Paraguayan Senator Juan Carlos Galaverna has moved his re-election campaign headquarters to a mansion modeled on the antebellum home of Scarlett O’Hara in the classic 1939 US movie “Gone With the Wind.” The mansion was built on the orders of billionaire Manuel Battilana after his visit to Hollywood. Galaverna, a member of the opposition Colorado Party, is renting the house from current owner Nufro Arias. Paraguay is to hold a general election in April 2013.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says a new report, released by an international expert panel, provides strong basis for Libyan authorities to address the human rights violations committed during last year’s uprising and ouster of Muammar Gaddafi. The panel concludes that both Gaddafi and anti-Gaddafi forces were responsible for crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The report also indicates that NATO did not deliberately target civilians in its bombing campaign in Libya.
Israel's counterterrorism office has warned Israeli citizens against traveling to Turkey, saying that “terror groups are planning to carry out attacks against Jewish and Israeli sites inside Turkey in the coming days.” Last week, Mossad reportedly warned Turkey that Israeli diplomatic missions in the country could be the target of attack. Turkish daily Hurriyet reported that four individuals had already "entered Turkey from Iran" with the materials to carry out attacks. Last month, Israel warned of an imminent attack in Thailand just before suspected Iranian agents wounded an Israeli in a bombing in Bangkok.
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has slated parliamentary elections under the country's new constitution for May 7, according to an announcement made on the Syrian parliament's website. The move comes after international mediator Kofi Annan said he would be expecting the Syrian government's response to “concrete proposals” he “left for them to consider.” The May 7 vote will be the third since Assad came to power in 2000. The vote was initially scheduled on September, but was delayed to allow Assad to carry out reforms. The vote forms part of a raft of reforms announced by Assad in a bid to calm a year-long uprising against his regime.
The Fitch ratings agency has upgraded Greece's credit rating to to a B-, assigning a “stable outlook” status after the county completed a bond swap deal with private creditors. A B- rating is still junk status, but is higher than RD, or restricted default, which the country held last week. For the deal, 83.5 per cent of private holders of Greek debt agreed to a bond swap, taking haircuts of up to 70 per cent on their holdings. Fitch had classified the swap deal as a forced “distressed debt exchange.”
Eight Belgian police in a motorcycle escort were injured, five of them seriously, after a car drove into them outside the royal palace in Brussels on Tuesday. The policemen were waiting as Qatar’s ambassador met King Albert II. The man who was detained after the incident reportedly told police he wanted to commit suicide. Brussels Mayor Freddy Thielemans said the incident was not terrorism-related.
Jordanian military prosecutors have charged six activists with insulting King Abdullah II during a rally in the southern city of Tafileh last week. “Twenty-one have been arrested following the demonstration,” a judicial official told AFP on Tuesday. All of them were charged with rioting. People at the rallies held last week demanded the government introduce reforms and find jobs for the young. Police used tear gas to disperse the demonstration after protesters threw stones at government buildings.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has vowed to press ahead with supporting pro-democracy groups. Addressing US ambassadors from around the world in Washington on Tuesday, she said civil society groups are vital to encouraging US goals, such as advancing democracy and women’s participation. She also blasted governments, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, for curbing such groups and “challenging the propriety of American support for civil society organizations.”
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday for talks with the country’s leaders. Panetta had said he would “stress the importance” of the Manas transit center as a gateway for troops heading to Afghanistan. President Almazbek Atambayev earlier warned the US lease on the base would not be renewed when it expires in 2014. Kyrgyz Defense Council Secretary Busurmankul Tabaldiyev said at a meeting with Panetta on Tuesday that the US Transit Center should withdraw from the republic. But he added that Kyrgyzstan would cooperate with the US on cargo transit via Manas after 2014.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has received permission from Damascus to send humanitarian aid to Syria. The world's largest Islamic body said on Tuesday it will send a team to Syria soon to assess the population’s needs. Preparations are underway for a mission to depart to Syria and to “the site of refugees on the borders of Turkey and Jordan,” Reuters quoted OIC spokesman Tariq Bakhiet as saying. Syria is one of the organization’s 57 member states.
Marine Le Pen, the head of the far-right French National Front party, announced on Tuesday she has gotten the required backing of 500 elected French officials. The move opens the path for her to make a presidential bid. She had previously said mainstream politicians were pressuring mayors and other local officials not to support her. The latest poll published on Tuesday suggests for the first time that French President Nicolas Sarkozy could beat Socialist Francois Hollande in the first round of voting. However, it also shows Hollande would win in the runoff.
UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan is expecting a response on Tuesday from the Syrian government to his “concrete proposals” to end violence in the country. The envoy met with members of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) in Ankara on Tuesday. Annan said “the killing and violence must cease.” Burhan Ghalioun, the head of the SNC, warned that if there is no diplomatic solution, “some countries” which have vowed arms to the Syrian opposition “will keep to their promise.”
The ceasefire in Syria should be simultaneously observed by both the Syrian government and armed groups, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said. Moscow had proposed that an impartial monitoring mission should be secured to observe how the ceasefire is being kept by both sides of the conflict. Lavrov said on Tuesday that it was absolutely “unrealistic” now to demand that Damascus withdraw its troops from cities where clashes with armed groups are ongoing. The minister also warned that weapons from other states may land in Al-Qaeda's hands.
UK police arrested six people on Tuesday as part of the ongoing News International phone hacking investigation. The former News International executive Rebekah Brooks was reportedly among those arrested. The people were detained on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The investigation that stems from wrongdoing at Rupert Murdoch’s now-closed News of the World tabloid may be focusing on a possible coverup of the phone hacking.
A suspected US drone strike has reportedly killed at least six militants in a tribal Pakistani region near the Afghan border. Two drone-fired missiles hit a vehicle in Wakdalai village in South Waziristan’s Birmal area on Tuesday, officials said. The area is considered a global hub of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants. Earlier reports said Pakistan had warned Washington it would not permit US drones to be used in its airspace.
An Afghan soldier was killed in Balandi village after militants opened fire on a government delegation at the scene where a US soldier had killed 16 civilians. Another Afghan soldier and a military prosecutor were wounded in the attack. The delegation was visiting one of the two villages in Kandahar province where the rampage took place on Sunday. Afghanistan’s Taliban vowed to carry out retaliation attacks earlier this week.
A three-judge panel in Guatemala has sentenced a former member of an elite Guatemalan military force to 6,060 years in prison for his role in the 1982 massacre of 201 people. Pedro Pimentel Rios, 54, a former instructor at a Guatemalan training school for elite forces, was extradited from the US last July. In December 1982, several dozen soldiers killed men, women and children in the village of Dos Erres. In 2011, three other former special forces soldiers were sentenced to 6,060 years each for their role in the massacre. A former army second lieutenant also got 6,066 years. This is largely a symbolic act, as under Guatemalan law, the maximum time a convict can serve is 50 years.
At least three Yemeni soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber on Tuesday, police say. The assailant rammed a vehicle laden with explosives into a checkpoint outside the city of al-Bayda in southern Yemen, Reuters reports. At least four other soldiers were wounded in the attack.
Human Rights Watch has said Syrian forces have recently placed land mines near the borders with Lebanon and Turkey. Civilian casualties have already resulted, the New-York based group said on Monday, citing witnesses and deminers linked with the opposition. “There is absolutely no justification for the use of these indiscriminate weapons,” said Steve Goose, Arms Division director at Human Rights Watch. Antipersonnel mines are considered militarily ineffective weapons that mostly kill and injure civilians. Damascus in recent months has mined the border to prevent smuggling of arms to opposition groups.
Afghan militants have attacked an Afghan government delegation visiting the site where a US soldier reportedly killed 16 civilians. The attackers opened fire on the delegation from several sides on Tuesday, AP reports. It was not immediately clear if there have been any casualties. The delegation included two of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's brothers, as well as security officials. A US soldier was detained after he opened fire on civilians on Sunday. He killed 16 people in two villages in Panjwai district of Kandahar province.
The second pilot of a Kamov Ka-52 combat helicopter, which crashed in Russia's Tver region on Monday, has died from injuries, Interfax said, citing Defense Ministry officials. The helicopter’s flight navigator was also killed in the accident near the town of Torzhok. The Ka-52, or Alligator, is a multi-role helicopter, intended for aerial reconnaissance, target designation and the coordination of squad actions on the battlefield.
The Syrian government has accused a number of countries, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, of supporting militant groups in Syria. The states which are supporting “armed terrorist formations with money and weapons are allies of the terrorists fighting the Syrian people and bear full responsibility for the bloodshed,” Minister of Information Adnan Mahmoud said, as cited by Sana news agency. The ministry says that armed groups’ attacks are intended to destabilize the situation further and “attract the attention of the international community,” RIA Novosti reports.
At least 18 people were killed and dozens more are missing after a ferry carrying about 200 people capsized in a river in southern Bangladesh on Tuesday. About 35 people were rescued, and divers have so far recovered six bodies, AP said. The ferry sank on the Meghna River about 32 kilometers south of the capital, Dhaka.
President Barack Obama will be bringing a new trade case against China to the WTO, according to unnamed senior administration officials. The US is seeking to put pressure on China to end its export restrictions of rare earth materials, which are essential for the production of high-tech goods. Washington argues that Beijing’s actions give Chinese companies a competitive advantage and force US businesses to pay more for the materials. The US is taking the case to the WTO along with the EU and Japan.
Former US Vice President Al Gore believes democracy has been hacked and called on the Internet to change what he claimed to be a no-longer functional US government. The politician-turned-activist was having a conversation with Sean Parker, the co-founder of the defunct file-sharing site Napster, at the South by Southwest Conference Festival. The discussion was watched by a large audience and broadcast via the Internet. Gore called on the audience to create a new ‘Occupy Democracy’ movement and pushed for the creation of new social media and digital tools. Parker noted that the Internet was on the brink of new capabilities that make electioneering less likely to be dominated by television.