1 INDEX QATAR ARAB WORLD INTERNATIONAL COMMENT 2, , 19 BUSINESS 21 25, 28, 31 CLASSIFIED TV LISTINGS 29, 30 SPORTS ARAB WORLD Page 3 FOOTBALL Page 40 Contrite Suarez accepts Troops break up march on West Bank settlement 10-match ban GULF TIMES www. DOW JONES QE NYMEX 14, % Latest Figures 8, % SATURDAY Vol. XXXIV No April 27, 2013 Jumada-II 17, 1434 AH gulf-times.com 2 Riyals % published in QATAR since 1978 In brief QATAR Penalty Trademark counterfeiting A Doha court of first instance has fined a commercial company a sum of QR10,000 for counterfeiting a trademark and using it on a product, local Arabic daily Arrayah reported yesterday. The court ruled that the counterfeited trademark would be destroyed along with the product on which it was used. Further, it ruled that the machines and tools used in the counterfeiting process be confiscated. QATAR Heart attack Man dies while swimming A Qatari man in his late 30s has died as he was returning from a diving trip at the Sealine beach, local Arabic daily Arrayah reported yesterday. The man reportedly suffered a heart attack as he was swimming back to the beach along with other divers and an instructor. QATAR Weather Chance of rain and thunder today The Met office yesterday forecast chances of rain and thunder inshore at some places in Qatar today. Though the forecast was the same yesterday, it only drizzled in most places. LATIN AMERICA Health Warning on cancer epidemic Latin America faces a cancer epidemic, scientists warned yesterday as they pressed for urgent action to reduce tobacco use and obesity and allocate more resources to control the disease. Page 7 ITALY Politics Letta woos all sides in race to form govt Italy s prime minister-designate Enrico Letta yesterday scrambled to put together a coalition, as stocks fell in a sign of growing investor impatience over a two-month political deadlock in the eurozone s third-largest economy. Page 9 RUSSIA Tragedy Fire kills dozens in psychiatric hospital Thirty-eight people were killed, most of them in their beds, in a fire that raged through a psychiatric hospital near Moscow yesterday. Page 9 INDIA Weather Monsoon rainfall seen average India expects total monsoon rainfall to be average in 2013, a minister said yesterday, strengthening prospects for one of the world s biggest grains producers to avoid widespread drought for a fourth straight year. Page 15 PHILIPPINES Criticism China firm on disputed islands China yesterday hit out at the Philippines attempt to seek an international verdict on a territorial dispute over islands in the South China Sea, repeating that it would never give up its claims. Page 13 Football fun for children Children taking part in Qatar Foundation s Passport to Passion programme at the Museum of Islamic Art Park yesterday. It is part of an ongoing series of activities designed around Qatar Foundation s partnership with FC Barcelona. The Passport to Passion weekend sessions, consisting of fun-filled programmes for children to test and build their football skills, will be held from 3pm to 6pm in various locations around Doha. Any football enthusiast who is between 5 and 15 years is invited to attend and try to complete a series of skills tests. The activities have been specifically designed to provide young people with the satisfaction of learning a host of essential footballing skills such as agility and goalkeeping strategies. The challenge will culminate in a grand finale at the Awsaj Academy pitch in Qatar Foundation in late May. PICTURE: Jayaram. Page 20 Syria opposition urges UN action over chemical arms Damascus Civilians trying to extinguish a fire following shelling by forces loyal to President Bashar al-assad at residential buildings in Deraa. Syria s opposition yesterday urged the UN Security Council to act immediately, possibly even by imposing a no-fly zone, after the US said for the first time the regime has probably used chemical weapons. The call came as British Prime Minister David Cameron said growing evidence of chemical weapons use by President Bashar al-assad was extremely serious and called for increased foreign pressure on his regime. It is time for the UN Security Council to act on Syria, an official from the main opposition National Coalition told on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media. This is a massive issue, and the Security Council s paralysis over Syria is no excuse, the Coalition official said. The UN needs to immediately investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Should it find the regime used such weapons, it must act immediately, at least by imposing a no-fly zone, he added. During the 2011 uprising that ousted long-time Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi, the Security Council imposed a no-fly zone to prevent civilians being hit by regime air strikes. But the Security Council has been stalled over Syria for more than two years, with permanent members Russia and China backing Assad and vetoing several draft resolutions that would have threatened sanctions on the regime. The Coalition has accused the regime of using chemical weapons in the northern province of Aleppo, in Homs in the centre and in rebel-held areas near Damascus. Britain s Times newspaper published a report yesterday detailing the killing in Aleppo of a family, allegedly by chemical arms. The family died twitching, hallucinating and choking on white froth that poured from their noses and mouths. Their doctors believe that they were killed by nerve gas, said the report. On Thursday, the US said for the first time Syria had likely used chemical weapons against rebel forces, but emphasised that spy agencies were still not 100% sure of the assessment. US intelligence services had been investigating reports that Assad s forces had used chemical arms - a move President Barack Obama has said would cross a red line. A senior White House official said all options are on the table should use of the weapons be confirmed, but a defence official stressed that military intervention was not imminent and signalled spy agencies had differing opinions. Britain s Foreign Office confirmed it also had limited but persuasive evidence of the use of chemical agents in the conflict, which the UN says has left more than 70,000 dead since March Cameron said yesterday that the international response would likely be political rather than military. This is extremely serious. And I think what President Obama said was absolutely right, that this should form for the international community a red line for us to do more, Cameron told the BBC. In my view what we need to do... is shape that opposition, work with them, train them, mentor them, help them so we put the pressure on the regime and so we can bring this to an end, he said. Page 5 Rescuers find 50 survivors in collapsed Bangladesh factory Dhaka Rescuers found 50 people alive late yesterday in the rubble of a Bangladesh garment factory complex making Western brand clothes that caved in two days earlier, leaving over 300 workers dead. A total of 304 people are so far known to have died after the eightstorey building collapsed in the industrial area of Savar town on the outskirts of the Bangladesh capital Dhaka on Wednesday morning. We have found around 50 people still alive at several places on the third floor after digging tunnels. We hope we can rescue them by tomorrow morning, said Sheikh Mizanur Rahman, deputy director of the Bangladeshi fire service. The discovery of more survivors brought new hope to the thousands of desperate relatives huddled at the disaster site, but an intense stench of decomposition suggested many bodies remain trapped in the rubble. We ve rescued about 80 people alive from the rubble today (Friday), Rahman added. More than 2,300 people had been rescued alive since the collapse. Exhausted rescue teams of soldiers, firemen and volunteers using concretecutters and drilling machines were racing against time in searing heat to find more survivors from the country s worst industrial disaster. Page 17 Cord blood bank in Qatar wins top rating VHB has been collecting transplant quality cord blood cells for families in Qatar since September 2009 By Bonnie James Deputy News Editor Virgin Health Bank (VHB), headquartered at Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP), has been rated as one of the top 10 global cord blood banks by the World Cord Blood Congress To understand the significance of this in the industry, out of 510 globally listed cord blood banks in 97 countries, Virgin Health Bank was recognised as an international innovator in the industry, VHB s chief executive officer Chris Goodman told Gulf Times. This is both an honour for Virgin Health Bank and the State of Qatar. It draws attention to the fact that Qatar is now an important location for human cellular and tissue based-products, he stated in an interview. The World Cord Blood Congress is a platform for private and public cord blood banks, pharma, biotechs, academia and governments to debate advances in cord blood banking and therapeutics. It is the only commercial cord blood banking and therapy conference. This year, it chose the top 10 global cord blood banks based on newsworthiness, profitability, and innovation within business models and marketing strategies. The conference will take place on September 30 and October 1 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the US. While part of this recognition is in the innovation of our operations, in the past, we have also been singled out and recognised for the clarity and honesty behind our education and consenting processes. We are known for our ethics and the quality of the work that we do, Goodman observed. VHB has been lauded for its founder, billionaire Richard Branson s personal commitment to donate all proceeds from VHB to the Virgin Group to initiatives that are helping to fully realise the potential of cord blood stem cells. VHB was developed to meet the needs of families in Qatar who are considering banking their baby s cord blood stem cells and want the support of an ethically-motivated organisation committed to delivering high quality service, Goodman pointed out. Indeed, VHB is a unique company because our focus is not on money, but on education and awareness. We are a very community minded organisation and our focus is on the promotion of education and awareness of cord blood and stem cells and how these stem cells can help families. We empower families with the knowledge and resources so that they can make truly informed decisions about storing their baby s cord blood stem cells. We do this by providing parents with accurate and honest information and do not pressure them into buying our services. Cord blood stem cells are considered one of the most exciting areas of development within medical science. Currently there are over 80 diseases for which stem cells can provide a cure. These include blood disorders such as Beta Thalassemia and Sickle Cell Anaemia and cancers of the blood and immune system such as leukaemias and lymphomas. Chris Goodman: VHB s chief executive officer VHB has been collecting transplant quality cord blood cells for families in Qatar since September Initially it used its UK facilities for processing and storage, but started banking at its state-of-the-art stem cell processing and cryogenic storage facility at QSTP in August The VHB laboratory in Qatar is built to exceed current international regulatory standards and capable of storing over 50,000 individual stem cell units. It is the first cryo-preservation facility for human cells and tissue in the country. VHB, which works with Hamad Medical Corporation s Women s Hospital, Al Ahli Hospital, Doha Clinic and Al Emadi Hospital, has banked hundreds of cord blood stem cell units after starting its Qatar operations. Cord blood collection will also be started at Hamad Medical Corporation s Al Khor and Al Wakrah hospitals soon. Goodman, who joined VHB in 2010 as director of Operations, became chief operating officer last year and is now the chief executive officer for the company. He nearly two decades of extensive regulatory, quality, cellular and biopharmaceutical experience. Goodman has previously held senior positions in the US in areas including tissue diagnostics, cellular therapeutics, cord blood stem cell banking and human cytogenetics. He directed divisional operations and medical affairs and led business and scientific strategic planning. Goodman is also a regulatory inspector and assessor for international regulatory agencies and is the Designated Individual for VHB under the UK Human Tissue Authority. The liquid nitrogen filled storage tank in which processed stem cells are banked for 20 years at minus 196C.
2 2 QATAR No shelter for runaway workers: Indian envoy By Noimot Olayiwola Staff Reporter The Indian Ambassador to Qatar, Sanjiv Arora, yesterday reiterated that the embassy cannot grant temporary shelter to its nationals who have problems with their sponsors. Addressing journalists after the monthly open house where only three cases came up for consideration, he said that there is a Qatari policy that embassies should not grant shelter to their nationals that have problem with their sponsors. We have been asked to refer anyone in such situation to the deportation camp, the ambassador said in response to a question on granting shelter to Indian nationals. However, he stressed that help and support are being provided to those in need either directly at the embassy, which has designated a help desk to look into such issues or through the monthly open house being held at the embassy. According to the ambassador, up to 1,134 complaints have so far this year been received by the embassy s labour and welfare department including those received during the open house. A total of 3,385 were recorded last year and 3,186 and 3,034 were received in 2011 and 2010, respectively. These complaints range from maltreatment by the employers to delays in payment of salaries and other dues, few cases of extreme violence, visa rackets and employers sending employees to Saudi Arabia to work on farms and some establishments other Sanjiv Arora is flanked by Suman Sharma, Karim Abdullah, Sasi Kumar, and Anil Nautiyal at the open house yesterday. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam than they were primarily employed for, Arora added. According to the ambassador, most of the cases were thoroughly looked into and due process was followed to resolve the issues. We pursue each of these cases actively and we are also following up on some of them with Qatari authorities to further expedite necessary action, he said. The total number of deaths so far this year is 66 while it was 237, 239 and 233 in 2012, 2011 and 2010, respectively. Presently, there are some 221 Indian nationals including 13 women, at the Deportation Camp while some 44 including three women were being lodged at the Central Prison. Indian Community Benevolent Forum (ICBF) president Karim Abdullah said it continues to provide regular assistance to the less privileged community members. During April, ICBF has given an air ticket to Chennai for a worker who complained of too much workload and unavailability of exit permit; emergency certificates for some 10 workers at a cost of QR600; one air ticket renewal at QR220; body repatriation by air at QR3,370; and other minor assistance including food assistance, taxi fare to the camp/deportation camp/court/clinic to 12 people at QR900. Indian embassy deputy chief of mission P S Sasi Kumar, first secretary Anil Nautiyal, and second secretary Suman Sharma were also present. Cables sent to president HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al- Thani, HH the Deputy Emir and Heir Apparent Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-thani and HE the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-thani have sent cables of congratulations to Mohamed Abdul Hamid who has been sworn in as the new president of Bangladesh. National day greetings HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-thani, HH the Deputy Emir and Heir Apparent Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-thani and HE the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-thani have sent cables of congratulations to the Tanzanian president on the occasion of his country s National Day. Ooredoo named best mobile operator at TMT award Private clinic opens Ooredoo was named best mobile operator, at the TMT Finance 2013 Middle East and North Africa Awards, and Asiacell in Iraq, part of Ooredoo, won the Equity Capital Market Deal of the Year for their successful initial public offering (IPO) in February Ooredoo won best mobile operator award after posting record-setting figures for consolidated customers and consolidated revenue, in addition to its ongoing support for human growth and social and economic development in markets around the world. The award reflects the early positive response to the development of the Ooredoo brand, initially unveiled at a group level in February, followed by Qatar in March. Dr Nasser Marafih, Group CEO, Ooredoo, said: These awards signify that we are distinguishing ourselves, by pro- An Ooredoo official receiving the TMT Finance Award. moting human growth across our markets and offering lifeenhancing services. We will continue to put our customers at the core of our business, and continue to ensure that our business provides the right returns for all our stakeholders. Across its markets in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, Ooredoo has been modernising the network that serves its 92mn customers, including the rolling out of ultrafast 4G LTE networks in Qatar and Oman, with trials in Kuwait, and rapid deployment of the 3G network in Tunisia. Ooredoo has also continued to offer a wide range of life-enhancing mobile services, particularly to customers who cannot afford smartphones, including mlearning in Tunisia to support economic empowerment, mwomen services in Iraq and Indonesia, and mobile banking in Qatar. Asiacell won Equity Capital Market Deal of the Year for the successful completion of its share offer, which raised IQD 1,485.1bn ($1.27bn), representing 25% of its share capital. The company also announced the admission of its shares to the official list of securities maintained by the Iraq Securities Commission (ISC) and to trading on the Iraq Stock Exchange (ISX), under the ticker TASC. Dr Hashim Al Sayed Family Medicine Clinic has been inaugurated as the first Qatari private family clinic. Located at Saleh Bin Bayan Street, building number 12 at Aramex roundabout in Al Mamoura area opposite Carrefour, the clinic is being run by a senior consultant who qualified from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. The clinic treats paediatric, adult and elderly health problems such as high fever, cough, asthma, diabetes, obesity, indigestion, chronic headache, abdominal pain, low back pain, eczema, skin problems, depression, sinusitis, removal of skin warts and ingrown toenails, well man clinic and gestational diabetes. Consultation fee at the clinic is QR200. In the picture, Dr Al-Sayed, third left, with guests during the opening of the clinic. Williams F1 team s visit to Qatar highlights growing ties Al-Mohannadi receiving the award from HE al-sada. RasGas ups target for waste recycling RasGas recycled 43% of all its waste generated in 2012, which was the best in the industry and far outperformed the liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry average of 28%. The company has projected 80% recycling of its waste in RasGas was awarded the Qatar oil and gas industry health safety and environment (HSE) Excellence Awards 2012 for this notable achievement at a ceremony held by Qatar Petroleum (QP) on Thursday. The award was presented by HE the Minister of Energy and Industry and chairman and managing director of QP, Dr Mohamed bin Saleh al-sada. A total of 53 submissions from 26 organisations were judged on the transferability, reputation, innovation and performance enhancement of their HSE-related day-to-day operations. The organisations were categorised as QP operations, QP joint venture companies and QP contractors. Hamad Rashid al-mohannadi, chief executive officer, RasGas, said: Under the Qatar National Vision 2030 s pillar of environmental protection, RasGas has in fact gone beyond setting the pace for the LNG industry in our approach to sustainability. Recognising the relationship between people and technology, we have worked hard to design innovative technological systems that are userfriendly and effective in creating robust recycling industry. RasGas submission for this award focused on three recent key waste management and recycling initiatives that have enhanced the company s waste management performance. It included the introduction of Qatar s first thermal desorption unit which enabled the company to recycle a further 35% of previously unrecyclable waste. Another initiative is the pyrophoric waste management process through which RasGas has not only completely eliminated pyrophoric fires, but has been able to incinerate hazardous pyrophoric waste in a controlled manner allowing the company to double the amount of steel it recycles. Lastly, RasGas showcased a mobile tablet-based waste information system that is connected to the Internet and tracks 52 waste collection points, in real time in the field. Williams F1 drivers Pastor Maldonado, Valtteri Bottas and Susie Wolff visited Qatar, along with Team Principal Sir Frank Williams, for a series of events this week. At Aspire Zone, the three drivers undertook a guided tour of the facilities before speaking to an audience of Aspire Academy students. They also visited the Museum of Islamic Art, where they were given a tour of the new Olympic exhibition and signed caps and autographs for members of The Youth Company. The drivers then paid a visit to the Qatar Foundation headquarters in Education City, where senior officials explained the organisation s various plans. The drivers were also given a tour of the Texas A&M University in Qatar campus. One of the key pillars of the 2013 Qatar-UK Year of Culture is the shared passion our two countries have for sports. The drivers seemed to enjoy themselves and hopefully we have inspired many of those who turned out to meet them, said Sir Williams. Lankan school celebrates New Year The Stafford Sri Lankan School- Doha held an event to mark the Sinhala and Tamil Avurudu celebrations, usually observed yearly to invoke prosperity and good fortune. The programme featured traditional items including New Year games such as eating buns, lime and spoon race and tug-of-war, which also saw participation by a group of students from Doha College. The highlight was the Avurudu Pola or fair, which featured stalls offering food, drinks, dry rations and karaoke bar for entertainment. Proceeds of the event were donated towards the school s development. Students dressed for a fancy dress event. Students participating in a balloon blowing competition.
3 REGION/ARAB WORLD 3 MILITARY Israel to stop using white phosphorus smokescreens CONFLICT RIGHTS DIPLOMACY SOCIETY Israeli forces demolish wildcat settler outpost Monastery loses court battle against barrier Iranian scientist freed by US, arrives in Oman Israel said yesterday it was phasing out white phosphorus smokescreen munitions whose use during its offensive in the heavily populated Gaza Strip drew war crimes allegations. The military did not say whether it would also review its use of weaponised white phosphorus, which is designed to incinerate enemy positions. White phosphorus smokescreens produce embers and ash that can burn - a risk in urban areas. Such shells are to be removed from active duty soon and replaced by Israeli-developed alternatives to white phosphorus based completely on gas around a year from now, the military statement said, without giving details. Israeli security forces overnight demolished two structures that Jewish settlers had erected to create a wildcat outpost in the occupied West Bank, a police spokesman said yesterday. Soldiers and border policemen razed the makeshift structures of the Oz Zion outpost near the central city of Ramallah without incident, Luba Samri told. The security forces have dismantled structures erected at Oz Zion on several occasions in the past but settlers have persisted in putting up new ones. In December, more than 200 stone-throwing settlers drove off an attempt by security forces to dismantle structures put up at Oz Zion, wounding five border policemen. They were demolished the following day. A Catholic monastery and convent in a secluded valley outside Bethlehem lost a seven-year legal battle against the building of Israel s separation wall on its land yesterday, according to its lawyers. The Society of St Yves, a Catholic human rights group which argued the case on the monastery s behalf, said an Israeli appeals court had endorsed a plan to expand the barrier it had built in the area. The wall would surround the convent on three sides and cut it off from most of its land, St. Yves said in a statement. Salesian monks and nuns tend lush vineyards and olive trees on terraced hillsides under the gaze of Israeli settlements there. An Iranian scientist held for more than a year in California on charges of violating US sanctions arrived in Muscat yesterday, after being freed in what the Omani foreign ministry said was a humanitarian gesture. Mojtaba Atarodi, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Sharif University of Technology, had been detained for allegedly buying high-tech US laboratory equipment, previous Iranian media reports said. Iran s semi-official Fars news agency said Atarodi would return home today. Authorities in Oman had worked with US officials to speed up Atarodi s case and return him home, the Omani foreign ministry said in a statement carried by local media. Khouloud Succarriyeh and her husband Nidal Darwish pose for a photo in Beirut yesterday. Lebanon s caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel signed the approval of the marriage contract of Darwish and Succarriyeh, the first Lebanese to have a civil marriage in the country, according to the National News Agency. UN calls for restraint in Iraq as death toll tops 200 Palestinian protesters run in front of Israeli troops during clashes near the West Bank village of Deir Jareer yesterday. Troops break up march on West Bank settlement Deir Jareer, West Bank Israeli soldiers fired teargas and rubber bullets to disperse about 500 Palestinian villagers marching toward a Jewish settlement outpost in the occupied West Bank yesterday. The procession, the largest of its kind for years, followed charges by Palestinians that the Israeli settlers, whose caravans abut village land, had attacked them twice this week. Around half a million settlers have moved to the West Bank and East Jerusalem since Israel captured the area, along with the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Middle East War. Palestinians want the settlements gone from what they see as their future state. Men from Deir Jareer, including Christian and Muslim clerics, gathered for Friday prayers on a craggy outcrop between their village and a cluster of half a dozen makeshift settler homes surrounded by Israeli army jeeps and soldiers. Their march, preceded by a group of stone-throwing youths, was repeatedly pushed back by salvoes of Israeli teargas. Young boys howled from the effects of the teargas and old men hitched up their robes to flee, holding onion slices to their noses. Medics treated several men for gas inhalation and rubber bullet wounds. A few Palestinian villages hold weekly protests against the Israeli army and settlements, usually involving a score of rock-throwing youngsters, and unrest has mounted this year. EU slams demolition of structures European Union missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah expressed serious concerns yesterday about the demolition this week of 22 structures in eight places across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The destruction displaced 28 people, including 18 children, and affected 120 other people including 57 children, a statement from EU missions in Ramallah and Jerusalem said of the actions on Tuesday and Wednesday. Some of these But political gatherings are rare around Deir Jareer, and yesterday s protest was sparked after villagers say settlers torched around ten of their cars on Monday night, after planting an Israeli flag on a derelict church last Friday and pelting village youth with stones. This was a peaceful area. We re gathered today to say we refuse to be attacked and driven off our own land, said Sami Issa, a resident. We want their army to pull the settlers out. structures were funded by EU member states, including France, it said. These and other recent demolitions appear to put an end to a period in which a welcome reduction in demolitions had been noted, the EU said. Since the year 2008 more than 2,400 Palestinian houses and structures have been demolished in Area C of West Bank and East Jerusalem, displacing more than 4,400 people. The Israeli military has said it is investigating the events leading up to the march. Asked about yesterday s incidents, an army spokesman said: Soldiers responded to a group of some 250 stone-throwing youths with riot dispersal means near Ofra. Israel cites Biblical and historical claims to the land, but the UN considers the settlements illegal and most world powers say they are an obstacle to peace. Israel has sanctioned the building of 120 settlements, but around 100 unauthorised outposts, considered illegal even under Israeli law, dot the West Bank. The US is trying to revive long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress this month that these efforts were urgent because the chance to create a viable Palestinian state was fast receding. I believe the window for a two-state solution is shutting, Kerry said. I think we have some period of time, a year to a year and a half to two years or it s over. With tensions high, a Sunni cleric at the site of a longrunning anti-government protest near Ramadi, west of Baghdad, calls for the creation of an army to defend Sunnis Baghdad The UN warned yesterday that Iraq is at a crossroads and appealed for restraint, as four days of violence, including several attacks on mosques, killed more than 200 people. I call on the conscience of all religious and political leaders not to let anger win over peace, and to use their wisdom, because the country is at a crossroads, UN envoy Martin Kobler said in a statement. The call came a day after Prime Minister Nuri al-maliki warned of a return to sectarian civil war. Maliki, from Iraq s Shia Muslim majority, called on people to take the initiative, and not be silent about those who want to take the country back to sectarian civil war. Clerics Abdulghafur al-samarraie and Saleh al-haidari, who respectively head the Sunni and Shia religious endowments, have also warned against sectarian strife. Sunni-Shia sectarian violence in Iraq, including bombings and death squad murders that peaked in 2006 and 2007, claimed tens of thousands of lives. Yesterday, bombs exploded at three Sunni mosques in A Sunni protester prays during an anti-government demonstration in Fallujah yesterday. Baghdad and a fourth north of the capital, killing at least four people and wounding 50, an official and medics said. More than a dozen people were killed in attacks at Sunni mosques on Tuesday. And a motorcycle bomb in the Baghdad Shia district of Sadr City killed at least five people and wounded 21, while a roadside bomb in Dura in the capital s south wounded at least four, officials said. With tensions high, a Sunni cleric at the site of a long-running anti-government protest near Ramadi, west of Baghdad, called in a Friday sermon for the creation of an army to defend Sunnis. Sheikh Hamed al-kubaisi urged each Sunni tribe to provide 100 people. An journalist saw between 60 and 70 men who had responded to Kubaisi s call near the site of the protest, armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and rocketpropelled grenade launchers. I joined... to defend Sunnis, said 24-year-old Omar al- Hadithi, one of the men. I am not afraid of arrest. I am ready to fight anywhere. Meanwhile, security forces moved back into the northern town of Sulaiman Bek after gunmen who seized it withdrew, according to local official Shalal Abdul Baban. The gunmen pulled out of the predominantly Turkmen Sunni town in Salaheddin province under a deal worked out by tribal leaders and government officials, Baban and municipal council deputy chief Ahmed Aziz said. The gunmen had swarmed into Sulaiman Bek on Wednesday after deadly clashes with security forces, who pulled back as residents fled. Baban also said helicopter fire wounded six people on the roof of a house in the town early yesterday. Islamist: pass Egypt judicial law quickly Cairo Egypt s Islamist-dominated parliament must move quickly to adopt judicial reforms that have sparked a revolt by judges, the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood s political arm argued yesterday. The proposed reforms, which would get rid of more than 3,000 judges by lowering the retirement age, have widened the rift between President Mohamed Mursi s government and a judiciary seen by its critics as a last bastion of the old regime that was toppled in the 2011 revolution. Essam el-erian, a member of parliament from the Freedom and Justice Party which dominates the legislature, said in a Facebook post that passage of a new law defining the powers of the judiciary should not be delayed. He said the upper house had the legal authority to do this - something the opposition disputes. The lower chamber was dissolved by court ruling last year and Mursi has said new elections could be held in October. More than two years after the uprising that ousted president Hosni Mubarak, Egypt is still beset by political turmoil and street violence has contributed to a severe economic crisis by scaring off tourists and foreign investors. Dozens of masked young men threw petrol bombs and stones in an attempt to break into Mursi s palace in Cairo late yesterday, state news agency Mena reported. It said members of the blackclad anti-government group known as the Black Bloc were present but that the police fired teargas to force the small group to flee. A car was set on fire outside the palace, footage from Al Jazeera s Egypt station showed. A heavy police presence reinforced the palace s perimeter after nightfall. The police used trucks to block off streets near the palace, preventing protesters from approaching. Outside the High Court, which was the scene of clashes last week between Islamist protesters and their opponents, a small crowd of demonstrators gathered earlier yesterday to chant for the judiciary s independence. Islamist parties postponed their latest round of protests calling for it to be purged. A senior official of Egypt s biggest hardline Islamist party yesterday rejected the reforms under consideration. Abdullah Badran of the Nour Party wrote on Facebook that the constitution required greater consultation with the judiciary. Separately, a judge who served as the head of the embattled constitution-drafting body said reforms should be postponed until after a new parliament is elected, Mena reported. Protesters run from police cars during clashes with security forces after an anti-government protest near the presidential palace in Cairo yesterday. Iranian suspects deny Bangkok bomb plot Bangkok An Iranian man whose legs were blown off during an alleged botched bomb plot last year against Israeli diplomats in Bangkok said yesterday he found the explosives and was trying to dispose of them safely when they detonated. Saeid Moradi, 29, told a Bangkok court that he was about to leave Thailand when he found four bombs hidden inside radios in a cupboard at a rented house in the city. Two of the devices exploded as he ran into the street to throw them into a nearby canal, the second tearing off his legs, he said. Moradi and Mohamed Khazaei, 42, are among five Iranians suspected of involvement in the February 2012 blasts that followed attacks in India and Georgia and saw Israel accuse Tehran of waging a terror campaign. Moradi said he accidentally triggered one of the bombs when he opened a cupboard in the apartment. I was stunned and threw it into the corner, believing it was a smoke bomb, the wheelchairbound suspect said via a translator, adding he grabbed two other bombs and ran outside to throw them into a nearby canal. He did not refer further to the fourth device. Prosecutors accuse Moradi of hurling one bomb at a taxi and a second at two police officers as they approached him on the street, but it instead detonated near the suspect. However, the defendant said he dropped one of the devices near the taxi by mistake, and tried to throw the other away as the policemen approached, fearing it would detonate and hurt them. I knew if the police stopped me I d have to drop the bomb which may have endangered them and people nearby. So I threw it about a metre in front of me, he said, adding he blacked out and woke up at hospital later to find his legs had been torn off in the blast.
4 4 ARAB WORLD Egypt s pope says Copts are sidelined There is a sense of marginalisation and rejection, which we can call social isolation, Coptic Pope Tawadros II says of the feelings of Christians Cairo Egypt s Christians feel sidelined, ignored and neglected by Muslim Brotherhood-led authorities, who proffer assurances but have taken little or no action to protect them from violence, Coptic Pope Tawadros II said. In his first interview since emerging from seclusion after eight people were killed in sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians this month, the pope called official accounts of clashes at Cairo s Coptic cathedral on April 7 a pack of lies. He also voiced dismay at attempts by President Mohamed Mursi s Islamist allies to purge thousands of judges appointed under ousted president Hosni Mubarak, saying the judiciary was a pillar of Egyptian society and should not be touched. There is a sense of marginalisation and rejection, which we can call social isolation, the pope told on Thursday of the feelings of Christians, who he said make up at least 15% of Egypt s 84mn people. Attacks on churches and sectarian tensions increased significantly after the rise of Islamists to power following the 2011 uprising that overthrew Mubarak, even though Christians had demonstrated alongside Muslims for his removal. Asked about the government s response to this month s attacks, he said: It made a bad judgment and it was negligent... I would have expected better security for the place and the people. Mursi and his ministers tried to mend fences with the 60-year-old Coptic pontiff after the April 5 clashes in the town of El Khusus, north of Cairo, in which four Christians and one Muslim were killed. Sectarian violence spread to the capital s sprawling St Mark s Cathedral, the pope s headquarters, after the funerals. Sometimes we get nice feelings from officials, but such feelings require actions, and the actions are slow, and maybe little, and sometimes don t exist at all, the pope said. Riot police appeared to stand aside during what was the first attack on the seat of Christianity in Egypt in more than 1,400 years, although Coptic churches and community centres have suffered periodic violence for years. The pope said he was concerned by signs that some Copts were emigrating because they are fearing the new regime. Others were going abroad to study, seek work or join family, he said. In a concerted drive, the interior minister paid a condolence call on Tawadros on Wednesday and the ministers of information and tourism visited him on Thursday for a meeting televised on state media. But the pope said that beyond promises to investigate the incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice, nothing practical had been done to improve the lot of Copts. After the last incidents, we gained some promises from the authorities and the government, from some ministers, but till now there is nothing new, he said. Christians have long complained of discrimination in employment and treatment by the authorities and called for changes in laws to make it as easy to build or renovate churches as it is for mosques. Christians problems and hardships have two sides, a religious side and a civilian one. The religious side involves two main issues: building churches and land, the pope said. I expect the government to facilitate and solve the chronic problems... For example, the building of a new church takes more than years to get permission. The black-robed pontiff, carrying a white-tipped staff and Pope Tawadros II and Sheikh of the Al-Azhar University, Ahmed el-tayeb, speak during their meeting in Cairo yesterday. El-Tayeb offered Easter greetings to the pope. Copts will celebrate Easter on May 5. a Coptic cross in his hand, was particularly scathing about an account of the cathedral violence posted on the Facebook page of Mursi s national security adviser, Essam Haddad. It is 100% rejected, Tawadros said. This statement was in English, directed to the US State Department, and was sent with a CD to explain their position and to cover up, but this statement is a pack of lies. It did not tell the truth. Haddad s office said Christians had instigated the clashes by vandalising cars outside the cathedral during the funeral procession, and that firearms and petrol bombs had been used from inside the church compound, provoking the security forces. A witness saw at least two people carrying guns and petrol bombs on the roof of the cathedral that day, but the pope said mourners had merely been reacting to an assault. They did not come to make violence, they came for a funeral, and when they came out of the church, they started to be subjected to violence. And hence they acted. There is a difference between action and reaction, he said. The pope said the church had not even been asked to provide its account of events to government officials. Tawadros was picked as the 118th head of the Coptic Orthodox church on November 5. He studied pharmacology in Egypt and England and managed a state-owned pharmaceutical factory for a few years before becoming a monk. The 60-year-old pontiff succeeded Pope Shenouda III, who had led Egyptian Christians for four decades, clashing early on with former president Anwar Sadat but enjoying warmer relations with Mubarak, who acted as the Copts political protector. By contrast, Mursi has kept his distance, staying away from Tawadros inauguration and shunning Coptic Christmas celebrations. He offended Copts by setting the date for parliamentary elections on the Coptic Easter holiday, then admitting when he changed the polling day after Christian protests that he had been aware of the religious festival. During the interview the pope offered an Easter prayer for Mursi, saying: May God help you to serve in the work you are doing and may the situation in Egypt improve and the bridges of trust between all officials and citizens be strengthened. Thousands of rebels surrender in S Sudan Juba Around 3,000 rebels in South Sudan surrendered yesterday after a presidential amnesty, an official in Unity, an oil-producing state that borders Sudan, said. Around 100 trucks crossed over the border from Sudan into South Sudan s Unity state yesterday, following a presidential decree granting amnesty to six rebel commanders and their forces on Thursday. They came from Khartoum and there are about 3,000 of them and they are militia who have been fighting against the south, Unity state government spokesman Joseph Arop Malual told. It was not possible to independently confirm Malual s claims. But South Sudan s military spokesman Philip Aguer told that a convoy of trucks and machinegun-mounted vehicles had arrived in Unity state. South Sudan split peacefully from the north in July 2011 with three quarters of the former country s oil after decades of civil war. But the two sides have been accused of fighting a proxy war by funding rebels in each other s territory. A statement issued yesterday quoted South Sudanese President Salva Kiir giving pardons to the forces that took up arms against the Republic of South Sudan. The amnesty took effect on Thursday. The amnesty follows a recent visit by Sudan President Omar Hassan al-bashir to South Sudan, where he and Kiir both pledged to stop funding rebels on the other side of the border. Sudan jails 7 security agents over coup plot Khartoum A special court in Sudan has jailed seven members of the powerful state security service for up to eight years over a coup attempt last year, the service said. Their conviction follows the sentencing earlier this month of several army officers, who were jailed for the same plot but then walked free under a presidential amnesty. The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) said in a statement on Thursday that three security colonels and four lower-ranked security officers were sentenced to prison for various terms ranging between two and eight years. They had participated in the plot last November, the statement said. Analysts say the case reflects a political struggle within the 24-year regime of President Omar Hassan al-bashir, who himself took power in a coup. Officials have never revealed more than vague details about the plot which analysts said was linked to hardcore Islamist officers who had once firmly backed the regime. Until Thursday it remained unclear how many NISS officers had been detained. The guilty officers have been expelled from the security service. They have a right to appeal or ask for amnesty within 15 days, the statement said. Salah Gosh, who headed the NISS until 2009, was also detained in connection with the plot but has not been tried. His family says he has filed a case with Sudan s Constitutional Court, alleging he has been illegally held in custody. A military court on April 7 issued prison sentences ranging from two to five years for army officers convicted of attempting to undermine the constitutional and security system, threatening national unity and harming the armed forces. The army originally said 11 military men were convicted but one of their defence lawyers gave the total as nine. Seven of them including their leader, Brigadier Mohamed Ibrahim, walked out of prison last week under an amnesty from Bashir. Ibrahim played a role in the 1989 coup that brought to power Bashir s government, which describes itself as Islamist. We are seeking reform, Ibrahim said after his release. Most of the detainees are close to a vocal group of veterans of the civil war with now-independent South Sudan, and an elite group of volunteer mujahedeen fighters among them called Al Saihun or tourists for the sake of God. Along with a youth movement within the ruling National Congress Party, the war veterans have called for new national leadership and a return to Islamic values because they said the government is tainted by corruption. A regional political expert, who asked for anonymity, said earlier that Bashir is very scared of a bad relationship with Saihun which could further threaten the regime. Sudan has been through at least seven coups or attempted coups in its 57 years of independence. There has been some easing of tension since early March when Sudan and South Sudan began to normalise relations after months of intermittent border clashes. Bashir then announced he would free all political prisoners as the government seeks a broad political dialogue, including (with) those who are armed. Tunisian FM visits Libya Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan meets Tunisian Foreign Minister Othman Jarandi (left) in Tripoli yesterday.
5 ARAB WORLD 5 Evidence doesn t meet standard for UN experts Amsterdam Assertions of chemical weapon use in Syria by Western and Israeli officials citing photos, sporadic shelling and traces of toxins do not meet the standard of proof needed for a UN team of experts waiting to gather their own field evidence. Weapons inspectors will only determine whether banned chemical agents were used in the two-year-old conflict if they are able to access sites and take soil, blood, urine or tissue samples and examine them in certified laboratories, according to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which works with the UN on inspections. That type of evidence, needed to show definitively if banned chemicals were found, has not been presented by governments and intelligence agencies accusing Syria of using chemical weapons against insurgents. This is the only basis on which the OPCW would provide a formal assessment of whether chemical weapons have been used, said Michael Luhan, a spokesman for the Hague-based OPCW. There is a limit to what you can extract from photograph evidence alone. What you really need is to get information from on the ground With Syria blocking the UN mission, it is unlikely they will gain that type of access any time soon. The head of the UN inspection mission, Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom, will meet UN Secretary General Ban Kimoon in New York on Monday. The UN wrote to the Syrian government again on Thursday to push for unconditional and unfettered access for the UN investigators, Ban s spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters yesterday. The secretary general urges the Syrian government to respond swiftly and favourably so that this mission can carry out its work in Syria, Nesirky said. You need to be able to go into Syria to be able to do that investigation properly. In the meantime the members of that team have been collating and analysing the evidence and information that is available to date from outside, he said, adding that there was a concern about the degradation of evidence within Syria. The White House on Thursday said the US intelligence community has assessed with varying degrees of confidence that the chemical agent sarin was used by forces allied with President Bashar al-assad. But it noted that the chain of custody is not clear. The Israeli military this week suggested Syrian forces used sarin and showed reporters pictures of a body with symptoms indicating the nerve gas was the cause of death. Ralf Trapp, an independent consultant on chemical and biological weapons control, said, There is a limit to what you can extract from photograph evidence alone. What you really need is to get information from on the ground, to gather physical evidence and to talk to witnesses as well as medical staff who treated victims. Sarin is a fast-acting nerve agent that was originally developed in 1938 in Germany as a pesticide. It is a clear, colourless, tasteless and odourless liquid that can evaporate quickly into a gas and spread into the environment, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Because it evaporates so quickly, sarin presents an immediate but short-lived threat. Sean Kaufman of the Center for Public Health Preparedness and Research at Emory University, a former biodefence expert for the CDC, said people who have been exposed to sarin most typically die or recover fully. Testing for sarin, he said, requires access to the environment where the nerve agent was used or the clothing of someone who was exposed. The White House, which has called the use of chemicals weapons in Syria a red line for possible military intervention, said its assessment was partly based on physiological samples. But a White House official speaking on condition of anonymity declined to detail the evidence. It is unclear who supplied it. Even if samples were made available to the OPCW by those making the assertions, the organisation could not use them. The OPCW would never get involved in testing samples that our own inspectors don t gather in the field because we need to maintain chain of custody of samples from the field to the lab to ensure their integrity, said Luhan. Obama meets with Jordan s King Abdullah II in the Oval Office at the White House yesterday. Obama warns Assad on chemical weapons use The US president says the chemical weapons threat has added increased urgency in the Syrian crisis but cautions that it will take time to sort things out Washington US President Barack Obama warned President Bashar al-assad yesterday that any use of chemical weapons in Syria s civil war would be a game changer but cautioned that intelligence assessments that such weapons had been deployed were still preliminary. Speaking a day after the White House said for the first time that Assad s government had likely used chemical weapons on a small scale, Obama talked tough while appealing for patience as he sought to fend off pressure at home and abroad for a swift US response. Saying that confirmation was still needed to provide conclusive proof, Obama stopped short of declaring that Assad had crossed a red line he had warned earlier would unleash unspecified consequences, widely interpreted to include possible US military intervention. Horrific as it is when mortars are being fired on civilians and people are being indiscriminately killed, to use potential weapons of mass destruction on civilian populations crosses another line with respect to international norms and international law, Obama told reporters at the White House as he met with Jordan s King Abdullah. That is going to be a game changer. We have to act prudently, he said. We have to make these assessments deliberately. But I think all of us... recognise how we cannot stand by and permit the systematic use of weapons like chemical weapons on civilian populations. Obama said the chemical weapons threat had added increased urgency in the Syrian crisis but cautioned that it would take time to sort things out. In a shift from a White House assessment just days earlier, US officials said on Thursday the intelligence community believed with varying degrees of confidence that the chemical nerve agent sarin was used by Assad s forces against rebel fighters. The administration insisted, however, that Obama needed definitive proof before he would take action, making clear it he was mindful of the lessons of the start of the Iraq war more than a decade ago. Then, the George W Bush administration used inaccurate intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq in pursuit of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons that turned out not to exist. While some more hawkish US lawmakers have called for a US Troops backed by militia battle rebels around Damascus Fresh fighting erupted on the outskirts of Damascus yesterday, as Syrian regime troops battled rebels in the north, south and east, backed in some areas by tanks and militia, a watchdog said. Fierce clashes are raging in Barzeh district, pitting rebels against troops and members of the pro-regime popular committees, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. They began Thursday night and continued the whole day Friday. The district in northern Damascus also came under tank fire by the army, the Britishbased group said. The militiamen were brought in from Esh al-warwar district, which has a population drawn mainly from the Alawite minority community to which President Bashar al-assad belongs, it added. Most of the rebels are from Syria s Sunni Muslim majority. In its third year, the conflict has taken on an increasingly sectarian nature, as Assad s regime has armed militias among the Alawites and other minority groups. Analysts say the militias have better knowledge of the ground and are more adept at street fighting than the regular army, which is largely made up of conscripts. Rebels and troops also clashed in several areas of south Damascus, parts of which have been reduced to rubble by months of fighting. The Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk in south Damascus, mostly controlled by rebels, saw new fighting, the Observatory said. In the east of the capital, fresh fighting erupted in Jubar district, where rebels hold a number of enclaves, the Observatory said. The army also shelled the eastern suburbs, where rebels have established rear bases they have used to launch attacks deeper inside the capital. military response, several leading congressional voices called for a calmer approach yesterday after US Secretary of State John Kerry briefed them. This is not Libya, said Nancy Pelosi, the senior Democrat in the House of Representatives. The Syrians have anti-aircraft capability that make going in there much more challenging. White House spokesman Jay Carney said yesterday the US was continuing to study evidence and would not set a deadline for corroborating reports. We are continuing to work to build on the assessments made by the intelligence community, that the degrees of confidence here are varying, that this is not an airtight case, he said. In response to a question, Carney said Obama would consider a range of options including - but not exclusive to - military force, should it be determined that Syria has used chemical weapons. He retains all options to respond to that, all options, Carney said. Often the discussion, when people mention all options are on the table, everyone just talks about military force. It s important to remember that there are options available to a commander in chief in a situation like this that include but are not exclusive to that option. Warplanes, meanwhile, bombarded Ain Terma, east of Damascus, and Daraa to the southwest, the Observatory reported. This is one of the days where there were more raids and almost all regions were targeted, said Abdel Rahman. Regime forces launched a campaign several months ago to crush the insurgency near Damascus and to secure the capital. Abdel Rahman said warplanes bombed areas of Idlib, Raqa, Hassakeh, Deir al-zor, Latakia, Daraa and the Damascus neighbourhoods of Qaboon and Jubar. Lebanon dragged in as Hezbollah joins the war Baalbek, Lebanon Along north Lebanon s highways, the portraits of Hezbollah militants who have died in skirmishes with Israel are fading. But there are glistening photos of those killed in Hezbollah s new fight. These men died in Syria, battling alongside the army of Hezbollah s close ally President Bashar al-assad against rebel units in a conflict which has killed more than 70,000 people and risks reigniting Lebanon s 15-year sectarian civil war. The Shia Muslim group, designated a terrorist organisation by the US, is the most effective military body in Lebanon and its growing involvement in Syria s quagmire has angered Lebanese Sunni rebel sympathisers. The Hezbollah stronghold of Baalbek, famed for its colossal Roman ruins, now feels like a garrison town. Hezbollah men in military fatigues and police outfits are everywhere. As are Jeeps and Chevrolets with blackedout windows - the group s vehicles of choice. On Wednesday afternoon, machinegun fire rang out through Baalbek s narrow streets, signalling the arrival of another dead Hezbollah fighter from Syria, 12km to the east. Around 30 of his comrades quickly aligned in the street and straightened their green berets, readying themselves to carry the corpse on their shoulders. We have one or two of these funerals every day in Baalbek, said a young electronics shopkeeper, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue. A Hezbollah policeman in a polyester blue shirt told not to film the public funeral. There are five or six Hezbollah martyrs every day from northern Lebanon, he said quietly, ushering the car away. Lebanon endured a military presence by its historically dominant neighbour for 29 years until 2005 and has tried to maintain a policy of dissociation from Syria s once-peaceful uprising against four decades of family rule that turned violent after Assad s men killed and arrested thousands. But insulating Lebanon s 4mn people from Syria proved impossible; refugees flooded in, Sunni villagers along the border began giving shelter, food and medical care to Syrian rebels and rebel supporters in Lebanon sent guns A woman and a boy walk next to a vehicle damaged by what residents say was a missile fired by Syrian rebels, in the town of Hermel in Bekaa on April 24. and fighters across the border to fight Assad s troops. With no command structure, how many is hard to establish, but 12 Lebanese gunmen were killed by the Syrian army near Homs in November and residents in the Lebanese coastal town of Tripoli, where Sunnis sporadically clash with Alawites, say some local Sunnis fight in Syria, too. Assad has told Lebanon, where power is distributed between Sunni Muslims, Maronite Christians and Shia Muslims, it must help him fight what he calls foreign-backed terrorist groups. His men have regularly fired mortars into Lebanon and occasionally entered in pursuit of fleeing Syrian rebels. Hezbollah, which was formed as a resistance group to the Israeli occupation during Lebanon s own civil war between 1975 and 1990, has been called in to help. It maintains that it is keeping its weapons and huge missile caches to defend the country, but fighting a foreign war has stretched the definition of the group s mandate, angering those Lebanese who want to distance the country from Syria. Officially, Hezbollah denies fighting in Syria. Asked about the latest escalation in the border area, Ibrahim Mussawi, Hezbollah s media relations officer, said: For two years it has been our official policy not to comment. But the secret is an open one. Michael Young, an opinion writer for the Beirut-based Daily Star, said in a column on Thursday that the pressure is likely coming from Shia Iran, Hezbollah s main financier and supporter of Assad. Hezbollah s becoming cannon fodder for the Syrian regime, at Iran s request, is not something the party must relish, he wrote. There is a price to pay for Hezbollah s pushing the boundaries of Lebanon s sectarian system to its limits. And this price may be the party s gradual destruction, or worse, a Lebanese sectarian civil war. Late on Wednesday, prominent Syrian opposition figure Moaz al-khatib issued a direct appeal to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to withdraw fighters from Syria to prevent sectarian war engulfing the Middle East. The blood of your sons in Lebanon should not be spilled fighting our oppressed sons in Syria, al-khatib said in a video message, following days of heavy fighting in Syria s Homs border province where rebels say Hezbollah is most active. Hezbollah s intervention in Syria has complicated matters greatly, he said. Al-Khatib, a Sunni former preacher in Damascus, said Sunni and Shia Muslims had to overcome a thousand years of strife between their communities, or risk an explosion of sectarian conflict reaching from Syria and Lebanon to Turkey and Iran. But already there have been calls to arms by influential Sunni Muslim preachers in Lebanon against Hezbollah, risking a return to Lebanese bloodshed. One of the most outspoken, Ahmad al-assir, urged his supporters to fight Hezbollah inside Syria to help rebel groups, many of whom are hardline Islamist. And last Saturday, Syria s Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front broadcast a statement on the opposition Orient Television, saying rebel brigades would move the battle into Lebanon if the Hezbollah-backed offensive in Homs continued. The statement said rebels would use tanks and missiles to hit Baalbek and move fighters into Lebanese territory to attack Hezbollah there. Over the past two weeks, eight Grad rockets have landed in Shia Hermel, a sprawling agricultural town of around 100,000 next to the Orontes river on Lebanon s border with Syria and about 45km north of Baalbek. One empty building was hit along Hermel s main thoroughfare, leaving a metre-wide hole. Another hit a house next to an orphanage further into the town and shrapnel pock-marked a nearby house. None have caused injuries, yet. The mayor of Hermel, Hajj Saqr, said the missiles were fired by Syrian rebels. Saqr denied that men from his pro-hezbollah town are making the 10km trip north to fight in Syria. He said only that Lebanese citizens living just within Syria have set up their own civilian militia to protect themselves. Hezbollah also says its members in Lebanese-populated villages in Syria are defending themselves. But further up the road to Syria, lined with pictures of Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, there is an evident military buildup. Hezbollah fighters are everywhere, some carrying big bags and walking north.
6 6 AMERICAS US Congress okays plan to ease air traffic delays Washington The US House of Representatives has approved a Senate plan to ease nationwide air-traffic delays caused by automatic federal spending cuts, seeking to calm irritated travellers but sparking a backlash from interest groups not spared from cuts. The Senate had unanimously voted for the plan late on Thursday and the House approved it by a vote. White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama plans to sign the bill. The legislation will give the Department of Transportation flexibility to use about $250mn in unspent funds to cover the costs of air traffic controllers and other essential employees at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) who had been furloughed. Congressional approval of the bill, barely four pages long, came as lawmakers looked to fly out of Washington for a week-long recess. It was not clear how quickly the air delays will ease once the bill is enacted. Lawmakers were eager to stem the growing wrath of the traveling public, which had dealt with significant take-off and landing delays since the furloughs started on Sunday. They had also faced anger from airline chief executives whose companies had mounted a grassroots campaign through a website called dontgroundamerica.com, encouraging Americans to send messages to Congress and the White House. The quick legislative action marks a surprising bipartisan effort, especially after many Republicans had accused the President Barack Obama, standing before a line of flag-draped coffins, consoled family and friends on Thursday at a memorial service for firefighters killed in a massive explosion last week at a Texas fertiliser plant. The deaths of 14 people, nearly all of them emergency responders, ripped a hole in the heart of the town of West, where farming is a way of life and where many people volunteer for the fire department in their spare time. To the families, the neighbours grappling with unbearable loss, we are here to say you are not alone. You are not forgotten. We may not all live here in Texas, but we re neighbors, too, Obama told more than 9,000 mourners who packed a basketball arena at Baylor University in Waco. The April 17 explosion at the West Fertiliser Company plant Obama administration of manipulating funds to maximise the impact of the budget cuts and thus make Republicans look bad. The move does come with the risk, though, of unleashing lobbying campaigns to ease other programme cuts triggered by the controversial sequestration that took effect on March 1, requiring across-the-board spending cuts among most federal agencies. Even as they lined up behind the bipartisan bill, House Republicans and Democrats blamed each other for what House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called mindless acrossthe-board spending cuts that brought the FAA furloughs. Republican Representative Tom Latham of Iowa, who oversees transportation spending, accused the Obama administration of shameful politics by carrying out the furloughs, which the FAA said were required by the deficit-reduction law. This is no way to run a government, he said. Democrat after Democrat reminded Republicans that the Republican-controlled House had approved the sequestration in They complained that the FAA legislation fails to prevent 70,000 poor children from losing pre-school education, 4mn fewer meals from being delivered to poor, elderly people and stop the grounding of some military air combat units. Let s deal with all the adverse cuts, not just those that affect the affluent traveling sector, said Representative Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking House Democrat. Democratic Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland obliterated a residential section of West, about 20 miles (32km) north of Waco. Investigators have not determined the cause of the blast, which also injured some 200 people. A video testimonial for each victim were read by a relative or friend and broadcast on a large screen behind the podium. In one video, Carmen Bridges, wife of Morris Wayne Bridges Jr, 40, fought back tears as she told of the last time she had seen her husband. As he rushed out the door to respond to the fire in West, he stopped to hug his two-year-old son. Daddy loves you and he ll be right back, Bridges recalled her husband telling the boy. And he didn t come back. As the name of each victim was read aloud, a bell rang, echoing through the vast arena, where a dozen coffins most covered with US flags, and a couple covered with Texas flags were lined up. Airline passengers wait in line to be screened by the TSA at National Airport in Arlington, Virginia. The House of Representatives has approved a bill that would put air traffic controllers, furloughed by the sequester, back on the job, and thus alleviate air traffic delays. summed up the quick passage of the bill, as Congress hurried to start its recess, by saying: Members of this House are going to run for the airports. They re all going to be flying home on airplanes. And, yes, they will make it easier for members of Congress to get through those lines. And they will pat themselves on the back and say job well done. The plan for the budget cuts was originally hatched by Washington in 2011 as a way to force the White House and Congress to find an alternative budget deal. But policymakers failed to reach such a deal earlier this year. The cuts aimed to trim a total $109bn from federal spending through September of this year and affect a broad range of programs, from early education to medical research. Congress faces yet another round of these automatic spending cuts that would start on October 1. Some interest groups immediately cried foul at the FAA fix. Cynthia Pellegrini, an executive at March of Dimes, a nonprofit that advocates for the health of mothers and babies, said she was troubled by Congress acting on a case-by-case basis. Over the next several months we feel there are going to be significant impacts on women, children and families, Pellegrini Obama honours firefighters killed in blast Waco, Texas Obama and his wife, Michelle, both wiped tears from their eyes as bagpipers played Amazing Grace and the song filled the arena. The April 15 Boston Marathon bombings and the search for the suspects last week often overshadowed the Texas tragedy in the national news media. However, Obama sought to assure Texans they were in his thoughts. He vowed that federal and state authorities would help to rebuild the town of 2,800 residents. Know this, for the eyes of the world may have been fixed on places far away, our hearts have also been here through times of tribulation, Obama said. Before the ceremony, red and white lights twinkled along Baylor s University Parks Drive as fire trucks and ambulances from across Texas approached. Along the road, people took pictures, but many watched in silence. Bagpipe players and a colour guard led a procession of members of fire departments that lost personnel in the blast. West emergency medical technicians cried as they walked hand in hand with members of the emergency medical technicians from nearby Abbott, Texas. Coming to memorials, when you re part of this brotherhood, one of the biggest brotherhoods in the world created for the purpose of protecting others, that s just what you do, said Tito Rodriguez, an assistant fire chief with the Clute Fire Department near Houston. James Bruno waited until he parked to don the freshly ironed blue Irving, Texas, fire department shirt for the service. Walking with his wife, he said he felt a certain kinship with those who lost their lives in the explosion. They made the ultimate sacrifice trying to help everyone in their own town out, he said. The town had 33 volunteer firefighters. Five were killed, as were four paramedics from nearby towns said in an interview. This may not be as visible as longer lines at the airport. You can t see that a child s belly is emptier because her family couldn t get food assistance. The US Travel Association said yesterday that it appreciated Congress swift action, but said it was concerned that funds may be diverted from critical infrastructure projects. At a time when we should be modernising our infrastructure to improve efficiency, capacity and US global competitiveness, sequestration-related issues should not be solved on the backs of airports, the group said in a statement. Without the legislation, the FAA said that it would have to who rushed to the scene. Among the others killed was an off-duty Dallas firefighter who lived in West and a local welder who went to the plant to help. Obama praised the courage of people who so love their neighbours as themselves that they are willing to lay down their lives for each other. America needs towns like West. That s what makes this country great, it is towns like furlough 47,000 employees for up to 11 days through September 30 in order to save $637mn that is required by the sequestration. Of those 47,000 workers, almost 15,000 are full-time air traffic controllers or trainees. While supporting the legislation, the White House said yesterday that it falls short of broader action needed to address sequestration. It will be good news for America s traveling public if Congress spares them these unnecessary delays, White House spokesman Carney said in a statement. Carney said lawmakers need to take additional steps to alleviate the impact felt beyond the airline industry from the cuts, such as among poorer elderly people, defense industry workers and others brought on by sequestration. Ultimately, this is no more than a temporary Band-Aid that fails to address the overarching threat to our economy posed by the sequester s mindless acrossthe-board cuts, he said. Transportation officials have made other cuts to their budget but furloughs of air traffic controllers began this week, prompting traveler backlash at major hubs like those in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta. Yesterday departing flights at Newark Liberty International Airport were delayed more than an hour and 15 minutes, and Boston s Logan Airport had departure delays of more than 30 minutes, both due to staffing, the FAA said. Teterboro airport in New Jersey, which handles many corporate jets, also was experiencing delays of more than 90 minutes due to staffing. Obama and First Lady Michelle listen during the memorial service for first responders at Baylor University s Ferrell Centre, in Waco, Texas. Firefighters and other first responders were among those killed when a fertiliser plant exploded last week in West, Texas. West, the president said. Other speakers included Texas Governor Rick Perry and Baylor University president Kenneth Starr, best known for his investigation of the sex scandal involving then-president Bill Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky during the 1990s. These are volunteers, ordinary individuals blessed with extraordinary courage, Perry said of the fallen first responders. Canada tried to deport train plot suspect Ottawa Canada once tried to deport one of two men arrested this week on suspicion of what police say was an Al Qaeda-backed plot to derail a Canadian passenger train, public broadcaster CBC said on Thursday. Raed Jaser, 35, and an alleged co-conspirator were arrested on Monday and charged with conspiring to carry out an attack as well as conspiring with a terror group to murder persons. Police said they were planning to carry out an attack on a Via Rail train in the Toronto area, with support from Al Qaeda elements located in Iran a claim rejected by Iran as ridiculous. Few details of the alleged plot have been revealed, but the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported that the government sought to deport Jaser nine years ago but could not because he was considered a stateless Palestinian. Citing immigration and refugee board documents, CBC said Jaser and his family two siblings, his mother and father came to Canada from Germany using fake French passports. In 1993, the family claimed refugee status but it was rejected the following year. An appeal by the family reportedly took four years, during which time Jaser was convicted of fraud and uttering threats. Jaser was ordered deported in 1998 but a warrant for his arrest was not issued until 2004, at which point he claimed at another hearing to be a stateless Palestinian and was released on bail until the government could determine what to do with him. Last year, Jaser was granted a pardon for his crimes and subsequently got permanent residency in Canada. Jaser and Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, are scheduled to make their next court appearance on May 23 for a bail hearing. CHICAGO HIV vaccine fails, study halted The National Institutes of Health has halted a study testing an experimental HIV vaccine after an independent review board found the vaccine did not prevent HIV infection nor reduce the amount of HIV in the blood. The trial, which was started in 2009, is the latest in a series of failed trials. The study, called HVTN 505, had enrolled 2,504 volunteers in 19 US cities. It was looking at men who have sex with men and transgender people who have sex with men. The review board has recommended that no further vaccinations be given. The National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease, which sponsored the study, said it would continue to follow study participants to further evaluate the trial data. MALL CINEMA (1): Snow White & The Huntsman 3, 7.15 & 11.15pm; Love Wedding Marriage (2D) 5.15 & 9.30pm. MALL CINEMA (2): Emperor (2D) 3pm; Sound Thoma (Malayalam) 5 & 10.30pm; Pain & Gain (2D) 8pm. MALL CINEMA (3): El Sheita Elli Fat (2D) 2.30 & 9pm; Pain & Gain (2D) 4.30pm; Comedown (2D) 7pm; The Company You Keep (2D) 11pm. ROYAL PLAZA Cinema Palace (1): Comedown (2D) 3pm; El Sheita Elli Fat (2D) 5 & 9.30pm; Special Show; Pain & Gain (2D) 11.15pm. ROYAL PLAZA Cinema Palace (2): The Bourne Legacy 2.30pm; Paranorman 5pm; Love Wedding Marriage (2D) 7 & 9pm; Jack Reacher 11pm. ROYAL PLAZA Cinema Palace (3): Rise Of The Guardians 2.30 & 4.30pm; Melancholia 6.30pm; Devil s Double 9pm; Take This Waltz 11pm. CINEMA LANDMARK (1): Comedown (2D) 3pm; The Company You Keep (2D) 5pm; El Sheita Elli Fat (2D) 7.30, 9.30 & 11.30pm. CINEMA LANDMARK (2): Croods (3D) 2.30pm; Emperor (2D) 4.30pm; Pain & Gain (2D) 6.30 & 9pm; Comedown (2D) 11.30pm. CINEMA LANDMARK (3): Sound Thoma (Malayalam) 2.30 & 10.30pm; Aashique (Hindi) 5.30pm; The Company You Keep (2D) 8.30pm. Boston bomb suspect moved from hospital to prison / Boston Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been moved to a prison medical centre from the hospital where he had been held since his arrest a week ago while recovering from gunshot wounds, US officials said yesterday. The 19-year-old ethnic Chechen, wounded in a latenight shootout with police on April 18 hours after authorities released pictures of him and his older brother as suspects, was charged on Monday and could face the death penalty if convicted. His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died in the shootout. Details emerged yesterday in the Boston Globe newspaper about the brothers movements in the hours before the shootout. A man who said he was carjacked at gunpoint in his Mercedes sport-utility vehicle on the night of April 18, described 90 harrowing minutes, first with Dzhokhar following in another car and then with both men in his Mercedes. The man, identified in a Globe interview only by the nickname Danny at his request, revealed how the elder Tsarnaev, brandishing a handgun, knocked on the window of his Mercedes ML 350 luxury SUV late on the night of April 18. Don t be stupid, said Tsarnaev, 26, who then asked Danny if he was keeping up with developments in the double bomb attack at the marathon finish line in which three people were killed and 264 injured. I did that, Tsarnaev told his captive behind the wheel, and I just killed a policeman in Cambridge. I don t want to die, Danny, also 26, recalled thinking. I have a lot of dreams that haven t come true yet. Fearing for his life, Danny drove Tsarnaev through the suburban Boston night, twisting and turning through the dark streets, followed by a sedan driven by younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19. Danny first came to the United States in 2009 as a graduate student in engineering at Northeastern University, and returned to the Boston area two months ago from China to launch a startup. Oh, that s why your English is not very good, Tsarnaev, who appeared to have trouble comprehending Danny s accent, told him in the Mercedes. OK, You re Chinese... I m Muslim. New York City officials said on Thursday that Dzhokhar told investigators in the hospital that after the FBI released their pictures, the pair made an impromptu plan to drive to New York and set off more bombs in Times Square. New York has been on heightened alert since the September 11, 2001, attacks. The brothers plan to go to New York was foiled when they realised that the Mercedes did not have enough fuel. They stopped at a gas station, and when Dzhokhar went in to pay, Tamerlan put down his gun to fiddle with the car s navigation system, the Globe said. When Tamerlan dropped his guard, Danny jumped from the car and ran, the Globe reported. I was trying to save myself, Danny, 26, who is trained as an engineer, told the newspaper. Danny was put in touch with the Globe by James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University in Boston, where the man was a student, Fox told. Fox writes a blog for the Boston Globe website. The FBI said yesterday that no other people had been arrested in the investigation. The parents of the brothers have said they believe their sons were not involved in the bombings. Overnight Thursday, authorities moved Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to Fort Devens, Massachusetts, from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre, where some of the victims were also being treated. Devens is about 39 miles (63km) west of Boston. The move was announced by the US Marshals Service, which is responsible for defendants in custody. The prison specialises in inmates who need long-term medical or mental healthcare, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website. It currently holds about 1,000 prisoners.
7 LATIN AMERICA 7 Capriles taking vote challenge to Venezuela court Food lessons for students Capriles concedes that his legal challenge faces a tough path through Venezuela s courts Caracas Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles has said he will challenge President Nicolas Maduro s narrow election victory in the courts and that an audit of the vote being prepared by electoral authorities risked being a joke. Maduro, the hand-picked successor of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, won the April 14 vote by less than 2 percentage points. The opposition says there were thousands of irregularities in the election and that their figures show Capriles won. Both sides had agreed to an expanded audit of votes by the National Electoral Council. Since then Maduro has been sworn in as president and the opposition has grown increasingly frustrated by what it sees as foot-dragging by officials. Capriles has insisted that the audit process be rigorous and include all relevant paperwork from polling centres. If we don t have access to those notebooks, we re not going to take part in an audit that would be a joke on Venezuelans and a joke on the world, he told a local TV station on Thursday. The next step will be to challenge the election, which must take place in the next few days. With all the proof, all the elements we now have, we are going to challenge the election. Capriles conceded that his legal challenge, which could in theory result in all or parts of the ballot being rerun, faced a tough path through Venezuela s courts. Critics say Chavez packed the judiciary with loyal appointees during his 14 years in power. Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles speaking during a press conference in Caracas. Capriles has vowed to take his challenge of this month s presidential vote to court. We re not going to challenge the election with the expectation that the Supreme Court is going to give us a favourable reply, or that the justice system will work, Capriles said. But we re going to go through all the legal procedures. Both sides have called on their followers to march again on May 1, creating another potential flashpoint in the Opec nation of 29mn people. Capriles, a 40-year-old state governor who favours Brazil-style, business-friendly policies with strong social protections, confounded opinion polls to run a close finish against Maduro in the election, held just five weeks after Chavez s death from cancer. The government calls Capriles a fascist murderer and blames him for post-election violence that it says killed nine people. This week, the Chavista -dominated Congress began an investigation of Capriles in connection with the unrest. The government says the violence was proof that the US national detained at airport Venezuela says it has arrested a US national whom it accused of being an intelligence agent tasked with sowing chaos and civil unrest throughout the country. The alleged agent, Timothy Hallet Tracy, was detained at an airport near Caracas as he tried to leave the country, according to Venezuelan officials, who also released pictures of the American. Judging from the way this gentleman behaved, we presume that he belongs to some intelligence organization, because he is trained and he knows how to infiltrate, and how to opposition had tried to launch a coup, while the opposition accuses the authorities of exaggerating the unrest and including victims of common crime to boost its figures. On Wednesday night, a televised news conference by the opposition leader was interrupted by a government cadena broadcast - which all local channels are required to show live - that held him responsible for the violence. On Thursday, moments before Capriles was to be interviewed live on local station Globovision, another cadena began that lasted almost an hour and showed Maduro and his cabinet meeting business leaders in the western state of Zulia. Again, the compulsory broadcast triggered noisy protests in wealthier Caracas neighbourhoods where opposition supporters banged pots and pans in a traditional form of demonstration. It s just like Wednesday night, Capriles said later. In everything he does, Nicolas keeps showing that he s scared. He doesn t want the people to know what s going on. handle sources and security information, Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres said. Authorities also accused the American of being linked to an organised protest effort here known by the name Operation Sovereignty, in which student demonstrators pressed for more information about the health of resident Hugo Chavez prior to his death last month. The movement, which has also been vocal in calling for transparent and fair elections, rejected results of the April 14 presidential vote won by Chavez s handpicked successor Nicolas Maduro. French chef Roland Villard with students of the Tim Lopes school in the Complexo do Alemao shantytown in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The event is part of the launching of the programme My healthy plate with official and private aiming to teach the young healthy food habits. Latin America gets a cancer warning Sao Paulo Latin America faces a cancer epidemic unless governments act quickly to improve healthcare systems and treat the poor, according to scientists. The researchers pointed to around 13 deaths for every 22 cancer cases in the region, compared to around 13 deaths for every 37 cases in the US and around 13 deaths for every 30 cases in Europe. The main reason, according to the study published in the British journal The Lancet Oncology, is that too many people are diagnosed with cancer at a late stage when the disease is much harder to treat and more likely to kill. Researchers estimate that by 2030, 1.7mn cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Latin America and the Caribbean, with more than 1mn deaths from cancer predicted to occur annually, said the report launched at the Latin American Cooperative Oncology Group (LACOG) 2013 conference in Sao Paulo. The disease currently means losses of $4bn a year for the region, including not just the cost of treatment and medicine, but also the impact on businesses and the economy of lives prematurely cut short by cancer. These costs will rise substantially if governments do not take coordinated action now to arrest the growing impact of cancer in the region, the report warned. And it noted that many people across the region, especially those in poor, rural, or indigenous communities, have little or no access to cancer services, a problem exacerbated by low, and highly inequitable, health investment in most Latin American countries. Another factor is that more than half (320mn people) of the Latin American population have inadequate or no health insurance, the authors said. Latin American countries have focused their health investment on prevention and treatment of infectious diseases, whereas spending on noncommunicable diseases, such as cancer, has not kept pace, noted Paul Goss of Harvard Medical School. However, cancers are diseases of ageing people, and researchers estimate that by 2020 more than 100mn people in Latin America will be over 60 years of age. Goss led the team of experts, predominantly from Latin America, that produced the report. While conceding that many regional countries have managed to improve some aspects of cancer care in recent years, the study called for measures to address health inequities, rethink health infrastructure and access to drugs and medical devices, and increased government spending on health. Governments can bring down cancer rates at relatively low cost, by encouraging people to give up smoking, avoid cooking smoke, reduce their alcohol intake and adopt healthy diets and exercise, it noted. Lawyers hold protest Mantega sees Brazil inflation falling this year Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega saidthat he expected inflation to fall this year on the back of lower commodities and food prices. Inflation will fall in Brazil, he told reporters after a meeting with business leaders at the headquarters of the powerful Federation of Industries of the State of Sao Paulo (FIESP). In March, experts were alarmed when it was confirmed that 12-month inflation reached 6.59%, above the official target s upper limit of 6.5%. Mantega attributed that surge to high commodities prices due to a drought in the US and Brazil. But noting that commodities and food prices were now falling, he added: We have perfect conditions to reduce inflation. Earlier this month, the Central Bank raised its benchmark interest rate by 0.25 points to 7.5%, the first hike since July 2011 with the aim of controlling inflation. Analysts agree that the rate is likely to be pushed up to 8.5% by year s end. But there have been widespread fears that new interest rate hikes could act as a brake on the country s sluggish GDP growth, which was 0.9% last year, the worst performance in three years. New Fidel Castro biography coming Havana Former president Fidel Castro will be the subject of a new volume of memoirs about his life as a Cuban revolutionary, the country s larger-than-life leader and a longtime nemesis of the US. In the twilight of his life, the latest tome about Castro will be written by Katiuska Blanco, a former reporter with official newspaper Granma who penned two earlier books about the 86-year-old. Castro s much documented life has been the subject of several books, perhaps most famously one written a quarter-century ago by his close friend, Nobel Prizewinning Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Blanco, 48, his newest biographer, is also the self-described polisher of Castro s own writings. She has been a perennial collaborator with Castro on various writing projects, as the author of two biographical books about him and his family, one written in 2003 and the other in She also collaborated with Castro on an account he wrote in 2010 about his efforts to overthrow dictator Fulgencio Batista, and his autobiography that appeared in Blanco, who had access to Castro s archives for the book, insisted that the work was not an official biography, telling that nobody tells me what to write. As Blanco put Castro s thoughts to the page, Fidel meticulously annotates, highlights, amends, extends, she said. Blanco said Castro has been an avid user of the Internet, which he has used with gusto since May 2001, but he jots down many of his thoughts by hand. He never writes or does anything without giving it all of his passion, his interest and the force of his entire spirit, Blanco said. Energy workers on strike in Santa Cruz province Energy workers are on strike at three oil fields in Argentina s Santa Cruz province, which produces about 20% of the country s crude oil, a trade union official said. The protest over internal union politics was launched by the Santa Cruz Private Oil and Gas Workers Union. The strike is for an indefinite amount of time. Workers... are asking for elections to be held, said Ruben Retamoso, a union representative. The strike was launched at the Canadon Seco, Pico Truncado and Las Heras fields, affecting state-controlled Argentine company YPF, China s Sinopec Group, and Pan American Energy (PAE), in which BP has a 60% stake. Officials at YPF declined to comment on the strike, while at the Buenos Aires offices of Sinopec and PAE, no one was immediately available to comment. Four arrested for ritual baby killing in Chile Lawyers holding issues of the National Constitution protest against the reform bill approved on Argentina s lower house of Congress at the Facultad de Derecho (Faculty of Laws) staircases in Buenos Aires yesterday. The government, which defended the reform as a means to democratise Argentina s judicial system in spite of complaints by the opposition and massive street protests, hopes to approve other amendments to the law in the following weeks. Santiago Chile has arrested four members of an alleged cult accused of burning a baby to death during a human sacrifice ritual. We found bones that correspond to those of an infant, said Miguel Ampuero, a police investigator, in comments made to Chilean radio. Authorities said the baby was burned alive on November 23 at a farm outside the city of Quilpe, some 110km west of Santiago. Those detained include the baby s mother and other members of the cult, authorities said. I was devastated but (sect members) told me that it had to be - that it was my karma, the mother said during an interrogation, according to the police investigator. Officials said an arrest warrant has been filed for Gustavo Castillon Gaete, 36, the father of the slain infant and leader of the cult of about 10 members, who has been on the run several weeks.
8 8 BRITAIN ENTERTAINMENT ACCIDENT TRIAL OFFBEAT CONFESSION Woman killed, many hurt as minibus, lorry crash Ex-policeman pleads guilty to selling stories to tabloid Council demands action over falling air stowaways Man admits Facebook threat to US schoolchildren Members of the band The Eagles (left to right) Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh and Timothy B Schmit attend the premiere of the film History of the Eagles Part One during Sundance London, at the O2 Arena in London. A woman was killed after a minibus carrying women to a hen party was involved in a crash with a lorry. The minibus was on its way to Liverpool when it was involved in the collision at junction 32 of the westbound carriageway of the M62 near Pontefract at about 11.30am yesterday, leaving some 19 people injured, six seriously. The driver of the lorry, believed to be a local man, has been arrested in connection with the incident, West Yorkshire police said. Chief Inspector Mark Bownass said emergency services were called to a report of a collision between a large goods vehicle and a minibus from South Elmsall, near Pontefract. A former police officer pleaded guilty yesterday to selling stories to the Sun tabloid. James Bowes pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office at a hearing at London s Old Bailey court. He will be sentenced on May 9, police said. No details of the case were given during the short hearing. Bowes is said to have passed on information about investigations to the Sun while working for Sussex police, the Press Association reported. An earlier hearing was told he contacted the News of the World, offering to provide information from a confidential police report to the newspaper and asking what the information was worth. A local authority close to Heathrow airport has demanded action from aviation chiefs to protect its residents from being killed by the bodies of stowaways falling from aircraft. Two weeks ago, police said a body found in a street in London in September, was of a man who had fallen from the undercarriage of a British Airways flight from Angola to Heathrow. The body of the man, destroyed a car and the local council said it could have been far more serious. What s happened, horrific though it was, has destroyed only property so far. You could imagine if somebody walking along the street was struck, they d be killed, said a spokesman for Richmond Council. A British man pleaded guilty yesterday to making Facebook threats to kill 200 people at a school in the US, which saw thousands of pupils kept at home. Reece Elliot, a 24-year-old father-of-one from South Shields, posted the messages on a tribute site for a Tennessee teenager who was killed in a car accident. My father has three guns. I m planning on killing him first, he wrote on the RIP Caitlin Talley social networking page, using a false name. Then I m taking the motor and I m going in fast. I m gonna kill hopefully at least 200 before I kill myself. So you want to tell the deputy, I m on my way. Elliot was arrested in February after handing himself in to police in Britain. Victory for family denied cancer claim compensation Catherine tries out a wand Guardian News and Media London The family of a man who died of cancer but whose life insurance payout was refused on the grounds that he failed to disclose pins and needles have won their fight against Friends Life, after the financial ombudsman ruled that the insurer was wrong to cancel his policy. Nic Hughes, 44, a graphic designer and lecturer, died last October from cancer of the gall bladder, leaving his wife Susannah Hancock and eight-year-old twins. Before he died, he learned that the company had cancelled his critical illness and life insurance policy, arguing that he had failed to disclose other symptoms which it said would have led it to refuse cover. This is life-changing for that family and a huge vindication of Nic as a person. I watched him dying of cancer, struggling with this company and getting so depressed Hughes had declared that he suffered from ulcerative colitis when applying for the policy, but Friends Life said he had not admitted to suffering from pins and needles, or being asked to reduce his alcohol intake by his doctor - symptoms which his doctors said were unrelated to the cancer. More than 63,000 people signed an online petition after his death urging the insurer to pay out following an energetic social media campaign supported by Stephen Fry and Miranda Hart, among others. Hancock appealed to the financial ombudsman who has now ruled that the policy was wrongly cancelled, and Friends Life has agreed to pay the 100,000 claim in full, plus interest. While the firm remains of the view that Hughes did not disclose some things at the time of the application, the ombudsman said in a letter to Hancock, it accepts that any non-disclosure was not deliberate or relevant to the claim he later made so the firm accepts it was not entitled to rely on that and it should have paid the critical illness claim when it was submitted. Hancock said she and her children were overwhelmed with relief and joy, and had danced around their kitchen when they heard. It feels like David and Goliath. This is about the common people standing up and saying that they won t be trampled on by big corporations. Kester Brewin, a friend of Hughes who had led the campaign, said: This is life-changing for that family and a huge vindication of Nic as a person. I watched him dying of cancer, struggling with this company and getting so depressed, when he should have been spending time with his family. The company had refused to meet Hancock to discuss the claim, he said. In a statement, Friends Life said: We committed to abide by (the ombudsman s) decision and, while we continue to have concerns about this case, we are sympathetic to the circumstances of Hughes family and believe it would be unfair to prolong the claim process any further. It would therefore be paying the claim in full, plus interest, in addition to an ex-gratia payment already made, the statement said. The new Consumer Insurance Act, which came into force earlier this month, requires insurers to ask specific questions about any information that they could use to decline a claim, rather than leaving it to consumers to volunteer potentially unrelated details. Eleven men jailed for Qaeda bomb plot London Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, tries a wand during the Harry Potter Tour at the inauguration of Warner Bros Studios in Leavesden, north London, yesterday. Eleven men were yesterday jailed for planning what a court heard was an Al Qaeda-backed plot to carry out a string of bombings that they hoped would rival 9/11 and the 2005 London attacks. The conspiracy involved at least six of the plotters travelling to Pakistan for terror training, with the eventual aim of setting off eight rucksack bombs in crowded areas and possibly other timed devices. Ringleader Irfan Naseer received a life sentence, his righthand man Irfan Khalid was jailed for 18 years and co-conspirator Ashik Ali was jailed for 15 years by a judge at Woolwich Crown Court in southeast London. Eight other members of the cell which was based in Birmingham were also sentenced yesterday. Your plot had the blessing of Al Qaeda and you intended to further the aims of Al Qaeda, judge Richard Henriques said as he sentenced the men. The only barrier between (Naseer s) team and mass murder was the intervention of the authorities. The terror cell was heavily influenced by the teachings of American-born Al Qaeda preacher Anwar al-awlaki, who was killed by a drone strike in Yemen in September 2011, police said. Prosecutors said that the attacks planned by the men would have been the deadliest since the The only barrier between (Naseer s) team and mass murder was the intervention of the authorities July 7, 2005, London bombings, in which 52 people were killed by three suicide bombers on subway trains and a fourth bomber on a bus. Khalid meanwhile boasted that the attack would be another 9/11, referring to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US, the trial heard. The plot was also the most significant terror plan uncovered in Britain since the 2006 plot to blow up transatlantic airliners using bombs in drinks bottles, police said. The judge said the attacks may have been intended to target Birmingham, although police said the planned location was not clear. Naseer, a jobless 31-year-old pharmacy graduate nicknamed Chubbs because of his weight, and Khalid and Ali, both 28, were found guilty by a jury in February of engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts. Naseer and Khalid had visited Pakistan to receive terrorism training, while Naseer also helped four others to travel to the country for the same purpose, although the four had second thoughts on arrival in Pakistan and dropped out. Irfan Naseer was the leader, driving force and man in charge and he alone must take responsibility for sending four young men to Pakistan for terrorism training, the judge said, handing Naseer a life sentence with a minimum of 18 years. The group s chief financier Rahin Ahmed, 26, was jailed for 12 years and will serve a minimum of six after pleading guilty to collecting money for terrorism and helping others to travel to Pakistan for terror training. City worker and friend die in gas suicide pact London Evening Standard London A wealthy City worker is believed to have gassed himself in a double suicide with his childhood friend who left a note saying he was desperate about being unemployed. Guido Schiatti was found next to the body of Fabio Bernini. Schiatti, who lived in Fulham and worked for General Electric, had been visiting his family in Milan. The men, both aged 33, had apparently poisoned themselves with gas. Next to them, in an apartment within Schiatti s parent s home in one of the city s smartest piazzas, was an empty bottle of Valium. They both leave behind young children, although they were separated from their children s mothers. Schiatti, a sales manager, was supposed to return to London on Monday and it was then that his mother raised the alarm after being unable to reach him. Finding the apartment locked from the inside, she called the fire brigade who broke in and discovered the bodies. Two suicide notes were found, both reportedly left by Bernini. One was addressed to his mother and read: Forgive me for what I have done. I m desperate without a job. The men, both aged 33, had apparently poisoned themselves with gas. Next to them was an empty bottle of Valium The second note was left for his two-year-old son in which he wrote he was sorry he did not give him a proper family life. He added: You won t remember me anyway. Bernini had been working as a salesman but had lost his job and was living with his parents outside Milan. But family and friends were unable to make sense of Schiatti s apparent decision to kill himself too. He was said to be in the happiest time of his life. His parents told an Italian newspaper that they could not understand it. They said: When he was younger he was a little reckless but he had settled. Schiatti flew from London every fortnight to see his fiveyear-old daughter who lived with her mother in another apartment in his family s property in central Milan. His relationship with the mother had ended but was said to be friendly and he saw his daughter regularly. Yesterday, his colleagues paid tribute to their popular and caring friend. Kieran Murphy, chief executive of General Electric Healthcare Life Sciences, said: It was with very deep sadness and shock that we learned of the sudden and unexpected death of our colleague, Guido Schiatti. He was a popular, caring and well-respected colleague and will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and sympathies are with Guido s family and friends, to whom we send our deepest condolences. Pesticide ban urged A demonstrator dressed as a bee plays a saxophone as she takes part in a protest against the use of pesticides which are deemed harmful to bees, in central London yesterday. Together with celebrities including Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett, protesters are urging Secretary of State for Environment, Owen Paterson, to not block the EU proposal to suspend the use of certain pesticides. Churchill to feature on new banknote London Britain is set to honour its revered wartime leader Winston Churchill with a banknote featuring his portrait and famous declaration I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. The governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, travelled to Churchill s former home Chartwell in Kent yesterday to announce plans for Churchill s image to appear on a new 5 note to be issued in Sir Winston Churchill was a truly great British leader, orator and writer. Above that, he remains a hero of the entire free world, outgoing central bank governor King told members of the Churchill family. Churchill, no stranger to the British currency after his face was emblazoned on a five shilling piece in the 1960s, joins the ranks of Isaac Newton, William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens who have all adorned banknotes in the past. Queen Elizabeth is on one side of each of Britain s four denominations of bank notes, while celebrated Britons take their turn for 10 to 20-year stints on the overleaf. This will be the third change of bank note announced under King, who steps down from the Bank of England s top job after a 10 years on July 1. He brought fellow economist Adam Smith onto the 20 note and the inventors of the steam engine to the 50 note. The Bank of England said that while the plan was for Churchill to feature on the 5 note, that decision had not been finalised. The blue-green design sets Churchill, who as prime minister led the country to victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, against the backdrop of Westminster and the Nobel Prize medal which he won for literature in The blood, toil, tears and sweat quotation, one of the most famous from his huge repertoire and taken from his first speech as prime minister in 1940, will be inscribed beneath a portrait photograph taken in 1941.
9 EUROPE 9 Dozens killed in hospital fire Ramensky, Russia Thirty-eight people were killed, most of them in their beds, in a fire that raged through a psychiatric hospital near Moscow yesterday, raising questions about the care of mentally ill patients in Russia. The fire, which broke out around 2am (2200 GMT on Thursday), swept through a single-storey building at the hospital, a collection of wood and brick huts with bars on some windows that was home to people sent there on grounds of mental illness by Russian courts. By mid-morning, a few blackened walls were left standing. The roof had caved in on top of the twisted metal frames of what were once beds. Bodies lay on nearby grass, covered with blankets. Only three people escaped from the fire in the village of Ramensky, 120km (70 miles) north of Moscow, prompting speculation the patients were heavily sedated or strapped down. Irina Gumennaya, aide to the head of the chief investigative department of the Moscow region, dismissed suggestions they had been restrained as rubbish but promised blood tests to check whether there were high levels of sedatives. The wards... did not have doors, the patients could have escaped from the building by themselves, she said, adding that she believed the most likely cause of the blaze was patients smoking, or perhaps a short circuit. Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said that none of the patients were strapped down or subjected to any such measures that would not have allowed them to react quickly, the staterun RIA news agency reported. President Vladimir Putin called for an investigation of the tragedy, the latest in a long line of disasters at state institutions that are often ill-funded. Russia s safety record is dismal, accounting for a high death toll on roads, railways and in the air as well as at the workplace. Psychiatrists said the fire was not the first and would not be the last of its kind. (This happened) because of dilapidated buildings in psychiatric hospitals one-third of the buildings since 2000 have been declared unfit, according to health standards, Yuri Savenko, president of the independent psychiatric association of Russia, told. Furthermore, junior and middle-ranking staff had miserable salaries and because of that the staff were asleep, he said. Legal standards governing Russian psychiatric patients are on the whole satisfactory and on par with European standards, but compliance with them is very weak, lawyer Dmitry Agranovsky said. Putin s critics blamed the state for neglecting its most vulnerable people. Terrible news... those patients who burned were there because they were forced to have treatment, said Dmitry Olshansky, former editor of Russian Life, an online journal. I read all this and I wonder what does this remind us of? And then I remember this is our motherland, the madhouse. Flood, fire, bars on windows... and we cannot deal with it, he said on his Facebook site. Officials said that the blaze consumed the building quickly and firefighters had no chance to save any more people an account that locals disputed, saying that fire engines took more than an hour to reach the scene. Don t trust anyone who says they (firefighters) arrived quickly... my wife woke me up, we went out on the street with our daughter. Flames were rising high, said a man, who was drinking an early-morning beer at a friend s garage nearby. Asked why the building caught fire, Alexander Yefimovich, an elderly man said: Why? It s just the usual nonsense. More than 12,000 people were killed in fires in 2011 and more than 7,700 in the first nine months of 2012 in Russia, where the per capita death rate from fires is much higher than in Western nations including the US. Russian emergency service personnel work at the site of a fire at a psychiatric hospital in the village of Ramensky, north of Moscow. At least 36 people were feared dead after a fire raged through the hospital yesterday, killing some patients in their beds and others who were trapped by barred windows. Ukraine marks Chernobyl disaster A woman weeps at the monument, dedicated to those killed in the cleaning works following the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, during a memorial ceremony yesterday in Kiev, Ukraine. Ukrainians mark the anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy annually on April 26. GERMANY Politician gunned down in fairy-tale German town A 74-year-old gunman killed a top official of the northern German town of Hamelin, world famous from an ancient fairy tale, before killing himself, police said yesterday. The perpetrator killed district administrator Ruediger Butte and then killed himself, a police spokesman said. Gunfire broke out yesterday morning in Butte s office at the main administrative building in the community of 60,000 people. The police chief of neighbouring Goettingen, Robert Kruse, later told a news conference that a dispute between the elderly assailant and local authorities over a gun licence had preceded yesterday s shooting. The local man, whom Kruse described as a gun fanatic, had been stripped of his permit in 1988 and in 2009 was charged with illegal possession of a firearm. Investigators believe the gunman, who was not identified, tried to reach Butte repeatedly on the telephone before the shooting. It was not immediately clear whether the two knew each other personally. Butte, 63, was married with two adult children and five grandchildren, according to his profile on the district website. The picturesque town of Hamelin is best known for the folk tale of the Pied Piper, later popularised by the Brothers Grimm. The president of Bosnia s autonomous Muslim- Croat federation and another 19 regional officials were arrested yesterday in an anticorruption probe that also targeted the offices of the regional government, a spokesman for the state prosecutor said. The raid on Zivko Budimir s Sarajevo office and the regional Kiev Ukrainians lit candles and laid flowers yesterday to remember the victims of the world s worst nuclear disaster at Chernobyl 27 years ago, as engineers pressed on with efforts to construct a new shelter to permanently secure the stricken reactor. On April 26, 1986, an explosion during testing sent radioactive fallout into the atmosphere that spread across Europe, particularly contaminating Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. Dozens of people laid flowers and set lit candles in front of portraits at the monument to the Chernobyl victims in the small town of Slavutych, some 50km from the accident site, where many of the power station s personnel used to live. At the same time in the capital Kiev, officials and relatives of the victims also held a pre-dawn remembrance ceremony in front of a memorial. The memory of the tragedy calls for unity and consolidation of the efforts of the government and society to solve the problems in implementing projects to create an environmentally safe system at Chernobyl, said President Viktor Yanukovych in a statement. Ukraine last year launched government in the southern town of Mostar is the most high-profile anti-graft operation in Bosnia since independence more than two decades ago. Budimir and 19 other federation officials have been arrested, spokesman Boris Grubesic told by telephone. The group will be handed over to the prosecutor who will decide on further proceedings. During the six-hour operation, police searched the offices the construction of a permanent shelter to replace the temporary concrete-and-steel edifice that was hastily erected after the disaster and which has since developed cracks. A new confinement is our future, this is something that we have awaited for many years, Alexander Novikov, deputy technical director for security at the Chernobyl power plant, told reporters on a visit to Chernobyl this week. The 20,000-tonne arched structure that spans 257m, known as the new safe confinement, is designed to last for a century, and will contain hi-tech equipment to carry out safe decontamination work inside the ruined reactor. The construction of the new structure is expected to cost 990mn euros, while the decontamination work on the site will push the total cost up to 1.5bn euros ($2bn). Completion of the new shelter is expected in October The plant s management said it will also soon begin construction of a temporary cover over the section of Chernobyl plant where a part of the roof collapsed this winter under the weight of fallen snow. Novikov emphasised that the section, which collapsed in February, was not the part of the sarcophagus structure covering the exploded reactor. The project work is almost completed and we will start construction of temporary cover to close the hole that appeared, said Novikov. The general manager of the Chernobyl plant, Igor Gramotkin, added the collapse of the roof section once again underlined the need for the rapid completion of a new arch over the stricken reactor. Chernobyl is only around 100km from Kiev and lies close to the borders with Russia and Belarus. The area around the plant is still very contaminated and is designated as a depopulated exclusion zone. The Soviet Union ordered thousands of people to take part in the clean-up in Ukraine following the Chernobyl accident, working without adequate protection. Although only two people were killed in the initial explosions, the United Nations atomic agency says that 28 rescue workers died of radiation sickness in the first three months after the accident. According to Ukrainian official figures, more than 25,000 of the cleanup workers, known as liquidators from then-soviet Ukraine, Russia and Belarus have died after the disaster. However the true scale of the death toll directly attributable to the disaster remains the subject of bitter scientific debate. Bosnian regional president held over graft Sarajevo Advance move of the federation president and government as well as a number of private apartments of the region s top officials, said Grubesic. Federation Vice-President Mirsad Kebo said yesterday that he had earlier asked the region s Constitutional Court to examine the legality of procedures by which some criminals have been granted amnesty over the past two years. Budimir is at the centre of a political crisis in the Muslim- A boy moves a pawn during a game of giant chess yesterday in central Yerevan, Armenia. Croat Federation that blew open last year. He is refusing to approve a reshuffle of the regional government and delaying the appointment of judges to the constitutional court. Under a US-brokered peace deal to end the war, Bosnia was split into two autonomous regions joined by a weak central government. The Federation is dominated by Bosnian Muslims, known as Bosniaks, and Croats. The other region is the Serb Republic. RUSSIA Cargo spaceship docks with ISS An unmanned cargo vehicle has successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS), in a delicate manoeuvre after its navigation antenna failed to properly deploy following launch, Russian mission control and Nasa said. Russian cosmonauts Roman Romanenko and Pavel Vinogradov first oversaw a so-called partial soft docking of the Progress craft at 1225 GMT, careful to make sure the unopened antenna did not cause any damage. Around 10 minutes later the full docking was completed with hooks closed and the cargo ready to be taken on by the crew into the main station modules. Italy s Letta woos all sides in race to form coalition Rome Italy s prime minister-designate Enrico Letta scrambled yesterday to put together a coalition, as stocks fell in a sign of growing investor impatience over a two-month political deadlock in the eurozone s third-largest economy. The Milan stock market closed down 0.51% as earlier hopes that Letta would unveil his coalition yesterday fell through and informal talks with the parties continued. The government is expected to be sworn in today, Italian media reported, citing sources in Letta s staff. The 46-year-old leftist moderate has said he wants to move quickly to tackle the social fallout of a painful recession and ease the austerity measures implemented by outgoing prime minister Mario Monti, who remains in charge. Letta said on Thursday after talks with the main political parties that his attempt to put together a grand coalition had encountered difficulties. Yesterday he met President Giorgio Napolitano, who nominated Letta on Wednesday and has threatened to resign if no cabinet is formed. Most analysts were upbeat about his chances despite the delay. Letta is basically close to forming his government, said Stefano Folli, a political commentator for business daily Il Sole 24 Ore, adding that the nominee could scale the mountain by Saturday evening or Sunday morning. The lower and upper house of parliament are expected to meet on Monday and Tuesday for confidence votes on the new government. But commentators warned that the bickering parties which stalled the formation of a government for two months following inconclusive elections in February would not easily work together. Letta s leftist Democratic Party, which narrowly won the general election, is deeply divided over going into government with former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi s People of Freedom party. Letta is also engaged in tricky negotiations with the scandal-tainted billionaire tycoon Berlusconi, whose votes his government will depend on. A coalition government should be assured of a confidence vote in parliament but risks creating a high level of tension between the parties unless this tension explodes from the start and the government doesn t even get off the ground, said Lucia Annunziata for Huffington Post Italia. Letta: wants to move quickly to tackle the social fallout. The head of Berlusconi s centre-right party, Angelino Alfano, said after talks with Letta on Thursday there had been a general understanding on forming a government but there were still knots left to unravel. In interviews with Italian newspapers yesterday, Berlusconi indicated that his party would not hold up the formation of a government but called for a sharp rejection of Monti s austerity. I think even Brussels is becoming convinced that there has been too much austerity, Berlusconi told the Corriere della Sera daily. The scandal-tainted tycoon ruled out his own inclusion in the cabinet, but his critics said the media magnate was the real victor of the political crisis and would be a power behind the throne. In two trials due to resume next month, Berlusconi is appealing a tax fraud conviction and defending himself on charges of having sex with a 17-year-old prostitute. Observers said Berlusconi s recent rise in popularity polls meant he could push for Letta to choose ministers likely to favour him and offer him some protection in his legal battles. There s an infallible way to know how things are going for this country and what form the new government is taking: Berlusconi s expression, said anti-mafia prosecutor Antonio Di Pietro. When he has a smile from one ear to the other, it is a sign things are going very well for him and badly for us. Most analysts say any new government would be shortlived and will be brought down by irreconcilable differences that can only be resolved through another general election. Meanwhile former comedian Beppe Grillo, head of the 5-Star Movement protest party which won a quarter of the vote and came in third place, derided the impending deal between right and left. The government that is being born is a pile-up worthy of the best bunga bunga, Grillo said on his blog, in reference to the alleged raunchy parties hosted by Berlusconi when he was premier.
10 10 AFRICA Boko Haram got $3.15mn to free French hostages Survivors of Nigeria bloodbath remain in hiding France, Cameroon deny paying ransom to free captives Lagos Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram was paid an equivalent of around $3.15mn by French and Cameroonian negotiators before freeing seven French hostages this month, a confidential Nigerian government report obtained by said. The memo does not say who paid the ransom for the family of seven, who were all released on April 19, although it says that Cameroon freed some Boko Haram detainees as part of the deal. France and Cameroon reiterated denials that any ransom was paid. Nigerian authorities declined to comment. Armed men on motorcycles snatched Tanguy Moulin- Fournier, his wife, brother and the couple s four young children, the youngest of whom was four years old, on February 19 while they were on holiday near the Waza national park in north French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said yesterday that Mali cannot have two armies in the rebel-held city of Kidal, calling for talks with armed Tuareg militants in the war-torn north. The Tuaregs National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which runs Kidal, has refused to give up its weapons or take part in elections planned for July until negotiations have taken place with the Mali government. It is obvious that there cannot be two Malian armies. But in this specific case, to recover the territorial integrity of Kidal, we need dialogue. There will be no partition, Le Drian told a media conference in Gao, northen Mali s biggest city. It is therefore necessary to resume dialogue, dialogue that allows Mali recover its sovereignty in a climate of mutual respect. The MNLA launched a rebellion for independence of the north in January last year which plunged the west African nation into crisis. Its insurgency sparked a coup in Bamako by soldiers in March 2012, and the crisis deepened when the rebellion was hijacked by its Islamist allies, leaving the north of the country in the hands of hardline extremists. As former colonial power France swept to Mali s aid in January and drove out the Al Qaeda-linked Islamists, the MNLA reclaimed control of Kidal, the heart of the Tuareg homeland which they call Azawad. French and Chadian troops took charge of securing the town, as the MNLA refused the presence of Malian soldiers, demanding autonomy. This visit to Gao is first of Cameroon, some 10km from the Nigerian border. They were believed to have been held in northeast Nigeria. Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram claimed the capture of the family of Moulin-Fournier, who worked in Cameroon for French utility firm GDF Suez. French President Francois Hollande at the time denied any money was paid when the family was released on April 19. The Nigerian report suggests that 1.6bn CFA francs ($3.15mn) was paid, but that right up until the last minute Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau had all to congratulate the French troops for their commitment and professionalism, and to let them know how proud of them the nation is, Le Drian added. I also came to say that the mission continues and that France will remain as long as it takes. Le Drian s visit comes shortly after the beginning of a phased withdrawal of the 4,500-strong French contingency which will see just 1,000 troops left in Mali by the end of the year. They will be gradually be replaced, starting from July, by a force of 12,600 peacekeepers responsible for stabilising the north, whose creation was approved Thursday by the United Nations Security Council. Le Drian, who arrived on Thursday in Bamako on the first leg of a tour of several countries to prepare for a post-war Mali, heads from Gao to Niamey and N Djamena, the respective capitals of Niger and Chad. insisted on double that, before agreeing to reduce it if some Boko Haram members in Cameroonian jails were freed. Reacting to the report, a French foreign ministry official said that France has passed a clear message that it does not pay ransoms. Cameroon government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary said Cameroon did not pay any ransom. A spokesman for Nigeria s government declined comment. The report suggests Nigerian security forces decided not to try to rescue the hostages so as not to endanger their lives. A botched rescue attempt of a British and an Italian hostage believed to have been held by Islamist sect Ansaru in March last year resulted in both hostages being killed. French news network i-tele reported earlier yesterday that a ransom had of $7mn had been paid, suggesting either Cameroon President Paul Biya or GDF-Suez had paid it. Eight French hostages are being held in the Sahel region, although the fate of one of them is unclear after Al Qaeda s north African arm last month said it had beheaded Philippe Verdon. Hollande has said Paris has ended a policy of paying ransoms for hostages, but suspicion that the country still does despite official denials has been a source of tension with the US. France brushed off an allegation by a former US diplomat that it paid a $17mn ransom in vain for the release of four hostages abducted in 2010 from Niger. Hollande told the family of the Sahel hostages in January that the new policy also meant that he had told companies and insurance firms to not pay ransoms. Mali cannot have two armies : France Bamako Postal services seen to resume after 20 years Geneva Somalis may soon be receiving letters from abroad for the first time in more than 20 years after a deal was struck with the United Nation s postal agency, the latest step towards ending Somalia s isolation following two decades of civil conflict. However, the challenges to bringing the Horn of Africa country back into the global postal community are manifold there are no functioning post offices, only the main roads are named and most houses do not have a number. Add to that the ongoing struggle with Al Qaeda-linked insurgents, who still control much of the countryside, and parts of the coastline infested with pirates, and it is clear the UN s Universal Postal Union (UPU) and its partners have their work cut out for them. The Swiss-based UPU said in a statement yesterday that international postal services could start operating again in Somalia within the next few months. Somalia s Minister of Information and Communication Abdullahi Hirsi signed a memorandum of understanding with Emirates Post Group this week for Dubai to act as a hub for handling mail destined for Somalia, it said. The UPU, which brokered the deal, said its 192 member countries could resume sending mail to Somalia once the arrangements were finalised. About 2mn Somalis live abroad and 9.9mn in Somalia, served by a postal network that is basically non-existent, the UPU said, having dwindled from 100 post offices in UPU spokesman Rheal LeBlanc said that Somalia had created an office at the airport to handle mail moving in and out of the country, initially to service the government, embassies and universities, but they seem to have plans to phase in postal services across the country over the next few months and years. Hirsi said his country would need help getting the post going again. We ask for all means of assistance as we have to start from ground zero, the UPU statement quoted him as saying. In the latest sign of optimism that Somalia was emerging from its violent recent past, Britain opened an embassy at Mogadishu airport on Thursday after its previous mission closed in 1991 as civil war broke out. UGANDA Alert over Somali Islamist threat Ugandan police said yesterday they had received credible information that Somalia s Al Qaeda-linked Shebaab group was planning an attack in Uganda. We have received information that Shebaab terrorists... plan to carry out attacks within the eastern Africa region and in particular Uganda, police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba said at a press conference. Together with other security agencies, we are verifying this information that we take to be credible, she said, adding that Uganda s services were activating measures to avert the evil plans of these dangerous criminals. In July 2010, the Shebaab claimed responsibility for an attack that killed at least 76 people and left 70 others injured when explosions ripped through a sports bar and an Ethiopian restaurant in Kampala as people watched the football World Cup final. Uganda was the first country to contribute troops to the African Union force in Somalia (AMISOM) in 2007 and remains the mission s backbone. Ethiopia has denied that it was shirking responsibility by beginning to withdraw its troops from conflict-stricken Somalia. Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom told the UN Security Council that other countries were informed months ago about the withdrawal and also complained about the lack of burden-sharing for the foreign force in Somalia. His comments came after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said that Ethiopia was anxious to pull its forces out of Somalia and called on the African Union force in the country, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (centre) poses for a picture with French and Malian army officers at the French military base at the airport in Gao. Ethiopia denies shirking responsibility in Somalia United Nations Islamist militants killed Somalia s deputy chief prosecutor and will target more judiciary staff while the government tries to reform the courts, a militant spokesman said yesterday. The Shebaab rebel group, AMISOM, to speed up its deployment. Ethiopian troops crossed into Somalia in November 2011 and have played a key role in routing Shebaab extremists and maintaining control over areas taken from Islamist groups. AMISOM has played a key role in propping up a transitional government that is the first serious administration in the lawless country since the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in Ethiopia pulled its troops from the town of Hudur in mid- March, however, and the Shebaab took back the town to claim their first military success since they were chased out of Mogadishu in August Those who ought to know which is linked to Al Qaeda, has fought for six years to impose its strict interpretation of Islamic law, or sharia, on Somalia. The shooting of Ahmed Sheikh Nur Maalin, Somalia s deputy national prosecutor, on Thursday followed a wave of suicide bombings and shootings earlier this month in which 30 people were killed. It was part of our operation where informed many month prior to the withdrawal, Adhanom told the Security Council, adding that accusations of lack of consultation had absolutely no ground. What happened does not in any way signify shirking responsibility on Ethiopia s part, though the question of burden sharing is something that has always been a source of concern for us, the minister added. In Addis Ababa, Desalegn told parliament that Ethiopia sought to accelerate our complete withdrawal towards our border with Somalia. He expressed concern about the slow pace at which the African Union force AMISOM, which first deployed in 2007, is replacing the Ethiopians. against courts and their men, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, spokesman for Shebaab s military operation, told. We shall also kill the remaining one by one. The attacks were launched at a time when security in Mogadishu had been improving after two decades of civil war. The government believes strengthening the rule of law Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Uganda have troops in AMISOM and their costs are met by the African Union and the international community. Ethiopia has stayed outside this arrangement. Ethiopia is going to stage a phased withdrawal from Somalia, Adhanom has been quoted as telling officials in New York. But there are concerns that any wider pullout from Somalia by Ethiopia could trigger a security void and a possible return of the Shebaab. Observers have told that AMISOM probably does not have sufficient troops to replace the Ethiopians, whose numbers have been estimated at up to 8,000 troops. Militants kill prosecutor, threaten more Mogadishu Sudan appears to be providing shelter to Joseph Kony, one of the world s most wanted warlords, according to a report released yesterday by the Washington-based Resolve group. Kony is the leader of the Lord s Resistance Army (LRA), which is infamous for mutilating its victims and abducting children for use as fighters and sex slaves. It has waged an insurgency against the Ugandan government for over 25 years. Kony and other LRA leaders face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC). and reforming the judiciary is vital but Shebaab is determined to prevent it. Donor countries are working with Somalia s new government to reform the judiciary, the police and the army. Britain will host an international conference in London on May 7 on ways to bolster security, impose the rule of law and rebuild the nation. According to yesterday s report, eyewitnesses testify that elements from Sudan s military actively provided Kony and other LRA leaders with periodic safe haven in Sudanese-controlled territory from 2009 until at least February Maiduguri Many survivors of brutal clashes between soldiers and Islamist gunmen last week in a remote Nigerian town are still in hiding, an emergency official said yesterday, as police confirmed that fresh attacks by the insurgents in another area left 25 people dead. The violence in the town of Baga last week was likely the deadliest-ever episode in the Boko Haram conflict, which has included scores of attacks across northern and central Nigeria since As rescue workers struggled to care for the victims of Baga, trying to encourage them to return to a home which was ravaged by fire, suspected Boko Haram gunmen carried out yet another attack in a bordering state. On Thursday, the Islamists stormed several police posts in the town of Gashua, the police commissioner of Yobe state, Sanusi Rufai told journalists. Gun battles broke out that killed five policemen and 20 gunmen, he added. Nigeria s military had previously given a toll of seven dead in Thursday s clash. Aside from the raids on the police, a common Boko Haram target, Rufai said the gunmen also robbed a bank and carted away 9mn naira ($57,000, 44,000 euros) and two vehicles. In Baga, an area with little mobile phone coverage near Lake Chad, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has set up 10 camps for those displaced and is trying to distribute relief materials after fierce fighting last Friday that killed 187 people. But the work has been complicated in a community traumatised by the carnage, NEMA spokesman Manzo Ezekiel told. The people were initially sceptical, he said. They weren t sceptical because of NEMA but at first they ran away because NEMA came with soldiers, Ezekiel added. Many people are still in hiding. The soldiers have been accused of firing indiscriminately on civilians while setting fires to scores of homes and a market after gun battles with Islamists broke out. Thousands of people were reported to have fled to the bush outside of Baga while trying to escape the bloodshed. The military has fiercely denied any wrongdoing and has claimed that only 37 people were killed. They said the sweeping fires, estimated to have destroyed nearly half the town, were caused by insurgent grenade and gunfire. Part of our work there is to build confidence, the NEMA spokesman said. We need to show people that what we have now in Baga is assistance, not any more attacks. The Red Cross has also deployed to the fishing town, but said it is still assessing the scale of the devastation. The regional governor Kashim Shettima has called the events in Baga barbaric. Northeast Nigeria has been the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency, which is estimated to have cost more than 3,000 lives, including killings by the security forces. The group has said it wants to create an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, where most people are Muslim. The southern half of the country, Africa s most populous and top oil producer, is mainly Christian. Sudan harbouring Ugandan warlord Kony: report Washington The report, called Hidden in Plain Sight, also included satellite images of a recently-abandoned LRA camp abandoned, where Kony was last sighted late last year, in Sudanese-controlled territory along the disputed border with South Sudan.
11 AUSTRALIA/CHINA/JAPAN/KOREAS 11 HEALTH Beijing finds new bird flu case in Fujian province ESPIONAGE MARITIME JUSTICE TRAGEDY Taiwan ex-intelligence agent jailed for spying Chinese ships enter Tokyo s territorial waters Government executes two death-row gangsters Rare snake bite death kills player Chinese authorities discovered yesterday the first case of a new strain of bird flu in the eastern province of Fujian, signalling the spread of the virus which has killed 23 people in China, the official Xinhua news agency reported. The flu was first detected in March. This week, the World Health Organisation called the virus, known as H7N9, one of the most lethal, and said it is more easily transmitted than an earlier strain that has killed hundreds around the world since Fujian s health authority said a 65-year-old man surnamed Luo had tested positive for the virus, Xinhua reported. A retired Taiwanese intelligence agent has been jailed for six years after luring his colleagues to China to force them to give up sensitive information, a court spokesman and media said yesterday. Tung Chien-nan, a former Investigation Bureau agent, was jailed Thursday for violating national intelligence services law, said a Supreme Court official, who declined to elaborate. The Liberty Times newspaper said he was recruited by Beijing after he retired and tricked several former military intelligence officers to China under the pretext of doing business. Some were detained on the mainland because they refused to give information to Chinese agents. Three Chinese government ships entered Japanese territorial waters yesterday, the coastguard said, days after Japan s premier vowed to expel any Chinese landing on a chain of disputed islands. The maritime surveillance ships entered the 12-nautical-mile zone off the Senkaku islands, which China calls the Diaoyu, around 10:00 am (0100 GMT), the Japanese coastguard said in a statement. On Tuesday, eight Chinese government vessels sailed into the disputed waters, the biggest flotilla to sail there in a single day since Tokyo nationalised part of the island chain in September. Japan said yesterday it hanged two death-row inmates, in the first executions since a trio of convicted killers died in the gallows two months ago and drawing immediate protest from human rights groups. Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki told reporters that Katsuji Hamasaki, 64, and Yoshihide Miyagi, 56, two members of Japan s notorious Yakuza organised crime syndicates, were executed for the shooting of two rival gangsters in Chiba, southeast of Tokyo, in The executions bring to five the number of deathrow inmates hanged since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe s conservative government swept to power. A hockey player has died in Australia after being bitten by a snake that he picked up -- a rare fatality despite the country being home to the planet s 10 deadliest species. Karl Berry, 26, reportedly grabbed the deadly brown snake near a training field in the Northern Territory on Tuesday, believing it was a harmless python, and threw it into some bushes to keep it away from children playing nearby. He then went for a run, not realising it had bitten him on the finger, before collapsing, the Northern Territory News said yesterday. St John ambulance spokesman Craig Garraway said Berry was conscious when emergency workers arrived. Seoul to withdraw workers from industrial complex The move comes after months of tension and puts into further doubt the entire future of the Kaesong complex - the last remaining symbol of inter-korean co-operation and a crucial source of hard currency for the impoverished North Seoul South Korea said yesterday it had decided to withdraw all remaining staff from its joint industrial complex with North Korea for their own safety, after Pyongyang shunned an offer of formal talks. The move comes after months of tension and puts into further doubt the entire future of the Kaesong complex - the last remaining symbol of inter- Korean co-operation and a crucial source of hard currency for the impoverished North. South Korean companies active in Kaesong expressed shock at their government s announcement and said they would have to deliberate on the next steps. South Korea on Thursday had given the North 24 hours to agree to formal negotiations on restarting stalled operations at Kaesong, warning of significant measures if Pyongyang declined. After the North s top military body rejected what it described File picture shows North Korean workers at the Kaesong joint industrial complex in North Korea. South Korea will advise workers to withdraw from the inter-korean complex. as the fraudulent proposal, the South s Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said Seoul was left with no option. The government has made the inevitable decision to withdraw all the remaining people for their protection, Ryoo said in a televised press briefing. North Korea must guarantee the safe return of our personnel and fully protect the assets of the companies with investment in Kaesong, he added. The Korean peninsula was engulfed in a cycle of escalating tensions - triggered by the North s nuclear test in February - when Pyongyang decided on April 3 to block all South Korean access to Kaesong. Six days later, Pyongyang pulled out its 53,000-strong workforce and suspended operations, angered by the South s mention of a military contingency plan to protect its staff at the site. While the North has allowed all South Korean personnel to leave the complex, 175 remained as of yesterday. It was unclear how the South Korean government planned to implement its decision, given that representatives of the 123 firms based in Kaesong have vowed to remain and protect their investment whatever steps Seoul announced. An association representing the companies described the government decision as very shocking and said it would consult its member firms before conveying its official stance to the government. We feel very sorry and wretched because our efforts to maintain the Kaesong Industrial Zone with our blood and sweat have been fruitless, it said in a statement. One Kaesong factory owner said on condition of anonymity that the companies were still in talks with the government. After consultations, we will make a decision on the proposed withdrawal of our remaining staff in Kaesong. We cannot say now when our people in Kaesong will come back. Established in 2004, the complex lies 10 kilometres inside North Korea. The project was born out of the Sunshine Policy of inter-korean conciliation initiated in the late 1990s by then South Korean president Kim Dae-jung. It operates as a collaborative economic development zone that hosts South Korean companies attracted by its source of cheap, educated, skilled labour, with turnover in 2012 reported at $469.5mn. Ryoo s statement came hours after the North s National Defence Commission dismissed the offer of negotiations and insisted that any decisive move on Kaesong would come from its side. Kaesong is now on the verge of collapse, the statement said. This is entirely attributable to the reckless war hysteria of the South Korean puppet regime. Even given the soaring tensions, the North s decision to suspend operations at Kaesong nearly three weeks ago had been unexpected, as neither side has allowed previous crises to significantly affect the complex. Permanent closure would wipe out the last remaining point of contact and cooperation between North and South, which remain technically at war after the Korean War was concluded with a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty. Crown Princess Masako Japan s stressed princess to travel abroad Japan s Crown Princess Masako, who has been undergoing treatment for a stress-induced illness for a decade, will travel abroad for the first time in about seven years, government officials said yesterday. Accompanying her husband, Crown Prince Naruhito, the 49-year-old former diplomat will leave Tokyo tomorrow on an official visit to the Netherlands to attend the coronation of Willem- Alexander on April 30. It will be her first overseas trip since Naruhito s family spent about two weeks at a retreat in the Netherlands in August 2006 at the invitation of Queen Beatrix. It will also be her first official visit abroad in 11 years since the couple went to New Zealand and Australia in late During the couple s six-day trip, Masako is scheduled to attend the Dutch king s coronation but may skip other events depending upon her condition, the Imperial Household Agency said. US-educated Masako has reportedly struggled with the cloistered nature of royal life in one of the world s oldest and most tradition-bound monarchies. She was diagnosed with an adjustment disorder, according to an official statement in Masako married Naruhito, now 53, in 1993 and gave birth to their first and only child, a girl, in late 2001 under intense pressure to bear a son in keeping with Japan s maleonly royal succession law. Panda kindergarten! Titanic tycoon launches political party in Australia A giant panda rests on a tree panda kindergarten, a refuge for baby pandas, inside Bifengxia giant panda base in Ya an, Sichuan province, China yesterday, after an earthquake hit Lushan on April 20, some 32km away. Sydney Queensland billionaire Clive Palmer announces the forming of his United Australia Party in Brisbane yesterday. Australian billionaire Clive Palmer, the tycoon who is building a replica of the ill-fated Titanic, yesterday unveiled his new political party and said he would run in the September 14 elections. The flamboyant mining magnate was a long-time supporter of the opposition Liberal-National coalition but gave up his membership last year after a bitter and public dispute with the government in his home state of Queensland. He now plans to re-form the United Australia Party, which dissolved in 1945, and contest all 150 lower house seats in the national polls, as well as seats in the upper house Senate. The reason I m standing is to be the next prime minister of Australia, said the larger-thanlife Palmer, who runs Waratah Coal and Resourcehouse Limited and is one of the country s richest men. I have no personal interest. I have made enough money in my life, I m not seeking any enrichment of wealth for myself, I m seeking it for the Australian people. I could go off and stay in Monaco, have a nice drink and forget about this country, but we ve got more commitment to Australia and its children than anyone else. He joins a growing list of high-profile candidates including Australian-born WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who intends to run for the Senate with his WikiLeaks Party. Palmer has been at loggerheads with Prime Minister Julia Gillard s Labour government over its carbon tax, which he says is ill-conceived and will cost companies dear. He said his party, the predecessor to the Liberal Party, would be a viable alternative to Labor and the Liberals. Julia Gillard and the Labour government are on the nose but Australians are also clearly disillusioned with both the major political parties, he said. By reforming the United Australia Party we are offering a viable alternative. The United Australia Party stands for bringing people together. Politics today is based on politicians blaming and fighting each other; there is no leadership and no plan to grow the economy. United Australia Party will represent all. He claimed the party has a number of notable Australians who want to stand and said his policies include scrapping the carbon tax retrospectively and arranging for asylum-seekers to fly to Australia to seek protection. Gillard, who is badly lagging in the polls, refused to comment but former prime minister Kevin Rudd called Palmer s move a stunt while opposition leader Tony Abbott insisted there was only one viable candidate in the elections - himself. As well as politics and mining, Palmer is a real estate developer and tourism resort operator who once handed out Aus$10mn worth of Christmas bonuses to his staff, including 55 Mercedes- Benz B-Class cars. His most recent project is the building of a perfect replica of the Titanic, more than a century after the original, supposedly unsinkable ocean liner hit an iceberg and went down in the North Atlantic. China hands down death sentences in finance crackdown Beijing China said yesterday it has jailed or sentenced to death more than 1,400 people for involvement in underground finance during a crackdown on informal lending to private enterprises. China has convicted 4,170 people on charges of illegal fund-raising since 2011, with 1,449 given sentences ranging from five years in prison to the death penalty, China s State Council Information Office said on its website. It did not say how many of those were sentenced to death. The rate of heavy punishments reflects official determination to crack down on illegal fund-raising, the website quoted Du Jinfu, a Public Security Ministry official who leads a task force on underground lending, as saying. The others convicted received lesser penalties, he said. China s state-controlled banks are not allowed to charge higher interest on riskier loans, making them reluctant to lend to small and medium sized enterprises, leaving business owners dependent on illegal loans. Economists including those from the World Bank have urged China to relax restrictions on lending to increase financing to China s entrepreneurs, who have consistently generated faster growth than state-owned companies. China s shadow banking industry, which includes private lending as well as off-balance-sheet vehicles and trusts, amounts to at least $3.35tn, or 45% of gross domestic product, according to Swiss financial firm UBS AG. In China, illegal fundraising outlaws various kinds of investment schemes, and the charge has been used to sentence private lenders.
12 12 ASEAN Poll: Malaysian opposition leads in public support Anwar Ibrahim was considered the more qualified prime minister choice by 43% of voters, compared to 39% for Najib, who is battling to stave off the biggest electoral threat to the ruling coalition in its 56 years in power Kuala Lumpur Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim holds a slight edge over Malaysian premier Najib Razak ahead of a hotly anticipated election showdown on May 5, according to the latest opinion poll. Anwar was considered the more qualified prime minister choice by 43% of voters, compared to 39% for Najib, who is battling to stave off the biggest electoral threat to the ruling coalition in its 56 years in power. The survey released late Thursday by the University of Malaya s Centre for Democracy and Elections also found that 42% of respondents preferred the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (People s Pact) policy manifesto. Thirty-six% preferred that of the ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition, while 22% were undecided, it said. It s neck-to-neck. That s very clear, said Redzuan Othman, director of the centre, adding that the opposition was gaining ground in public support. However, large blocks of voters remained undecided on key points in the survey, conducted earlier in April on more than 1,400 respondents. Redzuan said the margin of error was 3.5 percentage points. The next seven days will be very, very crucial. Those will indicate whether Barisan Nasional can make up for the lost ground, Redzuan said. Malaysia is bracing for what is widely expected to be its closest election ever, with the opposition looking to capitalise on voter disaffection over corruption, rising living costs and crime, and authoritarianism under Barisan. It handed the coalition - which is controlled by Najib s ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) - the worst setback in its history in 2008 elections. A Malaysian government spokesman said it was difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions from the poll. The prime minister is cautiously optimistic of gaining a good working majority in the election, he said in an . The charismatic Anwar was once heir-apparent to UMNO but was ousted in 1998 and jailed for six years after a power struggle. He joined the long-hapless opposition after his release in 2004, dramatically reversing its fortunes by uniting its divided main camps. Amid pressure for reform, Najib has made limited liberalisation gestures and is Candidates of People Justice Party (PKR) and daughter of opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, Nurul Izzah address supporters during a campaign ahead of the 13th Malaysian general elections in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. campaigning on a promise of stability and continued economic growth. The opposition, meanwhile, pledges to attack rampant corruption, create a more open democracy and raise incomes. Despite the survey findings, observers say Pakatan faces an uphill climb overcoming proincumbent structural biases built into the electoral system by Barisan over the decades. Pakatan won 47% of the nationwide vote in 2008, but just over a third of parliament. Sunset in Bali Myanmar police defend mine protest response Foreign tourists on a traditional boat enjoy the sunset at Kuta beach in Bali yesterday. According to data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) in February 2013, the number of foreign tourists arriving in Indonesia increased 14.5% to 678,400 at the beginning of the year. Yangon Myanmar authorities defended the police handling of a land protest near a Chinese-backed mine, state media reported yesterday, accusing villagers of attacking them with petrol bombs, sticks and stones. Activists on Thursday accused police of quelling a protest by farmers near the Letpadaung mine in Monywa, central Myanmar, with batons and rubber bullets, injuring more than two dozen villagers and arresting three others. The clashes were an echo of a brutal crackdown on demonstrators near the mine last year, which left dozens wounded, including monks, and highlighted the incendiary nature of land disputes in Myanmar as it undergoes sweeping reforms. On Thursday dozens of farmers attempted to plough land which no longer belongs to them prompting police to move in, state mouthpiece the New Light of Myanmar reported. Villagers attacked throwing handmade fire (petrol) bombs... and throwing stones at the security forces, injuring at least 15 police officers and prompting authorities to fire rubber bullets as a warning. Despite orders to disperse an anarchic group of villagers continued to attack police, with two protesters wielding a stick and sword, the report added. Villagers vowed to protest again on Friday afternoon, calling for the release of three people arrested over the clashes. Denying protesters used petrol bombs, environmental activist Ba Htoo did admit stones were thrown at police lines. Villagers attacked throwing handmade fire (petrol) bombs... and throwing stones at the security forces The farmers accuse authorities of evicting them from land around the mine a joint venture between Chinese firm Wanbao and military-owned Myanmar Economic Holding and many locals want it shut down. Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has urged locals to accept compensation for their land, following a probe into a brutal crackdown at a protest at the mine last year. The Nobel laureate, who is normally venerated around the country, was in March heckled by villagers enraged by her recommendation that the copper mine continue to operate, despite villagers concerns. Yi Win, a villager who was at the scene of Thursday s clashes, said locals cannot accept what she (Suu Kyi) said, adding we want to get our land back and stop the copper mine project. Suu Kyi s report to parliament last month said police used phosphorus against demonstrators at the mine in November in the harshest crackdown on protesters since the end of military rule. However, the probe into the clampdown recommended the mine project should not be scrapped, despite conceding it only brought slight benefits to the nation. Instant noodle sales top 100bn units a year Global sales of instant noodles have topped 100bn units annually, an industry group said yesterday - more than one monthly serving of the portable meal for every person on the planet. Five decades after the easy-to-cook food s launch, sales climbed again last year with China, Indonesia and Japan rounding out the world s top-three consumers, according to the Japan-based World Instant Noodles Association. The results show that instant noodles have become a global standard dish, said Norio Sakurai, an official with the Osaka-based association. We think global sales will continue growing particularly in some developing nations. Of the 101.4bn units sold worldwide last year, China, including Hong Kong, accounted for 44.0bn servings, followed by Indonesia with 14.1bn units, Japan at 5.4bn units and Vietnam close behind with 5.1bn units. Instant noodles, which come dried or pre-cooked and can be boiled quickly with accompanying flavour packets, were invented in Japan by Momofuku Ando, founder of major noodle maker Nissin Foods, in Indonesia s natural disaster risks, costs rise IRIN Jakarta Flooding peaked on January 17 of this year in Jakarta, highlighting prevention gaps. When the Ciliwung River breached its banks in Indonesia s capital, Jakarta, in January, Abdul Majid rushed to move his family and belongings upstairs. When I knew the flood was going to be large, I moved all of my merchandise to the roof of the building to avoid losing it all again, said the 50-year-old Majid, who runs a small kiosk on the ground flood of his home. In 2007, the last time the capital of some 10mn residents experienced massive flooding, he lost all his merchandise. I had to use all of my savings and borrow money to buy new goods, he said. His prospects for moving to less vulnerable sections of the city are limited. So, like many residents of the city, he makes do, finding ways to limit his liability and hoping the river will be merciful. Indonesia is one of the world s most vulnerable countries to natural disasters, but its risks are shifting: Here, as elsewhere in the world, fewer people are dying from floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, even as the economic toll from these disasters is growing. Preparedness and emergency response to natural disasters have improved worldwide, but equivalent measures to protect economies have lagged, according to Maplecroft, a UK-based consulting firm that publishes an annual Natural Hazards Risk Atlas that assesses countries exposure and resilience to natural disasters. According to Maplecroft, 2012 was the least deadly year for natural disasters in the past decade. Yet estimated damages from natural disasters rose from an average of US$20bn per year in the 1990s to around $100bn per year between 2000 and 2010, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This upward trend is expected to continue as a result of the rising concentration of people living in areas more exposed to natural disasters and climate change, noted IMF. Asia will be the hardest hit, with nine of the 10 cities expected to be most prone to coastal flooding by 2070 located there, according to a 2010 World Bank report. The region has already experienced a steep economic toll from natural disasters in recent years. In 2011, losses in Asia and the Pacific amounted to $294bn - 80% of the global total of $366bn - according to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction s Asia-Pacific Disaster Report for The cost of disaster-related damages in Asia and the Pacific increased 16 times since 1980, while the GDP per capita only grew 13 times over the same period. In 2012, Samoa, Haiti, Fiji, Pakistan, Madagascar and the Philippines topped the list of countries with the greatest natural hazards-related losses as a percentage of their GDP, according to the Brussels-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. Although communities in Jakarta have adapted to these risks through painful but practical measures - like habitually sacrificing their ground floors to flood waters - the city s increasing exposure to natural disasters will likely overwhelm residents in flood-prone areas. With 13 rivers flowing into the city, Jakarta is naturally prone to flooding. Additionally, as sea levels are rising, Jakarta is actually sinking 3.5cm per year, according to Sutopo Nugroho, a spokesman for National Agency for Disaster Management (BNBP). Some 40% of Jakarta now lies below sea level, according to BNPB, making it easier for rainwater to pool rather than drain into rivers or the sea. Officials estimated that the January floods caused at least $700mn in damage and lost economic activity. Despite their long-term economic benefits, structural changes to the overcrowded megacity have been difficult to implement. One of the main methods to ease Jakarta s exposure to property damage is widening the rivers that pass through the city. However, this has only been attempted on a limited basis, said Nugroho. Some 34,000 families live on the sections of the Ciliwung riverbank that should be dredged, he said. The government has proposed resettling them in government-provided apartment complexes, but a plan has yet to be executed. The project will involve large costs to the city and is likely to meet resistance from riverside communities, said Nugroho. There are many instances of people not agreeing to relocate, and I think we will have the same problem with people living along the Ciliwung. Their lives and work are based around where they are currently. The government s growing investment in mitigation - efforts to lessen the risk of devastation from natural disaster - is a step forward, said Aris Marfai from the Faculty of Geography at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, some 550km east of Jakarta. Disasters in the past decade - including multiple earthquakes, with death tolls in the thousands, and the 2004 tsunami, which killed some 170,000 people in the country - have taught the government to re-conceptualise disaster management, he said. Before, the focus was on relief. (It was) mostly reactive, he said. But now the government and aid groups are paying more attention to mitigation and preparedness measures. The government s disaster risk reduction (DRR) investments have doubled from less than 0.6% of the total budget in 2006 to more than one% by 2012, according to the UN. But even this increased investment is outpaced by growing risks, say observers. Surface water runoff has rapidly increased because of deforestation and construction, which is removing organic materials that naturally absorb rainfall, thus increasing flood risks.
13 PHILIPPINES 13 Cooling off Children play and swim in an inflatable swimming pool to beat the heat along a main street in Manila yesterday. The weather bureau forecast said the temperature in Manila had reached 36 degrees Celsius. 13 dead in political ambush ahead of vote The attackers opened fire on a truck carrying Mayor Abdulmalik Manamparan and his supporters, killing 12 on the spot with another dying later, and leaving 10 wounded, including the mayor, police said Manila Gunmen killed 13 people in an ambush on a Philippine mayor, police said yesterday, in the deadliest of a string of violent incidents that have marred campaigning for May elections. The attackers opened fire on a truck carrying Mayor Abdulmalik Manamparan and his supporters late Thursday, killing 12 on the spot with another dying later, and leaving 10 wounded, including the mayor, police said. They killed my granddaughter, Manamparan, 62, said from his hospital bed, where he was being treated for a shrapnel wound that grazed his head. A daughter of the mayor was also among the people killed in the attack on the main southern island of Mindanao, local military commander Colonel Ricardo Jalad said. Police initially put the death toll at 12, with at least eight wounded, but Senior Superintendent Gerardo Rosales, chief of the Lanao del Norte province, later updated the figures on television. He blamed the attack on long-running clan disputes by families in the country s troubled south. President Benigno Aquino s spokeswoman Abigail Valte said the authorities were attempting to establish the identities and motives of the attackers. We strongly condemn this act of violence, she told reporters in Manila. We appeal to the supporters of the different candidates to keep calm and continue to campaign for their particular candidates. The ambush on a remote mountain road near Nunungan town, unleashed as the mayor and his party travelled home from a campaign event, was the latest episode of political violence in a country that will hold mid-term elections on May 13. An updated running police tally now lists a total of 46 deaths from at least 48 violent incidents reported since the start of the campaign in February. In November 2009, members of a powerful clan on Mindanao abducted and murdered 58 people including relatives of a local rival who was planning to challenge the clan leader in gubernatorial elections the following year. Manamparan is the mayor of the mainly Muslim town of Nunungan. He is standing for the lower post of vice-mayor. His son and namesake, who is running for mayor, was not among the ambush casualties. The family is running against candidates backed by President Benigno Aquino s Liberal Party. The mayor said he had a good idea who was responsible for the attack, but declined to discuss his suspicions. Rosales said police investigators are checking the involvement of certain clans which had had previous scraps with the Manamparan family. They (survivors) identified the attackers last night, they gave us names... They told us it was a family feud, Rosales told reporters. Colonel Jalad said the ambush was the first big incident of political violence in Nunungan in the past year. However, he said Nunungan and nearby predominantly Muslim areas of Mindanao were blighted by occasional killings linked to decades-old clan wars. Mindanao is also wracked by insurgencies waged by communist rebels, and officials say that some of this year s election violence has been committed by communist guerrillas extorting money from candidates. New People s Army rebels ambushed Ruth Guingona, the 78-year-old mayor of the southern city of Gingoog on April 21, killing two of her aides and wounding her and two policemen. More than 18,000 posts are at stake in the balloting, from town mayors and governors to members of parliament. Two election campaigners in a province near Manila were killed and another wounded in an ambush Thursday, while a district official was killed on the same day in a bomb blast elsewhere on Mindanao, police said. China slams Manila bid to legalise islands occupation Beijing China accused the Philippines yesterday of trying to legalise its occupation of islands in the disputed South China Sea, repeating that Beijing would never agree to international arbitration. Frustrated with the slow pace of regional diplomacy, the Philippines in January angered China by asking a UN tribunal to order a halt to Beijing s activities that it said violated Philippine sovereignty over the islands, surrounded by potentially energy-rich waters. Claims by an increasingly powerful China over most of the South China Sea have set it directly against US allies Vietnam and the Philippines. Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also claim parts of the waters and China has a separate dispute with Japan in the East China Sea. Manila said on Thursday that a UN arbitration court had set up the tribunal which would hear Manila s complaint, but China said this was an attempt to steal Chinese territory. The Philippine side is trying to use this to negate China s territorial sovereignty and attach a veneer of legality to its illegal occupation of Chinese islands and reefs, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website (www.mfa.gov.cn). The Philippines must immediately withdraw personnel and facilities from the islands, the ministry added, listing those which it said Manila was occupying. Manila asked the tribunal of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to order a halt to China s activities. But the convention did not apply in this case as what the Philippines was actually asking for was a decision on sovereignty, the ministry said. China s refusal to accept the Philippines request for arbitration has full grounding in international law, it said. China had always believed that the two countries should resolve their dispute through direct talks, the ministry added. Southeast Asian nations stepped up efforts on Thursday to engage China in talks to resolve maritime tensions, agreeing to meet to try to reach common ground on disputed waters ahead of planned discussions in Beijing later this year. Efforts by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to craft a code of conduct to manage South China Sea tensions all but collapsed last year at a summit chaired by Cambodia, a close economic ally of China, when the group failed to issue a closing statement for the first time. Philippine Airlines in major route expansion Manila Philippine Airlines announced a major route expansion yesterday to better serve the army of Filipino expatriate workers in the Middle East. As well as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, PAL added new routes to Australia, China and Malaysia as the company pursues a $10bn fleet overhaul that will more than double its current fleet of 44 aircraft. PAL president Ramon Ang said the push into the Gulf states starting in October would serve the region s large Filipino workforce, which includes many domestic helpers, construction workers and medics. From UAE, for example, overseas Filipino workers can easily connect to other key cities or countries through PAL s airline partners in the Gulf, Ang said in a statement. PAL s route expansion comes with the Philippine government expressing hope that its aviation safety regime will soon pass audits by regulators in the US and European Union. The US blacklist prohibits Philippine carriers from adding additional flights in the US apart from their existing services. The EU bar prevents Filipino airlines from serving European routes at all. The PAL group now serves 28 overseas destinations including four US cities: Honolulu, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Chile seeks stronger ties The Litre of Light project By Bernice Camille V Bauzon Manila Times The Chilean government is seeking strong political, diplomatic, economic and cultural ties with the Philippines in light of the Southeast Asian country s robust growth, Chilean Ambassador to Manila Roberto Mayorga said. Our president is very excited with the progress of the Philippines. The Philippines and Chile share a lot of history, culture and friendship, Mayorga told editors of Manila Times during a roundtable interview. Despite the connection, he lamented that the two countries share little history of trade and investments. One of the areas of co-operation that can be improved on, he said, is in the field of agriculture. We can identify the place here that is close to Baguio (to grow grapes) for wine. In return, the Philippines can help Chile identify the location to grow bananas, mangoes and pineapples there, the envoy said. He also said that a delegation of Chilean experts in fruit exporting will arrive later this year to hold meetings, dialogues and discussions with Filipino businessmen. This will help the Philippines export its products and fully open its market to investors. He said Chile has over 40 years of experience in fruit exporting, and can help the Philippines boost its fruit export industry. Unlike the Philippines, whose products can be sold internally, Chile depends highly on their export industry. The envoy also welcomed a Philippine geothermal company Energy Development Corp (EDC) the first and only Philippine investor in Chile. The Philippines has over 40 years in experience in geothermal sector and that is what Chile needs, the envoy said. The ambassador said both countries have to work on expanding tourism between the Philippines and Chile. He said it is hard to invite Chilean tourists to visit the Philippines and vice versa because only a 30-hour flight via only Australia is available. But Fernanda Vila, the embassy s deputy head of mission, said Chile is developing its cruise tourism wherein tourists will fly to Chile and then go in a cruise to see the icebergs near Antarctica. The tourists would then take the cruise back to Buenos Aires or Brazil, but the starting point is Chile. Filipino entrepreneur and activist Illac Diaz shows solar powered bottle bulbs outside the first solar pavilion made from recycled materials in Manila yesterday. The Litre of Light, is a sustainable energy programme aimed at providing solar-powered lighting to underprivileged homes in the country. The Litre of Light project began in 2010 and has lighted 120,000 homes in the Philippines and 350,000 globally. The idea has since been shared to other nations such as India, Indonesia, Peru and Switzerland. Poverty incidence won t affect victory chances, says Team PNoy spokesman Team PNoy Senate slate does not see the unchanged poverty incidence in the country jeopardising its chances in the May polls, saying that the Aquino administration has placed enough measures to eradicate poverty in a few years time, reports Manila Times. Team PNoy spokesman and Rep Romero Quimbo of Marikina made the comment in light of the National Statistics and Coordination Board report showing that poverty incidence in the country is at 27% or just a shade below the 2009 figure of 28%. It will not affect our campaign at all because the data is just a reminder of something that we ve been saying for a long time: the poverty reduction programme is not a dash race. It is a marathon that will take time to address. Quimbo cited that the effects of government programmes to address poverty such as the Conditional Cash Transfer, massive education investment and good governance initiatives, as well as the implementation of the Reproductive Health law, would slowly kick in. The Reproductive Health law mandates the state to provide natural and artificial family planning methods and facilities to citizens, so that parents would only have children whom they can raise in a humane way.
14 14 INDIA MILITANCY FELICITATION PEOPLE TRAGEDY SCHEME Four policemen killed in Kashmir ambush Asha Bhosle, Mala Sinha to get Phalke awards Tamil actor Srinivasan arrested in cheating case Two actresses drown during film shooting Tax free shopping in Goa likely from October Kashmiri militants yesterday killed four policemen in an ambush on a patrol near the town of Sopore, a senior officer said. The four had just descended from their vehicle to conduct a routine patrol in the village of Hygam when they came under attack from gunmen, superintendent Imtiyaz Hussain said. Four of our policemen got killed in the ambush by militants, he said. A hunt for the attackers was now under way, the officer added. The village is around 45kms northwest of Srinagar. It is the first deadly attack in the region since March 13 when a group of militants disguised as cricketers killed five paramilitary police in an ambush in Srinagar. The Dadasaheb Phalke Academy Awards will be bestowed on singer Asha Bhosle, actress Mala Sinha, late filmmaker Yash Chopra, and late superstar Rajesh Khanna among several others at a function in Mumbai on April 30. Asha Bhosle will receive the Phalke Ratna Award from the academy, while Mala Sinha will be given the Golden Era Award. A special award has been reserved for the late Yash Chopra. The First Superstar of Indian Cinema award has been rightfully reserved for Rajesh Khanna, whose death in July 2012 left his millions of fans mourning across the country. His estranged wife, actress Dimple Kapadia will receive the Phalke Ever Memorable Award. Tamil actor Srinivasan, popularly known as Powerstar, was arrested in a cheating case yesterday. Srinivasan was arrested after a police complaint was filed by Andhra Pradesh resident P S Ranganathan alleging that the actor cheated him of Rs5mn on the pretext of helping him secure a loan of Rs200mn. He (Srinivasan) promised Ranganathan that he would secure him a loan of Rs200mn if he paid him a commission of Rs5mn. Neither did he help him with the loan nor did he return the money he had charged as commission. He kept on dodging whenever he was asked to repay the money, a Central Crime Branch of police official said in Chennai. Two actresses shooting for Tamil film in Tiruvarur drowned while bathing in a pond. Saraswathy, 24, Sukanya, 22, and Viji, 21, had entered the pond to take a dip. All three did not know how to swim. Although initially they stayed in the shallow end they later moved deeper and got bogged down by plants in the ponds, a source said. Passersby noticed Sukanya struggling and managed to pull her out alive. However, the other two had already drowned. Their bodies were later pulled out of the water. Police have sent the bodies for post-mortem examination. Sukanya is under treatment at a local hospital. Shop in Goa and don t pay any value added tax (VAT) on purchases from October. That s the incentive the government in the tourism-oriented state is offering to foreign tourists in a bid to make Goa a premium shopping destination like Dubai. Speaking to reporters after a cabinet meeting yesterday, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said the VAT-free shopping experience will become a reality by the time the tourism season begins in October this year. We are working out the modalities. First, the scheme will be applicable to foreigners who will be refunded the VAT at special counters at the airport as they leave Goa. The scheme will be extended for Indian tourists too later, Parrikar said. Govt protests as minister detained at US airport 20 trapped in building collapse IANS Washington The government has formally protested to the US over the brief detention of Uttar Pradesh Minister Mohamed Azam Khan at Boston airport when he arrived to take part in an event at the Harvard University. Khan, who is accompanying State Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav for the presentation of a study on the Kumbh Mela pilgrimage, was detained for about 10 minutes for further questioning at the Boston Logan International Airport on Wednesday, according to officials. Once the visitors were cleared for entry by immigration, a woman officer of the US Customs and Border Protection wing of the Homeland Security took Khan to an adjacent room for further questioning, sources said. Incensed, Khan is reported to have kicked up a ruckus in the immigration area claiming he was detained because he was a Muslim. He demanded an apology from the officer who merely said she was doing her duty. As arguments became heated, officials from the Indian consulate in New York intervened and Khan was escorted out of the airport. In a statement issued by his personal assistant Muktinath Jha late Thursday in the Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow, the minister alleged that on the pretext of frisking him, homeland security officials humiliated him, and that he was targeted because he is a Muslim. Although Azam Khan, who is the urban development and parliamentary affairs minister, would deliver a lecture at the Harvard Business School (HBS) on organising the Maha Kumbh Mela as planned, he would not participate in the lunch and dinner functions and other events, the statement added. The minister will officially register his protest at the HBS where he is to deliver a lecture on the successful management of Kumbh and crowd management, his assistant said. This is simply unacceptable, he told his secretary over telephone. The minister said that he would decide his future course of action after returning to India while adding that he regretted his decision to travel to the US. In Washington, Indian embassy spokesman M Sridharan said the mission has taken up the issue with the state department officially and we have conveyed our serious concern. We have asked them to intervene and take appropriate measures to avoid recurrence in the future. The Azam Khan case is the latest instance of Indian VIPs being detained at US airports. Last year, Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan was detained for over two hours by immigration officials at a New York airport. Former president A P J Abdul Kalam was twice subjected to frisking at New York s JFK Airport by US security officials. India s then ambassador to the US, Meera Shanker, was patted down by a security agent in Mississippi in December At the state department, when asked to comment on the incident, spokesman Patrick Ventrell said he was not aware of the specifics of this case as the department of homeland security has jurisdiction over airport movements inside the US. But I do want to underscore that we have a very important bilateral relationship with India and a very robust and thorough diplomatic exchange with our partners, he said. We very much value our partnership with India, he added. At least 20 people, most of them patients, are feared trapped in a wing of the Kasturba Gandhi Hospital which collapsed in Bhopal yesterday. At least 10 people have been rescued. Army personnel are helping in rescue operations. Sarabjit Singh critical after Lahore jail attack Agencies New Delhi The Indian High Commission in Islamabad yesterday urged the Pakistani government to provide necessary medical and other assistance to Sarabjit Singh following reports of an attack on the death row convict in a Lahore prison. Official sources added that the Indian High Commission has contacted the Pakistani foreign ministry for ascertaining facts and was awaiting a response. Two officials were sent to Lahore for consular access, sources in the external affairs ministry said. Singh was hospitalised with a serious head injury after two fellow prisoners attacked him at the Kot Lakhpat Jail,, a doctor said. Sarabjit was having tea with fellow prisoners Mohamed Muddasar and Amir, also condemned to death in murder cases. They exchanged heated words with Sarabjit and attacked him with bricks and blades, jail official Munawar Ali said. Meanwhile Sarabjit s sister Dalbir Kaur told the NDTV news channel, I had told everybody he is not safe. This is a conspiracy. The attack was pre-planned. Sarabjit was having tea with two fellow prisoners. They exchanged heated words with Sarabjit and attacked him with bricks and blades After the incident, four officials including the jail warden were suspended. Singh was arrested in Pakistan in 1991 and sentenced to death for spying and carrying out four bomb blasts that killed 14 people. His family claims he is innocent. His family says he is the victim of mistaken identity and had inadvertently strayed across the border in a drunken state. Four years ago, Pakistan s then-president Pervez Musharraf stayed the execution after appeals for clemency from India s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Authorities had tightened Sarabjit s security after the recent execution in India of Afzal Guru, who was convicted of involvement in the 2001 terror attack on the Parliament. The Kot Lakhpat jail currently has some 17,000 prisoners though its official capacity is only 4,000. There have been instances in the past of prisoners being killed within the prison. Indian national Chamel Singh died in the same jail under suspicious circumstances. Saudi payout issue sparks inheritance row By Ashraf Padanna Thiruvananthapuram Differences have broken out among members of an Indian family over what should be done with the compensation amount paid by the Saudi government for a resting place for pilgrims at Makkah. A section of the family claiming inheritance rights opposes repatriation of the compensation amount. According to them, Mayin Kutty Keyi, a trader from Malabar, built the Keyi Rubath in Saudi Arabia in 1848, for the benefit of the pilgrims from the region and proceeds from the same should not be used for any other purpose. The Saudi government had in 1971 deposited 1.4mn Saudi riyals with the Auqaf department as compensation after taking over the Keyi Rubath land. The money, however, has remained unclaimed as no heir was identified. The Kerala state government last week appointed a nodal officer to look into the matter and advice on the funds. Soon, members of the Arakkal family too staked claim to the money. Keyi had married the then ruler of the Arakkal dynasty in Kannur, the only Muslim royalty in Kerala. However, the Keyis and Arakkals are matriarchal families and property inheritance is always the right of the children of its female members. The Keyi family argues that Indian authorities had confirmed C V Moideen Kutty Keyi, who belongs to the second generation of the trader and C V Aluppi Keyi, who represents the third generation, as the sole heirs. The family wishes to spend the money for public good. Mayin Kutty Keyi built the 21-room facility as a resting place for pilgrims from Malabar and it belongs to them. The money should be spent for a similar purpose, insists C P Alippy Keyi, general secretary of Keyi Rubath Hereditary Committee. It should be used for building a new resting place for Hajis. According to C P Alippy Keyi, legal rights of all properties acquired by Keyi and his uncle Moosa Kakka now rests with the Keyi family and so did the Keyi Rubath. However, the Arakkal family is ready with a list of 45 legal claimants of the assets of Mayin Kutty Keyi, who is related to them through marriage. This is not the question of money but our legal right on Keyi Rubath and the strength of our heritage. We have valid historic documents to prove it and we will go ahead with it, said Aliraja Mohamed Rafi, son of the last sultana of the dynasty, Aysha Aliraja, who died in Chandy visits ailing actor Malayalam actor Jagathy Sreekumar greets Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, his wife Mariyamma and son Chandy after they called on him at his residence in Thiruvananthapuram yesterday. The veteran actor has been undergoing neuro-rehabilitation treatment after a near-fatal accident damaged the left side of his brain, a year ago. India s richest woman asked to vacate house Savitri Jindal, said to be India s richest woman, was yesterday asked by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to vacate within 15 days her government accommodation, which she had been occupying illegally. The court said if Jindal failed to vacate the government bungalow within the stipulated time, the estate officer in Chandigarh would complete eviction proceedings within six weeks. Jindal, a legislator of the ruling Congress in Haryana and mother of industrial tycoon and high-profile MP Naveen Jindal, has been occupying a ministerial bungalow in Chandigarh s upscale Sector 7 even though she ceased to be a minister in She has been listed by a leading publication as the country s richest woman as she lords over the multi-billion steel and power sector empire, Jindal group, as chairperson. Her name also figures among the Top-100 richest people in the world. Jindal is the Congress legislator from Hisar. She had been a minister of state for power in the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government from 2005 to Her industrialist-cumpolitician husband, O P Jindal, who was a minister in the Hooda government, was killed when his private helicopter crashed near the Haryana-Uttar Pradesh border March The Haryana government had informed the high court last month that they had served a 15-day notice to Jindal to vacate her government house which she had been occupying unauthorisedly.
15 INDIA 15 LEGAL Anti-terrorism agency to probe Italy marines case CRIME TRAGEDY COMMENT CRIME Businessman held over US charity worker s rape 20 dead, many injured in Odisha road accident Karanataka govt has set world record in corruption Man killed over Rs180 food bill in Delhi The National Investigation Agency (NIA) will investigate the case of two Italian marines accused of murdering two Indian fishermen, the Supreme Court said yesterday, raising the possibility once more of the men facing the death penalty. The accused, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, are charged with murder in connection with the shooting of fishermen off the coast of Kerala last year while serving as security guards on a cargo ship. Last week, Italy opposed the decision to appoint the anti-terrorism NIA to investigate the case, saying that the NIA only had the jurisdiction to investigate terrorist crimes. The West Bengal police have arrested a local businessman for allegedly raping a US charity worker, an official said yesterday, as anger grows over the high incidence of sexual crime in the country. Dinesh Burman, 40, was arrested after an American woman lodged a complaint with police, said an officer said in Siliguri where the crime allegedly occurred. The US national, in her 50s, said Burman, a land broker and businessman, raped her on April 15 and threatened her with violence if she approached the police. Siliguri, which lies in the foothills of the Himalayas, is located 460kms north of state capital Kolkata. At least 20 people were killed and about 40 injured when a tractor carrying them turned turtle in a hilly area of Odisha s Rayagada district yesterday, an official said. The tractor was carrying about 60 people. They were returning home after attending a marriage in a nearby village. The accident took place under Kalyansinghpur police station, 400km from state capital Bhubaneswar, after a tyre of the tractor burst. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik s office said the government would bear all the expenses of the treatment of the injured. Patnaik has also directed the local administration to move the critically ill to neighbouring Visakhapatnam town for better treatment if it required. Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi yesterday said the BJP government in Karnataka has created a world record in corruption but was talking about corruption of the central government. The Karnataka government has created a world record in corruption but this did not come to Bharatiya Janata Party leaders attention, he told a public meeting while campaigning for the Congress candidates in the May 5 assembly poll in Haveri, about 300km from Bangalore. Gandhi said the BJP leaders ignored people s welfare and squabbled for money and urged the electorate to vote Congress back to power to put Karnataka back on development path. A 30-year-old man was allegedly beaten and flung to death from the third floor of a building after failing to pay Rs180 to a restaurant owner, police said. The incident occurred late Wednesday night at INA Market in south Delhi. Deepak had dinner at a restaurant with his relatives, Nathan and Babu. Deepak s brother Ajay said that the bill amounted to Rs180, which his brother said he would pay later. On that, the restaurant owner started beating up Deepak. They took my brother to our house and beat him up there as well. We intervened and paid the bill. Despite that, they continued to beat him. Then they took him to the third floor and flung him from the terrace, Ajay said. CBI s coal mines affidavit lands govt in crisis IANS New Delhi The Manmohan Singh government yesterday appeared to be in deep political crisis after the opposition demanded Law Minister Ashwani Kumar s resignation for vetting a CBI affidavit meant only for the Supreme Court on the coal blocks allocation. In its two-page affidavit, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) chief Ranjit Sinha told the Supreme Court that it had shared its March 8 status report on investigations into coal blocks allocation with Ashwani Kumar and senior officials in the Prime Minister s Office and the coal ministry. Ashwani Kumar, the man in the eye of the storm, said he has not done any wrong and truth will prevail. The supposedly independent CBI s disclosure could spell more trouble for the Congressled United Progressive Alliance government and could have ramifications for even the prime minister, who held the coal minister s portfolio in UPA-I during the allocation of coal blocks now under scrutiny. The developments led to a political storm, with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties demanding the resignation of Ashwani Kumar and disrupting parliament over the issue. The issue has given the opposition yet another stick with which to beat the government, already battling a public perception of being corrupt and inept. The government has ruled out the law minister s resignation. Government sources said if the law minister is removed, the prime minister could be next in the line of fire. The comptroller and auditor general (CAG) has found largescale irregularities in awarding lucrative mining contracts to private companies. The contracts covered over 100 mines across the country. Activists of Shiv Sena shout anti-china slogans and burn a Chinese flag during a protest in Jammu yesterday against the alleged Chinese incursion. Chinese troops are far inside India territory, admit officials New Delhi The government yesterday alleged Chinese soldiers have advanced nearly 20kms into Indian-claimed territory after intruding across the disputed border earlier this month, a report said. Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma and other military officials presented a report on the incursion to a parliamentary watchdog, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported, marking a renewal of tensions between the Asian neighbours. Sharma also told MPs attending the meeting that India has deployed troops in the contested region to keep a close watch on the border, it quoted unnamed sources as saying. India and China have an unresolved boundary dispute, and relations are often prickly and marked by mutual suspicion- a legacy of a brief border war in A senior defence ministry official confirmed the meeting took place and that Sharma briefed MPs on the alleged Chinese advance but he did not elaborate. The officials told the committee that Indian army patrols reported on April 16 the presence of Chinese People s Liberation Army pitching tents 19kms inside the LAC (Line of Actual Control), PTI quoted a source as saying. The LAC is the de facto border that runs across the Himalayas. The meeting came a day after Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid announced he would head for China on May 8, saying both countries had a mutual interest in not allowing the dispute to destroy long-term progress in ties. The officials told the committee that Indian army patrols reported on April 16 the presence of Chinese People s Liberation Army pitching tents 19kms inside the LAC Khurshid has tried to play down the tension, saying, We have expressed our view and concern to the Chinese government through their ambassador in Delhi. The first two rounds of the flag meet have not given us any sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. There are other rounds in process and the important thing from both sides is that it is and must remain an isolated incident and should not spill over into the larger spectrum of our relationship with China. A foreign ministry official also confirmed reports that the new Chinese Premier Li Keqiang would travel to New Delhi late next month, without giving an exact date. Lower-level talks have so far failed to break the impasse in the dispute in the western part of Kashmir s Ladakh region. According to officials in New Delhi, a platoon of Chinese troops set up a camp inside Indian territory on April 15. India has since called on the Chinese soldiers to withdraw, but several meetings between local army commanders and diplomats from both sides have failed to resolve the stand-off. China has denied any wrongdoing. China s troops have never crossed the (LAC) line. China and India are neighbours and the boundary is not demarcated yet, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, emphasising the need to end the dispute through friendly consultations. In 1962, China gave India a bloody nose in the war fought in the Himalayan regions of Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. Small incursions are not uncommon across the LAC but it is rare for either country to set up camps in disputed territory. In recent years, the two countries have increased their military presence on each side of the border and hold frequent meetings to defuse tensions. Despite the border tensions, trade between the Asian giants has soared in recent years. Meanwhile Opposition parties have already attacked the government for what it calls its weak handling of the situation. The BJP has accused the Congress-led UPA government of being unable to stand up to Beijing and has written to the parliamentary panel asking for a detailed report on the situation. Malayali spying for Tamil Nadu identified IANS Thiruvananthapuram The intelligence wing of the Kerala police yesterday claimed to have identified a Malayali who has been spying for the Tamil Nadu government on interstate water issues. The man reportedly works with the Tamil Nadu government and has been passing on to his employers the contents of Kerala government files dealing with water sharing between the two states. Speaking to IANS, a top Kerala intelligence official said the official has been identified, and his activities are being watched. He has got his hands on important documents of the Kerala government related to water sharing disputes with Tamil Nadu, and passes the information to the neighbouring state. We have submitted a report to the government on this, said the top official, who did not want to be named. The intelligence official said the mole named Unnikrishnan has been passing on crucial information to Tamil Nadu for almost two decades. The police have asked the Kerala government to ensure that the man s entry into the state secretariat is stopped with immediate effect. He has got his hands on important documents of the Kerala government related to water sharing disputes with Tamil Nadu, and passes the information to the neighbouring state State Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan told media persons yesterday that if any Kerala government employees were found involved in spying activities, strict action would be taken against them. No one will be spared, the government views this as a serious issue, Radhakrishnan said. A state government employee, seeing the man s excessive curiosity about Kerala s stance on the Parambikulam-Aliyar water sharing agreement, over which a case is currently being heard in the Supreme Court, alerted the Kerala police s intelligence department. Police officials acted quickly to zero in on the man, but no decision has yet been taken on the action to be initiated against him. It is significant that the mole was exposed yesterday. Kerala Water Resources Minister P J Joseph and Tamil Nadu Public Works Department Minister P V R Amalingam, and chief secretaries of the two states are set to meet here tomorrow for talks on the Parambikulam-Aliyar water sharing agreement. Kerala has been complaining that Tamil Nadu was not releasing the 7.25tmc of water due to the state annually, under the water sharing agreement. Kerala had also only recently filed a case in the Supreme Court, urging the apex court to intervene so that Tamil Nadu is made to release Kerala s share of water from the Parambikulam- Aliyar project. Monsoon rainfall seen average in 2013 India expects total monsoon rainfall to be average in 2013, a minister said yesterday, strengthening prospects for one of the world s biggest grains producers to avoid widespread drought for a fourth straight year. India s first official forecast confirms a call by global experts last week, and points to bumper grain supplies that would swell huge current stockpiles and hold down world food prices. I ve very good news for farmers as well as others, the monsoon is likely to be normal this year, Earth Sciences Minister S Jaipal Reddy told a news conference in Delhi. Monsoon rains are vital for the 55% of the country s farmland that lacks irrigation facilities, and can make the difference between India being an exporter or importer of staples such as rice and sugar. Rainfall is expected to be 98% of the long-term average during the June to September season, Reddy said. Rains between 96% and 104% of a 50-year average of 89cm for the entire season are considered normal, or average. The last time there was a drought with rainfall below this range was in 2009 and prior to that, in Southern states already parched by their worst drought in four decades should see some relief, but their exact situation will be clear in June, India s weather office head L S Rathore added, easing fears their rice and sugar cane harvests could be hurt again. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) will forecast the probable arrival date for the monsoon on May 15, Rathore added. Its next forecast for monsoon rainfall will be in June. Agriculture accounts for 15% of gross domestic product in Asia s thirdlargest economy.
16 16 PAKISTAN/AFGHANISTAN 45 dead as Afghan bus hits wrecked tanker The accident occurs before dawn in the Kandahar province when the packed bus ploughs into the tanker, which had been burnt out in a Taliban strike several days ago Kandahar A passenger bus in Afghanistan collided yesterday with a wrecked fuel tanker left on a road after a Taliban insurgent attack, killing at least 45 people, officials said. The accident occurred before dawn in the Maiwand district of Kandahar province when the packed bus ploughed into the tanker, which had been burnt out in a Taliban strike several days ago. Tragically, around 4am, the passenger bus collided with a fuel tanker, Javid Faisal, spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor, said. We have 45 passengers dead in this accident and 10 others wounded. The wreckage of a truck, which was put alight by the Taliban, was left there for several days, and the bus collided with it. Many of those hurt were travelling to join the short neishtar harvest season, when villagers from across southern Afghanistan work in poppy fields during one of the most lucrative times of the year for casual labourers. A neishtar is the small lance used to make incisions on poppy plants to let out the resin, Afghan security officials survey the scene of a transport accident in Maiwand district of Kandahar province yesterday. which dries into solid opium residue. Faisal had earlier denied reports that the wrecked tanker had been set on fire by Taliban insurgents, who are highly active in Kandahar province, one of the hotbeds of the insurgency fighting to oust the US-backed Kabul government. The bus had just crossed the border into Kandahar from Helmand province when it hit the tanker. We were more than 50 passengers in the bus. Most of the passengers were men, Faizullah, one of the passengers who survived the accident, said. Our vehicle caught fire. I broke the glass of the vehicle and then jumped. I heard people yelling for help. Afghanistan has some of the Court remands Musharraf over Benazir Bhutto killing Islamabad A Pakistani court yesterday slapped a three-day house arrest order on former military ruler Pervez Musharraf over the murder of Benazir Bhutto more than five years ago, a prosecutor said. Musharraf is already under a two-week house arrest period, set to expire on May 4, over the sacking of judges when he imposed emergency rule in November 2007 and the fresh order will run concurrently. The retired general appeared in court in Rawalpindi for his remand hearing under tight security. He is accused of conspiracy to murder former prime minister Bhutto, who died in a gun and suicide attack in December It is the second of three cases, dating back to his rule, for which Musharraf has been arrested since returning to Pakistan on March 24 after four years of self-imposed exile, promising to contest elections. We requested a three-day remand of retired general Pervez Musharraf and judge Chaudhry Habib-ur Rehman gave a threeday remand and adjourned the case until Tuesday, prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar said. We requested a threeday remand of retired general Pervez Musharraf and judge Chaudhry Habib-ur Rehman gave a three-day remand and adjourned the case until Tuesday However, we can present him to the court even before Monday, if we complete the investigation, he added. Musharraf is being held at his plush villa on the edge of Islamabad where his party complained that he has been confined to two rooms and stripped of his personal staff. He is also barred from running in next month s general election on May 11 and has been threatened with death by the Taliban. Nobody has been convicted or jailed for Bhutto s assassination. Musharraf s government blamed the killing on Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who denied any involvement and who was killed in a US drone attack in August In 2010 a UN report said most dangerous roads in the world and traffic accidents are common. In September, 51 passengers including women and children, were killed after their bus also collided with a fuel tanker in Ghazni province. Pervez Musharraf...Under a two-week house arrest Bhutto s death could have been prevented and accused Musharraf s government of failing to give her adequate protection. But Bhutto s son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is chairman of the outgoing Pakistan People s Party, has accused Musharraf of her murder. Candidates use SMS, Facebook to woo voters Internews Rawalpindi The electioneering process seems fun for the youngsters as there is a lot of activity in this garrison city these days, even as candidates work overtime to run their election campaigns using public meetings and door-todoor visits during the day and social media in the night. Candidates and their supporters are convincing voters using modern methods: sending short message service (SMS) and using the social networking websites. At least in the urban settlements of Rawalpindi, many candidates have outsourced their election campaigns to information technology sweat shops. Some have asked their supporters to convince people through the social networking sites. Prior to the elections, candidates managed to get lists of mobile numbers in their respective areas, and soon after the acceptance of their nomination papers, started sending SMS to people to seek their support. The Pakistan People s Party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Pakistan Muslim League-N and the Jamaat-i-Islami are informing the public of their candidates, election symbols and routine corner meetings. The PTI launched its election campaign through Facebook and SMS messages across the country. Mohammad Hasan, a resident of College Road, said he was fed up of receiving SMS and messages on his Facebook account from political workers. He was already convinced to vote for the PML-N, which improved the roads and launched development work in the city. However, he was not interested in attending public meetings of the party due to his hectic routine. Imran Hussain, a resident of Westridge, said he was informed of political activities in the city through the social networking sites and SMS. All parties presented impressive manifestos, but the PML-N s and PTI s were better. My grandfather advised me not to involve myself in political activities and focus on my studies, he said. Nazia Ahmed of Usmanpura was convinced to vote for PTI, but her parents were in favour of PPP. I tried to convince my parents using arguments given by my friends, but my parents refused, she said. Waleed Ahmed, a resident of Chaklala Scheme-III, said he wanted to vote for change to a new party but his father had decided to vote for PML- N. Strange attitude of my father; he is convinced the tiger (PML-N s election symbol) will improve things in the country, he said. The Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), which wants Shariah (Islamic system) in the country, is also using Facebook and SMS to mobilise voters. The JI official site on Facebook displays its message to vote for the scale. Through SMS, we are making voters aware of the election campaign and the election symbol, said JI leader Malik Azam. He said the social networking and SMS were necessities of the modern day and all candidates of JI in the district were using them. For former information minister Sheikh Rashid, SMS is not new as people in NA-55 had been receiving messages informing them that Rashid would appear in television shows to expose the corruption of PPP and PML-N. The practice continued after the announcement of the elections as people received messages from different cell phones with Rashid s message. Former lawmaker Malik Shakil Awan, the PML-N candidate in the garrison city, is also convincing voters via Facebook. He said he had created an account two years ago but had not used it regularly. After the election announcement, my supporters advised me to mobilise the youth, and I started using the Facebook account too. I use it at night, while my supporters write messages on my behalf during the day, he said. Zamrud Khan, PPP candidate, said that the basic aim of SMS and Facebook was to create awareness among the voters of our campaign schedule. The actual publicity is the reputation of the candidate and my reputation in the area is good. Being the former managing director of Pakistan Baitul Mal, I have done work on merit and helped people without discrimination, he added. Some candidates said using the social media and SMS was economically feasible as it didn t require a lot of money, and youngsters were sending SMS through the packages offered by all cell phone companies. Cops take first, faltering steps in fight against graft Herat Afghanistan s security forces are routinely accused of murder, rape and corruption on a grand scale, but a new anti-corruption police unit s sole conviction last year was a junior policeman who forged some documents, the head of the unit said. Abuses by the 152,000-strong Afghan police have pushed whole districts into the arms of the Taliban, officials say. Now international forces hope the Shafafiyat - Dari for transparency - anti-corruption unit will crack down on corrupt police. For most of President Hamid Karzai s 11-year reign, there has been little interest in anti-corruption in the army or police. The country s two most powerful institutions receive billions of dollars from donors annually but struggle just to recruit and maintain a force bled by high rates of desertion. Rampant graft in one of the world s poorest and most corrupt nations has long been a major irritant for Western backers whose aid has propped up the Afghan economy for more than a decade. At the US-funded Dawood military hospital in Kabul, wounded soldiers and police suffered from gangrene and maggots, starved and died in filthy corridors. US lawmakers said $43mn for medicine, food and equipment had gone missing. That s the type of case the Afghan-run anti-corruption units should investigate. The police unit was set up a year ago, with the military planning to follow suit this spring. Since then, hundreds of police accused of abuse have been fired, transferred or given punishments like cleaning toilets. But the Shafafiyat police unit was stumped when asked about successful prosecutions. We have done good work but we are not satisfied. We need to do more, said Major General Abdul Massoud Rageb, the burly, grey-bearded head of the unit. He said the unit by itself had secured one conviction resulting in a jail term. Records show Mohammed Daud was sentenced in February to a year in jail for forging vehicle documents in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Shafafiyat was also part of an investigation into the ex-governor of eastern Nuristan province and provincial police officials who stole half a million dollars earmarked for police salaries. The Taliban seized three districts from unpaid police who deserted their posts, said the Attorney General s office. Last year, the provincial police officials were sentenced to between six and 10 years in jail. The governor, who stole the lion s share of the cash, got two months in jail. We didn t know whether to laugh or cry at this sentence, said Lieutenant General Ghulam Ranjbar, who oversees military and police corruption cases at the Attorney General s office. A Shafafiyat official showed a large binder of documents on the case and said Shafafiyat led the investigation. But Ranjbar said Shafafiyat did not have a lead role. Rageb did not mention the case until prompted. Those two cases are the only ones Shafafiyat can positively say ended in jail terms, highlighting a key problem: the unit seems unable to track complaints properly, hindering analysis of their performance. Rageb said Shafafiyat received 1,758 complaints last year, but his deputy put that at 1,024. A Nato counterpart said there were around 1,600 in one prov- Major General Abdul Massoud Rageb at his office in Kabul. ince alone - and there are 34 provinces in Afghanistan. Out of those cases, 44 were referred for prosecution and entered into a black binder that sits among the framed photographs in Rageb s office. Shafafiyat stop tracking a case once they refer it to prosecutors. They found out about the Nuristan sentences from the newspaper. We don t really get any feedback, said Rageb s deputy, Colonel Mubien Rahimi ruefully. There s plenty to investigate - 5,424 policemen were accused of crimes ranging from desertion to murder and rape last year, the Attorney General s office said. Several officials there said they did not even know about Shafafiyat. No one knows how many police have been convicted. Shafafiyat referred to the Attorney General s office, who referred to the Ministry of Interior, who referred to the Supreme Court, who asked for a written request. They did not reply. Problems stretch beyond case tracking. When Shafafiyat officers travel, they are housed and protected by the police they are investigating. Investigators often get death threats. There s also little to no protection for witnesses, informants, judges, lawyers, or members of civil society working alongside Shafafiyat. We do face pressure in some cases, Rageb acknowledged, declining to give examples. Shafafiyat has no dedicated budget of its own. Salaries are paid by the international donors bankrolling the entire police force. The United Nations donated equipment and the Natoled International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), anxious to improve police performance ahead of the 2014 drawdown of foreign troops, helps Shafafiyat with transport and logistics. But when ISAF flew Shafafiyat and anti-corruption campaigners to the western town of Herat this month, ISAF officers could not get clearance to leave base and attend the meeting in the police headquarters. Five members of civil society groups meant to provide civilian oversight were also on the trip. None could name a complaint that Shafafiyat had solved, and most seemed unaware how complaints were recorded or investigated. We are just here to support the process, said Gul Maky Siawash of the Afghan Women s Coalition for Fighting Corruption. When asked about the Shafafiyat police unit s greatest achievement so far, Brigadier General Flemming Agerskov, Rageb s ISAF counterpart, said they had investigated some serious rape allegations. Human rights groups say police often use young boys as sex slaves or rape women at roadblocks. ISAF doesn t track individual cases because they are encouraging Afghans to do it themselves, Agerskov said. The Ministry of Interior plans to put a case tracking system into place, he said, but it was unclear when. Rahimi and his colleagues said they spent six months tracking down an alleged police rapist last year. By the time they found him, the man had been shot, possibly by the victim s family. They could name no other cases and had no statistics on the number of rape complaints received. I don t know of any policeman who has been jailed for rape. It s part of a broader pattern of impunity for the security forces in Afghanistan, said Heather Barr, the head of Human Rights Watch in Afghanistan. I interviewed one woman who had gone to police to report a rape and was raped again by the head of that police station. The woman had not lodged a complaint with Shafafiyat.
17 SRI LANKA/BANGLADESH/NEPAL 17 Garment workers protest as Bangladesh toll tops 300 Police battle to control huge angry crowds of garment workers protesting over the tragedy even as the PM orders arrest of building owners Lanka, India discuss maritime boundary issues IANS Colombo Dhaka Bangladesh textile workers vented their anger yesterday, burning cars and clashing with police, as the death toll passed 300 following the collapse of a building housing factories that made low-cost garments for Western brands. Miraculously rescuers were still pulling people alive from the rubble - 72 since daybreak following 41 found in the same room overnight - two days after the eight-storey building collapsed on the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka. But there were fears that hundreds of people were still trapped in the wreckage of the building, which officials said had been built illegally without the correct building permits. Some people are still alive under the rubble and we are hoping to rescue them, said deputy fire services director Mizanur Rahman. A spokesman for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said she had ordered the arrest of the owners of the building and of the five factories that occupied it. Army spokesman Shahinur Islam said the death toll had reached 304 and H T Imam, an adviser to the prime minister, said it could exceed 350. Anger over the working conditions of Bangladesh s 3.6mn garment workers, the overwhelming majority of them women, has grown steadily since the disaster, with thousands taking to the streets to protest yesterday. About 2,350 people have been rescued, at least half of them injured, from the remains of the building in the commercial suburb of Savar, about 30km (20 miles) from Dhaka. An industry official has said 3,122 people, most of them female garment workers, had been in the Rana Plaza building despite warnings that it was structurally unsafe. Firefighters try to control a fire after garment workers set fire in a spinning mill in Gazipur, near Dhaka, yesterday. Emdadul Islam, chief engineer of state run Capital Development Authority (CDA), said that the owner of the building had not received the proper building consent, obtaining a permit for a five-storey building from the local municipality, which did not have the authority to grant it. Only CDA can give such approval, he said. We are trying to get the original design from the municipality, but since the concerned official is in hiding we cannot get it readily. Furthermore, another three storeys had been added illegally, he said. Savar is not an industrial zone, and for that no factory can be housed in Rana Plaza, Islam said. Bangladesh is the secondlargest exporter of garments in the world but many factories remained closed for a second day yesterday, with garment workers protesting against poor conditions and demanding the owners of the building and the factories it housed face harsh punishment. Police and witnesses said protesters set fire to a number of vehicles and damaged other garment factories. Dhaka district police chief Habibur Rahman identified the owner of the Rana Plaza building as Mohammed Sohel Rana, a leader of the ruling Awami League s youth front. Imam, the prime minister s adviser, said Rana had vanished into thin air. People are asking for his head, which is quite natural. This time we are not going to spare anybody, Imam said. Wednesday s collapse was the third major industrial incident in five months in Bangladesh. In November, a fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory on the outskirts of Dhaka killed 112 people. This incident is devastating for us as we haven t recovered from the shock of Tazreen fire yet, said Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, who visited the site yesterday. Such incidents have raised serious questions about worker safety and low wages in Bangladesh and could taint the poor South Asian country s reputation as a producer of low-cost products and services. North American and European chains, including British retailer Primark and Canada s Loblaw, said they were supplied by factories in the Rana Plaza building. Mohammad Atiqul Islam, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BG- MEA), said the proprietors of the five factories inside the building had ignored the association s warning not to open on Wednesday after cracks had been seen in the building the day before. We asked not to open the factories and told them we will send our engineer, and until you get the green signal don t open the factories, Islam said. But, unfortunately, they violated our instructions, he said. A bank in the building did close on Wednesday after the warning. Savar residents and rescuers dropped bottled water and food on Thursday night to people who called out from between floors. Nearby, relatives identified their dead among dozens of corpses wrapped in cloth on the veranda of a school. Special prayers were offered for the dead, injured and missing at mosques, temples and pagodas across Bangladesh yesterday. Ten labour groups called for a strike tomorrow by workers at garment factories across the country. Sixty percent of Bangladesh s garment exports go to Europe. The United States takes 23% and Canada takes 5%. Primark and Loblaw, as well as PWT, a Danish company whose Texman brand clothes were also made in factories at Rana Plaza, operate under codes of conduct aimed at ensuring products are made in good working conditions. The largest factory, New Wave Style, which listed many European and North American retailers as its customers, occupied the sixth and seventh floors. Sri Lanka and India have had more talks on issues relating to the maritime boundary line dividing both countries, the Sri Lanka navy said yesterday. The navy said the 22nd International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) meeting between Sri Lanka and India was held onboard an Indian naval ship at the Indo-Sri Lanka maritime boundary line off Kankasanthurai in the north of Sri Lanka. The Indian delegation consisted of Indian navy and coast guard officials and was headed by a naval officer from Tamil Nadu. The IMBL meeting is held twice a year to strengthen the naval relationships between the two neighbouring countries. Delegates meet one another once onboard an Indian naval ship and next onboard a Sri Lankan naval ship. During the 22nd IMBL session, matters related to fishing activities conducted in the Palk Strait, Gulf of Mannar and smuggling of narcotics across IMBL were discussed, the navy media unit said. Meanwhile, four Indians were arrested while they were transporting cannabis in the north by boat after crossing the IMBL, the navy media unit said. The navy said the four Indians as well as two Sri Lankans who had gone by boat to pick the cannabis were handed over to the police for further investigations. Indian fishermen often accuse the Sri Lankan navy of attacking them when they stray into Sri Lankan waters to catch fish, an allegation that is rejected by the Sri Lankans. The Indian government last week said the Sri Lankan navy had been told not to fire on Indian fishing vessels. Indian Defence Minister AK Antony said the Indian government has been consistently taking up such issues with the government of Sri Lanka to ensure that the Sri Lankan navy acts with restraint and Indian fishermen found near the IMBL are treated in a humane manner. Cries of amputees hang heavy at hospital ward Dhaka The anguished cries of amputees echoed yesterday across the Enam Medical College Hospital in a piercing reminder of the price paid by survivors of Bangladesh s deadliest industrial disaster. A steady procession of ambulances has been arriving at the hospital on the outskirts of Dhaka since Wednesday s catastrophe, heralded by deafening sirens. And with each arrival, a crowd of young medical students in their white aprons were on hand to stretcher the injured to emergency wards, flanked by nurses with blood bags. Garment worker Laboni Akter was brought to the hospital in critical condition after rescuers cut off her left hand to free her from the rubble of the eight-storey building in Savar, around 1km (half a mile) from the hospital. Writhing in pain, she lost consciousness briefly at the emergency ward from where she was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit where she spoke after her condition improved. My hand fell under a pillar after the building collapsed, as if we were in an earthquake. Three of us were trapped in a narrow air pocket for the two days without any food. I stayed awake, praying to Allah to save us, she said. Then one of my friends died and her body started to rot. Every minute felt like a day and I couldn t even move because of the position of my hand. Doctor Hiralal Roy said that the 750-bed hospital was overwhelmed, treating more than 1,200 for the last two days. At one stage even our corridors were filled up with injured workers, he said. We asked those with less serious injuries to vacate their beds for the critically injured. There are scores of workers who have lost their limbs or have serious injuries to their chest and head and some have gangrene. While some patients had to have their limbs severed at the scene, many others had to undergo amputations in hospital as a result of their injuries. Dozens of patients could be seen writhing in agony after their operations, weeping in pain. Supplies in the clinic s blood bank were exhausted within an hour of the disaster, prompting the authorities to appeal for donations. Believe me, thousands responded within hours, said the doctor. Dozens of rescue workers also needed treatment at the hospital after being overwhelmed by the stench of decaying bodies wedged within the wreckage. You can t stand it for more than a few minutes, said Sukhon who brought fellow rescue worker Nawshad to the clinic. The scene is also heartwrenching, especially when you go near the collapsed staircases. There you can see many of the bodies rotting, with their hands and other limbs jutting out of the rubble. Garment workers typically earn about $40 a month and the loss of a limb or another serious injury means an uncertain future, even if they do receive compensation further down the line. Can you tell me how I can earn a living? I have a son, wife and a big extended family in my village. I came here to make a living, not to die, said Parvez Ahmed, 30, who was admitted with serious head injuries. Police have not said how many people are still unaccounted for. But a textile manufacturers association said more than 3,000 workers were in the five factories based in the doomed building. Officials say they have so far not tried to retrieve some bodies for fear that they could up dislodging more rubble and thus jeopardise the chances of rescuing survivors. Yesterday they dug holes into the pancaked floors and dragged out more than 50 people alive, including Akter. Clutching photos in their hands, thousands of people also rushed to the hospital and toured the wards to find out if their missing relatives were among the patients. For two days I ve been looking for my missing sister, said Shahin Alam, 30. But no one has an answer. 78,000 Bhutan refugees move to West, says UN Kathmandu Some 78,000 Bhutanese refugees have moved to the West from camps in Nepal where they have been living for two decades after being forced out of their homeland, the United Nations said yesterday. The refugees have been offered new lives in the United States and other countries following the failure of years of negotiations to secure their return to Bhutan, which says they were illegal immigrants. Another 38,000 refugees remain in the camps. All are ethnic Nepalis who fled across the border in the early 1990s, claiming persecution after Bhutan made national dress compulsory and banned the Nepalese language. The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said in a statement yesterday that 100,000 have submitted applications for the resettlement so far. Making 100,000 submissions and reaching nearly 80,000 departures are incredible achievements in the history of this refugee programme and for UNHCR, said Diane Goodman, acting representative of the UNHCR in Nepal. We have been able to achieve these major milestones thanks to the generosity of the resettlement countries and our donors, the great support of the government of Nepal, and the resilience of the refugees. Lachhi Maya Ghising, right,( 88), a Bhutanese refugee lies down near family members at a transit centre in Kathmandu yesterday, ahead of their flight to US under a United Nation resettlement programme. The programme began in 2007 following a lack of progress in years of high-level talks to secure their return to Bhutan. Making 100,000 submissions and reaching nearly 80,000 departures are incredible achievements in the history of this refugee programme and for UNHCR Some 66,000 refugees have left for the United States, while Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Britain have also taken thousands. The UNHCR said the total number of refugees to be resettled in the West is expected to reach 100,000 by the end of We spent more than 20 years in the camp but Bhutan didn t show any interest in repatriation so I think resettlement is the best option, Sher Bahadur Khadka, 30, who leaves for the United States next week with his wife, said. My wife and I will try to get jobs there. I would also like to study. I hope to manage time both for my work and education, he said. Refugee leaders have expressed fears that with so many people leaving the Nepal camps, pressure on Bhutan to allow the rest home will evaporate. However, Goodman said UN- HCR representative held talks with the Bhutanese government officials last year about repatriation and with the international community would continue to work towards the option of voluntary repatriation. French charged with molesting tourist Colombo A French guesthouse manager appeared before a magistrate in Sri Lanka yesterday charged with sexually molesting a 33-year-old French tourist, officials said. At a hearing in the southern town of Galle, Magistrate G K Munasinghe impounded the passport of 44-year-old Olivier Sage and freed him on bail of Rs110,000 ($880), fixing the next hearing for May 29. Police officials in court gave Sage s address as the French Villa guesthouse in the nearby coastal resort of Unawatuna, adding that he was the holder of a French passport. We informed court that there was no medical evidence of rape, but we are maintaining that there was a sexual attack as defined in the penal code, senior superintendent Jayantha Wickremasinghe said. If convicted, he could be jailed for five years. Sri Lanka tightened laws in 2006 to protect women and children from sexual harassment. The latest complaint came as police earlier this month said there had been an increase in attacks against foreign tourists visiting the Indian Ocean island emerging from nearly four decades of ethnic war.
18 18 COMMENT Chairman: Abdullah bin Khalifa al-attiyah Editor-in-Chief : Darwish S Ahmed Production Editor: C P Ravindran P.O.Box 2888 Doha, Qatar Telephone (news), (sport), (home delivery) Fax GULF TIMES US, Arab states seek consensus on Syria action A series of high-profile meetings this week between US officials and key Middle East countries was designed to build regional consensus over policy towards Syria. US President Barack Obama met on Tuesday with HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-thani in Washington. Yesterday, Obama conferred with King Abdullah of Jordan for their second summit in less than a month. Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has visited the United Arab Emirates, on the final stage of his first tour to the Middle East since becoming Pentagon chief nearly two months ago. The situation in Syria has reached the point of no return and requires international action. Any delay will only add to the misery and suffering of the Syrian people. Reports that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons have added to the urgency of finding a common approach. The US said this week for the first time that it believed President Bashar al-assad s regime had likely used chemical weapons against opposition forces, though cautioned spy agencies were not 100% sure. US President Barack Obama is reported to be awaiting a definitive judgment on whether the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against opposition fighters before taking action. When the confirmation comes, it is more or less certain that Washington will get involved beyond providing humanitarian help Reports that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons have added to the urgency of finding a common approach for the rebels in the two-year-old conflict. The US has so far refused to arm the rebels. But Obama has declared that any evidence that the regime has used chemical weapons would be a game changer. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have already declared that a red line has been crossed. Nonetheless, the White House has quelled any expectation it will rush into military engagement, reminding McCain in a letter of the dangers of uncorroborated intelligence in our own recent experience. Only credible and corroborated facts that provide us with some degree of certainty will guide our decision-making, and strengthen our leadership of the international community, the White House wrote. The flurry of this week s diplomatic activity suggests that America s current aversion to intervention in Syria may be weakening - a shift possibly driven by fears that the violence may spill over into neighbouring states, a scenario Arab states dread. According to US diplomatic sources, Washington and its allies in the region are currently discussing several proposals, ranging from boosting the supply of arms to rebel forces, to imposing no-fly zones over possible buffer zones along Syria s borders with Jordan and Turkey. With Obama also due to meet Turkish Premier Recep Erdogan next month, and US Secretary of State John Kerry set to make his second Middle East tour in as many months, Washington s involvement in Syria has only just begun. To Advertise Display Telephone Fax Classified Telephone Fax Subscription North Korea could catalyse a new start in US-China ties Though the US and China do not lack issues to discuss, the bilateral dialogue in the security field lacks depth and follow-up By Christopher R Hill Denver Insanity, Albert Einstein is reported to have said, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. For those who have long scoffed at the possibility that China might be willing to deal decisively with its pesky North Korean neighbour, the results of US Secretary of State John Kerry s recent visit to Beijing will be all too predictable. But, for those who watch China s ever-changing internal political landscape carefully, there is much happening that more than justifies Kerry s trip. Indeed, if US President Barack Obama s administration is to be criticised for its handling of the latest North Korean crisis, the main problem has not been too much reliance on China, but too little. Theories about China s attitude toward North Korea often begin and end with the view that what the country fears, above all, is an inflow of refugees in the event of a North Korean collapse a spillover that could rend the delicate ethnic quilt of China s northeast provinces. The problem is that, while some Chinese do worry about refugees, Big banks tall tales By Simon Johnson Washington There are two competing narratives about recent financial-reform efforts and the dangers that very large banks now pose around the world. One narrative is wrong; the other is scary. At the centre of the first narrative, preferred by financial-sector executives, is the view that all necessary reforms have already been adopted (or soon will be). Banks have less debt relative to their equity levels than they had in New rules limiting the scope of bank activities are in place in the United States, and soon will become law in the United Kingdom and continental Europe could follow suit. Proponents of this view also claim that the megabanks are managing risk better than they did before the global financial crisis erupted in In the second narrative, the world s largest banks remain too big to manage and have strong incentives to engage in precisely the kind of excessive risktaking that can bring down economies. Last year s London Whale trading losses at JPMorgan Chase are a case in point. And, according to this narrative s advocates, almost all big banks display symptoms of chronic mismanagement. While the debate over megabanks sometimes sounds technical, in fact it is quite simple. Ask this question: If a humongous financial institution gets into trouble, is this a big deal for economic growth, unemployment, and the like? China cannot be regarded as a collective noun with a singular view about anything; like any complex modern state, China contains many different views about many different issues. Of course, there are those in Beijing who worry day and night about North Korean refugees; but there are also many in Beijing, Shanghai and elsewhere who worry about the chronic crisis that North Korea s periodic outbursts cause in an otherwise stable region of the world. Focus and establishment of priorities should be the watchwords for the US side As President Xi Jinping eloquently put it at the annual Boao business forum on Hainan Island earlier this month: No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain. Xi is no dictator who can impose his will on China. Indeed, for all the characterisation of China as a despotic state that one hears from the political right in the United States, its president enjoys fewer powers than his American counterpart. Gaining consensus in China is a glacial process that will not be accomplished in a single speech. Xi s comments obviously extend beyond a concern about refugees. North Korea is, strangely, a domestic Or, more bluntly, could Citigroup or a similar-size European firm get into trouble and stumble again toward failure without attracting some form of government and central bank support (whether transparent or somewhat disguised)? The US took a step in the right direction with Title II of the Dodd- Frank reform legislation in 2010, which strengthened the resolution powers of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). And the FDIC has developed some plausible plans specifically for dealing with domestic financial firms. (I serve on the FDIC s Systemic Resolution Advisory Committee; all views stated here are my own.) But a great myth lurks at the heart of the financial industry s argument that all is well. The FDIC s resolution powers will not work for large, complex cross-border financial enterprises. The reason is simple: US law can create a resolution authority that works only within national boundaries. Addressing potential failure at a firm like Citigroup would require a cross-border agreement between governments and all responsible agencies. issue for China. For starters, it is a historic ally for which many Chinese fought and died, their memory enshrined not only on monuments throughout China (though precious few in North Korea), but also in families. Second, despite a supposed lack of ideology in contemporary China, there is, in fact, a raging debate often taking place below the radar about the future of China s political system and its relationship to the economy. And, while North Korea s communist system and that of China have become profoundly dissimilar, some Chinese worry that a collapse of North Korea s order could shift the battle lines of that debate. Finally, there are those who would view a North Korean collapse as a boon to US strategic interests and a setback for Chinese interests. Such hardline, zero-sum thinking is not the exclusive preserve of American think tanks. Some Chinese ask what the rules of the game would be in the event that the Korean peninsula is united under South Korea. Could they expect to see US troops and bases along the Chinese border on the Yalu River, or perhaps a string of listening posts to gather intelligence? Though such deployments would be inconceivable to most thinking Americans (indeed, the real task would be to maintain budget support in Congress and elsewhere for any deployments in a united Korea), Chinese security experts worry about it. Though the US and China do not lack issues to discuss, the bilateral dialogue in the security field lacks On the fringes of the International Monetary Fund s just-completed spring meetings in Washington, DC, I had the opportunity to talk with senior officials and their advisers from various countries, including from Europe. I asked all of them the same question: When will we have a binding framework for cross-border resolution? The answers typically ranged from not in our lifetimes to never. Again, the reason is simple: countries do not want to compromise their sovereignty or tie their hands in any way. Governments want the ability to decide how best to protect their countries perceived national interests when a crisis strikes. No one is willing to sign a treaty or otherwise precommit in a binding way (least of all a majority of the US Senate, which must ratify such a treaty). As Bill Dudley, the president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, put it recently, using the delicate language of central bankers: The impediments to an orderly cross-border resolution still need to be fully identified and dismantled. This is necessary to eliminate the so-called too big to fail problem. Translation: Orderly resolution of global megabanks is an illusion. As long as we allow cross-border banks at or close to their current scale, our political leaders will be unable to tolerate their failure. And, because these large financial institutions are by any meaningful definition too big to fail, they can borrow more cheaply than would otherwise be the case. Worse, they depth and follow-up. The Chinese have never been eager to discuss with their US counterparts what the two countries should do in the event of a North Korean implosion. But, if such talks were held more frequently, and the issue were addressed seriously (and repeatedly), surely progress could be made in overcoming suspicion on this question. Indeed, Kerry s main task is to begin an effort to reduce the strategic distrust between the two countries, which is a significant factor underlying China s reluctance to do more on North Korea. This will require that both sides focus on the issue at hand a challenge especially for the Americans, whose official discussions with the Chinese inevitably become an effort to plow through a laundry list of issues often advanced by single-issue constituencies. Focus and establishment of priorities should be the watchwords for the US side. Kerry s first trip to China was a start in this direction, but it must be followed by a regular pattern of telephone calls and additional visits, with a view to ridding the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons. Paradoxically, North Korea s Kim Jung-un, a leader apparently undistinguished by any accomplishment or sign of wisdom, could catalyse a new start in US- Chinese relations. - Project Syndicate Christopher R Hill, former US assistant secretary of state for East Asia, is dean of the Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver. South Korean soldiers patrolling along a military fence near the Demilitarised Zone dividing the two Koreas in the border city of Paju. North Korea is, strangely, a domestic issue for China. For starters, it is a historic ally for which many Chinese fought and died, their memory enshrined not only on monuments throughout China (though precious few in North Korea), but also in families. A great myth lurks at the heart of the financial industry s argument that all is well have both motive and opportunity to grow even larger. This form of government support amounts to a large implicit subsidy for big banks. It is a bizarre form of subsidy, to be sure, but that does not make it any less damaging to the public interest. On the contrary, because implicit government support for too big to fail banks rises with the amount of risk that they assume, this support may be among the most dangerous subsidies that the world has ever seen. After all, more debt (relative to equity) means a higher payoff when things go well. And, when things go badly, it becomes the taxpayers problem (or the problem of some foreign government and their taxpayers). What other part of the corporate world has the ability to drive the global economy into recession, as banks did in the fall of 2008? And who else has an incentive to maximise the amount of debt that they issue? What the two narratives about financial reform have in common is that neither has a happy ending. Either we put a meaningful cap on the size of our largest financial firms or we must brace ourselves for the debtfueled economic explosion to come. - Project Syndicate Simon Johnson is a professor at MIT s Sloan School of Management and the co-author of White House Burning: The Founding Fathers, Our National Debt, And Why It Matters To You.
19 COMMENT 19 The transition from follower to leader The post-world War II invocation of national security as the legitimising rationale for an economically active state extended America s leadership By William H Janeway Hong Kong For 250 years, technological innovation has driven economic development. But the economics of innovation are very different for those at the frontier versus those who are followers striving to catch up. At the frontier, the innovation economy begins with discovery and culminates in speculation. From scientific research to identification of commercial applications of new technologies, progress has been achieved through trial and error. The strategic technologies that have repeatedly transformed the market economy from railroads to the Internet required the construction of networks whose value in use could not be known when they were first deployed. Consequently, innovation at the frontier depends on funding sources that are decoupled from concern for economic value; thus, it cannot be reduced to the optimal allocation of resources. The conventional production function of neoclassical economics offers a dangerously misleading lens through which to interpret the processes of frontier innovation. Financial speculation has been, and remains, one required source of funding. Financial bubbles emerge wherever liquid asset markets exist. Indeed, the objects of such speculation astound the imagination: tulip bulbs, gold and silver mines, real estate, the debt of new nations, corporate securities. Occasionally, the object of speculation has been one of those fundamental technologies canals, railroads, electrification, radio, automobiles, microelectronics, computing, the Internet for which financial speculators have mobilised capital on a scale far beyond what rational investors would provide. From the wreckage that has inevitably followed, a succession of new economies has emerged. Complementing the role of speculation, activist states have played several roles in encouraging innovation. They have been most effective when pursuing politically legitimate missions that transcend narrow economic calculation: social development, national security, conquering disease. In the United States, the government constructed transformational networks (the interstate highway system), massively subsidised their construction (the transcontinental railroads), or played the foundational role in their design and early development (the Internet). Activist states around the world have funded basic science and served as early customers for the novel products that result. For a quarter-century starting in 1950, the US Department of Defence to cite one crucial example combined both roles to build the underpinnings of today s digital economy. For countries following an innovative leader, the path is clear. Mercantilist policies of protection and subsidy have been effective instruments of an economically active state. In the US, the first profitable textile mills blatantly violated British patents. And ferociously entrepreneurial private enterprise was supported by a broad array of state investments, guarantees and protective tariffs, in accordance with the American System inspired by Alexander Hamilton and realised by Henry Clay. The great, neglected German economist Friedrich List, a student of Hamilton s work, laid out an innovation roadmap for his own country in 1841, in his National System of Political Economy. It has been used repeatedly: by Japan beginning in the last decades of the nineteenth century; by the Asian Tigers in the second half of the twentieth century; and now by China. List noted how Britain s emergence as the first industrial nation at the end of the eighteenth century depended on prior state policies to promote British industry. Had the English left everything to itself, he wrote, the Belgians would be still manufacturing cloth for the English, (and) England would still have been the sheepyard for the (Hanseatic League). Coherent programmes to promote economic catch-up are relatively straightforward. But the transition from follower to leader at the frontier of the innovation economy is more challenging and elusive. The US managed the transition roughly between 1880 and 1930, combining the professionalisation of management with a speculative taste for new technologies electrification, automobiles, and radio and state tolerance of the Second Industrial Revolution s great industrial monopolies, which invested their super-profits in scientific research. The post-world War II invocation of national security as the legitimising rationale for an economically active state extended America s leadership. It is not yet clear whether East Asia s economic powerhouses will succeed in making the transition from follower to frontier. To begin, the national champions of the catch-up phase must be rendered accessible to competitive assault. More generally, the state s role must shift from executing welldefined programmes to supporting trial-and-error experimentation and tolerating entrepreneurial failure. And the debilitating corruption tax that seems inevitably to accompany economic revolutions must be curbed, as it was in Britain during the nineteenth century and America during the twentieth. Here is the moment of strategic uncertainty. The made in America digital economy exhibits ample momentum in the private sector. But leadership of the next new economy the low-carbon economy is open. America is suffering the consequences of a generation-long effort to render the state illegitimate as an economic actor. Europe is mired in its oxymoronic commitment to expansionary fiscal austerity. Can China manage the economic, cultural and political transitions necessary to assume the leadership role now up for grabs? I find it intriguing to go back almost 200 years and consider Britain s political economy when the First Industrial Revolution was gathering steam. England in 1820 was governed by a corrupt oligarchy that exercised power in intimate collaboration with a national religious establishment. Political legitimacy was validated by fear of anarchy, the terrifying reality of which had been observable across the Channel within living memory. Arbitrary, draconian repression was the rule: under the Bloody Code of criminal justice, more than 100 felonies were punishable by death or transportation. The patent system was notoriously expensive and inaccessible. England s rulers sought in vain to keep a lid on the greatest explosion of economic energy and financial wealth in human history. Over a long generation, England was transformed. From the Great Reform Act of 1832 to the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 and on to the civil-service reforms initiated in 1853 and the Representation of the People Act of 1867 Britain pursued its unique path toward a relatively stable and sustainable democratic capitalism. No doubt China s own path will be as distinctive as the processes by which it has reached its current moment of opportunity. Whether or not its path proves to be as progressive as England s may determine who assumes the mantle of global economic leadership. - Project Syndicate William Janeway, a managing director and senior adviser at the private-equity firm Warburg Pincus, is a visiting lecturer in economics at Cambridge University. LEGAL HELPLINE Regulations on penalty A worker may be temporarily suspended together with non-payment of the wage for a period not exceeding five days By Nizar Kochery Doha QUESTION: What are the laws on suspension of workers? If a worker has been suspended, is the employer entitled to stop his salary? What is the maximum period for suspension and what if the competent court decides to acquit the worker? HG, Doha ANSWER: Article 58, 59 (3) & (4) are relevant. Article 58 stipulates that an employer employing 10 workers or more shall make penalty regulations specifying the violations and the penalties to be inflicted on the workers who commit these violations and the conditions and procedures for the infliction thereof. Penalty regulations will be applicable following appropriate authentication and notifications of the same. Subject to the regulations, a worker may be temporarily suspended together with non-payment of the wage for a period not exceeding five days in respect of one violation. In the event of suspension from work without payment or with reduced payment pending the adjudication upon the criminal charge attributed to the worker and if the worker is acquitted, he shall be reinstated in his work; he shall be paid his remuneration in full for the period of the suspension. Order of attachment Q: We have obtained a judgment from the civil court for a certain sum. Could we get attachment of properties of the debtor through court? What things could be attached? Could we stop the travel of the debtor? DR, Doha A: Under Law No.13 of 1990 the Civil & Commercial Procedure Code the courts have power to issue a precautionary attachment upto the value of the claimed debt. The attachment order freezes without prior warning, the debtors bank accounts, commercial registration, nontangible assets as well as all movable tangible assets, vehicles, construction machinery, equipment and materials etc. A stop-travel-order can also be obtained over the passport of the debtor if an individual, and in certain circumstances, the managers and / or shareholders of a limited liability company, provided the court is satisfied on a risk of the debtor fleeing the jurisdiction. Laying off workers Q: Our company is working on a plan to issue a notice to lay off workers temporarily. There won t be any work and payment. Most of us want to leave the country but the company management hopes that they will receive new projects in another year. Can the company hold us? RE, Doha A: There are no provisions in the Labour Law for laying-off workers even in situations of redundancy. Accordingly, any such procedure is contrary to the law and the employer is obliged to pay the worker s salary so long as such worker is on the employer s sponsorship even if no work has been assigned to such worker. Under Article 44 of the Labour Law, the employer shall undertake to enable the worker to perform the work and to provide all facilities required. According to Article 381, an obligation can be discharged by novation. Novation means by a change of the debt when the two parties agree to substitute a new obligation for the original obligation, which new obligation differs from the original obligation regards its object or as regards its source; by a change of the debtor, when a creditor and a third party agree that such third party shall take the place of the original debtor and that the original debtor shall be released of the debt without his consent being necessary, or when the debtor has a procured the consent of the creditor to substitute the debtor by a third party who consents to be the new debtor; also by a change of the creditor, when the creditor, the debtor and a third party agree that his third party shall be the new creditor. Novation can be effected if the two obligations, the original and the new obligation are free from any grounds of nullity. If the worker attends the place of work and is willing to perform the work but could not do so for reasons beyond his control, he shall be considered to have actually done the work and eligible for all entitlements. No ceiling on gratuity payment Q: There are a lot of versions about Article 54 related to gratuity in Qatar s Labour Law. It is felt that gratuity will be paid for 21 days per year for five years. What happens if the employee has completed more than five years of service? Will the calculations be on the basis of 28 days per year for the whole period? What is the maximum ceiling period of gratuity? Is it 10 years? Is there any provision for gratuity for a worker who joined a company s service before January 2005? GG, Doha A: Under Article 54 of Qatar s Labour Law, a worker who has completed a period of minimum one year of continuous service shall be entitled to gratuity pay on the termination of his employment. It shall be calculated minimum at the rate of three weeks basic salary for each year of service. Article 54 of the Law No14 neither LEGAL SYSTEM IN QATAR When the original obligation results from a voidable contract, the novation is only valid if the new obligation has been assumed both with a view to confirming the contract and to replacing the original obligation. Novation is not presumed, it must be expressly agreed or result clearly from the circumstances. In particular novation does not result, in the absence of an agreement to the contrary, from the subscription of a promissory prescribes any ceiling on years nor on amount of gratuity. It says that gratuity shall be agreed upon by the two parties, provided that it is not less than a three-week wage for every year of employment. Regarding entitlement of gratuity for expatriate employees working with national companies prior effectiveness of Law No 14 of 2004; this was not mandatory unless otherwise agreed between the parties. The employeremployee relations were regulated by Law No 3 of 1962 and under the law when the contract provides gratuity, calculations were done as per Article 24 of the law. According to Article 4 of the Law No 14, the entitlements prescribed by the law represent the minimum entitlements of the workers and any stipulation contradicting the provisions of this law shall be void even if it was made prior to the date of application of this law unless the said stipulation is more advantageous to the workers and any release, compromise or waiver of the entitlements prescribed for the worker by this law shall be deemed void. Therefore whatever agreed prior to the law will supersede if that is more advantageous to the worker. Please send your questions by to: note in respect of pre-existing debt, from changes that relate only to the date, place or mode of performance of prestation, or from modifications made to the obligation only as regards securities unless there is agreement to the contrary. The mere entry of the debt in a current account does not effect novation. There is, however, novation when the balance of a current account has been fixed and agreed; if, however, the debt was guaranteed by means of special security, that security is maintained unless otherwise agreed. Novation has the effect of extinguishing the original obligation with its accessories and of substituting for it a new obligation. Securities which guaranteed the performance of the original obligation are not transferred to the new obligation, unless the law provides otherwise, or unless it appears from the agreement or the circumstances of the case that such is the intention of the parties. Weather report Gulf of Bahrain Dukhan Umm Bab Al Khuwayr Al Jamayliyah Al Kiranah Around the region Abu Dhabi Baghdad Dubai Kuwait City Manama Muscat Riyadh Tehran EGYPT Around the world Athens Beirut Bangkok Berlin Cairo Cape Town Colombo Dhaka Hong Kong Istanbul Jakarta Karachi London Manila Moscow New Delhi New York Paris Sao Paulo Seoul Singapore Sydney Tokyo Ar Ruways Fuwayrit QATAR SYRIA Damascus Amman JORDAN RED SEA Al Khawr Ar Rayyan Weather today P Cloudy Weather today P Cloudy T Storms P Cloudy M Cloudy T Storms C Snow T Storms Snow P Cloudy P Cloudy M Cloudy C Storms P Cloudy T Storms P Cloudy Cloudy Doha Al Wakrah Umm Said Baghdad IRAQ The Gulf Max/min 34/20 34/21 33/19 34/21 33/20 34/22 34/21 12/09 Riyadh Tehran KUWAIT SAUDI ARABIA Max/min 16/13 19/12 37/28-1/-9 22/12 23/16 33/25 38/24 27/22 12/05 31/25 33/20 01/00 34/24-7/-13 33/20 08/02 08/01 23/17 13/-2 34/26 30/17 15/09 Weather tomorrow clear Cloudy Cloudy IRAN ARABIAN GULF Manama BAHRAIN Doha QATAR Weather tomorrow M Cloudy P Cloudy P Cloudy P Cloudy P Cloudy P Cloudy M Cloudy M Cloudy T Storms P Cloudy M Cloudy C Storms C Snow M Cloudy Rain M Cloudy C Storms M Cloudy Cloudy Three-day forecast TODAY High: 28 C Low: 23 C Partly cloudy to cloudy with rain/ thunderey at places SUNDAY High: 30 C Low : 25 C Cloudy MONDAY High: 31 C Low : 27 C Cloudy Fishermen s forecast OFFSHORE DOHA Wind:SW-NW 10-18/30 KT Waves: 2-4/5 6-8 feet INSHORE DOHA Wind:SW-NE 3-12/25 KT Waves: 2-3/ feet Abu Dhabi UAE Max/min 32/19 34/20 33/21 34/24 34/25 34/23 35/22 10/07 OMAN Muscat Max/min 18/13 22/15 40/27 00/-8 27/18 26/16 33/25 40/25 26/21 14/07 32/25 34/12 03/-1 32/23-7/-13 32/18 04/01 07/00 26/17 07/-1 34/26 27/19 19/09
20 20 QATAR Children enjoy fun-filled football programme Supervised by trained staff from Qatar Foundation, boys and girls underwent basic agility and accuracy training before playing in an actual match with others By Joey Aguilar Staff Reporter Dozens of children, aged five to 15, enjoyed a funfilled football programme, titled Passport to Passion, at the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) park yesterday afternoon. Supervised by trained staff from Qatar Foundation, boys and girls underwent basic agility and accuracy training before playing in an actual match with others. Tariq al-sada, head of Qatar Foundation s Press Office, told that they started the first of a series of football activities which he described as a big international campaign launched by the institution in partnership with FC Barcelona. This is our target: we want to share our passion with the community and we are very happy Testing accuracy. with the attendance, al-sada said. We want to see more in the coming weeks. The Passport to Passion A moment from the match during the Passport to Passion at MIA park. campaign, to be held every Friday and Saturday, will run for five weeks. In a bid to expand the programme and reach more young children, al-sada disclosed that they would also hold activities in other places like in Al Wakra park, Katara beach and Aspire park and Awsaj Academy pitch four and Qatar Foundation. Methad, a teacher in a school in Doha who has been playing football for years, had brought his three children to the event. This is a good motivation for children. We all know they have been very busy in school for a week, he said. Citing the importance of an active and healthy lifestyle, he stressed that engaging children into sports gave them more options than watching television too much. Since it prevents obesity and other illnesses, this kind of activity should be repeated from time to time. Sports is the solution to all these problems, he added. Like Methad, a mother also lauded the initiative saying that they had been participating in all the sports activities in Qatar. Her daughter wore a colourful jersey of their favourite team as she played with other girls. The mother said the support of the parents to their children in sports was crucial, especially in football. As a parent, you have to allot more time for them so they will be more inspired and motivated to pursue their goals. Sport equipment like shoes and uniforms are another thing. She believes that sports teaches many values like discipline, camaraderie, and teamwork which can be applied even outside the playing field. And that is a real passport to success. Agility training. Parents and children queuing to sign up for the event.pictures: Jayaram. Jazz concert at Museum of Islamic Art Jazz music lovers enjoying a concert at the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) Park cafe last night. MIA partnered with Jazz at Lincoln Centre Doha to hold the concert. Jazz at Lincoln Centre Doha wowed the gathering with their songs, receiving applause from time to time. A fan said he was delighted not only with the music but also with the ambience. Top and Right: Jazz at Lincoln Centre Doha performing at MIA Park. PICTURES: Shaji