Home > News > News in Brief 20 August 2007

News in Brief 20 August 2007

A brief list of news for the day:

India govt in crisis: Singh to quit if US N-deal is scrapped. India’s 40-month old United Progressive Alliance government is in turmoil. The government is likely to fall, much ahead of its full five-year term in April 2009 with its key ally, the Communists, putting the Congress-led UPA on ultimatum over the India-US nuclear deal. Political parties yesterday called for fresh parliamentary elections even though frantic attempts are being made to save the coalition from its untimely perish. However, if the UPA government tactfully manages to save its rule, they will have to let go the nuclear deal with the US forever. This could mean an end to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s tenure with the UPA government as well. Under the aegis of its chairperson and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, the UPA is likely to look for a change of prime minister, sources close to Sonia Gandhi said yesterday. (Khaleej Times)

South Africa: Minister’s Remorse Opens Way to Prosecutions for Apartheid Crimes. In an extraordinary sequel to South Africa’s truth and reconciliation process, an apartheid-era cabinet minister and a former national police chief have been sentenced to suspended jail terms for trying to murder a church leader who has since become President Thabo Mbeki’s top civil servant. Adriaan Vlok, a police minister appointed by P W Botha – the former president found by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to have led the South African state into unprecedented levels of criminality – and Johann van der Merwe, chief of police under Botha’s successor, F W de Klerk, were each sentenced in the Pretoria High Court on Friday to 10 years’ imprisonment, wholly suspended, for their role in the poisoning of the Rev. Frank Chikane in 1989. (allAfrica)

Europe and Asia stocks rally after U.S. rebound. Investors boosted stocks and moved cautiously back into other riskier assets on Monday as immediate fears of a credit crunch waned following the U.S. Federal Reserve’s confidence-building move last week. European stocks shot up 1.4 percent after a 2.3 percent gain on Friday while Asia equities soared, with Japan’s Nikkei average recording its biggest one-day gain for 13 months. (International Herald Tribune)

Gül seeks election in first round. The first round of the election for the 11th president of the Turkish Republic will be held today, in which the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) presidential nominee, Abdullah Gül, and opposition party the Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) nominee, former Defense Minister and Kayseri deputy Sabahattin Çakmakoğlu, will vie for the state’s highest post. The support of 367 deputies is needed for election as president in the first and second rounds. The Democratic Society Party (DTP) and the Democratic Left Party (DSP), which have 20 and 13 seats in Parliament, respectively, are the key parties in the election. (Today’s Zaman)

Gaza Without Power as EU Stops Funding. The European Union stopped funding a major Gaza Strip power plant yesterday, cutting off electricity to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. The plant had already cut power to large swaths of Gaza last week after Israel closed a fuel crossing into Gaza. Israel reopened the passage yesterday, saying earlier security threats had diminished. But the plant’s Israeli fuel supplier said the European Union instructed it not to deliver new supplies because it would not guarantee payment. “Fuel supplies will resume if and when the European Union or another credible source notifies us that it will guarantee payment for the power station’s fuel,” Israel’s Dor Alon fuel company said in a statement. Alex de Mauny, a spokeswoman for the EU’s executive branch, confirmed the EU would not finance the fuel payment, but did not give a reason. The EU is reviewing “all the current arrangements, including financial arrangements, for funding this particular program,” de Mauny said. (Arab News)

EU: Gaza fuel funds depend on Hamas pledge not to tax electricity. The European Union stopped paying for fuel shipments to the Gaza Strip’s main power plant over concerns that Hamas would tax electricity to fund its government in the territory, EU officials said on Monday. (Haaretz)

US efforts for Musharraf-PPP deal hit snag. US envoy to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad has said he had a ‘good’ meeting with Pakistan People’s Party chairperson Benazir Bhutto, but refused to give details of his talks with the former prime minister. Mr Khalilzad, the guest star at the Afghan national day reception here, has suddenly acquired a key place in media reports about Pakistan as the person who is trying to negotiate a deal between Ms Bhutto and President Gen Pervez Musharraf. A seasoned diplomat, who represented the United States in Kabul and Baghdad before sent to the United Nations as envoy, Mr Khalilzad is known for obliging the media with one-liners on issues that other diplomats hesitate to discuss. But this time, he is keeping his cards close to his chest. He dealt with the questions about his meeting with Ms Bhutto with a polite smile and gently steered the discussion away to his days in Kabul.It was US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who first told President Gen Musharraf that he needed to share power with politicians when she telephoned – twice in six hours – him last week. According to diplomatic sources, Gen Musharraf agreed with the idea but is still reluctant to retire from the army while Ms Bhutto is reluctant to work under a military ruler. (DAWN)

Muqtada al-Sadr: The British are retreating from Basra. The British Army has been defeated in Iraq and left with no option but to retreat from the country, claims radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Violent resistance and a rising death toll among UK troops has forced a withdrawal, he said in an interview with The Independent. (The Independent)

Mehdi fighters ‘trained by Hizbollah in Lebanon’. Lebanon’s Hizbollah has trained Shia fighters from Iraq in advanced guerrilla warfare tactics, according to Mehdi army militants who have been fighting British forces in the south of the country. Members of Muqtada al-Sadr’s powerful militia said they had received instruction from fellow Shias from Hizbollah, the movement that fought Israel’s vaunted military machine to a bloody standstill in last year’s July War. (The Independent)

U.S. actions against Iran raise war risk, many fear. As President Bush escalates the United States’ confrontation with Iran across a broad front, U.S. allies in Europe and the Middle East are growing worried that the steps will achieve little, but will undercut diplomacy and increase the chances of war. In the latest step, Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are considering designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the elite military force that serves as the guardian of Iran’s Islamic state, as a foreign terrorist organization. (McClatchy)

Kurds flee homes as Iran shells villages in Iraq. Iraqi Kurdish officials expressed deepening concern yesterday at an upsurge in fierce clashes between Kurdish guerrillas and Iranian forces in the remote border area of north-east Iraq, where Tehran has recently deployed thousands of Revolutionary Guards. On Saturday the Iranian news agency Mehr said an Iranian army helicopter which crashed killing six Republican Guard members had been engaged in a military operation against the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK). Iranian officials said the helicopter had crashed into the side of a mountain during bad weather in northern Iraq. PJAK sources said the helicopter had been destroyed after it attempted to land in a clearing mined by guerrillas. The PJAK sources claimed its guerrillas had also killed at least five other Iranian soldiers, and a local pro-regime chief, Hussein Bapir. (Guardian)

Singapore and Iraq – Contrasts in Water Management. As the world faces new threats of water scarcity, triggered by phenomena like global warming and bioenergy demands, Singapore and Iraq have been singled out as two political extremes in water management. Singapore, the tiny city-state of 4.5 million people, has been touted as a phenomenal success story despite the absence of any natural resources. Iraq has been dismissed as an abject failure, despite its access to two major rivers within its borders. A country that once depended primarily on neighbouring Malaysia for its water, Singapore now has three additional sources: collection of water from local catchments known as the Four National Taps, as well as water recycling and desalination. In contrast to Singapore, Iraq has been gifted with an abundance of water from two major rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates. But the country, rich in natural resources and with vast reserves of petroleum, has been bedevilled by years of conflict, including a war with neighbouring Iran in the 1980s, the U.S.-led invasion five years ago and subsequent ongoing occupation, as well as sectarian violence. As a result, says the United Nations, Iraq’s water sector has “faced a major deterioration in recent years.” (IPS)

Lebanon: Water reform efforts stuck in neutral as crisis looms. Unlike most of its neighbors, not to mention the Middle East as a whole where only 1 percent of the world’s renewable fresh water is located, Lebanon is blessed with average annual rainfall in excess of 800 million cubic meters. Added to this, Lebanon has an impressive river and underground aquifer network for such a comparatively small country. But with climate change already taking its toll, arguably helping to make this past year one of Lebanon’s driest precipitation seasons ever, and with agricultural and population demands continuing to grow, the decades long misuse and under use of existing water resources likely means that Lebanon will face a severe water crisis, perhaps as early as 2010. (Daily Star)

Iraq stock exchange is open for business. Talk about a high-risk investment. How much money would you be willing to pump into a stock market that has its headquarters in a war zone? What if the market used a wall lined with whiteboards and colored markers to track daily activity – and there isn’t a single computer in sight? Despite the war-torn backdrop and a Stone Age trading system, Taha Abdulsalam, the CEO of the fledgling Iraq Stock Exchange, thinks investors shouldn’t hesitate to dish out their dough – in dinars, preferably – to buy shares from the Baghdad-based market. (McClatchy)

Roadside Bomb Kills Iraqi Governor. A roadside bomb Monday killed the governor of the predominantly Shiite Muthanna province, police said, the second assassination of a top provincial official in just over a week. Police blamed the Mahdi Army, which is nominally loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and has been involved in several recent clashes with its political rivals. (AP)

Illegal Immigrants Grab Amnesty Offer. Long queues, desperate hearts and hopeful faces — these days a human drama unfolds outside many an embassy in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). With only two weeks left before the Sep.3 amnesty deadline expires, hundreds of expatriate workers, either overstaying in the country or with no legal papers, are braving the sweltering desert heat to line up for that coveted ‘outpass’ that will guarantee them honourable passage back home. But some, tempted by the sudden shortage in labour, and the resultant promises of higher wages and better treatment, are willing to take a risk and stay on. (IPS)

‘Cover-up’ over casualties in Afghanistan. The [British] government was accused of hiding the true casualty rate of troops in Afghanistan yesterday as it emerged that nearly one in two soldiers fighting on the front line had been wounded. Military sources yesterday put the number of Servicemen injured on the front line at 700 out of 1,500 combat troops since April. Medical conditions included shrapnel wounds, cuts, burns, heat stroke and diarrhoea. (Telegraph)

Iraqi leader in Syria for talks. Iraq’s prime minister arrived in Syria on Monday to discuss trade, security and refugees, marking his first trip to the neighbouring country since he took office early last year. Al-Maliki’s visit comes after he visited Iran earlier this month. Both Tehran and Damascus have been accused by the US of fuelling violence in Iraq. (Al Jazeera)

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