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Netanyahu defiant
Says no return to 1967 borders
(BBC News) – Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected US President Barack Obama’s call for peace with the Palestinians based on borders drawn up in 1967.
After tense talks at the White House, a defiant Mr Netanyahu said there Israel was prepared to compromise but there could be no peace “based on illusions.”
Obama, who formally adopted the principle on Thursday, admitted there were “differences” between the views.
But he said such differences were possible “between friends.”
In his speech to the State Department on Thursday, Obama stated overtly for the first time that the peace talks should be based on a future Palestinian state within the borders in place before the 1967 Middle East War.
“The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognised borders are established for both states,” he said.
This proposal has been a key demand of the Palestinians in the negotiations.
But in a joint news conference in the Oval Office after their meeting, Netanyahu flatly rejected this proposal, saying Israel wanted “a peace that will be genuine.”
“We both agree that a peace based on illusions will crash eventually on the rocks of Middle Eastern reality, and that the only peace that will endure is one that is based on reality, on unshakeable facts.”
Israel was “prepared to make generous compromises for peace,” he said, but could not go back to the 1967 borders “because these lines are indefensible.”
He said the old borders did not take into account the “demographic changes that have taken place over the last 44 years.”
An estimated 500,000 Israelis now live in settlements built in the Palestinian West Bank, which lies outside those borders.
The settlements are illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.
Obama said there were obviously “some differences” in the “precise formulations and language” used by Israel and the US, but that this “happens between friends.”
He did not bring up the matter of the borders in his joint conference with Netanyahu.
But he said Palestinians faced “tough choices” following the recent reconciliation deal between Fatah, which runs the West Bank, and Hamas, which governs Gaza and still denies Israel’s right to exist.
Obama said true peace could only occur if Israel was allowed to defend itself against threats.
Strauss-Kahn starts New York house arrest

(BBC News) – The former head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been released from a New York City jail after posting $1m (£618,000) cash bail.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who denies charges of attempting to rape a hotel maid, is to be kept in home detention at a temporary location in Manhattan.
He had earlier agreed to be confined to a luxury flat but residents there refused to accept him, reports said.
He is to be kept under 24-hour guard and will wear a monitoring bracelet.
He was released into the custody of a security firm with ties to prosecutors, Reuters news agency reported.
Strauss-Kahn is charged with seven counts including four felony charges – two of criminal sexual acts, one of attempted rape and one of sexual abuse – plus three misdemeanour offences, including unlawful imprisonment.
His accuser is a 32-year-old widow originally from Guinea in West Africa who reportedly told authorities Strauss-Kahn accosted her after she entered his hotel room to clean it.
Strauss-Kahn, 62, denies the allegations and on June 6 is set to enter a formal plea.

Syrian protests draw deadly fire

(Al Jazeera) – Syrian security forces have killed at least 34 people, including an 11-year-old boy, according to witnesses, in the latest crackdown on anti-government protests.
Twelve people were killed in the central city of Homs, while 15 died in the town of Maaret al-Naaman, located near the western city of Idlib, activists said.
Two protesters were shot in the southern region of Deraa, one person was shot in the Damascus suburb of Daraya and one in the port city of Latakia.
Two more died in the eastern town of Deir Ezzor and one person killed in the central town of Hama.
The dead in Homs included two boys, named as Aiham al-Ahmad, 11, and 16-year-old Ahmad Bakr, witnesses said.
A witness told Al Jazeera they were shot when police officers opened fire on Friday, after their vehicle crashed into a wall and was attacked by protesters.
The attack took place after officers drove police cars into a crowd of about 2,000 demonstrators in an attempt to disperse them, a second witness said.
After hitting several protesters, one of the cars crashed into a wall, prompting the officers to jump out and open fire. Four other protesters were also killed, while at least seven others were wounded.
In a separate incident, three residents were killed when security forces attempted to storm a hospital in the al-Wa’r neighbourhood of Homs, according to a witness.
Locals responded by forming a human chain around the hospital, in an attempt to prevent the police arresting wounded protesters inside. The witness said some locals had shot at the police using handguns.
Al Jazeera is unable to verify the reports because of restrictions on reporting imposed by Syria’s government.
Security forces also opened fire on protesters in Berze, a suburb north-east of Damascus, killing four protesters and wounding tens, a witness told Al Jazeera.
“The protesters have all been shot in the legs and stomach,” he said.
The protest began after Friday prayers when around 1,000 people marched through the streets, chanting “peaceful, peaceful” and calling for the toppling of the regime.
The witness told Al Jazeera that security forces had first attacked and beaten protesters with sticks and had then fired tear gas at them.
“Then they opened fire on us,” he said, the sound of gunshots audible over the phone line as he spoke.
After the killing, security forces began detaining people, he said. “People are afraid to go home for fear of being arrested.”
Berze was surrounded by police checkpoints and electricity to the town had been cut, he said.

Deadly NATO tanker explosion in Pakistan

(BBC News) – A NATO oil tanker has exploded in northwest Pakistan, killing at least 15 people, say officials.
Police said the tanker, transporting fuel to NATO forces in Afghanistan, was hit by a bomb overnight near the town of Landi Kotal in the Khyber region.
People gathered to collect spilt fuel when another fire broke out, said one senior police official.
At least 14 other NATO tankers have been damaged in a separate attack near the border town of Torkham.
No-one was reported to have been injured in that incident.
The region is a crucial transport route for supplies destined for NATO forces in Afghanistan but the convoys frequently come under attack from militants and criminals.
Local official Shafeerullah Wazir said the Landi Kotal tanker was hit by a small bomb in the early hours of the morning.
“The oil tanker caught fire after a blast caused by a small bomb before dawn,” the AFP news agency quoted him as saying.
“Villagers from nearby houses rushed and started collecting oil coming out of the destroyed tanker after the fire had been extinguished.
“Suddenly the fire erupted again and at least 15 people including five young boys who had been collecting oil in their buckets were burnt to death.”
An official in Torkham, Iqbal Khattak, said the tankers there appeared to have been hit by a remote controlled bomb.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but there has been an increase in Taliban activity since al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was killed in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad on May 2.

Lagarde out in front as favourite for IMF post

WASHINGTON (AFP) – French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde has emerged as Europe’s choice to lead the IMF, getting a boost when a Turkish favourite ruled out his candidacy for the powerful job.
Even as leaders in emerging economies clamoured for one of their own to take a job monopolized by Europeans since 1946, analysts called Lagarde the odds-on favourite to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn as IMF managing director, after Strauss-Kahn resigned to face sexual assault charges in New York.
The institution, meanwhile, said the nomination process would be opened on Monday until June 10, with the aim of completing the process by June 30.
Lagarde is “practically a shoo-in” as the European Union’s candidate to succeed Strauss-Kahn, an EU source said.
“We should get such a signal at Deauville,” said the source, referring to the French resort where the world’s eight top industrialized powers will meet on May 26-27. The G8 gathers Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.
Meanwhile, respected Turkish economist and former UN Development Programme chief Kemal Dervis ruled out his candidacy Friday.
Dervis had been widely perceived as acceptable both to the emerging economies and to the EU.
“I have not been, and will not be, a candidate. I am fully engaged in, happy with, and focused on my global work at the Brookings Institution and look forward to continuing my research and policy work, including work on Turkey,” he said in a statement.
That left Lagarde, who has not personally declared her interest, with no clear challengers.
“She’s the front-runner at this stage, but the race has not yet begun,” said former IMF economist Michael Mussa, now at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
Ahead of the formal nomination process, “it’s premature to say that it’s decided,” he said.

Other potential candidates

(AFP) – Montek Singh Ahluwalia, 67, India: Planner, former World Bank star and director of the IMF’s Independent Evaluation Office. He may lack the backing of Asian neighbours like China.
Agustin Carstens, 52, Mexico: Central bank governor and former finance minister who has the confidence of Washington and the G20. But a Mexican already leads the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Trevor Manuel, 55, South Africa: Former finance minister who proved his talents at a young age trusted by Nelson Mandela. Needs the broad support of the African continent, where a lot of IMF money goes.
Leszek Balcerowicz, 64, Poland: Former finance minister and central banker who pioneered Poland’s transition from communism to the free market.
Stanley Fischer, 67, Israel: Rhodesia-born ex-World Bank economist is now the head of Israel’s central bank. He served as IMF deputy managing director from 1994-2001.