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7 May 2012
Greece – The Christian Science Monitor reported: Voters sent a strong message of anger over austerity measures imposed by Greece’s foreign lenders, but with no party in the majority a government has yet to be formed. Greece sank deeper into a political and financial morass on Monday as initial efforts to form a new coalition government failed a day after angry voters punished parties backing the country’s international bailout. The result of Sunday’s parliamentary election raised troubling new questions about Greece’s ability to stay solvent and in the euro currency bloc. And the political impasse means Greece could face another round of elections next month. Voters furious over years of painful budget cuts and higher taxes hammered the conservative New Democracy and socialist PASOK, the two parties who have dominated politics for the last four decades and who had signed up to the country’s multibillion dollar bailouts.
Russia – The Mercury NEWS reported: In the lustrous, vaulted throne room of the czars who came before him, Vladimir Putin on Monday reclaimed the Russian presidency. A 30-gun salute cracked over the eerie quiet of the city, and Russia’s defense minister returned to Putin the black suitcase that contains the controls to a vast nuclear arsenal. Outside the Kremlin walls, Putin announced his return in another way. Police swept boulevards and squares detaining anyone they saw wearing white ribbons, the symbol adopted by anti-Putin activists. Camouflaged riot police charged into cafes and restaurants in search of protesters, in one spot sending cups and glasses flying. Once in police custody, scores of young men were referred to draft offices. The clampdown underlined the challenge ahead of Putin, who even as the sweeps were taking place promised to expand Russians’ rights and freedoms, as well as their direct participation in government.
Israel – CNN reported: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party have agreed to form a unity government with the rival centrist political faction Kadima in a move that will put off elections until late next year and create one of the largest coalition governments in Israeli history. The deal was reached early Tuesday morning between Netanyahu and Kadima Party leader Shaul Mofaz, a day after Netanyahu had publicly called for early elections to be held September 4. Appearing together at a news conference Tuesday afternoon in the Knesset, the two leaders attempted to explain the sudden change in direction.
Syria – The Australian NEWS reported: International powers are “in a race against time” to prevent all-out civil war in Syria, where the government could use the presence of ceasefire observers to prepare a new assault, UN leader Ban Ki-moon has warned. Speaking ahead of a key UN Security Council meeting on Syria today, Ban again condemned the “brutality” of President Bashar al-Assad’s forces but said attacks by opposition groups have also “escalated”. “We are in a race against time to prevent full-scale civil war – death on a potentially massive scale,” Ban said. The UN already estimates that well over 9000 people have died in the 14-month uprising against Assad. “The government continues to assault its people,” the UN secretary-general told the Atlantic Council think-tank in Washington.
India – The Hindustan Times reported: Resisting US pressure to further scale down oil imports from sanction-hit Iran, India today made it clear that it has to look at the issue involved beyond the energy trade as it has “vital” security stakes in the Gulf region. After talks with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton during which she asked India to restrict its trade and energy ties with Tehran, external affairs minister SM Krishna said, “I conveyed our vital stakes in peace and stability in the Persian Gulf and wider West Asian region, given the six million Indians who live there and the region’s importance to our economy.” Clinton, who is here on her last leg of three-nation Asia tour, has been pressing India to “do more” to scale down its oil imports from Iran to keep pressure on Tehran to meet international demands on its disputed nuclear programme. Addressing a joint press interaction, Krishna said, “Iran is a key country for our energy needs but we have to look at the Iran issue beyond the issue of energy trade. In the first place, we have to see security and stability in the Gulf region, India has vital stakes in Gulf region.
Israel – Haaretz reported: Justices voice unease over Israel’s administrative detention policy and the fact that materials often withheld from the detainees’ lawyers. The High Court of Justice on Monday denied the petition of two hunger-striking Palestinians against their administrative detention, which it conceded must be used sparingly. “Administrative detention is an aberration in the judicial field, and thus, no one can deny, must be used as little as possible,” the court said. The justices voiced unease over Israel’s administrative detention policy and the fact that some material, often cited as the cause for detention, is withheld from the detainees’ lawyers. Hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails have begun hunger strikes in recent months to protest imprisonments they claim are illegal.
Pakistan – Boston dot Com reported: A 70-year-old American kidnapped nine months ago in Pakistan said in a video released by Al Qaeda that he will be killed unless President Obama agrees to the militant group’s demands. The White House called for his immediate release. The video posted on militant websites Sunday followed one issued in December in which Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri said Warren Weinstein would be released if the United States stopped airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. He also demanded the release of all Al Qaeda and Taliban suspects around the world. “My life is in your hands, Mr. President,’’ Weinstein said in the new video. “If you accept the demands, I live; if you don’t accept the demands, then I die.’’ It was unclear when the video was recorded.
China – Bloomberg NEWS reported: The U.S. and Chinese militaries should work as equals and avoid the “stereotype” of being confrontational superpowers, Chinese General Liang Guanglie said on his first visit to Washington as defense minister. Speaking to reporters yesterday following talks with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Liang disputed a question about China’s responsibility for cyber attacks against the U.S. and said the two sides discussed ways to “build a new state-to- state relationship that’s not a stereotype of two major powers predestined for conflict.” Liang’s call to be treated as an equal reflects China’s growing desire, backed by its $5.9 trillion economy, to be considered a power on par with the U.S. It comes as the U.S. is shifting its military posture to the Asia-Pacific area, reflecting concerns by the U.S. and nations in the region about China’s expanding reach and competition for resources such as oil and gas in the South China Sea. “I proposed that the two militaries build a new relationship based on equality, mutual benefit and cooperation,” said Liang.
Australia – The (AP) reported: Australia’s government is preparing to reveal a spending plan that would make it the first major developed economy to return to a budget surplus after the global financial crisis. Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan on Tuesday foreshadowed big spending cuts to achieve what he described as a “modest” surplus in the fiscal year beginning July 1. Media reports have predicted a 1.5 billion Australian dollar ($1.5 billion) surplus target for the AU$1.4 trillion Australian economy. The government had predicted a AU$22.6 billion deficit for the current fiscal year when the last budget was announced a year ago. That deficit rose to AU$37 billion when economic projections were reviewed in November due to Australia’s slower-than-expected economic recovery. Swan said poorer Australians will be spared spending cuts while wealthier Australians will have to carry a greater tax burden.
Pakistan – The Christian Science Monitor reported: Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian citizen who founded the Egyptian Islamic Jihad militant group, took over for Osama bin Laden as the leader of Al Qaeda when bin Laden was killed in May 2011. He was already considered the group’s central ideologue and one of the brains behind the 9/11 attacks. There is a $25 million bounty on information leading to Mr. Zawahiri’s arrest. With the death of Mr. bin Laden, who was also one of the original 22 people on the FBI’s list of Most Wanted Terrorists released in October 2001, Zawahiri is reportedly now the world’s most-wanted living terrorist. The US has indicted him for his alleged role in the 1998 bombing of US embassies in Tanzinia and Nairobi. He went into hiding after the US overthrew the Taliban in late 2001, supposedly in the remote region along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and survived a US drone strike in Pakistan in 2006.
Serbia – The New York Times reported: The Socialist Party of the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic emerged on Monday as the kingmaker in Serbian parliamentary elections in which deep disillusionment over economic hardship dented the Democratic Party of President Boris Tadic. Mirroring the trend in elections in France and Greece, voters here expressed their anger on Sunday against the governing party by turning to nationalist and populist leaders once allied with Mr. Milosevic, who as president plunged Yugoslavia into war and more than two decades of international isolation, and died in 2006 while on trial for war crimes. The Serbian electoral commission is not expected to release the final results until Thursday, but tallies based on 97.51 of the votes counted give the Serbian Progressive Party of Tomislav Nikolic, a former pro-Russian hard-liner, 24.1 percent, compared with 22.07 percent for the Democratic Party, led by Mr. Tadic, a former psychology professor supported by Brussels and Washington.
8 May 2012
Greece – Bloomberg Businessweek reported: The head of a left-wing party opposed to the terms of Greece’s bailout agreements was meeting with the country’s president to receive the mandate to seek coalition partners and try to form a government after a general election produced a stalemate in parliament. Alexis Tsipras, head of the Radical Left Coalition, or Syriza, was receiving the mandate Tuesday, a day after conservative party leader Antonis Samaras failed to reach agreement to form a government. Tsipras’ party came a surprise second in Sunday’s elections. Voters punished both main parties — Samaras’ New Democracy and the socialist PASOK — for their handling of the financial crisis. No party won enough votes to form a government, leaving a coalition or new elections as the only options.
Israel – The Globe And Mail of Canada reported: In the name of stability, Benjamin Netanyahu has made himself the most powerful Prime Minister in Israeli history – 94 of the Knesset’s 120 members are swearing loyalty to him – and with only 26 members in the parliamentary opposition, Mr. Netanyahu can govern any way he wishes, including launching a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities or even shaping a peace with the Palestinians. While some Israelis, such as Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, a member of Mr. Netanyahu’s own Likud party, worry that the imbalance between government and opposition risks the degeneration of the parliamentary system, most Israelis simply marvelled Tuesday at the arrangement arrived at in the early hours of the morning that has dramatically rearranged the country’s politics. Just two days after he announced he was calling for elections to be held in September, 13 months before the end of his electoral mandate, Mr. Netanyahu decided to accept a plan put forward by Defence Minister Ehud Barak and welcomed into his right-of-centre government Shaul Mofaz, the newly elected leader of Kadima and his party’s 28 seats.
United Kingdom – The Telegraph UK reported: People should buy “quality” British food to help the farming industry, David Cameron said as he admitted that the Government needed to “redouble efforts” to beat recession. The Prime Minister emphasised the importance of agriculture and manufacturing to the economy, saying too much wealth was concentrated in London. “If we want a healthy farming industry, what we’ve got to recognise is that it really depends on us as consumers going into shops and supermarkets wanting to buy quality British products,” he said in support of farmers. “Of course we’ve got the Common Agricultural Policy, and of course there are the schemes and grants to help farming.
Palestine – Reuters reported: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned on Tuesday that the death of any one of the hundreds of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israel would be a “disaster” and could trigger a backlash that might slip out of control. “It is very dangerous,” Abbas told Reuters on a day when the Red Cross urged Israel to transfer to hospital six detainees who it said were close to death after not eating for two months. “If anybody dies today or tomorrow or after a week it would be a disaster and no one could control the situation,” Abbas said in an interview at his office in Ramallah. “I told the Israelis and the Americans if they do not find a solution for this hunger strike immediately, they will be committing a crime.” Joining some who began fasting earlier, an estimated 1,600 Palestinian prisoners out of 4,800 launched a mass hunger strike on April 17 to protest against conditions in Israeli jails and to demand an end to solitary confinement and more family visits.
Libya – The BBC Africa Corps reported: Libyan Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Keib has branded gunmen who attacked his office in the capital Tripoli as “outlaws”. In a televised speech he said the men had “pretended” to be rebel fighters to claim cash handouts offered as rewards for helping to topple Col Gaddafi. One security guard was killed when about 200 armed men, some carrying mortars, tried to storm the building. They were eventually repelled by security forces.
Iraq – CNN reported: Interpol on Tuesday issued a “red notice” for Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, who is suspected of guiding and financing terrorist attacks in the country. The red notice for al-Hashimi “represents a regional (and) international alert to all of Interpol’s 190 member countries to seek their help in locating and arresting him, following the issue of a national arrest warrant by Iraq’s Judicial Investigative Authority as part of an investigation in which security forces seized bombing materials and arrested individuals,” the international police organization said in a statement. Al-Hashimi has been living in a Turkish government guest house in Istanbul. In recent months, he has lived in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region but has also traveled to Saudi Arabia and Qatar at the invitation of those governments.
China – Xinhau reported: China has issued a strong warning to the Philippines not to escalate the tension. Vice-Foreign Minister Fu Ying said China is fully prepared to respond to anything the Philippine side does on the issue. The statement comes as the stand-off over Huangyan Island enters its third week. The stalemate is about to be a break. China’s tone, for first the time, was not optimistic. At a meeting with Philippine diplomats at their embassy in Beijing, Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying said, “It is obvious that the Philippine side has not realized that it is making serious mistakes and, instead, is stepping up efforts to escalate tensions.” At a Foreign Ministry press conference, China once again asserted its sovereignty over Huangyan Island. Hong Lei, spokesman of Chinese Foreign Ministry, said, “Huangyan Island is an inalienable part of China’s territory. We demand the Philippines refrain from any more actions that will complicate, amplify or internationalize the situation.” Despite China’s opposition, the Philippine side has continued to send government vessels to Huangyan Island lagoon.
9 May 2012
Syria – The New York Times reported: A roadside bomb hit a Syrian military truck on Wednesday, just seconds after the head of the United Nations observer team drove by in a convoy, and demonstrated the fragility of the international plan to end the country’s bloodshed. The attack, which the government said wounded 10 Syrian soldiers, also emphasized the limits of the international community’s plan to use unarmed observers to monitor a cease-fire between government troops and rebels trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad. The team of 70 military observers now in Syria is expected to grow to more than 100 in the coming days, but it is unclear when the full team of 300 will arrive. They are to oversee an internationally brokered cease-fire agreement that was intended to allow for talks on a political solution to the conflict but began fraying shortly after it was scheduled to take effect on April 12.
China – The Washington Post reported: The monthlong standoff between China and the Philippines over a South China Sea shoal is snowballing with hints of economic retaliation and sharpening public opinion that are narrowing the space for a negotiated settlement. Beijing is suspending some tourism to the Philippines and stiffening inspections on Philippine fruit such as bananas, of which China is the single largest buyer. That follows Beijing’s summoning of Manila’s charge d’affairs three times, while retired and serving military officers have called for a limited military operation to shore up China’s credibility on the matter — a potentially explosive move that could trigger the 1951 U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty. “The Chinese Foreign Ministry has made it clear China is prepared for any escalation of the situation by the Philippines. It goes without saying what this means,” the military’s official Jiefangjun Bao newspaper said in an editorial.
South Sudan – The Chicago Tribune reported: South Sudan accused Sudan on Wednesday of bombing and shelling seven areas on the southern side of their disputed border in the last 48 hours, calling the acts a violation of a U.N.-backed ceasefire which should have begun on Saturday. The latest allegations indicated that continuing tensions between the two old civil war foes, which erupted into border fighting last month, could hamper international efforts to push them to resume negotiations on various outstanding disputes. A South Sudan military spokesman, Kella Dual Kueth, told reporters Sudanese forces attacked South Sudanese territory in Bahr el Ghazal, Unity and Upper Nile states on Monday and Tuesday, using MiG jet fighters, Antonov bombers and ground shelling.
France – Reuters reported: French president-elect Francois Hollande began his drive to persuade European partners to shift their economic policy priority from austerity to growth when he met on Wednesday with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy. Hollande takes his call to add growth elements to Europe’s fiscal compact to Berlin next week. European Union officials said they have high hopes for the new French leader and his ability to build a working relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that could revive blocked efforts to overcome the euro zone’s debt crisis. “Hollande’s election is a positive development that has already changed the narrative in Europe, which was getting stuck because of an obsession with fiscal austerity,” one senior EU official said.
Algeria – The Agence Presse France reported: Algeria’s government announced a relatively high turnout for Thursday’s legislative polls that contrasts starkly with the widespread voter mistrust and disaffection that marked the campaign. The regime had looked for a confidence vote on a reform package launched in the wake of the Arab Spring but many Algerians had dismissed it as further sealing the status quo and vowed to shun a vote they said would be fixed. Foreign observers brought in by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said the polling process was marred only by minor incidents but the electoral commission said it had received more than 150 complaints. “Global turnout, national territory and diaspora combined, stands at 42.9 percent,” Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia told reporters. Turnout hit a record low of 35 percent in polls in 2007.
United Kingdom – The Agence Presse France reported: Queen Elizabeth II voiced the ruling coalition’s bid to offer economic hope and win back voters after its worst few weeks yet in her annual address to the parliament. New laws in the coming year would focus on “economic growth, justice and constitutional reform”, the queen said, while “the first priority will be to reduce the deficit and restore economic stability”. The two-year-old government’s pursuit of deep spending cuts to reduce the deficit was one reason for a drubbing received by the Conservatives and their Liberal Democrat partners in local elections last week. In a break with tradition, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and his Liberal Democrat deputy Nick Clegg jointly wrote an introduction to the speech, promising to “stretch every sinew to return growth to the economy”.
Egypt – The New York Times reported: An administrative court on Wednesday suspended Egypt’s presidential election, scheduled to start on May 23, but legal experts said the ruling was expected to have little effect, and the candidates continued their campaigns, including preparations for the first televised debate Thursday night. Egyptians expressed disbelief and derision in response to the ruling, which underscored the continuing lack of certainty about many details, including the final list of candidates and the job description of the president. The election is planned as the final step in the country’s military-led transition from the government of the ousted president, Hosni Mubarak. The administrative court sought to suspend the elections mainly because of a procedural issue: it found that the date had wrongly been set by an independent electoral commission instead of by the governing generals themselves. Adding to the complexity is the belief of some officials that the administrative court itself lacked the authority to suspend the vote, although the technical details of jurisdiction over election rules are a matter of heated dispute.
Israel – Haaretz reported: Netanyahu’s new partner in coalition, Kadima’s Shaul Mofaz, may tip the balance of the senior ministers forum, which is divided over Iran. Cabinet members who oppose a strike on Iran said on Wednesday Kadima head Shaul Mofaz might backtrack and align with the more hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu, now that the two are in the same government. Mofaz, who has consistently opposed an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, joined the Netanyahu government on Tuesday despite having called the prime minister a liar. After taking over as Kadima head this spring, he repeatedly pledged to lead the opposition.
Iran – The New York Times reported: New commercial satellite imagery of an Iranian military site that has remained off limits to international nuclear inspectors shows recent activity that suggests the Iranians have tried to clean up a suspected explosives testing chamber there, a group that tracks nuclear proliferation said Wednesday. The group, the Institute for Science and International Security, said in a report on its Web site that the imagery showed unidentified items lined up outside the chamber, possibly related to cleaning, and what appeared to be a stream of water from or near the chamber. The satellite imagery was taken on April 9, the report said, after inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency had made repeated requests for permission to visit the chamber at the site, known as Parchin, in a desert region about 20 miles southeast of Tehran. Iranian officials have rejected the requests. The institute’s report came amid renewed diplomatic efforts to resolve the longstanding dispute over Iran’s nuclear energy program, which Iran says is peaceful but which Western nations suspect is a cover for efforts to make nuclear weapons. The powers negotiating with Iran have urged it to allow inspectors to visit Parchin.
10 May 2012
Syria – The Agence Presse France reported: The UN Security Council condemned the deadliest bomb attacks of Syria’s 14-month uprising, urging all sides to stick to an international peace plan after at least 55 people were killed. The Syrian government and opposition traded the blame for Thursday’s twin suicide bomb attacks in Damascus, which also left nearly 400 people wounded in horrific scenes of carnage. Opposition leader Burhan Ghalioun told reporters in Tokyo on Friday Syria’s government is trying to destroy the UN-brokered peace plan. “The regime is now trying to kill this (Kofi) Annan plan, and by a new technique which is terrorism,” Ghalioun said. Ghalioun was adamant the government was behind the attacks and accused the authorities of colluding with outside bodies.
Yemen – The Washington Post reported: The United States launched airstrikes in Yemen on Thursday that killed as many as seven militants, the second American missile attack in the country since the CIA and other spy agencies disrupted an al-Qaeda airline bomb plot, U.S. officials said. The strike came as new details surfaced about the foiling of the plot, including the disclosure that the operative who posed as a willing suicide bomber and later turned the device over to authorities was a British citizen, according to Western officials. The operative’s background as a Saudi with a British passport helps to explain why he may have been selected by al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen to smuggle an advanced explosive onto a U.S.-bound flight. In reality, officials said, the operative was working as part of an elaborate espionage mission directed by the CIA and its Saudi counterpart.
Greece – The BBC reported: The latest attempts to form a Greek government are said to be deadlocked, raising the prospect of fresh elections and more uncertainty for the eurozone. The chance of a deal are “very slim”, a senior government source told the BBC. The leader of socialist party Pasok, Evangelos Venizelos, has been holding a series of talks with other party heads but has not made a breakthrough. Greece’s debt crisis has raised the possibility the country could default and be forced out of the eurozone. German officials have kept up the pressure on the Greek politicians by warning that the country must stick to the terms of the bailout and repay its loans.
Egypt – The Guardian UK reported: Millions of Egyptians tuned into the first ever presidential debate in the country’s history on Thursday night between frontrunners Amr Moussa and Abdel-Moneim Abul-Futoh. With former president Hosni Mubarak languishing in hospital as he awaits sentencing next month, Egyptians watched two private satellite channels to witness an event held within its borders for the first time: a bona fide presidential debate. There are 13 candidates in the campaign, which begins on 23 May, but the two who showed up for the TV bout were the established frontrunners in the polls, former foreign minister Moussa and former Muslim Brotherhood member Abul-Futoh.
Germany – The Washington Post reported: French President-elect Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have each been prescribing the same salve — growth — to ease Europe’s economic ills. But the medicines vary sharply on either side of the Rhine. And though European leaders will meet later this month to try to work out their differences, the 17 countries that share the euro currency remain far from abandoning the debt-funding spending cuts that Germany has long championed. Hollande’s version of growth involves spending more money to stimulate jobs and economic recovery. Merkel’s version remains focused on slow-moving economic measures, such as making it easier to hire and fire workers, that increase short-term pain before yielding long-term benefits. As opponents of austerity won elections in both France and Greece this weekend, some analysts and government officials, including some at the International Monetary Fund, have suggested giving governments more time to reduce their deficits, thus taking some of the bite out of steep budget cuts.
China – Bloomberg Business reported: The monthlong standoff between China and the Philippines over a remote South China Sea shoal is snowballing with hints of economic retaliation and sharpening public opinion on both sides — possibly narrowing the space for a hoped-for negotiated settlement. Beijing is suspending some tourism to the Philippines and ordered stiffened inspections on imported Philippine fruit such as bananas, of which China is the single largest buyer. That follows Beijing’s summoning of Manila’s charge d’affairs three times, while retired and serving military officers have called for a limited military operation to shore up China’s credibility on the matter — a potentially explosive move that could trigger the 1951 U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty. The Philippines has registered its own diplomatic protests, with Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario cautioning foreign governments over what the Philippines perceives as China’s looming threat to freedom of navigation.
Russia – The New York Times reported: The first meeting between President Obama and President Vladimir V. Putin as the leaders of their respective countries was supposed to be an icebreaker, a moment for two outsize figures to put behind them some of the friction that surrounded the Russian elections two months ago. But the announcement on Wednesday that Mr. Putin would skip the Group of 8 summit meeting of world leaders next week at Camp David — which Mr. Obama had promoted as an opportunity to “spend time” with Mr. Putin — bewildered foreign policy experts in both countries who have been waiting to see how the two leaders would get on. During a telephone call on Thursday, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, assured Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that the cancellation was “not political,” a State Department official said. Other administration officials said they accepted Mr. Putin’s stated reason for canceling his trip — he told Mr. Obama that he had to finish setting up his new cabinet.
Pakistan – The Guardian UK reported: Pakistan’s prime minister has insisted his country had not been “complicit” in sheltering Osama bin Laden and said the fact the late al-Qaida leader was able to live undetected for so long in Pakistan was down to a universal “intelligence failure”. Speaking after the one-year anniversary of Bin Laden’s killing, Yousaf Raza Gilani rejected claims Pakistan had secretly known he was living in the garrison city of Abbottabad. US special forces killed Bin Laden on 5 May last year during a raid on his heavily fortified villa. “There is no complicity. I think it’s an intelligence failure from all over the world,” Gilani said in an interview with the Guardian. He denied suggestions that elements within Pakistan’s military may have been aware of Bin Laden’s hideout. He added: “Why should we do that? We have suffered the most.”
Pakistan – The Dawn NEWS reported: The US Congress on Thursday proposed stopping preferential trade with Pakistan and reducing aid to just 10 per cent of available funds unless Islamabad reopened Nato supply routes. The lawmakers also approved a proposal to stop all reimbursements to the country if Pakistan continued to ignore US demands. The restrictions, included in two bills passed separately by House panels, are the harshest since Pakistan joined the US-led war against terror 11 years ago. The restrictions were endorsed by an overwhelming majority as both Republicans and Democrats castigated Pakistan for closing the supply routes and for allegedly patronising various terrorist groups. “The bill places appropriate conditions on aid to Pakistan,” said Congressman Adam Smith, a ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. “It is imperative that Pakistan support our counter-terrorism efforts and work to prevent the interdiction of improvised explosive devices to Afghanistan.” On Wednesday, a House appropriations panel for foreign aid denied $800 million to Pakistan from a special fund for training and equipping Pakistan’s military in counter-insurgency tactics.
Palestine – The National Post of Canada reported: Q: Why are they on a hunger strike? A: The vast majority are protesting about the use of solitary confinement, visitation rights, education privileges and an end to the practice of administrative detention. It’s the last one that has caught the attention of the international community. Q: What’s administrative detention? A: It is used for suspected terrorists based on intelligence information, usually from an undercover informant. To protect the informant, Israel detains the suspects rather than go to trial. A detention order must be signed by the Minister of Defence and is for a maximum of six months, but can be renewed. The suspect must be brought before a judge within 48 hours to review the evidence. If the judge does not approve of the detention, then the suspect must be released immediately. There are about 300 administrative detainees in Israel. Q: So who started the hunger strikes? A: The protests began with Khader Adnan, a detainee from Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group based in Gaza notorious for suicide bombings, who fasted for 66 days until he reached a deal in February for his release in April. Another detainee, Hana Shalabi, also believed to be a member of Islamic Jihad, fasted for more than 40 days before being sent into temporary exile in Gaza. Q: But it didn’t end there? A: No. Two men, Bilal Diab, 27, and Thaer Halahleh, 33, both residents of the West Bank accused of working with Islamic Jihad, have been on a hunger strike for 72 days. Halahleh has been in detention for almost two years and Diab since August last year. This week, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected their appeal for release and upheld the practice of administrative detention. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, an advocacy group, said the ruling was “the effective equivalent of handing down a death sentence.” The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that another four hunger strikers were “at imminent risk of dying.” Meanwhile, a total of 1,600 Palestinian prisoners have been on a hunger strike for about three weeks.
11 may 2012
Greece – The BBC reported: Greek President Karolos Papoulias has called the country’s leaders to a meeting on Sunday in a last-ditch attempt to forge a unity government. If the president’s bid fails, another election will have to be held. Earlier, Pasok became the third party to fail in coalition talks when leader Evangelos Venizelos formally returned the mandate to the president. Last Sunday, voters backed parties opposed to Greece’s bailout deal, which requires deep budget cuts. Greece’s political turmoil has raised the possibility that it could default on its debts and be forced out of the eurozone.
Syrian – FOX NEWS reported: The latest suicide bombings in the Syrian capital showed an increasing ruthlessness: The attackers struck during rush hour, setting off one blast to draw a crowd before unleashing a much bigger one, killing 55 people and leaving the street strewn with rubble and mangled bodies. For many, the Al Qaeda-style tactics recall those once familiar in the country’s eastern neighbor, Iraq, raising fears that Syria’s conflict is drifting further away from the Arab Spring calls for political change and closer to a bloody insurgency. “Syria is slowly but surely turning into another Iraq,” said Bilal Y. Saab, a Syria expert at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. The presence of Al Qaeda militants and other extremists adds a wild card element to the Syria conflict that could further hamper international efforts to end it. While world powers and U.N. observers in Syria can pressure the government and the opposition to stick to special envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan, they have no means of influencing shadowy Islamic militants who often don’t claim their own attacks.
Philipppines – The New York Times reported: With the 1970s pop song “Kung Fu Fighting” playing in the background, several hundred people gathered in front of a Chinese consular office on Friday afternoon to protest an escalating territorial dispute. “China back off! China back off!” protesters yelled as dozens of police officers and members of the news media surrounded the office. An attempt to burn a Chinese flag was stopped by the police, but generally the lively and noisy protest was peaceful. The rally, which was organized in conjunction with similar protests by Filipinos at Chinese embassies in other countries, was designed to highlight what the Philippines says is an intrusion into its territory by Chinese vessels. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily briefing that the Philippines should take measures to keep the dispute from becoming any worse, Bloomberg reported from Beijing, adding that “the government has incited the Philippine people to protest.”
Germany - The WSJ reported: Germany’s conservatives face almost certain defeat in a closely watched state election on Sunday, capping a week of bad news for Chancellor Angela Merkel at home and in Europe and fueling talk that a resurgent German left could sweep her from power next year. Pollsters expect the left-leaning Social Democrats and the Greens to emerge victorious from Sunday’s election in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state with about 18 million residents. Traditionally a region of coal miners and steelworkers, the western state accounts for a fifth of Germany’s economy. Because of its sheer size, any election in North Rhine-Westphalia is considered a bellwether of national trends. The Social Democrats, known as the SPD, are hoping that victory there will allow the party to cash in on the anti-Merkel sentiment that swept leftist parties to power in France and upset the political balance in Greece over the past week. There is just one hitch to that scenario. As vehemently as Europeans are rising up against Ms. Merkel and her prescription of belt-tightening and market reforms to resolve the euro-zone debt crisis, she is just as passionately adored at home for the same policies. With approval ratings of nearly 70%, a strong economy and the lowest unemployment in a generation, Germans see Ms. Merkel as insurance of continuity rather the cause of massive upheaval in their lives.
China – The Guardian UK reported: The nephew of the Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng has been charged with voluntary manslaughter, amid growing concerns about reprisals and intimidation of lawyers. The arrest comes as a senior lawyer defending Chen described to the Guardian how he lost his hearing in a beating by a senior state security official after he tried to visit his client in hospital last week. Chen – a self-trained “barefoot lawyer” – has risen to international prominence since his intrepid escape last month from extrajudicial house arrest cast a harsh light on China’s repressive domestic security policies and triggered a flurry of bilateral diplomacy. But while he is now confident of his own safety, fears are growing about his family and lawyers.
Algeria – The New York Times reported: Algeria’s governing party strengthened its rule in parliamentary elections this week, officials announced Friday, dampening hopes that the vote might bolster the standing of opposition voices and eliciting audible gasps of skepticism from many of those who heard the results at a hilltop hotel here. An alliance of moderate Islamist parties did poorly in the voting, a result sharply at odds both with analysts’ predictions and the experience of Algeria’s neighbors in the wake of last year’s Arab Spring. The country’s governing party, the National Liberation Front, known by its French initials, F.L.N., gained almost half the seats in Parliament, government officials said. The Islamists rejected the results at a late-afternoon news conference. One of their leaders, Aboudjerra Soltani of the former Hamas party, called them “neither acceptable, logical or reasonable,” and said they would merely “delay the Algerian Spring.”
Iran – The Hindustan Times reported: World powers will on Monday be closely following Iran’s first talks with the UN nuclear agency in three months, for clues on whether Tehran means business at an upcoming crunch meeting in Baghdad. The last time that Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, and chief inspector Hermann Nackaerts met officially was in early February on the second of two fruitless IAEA visits to Tehran. Soltanieh said the resumption of the talks “proves Iran’s determination to cooperate with the agency, confirms that claims against Iran are baseless, and shows that all of the Islamic republic’s nuclear activities are peaceful.” The two days of discussions behind closed doors in Vienna “will be a good test of Iran’s intentions in the whole (nuclear) issue,” Bruno Tertrais, senior research fellow at the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris, told AFP.
Russia – The New York Daily NEWS reported: The European Union is concerned over the arrests of Russian opposition movement leaders during the recent protest rallies in Moscow, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has said. “The High Representative is concerned about the arrests of opposition leaders in Moscow and the 15-day prison sentence imposed on some of them on May 9 2012,” Ashton’s spokesperson said in a statement posted on the EU website. “The freedoms of expression and of assembly, and participation in peaceful demonstrations, are fundamental rights in democratic states and are indeed enshrined in the Russian Constitution.” Anti-corruption blogger and opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny and leader of Russia’s opposition Left Front movement Sergei Udaltsov were jailed for 15 days Wednesday for disobeying police orders. Navalny was questioned by police Thursday morning in connection with the May 6 riots.