UN AGENCIES APPEAL FOR
(AFP) - UN agencies have stepped up calls for donors to
deliver on their pledges for Pakistan to prevent what UN
chief Ban Ki-moon called a “slow-motion tsunami” from
wreaking further catastrophe.
Torrential monsoon rains unleashed the worst floods for 80
years, affecting 20 million people and an area the size of
England in Pakistan’s worst natural disaster that has
already created economic, political and humanitarian chaos.
The floods have left nearly 1,500 people dead in the
nuclear-armed country of 167 million -- a top US foreign
policy priority on the frontline of the US-led war on
Al-Qaeda and locked in battles with homegrown Taliban.
Its weak, democratically elected government has faced an
outpouring of public fury over sluggish relief efforts and
there are growing fears that losses of up to 43 billion
dollars could bring economic oblivion.
The United Nations now says that 55 percent of its
460-million-dollar appeal for emergency funds for the next
three months has been received.
On Friday UN chief Ban said member states have pledged more
than 200 million dollars in response to a fresh appeal for
“The generosity of countries and individuals will make a
real difference in the daily lives of millions of people,”
Ban added. “We must keep it up. Pakistan is facing weeks,
months and years of need.”
Eight million flood survivors in desperate need of food,
shelter and clean drinking water require humanitarian
assistance to survive, as concerns grow over potential
cholera, typhoid and hepatitis outbreaks. Elisabeth Byrs, a
spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that UN agencies were
ramping up their aid effort but that the full picture was
only beginning to emerge.
“It’s a disaster that came very slowly, it’s not an
earthquake that hits suddenly that we can immediately see
the victims. But we are now seeing the magnitude of this
The UN World Food Programme said it urgently needs
helicopters to get food to millions of flood victims who
remain cut off by the high waters, although weather
forecasters say the monsoon systems are easing off.
The agency warned that the floods have killed or are
threatening millions of livestock, and launched an urgent
appeal for animal feed.
|No anniversary celebrations for
(AFP) - Britain warned Libya
not to celebrate the first anniversary of the freeing of the
Lockerbie bomber from a Scottish prison, as the White House
slammed his release one year ago as “wrong”.
Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet Al Megrahi was thought to have only
three months to live due to terminal prostate cancer when he
was released on compassionate grounds and returned home to a
hero’s welcome in Libya.
But he has defied his prognosis, to the shock of mainly
American relatives of the 270 people who died when Pan Am
Flight 103 blew up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, four
days before Christmas in 1988.
No celebrations took place in Libya to mark the freedom of
Megrahi on Friday, a year after he flew home to Tripoli.
A youth rally is planned in the capital to mark the national
youth day, celebrated on August 20 each year, but “no
reference will be made to Megrahi”, organisers said.
The British Foreign Office had earlier issued a strongly
worded statement urging Libya not to hold celebrations
honouring the only man “convicted for the worst act of
terrorism in British history”.
“Any celebration of Megrahi’s release will be tasteless,
offensive and deeply insensitive to the victims’ families,”
a spokeswoman said. She added: “We have made our concerns
clear to the Libyan government.”
Richard Northern, Britain’s ambassador to Tripoli,
pre-warned senior Libyan government officials that any
public events honouring Megrahi could damage warming ties
between the two countries, The Guardian newspaper reported.
But the release continues to arouse strong feelings in the
United States, with President Barack Obama’s
counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, saying the decision
to free Megrahi was “unfortunate, inappropriate and wrong.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added that Washington
“continues to categorically disagree with the decision” to
Their remarks came as four US senators called on Friday for
a new investigation into whether business considerations
played a role in the decision to let Megrahi return to his
|Iranian nuclear plant not a major risk
(AFP) - Iran’s first nuclear plant, scheduled to go online
this weekend, is not a major proliferation risk, despite
international concerns about the nature of Tehran’s atomic
programme, experts said.
The Russian-built plant in the southern port city of Bushehr
is set to be launched on Saturday, following more than three
decades of delay. But it will be months yet before it
actually starts generating electricity.
Western countries -- and the US in particular -- are
convinced that Iran is seeking to build an atomic bomb under
the guise of a peaceful civilian nuclear programme, a charge
which Tehran vehemently denies.
And some observers have expressed concern that nuclear fuel
from Bushehr could be diverted and used to build a weapon.
But non-proliferation experts disagree, arguing that Iran’s
other nuclear activities, notably its extensive uranium
enrichment programme which it has built up in defiance of
four rounds of UN sanctions, were of greater and more
“Bushehr is not a proliferation risk as long as it is run to
produce power for electricity generation,” said Mark
Fitzpatrick, an expert in non-proliferation at the
International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.
“It would be a risk if Iran operated it differently, i.e.
for short periods at low-burn up in order to produce
weapons-usable plutonium -- but in this case the IAEA would
know,” the expert said, referring to the UN atomic watchdog,
the International Atomic Energy Agency.
IAEA inspectors, already monitoring all of Iran’s declared
nuclear activities, will be on the ground in Bushehr to
oversee the introduction of the fuel into the reactor core.
And the plant is also under full agency safeguards, meaning
inspectors will always be keeping a close eye on Bushehr
during the start-up phase and when it is finally up and
They will also ensure that all of the spent fuel is returned
to Russia as agreed.
The international community would therefore know “if Iran
tried to divert the spent fuel to reprocess the plutonium or
to divert the fresh fuel to re-enrich it to higher levels,”
The expert argued that inflammatory statements about Bushehr
could divert attention “from the real proliferation risks
posed by the enrichment facilities and the research reactor
at Arak, which, unlike Bushehr, is ideally suited for
And he concluded: “Condemning the start-up of Bushehr sends
the wrong signal to the Iranian people because it wrongly
implies the West is against any nuclear technology in Iran.
“Nuclear power is fine. It’s the sensitive nuclear
technologies that can easily be used for weapons that are
the problem,” Fitzpatrick said.
|Israel, Palestinians to resume direct
(AFP) - Israel and the Palestinians will
resume direct peace talks here in early September with the
aim of reaching a deal within a year to create an
independent Palestinian state, US officials announced.
In the first direct talks in 20 months, Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmud
Abbas will meet face-to-face in Washington on September 2
with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The peace talks will come after Netanyahu and Abbas meet
separately the day before with US President Barack Obama,
who has made Arab-Israeli peace a priority for his
administration, Clinton told reporters.
Obama will also meet separately September 1 with Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Arab
mediators whose states have signed peace treaties with
Israel and who, Clinton said, play a “critical role.”
Backed by a diplomatic quartet of world powers, the
parties will “relaunch direct negotiations to resolve all
final status issues, which we believe can be completed
within one year,” Clinton announced at the State Department.
She was referring to security for Israel, borders of a
future Palestinian state, the future of Palestinian
refugees, and the fate of Jerusalem, which both sides claim
as their capital.
Clinton said that the “continued leadership and commitment
to peace” of both Mubarak and King Abdullah “will be
essential to our success”.
Clinton said she and Obama, as well as Netanyahu and
Abbas, shared “the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine,
living side by side in peace and security.”
A top Palestinian official in Ramallah said Palestine
Liberation Organisation voted Saturday to accept the US
invitation to peace talks, which Netanyahu had already
The White House said it was “very hopeful” about the talks,
while in London, Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague
called them a “courageous step” towards peace in the region.
“Urgent progress must now be made. We call on all parties to
refrain from any activity that could undermine
negotiations,” Hague added in a statement.
The diplomatic Quartet -- the United States, Russia, the
United Nations and the European Union -- reiterated past
statements calling for an end to the Israeli occupation,
which began in 1967.
The reference is important for the Palestinians, who want
the borders of their future state along the boundaries that
existed before Israel captured the West Bank, the Gaza Strip
and east Jerusalem in 1967.
Clinton said the new round of negotiations “should take
place without preconditions and be characterised by good
faith and a commitment to their success, which will bring a
better future to all of the people of the region.”
The point appeared designed to appease the Israelis, who
reject Palestinian calls for a complete freeze of Jewish
|News in brief
Wyclef Jean accepts ruling
(AFP) - International Hip-Hop star Wycleff Jean accepted a
ruling by Haiti’s electoral council late on Friday to
exclude him from the November presidential election.
“Though I disagree with the ruling, I respectfully accept
the committee’s final decision, and I urge my supporters to
do the same,” Jean said in a statement released after the
ruling was announced.
Manmohan and Sonia pay tribute to Rajiv
(Economic Times) - President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and other
senior leaders paid tribute to former Prime Minsiter Rajiv
Gandhi on his 66th birth anniversary at his memorial Veer
Bhumi on Friday. Vice President Hamid Ansari was amongst the
others who paid homage to Gandhi.
The day is being observed as ‘Sadbhavana Diwas’ (Harmony
Day), which will be followed by “social unity” fortnight
being observed from Aug 20 till Sep 3.
Ex-military ruler for Nigerian
(AFP) Nigerian ex-military ruler Ibrahim Babangida will run
for president in upcoming elections, nearly two decades
after he controversially overturned a ballot viewed as fair,
a statement said.
“Given my wealth of experience and decades of leadership
study, plus the urgent need to confront the challenges of
our national lives, I believe the time is ripe for me to
serve our people as a civilian president,” he said in the
Babangida becomes the second Muslim from the country’s north
to seek the ruling party’s nomination for the election,
which could occur as early as January, though a date has not
yet been set.
The ruling People’s Democratic Party is expected to hold a
primary ahead of the elections.
Two more dead in anti-India protests
(CNN) -- Anti-India protests and clashes rocked
Indian-administered Kashmir, leaving two people dead and
several others wounded, authorities said.
The region has been in the throes of violent protests since
June 11. At least 62 people have been killed -- mostly
teenagers and young adults -- and scores have been wounded.
The protests are part of a so-called “Quit Kashmir” campaign
launched by separatist groups against Indian rule in
Kashmir. In the northern Kashmir city of Sopore, Indian
security forces opened fire on protesters, killing an
18-year old man and wounding one other person.
Residents claim the shooting was unprovoked, but a spokesman
for the Indian paramilitary central reserve police force
(CRPF) said mobs threw stones at officers, and one officer
fired in self defence.
The young man, Mudasir Ahmad, was initially critically
injured in the shooting but succumbed to his injuries in the
hospital early Friday. Authorities promptly issued a curfew
in Sopore, but it was defied by thousands of residents, who
joined Ahmad’s funeral march chanting “We want freedom!”
Police have registered a case against the paramilitary unit
that opened fire, according to a senior police officer.
Strikes continue in South Africa
(Christian science monitor) An ongoing national South Africa
strike by government workers was calmer on Friday, after
violent protests flared earlier in the week. Many schools
remain closed and some hospitals are turning patients away.
Soldiers and the South African Police Service (SAPS) on
Friday increased their visibility in Johannesburg’s main
trouble areas following violent labor protests that left
dozens of people injured and property worth thousands of
dollars reportedly destroyed.
The ruling African National Congress and labor unions have
condemned the violence, which comes amid a national public
workers strike that has shut down schools and seen patients
turned away from hospitals across the country.
Today there were peaceful strike marches across
Johannesburg’s Main Street and Commissioner Street, leading
to the Library Gardens, where government workers later
converged. The demonstrators were escorted by both police
and members of the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Service
to ensure peace prevailed.
The huge march blocked traffic for more than two hours.
Gauteng Provincial Police spokesman Brigadier Govindsamy
Mariemuthoo told the Monitor the heavy police presence was
aimed at dealing with and deterring rowdy elements.
|Pakistan floods a ‘slow-motion
tsunami’: Ban Ki-moon
urges countries to send more money, quicker as monsoon rains
UN Secretary General (SG), Ban Ki-moon, has appealed for
swifter aid to provide immediate relief in food, shelter and
clean water for the millions affected by the worst monsoon
rains on record.
“Make no mistake, this is a global disaster,” Ban told a
hurriedly convened session of the UN general assembly.
“Pakistan is facing a slow-motion tsunami. Its destructive
powers will accumulate and grow with time,” he warned.
Weather forecasts have said there could be four more
weeks of rain, which will add to the flood problems.
The UN has appealed for $ 460 m (£ 295 m) in aid and donors
have so far given about half that figure. But the SG said
all of the money was needed immediately to help victims over
the next three months.
The US has pledged an extra $ 60 m in help, bringing
America’s total aid to $ 150 m.
In a video message, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
appealed to the American public to donate generously to a
newly established “Pakistan Relief Fund”.
“The enormity of this crisis is hard to fathom, the rain
continues to fall and the extent of the devastation is still
difficult to gauge,” said Clinton. “Our thoughts and prayers
are with those who have lost loved ones, those who have been
displaced from their homes and those left without food and
The US special representative for Pakistan, Richard
Holbrooke, said “many billions” would be needed to respond
to the flooding. Speaking at the Asia Society in New York,
he called on other countries such as China, to step up to
the plate and said: “The water has affected everyone, It’s
an equal opportunity disaster, and military operations have
effectively faded away.”
The British government yesterday pledged to double its
emergency payments, raising its pledge to £ 64.3 m.
Director of Policy to International Development Secretary,
Andrew Mitchell who has recently visited Pakistan to inspect
the effect British aid has had so far, told the UN general
assembly in New York that the international community had to
do more. He told the UN it was “deeply depressing” that the
international community was “only now waking up to the true
scale of this disaster”.
He said: “I’ve come to New York directly from Pakistan,
where I saw the dire need for more help. I saw the sheer and
shocking magnitude of this catastrophe. It is clear that
unless more aid is delivered now, many more people will die
from disease and malnutrition. The UK is already helping
more than three million people in flood-affected areas.”
This doubling of our aid should now provide water and
sanitation to 500,000 people; shelter to 170,000 people;
help meet the nutritional needs of 380,000 people and
provide enough health services to cover a population of 2.4
He emphasised funding would only be allocated to NGOs and UN
agencies which could prove they were helping people get back
on their feet. (Guardian)
|Judge asks hospitals
to paralyse man
A Saudi judge has asked several
hospitals whether they would punitively damage a man’s
spinal cord, after he was convicted of attacking another man
with a cleaver and paralysing him, local newspapers reported
Saudi Arabia enforces strict Sharia law, and occasionally
metes out punishments based on the ancient code of an ‘eye
for an eye’.
Abdul-Aziz al-Mutairi, 22, was left paralysed after a fight
more than two years ago, and asked a judge to impose an
equivalent punishment on his attacker, under Sharia law,
The newspaper Okaz said the judge in northwestern Tabuk
province, identified as Saoud bin Suleiman al-Youssef, asked
at least two hospitals for a medical opinion on whether
surgeons could render the attacker’s spinal cord non
The attacker, who was not identified, has spent seven months
in jail. The reports cited the letter of response from one
of the hospitals and the victim.
Two of the hospitals involved and the court were closed for
the Saudi weekend beginning today, and could not be reached
Okaz reported that a leading hospital in Riyadh – King
Faisal Specialist Hospital – said that it would not do the
operation. The article quoted a letter from the hospital
saying, “inflicting such harm is not possible”, apparently
refusing on ethical grounds.
The story was also reported by Saudi English-language paper
Arab News, though neither paper carried any response from a
second hospital that reportedly received the request, King
Khaled Hospital in Tabuk province.
Sharia law in Saudi Arabia allows defendants to ask for a
similar punishment to harm inflicted on them. Cutting off
the hands of thieves, for example, is common.
Under the law, the victim can receive blood money to settle
Human Rights groups say trials in Saudi Arabia fall far
below international standards. They usually take place
behind closed doors, and without adequate legal
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has been trying to clamp down
on extremist ideology, including unauthorised clerics
issuing odd religious decrees. (Guardian.co.uk)
|Mosque near Ground Zero
Obama under fire
Republicans are ratcheting up attacks on proposals to
build a mosque near Ground Zero in New York, ahead of
November’s midterm elections, after Barack Obama endorsed
But even as some prominent Republicans compare the building
of the mosque with Japanese attacks on the US, others are
warning the tactic could backfire. A leading Democrat has
called for an inquiry into those behind opposition to the
mosque, suggesting it is being covertly funded.
The assault on the plans for the Islamic centre two blocks
from Ground Zero, is becoming an issue in Congressional
races far from the World Trade Centre site.
Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House of
Representatives, caused outrage suggesting Islam as a whole
was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, and drawing parallels
with World War II. “We would never accept the Japanese
putting up a site next to Pearl Harbour,” he said. “There is
no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade
Gingrich has also claimed that the imam behind the proposed
community centre, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is a “radical
Islamist”, even though the US State Department flew Rauf to
Saudi Arabia this week to promote America, by telling
audiences “what it’s like to practise Islam under our regime
of religious freedom and equality”.
A common theme of the Republican attacks is Saudi Arabia’s
ban on non-Muslims from Mecca. “Ground Zero is hallowed
ground to Americans,’’ Elliott Maynard, a Republican
candidate for Congress in West Virginia, said. “Do you think
the Muslims would allow a Jewish temple or Christian church
to be built in Mecca?’’
Republicans have attacked Obama for endorsing the mosque,
including Senator John Cornyn, who said the president’s
comments show he is “disconnected from the mainstream of
America”, and predicted that the controversy will be an
important issue in the midterm elections
US president, Barack Obama, has defended controversial plans
to build a mosque near the site of the 9/11 terrorist
attacks in New York, saying to oppose them would be
Prominent Republicans have led protests against the
construction of an Islamic cultural centre and mosque two
blocks from the site of the former World Trade Centre. The
proposed building would not be visible from Ground Zero.
Obama acknowledged that “sensitivities” surrounded the 9/11
site, which he described as “hallowed ground”, but he said
Muslims had the same right to practise their religion “as
In a speech at a White House dinner celebrating Ramadan, he
said: “As a citizen, and as president, I believe that
Muslims have the same right to practise their religion as
everyone else in this country.
“That includes the right to build a place of worship and a
community centre on private property in lower Manhattan, in
accordance with local laws and ordinances.
“This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom
must be unshakeable.”
The White House has not previously taken a stand on the
mosque. Its press secretary, Robert Gibbs, has described the
issue as a local matter
The president’s support for the mosque was welcomed by New
York City’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who described Obama’s
speech as a “clarion defence of the freedom of religion”.
But some relatives of the victims of the 9/11 attacks were
quick to condemn the president.
“Barack Obama has abandoned America at the place where
America’s heart was broken nine years ago, and where her
true values were on display for all to see,” said Debra
Burlingame, a spokeswoman for some victims’ families and the
sister of one of the pilots killed in the attacks.
|Green leafy veg ‘may cut diabetes
A diet rich in green leafy vegetables may
reduce the risk of developing diabetes, UK research says.
In an analysis of six studies into fruit and vegetable
intake, only food including spinach and cabbage was found to
have a significant positive effect.
A portion and a half a day was found to cut type 2 diabetes
risk by 14%, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) reports.
But experts urged people to continue to aim for five
portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
“This study suggests that green leafy vegetables seem to be
particularly important in terms of preventing diabetes,”
said Professor Melanie Davies, University of Leicester
The researchers from Leicester University reviewed data from
the studies of 220,000 adults in total.
They found that eating more fruit and vegetables in general
was not strongly linked with a smaller chance of developing
type 2 diabetes, but “there was a general trend in that
Yet, when it came to green leafy vegetables, which the
researchers said also includes broccoli and cauliflower, the
risk reduction was significant.
The team calculated that a daily dose of 106g reduced the
risk of diabetes by 14% - a UK “portion” is classed as 80g.
It is not clear why green leafy vegetables may have a
protective effect, but one reason may be they are high in
antioxidants, such as vitamin C, and another theory is that
they contain high levels of magnesium.
Study leader Professor Melanie Davies, Professor of Diabetic
Medicine at the University of Leicester, said the message to
eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day remains an
But she added: “People like very specific health messages.
“We know that intake of fruit and vegetables is important,
but this study suggests that green leafy vegetables seem to
be particularly important in terms of preventing diabetes.”
Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Diabetes UK said: “We
already know that the health benefits of eating vegetables
are far-reaching, but this is the first time that there has
been a suggested link, specifically between green leafy
vegetables and a reduced risk of developing type 2
But he warned the evidence was limited, and it was too early
to isolate green leafy vegetables and present them alone as
a method to cut the chances of developing the condition.
“We would be concerned if focusing on certain foods
detracted from the advice to eat five portions of fruits and
vegetables a day, which has benefits in terms of reducing
heart disease, stroke, some cancers and obesity as well as
type 2 diabetes.”
The team are now planning a study in people at high risk of
developing the condition, to see if increasing their intake
of vegetables such as spinach and kale can help to reduce
their chances of being diagnosed with diabetes.
|From Shock‘n’Awe to quiet exit
US troops pull out of Iraq
It began with shock and awe, and ended with a silent
trickle across the border in the dead of night. As the 4th
Stryker Brigade, Second Infantry Division arrived at their
staging post in the sands of Kuwait, Sergeant Donald Wilms
got out of his battle truck and high-fived friends in his
platoon. A few hours earlier, they had rumbled across the
dusty border, becoming the last US combat unit to leave
For the men and women of the Division, seven years and five
months of war in Iraq is now over. As soon as they had
crossed the border, after a three-day drive along the spine
of central Iraq, US commanders announced that the overall
American combat mission in the country was also complete –
12 days earlier than the official end of operations, and
with doubts about the continuing US role in Iraq lingering.
The soldiers had driven for about 18 hours south from
Baghdad, along Route Tampa – the road the US army and
marines had used to get to Baghdad in 2003. Now they were
using it to leave.
They had moved mostly at night, to lessen the risk of
roadside bombs and ambushes along the main highway south – a
vast, flat thoroughfare that had been built by Saddam,
literally to move armies. As central Iraq convulsed in
violence from 2005-08, the highway had become almost a
‘No-Go’ zone for civilians.
Just before the final drive over the border, Lt Col Mike
Lawrence stood bathed in the glow of a lamp tower, readying
his remaining charges in the crunching gravel of a staging
yard 100 miles north of the border. His young battalion was
preparing for one last push, out of a war that had consumed
many of them for the past six years, and left a disoriented
nation grasping for its bearings.
Lawrence had a keen sense of history in the making. As the
engines of the 60 to 80 armoured fighting vehicles in the
yard, known as Strykers, rumbled to life, one by one, he
announced: “This is going to put the finishing touches on
seven years here. What has been achieved is going to echo
throughout the region, prosperity, peace, truth and freedom:
His inner court stood silently. They had just finished a
pre-departure rundown of the risks on the road ahead. There
was a 10-man bomb-making team active between their staging
point, the giant Camp Adder base on the outskirts of
Nasireyah, and Basra in Iraq’s deep south. If they made it
that far, the 40-mile run to Kuwait would be a doddle.
This drive south was huge in symbolism for the US military,
which claims it will no longer play an interventionist role
From September 1, the US military plans to implement
“Operation New Dawn”, a period when it wants to change the
relationship between the US and Iraq from that of master and
servant to partnership of civilian, democratic equals.
As the soldiers shut down their Strykers and rolled into
their quarters in the sprawling tents of Camp Virginia base,
near the American-run Ali al-Salem airfield on the outskirts
of Kuwait City, a further 56,000 US forces remained on Iraqi
soil. At least 6,000 of them will leave Iraq before
September 1, with the rest phased out gradually between
September 1 and December 31, 2011.
It is almost certain that there will be further American
combat deaths in Iraq, despite today’s announcement. US
forces will continue to patrol with Iraqi counterparts in
some of the country’s most restive areas, including Mosul,
Diyyala and Kirkuk.