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Archive for June 9th, 2011

Western, Arab talks to focus on Libya “end-game”

Posted by Admin on June 9, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110608/wl_nm/us_libya

By Khaled al-Ramahi Wed Jun 8, 6:20 pm ET

MISRATA (Reuters) – Western and Arab nations meet in Abu Dhabi on Thursday to focus on what one U.S. official called the “end-game” for Libya‘s Muammar Gaddafi as NATO once again stepped up the intensity of its air raids on Tripoli.

NATO air strikes resumed in Tripoli on Wednesday night after a lull that followed the heaviest day of bombings since March. Thousands of Gaddafi troops advanced on Misrata on Wednesday, shelling it from three sides and killing at least 12 rebels.

Ministers from the so-called Libya contact group, including the United States, France and Britain, as well as Arab allies Qatar, Kuwait and Jordan, agreed in May to set up a fund to help the rebels in the civil war.

They are expected to firm up this commitment in the United Arab Emirates capital and press the rebels to give a detailed plan on how they would run the country if Gaddafi stood down as leader of the oil producing North African desert state.

“The international community is beginning to talk about what could constitute end-game to this,” one senior U.S. official told reporters aboard U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s plane which landed in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday night.

“That would obviously include some kind of ceasefire arrangement and some kind of political process … and of course the question of Gaddafi and perhaps his family is also a key part of that,” the U.S. official said.

Both Libya’s rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) and its Western allies have rejected Libyan government ceasefire offers that do not include Gaddafi’s departure, saying he and his family must relinquish power before any talks can begin.

The U.S. official said there have been general discussions about what might happen to Gaddafi but nothing specific on “where he should go, or whether he should remain in Libya for that matter.”

U.S. officials on Wednesday announced delivery of the TNC’s first U.S. oil sale, part of a broader strategy they hope will get money flowing to the cash starved group.

U.S. oil refiner Tesoro announced in May it had purchased the 1.2 million barrel cargo, which U.S. officials said was due to arrive in Hawaii on Wednesday aboard a tanker chartered by Swiss oil trader Vitol.

“PRESSURE WILL INCREASE”

British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt, who will be at the Abu Dhabi talks, said the group would be briefed by the International Stabilisation Response Team which is helping the rebel council plan for post-conflict rebuilding.

“The contact group will also reiterate the unequivocal message … that Gaddafi, his family and his regime have lost all legitimacy and must go so that the Libyan people can determine their own future,” Burt said.

“Until Gaddafi does so, the pressure will increase across the board: economically, politically and militarily.”

NATO defense ministers met in Brussels on Wednesday, but there were few signs of willingness to intensify their Libya mission, which after four months has failed to oust Gaddafi.

The alliance says the bombing aims to protect civilians from the Libyan leader’s military, which crushed popular protests against his rule in February, leaving many dead. The conflict has now become a civil war.

Gaddafi says the rebels are a minority of Islamist militants and the NATO campaign is an attempt to grab Libya’s oil.

On the battlefront, forces loyal to Gaddafi were staging a big push on Misrata. “He has sent thousands of troops from all sides and they are trying to enter the city. They are still outside, though, ” rebel spokesman Hassan al-Misrati told Reuters from inside the besieged town.

Another rebel spokesman in Misrata, called Mohammed, told Reuters late on Wednesday they were still in control of the city despite the assault.

Spain joined other Western and Arab governments in recognizing the Benghazi-based council as the sole representative of the Libyan people.

Gaddafi troops and the rebels have been deadlocked for weeks, with neither side able to hold territory on a road between Ajdabiyah in the east, which Gaddafi forces shelled on Monday, and the Gaddafi-held oil town of Brega further west.

Rebels control the east of Libya, the western city of Misrata and the range of western mountains near the border with Tunisia. They have been unable to advance on the capital against Gaddafi’s better-equipped forces.

(Additional reporting by Peter Graff in Tripoli, Adrian Croft in London and Andrew Quinn in Abu Dhabi; writing by John Irish, editing by Peter Millership)

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Fighting turns southern Yemen town into “hell”

Posted by Admin on June 9, 2011

Ali Abdullah Saleh

Ali Abdullah Saleh

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110608/wl_nm/us_yemen

By Mohammed Mukhashaf and Asma Alsharif Wed Jun 8, 1:42 pm ET

ADEN/JEDDAH (Reuters) – Bodies lay in the streets of a southern Yemeni town Wednesday as government forces battled Islamist militants, a local official said, underscoring the gravity of Yemen’s multiple conflicts.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh, 69, wounded Friday when rockets hit his palace, is having treatment in the Saudi capital Riyadh but there were conflicting reports about his condition — ranging from fairly minor, to life-threatening 40-percent burns.

A truce between his forces and tribesmen who back pro-democracy protesters was holding in Sanaa. Western and Arab powers have been working to persuade Saleh to stay away and allow a long-negotiated transition of power to begin.

Saleh has left a country in crisis, with Yemeni civilians bearing the brunt of fighting. Medical staff are having trouble reaching the wounded, and electricity and water are scarce, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.

Some 20 bodies have been retrieved in and around Sanaa since Saturday by ICRC and Yemen Red Crescent teams, including seven Tuesday in al-Hassaba, north of the capital, the ICRC said.

“Because of the fighting, it has often been difficult for medical personnel to reach certain parts of Sanaa,” said Jean-Nicolas Marti, the head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen.

The U.N.’s World Food Program (WFP) said Yemenis are going hungry as the fighting disrupts food supplies and pushes up the price of gas, water, fuel and other basic commodities.

“There is a sharp deterioration of the food security situation in Yemen,” WFP’s representative in Yemen Gian Carlo Cirri told Reuters in an interview. “We are close to food prices having doubled on average since last year when it comes to key commodities such as wheat flour, vegetable oil and sugar.”

Sanaa was calm in Saleh’s absence, with a ceasefire holding between government forces and tribesmen loyal to Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, head of the powerful Hashed tribal confederation, who have turned against the president.

More than 200 people have been killed and thousands have fled Sanaa in the last two weeks as fighting intensified.

Al-Ahmar’s men withdrew from around seven government buildings, including the state news agency Saba which suffered heavily in fighting last week.

But many government ministries were not functioning as staff stayed away Wednesday and much of the city was suffering from cuts in electricity, fuel and water supplies.

GUNFIRE AND BLOOD

Officials and residents described dire scenes in the southern Abyan province where the army and Islamist militants have fought for days, causing thousands of residents to flee.

“There is a cat-and-mouse game going on in the streets now between the army and armed men. I can’t tell who’s who among them any more,” said resident Khaled Abboud by telephone. “There is a smell of gunfire and blood in the air. I only stayed to protect my home, but now I want to get out of this hell.”

The fighting has reduced Zinjibar, once home to more than 50,000 people, to a ghost town without power or running water.

Health official Alhadar Alsaidi said disease was spreading from dead bodies on the streets and wild dogs eating them. “I call on local and international health organizations to help us removing bodies from the streets and burying them,” he said.

The Yemeni army said this week it had killed 30 militants in Zinjibar, where a local official said 15 soldiers had also died in battles for the town seized by gunmen nearly two weeks ago.

Some of Saleh’s opponents have accused the president of deliberately letting al Qaeda militants take over Zinjibar to demonstrate the security risks if he were to lose power.

The volatile situation in Yemen, which lies on oil shipping lanes, alarms Western nations and neighboring oil giant Saudi Arabia, who fear that chaos would give al Qaeda free rein there.

They see Saleh’s absence as an opportunity to secure his exit after nearly 33 years ruling the poorest Arab state.

The United States and Britain have called for a peaceful, orderly transition in Yemen, based on a Gulf-brokered plan.

There was no clear word on Saleh’s health.

“I visited him yesterday evening and he was good. He talked to us and asked about the Yemeni expatriates and he is better than the others who were injured. He is very good and talks. He was sitting on a chair,” said Taha al-Hemyari, head of Yemeni community affairs at the Yemeni embassy in Riyadh.

A Saudi doctor familiar with Saleh’s case also said his burns were not as serious as some officials suggested, saying he may be able to leave Saudi Arabia in less than two weeks.

SEVERE BURNS?

The Yemeni embassy in Washington said in a statement Saleh’s health was improving and reiterated that his deputy Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was in charge in a caretaker capacity.

“President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s health condition is stable and continues to improve… President Saleh will return to Yemen … to reassume his duties soon after he recovers,” it said.

Yemeni and U.S. officials said Tuesday that Saleh was in a more serious condition with burns over roughly 40 percent of his body. Saudi newspaper al-Watan cited a Yemeni diplomat on Wednesday as saying another operation on Saleh was possible.

Saleh was initially said to have been hit by shrapnel and Hadi said Monday the president would return within days.

Forty percent burns would mean Saleh’s life could be in danger: “Somebody of that age, with that percentage of burns, has got a pretty poor prognosis, especially if these are full thickness burns,” Brendan Eley, chief executive of the Healing Foundation at Britain’s Royal College of Surgeons.

Saudi officials say it is up to Saleh whether he returns home but they, and their Western allies, may want to revive a Gulf-brokered transition deal under which the Yemeni leader would quit in return for immunity from prosecution.

Yemen said a donation of three million barrels of crude oil from Saudi King Abdullah had arrived in Aden Wednesday.

Thousands of protesters, who have been in the streets since February demanding Saleh quit, gathered at his vice president’s residence Tuesday. They want him formally to assume power in order to effect Saleh’s final removal from office.

Troops loyal to army general Ali Mohsen, who has sided with the protesters, shot into the air in an effort to persuade them to leave, but the activists stayed put.

(Additional reporting by Martina Fuchs, Mohammed Ghobari, Reem Shamseddine, Kate Kelland and Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay; writing by Andrew Hammond; Editing by Alistair Lyon and Alastair Macdonald)

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War looms as UPA, Anna harden positions

Posted by Admin on June 9, 2011

http://in.news.yahoo.com/blogs/boxpopuli/war-looms-upa-anna-harden-positions-073523746.html

By Ramakrishna S R | Box Populi – Wed, Jun 8, 2011

Everyone knows Anna Hazare has been demanding a stringent law against corruption, but his day-long fast at Raghat today is not for that cause. He is actually protesting the government’s violent midnight raid that scuttled Baba Ramdev‘s hunger strike last week-end.

The action at Delhi‘s Ramlila Grounds, where Ramdev was holding a fast against black money, has left 71 injured. With no place to go in the middle of the night, some found shelter in a gurudwara. The government’s high-handedness has triggered criticism from across the political spectrum. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has defended the swoop, saying it was unfortunate but unavoidable. The National Human Rights Commission isn’t impressed, and has called for reports from the central and Delhi governments.

Last night, Times Now showed a 51-year woman in hospital, paralysed after being thrashed at Ramdev’s pandal. Raj Bala is a citizen like any other, but concerned enough to take part in a movement against black money. She now lies in a hospital ICU on ventilator support. Doctors describe her condition as critical.

The government isn’t winning any hearts by terrorising peaceful demonstrators. Even the Supreme Court was shocked by the midnight raid. It has taken suo moto notice, and ordered the government to explain the forceful eviction. People across the country are asking the same question: Why did the police assault a group of women and children deep in slumber? The police, meanwhile, have seized CCTV footage of their action from Ramlila Grounds. Why, you ask? Ramdev believes they are trying to destroy evidence of their atrocities.

Two more developments add to the repression the UPA government is unleashing: (a) it is busy digging up dirt on Ramdev’s close aide Balakrishna; and (b) prominent Congress leaders are tarring Anna Hazare with the communalism brush, describing him as a mask of the RSS and Sangh Parivar. If Balakrishna were a Nepali citizen who possessed illegal arms, as the government is now letting it be known, why didn’t the police act all these years? And if Anna Hazare were a mask for hateful rightist groups, why are the government’s senior-most leaders sitting down with him and discussing a new law?

Given the predominance of the tri-colour at Anna Hazare’s meetings and saffron at Ramdev’s meetings, many had assumed they were aligned to the Congress and the BJP respectively, but the equations aren’t turning out that simple. Anna Hazare is a Gandhian and Ramdev a yoga guru and TV celebrity. Despite their dissimilar moorings, they feel they are fighting the same battle, and have affirmed faith in each other.

That makes life that much more difficult for the Congress. It will now have to take on the combined forces of Anna Hazare and Ramdev.  It looks like the Congress is already panicking. It has already let Digvijay Singh loose on Ramdev, letting him call the baba names, and tried to stop Anna Hazare from demonstrating today at Jantar Mantar. With a flip-flop Congress turning vengeful and going after anti-corruption activists, Anna Hazare and Ramdev are bound to close ranks and prepare for a bigger battle.

Ramdev is continuing his fast in Haridwar, and has asked his followers to stop their hunger strike for the time being. The Delhi police had transported him to the pilgrim town after evicting him from Ramlila Grounds. They have also barred him from entering Delhi for 15 days. All of which suggests the action will hot up in the last week of June, whe Ramdev resumes his campaign in the capital. The civil society group led by Anna Hazare is bound to come up with a more aggressive plan of action if the government continues to treat them shabbily.

Meanwhile, the US, which has spoken out against Tiananmen Square and Tahrir Square, clearly sees India as capable of handing its protests in a democratic manner. It has described the government action against Ramdev an internal Indian matter.

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