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25 June 2012
Cypress – Reuters reported: Cyprus, which became the fifth euro zone country on Monday to seek emergency funding from Brussels, may require a bailout amount worth up to half the size of its economy, domestic media reported on Tuesday. The Mediterranean island, with a banking sector heavily exposed to debt-crippled Greece, said on Monday it was formally applying for aid from the European Union’s rescue funds. Cyprus needs to plug a 1.8 billion euro – or 10 percent of its GDP – regulatory capital shortfall in its second largest lender by June 30. Potential aid could be more comprehensive to cover fiscal requirements, Finance Minister Vassos Shiarly told Reuters. Newspapers reported that aid could be anything between 6 and 10 billion euros.
Israel – Haaretz reported: Natural gas, aerospace, oil shale and tourism are among the areas of economic cooperation that Russian President Vladimir Putin is offering Israel during his visit this week, sources told The Marker. The most important item raised between Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday was an offer by Russia’s state-owned energy company Gazprom to join in developing Israel’s offshore gas reserves. The largest extractor of natural gas in the world and Russia’s biggest company, Gazprom wants to open a local subsidiary that will engage in drilling and offshore and onshore pipeline operations. On the Israeli side, no one has rejected the Gazprom offer out of hand and officials are willing to explore the proposals, the sources said. Future international tenders in the Israeli gas sector will be open to Gazprom.
Saudi Arabia – The Times of India reported: Saudi Arabia has helped India with a major breakthrough in the probe into the 26/11 attacks by facilitating the arrest of Syed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, one of the key plotters of the Mumbai raid. Jundal, who directed Ajmal Kasab and other 26/11 attackers from the Lashkar control room, was picked up by the Saudi police, who put him on a New Delhi-bound flight after alerting the authorities here about their prize catch. The Lashkar terrorist , an Indian national wanted in many terror cases who was arrested on June 21, has since made the stunning claim that LeT chief Hafiz Saeed was present in the control room when the 26/11 masterminds choreographed the Mumbai attacks. He has also said that ISI and Pakistani army officials were involved in planning 26/11 and attended the meetings.
Libya – The New York Times reported: President Moncef Marzouki has rebuked the prime minister for allowing a former Libyan official to be extradited to Libya, prompting fears on Monday of a split in the governing coalition. Some government ministers defended Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, saying the extradition was within his powers. The case exposes the tenuous nature of the power-sharing deal in the governing coalition, which consists of Mr. Jebali’s moderate Islamist party and two secular parties. Mr. Marzouki, from the liberal Congress for the Republic party, said Mr. Jebali overstepped his authority on Sunday when he ordered the extradition of Al-Baghdadi Al-Mahmoudi, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s last prime minister, to Libya, where he is accused of crimes related to his time in office. Mr. Marzouki opposed the extradition on grounds that Mr. Mahmoudi might not get a fair trial in Libya and could be tortured or killed. He issued a statement saying he was prepared to take the matter to Tunisia’s constitutional assembly.
Iraq – The New York Daily NEWS reported: At least eight people were killed and 25 injured following two bomb blasts in different cities near Baghdad Monday night, said police sources. At least three people were killed and four wounded when a blast occurred on the roadside in a popular pet market in Diyala province’s Baquba city, near Baghdad, reported Xinhua quoting a police source. In a separate incident, as many as five people were killed and 21 wounded when a sticky bomb attached to a mini-bus detonated in Hilla city in Babil province, about 100 km from Baghdad, said another police source. The toll is expected to rise as some injured were seriously injured, sources said.
Pakistan – NPR NEWS reported: Militants crossed into Pakistan from Afghanistan and killed 13 Pakistani troops, beheading seven of them, the Pakistani military charged, and the country’s outraged new prime minister said he would protest to the Afghan president. The border skirmish is a new sign of tensions between the uneasy neighbors. Pakistan has complained that militants use parts of Afghanistan for sanctuary to stage attacks inside Pakistan. That claim helps Islamabad counter frequent U.S. and NATO complaints that militants behind much of the violence in Afghanistan come from Pakistan. Pakistani military officials said militants from Afghanistan crossed in the northwestern Pakistan’s Upper Dir region Sunday night and clashed with Pakistan forces on a patrol. The military said six Pakistani troops were killed outright. Seven who went missing were beheaded, while four of the missing have not been found. The military’s statement also said Pakistani troops killed 14 of the militants. The military’s account could not be independently verified. Reflecting the particularly gruesome nature of the attack, newly elected Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said he would complain directly to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
United Kingdom – The Telegraph reported: The Queen has updated the Order of Precedence in the Royal family, making it clear that the Duchess of Cambridge must curtsy to the Princesses by birth. The Duchess of Cambridge may be the future queen, but she has discovered that there are several women in the Royal family to whom she must show reverence. Mandrake hears that the Queen has updated the Order of Precedence in the Royal Household to take into account the Duke of Cambridge’s wife. The new rules of Court make it clear that the former Kate Middleton, when she is not accompanied by Prince William, must curtsy to the “blood princesses”, the Princess Royal, Princess Alexandra, and the daughters of the Duke of York, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie. When William is with her, Kate does not need to bend the knee to either of them, but she must curtsy to the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
26 June 2012
Turkey – CBS NEWS reported: Syria’s downing of a Turkish fighter-bomber has the feel of a turning point that could drag Western powers into a conflict that is spiraling out of control. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has vowed to hold Syria to account, while Britain’s foreign minister said Damascus won’t be allowed to act with impunity. But for all the hard talk, the prospect of Western military intervention in Syria remains remote, at best. For one thing, military action is unlikely to get the support of either the U.N. Security Council or the Arab League, and outside intervention without the blessing of both of those bodies is all but unthinkable. And there is little appetite among the 28 NATO countries — of which the U.S. is the largest — for another war in the Middle East.
Australia – The Washington Post reported: A boat carrying asylum seekers to Australia capsized Wednesday and 123 people were rescued from the Indian Ocean, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said, less than a week after more than 90 people drowned on a similar journey. Gillard told Parliament that most if not all the people on board had been rescued. Two merchant ships collected survivors initially, and Gillard told Parliament that two Australian warships and a military aircraft that can drop life rafts on the sea joined the search by late Wednesday.
China – CBS NEWS reported: The Chinese father of a forcibly aborted baby whose case prompted an international outcry has been beaten and forced into hiding, while his wife and other family members have been labeled traitors by fellow townspeople, the man’s sister said Tuesday. Photos of the mother and dead baby had been circulated online, embarrassing the government and prompting the suspension of three local officials in Shaanxi province. The officials had forcibly aborted the late-term pregnancy earlier this month because it violated the country’s tough one-child policy. Apparently angered over the family’s contacts with journalists, the local government has since organized a backlash against the family members, calling them traitors and keeping them under surveillance, Deng Jicai, a sister of the 30-year-old father Deng Jiyuan, said.
Syria – The Jerusalem Post reported: Senior US intelligence officials see few cracks in Assad’s inner circle, dashing hopes he will fall soon. Despite some military defections, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s inner circle remains cohesive and the 16-month conflict with rebels is likely to be a drawn-out struggle, senior US intelligence officials said on Tuesday. That assessment appears to dash any US hopes that Assad, whose ouster Washington has called for, will fall soon of his own accord. The Obama administration has declined to intervene militarily in Syria, citing the lack of international backing and the country’s sectarian divisions. White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Tuesday that Assad “has been slowly, too slowly, losing his grip over his country. The process, because of his refusal to step aside, has been horrific and has exacted a terrible toll on the Syrian people.”
Japan – Bloomberg NEWS reported: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s biggest step yet toward winning a sales tax increase aimed at reining in the nation’s public debt came at the cost of alienating one-fifth of his party’s lower house lawmakers. While the chamber yesterday approved legislation to double the 5 percent levy by October 2015, 57 lawmakers in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan voted no, and former DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa signaled he may leave. If he takes more than 50 followers with him, it could endanger the party’s majority. Noda, who called the rebellion “unfortunate,” now must hold together a deal with the opposition Liberal Democratic Party to win passage for the bill in the upper house. With the Diet session extended until Sept. 8, weeks of wrangling may be in store for a country that has seen six leaders since 2006.
Israel – CBS NEWS reported: Israel began the evacuation of an illegal West Bank settlement outpost on Tuesday after persuading dozens of residents to leave the enclave without the violence that has plagued similar pullouts in the past. After weeks of quiet negotiations with the government, residents of the Ulpana outpost begrudgingly packed their belongings and piled them onto moving trucks. One woman cried as government workers took away small flower pots from her home. “This is not a happy day for Israel,” said Brad Kitay, an Ulpana resident. “To leave a house is very simple, but to leave a home is very difficult.” Israel’s Supreme Court had ordered the outpost dismantled earlier this year after determining it was built on privately owned Palestinian land. Israel considers such construction illegal, but at the same time it authorizes construction elsewhere in the West Bank, on lands considered state-owned.
United Kingdom – ZDNet reported: Businesses in Britain are under sustained attack from governments and gangs bent on intellectual-property theft and other cybercrime, with one company suffering millions of pounds in losses, the head of MI5 has revealed. They are victims of the black cyber-economy, which has a huge pool of resources to draw on for conducting state-sponsored cyber-espionage and cybercrime, MI5 director general Jonathan Evans said in a speech on Monday. “Vulnerabilities in the internet are being exploited aggressively, not just by criminals but also by states,” Evans told an audience at the Mansion House in London. “The extent of what is going on is astonishing — with industrial-scale processes, involving many thousands of people, lying behind both state-sponsored cyber-espionage and organised cybercrime.”
Latin America – The Mining Weekly reported: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao wrapped up a tour of resource-rich Latin America on Tuesday by offering $10-billion in credit for infrastructure projects and calling for a joint push to combat protectionism. Wen proposed a free-trade deal with the Mercosur bloc and signed a series of investment accords during the trip to the region, a key source of agricultural and mineral commodities and a growing market for Chinese exports. “The Chinese government … will continue to offer economic assistance to countries in the region that are interested,” Wen told the UN regional economic body ECLAC in Chile, the world’s No. 1 copper exporter. He said China’s Development Bank would implement a $10-billion credit program for infrastructure projects. He also said China would create a $5-billion fund for cooperation between China and Latin America and the Caribbean. “We have to combat trade protectionism, broaden the mutual openness of our markets, optimize the trade structure and diversify cooperation in terms of customs and quality control,” Wen said. He added that China aims to nearly double trade with Latin America in five years to over $400-billion.
27 June 2012
Syria – Reuters reported: Rebel forces attacked Syria’s main court in central Damascus on Thursday, state television said, while Turkey deployed troops and anti-aircraft rocket launchers to the Syrian border, building pressure on President Bashar al-Assad. A loud explosion echoed through the streets and a column of black smoke rose over Damascus, an Assad stronghold that until the last few days had seemed largely beyond the reach of rebels. State television described it as a “terrorist” blast. Dozens of wrecked and burning cars were strewn over a car park used by lawyers and judges. The state news agency SANA said three people had been wounded by a bomb hidden in one of the cars. The fighting coincided with a Turkish military buildup on its border with Syria and a growing sense of urgency in Western- and Arab-backed diplomatic efforts to promote the idea of a unity government to end 16 months of bloodshed.
Syria – Xinhua reported: Syrian President Bashar Assad declared late Tuesday that his country was “at war” as fighting loomed near the capital, upgrading previous claims that the country was plagued by only scattered militants. The new choice of words raised serious concern over the future of the country, which plummeted into unrest 16 months ago. Analysts believe the newly-assembled government needs to strengthen unity as unfolding events show the conflicts facing the country might escalate into a full-scale war. “We live in a real state of war from all angles,” Assad told his cabinet in a speech broadcasted by state television. “When we are in a war, all policies and all sides and all sectors need to be directed at winning this war,” he said. On the same day when Assad made his ominous remarks, suburban Damascus saw one of the heaviest fights since the beginning of the crisis.
Australia – CBS NEWS reported: Senators were locked in an emotional debate Thursday over whether Australia should turn away asylum seekers to discourage them from attempting long and dangerous ocean journeys in rickety boats. The legislation scraped through the House of Representatives late Wednesday by 74 votes to 72 after six hours of passionate debate, amplified by two recent deadly accidents involving boats filled with Australia-bound migrants. But senators were poised to reject it because some members of the ruling coalition were joining forces with the opposition. More than 90 people are believed to have died in a capsizing last week midway between the Australian territory of Christmas Island and Indonesia, and another four are believed to have died in a capsizing Wednesday.
Palestine – Reuters reported: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet with Israeli Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz on Sunday, a Palestinian official said, in the highest-level meeting between the sides since peace talks broke down in 2010. “There will be a meeting on Sunday between President Abbas and Mr. Mofaz. This comes after a request for a meeting from Mofaz,” Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat told Voice of Palestine Radio on Thursday. A spokesman for Mofaz would not confirm or deny that a meeting had been arranged, but he did say there was ongoing contact with Abbas’ office toward setting up such an event. Mofaz told reporters this month that he intended to meet Abbas “to examine ways to restart peace negotiations with the Palestinians”.
Iraq – The Washington Post reported: Bombings and shootings around Iraq killed 22 people and wounded more than 50 on Thursday, authorities said, as a spike in violence made June Iraq’s bloodiest month in almost a half a year. The attacks in Shiite neighborhoods and on security forces underscore how deadly Iraq remains, even though violence has dropped dramatically since a few years ago when the country appeared about to descend into civil war. Over the last month, more than 200 Iraqis have been killed in attacks. Thursday’s deadliest strike came around 9:30 a.m. in the Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Washash in western Baghdad, where eyewitnesses said a taxi exploded outside a local market. Eight people died and 26 were injured, police and hospital officials said. Hadil Maytham and her two children were eating breakfast in their nearby house when they heard the explosion.
Pakistan – The Christian Science Monitor reported: The top commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, met with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani today to urge Pakistan to crack down on militants who launch cross-border attacks into Afghanistan. Military-to-military meetings are common between the two countries, especially as Pakistan’s military apparatus has had the power there. But as the civilian government and the courts begin to establish themselves in line with more democratic norms, some are questioning how good military-level meetings are for Pakistan’s democracy. Amid the deterioration of US-Pakistan relations, some US officials say Washington should take a different tack and circumvent the military to talk directly to the civilian government. By negotiating primarily with the Pakistan military, the argument goes, the US inadvertently strengthens Pakistan’s Army, rather than civilian rule, even as the military undermines American interests in Afghanistan. Though the premise is correct, according to Stephen Cohen and Moseed Yusuf in an op-ed in The New York Times, circumventing the military is just as ill conceived “as was past support for Pakistan’s military dictators.”
Mongolia – The Washington Post reported: Mongolians traveled by foot, car and horse to vote for a new legislature Thursday in an election that centered on better spreading the benefits of Mongolia’s mining boom across the vast and still largely poor country. A poll this month by the private, unaffiliated Sant Maral Foundation and commentators showed the opposition Democratic Party with a slight edge over the ruling Mongolian People’s Party, though neither had the support to win an outright majority in the 76-seat parliament. The main parties have offered variations on promises to use mining revenues to boost pensions, build needed infrastructure, subsidize local industries and otherwise enrich Mongolians. The boom has already brought billions of dollars in investment to extract coal, copper, gold and other minerals and made Mongolia the world’s fastest growing economy last year. If properly spent, the money could reverse the fortunes of the remote Alaska-sized country, which is landlocked between China and Russia and where a third of its 2.8 million people live in poverty.
Bangladesh – The Australian Network NEWS reported: The death toll from a series of deadly flash floods and landslides in southeast Bangladesh has risen to 108. The region’s chief administrator, Sirajul Haq Khan, says the victims bodies were pulled from the mud and debris of destroyed homes in the districts of Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban. Mr Khan says the rescue operation has been called off as nobody else has been reported missing. He says the flood waters have finally receded. The landslides were triggered by three days of monsoon rains. More than 60,000 people have been displaced. Rain-triggered landslides are common in Chittagong and the government has sought to tighten rules restricting development in danger areas.
Greece – The Olympian reported: Assailants attacked Microsoft’s office in Athens on Wednesday, driving a van through the front door and setting off an incendiary device that burned the building’s entrance, police said.There were no injuries in the pre-dawn attack on the U.S. company’s headquarters in the Greek capital, located in the Maroussi suburb north of the city center. There was no immediate claim of responsibility and authorities and the company said no warning call had been made before the attack. While a motive was not clear, small armed anarchist or domestic terrorist groups have set off attacks in Greece for decades. They usually target official buildings.
Gabon – The Environment NEWS Service reported: The President of Gabon today set fire to the country’s government-owned ivory stockpile, sending a message to elephant poachers that illegal wildlife trafficking will not be tolerated in the Central African country. “Gabon has a policy of zero tolerance for wildlife crime and we are putting in place the institutions and laws to ensure this policy is enforced,” said President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who ignited the pile of ivory in Cite de Democratie, Libreville. President Bongo said his government would work with the Department of Justice to ensure that people committing wildlife crimes would be prosecuted and sent to prison. “Gabon’s elephants are under siege because of an illegal international market that has driven ivory prices in the region up 750 percent in just 12 months,” said President Bongo. “I call upon the international community to join us in this fight. If we do not reverse the tide fast the African elephant will be exterminated.”
28 June 2012
Turkey – The Christian Science Monitor reported: As several nations prepare for an emergency meeting of the Action Group for Syria, Turkey deploys troops to defend its border. The international community has so far been unable to come to consensus about next steps as the crisis continues. Turkish troops and anti-aircraft batteries were headed toward the tense Turkish-Syrian border region Thursday amid reports that U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan was calling for a transitional “national unity” government as a potential solution to the crisis in Syria. The Turkish deployment appeared moderate in scale and seemed more defensive — and perhaps symbolic — than offensive in nature. On the diplomatic front, published reports have indicated that a new “road map” from Annan envisions a transitional government in Syria that would include representatives of the opposition and possibly some members of the current government.
Geneva – Bloomberg Businessweek reported: Russia heads to tomorrow’s Geneva meeting on UN envoy Kofi Annan’s plan for a handover of power in Syria amid conflicting accounts about its willingness to cut ties to President Bashar al-Assad. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday that there is no agreement yet on Assad’s fate. Leaks to the press suggesting otherwise were an “unscrupulous approach to diplomacy,” he told reporters in Moscow. Persuading Assad to step aside and not be part of a transitional government paving the way for elections is at the core of Annan’s plan to be discussed at the foreign ministers’ meeting. The outlook for action may depend on whether, as some diplomats said on condition of anonymity, Russia is prepared to break with its long-time ally Assad.
Iraq – Reuters reported: Bombings in and around Baghdad killed at least 21 people and wounded over 100 on Thursday, health and security sources said, the latest attacks in a bloody month that have stoked fears Iraq could return to broad sectarian fighting. Tensions have been high in the country since the last U.S. troops left in December, with ongoing political crises between Iraq’s main Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish factions further aggravating concerns. In the deadliest incident, at least eight people were killed and 30 wounded when a bomb in a parked taxi exploded at the entrance of a Baghdad market in the mainly Shi’ite Muslim district of Washash, police said. “There were bodies scattered everywhere. Glass and vegetables covered the whole place,” said police officer Ahmed Nouri, who was on patrol nearby when the bomb detonated. “I feel like my clothes are completely covered in blood and the smell of it is in my nose,” he said.
United Kingdom – PC World reported: WikiLeaks Julian Assange said Thursday night it is very unlikely he will obey a summons from British police to leave Ecuador’s embassy on Friday and surrender for breaching bail conditions. Assange, who lost a fight in the U.K.’s Supreme Court on May 30 to block his extradition to Sweden, told the BBC’s Newsnight program by telephone that he fears he could eventually be extradited to the U.S. for his WikiLeaks work. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said early Friday morning that the surrender notice is a standard first step in the extradition process. Swedish prosecutors have sought to question Assange over sexual assault allegations from two women stemming from incidents in August 2010. He has not been charged and maintained the encounters were consensual. Last week, the 40-year-old Australian sought refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London while the country evaluates his request for political asylum. He had been free on bail but subject to electronic monitoring and regular check-ins with the police as he challenged extradition.
United Kingdom – The Telegraph reported: Two Muslim converts have been arrested in East London on suspicion of plotting an attack against the London 2012 Olympic Games canoeing venue. Sources told The Daily Telegraph that the arrests were based on a tip-off after men were seen behaving suspiciously close to the venue in Waltham Abbey, Hertfordshire on Monday. Hertfordshire police officers began combing the banks after three men were seen in a dinghy on the River Lea. The two men, aged 18 and 32, were arrested at separate residential addresses in east London, by officers from the Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Command, at 7am on Thursday. They were detained under the Terrorism Act 2000 on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism and held at a central London police station. Officers were last night searching two addresses in East London. A friend of the arrested men named the 18-year-old as Jamal ud-Din and said the older man was someone he knew only as “Zakariya.”
Japan – ABC NEWS reported: Japan and South Korea on Friday agreed to share intelligence in their first joint military pact since World War II. The agreement is seen as a breakthrough in ties between two neighbors with a difficult history. Japan ruled Korea as a colony for several decades until the end of World War II in 1945, and Seoul has often been wary of Japan’s postwar military development, but the nations have many shared concerns, particularly North Korea and China. The pact establishes a framework for sharing intelligence in such areas as missile defense, North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, Chinese military operations and other regional security matters. It was previously approved by South Korea, and Japan’s Cabinet gave its final approval Friday ahead of a formal signing ceremony.
29 June 2012
Geneva -Syria – The Associated Press reported: An international conference on Saturday accepted a U.N.-brokered peace plan that calls for the creation of a transitional government in Syria, but at Russia’s insistence the compromise agreement left the door open to Syria’s president being part of it. The U.S. backed away from insisting that the plan should explicitly call for President Bashar Assad to have no role in a new Syrian government, hoping the concession would encourage Russia to put greater pressure on its longtime ally to end the violent crackdown that the opposition says has claimed more than 14,000 lives. But even with Russia’s most explicit statement of support yet for a political transition in Syria, it is far from certain that the plan will have any real effect in curbing the violence. A key phrase in the agreement requires that the transitional governing body “shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent,” effectively giving the present government and the opposition veto power over each other.
Germany – The San Francisco Chronicle reported: By the end of a vital two-day summit here, European diplomacy had played out like soccer, with Spain and Italy – the two nations headed to the Euro 2012 finals – emerging victorious and the Germans returning home in shock. After a marathon 14 hours of talks, the deal that came together saw Berlin offer surprise concessions that could aid both Madrid and Rome in their desperate struggle to stave off economic collapse, even as it hinted at new political dynamic in Europe. Amounting to a series of highly technical rule changes, the deal addressed the core of the questions facing Europe: Who will cover the tab for its 2 1/2-year-old debt crisis, and how?
Sudan – CNN reported: Since 17 June, Sudanese civilians have been demonstrating against the totalitarian regime that has ruled them for 23 years. Their protests against rising food and fuel prices have reportedly broadened into criticism of the corrupt National Islamic Front junta, rebranded as the National Congress Party. Predictably, the security forces are responding with swift and brutal force. Equally predictably, Sudan’s leaders blame foreigners for fomenting the unrest. Hundreds tear gassed amid clampdown on Sudan protests. This is not the first sign of the Arab Spring in Sudan. Demonstrations last year were swiftly crushed, leaving citizens in no doubt they risked their lives if they challenged the decrepit status quo.
United Kingdom – The Australian reported: Wikileaks chief Julian Assange has defied a British police summons and won’t be leaving the Ecuadorean Embassy in London until he hears about his asylum bid, a member of his defense fund said. British police had demanded that the silver-haired computer expert report to a London police station last night, the first step in what would have been his extradition to Sweden over sex crime allegations. But Susan Benn, a member of his defence fund, said he would rebuff the UK authorities. “Mr Assange has been advised that he should decline the police request,” she told reporters gathered outside the embassy, saying that the 40-year-old Australian was seeking asylum from Ecuador and that “asylum assessments take priority over extradition claims.” Mr Assange had been widely expected to ignore the UK summons. He argued that the sex claims made against him by two Swedish women back in 2010 have been manipulated by his enemies and that extradition to Sweden is a first step in a plan to fly him to the United States, where officials are investigating him and his secret-spilling website over the disclosures of hundreds of thousands of confidential government documents.
China – ABC NEWS reported: Six suspects arrested in a foiled plane hijack in the far-western Xinjiang region are all Uighur men, Chinese state media reported Saturday, adding to ethnic tension in the region days ahead of the third anniversary of deadly riots. Xinjiang is home to a large population of minority Uighurs (pronounced WEE’-gurs), but is ruled by China’s ethnic majority Hans. There have been clashes between authorities and Uighurs resentful of government controls over their religion and culture. State media reported that the men arrested Friday tried to hijack a plane headed for the regional capital of Urumqi, but that their efforts were foiled by passengers and flight crew. Four crew members were injured in a tussle with the suspects, China’s Civil Aviation Administration said. The plane carrying 92 passengers and nine crew members safely returned to Hotan city in southern Xinjiang 22 minutes after takeoff, according to operator Tianjin Airlines.
Afghanistan – The New York Times reported: Insurgents attacked three villages in the Kamdesh district of Nuristan Province near the Pakistan border on Friday, killing six Afghan security officials and four civilians, Afghan officials said. The fighting lasted for more than 12 hours, and more than 50 houses were destroyed, said Shams Rahman, a border police battalion commander in Nuristan. He said more than a hundred insurgents had stormed the area. A large explosion set off by insurgents outside the district governor’s house killed the district governor’s wife, he said. NATO said that it provided some air support for Afghan security forces involved in the fighting. Coalition ground forces, led by the United States, have withdrawn from the remote province in eastern Afghanistan. In 2009, insurgents attacked two American bases in the Kamdesh district, killing eight Americans.
Pakistan – The International Herald Tribune reported: Traders shuttered their shops in the city on Friday to protest a deadly bomb attack on a bus carrying Shia pilgrims a day earlier. Fourteen pilgrims from the Hazara community, including women, were killed in the attack which, police believe, was carried out by a suicide bomber. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi sectarian extremist group claimed responsibility for the carnage. The Hazara Democratic, Tahfuz-e-Izadari Council, Tehreek Nifaz-i-Fiqa-e-Jaffaria and Balochistan Shia Conference had given the call for Friday’s strike which was supported by trader unions and political parties. All business centres and shopping malls in downtown areas, including Jinnah Road, Abdul Sattar Road, Kansi Road, Alamdar Road, Thoughy Road, Brewery Road, Mission Road, McChangi Road, Prince Road, Liaquat Bazaar, Fatima Jinnah Road and Masjid Road, remained closed throughout the day.