|Defiant Mubarak stays
(AFP) CAIRO – Egypt’s defiant strongman
Hosni Mubarak showed no sign of quitting Saturday after a
“departure day” drawing tens of thousands opposed to his
30-year grip on power and international calls for him to
Mubarak defied huge protests in central Cairo on Friday,
where brief gunfire was heard in Tahrir Square – the
epicentre of the protests – and in Alexandria aimed at
forcing his ouster.
Protest rallies gained ground globally with demonstrations
on Saturday in London and Paris.
US President Barack Obama, meanwhile, hinted that Mubarak
should step down saying the “patriot” should “listen what is
voiced by the people,” while EU leaders clearly said it was
time for change.
Obama said he understood “some discussions” had begun on a
political transition, with details to be worked out by
Egyptians themselves, and said violence against
demonstrators was unacceptable.
“We continue to be crystal clear that we oppose violence as
a response to this crisis,” he said, as Egyptian authorities
called for protesters thronging central Cairo to go home but
also vowed not to use force.
European leaders were more forthright.
At a summit in Brussels, the European Union’s 27 leaders
said Egypt’s “transition process must start now” and
condemned this week’s violence, while issuing a veiled
threat of suspending aid.
Mubarak himself has said he would like to quit but feared
that chaos would ensue.
On Thursday, ABC television’s Christiane Amanpour said that
in an interview with Mubarak, he blamed the Muslim
Brotherhood for the violence of recent days.
Clashes left at least eight people dead and more than 800
hurt on Wednesday and Thursday. According to UN estimates,
more than 300 people have been killed since the protests
Mubarak was “fed up with being president and would like to
leave office now, but cannot, he says, for fear that the
country would sink into chaos,” Amanpour said.
Mubarak’s one-time foreign minister and a future possible
presidential candidate, Arab League chief Amr Mussa, said on
Friday he doubted his former boss would leave any time soon.
“I do not think he will leave. I think he will stay until
the end of August,” Mussa told France’s Europe 1 radio
before himself later going to Tahrir Square in what his
office called a “calming gesture.”
The New York Times reported that Washington has been pushing
proposals for Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s veteran intelligence
chief and now vice president, to head a transitional
But Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq ruled out the possibility
that Mubarak would transfer power to Suleiman.
At Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square more than 10,000
people stayed behind in a festive atmosphere after nightfall
on Friday, many preparing to camp under canvas.
On the Muslim day of prayers and rest, tens of thousands of
people from all walks of life earlier filled the square,
which has seen 11 straight days of protests that have shaken
the pillars of Mubarak’s three-decade rule.
|Protesters hit Yemeni streets
(CNN) – What seemed like thousands of anti-government
protesters gathered near Sanaa University in Yemen’s capital
early Thursday morning, a clear indication that many in the
country were not satisfied with President Ali Abdullah
Saleh’s recent announcement that he would not seek
Protesters of all ages chanted and held signs with messages
against poverty and the government. Some proclaimed that
Saleh needed to step down.
As the protest quickly grew, there was very little visible
security in the area.
About a kilometre away from the anti-government protest, a
large crowd of government supporters gathered for a counter
Many in that crowd expressed support for Saleh and said he
was doing a good job as president.
There were no apparent clashes between the two sides or with
Later in the day, in an apparent critique of his detractors,
Saleh told members of his defense council that he wanted to
“thank the Yemeni people who stayed calm despite wrong
mobilization over the last months that resulted in social
unrest in the Yemeni street,” according to a report from the
state-run SABA news service.
He called out the anti-government demonstrators for going
ahead with their march Thursday despite his concession a day
“None reacted positively and parties continued to rallies
and protests at a time when the public is nervous,” Saleh
said, according to SABA. The president added that he watched
the demonstrations Thursday on TV.
Trying to quell a growing discontent in the country, Saleh
said he will not seek re-election once his current term ends
in 2013, after more than three decades in office. Saleh has
been in office for 32 years and was last re-elected in 2006.
|Thousands flee Pakistan fighting
(BBC) – At least 20,000 people have fled fierce fighting
between troops and militants in the Pakistani tribal region
of Mohmand, officials and witnesses say.
Many of the displaced are sheltering in temporary camps, the
Troops have been using helicopter gunships and heavy weapons
to pound suspected militant positions for a week, according
Mohmand, on the border with Afghanistan, has long served as
a sanctuary for the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
“We are targeting militant hideouts there,” military
spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas confirmed.
The army told the BBC that 60 to 70 militants had been
killed in what it calls a search and clearance operation.
There is no independent confirmation of the casualty figures
– independent media have no access to the area.
A local administration official, Roshan Khan Mehsud, told
the BBC that civilians had been displaced from Safi,
Pindiali and Baizai districts, close to the border with
“Most people left the area due to fear of mines and other
hazards, and we ourselves moved some of them for reasons of
safety,” he said.
|Nepal’s new leader
begins forming govt
|(AFP) KATHMANDU – Nepal’s new leader has begun the task
of forming a coalition government that will face major
challenges as the country struggles to complete its
transformation to a peaceful, secular democracy.
Jhalanath Khanal, chairman of the UML (Unified Marxist
Leninist) party, is expected to be sworn in as prime
minister on Sunday after securing the backing of the
Maoists, the largest force in Parliament, in a vote
His election ends a damaging seven-month leadership vacuum
in the troubled Himalayan nation, which is still struggling
to recover from the impact of a decade-long civil war
between Maoist rebels and the state.
The conflict ended in 2006 and led to the abolition of a
centuries-old Hindu monarchy, ushering in a period of
transition to democracy that has not always proved smooth.
Nepal has been without a government since June, with
political leaders unable to reach agreement on the formation
of a new administration in 16 previous rounds of voting.
A new constitution, intended to reshape the country after
the downfall of the monarchy, should have been completed by
May last year but has been repeatedly delayed by
disagreements between the parties.
Progress on completing the peace process that began when the
Maoists laid down their arms in 2006 has also been held up,
with thousands of former Maoist soldiers living in camps as
they wait for their fate to be decided.
Welcoming Khanal’s election, US State Department spokesman
Philip Crowley said Washington hoped it would “give renewed
momentum to the peace process and constitutional drafting.”
Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as
Prachanda, or ‘the fierce one’, said he had decided to back
60-year-old Khanal to “end the political deadlock.”
Khanal, a former science teacher, has said he wants his
cabinet to be inclusive and several key posts are expected
to be taken by the Maoists.
|LeT denies killing sisters in Kashmir
(AFP) SRINAGAR – Pakistan-based Islamic militant group
Lashkar-e-Taiba denied Wednesday killing two teenager
sisters in Indian Kashmir in an attack that generated
The two women, aged 17 and 19, were killed in Sopore town,
55 kilometres (35 miles) north of the region’s main city
Srinagar, on Monday night when they were dragged from their
house and shot dead.
“The police claim about the involvement of our activists in
the killing of the sisters is baseless,” a Lashkar-e-Taiba
(LeT) spokesman told reporters in Srinagar by telephone.
LeT is blamed by India for the attacks in Mumbai in November
2008 that left 166 people dead and hundreds injured.
New Delhi has consistently called on Islamabad to crack down
on the LeT.
Other rebel groups in Kashmir and the chief minister of the
region, Omar Abdullah, have been among those to condemn the
Suspected Muslim rebels carried out a grenade attack on the
residence of a veteran pro-Indian politician in Sopore on
Wednesday morning. No injuries were reported.
|6.4-magnitude quake rocks India-Myanmar border
GUWAHATI, India – A strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake rocked
the India-Myanmar border region causing panic, but there
were no immediate reports of any damage or casualties.
The US Geological Survey said the evening quake struck at a
depth of 88 kilometres (55 miles), with its epicentre in a
remote, sparsely populated region 85 kilometres east of
Imphal in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur.
The force of the quake caused frightened residents in Imphal
to run into the streets.
“Our building was shaking badly and it seemed to last for
more than a minute,” local journalist Pradip Phanjoubam told
AFP by phone.
“People ran out of their homes and out of our offices as
well,” said Phanjoubam, editor of the Imphal Free Press, a
mass circulation English daily.
An officer in the city’s police control room, T. Singh, said
they were monitoring the situation but had yet to receive
any specific news from the area around the epicentre.
“For the moment, there are no reports of any casualties or
damage to properties,” Singh said.
Strong tremors were felt in Guwahati, the main city in
nearby Assam state, about 450 kilometres away.
The Myanmar side of the border is also an area of few people
|Australia sends in troops after
(AFP) CARDWELL – Australia has
sent in 4,000 troops to help coastal towns left splintered
by a monster cyclone, as officials urged stranded victims to
stay calm until help arrives.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the move – the country’s
biggest domestic military mobilisation in more than 30 years
– would aid north Queensland’s recovery after the category
five storm roared into the state Thursday.
“It’s a very big deployment,” she said.
The announcement came amid reports of looting following the
storm, and following the first death linked to Yasi: A young
man who suffocated on fumes from a generator running in an
Canberra sent 1,500 soldiers last month to help clean up
after floods devastated Queensland’s state capital Brisbane
and surrounding areas, killing more than 30 people.
The biggest storm to hit Australia in a century wrought huge
damage to small coastal communities, cutting some of them
But while two men were reported missing, there were no
confirmed deaths caused directly by Yasi.
Hundreds of rescuers were cutting their way through fallen
trees, power lines and wreckage to reach towns pummelled by
the category five cyclone, while tens of thousands
languished without power, water or communications.
“We do understand that many people in the highly-impacted
areas are getting anxious about the level of support and
contact they are able to have with emergency authorities,”
state Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts said.
“We just ask them to be patient... There have been
significant difficulties in terms of access,” he told
Aerial photos revealed massive destruction in Cardwell, with
splintered boats hurled on top of each other several blocks
inland, entire city blocks reduced to mud, and tarmac
|Rwanda journalists sent to jail
BBC – Two Rwandan journalists with the Umurabyo newspaper
have been sentenced to long jail terms after being found
guilty of stirring up ethnic divisions.
Editor Agnes Nkusi was sentenced to 17 years, while reporter
Saidath Mukakibibi was imprisoned for seven.
Among several articles, the judge referred to one saying
some Rwandans were unhappy with the country’s rulers.
Prosecutors said this was “meant to stir (up) hatred and
fury against the government”.
President Paul Kagame came to power in 1994, ending the
genocide in which some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate
Hutus were slaughtered.
He has recently been accused of intolerance and harassing
anyone who criticises him.