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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pro-Mladic Serbians Clash With Riot Police

Protesters have clashed with riot police in Belgrade after several thousand Serbian nationalist supporters of jailed war-crimes suspect Ratko Mladic rallied to demand his release.

More than 100 people were arrested after rioters overturned bins, broke traffic lights and set off firecrackers in the city centre on Sunday night.

Doctors said six police officers were among 16 people taken to hospital with injuries.
The clashes began after a rally that drew at least 7,000 demonstrators, many singing nationalist songs and carrying banners honouring Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military commander.
The protest came hours before an expected appeal by the legal team for the alleged war criminal to appeal extradition to the UN war crimes court in The Hague, Netherlands.
Bosnian Serbs gather to pray for former wartime general Ratko Mladic - the man they see as a 'hero'.
Bosnian Serbs have also gathered to pray for Mladic
Some chanted right-wing slogans and a few gave Nazi salutes, and supporters of the extreme nationalist Serbian Radical Party were bussed in to attend the rally.
Right-wing extremists and hooligan groups also urged followers to appear in large numbers, creating the biggest test of Serbian sentiment and the government's resolve since Mladic's arrest last Thursday.
The demonstrators, who consider Mladic a hero, said Serbia should not hand him over to the war crimes court.
"Cooperation with The Hague tribunal represents treason," Radical Party official Lidija Vukicevic told the crowd.
Ratko Mladic's wife Bosiljka leaves the Belgrade Special Court.
Mladic's wife Bosiljka attended court in Belgrade
"This is a protest against the shameful arrest of the Serbian hero."
Demonstrators demanded Serbian President Boris Tadic, who ordered Mladic's arrest, should quit along with his government. A sign on the stage read, "Tadic is not Serbia."
More than 3,000 riot police were deployed around government buildings and Western embassies, and riot police tried to block small groups of extremists from reaching the rally.
Nationalists are furious that the Serbian government apprehended Mladic, 69, after nearly 16 years on the run, at a relative's home in a northern Serbian village.
Ratko Mladic
Pro-Mladic graffiti has appeared in Serbia
His arrest is considered critical to Serbia's efforts to join the European Union, and for reconciliation in the region after a series of ethnic wars of the 1990s.
Some 3,000 supporters also arrived by bus from other parts of Bosnia to a rally at Kalinovik on Sunday, the area where Mladic grew up.
Many wore black T-shirts with Mladic's picture and the words "Serbia in my heart" and said they would fight under Mladic again.
The Kalinovik protesters headed afterward to the shack Mladic was born in at the end of a steep, muddy road in the village of Bozanici, turning the shabby house into a pilgrimage site where his relatives addressed the crowd.
Mladic's family and lawyers have been fighting his extradition, arguing the former general is too ill to face charges.
However, a judge ruled on Friday the former Bosnian Serb military general could be extradited to The Netherlands.
The family plans to appeal the extradition and to demand an independent medical check-up - moves described by the authorities as a delaying tactics.
His lawyer Milos Saljic said that Mladic above all keeps demanding that he be allowed to visit the grave of his daughter, who committed suicide in 1994.
"He says if he can't go there, he wants his daughter's coffin brought in here," the lawyer said. He added: "His condition is alarming."

Monday, May 30, 2011

South African Leader In Libyan Mission

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma is expected to arrive in Tripoli today to attempt to broker a peace deal with the Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi

It is expected that Mr Zuma will meet face to face with Col Gaddafi - who hasn't been seen publicly for weeks and whose own officials admit is 'on the move' fearing Nato is trying to kill him.

The meeting may give some sense of whether or not Col Gaddafi accepts that the time for talk has arrived - and it could be a significant indicator as to the dictator's thinking.
Publicly regime officials insist Col Gaddafi will not accept a deal which involves stepping aside, but privately some are starting to voice the view with me that he must step aside in order for the country to hold new elections.
Muammar Gaddafi appears on state TV
Col Gaddafi is trying to avoid death by Nato air strike
I was first here at the end of February and to hear something like that then would have been unthinkable.
Mr Zuma and Gaddafi are old friends.
The South African is widely reported to have accepted financial assistance from Gaddafi during his serial trials for fraud and rape, but has never confirmed this himself.
Mr Zuma's officials say he is visiting in his capacity as a member of the African Union High Level Panel for the Resolution of the Conflict in Libya.
South Africa is a member of the UN Security Council and despite voting for UN Resolution 1973 has criticised the bombing campaign.
Nato has unleashed a series of deadly airstrikes on the Libyan capital of Tripoli as it tries to oust leader Colonel Gaddafi.
Nato has started day raids against the regime in Tripoli
Mr Gaddafi has a circle of advisors but notoriously after nearly 42 years in power he is a political island.
There are several key factors which will make attempts to force Col Gaddafi out of the country more difficult.
He may see it as betraying the memory of his son Saif al-Arab and three grandchildren who were killed in a Nato air strike.
And it has to be remembered that the International Criminal Court is seeking arrest warrants for Col Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam.
British Apache helicopters are being deployed to Libya
British Apache helicopters are also trying to oust regime forces
Until now his son Saif al-Islam has continued to insist he and his father will "live in Libya and die in Libya".
Government officials insist the regime can weather the continuing and increasing Nato air strikes.
Over the last week the military actions has intensified and there've been daytime bombings for the first time over the long weekend.
This may signal a change in strategy by Nato sending a message to the dictator that they will continue to strike at the heart of his regime whenever they want.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Joy As Egypt Opens Gaza Border Crossing

Palestinians are delighted. Egypt's opening of the Rafah crossing, its border with the Gaza Strip, is literally the opening of the prison doors on the enclave after a four-year sentence. 

The move has created deep unease in Israel.
More than 1.4 million people have relied on food aid handouts from the UN, limited supplies through Israel, and goods smuggled under the crossing to survive an Israeli blockade which was imposed when Hamas drove the Palestinian Authority from power in Gaza in 2007.
The blockade was largely a reprisal for attacks on neighbouring Israeli towns by Hamas, and other Islamist groups, using home-made rockets.
The siege had been condemned in the UN, by the International Committee of the Red Cross and by the European Union.
Human rights groups argued that it was a massive example of collective punishment.
A Hamas policeman checks the passport of a Palestinian passenger at the Rafah border crossing
A Hamas policeman checks the passport of a Palestinian passenger
The first vehicles to cross into Egypt were ambulances taking patients for much-needed treatment to Cairo.
Soon, ordinary citizens began to flow across the border, although men between 18 and 40 will need a visa to enterEgypt, after undergoing a security check to ensure that they don't have links to terrorist groups.
Trade will not yet be allowed through the crossing - that will have to continue through the dozens of illegal tunnels dug to move weapons, food and people between Gaza and Egypt.
Israel will continue to have a stranglehold on what goods go in and out of Gaza - a grip, it says, is essential to prevent the importation of the raw materials for rockets.
But the opening of the crossing has a powerful political force behind it which, in the long term, may cause Israel more problems than Gaza's rocketeers.
Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak agreed to join Israel's siege of Gaza to prevent the growth of Hamas power in a move the new Egyptian foreign minister told al Jazeera, was a "disgusting matter".
Smoke billows from a targeted location inside the northern Gaza Strip on December 29,2008
Israel accuses Gaza residents of being behind rocket attacks
With the ousting of Mubarak, Egypt's new military council has bowed to public pressure to get more closely involved with the Palestinian cause.
First Cairo mediated a unity agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority after five years of open conflict.
Then came the opening of Gaza's border.
"This new Cairo spring is bearing fruit such as the Rafah opening and efforts to end the blockade," said Nabil Shaath, a senior Palestinian official.
Small wonder that the Jewish state's home front defence minister Matan Vilnai told Israeli public radio that the ending of the siege is a "a very problematic situation".
Much like the so-called Arab awakening itself.
The Arab street in countries with peace agreements with Israel, like Jordan and Egypt, has been inflamed by coverage of Israel's siege and its attacks inside Gaza, in which 1,400 Palestinians have been killed.
The street does not appear to understand the economic and strategic advantage of peace deals struck between Israel and Arab autocrats.
But across the Middle East it is on the streets where the agenda is being set.
Meanwhile, the Arab League announced it will seek full UN membership for a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
It said in a statement it would make the request at the UN General Assembly's meeting in New York in September.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Final Moments Of Air France Crash Revealed

The pilots of Air France flight AF447, which plunged into the Atlantic killing 228 people, saw conflicting speeds on their instruments as the Airbus A330 stalled.

That is one of the findings of France's BEA aviation safety agency which has analysed the black box flight recorder for the 2009 accident.
"We have no valid indications," one pilot of the Rio to Paris flight was quoted as saying as the aircraft dropped towards the sea, three minutes before it hit the water.
The 58-year-old captain, who had left the cockpit to take a routine rest, returned but did not retake control of the plane.
"There was an inconsistency between the speeds displayed on the left side and the integrated standby instrument system," BEA said in a statement following its study of the recovered flight data recorders.
L-Black-Box Air France
The investigating authority said it was too early to give the cause of the crash
"This lasted for less than one minute."
According to the chronology of the flight provided by BEA, the two co-pilots decided at two hours and eight minutes into the flight to turn slightly to the left to avoid an area of turbulence.
Two minutes later the autopilot disengaged, the instruments began showing that the speed had slowed dramatically and the engine stall warning began to sound.
"During the following seconds, all of the recorded speeds became invalid and the stall warning stopped," said the BAE preliminary report.
L-Tail-Fin-In-Water Air France
All 228 people on board the Air France airbus died in the crash
"So, we've lost the speeds," it quoted the second of the two co-pilots as saying. The responses by the co-pilot flying the aircraft "were mainly nose-up" and "the airplane climbed to 38,000ft".
BEA said: "The descent lasted 3 min 30, during which the airplane remained stalled. The engines were operating and always responded to crew commands."
The last data on the recorder showed that plane's nose was up at a sharp angle as it plunged at 10,912ft (3,300m) per minute.
BEA director Jean-Paul Troadec said: "These are so far just observations, not an understanding of the events."
A fuller report into the cause of the tragedy is expected to be released in a few months time.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mladic Tested For Fitness To Stand Trial

Former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic will undergo a medical evaluation later to see if he is fit enough to appear in court.

The process to extradite Mladic to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague is expected to continue today, after his poor health cut short questioning on Thursday.
Mladic is accused of masterminding appalling acts of violence against Muslims during the Bosnian conflict of the early 1990s.
The 69-year-old was arrested in the early hours of Thursday, ending a 16-year long manhunt.
B92.net photo of Ratko MladiƦ
Photos of Mladic in 1995 and after his arrest
But his first appearance before a Serbian court was cut short after his lawyer said he was unable to communicate.
"The investigative judge tried to question Ratko Mladic but he failed because he (Mladic) is in a difficult psychological and physical condition," his lawyer Milos Saljic told reporters.
"He is aware that he is under arrest, he knows where he is, and he said he does not recognise The Hague tribunal."
Mr Saljic added that Mladic needs medical care and "should not be moved in such a state".
Mladic in court
Mladic appeared in a Serbian court looking frail and haggard
Doctors will report later as to whether Mladic is capable of appearing in court again.
The Serb was indicted for war crimes in 1995 and became Europe's most wanted man.
He is accused of masterminding the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995.
Judge Fouad Riad of the UN tribunal said there was evidence against Mladic of "unimaginable savagery".
Ratko Mladic
A woman walks past a graffiti portrait of Mladic in Belgrade
The former general was found in a village 50 miles (80km) north of the Serbian capital Belgrade and was reportedly using the assumed name Milorad Komodic - an anagram of his true identity.
Serbian interior minister Ivica Dacic said Mladic had been armed with two guns "but he did not have the time to use them".
The international community has welcomed the news with Prime Minister David Cameron saying: "We should remember why the international community has been pursuing this man.
"He is accused of the most appalling crimes in both Srebrenica and Sarajevo."
The Bosnian-Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic, Mladic's mentor was "sorry for General Mladic’s loss of freedom," his lawyer said.
Karadzic was captured in July 2008 and is himself fighting charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in The Hague.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

100 Followers Reached

I would like to thank all of you for following me during the first month of this blog, I promise to keep it updated and alive!

Here's a "funny" pic for the commemoration:


G8 Talks: Bid To Help 'Arab Spring' Nations

Barack Obama and David Cameron travel to a two-day G8 gathering in France today where uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East are likely to top the agenda.

The Prime Minister and US President are expected to put forward plans to give more financial and political backing to countries experiencing an "Arab Spring".
Mr Cameron and Mr Obama reiterated their determination to keep up the military pressure on the Libyan regime.
But Nato's campaign in the country could cause tensions among the G8 leaders meeting in Deauville, as Russia has expressed concerns about the extent of the airstrikes.
There is also significant scope for friction over Syria, with Moscow resisting efforts to take action on the regime's brutal repression of protests.
Barack Obama and David Cameron
Mr Obama and Mr Cameron again called for Muammar Gaddafi to stand down
A resolution is due to go before the United Nations Security Council later.
The US and UK are expected to urge counterparts to provide more concrete financial support for fledgling democracies.
Washington has been calling for "debt swaps", where wealthier nations agree to convert sums they are owed by countries that are implementing change - such as Egypt - into investments.
The G8 - made up of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and America - is also due to be briefed by the recently-installed prime ministers of Egypt and Tunisia, Essam Sharaf and Beji Caid el Sebsi.
The summit will begin with a session on nuclear safety in the wake of the crisis created by the earthquake in Japan.
400-egypt-protesters-in-tahir-square
Protests like those in Egypt earlier this year will be discussed
But discussions between the world leaders are also due to cover the situation in Afghanistan, global economic development and reform, nuclear safety and internet regulation.
And French president Nicolas Sarkozy has insisted he wants the internet to be at the heart of the summit.
A delegation of executives, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google chairman Eric Schmidt, are due to address the world leaders.
Although no Twitter representatives are thought to be on the guest list, the session could provide an opportunity for Mr Cameron to take the temperature on international internet regulation.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mubarak To Face Trial Over Protester Killings

Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak is to be put on trial on charges of corruption and conspiracy to kill protesters who called for him to step down earlier this year.

The country's prosecutor general said Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for three decades, would face a criminal court.
The announcement was made following a demand from Egyptians who have threatened a second revolution amid growing concerns about the slow pace of change under the country's new military rulers.
Adel el-Said, spokesman for the prosecutor general, said the charges could carry the death sentence.
Mubarak was forced to step down after an 18-day revolt by anti-government protesters that was met by a brutal security crackdown.
Over 800 people are believed to have been killed and thousands more injured.
Pro and anti-Mubarak protesters confront each other
Pro and anti-Mubarak protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square
But the prosecution of the 83-year old remained a sore point under the new leadership, which took control on 11 February.
Demonstrators demanded that Mubarak face justice, taking to the streets a number of times and criticising the military for stalling.
The statement from prosecutor general Mahmoud Abdel-Meguid, who also served under Mubarak, came ahead of a planned Friday protest that was to have focused on calls for him to be put on trial and for remnants of his regime to be uprooted.
It would be the first time in modern history an Arab leader is sent to trial solely by his people.
Egypt police fire tear gas at protesters in Cairo
Police fire tear gas at demonstrators
"It is the first time that a living president is going to face victims of his abuse before an ordinary court in the region", said Hossam Bahgat, a human rights activist.
"It is precisely because of this unique and unprecedented nature that we need for this trial to be as credible as possible."
The charge sheet against Mubarak said he conspired with the former security chief and other senior police officers, already on trial in a criminal court, to commit premeditated murder, along with attempted murder of those who participated in the peaceful protests around Egypt.
Mubarak and his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, were charged with abusing power to amass wealth, enriching associates and accepting bribes, the prosecutor-general's office said.
The ousted leader's sons are being detained in a Cairo prison.
Earlier this month, Tunisia's toppled president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali was charged along with his wife of inciting violence in the bloody crackdown on the popular uprising there.
Ben Ali has fled to Saudi Arabia, which has not answered a Tunisian request to extradite him.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Airlines Facing Chaos As Ash Cloud Moves In

There will be widespread disruption to flights to and from Scotland today as ash from an Icelandic volcano reaches Britain.

Eurocontrol, the European air traffic control agency, said a total of 252 flights - mostly affecting Scottish airports - have been cancelled to date.
British Airways have suspended all flights between London and Scotland until at least 2pm.
Budget airlines have also made cancellations - Easyjet have suspended services going in and out of Glasgow, Inverness, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
Flybe have cancelled 11 flights to and from Aberdeen and Inverness.
Predicted ash concentrations at 1800 Tues (Met Office)
Met Office prediction of ash concentration by 6pm today
Meanwhile RyanAir have expressed its anger at having to cancel all services to and from Glasgow, Prestwick, Edinburgh and Aberdeen until 1pm today.
What may rile the airline a little more is that while BMI have made cancellations to their route to Aberdeen, they are still flying to and from Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Elsewhere, KLM and Eastern Airways have made cancellations to and from some airports in Scotland and Newcastle.
Aer Lingus has also cancelled 12 flights on various routes in and out of Scotland.
An arrivals board at Glasgow Airport
Arrivals board at Glasgow Airport shows a number of flight cancellations
Logan Air have also stopped flights until at least 1pm, although trips to and from Orkney are still operating.
Passengers have been advised to check with their airlines before travelling to airports.
The drifting ash cloud from Iceland's Grimsvotn volcano forcedUS President Barack Obama to alter his travel plans, arriving in London early for his state visit.
Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said Britons "have got to learn" to live with chaos caused by volcanic activity in Iceland.
"My understanding is that we have gone through an unusually quiet period for volcanic eruptions in Iceland over the last 20-odd years and we are moving into a period when there is likely to be significantly more volcanic activity."
But he insisted there were now "much more robust systems" to "minimise the disruptive effect".
Last April hundreds of thousands of flights were cancelled and millions of people were either left stranded or forced to cancel their travel plans altogether when the Eyjafjallajokul volcanic erupted.

In addition, scientists in Norway have developed equipment that enables pilots to be able to 'see' ash particles up to 100km away and avoid them.
Mr Hammond said the authorities have since gained a "much better understanding" of the risk from ash clouds and are better able to assess the thickness of different patches as well as the possibility of flying over or below a cloud.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) all British aircraft can fly in medium density ash.
However, Met Office charts show that the levels are higher than this below 35,000ft, meaning planes could have to navigate around the plume.
A CAA spokesman said the cloud, as it is now, could "potentially" cause serious disruption.
Met Office ash cloud prediction for 0000 Tues
Met Office prediction shows lower level of the cloud (in red) at midnight on Tuesday
But he said: "We are in a totally different world as far as procedures go now compared with last year.
"If we have the same level of ash as we did last year, there will not be the same problem.
"Airspace will not be closed and we will notify airlines when the Met Office predicts there are medium or high levels of ash present."
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