Ex-general Petraeus says he’s ready to be top US diplomat

Retired US General David Petraeus speaks to members of the media while leaving Trump Tower on Nov. 28, 2016 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 04 December 2016

Ex-general Petraeus says he’s ready to be top US diplomat

WASHINGTON: David Petraeus, the army ex-general who resigned in disgrace as head of the CIA, said Sunday that he’s paid for his mistakes and is ready to become Donald Trump’s chief diplomat.
Petraeus has interviewed with the president-elect and is on the short list to become the new president’s secretary of state.
“I have acknowledged for a number for years that five years ago I made a serious mistake, I acknowledged it, I apologized for it, I have paid a heavy price for it, and I have learned from it,” Petraeus said on ABC News.
The 64-year-old scholar-warrior, who masterminded the widely credited surge in Iraq from 2008-2010, has a depth of experience in world affairs unmatched by any of the other candidates known to be under consideration.
But in 2012 he resigned from the CIA after showing classified material to his mistress and biographer Paula Broadwell.
In 2015 he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified materials, and was put on two years’ probation and fined $100,000.
“I made a false statement at that time I did not think it was false,” Petraeus told ABC.
Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, Trump’s running mate Mike Pence confirmed that Petraeus is a finalist for the job, along with former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, ex-UN ambassador John Bolton, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and Republican senator Bob Corker.
Pence, who praised the general as “an American hero,” said that Petraeus “made mistakes and he paid for this mistakes.”
Trump “will factor the totality of general Petraeus’s career in making this decision,” Pence added.
Petraeus’s scandal, however, could pose a problem for getting Senate approval, and would expose Trump to accusations of hypocrisy after he savaged Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail for mishandling classified e-mails as secretary of state.
Petraeus disclosed “information that was far more highly classified than I ever did,” and yet never “spent a single day in jail,” said Edward Snowden, the former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who lives in exile in Russia, in an interview with Yahoo! News.
In 2013 Snowden leaked thousands of classified documents in 2013 revealing the vast US surveillance of private data put in place after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The 33-year-old is wanted in the United States on charges of espionage and theft of state secrets that could land him up to 30 years in jail.


‘Terminator’ Rajapaksa storms to victory in Sri Lanka

Updated 26 min 40 sec ago

‘Terminator’ Rajapaksa storms to victory in Sri Lanka

  • Gotabaya Rajapaksa conducted a nationalist campaign with a promise of security and a vow to crush religious extremism
  • His triumph will, however, alarm Sri Lanka’s Tamil and Muslim minorities as well as activists, journalists

COLOMBO: Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who spearheaded the brutal crushing of the Tamil Tigers 10 years ago, stormed to victory Sunday in Sri Lanka’s presidential elections, seven months after Islamist extremist attacks killed 269 people.
Rajapaksa conducted a nationalist campaign with a promise of security and a vow to crush religious extremism in the Buddhist-majority country following the April 21 suicide bomb attacks blamed on a homegrown militant group.
His triumph will, however, alarm Sri Lanka’s Tamil and Muslim minorities as well as activists, journalists and possibly some in the international community following the 2005-15 presidency of his older brother Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Mahinda, with Gotabaya effectively running the security forces, ended a 37-year civil war with Tamil separatists. His decade in power was also marked by alleged rights abuses, murky extra-judicial killings and closer ties with China.
Gotabaya, a retired lieutenant-colonel, 70, nicknamed the “Terminator” by his own family, romped to victory with 51.9 percent of the vote, results from the two-thirds of votes counted so far showed.
“I didn’t sleep all night,” said student Devni, 22, one of around 30 people who gathered outside Rajapaksa’s Colombo residence. “I am so excited, he is the president we need.”
Rajapaksa’s main rival, the moderate Sajith Premadasa of the ruling party, trailed on 42.3 percent. The 52-year-old conceded the race and congratulated Rajapaksa.
On Sunday three cabinet members resigned — including Finance Minister Mangalar Samaraweera.
The final result was expected later on Sunday with Rajapaksa due to be sworn in on Monday. Turnout was over 80 percent.
Premadasa had strong support in minority Tamil areas but a poor showing in Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese heartland, a core support base where Rajapaksa won some two-thirds of the vote.
Saturday’s poll was the first popularity test of the United National Party (UNP) government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Wickremesinghe’s administration failed to prevent the April attacks despite prior and detailed intelligence warnings from India, according a parliamentary investigation.
Premadasa also offered better security and a pledge to make a former war general, Sarath Fonseka, his national security chief, projecting himself as a victim seeking to crush terrorism.
He is the son of assassinated ex-president Ranasinghe Premadasa who fell victim to a Tamil rebel suicide bomber in May 1993.
But Gotabaya is adored by the Sinhalese majority and the powerful Buddhist clergy for how he and Mahinda ended the war in 2009, when 40,000 Tamil civilians allegedly perished at the hands of the army.
Under his brother, Gotabaya was defense secretary and effectively ran the security forces, allegedly overseeing “death squads” that bumped off rivals, journalists and others. He denies the allegations.
This makes the brothers detested and feared among many Tamils, who make up 15 percent of the population. Some in the Muslim community, who make up 10 percent, are also fearful of Gotabaya, having faced days of mob violence in the wake of the April attacks.
Under Mahinda, Sri Lanka also borrowed heavily from China for infrastructure projects and even allowed two Chinese submarines to dock in Colombo in 2014, alarming Western countries as well as India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on Sunday that India looked forward to “deepening the close and fraternal ties... and for peace, prosperity as well as security in our region.”
The projects ballooned Sri Lanka’s debts and many turned into white elephants — such as an airport in the south devoid of airlines — mired in corruption allegations.
Unlike in 2015 when there were bomb attacks and shootings, this election was relatively peaceful by the standards of Sri Lanka’s fiery politics.
The only major incident was on Saturday when gunmen fired at two vehicles in a convoy of at least 100 buses taking Muslim voters to cast ballots. Two people were injured.
According to the Election Commission the contest was, however, the worst ever for hate speech and misinformation.