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 71 
 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:34 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Morocco women march to demand gender equality

AFP
04/14/2014

Rabat (AFP) - A group of around 800 Moroccans, mostly women, staged a march in the capital Rabat on Sunday demanding that a constitutional guarantee of gender equality be applied in the kingdom.

The march from the city centre to parliament was led by the Civil Coalition for the Application of Article 19, which is reportedly made up of some 500 NGOs, and was joined by civil society organisations, lawmakers, rights groups and lawyers.

Participants carried banners demanding a "comprehensive review of all discriminatory laws", "women's safety in public places", and "equality as a right, not a privilege".

Article 19 of Morocco's 2011 constitution guarantees that "men and women enjoy on an equal footing civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights and freedoms".

However it has yet to be applied by the country's Islamist-led government.

The protestors accused the government of "stalling the application" of Article 19.

Fawzia El-Asouli, coordinator of the coalition, said that the government was also "stalling in the application of laws that protect women from violence and discrimination".

The group also called for a petition to urge the prime minister to apply laws protecting women's rights.

The coalition citing figures of the State Planning Commission says 62 percent of women in Morocco aged between 18 and 64 have been the victims of violence.

Last year, rights campaigners in the kingdom obtained the amendment of Article 475 of the penal code, which had allowed a rapist to avoid criminal charges by marrying his victim.

 72 
 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:31 AM 
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Discontent Swells as President of Algeria Seeks a Fourth Term

By AMIR JALAL ZERDOUMI and CARLOTTA GALL
APRIL 13, 2014

ALGIERS — With a presidential election on Thursday, most Algerians see a fourth term for the incumbent, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, as a foregone conclusion.

Mr. Bouteflika has already been in power 15 years. In the last election in 2009, he was returned to office with an improbable 90 percent of the vote. So tightly controlled is this North African country that, virtually alone in the region, it passed on the Arab Spring.

Yet even as the re-election of Mr. Bouteflika, 77, appears inevitable, his insistence on running again, despite his apparent frail health, has increased popular exasperation, revealed unusual signs of division within the ruling elite and provoked an unlikely show of solidarity among opposition parties, both secular and Islamic, which have united in a call to boycott the election.

Exceptionally, a nascent urban middle-class youth movement, Barakat! (“Enough!” in Arabic), styled along the lines of the protests organized through social media during the Arab Spring, has begun campaigning against another term for Mr. Bouteflika. In recent weeks, it broke a taboo by holding small political protests here on the streets of the capital.

Elsewhere, a violent protest forced the former prime minister, Abdelmalek Sellal, to cancel a rally in support of the president on April 5 in Bejaia, 150 miles east of here, when hundreds of demonstrators blocked streets and threw stones. Part of the cultural center where Mr. Sellal was to speak was burned and police officers and journalists were wounded in hours of clashes, the local media reported.

The signs of discontent tell of the frustration that has surrounded Mr. Bouteflika’s run in a country with about 30 percent unemployment, and where many chafe for change even as many more, perhaps, fear the instability that change might bring. The result has been a kind of political inertia embodied in Mr. Bouteflika and a public apathy about the campaign that may well translate into the low turnout that the opposition desires.

Supporters of the president emphasize his critical role in leading Algeria out of a devastating civil war in the 1990s, which killed 100,000 and began after the military stepped in to nullify elections won by Islamists. Algeria’s leadership has since seen the messy and violent aftermath of the Arab Spring as vindication for the course it took.

In an interview, Ahmed Ouyahia, a three-time former prime minister and current chief of staff who is helping run the president’s campaign, credited Mr. Bouteflika with restoring peace and security after a decade of violence. “This is a priceless achievement,” he said.

“Algerians need a personality who can unite them, especially in this climate of terror instilled by some of the candidates,” he added. “Bouteflika is the most appropriate choice to gather the Algerian people in a national consensus. A large majority of the nation backs him.”

Since spending three months in a Paris hospital last summer, Mr. Bouteflika has been absent largely from public life. His only public outing during the campaign was on April 3 when he appeared on national television during a visit to Algiers by Secretary of State John Kerry.

With a puffy face and glazed eyes, Mr. Bouteflika held on to his chair as he stood to greet Mr. Kerry. When he swapped pleasantries with his visitor, his speech was slurred and inaudible.

While it was far from a reassuring sight for Algerians, the president was “perfectly fit to rule,” Mr. Ouyahia insisted. “He is certainly not comfortable standing up,” he said, “but he doesn’t suffer from any other handicap, whether manual or mental.”

While the president remains cloistered in his palace, he has left the campaigning to Mr. Sellal. The president’s only effort to address his people directly was in a letter distributed by the state news agency, saying he was heeding the “call of the people, civil society, political parties, the unions and mass organizations” to run for re-election, and claiming that “my current health challenges do not seem to disqualify me in your eyes.”

Yet given Mr. Bouteflika’s medical problems, and his already long stretch in power, even before he announced his intention to run again, public sniping broke out between the small circle around the president and the country’s intelligence service, betraying hints of divisions within the normally close and discrete branches of the government.

Unusual for a country where the military rarely speaks out, the media reported a number of retired, high-ranking Army officers criticizing Mr. Bouteflika for running again. Equally rare, some in the privately owned news media declared their “neutrality” in the campaign, rather than endorsing the president, as they had always done.

Conversations with people on the streets of capital revealed signs of division and disaffection as well. Nabila Belatrous, a 47-year-old homemaker from the eastern town of Sétif, voiced support for the president. “You have to know that all women in my hometown will vote for Bouteflika,” she said. ‘’We just like him. He is good to the Algerian woman. Men in Sétif don’t like him, but women do.”

Her 19-year-old daughter, Manel, a student, contradicted her. “She always says that and it irritates my dad,” she said. “I do not know anybody from my generation who is planning to vote. My generation is not concerned, if only because the outcome is so obvious.”

Anticipation of a low turnout has helped unify government opponents.

Idir Tazerout, a journalist from the daily newspaper L’Expression who co-founded the Barakat! movement, said Algerians were fed up with the corrupt and stultifying hold of the ruling party. “Bouteflika’s decision to run for a fourth term was a sort of final straw,” he said. “Algeria is turning into an unsaid monarchy, with all the power in the hands of one family.”

Disgust with the current government was enough to push the Islamic and secular opposition together for the first time.

“The fourth term is the most hideous and repulsive aspect of the state of political collapse of the country,” said Abderrazak Makri, the leader of the Movement for the Society of Peace, the most influential Islamic party. “In a state of law, the fourth term would have been unthinkable, if only because of Bouteflika’s extremely poor health condition.”

Mohsen Belabbes, leader of the secular Rally for Culture and Democracy party, said a boycott was the only option. “This election needs to be discredited in order to avoid offering any kind of legitimacy to the next presidential term,” he said in an interview. The government had already shown its intent to manipulate the outcome, he added.

“They refused our demand for credible international observers, they insist on the election being managed by the ministry of interior instead of an independent commission, and they have denied us access to the voters’ database,” Mr. Belabbes said. “What kind of presidential election can we expect from such a regime?”

Mr. Ouyahia, the chief of staff and de facto No. 2 government official, called the opposition’s claims “a distortion of truth,” saying the electoral database was made public during parliamentary elections, in which they participated.

“They advocate democracy,” he said. “Then they should respect this electoral process and let the people choose.”

 73 
 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:28 AM 
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Gaddafi sons' war crimes trial begins in Libya amid security fears

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and brother Saadi face accusations of masterminding campaign of murder and torture during civil war

Chris Stephen in Tripoli
theguardian.com, Sunday 13 April 2014 10.55 BST   
 
The war crimes trial of two sons of Libya's former dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, begins amid tight security in Tripoli on Monday, in a case causing sensation at home and controversy among rights groups.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and his younger brother, Saadi, are accused of orchestrating a campaign of murder, torture and bombardment of civilians during Libya's eight-month civil war in 2011.

Appearing with them are Gaddafi's former spy chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, two former prime ministers and 34 senior officials: much of the dictatorship's surviving elite.

The trial is going ahead despite much of the country being gripped by violence and the blockading of oil production by rebel militias. Libya's interim prime minister Abdullah al-Thinni resigned on Sunday saying he had faced threats and could not continue, just weeks after he was appointed to the post.

The prime minister said he resigned because of a cowardly attack on his family that had made his position untenable, underlining the chaos of Libya and its domination by militias. It is unclear how congress, opposed by regions in the east and west of the country, can find enough MPs to elect a new prime minister, with only 76 of 200 attending and elections unlikely before August.

Security fears mean that the Gadaffi trial has moved to the capital's maximum security al-Hadba prison, which has been ringed with armoured cars, barbed wire and machine-gun nests.

In a sign of the power of the militias, units holding Saif al-Islam in the mountain town of Zintan have refused to hand him over to the authorities. Instead, he will stand trial over a video link.

The defendants are accused of masterminding a chain of massacres in the early days of Libya's revolution, and of later rounding up, torturing and killing hundreds of opponents. The two brothers are also accused of plundering state coffers to fund extravagant playboy lifestyles abroad.

Until the revolution, Saif al-Islam enjoyed the high life, being entertained at Buckingham Palace and enjoying links with Prince Andrew and Tony Blair.

Saadi, 40, is best known for his failed attempts to become a professional footballer, being signed by three Italian Serie-A clubs in quick succession, but managing just two appearances in three years. Prosecutors say he was responsible for troops firing into the crowd during a Libyan cup final in 1996.

Investigators have released few details of the case, but documents filed by Libya with the international criminal court show an extensive charge sheet, more than 200 witnesses and 40,000 pages of evidence.

Central to the case are telephone intercepts allegedly recording the accused ordering war crimes, and a video that judges in The Hague say is genuine, showing Senussi ordering his followers "to be ready to destroy these filthy groups altogether".

But rights groups say violence against judges and lawyers, which have seen the rule of law suspended across much of the country, leave a question mark over the trial. "Militias and criminals have harassed, intimidated, threatened and in some cases assassinated judges, prosecutors, witnesses," said Hanan Salah, of Human Rights Watch.

Concern about due process was heightened this month with the release of a video made by prison guards, apparently without a lawyer present, showing Saadi supposedly confessing to his crimes.

The trial is also controversial because the international criminal court, which has charged Saif al-Islam and Senussi, has yet to agree to Libyan requests to try both at home.

Judges at The Hague ruled that Saif al-Islam must be sent to the ICC, and his lawyers are appealing against a decision that Libya is fit to try Senussi, 64. His ICC legal team, led by Ben Emmerson QC, say Libya refused them permission to visit their client.

"How can you have a fair trial if they don't let the lawyers visit Senussi or even speak to him by phone?" said Amal Alamuddin, one of the ICC defence team.

Libya insists the trial will be fair and transparent. "I can assure you that the trial will be according to the correct legal procedures," said Ahmed Lamin, a government spokesman.

And Libyans themselves are eager to see the trial of their former tormentors. "This case is going to be an example, not just for the old guys on trial, but for the new guys in power," said a Tripoli photographer Magdi el-Nakua. "The message for the new guys is that any abuses, no matter how you see yourselves, you will be made to account for them."

 74 
 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:27 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Nigerian bus station hit by deadly explosion

Many are feared dead after blast in outskirts of capital, Abuja, as hundreds of commuters travelled to work

Associated Press in Abuja
theguardian.com, Monday 14 April 2014 10.32 BST   

An explosion blasted through a busy commuter bus station in the outskirts of Nigeria's capital, Abuja, on Monday, as hundreds of people were on their way to work.

Police have said at least 71 people were killed and 124 wounded in the blast. Reporters saw rescue workers and police gathering body parts.

The blast ripped a hole 1.2 metres (4ft) deep in the ground of Nyanya motor park, about 10 miles from the city centre, and destroyed more than 30 vehicles, causing secondary explosions as their fuel tanks ignited and burned.

There was no official comment or immediate claim of responsibility for the explosion, though bus stations are a favoured target of Nigeria's Islamist militants.

Extremists have been threatening to attack the capital, which is in the middle of the country and hundreds of miles from their traditional base in the north-east, where they have killed nearly 1,500 people this year.

The Boko Haram terrorist network last attacked the capital in 2011, when it claimed a suicide bombing by two explosive-laden cars that drove into the lobby of the United Nations building in Abuja. The attack killed at least 21 people and wounded 60.

The militants are blamed for attacks in north-east Nigeria that have killed more than 50 people in the past five days, including eight teachers living at a boarding school that had been closed because of frequent attacks on schools in which hundreds of students have died.

Boko Haram, which means "western education is forbidden", has been attacking schools, villages, market places and military barracks and checkpoints this year in increasingly frequent and deadly attacks. Its mission is to create an Islamic state in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation of some 170 million people divided almost equally between Muslims living mainly in the north and Christians in the south.

The military has claimed it has the extremists on the run with near-daily air bombardments and ground assaults on hideouts in forests and mountain caves along the border with Cameroon.

 75 
 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:24 AM 
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At Least 60 Killed by Suspected Islamists in Nigeria

by Naharnet Newsdesk
13 April 2014, 22:51

Suspected Boko Haram Islamists on Sunday killed at least 60 people in Nigeria's troubled northeastern Borno state close to the border with Cameroon, a local official said.

"The attackers, who are no doubt Boko Haram insurgents, attacked Amchaka and nearby villages this morning, hurling IEDs (improvised explosive devices) into homes and setting them on fire," Baba Shehu Gulumba, Bama local government administrator, told Agence France Presse.

"They then went on a shooting spree, opening fire on confused residents as they tried to flee, killing 60 people and injuring several others," Gulumba said from Maiduguri, the state capital.

The attackers stormed Amchaka and neighboring villages in Bama district using trucks, motorcycles and two armored vehicles, shooting residents and torching homes, he said.

Other local sources also confirmed the attack but did not give a death toll.

The assailants vandalized boreholes, the only water source for the villagers, Gulumba added.

The attacks have prompted a mass exodus of people from villages in the area.

Following a spate of brutal attacks on schools and universities, around 400 students in the state had boycotted university entrance exams on Saturday, officials said.

 76 
 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:23 AM 
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North Korea Vows Seoul Will Pay 'Dear Price' for Insults

by Naharnet Newsdesk
14 April 2014, 07:01

North Korea on Monday warned South Korea it would pay a "dear price" for recent criticisms of Pyongyang's nuclear program and political system, saying they violated a no-slander agreement.

The warning from the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) came days after Pyongyang blasted South Korean President Park Geun-Hye's proposals for Korean reunification as the "daydreams of a psychopath".

Park was again the focus of the North's anger, with the CPRK denouncing comments she made during a recent tour of Europe.

"Our servicemen and people ... will never tolerate the enemy forces' attempts to insult our system and will make sure they pay a dear price for their madcap comments," the committee said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

During her tour, Park had warned that Pyongyang's nuclear material could end up in terrorist hands and warned of a possible Chernobyl-style disaster at the North's main nuclear complex.

The CPRK also took issue with Park's "viciously slanderous remarks" regarding political repression and human rights abuses in North Korea.

"This shows Park is the true kingpin and major culprit of slanderous insult," it said.

Under an agreement reached during rare, high-level talks in February, the two Koreas had resolved -- at Pyongyang's insistence -- to cease trading verbal insults.

The "no-slander" clause was always going to prove problematic, with North Korea insisting it should extend to the South Korean media as well as private groups and individuals.

Pyongyang saw Park's comments in Berlin and elsewhere as violating the agreement, and in recent weeks has directed increasingly personal attacks on the president, describing her at one point as "a peasant woman babbling to herself".

Monday's CPRK statement also criticized Park's defense, unification and foreign affairs ministers, as well as the "human scum" who testified before a U.N.-appointed panel investigating rights abuses in the North.

"Inter-Korean relations collapsed due to the ugly fantasies and vicious smear campaigns of the South's authorities ... and wicked conservative media," the CPRK said.

"We will never tolerate the mean smear campaigns by the South and will respond resolutely," it said.

The statement also included the first flat denial that North Korea was linked to three crashed drones found in the South.

Seoul's defense ministry said last week it was convinced the North was behind the three camera-equipped drones recovered in different parts of the country.

"The enemy forces are further stepping up their slander and smear campaigns by fabricating the ridiculous drone incident," the CPRK said.

 77 
 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:22 AM 
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China cancels human rights dialogue with Britain

Beijing accuses UK of using rights issues to interfere in its internal affairs and axes dialogue that resumed after diplomatic freeze over Dalai Lama

Tania Branigan in Beijing
theguardian.com, Monday 14 April 2014 12.13 BST   
   
China has cancelled this week's bilateral human rights dialogue with Britain, which David Cameron highlighted as one of the "important achievements" of his high profile trip to Beijing last year.

Beijing accused the UK of making irresponsible comments and using human rights issues to interfere in its internal affairs.

The British prime minister had cited the resumption of the dialogue this spring as one of the successes of his December visit, which followed a diplomatic freeze due to his meeting with the Dalai Lama in 2012.

A Foreign Office spokesman told the Guardian: "We are disappointed that the Chinese government this week unilaterally postponed the dialogue, which was due to take place on 16 April. It is not for us to say why it was postponed.

"We are now in discussion to agree new dates for the dialogue. We consider the dialogue to be an important part of our bilateral relationship with China. It was agreed at the last UK-China summit in December 2013 by the prime minister and Premier Li [Keqiang]."

China's foreign ministry said in a statement: "The principle of equality and mutual respect is the essential basis for China and the UK to carry out dialogue and communication on human rights. The UK should stop making irresponsible comments and using human rights issues to interfere in China's internal affairs, to create the conditions for the human rights dialogue between China and the UK in the next round."

The Foreign Office describes the dialogue as one of the main pillars of the UK's engagement with China over human rights.

The Tibet Society said in a blogpost that it understood China did not agree with the agenda put forward by the UK and was angered by the UK's role at the recent UN Human Rights Council meeting about China's human rights record.

The UK is thought to have become involved in disputes between China and NGOs at the sessions. Chinese diplomats attempted to block a call by NGOs for a minute's silence in memory of the Chinese rights activist Cao Shunli, who died in custody on 14 March.

Cao was stopped en route to Geneva to participate in a human rights training programme in September, and formally arrested a month later for "picking quarrels and provoking trouble".

China's foreign ministry has described the criticism as "mistaken", adding that the 52-year-old's rights had been ensured and that she received "conscientious and proactive treatment".

In 2010, China indefinitely postponed the dialogue shortly after the UK criticised it over the execution of British citizen Akmal Shaikh, who had smuggled drugs but was believed to have serious mental health problems. However, it is thought that other issues may have been involved in the decision.

China has also repeatedly suspended its bilateral dialogue with the United States.

Nicholas Bequelin, senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: "China is responding to a critique of its shortcomings on human rights by cutting back further on human rights engagement. I don't think that indicates that China is genuinely committed to the outcomes of this dialogue … China is trying to intimidate its international partners by walking away from the table."

Last year, submitting evidence to the foreign affairs select committee on the role of human rights in UK policy towards China, Human Rights Watch noted: "While supportive of the principle of dialogue, Human Rights Watch is concerned that the UK/China Human Rights Dialogue appears to have delivered very little tangible improvement … What is there to show for all of those hours of discussion?

"We are also concerned that the existence of the dialogue allows ministers to say that human rights issues are being dealt with there, as opposed to being raised in meetings between foreign ministers or heads of state."

Supporters of bilateral dialogues say the system allows countries to raise specific cases of concern with Chinese officials and to address issues in more detail. But critics warn that it can mean the sidelining of rights issues, which are then kept out of high level meetings.

Beijing criticises 'gesticulating' US

China's foreign ministry told the United States on Monday to stop "gesticulating" in its criticism of China's treatment of dissidents, after Washington urged Beijing to release a prominent activist.

The US last week said it was "deeply disappointed" at a Beijing court's decision to uphold a four-year jail sentence for anti-corruption and children's education rights campaigner Xu Zhiyong. The European Union also expressed concern.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Xu was a Chinese citizen who broke the law and was being punished because of it.

"We urge the United States to stop its gesticulating at China on such individual cases, and stop using so-called human rights as an excuse to interfere in China's internal affairs," she told a daily news briefing.

China and the US routinely clash over human rights, adding to a list of issues on which they do not see eye to eye, including trade, the value of China's currency and China's various maritime territorial disputes.

Washington regularly expresses concern about individual Chinese human rights cases and its diplomats often show up outside court houses where trials are taking place, though they are generally not allowed in. Reuters

 78 
 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:20 AM 
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Taiwan Hails First U.S. Cabinet-Level Visit for 14 Years

by Naharnet Newsdesk
14 April 2014, 14:36

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou on Monday met Gina McCarthy, the first U.S. cabinet-level official to visit the island in 14 years, and hailed her trip as important for ties with Washington.

"This is the first time since 2000 for a cabinet-level official to visit Taiwan from the United States. It is of great significance for bilateral ties," Ma said while meeting McCarthy, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979.

It remains the leading arms supplier to the island, but has been cautious in holding official contacts with it.

China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory awaiting reunification -- by force if necessary -- following their split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.

Taipei-Washington ties were at their worst when President Chen Shui-bian of the China-skeptic Democratic Progressive Party was in power for the eight years to 2008.

But relations have been on an upswing since Ma of the China-friendly Kuomintang party came to power that year.

Ma has referred to the former government as "troublemakers" and has repeatedly assured Washington of "no surprises" in his diplomacy, which is focused on securing a diplomatic truce with Beijing.

"I've striven to restore mutual trust since 2008, and this visit manifests our years-long efforts," Ma said, according to a statement by the presidential office.

But both Taipei and Washington have kept Mc Carthy's visit low-profile.

China had a muted reaction when Rajiv Shah, the head of the US Agency for International Development, visited Taiwan in 2011. However Shah technically does not have cabinet status.

McCarthy visited an elementary school outside Taipei featuring a low-carbon classroom and a garden with an ecological area, and gave a speech at National Taiwan University on environmental cooperation between Taiwan and the United States.

 79 
 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:19 AM 
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Malaysia Opposition Slams 'Bid to Extend Anwar Sentence'

by Naharnet Newsdesk
14 April 2014, 09:20

Malaysia's opposition on Monday denounced what it called a government bid to increase the prison term of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in a controversial sodomy case.

Anwar, 66, was sentenced to five years' jail last month after a court overturned a 2012 acquittal on sodomy charges that he says are a false smear by Malaysia's authoritarian regime aimed at disqualifying him from politics.

Anwar is free pending an appeal to the Federal Court, Malaysia's highest.

But his lawyer Karpal Singh told AFP he received new court documents indicating prosecutors will push to increase the sentence by an unspecified level.

"As Anwar is too old for whipping, they must feel five years is too light," said Karpal.

Malaysia's regime has long been accused of using the courts to harass the opposition, and the March 7 judgement sparked outrage in Malaysia.

The US State Department said it "raised a number of concerns regarding the rule of law and the independence of the court."

The charges allege Anwar sodomised a male former aide. The appeals court said the lower court that acquitted Anwar had misjudged evidence.

In a statement Monday, N. Surendran, a vice president of Anwar's People's Justice Party, called the case "a frontal assault" on democracy, denouncing the bid for a increased sentence as "selective, vicious and politically motivated".

Attorney-General Gani Patail abruptly hung up without commenting when reached by phone.

The ethnic Malay-controlled government that had dominated multi-cultural Malaysia since independence in 1957 has come under unprecedented pressure from a rising, multi-racial opposition led by Anwar.

The opposition shocked the government by winning the popular vote in elections last year for the first time. It failed to win a parliamentary majority due to what critics call decades of gerrymandering by the ruling regime.

Sodomy is punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

Anwar faces jail, loss of his parliament seat, and disqualification from elections for another five years after his release, placing his career in serious jeopardy.

Anwar was being groomed to take over the government in the 1990s but was toppled in a rift with his then-boss, premier Mahathir Mohamad, and thrown in jail for six years on corruption and sodomy charges he calls bogus.

 80 
 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:18 AM 
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India's Opposition Rules Out Major Change to Nuke Policy

by Naharnet Newsdesk
14 April 2014, 09:33

The head of India's opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), tipped to win ongoing national elections, has ruled out any change in the country's "no-first-use" nuclear weapons policy.

The BJP sparked speculation about an end to the doctrine last week when its manifesto said that the party would "revise and update" India's policy.

"The no-first-use policy for nuclear weapons was a well thought out stand... We don't intend to reverse it," BJP President Rajnath Singh told the Hindustan Times newspaper in an interview published Monday.

The policy was adopted after a series of nuclear tests in 1998 during the last BJP-led coalition government which led to international condemnation and an embargo being placed on the country by Western powers.

The policy was intended to gain India greater acceptability as a nuclear power, despite it not being a signatory of the 1970 UN Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty which aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

The BJP is predicted to clinch power under elections which began on April 7 and end with results on May 16.

Any BJP government under hardline prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, a proud nationalist promising strong leadership, is expected to have a more muscular foreign policy.

Any change in nuclear policy would be of most significance to India's rivals Pakistan and China.

Neither reacted to news of the possible review and analysts have pointed out that the "no-first-use" policy is a mere promise that could be ignored by New Delhi in a conflict situation.

China was the first country to adopt the "no-first-use" nuclear policy in 1964, but nuclear-rival Pakistan, with whom India has fought three wars, does not have a similar position.

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