Friday, March 2, 2012

update news of International

Pentagon commander says US special forces in India

US special forces are present in five South Asian countries, including India, a top Pentagon commander has revealed.
US Pacific Commander Admiral Robert Willard said the teams were deployed to help India with their counter-terrorism co-operation.
The US and India were working together to contain Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant group blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, he said.
The US embassy in Delhi clarified that the troops were not stationed in India.
A spokesman told the BBC that there were "no special forces stationed in India", as media reports had suggested.
The embassy and India's ministry of defence said a unit from the US 25th infantry division was in India to hold an exercise with Indian forces.
Adm Willard said US teams were also present in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives.
"We have currently special forces assist teams - Pacific assist teams is the term - laid down in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, as well as India," Adm Willard told a Congressional hearing.
"We are working very closely with India with regard to their counter-terrorism capabilities and in particular on the maritime domain but also government to government, not necessarily department of defence but other agencies assisting them in terms of their internal counter-terror and counterinsurgency challenges."
Adm Willard said Lashkar-e-Taiba was a "very dangerous organisation... so it is a very important threat, and we're working very closely with the nations in the region to help contain it".
He said the group was "responsible for many attacks in India, including the horrific attacks into Mumbai, Lashkar-e-Taiba is headquartered in Pakistan, affiliated with al-Qaeda... and contributes to terrorist operations in Afghanistan and aspires to operate against Asia, Europe and North America," he said.
In the past months, the US has trained Indian counter-terrorist specialists.
The two countries have also been working to counter piracy, conduct disaster response planning and training and holding joint armed forces exercises.
In July last year, Robert Blake, US assistant secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, said counter-terrorism co-operation with India was "a very high priority" for the US.
He said Washington was working with Delhi to ensure that "they have the best systems in place possible to prevent future attacks such as the one in Mumbai".
BBC Online

  Pakistan starts Senate elections
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani regional lawmakers Friday began casting their votes for members of the Senate, the indirectly-elected upper house of the federal parliament, officials said.
Each of Pakistan's four provinces will have 23 seats in the 104-member next senate, with four going to the capital Islamabad and eight for the tribal areas in the northwest.
Some of the places are reserved for non-Muslim minorities, women, and Islamic scholars or technocrats.
"Polling has started at all four provincial assemblies and at the parliament house in Islamabad," an official of the Election Commission of Pakistan told AFP.
Half the senate's current 100 members retire on March 12 after completing their six-year terms, and the four non-Muslim minority places are an expansion of the chamber being chosen for the first time.
At least nine candidates were elected unopposed, the official said, leaving 45 seats being contested.
Pakistani parliamentary elections are due in 2013, but opposition parties have called for early polls, blaming the government of President Asif Ali Zardari for corruption, economic decay, and a severe energy crisis. AFP

  China denies dam drying up river in India

BEIJING: China denied Friday that a dam it was building on a major river in Tibet was impacting the lower reaches of the waterway in India, despite complaints that water-levels there were plunging.
The Brahmaputra has its source in China's southwestern Tibet region where it is known as the Yarlung Tsangpo, and it enters India in the mountainous, remote northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, where it it is called the Siang.
The 1,800-mile (2,900 kilometre) river then descends into the plains of adjoining Assam state and ends in Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal, along the way supplying water to hundreds of millions of farmers and residents.
Local Indian state lawmaker Tako Dabi told AFP Thursday he suspected China was diverting river water resulting in an estimated 40 percent drop in the flow at the Indian town of Pasighat.
"Our projects have not affected the lower stream regions, including those in India," China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters when asked of his nation's water usage on the river.
"Overall, the utilisation of the river by the Chinese side is very low."
China pays attention to the impact on the lower stream regions when developing its water resources, Hong said, adding that Chinese officials have briefed India on its development of the Yarlung Tsangpo.
"To satisfy the needs the Tibet Autonomous Region, China has begun to build the hydroelectric power station of Zangmu in the middle part of Yarlung Tsangpo river," Hong said.
"It does not have a big capacity and does not retain an excessive amount of water. It will not affect the downstream water regulation and environment."
Beijing has regularly faced similar complaints over its water usage from Southeast Asian nations for damming the Mekong and Salween rivers, both of which originate in China.
Dabi said the drying up of the river in Arunachal Pradesh was shocking with patches of sand showing up along the river bed.
"We suspect the sudden drying up of the Siang could be a result of China either diverting the river water on their side or due to some artificial blockades somewhere in the upper reaches," Dabi, an advisor to the state's chief minister and a former home minister, said. AFP

   Suicide bomber attacks NATO convoy, 7 wounded

KANDAHAR: A suicide bomber on a motorcycle attacked a NATO convoy in Afghanistan's southern province of Kandahar Friday, wounding seven people including four soldiers, an official said.
"A suicide attacker rammed his explosives-laden motorcycle into a convoy of NATO troops in Dand district injuring four foreign soldiers, one policeman, one translator and one civilian," provincial governor Toryalai Weesa told AFP.
A spokesman for NATO'S International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed the attack, but would not give details of any wounded soldiers, saying only that none had been killed.
The attack bore the hallmarks of Taliban insurgents, who on Monday targeted NATO troops in a suicide car bombing at an airport in eastern Afghanistan, killing nine people but no foreign soldiers.
The Taliban said that attack was in revenge for the burning of Korans at a US military base at Bagram north of Kabul, an incident that ignited days of violent anti-US protests and led to an apology by US President Barack Obama.
The only NATO soldiers reported killed in Afghanistan in the 10 days since the demonstrations erupted have died at the hands of Afghan colleagues.
Two Americans were killed at a military outpost in Kandahar Thursday, taking the number of Americans killed by Afghan associates to six since outbreak of the protests.
NATO withdrew all its advisors from Afghan government ministries after two American officers were shot and killed inside the interior ministry last Saturday, apparently by an Afghan colleague. AFP

   N. Korea threatens S. Korea despite accord with US

SEOUL: North Korea Friday renewed threats to launch a "sacred war" against South Korea, indicating cross-border ties will remain icy despite Pyongyang's surprise nuclear deal with Seoul's close ally Washington.
The North's agreement to freeze some nuclear and missile activities in return for massive US food aid has raised cautious hopes of eased tensions under its new young leader Kim Jong-Un.
In statements released late Wednesday announcing the deal, both Pyongyang and Washington pledged to work for better relations.
But Friday's comments from the North's supreme military command struck a different tone with the South.
The command accused South Korean troops of displaying slogans or placards slandering the North's top leaders at their barracks, shooting ranges and other military facilities. The soldiers "openly slandered and defamed the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK (North Korea) after creating a touch-and-go situation", it said in a statement on the official news agency.
The command "solemnly declares once again that it will indiscriminately stage its own-style sacred war to wipe out the group of traitors".
"Those who hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK even a bit will find no breathing spell in this land and sky," it said.
The command vowed to "mercilessly" wipe out anyone who "slightly insults and defames" the dignity of the North's supreme leadership.
Pyongyang made similar threats last year when South Korean reservists were found to be using pictures of the ruling Kim dynasty as rifle-range targets. The South says that practice has been stopped.
Under the agreement with the United States, the communist state promised to suspend a uranium enrichment programme and declare a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests. It would also re-admit UN nuclear inspectors. AFP

   Maldives committed to all-party talks says foreign minister

GENEVA: The Maldives foreign minister said Friday her government was committed to all-party talks to resolve a political crisis in the Indian Ocean state where the former president says he was ousted in a coup.
Responding to a call by UN chief Ban Ki-moon's call for dialogue, Dunya Maumoon told AFP: "That is definitely the commitment of the government."
However Maumoon accused elements in the Maldavian Democratic Party (MDP) of ousted president Mohamed Nasheed of stoking up violence.
Opposition MPs prevented the new president Mohamed Waheed from opening parliament on Thursday and violent protests erupted outside the building.
"This is really unacceptable. They are undermining the institution of parliament," said Maumoon.
"Currently all the parties except the MDP are working together in the national unity government and all have been committed to the all party talks," said Maumoon who was in Geneva for a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.
The minister said it was "only recently" that the MDP joined the talks which was welcome as "it is only through dialogue and peaceful resolution that we can overcome the obstacles the country faces at present."
Nasheed says he was ousted by Waheed in a military-led coup on February 7 and called on its supporters to stage Thursday's demonstration against the new government.
Speaking at UN headquarters on Thursday, Ban expressed concern about the tensions on the archipelago and said they "must be resolved peacefully through a national process and on the basis of dialogue and consensus." AFP

   2 guilty of robbing Malaysian man in London riots 

LONDON: Two men were found guilty on Friday of posing as Good Samaritans to steal from an injured Malaysian student in an infamous incident caught on camera during riots in London last year.
Video taken on a mobile phone showing Asyraf Haziq Rosli being attacked in Barking in the east of the capital on August 8 caused outrage and became one of the defining images of the unrest. A jury at a London court convicted John Kafunda, 22, of robbery and violent disorder. Kafunda was caught on camera putting his arm round Asyraf and pretending to protect him.
Reece Donovan, 22, who was filmed going through the dazed victim's rucksack while his back was turned, was convicted of theft, violent disorder and a later robbery of a supermarket. Both men will be sentenced on March 13. A teenager was convicted last month of attacking 21-year-old Asyraf, whose jaw was broken in two places when he was punched in the face and knocked off his bicycle before the items were taken from his rucksack.
Beau Isagba, 17, was found guilty of grievous bodily harm and robbery, after he admitted stealing the bicycle, and will be sentenced on March 9. AFP

 Aid convoy poised to enter Syria’s battered Baba Amr
DAMASCUS: A Red Cross relief convoy was poised to enter the battered Baba Amr neighbourhood of the Syrian city of Homs on Friday a day after regime forces overran it, ending a nearly four-week pounding.
More than 20,000 civilians are believed to have been trapped in the district through the prolonged bombardment with a lone doctor reported to be tending to the scores of casualties in a single makeshift clinic.
As rebel fighters pulled out on Thursday in the face of the regime's overwhelmingly superior fire power, the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) warned of "barbaric" reprisals against the neighbourhood's residents.
The UN rights body appealed to Syria to respect international law after receiving unconfirmed reports of 17 "grisly" executions as regime forces took control of Baba Amr.
Rupert Colville, spokesman for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the OHCHR had received information "suggesting a particularly grisly set of summary executions" on Thursday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said another 10 people were shot dead in Baba Amr on Friday, but its head, Rami Abdel Rahman, added: "The circumstances of their deaths are not clear."
France announced it was closing its embassy in Damascus, mirroring similar moves by Britain and the United States.
"What is going on is scandalous, there are more than 8,000 dead, hundreds of children, and the city of Homs faces the risk of being wiped off the map," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said at the close of an EU summit.
A first International Committee of the Red Cross and Syrian Arab Red Crescent relief convoy was poised to enter Baba Amr with seven truck loads of desperately needed supplies, an ICRC spokesman said.
"We are preparing to enter the district of Baba Amr," deputy ICRC spokesman Sebastien Carliez said in Geneva. AFP

  Iran votes in test for Ahmadinejad
TEHRAN: Iran on Friday voted for a new parliament in the first nationwide elections since a bitterly contested 2009 poll that returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power, posing a new test of his support among conservatives.
The elections, to fill the 290 seats in parliament, were being boycotted by Iran's main opposition and reformist groups, the leaders of which have been under house arrest for the past year.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cast his ballot with an appeal to all the 48-million strong electorate to also vote to boost "the future, prestige, security and immunity of the country," according to state television.
The elections are essentially a struggle between conservatives who back Ahmadinejad and a hardline current that despises him. Each claims superior fealty to Khamenei.
While the outcome will not affect Iran's foreign policy-which is decided by Khamenei-it was expected to set the political scene for the 2013 presidential election, when Ahmadinejad is to step down after reaching the end of his term limit.
Unlike in the wake of Ahmadinejad's disputed 2009 re-election victory, which the opposition said resulted from voter fraud, no protests were expected in these elections. But police said they were "fully prepared" for any problems.
The US-based rights group Human Rights Watch called the elections "grossly unfair" because the limited list of approved candidates overwhelmingly skewed the vote in favour of conservative regime supporters.
"Iranian authorities have stacked the deck by disqualifying candidates and arbitrarily jailing key members of the reform movement," the group's Middle East director, Joe Stork, said in a statement.
The Guardian Council, which vetted the 3,400 candidates allowed to run and which will validate the results, predicted that the turnout "will be more glorious than in the previous (legislative) elections" in 2008, when 55 percent of voters were said by the interior ministry to have participated. AFP

   Putin declines to back Syria’s Assad
MOSCOW: Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stopped short of backing Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian crisis, saying Russia had no special relationship with his regime and refusing to predict that the president would stay in power.
With pressure mounting on Moscow to harden its line against Assad, Putin called on both the Damascus regime and opposition rebels to agree a ceasefire but also criticised the West for backing the rebels in the conflict.
"We have no special relationship with Syria," Putin told foreign news executives late Thursday at a meeting at his suburban Moscow residence ahead of Sunday's presidential elections in Russia.
Asked whether Assad had a chance to survive the crisis, he added: "I do not know this, I can give no kind of assessments."
"It's clear that there are very serious internal problems. The reforms that they (the regime) have offered clearly should have been carried out long ago," said Putin in comments published on the government website Friday.
Alluding to Assad's future, he said both sides in the conflict had to sit down and agree "what reforms there will be and what will be the consequences of these reforms."
"But now we have to get them to stop killing each other," he added.
Russia in February outraged the West by vetoing-along with its diplomatic ally China-a UN Security Council resolution condemning the Assad regime for the violence.
Some saw the Security Council veto as a warning from Putin to Western states that Russia would pursue a tough foreign policy if, as expected, he returns to the Kremlin after Sunday's presidential elections.
Russian analysts said that Putin's latest comments did not represent a switch to a position more accommodating to the West but were a sign that Russia would not prop up Assad at any cost.
"I don't think that we can expect changes in the Russian position," said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the journal Russia in Global Politics.
"As for Assad himself, Russia is hardly going to betray him. But Russia is emphasising that his situation is very serious," he said, adding that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had given such a warning to Assad on a visit to Damascus this year.
Putin said Moscow had to vote against the resolution as it would have compelled the Syrian government to pull out its forces from cities and enabled the rebels to move in themselves. AFP

    Mexico troops kill 13 in battle with gunmen
NUEVO LAREDO: Mexican troops have killed 13 gunmen in a shootout in the border town of Nuevo Laredo and seized weapons and drugs, officials said.
The defense secretariat said in a statement late Thursday that 13 "assailants" had fallen while three soldiers were wounded after troops came under attack in the town across the border from the US city of Laredo, Texas.
After the clash, soldiers seized several weapons, including 12 rifles and a grenade launcher, as well as drugs, the statement said, without specifying the type or quantity.
Local officials said the fighting lasted around four hours and saw roadblocks erected on major streets-a technique often used by drug gangs during battles with the military and police.
Mexico's northern border region has been the scene of intense gangland-style violence in recent years as powerful drug cartels have battled over lucrative trade routes to the north.
Some 50,000 people are believed to have been killed since Mexico launched a massive military crackdown on the gangs in late 2006.
Earlier on Thursday, seven decapitated bodies were dumped on a busy street in another northern Mexican town, along with messages attributed to a drug gang, officials said. AFP

  Yemenis rally for restructuring of army
SANAA: Thousands demonstrated across Yemen on Friday to demand that new President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi restructure the army,, in the first such rally since he took office less than a week ago.
"The people want the army restructured," they chanted in northern Sanaa. "The people want a new Yemen."
Similar protests took place in 17 other provinces, including Yemen's second-largest city Taez, witnesses said.
Yemenis have gathered every Friday for the past year to demand the ouster of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh who formally handed over power to Hadi on Monday, under a Gulf-brokered transition plan. The power transfer deal stipulates that during a two-year interim period, Hadi will oversee a restructuring of the army.
On Friday, state news agency Saba said Hadi has named General Salem Ali Qatan to head the 31st Armoured Brigade in south Yemen, a post which General Mahdi Maqola, known for his close ties to Saleh and accused of corruption, had held for decades.
Hadi also appointed a new governor and new intelligence chief for the main southern city of Aden, a separatists' stronghold.
Anti-corruption strikes have spread across several military and government departments in the impoverished Arab country over the past two months.
Saleh had appointed relatives to head the country's military and security apparatus.
Air force soldiers have been staging protests calling for the ouster of their commander General Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, a half-brother of Saleh.
Saleh's son commands the elite Republican Guard troops while his nephew Yehya heads the central security services and Tariq, another nephew, controls the presidential guard. AFP

  Saudi pushes Iraq ties in anti-Assad move
BAGHDAD: Saudi Arabia's push to improve ties with Iraq is part of a drive to convince it to abandon the Syrian president, despite the strong influence in Baghdad of Riyadh's foe Tehran, experts say.
In a marked warming, Riyadh has named a non-resident envoy to Iraq and Baghdad sent a security delegation to hold talks in Riyadh, to be followed by another group of Iraqi officials in coming days.
The rapprochement comes in the runup to an Arab League summit in Baghdad in late March.
Iraq is caught between calls from Arab states of the Gulf for Syria's President Bashar al-Assad to quit and Shiite Iran's staunch support of the Damascus regime, dominated by minority Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
"The Saudis want Iraq to be more with the Gulf countries," said Mahmud Othman, an independent Kurdish MP. "They want to be nice to Iraq to pull it towards its position, against Iran and Syria."
Othman characterised the Middle East as falling into two camps: Arab Sunni states and Turkey in one, and Iran and Shiite factions in the other.
"Iraq will be in a difficult situation," he said, pointing out that the country is led by its majority Shiite Muslims but is also home to a substantial Sunni minority which ran the government until Saddam Hussein's 2003 overthrow.
"Iraq will have lots of problems between going this way or that," he said.
Saudi Arabia appointed its first ambassador to Iraq since Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, having viewed Iraq's Shiite-led government with suspicion in the aftermath of the dictator's ouster in a US-led invasion.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki himself has a history of rocky relations with Saudi Arabia, which was widely seen to have backed his rival Iyad Allawi for the premiership after 2010 parliamentary elections.
Despite that, the two countries have moved to tighten cooperation on security issues, with Iraq's deputy interior minister, Adnan al-Assadi, on Wednesday hailing early signs of an improvement.
He said he was "very optimistic that this cooperation will be the beginning of a new phase of openness between the two countries on political, economic and security issues." AFP

  AU, government troops attack Shebab positions in Mogadishu
MOGADISHU: African Union-backed Somali government troops attacked hardline Shebab insurgent positions at dawn on Friday in the northeast of the war-torn capital Mogadishu, officials said.
An artillery barrage first poured down on the district-which AU forces claim was already largely abandoned by civilians-before tanks and ground troops moved into the area to attack rebel positions.
"We have advanced on their last positions in Suqaholaha district, taking control of key locations," said Somali military commander Abdulahi Ali Anod.
"The operations will continue until we get rid of the terrorist remnants, who are now on the run," he added.
The assault is the latest in a long running offensive to drive Al-Qaeda allied Shebab from holdout positions, after the majority of insurgents left fixed defences in Mogadishu last year and switched to guerrilla attacks.
The Suqaholaha neighborhood is the main Shebab stronghold left in the anarchic capital, and the attack comes two weeks after AU troops launched a similar offensive in southern Mogadishu.
"It will extend the city's defences and deny the Al-Qaeda backed terrorists important ground from which they have been targeting the city's population," the African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM) said in a statement.
Extremist Shebab gunmen have been fighting to topple the weak Western-backed Somali government in Mogadishu, where the administration survives under the protection of the 10,000-strong AU force.
"There was heavy shelling by the AMISOM peacekeepers this morning, and now we see their tanks and infantry have entered the area. I saw three injured soldiers carried on a pickup truck," said Abdulahi Nuradin, a witness.
"The Somali troops and their allied AMISOM forces are advancing onto Suqaholaha. There was heavy fighting this morning but now the sound of the gunfire is going down," said Ahmed Yare, another witness. AFP

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