World Wrap: October 2, 2013
t Rouhani gets thumbs up from parliament, Obama cuts short Asia trip, and Nigeria’s economy is in danger ahead of presidential elections. Today is Wednesday, October 2, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.
Iranian parliament backs Rouhani’s push for dialogue, Israel remains wary
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani takes questions from journalists during a news conference in New York, September 27, 2013. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Stamp of approval. The Iranian Parliament supported President Hassan Rouhani’s diplomatic push for open dialogue with the U.S. over his country’s disputed nuclear program during the U.N. General Assembly talks in New York. Of 290 parliamentarians, 230 signed a statement of supportfor the leader, lauding Rouhani’s portrayal of a “powerful and peace-seeking Iran which seeks talks and interaction for the settlement of regional and international issues”:
The backing from the assembly, controlled by political factions deeply loyal to Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is a further sign that Rouhani has the support of the Iranian establishment, though there are some rumblings from hardliners. Khamenei, the most powerful figure in Iran, has yet to publicly comment on Rouhani’s trip… Inside Iran, even as conservatives fall in line behind Rouhani who secured a landslide election win in June with promises of moderation in foreign policy, there were signs that some feared the president was going too fast, too soon.
Last week, Presidents Obama and Rouhani spoke on the phone in a historic instance of direct communication. On Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency met with Iran over their nuclear plan. Though both sides said the talks were constructive, diplomats reported no real progress in resolving the standoff. The U.S. and Israel fear that Iran is attempting to develop nuclear arms, a charge Iran strongly denies. During his speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated concerns over Rouhani’s sincerity:
“Rouhani doesn’t sound like Ahmadinejad,” Netanyahu said, referring to Rouhani’s hardline predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose annual U.N. addresses were stridently anti-Western and anti-Israel. “But when it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the only difference between them is this: Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf’s clothing, Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a wolf who thinks he can pull the wool over the eyes of the international community,” Netanyahu said.
The U.S. Senate it likely won’t impose new sanctions on Iran until after another round of nuclear talks in mid-October.
U.S. President Barack Obama finishes a statement to the media about the government shutdown in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, September 30, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing
Pivot pullback. President Obama will truncate a scheduled trip to Asia in light of the U.S. government shutdown, cutting meetings with the presidents of Malaysia and the Philippines and calling into question visits to Indonesia and Brunei:
“We will continue to evaluate those trips based on how events develop throughout the course of the week,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said. Obama was originally due to leave the United States on Saturday and return a week later. Not only must the president deal with the budget impasse and its effects, but he faces an even bigger crunch in Congress, which will put the United States at risk of defaulting on its debts if it does not raise the U.S. public debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said the United States will exhaust its borrowing authority no later than October 17.
The Asia trip was designed to signal Washington’s continuing commitment to the region. Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel warned that the shutdown, which started early on Tuesday and remains in effect, could harm U.S. credibility abroad.
A sign advertising the sale of a house is pasted on a wall in the Victoria Island district in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, September 10, 2013. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye
Economy on the line. As campaigning heats up ahead of Nigeria’s 2015 presidential elections, the country anticipates an economic hit:
Nigerian elections always cost the country billions of dollars and, often, many hundreds of lives, especially when they ignite ethnic rivalries or regional tensions between the largely Muslim north and mostly Christian south. This cycle could be especially costly, in terms of blood and treasure. A feud is bubbling between President Goodluck Jonathan and rivals in his ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) over his assumed intention to run for another term, which is distracting from vital economic reforms. A bill to reform the oil industry, which feeds 80 percent of government revenue, is stuck in parliament and unlikely to pass before the elections. Thanks largely to the feud, unofficial campaigning has begun almost two years early, so politicians will need to sustain spending on patronage for longer.
Central bank governor Lamido Sanusi said he suspects an increase in dollar demand means politicians are money laundering to cover financial trails ahead of what looks to be an intense race.
Nota Bene: Russian authorities charge Greenpeace activists with piracy.
Foreshadowing war - Months of sectarian strife in Iraq could lead to civil war. (Time)
Killer kitties - House cats are the number one killers of birds in Canada. (Quartz)
Fighter fish - Tilapia help Pakistan battle Dengue virus. (The Guardian)
Elephant graveyard - Poachers in Zimbabwe poison 19 elephants. (Associated Press)
Operation: Jellyfish - A jellyfish attack forces Swedish nuclear plant to shut down. (Bloomberg Businessweek)
Internat-Americans - Former Americans say why they gave up their citizenship. (BBC)
Check out more from World Wrap at Reuters dot com.
World Wrap: July 29, 2013
Middle East peace talks begin, Iraqi Shi’ites killed in coordinated attacks, and EU’s foreign policy chief urges Egyptian leaders to compromise. Today is Monday, July 29, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.
Israeli, Palestinian leaders to restart peace negotiations
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (C) heads a cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, July 28, 2013. REUTERS/Issam Rimawi/Pool
Pathway to peace? Top Israeli and Palestinian officials will meet at the U.S. State Department tonight and tomorrow to resume peace talks between the nations for the first time in nearly three years. Secretary of State John Kerry has been working ceaselessly to bring both sides to the negotiating table, visiting the region six times in four months in an attempt to move the peace process forward. Kerry has not outline the topics to be discussed, but announced on July 19 that both sides were prepared to discuss “final status” issues, such as Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the status of East Jerusalem, and Israel’s disputed border:
This time “all of the issues that are at the core of a permanent accord will be negotiated simultaneously,” Silvan Shalom, a member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netayahu’s cabinet and rightist Likud party, told Israel’s Army Radio. The Palestinians, with international backing, want their future state to have borders approximating the boundaries of the West Bank, adjacent East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip before Israel captured them in the 1967 Middle East war… [Israeli President Benjamin] Netanyahu had resisted Abbas’s calls to accept the 1967 border formula before talks resumed. Shalom said that the Israeli position would help keep the talks, which are slated to last nine months, comprehensive.
The Israeli government voted on Sunday to release 104 Arab prisoners, paving the way for this week’s talks. Kerry spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the meetings will “serve as an opportunity to develop a procedural work plan for how the parties can proceed with the negotiations in the coming months.”
Street cleaners remove debris on the road at the site of a car bomb attack in Basra, 260 miles southeast of Baghdad, July 29, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer
Iraqi violence spikes. Coordinated blasts in predominantly Shi’ite neighborhoods in Iraq killed at least 60 people in one of the deadliest sectarian attacks this year:
The 17 blasts, which appeared to be coordinated, were concentrated on towns and cities in Iraq’s mainly Shi’ite south, and districts of the capital where Shi’ites live… In Baghdad’s Shi’ite stronghold of Sadr city, police and witnesses said a minivan drew up to a group of men waiting by the side of the road for day work, and the driver told them to get in before detonating an explosive device in the vehicle. “The driver asked laborers to get into the van, then he disappeared and minutes later the truck exploded, flinging the laborers’ bodies back,” said Yahya Ali, a worker who was standing nearby.
Militant groups in Iraq, including al Qaeda, have embarked on a campaign of violence in the face of Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government, raising fears that the politically unstable region will devolve into full-on sectarian conflict. Last week, al Qaeda militants freed hundreds of inmates from Abu Ghraib, further exacerbating security concerns. Violence monitoring group Iraq Body Count reports a death toll of nearly 4,000 people since the beginning of the year, 810 of them killed in July.
Supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi shout slogans as they gather outside the Egyptian embassy in Sanaa to show solidarity with his supporters in Egypt, July 28, 2013. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
EU responds to Egypt killings. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called on Egypt’s interim rulers to defuse tension with the Muslim Brotherhood after a weekend of violence left 80 Mursi supporters dead:
The bloodshed has raised global anxiety that the army may move to crush the Brotherhood, a movement which emerged from decades in the shadows to win power in elections after Egypt’s 2011 Arab Spring uprising against Hosni Mubarak. Ashton, on her second trip to Egypt since Mursi’s fall, met General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the head of the army and the man behind the overthrow of Egypt’s first freely-elected president. She also held talks with deputy interim president and prominent liberal politician Mohamed ElBaradei and interim Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy.
The slain protesters were gunned down by Egyptian security forces, prompting criticism by the United Nations and the U.S. The Muslim Brotherhood plans to march towards a military intelligence headquarters on Monday evening, raising the possibility of more violence.
Tax threat - In Mogadishu, tax collecting is a new, dangerous job. (The Associated Press)
“Burka avenger” - A Pakistani comic book stars a veiled female who battles enemies with books and pens. (The New York Times)
Paris 2.0 - France’s capital is planning a massive expansion. (The Atlantic Cities)
Fishy claims - Putin says he caught a 46-pound fish, but Russians aren’t biting. (The Independent)
Mob goes green - The Italian mafia is taking advantage of the country’s green energy push. (Al Jazeera)
Check out more from World Wrap at Reuters dot com.
U.N. human rights investigators called on Israel on Thursday to halt settlement expansion and withdraw all half a million Jewish settlers from the occupied West Bank, saying that its practices could be subject to prosecution as possible war crimes.
A three-member U.N. panel said private companies should stop working in the settlements if their work adversely affected the human rights of Palestinians, and urged member states to ensure companies respected human rights.
READ ON: U.N. rights inquiry says Israel must remove settlers
Israeli soldiers shot dead a 21-year-old Palestinian woman near the West Bank city of Hebron on Wednesday and wounded another local youth, Palestinian medics said.
Witnesses said Lubna Hanash and her companions were walking to al-Arroub College when men in Israeli military uniforms travelling in a civilian car shot at the group.
Asked about the incident, an Israeli army spokeswoman said Palestinians had thrown petrol bombs at soldiers, who then opened fire.
Earlier on Wednesday, Saleh al-Amareen, 16, died of his wounds in an Israeli hospital after being shot in the head during clashes with Israeli soldiers in a refugee camp in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Friday.
Violence and deadly confrontations have become more frequent in the occupied West Bank since Israel announced plans late last year to expand settlements and the Palestinians won de-facto statehood recognition at the United Nations in November.
The worst winter storm in two decades has hit the eastern Mediterranean this week, bringing destruction and death to Syria and its neighbors who are already dealing with a refugee crisis from the country’s civil war.
Opposition activists in Syria, where war has forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and cut off access to food, fuel and power for cities and towns, say dozens of people have died there in four days of relentless extreme weather.
READ ON: Winter storm brings devastation to Syria and neighbors
Mohammad Salaymeh was killed on his 17th birthday after going to buy a cake for the family celebration, shot dead by an Israeli paramilitary policewoman just two years older than him.
The Israeli police called him a terrorist and said he had pulled a gun on guards manning a permanent checkpoint next to his house in this divided city. The gun turned out to be a child’s toy and Salaymeh never got to his party.
READ ON: Rattled Israel holds key to Palestinian uprising
FLASH: U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly votes to grant Palestinians “non-member state” U.N. observer status; U.N. vote implicitly recognizes sovereign state of Palestine
Palestinians hold a banner during a rally in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, supporting the resolution that would change the Palestinian Authority’s United Nations observer status from “entity” to “non-member state” November 29, 2012.
LIVE COVERAGE: UNGA meets on Palestine status resolution
An Israeli soldier smokes a cigarette at a staging area outside the northern Gaza Strip November 21, 2012. Israel and Hamas agreed on Wednesday to a ceasefire brokered by Egypt on the eighth day of intensive Israeli fire on the Gaza Strip and militant rocket attacks out of the enclave, Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian sources said. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
LIVE COVERAGE: Conflict along the Gaza Strip
Egypt announced on Wednesday that a ceasefire had been reached to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, starting later in the day.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr made the announcement in a joint news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The ceasefire would come into effect at 15:00 EDT, said Amr, whose country has been at the heart of efforts to broker an end to the conflict.
"Egypt has made great efforts … since the start of the latest escalation in the Gaza Strip," Amr said.
"These efforts and contacts have resulted in understandings to cease fire and restore calm and halt the bloodshed that the last period has seen," he added.
"Egypt calls on all to monitor the implementation of what has been agreed under Egypt’s sponsorship and to guarantee the commitment of all the parties to what has been agreed," he said.