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Archive for January 24th, 2012

Homai Vyarawalla – The First Lady of Indian Press Photography

Posted by Admin on January 24, 2012

http://in.news.yahoo.com/homai-vyarawalla.html?page=1

India’s first woman press photographer Homai Vyarawalla, who passed away January 15, 2012 at the age of 98, captured the last days of the British Empire in India. Her work also traces the birth and growth of a new nation. The story of Homai’s life and her professional career spans an entire century of Indian history. This selection of rare photographs tells her life story amid footnotes of an emerging nation, as she saw it.

Yahoo! India – Thu, Jan 19, 2012

India’s first woman press photographer Homai Vyarawalla, who passed away January 15, 2012, captured the last days of the British Empire in India. Her work also traces the birth and growth of a new nation. The story of Homai’s life and her professional career spans an entire century of Indian history. Belonging to the small Parsi community of India, Homai was born in 1913 into a middle-class home in Navsari, Gujarat. Her father was an actor in a traveling Urdu-Parsi theatre company. Homai grew up in Bombay. She was the only girl in her class to complete her matriculation examination.

AFP

Having learned photography from Maneckshaw Vyarawalla, whom she married later, Homai was to spend nearly three decades of her career in Delhi. After a career of 33 years as press photographer, Homai gave it up one day at the age of 57, disillusioned when the Nehruvian dream began to falter. She lived in near-anonymity until 1989. Fiercely independent, she continued to live on her own in Vadodara until she passed away.

The great value of Homai’s work lies in her vast collection of photographs that archive the nation in transition, documenting both the euphoria of Independence as well as disappointment with its undelivered promises. She was the only professional woman photojournalist in India during her time and her survival in a male-dominated field is all the more significant because the profession continues to exclude most women even today. Ironically, Western photojournalists who visited India such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Margaret Bourke-White have received more attention than their Indian contemporaries. In an already invisible history, Homai Vyarawalla’s presence as a woman was even more marginalized.

Homai received India’s first National Photo Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2010, and the Padma Vibhushan in 2011. In 2010, Vyarawalla gave her entire collection of prints, negatives, cameras and other memorabilia to the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, New Delhi for safekeeping and documentation. A retrospective of her work was held at the NGMA soon after, bringing her vast archive into public view.

Learn more about this book at Mapin Publishing‘s website

Reproduced here is a selection of photos from the biographical work – India in Focus: Camera Chronicles of Homai Vyarawalla by Sabeena Gadihoke, published by Mapin Publishing in association with Parzor Foundation, Alkazi Foundation for the Arts and the National Gallery of Modern Art. The result of extensive interviews conducted by Gadihoke with Homai, the book is a tribute to her indomitable spirit.

‘Home Leather-Worker: Photo by Mrs Homai Vyarawalla’, Cover of The Illustrated Weekly on December 9, 1945. “My pictures of Lady Irwin College were first published in the Weekly (1945). This Ceylonese woman saw the pictures and was motivated to come to India to study at the college. She later modeled for me for this picture.”
Homai during her college years, in 1931. Homai would stitch her own blouses and she shared six sarees with her widowed mother, Soonamai.

Homai and family, with the car DLD 13 (which inspired ‘Dalda’, the nickname she gave herself). “Purchased in 1955 for Rupees 11,000/- with taxes! It came to me on the 13th of the month that happened to be Dhanteras at Diwali time. I believe in numerology and the number thirteen has been lucky for me.”

“On Children’s Day, I would notice the staff shooing away children of the less privileged. Of course, Nehru never knew that. He played with any child which was brought to him. So, in all my twenty-seven years in Delhi, I never saw Nehru with the children of the poor in his arms. There was always a coterie around him and he saw only what they wanted to see.”

©Homai Vyarawalla/The Alkazi Collection of Photography

A show of hands for the voting for Partition. In her meticulous documentation of events leading up to Independence, Homai Vyarawalla photographed the significant meeting of AICC held on 2 June 1947, in which the decision to Partitition the country was made. From Homai’s accounts, this meeting was a stormy one.

©Homai Vyarawalla/The Alkazi Collection of Photography

Mahatma Gandhi’s body at Birla House. Sardar Patel, Nehru, Mountbatten, Baldev Singh, and Gandhi’s son Ramdas are seen in the picture.

©Homai Vyarawalla/The Alkazi Collection of Photography

The ceremonial ride of Dr Rajendra Prasad through Vijay Chowk upon becoming the first President of India.

©Homai Vyarawalla/The Alkazi Collection of Photography

The first Republic Day Parade on 26 January 1950, was held at the ground where the National Stadium stands today with the Purana Quila in the background. It was only after this that its venue shifted to India Gate. This picture shows Dr Rajendra Prasad taking the salute without any security surrounding him.

©Homai Vyarawalla/The Alkazi Collection of Photography

Nehru’s Cabinet seen at lunch hosted by Sardar Patel after C. Rajagopalachari became Governer-General, 1948. Seated here are: Rafi Ahmad Kidwai, Baldeve Singh, Maulana Azad, Jawaharlal Nehru, C. Rajagopalachari, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur, John Matthai, Jagjivan Ram, Mr Gadgil, Mr Neogi, Dr Ambedkar, Shyama Prasad Mookherji, Gopalaswamy Iyengar and Jayaramdas Daulatram.

©Homai Vyarawalla/The Alkazi Collection of Photography

The first three Presidents of India: Dr Rajendra Prasad (1950-62), Dr Radhakrishnan (1962-67) and Dr Zakir Hussain (1967-69) at a condolence meeting of Parliamentarians on Nehru’s death.

©Homai Vyarawalla/The Alkazi Collection of Photography

The Dalai Lama in ceremonial dress leads the mount down from the high border pass into India. Directly behind him is the Panchen Lama. They were both wearing gold brocade gowns and jeweled gold hats. Homai documented for Time Life magazine, the first crossing of the young Dalai Lama who came through the Nathu La pass, in north Sikkim, in 1956.

©Homai Vyarawalla/The Alkazi Collection of Photography

Indira with Feroze Gandhi at the airport. “When I cut my hair, Mrs Gandhi came up and complimented me. A few months later she too acquired a short hairstyle that was to stay for the rest of her life.” The Emergency was a culmination of Homai’s disappointment with the nation.

©Homai Vyarawalla/The Alkazi Collection of Photography

Homai with her smaller Speed Graphic camera on her shoulder. “I didn’t like those flimsy sort of saris flying around in the wind and always used a safety pin to hold my sari in place. I wore white and cream khaddar saris for work and silk saris for evening functions at the Gymkhana Club or at Rashtrapati Bhawan. The silk ones would often spread out, getting caught in the legs of photographers and tear. I always carried safety pins with me to tack them up in case that happened.”

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Germany, France press for rapid Greek debt deal

Posted by Admin on January 24, 2012

http://news.yahoo.com/euro-zone-finmins-rule-glacial-greek-debt-talks-083938401.html

By Daniel Flynn and Gernot Heller | Reuters – 2 hrs 8 mins ago

PARIS/BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany and France pressed on Monday for a rapid deal between Greece and its private creditors that cuts its soaring debt to sustainable levels and said they were committed to a sealing a new bailout for Athens by March to avert a disastrous default.

Euro zone finance ministers met in Brussels to discuss the terms of a Greek debt restructuring and new treaties that will pave the way for tighter fiscal discipline and a new rescue fund the bloc wants in place by mid-year.

Ahead of that meeting, French Finance Minister Francois Baroinsaid an elusive deal to convince the banks and investment funds that own Greek debt to accept deep losses on their holdings appeared to be “taking shape.”

But his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble warned that any deal must help Greece cut its debt mountain to “not much more than 120 percent of GDP” by the end of the decade, from roughly 160 percent today, something many economists believe will not be achieved by the existing plan.

“The negotiations will be difficult, but we want the second program for Greece to be implemented in March so that the second (bailout) tranche can be released,” Schaeuble told a news conference in Paris with Baroin and the heads of the German and French central banks.

“Greece must fulfill its commitments, it is difficult and there is already a lot of delay,” Schaeuble said.

After several rounds of talks, Greece and its private creditors are converging on a deal in which private bondholders would take a real loss of 65 to 70 percent on their Greek bonds, officials close to the negotiations say.

But some details of the debt restructuring, which will involve swapping existing Greek bonds for new, longer-term bonds are unresolved.

Charles Dallara, the Institute of International Finance chief who is negotiating on behalf of the private debt holders, left Athens over the weekend saying banks had no room to improve their offer.

Sources close to the talks told Reuters on Monday that the impasse centered on questions of whether the deal would return Greece’s debt mountain, currently over 350 billion euros, to levels that European governments believe are sustainable.

“There will likely be an updated debt sustainability analysis that will be discussed at the Eurogroup,” a banking source in Athens said, requesting anonymity. “Talks will continue this week. The aim is to have an agreement by late next Monday.”

In Brussels, European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said talks had been “moving well” and expressed confidence a deal could be sealed this week.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there was no question of extending Greece a bridging loan if talks with the private sector dragged on further.

The euro pushed up to its highest level against the dollar in nearly three weeks on hopes Greece and the banks could overcome differences and seal a successful debt swap.

LAGARDE DEMANDS

Speaking in Berlin not far from Merkel’s Chancellery, IMF chief Christine Lagarde urged European governments to increase their financial firewall to prevent Greece’s troubles from ensnaring bigger countries like Italy and Spain.

She also called on European leaders to complement the “fiscal compact” they agreed last month with some form of financial risk-sharing, mentioning euro zone bonds or bills, or a debt redemption fund as possible options.

Berlin opposes those steps and Merkel told a news conference with the Belgian prime minister that it was not the time to debate an increase in the euro zone’s bailout funds — the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and its successor, the 500 billion euro European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

“I don’t think it is right to do one new thing then do another, let’s get the ESM working,” Merkel said, reiterating that Germany was prepared to accelerate the flow of capital into the ESM ahead of its planned introduction in mid-2012.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, who has complained openly that his reform efforts have not been recognized by the markets, is reportedly pushing for the rescue fund to be doubled to 1 trillion euros. Lagarde stopped short of advocating that, saying: “I am not saying double it.”

But she did speak out in favor of folding funds from the EFSF into the ESM to give it more firepower.

The more immediate worry is Greece. Without the second bailout from the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund, Athens will not be able to pay back 14.5 billion euros in maturing bonds in March, triggering a messy default that would hurt the entire euro zone and send tremors beyond the 13-year old single currency bloc.

DETERIORATION

Euro zone leaders agreed in October that the second bailout would total 130 billion euros, if private bondholders forgave half of what Greece owes them in nominal terms.

But Greek economic prospects have deteriorated since then, which means either euro zone governments or investors will have to contribute more than thought.

A key sticking point is the coupon, or interest rate, the new Greek bonds would carry. Officials said the new bonds are likely to be 30 years in maturity and carry a progressively higher coupon, which would average out at around 4 percent.

Progress will be presented to the Eurogroup, the euro zone ministers, by Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

“We will listen to the Greek finance minister to hear what models there are,” said Austrian Finance Minister Maria Fekter as the talks got under way. “It is important to have a long-term model so that Greece has time … We know that the banks are not overly happy, but a crash is far more expensive than such a long-term plan.”

After dealing with Greece, euro zone ministers will choose a replacement for European Central Bank Board member Jose Manuel Gonzales Paramo, whose term ends in May.

The 17 ministers of the euro zone will then be joined by 10 ministers from the other European Union countries to finalize a treaty setting up the euro zone’s permanent bailout fund, the

ESM.

The 27 EU finance ministers will also prepare the final draft of another treaty to sharply tighten fiscal discipline in the euro zone, called the “fiscal compact,” that is designed to ensure another sovereign debt crisis cannot happen in future.

EU leaders are to sign off on both treaties at a summit on January 30, allowing the ESM to become operational in July.

(Additional reporting by Stephen Brown and Alexandra Hudson in Berlin, Leigh Thomas in Paris, Lefteris Papadimas and Ingrid Melander in Athens; Writing by Noah Barkin and Jan Strupczewski, editing by Mike Peacock/Jeremy Gaunt)

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Strongest solar storm since 2005 hitting Earth

Posted by Admin on January 24, 2012

http://news.yahoo.com/strongest-solar-storm-since-2005-hitting-earth-163628746.html;_ylt=AkXNYCOMICT50Vbv2TVAMwSs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTQ3OG1vb3M3BG1pdANTZWN0aW9uTGlzdCBGUCBTY2llbmNlBHBrZwNjY2VkMjkzYS0wNDIxLTM2MWMtOWUzZC05NGJhOGExM2FiZjEEcG9zAzEEc2VjA01lZGlhU2VjdGlvbkxpc3QEdmVyAzU2ZmQ1MzcwLTQ1ZTctMTFlMS1iODJlLWJlZDIxMTFjYjNiMA–;_ylg=X3oDMTFvdnRqYzJoBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdANob21lBHB0A3NlY3Rpb25zBHRlc3QD;_ylv=3

WASHINGTON (AP) — Space weather officials say the strongest solar storm in more than six years is bombarding Earth with radiation with more to come.

The radiation is mostly an issue for satellite disruptions and astronauts in space. It can causecommunication problems for polar-traveling airplanes.

The Space Weather Prediction Center in Colorado observed the flare Sunday at 11 p.m. EST. (0400 GMT). Physicist Doug Biesecker says the biggest concern is the radiation, which arrived on Earth an hour later. It will likely continue through Wednesday.

Biesecker said the storm’s radiation levels are considered strong but other storms have been more severe. It is the strongest level since May 2005.

Plasma ejected from the sun arrives Tuesday, but is not as strong. It can extend the visibility of auroras and disrupt the electrical grid.

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Beijing releases pollution data; US figures higher

Posted by Admin on January 24, 2012

http://news.yahoo.com/beijing-releases-pollution-data-us-figures-higher-021659057.html;_ylt=AlKJPQohYJ29ASKTCs8_U1Ws0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTQ3N29ramJpBG1pdANTZWN0aW9uTGlzdCBGUCBTY2llbmNlBHBrZwNhMmNiYTI2Ni1mOGEwLTNkNTAtOGU4Zi03ZDVjZGM3NGY4NzEEcG9zAzMEc2VjA01lZGlhU2VjdGlvbkxpc3QEdmVyA2E2MjQ0MDUwLTQ1ZTAtMTFlMS05ZWZlLTI2OTYwZjY4OWU2NQ–;_ylg=X3oDMTFvdnRqYzJoBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdANob21lBHB0A3NlY3Rpb25zBHRlc3QD;_ylv=3

By LOUISE WATT | Associated Press – Sat, Jan 21, 2012

BEIJING (AP) — Caving to public pressure, Beijing environmental authorities started releasing more detailed air quality data Saturday that may better reflect how bad the Chinese capital‘s air pollutionis. But one expert says measurements from the first day were low compared with data U.S. officials have been collecting for years.

The initial measurements were low on a day where you could see blue sky. After a week of smothering smog, the skies over the city were being cleared by a north wind.

The readings of PM2.5 — particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in size or about 1/30th the average width of a human hair — were being posted on Beijing’s environmental monitoring center’s website. Such small particulates can penetrate deep into the lungs, so measuring them is considered a more accurate reflection of air quality than other methods.

It is the first time Beijing has publicly revealed PM2.5 data and follows a clamor of calls by citizens on social networking sites tired of breathing in gray and yellow air. The U.S. Embassy measures PM2.5 from a device on its rooftop and releases the results, and some residents have even tested the air around their neighborhoods and posted the results online.

Beijing is releasing hourly readings of PM2.5 that are taken from one monitoring site about 4 miles (7 kilometers) west of Tiananmen Square, the monitoring center’s website said Saturday. It said the data was for research purposes and the public should only use it as a reference.

The reading at noon Saturday was 0.015 milligrams per cubic meter, which would be classed as “good” for a 24-hour exposure at that level, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards. The U.S. Embassy reading taken from its site on the eastern edge of downtown Beijing said its noon reading was “moderate.” Its readings are posted on Twitter.

Steven Andrews, an environmental consultant who has studied Beijing’s pollution data since 2006, said he was “already a bit suspicious” of Beijing’s PM2.5 data. Within the 24-hour period to noon Saturday, Beijing reported seven hourly figures “at the very low level” of 0.003 milligrams per cubic meter.

“In all of 2010 and 2011, the U.S. Embassy reported values at or below that level only 18 times out of over 15,000 hourly values or about 0.1 percent of the time,” said Andrews. “PM2.5 concentrations vary by area so a direct comparison between sites isn’t possible, but the numbers being reported during some hours seem surpisingly low.”

The Beijing center had promised to release PM2.5 data by the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year on Monday. It has six sites that can test for PM2.5 and 27 that can test for the larger, coarser PM10 particles that are considered less hazardous. The center is expected to buy equipment and build more monitoring sites to enable PM2.5 testing.

Beijing wasn’t expected to include PM2.5 in its daily roundups of the air quality anytime soon. Those disclosures, for example “light” or “serious,” are based on the amount of PM10, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide in the air.

Beijing interprets air quality using less stringent standards than the U.S. Embassy, so often when the government says pollution is “light,” the embassy terms it “hazardous.”

“There has been tremendous amounts of attention in the Chinese media — whichever newspaper you pick up, whichever radio station you listen to, channel you watch — they are all talking about PM2.5 and how levels are so high,” said Andrews.

“What has been so powerful is that people are skeptical, and I think rightly skeptical,” about the government’s descriptions of data, he said.

___

Online:

Beijing center’s readings (in Chinese): http://zx.bjmemc.com.cn/

The U.S. Embassy’s Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/beijingair

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Gaddafi supporters seize control of Libyan town

Posted by Admin on January 24, 2012

http://news.yahoo.com/gaddafi-supporters-clash-pro-government-militia-154008446.html;_ylt=AhIc1EcnpCwFnW12rs4nC42s0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTQ1bGZzNzNrBG1pdANTZWN0aW9uTGlzdCBGUCBXb3JsZARwa2cDNjgyN2E5OGItZTY1MC0zNDU1LTlmMmItYzRhZGQ3YTgxNjcwBHBvcwMzBHNlYwNNZWRpYVNlY3Rpb25MaXN0BHZlcgM1NzE1MmJjMC00NWU4LTExZTEtOWJmNy0wMGI4Y2U4NDRkM2M-;_ylg=X3oDMTFvdnRqYzJoBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdANob21lBHB0A3NlY3Rpb25zBHRlc3QD;_ylv=3

By Taha Zargoun | Reuters – 27 mins ago

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Supporters of ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi seized control of the town of Bani Walid on Monday after clashes with a militia loyal to the new government in which four people were killed, witnesses told Reuters.

A resident of Bani Walid, about 200 km (120 miles) south-east of Tripoli, said the sides fought using heavy weaponry, including 106 mm anti-tank weapons, and that 20 people were wounded.

Another witness told Reuters the fighting had now stopped but thatGaddafi loyalists were in control of the town centre, where they were flying green flags, a symbol of allegiance to the ousted administration.

“They control the town now. They are roaming the town,” said the witness, a fighter with the 28th May militia which was fighting the Gaddafi loyalists.

Bani Walid, base of the powerful Warfallah tribe, was one of the last towns in Libya to surrender to the anti-Gaddafi rebellion last year. Many people there oppose the country’s new leadership.

The uprising in Bani Walid could not come at a worse time for the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC). It is already reeling from violent protests in the eastern city of Benghazi and the resignation of its second most senior official.

An air force official told Reuters that jets were being mobilized to fly to Bani Walid. In Tripoli, there were signs of security being tightened, Reuters reporters in the city said.

FIGHTERS “MASSACRED

The violence in Bani Walid was sparked when members of the May 28 militia arrested some Gaddafi loyalists.

That prompted other supporters of the former leader, who was captured and killed in October, to attack the militia’s garrison in the town, said the resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“They massacred men at the doors of the militia headquarters,” said the resident.

During Libya’s nine-month civil war, anti-Gaddafi rebels fought for months to take Bani Walid.

Local tribal elders eventually agreed to let NTC fighters enter the town, but relations have been uneasy since and there have been occasional flare-ups of violence.

In November last year, several people were killed in Bani Walid when a militia group from Tripoli’s Souq al-Juma district arrived in the town to try to arrest some local men.

Taking back control of the town will be challenging because it has natural defenses. Anyone approaching from the north has to descend into a deep valley and then climb up the other side, giving defenders an advantage.

It was this landscape, in part, that prevented anti-Gaddafi militias from taking the town during the civil war, despite the fact they were heavily armed and had superior numbers.

(Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Myra MacDonald)

 

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Syria rejects new Arab League plan to end crisis

Posted by Admin on January 24, 2012

http://news.yahoo.com/syria-rejects-arab-league-plan-end-crisis-070421433.html;_ylt=AnzTTNzI67qMmLNiaSP7YVas0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNsNHBjOTFnBG1pdANUb3BTdG9yeSBGUARwa2cDOGU4ZjIxNGItMGJhZS0zNzUyLThlOTItM2Y1MWY1ZmY0ZTA4BHBvcwM3BHNlYwN0b3Bfc3RvcnkEdmVyAzEyNzc1ZTQwLTQ1ZGMtMTFlMS1hOTVmLWM3ODg2MWQ3YTgyNg–;_ylg=X3oDMTFvdnRqYzJoBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdANob21lBHB0A3NlY3Rpb25zBHRlc3QD;_ylv=3

By BASSEM MROUE and BEN HUBBARD | Associated Press – 27 mins ago

BEIRUT (AP) — Syria on Monday rejected the Arab League‘s wide-ranging new plan to end the country’s 10-month crisis, saying theLeague’s call for a national unity government in two months is a clear violation of Syrian sovereignty, as violence raged.

Tens of thousands of people poured into the streets in a suburb outside the capital, Damascus to mourn for 11 residents who were either shot dead by security forces or killed in clashes between army defectors and troops a day earlier, activists said.

An activist group said 23 people were killed in Syria on Monday.

The crowd in Douma — which one activist said was 60,000-strong — was under the protection of dozens of army defectors who are in control of the area after regime forces pulled out late Sunday, said Samer al-Omar, a Douma resident.

The reports could not be independently confirmed.

In Syria’s north, opposition figure Radwan Rabih Hamadi was killed in an ambush by unknown gunmen in the rebellious Jabal al-Zawiya mountain region, activists said. Hamadi, 46, was a prominent figure in the revolt against President Bashar Assad.

Assad blames the uprising that erupted in March on terrorists and armed gangs acting out a foreign conspiracy to destabilize the country. His regime has retaliated with a brutal crackdown that the U.N. says has killed more than 5,400 people.

There is growing urgency, however, to find a resolution to a crisis that is growing increasingly violent as regime opponents and army defectors who have switched sides have started to fight back againstgovernment forces.

The Arab League has tried to stem the bloodshed by condemning the crackdown, imposing sanctions and sending a team of observers to the country. On Sunday, the League called for a unity government within two months, which would then prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held under Arab and international supervision.

The proposal also provides for Assad to give his vice president full powers to cooperate with the proposed government to enable it to carry out its duties during a transitional period.

The state-run news agency, SANA, said Damascus considers the plan “flagrant interference in its internal affairs” and the latest turn in an international plot against Syria.

It was not immediately clear what steps, if any, Syria could take to counter the Arab League’s stance.

The European Union backed the Arab plan Monday, and it extended existing sanctions against Assad’s government by adding 22 more officials and eight companies to the blacklist.

In New York, German U.N. Ambassador Peter Wittig called Monday on fellow Security Council members to endorse the Arab League’s new plan to end the violence in Syria, including formation of a national unity government.

“The decisions taken in Cairo may be a game-changer, also for the Security Council,” Wittig told a small group of reporters.

Omar Idlibi, a spokesman for the Syrian National Council opposition group, said the Arab efforts do not go far enough. He and many other opposition figures demand Assad leave power and say anything less will just give the regime time to bury the revolt.

But there are significant splits in the opposition about the way forward.

Hassan Abdul-Azim, who heads the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, or NCB, said the Arab plan is an “advanced step as the Arab League has started dealing with matters more seriously.”

Abdul-Azim told The Associated Press that the plan would put more pressure on Assad’s regime and “tells it that it’s impossible to keep matters as they are.”

Syria appeared to get a serious boost Monday from its powerful allies in Russia. Russia’s business daily Kommersant reported that Moscow has signed a contract to sell 36 Yak-130 combat jets to Syria — a deal that, if confirmed, would openly defy international efforts to pressure Assad’s regime.

The Arab League’s observer mission has come under heavy criticism for failing to stop the violence in Syria.

On Monday, the head of the mission defended the observers’ work, saying their presence had cut down on the bloodshed. Speaking at League headquarters in Cairo, Sudanese Gen. Mohammed Ahmed al-Dabi told reporters the observers have witnessed violence from both the Syrian security forces and armed opposition groups.

“When the delegation arrived, there was clear and obvious violence,” he said. “But after the delegation arrived, the violence started to lessen gradually.”

On Sunday, Arab League foreign ministers extended the mission for another month. The mission’s one-month mandate technically expired on Thursday.

Violence continued inside Syria on Monday.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said troops and army defectors clashed Monday near the western town of Qusair, close to the Lebanese border. It said five soldiers were killed and 13 were wounded.

The Observatory added that 20 civilians were killed by security forces in different parts of Syria, nine of them in the northwestern province of Idlib that borders Turkey.

The LCC put Monday’s death toll at 23.

It was impossible to reconcile the discrepancy.

Syria has prevented most independent media coverage and until recently has refused to issue visas for most foreign journalists. In recent weeks, the regime has begun to permit entry for journalists on trips escorted by government minders.

___

Hubbard reported from Cairo. Anita Snow contributed reporting from the U.N.

___

Bassem Mroue can be reached on http://twitter.com/bmroue

 

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Indian, 161 others die in Mumbai-style Nigeria terror

Posted by Admin on January 24, 2012

http://in.news.yahoo.com/indian-161-others-die-mumbai-style-nigeria-terror-113031590.html

By Indo Asian News Service | IANS India Private Limited – 12 hours ago

Abuja, Jan 22 (IANS) An Indian was among 162 people killed as heavily armed Islamists carried out a deadly Mumbai-style terror attack in Nigeria‘s second largest city Kano, media reports and Indian officials said Sunday.

Six other Indians, including two children, were wounded and panic gripped the Indian community as a small group of terrorists stormed Kano, split themselves into smaller groups and went on a killing spree Friday evening.

Kevalkumar Kalidas Rajput, 23, who hailed from Gujarat and worked for Kano-based company Relchem since March 2011, was killed, the Indian High Commission in Nigeria said.

He and two Nepali colleagues Hari Prasad Bhusal and Raj Singh died when their car apparently entered a scene of hostilities, the mission said in a statement.

The six Indians from two families were injured because of falling shrapnel and debris. They were taken to hospitals.

Although uneasy calm returned to Kano Sunday, the city of nine million was devastated. Smoke still billowed from buildings that caught fire after being bomb attacked.

The well-planned savagery was blamed on an Islamist group with known ties with Al Qaeda. It targeted security forces in Kano in northern Nigeria.

The main targets were government sites including police stations, the passport office, the state security headquarter and the immigration office — all symbols of authority in religiously-divided Nigeria.

The Indian community in Nigeria is estimated to be 35,000-strong. Most Indians in the country are well-off and enjoy non-controversial existence.

Nigeria is India’s largest trading partner in Africa. Bilateral annual trade exceeded $8.7 billion in 2009-10.

Ashish Kumar Verma, an Indian, told Times Now from Kano that the attackers were about 20 in number and “targetted different places in the city”.

“They blew up police headquarter, passport office… also attacked the IG house,” he said. He said Indians were trying to get out of Kano.

Another Indian, T. Pragnesh, too spoke of the horror. He said the Indian Association in Kano was trying to determine if more people had been killed or wounded.

“We have 162 bodies in the morgue,” a visibly distraught official said at Kano’s main morgue.

The wounded included foreigners from an area home to many expatriates, particularly Lebanese and Indians.

BBC reported that hospitals were overwhelmed with the dead and injured.

The attack left Kano residents terrorized and shocked, some of whom wandered the streets to look for loved ones. Many refused to leave their homes fearing more attacks.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen next, no one thought this would ever happen here. There’s despair,” said Faruk Mohammed.

CNN quoted him as saying that there were at least 25 explosions. “Then it went deathly quiet.”

A 24-hour curfew was declared in Kano, where search and rescue operations were underway for the killers.

Nigeria closed its borders with neighbouring Cameroon and Niger, claiming these countries allowed the militants to move freely into Nigeria, reported RIA Novosti.

Boko Haram, the group behind the attack, has been seeking to impose Sharia law in Nigeria, divided into dominantly Christian south and a largely Muslim north.

Boko Haram colloquially translates into “Western education is sin”.

It was formed in 2002 by preacher Mohammad Yusuf. In 2009, Yusuf was arrested and died in police custody. The death led the group to begin its attacks on police stations.

Boko Haram spokesperson Abul Qaqa said the attacks were in response to the refusal of the Kano state government to release fellow terrorists who had been arrested.

Hundreds of Nigerian troops have been deployed at major streets in Kano to enhance security, reported Xinhua.

President Goodluck Jonathan said that the perpetrators would “face the full wrath of the law”.

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