#Syria expels diplomats, deploys chopper gunships as UN dithers


According to this report from Reuters, the Syrian government on Wednesday 6 June 2012 expelled diplomats from 17 Western countries including the United States, Canada, France, the UK and Turkey; a gesture which reciprocates last week’s Syrian diplomat expulsions after the Houla massacre. Meanwhile, helicopter gunships are reported to be supporting Syrian Army troops as they continue to attack rebels, mainly in and around the town of Haffeh in Latakia’s coastal region.

One potential glimmer of hope comes from Syria finally agreeing yesterday to allow increased humanitarian aid into Syria. The United Nations refugee agency claims over 78,000 Syrians have fled to Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Latest figures say over 500,000 have been displaced and up to a million people need urgent humanitarian aid. Turkey reports an increase in refugees entering the country from Syria, with 2,700 new arrivals in the first 5 days of June .

This news comes along with the appointment of former Agriculture minister Dr Riad Hijab as Prime Minister, tasked with creating a new government.

OHCHR Universal Periodic Review 21 May -4 Jun 2012 Provisional Timetable


Provisional Timetable for the Universal Periodic Review Working Group 13th Session:

[Image: UN HRC]

Monday, 21 May

09h00 – 12h30         Review of Bahrain
14h30 – 18h00         Review of Ecuador

Tuesday, 22 May

09h00 – 12h30         Review of Tunisia
14h30 – 18h00         Review of Morocco

Wednesday, 23 May

09h00 – 12h30         Review of Indonesia
14h30 – 18h00         Review of Finland

Thursday, 24 May

09h00 – 12h30         Review of United Kingdom
14h30 – 18h00         Review of India

Friday, 25 May

09h00 – 12h30         Review of Brazil
15h00 – 18h00         Adoption of reports on Bahrain, Ecuador, Tunisia, Morocco, Indonesia and Finland

Tuesday, 29 May

09h00 – 12h30         Review of Philippines
14h30 – 18h00         Review of Algeria

Wednesday, 30 May

10h00 – 11h30         Adoption of reports on United Kingdom, India and Brazil
14h00 – 18h00         Review of Poland

Thursday, 31 May

09h00 – 12h30         Review of the Netherlands
14h30 – 18h00         Review of South Africa

Friday, 1 June

15h00 – 16h30         Adoption of reports on Philippines, Algeria and Poland

Monday, 4 June

15h00 – 16h00         Adoption of reports on the Netherlands and South Africa

Additional information on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, including the reports for each country review can be located at the Universal Periodic Review webpage on the OHCHR website: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx 

Media contact
:  Rolando Gomez, Public Information Officer, OHCHR, + 41(0)22 917 9711, rgomez@ohchr.org


Why has @WFP chopped #Nigeria #Sudan and #Eritrea…


Why has @WFP chopped #Nigeria #Sudan and #Eritrea off the #Sahel? #LastYearsTargets

“The Sahel covers most parts of the territory of (from west to east) Senegal, southern Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, southern Algeria, Niger, northern Nigeria, Chad, northern Cameroon, Sudan (including Darfur and the southern part of Sudan), and Eritrea.”

“Hunger is on the rise across the Sahel region of West Africa, a massive swathe of territory that stretches across eight countries from Chad in the east to Senegal in the west.”


#Iran agrees to UN IAEA visit 28 Jan 2012

English: Flag of the International Atomic Ener...

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A HIGH-LEVEL UN nuclear agency delegation will visit Iran late this month to try to clear up claims of covert weapons activities that have stoked tensions between Tehran and the West.

The trip led by International Atomic Energy Agency chief inspector Herman Nackaerts and the agency’s number two Rafael Grossi would last from January 28 through the first week of February, one Western diplomat said last night.

Another envoy also said the visit, two months after an IAEA report on Iran took suspicions to a new level that Tehran is developing nuclear weapons, would “likely” be from January 28, although it was not yet definite.

There was also some “ambiguity” on whether the delegation would merely hold talks with Iranian officials or be able to visit sites covered in the IAEA’s bombshell November 8 report, the second diplomat said.

“It may be that the Iranians just want a short discussion in Tehran, which would not be what the IAEA is looking for,” the envoy said.

An IAEA spokesman declined to comment. Iran’s ambassador, Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, who said in December he would hold talks with the IAEA in Vienna this month about a visit, was not immediately available to say any more.

The delegation would include alongside the Belgian Mr Nakaerts and the Argentine Mr Grossi – IAEA head Yukiya Amano’s chief of staff – the body’s senior legal official Peri Lynne Johnson, a US citizen, envoys said.

“The aim of this mission is to try to get answers once and for all to all the questions raised by the IAEA’s report in November,” the first diplomat said.

Iran is already subject to regular safeguards inspections of its uranium enrichment facilities, with IAEA inspectors having already visited the country this year.

But this trip could cover sites where other activites are alleged to have taken place that could be relevant to the development of a nuclear bomb. The last time Mr Nackaerts visited was in the second half of last year.

Iran denies seeking atomic weapons, saying its program is peaceful, but Western countries strongly suspect otherwise and the UN Security Council has slapped four rounds of sanctions on the Islamic republic.

Ali Larijani, the influential speaker of Iran’s parliament, said on Thursday during a visit to Turkey that his country stood ready for negotiations with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany.

In its November 8 report, rejected as “baseless” by Iran, the IAEA had said it was able to build an overall impression that Tehran “carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device”.

The evidence included a bus-sized steel container visible by satellite for explosives testing and weapons design work, including examining how to arm a Shahab-3 missile, capable of reaching Israel, with a nuclear warhead.

Since the publication of the report, Western countries have sought to increase pressure on Iran, with Washington and Brussels taking aim at Iran’s oil industry and its central bank, while pressing Japan and China to join in.

Iran, where a judge on Monday reportedly sentenced to death a US-Iranian former Marine for “membership of the CIA”, has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a chokepoint for 20 per cent of the world’s oil.

Also on Monday the IAEA said that Iran had starting enriching uranium to purities approaching that needed for a nuclear weapon inside a mountain bunker at Fordo near the holy city of Qom.

This was a “very significant step”, Oliver Thraenert from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin said, saying he was not optimistic that the upcoming IAEA visit would achieve much progress.

“We are already in a confrontation between the West … and Iran, with more and more escalation going on on both sides,” he said.

“The Iranians are becoming much more nervous, this is obvious.

“But both sides are reluctant about escalating the situation to a point where a military confrontation would become unavoidable … particularly prior to US presidential elections (in November).”

Iran says the 20-per cent enriched uranium is for medical purposes but Washington called the start of operations at Fordo “a further escalation of their ongoing violations with regard to their nuclear obligations”.

On Wednesday Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a deputy director of Iran’s main uranium enrichment plant, died in a car bomb blast that Tehran blamed on the US and Israel, the third scientists to meet such a fate in the past two years. Thousands attended his funeral in Tehran last night.


Iran agrees to UN inspectors visit | The Australian.

9 Jan 2012 World News Digest #Iran #Yemen #Syria


Börzen Zeitung reports Germany and France kick-off high-level discussions in Berlin today aimed at laying the groundwork for a crunch EU summit on the eurozone debt crisis at the end of the month. It is the first in a series of monthly mini-summits between Merkel and Sarkozy, who want toughen up the rules governing countries which use the single currency. The draft pact, which has been obtained by Sky News, proposes using the European Court of Justice to ensure eurozone countries keep their national debt and budget deficits within agreed limits. The mini-summit will also examine the introduction of a financial transaction tax, which Britain also strongly opposes.

Al Ahram reports that Arab League Foreign Ministers meeting in Cairo have demanded that the Syrian government cease its bloody crackdown on protesters but affirmed its commitment to monitoring the situation in the country, despite criticism that monitors have been ineffectual at stopping violence. The move defied opposition politicians and activists who want to halt the mission and refer the issue to the UN Security Council. Many of them are calling for international military intervention.

Sanaa Radio announces that Yemen’s cabinet has approved a draft law which grants President Ali Abdullah Saleh immunity from prosecution as part of a Gulf-brokered transition deal. The law is still to be approved by the country’s parliament. On Friday, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay criticised the deal, saying those who committed abuses during a crackdown on the civil unrest unrest must face justice.

Akhbar Al Youm reports aid groups were mounting a “major emergency operation” in rural South Sudan after tribe-on-tribe violence sent tens of thousands fleeing and killed an unknown number of people. The UN’s humanitarian co-ordinator in South Sudan, Lise Grande, said aid groups were responding to a call for help from South Sudan’s central government after a column of 6,000 armed men from the Lou Nuer ethnic group marched into Pibor in Jonglei state to target the Murle community in late December and early January.

Manila Times quotes President Benigno Aquino of the Philippine warnng of a possible terrorist attack during today’s annual procession of a centuries-old image of Jesus Christ known as the Black Nazarene. Aquino said several terrorists planning to disrupt the religious procession, that may draw more than a million devotees, had been sighted in the capital. He asked devotees not to take mobile phones or weapons to the event.
Abrar quotes Iran’s top nuclear official announcing that the country was on the verge of starting production at its second major uranium enrichment site – the Fordo plant, near the city of Qum. The new facility, buried deep underground on a well-defended military site, is considered far more resistant to airstrikes than the existing enrichment site at Natanz, limiting what Israeli officials, in particular, consider an important deterrent to Iran’s nuclear aims.

Raw Story reports US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has confirmed that Iran is not developing its nuclear programme to make weapons.

News also from Iran today that former US Marine Amir Hekmati has been sentenced to death on charges of espionage. He has 20 days to appeal.

US Republican front-runner Mitt Romney has come under fire from fellow contenders ahead of Tuesday’s primary vote in the state of New Hampshire. At a nationally televised NBC debate, the former Massachusetts governor’s economic programme was called “timid” and his conservative credentials were also questioned.
New Straits Times reports Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been acquitted of sodomy after a two-year trial. Anwar, 64, had consistently denied the charges and called them a government bid to cripple his political ambitions and influence. He was jailed for sodomy in 1999 but the conviction was overturned. He had faced up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

Jerusalem Post says The Bill to Prevent Infiltration, a central tenet of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s new policy on illegal immigration, is expected to pass its second and third (final) readings in the Knesset late Monday night. The new law could mean indefinite detention for refugees.

Japan camera maker Olympus is suing it’s president Shuichi Takayama and other senior executives for concealing details of $1.7billion of fraudulent deals over a period of 13 years. The former Olympus CEO Michael Woodford was fired from his post after confronting Takayama.

Voice of Nigeria quotes President Goodluck Jonathan admitting for the first time that sympathisers of the Islamist Boko Haram group were in his government and security agencies. His comments come amid a wave of violence blamed on Boko Haram which has left dozens of people dead in the north, most of them Christians. Boko Haram, wants to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state, has warned southerners, who are mostly Christian and animist, to leave the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria. A senior Christian cleric has warned that the country is sliding towards civil war.

SwissInfo reports the new Libyan government decided on Sunday to lift sanctions against Switzerland and Lebanon, which Moammar Gaddafi had enacted several years ago.

Times of Malta reports that Police in Norway cut in half a traffic fine for a Swedish trucker on the grounds that Swedes earn less than Norwegians. Oslo newspaper VG reports that Ulf Ander Andersson, 61, was driving a lorry for his Norwegian employer in March when he was stopped by police, who found his brakes were not in order. He was fined £857 ($1,323) but last month got a letter saying the sum had been reduced due to his nationality. Mr Andersson told VG he was grateful, though he found it “very strange”.