World Wrap: August 30, 2013
British prime minister Cameron suffers major embarrassment over Syria vote, Rwanda accuses Congo of shelling, and angry farmers converge on Colombia’s capital. Today is Friday, August 30, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and@clarerrrr.
UK parliament votes down war motion for first time since American independence
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron leaves Number 10 Downing Street to attend Parliament in London, August 29, 2013. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett
Cameron’s Syria shame. UK Prime Minister David Cameron suffered a humiliating defeat when the British Parliament voted down a motion to take military action against Syria, the first time a British Prime Minister lost a vote on war in centuries:
Commentators said it was the first time a British prime minister had lost a vote on war since 1782, when parliament effectively conceded American independence by voting against further fighting to crush the colony’s rebellion. Speaking immediately after the vote, Cameron told parliamentarians he would not seek to go against parliament’s will. “It is very clear tonight that while the House has not passed a motion, it is clear to me that the British parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action – I get that and the government will act accordingly,” he said.
France said it would back a strike against Syria despite the UK’s decision, and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Washington will continue efforts to put together a global coalition. Any military action is expected to be delayed until after the U.N.’s chemical weapons inspectors leave Syria on Saturday. Meanwhile, Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice has led efforts to convince Congress that the U.S. must act:
Her views on the Syrian conflict have basically mirrored the president’s cautious approach of avoiding getting the United States bogged down in another costly war. Obama has withdrawn U.S. troops from Iraq and is winding down the combat mission in Afghanistan… Rice has been active in U.S. efforts to assemble something resembling a coalition of like-minded nations to respond to what U.S. officials say is undeniable proof that the Syrian government of Assad used chemical weapons to kill hundreds in a Damascus suburb on August 21. That effort suffered a big setback on Thursday as close ally Britain said it would not participate in any military action.
Most global leaders, with the notable exceptions of Russia and Iran, believe Assad is responsible for the apparent chemical attack. Reports of another awful incident have emerged after footage showed the aftermath of what appeared to be a Napalm-like attack. Roughly 100,000 Syrians have been killed since the country’s civil war started two-and-a-half years ago.
A Congolese armed forces (FARDC) tank fires a shot as soldiers battle M23 rebels in Kibati, outside Goma, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, August 30, 2013. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
Break from border violence. Democratic Republic of Congo’s M23 rebels withdrew from the frontline on Friday and agreed to a ceasefire in order to allow an investigation of alleged shelling in neighboring Rwanda:
Rwanda accused Congo on Thursday of shelling its territory and said such “provocation” would not be tolerated, raising fears of an escalation in the conflict in eastern Congo where army troops and U.N. peacekeepers have been battling the rebels. The United Nations has thrown its weight behind Congo’s government, saying its peacekeepers witnessed the M23 rebels firing shells into Rwanda.
Congo’s M23 rebels say the government has not integrated their forces into the army, as per a 2009 peace deal that halted four years of rebellion in eastern Congo.
A student demonstrator holds a sign that reads, “Support the strike because I am the grandson of a farmer” during a protest against the government of President Juan Manuel Santos in Bogota, August 29, 2013. REUTERS/Jose Miguel Gomez
Farmer fracas. Colombian President Manuel Santos called for military reinforcements on Friday to rein in violent protests in Bogota that have left two dead. Thousands of Colombian farmers have come to the capital to demand changes to policies they say have forced them into poverty:
Protesters wearing typical farmer attire of woolen ponchos, brimmed hats and rubber boots to show their solidarity, marched in 15 columns toward the Plaza Bolivar, where the presidential palace and Congress are located. There were also protests in Medellin, Cali and elsewhere across the nation… The already grueling life of farming families has become harder in recent years since income from harvests has failed to cover costs of fertilizers and transportation. Potato, corn and milk producers complain that free trade agreements with Europe and the United States have made it almost impossible to compete with cheaper imports. Droughts followed by unusually heavy rains have also made farming conditions difficult over the past several years.
Santos has said he will lift import taxes on several products to help lower crop production costs, and that he is working on more permanent solutions to ease the financial burden on farmers.
Nota Bene: One road serves as both a lifeline and bottleneck in landlocked South Sudan.
A litany of errors - Reuters columnist Hugo Dixon discusses the damage done by Britain’s anti-war vote. (Reuters)
V-Rox - Russians rock out during a first of its kind, SXSW-like music festival. (The New York Times)
Putin portraitist out - The artist behind a painting of a scantily-clad Putin flees to Paris. (The Atlantic)
Charges flushed - A Zimbabwean man skirts charges of intending to use an image of Mugabe as toilet paper. (BBC)
Pseudoscience - An Indonesian education chief wants to impose mandatory virginity tests on girls entering high school. (Time)
Check out more from World Wrap at Reuters dot com.
Rescued: Mexico’s army announced it rescued 165 kidnapped people last week. The kidnapped persons are mostly Central Americans, and include children and pregnant women. They were held captive in a house less than a mile from the U.S. border.
"Everything indicates that these migrants were contacted by human traffickers … and these criminals handed them over to criminal gangs instead of taking them to the border," Mexico government spokesman Eduardo Sanchez said.
The group was rescued on Tuesday, June 4, 2013.
The state of Tamaulipas has been plagued by kidnappings and violence in recent years. It is the site of a turf war between two major drug cartels.
In 2010, Mexico’s Marines found 72 bodies in a ranch near the U.S. border, thought to be the remains of murdered migrant workers. Mexico’s drug war has killed an estimated nearly 75,000 people since 2006.
Drug cartels are kidnapping migrants and extorting money from them or forcing them to carry drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Infographic: Syria’s casualties after two years of civil war
Rebels claim to shoot down Syrian helicopter near Aleppo
Video posted to opposition social media websites Monday purports to show Syrian rebels downing a government forces helicopter at the airport near Aleppo, as shelling continues near Damascus. Mana Rabiee reports.
At least 2.5 million Syrians are believed to have fled their homes because of civil war, aid groups said on Tuesday, more than double previous estimates.
The figure comes from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, whose volunteers are on the frontlines of the 20-month conflict, delivering aid supplies and evacuating wounded.
"The figure they are using is 2.5 million. If anything, they believe it could be more, that this is a very conservative estimate," Melissa Fleming, chief spokeswoman of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a news briefing.
"So people are moving, people are really on the run, hiding. They are difficult to count and to access," she said.
Pakistani politician Imran Kahn, a vocal critic of U.S. drone strikes, was briefly delayed and questioned by U.S. immigration officials in Toronto before being allowed to board a flight to New York, prompting his party to demand an apology from Washington.
Khan told his followers on Twitter that he was detained and interrogated Friday about his views on drones.
READ ON: U.S. officials pull Pakistani politician off plane
The U.S. military is expected to announce disciplinary action on Monday in response to two incidents that provoked outrage in Afghanistan early this year, one over a video depicting Marines urinating on corpses and another involving burning copies of the Koran, U.S. officials said.
The Army was expected to announce that six soldiers would receive administrative punishments over an incident in which copies of the Koran and other religious material were removed from a prison library and sent to an incinerator to be destroyed, a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.
The incident in February touched off several days of rioting and attacks on U.S. troops after local workers found charred copies of the Koran among the trash at the incinerator at the Bagram base north of Kabul.
The Milky Way shines in the sky behind a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle parked at the entry to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Goode near the town of Gardez in Afghanistan’s Paktia Province July 9, 2012. [REUTERS/Lucas Jackson]