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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Suicide bomber hits Iraqi army checkpoint

Attack near a market in ethnically volatile northern city, Mosul, leaves eight people dead and 19 wounded.
Eight people have been killed and 19 others wounded after a suicide bomber blew himself up at an Iraqi army checkpoint next to a market in the northern city of Mosul, police and hospital sources say.
A hospital source confirmed the number of dead and wounded and said Saturday's attack had taken place at a popular market in eastern Mosul, 390km from the capital, Baghdad.
"The suicide bomber exploded himself at the entrance where Iraqi soldiers were manning a checkpoint to frisk people entering the market," the source said.
Lieutenant-Colonel Mahmoud al-Jibouri, Nineveh province's police, said: "Eight killed, 19 wounded. Five soldiers were killed and three civilians, and two soldiers are among the wounded."
Attacks against Iraq's army and police are rising as they prepare to take full responsibility for security in the country in the run-up to a full withdrawal of US troops by December 31, more than eight years after the US-led invasion of Iraq.
In other incidents on Saturday, fighters detonated bombs at the house of a judge, killing him, his wife and two daughters in Taji, 20km north of Baghdad, according to an interior ministry source.
Fighters using silenced weapons shot dead a policeman who was assigned to provide security for the judge, at the officer's home nearby, the source said.
Also in Taji, eight fighters wearing Iraqi army uniforms stormed the house of an industry ministry worker, killing him and his daughter, an interior ministry source said.
The attackers clashed with local residents when they left the house. One fighter was killed and two locals were wounded, the source said.
A US soldier was killed on Friday while conducting operations in southern Iraq, the US military said in a statement.

Joshi submits contentious PAC report to the Speaker's Office

The Public Accounts Committee's voluminous report on 2G spectrum allocation that has become a political hot potato landed on the desk of Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar on Saturday afternoon; soon after this, PAC Chairman M.M. Joshi said he expected her to table it in Parliament.
“It [the report] has been received by the Speaker. I did not meet her, nor did I seek an appointment, but I expect her to table it in Parliament,” Dr. Joshi said an hour after he sent the report to her office. He said that in a covering note he had described the sordid events at the April 28 meeting of the PAC.
Ms. Kumar, who was away in Arunachal Pradesh, just returned to the capital when the 2G report arrived at her office. The complaints by 11 PAC members that the report had factual errors and had been “rejected” by them also awaited her.
Senior Congress MP on the PAC K.S. Rao met her with a written submission on the happenings at the PAC meetings and orally apprised her of what transpired on April 28 and earlier. He is believed to have pointed out that on April 15, when some members said certain matters ought not to be discussed as they were sub judice, the Chairman took a vote and said that point of view had been defeated by a majority of one. In fact, that day no member demanded a vote. But, on April 28, when 11 members asked that a vote be taken, he refused.
On the other hand, Dr. Joshi strongly contested the constitutional validity of the action of some members who “usurped” his chair — after he declared the meeting adjourned — and voted to reject the report. He said the rules provided for the report to be read paragraph by paragraph and adopted after incorporating any suggestion or amendment. There is no provision for “rejection” of the report.
Asked how he allowed a vote on the PAC to determine some other issues, Dr. Joshi said he had tried to get the “sense of the House,” but clearly on the matter of getting the report approved, the “sense of the House” was neither necessary nor was it provided for in the rules.
“We could have straightened out any shortcomings and amendments could have been considered, but they [Congress and DMK members] made the allegation that the report was not the report of the Lok Sabha Secretariat at all, as it had been outsourced.” He said that as Chairman it was his duty to get the allegation examined, which he did. 
source-The Hindu

El Salvador Supreme Court disbands two parties

Two conservative parties that dominated politics in El Salvador from the 1960s to the late 1980s have been disbanded by the Supreme Court.
The court said neither the Christian Democratic Party (CDP) or the National Conciliation Party (NCP) had won the minimum level of votes required in the 2004 presidential election.
Therefore they would cease to exist once the terms of office of their mayors and legislators ended.
A 2005 decree that allowed the parties to carry on despite not having met the 3% threshold was declared unconstitutional by the court.
Leaders of both parties denounced the ruling but cannot appeal against it.
The court's decision does not necessarily mean that the two parties won't be able to take part in Salvador's politics.
But they will be expected to meet the same conditions as other parties before they can register their candidates for local and congressional elections in 2012. One condition is that they must have at least 5,000 members.
The National Conciliation Party was founded in 1961 and was closely associated with the country's military.
It soon became El Salvador's most powerful party and won the presidential elections in 1962, 1967, 1972 and 1977.
These last two polls were marred by allegations of vote rigging and in 1979, a military coup put an end to the party's governments. The NCP now has 10 representatives.
The Christian Democratic Party was founded in 1960. It dominated the centre of the political spectrum and one of its leaders, Jose Napoleon Duarte, was president from 1984 until 1989. It has now two representatives.
In the 1990s both parties declined in influence but continued to exist, often siding with other parties in order to exert influence in government.
El Salvador is currently governed by the leftist former guerrilla group Farabundo Marti Liberation Front. Its main rival is the conservative National Republican Alliance.

In new twist to continuing drama, Saleh refuses to sign Yemen presidency exit deal

Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen offered a new twist to the continuing drama of his agreed-upon resignation from the Yemen presidency by suddenly thwarting a deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council under which he cede power within a month.

“The secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council told us that Saleh refused to sign in his role as president. He said he wanted to sign as head of the ruling party, and this is a violation of the text of the Gulf initiative,” a spokesman for the six-member GCC, Sultan al-Atwani, told Reuters late Saturday.

Al Arabiya TV reported that an official from the Yemeni ruling party, the General People’s Congress, said that the embattled Mr. Saleh was ready to sign the deal but as his party’s head. The GCC document—which President Saleh and opposition groups had agreed on earlier—clearly stipulates the Mr. Saleh was to relinquish Yemen’s presidency.
Moreover, he was to sign the document “as president of the republic,” as stipulated by the document, a GCC official, Mohammed Qahtan, told Agence French Press.

Shortly after Mr. Saleh’s refusal to sign the agreement, GCC Secretary General Abdullatif al-Zayani left Sana’a, where he had expected that President Saleh would formally apply his signature on his agreement with the GCC.

“This is an essential point in the plan which we will not back down on,” Mr. Zayani’s spokesman said before the former left Sana’a.

Mr. Zayani had come to the Yemeni capital in order to formally invite President Saleh and his opponents to sign the power transfer deal, state media said ahead of Monday’s scheduled signing ceremony in Riyadh.

His visit to Sana’a on Saturday came a day ahead of a meeting of foreign ministers of the GCC to finalize their plan for Yemen.

The GCC deal proposes the formation of a government of national unity, with Mr. Saleh transferring power to his vice president, General Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and an end to the deadly protests rocking the impoverished country since late January.

Under the accord, Mr. Saleh would submit his resignation to parliament within 30 days, to be followed two months later by a presidential election.

However, a defiant Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years, has publicly insisted on sticking to the constitution in any transfer of power, even though his ruling party has said it accepts the GCC plan.

Yemen’s mainstream opposition, which includes both Islamists and leftists, has also agreed to the deal, even as street protesters have rejected the agreement and demand President Saleh step down immediately and face prosecution.

Mr. Saleh, long considered a US ally against al Qaeda's Yemen-based wing, had already forced mediators to split the signing ceremonies over two days and has objected to the presence of Qatari officials.

Qatar’s prime minister was first to state publicly the Gulf deal would seek Mr. Saleh’s resignation, and its satellite TV channel Al Jazeera has been accused by Mr. Saleh of inciting revolt in the Arab world, now swept by pro-democracy demonstrations.

Veteran observers of the Gulf did not seem excessively concerned over the latest turn in Yemen’s melodrama.

Some suggested that this was Mr. Saleh’s last gasp at political theater, and that he was perhaps trying to secure more considerations and concessions from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, GCC members that had led the efforts to end protests in Yemen. Demonstrations calling for the veteran leader’s immediate ouster have cost more than 145 lives in the last three months.

The observers suggested that Mr. Saleh, a politically shrewd operator, was well aware that the Saudis and Emirates were worried that if chaos afflicted Yemen, it would embolden al-Qaeda operatives who have already lodged themselves in his country.

Observers also suggested that with Saudi Arabia and the UAE having played such a high-profile role, it was unlikely that they would allow Mr. Saleh—who is the beneficiary of great largesse from those oil-rich countries—to make them lose face at this critical point.

Earlier on Saturday, Mr. Saleh met with more than 400 members of the government, parliament and the (ruling) General People’s Congress party to discuss the GCC initiative, party spokesman Tareq al-Shami told Agence-France Presse.

The GCC deal proposed the formation of a government of national unity, Saleh transferring power to his vice president and an end to the deadly protests rocking the impoverished country since late January.

Under the accord, Mr. Saleh who has been in power for 32 years, would submit his resignation to parliament within 30 days, to be followed two months later by a presidential election.

While the Yemeni leader was due to sign the pact in Sana’a, his party’s vice president will travel to the Saudi capital Riyadh for Sunday’s official signing ceremony by the opposition, which has warned that further bloodshed could derail the deal.

Meanwhile, violence broke out in south Yemen ahead of the expected signing when gunmen killed two police officers and wounded two more in the port city of Aden, state media said. Witnesses said the gunmen had attacked a police station. Gunfire also erupted outside a nearby prison.

Shortly afterward, security forces moved in to break up an anti-government protest in the same neighborhood, killing two protesters and wounding 50 more, said Qassim Jamil, a physician.

Protesters fled the scene, and tanks and armored vehicles were patrolling the streets, the witnesses said. The wounded were being taken to nearby hotels for treatment because they could not reach hospitals, Dr. Jamil said.

Analysts say the government, which has been trying to contain separatists in the south and Shiite rebels in the north, fears secessionists may be trying to take advantage of Yemen’s leadership crisis to renew a push for separation.

Protesters say they will stay on the streets until President Saleh leaves. They also called for him to be put on trial for corruption and the deaths of the estimated 144 protesters killed since rallies began three months ago.

The GCC deal offers Saleh and his entourage, including relatives who run branches of the security forces, immunity from prosecution.

“The people want the trial of the murderer!” some anti-Saleh demonstrators shouted at a protest on Friday that ended in a funeral march for 12 protesters killed on Wednesday, thousands passing their wooden coffins from hand to hand to their graves.

Analysts say a 30-day window for Saleh to resign gives plenty of time for disgruntled forces from the old guard to stir trouble in Yemen, where half the population owns a gun and al-Qaeda has gained a foothold in its mountainous regions.
Many protesters, wary of the opposition due to its presence in government in past years, urged it to back out of the deal.

“They wouldn't lose anything because Saleh isn’t going to stick to the agreement. If he can't find a reason to overturn it he'll spark a war,” Sana’a protester Abdul Salam Mahmoud said.

(Dina Al-Shibeeb of Al Arabiya

Nato strike 'kills Gaddafi's youngest son'

Libyan government spokesman says air strike kills Saif al-Arab Gaddafi and three of the Libyan leader's grandsons
Saif al-Arab Gaddafi, the youngest son of the Libyan leader, and three of his grandchildren have been killed in a NATO air strike, a Libyan government spokesman said.
Gaddafi and his wife were in the Tripoli house of his 29-year-old son, Saif al-Arab Gaddafi, when it was hit by at least one missile fired by a NATO warplane late on Saturday, according to Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim.
"The house of Mr Saif al-Arab Gaddafi was attacked tonight with full power. The leader with his wife was there in the house with other friends and relatives.
"The leader himself is in good health, he wasn't harmed," the spokesman said, adding that Muammar Gaddafi's wife was also unharmed but other people in the house were injured.
"This was a direct operation to assassinate the leader of this country. This is not permitted by international law. It is not permitted by any moral code or principle.
"What we have now is the law of the jungle," Ibrahim told a news conference.
"We think now it is clear to everyone that what is happening in Libya has nothing to do with the protection of civilians."
The 29-year-old Saif al-Arab Gaddafi is the most unknown of the Libyan leader's children, Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught, reporting from Tunisia, said.
"He's one of the low-profile of his children and has been largely invisible since the conflict began", she said.
"He hasn't been visible in any significant form. He hasn't appeared on TV or made any speeches, he hasn't been on any crowd-rallying marches."
Ibrahim said Saif al-Arab was a civilian and a student who had studied in Germany.
Report questioned
Ibrahim had earlier taken journalists to the remnants of a house in Tripoli, which Libyan officials said had been hit by at least three missiles. Given the level of destruction, it is unclear that anyone could have survived.
Benghazi rebels, who control a vast swathe of the east of the country, say they cannot trust Gaddafi.
Al Jazeera's Sue Turton, reporting from Benghazi, said there were "an awful lot" of suggestions in Libya that the news of the deaths could be fabricated.
"One of the main spokesmen for the Transitional National Council, Abdul Hafez Goga, is saying he thinks it could all be fabrication, that it may well be Gaddafi is trying to garner some sympathy," she said.
"Back in 1986, Gaddafi once claimed that Ronald Reagan, then US president, had launched a strike on his compound in Tripoli and killed his daughter. Many journalists since then dug around and found out that the actual child that had died had nothing to do with Gaddafi, that he sort of adopted her posthumously."
Three loud explosions were heard in Tripoli on Saturday evening as jets flew overhead. Volleys of anti-aircraft fire rang out following the first two strikes, which were followed by a third.
There was no immediate NATO reaction, nor was any independent confirmation of the deaths possible.
US White House press secretary Jay Carney said the White House was aware of Libyan media reports Gaddafi's son had been killed and was monitoring the situation, while White House spokesman Shin Inouye declined to comment on the incident, referring questions to NATO.
Rifle fire and car horns rang out in Benghazi as news of the attack spread.
Cars whizzed by the sea front beeping their horns and shouting "God is greatest" as the night sky was lit up by red tracer fire.
Al Jazeera and agencies

Spanish nuclear power station in leak scare

MADRID (AP) — Media say 14 people were working in the containment area of a nuclear power plant in northeast Spain this week when water used to cool a reactor was unexpectedly released.
El Pais newspaper reported Saturday that the workers were in the building, although none are believed to have suffered dangerous contamination.
Operator Anav said in a statement dated Thursday that "the opening of a valve caused the release of 25 cubic meters (883 cubic feet) of water from the primary refrigeration system toward a pool in the containment building" at its Asco 1 plant near Tarragona. It said the industry regulator had been informed.
The reactor was not fully operational at the time. In 2008 radioactive contamination was found on external surfaces of Asco 1.
source -

Afghanistan: Taliban announce spring offensive

The Taliban have announced the start of a spring offensive across Afghanistan.
In a statement, the group said the fighting would start on Sunday, targeting foreign troops as well as Afghan security forces and officials.
It warned civilians to stay away from public gatherings, military bases, government buildings and convoys.
Meanwhile initial findings from a Nato inquiry into a deadly attack at Kabul airport on Wednesday suggest the gunman was not connected to the Taliban.
The man, an Afghan pilot, killed eight US troops and a contractor. He was later found dead.
The Taliban claimed the attack, but the coalition said there was no evidence for this and the gunman appeared to have acted alone.
Saturday's statement by the Taliban said the group would attack "foreign invading forces, members of their spy networks and other spies, high-ranking officials of the Kabul puppet administration".
It said the war would continue "until the foreign invading forces pull out of Afghanistan".
The Taliban have claimed a series of attacks in recent weeks - including the killing of Kandahar police chief Khan Mohammed Mujahid and a suicide bombing at an Afghan base near Jalalabad that killed five foreign and five Afghan troops.
However on Friday, a Pentagon report said the insurgents' momentum had been "broadly arrested" following a US troop surge last year.

Joshi submits 2G report, wants Speaker to table it in Parliament

Unfazed by the "rejection" of the draft report on the 2G spectrum scam by the United Progressive Alliance members, Public Accounts Committee chairman Murli Manmohar Joshi on Saturday submitted it to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and insisted that it be tabled in Parliament.
Hours after he sent the report to the Speaker’s office on the last day of tenure of the current PAC, he dismissed the UPA members’ claim that the report had been rejected.
“I have submitted the report... My expectation is that the Speaker should accept it and place it in Parliament,” he told a press conference.
Terming as “unconstitutional” the claim that 11 MPs of the 21-member committee had “rejected” the report, he said such a possibility does not exist till the report is “read” by members and “discussed” para by para.
“It is wrong to say that 11 members have rejected (the report). It is unconstitutional,” he maintained about the report which was sharply critical of the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister’s Office and the then Finance Minister P. Chidambaram among others.
The veteran BJP leader accused the government trying to subvert the functioning of a PAC and questioned whether a Constitutionally-empowered Parliamentary panel should work on party lines.
Expressing “anguish” over the happenings in the Committee on April 15 and on Thursday, he claimed that witnesses were told by the ruling side members not to answer questions.
“This is the most unfortunate way in which members were functioning in the committee... If the Committee itself obstructs someone (witness) from answering, then what is the meaning of questions and answers,” the PAC chief said.
He alleged that on Thursday, during the last meeting of the Committee, Ministers were passing on “chits” and “calling up” PAC members to speak and behave in a particular manner.
Replying to a question, Mr. Joshi said he would wait for a decision from the Lok Sabha Speaker on whether the report had been “adopted“.
“Her view will be final,” he said.
Tracing the "problems" in the functioning of the committee, Mr. Joshi said trouble started when a decision was taken to call top officials of the PMO, Cabinet Secretary, Attorney General and CBI Director for questioning this month.
“It was all fine till April 4 meeting. The chairman was fine, knowledgeable, impartial and reliable. There was an argument that there was no need for JPC when PAC was working. Even the Prime Minister was ready to appear before the PAC,” he said, in an apparent reference to the arguments put forward by the ruling side when a JPC was being demanded.
“But suddenly everything turned topsy turvy. The Congress members became restive and the atmosphere was vitiated,” the BJP leader charged.
He regretted the reported comment of a minister that the PAC draft report will be thrown in the dustbin.
“Today, PAC’s report will be thrown into the dustbin, tomorrow Parliament’s proposals will be thrown into the dustbin and then Supreme Court orders will be thrown into the dustbin. How far will this go?.. You can comment on the reports, there is scope for improving it,” he said.
He suggested that the ruling party created trouble as it did not want the Prime Minister’s name to be mentioned.
“Some members did not want the work of the PAC to continue... It is a matter of great concern if the probe into a scam like this is scuttled in this manner,” he said.
To a question, he said, “I have not given clean chit to anybody...The Prime Minister remained a mute spectator (on 2G scam).”
Mr. Joshi, who has headed the PAC on an earlier occasion too, underlined the point that the Parliamentary Committees generally function beyond party lines.
“The PAC reports are adopted unanimously and there is no provision for dissent,” he said, adding, however, that “There is scope for recording differences“.
Defending his action of calling witnesses from diverse fields in connection with the 2G scam probe, Mr. Joshi said it was the duty of the PAC to “trace and examine the way the money of common man is spent“.
Asked why former Telecom Minister A. Raja, the main accused in the scam, was not called by the PAC, he said there was no time to call him as he is in jail and procedures would have taken long while the term of the present committee was coming to an end today.
“If the successive (PAC) committees want to call him, there is no bar. If the JPC wants to call him, there is no bar,” he said. 
curtsy-The Hindu

Pesticide lobby defeated: VS

Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan said here on Friday that people's movements in Kerala and other States had forced the Centre to change its stand at the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
Reports and photographs taken to the Convention from Kerala and media reports had also helped. “It was not just a campaign against the Centre but also one to create awareness of the dangers of the pesticide,” the Chief Minister said expressing happiness over the development. “The resistance has succeeded and the strategies of the pesticide lobby had been defeated by the will of the people.”
Mr. Achuthanandan alleged that the pesticide lobby had influenced some Union Ministers. It was the pesticide lobby which controlled officials also. However, this time it did not work because of popular pressure.
He added that the Central government had been playing with the lives of people. It was not willing to assist in providing compensation to the victims as recommended by the National Human Rights Commission.
Health Minister P.K. Sreemathy demanded that Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy clarify how Endosulfan manufacturers were given an opportunity to do lobbying in Geneva. The pesticide lobby was working as if it was part of the Indian delegation to the Stockholm Convention. The conspiracy between the lobby and officials had already come out and even Congress leader V.M. Sudheeran had deplored it.
She said that independent observers from Kerala to the convention had helped in presenting in Geneva the details of the tragedy in Kerala and the measures taken by the State government. They had even faced threats while in Geneva from lobbyists. Questions whether a Kerala government official, Mohammed Asheel, could be independent observer at the Convention was irrelevant. He had succeeded in portraying the realities.
She maintained that the Opposition leader was reacting to the humanitarian issue without giving it due importance. This was to favour the pesticide lobby.
curtsy-The Hindu

Iraqi lawmakers approve $400 million payment to Americans

Abbas al—Bayati from the State of Law coalition and Hakim al—Zamili from the Sadrist coalition say lawmakers approved the controversial settlement on Saturday.
Two Iraqi lawmakers say parliament has approved a $400 million settlement to Americans who claim they were abused by Saddam Hussein.
Abbas al—Bayati from the State of Law coalition and Hakim al—Zamili from the Sadrist coalition say lawmakers approved the controversial settlement on Saturday.
Prime Minister Nouri al—Maliki’s Cabinet approved the compensation plan in September after Baghdad and Washington reached an agreement to end years of legal battles by U.S. citizens who claim to have been tortured or traumatized during Saddam’s 1990 invasion of neighbouring Kuwait.
But many Iraqis consider themselves victims of both Saddam’s regime and the 2003 U.S.—led invasion and wonder why they should pay money for wrongs committed by the ousted dictator.
source-The Hindu and PTI

Iranian armed forces chief: The Gulf is ‘Persian’ and ‘has belonged to Iran forever’

A top Iranian military officer on Saturday denounced what he called an “Arab dictatorial front” and claimed that the “Persian Gulf has belonged to Iran forever,” media reports said.

“The Arab dictatorial regimes in the Persian Gulf are unable to contain the popular uprisings,” Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, was widely quoted as saying by Iranian media on Saturday.

“Instead of trying and failing to open an unworkable front against Iran, these dictators should relinquish power, end their savage crimes and let the people determine their own future,” General Firouzabadi said.

He also denounced “plots” by the Gulf Arab monarchies to “carve out an identity for themselves by rejecting the identity of others,” referring to Iran.

“The Persian Gulf has always, is and shall always belong to Iran,” he said.

General Firouzabadi, speaking on the annual “National Day of the Persian Gulf,” also condemned the regional Arab monarchies for refusing to call the waterway between Iran and its Arab neighbors by its “historical name.”

“With the arrival of the British and later the Americans in the region, plots were hatched to try and change the name with fake identities... to distort the history and identity of the Persian Gulf,” General Firouzabadi said.

According to the Iranian military leader, world powers have, by hiding their “evil intentions,” managed to deceive Gulf States and encouraged them to purchase modern, expensive military equipment such as US-made warships.

“It is evident that such attempts are aimed at sowing discord and creating tension in regional Muslim states and perhaps to promote the Iranophobia scenario so as to make huge economic profits,” General Firouzabadi said, according to Iran’s English-language Press TV.

Relations between Iran and its Gulf Arab neighbors have deteriorated sharply, with the latter accusing Tehran of seeking to destabilize Arab regimes by promoting popular unrest that has erupted in many Arab countries.

Bahrain’s monarch declared martial law in March 2011, and invited about 1,500 Saudi-led troops from the Gulf to help contain an uprising that Sunni leaders around the Middle East believe could open the way for greater influence by Iran in Bahrain, where Shiites hold a demographic majority.

Shiite-dominant Iran has strongly criticized Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Bahrain aimed to help crack down on the Shiite-led revolt.

Iran says it gives “moral support” to Bahrainis but is not involved in the protests there.

Bahrain and Kuwait have in turn expelled Iranian diplomats, accusing them of espionage.

On Monday, the state-owned Bahrain News Agency reported that Hujatullah Rahmani, the second secretary at the Iranian Embassy in Manama, was declared a persona non grata and ordered out of Bahrain within 72 hours.

Iran has in the past claimed Bahrain as part of its territory, and it controls three islands in the southern Gulf that are also claimed by the United Arab Emirates.

Last week, Bahrain’s foreign minister said the Saudi-led force would stay indefinitely to counter perceived threats from Iran.

(Sara Ghasemilee of Al Arabiya

Libyan opposition rejects Gaddafi truce offer

NATO also reacts with scepticism to latest offer of conditional ceasefire and negotiations from Libyan leader.
Libya's opposition has rejected leader Muammar Gaddafi's latest offer of a conditional ceasefire and negotiations upon an end to NATO attacks.
The opposition joined NATO on Saturday in dismissing Gaddafi's offer, saying the time for compromise had passed.
"Gaddafi’s regime has lost all credibility," Abdul Hafidh Ghoga, vice president of the opposition Transitional National Council, said in a statement.
"The people of Libya cannot possibly envisage or accept a future Libya in which Gaddafi’s regime plays any role."
NATO reiterated the sentiment, saying the alliance wanted to see "not words, but actions" to stop attacks on civilians in Libya.
"(UN Security Council Resolution) 1973 explicitly calls for an end to attacks on and abuses of civilians. The regime has announced ceasefires several times before and continued attacking cities and civilians," a NATO official told the AFP news agency.
The rejection came hours after Gaddafi announced in an address on state television that he would not leave Libya. But he added that he was ready for a truce once "all sides" are involved and NATO stops attacking his forces.
"We were the first to welcome a ceasefire and we were the first to accept a ceasefire ... but the crusader NATO attack has not stopped," he said. "We did not attack them or cross the sea ... why are they attacking us? Let us negotiate with you, the countries that attack us. Let us negotiate."
Conciliatory note
In a marked contrast to previous speeches, where he called the opposition "rats" and promised to track them down house by house, Gaddafi urged opposition fighters to lay down their weapons and said Libyans should not be fighting each other.
He blamed the uprising on mercenaries and foreigners.
"We cannot fight each other," he said. "We are one family."
Gaddafi denied mass attacks on civilians and challenged NATO to find him the names of 1,000 people who had been killed in the conflict.
After the pre-dawn broadcast on Saturday, state television said NATO warplanes had bombed a site in the Libyan capital, Tripoli next to the television building during Gaddafi's address.
"A building adjacent to the Jamahiriya building was bombed during the broadcast of Muammar Gaddafi's speech and that implies a target on the leader of the revolution himself," the report said.
Pro-Gaddafi forces are still struggling for control in key locations of the country as the conflict drags on.
The Libyan government announced claim over the strategic port city of Misurata on Friday, but Al Jazeera correspondent Sue Turton said the situation on the ground differs.
A government spokesman threatened a blockade on Misurata port banning any ships that enter, but NATO said no such forced closure is happening, Turton said.
Gaddafi forces did shut the port on Friday but it is back open, and NATO is making extra effort to ensure humanitarian ships are not sabotaged before reaching the port, she said.
Government forces have been trying to capture Misurata's port for more than seven weeks, as it is a key passage point for humanitarian aid to reach the city's half a million people.
Al Jazeera and agencies

Friday, April 29, 2011

Kelvingrove Park: trouble at unofficial street party

Thousands turned up for the unofficial street party in Kelvingrove Park
Police in Glasgow moved in to clear Kelvingrove Park after a "street party" to coincide with the royal wedding resulted in "completely unacceptable levels" of drunkenness.
More than 4,000 people, mostly in their teens and 20s, gathered for the unofficial event, which was organised on social networking sites.
Strathclyde Police said 21 people had been arrested.
Police have moved in to the park to break up the party Police moved in to the park to break up the party
They said officers came under attack and one was taken to hospital.
The party at the popular park, in the west of the city, was organised on Facebook by two teenagers after Prime Minister David Cameron warned authorities "not to interfere" with street party plans on the royal wedding day.
Glasgow City Council had urged people not to attend what it described as an "unsafe and unofficial" party.
However, organisers of the event set up a sound system with DJs and thousands danced and drank in the sunshine.
The Facebook page said the Kelvingrove Street Party would run from 1100 BST until 2100 BST but police moved in to break it up at about 1700 BST.
Officers on horseback were brought in after police were pelted with bottles.
A police statement said the event was initially good-natured but "as the day progressed a significant number of people became more intoxicated resulting in disorder".
Ch supt Bernard Higgins said: "It's really disappointing that on the day of the royal wedding we witnessed the scenes we did.
police vans with windows smashed Police vans have had their windows smashed
"At one point my officers came under attack and one was taken to hospital suffering from a head injury.
"He has been discharged and will make a full recovery."
Ch supt Higgins said his officers would be studying CCTV footage.
He added: "The level of drunkenness was completely unacceptable and frankly irresponsible."
At least three police vans have had their windows smashed.
About 2,000 people remained in the park for a number of hours despite the police advice to leave.
Eyewitnesses described "chaotic" scenes and sporadic fighting.
Facebook page creators JJ Gardner & Robbie Seath wrote before the event: "Remember: its a public park and we'll be doing our best to help everyone enjoy themselves in a safe environment, so take it easy, help us keep the rubbish under control and remember that there will be other folk in the park who aren't quite as Royalist/Party mad as ourselves.
"We've got no right to spoil their day, it is a public place after all. The council and police are aware of the situation."

Libya: Misrata shipments 'to be blocked'

Libya says it will not allow any more sea deliveries to the besieged city of Misrata, and that aid agencies should preferably use land routes instead.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim also said rebels in the city would be given four days to lay down their arms in return for an amnesty.
If they continued to fight they would face "total fire" he said.
His comments came after Nato said forces loyal to Col Muammar Gaddafi had been trying to lay mines off Misrata.
Mr Ibrahim said he knew nothing of any mine-laying.
Misrata, the only significant rebel holding in the west of the country, has been under siege from pro-Gaddafi forces for several weeks.
They have recently retreated from the city centre, but rebels say pro-Gaddafi forces have continued to bombard civilian areas from a distance.
Rebels said several government tanks had tried to re-enter the city on Friday.
The BBC's Ian Pannell reports from the Libyan capital, Tripoli, that despite claims that loyalist forces are now in control of almost all of Misrata, it seems that the government is on the back foot, under pressure from Nato and desperate to reverse recent losses.
'Spirited fight' Mr Ibrahim said the government had proved that rebels had received shipments of weapons to Misrata from the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
"We will not allow weapons and supplies to come through the sea port to the rebels," he said.
Libyan state TV announced: "Any attempt to enter the port will be attacked, regardless of the justifications."

Brigadier Rob Weighill: Warships stationed in the Mediterranean stopped the mine-laying
Human rights groups say more than 1,000 people have been killed in the fighting in Misrata and many more have been wounded.
The port is a lifeline for rebels and citizens in the city, allowing them to receive supplies of food and medicine, and enabling the evacuation of the wounded and of stranded migrant workers.
Earlier, Nato's director of operations in Libya, Brig Rob Weighill, said the alliance had intercepted pro-Gaddafi forces trying to lay mines about 2-3km out from Misrata's port.
He said the mining showed Col Gaddafi's "complete disregard for international law and his willingness to attack humanitarian delivery efforts".
Crews were disposing of the mines, he added.
Brig Weighill added that rebels in Misrata had made advances in recent days.
"The rebels have expanded their perimeter significantly over the past week. To suggest they are winning would be overly optimistic," he said. "They are putting up a very spirited fight."
'Vigorous protests' Nato is enforcing a UN resolution to protect civilians in Libya amid a two-month revolt inspired by other uprisings in the Arab world.
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In the past week fighting has escalated on Libya's western border, spilling over into Tunisia.
The border post of Zintan has changed hands repeatedly, and Libyan military vehicles were seen in the town of Dahiba on the Tunisian side of the border on Friday.
Tunisia has condemned the incursion of forces from Libya and summoned the Tunisian ambassador to express its "most vigorous protests".
Thousands of people have fled across Libya's borders to escape the violence of recent weeks.
Mr Ibrahim, the government spokesman, blamed rebels for unrest at the border crossing, and said Libya would respect Tunisian sovereignty.

Left supporters protest Centre's ‘collusion' in Purulia arms-drop

Purulia: Karat for judicial probe 

Supporters of the Left parties in West Bengal, led by chairman of the Left Front Committee Biman Bose, took to the streets on Friday to protest against the ‘involvement' of the Centre in the arms-drop in Purulia in December 1995, as charged by the main accused in the case, Niels Christian Nielsen alias Kim Davy.
“Even as we protest the attempt to destabilise the Left Front government ahead of the 1996 Parliamentary and Assembly elections, we must bear in mind that a similar conspiracy against the Leftist forces is ongoing,” Mr. Bose told the protesters.
He demanded a judicial inquiry into the arms-drop case immediately.
Appealing to supporters to organise protests and mobilise public opinion against the conspiracy, Mr. Bose said: “Forces within and outside the country have been conspiring to dislodge the Left Front government in West Bengal in an unjust manner for a very long time.”
He alleged that the leadership of the ruling party at the Centre was involved in the conspiracy.
Recalling events in the 1990s, he said the then Home Minister had made a statement in Parliament saying that the headquarters of the terrorist organisation Ananda Marg had moved to Purulia, but had assured that the Centre was keeping a close watch on their activities.
Mr. Bose said that when the then Chief Minister Jyoti Basu had called for the Assembly elections to be held simultaneously with the 1996 Parliamentary polls, the arms-drop was planned to create a situation of anarchy and impose President's Rule in West Bengal and then oust the Left Front government.
He added that three inquiries into the incident were held, including one by the CBI, but none of their findings was made pubic.
Left supporters marched through the streets shouting slogans demanding an inquiry into the case and expediting the arrest of Mr. Nielsen.
‘Attempts to incite trouble'
Even though the first three phases of the ongoing Assembly elections in the State have passed off more or less peacefully, Mr. Bose alleged that attempts were being made to incite trouble, particularly in the Purba Medinipur district, in the fourth phase of polls due on May 3.
He charged that Left supporters in Khejuri in Purba Medinipur were being threatened not to attend an election rally of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
Mr. Bose said the developments there could not be viewed in isolation and were part of the ongoing conspiracy by “domestic and international reactionary forces” to oust the Left Front government. 

The Communist Party of India(Marxist) on Friday demanded a judicial probe into the Purulia arms-drop case to uncover the network responsible for the incident.
“The Purulia arms-drop in December 1995 was one of the most serious instances of assault on the country's sovereignty. The investigations and the court trial proved that the arms were meant for the Ananda Marg, which was planning to use it to foment violence to destabilise the Left Front government,” the CPI(M) Polit Bureau said in a statement in the wake of an interview by Niels Christian Nielsan alias Kim Davy, the absconder in the case.
The party said the judicial inquiry should be held by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court.
Addressing a press conference here, party general secretary Prakash Karat said the revelations by Davy and Peter Bleach, who was sentenced in the case, raised new questions and necessitated a fresh inquiry.
Mr. Karat said both Nielsen and Bleach made some serious charges of connivance by certain authorities in the air-drop plan and the cover up later.
He said the party believed that the then Central government was “grossly negligent” in dealing with British intelligence information about the arms-drop, “but are now revising our view.”
“We are not interested in scoring political points but when information was available why was the Centre not able to act and the main conspirator has still not been extradited …the government has been tardy in getting him extradited…” the CPI(M) leader said.
The Centre sent the arms-drop information to the State government by registered post and it arrived one week after the incident, Mr. Karat said, adding that Davy gave specific details of how he had escaped from the Mumbai airport and reached Nepal.
Mr. Karat said Davy named Pappu Yadav, an MP then, as the one who assisted him and that people of Purulia saw Mr. Yadav there soon after the arms-drop.
He said Mr. Yadav, who is in jail serving a life sentence for the murder of CPI(M) MLA Ajit Sarkar, should be interrogated and the trail by which Kim Davy escaped from the country should be uncovered and the persons responsible brought to book.
The existence of the Left Front government in West Bengal has been anathema to many domestic and international forces, he said, adding that even today, the spectre of violence in the form of Maoists is being used to destabilise the Left Front.
‘Killing fields'
“Even the Union Home Minister recently talked of the ‘killing fields' in West Bengal and blamed the CPI(M) for them. On the other hand, Maoist violence is being aided and supported by the Trinamool Congress, which is part of the Congress-led government at the Centre.” 
curtsy-The Hindu

Massive rally in Yemen urges Saleh to go

Two days ahead of signing of Gulf peace deal, Sanaa sees one of the largest protests yet demanding president's ousting.
Vast crowds have taken to the streets across Yemen to demand the immediate resignation of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president, rather than the phased handover of power envisaged by a Gulf Arab plan expected to be signed on Sunday.
On Siteen Street, the largest road in Sanaa, the capital, 100,000 anti-government protesters flooded a 5km stretch to mark a "Friday of Loyalty to the Martyrs" commemorating the deaths of at least 142 protesters killed in the past three months.
During a Muslim prayer service, an imam read out a list of those killed in the protests.
"Enough blood, enough killing, just leave, leave, leave," the imam said during the sermon. "You have to submit to the people's demands."
Tens of thousands of people also gathered in the city in a pro-Saleh rally to mark a "Friday of Constitutional Legitimacy".
Waving flags and pictures of the president, they shouted: "The people want Ali Abdullah Saleh."
The demonstrations came as the AP news agency reported that Yemeni plainclothes police had opened fire on Friday on protesters calling for Saleh's ousting in a western port city.
Five protesters were wounded in the shooting in Hodeida on the Red Sea, and both sides then hurled stones at each other, witnesses said.

GCC deal

A deal brokered by the Gulf Co-operation Council to end the crisis by easing Saleh out within a month is expected to be signed on Sunday in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.
The deal would give Saleh and his family and aides immunity from prosecution.
It provides for Saleh to appoint a prime minister from the opposition, who would then form a transition government ahead of a presidential election two months after his resignation.
But a sizeable section of protesters are against giving Saleh one month to quit, fearing it may offer time for the potential sabotaging of the deal.
Saleh also appeared to raise a potential problem on Thursday when he told the broadcaster Russia Today that he objected to the presence of Qatari representatives.

"We will have reservations about signing if representatives of Qatar are present among the Gulf foreign ministers," Saleh told Russia Today.
"[Qatar] is involved in a conspiracy, not just against Yemen but against all Arab countries."
He singled out Al Jazeera, which is based in Qatar, as having provoked past protests.
Al-Qaeda concerns
Washington and neighbouring oil producer Saudi Arabia want the standoff resolved to avert a descent into more bloodshed in the Arabian Peninsula state that could offer more room for a Yemen-based al-Qaeda wing to operate.
The balance of power has tipped against Saleh, long a key ally of the West against al-Qaeda, after weeks of violence, military defections and political reversals.
Whoever leads Yemen's transitional government will not only struggle to quash an aggressive al-Qaeda branch, which has tried to hit US and Saudi targets, but also inherit simmering rebellions in the north and south of the country.

Gaddafi forces claim control of Misurata port

Libya threatens to attack any ship approaching the city, while offering rebels to choose between amnesty or bloodshed.
The Libyan government has announced that its forces took control of Misurata's port and warned rebels in the besieged city they faced further bloodshed unless they handed in their weapons within four days.

Mussa Ibrahim, a spokesperson for Muammar Gaddafi, also urged foreign fighters to leave the country or "[we will] finish you off".

"We will fight for Misurata soldier by soldier, young man by young man, young woman by young woman," he said on Friday.
NATO said there is no evidence to support such claims.
 "We are closely monitoring the situation around Misurata and anti-Gaddafi forces continue to expand their perimeter around Misrata," a NATO official told Reuters news agency.
"(NATO) denies this assertion and finds the statements to lack credibility. They don't relate to the actual situation on the ground," the official said.
Earlier on Friday NATO warships said that they had stopped Gaddafi forces from laying anti-ship mines in Misurata's harbour, accusing the regime of trying to disrupt the flow of aid to the city which has been besieged for two months.
"The sea-mines were being laid two to three kilometres offshore and in the approaches to Misurata by deliberately sinking the inflatable boats on which they were being carried," NATO said in a statement.
Three mines were found early on Friday and were being disarmed, the 28-nation alliance said.
Libya's government threatened to attack any ships approaching Misurata.
Libyan state television said government forces had rendered the port 'non-functional'. "Any attempt to enter the port will be attacked, regardless of the justifications."

Responding to diplomatic tensions with neighbouring Tunisia after fighting spilled over the border, Ibrahim blamed the rebels for border violations and pledged respect for Tunisia's sovereignty.

He said Libya that was co-ordinating with the Tunisian government to prevent a disaster on the border.

Earlier on Friday, pro-Gaddafi forces clashed with Libyan rebels, Libyan refugees and Tunisian civilians in the Tunisian border town of Dehiba, prompting Tunis to issue a diplomatic rebuke.

Tunisian troops detained and disarmed pro-Gaddafi fighters and then returned them to the Libyan side of the border, Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught reported from the Tunisian frontier on Friday.

Tunisia summoned Libya's ambassador to protest against the incursions on Friday afternoon, Radhouane Nouicer, the country’s Tunisian deputy foreign minister, told Al Jazeera.

"We summoned the Libyan envoy and gave him a strong protest because we won't tolerate any repetition of such violations. Tunisian soil is a red line and no one is allowed to breach it," he said.
Al Jazeera and agencies

Rs 1.33 crore black money usage of Trinamool brought under EC’s Inquiry

Acting on specific complaint lodged by the CPI(M), the Election Commission has asked the Reserve Bank of India to investigate into the use of huge amount of black money by the Trinamool Congress in poll-bound West Bengal allegedly through illegal bank transactions. Sending instruction to the RBI the Election Commission has directed the RBI to probe into the conduct of two nationalized banks in Kolkata – Allahabad Bank and the United Bank of India - who reportedly issued drafts of Rs 1.33 crore against cash deposit by the Trinamool Congress violating EC’s guidelines on election expenditure.
It is learnt that Trinamool Congress got  issued drafts aggregating to Rs 1.23 crore by the UBIon March 23,2011 in favour of Ms Visual Audio and draft of Rs 10 lakh by Allahabad Bank on April 24,2011 in favour of Rs 10 lakh Power Global Access  India Private Limited by deposit of cash. Ignoring standing rules the two said banks did not even ask for Permanent Accounts Number (PAN) required before issuing the drafts.
The EC has also issued a letter to Trinamool Congress asking it to explain the “circumstances under which the drafts got issued by deposit of cash, in violation of RBI guidelines without routing it through the bank account and the EC’s instructions” on election expenditure. “ It may be mentioned here that the EC in its all party meeting at its headquarters in Delhi has advised all the political parties to avoid transactions in cash during election process,” the EC said in its letter to the TMC leader and the Union Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee. The EC’s action came after an Income Tax inquiry. The EC also issued separate letters to both the banks – Allahabad Banks branch at 2, N.S. Road and UBI at Hemanta Bose Sarani – to explain the circumstances under which such drafts were issued. THE RBI guidelines of 2009 specifically prohit any remittance of funds by way of demand drafts or telegraphic transfer or any other mode for value of Rs 50,000 and above against cash payment.
Taking up the black money issue with the Chief Election Commission the CPI(M) politburo member Sitaram Yechuri said his party had already submitted enough evidences of black money usage by the Trinamool and his party had already furnished such evidences to the EC which should act now.
The CPI(M) leader criticized Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, saying the Congress and Trinamool Congress combine were revealing certain data partially in order to influence electorates, which violates the EC’s code of conduct. “ The selective leakage of the data that the Union Home Minister is indulging in , trying to portray the Left Front as aggressor and our opponents as the victims, wheras it is in their own recoprds , their own figures, it can be seen that since the Lok Sabha elections, nearly 380 Left Front workers have killed by the Trinamool and the Maoists, and this data exists with all the required evidences, but on this Home Minister is quiet,” said Yechuri.   
Meanwhile, West Bengal Housing Minister Gautam Deb, who already submitted documents and papers in support of his charges of the use of huge amount of black money by the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, met the Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quereshi who paid a visit to Kolkata on April 28 to oversee the poll arrangements.

Bahrain protesters sentenced to death

A Bahraini military court on Thursday sentenced four Shia protesters to death and three to life in prison over the killing of two policemen during a crackdown on a pro-democracy rally last month, said a state news agency.
The trial of the seven began on April 17, with BNA news agency reporting at the time that they were accused of committing voluntary homicide of public officials with “terrorist” intentions.
Witnesses addressed the tribunal, and a video allegedly showing the attackers in cars hitting police was played, said the agency.
The verdict could be appealed, BNA said.
Bahraini authorities have said 24 people were killed during the unrest, most of them demonstrators. 
source -AFP

IPS officer Bhatt’s security cover removed PTI

IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt has sought adequate security cover for himself and his family after the Gujarat police decided to withdraw it, directing five constables deployed with him to report back to Junagadh.
“Yesterday, the DGP issued orders asking all the five constables from the SRPTC deployed with us as a makeshift security arrangement for me and my family, to report back to Junagadh,” Mr. Bhatt, who is currently on leave, told PTI.
He said this is the second such order asking for withdrawl of the security for him and his family, despite the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB) recommending for him Y—category security, which comprises 11 personnel including two personal security officers (PSOs).
Earlier this month, ADGP (training) had ordered that the five men and the vehicle deployed with Mr. Bhatt be sent back to Junagadh, where he is posted as principal, State Reserve Police Training Centre (SRPTC).
“In first week of March after the Tehelka story (on my statement), there was an assessment done on the threat to me and my family by the SIB and then later by the Ahmedabad police commissioner. Both have recommended at least Y—category security cover for me and my family,” Mr. Bhatt said.
In his affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, Mr. Bhatt had alleged that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi instructed officers during a late night meeting held on February 27, 2002 to allow Hindus “to vent out their anger” during the clashes and he wanted Muslims to be “taught a lesson“.
The 1988—batch IPS officer said he was capable of taking care of himself, but was concerned about his family’s security in the given circumstances, especially after the filing of the affidavit in the Supreme Court.
Mr. Bhatt said that he has been provided an armed constable by the City police commissioner after the media reports on the affidavit he had filed.
Post his affidavit in the apex court, Mr. Bhatt has also been summoned by the Nanavati Commission, probing the 2002 riot cases, on May 16.
An NGO, Jan Sangharsh Manch (JSM), representing some of the 2002 riot victims, has also filed an application in the Nanavati Commission seeking summoning and cross examination of Mr. Bhatt to get clarity on role and conduct of Chief Minister Narendra Modi during post-Godhra events.
In his affidavit filed on April 14 in the SC, has also alleged the apex court appointed special investigation team (SIT) of coercing witnesses, hostility, cover-up of probe, and showing reluctance in recording important information with regard to the riots.
Mr. Bhatt, who was questioned by SIT on March 21,22,23, said in the affidavit that after facing ‘unconcealed hostility’ by the SIT members he was under the apprehensions that the agency was part of the cover-up operations with regard to the probe in riot cases. 
Source-The Hindu

Stockholm meet favours elimination of endosulfan

Forest Minister Benoy Viswam (third from right) leads a “victory march” on hearing the news of the Stockholm Convention move on endoslufan, in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday Photo: S. Mahinsha 

The conference of parties at the Stockholm Convention on Friday approved the draft proposal for elimination of production and use of endosulfan and its isomers worldwide, subject to certain exemptions. The decision will not be binding on India unless specifically ratified by the country.
However, the Indian delegation to the Convention has concurred with the proposal after its concerns regarding exemptions and financial assistance were addressed.
The Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee to the Convention will work with parties and observers to come up with alternatives to endosulfan. The convention will also provide financial assistance to developing countries to replace endosulfan with alternatives. The actual decision of the Convention is to list endosulfan and its related isomers in Part I Annex A to the Convention with specific exemptions for production as allowed in the Register of Specific Exemptions and/or use on crop-pest complexes as listed.
Exemptions will apply to 22 crops — cotton, jute, coffee, tea, tobacco, cow peas, beans, tomato, okra, eggplant, onion, potato, chillies, apple, mango, gram, arhar dal (pigeon pea), maize, paddy, wheat, groundnuts and mustard.
The conference took the decision after considering the risk profile and risk management evaluation for endosulfan done by a review committee.
 source-The Hindu

A Nato air strike has killed 12 rebels

A Nato air strike has killed 12 rebels in the besieged city of Misrata in the latest friendly fire incident in Libya's chaotic battlefield, a doctor in the city said yesterday. 



 The air strike was on Wednesday, the second day of intense fighting around Misrata's Mediterranean port. There was no immediate comment from Nato.

Spain's jobless rate tops 21% as all major sectors lose jobs

Madrid, Spain (CNN) -- Spain's unemployment rate rose nearly a point to 21.29%, with 4.9 million jobless for the first quarter of 2011, the government reported Friday, as the prolonged economic crisis continues to squeeze the nation.
Some analysts had predicted the number of jobless might surpass 5 million. But while that didn't happen, the latest statistics were another blow to the economy and to the embattled socialist government.
The numbers for the fourth quarter of 2010 -- 20.33% unemployment and almost 4.7 million jobless --- already represented the highest joblessness rate in 13 years.
The latest numbers, for the first quarter of this year, added more somber news. The number of unemployed increased by 213,000, pushing the overall number to 4.9 million.
All major sectors --- industry, construction, services and agriculture --- shed jobs during the quarter. The number of Spanish households in which no adult had a job increased by 58,000, to a new total of 1.38 million, the government said.
Earlier this month, embattled Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced he would not seek a third term. Elections are due by March 2012.
For months, Zapatero's Socialists have trailed in opinion polls behind the main opposition conservative Popular Party.
In announcing his decision on April 2 to Socialist Party leaders, Zapatero said, "We have made mistakes."
He added that "recent months have been very difficult for the work of the government" because even after enacting a budget austerity plan to reduce the public deficit that put Spain under pressure from international financial markets, the destruction of jobs continued.
Local elections in all Spanish cities and for 13 of its 17 regional parliaments will be held May 22. They are widely seen as a bellwether of voter sentiment for the general elections to follow.

Libyan government forces make another push for embattled Misrata

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Libyan government forces seeking to re-enter the embattled port city of Misrata Friday killed at least nine people and wounded 30 others, a doctor who is a member of the medical committee in the city said.
"There is an indiscriminate shelling now in Misrata," he said.
Four tanks from forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi were shelling the city with rockets and mortars from the southwest, he said.
Rebel forces were engaging government forces at the gate in the Algeran district site, which is on the city outskirts, a Libyan dissident said.
Friday's attack came a day after shelling in Misrata killed 10 people, including two women and a 13-year-old girl, a spokesman for the rebels said.
Gadhafi forces had dismantled rocket launchers so they would escape detection by NATO forces, and then reassembled them in the city for use in attacking civilians, the spokesman said.
Bittersweet victory for Misrata rebels
Libyan city looks like a wasteland
Training to defend Gadhafi
"We have reports that Gadhafi troops are loading fish boats with weapons in Tripoli and may be coming to Misrata," he said.
Misrata, the third-largest city in the North African country, has been hemmed in on three sides by Gadhafi's forces. Though rebels said they had gained control of the city's center and had pushed government forces outside the city, they said Gadhafi's forces were continuing to attack Misrata with heavy weaponry.
A senior rebel member, Omar al-Jernazi, told CNN that rebels "took complete control" Friday of the Wazin area on the Tunisian-Libyan border after forcing 15 Gadhafi forces to flee to the Tunisian side.
Eight Gadhafi forces and one rebel soldier were wounded in the incident, he said.
After Gadhafi's forces entered, the Tunisian army allowed them to return with their weapons back into Libya via a separate border crossing, the rebel said.
Sporadic clashes were continuing, he said.
Meanwhile, thousands more Libyans fled to Tunisia, stirring further concerns about a humanitarian crisis there, according to Tunisia's state-run news agency TAP, which cited Tunisian security sources. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees set up more tents in the Remada refugee camp, it noted.
NATO is leading an international military operation in Libya that includes airstrikes targeting Gadhafi's military resources. It is operating under a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing any means necessary -- with the exception of foreign occupation -- to protect civilians.

Buddhadeb demands judicial inquiry in arms drop case

West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Friday demanded a judicial inquiry by the Centre into the “political conspiracy” behind the arms drop from a foreign plane in Purulia 16 years ago.
“A political conspiracy has been exposed in the media behind the arms drop 16 years ago. And in this context and in the interest of internal security and the gravity of the incident therein, I demand a judicial probe,” the chief minister said in a statement here.
Recalling the dropping of a huge cache of arms from a plane “meant for the Anandmargis” in Purulia at midnight on December 17, 1995, the Chief Minister said, “An alert message from the Union home ministry reached the state home department a few days after the incident.
“The Central alert of December 12 was dispatched to Kolkata from Delhi by ordinary mail in a very casual manner. No advance wireless message was sent to the state on an urgent basis considering the gravity of the situation. The mail reached after the arms drop in Purulia.”
Mr. Bhattacharjee, who holds home (police) portfolio, said the state government handed over responsibility of the inquiry to the CBI considering the gravity of the incident.
“All seized sophisticated arms were handed over to the CBI by the state police. All the seized arms since the days of inquiry were in the custody of the CBI,” he added. 
curtsy-PTI and The Hindu

Joshi mulls submitting PAC report to Speaker

A day after a chaotic meeting of the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, its chairman Murli Manohar Joshi along with the members from the National Democratic Alliance, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Biju Janata Dal and the Left parties are exploring the possibility of submitting the draft report on 2G scam to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar before its term expires on Saturday.
Mr. Joshi is understood to have held confabulations with members of like-minded parties in the PAC on Friday morning and discussed the legal angles relating to his powers as its chairperson.
Sources aware of the developments said in New Delhi that Mr. Joshi is busy examining the various rules governing the functioning of the PAC before he takes a final call on submitting the draft report to the Speaker.
A member of the committee pointed out that Mr. Joshi was “free” to submit the report to the Speaker’s office even in her absence. She is on a tour to Arunachal Pradesh.
Mr. Joshi is also going through the objections raised by the United Progressive Alliance members in Thursday’s meeting.
The UPA members, however, feel Mr. Joshi cannot go ahead and submit the report as it was not passed by the PAC. Eleven members of the committee, belonging to the Congress, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party had “rejected” the draft report on Thursday.
These members had also accused Joshi of presenting a “one-sided” report with the “mala fide” intention of destabilising the government. They demanded that he step down as PAC chairperson. A couple of members had accused Joshi of “outsourcing” the report, a charge they later withdrew.
There were charges and counter-charges over leakage of the report among the PAC members from both sides. 
curtsy-The hindu

Deraa 'surrounded' as Syrian protests resume

Witnesses describe bodies rotting in the streets and a city preyed on by snipers as protesters defy military crackdown.
The Syrian government has mobilised army units in Damascus, the capital, and other cities as thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of cities including the restive coastal town of Baniyas, according to witnesses.
Anti-government activists had called for protests following Friday prayers to commemorate the killings of over 100 protesters last Friday. The unrest is the greatest challenge to the country's ruling Baath Party since it seized power in 1963, with protesters demanding an end to the decade-long rule of Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president.

Al Jazeera correspondent Rula Amin, reporting from Damascus, said today's slogan is "solidarity for Deraa" - the southern city that has borne the brunt of a crackdown by Syrian security forces.
The call for mass demonstrations was made in a statement on the Facebook page of Syrian Revolution 2011 which has called for protests for greater freedom inspired by uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world.

"To the youths of the revolution, tomorrow we will be in all the places, in all the streets ... We will gather at the besieged towns, including with our brothers in Deraa," the statement said.
It said demonstrations would also be staged in other flashpoint towns such as Homs in the centre of the country and Baniyas in the northwest.
Meanwhile, an eyewitness in Deraa, speaking to Al Jazeera on Friday from close to the Omari Mosque that has been a focus for the uprising, described a scene of death and devastation.

He confirmed earlier testimony from a separate source of a split in the military forces sent by Assad to lay siege to the city.
The witness said he had collected the names of the dead from different neighbourhoods and counted 25 bodies in his own area.
"Some areas smell really bad due to the bodies rotting in the street. No one can collect them for fear of being shot," he said, the sound of continuous gunfire audible over the phone. Those bodies which have been collected are being stored in refrigerated lorries, he said.
"Deraa is completely surrounded by tanks and armed troops. There are snipers on the roofs of government buildings and tall buildings. They are hiding behind water tanks and some are even hiding in the minarets of mosques."
The source said some members of the Syrian army's fifth division had defected and were attempting to protect civilians against attacks, but had come under fire themselves from soldiers in the fourth division, led by Assad’s brother, Maher al-Assad.
"Those who have defected are fighting on behalf of the people, helping them with information on the army's movements and trying to protect civilians from attacks," he said.
The eyewitness said he had witnessed the defection on Thursday of some 20 soldiers of the fifth division who abandoned their unit and ran towards civilian houses. "I saw two soldiers gunned down and killed," he said.
The witness's comments came as Adnan Mahmud, the information minister, told the AFP news agency that the crackdown on protesters would continue, setting the scene for violent confrontations later Friday.

Our correspondent said: "There has been huge security presence: all entrances to the capital are manned by security forces."
Muslim Brotherhood backs protests
Significantly, Friday's demonstrations have the backing of the outlawed Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, which was crushed by the regime in 1982.
It is the first time that the Brotherhood has called directly for protests in Syria since pro-democracy demonstrations against Assad erupted nearly six weeks ago.
A declaration by the Brotherhood, sent to Reuters news agency by its leadership in exile on Thursday, said: "Do not let the regime besiege your compatriots. Chant with one voice for freedom and dignity. Do not allow the tyrant to enslave you. God is great."
So far, the Brotherhood has been trying to keep a low profile, as the government has been trying to link them to protests, Amin said.
The looming showdown comes as the UN Human Rights Council prepared for a special session on Syria in Geneva, and the European Union was meeting in Brussels to consider a wide range of sanctions against Assad's regime.

The protests have drawn a cross section of Syrian society, which has been under Baath Party rule for the last 48 years.
The younger Assad kept intact the autocratic political system he inherited in 2000 from his father, Hafez al-Assad.
On Monday, Syrian army backed by tanks and armoured vehicle stormed Deraa resulting in further casualties.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack on Deraa had killed at least 50 civilians, with essential supplies in the city running low.
Al Jazeera and agencies

Libyan fighters stray across Tunisian border

Pro-Gaddafi forces chase rebels into border town after overnight battles, prompting intervention by Tunisian forces.
Pro-Gaddafi pursued rebels into the Tunisian border town of Dehiba, with unconfirmed reports that a Tunisian civilian was killed and another injured in the fighting.

Tunisian troops intervened in the conflict for the first time after two hours of intense fire between rebels and pro-Gaddafi forces, Al Jazeera’s Youssef Gaigi, reported from the Tunisian side of the frontier on Friday.
The Tunisian army stepped in to take the pro-Gaddafi forces to the Libyan side of the border, removing them from the town as a crowd of Dehiba residents surrounded them.

One boy was shot in the foot and a woman was killed by pro-Gaddafi forces' shelling and gunfire, according to uncorroborated accounts from witnesses.

The fighting spilled into Tunisia on Friday after an attack the previous day by Gaddafi loyalists on the strategically important Dehiba-Wazin Crossing, which rebels had taken a week earlier.

Since the rebels took the border post on April 21, many Libyan civilians were able to escape into Tunisia, while Libyan rebels were able to use it as a route to refuel and resupply their forces.

Pro-Gaddafi forces retook the crossing after their initial attack on Thursday, but the fighting continued into the night with control of the crossing switching back and forth. The rebels were in control again by Friday afternoon.
The situation is much calmer on the Tunisian side since rebels regained control, Gaigi said.

Tunisian authorities had so-far taken a "very hands-off" approach toward the Libyan clashes, in an effort to remain neutral in the civil conflict in its southern neighbour.

Now, however, "the battle has actually come to them", Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught said from Dehiba.

Tunisian military and police abandoned the Dehiba-Wazin border post on Thursday evening, drawing anger from Dehiba residents who called from them to return and protect the town, she said.

On Friday, Tunisian authorities captured seven vehicles belonging to pro-Gaddafi forces.

Crucial frontier

The crossing, near the western mountains, has been a main route of escape for Libyan nationals fleeing the conflict since the rebels claimed control on April 21. Previously residents of the western mountains area had been forced to take long and difficult roads around the crossing in order to seek shelter or medical help in Tunisia.
Libya's eastern borders shared with Egypt have been more difficult to penetrate, with Cairo's reluctance to accommodate flocking refugees.

Controlling the crossing also gave the rebels better access to aid and supplies to continue their fight against Gaddafi forces in western Libya.

Youssef Bounda, a professor of international affairs at Qatar University, said that the Libyan-Tunisian border was crucial for both the rebels and Gaddafi.

"It is the only exit where they can get support - if not military, at least humanitarian," he explained. "The fact that Gaddafi wants to secure the [Wazin crossing] area, means he is in a very difficult situation."

In other military skirmishes across the country, at least 12 people were killed in Misurata on Friday when pro-Gaddafi forces shelled their homes amid rage against rebels for control of the city's airport, a local doctor told Reuters. The casualties included two women.

Libyan rebels have fought for the airport, after pushing back government forces from the embattled city's sea port as the oil-rich country's tribes urged Gaddafi to relinquish power.
Al Jazeera and agencies