Monthly Archives: December 2012

Afghanistan President welcomes withdrawal of British troops

The Afghan president on Thursday welcomed the withdrawal of nearly half of the British troops stationed in Afghanistan next year, saying his forces were ready to take up the country’s defense. A statement from Hamid Karzai’s office said the partial pull-out was an “appropriate” move as NATO forces transfer responsibility for the war against the Taliban to the Afghan military. British Prime Minister David Cameron announced Wednesday that about 3,800 British troops would be withdrawn by the end of 2013, with some 5,000 staying into 2014. The majority of NATO forces, including those of the United States, are set to leave by the end of 2014. “The Afghan security forces … Continue reading

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South Koreans elect Park Geun-hye first female president

South Koreans have for the first time elected a woman as their president. The country’s first woman president, Park Geun-hye, will have her job cut out when she takes office in February with the economy slowing; her father’s autocratic rule still an issue for many and North Korea as unpredictable as ever. Park, 60, won Wednesday’s hotly contested election comfortably. She replaces fellow conservative Lee Myung-bak after his mandatory single, five-year term ended. The slightly built and elegant Park grew up in Seoul’s presidential palace during the 18-year rule of her father, Park Chung-hee, who took power in a military coup in 1961. Park is likely to face protests by … Continue reading

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NBC reporter Richard Engel escapes from Syria captors

Three US journalists have escaped from heavily-armed captors during a firefight five days after being abducted in Syria. NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel said his team was held by a Shia militia group thought to be loyal to the Syrian government. The team was captured shortly after crossing into north-west Syria on Thursday, escorted by rebel groups. They were blindfolded, bound, and subjected to mock executions, NBC said. “We weren’t physically beaten or tortured,” said Engel, who has lived in the Middle East since 1996 and speaks fluent Arabic. “A lot of psychological torture, threats of being killed. They made us choose which one of us would be … Continue reading

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Iraqi President in coma after suffering heart attack

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is said to be in a coma in hospital after officials and media reported he had suffered a stroke. A statement on his website said President Talabani was in a stable condition and was being treated for blocked arteries. Well-placed Kurdish sources say he remains in a coma. A veteran of the Kurdish guerrilla movement, Mr Talabani, 79, is Iraq’s first president from the ethnic group. He has struggled with his health in recent years and has often been treated abroad. “Bodily functions are normal and the health condition of his excellency the president is stable,” a statement on the presidency’s website said. The presidency said … Continue reading

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World must not let up pressure on Somali pirates – NATO

Pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia have dropped sharply this year but piracy remains a viable “business model” and could bounce back if international naval forces in the region are cut back, the outgoing commander of the NATO mission said on Monday. Hijackings of ships in a vast area of the Indian Ocean off Somalia have dropped to seven in the first 11 months of this year compared to 24 in the whole of 2011, although Dutch Commodore Ben Bekkering said 136 hostages were still being held. Pirates operating from the Somali coast have raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in ransoms from hijacking ships, leading NATO, the … Continue reading

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Obama trade and human rights bill angers Moscow

President Barack Obama on Friday signed a bill that brings U.S. trade relations with Russia into the 21st century but also ushers in a potentially testy era in which the United States could publicly “name and shame” Russian human rights violators. The measure, which the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed by overwhelming margins, allows Obama to establish “permanent normal trade relations,” or PNTR, with Russia by lifting a Cold War-era restriction on trade. It also directs Obama to bar Russian human rights violators from entering the United States and freeze any assets they have in U.S. banks. The provision is named in honor of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian … Continue reading

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China Daily newspaper launches Africa edition

China Daily, China’s biggest English-language newspaper, has launched an African edition – the latest of several Chinese media initiatives in Africa. The state-run weekly, which also comes in digital form, aims to explain “the relationship between China and the African continent,” its editor says.China’s CCTV and Xinhua news agency already have operations in the region. The country has a growing economic role in Africa, including telecommunications and infrastructure investments. The newspaper is being published in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. “The relationship between China and the African continent is one of the most significant relationships in the world today,” said the paper’s publisher and editor-in-chief, Zhu Ling. “It is growing and … Continue reading

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US soldier and two Afghans killed as Panetta visits Kandahar

 A Taliban suicide car bomber killed one American soldier and two Afghan civilians Thursday near a U.S. military base shortly after the visiting U.S. defense secretary left the facility in southern Afghanistan, officials said. The attacker targeted a moving vehicle near the access gate to the military side of Kandahar’s airport, according to Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi. It was unclear whether the blast had anything to do with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s unannounced visit to Kandahar Air Field earlier Thursday. The sprawling facility houses more than 20,000 service members from 20 countries and has more than 11,000 civilian contract workers. Panetta said one American soldier … Continue reading

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“Friends of Syria” group recognizes opposition coalition

Western and Arab nations sympathetic to Syria’s uprising against President Bashar al-Assad gave full political recognition on Wednesday to the opposition, reflecting a hardening consensus that the 20-month-old uprising might be nearing a tipping point. Meeting in the Moroccan city of Marrakech as rebels battled Assad’s troops on the outskirts of his Damascus power base, the “Friends of Syria” group called on Assad to step aside and warned him against using chemical weapons. At the same meeting, the leader of Syria’s opposition coalition called on the Alawite minority to launch a campaign of civil disobedience against Assad, an Alawite who faces a mainly Sunni Muslim uprising against his rule. Hours … Continue reading

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Obama announces recognition of Syrian rebels

The US has formally recognised Syria’s opposition rebel coalition as the “legitimate representative” of the people, says President Barack Obama. Speaking to ABC News, Mr Obama said the coalition was now inclusive, reflective and representative enough for the US to take this ‘big step’. The administration of Mr Obama is taking a calculated risk that embracing chosen leaders of Syria’s fragmented rebels will speed the fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, moving this week to recognize a slate of opposition figures whose pledges of democracy Washington can do little to enforce. The administration is expected to announce today (Wednesday) the recognition of a relatively new Syrian opposition group when American, European … Continue reading

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