Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bolivia scraps controversial highway plan

President Morales cancels plans to build highway through a nature reserve after sustained protest from Amazon Indians.

Protesters camp out in front of the government palace to protest against the construction of the highway [Reuters]
Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, has announced that he is scrapping plans to build a highway through a nature reserve in Bolivia's jungle lowlands, bowing to public pressure after a two-month protest march by Amazon Indians.
Morales did not abandon the idea of a highway through Bolivia linking Brazil with the Pacific coast, but said on Friday it would no longer cut through the pristine Isiboro-Secure Indigenous Territory National Park, or TIPNIS.
"And so the matter is resolved," Morales told reporters. "For me, this is called governing by obeying the people."
Indigenous Bolivians march against Amazon road
By Gabriel Elizondo in The Americas Blog
More than 100 protesters remained camped in front of the presidential palace on Friday, two days after activists ended their trek from the Amazon reserve to La Paz, the world's highest capital.
The march galvanised opposition to the Brazilian-funded highway and highlighted claims that Morales-an Aymara-has favoured Bolivia's majority Aymara and Quechua highland Indians over indigenous groups from the country's lowland jungle.
Bolivia's leftist president said he would veto a law passed last week that green-lighted the highway as originally proposed. He said he would insist it be amended to declare the reserve off limits to the highway as well as to the settlement by colonists.
Al Jazeera's Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from La Paz , said the announcement was a major reversal for the president who has been supporting the construction project all along.
"After more than sixty days of walking across the country in protest of this road project, it looks like the indigenous
people have gotten one major victory. President Morales said he is sending a bill to the assembly that if approved will permanently block any road or development projects through the TIPNIS national park area, where these indigenous people live," he said.
"But you notice that there aren't a lot of celebrations going on right now. That is because they [the protesters] had over 15 different demands they wanted met by the president and it is unclear at this point, at least in their eyes, if he has met all those."  
Morales' popularity
Protest leader Fernando Vargas responded cautiously to Morales' announcement.
"It's a good signal, but we need to talk with the president and analyze several pending topics," Vargas told reporters before an afternoon meeting with Morales.
The 15,000 Indians who inhabit the reserve fear encroachment by coca growers and other settlers, while the highway's supporters argue it is needed to promote the development of Bolivia's poorer regions.
Morales' popularity plunged after he insisted on the route through TIPNIS and was further battered when police used tear gas and truncheons September 25 to try to break up the march.
The police crackdown backfired. The defence minister quit in protest and the interior minister resigned.
Bolivians harangued Morales for the use of force against peaceful protesters and for allegedly betraying his credentials as an environmentalist and champion of Bolivia's long downtrodden indigenous majority.
Critics were also suspicious of Morales' announcement during the ensuing uproar that he would leave it to residents of the two affected states, Beni and Cochabamba, to decide the highway's fate at the ballot box. Cochabamba is
more populous and home to coca growers who are Morales' core constituency.

Morales, who grew up poor, championed a new constitution in 2010 that declared Bolivia a plurinational state and granted its 36 indigenous groups an as yet ill-defined autonomy.
Nearly six years and one landslide re-election later, however, Bolivia's first indigenous president has been forced to weigh development against environmental protection.

Obama: All US troops to leave Iraq in 2011

US president says "America's war in Iraq will be over" as he confirms final withdrawal will take place by end of year.

US President Barack Obama has confirmed that all 39,000 US troops still stationed in Iraq will be withdrawn by the end of the year, bringing to an end an almost nine-year presence in the country since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
Obama's statement on Friday ended months of speculation over whether Washington would continue to base forces in the country beyond the end-of-year departure date set in place by Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush.
"After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over," Obama said in a statement at the White House, shortly after a private video conference with Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister.
Obama's statement represents the fulfillment of a central promise of his 2008 election campaign to end US involvement in Iraq, and comes with Washington also seeking to reduce its troop presence in Afghanistan.
Despite continuing controversy over the legality of the 2003 invasion and the years of violence that followed the end of Saddam's decades-long dictatorship, Obama said US troops would leave Iraq "with their heads held high, proud of their success."
When the 2008 agreement requiring all US forces to leave Iraq by 2012 was passed, many US officials assumed it would inevitably be renegotiated so that US forces could stay longer.
The US said repeatedly this year it would entertain an offer from the Iraqis to have a small force stay behind, and the Iraqis said they would like US military help.
But US-Iraqi talks broke down because the two sides were unable to agree on granting legal immunity for a small contingent of American troops who would have stayed in place to help train Iraqi forces.

 Rosiland Jordan on what Obama's announcement means for US-Iraqi relations
Throughout the discussions, Iraqi leaders had adamantly refused to give US troops immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts, while US military officials had refused to stay without it.
Moreover, Iraq's leaders have been split over whether they wanted US forces to stay.
"It had become increasing apparent that it was going to be difficult for the two to reach a deal to allow some US forces to remain on Iraqi soil, come January 1, 2012, because of the details of the agreement they has signed," said Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan.
Obama said that he had invited Maliki to visit the White House in December, as the two sides revert to a normal sovereign relationship between two nations.
The US's military role in Iraq has been mostly reduced to advising the security forces in a country where levels of violence had declined sharply from a peak of sectarian strife in 2006-2007, but attacks remain a daily occurrence.
More than 4,400 American military personnel have been killed since the US-led invasion in March 2003.

UN calls for probe into Gaddafi's death

Special Rapporteur says the manner of the deposed Libyan leader's killing could be a war crime.

The UN has called for an international investigation into the death of Muammar Gaddafi, the deposed Libyan leader, saying it could have been a war crime.
Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, told Al Jazeera on Friday that a proper investigation into the exact events surrounding Gaddafi’s death was a key test for Libya’s future as a democratic and accountable state.
“The Geneva conventions are very clear that when prisoners are taken they may not be executed willfully and if that was the case then we are dealing with a war crime, something that should be tried.”
“It’s important that the new government will be placed on a solid basis where there is accountability for illegal actions.  I think it would be good if there was international investigation into this as well, and it’s not simply Mr Gaddafi  but also there’s the dangers of reprisals against others as well and that is where it is important to draw the line to say that  new system in place one of  accountability.”
Libya's National Transitional Council delayed Gaddafi's burial on Firday in order to arrange a secret location and allow for an investigation into his death, officials said.
Mohamed Sayeh, a senior member of the NTC, told the Associated Press news agency that a "third party will come from outside of Libya to go through the paperwork" relating to Gaddafi's death.
Captured alive
In the hours after Gaddafi's capture, NTC officials and fighters gave different accounts of what happened, but several videos taken by fighters at the scene showed him being taken alive, though bleeding from the left side of his head.
The UN has raised concerns over the possibility that Gaddafi was executed [EPA]
In the videos, fighters shout, scream and fire their weapons in the air.
Some can be seen punching Gaddafi and pulling his head down by his hair.
Gaddafi, appearing dazed, gestures to them and touches his wound, then displays his bloody hand.
No videos have emerged showing the moment of Gaddafi's death, and it is unclear exactly how he received his mortal wound.
The first video, received by Al Jazeera, showed his lifeless body lying on the pavement.
An international commission of inquiry launched by the UN Human Rights Council is already investigating killings, torture and other crimes in Libya, and Colville, the UN human rights office spokesman, said he expected that panel would look into Gaddafi's death.
"It is a fundamental principle of international law that people accused of serious crimes should if possible be tried," he said. "Summary executions are strictly illegal. It is different if someone is killed in combat."
Jibril claims 'crossfire'
According to some reports from Sirte, Gaddafi and an escort of bodyguards had attempted to break out of the siege of the city, which had lasted for more than a month.
Their convoy was struck by French fighter jets and a US Predator drone, and a wounded Gaddafi took cover in a drainage pipe with his surviving entourage.
NATO said on Friday it had struck 11 vehicles that were among 75 vehicles attempting to force their way out of Sirte, but said it was unaware that Gaddafi was travelling in the convoy.
"The vehicles were carrying a substantial amount of weapons and ammunition posing a significant threat to the local civilian population," NATO said.
Pursuing NTC fighters fired at the group as they fled, then fought and killed some of the men guarding Gaddafi and took him captive, Reuters said, quoting witnesses.
Mahmoud Jibril, the NTC's de facto prime minister, initially said Gaddafi had been killed in a "crossfire" and that it did not matter what happened to Gaddafi's body "as long as he disappears".
"He was alive up to the last moment, until he arrived at hospital," in the city of Misrata, Jibril said.
Jibril pledged to resign after the fall of Sirte, which the NTC set as the final criterion for declaring the "liberation" of Libya.
Abu Bakr Younus, Gaddafi's defence minister, and Mutassim, one of Gaddafi's sons and former national security adviser, were also killed in Sirte on Thursday.

New video has emerged in which Mutassim is seen trying to talk to his captors who taunt him. The grainy images, broadcast by Al Arrai television, purport to show he was captured alive, but events leading to his death remain unclear.

The footage of his final moments has prompted the UN to call for further investigation.

Fierce fighting erupts in Yemen's capital

Deadly clashes as government troops and defected soldiers fight in Sanaa, a day after UN resolution urges Saleh to quit.

Defected Yemeni soldiers have been guarding anti-government protesters in Sanaa [EPA]
Fierce clashes have erupted between forces loyal to Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his opponents in two  areas in the capital Sanaa, a day after the UN urged the embattled leader to hand over power.
In the area around Change Square, where thousands of protesters have been camped out calling for Saleh to quit, fighting erupted on Saturday between government troops and defected soldiers loyal to dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar.
Five soldiers belonging to the rebel first division were reportedly killed by gunshots from forces loyal to Saleh, in what appears to be a continuation of fighting that began a day earlier.
Witnesses and AFP correspondents in Sanaa said explosions were heard throughout the capital from the early hours on Saturday.

Massive plumes of smoke and fire were also seen rising from several neighbourhoods where opposition forces were stationed.
Columns of smoke rose from the northern Sanaa district of Hasaba following heavy shelling from pro-Saleh troops, witnesses told the German news agency DPA.
An AFP correspondent said ambulances were seen racing out of Hasaba, home to tribal chief sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar.
UN resolution
Saturday's violence came a day after the UN Security council unanimously passed a resolution that "strongly" condemned the deadly government attacks on demonstrators and backed a Gulf plan for Saleh to end his 33 years in power.

For more on Yemen, visit our Spotlight page
Yemen said on Saturday it was ready to "deal positively" with the UN resolution, the Reuters news agency reported.

"The government of the Yemeni government is willing to deal positively with UN Security Council resolution 2014, for it conforms with the Yemeni government efforts to put an end to the political crisis on the basis of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) initiative," a Yemeni government source said in a statement obtained by Reuters.
Saleh has already backed down three times from signing the Gulf initiative, which came following months of protests which have left severla hundred people killed since January.
Clear and unified message
Friday's Security Council's pronouncement on the Yemen crisis, the strongest one yet by the UN, called on Saleh to keep a promise to immediately sign the GCC plan, paving the way for a peaceful power transition "without further delay".
Following the resolution, the US called for the transfer of power to begin "immediately".

"The international community sent a clear, unified message that the time has come for President Saleh to allow the Yemeni people to live free from violence and insecurity," State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, said in a
Saleh had previously said he agrees to the plan by the six Gulf states but has refused to sign it or implement any of its provisions.
The resolution is less than what was demanded in New York by Yemeni protest leader Tawakul Karman, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month.
Karman was outside the Security Council for the vote and she called for international pressure on Saleh.
"Dictatorships are going down and are done," she said before the meeting.
On Friday, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of the Yemeni capital to again demand Saleh's resignation of, galvanised by the death of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi.
"Ali, it's your turn next, yours and Bashar's," the protesters chanted, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, another regional leader facing "Arab Spring"-style protests.
"Every dictator meets his end," they chanted as they marched through the centre of Sanaa under the protection of dissident troops who have switched their loyalties to the anti-government protesters.

Heir to Saudi throne Crown Prince Sultan dies

Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, 83-year-old defence minister, has died "outside the kingdom following an illness".

Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, the 83-year-old defence minister and first in line of succession to become king of Saudi Arabia, has died.
"With deep sorrow and sadness ... King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz mourns the death of his brother and his Crown Prince Sultan who died at dawn this morning Saturday outside the kingdom following an illness," the Saudi state press agency said.
Prince Sultan's funeral will be held on Tuesday, the statement said.
He was an "important and influential senior prince" who played a key role in relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council, particularly Yemen, said Hussein Shobokshi, a columnist for the Asharq Alawsat newspaper.
Prince Nayef, pictured, is likely to be next in line to succeed King Abdullah as leader of Saudi Arabia [AFP]
"He was always in favour of stability and has always been in touch with various sectors of Yemeni society, tribal, governmental, and he was keen on having ... a smooth political climate that does not affect the kingdom," Shobokshi said.
With Prince Sultan's death, his brother Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz, the longtime minister of interior, becomes the most probable candidate to be next in line to rule after King Abdullah.

Analysts believed Sultan had been suffering from a form of dementia, and a March 2009 US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks said he was "for all intents and purposes incapacitated".
He received a diagnosis of colon cancer in 2004.
Prince Sultan was the seventh of the 36 sons of King Abdul-Aziz bin Saud, who united and founded Saudi Arabia in 1932. Like Nayef and the deceased former King Fahd, he was a member of the "Sudairi Seven," the powerful alliance of seven surviving sons of Abdul-Aziz and one of his wives, Princess Hissa Al Sudairi.
Prince Sultan served as defence minister for nearly 50 years, the longest term of any Saudi minister, and brought advanced military hardware to the kingdom from the United States and United Kingdom.
Among his sons are Prince Khalid, who has overseen fighting against Yemeni rebels and commanded Arab forces against Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War, and Prince Bandar, who served as ambassador to the United States between 1983 and 2005.
A changing kingdom?
In 2006, the king formed an Allegiance Council meant to help oversee succession issues. The king has ultimate authority to choose the next crown prince and heir, and it remains unclear how exactly the council will interact with him.
Khaled al-Maeena, editor in chief of the Arab News newspaper in the Saudi capital Riyadh, said that whomever was chosen to succeed Abdullah would need to take into account "new faces" and a changing kingdom.
"It is very important for those who follow now, and the leaders of Saudi Arabia, to take into account, not because of Arab springs or Arab winters, but to take into account that there is a young constituency with different wishes and goals," he said.
Prince Sultan's official birthday in the kingdom is January 5, 1928, but some Western analysts believe he was actually born in 1924.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Picture .. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is killed shortly before

Abdul Hakim Belhaj, an NTC military chief, has confirmed that Muammar Gaddafi has died of his wounds after being captured near Sirte.
The body of the former Libyan leader was taken to a location which is being kept secret for security reasons, an NTC official said.
"Gaddafi's body is with our unit in a car and we are taking the body to a secret place for security reasons," Mohamed Abdel Kafi, an NTC official in the city of Misrata, told Reuters.

Earlier, Jamal abu-Shaalah, a field commander of NTC, told Al Jazeera that the toppled leader had been caught.
"He's captured. He's wounded in both legs ... He's been taken away by ambulance," Abdel Majid, a senior NTC military official said.
A photograph taken on a mobile phone appeared to show Gaddafi heavily bloodied, but it was not possible to confirm the authenticity of the picture.
The news came shortly after the NTC captured Sirte, Gaddafi's hometown, after weeks of fighting