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31 March 2012
Egypt – The LA Times reported: The Muslim Brotherhood, which controls the parliament, picks Khairat Shater, who was jailed for years under former President Hosni Mubarak. The Muslim Brotherhood chose a religiously conservative businessman as its presidential candidate Saturday, a provocative move expected to upset liberals and deepen the ruling military’s suspicion over the growing political power of Islamists in Egypt. Khairat Shater, who was jailed for years under former President Hosni Mubarak, was selected after weeks of debate over whether the organization should field a candidate in the May election. The Brotherhood, which controls the parliament, had long promised not to run a contender to allay public fear that Islamists would dominate the government. But sensing a chance to consolidate its power after 84 years as the country’s most oppressed opposition group, the Brotherhood reversed course and put forward Shater, the group’s deputy leader. Because of the Brotherhood’s grass-roots popularity, the decision may well mean that in less than two months he could replace the man who tormented him.
Syria – The Hindustan Times reported: Syria’s regime has declared victory over rebel forces while voicing support for a UN-Arab peace plan, ahead of international talks in Turkey on Sunday aimed at pressing Damascus to end its bloody crackdown. “The battle to topple the state is over, and the battle to solidify stability… and move on towards a renewed Syria has begun,” foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdisi said in an interview carried on state television. The opposition reacted by calling for outside powers to arm the rebel forces, while the United States and Gulf Arab states urged international envoy Kofi Annan to spell out the “next steps” if Damascus fails to implement his plan. Makdisi, cited by the official SANA news agency, also said Syrian troops would only draw back from urban areas once the security situation is stable. The regime’s claims came on the eve of a “Friends of Syria” in Turkey on Sunday.
Thailand – ABC NEWS Australia reported: A series of car bombs have killed 13 people and injured more than 500 in the deadliest attacks to hit the insurgency-torn far south of Thailand in recent years. In an apparent escalation of their tactics, suspected militants on Saturday attacked a hotel in Hat Yai, the largest city in southern Thailand and a popular destination for tourists from neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore. A car bomb in the basement triggered a fire which spread to a shopping mall within the Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel and killed three people, including a Malaysian tourist, according to the police. Songkhla provincial governor Grisada Boorach said 416 people were injured, mostly suffering from smoke inhalation, and 140 were still in hospital on Sunday. Until now Hat Yai and Songkhla province have been relatively untouched by the shadowy insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives in the neighbouring Muslim-dominated provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat since 2004.
China – The BBC China Corps reported: Chinese police have arrested six people and shut 16 websites after rumours were spread that military vehicles were on the streets of Beijing, officials say. The web posts were picked up last week by media outlets around the world, amid uncertainty caused by the ouster of top political leader Bo Xilai. The State Internet Information Office (SIIO) said the rumours had a “very bad influence on the public”. Two popular microblogs have temporarily stopped users from posting comments. The two sites, Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo, are still letting people post to their own sites. But they said commenting on other people’s posts would be disabled between 31 March and 3 April, so they “could act to stop the spread of rumours”. A spokesman for the SIIO told state news agency Xinhua earlier that the two websites had been “criticised and punished accordingly”. He added that that a number of other people had been “admonished or educated”.
Israel – The New York Times reported: Thousands of Palestinians protested on Friday against Israeli policies of land seizure and control of Jerusalem, leading to clashes with Israeli troops in which a 20-year-old was killed and scores of others were injured. The annual protest, known as Land Day, drew demonstrators in groups of hundreds in locations within Israel as well as in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza. There were also solidarity marches in neighboring Lebanon and Jordan. But weeks of organizing for a global march on Jerusalem produced fewer demonstrators than expected as Israel’s borders remained largely calm. Security troops in riot gear were out in large numbers, using rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons filled with putrid green liquid and high-pitched noise machines. Land Day commemorates events in March 1976 when Israel confiscated land from Galilee Arab villages, leading to protests in which six Arabs were killed. This year, the focus was extended to Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem — which Palestinians want as the capital of a future state — and there were calls for protests and marches around the world.
Libya – The Santa Maria Times reported: Six days of tribal clashes in a remote desert town in southern Libya have killed 147 people, the country’s health minister said Saturday.
Fatma al-Hamroush said in a press conference in Tripoli that the fighting in Sabha has also left 395 wounded. Around 180 people have been transported to the capital Tripoli for emergency treatment, she said. The clashes in the oasis region some 400 miles (650 kilometers) south of Tripoli show the fragile authority of the Libyan government, particularly in the isolated settlements that dot the southern desert. With only a nascent national army and police force, Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council relies on militias comprised of former rebels to keep the peace, and the country’s vast distances makes it difficult to deploy them to trouble spots. Deposed dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s 40 years in power moreover left behind a patchwork of local rivalries. The Sabha fighting pits southern Libyan Arab tribes that reportedly had close connections to Gadhafi against the African Tabu tribe, which fought against him. Residents of the oasis say that the rivalry burst into open conflict Monday after a Tabu shot a member of the Arab Abu Seif tribe, and then a delegation of Tabu elders and armed men going to participate in reconciliation talks was ambushed. The Tabu and Arab tribes fought in another oasis region, Kufra, in February.
1 April 2012
Syria – ABC NEWS Australia reported: Representatives of more than 80 nations met in Istanbul on the weekend along with representatives of the Syrian opposition to keep up the pressure on president Bashar al-Assad to end the violence in his country. The group which calls itself the Friends of Syria called on the UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan to give the Syrian leader a timeline to deliver on his ceasefire commitment. The group also committed to paying salaries to rebels fighting the Assad government with the funds to come from several Arab countries, as Europe correspondent, Rachael Brown, reports.
RACHAEL BROWN: The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton says the Syrian president is mistaken if he thinks he can defeat his opposition.
HILLARY CLINTON: Despite the dangers the next step has to be to translate it into a political action plan. That’s how the opposition will build momentum, strip away Assad’s remaining support and expose the regime’s hypocrisy.
RACHAEL BROWN: Addressing the summit of more than 80 nations Mrs Clinton said it’s unlikely president Assad will ever implement the peace plan he agreed on with the UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
HILLARY CLINTON: Bashar al-Assad has so far refused to honour his pledge. There is no more time for excuses or delays, this is a moment of truth.
Russia – USA Today reported: A passenger plane carrying 43 people crashed in Siberia shortly after taking off Monday morning, and Russian emergency officials said at least 16 were confirmed dead but at least 12 survived. The ATR-72, a French-Italian-made twin-engine turboprop, operated by UTair was flying from Tyumen to the oil town of Surgut with 39 passengers and four crew. The aircraft went down outside Tyumen, a major regional center in Siberia. The cause of the crash was not yet clear. Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman Irina Andrianova said the 12 survivors were being flown to a hospital by helicopter. She said 16 bodies had been recovered so far. The state RIA-Novosti news agency, citing rescue workers, said 17 people had survived the crash.
North Korea – FOX NEWS reported: New satellite images of a North Korean rocket launch site show a mobile radar trailer and rows of what appear to be empty fuel and oxidizer tanks, evidence of ramped-up preparation for what Washington calls a cover for a long-range missile test. An analysis of images provided Monday to The Associated Press by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies shows Pyongyang “has undertaken more extensive preparations for its planned April rocket launch than previously understood.” The images were taken Wednesday. A mobile radar trailer essential for any launch stands at the end of a new dirt road running from the entrance of the Tongchang-ri site; it has a dish antenna that’s probably a radar tracking system, according to the institute’s analysis. Radar tracking during a launch gives engineers crucial real-time information on the performance of the rocket’s engines, guidance system and other details.
UAE – Bloomberg NEWS reported: A raid on pro-democracy groups in the United Arab Emirates underscores a contradiction at the core of the Obama administration’s response to the Arab Spring. As the U.S. advocates for freedom in Libya and Syria, its closest allies in the Persian Gulf region consider democracy a threat to their stability. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the only representative of a democracy when she met Persian Gulf allies, including the UAE, in Saudi Arabia on March 31 to discuss a common defense against Iran and support for Syria’s anti-regime, pro-democracy uprising. “While the U.S., European Union and Turkey are keen to support more secular forces and democratic ones, there is no reason why the Gulf states would do the same thing,” Aram Nerguizian, a visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington research and policy organization, said in an interview.
China – USA Today reported: Numerous websites remained shut down Sunday as the Communist government sought to penalize popular social media sites for circulating rumors of a coup. The state-run Xinhua News Agency said Beijing police questioned and admonished an unspecified number of Internet users and detained six people for “fabricating or spreading” online rumors. The government shut down 16 websites, including two Twitter-like services that have more than 250 million users. The microblogging services — known as weibo in Chinese — Sina and Tencent had their comment functions disabled to “clean up” rumors that included talk of “military vehicles entering Beijing and something wrong going on in Beijing,” the state Internet Information Office told Xinhua. Twitter, like Facebook and YouTube, is banned because the Chinese government wanted more control over the services.