World Wrap: October 25, 2013
Fukushima workers share their experience, Norway rejects U.S. request for help with Syria’s chemical disarmament, and Madagascar votes for a new president. Today is Friday, October 25, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.
Exploited Fukushima workers speak out
Tetsuya Hayashi, former worker in Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, poses with a photo showing his ID for the plant issued by TEPCO in Tokyo, July 10, 2013. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
Over-radiated and underpaid. The Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Co are relying on unvetted subcontractors to recruit underpaid workers to clean up the worst nuclear disaster in decades. One former Fukushima employee spoke to Reuters about his experience:
[Tetsuya] Hayashi, 41, says he was recruited for a job monitoring the radiation exposure of workers leaving the plant in the summer of 2012. Instead, when he turned up for work, he was handed off through a web of contractors and assigned, to his surprise, to one of Fukushima’s hottest radiation zones. He was told he would have to wear an oxygen tank and a double-layer protective suit. Even then, his handlers told him, the radiation would be so high it could burn through his annual exposure limit in just under an hour. “I felt cheated and entrapped,” Hayashi said. “I had not agreed to any of this.” When Hayashi took his grievances to a firm on the next rung up the ladder of Fukushima contractors, he says he was fired.
Below, see scenes of fallout from the disasters and damage to the Fukushima power plant, and click through for more images.
A doctor conducts a thyroid examination on four-year-old Maria Sakamoto, brought by her mother to the office of Iwaki Radiation Citizen Centre NPO, in Iwaki town, south of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, September 18, 2013. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
A small monument to victims is seen in front of an abandoned house at the tsunami destroyed coastal area of the evacuated town of Namie in Fukushima prefecture, some 4 miles from the crippled Daiichi power plant, September 22, 2013. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Count Norway out. On Friday, Norway denied a request from the U.S. to host the destruction of Syria’s chemical arms. According to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, Oslo and Washington concluded that “Norway is not the most suitable location for this destruction,” due to “time constraints and external factors.” U.S., NATO and Russian officials announced on Wednesday that NATO and Russia could participate in the chemical arms destruction if called upon by the United Nations. It’s illegal to import chemical weapons into the U.S. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has agreed to rid Syria of all chemical weapons stocks, a complicated process which is currently at its early stages.
Madagascar votes. Madagascar holds its presidential election in hopes of ending the political turmoil that began when current leader Andry Rajoelina seized power in a 2009 coup. EU observers said there have been issues with voting registration but that there have been no signs of intimidation, and that overall conditions are set for a fair electoral process.
A man walks past campaign posters outside a polling center in the capital Antananarivo, October 25, 2013. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
Voters hope political stability will help draw investors to the oil- and mineral-rich but economically weak country. There are no clear frontrunners of the 33 candidates, which means a runoff election will likely take place in December.
Nota Bene: Upset by U.S. spying allegations, Germany wants its own Internet.
No more status quo? - Reuters columnist Ian Bremmer says we may be seeing an end to the U.S.-Iran standoff. (Reuters)
Fame and Marxism - Celebrities seek office as members of Venezuela’s Socialist party. (Bloomberg Businessweek)
Stuffed animal adventure - A travel agency will take your stuffed animals on a tour of Japan. (The Atlantic Cities)
Boys club - The only female presidential candidate is disqualified in Afghanistan. (Time)
Dope dupe - An elderly Australian couple is scammed into smuggling meth home from Canada. (The Australian)
Check out more from World Wrap at Reuters dot com.
World Wrap: October 18, 2013
Libya battles militia forces, Assad forces drop bombs after general’s killing, Saudi Arabia opts out of U.N. Security Council. Today is Friday, October 18, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.
Libya fights for control
Members of the Libyan Army special forces who took military action against a militia group that took over public land arrive on their vehicles in Benghazi, October 3, 2013. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori
Tripoli troubles. Last week’s brief kidnapping of Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan shed light on the volatile situation in Libya, where militia forces are more powerful than the army and vie for supremacy in the unstable country:
The militia rivalries mirror a struggle within Libya’s fragile government, where the secular tribal alliance controls the defense ministry and the Islamist-leaning Libya Shield Force works under the interior ministry. Parliament is split on similar lines, with a secular National Forces Alliance at loggerheads with the political wing of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood over Libya’s future.
More than 225,000 Libyans are registered members of militias which are paid for by the government, but report to local commanders. Rival factions have gained power in Libya since the NATO-backed ouster of former leader Muammar Gaddafi, and threaten to ruin the tenuous democracy in place since he was deposed. Western powers are afraid that regions of Libya are harboring Islamists with links to al Qaeda. NATO has said it will rethink providing assistance to the country in light of conditions on the ground. On Friday, unidentified gunmen killed Libya’s military police force commander, striking an additional blow to the government’s attempt to maintain control of the state.
A Free Syrian Army fighter carries his weapon as he walks down the stairs of a building in Deir al-Zor, October 15, 2013. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi
Rebels make headway. Syrian air forces bombed the city of Deir al-Zor following violent overnight clashes in which Syrian rebels killed General Jama’a Jama’a, one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s top military intelligence officers:
General Jama’a Jama’a was shot dead on Thursday by snipers in the midst of a battle with rebels including forces linked to al Qaeda, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. His death, celebrated by rebels and opposition activists, marked a significant setback for Assad’s bid to retain a hold over the city, capital of the eastern oil-producing province… The Observatory reported clashes overnight in several districts of the city overnight and said rebels from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front executed 10 soldiers they captured in the Rashidiyah district, where Jama’a was killed on Thursday.
Chemical weapons experts sent to Syria to aid with the destruction of the government’s chemical arms stockpile have started investigating sites in the first stage of their mission.
Members of the United Nations Security Council raise their hands as they vote unanimously to approve a resolution eradicating Syria’s chemical arsenal during a Security Council meeting during the 68th United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 27, 2013. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Saudi Arabia says no. After it was elected by the U.N. General Assembly to serve a two-year term on the 15-member Security Council on Thursday, Saudi Arabia declined the position in an unprecedented expression of anger towards the U.N.:
The kingdom condemned what it called international double standards on the Middle East and demanded reforms in the Security Council, which has been at odds on ways to end the fighting in Syria. Riyadh’s frustration is mostly directed at Washington, its oldest international ally, which has pursued policies since the Arab Spring that Saudi rulers have bitterly opposed and which have severely damaged relations between the two, Saudi analysts have said. Saudi Arabia has also been angered by a rapprochement between Washington and Iran, Riyadh’s old regional foe, which has taken root since President Barack Obama spoke by telephone last month to the new Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, in the highest-level contact between the two countries in more than three decades. Citing the Security Council’s failure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, take steps to end Syria’s civil war and stop nuclear proliferation in the region, Riyadh said the body had instead perpetuated conflicts and grievances.
Foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal cancelled his speech at the U.N. General Assembly two weeks ago in an early sign of the kingdom’s displeasure.
Nota Bene: A jailed Pussy Riot member will be moved to another jail following her hunger strike.
Printed pistol - European authorities fear 3-D printing will undermine gun control laws. (New York Times)
Hornet control - Chinese firefighters use a “divine gun” to fight giant deadly hornets. (Quartz)
Sobriety pill - Scottish drugs aims to reduce alcohol cravings. (Al Jazeera)
X marks the spot - Hundreds of Indian search for buried treasure. (BBC)
Finally boring - Georgia’s presidential campaign is surprisingly normal. (Foreign Policy)
Check out more from World Wrap at Reuters dot com.
Norwegian public broadcaster NRK said that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which oversees the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, will win the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize — http://reut.rs/nobel2013
What’s your prediction for the Nobel Prize winner? Watch with us on our live blog.
Photo: Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Director General Ahmet Uzumcu. REUTERS/Toussaint Kluiters/United Photos
World Wrap: October 9, 2013
Riyadh upset with Washington’s moves in the Middle East, Mursi’s trial set for November, and businessmen stay away from dangerous investments in Russia. Today is Wednesday, October 9, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.
Saudi Arabia simmers over U.S.-Iran communication
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (L) has coffee with Saudi Deputy Minister of Defense Prince Fahd bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Abdulrahman upon his arrival at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, April 23, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Watson/Pool
Keep your friends close. Washington’s overtures to Tehran could shake the U.S.’s longstanding friendship with Saudi Arabia, which adds the recent direct communications between President Obama and his Iranian counterpart to a long list of grievances against its Western ally:
Engaged in what they see as a life-and-death struggle for the future of the Middle East with arch-rival Iran, Saudi rulers are furious that the international body has taken no action over Syria, where they and Tehran back opposing sides… The alliance between the United States, the biggest economy and most powerful democracy, and Saudi Arabia, the Islamic monarchy that dominates oil supplies, is not about to break. But, as happened 40 years ago next week when an OPEC oil embargo punished U.S. war support for Israel, Riyadh is willing – albeit without touching energy supplies – to defy Washington in defense of its regional interests.
On Monday, King Abdullah denounced the Muslim brotherhood in a rare TV appearance, indirectly criticizing the U.S. for not protecting then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak against the mass 2011 protests which led to his ouster. Saudi Arabia is primarily concerned with Shi’ite Muslim clerics who call for revolution in Iran and, they believe, contribute to anti-Sunni sentiment in the region at large. Iran has rejected any U.S. condition for participating in the Syria peace conference, effectively refusing to consider cease support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Iran will discuss its disputed nuclear program with world leaders next week, a meeting one former nuclear negotiator said should be used as an opportunity to build confidence between respective leaders.
University students and members of the Muslim Brotherhood shout slogans against the military in front of Cairo University in Cairo, October 8, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
Brotherhood trial set. An Egyptian court set a November 4 date for deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi’s trial. Mursi and other Brotherhood leaders were charged with inciting violence during a protest that left dozens dead last December:
Mursi has been held in a secret location since his overthrow in early July. If he is brought before the court, it will be his first appearance in public since then. The trial could further inflame tensions between the Islamist movement and the army-backed government and deepen the political instability that has decimated tourism and investment in the most populous Arab state. Judge Nabil Saleeb said Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood members had been charged with “inciting the killing and torture of protesters in front of the Etihadeya (presidential) palace.”
A U.S. official said Washington will likely stick to an earlier decision to withhold most military aidfrom Egypt, as it walks the line between supporting the democratic process that led to Mursi’s election and maintaining ties with Egypt’s powerful army.
Private security officers guard the Georgian restaurant Khachapuri in Moscow, September 3, 2013. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
Risky business. Men in hoods and balaclavas chased staff out of a restaurant with metal rods, beat employees, and smash furniture in a Moscow raid that exemplifies why investors are discouraged from Russia’s business landscape, where property laws offer little protection and corruption is pervasive:
Putin made improving Russia’s investment climate a priority when he returned to the Kremlin last year for a third term. He has since pushed through an amnesty on some economic crimes that has seen hundreds of entrepreneurs released from jail. Critics say the changes are cosmetic and that the weak rule of law and collusion between corrupt law enforcement and justice officials still mean that victims of corporate raids lack adequate recourse to defend their rights. Several small and medium-sized businesses in Moscow polled by Reuters for this article described an insecure environment with movable laws, weak enforcement and the threat of being targeted by government or law enforcement officials on the make.
One foreign businessman said he felt his interests were safe after seeking protection from local, well-connected investors, and one restaurant owner said, “You are protected as long as your property is not of any interest to the people in power.”
Nota Bene: Isolated Hamas struggles to meet its payroll in Gaza strip.
Not the worst - The U.S. debt disaster is still better than Japan’s. (Bloomberg Businessweek)
Donut-muffin wars - An English bakery is disputing Starbucks’ proprietary claim to the “duffin.” (The Atlantic Cities)
Maduro-man - Maduro asks parliament for special powers to fight corruption. (BBC)
E-OK - The European Parliament rejects strict restrictions on e-cigarettes. (New York Times)
Virtual kidnap - Spanish band told by phone they could be shot at any time. (The Guardian)
Check out more from World Wrap at Reuters dot com.
World Wrap: October 7, 2013
Rival Libyan factions try for independence, bloodshed continues after weekend violence in Egypt, and Syria wins praise for starting disarmament process. Today is Monday, October 7, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.
Libyan factions far from secession as U.S. raid highlights unrest
Ali Zeidan, Prime Minister of Libya, addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York, September 25, 2013. REUTERS/Adam Hunger
Libyan oil battles. Two years after the end of Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year regime, Libya is divided into rival factions striving towards independence and vying for oil:
The main city Benghazi has already set up its own council demanding to run local affairs, and called for state oil company NOC to return to an area that was once Libya’s economic heartland. “The government and congress exploit Libya’s wealth and use it to serve their agendas,” said Ibrahim al-Jathran, the former head of an oil protection security unit who defected and seized eastern ports as a self-styled federalist chieftain. Yet as chaotic as Libya appears, it is far from partition or from taking the path of Iraq, where federalism splits oil revenue between Baghdad’s Arab-led government and a Kurdish enclave that runs its own administration and armed forces. Rather than a widespread popular movement, Libya’s autonomy protests have grown out of Tripoli’s lack of control, tribal loyalties and a series of unresolved local grievances over security, corruption and poor services that have festered since the 2011 revolution.
Analysts say that declarations of independence by various federalist groups lack the necessary support on the ground to make a political difference. It would be difficult for independent groups to trade oil without Tripoli’s consent, as the government has threatened to destroy unauthorized international shipments. Still, the unrest could make it easier for Islamist operatives to take hold in the region. Over the weekend, U.S. forces captured an al Qaeda leader wanted for the 1998 bombing of an American embassy in Nairobi, prompting an angry response from Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan:
The capture of Nazih al-Ragye, better known as Abu Anas al-Liby, also provoked a complaint about the “kidnap” from the Western-backed Libyan prime minister, who faces a backlash from armed Islamists who have carved out a share of power since the West helped Libyan rebels oust Muammar Gaddafi two years ago… “This won’t just pass,” [Abdul Bassit Haroun, a former Islamist militia commander who works with the Libyan government. Islamist militants] said. “There will be a strong reaction in order to take revenge because this is one of the most important al Qaeda figures.”
The U.S. also attempted to capture a wanted militant in Somalia on Saturday but was unsuccessful.
A riot police officer fires tear gas during clashes between anti-Mursi protesters, and members of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi supporters, along a road at Ramsis square, which leads to Tahrir Square, at a celebration marking Egypt’s 1973 war with Israel, in Cairo, October 6, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Cairo clash resurgence. Suspected militants killed six Egyptian soldiers and fired a grenade at a satellite station in Cairo, following one of Egypt’s deadliest weekends since former president Mohamed Mursi was deposed by the military in July:
Dozens of supporters of deposed President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood were killed on Sunday in clashes with his opponents and security forces. The death toll from the violence across the country rose to 53, state media said, with 271 people wounded in one of the bloodiest days since the military deposed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July. Further confrontations may shake Egypt this week, with Mursi’s supporters calling protests for Tuesday and Friday. They are likely to be angered by the publication of an interview with Egypt’s army chief on Monday in which he said he told Mursi as long ago as February he had failed as president.
Egypt’s military has cracked down on Muslim Brotherhood leaders since breaking up pro-Mursi protest camps in an August 14 attack that left hundreds dead. The political unrest has led Islamists in the turbulent Sinai region to increase attacks, killing more than 100 Egyptian security officers since July.
A Free Syrian Army fighter helps a civilian carry his belongings in Deir al-Zor October 6, 2013.
Assad acclaimed. International leaders praised Syria for starting to destroy its chemical weaponsover the weekend, in compliance with a U.N. resolution demanding chemical disarmament passed last week:
An official from the international mission overseeing the stock pile’s elimination said Damascus had made an excellent start, and the United States acknowledged its rapid compliance with a U.N. resolution on destroying chemical weapons as extremely significant… U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday’s work was a good beginning and offered rare praise for Assad, a leader Washington insists lost legitimacy when he responded with force to protests against his rule which erupted in March 2011… “I think it’s also credit to the Assad regime for complying rapidly, as they are supposed to,” [Kerry] said. “I’m not going to vouch today for what happens months down the road, but it’s a good beginning, and we should welcome a good beginning.”
Opposition activist Susan Ahmad argues the disarmament program is a step backwards, saying “It is all about giving Assad more time to kill more people. And here he is, using Scud (missiles) and recruiting fighters.” The U.N. expects 4 million more Syrians to flee their homes or country in 2014.
Nota Bene: Suspected Islamist fighters attack a northern Mali city in the first strike on the former rebel stronghold in months.
Global gastronomy - A chart shows the diets of different nations. (The Atlantic Cities)
Romancing rays - Manta rays won’t mate in the Maldives’ nutrient-low waters. (The Guardian)
Presidential flame - Putin launches torch relay for Sochi Olympics. (BBC)
Cloud crackdown - Europe Union wants to regulate the Cloud. (New York Times)
Ski rush - North Korea rushes to finish luxury ski resort. (Associated Press)
Check out more from World Wrap at Reuters dot com.
Syria is starting to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal, but an opposition activist says the world is giving President Assad more time to gain an advantage in the civil war. http://reut.rs/1fcDlK2
Photo: An Islamic flag hangs in the middle of a damaged neighborhood in Homs on October 3, 2013. REUTERS/Yazen Homsy
World Wrap: October 4, 2013
Assad speaks out against Erdogan in TV interview, Italy postpones search for migrant bodies, and Maduro struggles to fill Chavez’s shoes. Today is Friday, October 4, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.
Assad warns Turkey of consequences for aiding rebels
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad (R) speaks during an interview with Italian television station RaiNews24 in Damascus in this handout photograph distributed by Syria’s national news agency SANA on September 29, 2013. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters
Assad gives warning. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued harsh words to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in an interview with Turkey’s Halk TV airing today, warning the leader that Turkey will pay a price for aiding Syrian rebels.
In an interview with Turkey’s Halk TV due to be broadcast later on Friday, Assad called Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan “bigoted” and said Ankara was allowing terrorists to cross into Syria to attack the army and Syrian civilians…”In the near future, these terrorists will have an impact on Turkey and Turkey will pay a heavy price for it.” Turkey, which shares a 900-km (560-mile) border with Syria and has NATO’s second largest deployable armed forces, is one of Assad’s fiercest critics and a staunch supporter of the opposition, although it denies arming the rebels. It shelters about a quarter of the 2 million people who have fled Syria and has often seen the conflict spill across its frontier, responding in kind when mortars and shells fired from Syria have hit its soil. It has also allowed rebel fighters to cross in and out of Syria but has grown alarmed, along with Western allies opposed to Assad, by divisions among their ranks and the deepening influence of radical Islamists in Syria.
Erdogan said on Thursday that Syria is headed towards sectarian war, adding, “this is the danger we are facing.” Turkey has sent additional troops to the Turkey-Syria border in recent weeks, and the Turkish parliament voted to extend a mandate allowing for troop deployment to Syria if necessary. In his interview, Assad denied again that his regime was behind the chemical attack that left hundreds dead in a Damascus suburb in August, and has left survivors defiant against the Syrian government. Last week, the U.N. adopted a resolution demanding Syria give up its chemical weapons. The chemical attack has struck a chord with Iraqi Kurds, who recall the 1988 gas attacks that killed at least 5,000 people and fear chemical weapons from Syria will eventually be used against them. On Thursday, the U.N. said that a team of chemical weapons experts is making“encouraging initial progress” in efforts to facilitate Syria’s chemical disarmament.
A still image taken from video released on October 4, 2013 by the Italian Coast Guard shows migrants rescued from the water off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa on Thursday, October 3, 2013.REUTERS/Italian Coast Guard/Handout via Reuters
Search stopped. Italian authorities postpone divers’ search for bodies trapped in a wrecked boatwhich sank off the coast of Italy early on Thursday, killing an estimated 300 migrants traveling from African countries including Eritrea and Somalia in one of the worst incidents in Europe’s immigration crisis:
Choppy seas prevented divers on Friday from recovering more bodies of migrants… Rescue teams have so far recovered 111 bodies and expect to find more than 100 others in and around the wreck, submerged in 47 meters of water less than a kilometer (0.6 miles) from the shore of the southern island of Lampedusa. After 155 people were pulled from the water alive on Thursday, strong winds and meter-high waves made it impossible for 40 divers to safely collect bodies. There was little hope of finding more survivors from the almost 500 passengers estimated to have been on board. “Though the bad sea conditions persist, our guys are ready to go down if a window opens up that makes it safe for them,” coastguard spokesman Filippo Marini told Reuters. Though the tiny island takes in thousands of immigrants every year and there have been similar wrecks in the past, residents were shaken by the sheer size of the tragedy.
Italy’s strict immigration law has come under fire for requiring repatriation of illegal immigrants and has led to the sequester of fishing boats that save migrant lives. Nearly 500 people were reported dead or missing traveling from Tunisia to Italy last year.
A man sits next to a mural depicting the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in downtown Caracas, September 23, 2013. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
Chavez still center stage. Months after being elected president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro remains in the shadow of Hugo Chavez’s legacy:
After Chavez’s death from cancer in March at the age of 58, the popularity of “El Comandante” has grown and taken on even deeper religious undertones among the support base that kept him in power for 14 years. While that helped Maduro, a former bus driver, union activist and member of parliament win a six-year term as president, it is also making it near-impossible for him to step out of Chavez’s shadow. “As long as Nicolas maintains Chavez’s route, the people will be with him. If he deviates from Chavez, everything will change, he’ll be finished,” [said Chavez supporter Yalmy] Rumbo. Therein lies Maduro’s dilemma. He owes everything, from his political inheritance to his election, to his late mentor. So, unsurprisingly, he parrots Chavez at every turn, be it thundering at the U.S. “empire” or trying to prove himself a man of the people during his daily, televised walkabouts. Yet to solve a daunting array of problems, from the highest inflation in the Americas and embarrassing shortages of basic goods to rampant corruption and shoddy infrastructure, many feel Maduro needs to become his own man and tweak some policies.
The country’s floundering economy presents further difficulty for the new president. Venezuelans struggle to make ends meet in light of power cuts and rising prices, and according to pollster IVAD, 67 percent of Venezuelans have a pessimistic view of the country’s general direction.
Nota Bene: Muslim Brotherhood supporter killed as clashes erupt in Egypt.
Skype censorship - Pakistani province attempts to ban instant messaging. (BBC)
Danish joy - Denmark is the happiest country. (Bloomberg Businessweek)
Pervasive parochials - Irish parents struggle to find non-Catholic schools. (The Atlantic)
Stitching on camera - Norwegian TV will broadcast a knitting competition. (Associated Press)
Pay parity push - UK minister tells women to ask male colleagues how much they earn. (The Guardian)
Check out more from World Wrap at Reuters dot com.
World Wrap: September 30, 2013
The U.N. Security Council delivers statement on humanitarian aid in Syria, Rouhani’s nuclear stance could be driven by financial turmoil, and Berlusconi meets with lawmakers after shoving Italy’s government over the brink. Today is Monday, September 30, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.
U.N. Security Council seeks aid for Syria
Abboud, 12, plays with a cat while holding his weapon in Aleppo’s Sheikh Saeed neighborhood, September 28, 2013. Abboud and his brother Deeb, 14, both school-going children before the civil war, joined the Free Syrian Army after the deaths of two of their brothers and an uncle in the conflict. REUTERS/Muzaffar Salman
Switching gears on Syria. Following Friday’s unanimous adoption of a resolution for the eradication of Syria’s chemical arms at the U.N. General Assembly, the U.N. Security Council shifted its efforts towards solving the country’s humanitarian crisis:
The Security Council is considering a statement to try to boost aid access in Syria by urging Syrian authorities to allow cross-border deliveries from neighboring countries and asking parties to the conflict to hold humanitarian pauses in the fighting… Deputy U.N. council envoys are due to meet to discuss the proposed Security Council presidential statement on Monday, said diplomats, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Unlike a resolution, a presidential statement is not legally binding. The draft text, obtained by Reuters, urges all parties to “agree on the modalities to implement humanitarian pauses, as well as key routes to enable promptly – upon notification from relief agencies – the safe and unhindered passage of humanitarian convoys along these routes.”
Syria’s two-and-a-half year civil war has displaced over one million people and left roughly 100,000 dead. Some diplomats said that Russia has been constructively engaged in drafting the aid statement but others warned the country would be reluctant to back a council declaration that called for cross-border assistance in the region. Friday’s declaration marked the culmination of weeks of debate over the details of a Syrian chemical disarmament plan, during which the U.S. and Russia clashed over the option of military force against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The resolution removes the option of automatic punishment under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which allows the council to use military force or sanctions to punish a breach. Experts from a world chemical watchdog will head to Syria on Tuesday, and the U.N. chemical inspectors depart today. On Sunday, Assad said he would respect the resolution.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani speaks with Asia Society President and CEO Josette Sheeran during an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Asia Society in New York, September 26, 2013. REUTERS/Keith Bedford
All about the Benjamins. Some analysts say that Iran’s recent efforts to build up relations with the U.S. are driven by internal economic woes:
Iran is adept at surviving economic pressure, but sanctions have bitten deeply. Existing U.S. and EU measures have reduced Iran’s oil exports by more than half from pre-sanction levels of about 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd), costing Tehran billions of dollars in lost revenue a month. The U.S. Congress could soon pass a bill to squeeze Iran’s oil exports further. Deeper cuts in oil sales, if accomplished, could worsen the damage Western sanctions have already done to Iran’s economy, which suffered a loss of about $26 billion in petroleum revenue in 2012 from a total of $95 billion in 2011; soaring inflation; and a devaluation of its currency, the rial…Mehrdad Emadi, an economist at Betamatrix consultancy, said knock on effects of sanctions on businesses included lack of investment and job losses. In the car and related components sector, about a third of workers had lost jobs in an industry that is Iran’s largest after oil, he said.
On Friday, Presidents Obama and Rouhani spoke on the phone in a historic conversation that marked an acceleration in the level of direct communication between the nations. Prior to the call, Rouhani and Obama had exchanged letters.
People of Freedom party (PDL) leader Silvio Berlusconi (R) carries his pet dog upon arriving at his residence in Rome in this still image taken from video, September 30, 2013. REUTERS/via Reuters TV
Berlusconi breakdown. Italian politician Silvio Berlusconi meets with lawmakers from his center-right People of Freedom (PDL) party on Monday after ordering five ministers to resign from Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s coalition over the weekend, leaving the country’s government in disarray:
Financial markets, which have been increasingly nervous about Italy after a week of rising political tensions, are expected to sell off government bonds and stocks on Monday, adding to the atmosphere of crisis. Letta will go before parliament to seek support to continue in a confidence vote, probably on Wednesday, leaving two days of maneuvering among the parties, starting with a meeting between Berlusconi and PDL parliamentarians on Monday afternoon. The billionaire media tycoon, who is fighting moves to expel him from parliament following his conviction for tax fraud last month, said at the weekend he wanted elections as soon as possible. But he faces resistance not just from President Giorgio Napolitano, who would have to order parliament to be dissolved, but also from his own increasingly fractious supporters, some of whom may switch allegiance and back Letta’s government.
Italy has struggled under Letta’s government, which was hobbled together after February’s deadlocked elections and has failed in efforts to lower its budget deficit.
Nota Bene: Car bomb kills at least 54 in Shi’ite districts of Baghdad.
Pseudo-science - A Saudi cleric warns driving can hurt a woman’s ovaries… (BBC)
Science - … and a Saudi doctor says it won’t. (Associated Press)
Dress code - Turkey lifts ban on headscarves in most state offices. (Bloomberg Businessweek)
Maternity saddle - An inflatable cushion turns donkeys into ambulances for Afghan women in labor. (The Atlantic)
Arrested for sleeping outside - A new Hungarian law could make being homeless a criminal act. (Al Jazeera)
Check out more from World Wrap at Reuters dot com.
World Wrap: September 23, 2013
Kenyan officials claim progress in al Shabaab siege, Merkel wins big in weekend elections, and crises take center stage at this week’s U.N. General Assembly. Today is Monday, September 23, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.
Gunmen hold hostages in third day of Nairobi mall siege
Kenyan police officers take position during the ongoing military operation at the Westgate Shopping Center in the capital Nairobi, September 23, 2013. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
Nairobi nightmare continues. Some hostages remain trapped in a Nairobi mall on Monday, after al Shabaab operatives took hold of the shopping center on Saturday in a violent siege that has left nearly 70 dead so far. The Somalia-based militant group demanded Kenya withdraw troops from Somalia, where it has worked to push out al Shabaab as part of an African Union-backed peacekeeping mission, but Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Sunday he won’t end the mission:
It remained unclear how many gunmen and hostages were still cornered in the Westgate shopping center, two hours after a series of loud explosions and gunfire were followed by a plume of black smoke, that grew in volume from one part of the complex. Kenya’s interior minister told a news conference that the militants – all men, though some wore women’s clothing during the assault – had set a fire with mattresses in a supermarket on the mall’s lower floors. Two “terrorists” had been killed on Monday, he added. Another assailant had died on Saturday.
Officials said the attackers come from various nations. One woman described her escape from the mall, explaining that she fled to safety through a staff exit. While Kenyan officials say they are “closing in” on the attackers, citizens expressed frustration that the situation has not yet been resolved. Judges at the International Criminal Court on Monday adjourned Deputy President William Ruto’s crimes against humanity trial for one week so that he could deal with the crisis.
German Chancellor and leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Angela Merkel smiles as she receives flowers after first exit polls in the German general election (Bundestagswahl) at party headquarters in Berlin, September 22, 2013. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Merkel madness. German Chancellor Angela Merkel nabbed an easy victory in Sunday’s elections, winning 42 percent of the vote for her conservative party – the strongest show of support for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in decades. Still, Merkel will have to find a way to compromise with the losing parties on how to lead the country:
Despite leading her conservatives to their best result since 1990, with 41.5 percent of votes putting them five seats short of the first absolute majority in parliament in over half a century, 59-year-old Merkel had little time to celebrate. “We are, of course, open for talks and I have already had initial contact with the SPD (Social Democratic Party) chairman, who said the SPD must first hold a meeting of its leaders on Friday,” Merkel told a news conference, adding that she did not rule out talks with other potential coalition partners.
Though German voters would welcome coalition rule, the partnership would not be easy and may force Merkel to reconsider austerity measures that have kept Germany strong during the euro zone crisis.
A U.N. worker rests after checking the temporary General Assembly Hall at the U.N. headquarters ahead to the start of the U.N. general assembly in New York, September 22, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Syria summit. The crisis in Syria will dominate the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly, where global leaders, including wanted Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and recently-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, will meet in New York for the annual conference which begins tomorrow:
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the top agenda item will be Syria’s 2-1/2-year civil war, which the United Nations says has killed more than 100,000 people and displaced millions… No one expects a breakthrough in the crisis this week, though there may be approval of a U.N. resolution backing a U.S.-Russian plan to … remove Syria’s chemical weapons by June 2014 to avoid U.S. air strikes. That plan was agreed to as U.N. inspectors confirmed sarin nerve gas was used in an August 21 attack near Damascus that killed over 1,400 people, many of them children, according to U.S. estimates.
Onlookers also are on the lookout for a possible impromptu meeting – or even just a handshake – between President Barack Obama and his Iranian counterpart. Iran’s foreign minister said his country will join six-power talks on its nuclear program later this week, and Iranian media reported Iran pardoned 80 prisoners ahead of Rouhani’s visit. The most controversial attendee is Sudan’s Bashir, wanted for genocide and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.
Snake on a plane - Qantas grounds a flight in Sydney after finding a Mandarin rat snake on board. (BBC)
Reef barrier - A massive port project could damage Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. (Time)
Entrepreneur spring - Despite unrest, Egypt’s startup culture grows. (The Atlantic)
Movie Metropolis - A Chinese businessman wants to build the world’s most expensive film studio. (The Guardian)
Mubarak on Mubarak - A secret recording reveals Mubarak’s stance on the U.S., Jews and himself. (New York Times)
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