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18 June 2012
Greece – CBC NEWS of Canada reported: Greece’s election result has eased fears of imminent financial disaster for Europe, but the continent’s leaders are still searching for a way to contain a debt crisis that threatens the global economy. A narrow victory for the New Democracy party in Greece means that the country is more likely to stick to the harsh austerity terms of its 240 billion euro ($300 billion US) bailout and not face a chaotic exit from the euro in the very near future — an event many fear would destabilize Europe and send shockwaves through the world. The country’s economy is still in a very vulnerable state, however. It is in a fifth straight year of recession and could easily deteriorate to the point where a default and euro exit were inevitable. Europe is struggling to put out several fires, not just the one in Greece. Heavily indebted Spain and Italy saw their borrowing costs rise Monday, increasing pressure on their government finances and keeping alive fears that another big bailout might be needed. That would considerably strain the eurozone’s ability to protect its members and keep the currency union together.
United Kingdom – The Telegraph reported: Russian President Vladimir Putin may make his first visit to Great Britain in nine years to watch a judo contest during the Olympic Games in London, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday. Mr Peskov made the announcement after a bilateral meeting between President Putin, a black belt in judo, and David Cameron. The two met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Los Cabos in Mexico. “Putin wished Cameron success in hosting the Olympics and said that he is thinking about visiting London on one of the Olympic days to watch a judo tournament. He will make the decision later,” Mr Peskov said. Britain’s relations with Russia have been sour since the 2006 murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy who died from poisoning by radioactive polonium-210. Many of Putin’s foes have also received asylum in Great Britain. Russia has refused to extradite Andrei Lugovoy, an ex-KGB bodyguard Britain wants to prosecute for Litvinenko’s murder. The incident sent ties between the countries plunging to a post-Cold War low and led to tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions.
Egypt – The JTA of Israel reported: Islamist candidate Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was victorious in Egypt’s first democratic presidential election. Morsi defeated Ahmed Shafik, a former Air Force general and deposed President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, in the second round of polling. Results from early Monday morning showed Morsi with 51.8 percent of the vote to Shafiq’s 48.1 percent with 98 percent of the more than 13,000 poll centers counted. Some 24.6 million votes were cast. Official final results are not expected until Thursday. The Brotherhood’s declaration was based on results announced by election officials at individual counting centers, where each campaign has representatives who compile the numbers and make them public before the formal announcement. The Muslim Brotherhood has campaigned on a platform of bringing Egypt closer to a form of Islamic rule. Morsi, who was part of the movement that overthrew Mubarak, has promised economic and political reform.
Gaza – The Jerusalem Post reported: Airstrike hits terrorists planting explosives on Gaza border; 6 rockets strike Israel overnight, fail to cause damage, injury. The Israel Air Force on early Tuesday morning struck a terrorist cell which was in the process of planting an explosive device near the border with Central Gaza. The IAF confirmed a direct hit on the terrorist target in what was the third airstrike in twenty four hours. The airstrike followed a continuing escalation between Israel and Gaza terror groups. Only hours before the latest airstrike, terror groups fired two rockets, one at Sderot and one into the Ashkelon Regional Council area. Neither rocket caused casualties or damage. The airstrike did not calm the rocket barrages, as following that attack another four rockets were fired from Gaza in to Israel, failing to cause damage or injury.
United Nations – Bloomberg NEWS reported: United Nations envoys endorsed the broadest steps yet to harmonize economic development with efforts to protect the environment, measures that pressure groups say lack the teeth needed to force change. Delegates from 190 nations put the finishing touches on a draft agreement early this morning that addresses cuts in fossil-fuel subsidies, provides support for renewable energy and details measures to protect oceans, according to diplomats and Brazil Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro. Environmental groups from WWF to Greenpeace International condemned the text, saying the diplomats caved in to pressure from business groups to water down the text. They called on world leaders to firm up language in the agreement before they formally adopt it when the meeting closes on June 22. “We will now only be presented with a polluter’s charter that will cook the planet, empty the oceans and wreck the rain forests,” said Daniel Mittler, political director for Greenpeace International.
Iran – The San Francisco Chronicle reported: Iran on Monday offered up a blistering critique of a proposal by six world powers to rein in its nuclear program, marking the latest setback in efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict. In its first detailed analysis of the proposal, Iran’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, ticked off a list of objections in a five-hour negotiating session at a Moscow hotel and expounded at length about Tehran’s grievances with the West dating back to at least 1968. The meeting, the third this year between Tehran and the six powers, “was intense, it was tough,” said Michael Mann, a spokesman for the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton. He said the Iranians finally were addressing the proposal directly, but “it was not discussed in quite the way we had hoped at this stage.” He said both sides would “reflect” overnight and meet Tuesday to consider their next step and whether it still made sense to schedule another round of talks.
Yemen – Xinhua reported: The Yemen-based al-Qaida branch has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in the port city of Aden that killed the commander of Yemen’s southern military region along with three of his bodyguards early Monday. The suicide bombing was in revenge for the U.S.-led army offensive against the al-Qaida bastions in neighboring southern province of Abyan and the intensified air strikes on senior members of the terrorist group, the al-Qaida spokesperson told Xinhua in an exclusive phone interview. “One of our Jihadists succeeded in assassinating Major General Salim Ali Qatan who had led a month-long offensive against our families and strongholds in Abyan,” the spokesperson said anonymously. “We were forced to flee our cities. We have not lost the war or defeated. Our war against crusaders will continue till we take full revenge,” he added.
Syria – The Associated Press reported: Syrian forces shelled the central city of Homs on Monday during a fierce offensive to root out rebels as the country’s most important ally, Russia, appeared to show growing concern over President Bashar Assad’s future. Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that two Russian navy ships are prepared to head to Syria to protect Russian citizens and a naval base there. “We must protect our citizens,” Maj.-Gen. Vladimir Gradusov was quoted as saying. “We won’t abandon the Russians and will evacuate them from the conflict zone, if necessary.” Each ship is capable of carrying up to 300 marines and a dozen tanks, according to Russian media reports. That would make it the largest known Russian troop deployment to Syria, signaling that Moscow is becoming increasingly uneasy about Syria’s slide toward civil war.
France – Reuters reported: France’s Socialist government is planning a new 3 percent dividend tax to be paid at source to encourage companies to reinvest rather than distribute profits to shareholders, leading business daily Les Echos said. The tax would also allow the government to raise 800 million euros ($1 billion) per year in additional revenues, the paper said without citing sources, to help meet its target of cutting its budget deficit to 3 percent of gross domestic product by the end of next year. France’s Socialists have pledged to use a resounding victory in weekend parliamentary elections to push ahead with President Francois Hollande’s election promise of using tax increases to help drive down the country’s budget deficit. Hollande is planning to use a special session of parliament next month to cut a number of tax exemptions and pass tax rises for larger corporations.
Canada – The Globe and Mail of Canada reported: The Harper government and the Obama administration are closing in on a deal that would see Washington support Canada’s admission to major Pacific Rim free-trade talks, The Globe and Mail has learned. A Canadian official, speaking in the resort town of Los Cabos, where both Mr. Harper and Mr. Obama are attending Group of 20 meetings, cautioned an agreement had not been reached as of Monday night. “It’s a fast-moving negotiation but it’s not a done deal,” said a Canadian official of efforts to gain U.S. support for Canada’s entry into Trans-Pacific Partnership talks. Canada, at least briefly, found itself on the outside looking in Monday after the United States asked Mexico to join the most important free-trade talks of the decade but didn’t extend the same offer to its northern NAFTA partner.
Afghanistan – The New York Times reported: Events this week that raised questions on women’s rights and ethnic tensions have added to long-term concerns about Afghanistan after American-led forces withdraw in 2014 and new elections are held. Over the past two days, women’s rights advocates and others have expressed outrage over comments by the Afghan justice minister in which he claimed that women’s shelters encouraged “immorality and prostitution,” according to news reports. Rights workers see the shelters as vital to help protect women who face abuse and exploitation with little recourse under local and traditional law. Amid concerns that conservatives could roll back tentative progress made on women’s rights, the United Nations office in Afghanistan stepped in on Tuesday, issuing a statement saying that it “strongly supports the critical role that women’s protection shelters play in providing support and safety for vulnerable Afghan women and girls, especially victims of domestic abuse and violence.”
Pakistan – The BBC Asia Corps reported: At least four students were killed and many injured by a bomb blast which hit a university bus in the Pakistani province of Balochistan, officials say. Police say the bomb was planted on a vehicle parked in a suburb of the provincial capital, Quetta. Passengers on the bus were mostly from the minority Shia Hazara community. Balochistan has seen growing attacks – widely blamed on Sunni militants – on the Hazara community over the last year. Officials say that bus was travelling to the Balochistan University of Information Technology when the bomb went off.
Africa – The New York Times reported: Upheavals in Ivory Coast, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and elsewhere drove 800,000 people to flee their countries and become refugees in 2011, the highest number in 11 years, the United Nations said Monday in its annual report on the forcibly displaced. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that 4.3 million people in all were newly displaced last year, which includes those who stayed in their countries and those who fled. At the end of 2011, the report said, 42.5 million people were either refugees (15.2 million), internally displaced (26.4 million) or in the process of seeking asylum (895,000). The overall total was lower than the 2010 total of 43.7 million mainly because 3.2 million internally displaced people returned home, the report said. The number of people who fled their countries and became refugees last year was the highest in that category since 822,000 in 2000.
19 June 2012
United Kingdom – The Hindu reported: WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange has taken refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, seeking asylum in a long shot move that would see him trade the glare of an often-hostile British press for the comforts of a small Latin American nation governed by a friendly leader. Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said the leftist government of President Rafael Correa, an administration often at odds with Washington, was weighing the request. He did not indicate when a decision might be made. Mr Assange’s legal options in the UK had almost completely run out. Less than a week ago Britain’s Supreme Court re-endorsed its decision to allow his extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted over sex crimes allegations. The accusations which stem from Mr Assange’s trip to the country in mid-2010 have cast a cloud over his online organisation’s spectacular leaks of US military, diplomatic, and intelligence material. Ecuador where less than one in three people have access to the Web may seem an unlikely place for the former computer hacker to seek refuge, but in many ways it’s an obvious choice.
Pakistan – Bloomberg NEWS reported: Gilani, censured by the court over failure to pursue corruption charges against President Asif Ali Zardari, was disqualified retroactive to April 26, 2012, according to an e- mailed statement from the Election Commission of Pakistan yesterday. Gilani’s party will respond after speaking with its coalition partners, Jehangir Badar, its secretary general, said at a news conference in Islamabad yesterday. The dispute clouds the outlook for the government with months to go before the next national elections, scheduled for early next year. Aside from battling the courts, the administration has been engaged with talks over Nato supply lines to Afghanistan, as U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to withdraw troops from Pakistan’s embattled neighbor. “The most prudent thing for the government to do will be to follow legal procedures and nominate and elect a new prime minister,” said Ali Sarwar Naqvi, a former ambassador. “If they don’t opt for this, there will be chaos.” Gilani, 60, a member of the Pakistan People’s Party, was appointed as Pakistan’s 25th prime minister in April 2008 and had vowed to complete his term, saying only the speaker of parliament has the power to remove him. Assembly speaker and Zardari ally Fehmida Mirza ruled last month Gilani was free to remain as premier, prompting petitions to the court to disqualify him.
Syria – The Telegraph reported: The head of the UN observer mission in Syria said on Tuesday that UN forces have come under fire multiple times recently but are committed to staying in the strife-torn country. Maj Gen Robert Mood said after a private briefing of the Security Council that questions about canceling the mission were premature and noted, “We are not going anywhere.” The UN said Saturday its 300 observers based in Syria were suspending all missions because of concerns for their safety after fighting intensified over the previous 10 days. “Shelling, small arms fire and other incidents are coming much closer, and we have been targets several times over the last few weeks,” Maj Gen Mood said. It was not only dangerous to his observers, but made it difficult to carry out their mission.
Greece – The Telegraph reported: Greek conservatives hope to form a coalition government on Wednesday which must persuade mistrustful foreign lenders to allow more leeway in pushing through a deeply unpopular austerity program. Exasperated with Greece’s repeated failure to honor its promises on budget cuts and reform, euro zone officials have nevertheless begun to accept the program may be impossible to implement without changes, as the country is already off track and its economy is sliding deeper into recession. One senior euro zone official said trying to enforce the original terms of the 130 billion euro bailout package from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund would mean “signing off on an illusion”. The bailout has split Greek society, and in an election on Sunday the conservative New Democracy party that broadly supports the deal only narrowly beat a radical left-wing bloc that wants to tear it up.
Gaza – The Jerusalem Post reported: Four Border Police officers are injured by rocket overnight: 1 injured moderately, 3 lightly in Ashkelon Coast area; over 50 rockets, mortar shells pound Israel; IAF strikes 7 Gaza targets; Palestinian terror groups fired a Grad rocket into Israeli territory that exploded in the Bnei Shimon region near Beersheba Wednesday morning. The rocket exploded in an open area, causing no injuries or damage. Shortly after, three Kassam rockets exploded in open areas in the Eshkol region. Late Tuesday night, four border policemen in the Ashkelon Coast area were injured by shrapnel, one moderately, when a Kassam rocket directly struck a building, after nearly 50 rockets and mortar shells pounded southern Israel. Israel was expected to escalate its response to the attacks and Defense Minister Ehud Barak held security consultations late Tuesday night to review various options, following one of the worst days of violence in months. The moderately injured man suffered shrapnel wounds to his legs and Magen David Adom (MDA) paramedics were evacuating him to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon. The other border policeman suffered light injuries.
Iran – Haaretz of Israel reported: EU’s foreign policy chief says gaps between sides remain fundamental; nuclear experts to meet again early next month in Istanbul. The European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton grimly summed up the third round of nuclear talks with Iran, saying at a press conference in Moscow that the gaps between the Islamic Republic and the six Western powers remain significant and fundamental. “The choice is Iran’s,” Ashton said. “We expect Iran to decide whether it is willing to make diplomacy work.” She added that the six Western powers remained united in their position, and that they had once again presented to Iran the package it was offered in the previous round of talks in Baghdad. According to the offer, Iran would stop 20 percent enrichment of uranium, shut down the Fordow nuclear facility and ship out stockpiled highly-enriched nuclear materials.
Mexico – Farm Futures reported: President Obama announced Monday an invitation for Mexico to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, a trade agreement which could bolster the reach of the TPP negotiations for U.S. agriculture, according to Bob Stallman, American Farm Bureau Federation president. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Vice President Bob McCan said the agreement also has the potential to strengthen trade and eliminate “non-science based” trade standards. “Mexico is our second-largest export market and their participation in these negotiations is paramount. TPP has the potential to be the beginning of a new era in global trade where tariff and non-tariff barriers are eliminated and standards are based on sound, objective science instead of political protectionism, McCan said. The Farm Bureau said $17 billion in sales to Mexico in 2011 is nothing to sneeze at. “Mexico is crucial to U.S. agriculture. Both our nations will benefit by having Mexico as a TPP partner and sharing in expanded market access with TPP nations,” Stallman said in a statement Tuesday. McCan said the potential benefits to the agreement could strengthen bonds between nations and encourage global security.
Turkey – The New York Times reported: Turkish soldiers and Kurdish militants clashed Tuesday in the most intense battles of the country’s separatist conflict this year, with 26 combatants killed at three army outposts in the southeast, officials said. Up to 100 fighters from the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party carried out simultaneous dawn attacks on three military posts in Hakkari Province near the Iraqi border, killing eight soldiers and wounding 19, security officials said. In subsequent clashes, Turkish troops killed 18 rebel fighters, the prime minister’s office said. Turkey has recently made efforts to address the grievances of the Kurdish minority and to end the three-decade-old conflict.
Japan – The Telegraph reported: The most powerful typhoon to strike mainland Japan in eight years has killed one person while a 16-year-old girl remains missing after falling into a flooded river. Typhoon Guchol – which takes its name from the Micronesian word for the plant turmeric – struck land south of Osaka shortly after 5 pm on Tuesday and travelled north along the island of Honshu at a speed of 40 mph before merging into the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday morning. The weather system recorded winds gusting up to 110 mph, the equivalent force of a category 3 hurricane, but it has weakened since making landfall, The Japan Meteorological Agency said. The typhoon was accompanied by torrential rainfall. The town of Kitaibaraki, north of Tokyo, recorded 2.2 inches of rain an hour early Wednesday.
Australia – The Herald Sun of Australia reported: Coalville resident Glenn Mason thought a truck had crashed through a wall retainer. “The house was shaking so much I thought it was a landslide,” he said. “I was waiting for the truck to come through our lounge room. “I just heard this trembling then a bang and a crack. The magnitude 5.3 earthquake shook homes, cracked windows and walls, and threw residents from their chairs. Millions across the state felt the tremor, which had an epicentre 16km southwest of Moe at Coalville, in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria’s east.
20 June 2012
Egypt – ABC NEWS reported: Officials postponed declaring a winner in Egypt’s disputed election on Wednesday, sending political tensions soaring as the country awaited its first new president in three decades. Adding to the confusion and uncertainty were reports about the health of Hosni Mubarak, who is serving a life sentence for failing to stop the killing of protesters in the uprising that ousted him last year. At one point Tuesday, he was said to be near death, while some believed the report was a pretext by sympathetic allies of Mubarak to transfer him out of prison to a more comfortable facility. Last weekend’s runoff election was long touted as a landmark moment — the choice of Egypt’s first civilian president to take over the generals who have ruled since Mubarak’s removal on Feb. 11, 2011. Instead, it has turned into a confrontation between the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood and the entrenched elements of Mubarak’s old regime, including the military.
Ecuador – Bloomberg NEWS reported: Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa said he’s considering WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s request for political asylum, highlighting the South American nation’s sovereign right to protect refugees. Correa, speaking on Venezuela’s Telesur network yesterday, said he hasn’t made a decision and the country is still considering the request. “We are analyzing very seriously and responsibly the asylum request from Mr. Julian Assange,” Correa said according to a statement posted in his official gazette. “Until the analysis of this request is completed, we can’t comment officially.” Assange sought asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London June 19 to avoid what he says are U.S. efforts to punish him for releasing diplomatic secrets through his WikiLeaks website. Ecuador is in contact with the U.K. government, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters in a brief statement in Quito. Assange entered the embassy in the Knightsbridge area of London after exhausting options in U.K. courts to avert extradition to Sweden, where he faces trial on two counts of sexual assault.
France – The Herald Sun of Australia reported: A self-proclaimed Al-Qa’ida militant took hostages at a bank in the French city of Toulouse on Wednesday close to where serial killer Mohamed Merah lived and was shot dead by police in March. The man fired a shot and took four people hostage, including the bank’s manager, in the southern French city and wants to negotiate with the elite RAID police unit that shot dead al-Qa’ida-inspired killer Merah, police said. ”We’re taking measures so we can start a dialogue” with the hostage taker, Toulouse prosecutor Michel Valet said at the scene where police have set up a 200-metre cordon around the bank. Parents of pupils at a nearby school have been sent a text message telling them to pick up their children, witnesses said, and rapid-intervention GIPN police units have been dispatched from southern cities Bordeaux and Marseille. The RAID unit that shot dead Merah after he went on a killing spree is based in Paris, hundreds of kilometres to the north.
Israel – CBS NEWS reported: Amid spiraling violence, the military wing of Hamas said Wednesday it is ready to declare an Egyptian-brokered truce with Israel, according to multiple reports. Hamas is committed to halt three days of fighting, “as long as the occupation [Israel] stops this aggression”, the al-Qassam Brigades said in a statement, reports the BBC. There was no immediate response to the cease-fire announcement from Israel, CNN reports. Israel claims more than 75 rockets had been fired into its territory from Gaza in the past three days, although Hamas claims more than 100 rockets and mortars had crashed into Israel this week. An estimated eight Palestinians have been killed in Israeli air strikes in Gaza since Monday, BBC reports, adding that several Israelis have been hurt in the hail of rocket fire from Gaza.
Afghanistan – The New York Times reported: At least 21 people, apparently including 3 American soldiers, were killed Wednesday by a suicide bomber who attacked an American and Afghan military checkpoint in this provincial capital, Afghan officials said. Most of the victims were Afghan civilians, including some children, who died when the bomber, believed to have been wearing a suicide vest, attacked a crowd at a checkpoint where American and Afghan soldiers were conducting biometric surveys of local residents. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said in a statement that three of its service members were killed in an episode in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday. Separately, Afghan officials and news reports from Washington said the foreign victims in the Khost episode were American soldiers. Officials at two Afghan hospitals said a total of 18 civilian dead were brought to those facilities, including two policemen and some children. NATO and Afghan military casualties would normally be evacuated to military facilities.
Nigeria – The Hindu reported: At least 101 people were killed over the last three days in sectarian clashes and gun battles between soldiers and insurgents in the Nigerian cities of Damaturu and Kaduna after suicide bombers attacked three churches on Sunday. In Kaduna city, Christians retaliated the bombing allegedly carried out by suspected members of Islamic fundamentalist sect, Boko Haram, by burning down mosques and killing Muslims. Over 40 persons including six security personnel were on Thursday killed in a gun battle between soldiers and insurgents in Damaturu town, the capital of Nigeria’s northern state of Yobe. State police spokesman Patrick Egbuniwe told PTI on phone that 34 of those who were killed were members of the Boko Haram.
Syria – CNN reported: At least 66 more civilians were killed Wednesday across Syria in the latest fighting of the 15-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s government, opposition activists said Thursday. The dead included 17 in the suburbs of the capital, Damascus, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an opposition network. Most of those were killed in the suburb of Douma, which the LCCS said was being shelled by government troops. Another 24 people were in Hama and seven in Daraa, cities that were the scenes of previous fighting between anti-government protesters and Syrian police and troops. The remainder of the fatalities were scattered across a number of other cities, including Idlib and Homs, where the Red Cross said fighting between government forces and armed opposition groups continued in several neighborhoods.
Romania – The Telegraph reported: A Romanian ex-prime minister shot and wounded himself Wednesday, hours after the country’s highest court ruled that he must serve a two-year prison sentence on corruption charges, the country’s current premier said. Media reports said he had shot himself in the neck. Former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase would be Romania’s most senior politician to serve time in prison since the 1989 fall of communism. He had appealed a March 30 court ruling that sentenced him to jail for illegally raising funds for a failed presidential campaign, but the Supreme Court upheld the sentence, sending shock waves through the country. Late Wednesday, Prime Minister Victor Ponta, a close ally, visited Nastase at the hospital and said his condition was “under control.” “It is my right and obligation to visit him,” Ponta said. “‘I couldn’t stay at home without seeing what was wrong.”
21 June 2012
Afghanistan – Reuters reported: Gunmen took scores of hostages at a popular lakeside hotel on the outskirts of the Afghan capital, police said on Friday, during a deadly attack lasting several hours that underscored the Taliban’s potency despite more than a decade of war. At least three militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns attacked the exclusive Spozhmai hotel in the Qargha Lake recreation area around midnight on Thursday, bursting into a party and shooting dead hotel guards. Many terrified guests jumped into the lake in darkness to escape the carnage, in which at least nine people were killed, including six civilians, Afghan officials and residents said. Elite Afghan quick-response police backed by NATO troops had freed at least 35 hostages and killed two gunmen in an operation that only began in earnest after sunrise to help security forces avoid unnecessary civilian deaths in night-time confusion.
Syria – Xinhua reported: A Syrian fighter pilot who flew his MiG-21 warplane to Jordan has been granted political asylum. This is the first defection with a military aircraft during 15-month conflict. The Syrian Ministry of Defense said the breakaway fighter pilot is a traitor to his homeland and his military honor. The ministry said that communication with the Jordanian government was underway to retreive the aircraft. It added that penalties would be imposed on the defected pilot in accordance with the law. The pilot, identified as Colonel Hassan Hamma-deh, allegedly removed his Syrian air force tag and kneeled on the tarmac in prayer after landing his plane at King Hussein Air Base in Ma-fraq, Jordan. Jordan already has taken in 125-thousand Syrian refugees, including hundreds of army and police defectors, and Syria is seeking their return.
Egypt – CNN reported: One of the candidates in Egypt’s delayed presidential election says he remains confident that he won and can’t wait until the results are released. “My campaign was pretty sure I will be the legitimate winner god willing,” Ahmed Shafik said Thursday. Shafik is the last prime minister to serve under former Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak. “I have won trust of millions of people who are expressing their views. I thank them and I’m grateful for their votes and assure them these voters in Egypt as a whole want Egypt security and stability-preserving institutions,” he said. Egypt’s election commission Thursday delayed the release of the results of the presidential election to an unknown date. Last weekend’s runoff pit Shafik against Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate.
Russia – The New York Daily NEWS reported: Russia remains open to foreign investment in the energy sector, President Vladimir Putin has said. “We will continue to pursue a policy of openness to foreign investment in energy, a strategic sector for Russia,” the president said at a meeting with the heads of major energy companies in St. Petersburg city Thursday. Creating the most transparent possible market and a good investment climate is “crucial”, he said. But in return for attracting foreign companies into its energy sector, Putin said, Russia hoped to receive the same terms for its companies in energy projects abroad.
Israel – Bloomberg Businessweek reported: When Vladimir Putin visits Israel next week, the world may want to pay attention: The Iranian nuclear program will top the agenda — and the steely Russian president, widely viewed as coddling the Iranians, may hold the key to avoiding a potential slide into another Middle East war. With close ties to Iran and a vote on the U.N. Security Council, Russia could play a key role in the coming months in determining whether Israel decides to attack Iran’s suspect nuclear program. In Jerusalem, the commonly held view is that after years of dithering, the West has woken up to the threat from Iran — but the reluctance of Russia and China to support a crippling regime of sanctions and pressure is emboldening the Iranians, decreasing the chances they will back down and increasing the chances for an attack of last resort.
Russia – TwoCircles.net via RIA Novosti reported: Russia should increase investment from its current level of 20 percent of GDP to 27 percent by 2018, President Vladimir Putin has said. Addressing at the three-day St. Petersburg Economic Forum, Putin said Thursday that Russia was primarily interested in private investment. “Russia should position itself as an exporter of innovative goods and services. New jobs are created, in the first place, by investment. We need to build up its volume to 27 percent of GDP by 2018. I believe this is an absolutely realistic goal and task.” Putin also said Russia was going to stick to its previously announced plans to create 25 million jobs by 2020. “We need to edge out the archaic and ineffective employment in the national economy,” said Putin, adding that Russia should capitalise on its competitive advantages and focus on the country’s stable development. He also said a new round of privatisation in Russia should prevent the emergence of private instead of state monopolies. “Without healthy competition, a market economy is no less inclined towards decay than a command and administrative system,” Putin said.
Mexico – The New York Times reported: A man believed to be the son of Mexico’s most-wanted drug trafficker has been detained by the Mexican Navy, one of a series of recent moves aimed at toppling the elusive kingpin, Mexican officials said Thursday. Jesús Aflredo Guzmán Salazar, 26, “the presumed son” of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, better known by his nickname, El Chapo, or Shorty, was arrested Thursday morning in Jalisco State, on the central Pacific Coast, along with another person, the navy said in a statement, but it did not say what charges they might face. The two were taken to Mexico City and presented to the news media, with Mr. Guzmán Salazar, whom the navy described as “one of the main directors of the Sinaloa cartel,” looking somber and downcast. Mr. Guzmán Salazar, Mexican officials said, managed his father’s real estate holdings and coordinated most of the drug organization’s shipments of cocaine and marijuana to the United States. American drug agents, Mexican officials said, assisted in providing information leading to his arrest.
China – The New York Times reported: In a show of its resolve in a dispute over the South China Sea, China sharply criticized Vietnam on Thursday for passing a law that claims sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands, saying they are the “indisputable” territory of China. The Foreign Ministry in Beijing summoned the Vietnamese ambassador, Nguyen Van Tho, to strongly protest the new law, said a spokesman, Hong Lei. “Vietnam’s Maritime Law, declaring sovereignty and jurisdiction over the Paracel and Spratly Islands, is a serious violation of China’s territorial sovereignty,” a ministry statement said. “China expresses its resolute and vehement opposition.” The dispute between China and Vietnam over the law, which had been in the works for years, is the latest example of Beijing’s determination to tell its Asian neighbors that the South China Sea is China’s preserve.
22 June 2012
Turkey – The Washington Post reported: Turkey vowed to take “necessary steps” after concluding that Syria shot down a Turkish fighter jet near the Syrian border on Friday, sending tensions soaring in the already fraught region. In a terse statement issued after an emergency security meeting called by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish government said that a missing F-4 fighter jet had been brought down by Syria. The statement said Turkey “will make its final position known once the evidence is fully uncovered and will determinedly take necessary steps.” On Saturday, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said the investigation would look at whether the plane was shot down in Turkish airspace, Reuters reported, citing Turkish media.“It is not possible to cover over a thing like this, whatever is necessary will be done,” the state-run Anatolia news agency quoted Gul as saying.
Egypt – The BBC Middle East Corps reported: Out in the desert to the east of the capital, Cairo, the Egyptian military has just finished building a massive new sports centre. The resort is complete with a hotel and other facilities, including an impressive five-lane motorway, a flyover and a tunnel to ease potential traffic congestion on the way to a vast new suburb called “New Cairo”, where the rich and powerful, including members of the ruling military council (Scaf), have luxurious villas. The centrepiece is a stadium called “30 June”, the date Scaf is supposed to hand over power to a civilian head of state. The road leading up to the compound is decked with banners reading “the army and the people are one hand”.
Afghanistan – The LA Times reported: In an 11-hour assault on a hotel on Kabul’s outskirts, Taliban attackers take hostages and kill 18 people. The siege is a reminder of Afghans’ continued vulnerability to such strikes. To the people ofAfghanistan’s teeming, dusty capital, sparkling blue Lake Karga on the city’s outskirts has long been a tranquil haven. But in a brazen evening attack, a team of Taliban assailants turned the quiet lakeshore into a scene of horrors, storming a popular hotel, seizing dozens of hostages and killing 18 people, most of them diners relaxing over a late-night meal. The 11-hour siege of the Spozhmai resort, the latest in a series of high-profile insurgent strikes around the capital in recent months, ended Friday when elite Afghan police supported by NATO troops killed the last of the attackers. Though the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the country’s government hailed Afghan forces for preventing even more fatalities, the attack was graphic demonstration that insurgents can still strike seemingly at will. Their reach leaves many Afghans feeling jittery and fearful as the U.S.-led NATO force begins pulling out.
Brazil – Xinhua reported: Developing countries like Brazil and China have played an important role in helping achieve consensus on sustainable development at a just wrapped-up UN conference, a Brazilian delegate said here Friday. “Thanks to partners like China, we managed to reach an ambitious document, which preserved the main concerns of developing countries,” Andre Correa do Lago, Brazil’s chief negotiator to the conference, told Xinhua. He referred to an agreed final document issued at the end of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). Consensus was achieved through intense consultations, he said, adding discussions on climate change in the BASIC bloc — Brazil, South Africa, India and China — became more frequent ahead of the Rio+20 conference.
Pakistan – The Hindustan Times reported: The US government looks forward to working with Pakistan’s newly-elected Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to bring the strained relations between the two countries back on track, the State Department has said. “We are pleased that the leadership issue appears to have been settled,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters at a news briefing Friday. “We obviously look forward to working with the new prime minister and hope that this will open space to continue to roll up our sleeves and get back on track with all of the things that we want to do with Pakistan,” Xinhua quoted her as saying. Ashraf took oath of his office in Islamabad Friday night at a ceremony administered by President Asif Ali Zardari, to replace Yousuf Raza Gilani, who was disqualified by the Supreme Court Tuesday over contempt of court. The US-Pakistan relations have been soured since May 2011, when the US sent special forces into Pakistan to kill Al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden, without noticing Islamabad in advance.
Syria – The Detroit Free Press reported: An online video showed more than a dozen bloodied bodies, some of them piled atop one another and in military uniforms, dumped beside a road in northern Syria in what the government on Friday called a mass killing by rebel forces. The circumstances of the deaths were not immediately clear, with the government-run news agency saying at least 25 men were killed. In the video — which the Associated Press could not independently verify — the narrator said the victims were members of the shabiha, or pro-regime gunmen. If confirmed, the video is yet another sign of the brutality of the Syrian conflict, which began in March 2011. As the fighting grinds on, Syria is descending into a civil war in which gunmen prowl the streets and gruesome massacres are growing increasingly common. The government has used heavy weapons and unleashed snipers and loyalist fighters, but rebels, too, have been accused of bloody attacks.
Iran – The New York Daily NEWS reported: Dismissing the US and British objections to Iran’s participation in an international conference on Syria, Russia has said it should take part in it. “We are convinced that Iran should participate in that conference,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday. The US and Britain claim that Iran cannot be invited because “it is misbehaving,” he added. “When the Americans had to ensure additional security for their troops in Iraq and Afghanistan they had no problem talking directly to Iran,” Lavrov said. He added that it was crucial to prevent bloodshed in Syria by accepting the required makeup of conference participants. The international conference on Syria is to be held in Geneva June 30.
Israel – The Jerusalem Post reported: 50-year-old Sderot resident suffers moderate-to-severe injuries; other civilians suffer shock; 20 rockets fired into southern Israel; Palestinians say 1 killed, between 17, 21 wounded in IAF airstrikes. A rocket attack from Gaza left an Israeli man moderately-to-severely injured on Saturday morning, in the Sderot area. Two other residents suffered shock in the Palestinian attack, and a factory sustained some damage. The injured man, approximately 50 years old was rushed to Barzilai Medical Center after being struck by shrapnel in the neck and stomach. The man was fully conscious. Palestinians have fired twenty rockets from Gaza into southern Israel since midnight on Friday, police said. Fifteen of those landed in the Lachish region, and five in the Negev. The Iron Dome rocket defense system intercepted five of the rockets.
Nigeria – The Washington Post reported: At least 138 people have died since Sunday in sect-related violence in Nigeria, officials say, as the government fails to corral rising sectarian attacks that have fanned religious tensions in Africa’s most populous nation. An email statement attributed to the radical Islamist sect Boko Haram and obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday said it launched multiple attacks in the city of Damaturu, which authorities say killed at least 40 people. “We assure all that the success of the Damaturu operation is really a sign that very soon Allah will give us the chance of overthrowing this unjust and heathen government and replacing it with an Islamic system which is just,” the statement said in the local Hausa language.
United Kingdom – The Washington Post reported: Myanmar’s opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, warned Thursday that her country’s people need Britain and other allies to act as watchdogs, and not cheerleaders, to ensure its rulers deliver on their promises of reform. Making an historic address in London to a joint session of both Houses of Parliament, Suu Kyi said Myanmar — which she referred to by its British colonial name of Burma — would need sometimes critical support to fully embrace democracy after 49 years of military rule that ended only last year. Suu Kyi is the only woman other than Queen Elizabeth II to deliver a speech to a joint session of Parliament at Westminster Hall, and follows dignitaries such as South African President Nelson Mandela, Pope Benedict XVI and U.S. President Barack Obama. The honor is usually reserved only for heads of state.
South Korea – The Salt Lake Tribune reported: A huge North Korean flag disappeared behind a tower of flames and thick black smoke Friday as South Korean fighter jets and U.S. attack helicopters fired rockets in the allies’ biggest joint live-fire drills since the Korean War. The war games south of the heavily armed Korean border come amid rising animosity between the rival Koreas and are meant to mark Monday’s 62nd anniversary of the start of the 1950-53 war, which ended in a truce, leaving the Korean Peninsula still technically at war. Live-fire drills by the allies are fairly routine, but using the North’s national flag as part of target practice is unusual — and will be seen as a provocation by Pyongyang, which has previously threatened war for what it called South Korean insults to the country’s national symbols and leadership. Still, an immediate North Korean military retaliation is unlikely. The rockets didn’t hit the flag, which an analyst said might lead to a less angry North Korean response. But even a direct attack on the flag would probably only result in escalated North Korean threats because Pyongyang’s struggling economy prevents it from staging any attack that could cause a war, said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea professor at Seoul’s Dongguk University.
Greece – The Telegraph reported: Their country is very much the sick man of Europe. So it was sadly symbolic when two of Greece’s top politicians fell ill on the first day of its new government on Friday. Antonis Samaras, the prime minister who was sworn in on Wednesday, cancelled meetings and will undergo surgery on Saturday after he was found to be suffering from a detached retina following a routine eye examination. Of greater concern was the condition of the country’s new finance minister, Vassilis Rapanos, who was rushed to hospital after collapsing from apparent exhaustion. Mr Rapanos, 65, who is known to suffer from a long-standing illness, was in a stable condition last night. The men’s ill health was emblematic of the strain being placed on millions of ordinary Greeks as the eurozone struggles to find a solution to the financial crisis.
Ecuador – ABC NEWS reported: President Rafael Correa’s objections to what he deems American interventionism in Latin America and his delight in Julian Assange’s massive uncorking of U.S. secrets appear to have persuaded the WikiLeaks chief that Ecuador offers his best shot at avoiding extradition to Sweden. But four days after Assange ducked into Ecuador’s London embassy seeking political asylum, this South American nation’s leftist leader has yet to announce a decision. The choice may not be easy. Correa was cagey on Thursday night, telling reporters that Ecuador was consulting with the other governments involved. “We don’t wish to offend anyone, least of all a country we hold in such deep regard as the United Kingdom,” he said.