version 

Portuguese Version Chinese Version Arabic Version   

By BETH FOUHY, Associated Press Writers

CHICAGO – Eager to calm economic anxieties, President-elect Barack Obama is rolling out an economic vision that will require congressional cooperation even before he settles into his new desk in the White House’s Oval Office.

Obama will introduce his new economic leadership team Monday, a key step toward enacting a huge new economic recovery plan that aims to save or create 2.5 million jobs over the next two years.

The plan is likely to far exceed the $175 billion Obama proposed during the campaign. It would include an infusion of money for infrastructure projects, new environmental technologies and tax cuts for low- and middle-income taxpayers. It will not call for tax hikes for the wealthy.

Obama aides on Sunday called on the new Congress to pass by the Jan. 20 inauguration legislation that meets Obama’s two-year goal of saving or creating 2.5 million jobs. Democratic congressional leaders said they would get to work when Congress convenes Jan. 6 with bigger Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

With the wounded economy worsening, the Obama team’s new assertiveness was a recognition he needed to soothe financial markets with signs of leadership. It also foreshadowed a more hands-on role by Obama to influence congressional action during the final weeks of the transition.

Heading his economic team will be Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary and Lawrence Summers as head of the National Economic Council. Obama also has settled on New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as his commerce secretary.

“We don’t have time to waste here, ” Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said. “We want to hit the ground running on January 20.”

Echoing that, the second-ranking House Democrat, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, said, “We expect to have during the first couple of weeks of January a package for the president’s consideration when he takes office.”

While Obama and his team are focused on the work of the new Congress, they also weighed in work pending before the current one.

Axelrod warned automakers seeking billions in government help to stave off collapse to devise a plan to retool and restructure that they can present to Congress next month. Otherwise, he said, “there is very little taxpayers can do to help them.”

The emphasis on the economy began Saturday when Obama outlined the framework to save or create 2.5 million jobs by the end of 2010. The scope of the recovery package is far more ambitious than Obama had spelled out during his presidential campaign, when he proposed $175 billion of spending and tax-cutting stimulus. The new plan will be significantly larger and incorporate his campaign ideas for new jobs in environmentally friendly technologies — the “green economy.” It also would include his proposals for tax relief for middle- and lower-income workers.

But there were no plans to balance the tax cuts with an immediate tax increase on the wealthy. During the campaign, Obama said he would pay for increased tax relief by raising taxes on people making more than $250,000.

“There won’t be any tax increases in the January package,” said one Obama aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details of the Obama package have not been fleshed out.

Obama could delay any tax increase to 2011, when current Bush administration tax cuts expire.

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio urged Obama to make that explicit. “Why wouldn’t we have the president-elect say, `I am not going to raise taxes on any American in my first two years in office?'”

Some economists have endorsed spending up to $600 billion to revive the economy. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and former labor Secretary Robert Reich, a member of Obama’s economic advisory board, both suggested $500 billion to $700 billion.

“I don’t know what the number is going to be, but it’s going to be a big number,” Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee said. “It has to be. The point is to, kind of, get people back on track and startle the thing into submission.”

Axelrod and Schumer appeared on ABC’s “This Week”; Hoyer and Boehner appeared on “Fox News Sunday“; Goolsbee appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation”; and Reich appeared on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

Associated Press writer Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this story from Washington.

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Choose Your Language Of Preference Below 

French Version German Version Russian Version Spanish Version 

Portuguese Version Chinese Version Arabic Version   

By Jeannine Aversa, AP Economics Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Rushing to rescue Citigroup, the US government agreed to shoulder hundreds of billions of dollars in possible losses at the stricken bank and to plow a fresh $20 billion into the company.

Regulators hope the dramatic action will bolster badly shaken confidence in the once-mighty banking giant as well as the nation’s financial system, a goal that so far has been elusive despite a flurry of government interventions to battle the worst global crisis since the 1930s.

Wall Street investors appeared encouraged by the effort. The Dow Jones industrials were up around 90 points in morning trading, and stock markets in Britain and Germany gained more than 4 percent in afternoon trading. Citigroup shares themselves climbed 49 percent to $5.62 in morning trading.

“If they didn’t help, the damage would be beyond imagination,” said Teck-Kin Suan, economist at United Overseas Bank in Singapore.

The action, announced late Sunday by the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., is aimed at shoring up a huge financial institution whose collapse would wreak havoc on the already fragile financial system and the U.S. economy.

“With these transactions, the U.S. government is taking the actions necessary to strengthen the financial system and protect U.S. taxpayers and the U.S. economy,” the three agencies said in a joint statement. “We will continue to use all of our resources to preserve the strength of our banking institutions, and promote the process of repair and recovery and to manage risks.”

President Bush was meeting Monday with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to discuss the country’s economic state.

Analysts said a Citigroup failure would have seized up still fragile lending markets and caused untold losses among institutions holding debt and financial products backed by the company.

“It would create chaos,” said Winson Fong, managing director at SG Asset Management in Hong Kong, which oversees about $3 billion in equities in Asia. “Simply put, you couldn’t borrow or lend for a while. This is a nightmare scenario.”

The bold move is the latest in a string of high-profile government bailout efforts. The Fed in March provided financial backing to JPMorgan Chase’s buyout of ailing Bear Stearns. Six months later, the government was forced to take over mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and throw a financial lifeline — which was recently rejiggered — to insurer American International Group.

Critics worry the actions could put billions of taxpayers’ dollars in jeopardy and encourage financial companies to take excessive risk on the belief that the government will bail them out of their messes.

The Citigroup rescue came after a weekend of marathon discussions led by Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. Timothy Geithner, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, who is being tapped by President-elect Barack Obama as his Treasury chief also participated.

Vikram S. Pandit, Citi’s chief executive officer, welcomed the action. “We appreciate the tremendous effort by the government to assure market stability,” he said in a statement issued early Monday.

The $20 billion cash injection by the Treasury Department will come from the $700 billion financial bailout package. The capital infusion follows an earlier one — of $25 billion — in Citigroup in which the government also received an ownership stake.

As part of the plan, Treasury and the FDIC will guarantee against the “possibility of unusually large losses” on up to $306 billion of risky loans and securities backed by commercial and residential mortgages.

Under the loss-sharing arrangement, Citigroup Inc. will assume the first $29 billion in losses on the risky pool of assets. Beyond that amount, the government would absorb 90 percent of the remaining losses, and Citigroup 10 percent. Money from the $700 billion bailout and funds from the FDIC would cover the government’s portion of potential losses. The Federal Reserve would finance the remaining assets with a loan to Citigroup.

In exchange for the guarantees, the government will get $7 billion in preferred shares of Citigroup. In addition, Citi said it will issue warrants to the U.S. Treasury and the FDIC for approximately 254 million shares of the company’s common stock at a strike price of $10.61.

As a condition of the rescue, Citigroup is barred from paying quarterly dividends to shareholders of more than 1 cent a share for three years unless the company obtains consent from the three federal agencies. The bank is currently paying a dividend of 16 cents, halved from a 32-cent payout in the previous quarter. The agreement also places restrictions on executive compensation, including bonuses.

Importantly, the agreement calls on Citigroup to take steps to help distressed homeowners.

Specifically, Citigroup will modify mortgages to help people avoid foreclosure along the lines of an FDIC plan that was put into effect at IndyMac Bank, a major failed savings and loan based in Pasadena, Calif.

Under the IndyMac plan, struggling home borrowers pay interest rates of about three percent for five years. Rates are reduced so that borrowers aren’t paying more than 38 percent of their pretax income on housing.

The IndyMac plan also was used as a model for a new program by mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and for two other failed thrifts taken over by the government on Friday. FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair has been pressing Treasury to use $24 billion from the $700 billion bailout program to put the mortgage modification program on national footing, but Paulson is opposed to that idea.

Citigroup has seen its shares lose 60 percent of their value in the past week, reflecting a crisis of confidence among skittish investors. They are worried all the risky debt on Citigroup’s balance sheet will turn into losses as the economy worsens and the markets stay turbulent — losses that could be nearly impossible to reverse.

Citigroup is such a large, interconnected player in the financial system that it is seen by Washington policymakers as too big to fail. The company, with some 200 million customers, has operations stretching around the globe in more than 100 countries.

Analysts consider Citigroup the most vulnerable among the major U.S. banks — especially after it failed to nab Wachovia Corp., which was bought instead by Wells Fargo & Co. That was a missed opportunity for Citi to gets its hands on much-needed U.S. deposits that would bolster its cash position.

Citigroup was especially hard hit by the meltdown in risky, subprime mortgages made to people with tarnished credit or low incomes. Foreclosures on those mortgages spiked, leaving Citi and other financial companies wracking up huge losses on the soured investments. The company has failed to turn a profit during the past four quarters and has announced plans to slash thousands of jobs.

AP Business writers Marcy Gordon in Washington and Madlen Read in New York contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Choose Your Language Of Preference Below 

French Version German Version Russian Version Spanish Version 

Portuguese Version Chinese Version Arabic Version   
Sam Banda Junior
Zambia will from next year grant land to foreign investors for them to grow maize in an effort to improve agriculture. Finance Minister Musokotwane said awarding land to foreign investors would help improve agricultural production and curb food shortages. The country experienced maize shortfall this year.
The minister’s announcement also came in after farmers in the country said Zambia will have to import more maize because of the shortage of the commodity.

zambia mapMusokotwane who faces a big challenge to improve the country’s economy after taking over from Ng’andi Magande said they will open up to foreign investors.

He said the government would grant the foreign investors land in form of blocs for them to grow white maize for export to countries in Southern Africa.

The far blocs are expected to be split up for foreign and local farmers to grow cash crops, but the roll-out of the project has been hindered by delays in putting up infrastructure on the sites.

Maize is one of the staple foods in Southern African countries and is mainly grown in countries like Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

“We will open up more land to investors in the coming year and more details will be issued at a later stage. There is plenty of room for everybody, we think we should do something in agriculture,” said the finance minister.

Musokotwane speaking to farmers on a familiarisation tour, said agriculture provided the best alternative to diversifying the economy.

Zambia has relied heavily on copper as one of the best producers however this has failed to generate more economy for the country.

According to a Reuters report, Zambia’s 2007/08 maize output was reduced to 1.2 million tonnes from 1.3 million the previous season due to floods in some areas.

Copyright Africa Interactive 2008

Choose Your Language Of Preference Below 

French Version German Version Russian Version Spanish Version 

Portuguese Version Chinese Version Arabic Version   

NEW YORK (AP) — For years, Hillary Rodham Clinton set aside her own considerable ambition to promote her husband’s political career.

Now, as President-elect Barack Obama’s choice to be secretary of state, the former first lady faces the prospect of subsuming her political identity yet again — this time on behalf of the man who dashed her hopes of returning to the White House in her own right.

Friends said the potential loss of her independence, hard won by her election to the Senate from New York in 2000, caused Clinton to waver last week as she considered Obama’s offer. But advisers said the discussions got back on track after he promised she would have considerable input on staffing decisions and plenty of access to him.

Aides said that while the deal is not yet final, the president-elect is on track to nominate Clinton as the nation’s top diplomat after Thanksgiving.

Obama’s decision to choose Clinton has stunned many observers riveted by the two Democrats’ epic primary battle, leading some to question how this high-profile partnership might work.

Among the issues: Why would Obama choose someone he repeatedly criticized for voting for the U.S. invasion of Iraq to be the face of his administration’s foreign policy? Why would he abrogate his famous “no drama” policy and embrace Clintonian theatrics?

And why would Clinton subordinate her strong personality and views to be a global ambassador for Obama? Throughout the campaign, she insisted he didn’t have the experience to be president and dismissed his willingness to meet with rogue leaders as “irresponsible and frankly naive.”

Obama’s advisers said the matter is simple: The strengths Clinton would bring to the job would outweigh the drawbacks.

“Hillary Clinton is a demonstrably able, tough, brilliant person who can help … advance the interests of this administration and this country,” Obama strategist David Axelrod said Sunday in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

He added that Obama, as president, would set U.S. policy no matter how many strong personalities he had in his cabinet and on his staff.

Indeed, perhaps as a counterweight to the Clinton pick, Obama is likely to name James L. Jones, a widely respected former Marine Corps commandant and NATO commander, to be his national security adviser. Jones would lend a powerful voice on foreign policy matters right in the White House, while Clinton was at the State Department or overseas.

To be sure, not everyone is happy about the Clinton pick. Many bloggers at the liberal Daily Kos Web site have been venting frustration, decrying her campaign attacks on Obama and her repeated defense of her Iraq war vote.

While Obama and Clinton’s primary battle was often fierce, friends say it was professional, not personal, and that they enjoy a mutual respect. And while they do not share the close bond President George W. Bush has with the current secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, or that Bush’s father shared with his widely respected secretary of state James Baker, they have a similar world view and know how to make strategic use of their shared celebrity.

“The tension and rivalry between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama was very intense and very brief. It doesn’t go back 20 years, which is sometimes true in politics,” said Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for President Bush and a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It’s easier for politicians to get along when they’re part of a winning team. There’s an opportunity there for real reconciliation.”

Obama has had Clinton in mind for secretary of state for some time, his advisers said, believing that her visibility and the respect she commands from many world leaders would lend immediate heft and credibility to U.S. diplomatic efforts.

Bill Clinton, whose network of business dealings and global philanthropic efforts might have complicated his wife’s efforts, has also done his part to make the partnership work. He’s agreed to step away from day-to-day operation of his foundation while his wife serves and to submit speeches and business deals for administration vetting.

Obama and Hillary Clinton’s views on foreign policy are for the most part very similar. Both advocate a timetable to remove U.S. troops from Iraq and for increased U.S. focus on Afghanistan, which has largely fallen back under Taliban control. Both support Israel but favor a robust Middle East peace process. And both have warned of the dangers posed by Iran, vowing to prevent the country from developing a nuclear arms program.

Baker, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said such common ground is essential for the Obama-Clinton partnership to work.

“She will be successful depending upon how seamless she is with her president and how they operate together and how he protects her back. And vice versa, how he formulates foreign policy, she picks up on that formulation, and she implements it,” Baker said.

Friends say that even though Clinton would be relinquishing independence to become secretary of state, the position confers enormous responsibility and importance that being one of 100 senators doesn’t match.

“She’ll represent the president but she’ll also represent the United States. Anybody would be proud to serve in that position,” said Wesley Clark, the former NATO commander who has known Clinton for more than two decades. “It’s a great opportunity for her to be involved in national decision-making at a crucial time in America.”

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Next Page »