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28 April, 2011


Muslim Brotherhood calls for Syrians to defend their rights

­The Muslim Brotherhood movement in Syria, long banned by the government, has called for civilians to gather in the streets to defend their freedom. This is the first call to flood the streets from the Muslim Brotherhood, whose leader was ousted from Syria when demonstrations for democracy started in the country.  According to the law enforcement officials, about 400 demonstrators have already been killed by government forces. However, government officials claimed on Thursday that only 70 civilians have been killed. The 27 countries of the European Union are expected to gather in Brussels to discuss possible sanctions against Syria on Friday, as a response to the Syrian government’s use of force against its own population.


Four killed by Israeli forces in Gaza

­Four people were reportedly killed after Israeli forces stationed near the border with Gaza fired on a refugee camp. According to reports, at least three shells exploded not far from a residential area located near the east side of the camp. According to Israeli reports, the Israeli forces opened fire to stop militants who were trying to install explosive devices along the border. After the end of the Israeli military’s operation in Gaza in early 2009, Israel established a so-called buffer zone along the border with the strip. The buffer zone stretches 150 meters to 300 meters deep into the enclave. The military reportedly opens fire, without warning, upon anyone sighted in the buffer zone.


Eleven killed in mosque blast in Iraq

­At least 11 people were killed and 20 injured by a suicide bomber in the eastern Iraqi town of Baladruz. The bomb went off inside a Shiite mosque, hitting worshippers after evening prayers. Bombings continue to kill and maim in Iraq, eight years after the US-led invasion. The region is one of the few remaining provinces where large numbers of Al Qaeda and other Sunni insurgents still battle Iraqi security forces.


Hague court opens probe into war crimes in Libya

The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has concluded that an investigation into war crimes in Libya should be opened. It comes after the office conducted a preliminary examination, according to an official statement released Thursday on ICC’s website. The first case under the investigation focuses on crimes against humanity committed against Libyan civilians since February 15, 2011. The Hague Court will probe into war crimes committed by different parties. The Thursday statement said that the office will act with absolute impartiality. The Libya investigation was launched on March 3.


US jury convicts Russian pilot in drug trafficking

A US jury has found Russian cargo pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko guilty on charges of smuggling cocaine. He and his associates stood trial in US Federal Court in New York on Thursday. According to the prosecution, Yaroshenko was involved in a criminal scheme to transport an estimated 200 kilograms of cocaine via diplomatic mail from Ghana to New York on a Delta Airlines plane. Yaroshenko was also accused of transporting drugs by air from Venezuela to Liberia and then to Ghana. The defense insisted that there was no crime committed on the territory of the United States and that the accused only agreed to transport drugs within South America and Africa. The judge, however, argued that the defendants realized that the drugs would end up in the US. The sentence in the case will be announced on July 28.


Kim Jong Il ready for summit with South Korea – Carter

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is willing to hold direct talks with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, former US President Jimmy Carter said Thursday after his three-day trip to North Korea. Carter and three former European leaders did not have a chance to meet Kim, but he sent them a personal message. "

He specifically told us that he is prepared for a summit meeting directly with President Lee Myung-bak at any time to discuss any subject directly between the two heads of state

," Carter was quoted as saying by the South Korean Yonhap news agency.


Tourists among Marrakesh café blast victims

A powerful blast that rocked a café in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh on Thursday could have been a terrorist attack, Moroccan officials said.  The explosion killed at least 14 people and wounded about 20, most of them tourists. The incident occurred at Cafe Argana in Marrakesh’s main Djemaa el-Fna Square. It was not immediately clear who might be behind the apparent attack. Officials earlier said the explosion was caused by gas canisters which caught fire inside the café. According to the Russian Embassy in Morocco, a Russian couple was among the victims. The man is in serious condition while his wife has been moderately injured.


Thousands rally over protesters’ deaths in Yemen

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets across Yemen to protest against the killing of 12 protesters the previous day in the capital Sanaa and urged the entrenched leader Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down immediately. The demonstrators condemned the violent government crackdown on pro-democracy rallies in several Yemeni cities. On Wednesday, security forces backed by snipers on rooftops opened fire on a massive crowd of demonstrators, killing 12 and wounding some 190.


Syria tried to build nuclear reactor – IAEA chief

The head of the UN nuclear agency has revealed that Syria tried to secretly build a nuclear reactor. Yukiya Amano said Thursday that a target destroyed by Israeli warplanes five years ago “was a reactor under construction.” Syria denied allegations of constructing a nuclear facility. However, it did not let the IAEA inspect the site in 2008.  The IAEA had previously suggested that the destroyed structure could have been a reactor. The latest comments by Amano were the first time the nuclear agency has said it unequivocally.


Russian observer detained outside Minsk court – report

­A Russian citizen has been detained in Minsk outside the court where he was monitoring the hearing of an opposition activist’s case, rights advocates report on Thursday. Belarus is currently trying opposition activists detained during the mass protests in Minsk on the day of the presidential election. Ivan Kondratenko is an expert of the Committee of International Control, a human rights organization monitoring the trials. Russia’s embassy in Belarus is checking the report of his detention.


NATO airstrike kills 12 rebels in Libyan Misrata

A doctor in the Libyan rebel-held city of Misrata says a NATO airstrike has accidentally killed 12 opposition fighters. Dr Hasan Malitan, who witnessed the accident, said Wednesday’s airstrike hit a building where the rebels were holed up. NATO airstrikes are supposed to help rebels in their fight against the troops of Muammar Gaddafi. However, it was not the first time allies have accidentally killed anti-Gaddafi fighters. Misrata, Libya’s third largest city, has been besieged by government troops trying to seize the rebel stronghold in the western part of the country.


12-year-old crowned India's new Maharaja of Jaipur

A 12-year-old boy has succeeded the throne of what was once one of India’s most influential and wealthy royal families. Kumar Padmanabh Singh, an adopted grandson of the late ruler of Jaipur, was crowned as the new Maharaja of Jaipur on Wednesday during a grand ceremony at the City Palace in the city of Jaipur in northwestern India. Even though India officially abolished all royal titles after independence from Britain in 1947 and government reforms in 1970, many royal families are still revered by locals in their former kingdoms. They also possess some of their palaces, forts, jewelry and antiques. The previous ruler of Jaipur, Brigadier Sawai Bhawani Singh died on April 17 at the age of 80 after a prolonged illness. However, not everybody in India is excited about the event with many viewing it as an offense to the republic and a medieval remnant.


EU should accept Russia’s decision to acknowledge Abkhazia, South Ossetia – official

Russia’s decision to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is irreversible, and the European Union should realize that, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Voronkov said on Thursday. “We would like the European Union to take more seriously Russia’s statement that its decision to acknowledge the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia is final and irreversible,” Voronkov observed. His comments came after European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton criticized Foreign Minister Lavrov’s visit to the former Georgian provinces earlier this week.


Medvedev wants to outlaw use of illegal drugs

President Medvedev wants to introduce criminal responsibility for using illegal drugs, along with compulsory rehab treatment for drug addicts, the Kremlin press service reports. “The government is commissioned to present suggestions regarding responsibility for systematic non-medical use of narcotic substances, and regarding the possibility of compulsory medical rehabilitation treatment as punishment for drugs-related crimes,” the president’s order says. At present, Russian law considers storing and selling illegal drugs a crime, but not using them.


Storms claim 178 lives across US South

The death toll from severe spring storms that rampaged across five Southern US states has sharply risen to 178 after Alabama’s authorities confirmed 128 deaths on Thursday. Thirty-two people have been reported dead in the state of Mississippi and 11 in Georgia. Tennessee has raised its tally from one to six and one death has been reported in Virginia. The disaster wiped out homes and businesses, forced a nuclear power plant to use backup generators and even prompted the evacuation of a National Weather Service office.


Huge blast rocks café in Morocco

At least 10 people have been killed after a powerful explosion has hit a café on the main square of the Moroccan city of Marrakesh on Thursday. According to a Reuters photographer, the blast hurt several people and rescue officials are pulling casualties out of the building. An official source, quoted by Al Jazeera, said the explosion was caused by gas canisters which caught fire inside the café in Jamaa el-Fna Square in the southern city of Marrakesh.


­Head of Russian Imperial House to miss Prince William’s wedding

Head of the Romanov Imperial House, Grand Duchess of Russia Maria Vladimirovna, has sent congratulations to Prince William and Kate Middleton, but will not personally attend their wedding on Friday, spokesman for the House of Romanov has said. Maria Vladimirovna, who descends from Tsar Alexander II of Russia and also from Queen Victoria, currently resides in Madrid.


Russia moves to legalize castration of pedophiles

The Investigative Committee of Russia has prepared a draft bill which, if ratified, will see pedophiles chemically castrated, the organization’s head, Aleksandr Bastrykin, has announced. “We think that people who have committed sexual crimes against minors should be chemically castrated,” Bastrykin said. However, chemical castration, which is reversible, would not replace regular punishment for pedophiles, dictated by the Criminal Code, the official added.


UK revokes royal wedding invite for Syrian envoy

Britain has revoked an invitation to the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton to the Syrian envoy amid the ongoing brutal crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in the Arab country. Human rights groups have slammed the initial decision to invite Ambassador Sami Khiyami to the April 29 ceremony in Westminster Abbey. Therefore, the UK government said Thursday that the Syrian ambassador’s presence would be “unacceptable” and he will not attend. The 185 envoys from all countries with which Britain has “normal diplomatic relations” have been invited.


­Medvedev suggests bill obliging banks to disclose state officials’ financial data

President Medvedev is submitting for the State Duma’s consideration an anti-corruption draft bill obliging banks to disclose information regarding the accounts of candidates seeking jobs within state structures. “I would like to inform everyone that I am introducing another draft bill dedicated to state officials’ responsibilities, including the declaration of income,” Medvedev said on Thursday at a United Russia party meeting. “Giving or not giving information does not depend on their good will anymore. At the request of relevant agencies the banks must provide it,” the president said. The disclosure rule would also involve the officials’ families, Medvedev added.


­Russia moves to legalize castration of pedophiles

The Investigative Committee of Russia has prepared a draft bill which, if ratified, will see pedophiles chemically castrated, the organization’s head, Aleksandr Bastrykin, has announced. “We think that people who have committed sexual crimes against minors should be chemically castrated,” Bastrykin said. However, chemical castration, which is reversible, would not replace regular punishment for pedophiles, dictated by the Criminal Code, the official added.


Iranian MPs urge to impeach Ahmadinejad

Twelve Iranian lawmakers have called for the impeachment of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for numerous violations of laws approved by the parliament, according to Payvand news website. The latest political move comes amid speculation about the rift between Iran’s president and the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Recently, Heydar Moslehi, the intelligence chief, submitted his resignation under pressure from Ahmadinejad. But he was reinstated after Khamenei intervened and asked him to stay. According to Iranian law, at least ten people must sign a demand for impeachment of the president or ministers.


­Putin praises Russia’s improving demography

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has praised the development of healthcare and medicine for improving the demographic situation in Russia. “Since 2005, life expectancy has increased by almost four years,” Putin told a conference on healthy living, in Moscow on Thursday. “Mortality has decreased by more than 11 per cent. We have a long way to go yet, but the positive effect of our policies is obvious,” he said. The prime minister also reminded the audience that even during the financial crisis, Russian authorities did not reduce healthcare funding.


Security forces kill 12 amid Yemeni unrest

Security forces have opened fire on a huge pro-democracy demonstration in the Yemeni capital, killing 12 people and injuring almost 200. Tear gas and live rounds were reportedly fired into the crowd. Some of the gunmen were wearing civilian clothes. The latest violence comes after a deal was reached to end President Saleh's three-decades-long rule within 30 days. But the protesters want him to go immediately.


Turkey urges Syria to stop violence

Turkey has called on Syrian President Bashar Assad to stop the violent crackdown against the anti-government uprising that has engulfed the country. Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that a delegation is expected to be in Damascus on Thursday to deliver Turkey’s concern over the violence in the neighboring state. Erdogan has said Turkey does not want to see an “authoritarian, totalitarian, imposing structure,” in Syria. Meanwhile, European countries have threatened to impose sanctions on Syria if the crackdown continues.


­Sending arms and military instructors to Libyan rebels goes against UN resolution – Moscow

Supplying Libyan rebels with arms and sending military instructors to the North African state violates the UN Security Council resolution on Libya, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksey Sazonov has stated. “Supplying arms to Benghazi, and sending military instructors and experts there, which some NATO countries have done, signifies that the coalition could be dragged into fight on one of the sides in Libya’s internal conflict,” Sazonov said. Such measures do not comply with the UN resolution’s aims, and could result in escalation of violence, he concluded.


Thailand and Cambodia reach ceasefire agreement

Cambodian officials say their military commanders have reached a ceasefire deal with their Thai counterparts on Thursday following seven days of cross-border skirmishes over contested territory surrounding two ancient Khmer temples. A Cambodian government spokesman said the agreement was reached after a 40-minute meeting at the border on Thursday. Under the agreement, the two countries will open border checkpoints which were closed due to the clashes that claimed 15 lives. The border was quiet for most of the day Thursday after artillery fire was reported in the morning.


­NATO trying to prove its versatility in Benghazi – Russian envoy

By sending a representative to Benghazi, NATO is trying to prove its versatility, Russia’s permanent envoy to the alliance Dmitry Rogozin claims. “NATO’s new strategic concept states that from now on the organization will hold its operation without the assistance of the EU or other international organizations,” Rogozin pointed out. “NATO wants to show that it can be versatile in all kinds of work, be at once a soldier, a nurse, and a nanny,” he said. A NATO source said on Wednesday that the alliance would establish a civilian post in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi in order to step up political contact with the opposition.


4 Shiite protesters sentenced to death in Bahrain

A military court in the Sunni-ruled kingdom of Bahrain has sentenced four Shiite protesters to death over the killing of two policemen during the uprising. Thursday’s verdict is the first involving capital punishment related to the anti-government unrest that was inspired by the wave of revolts across the Arab world. Three other protesters were sentenced to life in prison. The Sunni rulers declared martial law last month in connection with the uprising and let Saudi-led foreign troops on to the island to help quell the protests. The oil-rich Gulf country descended into turmoil as hundreds of thousands of Shiite-led opposition called for greater rights and freedoms in the kingdom.


­Russian opposition leader Limonov intends to run for president in 2012

Controversial opposition leader, writer Eduard Limonov, has stated his intent to run in the 2012 presidential election. Limonov, who heads the unregistered “Other Russia” party, claims to have great ambitions. “I am the only candidate who is out of the system,” Limonov said. “All the other [opposition] candidates belong to the system. Vladimir Zhirinovsky is a man of the system, so is Gennady Zyuganov, and even Mikhail Kasyanov,” he added.


Royal couple thank everyone for their kindness

Prince William and Catherine Middleton say they have been deeply touched by the affection they have felt from many people since their engagement. The British royal couple expressed their gratitude on Thursday a day ahead of the wedding ceremony in London. The wedding program was also released on Thursday. In a message at the beginning of the program they say: "We are both so delighted that you are able to join us in celebrating what we hope will be one of the happiest days of our lives. The affection shown to us by so many people during our engagement has been incredibly moving, and has touched us both deeply.'' The wedding ceremony will take place in Westminster Abbey on Friday.


Syria violence fuels dissent within Assad regime

The latest brutal crackdown on protesters in the Syrian city of Daraa is fueling massive dissent within the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. According to Reuters, the violence forced 200 members of the ruling Baath Party to resign in a sign of discontent with the killing of at least 35 civilians in the southern city on Monday. Diplomats also suggest that there are signs of discontent among the troops, where the majority of soldiers are Sunnis, but most officers belong to the same minority Alawite sect as the president.  There have also been reports that some soldiers were executed after refusing to shoot at protesters. The death toll in the six-weeks-long uprising that engulfed Syria has reached 450, according to rights groups.


­Kyrgyzstan tightens security to avoid new ethnic clashes

Kyrgyzstan is tightening security measures as extremist and terrorist activity is reportedly on the rise in the republic. Eleven months after the bloody ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan’s south, the situation in the region remains tense, head of the Osh Region Interior Ministry Department, Kursan Asanov, has said. Law enforcement personnel are working hard to guarantee public security, Asanov assured. In June 2010, clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek citizens of Kyrgyzstan in the south of the republic resulted in 427 people killed and some 3,000 wounded.


Former Costa Rican president jailed over corruption

A former president of Costa Rica has been sentenced to five years in jail on corruption charges. Miguel Angel Rodriguez has been convicted of instigating corruption but was absolved of illegal enrichment. He allegedly took money in exchange for giving the Latin American branch of the French telecom company Alcatel a US$149 million cell phone contract with the Costa Rican Electricity Institute during his presidency from 1998 to 2002. Rodriguez briefly served as chief of the Organization of American States but had to resign over the corruption scandal.


Thai-Cambodian border skirmish continues for 7th day

Thai and Cambodian troops resumed fighting before dawn on Thursday in the border area around the ruins of two ancient Khmer temples. The clashes over disputed land surrounding Ta Moan and Ta Krabey temples continued for a seventh say. An Associated Press reporter said artillery fire was heard across the border which has been caught in crossfire since Friday. The fighting over the disputed territory has already claimed lives of 14 people and forced tens of thousands of civilians to flee the violence.


Russia not sending observers to Libya yet – official

­Russia is not considering sending observers to Libya, Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov has assured. “At the moment, we are not considering sending our observers [to Libya],” Gatilov said. “All contact is made via Russia’s embassy in Tripoli.” The Libyan authorities have appealed to the world nations, including Russia, to send in their observers to evaluate the situation in the conflict zone.


China’s population aging rapidly, birthrate low – census

China has released the results of the latest census showing that its population is aging rapidly, while the birth rate remains low, according to Xinhua news agency. The head of the National Bureau of Statistics said the sixth nationwide census showed that the proportion of people aged 60 or older reached 13.26 per cent, which is almost three per cent higher than in 2000. Meanwhile, the number of citizens aged 14 or younger was only 16.6 per cent, which is 6.29 per cent lower than it was in the previous poll. The data published on Thursday also revealed that half of Chinese now live in the cities. The rapid aging of the population in the world’s most populous country sparks worries that China will soon not be able to sustain its booming economy.


­Russia warns UN Security Council to stay away from Syria

Russia’s representative at the UN Security Council has advised the organization against interfering in Syria’s internal affairs. According to Russia’s envoy, Aleksandr Pankin, the conflict in Libya does not threaten international security, and requires no external interference. “It is getting quite clear that some of the protesters in Syria and other states hope that more protests will make the international community take their side and help them,” he observed. At the Wednesday meeting of the UN Security Council, representatives of its 15 member states failed to ratify a note denouncing the violent clampdown on anti-government forces in Syria.


Bomb targets navy bus in Pakistan

A roadside bomb has gone off in Pakistan's largest city, striking a bus carrying navy officials. At least five people have been killed and some 15 have been wounded in the early morning attack. It comes two days after deadly blasts in Karachi also targeted navy buses. The Taliban claimed responsibility for those bombings and threatened further attacks.


Storms ravage US south, at least 70 dead

More people have died in severe storms which are hammering the southern United States. At least 58 were killed in tornadoes in Alabama, bringing the death toll in the region to over 70. Dozens of roads are impassable while hundreds of homes have been destroyed – and a state of emergency has been declared. The mayor of one town says entire districts are in ruins and its infrastructure decimated.


Rival Palestinian groups agree to reconciliation deal

­After years of conflict, the two main Palestinian parties have agreed to a reconciliation deal. Under the agreement, Hamas and Fatah will form an interim government and fix a day for general elections within a year. Hamas has been governing Gaza for more than four years since seizing power from the long-ruling Fatah, which has continued to control the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately announced that it is impossible for Palestinians to have peace with his country when Hamas still does not recognize Israel’s rights to exist.


Côte d'Ivoire warlord killed

­The renegade warlord known as Ibrahim “IB” Coulibaly has reportedly been killed in a fighting with republican forces in Côte d'Ivoire. Military forces led by Defense Minister Guillaume Soro seized Coulibaly’s stronghold in the poor Abidjan neighborhood of Abobo. Coulibaly then reportedly refused to disarm. However, the senior commander who directed the fighting said Coulibaly’s death appeared to be a suicide. The situation in the region became tense after Alassan Ouattara won the presidential election in November 2010, but his rival, the incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo, refused to hand over power. The ensuing struggle led to violence which has claimed the lives of at least 1,000 people.


Nine killed in unrest in Yemen

­At least nine people were reportedly killed and about 100 wounded during the dispersal of protestors in the Yemeni capital Sanaa. Yemeni security forces opened fire on a massive anti-government demonstration. Doctors and witnesses say the victims mostly suffered gunshot wounds. Protesters have continued to gather in different cities across Yemen, demanding the immediate resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Security forces and Saleh supporters have already killed more than 130 people since the unrest erupted in early February.


Fire erupts near shuttle launch site

­A severe fire erupted at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral in Florida, from where the space shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to blast off on Friday. According to NASA, the fire does not threaten the launch. The fire occurred about 5 kilometers away from the launch platform. The mission is expected to he headed by NASA astronaut Mark Kelly. His wife, US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in January at a public meeting, is expected to attend the launch.


Moscow City Court to hear jail term appeal from Khodorkovsky

The Moscow City Court will hear an appeal on May 17 from Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev against their new jail terms. The appeal was filed by lawyer Karina Moskalenko on December 31, the day the two ex-businessmen were sentenced to stay in jail until 2017. Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were jailed for embezzlement and money laundering. The two men had been nearing the end of a separate eight-year sentence for fraud and tax evasion from their 2005 trial.