New Age Islam
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Islamic World News ( 6 Jul 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Mali Militants Recruit and Abuse Children, Says UNICEF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Africa

Mali militants recruit and abuse children, says UNICEF

Nigerian pair accused of using al-Qaida funds to help train militants

Protests and tears of joy as Libyans rush to vote

Before Vote, Old Rivalries Threaten Fresh Start in Libya

Libya holds landmark vote under shadow of unrest

Libyans cast first vote since fall of Gaddafi

Al Qaeda entrenches itself in Africa

Libya Election 'Surreal' for Twice-Jailed Writer

Refugee Children Dying at Alarming Rate in South Sudan

Protesters and the Police Clash in Sudan

Can Libya's elections reconcile opposing forces in a new democracy?

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi will not get a fair trial in Libya

Mali's Conflict And A 'War Over Skin Colour'

Pakistan

Sunni Scholar Shot Dead In Quetta, 10 Sunni Clerics Killed During the Past Few Months

A timely deal rescues fraught ties — for now

Pak cricketer in UK jailed for bogus marriage

21 killed in Pakistan drone strikes

Pakistan plans a law to save Premier

Defying SC, Pak House to take up contempt Bill

Ayub Qazi new principal secretary to premier

Pakistani rupee strengthens; o/n rates up

KP govt allowed to shift Sufi Muhammad’s case to Peshawar

Tirah blast kills two terrorists

Maintenance of law, order in GB top priority: PM

450-year-old Saleh Kamboh Mosque awaits attention

Baloch students’ enrolment at AIOU shows record growth

Gunmen kill 18 in southwest Pakistan: Officials

South Asia

Will the death penalty halt the Maldives’ crime surge?

No plans to open consulate in PoK’s Gilgit-Baltistan: China

Afghan Conflict Losing Air Power as U.S. Pulls Out

Clinton's criticism of China over Syria "unacceptable"

India

Moderate Hurriyat welcomes Indo-Pak talks, calls for urgency on Kashmir

Legendary Mughal mosque unearthed

India to re-emphasise Afghan role

Lawyer highlights flaws in Sarabjit’s trial

Jundal bares ISI hand in 26/11

Kuldip Nayar’s book spills Pak nuclear bomb secrets

Pak stalled on punishing Mumbai suspects

Day after, Pak denies India gave info on Jundal

Mideast Asia

Iran nuclear talks: a thin, faint chink of light

Turkey mourns pilots downed by Syria

UN council appoints three to probe Israeli settlements

Iran Blames France, Germany for Atom Scientist Hits

Barefoot in a Tent, Neighbours Trading Vows of Mideast Peace

Arab World

Egypt’s New Leader Orders Inquiry on Killings of Protesters

Mediation to save neck of murderer fails

Iraq car bomb against anti-Qaeda fighter kills six

Facebook apologises for deleting free speech group's post on Syrian torture

Syrian clan's defection strikes at heart of Assad regime

Syrian’s Defection Signals Eroding Support for Assad

Kidnappers get five years

Madina governor describes expansion decision as historic

Central Haram area to be tripled

North America

US declares Afghanistan major non-NATO ally

US court fines Iran $813 million for 1983 Lebanon attack

U.S. Gives Ally Afghanistan Special Security Status

US, Taliban strike deal to resume talks in Qatar shortly

Clinton visits Afghanistan ahead of Tokyo talks

US, allies press Bashar Assad as top Syrian general flees

US steps up warnings on Iran dissident camp in Iraq

Europe

Russia opposes introduction of no-fly zone in Syria

30,000 illegal Pakistanis ‘missing’ in United Kingdom

London police make 7th arrest in terrorism probe

UNSC condemns attack in Congo that killed Indian soldier

UN chief Ban Ki-moon wants reduced Syria observer mission

Kazakhstan unveils giant mosque on leader’s birthday

Turkmenistan's Leader Angered by Poor Grain Yield

Kofi Annan attacks Russia and west's 'destructive competition' over Syria

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

Photo: Mali militants recruit and abuse children, says Unicef

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/mali-militants-recruit-and-abuse-children,-says-unicef/d/7854

 

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Africa

Mali militants recruit and abuse children, says UNICEF

Jul 7, 2012

Children are being sexually abused and are being recruited to fight for armed groups in Mali, according to the UN.

Unicef, the UN children's fund, said that Islamist militants in the north of the country had forcibly recruited at least 175 boys aged 12-18.

Unicef said it had collected evidence that also indicated the groups had raped and sexually abused girls.

A military coup in Mali in March 2012 allowed Islamist militants to take control of the north of the country.

The UN Security Council said on Thursday it was not ready to back a West African intervention force in northern Mali, but instead passed a resolution calling for sanctions against the groups.

Unicef said as well as abuse and the use of children as fighters, children have also been killed and maimed by landmines and other ordnance.

It went on to say that about 300,000 children have been affected by the closure of schools in unstable areas.

Since rebels took control of the north of Mali, many children have been living in camps where they face food shortages, Unicef said.

The UN said the information they had presented was only a partial picture, however, as it was too dangerous to undertake proper research in northern Mali.

Unicef said it was working with partners in certain areas of the country in an attempt to help communities to protect children.

"Children in the north are witnessing or becoming victims of violence and they must be protected," said Theophane Nikyema, Unicef's Mali representative.

The ongoing conflict in Mali has seen mosques and shrines in the historic city of Timbuktu attacked in recent weeks by militants.

Ansar Dine, a group said to have links to al-Qaeda, said it had an objective of destroying all mausoleums that were not in line with Islamic law.

The group seized control of Timbuktu in April.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-18739654

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Nigerian pair accused of using al-Qaida funds to help train militants

Olaniyi Lawal and Lukman Babatunde charged with channelling money from terror group to use for training recruits in Yemen

Monica Mark in Lagos

 6 July 2012

A Nigerian court has charged two citizens with channelling funds from al-Qaida into recruiting militants for training in Yemen, suggesting that the organisation is seeking to boost its footprint in Africa.

Olaniyi Lawal, 31, and Lukman Babatunde, 30, pleaded not guilty to charges of being members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninusula (AQAP). With headquarters in Saudi Arabia, AQAP is the militant group's most powerful and active branch.

Abuja high court judge Gladys Olotu said Lawal, who is believed to have studied in Yemen, received Saudi riyals and local currency from al-Qaida "with intent that the said money shall be used to recruit and transport members of terrorist organisations from Nigeria to Yemen for combat training in terrorism".

The suspects are from Lagos, the commercial hub in the south of the country. Home to millions of Muslims and Christians, the city has not been as badly affected by terrorism as the north, which has suffered from a bloody campaign by homegrown Islamist militants Boko Haram.

Yaya Oguntola, a worshipper heading to a mosque for Friday prayers, said: "I am very shocked somebody can even think of bringing this kind of trouble to Lagos. All of these groups are an embarrassment to Nigeria, and worse, to Islam."

The charges come as the US steps up its military presence on the continent. General Carter Ham, head of US military operations in Africa, said last month that Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabaab in Somalia and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb were sharing resources, and training fighters together. The US, which has growing oil interests in Africa, has rapidly expanded its secret intelligence operations under President Barack Obama, mainly using disguised spy planes, the Washington Post reported in June.

AQAP has helped to connect splinter groups in other regions. The group's reach in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, has so far been limited to isolated incidents such as the one involving Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was dubbed the "pants bomber". The 25-year-old Nigerian attempted to blow up a US-bound plane in 2009 after studying in Yemen.

Nigerian officials have dismissed claims that hardline Islamists within its borders receive support from al-Qaida's Saudi wing. However, Boko Haram spokesperson Qaqa said in January: "Al-Qaida are our elder brothers. Anything we want from them we ask them."

A Nigerian official said pressure from western countries after a series of bombings this year led President Goodluck Jonathan to sack his top defence adviser last month. "We have been under pressure to improve. The new national security adviser will be aiming to pick up where talks [with Boko Haram] collapsed," the official added.

Boko Haram militants stepped up their insurgency campaign around the time its members began receiving training from al-Qaida-affiliated groups in Mauritania and Algeria. Al-Qaida's north African wing, which operates in vast swathes of ungoverned desert, has flourished following a coup in Mali earlier this year.

Officials fear that a power vacuum will be a boon for radical groups scattered across the Sahel to strengthen ties.

A Mauritanian army general said: "Mauritania is used as a corridor when terrorists are recruited from Algeria to [al-Qaida's] base in Mali. We have seen in recent months an increase in movement through the country. We have increased our own movements and co-operation with allies in response."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/06/nigerian-pair-al-qaida-train-militants

Protests and tears of joy as Libyans rush to vote

By Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Hadeel Al Shalchi

Jul 7, 2012

But in the eastern city of Benghazi, cradle of last year's uprising and now seeking more autonomy from the interim government, protesters stormed polling stations and burned hundreds of ballot papers.

Libyans are choosing a 200-member assembly which will elect a prime minister and cabinet before laying the ground for full parliamentary elections next year under a new constitution.

Candidates with Islamic agendas dominate the field of more than 3,700 hopefuls, suggesting Libya will be the next Arab Spring country - after Egypt and Tunisia - to see religious parties secure a grip on power.

In Benghazi, witnesses said protesters stormed a polling station just after voting started and publicly burnt hundreds of ballot slips in a bid to undermine the election's credibility.

One local election commission worker said two other polling stations in Benghazi had also had their ballots boxes looted.

At one polling station hit by the protests, a man was shot in the arm, local election official Ismail Al-Mjbali told Reuters. Blood from the attack stained the floor and the man had been taken to hospital, Mjbali said.

In the capital Tripoli, voting was smooth. A loud cry of "Allahu akbar" ("God is greatest") went up inside a polling station there as the first woman cast her vote in a converted school building abuzz with the chatter of queueing locals.

"I can't describe the feeling. We paid the price, I have two martyrs in my family. I am certain the future will be good, Libya will be successful," Zainab Masri, a 50-year-old teacher, said of her first experience of voting.

"I am a Libyan citizen in free Libya," said Mahmud Mohammed Al-Bizamti. "I came today to be able to vote in a democratic way. Today is like a wedding for us."

FIGHTERS SHUT OFF OIL

Many easterners, whose region is home to the bulk of Libya's oil sector, are angry that the east has been allotted only 60 seats in the assembly compared to 102 for the west.

On Friday, armed groups in the east shut off Libya's oil exports to press their demands for greater representation in the new national assembly. At least three major oil-exporting terminals were affected.

"The country will be in a state of paralysis because no one in the government is listening to us," Hamed al-Hassi, a former rebel who now heads the High Military Council of Cyrenaica, the name of the eastern region, told Reuters.

Port agents said the oil depots closures would last 48 hours but the government sent a team on Saturday to negotiate a full reopening of a sector that provides most of Libya's revenues.

In the latest attack on election authorities in the east, a helicopter carrying voting material had to make an emergency landing near Benghazi on Friday after being struck by anti-aircraft fire. One person on board was killed.

"There is no security in this country," complained Emad El-Sayih, deputy head of the High National Election Commission.

Concerns exist elsewhere. In the southern area of Kufra in the Sahara desert, tribal clashes are so fierce that election observers are unable to visit, and some question whether the vote can proceed in certain areas there.

In Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte, a former fishing village on the southern rim of the Mediterranean Sea, the mood before the polls was restrained, with some saying they would not vote.

"They should take care of us first, look at our homes," said Abed Mohammed, a resident of District Two neighbourhood which saw some of the heaviest fighting and where Gaddafi was believed to have hidden before being captured and killed.

While analysts say it is hard to predict the political make-up of the new assembly, parties and candidates professing an attachment to Islamic values dominate and very few are running on an exclusively secular ticket.

The Justice and Construction offshoot of Libya's Muslim Brotherhood is tipped to do well, as is al-Watan, the party of former CIA detainee and Islamist insurgent Abdel Hakim Belhadj.

Polls close at 8 p.m (1800 GMT) but meaninful partial results are not due until Sunday.

(Additional reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian in Tripoli and Taha Zargoun in Sirte; Writing by Mark John; Editing by Louise Ireland)

http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/07/07/libya-elections-idINDEE86600I20120707?feedType=RSS&feedName=globalCoverage2

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Before Vote, Old Rivalries Threaten Fresh Start in Libya

By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK

July 07, 2012

BENGHAZI, Libya — The first election in more than four decades was supposed to forge a new Libya but threatens instead to tear it apart.

Protesters angry at the distribution of seats in the congress shot down a Libyan Air Force helicopter delivering ballots here on Friday, killing an election official, the United Nations said.

In Tripoli, a militia member threatened an international monitor with a knife in the street while a brigade of other fighters controlled a hotel housing the main observation teams.

Farther west, in Bani Walid, the last bastion of support for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, local officials were vowing armed resistance if the interim government tried to send soldiers or police officers to protect the polls.

Libya has been riven for decades by recurring battles among regions and tribes, each vying for a cut of the oil wealth and other privileges.

Many here still hope that the election of a new national congress, scheduled for Saturday, will offer a more peaceful way to resolve differences and divvy up the spoils without the iron fist or outstretched palms of the Qaddafi government.

And if Libya succeeds in building a new democracy, it will become not only a rarity in the Arab world, but also unique among the major oil exporters of the developing world.

But even before the voters head to the polls, the forces of tribal and regional rivalry that have driven Libyan politics for more than half a century are endangering the dream of a fresh start. In every neighborhood or town in the country, politicians say, residents complain that they were “marginalized” for decades under Colonel Qaddafi and deprived of their share of Libya’s wealth. And from the revolution’s birthplace here in Benghazi to Colonel Qaddafi’s last citadel in Bani Walid, many discontents now say that they fear new neglect under a more democratic Libya.

“Politics in Libya has been all about patronage,” said Diederik Vandewalle, a Libya scholar at Dartmouth College visiting Tripoli for the vote, “and it is only going to intensify after the election.”

The weak, self-appointed Transitional National Council that has tried to govern Libya since the fall of Colonel Qaddafi initially promised to hold an election for a national congress that would govern the country for 18 months while it also drafted a new constitution. Electing the same body to govern and draft a constitution was considered the best practice, because it would reduce the possibility that some temporary external authority would attempt to influence the constitutional debate.

But faced with mounting protests over the regional distribution of the congress’s 200 seats — 100 for the west around Tripoli, 60 for the less populous east around Benghazi and 40 for the southern desert region — the transitional council has chipped away at its initial plan in a vain attempt to placate the unrest.

First, the council changed its plan so that the national congress would not draft the constitution itself, but would instead pick a 60-person body, with 20 members from each region, to write a new charter.

Then, on Thursday, in its last meeting before the election, the council stripped the proposed congress of any role in drafting the constitution, drastically changing the function of the chamber for which candidates were running. Instead, the council decreed that there would be a second public vote to choose the members of the 60-person constitutional panel. So the original 200-member congress would be responsible mainly for forming a new transitional government to run the country for the next 18 months, when a new constitution is expected to be in place and yet another round of elections held.

The concession to regional equality also did not stop the increasingly violent protests against the election system. On Thursday, an attack on an election office in the eastern town of Ajdabiya destroyed so many ballots that people there may be unable to vote. Protesters had already stormed election facilities in Benghazi and Tobruk, destroying computers and burning piles of ballots.

On Friday, people in eastern Libya protesting the election shut down three major oil facilities and cut off half the flow of Libya’s oil exports, Reuters reported. There were brawls on the streets of Benghazi between supporters of the election and those favoring a boycott. And other demonstrators continued to block the coastal road connecting the country’s east and west, shutting off almost all traffic.

With the official campaign lasting only two weeks and no recent history of electoral politics, there has been almost no discussion of ideology or governing philosophy. Even the question of Islam’s role in governance — a defining issue in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia — is an obscure footnote here. Both liberal and Islamist parties call for Islamic law to be a main source of legislation, but not the only one. The Islamist party founded by Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who once led a militant Islamist insurgency, features unveiled women in its billboards and candidate lists, while a rival party founded by the Muslim Brotherhood calls for fostering greater participation from women in education, employment and government.

But even the Brotherhood, the party with the most developed ideology, is promising patronage. Alluding to those cities and tribes that suffered the most in fighting Colonel Qaddafi’s security forces and are now the most powerful, the Brotherhood’s party program pledges “compensation to the victims of the military, whether individuals or groups.”

Voter registration has been high: 2.8 million, or about 85 percent of eligible voters in a country of about 6 million. But in dozens of interviews in recent days, almost no one could name the candidate, among more than 3,700 competing, for whom he or she planned to vote. Most said proudly that they intended to choose the best candidate for Libya, and several admitted an intention to vote for a candidate who belonged to his tribe or family.

“We are racist and each will vote for his own tribe — and not only his own tribe, but the family within the tribe closest to his,” said Abdel Salem Ijfara, 57, a member of the Warfalla tribe from Bani Walid.

The party of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Libyan branch of the 84-year-old Egyptian Islamist organization, may be the best organized. But when it called a rally for the last official night of the campaign in the center of Tripoli, the capital, on Thursday, only about 150 people turned up.

The organizers seemed unsure what to do. There were no speeches, few slogans and ultimately three young men ran in circles carrying flags emblazoned with the party logo.

Still, the vote has elicited some unexpected expressions of national unity. In response to the growing protests in the east over the distribution of seats, the western city of Zawiyah announced that it would donate all of its seats in the congress to the eastern city of Benghazi. Though legally questionable, the gesture recalled feelings of national solidarity that had all but vanished since the ouster of Colonel Qaddafi.

Even in Bani Walid, few people would bring back Colonel Qaddafi, though many have grave doubts about what will come next. The town expelled a local council imposed on it by the revolution, electing a new one of its own. Bani Walid now has a new strongman, Salem el Waher, who almost 20 years ago helped lead an attempted coup against Colonel Qaddafi by military officers seeking more power for members of their tribe, the Warfalla.

Mr. Waher, 48, said in an interview that he now opposes the interim authorities for the same reason he once tried to topple Colonel Qaddafi: they are “marginalizing” his town and his tribe, he said, for their loyalty to the former leader, by depriving them of needed resources.

The revolution has brought “catastrophe,” he said, dominated by powerful militias who “don’t find it in their interests for democracy to work.” Still, Bani Walid will vote along with the rest of Libya, he said. “The whole city will go to the polls.”

Suleiman Ali Zway contributed reporting from Benghazi.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/07/world/africa/before-election-old-rivalries-endanger-libyas-dream-of-a-fresh-start.html?ref=global-home

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Libya holds landmark vote under shadow of unrest

Jul 7, 2012

TRIPOLI/BENGHAZI: Libya holds its first free national election in 60 years on Saturday in a vote designed to shake off the legacy of Muammar Gaddafi but which risks being hijacked by autonomy demands in the east and unrest in the desert south.

Voters will choose a 200-member assembly which will elect a prime minister and cabinet before laying the ground for full parliamentary elections next year under a new constitution.

Candidates with Islamic agendas dominate the field of more than 3,700 hopefuls, suggesting Libya will be the next "Arab Spring" country after Egypt and Tunisia to see religious parties secure footholds in power after last year's uprisings.

But the credibility of the vote will be wrecked if armed militia with regional or tribal loyalties discourage voters from turning out, or if disputes over the outcome degenerate into pitched battles between rival factions.

"The election will go ahead tomorrow and all the Libyan people need for it to go ahead," Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Keib told a news conference in the capital Tripoli on Friday.

The greatest threat comes from the eastern region around the city of Benghazi, cradle of the NATO-backed uprising that ousted Gaddafi nearly a year ago but which complains of neglect by the interim government in Tripoli in the west.

"There is no doubt there could be a civil war between us in the east and the west," Hamed al-Hassi, a former rebel who now heads the High Military Council of Cyrenaica, the name of the eastern region, said.

"The country will be in a state of paralysis because no one in the government is listening to us," said Hassi, whose group is charged with securing the east but has fallen out with the government over representation.

On Friday, local armed groups shut off half the North African country's oil exports to press their demands for greater representation in the new national assembly. At least three major oil exporting terminals were affected.

"The strikes will continue for 48 hours if the government does not respond positively to their requests," said a note to oil companies from shipping agents.

"No security"

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in a square in central Benghazi late on Friday, saying they would boycott the vote in protest at the fact that the east had been allotted only 60 seats in the assembly compared to 102 for the west.

In the latest attack on election authorities in the east, a helicopter carrying voting material had to make an emergency landing near Benghazi on Friday after being struck by anti-aircraft fire. One person on board was killed.

"There is no security in this country," Emad El-Sayih, deputy head of the High National Election Commission, told Reuters.

Concerns exist elsewhere. In the isolated southern area of Kufra in the Saharan desert, tribal clashes are so fierce that election observers will be unable to visit, and some question whether the vote can proceed in certain areas there.

In Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte, a former fishing village on the southern rim of the Mediterranean Sea, the mood ahead of the polls was restrained, with some saying they would not vote.

"They should take care of us first, look at our homes," said Abed Mohammed, a resident of District Two neighbourhood which saw some of the heaviest fighting and where Gaddafi was believed to have hidden before being captured and killed.

"We are not against elections in the future, but first things first," he said.

Yet many Libyans are eager for a first taste of democracy and will be heading enthusiastically to the polls.

While analysts say it is hard to predict the political make-up of the new assembly, parties and candidates professing an attachment to Islamic values dominate and very few are running on an exclusively secular ticket.

The Justice and Construction offshoot of Libya's Muslim Brotherhood is tipped to do well, as is al-Watan, the party of former CIA detainee and Islamist insurgent Abdel Hakim Belhadj.

Parity rules for the new assembly mean there are many female candidates. Yet many of their campaign posters in Tripoli have been defaced, underlining the ambivalence felt by some in Libyan society about a greater female role in politics.

"Politics is a new field for men and women in Libya," said Lamia Busidra, 38, a leading candidate for the al-Wattan party in Benghazi. "The qualifications are there, women can do it, they just need the confidence in themselves to do it."

Early partial results after polls close at 8 p.m (1800 GMT) on Saturday will give some guide to the make-up of the assembly but full preliminary results are not due until Monday.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Libya-holds-landmark-vote-under-shadow-of-unrest/articleshow/14729869.cms

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Libyans cast first vote since fall of Gaddafi

July 07, 2012

Libyans vote for a national assembly on Saturday, the first election since Muammar Gaddafi's ouster, after a string of acts of sabotage that have stoked tensions in the east of the country.

Polling stations are scheduled to open at 8:00 am (0500 GMT) and will close

12 hours later.  

The vote will likely be a very different experience for residents of Tripoli, which has enjoyed a spell of calm than in those of cities in eastern Libya which have been subject to outbreaks of deadly violence and threats to disrupt the vote.

On Friday, gunfire struck a helicopter in eastern Libya killing an election worker.

Ian Martin, head of the United Nations mission to Libya, urged "all voters to exercise their hard-earned democratic right to elect their National Congress representatives" while condemning the deadly attack.

The Brussels-based International Crisis Group has warned that the electoral process in Libya is "imperilled by armed protesters who... are threatening to disrupt the vote in the eastern part of the country."

Also in the run-up to the polls, five oil facilities have been forced cease production by armed protesters who want greater representation for the east in the incoming 200-member congress.

 Armed protesters last Sunday ransacked the office of the electoral commission in Benghazi. Arsonists in nearby Ajdabiya later set fire to a depot with polling material.

  The make-up of the congress has been a matter of heated debate, with political factions such as the federalist movement calling for more seats.

  The ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) says seats were distributed according to demographic considerations, with 100 seats going to the west, 60 to the east and 40 to the Full report at:

http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/Africa/Libyans-cast-first-vote-since-fall-of-Gaddafi/Article1-884585.aspx

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Al Qaeda entrenches itself in Africa

July 07, 2012

From East to West Africa, a rise in Islamic extremism has led to a surge in deadly attacks and kidnappings by groups linked to al-Qaeda, sparking fears of a new "arc of terror" on the continent. While these groups are mostly occupied with domestic issues, their anti-western rhetoric and

targeting of foreigners pose a wider challenge. So too does growing evidence of ties between armed groups from the Sahel and east Africa and Nigeria, observers say.

The three main al Qaeda-linked groups are Somalia's Shebab in the Horn of Africa. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) which is active across the Sahel and Boko Haram, which has sharply increased its attacks in Nigeria since 2010.

"We do have enough evidence of some communication between Boko Haram and AQIM and affiliated groups," a Washington DC-based analyst focused on the Sahel told AFP.

However while both Boko Haram and AQIM had claimed support or training from Shebab, this had not been confirmed, he added.

General Carter Ham, head of US African command AFRICOM, warned in September 2011 that the various Islamist groups had said they wanted to "more closely collaborate and synchronize their efforts" in training and operations.

"If left unaddressed, you could have a network that ranges from East Africa, through the centre and into the Sahel and Maghreb, and I think that would be very, very worrying."

The seizure by hardline Islamists of northern Mali has also stoked fears abroad.

Long a base for AQIM, involved in drug trafficking and the kidnapping of westerners for ransom, the region is now in the hands of Islamists intent on installing sharia law, who have openly allied with the Al-Qaeda franchise.

Full report at:

http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/RestOfAsia/Al-Qaeda-entrenches-itself-in-Africa/Article1-884536.aspx

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Libya Election 'Surreal' for Twice-Jailed Writer

July 07, 2012

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Twice-jailed writer Idris Al-Mismari almost cannot believe he and his fellow Libyans will vote on Saturday for the first time in an election that could never have happened under ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

"I get moments of surrealism, now I am really free, now I have a choice," the 56-year-old told Reuters in an interview.

"I never expected it, but I did dream of this day," he said of the election for a 200-seat national assembly that will name a caretaker prime minister and prepare the ground for full general elections next year.

Many Libyans no doubt are having similar feelings of disbelief that the day has come when they can exercise a right denied them under Gaddafi, who after he seized power in 1969, banned direct elections, saying they were bourgeois and anti-democratic. Political parties also were not allowed.

For Mismari, imprisoned twice during Gaddafi's rule and the victim of beatings and torture for daring to defy the system, that taste will be sweeter than most.

The writer spent 10 years in jail in the 1980s, accused of trying to form a political party. He was at one point incarcerated at the notorious Abu Salim prison, perhaps the most evocative symbol of Gaddafi's brutal legacy. In 1996, security forces killed more than 1,200 inmates there.

He fell afoul of Gaddafi's regime again as he joined the protests last year which sparked the uprising in the eastern city Benghazi that led to Gaddafi's downfall.

Mismari was 22 in December 1978 when men from Gaddafi's revolutionary committees, known for their brutality in crushing opposition, accused him of being a traitor. Mismari, who said he had held leftist views at the time, helped organize a cultural conference in Benghazi. Some of the speakers began talking about civil rights.

Full report at:

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2012/07/07/world/africa/07reuters-libya-elections-prisoner.html?ref=global-home&gwh=D759D810103035B1C68A7DA274F90248

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Refugee Children Dying at Alarming Rate in South Sudan, Aid Groups Say

By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN

July 07, 2012

NAIROBI, Kenya — Nine children are dying every day from preventable illnesses like diarrhea in an overcrowded, swampy refugee camp in South Sudan, and United Nations officials said Friday that they were stepping up efforts to evacuate people as fast as they could.

Heavy rains, overflowing latrines and a ceaseless influx of sick and hungry people have conspired to create an epidemiological disaster at the Jamam refugee camp, with death rates now nearly twice the emergency level, said the aid group Doctors Without Borders.

“The situation is getting worse by the day,” said Tara Newell, an emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders, who spoke by satellite phone from the camp on Friday evening. “We’re arriving in the middle of the rainy season, tents keep falling down, children have to wear wet clothes, there’s malaria, and we see children getting sicker and sicker.”

The Jamam camp sits on a flood plain just inside the contested border between Sudan and the newly independent nation of South Sudan. The refugees are streaming out of Blue Nile, the state in Sudan where rebels allied with the South Sudanese are fighting the Sudanese Army, saying they want more autonomy. The struggle for self-government has become a familiar casus belli for rebel groups in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and other marginalized areas of Sudan far from the capital, Khartoum.

So far, political negotiations have failed, and both sides, the Blue Nile rebels and the government, have vowed to fight on.

Full report at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/07/world/africa/refugee-children-dying-at-alarming-rate-in-south-sudan-aid-groups-say.html?ref=global-home&gwh=A242B04F35091383CE60EE79898D450B

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Protesters and the Police Clash in Sudan

By ISMA’IL KUSHKUSH

July 07, 2012

KHARTOUM, Sudan — Antigovernment protesters in greater Khartoum and other Sudanese cities clashed with riot police officers on Friday after prayers in a third week of protest.

“Revolution is the choice of the people; Freedom, Peace and Justice!” and “The people want to bring down the regime!” the protesters chanted as they left the Imam Abd al-Rahman al-Mahdi Mosque in Omdurman, Khartoum’s sister city across the Nile. But the crowd, of about 500 people, was driven back by tear gas while trying to move to a nearby field. Plainclothes security officers arrested some of them.

An elderly man looked on in dismay, shaking his head and asking, “Why?”

Many of the protesters ran back into the mosque courtyard, where they felt trapped.

“The area is surrounded, we can’t leave!” said Faruq al-Badawi, 60, via phone from inside the mosque, which he said was surrounded by heavy security.

Activists had termed the day Vagabonds Friday, a taunt directed at President Omar al-Bashir, who had described the protesters in a speech as “agitators” and “vagabonds”

Activists on social media have reported protests in nearby Khartoum North, and other Sudanese cities including Kosti, Sinnar, New Halfa and Dongola.

A spokesman for the Khartoum State Police, Al-Sir Ahmad Umar, denied that protests were widespread.

Full report at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/07/world/africa/in-sudan-protesters-clash-with-the-riot-police.html?ref=africa&gwh=5CEEEACDD2CEAE320C2B2FA4FDFD39AC

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Can Libya's elections reconcile opposing forces in a new democracy?

Luke Harding visits Bani Walid, one of the last towns to fall in the uprising, to find clues to the country's post-Gaddafi future

Luke Harding in Bani Walid

6 July 2012

?To reach the losers of Libya's revolution you have to drive across the desert, a shimmering journey past red-brown mountains and palm trees. The town of Bani Walid, 91 miles south of the capital, Tripoli, was one of the last to fall in the last year's uprising against Muammar Gaddafi.

Its reputation – undeserved, locals insist – is of a sullen, dangerous pro-Gaddafi fiefdom. Eight months on, the signs of battle in Bani Walid are everywhere: buildings and mosques riddled with bullet holes, fire-blackened balconies, graffiti remembering the dead.

After fierce fighting, revolutionary militia captured Bani Walid on 17 October 2011. Three days later Gaddafi was himself caught and executed in Sirte, another loyalist stronghold, in a suitably Shakespearean denouement to his bloody 42-year rule.

With Libyans set to vote on Saturday in their first post-Gaddafi election, Bani Walid holds clues to the country's future. Can Libya's pro- and anti-revolutionary forces be reconciled in a new democratic state? Or is the country doomed to tribal, regional and ethnic discord? And will history chalk up Libya as yet another failure for 21st century western intervention, after Afghanistan and Iraq?

If Bani Walid is anything to go by, the signs are surprisingly optimistic. There is plenty of resentment here at the behaviour of anti-Gaddafi fighters after they seized the town last year; indeed, dissatisfaction is everywhere in the new Libya. "They destroyed houses, killed people and looted everything," Mufta Ajbara, a member of Bani Walid's tribal elders' council said. "They wrote disrespectful things on the walls of my bedroom. They took my spoons."

As the residents tell it, a relatively small group of pro-Gaddafi fighters retreated south to Bani Walid after the fall of Tripoli. They included Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the late leader's son and heir, later captured in the desert. Government forces withdrew from the town in January after a shootout with local fighters.

Full report at:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/jul/06/icc-lawyer-gaddafi-trial-libya

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Mali's Conflict And A 'War Over Skin Colour'

Afua Hirsch: Many Tuaregs have fled Mali after a split along colour lines. But will the factions unite against an Islamic state?

6 July 2012

I don't know one word of Tamasheq, the ancient Berber language spoken by Tuaregs, tens of thousands of whom are currently living as refugees in northern Burkina Faso. But one thing I could understand from the group of Tuareg men I sat with under a tent in Mentao – an inhospitable refugee camp a few hundred kilometres from the border with Mali – was the repeated gesture as they pointed to their skin.

"C'est à cause de la peau claire", the interpreter said over and over again in French. In English: "It's because of our light skin."

Skin colour is rarely discussed as a factor in Mali's current conflict, but its importance cannot be ignored. Some analysts I met in Burkina went so far as to say that the events in Mali – an uprising by Tuareg separatists the MNLA, a military coup in the south, and the ongoing near collapse of the political economy – amount to a war on skin colour, plain and simple.

Mali's military coup was triggered by frustration among the Malian army at difficulties they encountered trying to contain an uprising by Tuareg rebels. The rebels – led initially by the secular separatist MNLA but now deeply entangled with Islamists Ansar Dine and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb – were in turn driven by their frustration at being marginalised and mistreated by predominantly black, southern-ruled, post-independence Malian governments.

Full report at:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/06/mali-war-over-skin-colour

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Pakistan

Sunni Scholar Shot Dead In Quetta, 10 Sunni Clerics Killed During the Past Few Months

July 07, 2012

QUETTA: A religious scholar hailing from Sunni school of thought was shot dead in Quetta on Friday night, while a body was found in Kharan. According to police, unidentified armed men riding a motorcycle opened indiscriminate fire on Maulvi Abdul Qasim in Musa Colony in Sariab locality. As a result, he received serious wounds and died before reaching a hospital. Police rushed to the site and moved the body to Civil Hospital Quetta for medico-legal formalities. “The murder appears to be a case of target killing,” police sources said, adding that an investigation was underway. However, no group has claimed responsibility for the killing. More than 10 Sunni clerics have been killed in Quetta during the past few months. Police claimed on Thursday to have arrested three professional target killers involved in the killing of Sunni clerics. Separately, police recovered a body from Bado Nullah in Kharan and moved it to hospital for an autopsy where the deceased was identified as Muhammad Yousaf.

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\07\07\story_7-7-2012_pg1_2

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A timely deal rescues fraught ties — for now

July 07, 2012

The dramatic, synchronised announcement of a breakthrough in stalled ties with the US last Tuesday took most officials, diplomats and observers in Islamabad by surprise.

That a deal would eventually be worked out was accepted in many quarters — stubbornness notwithstanding, neither the US nor Pakistan had indicated that it wanted ties to break down entirely — but the timing was unexpected.

The suddenness of the apology-cum-reopening deal has fuelled speculation that both sides saw the window of opportunity for an agreement was on the verge of closing: July 4, Independence Day in the US, offering a final chance for American officials to slip in an apology before the US presidential election campaign kicks into high gear.

The weekend of July 4 has seen drama in the Pak-US relationship before: in 1999, then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif rushed to DC for an emergency meeting with President Clinton to end the Kargil conflict and save his premiership.

Was history repeating itself this week, but for very different reasons 13 years on?

According to Bruce Riedel, “Washington is largely closed for the holiday … no one is really focused on the deal that much which is probably fine with Secretary Clinton who does not want to be accused of apologising to Pakistan by the Romney camp.”

A Pakistani official in Islamabad speaking on the condition of anonymity offered a similar assessment: “The weekend of July 4th was crucial. The demand hadn’t been for an ‘unconditional apology’ but we made it clear that something had to be done. But the White House was resistant to the idea of yet another apology.”

Full report at:

http://dawn.com/2012/07/07/a-timely-deal-rescues-fraught-ties-for-now/

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Pak cricketer in UK jailed for bogus marriage

Jul 06 2012

London: A 'star' Pakistani cricketer has been jailed for 20 months for trying to falsely marry a British woman whom he had never met for the sole purpose of gaining permanent residency in the UK.

39-year-old Javid Iqbal, described as a 'star', played for Holmfirth, Skelmanthorpe and Almondbury in the Drakes League.

Iqbal arrived in the UK in 2008 and played for several minor country cricket teams.

He and four others - - including the 'bride' - - pleaded guilty to attempting to commit a breach of immigration law.

The Home Office said Iqbal was part of the gang of five people who attempted to stage the marriage at Huddersfield Register Office last April.

The five have now been sentenced to jail at the Leeds Crown Court.

Officers from the UK Border Agency interrupted Iqbal's 'wedding' after receiving information that it was a sham (bogus) marriage.

Three other people - - British 'bride' Natalie Roberts and 'guests' Craig Hughes, (who is Roberts' boyfriend) and fellow cricketer Mohammed Taj - were also arrested.

A fifth gang member, Salim Mullan, was arrested at a later date in Leicester.

Noting that Iqbal had been in the UK since 2008, the Home Office said that the bogus marriage was organised by Mullan, Taj and Hughes.

Iqbal paid 5,000 pounds to the fixers.

Full report at:

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/pak-cricketer-in-uk-jailed-for-bogus-marriage/971192/

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21 killed in Pakistan drone strikes

 July 07, 2012

At least 21 suspected militants were killed on Friday night in two drone strikes in Pakistan's northwest tribal region, media reports said.

The first drone fired two missiles around 9 pm at a house suspected to be a militant hideout in Datta Khel area of North Waziristan, Xinhua

reported citing Urdu TV channel Dunya. Five militants were killed in the attack.

The identities of those killed were not known.

Citing local media, Xinhua said at least 16 people were killed in a second US drone strike in the same area.

ARY News said six missiles were fired at the house in Datta Khel, east of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan, near the Afghan border.

Dunya News said the second attack took place when rescue activities were going on in the area.

It put the toll at 22, saying four people were killed in the first drone strike and 18 in the second attack.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/Pakistan/21-killed-in-Pakistan-drone-strikes/Article1-884582.aspx

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Pakistan plans a law to save Premier

ANITA JOSHUA

July 07, 2012

Ahead of the next hearing of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) case by the Supreme Court next week, the government hopes to put in place a contempt law that will provide immunity to senior government functionaries for their executive actions and save Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf from meeting the same fate as his predecessor.

Since the draft legislation — cleared by the Cabinet on Wednesday — requires only a simple majority for it to be passed by both Houses of Parliament, the government is hoping to have it in place before the next hearing of the NRO case on July 12. Parliament has been convened for the purpose amid fears that the bill may open another avenue for confrontation between the executive and the judiciary.

At the last hearing of the case — soon after he took office — Mr. Ashraf was asked by the Supreme Court whether his government intends to write to the Swiss authorities asking them to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari or would it follow in the footsteps of his predecessor.

Mr. Ashraf’s predecessor Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani had been ousted by the Supreme Court on June 19 with retrospective effect from April 26 for contempt of court. Contempt proceedings had been initiated against Mr. Gilani for repeatedly refusing to write to the Swiss authorities after the Supreme Court annulled the NRO — an amnesty on corruption cases granted by the Musharraf dispensation to hundreds of politicians, military personnel and bureaucrats.

The government is essentially taking a leaf out of the former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif’s book of 1997 vintage when he had a similar run-in with the Chief Justice of Pakistan.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/article3609723.ece

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Defying SC, Pak House to take up contempt Bill

Jul 07 2012

Islamabad : A bill aimed at shielding top leaders from contempt charges and curbing the Supreme Court’s efforts to push Premier Raja Pervez Ashraf into reopening graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari was set to be introduced in a special session of Pakistan Parliament on Friday.

The government intended to get the Contempt of Court Bill 2012 passed by the National Assembly and the Senate before the apex court takes up the issue of reviving graft cases against Zardari on July 12. A Constitutional amendment Bill was also to be introduced by the government to allow holders of dual nationality to contest polls, days after the apex court suspended the membership of nine federal and provincial lawmakers, including former Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

The special session of the National Assembly was to start Friday while a session of the Senate had been convened on Monday.

Full report at:

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/defying-sc-pak-house-to-take-up-contempt-bill/971241/

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Ayub Qazi new principal secretary to premier

July 07, 2012

ISLAMABAD, July 6: It has taken Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf nearly two weeks to appoint his full-time principal secretary. On Friday, he transferred eight federal secretaries and appointed a new managing director of the Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Supplies Corporation (Passco).

At the time of Mr Ashraf’s election as prime minister on June 22, Khushnood Lashari was holding the charge of Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, but was abroad on leave reportedly for medical reasons.

When Mr Lashari, who is one of the accused in the ephedrine scandal, prolonged his stay in London, the prime minister started looking for his new top aide and eventually appointed Ayub Qazi, a BS-22 officer of the District and Management Group (DMG).

A soft-spoken man, Mr Qazi was already working as special secretary in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat looking after the PM’s development funds.

Many believe that Mr Lashari is prolonging his stay in London to avoid the ANF-led investigation into the scam which also involves Musa Ali Gilani, son of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, and Textile Minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin.

Mr Shahabuddin was federal minister for health and had Mr Lashari as his secretary when the unaccounted for quota of ephedrine was imported.

Another significant reshuffle of the day was of Taimur Azmat Usman who has been transferred from the ministry of information to the establishment division. Choudhry Rasheed Ahmad, a well-known figure of the information services, will now work as secretary information.

Full report at:

http://dawn.com/2012/07/07/ayub-qazi-new-principal-secretary-to-premier/

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Pakistani rupee strengthens; o/n rates up

July 07, 2012

KARACHI: In the currency market on Friday, the rupee closed stronger at 94.00/07 to the dollar, compared to 94.28/32 on Thursday.

Overnight rates in the money market closed higher at 11.90 per cent, compared to 9.10 per cent on Thursday, because of decreased liquidity.

http://dawn.com/2012/07/06/pakistani-rupee-strengthens-on-rates-up/

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KP govt allowed to shift Sufi Muhammad’s case to Peshawar

July 07, 2012

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Friday won the Peshawar High Court’s (PHC) backing to shift a case against pro-Taliban cleric Sufi Muhammad from Lower Dir to Peshawar. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Advocate General Asad Khan Chamkani told the PHC that making the cleric appear before the judge in Lower Dir district “involves risk” for him, and sought the court’s directive to shift the case to Peshawar. Sufi Muhammad is in a Peshawar prison after he was charged with not honouring a commitment regarding peace in Swat district following his agreement with the government and Taliban. He is also facing several other charges. PHC Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan allowed the shifting of the case after hearing the advocate general. The case against Sufi Muhammad in Lower Dir pertains to anti-government speeches causing damage to public order in his home district.

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\07\07\story_7-7-2012_pg7_5

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Tirah blast kills two terrorists

July 07, 2012

BARA: At least two terrorists associated with the banned Lashkar-e-Islam were killed and three others injured when a remote-controlled bomb exploded in Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency on Friday. Local political authorities said the blast occurred in the Akakhel area of Tirah Valley. There were no immediate claims of responsibility.

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\07\07\story_7-7-2012_pg7_8

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Maintenance of law, order in GB top priority: PM

July 07, 2012

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Friday said that maintenance of the law and order in Gilgit-Baltistan and improvement of its economy was the top priority of the government.

Addressing a meeting at the Prime Minister’s House, he said that the government gave identity to Gilgit-Baltistan and today it enjoyed complete autonomy with its own governor, elected chief minister, legislative assembly and other administrative institutions.

“Gone are the days when Gilgit-Baltistan used to be administered by a junior level bureaucrat based in Islamabad,” the prime minister added.

Ashraf said that maintenance of law and order should be the top priority even now because without this the economic development and prosperity of the people would remain a dream.

The prime minister assured the governor and chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan that the federal government would provide sufficient resources, expertise and requisite manpower to overcome the challenges of sectarianism and economic development.

He also appealed to intelligentsia, religious scholars, opinion makers and the political leadership to mobilise public opinion against sectarianism. He said that only the political leadership of all shades could create social resistance against the scourge, which was affecting the economic development of the region.

Full report at:

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\07\07\story_7-7-2012_pg7_18

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450-year-old Saleh Kamboh Mosque awaits attention

By Ghulam Hussain

July 07, 2012

LAHORE: Muhammad Saleh Kamboh Mosque was an important building of the Mughal era in Lahore, but like other ancient structures, it has also been neglected by the authorities concerned.

The more than 450-year-old mosque was once a very beautiful and unique heritage. It is situated inside the Mochi Gate of the Walled City, and declared a protected heritage.

However, the negligence of the Archaeology Department and the Auqaf Department – responsible for its maintenance – has left this structure at the mercy of locals.

It has been learnt that neither of the departments spent a single penny on its preservation or renovation.

This Mughal-era heritage can be preserved and restored to its original shape if the authorities concerned take notice of its condition.

The Anjuman Tajiran Mochi Gate look after this site on their own.

This mosque was constructed in 1659 by Muhammad Saleh Kamboh, whom Emperor Shah Jehan had appointed the dewaan (governor) of Punjab due to his sharp wisdom. He was also appointed as the ataleeq (teacher) of his son Aurangzeb Alamgir.

Full report at:

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\07\07\story_7-7-2012_pg13_7

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Baloch students’ enrolment at AIOU shows record growth

July 07, 2012

ISLAMABAD: The Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) has shown a record growth in students’ enrolment from Balochistan.

This extraordinary students’ enrolment growth in backward and far-flung areas of Balochistan was achieved by the university for the first time since its inception 38 years ago. This has been due to upgradation in quality education and its equal accessibility throughout the country, as well as better strategic planning, adopted during the last two years. The growth was also a result of the AIOU’s vision, ensuring education for all.

Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Nazir Ahmed Sangi took a number of steps in the recent years, taking the education to the doorsteps of the people. New campus and study centres are being opened to facilitate students, who have been invited to fully utilise the state-of-the-art e-learning technology.

According to the region-wise comparison, the enrolment of students from Kalat was 526, Turbat 796, Dera Murad Jumali 1,700 and from Quetta was 3,391 in the Spring 2011, but this year, the enrolment from Kalat stands at 1,182, from Turbat at 1,451 and from Dera Murad Jumali at 3,073.

Full report at:

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\07\07\story_7-7-2012_pg11_6

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Gunmen kill 18 in southwest Pakistan: Officials

Jul 7, 2012

QUETTA: Unidentified gunmen in southwest Pakistan late Friday killed 18 people who were trying to illegally cross into neighbouring Iran in three vehicles, officials said.

"Motorcycle riding gunmen stopped their vehicles and forced them to come out with their hands up. 18 people have been killed and two were injured," Mohammad Aslam Tarin, a senior government official in Kechh district of Baluchistan, where the attack took place, told AFP.

The incident took place in the far-flung Kechh district, some 1250 kilometres (780 miles) southwest of Quetta, the main town of of Pakistan's insurgency hit Baluchistan province, close to the Iranian border.

"We have started investigating but the motive of the attack is still unclear," Tarin said, adding that rescue teams have been sent to the area to recover the dead bodies.

Gunmen managed to flee the scene, he added.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Gunmen-kill-18-in-southwest-Pakistan-Officials/articleshow/14726721.cms

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South Asia

Will the death penalty halt the Maldives’ crime surge?

By Hawwa Lubna | July 5th, 2012

The debate surrounding the implementation of capital punishment is quite pertinent and poignant at this time in the Maldives’ history.

The violent crimes, including gang violence, burglary, mugging, sexual abuse of children and murders are increasing to an alarming level in our society. For many, the reintroducing of state-endorsed death, otherwise known as capital punishment or the death penalty, seems to be best solution to address the surge in crime.

The last person to be executed in the Maldives after receiving a death sentence was in 1953 during the first republic of President Mohamed Ameen. Hakim Didi was charged with attempting to assassinate President Ameen using black magic.

Since then, the Maldives has retained the practice of the death penalty, although Islamic Shari’ah tenets give the courts the power to pronounce capital punishment for offences such as murder, sodomy, fornication, apostasy and other crimes against community.

Statistics show that from January 2001 to December 2010, a total of 14 people were sentenced to death by the courts and none were below 18 years of age. These sentences were never enforced and were commuted to life imprisonment under the power vested to the President in Clemency Act.

However, MP Ahmed Mahloof and several other MPs are of the view that if death penalty or capital punishment is re-introduced in the Maldives, it would bring down crime in Maldives, and have decided to propose the amendment in consultation with several people including fellow parliamentarians.

Full report at:

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No plans to open consulate in PoK’s Gilgit-Baltistan: China

Jul 7, 2012

BEIJING: China has refuted a report that it plans to open a consulate in Gilgit-Baltistan, which is part of the disputed Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir. Any move to open a consulate there would mean Beijing's open support for PoK and come as manna from heaven to Islamabad.

"What an absurd report! China hasn't even opened a consulate in Lahore," the official Global Times quoted an unnamed source as saying. The report said Lahore is close to the India-Pakistan border, suggesting this as a reason for China not opening a consulate there.

The report has obviously been inspired by the Chinese foreign ministry because it had been active on Friday telling journalists that the "relevant report" is incorrect. "The Pakistani government is known to plant such stories in the media to force China to make its position clear," a source said.

"Opening a consulate in a foreign country is the responsibility of the foreign ministry. We have never heard of a regional official having the right to 'officially inform' another country about such a decision," the state-run paper quoted its source. The government was responding to a report published in the Kashmir Monitor and the EuroAsia Review.

Gilgit-Baltistan is a hotspot because the Nato supply lines to Afghanistan passes through it. It also borders China's restive province of Xinjiang, and the Chinese government goes to great lengths to keep Taliban extremists out of its border. Pakistan has opened the Nato supply lines after keeping it closed for seven months.

In a curious twist, the Global Times quoted a scholar confirming Chinese investment in Gilgit-Baltistan, which India has suspected for a long time.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/china/No-plans-to-open-consulate-in-PoKs-Gilgit-Baltistan-China/articleshow/14727995.cms

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Afghan Conflict Losing Air Power as U.S. Pulls Out

By C. J. CHIVERS

July 07, 2012

Death stopped Abdul Qayum, a Taliban commander in Afghanistan’s Zabul Province, in a fiery flash and roar.

It was an evening in October last year, and Mr. Qayum was meeting several Afghans in a field. Though he did not know it, a Navy F/A-18 strike fighter was circling high overhead more than five miles away, summoned by an American Special Operations team. Its engines were out of earshot, the pilot said, “so we didn’t burn the target.”

Mr. Qayum led a platoon-size Taliban group and was plotting to bomb an Afghan government office, an American intelligence officer said. Under Western rules guiding the use of deadly force, the pilot was barred from trying to kill him while he stood in a group of unidentified men.

Then came a chance. The meeting ended, and Mr. Qayum approached a man who had pulled up on a motorcycle, the pilot and the intelligence officer said. Soon the two men were riding together on a dirt road, illuminated on the screen of the aircraft’s targeting sensor.

The pilot, Lt. Cmdr. Brian Kesselring, released an AGM-65E laser-guided missile. Visible on a video recording declassified and released to The New York Times, the missile struck the pair head-on, exploding with such energy that only fragments of Mr. Qayum’s remains were found.

Full Report at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/07/world/asia/in-dwindling-afghan-war-air-power-has-become-a-way-of-life.html?ref=world&gwh=350EACDC5DCD7388E41ABAC5C9762031

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Clinton's criticism of China over Syria "unacceptable"

07 july, 2012                

BEIJING, July 7 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman on Saturday said that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's criticism of China at the latest Friends of Syria meeting is "unacceptable."

"China is not impeding the process of resolving the Syrian issues," Liu Weimin said at a regular press conference in response to a question on Clinton's remarks on Friday in Paris.

At the third Friends of Syria meeting, Clinton said Russia and China were "holding up progress" in a settlement to the 16-month crisis, describing their stances as "no longer tolerable."

But Liu retorted, "On the contrary, China has made an important contribution to safeguarding the UN Charter, the basic norms governing international relations, the peace and stability of the region and the fundamental interests of the Syrian people as well as pursuing a political solution to the Syrian issues."

The spokesman said the Geneva meeting, a ministerial-level gathering of the Action Group on Syria in which China played a constructive role, produced positive outcomes.

The Geneva meeting on June 30 gathered foreign ministers of the UN Security Council's five permanent members along with Turkey, Kuwait, Qatar, Iraq, plus representatives of the UN, the Arab League and the European Union. The ministers agreed that a transitional government should be set up in Syria to end the conflict but did not stipulate the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad.

China's impartial and constructive stance as well as its diplomatic efforts have been widely recognized and supported by the international community, said Liu, adding that any efforts to blemish the image of China or make mischief between it and other nations will end in vain.

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2012-07/07/c_131701262.htm

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India

Moderate Hurriyat welcomes Indo-Pak talks, calls for urgency on Kashmir

Jul 06 2012

Srinagar: Moderate Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq today welcomed the Indo-Pak foreign secretary level talks, but said a sense of urgency was needed in the dialogue process for resolution of Kashmir issue.

"Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries met in New Delhi and Hurriyat leadership also held a detailed meeting with the Pakistani Foreign Secretary. We are happy that both countries have decided to carry forward the dialogue process," Mirwaiz said at a Friday address in city's Jamia Masjid.

Mirwaiz said the separatist amalgam also welcomed the forward movement on dialogue to resolve Kashmir issue.

"But we feel a need to develop a sense of urgency to resolve Kashmir issue and steps should be taken accordingly," he said.

The Hurriyat Chairman said the leadership of the two countries should take political initiatives to resolve Kashmir.

"Kashmir issue is a political issue and both the countries need to stop moving at snail's pace. They will have to formulate a process which includes Kashmiri people also."

Mirwaiz also expressed apprehensions over the government plan to woo Israeli tourists to the Kashmir Valley.

"We are not against tourists, but the government should take care of the sensitivities of the Muslims," he said.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/971186/

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Legendary Mughal mosque unearthed

July 07, 2012

REMAINS of a historical monument, unearthed a few steps from Jama Masjid, belong to the golden age of Mughal Empire.

Archeological Survey of India said the monument, which residents claim is the Akbarabadi Mosque demolished by the British in 1857, is definitely a “ contemporary” of the 17th century Red Fort, though whether it was a mosque or not will be known only after a detailed survey of the area.

The site in Matia Mahal, near Daryaganj, has been drawing visitors in hordes since the past three weeks after the first proofs of the historical structure — pottery and carved stones — were discovered in the area.

On Wednesday, a 10 metrewide wall was discovered a few feet under the ground. Residents claimed the wall was a part of the boundary of the main prayer enclosure, supposed to be about 85 metre wide.

ASI officials said the discovery of the site is “ indeed remarkable”. “ What we have here is a structure definitely of the time of the Red Fort. It is important due to its proximity both to the Jama Masjid and the Red Fort. The articles discovered from the site — Chinese porcelain, glaze pottery — belong to the period of the Mughals. What the structure exactly is will be known only after detailed survey,” superintending archaeologist Dr D. N. Dimri said.

But residents are confident that evidence of the structure being a mosque is present in the archives.

Full report at:

Mail Today

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India to re-emphasise Afghan role

July 7, 2012 

As Afghanistan prepares for the 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of US-led Nato forces from its territory, India will be re-emphasising its long-term commitment in assisting its neighbour.

The reiteration will come during the Tokyo conference slated for July 8 which is aimed at ensuring sustainable development in Afghanistan, particularly during the transformation decade of 2015-2024.

With India being an active member of the international community’s efforts to help in Afghan reconstruction and development, external affairs minister S.M. Krishna will be leading the country’s delegation to the Tokyo conference.

At the Tokyo conference, Mr Krishna is expected to emphasise India’s long-term commitment towards assisting the Afghan government and its people in their efforts to build a peaceful, pluralistic, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan.

Full report at:

http://www.deccanchronicle.com/channels/nation/north/india-re-emphasise-afghan-role-476

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Lawyer highlights flaws in Sarabjit’s trial

July 07, 2012

The lawyer of Indian death row prisoner Sarabjit Singh has highlighted flaws in his trial for alleged involvement in a string of bombings in 1990 and demanded that the Pakistan government commute his death sentence to life imprisonment.

Lawyer Awais Sheikh said there were many mistakes committed by the courts during Sarabjit’s trial and while deciding his appeals against his death sentence.

“In the presence of many flaws in Sarabjit’s trial, he was not given the benefit of doubt, which local accused are mostly given by the courts,” Sheikh told reporters here.

“Firstly the case of Sarabjit Singh is of mistaken identity as he was presented by the intelligence agencies before the court with the name Manjeet Singh, who was the actual person responsible for committing acts of terrorism in Pakistan,” he said.

Sheikh said the Lahore High Court, while deciding Sarabjit’s appeal against his death sentence, ruled that the “name makes no difference and it is enough that he has made confession of his crime“.

Presenting a statement recorded by a special judge, Sheikh said Sarabjit had never confessed to his crime before any court of law or any investigation agency.

Full report at:

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article3612904.ece

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Jundal bares ISI hand in 26/11

Jul 7, 2012

NEW DELHI: Key 26/11 conspirator Syed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal has reportedly claimed that Major Saleem Ali of Pakistan's ISI came to the Beit-ul-Mujahideen camp in Muzzafarabad a few days before the Mumbai attacks and handed over two cartons of cartridges for AK series weapons. Sources said the same cartridges were used by the 10 terrorists including Ajmal Kasab in the Mumbai carnage.

Giving more details of Sameer Ali's role, Jundal told his interrogators that he had also arranged the logistics for the 'marine training' of the 10 terrorists at Karachi harbour. Apart from Sameer Ali, another ISI officer Hamza has been reportedly named by Jundal, which clearly proves the role of state actors in the 26/11 attack. Jundal's version corroborates David Coleman Headley's statement naming one Major Sameer Ali during his interrogation.

About Hamza, who is said to be a colonel rank officer, sources said he helped Jundal with finance and shelter and also arranged his visit to Saudi Arabia.

The revelations are seen as yet another proof of the involvement of Pakistani state agencies in the 26/11 attacks. They also fly in the face of visiting Pakistani foreign secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani's denial of any role of state agencies in the plotting and execution of Mumbai attacks.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Jundal-bares-ISI-hand-in-26/11/articleshow/14724756.cms

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Kuldip Nayar’s book spills Pak nuclear bomb secrets

Jul 7, 2012

NEW DELHI: Pakistan may have had a nuclear bomb well before it was thought to have until now. Pakistan's nuclear scientist and father of the bomb A Q Khan had admitted before senior Indian journalist Kuldip Nayar in 1987 that Islamabad already had the bomb.

Nayar has now made the disclosure in his autobiography, Beyond The Lines, saying that he tricked Khan into admitting it. Perhaps more importantly, Khan also told Nayar that Pakistan did not need to explode a nuclear device to test its bomb and that it had carried out the test in a laboratory.

``Tell them we have it, we have it,'' a furious Khan told Nayar pounding his hand on the table, says the book. Beyond The Lines recounts that the author tricked Khan into admitting it by concocting a story that, before coming to Pakistan, he ran into Dr Homi Sethna, the father of India's nuclear bomb, who asked Nayar why he was wasting time by going to meet him because Pakistan had neither the human resource nor the material to make such a weapon. Khan even claimed in the meeting that Pakistan's bomb was larger than the one India had exploded in Rajasthan on May 18, 1974.

Nayar says he followed up Khan's disclosure with the remark that it was easy to make such Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Kuldip-Nayars-book-spills-Pak-nuclear-bomb-secrets/articleshow/14726051.cms

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Pak stalled on punishing Mumbai suspects

July 07, 2012

Pakistan has "continued to stall on trying to punish" the Mumbai terror attack suspects, increasing Indian frustration, said a leading Pakistani daily following foreign secretaries' talks in New Delhi.   An editorial in the Dawn on Saturday said that the only outcome of the

talks in New Delhi is that "there is no outcome".

"Matters remain where they were before (Pakistan foreign secretary) Jalil Abbas Jilani and (Indian foreign secretary) Ranjan Mathai met. For two days, they put their heads together and then came out with a joint statement that might as well not have been there, notwithstanding the familiar ‘they agreed’ refrain on issues ranging from visa liberalisation and cultural contacts to Kashmir and nuclear CBMs," it said.

Jilani refuted Indian home minister P. Chidambaram’s charge that the evidence gathered after Zabihuddin Ansari’s arrest confirmed Pakistani ‘state actors’ were involved in the Mumbai carnage.

"Sadly, once again on the eve of talks, prospects of peace dimmed following the arrest of the suspected terrorist in circumstances that remain a mystery.

Full report at:

http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/Pakistan/Pak-stalled-on-punishing-Mumbai-suspects-Dawn/Article1-884614.aspx

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Day after, Pak denies India gave info on Jundal

 Jul 07 2012

Attari : A day after India said it had “shared information” with Pakistan on the interrogation of 26/11 accused Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani today denied the same.

“So far no information about this (Jundal’s role in the Mumbai terror attack) has been shared with me,” Jilani told The Indian Express just before crossing over to Pakistan at the Attari border. “We are ready to extend every help if the information is shared with us.”

Following two days of talks, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and Jilani had held a press conference yesterday where Mathai had said: “I did convey information provided to us regarding the outcome of the investigation so far, that has been taken on board — as you heard — by the Pakistan Foreign Secretary. And we look forward to them taking action on that information.” Jilani had gone on to propose “joint investigation” while denying involvement of Pakistani state agencies in the matter.

Today, however, Jilani denied receiving any information about Jundal from India. He also denied being given any time frame on handing over of information or dossier by Mathai. As and when India shared information, Pakistan would take the necessary steps, Jilani added.

He said his talks with Mathai had “progressed” very well. “I am going home satisfied after the talks.”

Full report at:

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/971373/

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Mideast Asia

Iran nuclear talks: a thin, faint chink of light

 7 July 2012

Iranian negotiators have presented an uncompromising stance on paper but informally they hint a deal could still be done

The official talks between Iran and six major powers continue to creep forward with no sign of progress. Technical experts met in Istanbul on Tuesday to thrash out the science involved in the negotiations, but the rift between the two sides is wide and essentially political. The next step is supposed to be a meeting between mid-level diplomats - the deputy EU foreign policy representative, Helga Schmid, and her Iranian counterpart, Ali Bagheri, more to keep the conversation going than in any genuine sense of forward movement.

Meanwhile, the fullest exposition of the Iranian position to date has surfaced in the form of a document presented at the Iranian mission to the UN on Tuesday to a group of US nuclear experts, at the same time as the Istanbul meeting.

The document, which was first reported by Al-Monitor, appears to be a paper version of the PowerPoint presentation given by the Iranian delegation to the Moscow talks last month, and it is a tough read.

It comprehensively rejects the EU-brokered proposal for Iran to stop production of 20%-enriched uranium, to shut down production at the underground Fordow centrifuge plant, and ship out Iran's stockpile of 20% uranium ('stop, shut and ship'), in return for fuel plates for a medical research reactor, nuclear safety assistance, and parts for commercial airliners.

The document states that Iran needs its 20% uranium not just for the

Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) but "for at least 4 other research reactors because of the territorial extent of Iran and the short lifetime of medical isotopes". It also suggested that Tehran might want to sell its nuclear fuel abroad, another rationale for producing more than it currently needs.

Full report at:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/julian-borger-global-security-blog/2012/jul/06/iran-nuclear-talks

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Turkey mourns pilots downed by Syria

July 07, 2012

Turkey's PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan has joined hundreds of mourners at the funeral of two pilots whose jet was shot down by Syria two weeks ago. The somber ceremony took place Friday at an air base in the southern city of Malatya, from where the pilots' plane had originally taken

off. Ceremonies will be held later in the day.

Syrian forces shot down the RF-4 plane June 22. Turkey says it was hit in international airspace, but Syria insists it was flying low inside Syrian airspace.

The bodies of Captain Gokhan Ertan and Lt. Hasan Huseyin Aksoy, were recovered from the seabed Thursday after US explorer Robert Ballard, known for discovering the wreck of the Titanic, helped locate them.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/RestOfAsia/Turkey-mourns-pilots-downed-by-Syria/Article1-884578.aspx

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UN council appoints three to probe Israeli settlements

July 07, 2012

GENEVA: The UN’s top human rights body has appointed three independent experts to conduct a fact-finding mission on how Israel’s West Bank settlements affect Palestinians.   

The president of the UN Human Rights Council, Uruguay Ambassador Laura Dupuy Lasserre, on Friday named three women to the panel: Christine Chanet of France, Unity Dow of Botswana and Asma Jahangir of Pakistan.

Dupuy Lasserre said their mission will be to look how the Israeli settlements impact ”the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people.”

The Geneva-based 47-nation council passed a resolution in March to establish such a probe.

The UN already considers Israeli settlements illegal under international law. Some 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war, along with Gaza.

http://dawn.com/2012/07/06/un-council-appoints-three-to-probe-israeli-settlements/

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Iran Blames France, Germany for Atom Scientist Hits

July 07, 2012

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran's spy chief accused German and French intelligence agencies on Friday of involvement in assassinations of its nuclear scientists, sticking to a hard official line as sanctions imposed over its disputed atomic ambitions bite harder.

The Islamic Republic has previously accused Israel, the United States and Britain of plotting the killings to set back its uranium enrichment program, which Western powers suspect is being used to develop nuclear weapons capability.

Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi spread the blame to France and Germany, after days of hawkish rhetoric and missile tests by Tehran that helped push benchmark Brent crude oil prices above $100 for the first time since June.

"In these two networks (involved in the assassinations) we saw connections with the information services in Germany, France, Britain, Israel, the United States and regional intelligence agencies," the state news agency IRNA quoted Moslehi as saying. He did not name the other countries.

In Berlin, a German government spokesman said: "We decline to comment on such fanciful accusations."

At least four scientists associated with Iran's nuclear program have been assassinated since 2010, most recently in January this year. [ID:nL6E7IR0L2] Washington has denied any role in the killings, while Israel has declined to comment.

Full report at:

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2012/07/06/world/middleeast/06reuters-iran-nuclear-blame.html?ref=global-

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Barefoot in a Tent, Neighbors Trading Vows of Mideast Peace

By JODI RUDOREN

July 07, 2012

HEBRON, West Bank — Peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis resumed this week, in an elaborate tent off a dirt road south of this hotly disputed city where Abraham, the patriarch of both peoples, is believed to have buried his wife.

Representatives of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority were not invited. Instead, the summit meeting on Thursday was hosted by Sheik Fared al-Jabari, the head of a huge clan claiming 35,000 members in Hebron and one million loyalists over all. And it was attended by right-wing Jewish settlers as well as several European Parliament members from conservative factions.

There were no maps traded back and forth, no treaties drafted. The contentious question of what to do about Jerusalem was never mentioned, and the refugee issue was only nodded at.

If Track I negotiations are between the political principals, and Track II diplomacy engages intellectuals in constructive dialogue, call this Track III: local leaders with no official authority, sitting shoeless on cushions in a light breeze, trading promises of peace among neighbors amid platters of grapes, pears, peaches and plums.

Full report at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/07/world/middleeast/barefoot-in-a-tent-neighbors-trading-vows-of-mideast-

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Arab World

Egypt’s New Leader Orders Inquiry on Killings of Protesters

By KAREEM FAHIM

July 07, 2012

CAIRO — President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt has appointed a committee to investigate the killing of protesters during and after the uprising early last year, in what appeared to be a strong challenge to the authority of Egypt’s powerful security services.

Mr. Morsi’s decree, which was issued late Thursday and was his 10th in his first week in office, created a 16-member panel to investigate the killing and wounding of “peaceful protesters.” It also ordered state institutions to cooperate with the committee’s work.

Mr. Morsi promised during his campaign to address the revolt’s most painful legacy: the killing of more than 800 protesters during the uprising that led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 and the killing of dozens of others during the transitional period that followed. The families of the victims have been angered by a lack of accountability because dozens of police officers have been acquitted after trials for the killings.

The time frame for the committee’s work — from the start of the revolt in January 2011 until the end of last month — seemed to represent an attempt by Mr. Morsi to challenge the generals who ruled Egypt during the transition and have retained broad powers for the military despite the election of a civilian leader. Mr. Morsi’s committee, in theory, has the power to investigate killings that have been attributed to the military and that occurred during protests held months after Mr. Mubarak stepped down.

Full report at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/07/world/middleeast/egypts-leader-morsi-orders-inquiry-on-killings.html?ref=global-home&gwh=7F9701393AEBA1FD8936B22B18D1040E

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Mediation to save neck of murderer fails

7 July 2012

The attempts of more than 2,000 people including tribal chiefs and dignitaries from Al-Khurmah and other areas in Taif to save a murderer who has been on death row for 18 years have failed, local newspapers reported yesterday.

The son of the murdered man Faraj Al-Sibaie has refused to accept the diyyah (blood money) offered to save Awad Al-Harbi from beheading.

Al-Harbi shot his friend Al-Subaie in the head after they had a heated argument. He was convicted and then imprisoned at Taif general prison awaiting execution.

The son was only a few months old when his father was murdered. The execution had to be delayed until he turned 18 (which happened a few months ago) when he could decide whether to pardon Al-Harbi or not.

A delegation of tribal chiefs and dignitaries went to the victim’s family home where they were received by Sheikh Mashari bin Nasser Al-Subaie, chief of Al-Quraishat tribe, and other dignitaries from the Al-Khurmah region.

Sheikh Al-Subaie welcomed the delegation, thanking them and urged Al-Subaie’s family to pardon Al-Harbi.

He recited Qur’anic verses and the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) teachings demonstrating the importance of pardoning in Islam.

A number of tribal chiefs also asked the family to pardon the killer and accept the blood money.

The son refused and insisted Al-Harbi should pay for his crime.

http://www.arabnews.com/mediation-save-neck-murderer-fails

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Iraq car bomb against anti-Qaeda fighter kills six

July 07, 2012

RAMADI: A suicide bomber blew up a car packed with explosives near an anti-Qaeda militiaman’s home in western Iraq on Friday, killing six people, the latest victims of a spike in nationwide unrest.

The suicide car bombing in Ramadi, capital of the predominantly Sunni province of Anbar, targeted Sahwa fighter Rabah al-Bahiya but he was not at home at the time of the attack, officials said.

The blast killed six people – four men and two women – and wounded 22 others, including five women, a police major and a medic at the city’s hospital said.

The Sahwa are made up of Sunni Arab tribesmen who joined forces with the US military against al Qaeda from late 2006, helping turn the tide of the insurgency.

The latest violence comes amid a spike in attacks, with Iraq suffering a wave of unrest in June that left at least 282 people dead, according to an AFP tally, though government figures said 131 Iraqis died.

While violence in Iraq has declined dramatically since its peak in 2006-2007, attacks remain common across the country.

http://dawn.com/2012/07/07/iraq-car-bomb-against-anti-qaeda-fighter-kills-six/

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Facebook apologises for deleting free speech group's post on Syrian torture

Social network mistakenly removes Article 19 update linking to report detailing alleged human rights abuses

Josh Halliday

6 July 2012

Facebook has apologised after it mistakenly deleted a free speech group's post on human rights abuses in Syria.

The social network on Friday removed a status update by Article 19, which campaigns for freedom of speech, that linked to a Human Rights Watch report detailing alleged torture in the Arab country.

Dr Agnes Callamard, the executive director of Article 19, accused Facebook of acting like "judge, jury and executioner" in the way it removes material from the website.

Facebook did not explain to Article 19 why it had deleted the material, but told the Guardian that the post was mistakenly removed after being reported as containing offensive content.

The original status removed from Article 19's Facebook page read: "@hrw publishes a shocking report into #torture in #Syria including geo-tagged detention centres http://ow.ly/bZ6Yl ^OS".

The link directed people to a report by Human Rights Watch detailing 27 "torture facilities" which the group claims are being run by Syrian authorities.

A spokesman for Facebook said the post was mistakenly removed by a member of its moderation team, which receives a high volume of take-down requests.

Facebook said in a statement: "The link was reported to Facebook. We assess such reports manually and because of the high volume, occasionally content that shouldn't be taken down is removed by mistake. We're sorry about this. The organisation concerned should try posting the link again."

Full report at:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/jul/06/facebook-apologises-free-speech-syria

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Syrian clan's defection strikes at heart of Assad regime

The Tlass family helped bridge the Alawite-Sunni divide. Their departure has major implications for the government and the war

Julian Borger, diplomatic editor

6 July 2012

The Tlass family was a privileged linchpin of the Assad regime that bound ruling Alawites and the Sunni elite together in an alliance of self-interest.

The clan's defection is likely to hasten the system's collapse, but also intensify the sectarian nature of the escalating conflict.

The dramatic escape of Manaf Tlass, the younger of two powerful brothers and a Republican Guard general, has highlighted the rift with the regime, but the family has clearly planned its departure stealthily for months. The patriarch, Mustafa, a former defence minister and long-standing Assad family consiglieri, had left this year for France, ostensibly for medical treatment. The elder brother, Firas, a tycoon, had progressively moved his business to Dubai. Together, their break with the house of Assad is a blow to the heart of the regime.

"Mustafa was Hafez al-Assad's Sunni insurance," said Fabrice Balanche, a scholar on Syria at the University of Lyons. In return for his loyalty, Assad showered favours and patronage on the Tlass hometown of Rastan.

Full report at:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/06/syrian-clans-defection-strikes-assad

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Syrian’s Defection Signals Eroding Support for Assad

By NEIL MacFARQUHAR

July 07, 2012

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The defection of a young general close to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has provided the most telling sign yet of eroding support for his government among even the most elite and trusted Sunni Muslims, who serve as a critical pillar of the security forces and civilian administration.

But while the defector, Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass, gained world attention when he fled Damascus on Thursday, President Assad’s bigger military challenge is the swelling number of silent objectors — soldiers of all ranks lacking the means to flee, or the interest, but no longer cooperating with the government. Instead of responding to the call to duty, they are staying home, abandoning their posts as the opposition grows bolder, stronger and more effective, said Syrian military experts and defectors.

Mr. Assad’s loyal inner circle and core support remains the Alawite community, a minority Muslim sect. But Alawites constitute no more than 12 percent of the 23 million population, so the Assad family has for decades relied on the majority Sunnis for their legitimacy and practical support. Sunnis make up the bulk of the nation’s foot soldiers, hold posts throughout the bureaucracy and dominate the elite in the business community.

A few Sunnis have always held high-profile positions in the government and military. General Tlass’s father, Mustafa, like his son a Sunni, was a confidant of the president’s father, Hafez, and served as defense minister for 32 years under both men.

But the uprising fueled almost entirely by the Sunni community — some 75 percent of the population — has gradually formed a deepening sectarian rift, chipping away at that crucial support among Sunnis. As the government crackdown intensified, leaving by some estimates as many as 17,000 dead, according to the United Nations, at least one deputy minister and 15 generals, all of them Sunnis, have defected to Turkey, 5 in the past few weeks alone.

Full report at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/07/world/middleeast/opponents-of-syrias-president-gather-in-paris.html?ref=global-home&gwh=682E7673CFD918537CE8FDFDD531343A

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Kidnappers get five years

RIYADH: MD RASOOLDEEN

7 July 2012

A local court sentenced two Asian men to five years in jail and 3,000 lashes each for kidnapping one of their compatriots.

The men, who pleaded guilty, were seeking a ransom from a wealthy relative of the victim, who had come to the Kingdom only recently.

According to a police statement in court, the men had taken the victim to a farm in the south of the capital and called his relative demanding the ransom money. The police did not reveal the ransom amount demanded by the perpetrators. The abductors had not harmed the victim. The kidnappers were arrested after the relative contacted police.

Meanwhile, in a major effort to wipe out beggary from the city, Riyadh police rounded up more than 2,000 beggars within two months, it was announced yesterday.

According to an official from Riyadh police, during this period, officers had arrested 2,192 beggars in the city. He added those arrested were mostly foreigners.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/kidnappers-get-five-years

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Madina governor describes expansion decision as historic

MADINAH: ARAB NEWS

7 July 2012

Madina Gov. Prince Abdul Aziz bin Majed described King Abdullah’s decision to expand the Prophet’s Mosque as historic.

He said: “This decision is deemed a great service to Islam and Muslims.

“Moreover, it would benefit all people in Madina, in addition to millions of pilgrims coming from all over the world.”

He added the decision had been taken after taking into account the growing number of pilgrims every year.

Madina Mayor Khaled Taher lauded King Abdullah for giving top priority to the two holy mosques, as demonstrated by the largest ongoing expansion of the Grand Mosque in Makkah ever since the dawn of Islam.

He added: “The king also ordered the expansion of the mataf (the area for circumambulation around Kaaba), in addition to accomplishing the expansion of the Jamarat Bridge, the masaa (running area between Safa and Marwa), and facilitating the smooth flow of pilgrims by introducing the Mashair Train.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/madinah-governor-describes-expansion-decision-historic

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Central Haram area to be tripled

HASSAN CHERUPPA

 7 July 2012

Islam’s two holy mosques are witnessing the largest ever expansion in their history.

After launching the massive expansion works of the Grand Mosque in Makkah in Ramadan last year, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has now issued an order to expand the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina, a move described as “unprecedented”.

Under the move, the central Haram area will be expanded threefold.

Once the three-phase expansion is completed, the mosque will have a total area of 1.1 million square meters with the capacity to accommodate an additional 1.6 million worshippers.

The historic expansion will be made as part of a comprehensive plan that also encompasses development of the central Haram area and underdeveloped neighborhoods.

While lauding King Abdullah’s care in serving the two holy mosques and improving the facilities for the growing number of Haj and Umrah pilgrims, Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, head of the Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, described the new expansion work of the Prophet’s Mosque as unprecedented.

He said the first phase of the expansion would cover construction of multistory buildings within the periphery of the existing northern courtyard, and the flat roof of the entire mosque structure after the expansion would have a total area of about 1.1 million square meters.

Full report at:

http://www.arabnews.com/central-haram-area-be-tripled

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North America

US declares Afghanistan major non-NATO ally

Jul 7, 2012

KABUL: The Obama administration on Saturday declared Afghanistan the United States' newest ``major non-NATO ally,'' an action designed to facilitate close defense cooperation after U.S. combat troops withdraw from the country in 2014 and as a political statement of support for Afghanistan's long-term stability.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who arrived in Kabul on an unannounced visit to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai, announced the alliance to diplomats at the U.S. Embassy.

The designation allows for streamlined defense cooperation, including expedited purchasing ability of American equipment and easier export control regulations. Afghanistan's military, which is heavily dependent on American and foreign assistance, already enjoys many of these benefits. The non-NATO ally status guarantees it will continue to do so.

``I am going to be announcing formally with President Karzai in just a little bit that President Obama has officially designated Afghanistan as what's called a major non-NATO ally of the United States,'' Clinton said.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/US-declares-Afghanistan-major-non-NATO-ally/articleshow/14729179.cms

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US court fines Iran $813 million for 1983 Lebanon attack

Jul 7, 2012

WASHINGTON: A US federal judge has ordered Iran to pay more than $813 million in damages and interest to the families of 241 US soldiers killed in the 1983 bombing of a Marine barracks in Lebanon.

"After this opinion, this court will have issued over $8.8 billion in judgments against Iran as a result of the 1983 Beirut bombing," Judge Royce Lamberth wrote in a ruling this week, a copy of which was seen Friday by AFP.

"Iran is racking up quite a bill from its sponsorship of terrorism," the Washington judge added, noting that "a number of other Beirut bombing cases remain pending, and their completion will surely increase this amount."

On October 23, 1983, 241 American soldiers, including 220 Marines, were killed in Beirut when a truck packed with explosives rammed through barricades and detonated in front of the US barracks near Beirut's international airport.

The attack was one of the deadliest ever against Americans.

The same day, in a coordinated attack, 58 French paratroopers were killed by a truck bomb at the French barracks in Beirut.

The twin bombings have been blamed on Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/US-court-fines-Iran-813-million-for-1983-Lebanon-attack/articleshow/14727245.cms

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U.S. Gives Ally Afghanistan Special Security Status

July 07, 2012

KABUL (Reuters) - Washington declared Afghanistan a major non-NATO ally on Saturday, a largely symbolic status reinforcing its message to Afghans that they will not be abandoned as the war winds down.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the decision, made by President Barack Obama, during her unannounced visit to Kabul where she met President Hamid Karzai on the eve of a major donors' conference in Tokyo which will draw pledges for aid.

The status upgrade may help Afghanistan acquire U.S. defence supplies and have greater access to U.S. training as the Afghan army takes more responsibility for the country's security ahead of the 2014 withdrawal of most NATO combat troops.

"Please know that the United States will be your friend and your partner. We are not even imagining abandoning Afghanistan. Quite the opposite," Clinton told a press briefing with Karzai before jetting off to Tokyo.

Obama's decision meets a pledge he made on a visit to Afghanistan this year to upgrade Kabul to a special security status given to only a limited number of U.S. partners -- including close allies like Israel and Japan -- which are not members of NATO.

Participants at the Tokyo meeting are expected to commit just under $4 billion (2.5 billion pounds) annually in development aid for Afghanistan at Sunday's meeting, though the central bank has said the country needs at least $6 billion a year to foster economic growth over the next decade.

Full report at:

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2012/07/07/world/asia/07reuters-afghanistan-clinton.html?ref=global-home&gwh=F6A9F57F4ADAA7EDEA4BE92644124BAC

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US, Taliban strike deal to resume talks in Qatar shortly

* Taliban leaders being released from Bagram, others to be released from Gitmo

By Imdad Hussain

July 07, 2012

ISLAMABAD: The United States and Taliban have agreed ‘in principle’ to resume talks in Qatar besides taking confidence-building measures (CBMs) to initiate a peace process in Afghanistan, Daily Times has learnt.

“Yes, the two sides are going to resume talks in Qatar probably next week or beyond,” a senior member of the Afghan Taliban said on the condition of anonymity.

Taliban had suspended preliminary peace negotiations with the US in March, blaming Washington for being non-serious in the political process.

The Afghan Taliban negotiating team had started talks with the US in Qatar last year, demanding release of key Taliban detainees from Guantánamo Bay.

Taliban Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid had denied that Taliban are holding peace talks with the US, adding that dialogue in Qatar was focusing on CBMs rather than peace.

But after few months of negotiations, Taliban had blamed the Americans for “ever-changing positions” and saw the US efforts to involve the Afghan authorities in the process as hurdles in moving forward with the talks. “When it comes to peace process Washington remains confused - going one step ahead and two steps back,” Mujahid said, adding that the US should clear its mind before restarting peace talks.

According to the new deal, the process of releasing Taliban detainees from Guantánamo would be started with initially releasing five prisoners while a process to free Taliban leaders in Afghanistan had already been kicked off.

Official sources in Kabul confided to Daily Times via telephone that Washington had also introduced a new programme – that is to give political asylum to Taliban leaders in Turkey, Australia, Canada or any other country if they wished so.

Sources inside ‘Political Commission’ of Taliban Shura said that the mid-level leaders among other Taliban detainees had secretly been released from Bagram in the last three days as a gesture of goodwill.

Full report at:

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\07\07\story_7-7-2012_pg7_2

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Clinton visits Afghanistan ahead of Tokyo talks

July 07, 2012

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton arrived in Kabul on an unannounced visit on Saturday on the eve of a major conference in Tokyo in which Afghanistan is set to seek billions of dollars in civilian aid.

"Considering that we are almost literally flying by, the secretary wanted to be

able to stop in Kabul en route to Tokyo, in large part just to check signals before this last major, significant ministerial conference," a senior state department official told reporters travelling with Clinton.

The top US diplomat was to hold breakfast talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace in Kabul.

Karzai, who will be in Tokyo along with officials including Clinton and United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon, has called for some $4 billion a year in civilian aid for Afghanistan to be pledged during Sunday's conference.

The World Bank has estimated that Afghanistan will need some $3.9 billion a year in civilian assistance for its aid-dependent economy, amid fears donations could dry up when Nato pulls out in 2014.

Full report at:

http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/Afghanistan/Clinton-visits-Afghanistan-ahead-of-Tokyo-talks/Article1-884591.aspx

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US, allies press Bashar Assad as top Syrian general flees

 Jul 7, 2012

PARIS: A top Syrian general's defection is the first major crack in the upper echelons of President Bashar Assad's regime, buoying a 100-nation conference Friday meant to intensify pressure for his removal, as well as an opposition desperate to bring him down but frustrated by diplomatic efforts.

All hoped the defection of Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass, an Assad confidant and son of a former defense minister who helped ease Assad into power, would have a snowball effect on his elite cohorts as Syrians count their dead, now more than 14,000.

US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton said Syrian leaders "are starting to vote with their feet" by abandoning the four-decade-old Assad dynasty, which continues to defy international efforts for peace. "Those with the closest knowledge of Assad's actions and crimes are moving away," she told reporters at the close of the conference.

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius was more blunt. Tlass' defection means that even the inner circle of Syria's ruler is starting to realize "that you cannot support a butcher like Mr. Bashar Assad," he declared.

The conference of the so-called "Friends of Syria" group brought together the U.S., its European and Arab partners, and the fractious Syrian opposition, all looking to turn up the heat to force Assad from power.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/US-allies-press-Bashar-Assad-as-top-Syrian-general-flees/articleshow/14727859.cms

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US steps up warnings on Iran dissident camp in Iraq

Jul 7, 2012

WASHINGTON: The United States warned an Iranian dissident group on Friday that time was running out for it to vacate its Iraqi base camp, and said its hope to be taken off the official U.S. blacklist of terrorist organizations could depend on its compliance.

Daniel Benjamin, the State Department's coordinator for counter-terrorism, said the Mujahadin-e Khalq (MEK) must complete its move from the Camp Ashraf facility, which the Iraqi government has vowed to close by July 20.

"It is past time for the MEK to recognize that Ashraf is not going to remain an MEK base in Iraq," Benjamin told reporters, saying Baghdad's patience was running out.

"The Iraqi government is committed to closing it, and any plan to wait out the government in the hope that something will change is irresponsible and dangerous."

The dissident group, which calls for the overthrow of Iran's clerical leaders, is no longer welcome in Iraq under the Shi'ite-led government that came to power after Saddam Hussein's downfall in 2003.

Also known as the People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran, the group led a guerrilla campaign against the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran during the 1970s that also included attacks on U.S. targets.

The United States added the MEK to its official list of foreign terrorist organizations in 1997, but the group has since said that it has renounced violence and has mounted a legal and public relations campaign to have its terrorist designation dropped.

COURT DEADLINE Last month, a U.S. appeals court asked U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to make her determination on the MEK's status by October, a ruling hailed as a victory by MEK supporters.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/US-steps-up-warnings-on-Iran-dissident-camp-in-Iraq/articleshow/14725601.cms

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Europe

Russia opposes introduction of no-fly zone in Syria

Jul 7, 2012

MOSCOW: Russia has termed the introduction of no-fly zone in Syria as "counter-productive" and "unilateral" step.

On Friday, the West-led Friends of Syria group called in Paris the introduction of a no-fly zone in Syria, the crisis-torn country.

"We repeatedly pointed out at the counter-productiveness of various unilateral steps, such like proposals about the creation of the humanitarian corridors and safety zones," Xinhua reported Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov as saying here Friday.

"These ideas have not been supported by the international humanitarian organisations working in Syria. These dubious ideas are not needed," he said.

The diplomat stressed that the UN Security Council did not make the decision on imposing of a no-fly zone over Syria and was unlikely to agree with the idea, "especially after what had happened in Libya".

The no-fly zone in Libya "had been introduced in contradiction to the UN resolutions and it was actively used by the NATO countries and some of their allies to support one of the sides in the conflict," Gatilov said.

The no-fly zone in Libya resulted in heavy damage to the country's infrastructure and civilian casualties, he told reporters.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/europe/Russia-opposes-introduction-of-no-fly-zone-in-Syria/articleshow/14729402.cms

LONDON: The Pakistan High Commission in London said it knew nothing about more than

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30,000 illegal Pakistanis ‘missing’ in United Kingdom

By Asif Mehmood

July 07, 2012

30,000 Pakistanis who had been refused permission to stay in Britain and whose whereabouts were unknown to the British authorities.

According to official documents obtained by the Daily Times, the chief immigration inspector of the UK Border Agency disclosed for the first time the existence of a backlog of more than 150,000 cases involving people who had been refused permission to stay in Britain. According to the documents, British chief inspector of immigration, John Vine disclosed the existence of the UK Border Agency’s national “migration refusal pool” during his first inspection of a local immigration team. He expressed his concerns and said that it was being impossible to know whether the 150,000 were still in Britain or had left voluntarily.

Vine said in his report that the “migration refusal pool” concerned cases where applications, for instance from students, had been made in the UK to remain, and had been refused. “Applicants are given notice that they must leave the UK within 28 days. The cases are officially described as work in progress.”

The inspectors say that the list includes people who have failed to leave Britain, those who have applied to stay under another category, those who have outstanding legal appeals, and those who have already left the country but by a route not covered by the e-borders computer database. Vine revealed that local immigration staff were confused about how many cases in the pool they were supposed to be chasing.

A source in the UK Border Agency told Daily Times that a large number of Pakistanis who were in the “refusal pool” had not even been formally served with the documents informing them that they had to leave Britain within 28 days. The Pakistan High Commission seemed to be least bothered about the fate and welfare of the 30,000 missing or underground people. When this scribe contacted Pakistani High Commissioner in the UK Wajid Shamsul Hassan, he actually thanked him for informing him about the development. When Daily Times contacted the welfare officer at the Pakistan High Commission, Balakh Sher Khosa, he said, “I don’t know about these Pakistanis. I will try to find out and will let you know. You had better ask the high commissioner.”

A large number of Pakistanis living in the UK have complaints about the indifference of these diplomats. Nobody knows about the condition of the Pakistanis mentioned missing by the British authorities. There is no information if they have food, shelter, money or access to health care.

Full report at:

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\07\07\story_7-7-2012_pg1_8

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London police make 7th arrest in terrorism probe

Jul 7, 2012,

Police investigating a potential terrorist attack said they had arrested a seventh person, a 22-year-old woman, in east London on Saturday.

Police are on high alert ahead of the London Olympics but said the latest arrest and those of a woman and five men in London earlier this week were not linked to the Games.

All seven suspects have been held on "suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism", police said. Britain has spent millions of pounds beefing up security in preparation for the Olympics.

Security chiefs have said repeatedly that they have no information that the Olympics are being targeted, but Jonathan Evans, head of the domestic intelligence agency MI5, has said the Games present an attractive target.

In a separate operation this week police arrested seven men on suspicion of terrorism after weapons were found in a vehicle stopped on a motorway in Yorkshire, northern England.

A police source said that in that case too, there was nothing to suggest any link with the Olympics, which start on July 27. In both cases security sources have said the suspects were linked to militant Islamism, but that it remained unclear what was planned.

The London suspects were arrested when their plotting was at an early stage, the sources added.

Full report at:

http://www.dnaindia.com/world/report_london-police-make-7th-arrest-in-terrorism-probe_1711902

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UNSC condemns attack in Congo that killed Indian soldier

July 07, 2012

United Nations: The UN Security Council has strongly condemned the killing of an Indian soldier in the attack by rebel groups on UN peacekeepers in Congo and asked the government in Congo to bring the perpetrators to justice.

In a press statement, the 15-nation Council expressed its sympathy to the family of the victim and UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) staff, as well as to the government of India.

Earlier, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had expressed deep regret over the death of the Indian soldier and offered his condolences to the family of the UN peacekeeper as well as to the Government and people of India.

"The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms" the attacks by the M23 rebel group on MONUSCO peacekeepers in North Kivu on July 5, as part of an ongoing offensive in the area, which resulted in the death of an Indian soldier in Bunagana as well as the displacement of thousands of civilians and deaths of Congo forces, the press statement said.

The UNSC members called upon the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to ensure that the perpetrators of such attack are swiftly brought to justice.

The Security Council reiterated its demands that the M23 and all armed groups immediately cease all forms of violence.

The UNSC members also reiterated their full support for MONUSCO and its operations in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Full report at:

http://zeenews.india.com/news/nation/unsc-condemns-attack-in-congo-that-killed-indian-soldier_786017.html

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UN chief Ban Ki-moon wants reduced Syria observer mission

Jul 7, 2012

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the Security Council to reduce the number of unarmed military observers in Syria and focus more on political efforts to end the Middle East country's crisis, Xinhua reported on Saturday.

In a report submitted to the 15-nation UNSC, Ban has recommended that the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) with a " reduced military observer component" be redeployed to Damascus from regional cities where the conflict has grown in recent weeks.

According to a draft of the report distributed to reporters, the UN chief outlined several options for the force of about 300 unarmed military observers and over 120 civilian staff in Syria. One of them is to temporarily reduce the number of observers and focus on political engagement until fighting subsides.

"If UNSMIS were re-oriented in this manner, the Mission would redeploy from the field to the capital to minimise risks, retaining core civilian and military observer capacities to focus on the spectrum of initiatives feeding into the political process," Ban wrote in the report.

He noted that from a central hub in Damascus, the civilian component would continue liaison and dialogue with opposition and government representatives in the provinces if security conditions allowed.

Full report at:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/UN-chief-Ban-Ki-moon-wants-reduced-Syria-observer-mission/articleshow/14729974.cms

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Kazakhstan unveils giant mosque on leader’s birthday

July 07, 2012

ASTANA: Kazakhstan on Friday unveiled a new mosque in its capital Astana, the biggest in Central Asia, as part of festivities marking long-serving President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s 72nd birthday.

The gleaming white structure with Kazakh national ornaments will have a capacity to accommodate 5,000 worshippers. It took less than two years to build.

“This celebration is a celebration for all Kazakh people. I congratulate you on opening Kazakhstan’s biggest mosque,” Nazarbayev said. “We are a multinational country... We are a tolerant nation.” The mosque, called “Khazret Sultan”, stands on some 11 hectares (27 acres) of land in central Astana.

In January it was dramatically engulfed in flames after the wooden scaffolding in its tall cupola caught on fire, setting off an ominous plume of smoke above the city.

Nazarbayev, who some accuse of encouraging a personality cult, turns 72 Friday. While he traditionally dismisses birthday celebrations in his name, the date has been made a holiday called “Capital Day”, marking the official move of Kazakhstan’s capital in 1998 from Almaty to Astana, then a dusty steppe town.

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\07\07\story_7-7-2012_pg14_3

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Turkmenistan's Leader Angered by Poor Grain Yield

July 07, 2012

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) — The authoritarian president of Turkmenistan has shaken up his government after a disappointing grain harvest and has sought to forestall discontent by announcing salary hikes after a spike in bread prices.

President Gurbanbuly Berdymukhamedov fired the agriculture minister for poor performance and rebuked four provincial governors for various shortcomings, state newspaper Neutral Turkmenistan reported Saturday.

Merdan Bayramov, who served as the former Soviet Central Asian nation's agriculture minister from January 2011, was replaced by his deputy, Rejep Bazarov. Other officials in the sector were also replaced.

The wheat harvest this year fell 25 percent short of the 1.6 million ton state target.

Prices for bread at state-run stores increased threefold Friday. The cost of one kilogram of flour also increased twofold to $0.35, which is likely to drive up prices for bread produced in private bakeries.

Staple foodstuffs are heavily subsidized, meaning the cost increase will likely have limited impact on the welfare of all but the very poorest. The long-term guarantee of state subsidies are at the heart of the virtual nonexistence of dissent, however, and hints of an imminent price-liberalizing policy could create ill-will.

In a lengthy Cabinet meeting Friday, Berdymukhamedov was unusually candid and detailed in his criticisms of his isolated country's agricultural industry.

Berdymukhamedov earlier this week had awarded luxury Cadillac SUVs to the government of the northeastern Lebap Province on Afghanistan's border for its particularly prodigious wheat output.

Governors from remaining four regions were severely chastised for failing to do their part, however.

Full report at:

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2012/07/07/world/asia/ap-as-turkmenistan-poor-harvest.html?ref=global-home&gwh=DFF36267581BDDE460CEA4C7131B60A2

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Kofi Annan attacks Russia and west's 'destructive competition' over Syria

UN envoy calls for end to mutual recriminations and answers critics of his cautious approach in exclusive Guardian interview

Ian Black, Middle East editor

 6 July 2012

Kofi Annan has issued a blunt warning that Syria will face a spreading civil war and risk a spillover of the conflict unless Russia, the west and Arab states end their "destructive competition" to force a ceasefire and launch a political process that the opposition insists must see President Bashar al-Assad step down.

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, the UN envoy called for an end to mutual recriminations and insisted that despite disagreements at an international conference on Syria in Geneva last weekend, the support of the entire UN security council for a political transition in Damascus was a significant achievement that should not be squandered.

"We are trying to implement some of the decisions taken in Geneva, most importantly exploring on the ground the most effective way to stop the violence and get them thinking of the political process," Annan said. "I understand the reaction of the [Syrian] opposition. Maybe in their shoes I would have done the same or gone further because they didn't get 100% of what they wanted. But it doesn't mean they got nothing."

In the face of criticism that his cautious and consensus-building diplomacy is getting nowhere as Syria bleeds – with an estimated 15,000 dead in 16 months – Annan insisted he had no intention of resigning.

Full report at:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/06/kofi-annan-syria-destructive-competition

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-world-news/mali-militants-recruit-and-abuse-children,-says-unicef/d/7854


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