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 on: May 28, 2015, 06:33 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Inquest into 'death ship' hears of intense conflict on board Japanese coal freighter

Coroner’s court examines events leading up to the deaths of three people during a six-week period on the Sage Sagittarius sailing in Australian waters

Australian Associated Press
Thursday 28 May 2015 11.12 BST

Three people who died during a six-week period while aboard a Japanese coal ship bound for Australia are highly likely to have met with foul play, a Sydney inquest has heard.

Two Filipinos, chief cook Cesar Llanto and chief engineer Hector Collado, died on the Sage Sagittarius, dubbed the “death ship”, within two weeks of each other in 2012.

Llanto vanished overboard on 30 August as the vessel approached Australian waters northeast of Cairns. Collado died when he fell 11 metres down a staircase on 14 September while the ship was moored at the Port of Newcastle.

Then a Japanese superintendent, who had boarded the vessel in Australia because of the deaths, was crushed to death on a conveyor belt when it was docked in southern Japan on 6 October 2012.

An inquest into the deaths of Llanto and Collado at Glebe coroner’s court in Sydney on Thursday has heard how a culture of silence prevented the ship’s 25 crew members from speaking out about the mysterious deaths.

The court heard there was “intense conflict and mutual mistrust” on the ship surrounding captain Venancio Salas Jr’s treatment of a gay kitchen hand who was allegedly the target of extensive bullying.

Jessie Martinez was regularly assaulted by Salas, who once punched him so hard in the kidney he struggled to breathe for days, counsel assisting the coroner Philip Strickland said.

He said Llanto, who acted as a “big brother” to Martinez, may have been involved in a plan to report the captain to the International Transport Worker’s Federation in Australia.

“There is strong evidence that this intense conflict was continuing and if not magnified on the very day of Mr Llanto’s disappearance,” Strickland said.

But an internal investigation and police statements from Salas suspected “foul play” by an oiler named Raul Vercede, who initially instructed Martinez to report the captain for misconduct.

While giving evidence via video link from the Philippines, Llanto’s widow Neila said Martinez refused to explain how Llanto died because there were threats made against him.

“He told me that he is afraid for his life, for his family,” she said.

Mrs Llanto cried as she said she had hoped Martinez would “take pity on me and tell me what really happened.

“I was just disgusted that I have never got anything from him. He never gave me any truth about the matter.”

Similarly, Strickland said some crew members lied or misled police about what happened on board the vessel.

“They did not feel free to speak ... because of the climate of either fear or intimidation,” he said.

Pathologist Brian Beer told the court Mr Collado’s body was found with an unexplained 20mm, curved laceration on his scalp.

The inquest continues.

 on: May 28, 2015, 06:30 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Bangladeshi blogger named on hitlist warned: 'You will be next'

Ananya Azad among the writers concerned for their safety after murder of three men who criticised intolerance and religious fundamentalism

Saad Hammadi in Dhaka
Thursday 28 May 2015 08.00 BST

Ananya Azad is no stranger to assassination attempts. The prominent Bangladeshi blogger’s father, Humayun Azad, wrote a scathing critique of Islamist fundamentalism in 2003 entitled Pak Sar Jamin Sad Bad (Blessed Be the Sacred Land, the title of Pakistan’s national anthem). A year after it was published, Humayan was seriously injured in a street attack by assailants wielding machetes.

Now, it is his son’s turn to fear the outside world. Ananya followed in his father’s footsteps to become a writer critical of intolerance and religious fundamentalism, a career that has landed him on a hitlist containing the names of 84 atheist bloggers.

The list was submitted to Bangladesh’s interior ministry in 2013 by a group of radical Islamists asking for the writers to be punished for making derogatory statements about Islam and the prophet Muhammad. At the time, few bloggers believed they were seriously in danger. But on 12 May, science writer Ananta Bijoy Das became the third person named on that list to be murdered in the street this year.

“People have told me to refrain from writing,” said 25-year-old Ananya, who quit his job as a newspaper columnist after Washiqur Rahman became the second blogger on the list to be killed, hacked to death in Dhaka in March.

Last week, following the attack on Das, Ananya received a threatening Facebook message: “You would be the next person. So be careful.”

Ananya no longer writes blogs and tries to stay indoors as much as possible, but he continues to articulate his views on social media to a closed community of like-minded readers.

“Anyone who has a critical view about religion is exposed,” he said, but added that he was determined not to be silenced. “I probably have reduced my frequency of writing but my nature of writing has not changed.”

Some have cast doubts over the contents of the list, saying it should not be taken seriously. “We still do not know a source for the list,” online activist Imran H Sarker told the Guardian, saying he believed it contained multiple names and pseudonyms for individual bloggers.

However, those bloggers featured on it say threats against them have increased since the first blogger victim – Avijit Roy, an American citizen of Bangladeshi origin – was murdered in a machete attack in Dhaka on 26 February.

“Whether the list is credible or not, when people from the list are dying, the threats cannot be taken lightly,” said Shubhajit Bhowmik, a politics and social affairs writer who is also named on the document. “The threats are so frequent and so many that we no longer can count them.”

Though Bangladesh is an officially secular country, more than 90% of its 160 million-strong population are Muslim. Hefazat-e-Islam, a hardline Islamist group, publicly sought the execution of atheists who organised mass protests against the rise of political Islam in March 2013, soon after the list was presented. The group staged a huge counter-protest against the bloggers in May 2013 that left nearly 50 people dead.

Roy founded Mukto Mona, which describes itself as a portal that aims to “promote science, rationalism, secularism, freethinking, human rights, religious tolerance, and harmony”. Das also wrote for the blog, which Roy’s colleagues continue to publish.

Roy was murdered on his way home from a book fair in Dhaka in an attack that left his wife, Rafida Ahmed Bonna, badly injured.

“We were supposed to be going back home to have dinner with the family,” she told the BBC at the time. “I think I was holding his hand and we were just talking. I do not remember anything from that point until I was in some sort of vehicle and someone was carrying me. I remember I was soaked in blood.”

Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent claimed responsibility for Roy’s killing, and an Islamist was arrested for his murder. Two madrasa students were arrested for Rahman’s killing. No one has been charged over Das’s murder, but his brother has filed a criminal case saying he was killed by an “extremist fanatic group”.

This week police called for the government to ban the Ansarullah Bangla Team, an Islamist militant group they believe may be behind the three attacks. Members of the group have already been charged with the 2013 murder of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider.

However, Ananya and others on the list believe extremists continue to take advantage of a culture of impunity. And it is not only violence on the streets that the bloggers fear: anyone found guilty of publishing material that authorities deem to be false or defamatory faces a jail term of up to 14 years.

In 2013, atheist blogger Asif Mohiuddin was stabbed in the street by religious extremists. A month later, he was arrested and held in prison for making derogatory remarks about religion and his blog was banned.

Sushanta Das Gupta, who founded, is another on the list. The London-based Bangladeshi activist and writer used to visit his homeland five or six times every year but has not been for 18 months for fear of attacks. However, he is also concerned about being targeted while abroad.

“I could imagine there will be more attacks, not only in Bangladesh,” he said. “I have already informed London Met police … They provided me [with] a panic alarm which could be used in case I am in any danger.”

Though some of the bloggers on the list continue to publish in defiance of the threats against them, many now use pseudonyms. However, as Shubhajit pointed out, that offers little protection.

“Washiqur had no photo of himself on Facebook,” he said. “We had no idea about him until he was killed. Still, he became a prey to the fundamentalists … this shows that they know how to find us.”

The Guardian contacted the junior interior minister Asaduzzaman Khan, the secretary of the interior ministry, Mozammel Haque Khan, the chief of police, Shahidul Haque, and the chief of the detective branch, Monirul Islam. None responded to requests for comment.


Bangladesh Plans to Move Thousands of Rohingya to Island

by Naharnet Newsdesk 27 May 2015, 14:26

Bangladesh plans to relocate thousands of Rohingya who have spent years in refugee camps near the Myanmar border to a southern island, an official said Wednesday, as the region faces a human trafficking crisis.

The government has started planning the relocation to Hatiya island in the Bay of Bengal in a move backed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said additional secretary Amit Kumar Baul.

"The relocation of the Rohingya camps will definitely take place. So far informal steps have been taken according to the PM's directives," Baul, head of the government's Myanmar Refugee Cell, told AFP.

A Rohingya leader urged the government to cancel the plans, saying it would only make life worse for the refugees -- many of whom have been languishing in the camps for years since they left Myanmar.

"We want the (Bangladesh) government and international organizations to resolve our issue from here," Mohammad Islam, a community leader in one of the camps, told AFP.

Bangladesh is home to 32,000 registered Rohingya refugees who are sheltering in two camps in the southeastern district of Cox's Bazar which borders Myanmar.

The Rohingya leave Myanmar largely to escape discriminatory treatment by the Buddhist majority.

Baul said the move was partly prompted by concerns the camps were holding back tourism in Cox's Bazar, home to the world's longest unbroken beach and where locals flock to beach hotels and resorts.

"The government has been paying (increasing) importance to the tourism sector. Therefore, a plan to relocate them to an isolated area is under process," he said.

Thousands of persecuted Rohingya from Myanmar as well as Bangladeshi migrants have been attempting perilous journeys by boat to Southeast Asia.

Thailand began a crackdown on human trafficking and smuggling following the discovery of mass graves there, which appears to have thrown regional trafficking routes into chaos.

News of the plan comes just days after Hasina slammed Bangladesh's own economic migrants, many of whom are stranded in dire conditions at sea, calling them "mentally sick" and accusing them of hurting the country's image.

The island plan, reported this week in local media, has not been formally announced, but officials have been tasked with preparing for the relocation.

Badre Firdaus, government administrator of Hatiya island, said 500 acres (200 hectares) of land has been identified as suitable for the relocation.

The move would not include the estimated 200,000 unregistered Rohingya refugees who have fled across the border over the past decade and taken refuge in Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

Most live close to the two camps but are not entitled to food or other aid.

Rights groups say those illegal Rohingya migrants survive in appalling conditions in Bangladesh, living on the margins and running the gauntlet of the country's authorities.

There was no official reaction from the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, which has been assisting the refugees in the camps since 1991. But a U.N. official said the relocation would be "logistically challenging".

The camps are a nine-hour journey by land and sea from Hatiya, home to Bangladeshi farmers and fishermen and located at the mouth of the Meghna river in the Bay of Bengal.

 on: May 28, 2015, 06:29 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Malaysian police arrest own officers over involvement in migrant death camps

Authorities say two officers are being investigated for aiding people smuggling as the government faces criticism it failed to act to stamp out networks and camps

Beh Lih Yi in Wang Kelian
Thursday 28 May 2015 08.07 BST
Malaysian authorities said on Thursday they were investigating official complicity and links to the shocking discovery of a network of people-smuggling camps and mass graves hidden in the jungle.

Deputy home minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said two police officers had been arrested, fuelling long-standing criticism by rights groups over a lack of action against alleged official involvement in the illicit trade.

“Two police officers who are suspected of involvement in transporting the people from Myanmar [Burma] have been arrested,” he told reporters in Wang Kelian, the Malaysia’s border town near the discovery of the camps.

He declined to comment on whether more police officers might be involved, saying authorities would “investigate everybody and anybody”. He also said several Rohingya who were already in Malaysia were arrested for helping to recruit migrants to the country.

Malaysia announced this week it had uncovered 28 camps deep in the jungle in the country’s north, close to the Thai border, and 139 grave sites scattered around the area.

It was the latest shocking development in Asia’s migrant crisis, which has exposed the plight of Rohingya Muslims from Burma who are fleeing persecution and of Bangladeshis escaping poverty, brought by boat to the dense forests of southern Thailand and northern Malaysia by people smugglers.

The authorities have faced criticism following the discovery, with mounting questions about their failure to detect the sites earlier and whether police may have been complicit.

The Guardian talked to a number of residents in Wang Kelian this week who said migrants had been coming out of the jungle for at least two years – indicating that the problem was not new.

But the police defended themselves, saying they had swept a distance of 48 kilometres along the Malaysia-Thai border, although admitting that they could have focused on the wrong area.

“We focused on the people smuggling routes,” deputy national police chief Noor Rashid Ibrahim said. “Normally, smuggling routes are areas which are accessible, where people can walk to.

“That’s why we didn’t go to the top of the hill.”

He said the police only decided to “comb every inch of our land” after Thailand found mass graves in early May.

Ibrahim argued that signs from the camps, along with wooden sticks used to build structures and the clothes used to wrap the bodies, still appeared new, suggesting that the camps had not been around for long.

But human rights groups said they began passing information about the camps to authorities years ago but no action was taken, according to anti-trafficking expert Matthew Friedman, the former regional head of the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking.

Officials have now begun the grisly task of exhuming bodies from the 139 grave sites. Four have been found so far, minister Wan Junaidi said.

He also said indications so far were that each single grave site only contained one body based on the size of the site and how it was marked with sticks and stones. Officials said previously the grave sites might have contained multiple bodies.

“It’s one person, one grave,” he said. “It’s a proper burial ground, like a graveyard, not mass graves.”

The Guardian visited one of the camps in the jungle on Tuesday, and saw first hand indications of the horrific abuse meted out to the migrants.

At the camp, which is reached after a two-hour hike up a steep jungle path, there was a watchtower, cages and a large wooden enclosure wrapped in barbed wire. It is believed that the camp had been abandoned only recently.

The massive scale and sophistication of the camp, which could hold up to 500 people, police said, suggested machinery could have been used in building it and that it had a certain degree of permanence, raising further questions over failure to detect it.

Many Rohingya, a Muslim minority persecuted in Burma, and Bangladeshis, normally trying to escape grinding poverty in their homeland, reach the jungle camps after harrowing journeys on overcrowded boats.

They are dumped there by people smugglers and held in pitiful conditions until their families can pay ransoms for their release, after which they normally seek work in Malaysia, where they are quietly welcomed as a source of cheap labour.

Malaysia is currently listed at tier 3 in the US State Department’s annual human-trafficking report, the lowest tier for countries which are failing to stop the illicit trade.

A report in 2009 by the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which was based on a year-long review, found that “a few thousand” Burmese migrants had become victims of extortion and trafficking once they were deported across Malaysia’s border with Thailand.

In addition, it said there were questions about the level of participation of government officials in Malaysia and Thailand.

 on: May 28, 2015, 06:27 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Disastrous consequences for Baku's 'clean up' ahead of European Games

After a devastating blaze kills 16, residents are criticising Azerbaijan’s attempts to whitewash the city for its international visitors. and Meydan TV report

Lamiya Adilgizi in Baku for and Meydan TV
Thursday 28 May 2015 10.00 BST

The Azeri government has come under intense criticism after a controversial series of bans, arrests and a devastating fire have marred its projects to “clean up” the city ahead of the European Games in June.

Nine people have been arrested and an investigation launched into the widespread use of flammable plastic cladding in renovation projects on central streets designed to present a “veneer of prosperity” to visitors, opposition leaders said.

The shocking blaze which killed 16 people, including five children, led to the resignation of Rasim Adjalov, the head supervisor of the inaugural Games.

These events have left many residents questioning their governments dedication to prioritising its image and silencing dissent over their own welfare, as journalists are jailed and critics are silenced in the lead up to the sporting event.

Beyond its disastrous attempts to spruce up the city’s buildings, Azerbaijan has also introduced a host of image-control measures.

One new rule is preventing local people from taking photos in Baku’s historical Old Town. Whilst photography is not officially banned, police and security guards have been taking action to prevent locals from taking photos.

The de facto ban has left some Baku residents in despair: “I was born and have grown up in this city and I am not allowed to take a picture of its most beautiful part,” said 29-year-old resident Anar Gurbanov.

The unwritten rule does not seem to apply to tourists: “Tourists are allowed to take photos, but citizens have to get permission from the management of the Old Town,” said a security guard working in the area.

According to city regulations posted online, permission to take photographs is not needed for individuals and does “not apply to the amateur (including tourists) shooting monuments in the area.”

A city government spokesperson did not answer a request for comment on the clampdown.
Workers at the national stadium in Baku, soon to host the European games in June.

Some critics say that the government, obsessed with how Azerbaijan is perceived by the outside world, is seeking total control over the population.

    With 6,000 athletes from 50 countries participating the ​​games offer an opportunity to raise Azerbaijan’s profile

The European Games are a pet project for Aliyev, who hopes the spectacle of 6,000 athletes participating from 50 countries will help to raise Azerbaijan’s international profile.

But controversial clean-up programmes ahead of major international events like Aliyev’s are not limited to Azerbaijan. In 2010 China was accused of covering up a major health scandal during the Beijing Olympics, while in the lead up to Russia’s controversial Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 it was reported the city was mass killing its stray dogs, while the detention and arrest of protestors and activists intensified.

Hoping to avert traffic jams during the games, the city’s traffic police have also urged that no weddings or funerals be held in the city during the month of June.

Other games-related measures are set to disrupt the lives of Baku’s residents. Starting this month some public bus routes will be cancelled until July, while others have been changed to avoid the city centre, transportation ministry spokesperson Naming Hasanov said.

A number of streets also will be closed, a decision that will inconvenience an estimated 120,000 people.

Baku residents may grumble about the changes but the emphasis on pleasing foreign visitors is the government’s priority.

“A foreign guest, treated well, will talk about the hospitality ... once they leave the country,” said blogger Arzu Geybullayeva, a government critic. “You do not have to do the same for the locals because there is nowhere they can go. And no one they can complain to.”

 on: May 28, 2015, 06:24 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
India's deadly heatwave set to continue

Forecasters warn that high temperatures – which have led to more than 1,000 deaths – will go on into next week

Thursday 28 May 2015 00.45 BST

More than 1,100 people have died in a blistering heatwave sweeping India as forecasters warned that searing temperatures would continue.

Southern India has borne the brunt of the hot, dry conditions and many of the victims are construction workers, the elderly or homeless people unable to heed official advice to stay indoors.

In the worst-hit state of Andhra Pradesh, nearly 900 people have died since 18 May – double the total number of heat-related deaths last summer, authorities said.

In neighbouring Telangana, where temperatures hit 48C (118F) over the weekend, more than 200 people have died in the last week compared with 31 in the whole of last year.

Keeping cool in India's heatwave – in pictures

In New Delhi, forecasters said they expected the high temperatures to continue into next week – adding to the misery of the thousands of poor living on the capital’s streets.

Residents of Gurgaon – a high-rise satellite city home to many of the capital’s workers – suffered power cuts of up to 10 hours a day as the grid struggled to cope with the demand from millions of air conditioners.

“Nothing is working – even after taking half a dozen baths a day, you can’t beat the heat,” 34-year-old shop owner Manish Singh said. “We try to spend more time indoors to avoid heatstroke. It’s worse than previous years; we hardly get any electricity and the air conditioners become useless.”

The heat has melted roads near the capital and caused problems with maintaining animal welfare at farms and the country’s zoos.

Brahma Prakash Yadav, director of the Indian meteorological department, said: “Maximum temperatures won’t fall substantially. However, major relief can be expected from 2 June as there are indications of good showers.”

 on: May 28, 2015, 06:22 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Iran Warns against 'Excessive Demands' in Nuclear Talks

by Naharnet Newsdesk 28 May 2015, 13:32

Iran on Thursday warned global powers against making "excessive demands" in talks aimed at sealing a ground-breaking nuclear deal, after France demanded access to its military installations.

"I would expect my negotiating partners to refrain from making excessive demands," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said during a visit to Athens, adding: "People need to have their foot in reality, not in illusions."

Zarif on Saturday is to meet U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Geneva, after weeks of behind-the-scenes complex technical discussions in Vienna seeking to narrow the gaps on what would be an unprecedented deal on curtailing Iran's nuclear program.

Iran and the six global powers leading the talks -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- laid down a framework to guide the final accord in eight days of marathon late-night talks in Lausanne in early April.

The negotiators are working towards a proposed June 30 deadline for agreement.

One of the major sticking points appears to be access to military sites amid lingering concerns about the possible military dimensions of the Islamic Republic's nuclear programme.

Tehran has always denied seeking to develop a nuclear bomb, saying its nuclear energy programme is for civilian purposes only.

But French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned on Wednesday that France would oppose a final nuclear accord unless it allowed inspections of military sites.

Zarif on Thursday indicated that France's request amounted to a renegotiation of the Lausanne framework.

"If people insist...on renegotiations, then it will be difficult to envisage an agreement," he said.

He said Iran wanted a "dignified, mutually respectful agreement."

Source: Agence France Presse


Iran Says Nuclear Talks Could Go beyond June 30 Deadline

by Naharnet Newsdesk 27 May 2015, 15:01

Talks between Iran and world powers aimed at finalizing a deal over Tehran's nuclear program could go beyond a June 30 deadline, a senior Iranian negotiator said Wednesday.

"We are not at the point where we can say that negotiations will be completed quickly -- they will continue until the deadline and could continue beyond that," Abbas Araghchi was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

Araghchi has been attending a fresh round of talks between Iranian representatives and officials from the P5+1 group -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States plus Germany -- which got under way in Vienna on Tuesday.

The two sides signed a framework agreement on April 2 and aim to seal a final deal by the end of next month to prevent Iran from developing an atomic bomb, in exchange for an easing of crippling economic sanctions.

"We are not bound by the schedule. We are trying to have a good agreement with all the details meeting our expectations," Araghchi said, describing the efforts to draw up a final text as "hard work".

Iranian media quoted deputy oil minister Amirhossein Zamani-Nia as saying on Monday that 20 pages of the text had been written "but there are still disagreements and 30 percent of the work remains to be done."

Source: Agence France Presse


Khamenei Backs Iran Nuclear Team against Parliament Critics

by Naharnet Newsdesk 27 May 2015, 16:42

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday praised the work of his country's nuclear negotiators after they came under heavy criticism from the conservative camp in parliament.

The negotiators, who resumed talks with world powers in Vienna on Tuesday, "are working, making efforts, breaking sweat... to obtain what is in the interests of the country and the regime", he said in a meeting with members of parliament.

The intervention from Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state in Iran, came after several deputies accused the negotiators of having betrayed the Islamic republic by making key concessions.

In footage filmed on a mobile phone and widely circulated on social media, ultra-conservative MP Mehdi Kouchakzadeh went so far as to accuse Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of "treason" as leader of the negotiating team.

But Khamenei, quoted on his website, said: "On nuclear issues, our positions are clear and the same as I have expressed publicly... These are the positions of the regime."

Critics accuse negotiators of having accepted demands for international inspections of Iran's military sites, a position which Khamenei has totally ruled out.

Zarif has said "some access" could be allowed under an Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but not inspections of military sites.

In his bid to restore order on the home front, Khamenei called for "mutual respect" -- without accusations and suspicions -- between parliament and the government.

Members of parliament must maintain a "respectful attitude towards ministers" and the government must avoid insulting deputies, he said.

Iran and the P5+1 group -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States plus Germany -- signed a framework agreement on Tehran's controversial nuclear program on April 2.

They aim to seal a final deal by the end of June to prevent Iran from developing an atomic bomb, in exchange for easing crippling economic sanctions.

Source: Agence France Presse


France Opposes Iran Nuclear Deal without Military Site Checks

by Naharnet Newsdesk 27 May 2015, 17:27

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Wednesday that France would oppose a nuclear deal with Iran if it did not allow inspections of military sites.

An agreement "will not be accepted by France if it is not clear that verifications can be made at all Iranian facilities, including military sites," Fabius told parliament.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last week ruled out inspections at military sites.

But Yukiya Amano, the head of the U.N.'s atomic watchdog, told AFP on Tuesday that Iran has agreed to implementing the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that allows for snap inspections of its nuclear facilities, and if required, military sites.

"When we find inconsistency or when we have doubts, we can request access to the undeclared location for example, and this could include military sites," said the Japanese diplomat.

"Some consideration is needed because of the sensitiveness of the site, but the IAEA has the right to request access at all locations, including military ones."

But Iran appears to be interpreting the protocol differently. As well as Khamenei's comments, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said the protocol allows "some access" but not inspections of military sites, in order to protect national "military or economic secrets".

Iran and the so-called P5+1 group -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States plus Germany -- have been engaged for nearly two years in negotiations on Tehran's nuclear program.

The deal is aimed at preventing Iran from developing the atomic bomb in exchange for an easing of crippling economic sanctions.

The two sides signed a framework agreement on April 2 and began meeting in Vienna on Wednesday to start finalizing a deal which is due by June 30.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: May 28, 2015, 06:14 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
EU Asks Member States to Admit 40,000 Asylum Seekers

by Naharnet Newsdesk 27 May 2015, 14:18

The EU on Wednesday asked its member states to admit 40,000 asylum seekers from Syria and Eritrea landing in Italy and Greece, which have been overstretched by an influx of migrants.

The emergency proposal, which comes atop another one to resettle in member states some 20,000 refugees who are outside Europe, is in response to a surge in migrants making the dangerous crossing over the Mediterranean.

Both Rome and Athens, which are struggling with the wave of migrants, appealed to the 26 other EU states to share the burden.

"We... have a proposal for an emergency mechanism to relocate 40,000 asylum seekers to other European (member) states," EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told a press conference.

"Syrians and Eritreans will be relocated from Italy and Greece to other European Union member states over a period of two years," he said.

The measure concerns people arriving in those countries after April 15 this year, the commissioner said.

The proposal suggests migrants be distributed according to four criteria: gross national product, population, unemployment and the number of asylum requests already registered in the country.

Repeating an earlier proposal, Avramopoulos said the European Union is also asking member states to admit 20,000 people from third countries who have "a clear need for international protection".

"They will be resettled from countries outside Europe to European Union member states."

However, EU states Britain, Ireland and Denmark can opt out of both schemes under existing EU treaties, according to EU officials.

Avramopoulos insisted that the European Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation EU, was not proposing a quota system for distributing people.

Many member states, which are under pressure from anti-immigrant parties during tough economic times, have strongly objected to quotas.

"It's up to each member to decide how many refugees they will grant refugee status (to)," he added.

"If countries want to relocate or settle more, they can, but we want to insure minimum solidarity," Avramopoulos said.

However, EU sources said, countries must first admit the 40,000 asylum seekers based on a "distribution key," which looks like a quota.

It opens a breach in the Dublin rules that require the country where asylum seekers first land to take them in.

The task is bound to be particularly difficult because Britain, Hungary, the Baltic states, the Czech Republic and Poland oppose mandatory relocation based on a redistribution "key" system.

"The proposal is not perfect, but it amounts to an enormous step forward, because it introduces the principle of solidarity," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Tuesday.

"We will have to build a consensus" around the relocation proposal for asylum seekers "so that interior ministers can approve it" by a simple majority when they meet June 16 in Luxembourg, the former Italian foreign minister added.

Avramopoulos spoke of an "emergency mechanism" as Brussels fears the arrival of a wave of migrants and asylum seekers during the summer in Italy, Greece and Malta.

Around half a million migrants could attempt to cross the Mediterranean, the U.N. International Maritime Organization warned in late April.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon was in Brussels for talks Wednesday with commission head Jean-Claude Juncker after urging Europe to do more to help migrants.

EU nations already approved plans May 18 for an unprecedented naval mission starting next month to fight human traffickers responsible for a flood of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya.

The scheme backed by foreign and defense ministers in Brussels will involve European warships and surveillance aircraft gathering intelligence and then raiding boats to crack down on people smugglers.

But the EU is still waiting for a U.N. resolution that will allow it to destroy boats that belong to people smugglers in Libyan waters, where political turmoil has created a safe harbor for traffickers.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: May 28, 2015, 06:11 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Serbian PM Makes Historic Visit to Albania

by Naharnet Newsdesk 27 May 2015, 14:21

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic arrived in Albania on Wednesday for the first such visit by a Serbian head of government as the two Balkan countries seek to improve fragile ties.

Vucic was greeted on arrival by his Albanian counterpart Edi Rama, who visited Belgrade six months ago in the first visit by a Tirana head of government for 68 years.

Talks between the two prime ministers were expected to focus on Kosovo, a former Serbian province with an ethnic Albanian majority which unilaterally declared independence in 1998.

Belgrade still rejects Kosovo's independence, which has been recognised by some 100 countries, including the United States and most European Union members.

Kosovo is at heart of bilateral tensions between the two countries. Such tensions have been exacerbated by claims from Serbia's ethnic Albanian minority for more autonomy or even unification with Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority.

After talks with Rama and meetings with President Ilir Meta and other officials on Wednesday, Vucic was to address a regional economic forum on Thursday.

Tight security measures were taken for the visit with some 1,300 policemen deployed in the capital, local media reported. Helicopters were hovering while traffic was blocked in areas.

Both Vucic and Rama voiced optimism over the outcome of the visit and future relations between their countries.

"I am convinced that Albania and Serbia, Albanians and Serbs, could together do for the Balkans what France and Germany did for Europe after World War II," Rama told Agence France Presse ahead of the visit.

- Decades of chilly ties -

Political analysts said that the two countries were key to the stability of the volatile Balkans, torn apart by a series of inter-ethnic wars in the 1990s.

"The region's European future depends also on reconciliation between Albanians and Serbs and cooperation between Albania and Serbia," political analyst Albert Rakipi told AFP.

Analyst Lufti Dervishi echoed the view, stressing the Serbian prime minister's visit was breaking "decades of chill between the two countries."

But he added that despite the positive signals, "tomorrow both countries will stick to their views over Kosovo."

The relations between Serbs and Albanians have also remained strained because Belgrade fears a "Great Albania," a nationalist project seeking to unite all Albanians in one state, including Kosovo and parts of Macedonia and Serbia.

Both Albanian and Kosovo authorities assure that no such plan exists.

A war between Serbian armed forces and the pro-independence guerrilla movement in Kosovo in 1998-1999 was followed by a NATO bombing campaign to stop a crackdown by late president Slobodan Milosevic's regime against the ethnic Albanian population.

The Serbian army and police were eventually forced by NATO to leave Kosovo, which in 2008 proclaimed independence.

Last November, during his visit to Belgrade, Rama called on Vucic to recognise the reality of Kosovo's independence, provoking angry responses from his host and the Serbian public.

Despite the friction, the two men agreed to continue working towards an improvement in relations.

Vucic's visit also comes at a time of tension elsewhere in the Balkans.

Earlier this month Macedonian police clashed with an ethnic Albanian armed group, most of whose members were from Kosovo. Eighteen people were killed, including eight police officers.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: May 28, 2015, 06:08 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Biden Castigates Putin, Casts Ukraine Crisis as a Test

by Naharnet Newsdesk 28 May 2015, 07:10

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday denounced Vladimir Putin's "pure aggression" in Ukraine, warning that Western nations must be prepared to respond with further sanctions against Russia if necessary.

Condemning the Russian president's actions abroad and repression at home, Biden said facing down Putin was "critical to checking further aggression down the road."

"We're looking for him to, in our view, act more rationally and if he does not, we will continue to confront what I characterize as pure aggression," he said in a speech at a Washington think tank.

In March 2014, Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea region after a pro-European government came to power in Kiev.

Since then, pro-Russian forces have launched a rebellion in eastern Ukraine, destabilizing the country.

Biden urged European leaders meeting in June to keep sanctions on Russia in place until the terms of a ceasefire agreement are met.

"Sanctions on Russia must and will remain in place," he said, adding that allies must be ready to mete out more sanctions if "Russia again moves beyond the line of contact."

He said Putin was "at his core" practical, "he will push as far as he can... until he reaches a resistance."

"President Putin is wagering that he has greater staying power," Biden added. "In Ukraine, he's betting that he can outlast the current reformist pro-European government and undermine it economically." 

Biden said the debate over sending lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine was "worth having," while stopping short of endorsing the controversial move.

Some believe that providing even defensive weapons to Kiev would escalate a conflict against Russia that Ukraine has no chance of winning.

Biden also framed the crisis as a test for democracies, with far-reaching implications around the world.

"What happens in Ukraine and how the West and the world responds has, I think, consequential implications for the nature of the international order," Biden said at the Brookings Institution.

"China and many other nations are watching very closely how the world responds."

Biden accused the Kremlin of "rattling the cage," funding destabilizing political parties across Europe, nurturing a "hyper-aggressive state-sponsored Russian propaganda machine" and using corruption as a tool of foreign policy.

The U.S. State Department meanwhile said Wednesday that Washington was providing an additional $18 million in humanitarian aid to help victims of the conflict in eastern Ukraine and Crimea.

The assistance bump was announced by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Simon Henshaw during a trip to Kiev on May 23.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: May 28, 2015, 06:06 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
France Says Britain EU Referendum 'Very Risky'

by Naharnet Newsdesk 28 May 2015, 10:16

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said a British referendum on whether to leave the EU was "very risky", ahead of a visit by Prime Minister David Cameron to Paris on Thursday.

Cameron is carrying out a whistlestop tour of European capitals to push for reforms he says are necessary before the EU referendum, including on immigration.

"We will listen to him and see what he proposes," said Fabius.

"He launched this referendum project, it is something very risky. We hope Britain stays in the European Union, nevertheless there are things that need to be improved."

Fabius said that France was in favour of a simplification of the functioning of the 28-nation bloc.

"But even though we say yes to an improvement of the Union, we cannot agree with its breakup."

After winning this month's election with a narrow surprise majority, Cameron's centre-right government will Thursday publish its first bill which will pave the way for a referendum by 2017 on whether Britain should leave the European Union.

Cameron said on Wednesday he hoped the measure would pass in "extra quick time" and has not ruled out holding the referendum vote next year.

"I find this process quite dangerous," said Fabius.

"The British population has gotten used to being told: 'Europe is a bad thing', and the day they are asked to decide, the risk is that they say Europe is a bad thing."

He said that one couldn't "join a football club and decide in the middle of the match we are now going to play rugby."

Fabius said Britain would "certainly" have the most to lose if it left the EU, but that the bloc would also suffer.

Britain "is a military power, a diplomatic power. If such an important country leaves Europe it will give an extremely negative impression of Europe."

Cameron will also visit Berlin and Warsaw on his trip.

Source: Agence France Presse


UK Government Confirms EU Referendum in Queen's Speech

by Naharnet Newsdesk 27 May 2015, 14:38

Prime Minister David Cameron's government confirmed it will hold a referendum on whether Britain should leave the EU Wednesday in a policy speech read by Queen Elizabeth II on Westminster's grandest day.

The 89-year-old monarch also set the stage for further budget austerity under Cameron's newly elected center-right government but promised measures for "working people" such as more free childcare.

Wearing a crown and full ceremonial dress, the queen said Britain would "pursue reform of the European Union for the benefit of all member states".

She added: "Alongside this, early legislation will be introduced to provide for an in-out referendum on membership of the European Union by the end of 2017."

The Queen's Speech also featured plans to hand more powers to Scotland and prohibit raising three main taxes for the next five years, despite planned cuts to reduce Britain's deficit including welfare savings of £12 billion (17 billion euros, $18.5 billion).

The white-clad monarch, delivering the 62nd Queen's Speech of her reign, arrived at parliament in a gold and black carriage accompanied by dozens of horsemen to the sound of the national anthem, "God Save The Queen".

In a bizarre tradition dating back to times of hostility between parliament and monarchy, an MP was "held hostage" at Buckingham Palace until she returned safely.

Thousands of people were expected to hold anti-austerity protest in central London after the speech.

"We've suffered austerity for too long. It created the longest fall in living standards since records began for the majority while the thousand richest doubled their wealth," said Sam Fairbairn, one of the organizers.

- Referendum bill to move quickly -

The EU referendum bill, which is due to be published on Thursday, is expected to keep open the prospect of a vote next year -- which Cameron has not ruled out -- but not include a precise date for the ballot.

Parliament could start debating the bill as early as June, media reported.

Cameron, who addresses the House of Commons after the Queen's Speech, embarks on a whistle-stop tour of European capitals including Paris, Warsaw and Berlin on Thursday and Friday as he pushes for reforms which he says are necessary before the referendum.

Some of Cameron's goals include controlling migration by making it harder for EU migrants to claim state benefits in Britain and opting out of the commitment to "ever closer union".

The speech also featured legislation to secure a "strong and lasting constitutional settlement" which will hand new powers to Scotland after it voted against independence in a referendum last year.

In the speech, the queen promised "wide-ranging powers" for Scotland as well as Wales, another constituent nation of Britain.

But Nicola Sturgeon's pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), which became the third largest group in the Commons following the election, wants the government to go further.

Other measures in the Queen's Speech included plans to to pass a law which would ban it from increasing income tax, VAT (a form of sales tax) and national insurance (contributions towards state benefits) for the next five years.

The government is also introducing new powers to ban "extremist organisations" seen as responsible for radicalization and a communications bill, dubbed a "snoopers' charter" by critics, which could oblige mobile phone companies and Internet service providers to hand individuals' browsing data to security services.

The Conservatives have only a narrow majority and could struggle to pass controversial legislation if they face rebellions from within their own ranks.

Cameron has reportedly delayed a plan to scrap some European human rights laws, which had been expected in the Queen's Speech, due to opposition from within his own party.

Source: Agence France Presse

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