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  Nation 2  


 

Arab League urges justice for ‘crimes’ revealed by WikiLeaks

CAIRO (AFP) - The Arab League has called for those behind the “crimes against humanity” contained in leaked Iraq war documents published by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks to be brought to justice.
“These documents and what they have unveiled... constitute a crime equivalent to crimes against humanity and violations against the Iraqi people,” said Ahmed ben Helli, the Cairo-based organisation’s deputy security general.
“We must pursue those who committed this crime,” in cooperation with the Iraqi government, he said, quoted by Egypt’s official news agency MENA. Ben Helli called for more documents to be released.
WikiLeaks last week published nearly 400,000 secret US military documents which offer a grim snapshot of the conflict from 2004 to 2009, especially of the abuse of civilians by Iraqi security forces.
The heavily abridged logs appear to show that the US military turned a blind eye to evidence of torture and abuse of civilians by the Iraqi authorities.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the documents reveal about 15,000 more civilian deaths in Iraq than were previously known.
In another development, US military officials in Los Angeles said the last Marine officer charged in the 2005 killings of 24 civilians in the central Iraqi city of Haditha will be court-martialled starting Tuesday.
Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich, 30, will face charges of voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, dereliction of duty and obstruction of justice for his alleged involvement in the killings.
Wuterich, the squadron leader, is the only one who still faces charges in the killings, which took place after a roadside bomb killed a Marine.
The other seven accused have either been acquitted or had the charges against them dropped.
All of the officers were initially handed murder or failure to investigate charges, but Wuterich is the last to face reduced voluntary manslaughter charges.
His trial will begin at 8:30am (1500 GMT) on Tuesday at Camp Pendleton, the sprawling Marine base outside Los Angeles.
The highest ranking Marine officer charged and later cleared in the killings, former lieutenant colonel Jeffrey Chessani, left the service in July.
The Marines said in a press release issued after the violence in Haditha that 15 Iraqis had been killed by the roadside bomb that killed the Marine.
But a subsequent investigation by Time magazine showed most of the dead were killed as Marines swept through three houses near the site of the bombing.
Lawyers for the Marines said insurgents hid behind civilian homes and began shooting on the officers, sparking a shootout that would fall within legal rules of engagements.
But the plaintiffs said there were no such insurgents and the Marines initiated a bloody, three-hour rampage in revenge for the death of their comrade, even killing five taxi cab riders who were approaching the neighborhood.
Among the victims, 10 were women or children, killed at point-blank range.


Indian microlenders ‘face possible collapse’: Group

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India may have to step in to avert collapse of the $6.7-billion microfinance industry, a leading ratings body warned this week, as lenders once hailed as saviours of the poor faced a major crisis.
The Microfinance Institutions Network or MFIN, which represents 44 leading Indian microfinance lenders, has said commercial bank loans to the sector are drying up and borrowers are reneging on their debts.
Pioneered on the sub-continent by Nobel prize winner Muhammad Yunus, microfinance was conceived to free the poor from the clutches of greedy moneylenders by giving them small, cheaper loans, but has been hit by sharp criticism from politicians and scrutiny of its loan recovery methods.

“It could come to a systemic banking crisis -- that is why I feel the central government won’t let it go that far, it will have to take action,” said Sanjay Sinha, managing director of M-CRIL or Micro-Credit Ratings International Ltd, a New Delhi-based leader in rating the sector.
“The financial numbers involved are too great,” he said.
The warning came as the Reserve Bank of India announced a committee to examine the debt recovery methods of microfinance institutions and their interest rate charges.
The head of MFIN, Vijay Mahajan, warned the industry “could face collapse” and was “not at all out of the woods”.

“The commercial bankers and everyone else are hoping against hope that things will improve,” said Mahajan, a pioneer of lending to the poor who also heads a top microfinance institution, BASIX.
The sector was thrown into turmoil when the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh, the hub of small loan activity, cracked down on microfinanciers.
The state government said Thursday it was investigating 56 suicides blamed by local politicians on aggressive debt collectors and high interest rates of up to 36 percent.
After news of the suicides surfaced in mid-October, India’s leading microlender SKS said 17 were among its borrowers, but rejected responsibility, saying “our ethical way of doing microfinance has not caused these tragedies.”
SKS staged a share offer in August which focused the spotlight on the millions of dollars being made in the sector by microfinance companies.
The Andhra Pradesh government introduced a measure earlier this month aimed at halting ‘harassment’ of borrowers, imposing penalties of up to three years in jail and 100,000 rupees ($2,000) in fines for attempting to coerce borrowers.

The state also ordered the suspension of debt collections. The order was later overturned by a court but industry officials said debt recovery agents were still being blocked.
Andhra Pradesh’s share of outstanding microfinance loans accounts for around 35 percent of the sector’s total 6.7-billion-dollar portfolio.

Before the crisis, the sector boasted loan repayment rates of 99 percent.
Critics of the for-profit microfinanciers say borrowers should go to state-sponsored self-help groups which offer subsidised loans for as low as three percent.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said this week the government was in talks with the state to ease the situation in Andhra Pradesh for microlenders but also urged the industry to develop a code of conduct to help curb interest rates and prevent the use of coercive recovery methods.
M-CRIL’s Sinha pointed to pressure from opposition parties in Andhra Pradesh which have started a campaign to ask for loan cancellations.

“This situation is tailor-made for populist sentiment against the microlenders,” Sinha said. “The commercial banks have been shutting down loans given what is happening in Andhra Pradesh and current repayments are running at 20 percent of what they should be.”
A senior executive of a leading Indian bank said: “The push for waivers by some may change the credit discipline of borrowers who will think they don’t have to pay.”


Lebanon braces for worst as Hezbollah snubs
UN Hariri probe

BEIRUT (AFP) - Lebanon braced for a fresh crisis after Hezbollah urged a boycott of a UN-backed probe into the murder of Rafiq Hariri and the UN warned of a ‘hyper-dangerous’ situation.
Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the militant Shiite party, this week called on all Lebanese to end cooperation with investigators probing the ex-premier’s 2005 assassination, warning ‘citizens and politicians alike’ that further collaboration would be tantamount to an attack on Hezbollah.
That warning further set him at odds with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of the slain Sunni former premier, who has vowed to see the international investigation through.
The prime minister’s office responded to Nasrallah’s call by saying there was no turning back on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) after a meeting by Hariri’s bloc, which with its allies holds the majority in parliament.
“The bloc emphasises its adherence to the tribunal, which has received consensus among the Lebanese as a form of protection of political pluralism,” it said in a brief statement released after a meeting headed by Hariri.
Nasrallah’s comments also sparked fears of the collapse of Lebanon’s hard-won government, in which Hezbollah has two ministers.
The Shiite leader has repeatedly said he expects his Iranian- and Syrian-backed movement to face STL accusations and warned that such an outcome would have repercussions, which he did not specify.
His latest comments, which came hours after the United Nations warned that Lebanon had entered a ‘hyper-dangerous’ state, sparked the ire of Hariri’s pro-Western allies.
Tensions have been rising in the turbulent Mediterranean country ever since reports emerged that the STL could point to high-ranking Hezbollah figures in the Hariri murder.


UN rights chief slates Myanmar elections

GENEVA (AFP) - UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said Myanmar had failed so far to meet international standards for ‘genuine elections’, a few days ahead of the poll.
“On November 7, Myanmar’s electoral process will culminate in voting and counting at polling stations around most of the country,” the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement.
“However, conditions for genuine elections that meet international standards have so far not been reached,” she added.
Pillay reiterated calls by the UN for the release more than 2,000 political prisoners, and for the military junta to respected freedom of assembly and expression.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said earlier that it was not too late for a ‘credible, democratic’ transition, ahead of the much-criticised November 7 election.
Myanmar’s Supreme Court on Friday heard democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s final appeal against her house arrest, due to end days after the controversial elections.
The detention of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate has kept her off the scene for the country’s first polls in 20 years, which have been dismissed by critics as a charade aimed at putting a civilian cloak over military rule.
Suu Kyi’s lawyers presented their argument to a panel of judges in the capital Naypyidaw in a hearing that lasted for about two and a half hours.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner did not attend herself and it was unclear when the judgement would be announced.
“We are hoping for the best,” one of her lawyers, Nyan Win, said after the hearing. “We have to wait for the verdict and I hope it will not be long.”
The democracy icon’s term of detention is due to end on November 13, although some fear Myanmar’s ruling generals may find an excuse to extend it.
Suu Kyi lodged the last-ditch appeal in May. She has already had her appeal rejected twice, most recently by the Supreme Court in February. Court verdicts in the army-ruled country rarely favour opposition activists.
Suu Kyi’s lawyers say the current period of detention started with her imprisonment on May 14 last year and expect her to be freed next month, but even so they are continuing their efforts in the aim of clearing her name.
Myanmar’s Foreign Minister Nyan Win told his Southeast Asian counterparts at a meeting in Hanoi this week that Suu Kyi may be released after the November 7 poll.
There was a cautious response to his comments from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) but the US accused Myanmar of ‘craven manipulation’ of its election.


Gunmen in deadly attack on Nato trucks in Pakistan

QUETTA (AFP) - Gunmen in southwest Pakistan set ablaze two trucks carrying supplies for NATO troops in Afghanistan, killing one person and wounding a child, police said.
There was no claim of responsibility but the Taliban have mounted similar attacks to avenge US drone strikes killing militant commanders in Pakistan’s northwest and to protest against the US-led war effort in Afghanistan.
The first vehicle was attacked in the Mangochar area, 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of Quetta, capital of oil and gas rich Baluchistan province, which borders Iran and Afghanistan.
“Two gunmen riding a motorbike stopped a NATO container, ordered the driver and his helper to leave the vehicle and then opened fire on it,” local tribal police official Aziz Faisal said.
In Baghbana, 280km south of Quetta, gunmen opened fire on another NATO container, killing the driver and wounding a 12-year-old boy.
“The gunmen also torched the container and escaped,” another tribal police official, Muhammad Azam said.
Police confirmed Friday’s attacks, which came weeks after Pakistan on October 10 reopened the main northwestern land crossing into Afghanistan used by NATO supply convoys.
The border had been shut on September 30 after a cross-border NATO helicopter strike killed two paramilitary soldiers in northwest Pakistan, but a second crossing at Chaman in the southwest remained open.


Muscovites read out names of Stalin repression victims

MOSCOW (AFP) - Hundreds of people gathered in central Moscow this week to solemnly read out lists of names of victims of Stalin-era repressions, most of whom were shot in the late 1930s.
Standing outside the headquarters of the FSB secret police, the successor to the KGB and dictator Josef Stalin’s NKVD, activists read out brief biographical details of victims, compiled by Russian rights group memorial.
“Vasily Tarasovich Ababko, 50, worker in the collective farm of Yershovo village, shot September 2, 1937,” one read from a list. “Riza Kouli Abdulayev, 46, printer, shot April 8, 1938.”
One reader, Yevgeniya Smirnova, 83, finished her list with the name of her own father, shot in 1937.
“I take part in this ceremony every year. People need to know more about things from this period,” Smirnova told AFP, adding that she was happy to see people braving cold and falling snow to take part.
“It’s our history that we are reading, with the names of all these people who were murdered. As we call them by name, these people live inside us and we feel all this tragedy deeply,” said Oksana Bocharova, 39, a marketing manager.
The victims whose names were read over the course of several hours ranged from municipal workers such as bus drivers to the Communists’ ideological foes, such as priests, and members of the ruling elite.
The readers stood in a small park around a stone brought from the island of Solovki in the far north of Russia, where the first prison camp in the notorious Gulag system was set up under Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union and Stalin’s predecessor.
Memorial was founded at the end of the Soviet Union to publicise the fate of repression victims. It later expanded its role to gather information on rights violations across Russia, particularly in the troubled Caucasus region.
It was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize this year.

 

 

ASEAN meets amidst tensions with China

By Thanapathi
Leaders of the Association for South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) met last week in Hanoi amidst growing tensions with regional giant China over disputed territories, currency devaluation and imposing growth of China’s economic and military dominance in the region.
ASEAN was established on August 8, 1967 in Bangkok, by the five original Member Countries, namely, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Brunei joined in 1984, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia joined later.
Since then, the regional bloc has been emerging as a regional power base working as a single entity, mostly in their interactions with the rest of the world.
ASEAN has concluded Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with China, Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and, most recently, India. In addition, it is currently negotiating a FTA with the EU. Taiwan has also expressed interest in an agreement with ASEAN, but needs to overcome diplomatic objections from China.
Tension
The 10 leaders of the group meet at a time when most of the countries in the region has in some way or another felt the tensions of more assertive China.
In recent months, China has reasserted its claims to a group of islands in the South China Sea which are also claimed by several ASEAN nations.
The Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, situated in the East China Sea, are believed to be rich in oil and gas reserves and fish stocks.
The islands are also close to important sea lanes. China, Japan, and Taiwan each claim sovereignty over the islands.
Several weeks ago, China and Japan were involved in a diplomatic spat when several Chinese fishermen were detained by Japanese authorities in the disputed waters.
The detention generated vituperative reactions from Beijing, out of character from its traditional policy of quiet insistence on territorial claims while building naval capacity.
This episode, in conjunction with China’s continuing claim of primacy in the South China Sea as a ‘core interest’, is encouraging increased discussion among its regional neighbours regarding naval collaboration.
Sino-Japanese tensions regarding the detention were inflamed by the location of the incident. After the release of the captain of the Chinese fishing boat on September 24, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan that “the Diaoyu Islands have been Chinese territory since ancient times”.
Robust claim
A similarly robust claim is being made for the South China Sea, which borders Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam among other states. A group of nine Vietnamese fishermen operating off the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea were detained by Beijing for four weeks.
The fishermen were released on October 11, as the unresolved issue threatened to overshadow the ASEAN Defence Ministers summit.
At the ASEAN Ministerial meeting this year, the tone of nervousness from China’s immediate neighbours were apparent.
At that meeting which also saw the participation of US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton the foreign ministers of ASEAN nations called on the peaceful resolution to all territorial disputes in the region.
ASEAN and the East Asia region is now emerging as a bulwark against the growing Chinese dominance, which sees the region as being part of its sphere of influence.
Since the end of the Second World War the US, has remained the most dominant power in the region, with military bases in South Korea, Japan and a protective umbrella over Taiwan.
The US seventh fleet is based in the region and remains one of the most powerful projections of military power anywhere in the globe.
As the US and East Asia scramble to cope with the rapidly shifting balance of power in the region, Washington is expanding consultations with India on Asian security and is extending strong support to New Delhi’s own ‘Look East’ policy.
The US is intensifying its engagement with East Asia amidst the rise of China, Beijing’s new tensions with Japan and the Southeast Asian nations, and the search for stronger regional institutions.
As it does so, the Obama administration is encouraging India to play a larger role in Asia and the Pacific.
This new emphasis will be underscored in President Barack Obama’s coming visit to India in a few weeks’ time.
India too believes that the distinctions between East and South Asia can no longer be sustained. Its top officials argue that if a larger role for a rising China is inevitable in the subcontinent, so too is a bigger Indian footprint in the Western Pacific.


CHINA AND INDIA CAN GROW TOGETHER: WEN

HANOI (AFP) - Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said he would visit India later this year, stressing there was “enough space in the world” for both the giant nations to prosper despite a backdrop of frosty ties.
“I will pay a visit to India by the end of this year,” Wen said during talks with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of a Southeast Asia summit in the Vietnamese capital.
Border disputes, a short war in 1962 and the presence in India of Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama have all contributed to an atmosphere of suspicion between India and China.
India is also watchful of China’s growing presence in the region, including investments in ports in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
But Wen told Singh, according to comments posted on China’s foreign ministry website, that the two nations should “steadily ensure friendship” and “increase mutual trust in politics”.
“There is enough space in the world for China and India to develop themselves at the same time, and there are enough sectors for China and India to cooperate,” he said.
Wen said China was willing to work with India to “jointly promote continuous increase in trade and investment”.
Singh has sounded a similar note this week, playing down simmering tensions and saying there is huge scope to work with China.
“Are India and China in competition? I sincerely believe that there are enormous possibilities of our two countries to work together,” he told a gathering of business leaders in Malaysia.
“I look upon the world as a large enough place to accommodate the growth and ambitions of both India and China and it is in that sense that we approach India-China relations,” he said.
On a visit to Japan this week, Singh pledged that India would provide a stable supply of rare earth minerals to Tokyo amid a diplomatic row between China and Japan.
China has built up a near-monopoly on the minerals, which are needed in many hi-tech industries.


Beijing re-asserting its political clout at UN

NEW YORK: When a US delegate once confronted a Chinese diplomat about Beijing’s uncompromising support for Pakistan, the Chinese reportedly responded with a heavily-loaded sarcastic remark: “Pakistan is our Israel”.
But judging by China’s unrelenting support for some of its allies, including North Korea, Burma, Zimbabwe and Sudan, its protective arm around these countries is no different from the US and Western political embrace of Israel - right or wrong.
While China is battling the West over exchange rates, import tariffs and its territorial claims in the South China Sea, Beijing is also lobbying furiously to stall a Western-inspired proposal for a Commission of Inquiry on possible war crimes by the military junta in Burma (Myanmar).
“Such a commission should not be seen as a way to punish the government, but to prevent impunity and help prevent further abuse,” says the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana.

Sanctions
But China, which in January 2007 exercised its veto, along with Russia, to prevent Security Council sanctions against Burma, has not shown any willingness to back the proposal - even for a watered-down commission.
“Clearly,” says one Asian diplomat, “China is trying to reassert its political clout at the UN as a counterweight to its defensive stand on currency and trade issues.”
The New York Times newspaper said this week that the US administration is facing a “confrontational relationship” with an assertive China and is trying to respond to “a surge of Chinese triumphalism” by strengthening Washington’s relationship with Japan and South Korea.

Ban’s visit
US President Barack Obama is planning to visit four Asian countries next month - Japan, Indonesia, India and South Korea - while bypassing China.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who needs China’s support in the Security Council if he decides to run for a second term next year, is currently on his fourth trip to China, having visited the country in May and July 2008, and in July 2009.
In recent months, China has prevented a Security Council resolution against North Korea over the sinking of a South Korean ship and also tried to suppress a UN report alleging the use of Chinese-made bullets in attacks on UN peacekeepers in Darfur, Sudan.
“China sees value in promoting its image as the Security Council member defending the rights of the developing world, and China sees value in relying on the UN to counter US power,” said Linda Jakobson, director of the programme on China and Global Security at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Jakobson, an in-house China expert at SIPRI, points out that Beijing also sees value in participating in UN peacekeeping operations “both because this enhances the image of China as a responsible power but also because it gives Chinese military experience”.
Still, China relented to US and Western pressure in supporting four Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions against Iran, one of Beijing’s staunchest political, economic and military allies. Justifying his country’s support for the resolution, Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong was quoted as saying that Beijing wanted to make sure that sanctions would not affect the Iranian people or its normal overseas trade.
Jakobson said China agreed to these sanctions after much deliberation and on the condition that the energy sector was excluded.

Investments
Jakobson also pointed out that China wants to protect the massive investments by Chinese energy companies already in Iran or under negotiation with Tehran, and China wants to ensure that its long-term strategic plans for energy security are not threatened.
She said China attaches great importance to the UN and would like to see the role of the UN strengthened - though Beijing is wary of many proposals that want to expand Security Council membership and/or give power to members other than the present five permanent members.
(Al Jazeera News)


Shanghai World Expo a roaring success

SHANGHAI (AFP) - Shanghai today shuts the gates to the World Expo -- a six-month exhibition of culture and technology that saw record attendance, a parade of foreign leaders and a display of China’s growing power.
Organisers say Expo has been a roaring success, pointing to the more than 71 million visitors who toured the massive site and the 189 countries that took part, and could have far-reaching benefits for the city and the nation.
“This Expo could be a landmark for the process of Chinese modernisation,” Expo Assistant Secretary General Xu Bo said.
“The Expo gave us a wonderful opportunity to learn how to be a global citizen. This learning process is just a start, but it will have a very profound influence on the behaviour of Chinese people.”
For China, the World’s Fair offered an opportunity to showcase its growing economic and political clout -- an opportunity it considered to be on a par with its successful hosting of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was due to be the final major guest today, joining a line of foreign VIPs that has included kings, presidents and military strongmen.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were among those who toured the 5.3-square-kilometre (two-square-mile) site -- more than twice the size of Monaco.
Also on the list were leaders rarely seen at international events including Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Myanmar’s military ruler Senior General Than Shwe.
Fewer than five percent of Chinese have opportunities to travel abroad, and the Expo -- the theme of which was “Better City, Better Life” -- allowed them to connect firsthand with the world like never before, Xu said.
Nations showed off treasures both old and new. Denmark allowed its prized Little Mermaid statue out of the country for the first time, while France brought a priceless set of seven 19th-century masterpieces.


No sedition charges for Arundhati

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India has decided against prosecuting award-winning author and activist Arundhati Roy for sedition after she spoke out about the disputed region of Kashmir, an official said.
Roy, winner of the prestigious Booker award for her novel The God of Small Things in 1997, is a fierce critic of India’s tactics in Kashmir, where protests against New Delhi have claimed more than 100 lives since June.
She shared a stage with hardline Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani last week and backed the idea of “azadi” or freedom for Kashmir, leading New Delhi police to look into charging her with sedition.
But the police have been instructed to “avoid pursuing the issue and consider it as a closed chapter,” said a senior official in the Indian interior ministry, who asked not to be named.
“No criminal case has been registered against her. Therefore there is no question of slapping sedition charges,” the official said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party objected to Roy’s remarks, calling them “seditious” and demanding legal action against her.
Kashmir has been beset by anti-India violence, curfews and strikes since early June, when a 17-year-old student was killed by a police tear-gas shell. Since then, a total of 111 protesters and bystanders have died.
A poll published last month showed that a majority in Kashmir favoured independence for their region.


‘Walk-through’ bomb detectors

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan will test new “walk-through” bomb detectors that can pick up minute traces of explosives when the country hosts an Asia-Pacific summit next month, government officials said.
The system, still in the development and test phase, will be installed on November 12-14 at a train station in Yokohama near Tokyo, the venue for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, officials said.
Passengers will be alerted by signs and given the choice of whether to help trial the Hitachi-made system, or whether to pick another gate, under a test that is meant to check for false positives.
However, police also hope the new device will act as a deterrent against terrorist attacks during the summit, a police official said.
The walk-through gate works by blowing a stream of warm air that brushes the passing passenger before it is captured by a suction device for chemical analysis of any airborne particles.

Swiss solar plane confirmed as multiple record-breaker

GENEVA (AFP) - Aeronautical authorities confirmed world records for a Swiss solar-powered aircraft that flew around the clock in July, including those for the longest and highest flight by such an aircraft.
Solar Impulse was credited with the longest flight in the category of solar powered aeroplanes, by staying aloft for 26 hours, 10 minutes and 19 seconds, the International Aeronautical Federation (FAI) said.
It also set an altitude record by flying at 9,235 metres, and a record for the biggest height gain (8,744 metres) during the pioneering flight.
“The FAI congratulates (pilot) André Borschberg and the whole team involved in Solar Impulse on these splendid achievements.”
The experimental single-seater with solar panels cast across a wingspan matching that of a large airliner flew in 14 hours of sunshine to power, also allowing it to charge up its batteries and fly on through darkness.
FAI official Marcel Meyer said that it was also the first time in the four-year history of the solar-powered category that such feats had officially been endorsed.
“There have not been any previous records,” he said, adding that records had been claimed for solar flight before but without sufficient proof.
The Solar Impulse team is planning to fly even further, including possible manned transatlantic and round-the-world flights in 2013-2014.
The pioneering flight in Switzerland was monitored by observers from the Swiss Aero Club, an FAI member.