Iraqi Prime Minister
Iran given two-week deadline to end the nuclear impasse
Julian Borger in Geneva
Sunday July 20, 2008
Iran was given a fortnight to agree to freeze its uranium enrichment programme yesterday or face further international isolation.
After a day of inconclusive talks in Geneva, a six-nation negotiating team warned the Iranian delegation that it had run out of patience and demanded a ‘yes or no’ answer to a proposal it put forward five weeks ago.
Under that offer, sponsored jointly by the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, Iran would not expand its uranium enrichment programme, while the international community refrained from imposing further sanctions. This phase would last six weeks, possibly paving the way for suspension of enrichment and more comprehensive talks.
Somali Killings of Aid Workers Imperil Relief
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
Published: July 20, 2008
NAIROBI, Kenya – At a time of drought, skyrocketing food prices, crippling inflation and intensifying street fighting, many of the aid workers whom millions of Somalis depend on for survival are fleeing their posts – or in some cases the country.
They are being driven out by what appears to be an organized terror campaign. Ominous leaflets recently surfaced on the bullet-pocked streets of Mogadishu, Somalia’s ruin of a capital, calling aid workers “infidels” and warning them that they will be methodically hunted down. Since January, at least 20 aid workers have been killed, more than in any year in recent memory. Still others have been abducted.
Obama Gets Look At Afghan War Zone
Iraqi Leader Backs 16-Month Pullout Plan, Magazine Reports
By Candace Rondeaux and Dan Balz
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, July 20, 2008; Page A01
KABUL, July 19 — Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama got his first look at deteriorating conditions in war-torn Afghanistan on Saturday, meeting with U.S. military commanders and local officials and touring part of the country by helicopter on the first day of a highly anticipated visit abroad that drew a fresh rebuke from Republican rival John McCain.
Obama, traveling as part of an official congressional delegation, landed in the Afghan capital on Saturday morning under tight security amid a surge of Taliban activity in recent weeks.
Obama’s paid staff dwarfing McCain’s
Democrat targets 50 states as rival focuses on tossups
By Brian C. Mooney
Globe Staff / July 20, 2008
Behind the headlines about the unprecedented success of Democrat Barack Obama’s fund-raising machine lies a more prosaic truth – his campaign will need every penny of its $300 million goal to bankroll an unprecedented 50-state general election campaign with a massive army on the ground.
His campaign already has by far the largest full-time paid staff in presidential campaign history, and unlike Republican rival John McCain’s, continues to grow by the day.
National polls show the race remains close between Obama and McCain, but the Obama campaign is paying closer attention to polls in more than a dozen states that show Obama has a chance of winning in November. The states were won four years ago by President Bush, in many cases by huge margins.
Brussels the key in battle for Belgium
Fears of a permanent north/south split overshadow the national day
Lizzy Davies in Brussels
Sunday July 20, 2008
The joke on the streets of Brussels is that this year’s fête nationale could prove to be the last. Promising chips, beer and a ‘day of national rejuvenation’, the city’s tourist board has invited all-comers to an extended party in the capital tomorrow. But celebrations of Belgium’s national day have been overshadowed by renewed fears of a permanent split between the country’s French and Dutch speakers.
Relations between the inhabitants of Flanders, who speak Dutch, and those of French-speaking Wallonia appear close to irrevocable breakdown and an overhaul of the constitution which would give more power to the regions – in what is already the most federal nation in the European Union – has exacerbated those tensions.
The flashy playboys taking over the mafia
Sicily’s Cosa Nostra is stronger than ever – but its new young bosses are doing ‘business’ differently
From The Sunday Times
July 20, 2008
On a sun-drenched morning last week in Palermo, the Sicilian capital, a bunker-like courtroom in the Ucciardone prison was the scene of a rare challenge to the mafia. Bosses and low-ranking “soldiers” stared fixedly from their steel cages as seven shopkeepers – hidden by shaded glass – identified those who had allegedly collected extortion money from them for years.
To date, 18 Palermitans – owners of bars and pizzerias, shops and car showrooms, even a street vendor who sells olives – have picked out their tormentors, for whom extortion rackets are the key instrument to control a neighbourhood.
One witness had paid the same mafioso for 22 years; a refusal would have meant a gangster holding a gun to his temple or burning his shop down.
Poachers terrorise Zimbabwe’s rhinos
It is not only the people who are paying the price of Mugabe’s disastrous policies
From The Sunday Times
July 20, 2008
Jon Swain in Harare
THE game scouts looking for a black rhinoceros wounded by poachers in Zimbabwe’s Save Valley Conservancy could hear her snoring but could not see her through the long grass.
Eventually, by making a lot of noise, they forced the rhino to stand up and were greeted by a sight so appalling that it took them a few moments to realise what they were looking at.
The whole face of the 16-month-old calf had been removed, including her eyes, in an attempt by the poachers to take off her small horns.
The “snoring” was coming through a hole in the nasal bone. She was very weak and lay down again
For Darfuris, justice is the enemy of peace
A war crimes trial for Sudan’s leader would be gratifying. But is it worth the price?
By David Rieff
July 20, 2008
The long-awaited decision by the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, to indict Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir on genocide and war crimes charges has been greeted with relief and satisfaction by the vast majority of people haunted by the tragedy of Darfur.
For Darfur activists — and no African cause since the movement against apartheid in South Africa has had such reach or influence — Bashir is the architect of what they are certain has been a genocide just as surely as Adolf Hitler was the architect of the Holocaust. And if this is true, they argue, it would be immoral not to try to bring Bashir and other central figures in the Khartoum dictatorship to justice. Some of these campaigners argue that the indictment represents the first significant step toward an effective regime of international justice in which world leaders guilty of crimes against humanity will no longer enjoy the kind of impunity that they have had in the past.
Car restrictions begin in Beijing
Beijing’s authorities have introduced drastic traffic rules in a bid to remove more than one million cars from the streets ahead of the Olympic Games.
The move, part of the fight against the Chinese capital’s infamous pollution and congestion, restricts residents to using their cars on alternate days.
Officials hope about half of the city’s estimated 3,300,000 cars will be forced from the road over the next two months.
A slew of measures to boost air quality have been implemented for the Games.
Construction workers have been ordered to down tools and high-polluting industries are cutting production.
Too much adoration at Cambodia’s Angkor temples
The crush of tourists at the sandstone ruins is taking a toll, conservationists say.
By Paul Watson, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
July 20, 2008
ANGKOR, CAMBODIA — The ancient sandstone temples of Angkor have stood up to endless assaults down the centuries, from medieval raiders armed with clubs and spears to genocidal looters laying land mines.
These days, the onslaught begins in the early morning darkness, when invading columns of buses, taxis and sputtering tuk-tuks converge on a dirt parking lot across from Angkor Wat’s broad moat.
They disgorge hundreds of camera-wielding tourists, who march through the gray light toward the awesome gates of the world’s largest religious monument.
Hindus constructed it in the 12th century, with a gilded central tower representing Mt. Meru, mythical home of the gods and the center of the spiritual and physical universes. They built it facing west, perhaps in honor of the god Vishnu, preserver of all things.
Iraqi leader: US should leave as soon as possible
BERLIN – Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says U.S. troops should leave Iraq “as soon as possible,” according to a magazine report, and he called presidential candidate Barack Obama’s suggestion of 16 months “the right timeframe for a withdrawal.”
In Baghdad, however, the chief spokesman for al-Maliki issued a statement Sunday saying the prime minister’s comments were “not conveyed accurately” by Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine.
Spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said al-Maliki did not endorse a specific timetable but instead discussed a “an Iraqi vision” of U.S. troop withdrawals based on negotiations with Washington and “and in the light of the continuing positive developments on the ground.”
Al-Qaeda ‘may be shifting focus’
Al-Qaeda may be considering shifting its focus from Iraq to Afghanistan, the top US commander in Iraq has said.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Gen David Petraeus said there was evidence that foreign fighters were being diverted away from Iraq.
But he said there was no suggestion the militant Islamist group would entirely abandon the fight in Iraq.
Al-Qaeda evolved in Afghanistan and was closely-linked to the Taleban regime, toppled by US-led forces in 2001.
As Iraq became the main theatre of conflict in the Middle East, al-Qaeda’s leadership focused its efforts on fighting there.
The mystery of Rio
Why have more than 400 dead penguins been washed up on Brazilian city’s beaches?
By Michael Astor in Rio de Janeiro
Sunday, 20 July 2008
Hundreds of baby penguins swept from the icy shores of Antarctica and Patagonia are washing up dead on Rio de Janeiro’s tropical beaches. More than 400 of the birds have been found dead on the area’s beaches in the past two months, and more are being found in a distressed or sickly condition.
While it is common to find a few dozen penguins swept here from the Straits of Magellan by strong currents, there have been more this year than at any time in recent memory. Experts are divided over the possible causes. Thiago Muniz, a veterinarian at the Niteroi zoo, said he believed overfishing has forced the penguins to swim further from shore to find fish to eat, “and that leaves them more vulnerable to getting caught up in the strong ocean currents”.