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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mugabe faces revolt over polls

President Robert Mugabe faces a rebellion within his bickering Zanu-PF over the politburo's controversial resolution this week to railroad the country into early elections.

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Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe
Photograph by: STR
quote 'There is serious discontent in the party over polls, some think this is political suicide' quoteThe politburo decision on Wednesday has put Mugabe on a collision course with senior Zanu-PF officials, including ministers and MPs opposed to elections this year as they want to finish their five-year tenures.
The decision has also put Mugabe on a confrontational path with Southern African Development Community and African Union leaders ahead of the extraordinary summit in Windhoek, Namibia, on May 20.

Mahendra Singh Tikait dead

Bharatiya Kisan Union President Mahendra Singh Tikait died here this morning due to protracted illness from cancer. He was 76.
Mr. Tikait, who also served as the council head of Baliyan Khap, had been suffering from bone cancer for a year and died at his son’s residence here, family sources said.
Scores of people, mostly farmers, paid tributes to the senior farmer leader. His cremation would be held tomorrow at BKU headquarters in Sisauli. 

Arrests as Palestinians prepare to mark Nakba

Clashes erupt in East Jerusalem ahead of "Day of Catastrophe" as activists gather in Egypt in support of Palestinians.
Several people have reportedly been arrested following clashes in Jerusalem as Palestinians gear up to mark the 63rd anniversary of the "Nakba", or "day of catastrophe".
Every year Palestinians commemorate what they call "Nakba Day", when an estimated 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled following Israel's 1948 declaration of statehood.

'Iran, North Korea trade missile technology'

Leaked UN report says both countries exchanged ballistic missile technology in violation of UN sanctions.
A leaked UN report says North Korea and Iran have been exchanging ballistic missile technology in violation of UN sanctions, according to Reuters news agency.
"Prohibited ballistic missile-related items are suspected to have been transferred between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Islamic Republic of Iran on regular scheduled flights of Air Koryo and Iran Air," the report said on Saturday.

IMF chief held for alleged sexual attack

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is accused of a sexual attack on a maid at a Times Square hotel in New York.
The director general of international monetary fund [IMF] was pulled from an airplane moments before he was to fly to Paris and was being questioned by police in connection with a sexual assault of a maid at a hotel, police said.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was taken off the Air France flight at John F Kennedy International Airport by officers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and was turned over to police on Saturday afternoon, Paul J Browne, New York Police Department [NYPD] spokesman, said.

Singapore’s founding father Lee quits Cabinet post

Mr. Lee and fellow former prime minister Goh Chok Tong said in their joint resignation statement they wanted to leave a clean path for younger leaders.
Singapore founding father Lee Kuan Yew resigned from the Cabinet on Saturday, ceding leadership to a younger generation after his party’s worst election result since independence in 1965.

NATO cannot confirm civilian casualties in Libya

NATO has been intensifying airstrikes against Col. Qadhafi’s troops in several areas of Libya in a bid to weaken his brutal crackdown against a rebel uprising. Four explosions - most likely from NATO strikes - were heard in Tripoli early Saturda
NATO said on Saturday it cannot confirm a Libyan government claim that 11 Muslim clerics were killed in an airstrike in eastern Libya but regrets “any loss of life by innocent civilians” whenever it occurs.

Petrol price up by Rs. 5

In the biggest ever price increase of the fuel, state-owned oil companies have hiked petrol price by Rs 5 per litre with effect from Saturday midnight.
The steep hike in petrol price is likely to be followed by a Rs 4 per litre increase in diesel rates and Rs 20-25 per cylinder increase in domestic LPG price later this month.
Petrol in Delhi will cost Rs 63.37 per litre at Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) outlets in the national capital from Sunday as against Rs 58.37 a litre currently, an official said here.
Even after Saturday’s hike, oil companies will continue to lose Rs 5.50 per litre and another increase in price is on cards soon, he said.
Bharat Petroleum (BPCL) hiked price by Rs 4.99 per litre and Hindustan Petroleum (HPCL) by Rs 5.01 a litre.
Petrol at BPCL outlets currently costs Rs 58.39 per litre and at HPCL pumps Rs 58.38 a litre.
The increase in petrol price, which the oil firms had been holding since January even though crude oil had touched a two-and-a-half-year high, came a day after election results of five state assemblies were announced.

Hundreds arrested in Oman as security forces disperse protesters

Dissatisfied by their ruler’s response to their demands, Omanis who kept their protests’ momentum on the roll witnessed security forces clearing their protest camps with hundreds being arrested on Saturday.

According to protesters, security forces have also stamped out two more demonstration centers.

Mass sackings in Bahrain crackdown

Part four in our exclusive series on Bahrain examines how government pressure is forcing employers to fire workers.
More than 2,000 private sector employees, most of them Shia, have either been sacked or suspended in an expanding Bahraini crackdown on anti-government protests, an Al Jazeera investigation has found.
The General Federation of Bahrain's Trade Unions puts the figure of those who have been fired at 1,300, with Bahraini rights groups reporting that hundreds more have been suspended from their government jobs.
The International Labour Organisation says that the number of people dismissed or suspended currently stands at over 2,000.

India's top court orders ban on pesticide

India's Supreme Court has ordered a two-month ban on the production and sale of a widely used pesticide that can cause nerve damage to humans and wildlife.
The top court has directed the government to produce a report within eight weeks on the harmful effects of endosulfan on people and the environment.
The court ordered the ban yesterday in response to a petition seeking a countrywide ban on endosulfan, widely used in India to control pests threatening fruit, vegetable, tea, coffee, cotton and other crops.
The petitioners cited an increase in deaths and birth deformities in the southern Indian state of Kerala where endosulfan was sprayed on crops.
India produces about 70 percent of the world's supply of endosulfan. 

Pakistan’s parliament urges revision of relations

Pakistan has been an important but uneasy partner of the U.S. in the fight against terrorism, and has faced growing anti-Western sentiment at home.
Pakistan’s parliament early Saturday condemned the breach of sovereignty by the United States in its raid on terrorist leader Osama bin Laden earlier this month, reports said.

Former Bahrain legislator warns Iran flotilla would be an act of war

A former Bahrain legislator and Palestine campaigner has warned that Iranian plans to dispatch a flotilla to Bahrain in show of solidarity with the “oppressed people” of the majority Shiite country would be considered an act of war if carried out.

Nasser Al Fadhala told Bahrain’s Gulf Daily News that it was unacceptable for Iran to use tactics with Bahrain similar to those used by human rights activists in trying to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Russia president takes jibe at 'mentor' Putin

Taking a dig at Putin, Medvedev says Russia could face civil war if too much power is concentrated in one man's hands.
Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, has made a veiled attack on his former mentor, Vladimir Putin, currently the country’s prime minister.
Medvedev said Russia could face civil war or stagnation if too much power was concentrated in the hands of one man, an apparent jibe at Putin.

Venezuela destroys 65,000 guns in anti-crime move

Venezuelan authorities have destroyed more than 65,000 firearms as part of a disarmament program designed to reduce the high levels of violent crime affecting the country.
Gen. Julio Cesar Morales says the number is double last year’s total and includes revolvers, automatic pistols, assault rifles, rifles and even homemade firearms.
The director general of arms and explosives for Venezuela’s Defence Ministry said the arms were destroyed Friday in a steel works in Lara state, 280 kilometres southwest of Caracas.
Most of the guns were seized in police operations.
Many Venezuelans feel that violent crime is the most serious problem facing the South American country.

Bahrain targets Shia religious sites

Part three in our exclusive series on Bahrain reveals the government destroyed Shia mosques and religious institutions.
The Bahraini government has destroyed a number of mosques in continuation of its aggressive crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, a special Al Jazeera investigation has revealed.
At least 28 mosques and Shia religious institutions have been destroyed in the Gulf state since the crackdown on Shia-led protests began in Mid-March, the opposition group, Al Wefaq, told Al Jazeera's Charles Stratford.

Egypt vows crackdown on 'deviant groups'

The council blames enemies at home and abroad for Egypt's economic woes and security problem.
Egypt's interim ruling military council has vowed to use all means to crack down on what it called "deviant groups" threatening stability and security.
"The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces warns this deviant group ... that it will use all its resources to confront and completely destroy this phenomenon as soon as possible." The council said in a statement on Friday.

US stops short of recognising Libya rebels

The White House says full recognition of the National Transitional Council will not be forthcoming, at least for now.
The United States has stopped short of full diplomatic recognition of Libya's rebel council but the White House said it was a "legitimate and credible interlocutor."
Mahmoud Jibril, who serves as the foreign minister of the rebels' National Transitional Council [NTC], met US President Barack Obama's national security advisor, Tom Donilon at the White House on Friday.
"During the meeting, Mr Donilon stated that the United States views the TNC [National Transitional Council] as a legitimate and credible interlocutor of the Libyan people," the White House said on Friday.

Thousands gather in Egypt's Tahrir Square

Protesters rally in support of the Palestinian cause and national unity, as former first lady is held for questioning.
Thousands of people have gathered in Tahrir Square in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, rallying for different causes.
Activists had called for a mass show of unity on Friday, a week after 15 people were killed in sectarian violence in the country.
But many of those gathered in the square were there to show their support for Palestinian unity, ahead of "Nakba day", marking the creation of the state of Israel and displacement of thousands of Palestinians.
Demonstrators also celebrated the reconciliation deal signed recently between Hamas, Fatah and other Palestinian factions.

Is Qaddafi wounded? Has he fled Tripoli? Questions swirling bombs drop on Tripoli

Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi has likely abandoned the capital Tripoli, and has most likely been wounded, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said on Friday, as increasing NATO airstrikes mounted pressure on the Libyan leader from within his stronghold city to leave his country.

Pakistan’s Taliban claims bombings killing 70 as ‘first revenge for Osama killing’

Twin explosions struck a paramilitary training center in northwestern Pakistan on Friday, killing at least 70 people and wounding scores of others in the bloodiest attack in the country in the wake of a US Special Forces raid targeting Al Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden, Al Arabiya TV reported.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed the deadly bombings, calling it the first revenge for the death of Bin Laden and threatened bigger attacks to come.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Left Front chairman Biman Bose confident of poll victory

A day before counting for West Bengal assembly polls, Left Front chairman Biman Bose today exuded confidence his alliance would emerge victorious with a comfortable margin, dismissing predictions of a landslide win for Trinamool Congress-Congress combine by most post-poll surveys.
“When the EVMs will be opened tomorrow, it will be found that the Left Front has won by a very good margin,” Mr. Bose told a press conference here after a Left Front meeting.

Supreme Court notice to Narendra Modi

In fresh pinpricks for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked him to respond to allegations by a senior state IAS officer that several criminal cases have been foisted against him at Mr. Modi's behest.
Pradeep N Sharma, the 1984 batch IAS officer, has sought handing over of the probe of four cases against him to the CBI and shifting the trial outside Gujarat. He was arrested and is in judicial custody.

NATO jets strike Qaddafi compound in Tripoli as he makes TV appearance---NATO says-qaddafi is not the targat { can you believe?}

NATO air strikes hit the compound in Tripoli early Thursday where Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi resides, killing six people and wounding 10 others, government officials said.

“There were three dead here and three dead in another place” in addition to 10 wounded, said the official, gesturing to scattered sandbags next to a crater in the ground in a street of the Bab al-Azaziyah compound, according to Agenc-France Presse.

'Drone strike' kills several in Pakistan

At least five alleged fighters killed as missiles hit vehicle in the Datta Khel area in North Waziristan.
At least five people have been killed after a suspected US drone fired two missiles into a vehicle in Pakistan's North Waziristan, local security officials say.
Thursday's raid was the third such attack reported in the tribal district near the Afghan border, which Washington has dubbed the global headquarters of al-Qaeda, since US commandos killed the group's leader, Osama bin Laden, in a Pakistani city near Islamabad.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Egypt bans protests at places of worship, opens churches closed by Mubarak

Egypt’s caretaker government has banned protests and sit-ins in front of places of worship, and accepted requests to open churches that were closed during the toppled regime of President Hosni Mubarak, Al Arabiya reported on Wednesday.

Yemen’s security forces kill protester, wound 40 as Qaeda plans to intensify jihad

At least nine people dead as fresh protests against the president are held in several cities across the country.
At least nine peole protesting against the rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's president, have been killed by security forces and snipers after they opened fire on thousands of anti-government demonstrations in several cities across the country.
In the capital Sanaa, forces fired on a crowd of tens of thousands marching to the cabinet building.
At least six demonstrators died, and around 100 were wounded, said a doctor heading a makeshift clinic for wounded protesters at the scene.
The doctor, who wished to remain anonymous, said the number of dead could rise.
"The snipers were shooting at the people," Talal al-Hamadi, a protester, said. "People rushed and some fell over each other. There was a stampede."

Argentina makes arrests in 'flights of death' killings

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Argentine authorities have arrested three former policemen in connection with what became known as flights of death during military rule.
They are accused of being the crew when French nun Leonie Duquet and rights activist Azucena Villaflor were thrown from a plane in 1977.
Their bodies washed ashore and were buried in an unmarked grave until their remains were identified in 2005.
Hundreds of political prisoners are known to have died this way.
A judge on Tuesday ordered the arrest of former police officers Enrique Jose De Saint Georges, Mario Daniel Arru and Alejandro Domingo D'Agostino.

Government wants new law for elections in Syria

Syria’s prime minister issued a decision to form a committee in charge of preparing a new draft law for general elections to make the country’s elections process compatible with the best internationally recognized standards, the state’s news agency SANA reported on Wednesday.

Al Qaeda Linked “Rebels” in Libya Need More Money… So They Come to Congress

by Scott Creighton
The “rebels” in Libya have clearly established ties to al Qaeda. If you or I were to inadvertently donate $20 dollars to an organization that has 6 degrees of separation links to any kind of group that provides help for al Qaeda, the US government will kick in our doors and rendition us to a far away land indefinitely for giving material support to the terrorists. These are undisputed facts.

Calls for nationwide ‘unity’ protests in Egypt amid fears of sectarian conflict

Egyptian pro-democracy activists on Wednesday called for nationwide “unity” protests amid fears of widespread sectarian unrest following the latest clashes between Muslims and Christians.

Activists are calling on the country's Christians and Muslims to come out on Friday to denounce sectarian divisions, after deadly clashes in Cairo on Saturday that left 12 people dead.

Libya rebels 'capture Misrata airport'

Libyan rebels have captured Misrata airport, driving back troops loyal to Col Muammar Gaddafi, reports say.
Hundreds of rebels were celebrating in the streets after pro-Gaddafi forces fled, leaving behind tanks that were set on fire, witnesses said.
Government forces have been pounding the western city, which remains largely under Col Gaddafi's control, for weeks.
Its port has become a lifeline for supplying civilians and for evacuating wounded people fleeing the fighting.
Meanwhile, explosions were reported in the capital Tripoli on Wednesday, after Nato said its planes had carried out 6,000 missions over Libya since it assumed command of military operations there at the end of March.

UN chief calls for ceasefire in Libya only from qaddaffi not for NATO

Ban Ki-moon calls for Libyan regime to halt attacks on civilians as NATO continues Tripoli bombardment.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, has called for an "immediate, verifiable ceasefire'' in Libya and urged government forces to stop attacking civilians.
Ban said on Wednesday there must also be unimpeded access for humanitarian workers trying to deliver aid to those affected by the fighting.
"First and foremost there should be an end to the fighting in Misurata and elsewhere. Then we will be able to provide humanitarian assistance and in parallel we can continue our political dialogue," Ban said.

Julian Assange awarded Australian peace prize

WikiLeaks founder receives the Sydney Peace Foundation's gold medal for 'championing people's right to know'
WikiLeaks' Australian founder Julian Assange, who enraged Washington by publishing thousands of secret US diplomatic cables, has been given a peace award for "exceptional courage in pursuit of human rights".
Assange was awarded the Sydney Peace Foundation's gold medal on Tuesday at the Frontline Club in London, only the fourth such award to be handed out in its 14-year history. The not-for-profit organisation is associated with the University of Sydney and supported by the City of Sydney.

Egypt tightens security amid sectarian tension as Christians block Alexandria road

Thousands of Christian protesters on Wednesday blocked the main coastal road in Egypt’s northern city of Alexandria to call for punishing the Muslims involved in the assaults against churches within the past months.

Protesters also called for the release of more than 90 Christians who have been detained over suspicions of sparking sectarian clashes in the Cairo neighborhood of Imbaba on Saturday, Al Arabiya reported.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Supreme Court dismisses CBI’s curative petition on Bhopal gas tragedy

In an apparent setback to the campaign for those seeking stringent punishment for the accused in the Bhopal gas disaster, the Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed the Central Bureau of Investigation’s curative petition against an earlier apex court judgement that diluted charges against the accused.
A five-judge constitutional bench, headed by Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, however, left a window of opportunity open saying the pending proceedings before the Sessions court against the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s judgement awarding two years sentence to the accused, including Union Carbide India Chairman Keshub Mahindra will not be influenced by any order passed by it.

Greeks stage one-day strike over austerity cuts

Greek labour unions are staging a one-day strike in protest against the government's austerity measures.
The strike, called by two of the country's largest unions, is expected to shut down most public services and ground flights.
Greece is one year into an international bail-out of its foundering economy and there are fears a new rescue package may be needed.

Uganda opposition leader Besigye 'barred from country'

Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye has been stopped from returning to the country, officials from his party say.
He was receiving medical treatment in Nairobi, Kenya, after being violently arrested in Uganda two weeks ago.
Officials from his Forum for Democratic Change said he was not allowed to board a flight back to Uganda.
Mr Besigye was President Yoweri Museveni's biggest opponent in February's election. Mr Museveni is due to be sworn in on Thursday.

Court vacates stay on publishing Amar Singh’s telephone tape contents

The Supreme Court on Wednesday lifted its gag order on the media restraining it from broadcasting and publishing contents of the taped conversations of former Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh with top politicians and Bollywood stars.
A bench of justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly dismissed Mr. Singh’s petition and vacated its interim order passed on February 27, 2006 restraining the media from making contents of the conversation public.

Syria frees 300 detained in Banias as military tightens grip in other areas of unrest

Syrian security forces have released 300 people detained in the coastal city of Banias and restored basic services, a rights group said, within hours of the government saying the threat from protests was receding.

Tanks stormed residential areas of Banias last week, after President Bashar al-Assad deployed the military to crush dissent against three decades of Baath Party rule, having held out the prospect of political reform when unrest first erupted in March.

Facebook users’ account details inadvertently leaked: Symantec

Hundreds of thousands of Facebook users’ account details could have been “inadvertently” leaked to third parties, in particular advertisers, over the years, according to data security solutions provider Symantec.
“Symantec has discovered that in certain cases, Facebook IFRAME applications inadvertently leaked access tokens to third parties like advertisers or analytic platforms,” Symantec Corp said in its official blog.

The IMF's change of heart

The International Monetary Fund has realised that a nation's economic well-being depends on social equality and justice.
The annual spring meeting of the International Monetary Fund was notable in marking the Fund's effort to distance itself from its own long-standing tenets on capital controls and labour-market flexibility. It appears that a new IMF has gradually, and cautiously, emerged under the leadership of Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Slightly more than 13 years earlier, at the IMF's Hong Kong meeting in 1997, the fund had attempted to amend its charter in order to gain more leeway to push countries towards capital-market liberalisation.

Israel's blockade of Gaza is cracking

Sealing coastal territory undermines past diplomacy - and siege is likely to be broken by post-revolution Egypt.
Egypt has announced that it will open its border crossing with Gaza on a permanent basis, thereby reversing Egypt's collusion with Israel's blockade regime. The interim Foreign Minister, Nabil al-Arabi, has described support for the blockade by the previous Egyptian regime as "disgraceful". While Israeli officials have responded to this announcement with alarm, they have limited capacity to undermine the new Egyptian government's prerogative.

US was prepared to fight Pakistan forces: Report

US President Barack Obama ordered that the team sent to raid Osama bin Laden’s compound be large enough to fight off Pakistani forces should they intervene, the New York Times reported. 



Citing unnamed officials, the paper said Obama raised the prospect of a clash 10 days before the May 1 raid, resulting in an extra two fighter helicopters being sent to protect the commandos raiding the compound.
“Some people may have assumed we could talk our way out of a jam, but given our difficult relationship with Pakistan right now, the president did not want to leave anything to chance,” it quoted a senior official as saying.

Silvio Berlusconi: Embrace life and, if possible, beauty

Today a great scandal is overcoming my beautiful homeland of Italy. I, its beloved president, known to my people as Il Cavaliere, stands before the sexually frustrated pygmies of the Italian magistracy accused of misbehaviour.
And what has Silvio done this time? He has been himself, as usual! I now have so many court cases that I lose track of what I am being accused this week. Corruption, is it? Inviting young girls to parties? People-smuggling? Who knows? I am the Jesus Christ of Italian politics, crucified every day for what I am and what I do.
So to my thought for the day. Do not let the little people – the communists, the terrorists, the judges, the homosexual media liberals – change who you are. Ordinary Italians know about smears and slurs from their history. They have read the allegations of the "inappropriate parenting" of Romulus and Remus, of the suggestion that Machiavelli lacked people skills, of the so-called "Rape of the Sabine Women".
Basta! I cannot and will not change the personality of Italy's best-loved leader since Mussolini.
If I hold the occasional bunga-bunga party, it is because Italy leads the world in joy. Look at the face of President Obama. Does he look like a man who has had a teenage showgirl wiggling her tush in front of him as she dreams of becoming a weather forecaster? No. It is why his ratings are limp while mine are proud and virile.
If I encourage the career of a 17-year-old called Ruby the Heartbreaker, it is because, unlike most politicians, I care for my country's youth. I work tirelessly to show them that this life is all about pushing yourself when the opportunity is offered. It is what you put in, not what you get out, that matters.
If I appoint good-looking women, some of whom have been photographed without too many clothes, to ministerial positions, it is because politics needs pretty women. Angela Merkel and Hillary Clinton may have their strengths but do they look as if they have put a smile on a man's face recently?
So Il Cavaliere brings a simple message to you. Embrace life, embrace youth, embrace beauty whenever possible. Generosity is its own reward.
As told to Terence Blacker
curtsy-The Indipendent

Drone strike in Pakistan

The United States on Tuesday sent its Predators yet again to pound a suspected terrorist hideout in South Waziristan reportedly killing three terrorists. As is mostly the case, there was no official word on the drone attack.
source-The Hindu

Syria 'pulls out' of race for UN rights council spot

Syria has dropped plans to run for a position on the United Nations Human Rights Council and will be replaced by Kuwait, UN diplomats say.
Damascus has come under increasing pressure to pull out of the race following its crackdown on pro-democracy protests.
But there has been no official confirmation of the move.
Syria's Ambassador to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, told the BBC that so far Syria's position has not changed.
"I'm still waiting for instructions," the envoy said.

Site of proposed Nirma plant a wetland, must move: MoEF

Ministry accepts report of expert body
In a victory for the farmers of Gujarat's Bhavnagar district, the Environment Ministry has decided that the site of Nirma Industries' proposed cement plant there is a wetland and an environmentally sensitive area. The plant will have to be relocated, the Ministry told the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

How to start your own internet business

There's more to it than putting up a site and waiting for the orders, says Esther Shaw
If you've ever had an idea for a product or service that you think could net you a fortune, you may well have considered setting up an internet business with the aim of sitting back and watching the money roll in.
After all, in 2006, consumers spent £30.2bn on online goods and services, according to IMRG, the industry body for global e-retailing. Over the past 10 years, the growth of the internet has resulted in the high-profile successes of many internet-related businesses. Just a few weeks ago, for example, price comparison service became the second-biggest internet float in the world since the implosion, after that industry behemoth, Google.

Tunisia sets up electoral body ahead of vote

Independent body will oversee July 24 elections, as interim government struggles to maintain order.

Tunisia has set up an independent body for elections planned in July to shape the country's post-revolution future.

The elections, scheduled for July 24, will select an assembly to draw up a new constitution in the North African country after an uprising toppled ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January.

Libya-France: French lawyer to prosecute NATO for 'crimes' in Libya

French lawyer to prosecute NATO for 'crimes' in Libya - A complaint will be filed in the coming days in Brussels, Belgium, against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for 'crimes' committed in Libya, including the killing of the Libyan leader's son and his three grandchildren,

US team 'ready to use force'

President Barack Obama insisted that the team to hunt down Osama Bin Laden be large enough to fight its way out in case it met resistance from Pakistani forces, the New York Times reports.
The size of the assault team was expanded days before the operation, unnamed military and administration officials quoted by the paper say.

Yemeni fighter jets pound villages outside capital

Tribal official Hamid Assem says the warplanes hit the villages of Khaliqa and Massoura, located some 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of Sanaa, on Tuesday. He says four tribesmen were killed and six mudbrick houses destroyed.

Yemen, Iran to top the agenda of GCC consultative meeting in Riyadh

The tense relations between the Gulf States and Iran as well as the political stalemate in Yemen are expected to dominate the agenda when leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council gather in Riyadh on Tuesday for the annual consultative meeting, the UAE-based Gulf News quoted a source as saying.

NATO air raids hit Tripoli Gaddafi's residence.

NATO has launched missile strikes against a military command centre in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, while witnesses said blasts were heard near Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's compound and state television offices.
NATO warplanes hit a command and control facility in downtown Tripoli, Brig Gen Claudio Gabellini, an Italian officer serving on the planning staff at NATO's headquarters in Naples, said on Tuesday.
"All NATO targets are military targets," Gabellini said, denying that the coalition forces are targeting Gaddafi.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Blindfolded, beaten and tortured: grim new testimony reveals fate of Bahrain's persecuted doctors

Horrifying evidence sheds light on brutality of state crackdown on medical staff. Jeremy Laurance reports
Harrowing testimony of torture, intimidation and humiliation from a doctor arrested in the crackdown on medical staff in Bahrain has revealed the lengths to which the regime's security forces are prepared to go to quash pro-democracy protests.
Interviews obtained by The Independent from inside Bahrain tell of ransacked hospitals and of terrified medical staff beaten, interrogated and forced into signing false confessions. Many have been detained, their fate unknown.

Syria protests: UN voices concern over cut-off Deraa

The UN has expressed concern about the situation in the southern Syrian city of Deraa as a government crackdown on dissent continues.

It said a humanitarian mission had not been allowed access to the city, and a UN agency had been unable to get medical supplies to refugees.

Deraa has been cut off for the past two weeks, after troops and tanks were sent in to restore government control.

Meanwhile, the EU has announced an arms embargo on Syria.

In a statement, the bloc said it was banning the shipment to Syria of "arms and equipment that could be used for internal repression".

Thirteen "officials and associates of the Syrian regime" are banned from travelling anywhere in the 27-nation union and have had their assets in EU countries frozen.


The UN announced last week that President Bashar al-Assad had agreed to a request from the global body's Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, for a humanitarian mission to be sent to Deraa, where scores of protesters are reported to have been killed in recent weeks.

But UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told reporters on Monday: "We were expecting to go in with a mission to Deraa yesterday. That was postponed by the government."

She said no reason had been given, but added that she had been assured relief teams would be allowed to "go in later this week, which I very much hope will be possible".

The army says its operations against "armed terrorists" are continuing

At the same time, the UN agency that looks after Palestinian refugees, Unrwa, said that it too had been unable to get emergency medical supplies to the 30,000 or so refugees in the Deraa area.

It said it was particularly concerned for 120 patients there who depend on the agency for supplies of insulin.

Unrwa spokesman Christopher Gunness said the agency had expressed its concern to the Syrian government, and hoped to be able to resume operations soon.

The Syrian authorities announced last week that troops were being pulled out of Deraa, where dozens of people have been reported killed and many hundreds arrested.

But the city remains surrounded and cut off, and military operations are continuing in the surrounding countryside.

Earlier, there were reports of violence in other areas of Syria:

  • Heavy gunfire was heard in a western suburb of the Syrian capital, Damascus, after the army cordoned off the area, human rights activists said
  • Clouds of black smoke could also be seen over Muadhamiya, and an activist told the BBC that three people had been killed there
  • More security forces were reported to have moved into the central city of Homs, where troops backed by tanks have been raiding houses and arresting people since Saturday night
  • Security forces are also said to be continuing their efforts to crush anti-government protests in the coastal town of Baniyas

Foreign journalists have not been allowed to enter Syria, so reports from the country are difficult to verify independently.

Correspondents say a key tactic of the authorities has been to isolate and intimidate people in areas where anti-government resistance is strongest.

The army says operations against "armed terrorists" are continuing.

Six soldiers and police had been killed and others wounded on Sunday in Homs, Baniyas and villages around the southern city of Deraa, it added.

And Syrian state TV showed pictures of a minibus in which 10 Syrian workers coming home from Lebanon were said to have died when it was ambushed near Homs by gunmen early on Sunday.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 621 civilians and 120 security personnel have been killed since demonstrations pro-democracy protests began in March. Another rights group, Sawasiah, says more than 800 civilians have been killed.

The government disputes the civilian toll and says about 100 soldiers have been killed.

The unrest poses the most serious challenge to President Assad since he succeeded his father, Hafez, in 2000.


Russia displays military might

Most modern hardware on show

Russia marked victory in World War II with the biggest yet display of military might in the traditional Red Square parade outside the Kremlin on Monday.

Twenty thousand elite troops dressed in new sleek designer uniforms strode across the historical square in precision formations to the rousing sounds of wartime marches, followed by more than 100 pieces of Russia's most modern hardware, from airdropped armoured personnel carriers to long-range mobile ballistic missiles Topol-M.

Speaking at the parade attended by war veterans, President Dmitry Medvedev called V-Day Russia's “most sacred” holiday. He paid tribute to the 27 million Russians who gave their lives to defend “things that cannot be sacrificed under any circumstances — freedom, dignity and peace of the homeland”.

The Kremlin resumed the tradition of V-Day military parades in 2008, a year after then President Vladimir Putin in his famous speech in Munich blasted the United States for resorting to “hyper use of force in international relations that plunges the world into endless conflicts.”

Reflecting the new cooperative atmosphere in Russian-U.S. relations today, Mr. Medvedev highlighted Russia's “contribution to joint efforts to safeguard global stability.”

He said the Russian armed forces “securely defend the country and its people” and promised to give the Army “the most modern weapons”.

source-The Hindu

Egyptian media blame ‘anti-revolutionaries’ for clashes between Islamists and Christians

Egyptian media blamed the recent deadly violence between Islamists and Coptic Christians on “anti-revolutionaries” as the country’s grand mufti and chief interpreter of Islamic law warned the country could descend into a civil war.

“We are facing the anti-revolutionary groups who are convinced that any success of the revolution was an even greater threat to their interests and so are trying to fuel confessional conflict,” wrote Al Ahram newspaper, the most widely circulating Egyptian daily publication.

Justice Minister Abdel Aziz Al Gindi has vowed the government would strike with an “iron hand” those who threatened the country’s national security and warned that “Egypt has already become a nation in danger.”

On a day when casualty figures relating to clashes between Islamists and Coptic Christians over a controversial interfaith marriage kept rising, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf postponed a trip to the Gulf to hold an emergency meeting with his cabinet members.

Ali Gomaa, Egypt’s grand mufti and chief interpreter of Islamic law, was quoted in main independent daily Al Masri Al Yom as warning of the potential for civil war, “because of outlaws who want to defy the authority of the state,” according to Agence France-Press.

Meanwhile Interior Minister Mansur Al Issawi denied reports that weapons had been stored in Saint Mena church.

“Contrary to rumors that there were weapons inside the church, it was the owner of a cafe near the church who fired a gun,” he told the government daily Al Akhbar.

Security officials said police arrested a man they identified as the Muslim husband of the alleged convert, saying he had spread the word that his wife was being detained in a building next to the church.

Saturday’s incident, in which 12 people were killed and 232 were wounded, was the second deadly sectarian clash since the January 15 revolution, in which Muslims and Christians joined hands in Tahrir Square to demand the departure of then President Hosni Mubarak.

The clashes were triggered by a controversy over interfaith marriage concerning a 26-year-old woman, Camilia Shehata. She is the wife of a Coptic priest, Tadros Samaan, and disappeared in July 2010 after reportedly converting to Islam, possibly on account of an unhappy marriage. Divorce is forbidden by the Coptic Church, and some Christians have been known to convert to Islam in order to remarry.

Islamists, charging that she was forcibly confined in a church, protested several times. They gathered in front of the Saint Mena Church, which was where the clashes occurred.

But Ms. Shehata has appeared in a new picture published by Al Ahram newspaper with Naguib Gebrael, of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization. Mr. Gebrael, a lawyer, told Al Ahram that he would represent her in a court where a complaint was filed against the church for allegedly holding her in forced confinement.

Ms. Shehata also appeared on a Christian broadcasting channel, with her husband and child.

“Let the protesters leave the church alone and turn their attention to Egypt’s future,” she said, adding that she had never converted to Islam.

In March, Muslims and Christians clashed in the town of Helwan near Cairo. Thirteen people were killed and a church was torched. The cause of the fighting was a rumored romantic relationship between a Muslim woman and a Christian man.

In swift response by the country’s military rulers, 190 people were arrested in Saturday’s violence and were sent to trial, as security was stepped up at houses of worship, amid indications that Egypt’s conservative Islamic movement, led by Salafis, was becoming increasingly restive about the country’s traditionally secular environment.

Inter-faith relationships among faiths are frowned upon in Egypt, where Christians make up about 10 percent of its 80 million people. Such relationships are sometimes the source of deadly clashes between the faiths, said The Associated Press.

If a Christian woman marries a Muslim, she is expelled from the church. A Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a Christian man, according to state law.

Because divorce is banned under the Coptic Church, unless under extenuating circumstances, many women resort to conversion as a way to get out of a marriage.

Christians complain about unfair treatment, including rules they say make it easier to build a mosque than a church.

In 2010, Egypt saw more than its usual share of sectarian strife, and a rights group has said such clashes have been on the rise. Muslims and Christians had been brought together during the protests that ousted Mr. Mubarak.

(Mustapha Ajbaili of Al Arabiya

Qaddafi and son Saif, top Libyan officials, to be issued arrest warrants by ICC

The general prosecutor of the International Criminal Court plans to request that ICC pre-trial judges issue arrest warrants against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and his son Saif Al Islam for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Similar charges are being lodged against Libya’s head of intelligence, Abdullah Al Senussi

ICC prosecutors are currently preparing evidence and will disclose the list of all those to be indicted next week and maybe as early as Monday, May 16. It is highly unlikely that Mr. Qaddafi will accept ICC summons, let alone allow himself to be arrested.

For its part, the Libyan opposition has sent a list of names to Portugal’s Ambassador Jose Morales Cabral, head of sanctions committee against Libya in the UN. The list includes 88 Libyan officials to be included in the Security Council Resolution 1970 sanctions list.

UN Security Council Resolution 1970 passed on February 26, referred the Libyan government’s violent crackdown on anti-government demonstrators to the ICC, imposed an arms embargo on Libya, and ordered a global travel ban on Colonel Qaddafi, and members of his family and inner circle.

Resolution 1970 ordered a freeze on the assets of all these individuals.

Meanwhile, sending an ICC official letter to the Libyan regime has proved no easy task. Many Libyan ambassadors have defected and abandoned Mr. Qaddafi over the continuing crackdown against demonstrators and rebels in the country.

However the Libyan ambassador to Belgium, Mr. Al Hadi Ahmed Hudaiba, did not defect. He received the ICC letter asking the Libyan authorities to immediately arrest those who are indicted by the ICC judges.

Mr. Hudaiba hails from Al Zintan, a city that now suffers from Qaddafi forces’ bombardment, almost on a daily basis.

(Talal Al-Haj is the United nations bureau chief for Al Arabiya

Pakistani lawyer to try and halt drone strikes

A British-trained Pakistani lawyer announced today that he intends to use courts in Pakistan, the UK and the United States to try and halt drone strikes in the country’s tribal areas.

Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistan-based lawyer who studied in Britain, has already filed a case against the CIA in Islamabad which resulted in the American intelligence services having to evacuate their station chief after he was named in the suit.

The case was brought on behalf of Karim Khan, a journalist in Waziristan whose son and brother were killed in a drone strike in January 2009, and has paved the way for scores more families to make similar claims. Farooq Law Associates, the law firm behind the suits, said yesterday that a further 24 civilians who have either been injured or lost family members in drone strikes have now been identified to bring further cases.

“More and more families who were victims of drone strikes are coming forward looking for justice,” he said. “We want to give human identities, names and life stories to those people who until recently were just numbers.”

Mr Akbar was speaking in London to announce the start of a joint legal campaign with Reprieve, the US-UK anti-death penalty charity that launched a series of successful legal actions in the States on behalf of inmates at Guantanamo.

The US carries out unmanned drone strikes on what they describe as “high value targets” in Pakistan and more recently Yemen, but the CIA has never officially acknowledged the programme. The vehicles are flown remotely by operators in California and are thought to have killed a number of key figures within al-Qa’ida and Taliban-linked groups.

In the American press anonymous officials have defended the strikes as a vital tool in the fight against Islamist militants but critics say the bombings cause unacceptable civilian losses and generate moral outrage which hands militants a valuable propaganda victory.

The number of drone strikes carried out in 2010 doubled from the previous year with similar strike figures emerging so far this year. Some human rights groups estimate that as many as 2,500 civilians have been killed alongside 33 “high value targets” that security sources in the US have indicated were also killed in Pakistan over the past nine years.

So far legal action against the CIA has only been brought in Pakistan where it faces long odds of success. But Mr Akbar’s case did result in the US having to withdraw Jonathan Banks, the then Islamabad station chief, after he was named alongside Defence Secretary Robert Gates and CIA chief Leon Panetta as defendants.

The naming caused outrage among US officials who suspected that Pakistan’s own intelligence service, the ISI, might have had a hand in outing Mr Banks possibly in retaliation for a civil lawsuit filed in Brooklyn last year implicating the ISI chief in the Mumbai terror attacks of November 2008

Asked by The Independent whether the ISI had given him the name, Mr Akbar said: “Actually it was a journalist who gave me the name but that’s not the important thing. The important thing is that name got me the audience to take my litigation case to a larger audience. We found it in a week.”

Clive Stafford-Smith, the director of Reprieve, said he hoped to use his work on Guantanamo as a blueprint for campaigning against drone strikes by bringing legal challenges in both Britain and the States.

“There are endless different ways that the courts in Britain, America and the international courts can be involved in this,” he said, adding that any evidence of British intelligence being used to carry out air strikes in which civilians were killed could open up court cases here.

“We can get at them through compensation cases; we can get them through war crime cases; we can file homicide cases,” he added. “Whether [these people] ever get prosecuted in a criminal case in Pakistan or not, they will begin to feel the breath of law enforcement on the back of their necks and they’ll begin to take a little more seriously this question of whether you go round killing people by pushing button in California.”

Cuba reform may permit foreign travel

Cuba says it is studying plans that would allow its citizens to travel abroad as tourists for the first time in more than 50 years.

The proposed move is one of 313 reforms backed by the Communist Party Congress behind closed doors in April and published in new economic guidelines.

Other reforms include legalising the private sale of property and cars and expanding private co-operatives.

The moves are part of a major shake-up of Cuba's struggling economic model.

Details of the proposed reforms are sketchy. The guideline referring to foreign travel simply states: "Study a policy that allows Cubans living in the country to travel abroad as tourists."

Cautious reforms

At the moment, Cubans wishing to travel abroad must file an exit request that may be turned down. The paperwork involved can cost hundreds of dollars at a time.

Since the communist revolution of 1959, only high-profile Cubans have been allowed to travel abroad.

Another guideline says the state should "establish the buying and selling of homes" for citizens.

However, there is no detailed information on how the system would work.

Previously, details of reforms have only been released once they become law and are published in the government's official newsletter.

Earlier this year, the government began issuing licences allowing citizens to become self-employed.

Cuban President Raul Castro has championed limited free-market reforms since taking the reins of power from his brother Fidel in 2008.

At the recent party congress in Havana, the two brothers appeared side-by-side for the first time, demonstrating that Fidel, now 84, endorsed his younger brother's policies.


Supreme Court stays verdict on Ayodhya title suit-- PTI

The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the Allahabad High Court’s verdict of dividing the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya in three parts, terming the judgement as “something strange”.

The court, while staying the September 30, 2010 judgement of the Lucknow bench of the High Court, ordered status quo at the site.

A bench of justices Aftab Alam and R.M. Lodha, while terming the high court’s judgement “as something strange,” said the partition of the land was ordered despite none of the parties to the dispute seeking it.

While directing that there shall be no religious activity on the 67 acre land acquired by the central government adjacent to the disputed structure, the apex court bench said the status quo shall be maintained with regard to the rest of the land.

In the wake of the court’s order, prayers at Ram Lala’s make-shift temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya would go on as usual.

The Lucknow bench of the high court had in September last year passed the verdict directing partition of the 2.77 acre on which the disputed structure once stood into three parts among Muslims, Hindus and Nirmohi Akhara.

'HC verdict strange'

“A new dimension was given by the high court as the decree of partition was not sought by the parties. It was not prayed by anyone. It has to be stayed. Its a strange order,” the bench said.

Expressing surprise over the high court’s verdict, the bench observed, “How can a decree of partition be passed when none of the parties had prayed for it.

“Court has done something on its own. It’s strange.

Such kind of decrees cannot be allowed to be in operation,” the bench said while staying the high court's verdict.

It is a difficult situation now, the position is that it (the high court verdict) has created litany of litigation,” the bench observed.

Although the appeals filed by various Hindu and Muslim religious organisations pertained to only 2.77 acre of disputed land, the bench, however, also ordered status quo on the 67 acre of land adjacent to the disputed site.

The bench was hearing a batch of appeals filed by Nirmohi Akhara, Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, Jamait Ulama-I-Hind and Sunni Central Wakf Board, besides the one filed on behalf of Bhagwan Ram Virajman.

The Wakf Board and Jamait Ulama-I-Hind have submitted that the high court’s verdict should be quashed as it was based on faith and not on evidence. They have contended that the court has committed an error by holding that the demolished Babri mosque stood at Lord Ram’s birth place.

They have contended that claims of Muslims, Hindus and the Nirmohi Akhara over the disputed site were mutually exclusive and could not be shared.

Gilani reminds U.S. of its dubious role in creation of al-Qaeda

The U.S. was reminded of its own role in the creation of the al-Qaeda by Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Monday while picking up cudgels in Parliament for the armed forces and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) under attack from all quarters for the presence of Osama bin Laden in the country and the covert American operation to kill him.

Stating that Pakistan alone cannot be held accountable for “flawed policies and blunders of others”, Mr. Gilani provided a crash course in history. “I talk of a bygone era. However, it is perhaps necessary to remind everyone about that era which has been so well documented including in the CNN series on the Cold War showing video footage of high ranking U.S. officials exhorting the Afghans and Mujahideen to wage Jihad, to go back to their homes, to go back to their mosques, in the name of Islam and as a national duty….

“Is it necessary for us to remind the international community of the decade of the nineties which saw the Arab volunteers, who had joined the Jihad mutate into Al-Qaeda? Who was responsible for the birth of Al-Qaeda? Who was responsible for making the myth of Osama bin Laden?

To find answers to today's question, it is necessary to revisit the not so distant past. Collectively, we must acknowledge facts and see our faces in the mirror of history.”

Borrowing a quote from U.S. President Barack Obama's May 2 announcement regarding bin Laden’s death, Mr. Gilani said his elimination was indeed “justice done”, but cautioned against declaration of victory. “The myth and legacy of Osama bin Laden remains to be demolished,” he added; elaborating that the anger and frustration of ordinary people over injustice, oppression and tyranny that bin Laden sought to harness to fuel the fire of terrorism in the world, needs to be addressed. “Otherwise, this rage will find new ways of expression.”

Battling the charge that Pakistan was complicit in bin Laden's presence here, the Prime Minister said it was ``disingenuous'' for anyone to blame the country or its institutions including the ISI and the armed forces for being in cahoots with al-Qaeda. Rejecting the charge of complicity, he asserted that detractors would not be allowed to succeed in ``offloading their own shortcomings and errors of omission and commission in a blame game that stigmatizes Pakistan''.

Libya protesters receive oil payments as NATO chief says ‘game over’ for Qaddafi

Oil payments for Libyan protesters selling crude oil are being made through a Qatari trust fund in US dollars, a member of the oil and gas support group for Libya said on Monday, as NATO said time was running out for Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

“The payments for the Libyan crude are made through a bank account in Qatar and the payment is made in US dollars,” said the oil industry source, who asked not to be identified.

“So far around 1 million barrels have been sold at $100 million and the money is used to buy basic commodities like food and other aid,” the source said, speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of Libya opposition tribal councils in Abu Dhabi, according to Reuters.

Protesters fighting a fierce back-and-forth battle with forces loyal to Colonel Qaddafi are selling oil they control in order to fund their effort, with assistance from Qatar.

“We have set up an oil and gas support group in Doha and we now have an office there,” the source said. “Qatar is helping with marketing the crude and our main target market is now southern Europe.”

The NATO chief, meanwhile, said he was confident that time was running out for Colonel Qaddafi, despite the prolonged stalemate between his forces and protesters who seek his ouster.

But Anders Fogh Rasmussen also acknowledged the brutal war that has raged for nearly two months would be resolved politically, not militarily.

“The game is over for Mr. Qaddafi. He should realize sooner rather than later that there's no future for him or his regime,” the NATO secretary-general told CNN's “State of the Union” program.

“We have stopped Mr. Qaddafi in his tracks. His time is running out. He's more and more isolated,” he said according to Agence-France Presse.

Given the “wind of change” sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East, the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the growing pressure on the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Danish former prime minister said he was “very optimistic” that Mr. Qaddafi would ultimately lose his decades-old grip on power.

NATO forces have kept up an air bombing campaign against Libyan military targets since March, but have failed so far to prevent the 68-year-old colonel from killing scores of his own people in revolt-held towns and cities -- the stated goal of a UN resolution authorizing the allied mission.

“First of all, we have to realize that there is no military solution. We will need a political solution” to break the stalemate, said Mr. Rasmussen.

But he also recognized it was “hard to imagine the attacks, the outrageous and systematic attacks against Libyan people, will stop as long as Mr. Qaddafi remains in power.”

The United States led the bombing campaign in its first week but has since relinquished lead operational control to the transatlantic military alliance. US President Barack Obama has also called for Colonel Qaddafi to relinquish power.

His national security adviser, Tom Donilon, said Washington has no plans for now to step up its involvement in Libya.

“NATO is still running this operation now, we're supporting it,” Mr. Donilon told ABC television's “This Week.”

Asked whether the US would take the lead once more in allied operations in Libya, Mr. Donilon simply answered “no.”

Former vice president Dick Cheney, meanwhile, criticized the Obama administration's “confused” policy on Libya, according to AFP.

“It’s not clear exactly what the policy is,” he told “Fox News Sunday.”

He said the Obama administration should have engaged in a real military effort to rid Libya of Mr. Qaddafi.

Fighting has been raging in Misrata, a city in the Libyan conflict lying about 200 kilometers (125 miles) east of the capital which has been besieged by Colonel Qaddafi forces for weeks.

Forces loyal to Mr. Qaddafi “destroyed the only tanks that were full,” Ahmad Monthasser, a protester from Misrata, told AFP.

Rebels warned that residents of Misrata could run out of food and water within a month if they are not provided with “game-changing” weapons to defeat Colonel Qaddafi’s forces.

World powers have promised $250 million (175 million euros) in humanitarian aid to the protesters and said the Mr. Qaddafi regime’s frozen overseas assets, estimated at $60 billion, would be used later to assist the Libyan opposition.

The economic situation in rebel-held areas, including Benghazi, is steadily worsening, with costs of basic commodities skyrocketing and the rebel administration facing shortage of funds as receipts from oil exports have come to a virtual halt.

(Abeer Tayel of Al Arabiya

NATO denies failure to save African migrants

Bloc rejects report that migrants were left to die on board stranded boat, despite distress calls।

NATO has denied a report claiming its military units failed to save dozens of migrants fleeing north Africa by boat which had been adrift in the ocean for 16 days, leading to the deaths of 62 people.

British newspaper The Guardian said despite a distress call from the boat to the Italian coastguard and a military helicopter and NATO warship, no rescue effort was attempted.

It said the boat, carrying 72 people including women, children and political refugees, ran into trouble after leaving Tripoli, the Libyan capital, for the Italian island of Lampedusa on March 25.

By the time the vessel drifted ashore at Zlitan, Libya, on 10 April, all but 11 passengers were dead, and another died after being imprisoned by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, the country's leader.

The paper said the migrants used a satellite phone to call Moses Zerai, an Eritrean priest in Rome who runs a refugee rights organisation, who then alerted the Italian coastguard.

Witnesses told the paper a military helicopter appeared above the boat and lowered food and water, but flew off without a rescue boat arriving.

A survivor said the boat was later carried towards a Nato aircraft carrier, which the paper concluded was the French ship Charles de Gaulle.

But NATO spokeswoman Carmen Romero said the only aircraft carrier under the alliance's command at that time was the Italian ship Garibaldi.

"Throughout the period in question, the Garibaldi was operating over 100 nautical miles out to sea. Therefore, any claims that a NATO aircraft carrier spotted and then ignored the vessel in distress are wrong," she said.

"NATO vessels are fully aware of their responsibilities with regard to the International Maritime Law regarding Safety of Life at Sea and have already saved hundreds of lives at sea," she added.

Thierry Burkhard, spokesman for the chief of staff of the French armed forces, also denied the French navy had failed to help.

"The Charles de Gaulle was never at any moment in contact with this type of boat, nor [was] any other French vessel, due to its position," he said.

A spokesman for the Italian coastguard said the location of the ship was pinpointed with the help of satellite telephone providers and heading towards Maltese waters.

An alarm was sent from its Rome headquarters to all ships, civilian and military, in the area.

"If we had been in the area, we certainly would have intervened," said Lieutenant Massimo Maccheroni, adding that under maritime law, the coastguard cannot operate in other country's waters without permission.

Zerai told the Guardian the failure to rescue the migrants constituted a crime.

"There was an abdication of responsibility which led to the deaths of over 60 people, including children," he said.

"That constitutes a crime, and that crime cannot go unpunished just because the victims were African migrants and not tourists on a cruise liner."

Dozens of immigrants from north Africa have died attempting to reach Italian shores. On April 6, a boat carrying 200 people sank south of Sicily. In that case, Italian ships answered a distress signal and managed to save 50 people in Maltese waters.

The Guardian said those aboard the drifting boat included 47 Ethiopians, seven Nigerians, seven Eritreans, six Ghanaians and five Sudanese. Twenty were women and two were small children, one of whom was one year old.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Thousands march against violence in Mexico City

Associated Press= MEXICO CITY (AP) — An anti-violence march that began in a central state with a few hundred people and gathered thousands over a four-day trek reached Mexico's capital Sunday, led by a poet whose son was killed by suspected drug traffickers.
People poured into the main Zocalo square in Mexico City, wearing white T-shirts saying "enough bloodshed" and carrying photos of poet Javier Sicilia's slain son.

Nato units left 61 African migrants to die of hunger and thirst

Exclusive: Boat trying to reach Lampedusa was left to drift in Mediterranean for 16 days, despite alarm being raised
Dozens of African migrants were left to die in the Mediterranean after a number of European and Nato military units apparently ignored their cries for help, the Guardian has learned.
A boat carrying 72 passengers, including several women, young children and political refugees, ran into trouble in late March after leaving Tripoli for the Italian island of Lampedusa. Despite alarms being raised with the Italian coastguard and the boat making contact with a military helicopter and a Nato warship, no rescue effort was attempted.

Malawi president says UK's expelled envoy insulted him

The president of Malawi has explained his decision to expel the British High Commissioner for the first time.
Fergus Cochrane-Dyet was told to leave after he was quoted in a leaked cable as saying President Bingu wa Mutharika does not tolerate criticism.
President Mutharika said he would not accept insults just because Britain was the country's largest aid donor.
Britain ordered the acting High Commissioner of Malawi to leave the UK in response to the move last month.
According to the diplomatic cable published by the local Weekend Nation newspaper last month,

Jaitapur plant, a 'dangerous version of Dhabol'

Design, safety features not presented to AERB'
The All India Power Engineers' Federation (AIPEF) and the National Confederation of Officers' Associations of Central Public Sector Undertakings (NCOA) have come out strongly against the proposed Jaitapur nuclear power plant.
Terming it a “dangerous nuclear version of the Enron's Dhabol fiasco,” they said the Centre agreed to the French reactor even without design and safety features being presented to and approved by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).

Fierce fighting reported in Libyan cities

Accounts of NATO strike in Zintan and explosions in Tripoli coincide with continued contest for control of Misurata.
NATO air attacks have hit Libyan government weapons depots near Zintan, southwest of Tripoli, the capital, according to a rebel spokesman in the town.
Separately, two loud explosions rocked a western sector of Tripoli on Sunday as jets flew overhead, witnesses told the AFP news agency.
An international coalition began carrying out attacks on forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's long-time ruler, on March 19, under a UN mandate to protect civilians in the country. NATO took command of operations over Libya on March 31.

Syria blames 'armed gangs' for deadly attack

Government says 10 people were killed in bus ambush near central city of Homs.
The Syrian government has said that 10 civilian workers were killed by an "armed terrorist gang" in a bus ambush near the city of Homs.
The official state news agency carried images of the bus that it said was returning from Lebanon on Sunday when it was attacked.
The agency quoted a doctor at a hospital in Homs as saying the bodies bore the mark of bullets shot at close range into the head, chest and stomach.

Egypt warns of 'iron fist' response after clashes

Egypt's justice minister has warned that those who threaten the country's security will face "an iron fist".
Abdel Aziz al-Gindi was speaking after 10 people died and 186 were wounded during clashes between Muslims and Christians in Cairo.
More than 190 people detained after the fatal clashes will face military trials, Egypt's army says.
The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces called the move a "deterrent" against further violence.
"The government's hand is not shaking. The government is not weak," Mr Gindi said.
He was speaking after an emergency cabinet meeting convened by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.
Mr Sharaf postponed a visit to the Gulf to hold the meeting.

Bahrain's king lifts state of emergency from 1 June

Bahrain's king has ordered the state of emergency imposed in mid-March during weeks of protests to be lifted from next month, the state news agency says.
"The state of national safety is lifted across the kingdom of Bahrain from 1 June," the agency BNA quoted the king's decree as saying.
At least 30 people have died since Bahrain's Shia majority took to the streets in February.
More than 20 activists are charged with attempting to oust the Sunni monarchy.

Nick Clegg threatens to block NHS reforms

Deputy PM says he wants substantial changes to NHS reform plans, and vows to be more assertive within coalition
Add caption

Nick Clegg has vowed to block the government's planned NHS reforms unless the package put forward by the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, is improved.
The deputy prime minister said unless there were "substantial, significant changes" to Lansley's proposals to hand commissioning powers to GPs and extend private provision of NHS services, he would tell Liberal Democrat MPs and peers to join Labour in voting them down.
The warning came as Clegg set out his plans to be more assertive within the coalition government in response to Lib Dem losses in last week's elections.