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16 June 2012
Syria – The LA Times reported: The United Nations’ decision to suspend its observer mission in Syria could increase pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad to comply with a faltering U.N. peace plan that many view as a last chance to avoid all-out civil war in the strife-torn Middle Eastern nation. But the observer pullback announced Saturday could also put pressure on Russia, whose alliance with Assad has led to increasing tension with Washington. Moscow helped craft the peace initiative and is determined to keep it alive, knowing that its failure could accelerate demands for harsher international action. The U.N. cited escalating violence in its decision to suspend the monitoring mission, a crucial component of special U.N. envoy Kofi Annan’s plan. The suspension of the observer mission — and the possibility that Annan’s entire effort may be on the verge of collapse — may also be a blunt message to Assad, who Annan has said has the “first responsibility” to implement the peace process. Few independent Syria-watchers believe that Assad could withdraw his troops and armor from populated areas and allow nonviolent protests, both mandates in the peace plan, and still hold on to power in the deeply divided nation of 23 million.
Iraq – Xinhua reported: Two car bomb explosions have killed at least 32 Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad. Thousands of Shia pilgrims travelled to the city on Saturday for the final day of a festival at a holy shrine in the Iraqi capital. The deadliest attack occurred at about 2:00 p.m. local time Saturday when a car bomb hit a procession of Shiite pilgrims near Sanaa Square outside the holy Shiite shrine district of Kadh-miyah in northern Baghdad. Eighteen people were reported killed with at least 36 wounded. An earlier car bomb took place around mid-day when a booby- trapped car struck a procession of pilgrims in the Shula district of northwestern Baghdad, killing 14 people and wounding 32 others.
Burma – The Sydney Morning Herald of Australia reported: More than 20 years after winning the Nobel Peace prize, Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has finally received the honour – gaining two standing ovations as she gave her long-delayed acceptance speech. Suu Kyi said the honour, when bestowed, helped shatter her sense of isolation and ensured the world would demand democracy in her military-controlled homeland. She gave the speech inside Oslo’s City Hall to the Norwegian Nobel Committee in front of Norway’s King Harald, Queen Sonja and about 600 dignitaries.
Mexico – Bloomberg NEWS reported: World leaders meeting in Mexico will agree to boost the $430 billion firewall the International Monetary Fund announced in April, host President Felipe Calderon said. “I estimate that there will be a larger capitalization than the pre-accord reached in Washington, which will be finalized here, but I don’t want to speculate by how much,” Calderon told reporters yesterday in the coastal resort of Los Cabos. Leaders of the Group of 20 nations are gathering in Los Cabos for a two-day summit beginning tomorrow that will be dominated by the financial crisis in Europe, which the White House said June 15 is the key risk to the global economy. While the G-20 agreed earlier this year to bolster IMF resources that could be channeled to defuse the euro-area crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week called on the G-20 to do more. “I hope there’s a very important agreement about the IMF,” Calderon said. While he said he regrets that the U.S. won’t take part in the IMF recapitalization, that won’t prevent it being the largest in the fund’s history.
Pakistan – CNBC NEWS reported: A bomb in a pickup truck killed at least 26 people at a market in northwest Pakistan on Saturday and wounded 65, security and hospital officials said, in one of the largest bombing death tolls in weeks. The target in the town of Landi Kotal appeared to be a tribal leader allied with the government against the Pakistani Taliban, the Islamist militant group blamed for many of the suicide bombings across the country, security officials said. Hospital officials said 65 people were wounded, most of them fruit and vegetable vendors. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. “The blast was so powerful, it was heard far and wide and caused damage to nearby buildings,” said resident Sher Mohammad Shinwari.
Pakistan – The Associated Press reported: A militant commander in northwest Pakistan warned polio vaccination teams on Saturday to stay away from the territory he controls near the Afghan border, saying he would not allow immunizations until U.S. drone attacks in the country are stopped. The statement by Hafiz Gul Bahadur is an obstacle to efforts to beat polio on Pakistan, one of only three nations where the virus is endemic. The threat came in a pamphlet distributed Saturday in markets in the troubled North Waziristan tribal region. “We don’t want benefits from well-wishers who spend billions to save children from polio, which can affect one or two out of hundreds of thousands, while on the other hand the same well-wisher (America) with the help of its slave (Pakistan’s government) kills hundreds of innocent tribesmen including old women and children by unleashing numerous drone attacks,” it said. The pamphlet also said spies could enter the region under the cover of vaccination teams to get information for the United States about “holy warriors.” It said teams who disregarded his warning would be responsible for any consequences. The polio virus, which usually infects children living in unsanitary conditions, attacks the nerves and can kill or paralyze.
France – The Agence France Presse reported: France heads to the polls on Sunday for a vote expected to cement the country’s swing to the left by giving President Francois Hollande a clear parliamentary majority to push his agenda. Opinion polls released before the end of campaigning at midnight Friday showed Hollande’s Socialists and their parliamentary allies on track to take control of France’s lower house National Assembly. Hollande, who defeated rightwinger Nicolas Sarkozy in May’s presidential election, has urged voters to give him a majority as he seeks to steer France through Europe’s debt crisis, rising unemployment and a faltering economy. The French vote risks being overshadowed however by elections in Greece that could determine its future in the eurozone, amid concern over the shockwaves that a Greek euro exit would send through the global economy. The polls showed France’s Socialists winning between 287 and 330 seats in Sunday’s run-off election — almost certainly enough to secure a majority in the 577-seat Assembly.
Yemen – CNN reported: Azzan, the last al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) stronghold in south Yemen, is to be handed over to government authorities within days, two Yemeni senior security officials in Shabwa province told CNN on Saturday. Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser is in Shabwa leading the military preparations for the takeover of the town. “We will continue going forward until victory is accomplished,” Nasser said. Nasser met with top security aides and Shabwa’s governor on Saturday while tribal leaders in the province led negotiations seeking a peaceful handover of Azzan. The Defense Ministry said that troops surrounding Azzan are awaiting orders to attack. Eyewitnesses in the town told CNN that AQAP fighters were seen selling their belongings and informing residents that they will not be back.
17 June 2012
Greece – The BBC reported: The narrow election victory of Greece’s pro-bailout New Democracy party has been welcomed by world leaders, who urged Athens to quickly form a cabinet. The eurozone group said reforms were Athens’ “best guarantee” to overcome tough economic and social challenges. The US stressed that it was in everyone’s interests “for Greece to remain in the euro area”. The anti-bailout Syriza party, which came a close second, said it would lead the opposition. With more than 99% of votes counted, interior ministry results put New Democracy on 29.7% of the vote (129 seats), Syriza on 26.9% (71) and the socialist Pasok on 12.3% (33). Greek voters went to the polls on Sunday after following May’s inconclusive elections.
Egypt – The Associated Press reported: The Muslim Brotherhood declared early Monday that its candidate, Mohammed Morsi, won Egypt’s presidential election, which would be the first victory of an Islamist as head of state in the stunning wave of protests demanding democracy that swept the Middle East the past year. But the military handed itself the lion’s share power over the new president, sharpening the possibility of confrontation. With parliament dissolved and martial law effectively in force, the generals issued an interim constitution granting themselves sweeping authorities that ensure their hold on the state and subordinate the president. They will be Egypt’s lawmakers, they will control the budget and they will determine who writes the permanent constitution that will define the country’s future. But as they claimed a narrow victory over Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq in a deeply polarizing election, the Brotherhood challenged the military’s power grab. The group said Sunday it did not recognize the dissolution of parliament, where it was the largest party. It also rejected the military’s right to issue an interim constitution and oversee the drafting of a new one. That pointed to a potential struggle over spheres of authority between Egypt’s two strongest forces. The Brotherhood has campaigned on a platform of bringing Egypt closer to a form of Islamic rule, but the military’s grip puts it in a position to block that. Instead any conflict would likely center on more basic questions of control — if the Brotherhood pushes a fight. It has reached accommodations with the military in the past.
Israel – Haaretz reported: An Israeli citizen was killed Monday morning during clashes between Israel Defense Forces soldiers and terrorists who infiltrated the southern border with Egypt. Initial information reveals that a terrorist cell penetrated the fence along the border with Egypt on Monday morning, and set off an explosive device near Be’er Milka, an Israeli moshav near the Egyptian border. After penetrating the border, the terrorists started to open fire and as a result, a construction worker was wounded, and died later of his wounds. The IDF’s Golani Brigade was called to the scene and began exchanging fire with the armed men near the Philadelphia corridor near Kerem Shalom. The attack follows a few days of intelligence warnings.
Belgium – The Telegraph reported: For the second successive G20 summit, the crisis afflicting Greece and the single currency will dominate proceedings, with the irritation of international leaders towards their eurozone counterparts likely to be near the surface as Britain and the US look for definitive action to halt the downward spiral. In the run-up to last November’s summit in Cannes, George Osborne, the Chancellor, warned that leaders had six weeks to save the euro. At that summit, Silvio Berlusconi, then Italian prime minister, fell asleep during key negotiations and Nicolas Sarkozy, then French president, was more interested in photo opportunities with Barack Obama. Meanwhile, Greek politicians were publicly humiliated before being effectively forced to drop plans for a referendum. This time, six months on, in another celebrity-filled beach resort, patience appears to have finally run out and many leaders from beyond the single currency are becoming angry at the inaction that threatens not only the future of the euro, but the eurozone itself and the global economic recovery.
France – Bloomberg Businessweek reported: French voters are choosing a new parliament Sunday that will determine how far Socialist President Francois Hollande can go with his push for economic stimulus in France and around a debt-burdened, stagnant Europe. The left is in the spotlight and expected to take the driver’s seat of the 577-seat National Assembly after Sunday’s second round of legislative elections. Hollande’s Socialists dominated the first round last week and pollsters predict they will win the most seats in the lower house. That would wrench it from the hands of former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservatives, who have led it for a decade. The French election campaign focused on local issues but it will determine this country’s political direction, which has Europe-wide importance. France is the second-biggest economy in the eurozone and, along with powerhouse Germany, contributes heavily to bailouts to weaker nations and often drives EU-wide policy.
Nigeria – The BBC Africa Corps reported: A curfew has been imposed in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna after multiple bomb attacks kill at least 36 people. Officials said at least 16 people died and dozens were injured in the blasts. Some 20 more people were killed in later rioting apparently targeting Muslims, aid workers and witnesses said. No-one has yet claimed responsibility for the blasts, but Kaduna state has previously seen attacks by the radical Islamist group Boko Haram. Kaduna state authorities have imposed a 24-hour curfew as soldiers and police try to restore order.
Syria – CNN reported: The elusive quest for peace in Syria is now crippled with recent setbacks, as a U.N. observer mission has suspended operations and attempts to rescue civilians trapped in violence have proved futile. Chaos erupted once again Monday as regime forces shelled the southern town of Tafas, an opposition group said, prompting calls for residents to hunker down in lower floors of houses. The attack came after more than 80 tanks infiltrated the town in Daraa province, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria said. Elsewhere in Daraa, warplanes hovered at a low altitude over the city of Daeel as powerful explosion rocked the city, the LCC said. Violence in the country has escalated in recent days, exacerbating an already risky situation for the about 300 monitors, said Gen. Robert Mood, who heads the U.N. monitoring mission in Syria. “Civilians continue to be trapped by the escalating violence in Syria,” Mood said in a statement Sunday. “In Homs, attempts to extract civilians from the line of fire over the past week have been unsuccessful.”
Philippines – ABC NEWS reported: China says it will pull out its fishing boats from a disputed shoal in the South China Sea following a similar move by the Philippines. The standoff at Scarborough Shoal erupted in April when the Philippines accused Chinese fishermen of poaching inside its exclusive economic zone. China claims sovereignty over the tiny, uninhabited shoal and deployed paramilitary vessels to protect fishermen. The Philippine president ordered the pullout of the two remaining Philippine government ships over the weekend, citing bad weather. The Chinese Embassy said in a statement Sunday that it is sending a rescue vessel to pull out the fishing boats to safety because of the stormy weather and strong tide.
Israel – The New York Times reported: One by one, immigration inspectors escorted the migrants out of a dilapidated building into an alley teeming with African-run stores and hair salons. Then, they were led onto a waiting bus, in the first steps on the way to deportation to their native South Sudan. One woman grasped a leopard-print purse. A man left with a book in his hand. Some wore brightly colored shirts and held their heads high. One shouted “Juba! Juba!” — the name of South Sudan’s capital — and raised his hands in a victory sign. “It must be done,” said Mor Sheffer, an Israeli bystander, “or tomorrow we will have no country and we will have to look for another one.” Many residents here in the Neve Shaanan area of south Tel Aviv complain of rampant crime by migrants and say that it has become “Soweto,” a reference to the site of a 1976 uprising in South Africa. At a recent protest fanned by right-wing politicians, one lawmaker described the Africans, known here as “infiltrators,” as “a cancer in our body.” Later, Africans’ stores and apartments were attacked.