|Nepal’s peace process
at crossroads: UN chief
(AFP) - Nepal’s peace process is at a crossroads, the head
of the UN has warned, just two weeks before the planned
closure of a UN peace mission in the country.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the lack of progress
in the peace process that began when Nepal’s bloody civil
war ended more than four years ago was a “growing concern”.
“Nepal’s peace process is at a crossroads,” Ban said in a
report to the UN Security Council published in New York.
“The prolonged political deadlock that has hampered progress
has become a growing concern for Nepalis and the
international community alike as key timelines and deadlines
approach in the coming months.”
Ban said much had been achieved since the Comprehensive
Peace Agreement was signed in 2006, ending a decade-long war
between Maoist rebels and the state that killed at least
But he said key tasks had yet to be completed, including
the drafting of a new national constitution and the
integration of thousands of Maoist former fighters into the
state security forces.
His comments came as the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN)
prepares to close on January 15 after officials complained
it had been unfairly dragged into the political battles that
have prevented the formation of a new government.
Nepal has been without a fully functioning government for
six months after the prime minister resigned in June under
pressure from the opposition Maoist party.
Ban blamed the stalemate on deepening rifts among and within
Nepal’s rival parties.
“They have in the past made major compromises, and they must
soon do the same. None of them can afford to put the entire
process and the fruits of their hard work at serious risk,”
UNMIN was set up in 2007 with a mandate to monitor the Nepal
army and its rival, the Maoist People’s Liberation Army, and
It is not yet clear who will fulfil that role when UNMIN
leaves. This week, the Maoist party formally requested a
six-month extension of UNMIN’s mandate, saying the body was
needed until the peace process could be completed.
Karin Landgren, Ban’s representative in Nepal, is due to
present the report’s findings to the Security Council in
Rice noodles prompt latest China food
(AFP) - Large amounts of rice noodles made with rotten grain
and potentially carcinogenic additives are being sold in
south China, state press said, in the country’s latest food
Up to 50 factories in south China’s Dongguan city near Hong
Kong are producing about 500,000 kilogrammes (1.1 million
pounds) of tainted rice noodles a day using stale and mouldy
grain, the Beijing Youth Daily said.
The cost-conscious producers were bleaching the rotting rice
and using additives including sulphur dioxide and other
substances that could cause cancer to stretch one pound
(half a kilogramme) of grain into three pounds of noodles,
The poor-quality rice had often been reserved for animal
feed before food prices began rising dramatically in China
in the latter half of 2010, the paper said, citing
Rice noodles, often fried and served with bits of meat and
vegetables, are a favourite in south China.
In recent weeks, a series of tainted food
incidents have been reported in the state media as China
gears up for New Year and Lunar New Year celebrations -- a
time when food and alcohol purchases traditionally increase.
Tainted red wine, bleached mushrooms, fake tofu and dyed
oranges have all surfaced on store shelves -- spooking
consumers still wary about food quality after a deadly
scandal erupted two years ago over contaminated milk powder.
|US State Dept calls for democratic
|WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US has called on Myanmar to free
prisoners and engage in dialogue to promote democracy, as
the country prepared to mark its independence on January 4.
The State Department congratulated Myanmar, also known as
Burma, on its 63rd independence anniversary but hoped for
“the day when Burma’s citizens will succeed in their
peaceful efforts to exercise freely their universal human
“We are unwavering in our support for an independent,
peaceful, prosperous and democratic Burma,” State Department
spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.
“The US remains prepared to improve bilateral relations, but
looks to the Burmese government to meet the aspirations of
its diverse peoples by freeing all political prisoners and
engaging in an inclusive and meaningful dialogue with all
its citizens in pursuit of genuine national reconciliation.”
The junta in November freed the leader of the democratic
opposition, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who had spent
most of the past two decades under house arrest after her
party won elections but was not allowed to take power.
But her release came only after the junta held new
elections, which were widely denounced by Western nations
and by opposition groups as a sham.
Human rights groups say that Myanmar is still holding more
than 2,100 political prisoners who are less prominent than
President Barack Obama’s administration in 2009 launched a
dialogue with the regime aimed at ending Myanmar’s
isolation. US officials have voiced disappointment at the
results but said engagement is the best way forward.
|HONOLULU, Hawaii (AFP) - President Barack Obama honored
Thursday seven Americans killed in an attack on a CIA base
in Afghanistan, saying senior Al Qaeda leaders were now
“under more pressure than ever before”.
The CIA operatives were killed a year ago by a Jordanian
informant who gained access to one of the Central
Intelligence Agency’s major field bases and set off
explosives rigged to his body.
“As we mark the first anniversary of their sacrifice at
Khost, this is the work to which we recommit ourselves
today,” Obama said in a statement.
“We will ensure that our dedicated intelligence
professionals have the training and tools they need to meet
the missions we ask of them.”
The December 30, 2009 attack on the CIA base in Khost, near
the lawless border with Pakistan, was a devastating blow for
the spy agency and the second deadliest single assault in
“Today, Al Qaeda’s senior leadership is under more pressure
than ever before and is hunkered down in the border region
of Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Obama insisted.
“We are relentlessly pursuing our mission to disrupt,
dismantle and ultimately defeat that terrorist organisation.”
The bomber, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal Al Balawi, was seen by
CIA operatives as a valuable contact -- after offering
information on Al-Qaeda leadership -- and they had invited
him onto the base of the compound without patting him down.
As Balawi was about to undergo a search near a building
entrance, he set off his explosive with CIA agents standing
Balawi was tied to Taliban insurgents battling US-led forces
in Afghanistan and had been plotting to attack his CIA
handlers, it later emerged.
CIA Director Leon Panetta said after a review released in
October that no single individual or group could be assigned
blame for the incident, although the internal task force
probing the incident concluded the “assailant was not fully
vetted and that sufficient security precautions were not
|Hong Kongers want
corruption-free and fair society
|HONG KONG (AFP) - Hong Kongers want their society to be
fair and corruption-free society more than they want it to
be prosperous, a survey has shown.
Twenty-seven percent of people questioned by researchers
from the University of Hong Kong said they wanted things to
be fair, while 23 percent wished for a corruption-free city
and 22 percent for a prosperous society.
“If people have to choose between having a prosperous,
bribery-free, fair, free or welfare society, most people
would opt for fairness,” said Robert Chung, director of the
university’s Public Opinion Programme.
Hong Kong’s wealth gap has risen significantly over the past
decade, making the glitzy financial hub one of the most
inequitable places in Asia, according to the latest United
A growing income gap has seen the number of people living in
poverty climb 8.6 percent in recent years, from 1.16 million
in 2005 to 1.26 million in mid-2010 or about one in every
six people, according to Oxfam Hong Kong.
“In the past decade, Hong Kong has made a lot of economic
progress, but not all managed to share that wealth,”
political scientist Ma Ngok said.
“Some Hong Kongers are realising economic prosperity does
not translate into better lives for them, as large
businesses are usually the main beneficiaries,” he added.
The poll surveyed more than a thousand Hong Kongers between
December 17 and 22.
|South Sudan recording
stars sing ‘independence’
|JUBA, Sudan (AFP) - Let us go, we can make it, Mary
Boyoi sings softly in a flute-like voice as she sways to the
rhythm, sharing a dream that south Sudan will choose
independence in next month’s referendum.
Boyoi, a rising pop artiste, is one of several singers who
are literally using their voices to get out the independence
vote in the oil-rich but poverty-ridden region in a poll
that looks set to divide Africa’s largest country.
As rapper and producer Lam Tungwar puts it, “artistes are an
advantage because a lot of people are listening to them more
than to the politicians.”
More than three million people are registered to vote in the
January 9 referendum, a key element in the 2005 peace accord
that ended two decades of civil war between the largely
Christian south and Muslim north.
That war left more than two million people dead and millions
more displaced, and made a lasting impression on Boyoi, who
lost her father to the conflict in 1988.
“I have a message that my father told me when I was a little
kid... When we grew up, we saw that unity was not attractive
and that is why we say ‘let us go.’
“I am maybe very ashamed to say that I really like my
brothers and sisters in north Sudan; I have so many friends
(there), but really I see for us it is better to separate.”
Another song, by Peter Garang, is entitled “No to Unity, Yes
to Separation” and is on the playlists of local radio
stations around the region.
But independence is only one thing these artistes dream of
in a charged political atmosphere where some fear a vote for
separation could lead to renewed conflict with the north.
They want peace as well.
And that message is particularly poignant from hip-hop star
Emmanuel Jal: at the age of seven, after his mother died, he
was recruited as a child soldier by the rebel Sudan Peoples’