Home > News > News in Brief: 20 May 2009

News in Brief: 20 May 2009

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A brief list of news clippings for the day:

The Dragon’s Newest Pearl. Sri Lanka is the object of a power struggle between Indian, Chinese, and Western interests in the region. These global and regional powers are jostling to expand their influence in the island nation, where a decades-long civil war has exacted a grim toll on political and economic stability, a situation that every power wants to capitalise on. Sri Lanka’s geographical location makes it an ideal base to monitor the busy shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean, the vital route through which oil from the Middle East is transported to Asian countries. About 80 percent of China’s oil passes through this region. (Tehelka)

Millions displaced in Central, East Africa: UN. The combined number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees in 16 countries in Central and East Africa now exceeds 11 million, up from 10.9 million in December 2008, a UN agency for humanitarian affairs said here on Monday. (Xinhua)

Border Conflicts Test Kurdish Tightrope Act. The Iraqi Kurdish administration is running out of options as it faces growing pressure to end the fighting between its neighbours and Kurdish rebels based inside its borders. (IWPR)

Afghan dies after incident with contractors, U.S. military says. One of three Afghan civilians wounded when U.S. contractors shot at them in an incident in early May died of his wounds Sunday, according to U.S. military officials in Afghanistan. (CNN)

Anti-piracy body backs off on int’l maritime force. An international piracy conference on Tuesday backed off tough proposals calling for an international naval taskforce to be set up under UN auspices to fight Somali pirates after members disagreed over implementation. (Today’s Zaman)

BJP in the wilderness. India’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party faces an uncertain future after a heavy election defeat, as its mix of Hindu-revivalism and promise of strong governance failed to convince its traditional middle-class base. (The News)

Congress party’s allies line up for plum ministerial roles. Allies of the Congress party have started putting pressure on it to grab plum ministries in the new government. Congress managers have evolved a formula under which each of the allies would get one cabinet and one minister of state berth for each six MPs they have. This would mean roughly three cabinet and three ministers of state for Trinamool Congress and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), which with 19 and 18 lawmakers each have emerged as the two largest allies of the Congress party, which on its own won 206 seats. (Gulf News)

Abbas swears in Fayyad as premier of Hamas-free Palestinian government. Technocrat Salam Fayyad was sworn in as Palestinian prime minister on Tuesday at the head of a cabinet that now includes members of the long-dominant Fatah faction. Fayyad, a former World Bank economist who has been premier in a caretaker role for the past two years, maintains effective control of security and finance. (The Daily Star)

Hamas condemns Palestinian cabinet. Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, said the appointment of the new government would “sabotage” intra-Palestinian talks. (Al Jazeera)

Iran’s Vetters Prepare To Lower The Boom. What do a truck driver, a dentist, an unemployed woman, and a 12-year-old schoolboy have in common? They’re all among the 475 people who want to compete in Iran’s upcoming presidential election. They’re also all equally doomed to failure. (RFE/RL)

European elections: trust Libertas. European elections can usually be characterised by a dominance of national over European issues, the success of fringe parties, and apathy and disinterest… And turnout is likely to be low: polls predict that more voters in the UK seem determined to stay at home (30%) than to vote (22%). A majority seem undecided and rather indifferent to the whole affair. (Le Monde Diplomatique)

Noam Chomsky, Unexceptional Americans. The torture memos released by the White House elicited shock, indignation, and surprise. The shock and indignation are understandable. The surprise, less so. (TomDispatch)

Khamenei accuses US of promoting terrorism in Iran. Iran’s leading authority accused the United States on Tuesday of promoting terrorism in border areas and using arms and money against the Islamic state, in his latest verbal attack on Tehran’s arch enemy. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s comments in a televised speech are likely to further disappoint. (The Daily Star)

Canada to focus efforts on Kandahar city. After a failed effort to establish outposts in Taliban territory, new policy concentrates on areas where Afghan government is strong. (Globe and Mail)

The U.S. is Using White Phosphorous in Afghanistan. When doctors started reporting that some of the victims of the US bombing of several villages in Farah Province last week—an attack that left between 117 and 147 civilians dead, most of them women and children—were turning up with deep, sharp burns on their body that “looked like” they’d been caused by white phosphorus, the US military was quick to deny responsibility. (Counterpunch)

U.S.-Russian Team Deems Missile Shield in Europe Ineffective. A planned U.S. missile shield to protect Europe from a possible Iranian attack would be ineffective against the kinds of missiles Iran is likely to deploy, according to a joint analysis by top U.S. and Russian scientists. The U.S.-Russian team also judged that it would be more than five years before Iran is capable of building both a nuclear warhead and a missile capable of carrying it over long distances. And if Iran attempted such an attack, the experts say, it would ensure its own destruction. “The missile threat from Iran to Europe is thus not imminent,” the 12-member technical panel concludes in a report produced by the EastWest Institute, an independent think tank based in Moscow, New York and Belgium. (Washington Post)

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