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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bank shares lead falls on US and European stock markets

Sharp falls in banking shares, notably in France, have led stock markets lower as concerns continue about the strength of the world economy.

The US Dow Jones index ended 2.7% down, after a dismal showing in Europe, where Frankfurt's Dax fell 4% and the FTSE 100 2.4%.

This was despite President Barack Obama's new $450bn (£282bn) jobs plan.

The resignation of the European Central Bank chief economist also rattled investors.

Reports suggest that Juergen Stark's departure was over disagreements about the central bank purchasing the debt of struggling eurozone economies.

The ECB has recently been buying up the debt of Spain and Italy - something historically opposed by many of the German policymakers as it may increase the potential risk on the ECB's own balance sheet.

Some argue that bond buying also discourages governments from taking action on their deficits.

Analysts suggested his departure could indicate a potentially damaging split at the central bank at a crucial time for the global economy.

"Evidently there are more and more ECB council members against the controversial purchase of bonds," said Marco Bagel, an analyst at Postbank.

"It suggests there is really a big row in the governing council and this is quite a severe step. It shows how divided the ECB is on this very crucial question," said Juergen Michels of Citigroup.

Bank losses

The share falls come at the end of another week of volatility in the stock markets, with shares swinging wildly between gains and losses on a daily basis.

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How can the respective balance sheets of Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland be perceived by creditors to be so weak?”

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Bank stocks were among the major decliners on Friday as investors continue to worry about their exposure to bad debt.

The rate that banks lend to each other - a measure of the confidence they have in each other's balance sheets - is at the highest it has been since July 2009.

In the UK, Barclays dropped 9.4% and Royal Bank of Scotland declined by 5.4%

Deutsche Bank fell 7%. France's Societe Generale fell 10.6% lower and Credit Agricole dropped 7.8%.

And the euro fell 1.6% against the US dollar, to $1.3664, down to a six-month low.

The G7 group of leading economies met in Marseille to consider a "coordinated response" to the faltering global economy, but did not produce any communique to let markets know what if anything had been agreed.

Earlier, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde urged "bold action" on the global economy.

"The key message I wish to convey today is that countries must act now - and act boldly - to steer their economies through this dangerous new phase of the recovery," Ms Lagarde said.

The two-day meeting comes as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development suggested it was possible that many major economies could go back into recession this year.

The OECD predicts the G7 economies will grow by just 0.2% in the last three months of the year.

BBC

Libya conflict: Gaddafi forces resist Bani Walid attack

Pro-Gaddafi forces in Libya have been putting up fierce resistance in Bani Walid, one of four towns still controlled by loyalist fighters.

Anti-Gaddafi forces, who had expected to take the town earlier, are still trying to get into the centre.

There was fighting overnight, with exchanges of fire and rockets launched, says the BBC's Richard Galpin, who is outside the town.

Bani Walid is one of four towns still under the control of loyalist fighters.

Rebel casualties have been brought to the hospital outside town, our correspondent adds.

There were more Gaddafi loyalists in the town than the rebels had expected, he says.

A convoy of new recruits was seen heading for the front line earlier on Saturday.

Rebel commanders said on Friday that they had no choice but to go in after coming under attack from pro-Gaddafi forces.

Bani Walid and the other loyalist-held towns had been given until Saturday to surrender to the interim government.

There has also been fierce fighting near the Gaddafi-held city of Sirte.

Rebel forces were forced to pull back after taking heavy casualties in close-quarters fighting, a rebel spokesman is quoted as saying by the AP news agency.

The interim Libyan leadership, the National Transitional Council (NTC), said it had been trying to negotiate a peaceful resolution to stand-offs in Gaddafi-held Bani Walid, Jufra, Sabha and Sirte, but interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril had warned NTC troops would respond if attacked.

Niger arrivals

Officials in the Republic of Niger, south of Libya, say that as well as Gen Ali Kana, a commander from the south of Libya, Gen al-Rifi, the Libyan air force chief, also arrived in the northern Niger town of Agadez on Friday.

They have been allowed in, the Niger government said, on humanitarian grounds.

Several convoys of former loyalists are said to have streamed over the border with Niger over the past few weeks.

Niger has not said clearly what its position would be if fugitive leader Col Muammar Gaddafi himself sought asylum in the country.

Officials in Niger, which recently installed democracy after decades of authoritarianism, said they were letting in many sub-Saharan Africans from Libya on humanitarian grounds.

It is still not known where the former Libyan leader or his son, Saif al-Islam, are, our correspondent says.

The ICC has issued a warrant for crimes against humanity against Col Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam and spy chief Abdullah al-Sanussi.

Interpol on Friday issued an arrest warrant for the three.

BBC

Friday, September 9, 2011

Occupied 301 university departments and faculties in Greece

Athens September 8 :During the Pan-Educational rally in central Athens, there were minor incidents in front of the House, where strangers have been penetrated along the way tried to cause tension with the police forces. Individuals were isolated from the students themselves.
The education community calls for the abolition of the bill.
Occupied are 301 university departments and colleges of higher education throughout the country. Capture a week and demonstrations today and decided at the University of Crete in Rethymnon, following a decision by the general assembly of students.
Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou its part, has warned students that the occupations of universities endanger the semester.
Rally held this morning outside the Ministry of Education, University Confederation of Parents of Pupils Greece (ASGME), which also gave the "present" small delegations of PAME Teachers and Students Struggle Front (MAS). The ASGME complains that the new year will start with 2,000 fewer schools and more than 20,000 educational gaps, while asserting that the problem of books will not be solved either by the end of the year. "We demand that the funding should not be photocopies of the parents students, but drafted by the Ministry to provide funds directly to municipalities to cover costs, "said ANA-MPA Aura Karabelas, a member of the Confederation. Delegation asked parents and accepted by the special secretary of elementary and secondary education, Mr. Kontogiannis. "For all the problems have been created, the ministry is washing its hands of," he said after the meeting, Board member of the Confederation.


At the same time, the ongoing reactions to the lack of textbooks, the Agency Edition Textbook answers that children get 20% of the books, while the vast majority of titles will be ready in mid October. The Ministry of Education has told schools to cope with a temporary situation and copying dvd, which caused reactions from teachers. The Secretary General of OLME I. Kotsyfakis stressed that there can be "converted schools in copy shops," pointed out that the machinery of the schools are not professionally, but was particularly the cost of photocopying in connection with the book. Specifically, a book costs 0.80 minutes, and 40 pages of photocopies cost four euros. Professors and teachers, have announced 24-hour strike on September 22 and sent letters to schools, describing the problems, so the kids tell their parents.
AP

Israeli ambassador to Egypt goes back to his home country after embassy attack

By Yasmine Saleh and Edmund Blair
Cairo

Israel flew its ambassador home on Saturday after Egyptians stormed the building housing the Israeli mission in Cairo, plunging Egypt’s ruling army deeper into its toughest diplomatic crisis since taking over from Hosni Mubarak.

On Saturday, the Jewish state’s radio confirmed that the ambassador and his senior staff are now in Tel Aviv.

The United States, which has poured billions of dollars of military aid into Egypt since it made peace with Israel in 1979, voiced concern about the violence after protesters hurled embassy documents and the Israeli flag from windows.

Police fired shots in the air and teargas to disperse the crowd. Protesters lit tyres in the street and at least two vehicles were set alight near the embassy, located on the upper floors of a residential apartment block overlooking the Nile.

As dawn broke, about 500 demonstrators remained. Some hurled stones at police and army vehicles and personnel.

It was the second big eruption of violence at the embassy since five Egyptian border guards were killed last month during an Israeli operation against gunmen. That incident prompted Egypt briefly to threaten to withdraw its envoy.

Israel’s ambassador Yitzhak Levanon left Cairo for Tel Aviv with staff and their families in the early hours of Saturday, an airport source said. Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf called a cabinet crisis meeting for early on Saturday.

Pulling Israeli diplomats even temporarily out of Egypt, the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish state, would shake Israel’s confidence. It is already embroiled in a bitter feud with Turkey, formerly the closest of its few Muslim allies, over treatment of Palestinians.

“This action shows the state of anger and frustration the young Egyptian revolutionaries feel against Israel especially after the recent Israeli attacks on the Egyptian borders that led to the killing of Egyptian soldiers,” Egyptian political analyst Nabil Abdel Fattah told Reuters.

Some politicians and activists criticized the violence, even if they backed the anti-Israel demonstration.

Presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahy called for the army to take a “serious stance matching the public anger” towards Israel but said violence sullied the image of Egypt’s uprising.

Last month, a man climbed up a flagpole on the building, took down Israel’s flag and replaced it with Egypt’s. Regular protests with such violence followed until the latest flare-up.

In response to daily protests, the authorities erected a wall around the building which was quickly defaced with anti-Israel slogans and then painted in Egypt's national colors.

Hostility to Israel

On Friday, the wall was torn down after a demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square calling for speedier reforms and a deeper purge of officials who worked for Mubarak, who is now on trial on charges including conspiring to kill protesters.

The Interior Ministry said at least 450 protesters were injured during overnight confrontations. State television said 46 police were injured.

During Mubarak’s rule, Egyptians could never show such hostility to Israel without facing a crushing security response. Egypt’s ties with Israel were a pillar of his foreign policy and buttressed his claim to be a regional mediator.

The treaty has sat uneasily with many Egyptians angered at what they see as Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians but it secures billions of dollars in US military aid and access to top-notch warplanes, tanks and other equipment.

The army now in charge faces the dilemma of pursuing a more assertive policy towards Israel and protecting the treaty.

US President Barack Obama called on Egypt to “honor its international obligations” and protect the Israeli mission. He told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington was taking steps to resolve the situation.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr to urge Egypt to meet its Vienna Convention obligations to protect diplomatic property, a senior State Department official said.

Demonstrators had used hammers, large iron bars and police barricades to tear down the wall outside the embassy building, erected this month by Egyptian authorities after protests over the killing of the five Egyptian border guards in Sinai.

The five died during an Israeli operation against gunmen who had killed eight Israelis. Egypt threatened to withdraw its ambassador from Tel Aviv. Israel has stopped short of apologizing, saying it is still investigating the deaths.

Before moving on the embassy, demonstrators tried to storm a local police compound, hurled stones at the police and torched at least four vehicles. They also set alight a nearby public building. Security sources said 28 people were arrested.

The April 6 movement, which took a leading role in the uprising, said violence against the police vehicles and other property was perpetrated by those trying to “distort the image of the revolution.” It blamed supporters of Mubarak.

Egyptians return to Tahrir in mass protest aimed at ‘correcting the path’

Thousands of protesters flocked to Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square on Friday for a mass rally billed as “Correcting the Path” of the revolution for demanding reforms as the ruling military warned it would respond harshly to any violence by activists.

Organizers called the rally to press Egypt’s military rulers to keep their promises of reform after a revolt ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February.

Protesters, gathered under a scorching sun, filled a section of the square to listen to the weekly Muslim prayer sermon, according to AFP.

Egyptian TV reported that hundreds of protesters attacked the premises of the interior minister, in an attempt to break into the building. A health ministry spokesman said that 35 people have been injured.

Protesters managed to break the big logo of the interior ministry at its entrance. Fire soon broke up in the Criminal Investigations Department affiliated to the ministry's building, but firefighters were able to put it off shortly.

“It would be shame on the Egyptian people if they forget their revolution,” the preacher said.

He attacked some of the prosecution witnesses in the ongoing murder trial of Mubarak and his security chiefs for testifying in court this week that they had not been ordered to use deadly force against protesters during the revolt.

“They must be charged with false testimony. How can a prosecution witness turn into a defense witness?” the cleric asked.

The preacher also denounced military trials for civilians. The military, which took charge after Mubarak's ouster, has sentenced thousands of people to prison terms since February.

Protesters chanted slogans against the military ruler and current de facto head of the state Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi after the sermon ended.

One banner read, “Egyptians, come out of your homes, Tantawi is Mubarak,” according to The Associated Press.

Egyptian protesters attacked the interior ministry building in Cairo. (File photo)
Egyptian protesters attacked the interior ministry building in Cairo. (File photo)

Protester Khaled Abdel-Hamid said Tantawi’s plan to transfer power to civilian rule is unclear. He and thousands more are also protesting against the trials of civilians in military courts.

Ibrahim Ali, an agricultural engineer, said he had come to the capital from northern Egypt to attend the rally, according to AFP.

“None of the revolution's demands have been met,” he said. “There is still injustice in the country.”

The military, in a statement posted on its Facebook page, said it respected the activists’ right to protest peacefully, but warned it would respond to violence by the protesters with “the utmost severity and decisiveness.”

The interior ministry said it had withdrawn riot police stationed in Tahrir Square to allow the activists to protest unhindered, the official MENA news agency reported.

The protest was called by mostly secular and leftist activists, and is being boycotted by the influential Muslim Brotherhood movement and other Islamist groups.

Mohsen Rady, a senior Brotherhood member, told state television his movement, which is showing growing strains with the military, believed Egyptians were weary of protests.

“People have grown bored of these demonstrations,” he said.

Secular activists are concerned that the military’s current timetable for parliamentary elections in autumn will play into the hands of the Brotherhood by denying new political movements the time to organize into parties.

The activists are also demanding an end to the military trials of civilians.

The Democratic Front party, set up by activists who ousted Mubarak after the uprising, said it will demand that Egypt’s military rulers prepare a “comprehensive timetable that will spell out the steps for the interim period, starting with the presidential elections.”

Presidential hopeful Mohammed ElBaradei, former head of the international atomic watchdog the IAEA, said Egyptians were entitled to demonstrate peacefully, especially since many of their demands have yet to be realized.

But Mohamed Saad el-Katatni, secretary-general of the Freedom and Justice Party set up by the Muslim Brotherhood to contest parliamentary elections scheduled for November, suggested it was not yet time for further demonstrations because previous protests had already brought some results.

“In case they are not achieved, then we return to the square,” he said.

Protests were also organized in Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city, and in the Suez Canal city of Suez. Witnesses said military police detained three activists during a demonstration in the city, according to Reuters.

In Alexandria, thousands of protesters chanted “The trial, the trial or the gang will stay in power.”

One of the protesters, Hazem Ahmed, 26, a member of Egypt’s Democratic Front party said: “I joined the protest today because of the slow pace of the trials and it being not serious.”

Agencies

Clinton says Qaeda behind US threat as Panetta warns against any attacks


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday said that al-Qaeda was behind a specific, credible but unconfirmed report of a threat to harm Americans, notably in New York and Washington, as Defense Secretary warned against messing with America.

“We are meeting here in New York ... with the news last night of a specific, credible but unconfirmed report that al Qaeda again is seeking to harm Americans and in particular to target New York and Washington,” Clinton said in a speech.

President Barack Obama on Thursday ordered a redoubling of counter-terrorism efforts in the face of the threat ahead of Sunday’s 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, US officials said.

In a speech ahead of the anniversary, Clinton said it was impossible to foil every plot and that al-Qaeda was still capable of regional and international attacks, according to Reuters.

However, she said Washington would wage a “relentless” campaign against it and, later this month, would set up Global Counter-Terrorism Forum to gather officials to identify threats, devise solutions and share expertise.

The group, to be co-chaired by the United States and Turkey, will also include Algeria, Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Morocco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom, the State Department said.

"We will come and get you"

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Friday that America’s response to 9/11 shows that “you don’t mess” with the United States and that when attacked, “we will come and get you.”

Panetta -- who as former CIA director oversaw the raid that killed al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden on May 2 -- said the hijackers underestimated the country.

“The people who attacked us on 9/11 were trying to weaken America, trying to hurt America. And instead they strengthened us,” Panetta told an audience of police and emergency workers, according to AFP.

“Because you don’t mess with this country,” he said.

“And what we made clear, is that when that happens, we will come and get you.”

Panetta thanked the firefighters and other “first responders” who rushed to the Pentagon after it was struck by a hijacked airliner on September 11.

“For 36 exhausting hours, firefighters battled what was truly an epic blaze,” he said.

Panetta, who took over as Pentagon chief in July, recounted where he was on the day of the attacks ten years ago.

Out of government at the time, Panetta was on Capitol Hill briefing members of Congress as part of an oceans commission when he was informed of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.

“Everybody in the room had kind of made the spontaneous decision, better get the hell out of there,” he said.

With all commercial flights cancelled, Panetta had to rent a car to drive home to California.

“I have to tell you what I witnessed that day driving across the country is something that's also seared into my memory,” he said.

“Because I witnessed this country coming together. As I was driving across the country, there were signs coming up, ‘God bless America,’ there were flags people were putting up, people going to churches, people holding hands,” he said. “People coming together to try to confront what had happened.”

After Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, Panetta -- a veteran Democrat and Washington heavyweight -- was named chief of the Central Intelligence Agency, where his top priority was waging a shadow war against al-Qaeda.

Panetta oversaw a dramatic increase in bombing raids by robotic drone aircraft against al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas, as well as a concerted effort to track down Bin Laden.

When a trail of intelligence appeared to pinpoint Bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan, Panetta won approval from Obama for a daring nighttime raid to go after Bin Laden even though there was no guarantee that the al-Qaeda mastermind was in the compound.

Without notifying Pakistani leaders about the raid in advance, the team of Navy SEAL commandos gunned down Bin Laden and hauled away a trove of documents and computer files.

Al Arabiya

Latin American bloc warns against NATO action in Syria


Latin America’s leftist ALBA bloc of nations on Friday called NATO’s actions in Libya a “dangerous precedent” and warned against a similar campaign in Syria, where protesters pleaded for international protection.

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, a prominent voice in the bloc, often warns of possible US aggression against his oil-rich country. He has pointed to the months-long NATO campaign in Libya as an example of “imperialist” aggression.

After meeting in Caracas, ALBA foreign ministers issued a statement saying the bloc “expresses its most urgent alarm over the threat that this same process could be repeated against Syria, taking advantage of the country's political problems.”

Taking its inspiration from South American independence hero Simon Bolivar, the bloc’s full name is the “Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America.”

It was born in 2004 as an initiative of Chavez and Cuba's Fidel Castro, both critics of US “hegemonic” influence.

Pro-democracy protesters in Syria meanwhile on Friday called for international protection after six months of bloody rebellion.

Syria’s government has responded to the protests, inspired by Arab popular uprisings that have toppled three autocratic leaders in North Africa this year, with military assaults in which the United Nations says 2,200 people have died.

In Libya, fighters launched assaults on the final bastions of Muammar Gaddafi loyalists on Friday, with battles reported inside the holdout town of Bani Walid and near the ousted ruler's home town of Sirte.

Though Venezuela and Cuba are the loudest voices in ALBA, the group also comprises Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador and the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and St. Vincente and the Grenadines.

“The ministers agree to promote a discussion in the United Nations General Assembly about the dangerous precedent that has been set in Libya,” their statement said.
Chavez also said Washington's blacklisting of four of his officials this week for alleged links to drug-running Colombian rebels was a sign that Washington had Venezuela in its sights.

Highly sensitive over persistent allegations of collaboration with guerrillas in neighboring Colombia, the Chavez government has reacted with fury at the US Treasury Department's measures against the four men.

“Let them present just one bit of proof against us,” Chavez said, in the latest flare-up between the ideologically-opposed nations who nevertheless maintain a massive oil trade.

Reuters

Libya’s NTC forces enter loyalist town of Bani Walid, fight Qaddafi forces


Fighters representing Libya’s new rulers encircled and entered Bani Walid, one of the last towns loyal to ousted leader Muammar Qaddafi on Friday, and fought with gunmen in street-to-street battles, Al Arabiya reported citing revolutionary fighters.

Libya’s interim rulers had set a Saturday deadline for several holdout towns to surrender, but fighters surrounding Bani Walid, 150 km (95 miles) southeast of Tripoli, decided to go in early saying they wanted to protect civilians, according to Reuters.

“Sleeper cells of revolutionaries went into action and fighting has taken place between them and armed men loyal to Qaddafi,” said National Transitional Council official Abdullah Kenshil, who had been negotiating for a surrender of the town, according to AFP.

Earlier, Qaddafi loyalists fired rocket barrages at fighters besieging two Libyan towns still under the deposed leader’s control on Friday as fierce fighting erupted a day ahead of a deadline for their surrender.

They unleashed volleys of Grad rockets at forces of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) north of Bani Walid and east of Qaddafi’s home town, Sirte, Reuters witnesses said.

The NTC has given Bani Walid, 150 km (95 miles) southeast of Tripoli, and the coastal city of Sirte until Saturday to give up peacefully or face attack -- although previous deadlines have been extended to allow more time for talks.

The latest battles were the heaviest in days, but NTC commanders did not say they had begun any all-out assault.

Ambulances streamed back and forth to ferry casualties from near Bani Walid, as NTC fighters grabbed crates of rocket-propelled grenades and mortars and raced to the front.

In Teassain, 90 km east of Sirte, Reuters witnesses saw heavy rocket exchanges between NTC forces and Qaddafi loyalists.

Qaddafi’s own location has been a mystery since Tripoli fell to his enemies on August 23 after a six-month civil war, although he insisted in a defiant message broadcast on Thursday that he was still in Libya to lead the fight against what he called the “rats” and “stray dogs” who had taken over the capital.

But four of his top officials, including his air force commander and a general in charge of his forces in the south, were among a new group of Libyans who have fled to neighboring Niger, officials in Niger said.

General Ali Kana, the southern commander, and Ali Sharif al-Rifi, the air force chief, were among 14 Libyans who arrived in the northern Niger town of Agadez on Thursday after crossing the border in a convoy of four-wheel drive vehicles, they said.

A Reuters reporter in Agadez said the four senior men were staying at the luxury Etoile du Tenere hotel, said to be owned by Qaddafi, who stayed there during a Muslim holiday in 2007.

Niger, under pressure from Western powers and Libya’s new rulers to hand over former Qaddafi officials suspected of human rights abuses, said it would respect its commitments to the ICC if Qaddafi or his sons entered the country.

“We are signatories of the (ICC’s) Rome Statute so they know what they are exposed to if they come,” Massaoudou Hassoumi, the head of President Mahamadou Issoufou’s cabinet, told Reuters.

He said the latest arrivals were “under control” in Agadez, through which the head of Qaddafi’s security brigades, Mansour Dhao, passed earlier this week en route to the capital Niamey.

“We are taking them in on humanitarian grounds. No one has told us that these are wanted people,” said Hassoumi.

Joining the hunt for Qaddafi, Interpol issued arrest warrants for him, his son Seif al-Islam and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, who are all wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for suspected crimes against humanity.

“Qaddafi is a fugitive whose country of nationality and the ICC want arrested and held accountable for the serious criminal charges that have been brought against him,” said Ronald Noble, secretary general of the Lyons-based police organization.

A Tunis-based NTC official, Moussa al-Kouni, told Al Arabiya he believed Qaddafi was somewhere in the southern desert that stretches into Niger and Mauritania.

“He is not in a city. He is not in Agadez. It is difficult to catch him. We will need intelligence tips from the residents of the desert,” he said, adding that Qaddafi could be disguised as a local shepherd or nomad.

Families trickled out of Bani Walid before the fighting intensified, belongings crammed into their cars.

“I’m taking my family away from war,” said Khalid Ahmouda, stopping his car briefly to speak to Reuters. “They are afraid because there will be a big fight today or tomorrow.”

His veiled wife, Oum Abdurahman, leaned from a window, holding her baby son. “There’s no power, no food, no water. Many people want to leave but have no fuel for their cars and Gaddafi forces are preventing people from leaving,” she said.

“They fire in the air to terrorize people. Today we managed to leave,” she said, adding that her brother-in-law was among 11 people killed on May 25 in a crackdown on townsfolk who had staged anti-Qaddafi protests.

NTC officials at a checkpoint 30 km from Bani Walid said Qaddafi fighters had been captured. Reuters witnesses saw some men driven away with their hands tied behind them, as well as two bodies, said to be Qaddafi fighters, in a pick-up truck.

NTC fighters say that only about 150 well-armed Qaddafi loyalists are holed up in the town, with dozens of pick-up trucks fitted with anti-aircraft guns and heavy machine guns, as well as multiple rocket launchers and artillery.

Smoke rose from the front line, now just five km from the town, as NATO planes roared overhead.

The resistance offered by Qaddafi loyalists in Bani Walid, Sirte and the southern desert town of Sabha is obstructing efforts by Libya’s new rulers to stabilize the country.

Concern is mounting for 1,700 African migrants, mainly from Niger, Somalia, Eritrea and Nigeria, who are stranded in Sabha as the deadline approaches for a negotiated surrender at Bani Walid, the International Organization for Migration said.

The IOM was trying to send a convoy from Tripoli with food, water and medical supplies for the migrants at Sabha ahead of their evacuation either by air or by road to Chad or Niger, IOM spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy said.

“The deadline in Ben Walid comes at the weekend and that is not making anything easier, if there is fighting on that front. There are many unknowns in this equation,” he told Reuters.

Niger, which only this year returned to civilian rule and is fighting al-Qaeda-linked groups in its desert north, fears the Libya conflict might spill over, said cabinet chief Hassoumi.

“We have prepared for a worst-case scenario, for example if Bani Walid and Sirte were to fall by force, it could cause a massive stampede of armed groups into Niger,” he said.

Some NTC officials have said Gaddafi must be captured or killed before Libya can be declared liberated and a timetable for elections and a new constitution can start running.

The NTC, struggling to impose its authority on Libya, a sprawling energy-rich desert state of six million people, says it hopes to move its administration to Tripoli from the eastern city of Benghazi next week and to resume pumping oil.

Al Arabiya

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Jan Lokpal Bill and Parliament--- Shanti Bhushan


Is the Bill within the legislative competence of Parliament? Yes.

All provisions in Anna Hazare's Jan Lokpal Bill are within the legislative competence of Parliament, including the provisions relating to Lokayuktas in the States. Some confusion is being spread in the media that Parliament cannot enact all the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill, particularly those relating to the Lokayuktas in the States, a law for which will have to be enacted by the State Legislatures themselves. Any constitutional jurist would confirm that there is no substance in this impression and that Parliament is fully competent to enact all the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill.

Parliament can enact any law if the “pith and substance” of that law is covered by any entry in the Union List or any entry in the Concurrent List. Entry 97 of the Union List is as follows: “Any other matter not enumerated in list 2 or list 3 including any tax not mentioned in either of those lists.”

The effect of this is that unless the pith and substance of the Jan Lokpal Bill falls squarely under any of the entries in the State List, Parliament cannot be denied the legislative competence to enact the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill. Even a student of law would tell you that the pith and substance of the Jan Lokpal Bill does not fall under any entry in the State list.

One of the entries in the Union List is entry No.14: “entering into treaties and agreements with foreign countries and implementing of treaties, agreements and conventions with foreign countries.” Article 253 provides that “Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this Chapter, Parliament has power to make any law for the whole or any part of the territory of India for implementing any treaty, agreement or convention with any other country or countries or any decision made at any international conference, association or other body.” The effect of Article 253 is that even if the pith and substance of an Act is squarely covered by an entry in the State List, even then if the enactment is for implementing a U.N. Convention, Parliament would still be competent to enact the legislation.

As the statement of objects and reasons of the Jan Lokpal Bill would show, the object of the Jan Lokpal Bill is to implement the United Nations Convention on Corruption, which has already been ratified by India (http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/treaties/CAC/index.html).

The definition of “public official” in the U.N. Convention includes any person holding a legislative, executive, administrative, or judicial office, whether appointed or elected. This is quite similar to the definition of “public servant” in the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, enacted by India's Parliament, which covers all Ministers including the Prime Minister, all judges of the High Court and the Supreme Court as well as all elected Members of Parliament and State Legislatures. Incidentally, it may be mentioned that the Prevention of Corruption Act was enacted by Parliament and not by any State Legislature, even though it is applicable not only to Central government servants but also to servants of the State governments. The main object of the Jan Lokpal Bill is to set up an independent authority as required by the U.N. Convention to investigate offences of corruption by all public servants covered by the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

Entry 1 of the Concurrent List refers to criminal law, including all matters included in the Indian Penal Code. As bribery and corruption were covered by the Indian Penal Code, Parliament had full competence to enact the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Entry 2 of the Concurrent List relates to criminal procedure, including all matters included in the Code of Criminal Procedure. Since the investigation of bribery and corruption was included in the Code of Criminal Procedure, Parliament is fully competent to enact a law to provide for alternative methods of investigation of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Article 8 (2) of the U.N. Convention requires each state that is a party to the Convention to apply, within its own institutional and legal systems, codes or standards of conduct for the correct, honourable, and proper performance of public functions.

Article 8 (5) further requires the states to establish systems requiring public officials to make declarations regarding their outside activities, employment, investments, assets, and substantial gifts or benefits from which a conflict of interest may result with respect to their functions as public officials.

Article 8 (6) further requires the states to take disciplinary or other measures against public officials who violate the codes or standards established in accordance with the convention.

Article 12 (2) requires the taking of measures for preventing the misuse of procedures regulating private entities, including procedures regarding subsidies and licences granted by public authorities for commercial activities. It further requires the imposition of restrictions for a reasonable period of time on the professional activities of former public officials after their resignation or retirement, where such activities of employment relate directly to the functions held or supervised by those public officials during their tenure.

Article 34 of the Convention requires the states to consider corruption a relevant factor in legal proceedings to annul or rescind a contract, withdraw a concession or other similar instrument, or take any other remedial action. It would be crystal clear to any constitutional jurist that even if the Jan Lokpal Bill had not been for the purpose of implementing the U.N. Convention, all its provisions would be squarely covered by the Union List and the Concurrent List.

While one can understand the anxiety of political parties to somehow attempt to dilute the provisions of the Jan Lokpal Bill by reducing its coverage or to weaken it, they owe it to the people of India not to mislead the gullible people that Parliament is not competent to enact the provisions contained in Anna Hazare's Jan Lokpal Bill. Even the claim that at the least the States are required to be consulted has no basis at all. The Constitution-makers had foreseen that in a federal or quasi-federal country, the States' views had to be taken into consideration by Parliament when enacting a law. They had, therefore, provided for the Council of States and a Bill cannot be enacted by Parliament unless it is passed both in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. The constitution of the Rajya Sabha provides that each State elects its representatives to this House. Thus all States are represented in the Rajya Sabha. The MPs in the Rajya Sabha are there to represent the views of the states on any Bill that comes before it and there is thus an inbuilt mechanism in the Constitution itself to provide for taking into consideration the views of the States on a Bill that is being enacted by Parliament.

(Shanti Bhushan, a constitutional expert, is a former Union Law Minister and member of the Joint Drafting Committee on the Lokpal Bill.)

The Hindu