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  Nation World  


 

Floods threaten Bangkok

Mass exodus continues

BBC: The Thai authorities have asked US military helicopters to survey flooding, which has hit the north and is now threatening the capital Bangkok.
Two Seahawk helicopters aboard the USS Mustin warship would conduct “aerial reconnaissance”, the Pentagon said.
The warship is docked at the port of Laem Chabang, just south of Bangkok.
Thai officials say high tides due on Saturday and the flow of run-off water from inundated central plains could cause wider flooding in the capital.
City residents are continuing mass exodus, after the authorities urged them to leave Bangkok.
Heavy monsoon rains have been causing flooding in Thailand since July. More than 370 people have been killed and swathes of the country affected.
John Kirby, the captain of the USS Mustin, said Thailand had asked the warship to prolong its stay at the port for up to six days.
“The Thai government has asked to have it stick around to help out,” he told reporters on Friday.
The destroyer docked at Laem Chabang a few days ago for what expected to be a week-long sting.
The Thai government had initially said it did not require assistance from the US navy with flood relief efforts.
Meanwhile, water levels in Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River river hit a new high - 2.47 metres above sea level - as residents continued to leave the capital ahead of possible flooding.
Authorities fear that the river, which bisects Bangkok, could burst its banks when water levels rise because of unusually high seasonal tides over the weekend.
Flood waters are continuing to creep into northern districts of Bangkok but the centre remains mostly dry.
Roads in and around the capital remained jammed as residents used a five-day holiday to leave the city.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said she was assessing a proposal to dig channels into some roads in eastern Bangkok to help water drain through to the sea.
On Friday, the Bank of Thailand slashed its growth forecast for the current financial year to 2.6%, down from an initial projection of 4.1% growth.

 
Gaddafi son Saif al-Islam in contact with ICC

BBC: International prosecutors have had “informal contact” with the son of slain ex-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) said it had held talks - through intermediaries - with Saif al-Islam about his possible surrender.
Prosecutors stressed that Gaddafi’s son, who is wanted for crimes against humanity, would get a fair trial.
Saif al-Islam, who was once the presumed successor to his father, has been in hiding for months.
Recent reports claimed he was in a convoy heading toward Libya’s desert border with Niger, where other Gaddafi allies have fled.
But those reports have not been confirmed, and the ICC said it did not know where he was.
ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo said in a statement that the ICC wanted him to face trial.
“Through intermediaries, we have informal contact with Saif al-Islam. The office of the prosecutor has made it clear that if he surrenders to the ICC, he has the right to be heard in court, he is innocent until proven guilty. The judges will decide,” the statement said.
The ICC later denied that any kind of deal was being arranged with Saif al-Islam, stressing that the goal of the talks was to ensure an arrest warrant was carried out.
An ICC arrest warrant issued for Saif al-Islam in June accuses him of murder and persecution.
The document claims that he played an essential part in systematic attacks on civilians in various Libyan cities carried out by Gaddafi’s security forces in February.
Moreno Ocampo said the ICC had learnt “through informal channels” that mercenaries were offering to move Saif al-Islam to a country that has not signed up to the ICC’s Rome statute.
Reports say Zimbabwe is a likely final destination for Saif al-Islam if he chooses to flee from the ICC.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was a long-time ally of Muammar Gaddafi.
Mr Moreno Ocampo’s statement added: “The office of the prosecutor is also exploring the possibility to intercept any plane within the airspace of a state party in order to make an arrest.”
The ICC has no police force of its own, but member countries are legally bound to enforce its warrants.
However, the credibility of the court has been called into question in recent years in Africa.
Many of the continent’s governments have argued that the ICC disproportionately focuses on crimes in their countries.
Those claims have led the African Union to advise its members that they should no longer feel bound by the ICC’s rules.
Member countries including Malawi, Chad and Kenya have all defied the court by failing to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who has a long-standing arrest warrant against him.
The warrant issued against Saif al-Islam came alongside warrants for intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanussi, who is still believed to be on the run, and Muammar Gaddafi.
The former Libyan leader, who was deposed in August after six months of civil conflict, died from gunshot wounds last week after fierce fighting in the city of Sirte.
The National Transitional Council (NTC) is now overseeing political reform intended to lead to national elections within eight months.

 
Thousands pray for Gaddafi in Mali

BBC: Thousands of Muslims in Mali’s capital, Bamako, have held a special prayer service for killed ex-Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi.
A huge of portrait Col Gaddafi hung at the entrance of the city’s main mosque, hailing him as a visionary.
The mosque’s imam said Col Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam should be welcomed in Mali if he sought refuge there.
Mali’s government opposed the conflict in Libya, saying it could destabilise the region.
But it says it will hand Saif al-Islam to the International Criminal Court (ICC) - which wants to try him for crimes against humanity - if he is found in Mali.
The BBC’s Martin Vogl in Bamako says about 5,000 people were at the prayers.
The congregation hailed Col Gaddafi as a visionary and a great African leader, he says.
Earlier this week, hundreds of people in Agadez in northern Niger held a similar prayer service in memory of Col Gaddafi and asked God to bless his children, the Reuters news agency reports.
The ICC says it has had informal contact with Saif al-Islam, who managed to escape when his father and brother, Mutassim, were killed last week.
Recent reports claimed he was in a convoy heading toward Libya’s desert border with Niger, where other allies of Col Gaddafi have fled.
Col Gaddafi had strong support among ethnic Tuaregs in Mali and Niger.
Col Gaddafi backed Tuareg rebels demanding greater autonomy, before brokering peace deals between them and the governments in Niger and Mali.
Many Tuaregs fought on Col Gaddafi’s side, as he tried to repel the Nato-backed offensive to overthrow him.
Earlier this month, the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad rebel group emerged in Mali.
It said it would absorb Tuareg fighters returning from Libya.

 
Girls equal in British throne succession

BBC: Sons and daughters of any future UK monarch will have equal right to the throne, after Commonwealth leaders agreed to change succession laws.
The leaders of the 16 Commonwealth countries where the Queen is head of state unanimously approved the changes at a summit in Perth, Australia.
It means a first-born daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would take precedence over younger brothers.
The ban on the monarch being married to a Roman Catholic was also lifted.
Under the old succession laws, dating back more than 300 years, the heir to the throne is the first-born son of the monarch. Only when there are no sons, as in the case of the Queen’s father George VI, does the crown pass to the eldest daughter.
The succession changes will require a raft of historic legislation to be amended, including the 1701 Act of Settlement, the 1689 Bill of Rights and the Royal Marriages Act 1772.
The change to the Royal Marriages Act will end a position where every descendant of George II is legally required to seek the consent of the monarch before marrying.
In future, the requirement is expected to be limited to a small number of the sovereign’s close relatives.
Announcing the succession changes, Prime Minister David Cameron said they would apply to descendents of the Prince of Wales. They will not be applied retrospectively.
“Put simply, if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were to have a little girl, that girl would one day be our queen,” he said.
“The idea that a younger son should become monarch instead of an elder daughter simply because he is a man, or that a future monarch can marry someone of any faith except a Catholic - this way of thinking is at odds with the modern countries that we have become.”
Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard said it was an extraordinary moment: “I’m very enthusiastic about it. You would expect the first Australian woman prime minister to be very enthusiastic about a change which equals equality for women in a new area.”
She said the changes appeared to be straightforward. “But just because they seem straightforward to our modern minds doesn’t mean that we should underestimate their historical significance, changing as they will for all time the way in which the monarchy works and changing its history.”
But the campaign group Republic - which wants an elected head of state in Britain - said “nothing of substance” had been changed.
“The monarchy discriminates against every man, woman and child who isn’t born into the Windsor family. To suggest that this has anything to do with equality is utterly absurd,” spokesman Graham Smith said.
On scrapping the ban on future monarchs marrying Roman Catholics, Mr Cameron said: “Let me be clear, the monarch must be in communion with the Church of England because he or she is the head of that Church. But it is simply wrong they should be denied the chance to marry a Catholic if they wish to do so. After all, they are already quite free to marry someone of any other faith.”
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, said the elimination of the “unjust discrimination” against Catholics would be widely welcomed.
“At the same time I fully recognise the importance of the position of the established church [the Church of England] in protecting and fostering the role of faith in our society today,” he said.
Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond also welcomed the lifting of the ban but said it was “deeply disappointing” that Roman Catholics were still unable to ascend to the throne.
“It surely would have been possible to find a mechanism which would have protected the status of the Church of England without keeping in place an unjustifiable barrier on the grounds of religion in terms of the monarchy,” he said.
“It is a missed opportunity not to ensure equality of all faiths when it comes to the issue of who can be head of state.”
In her opening speech to the summit, the Queen did not directly mention the royal succession laws, but said women should have a greater role in society.
“It encourages us to find ways to show girls and women to play their full part,” she said.
The BBC’s royal correspondent, Nicholas Witchell, said this was a hint that the Queen herself backed the change.
The Queen will celebrate her Diamond Jubilee next year and there are already two generations of kings-in-waiting - Prince Charles and his son Prince William.
In January 2011, Labour MP Keith Vaz tabled a Succession to the Crown Bill in the Commons to end gender discrimination in the succession to the throne.
He said his bill - due for its second reading on 25 November - could be used to introduce the reforms announced in Perth.
“As a society that values gender equality so highly, this is a long overdue,” he said. “We will now have modern laws that fit our modern monarchy.”
The royal author Robert Hardman said there had been 11 attempts in recent years by individual MPs and peers to change the succession laws.
The laws are not a matter for the 54-nation Commonwealth as a whole, only for the 16 countries which have the Queen as their head of state, known as realms.
These are Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Papua New Guinea, St Christopher and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Tuvalu, Barbados, Grenada, Solomon Islands, St Lucia and the Bahamas.
Mr Cameron said the realms would work to implement the changes but that for historic reasons the UK would have to publish its legislation first.
The necessary changes to laws will be introduced in the next session of Parliament and New Zealand will lead a working group co-ordinating the measures across the other nations.
In his speech, the prime minister also praised the Queen’s 60 years of public service and announced the creation of a Diamond Jubilee Trust to help those in need across the Commonwealth. The trust will be chaired by former Prime Minister Sir John Major.
Mr Cameron said Britain would make a multi-million pound donation to the grant-making body and encouraged other commonwealth nations to do the same.
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (Chogm) are held every two years, and present an opportunity for the 54 nations with current or former ties to Britain to discuss a range of issues.
The Chogm summit will also discuss economic growth, climate change and human rights at this year’s meeting.

 
Girls equal in British throne succession

BBC: Sons and daughters of any future UK monarch will have equal right to the throne, after Commonwealth leaders agreed to change succession laws.
The leaders of the 16 Commonwealth countries where the Queen is head of state unanimously approved the changes at a summit in Perth, Australia.
It means a first-born daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would take precedence over younger brothers.
The ban on the monarch being married to a Roman Catholic was also lifted.
Under the old succession laws, dating back more than 300 years, the heir to the throne is the first-born son of the monarch. Only when there are no sons, as in the case of the Queen’s father George VI, does the crown pass to the eldest daughter.
The succession changes will require a raft of historic legislation to be amended, including the 1701 Act of Settlement, the 1689 Bill of Rights and the Royal Marriages Act 1772.
The change to the Royal Marriages Act will end a position where every descendant of George II is legally required to seek the consent of the monarch before marrying.
In future, the requirement is expected to be limited to a small number of the sovereign’s close relatives.
Announcing the succession changes, Prime Minister David Cameron said they would apply to descendents of the Prince of Wales. They will not be applied retrospectively.
“Put simply, if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were to have a little girl, that girl would one day be our queen,” he said.
“The idea that a younger son should become monarch instead of an elder daughter simply because he is a man, or that a future monarch can marry someone of any faith except a Catholic - this way of thinking is at odds with the modern countries that we have become.”
Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard said it was an extraordinary moment: “I’m very enthusiastic about it. You would expect the first Australian woman prime minister to be very enthusiastic about a change which equals equality for women in a new area.”
She said the changes appeared to be straightforward. “But just because they seem straightforward to our modern minds doesn’t mean that we should underestimate their historical significance, changing as they will for all time the way in which the monarchy works and changing its history.”
But the campaign group Republic - which wants an elected head of state in Britain - said “nothing of substance” had been changed.
“The monarchy discriminates against every man, woman and child who isn’t born into the Windsor family. To suggest that this has anything to do with equality is utterly absurd,” spokesman Graham Smith said.
On scrapping the ban on future monarchs marrying Roman Catholics, Mr Cameron said: “Let me be clear, the monarch must be in communion with the Church of England because he or she is the head of that Church. But it is simply wrong they should be denied the chance to marry a Catholic if they wish to do so. After all, they are already quite free to marry someone of any other faith.”
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, said the elimination of the “unjust discrimination” against Catholics would be widely welcomed.
“At the same time I fully recognise the importance of the position of the established church [the Church of England] in protecting and fostering the role of faith in our society today,” he said.

 
New Zealand PM snubs queen for hobbits

PERTH, Australia, (AFP) - New Zealand premier John Key opted not to attend Queen Elizabeth II’s official opening of a Commonwealth leaders summit in Perth Friday, preferring instead to visit “The Hobbit” movie set.
Key, who will contest a general election on November 26, chose not to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Western Australia as his campaign for a second term intensifies.
On the same day the queen opened the 54-nation bloc’s meeting, Key was visiting the set of Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson’s latest Tolkien epic “The Hobbit” in Matamata on New Zealand’s North Island.
Key, who sent Foreign Minister Murray McCully to represent him in Perth, amended his country’s labour laws last year after Jackson and Hollywood studio chiefs threatened to move the production offshore over a dispute with unions.
His centre-right National Party enjoys a huge 27-point lead over the opposition Labour Party, with his personal rating as preferred prime minister on 59 percent, compared with Labour leader Phil Goff’s eight percent.
Campaigning for the election was put on hold during the Rugby World Cup, which ended with a New Zealand victory on Sunday, and Key will be keen to press home his advantage among voters rather than strut the world stage.
Jackson denied Key’s visit to the movie set amounted to a political endorsement, Fairfax Media reported, with the director saying he had worked with Labour governments in the past.
“The Hobbit” is a two-part prequel to “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, with the first instalment set to premier in Wellington in November next year.

 
Syria protesters call for no-fly zone

BBC: At least 37 people have been killed in crackdowns during protests calling for the downfall of the government held across Syria after Friday prayers.
The deaths took place mostly in Homs and Hama as protesters called for a no-fly-zone to be imposed, activists said.
Despite the threat of violence, at least 170 protests took place on Friday, the traditional day of protest.
More than 3,000 people have died in the unrest since protests broke out in March.
Protesters said those killed on Friday included an 80-year-old man shot near Homs, as well as a young boy near Deraa, in the south.
Protesters called for international protection from Nato whose war planes played a vital role in the overthrow of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
“God, Syria, we want a no-fly zone over it,” protesters shouted in the Bab Tadmur neighbourhood of Homs, while others carried banners demanding international protection, Reuters reports.
In the restive Balaa neighbourhood, around 20,000 people marched calling for the fall of President Assad’s regime, Agence France Presse reports, quoting the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
An armed insurgency has emerged over the past few weeks around the city, home to one million people and some 85 miles (140km) north of Damascus, the news agency reports.
In the capital, footage posted on the internet appeared to show a crowd of hundreds swaying and singing in a traditional dance whose lyrics had been adapted to become a protest song, Reuters reports.
Dozens of young protesters marched in the capital’s Barzeh neighbourhood, the Observatory said, adding that 40 were arrested.
Internet and communications services were reportedly disrupted in parts of Damascus, as well as in Homs.
Concerns are mounting as what began as a peaceful protest movement has become increasingly armed as soldiers have defected to the opposition.
The Syrian government insists the unrest is being stoked by armed gangs and foreign extremists looking to stir up sectarian strife.
Syrian state media said that what it called “armed gangs” had attacked the main police station in Homs and that gunmen had shot dead a young boy and an old man.
They said security forces had captured a number of armed men and seized quantities of weapons and ammunition.
Foreign journalists have been largely prevented from reporting from the country, making it difficult to confirm events on the ground.