• Iran opens to the West. Latin America raises the voice

    There was great attention during the works of the United Nations General Assembly towards Iran’s new President. However the debate of the last week was not characterized just by the Middle East question.

  • Syria and Iran to dominate UN General Assembly

    US President Barack Obama used his speech at the UN General Assembly to demand the world take action on the crisis in Syria. Syria and renewed talks on Iran’s nuclear program are set to dominate the annual meeting

  • Germany Votes 2013

    Preliminary final results

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Iran opens to the West. Latin America raises the voice

There was great attention during the works of the United Nations General Assembly towards Iran’s new President. However the debate of the last week was not characterized just by the Middle East question.

Iran and Middle East
In contrast to Ahmadinejad, Iran’s President Hasan Rouhani doesn’t deny the Holocaust or predicts that Israel has to disappear from the Map. He has clearly made a break from his ultraconservative predecessor, and from his politics of confrontation and provocation.
His Iran will be an anchor of stability in a volatile region and he highlighted his commitment to resolve regional conflicts with diplomacy.
On the sides of the General Assembly in New York he called on Israel to acknowledge its nuclear arsenal and join the Non-Proliferation Treaty. He also criticized the country for being the only Middle East state to not sign onto the pact.
“Almost four decades of international efforts to establish a nuclear-​weapon-​free zone in the Middle East have regrettably failed. He added that all nuclear activities in the region should be subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections and nuclear safeguards.
“No nation should possess nuclear weapons, since there are no right hands for these wrong weapons,” he said. “As long as nuclear weapons exist, the risk of their use, threat of use and proliferation persist. The only absolute guarantee is their total elimination.”

Latin America
The latin american countries drew the attention to the global network of electronic espionage, seeking more respect for their rights and their sovereignty. It was also proposed a reform of the United Nations Security Council.
Dilma Youssef highlighted that citizens’ personal data, corporate information and diplomatic information had been intercepted, as well as communications of the Office of the President.  “Tampering in such a manner in the affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and an affront to the principles that must guide relations among them, especially among friendly nations.”
“The right to safety of citizens of one country”, she said, “could never be guaranteed by violating fundamental human rights of citizens of another”. As many other Latin Americans, she had fought against authoritarianism and censorship, and she could not be defend the right to privacy — of individuals and the nation itself. In the absence of privacy, there could be no true freedom of expression and opinion, and therefore, no effective democracy. In the absence of respect for sovereignty, there was no basis for the relationship among nations. She demanded from the United States’ Government explanations, apologies and guarantees that such procedures would never be repeated.

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales said that much had been heard about democracy, respect and social justice during the debate. But, he asked, “What justice are they talking about? What democracy were they talking about when countries like the United States could spy even on their democratic allies? What peace could be discussed when there were so many unemployed in that country and yet billions of dollars went to military expenditure every year?”
He said terrorism was not to be fought with more military spending but with more democracy, more social justice and more education.

The West can maybe be happy for the the detente of its relations with a part of Middle East, but it has certainly to reconsider its behavior towards that part of the world who decided to get through several years of misery and oppression.

Syria and Iran to dominate UN General Assembly

US President Barack Obama used his speech at the UN General Assembly to demand the world take action on the crisis in Syria. Syria and renewed talks on Iran’s nuclear program are set to dominate the annual meeting.

President Obama defended his threat of force against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime at the annual UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, saying Damascus must face consequences after the use of chemical weapons.
"There must be a strong Security Council resolution to verify that the Assad regime is keeping its commitments, and there must be consequences if they fail to do so," Obama said to the world leaders.
His remarks come as the US and Russia negotiate a UN Security Council resolution in connection with an agreement by Damascus to give up its chemical weapons.
The US-Russia brokered deal was struck following a push by Obama for a military strike on Syria.
Obama denounced critics who questioned whether Assad carried out the August 21 chemical attack outside Damascus, which the US says killed more than 1,400 people.
"It is an insult to human reason - and to the legitimacy of this institution - to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack," he said.
"Nevertheless, a leader who slaughtered his citizens and gassed children to death cannot regain the legitimacy to lead a badly fractured country," he said of Assad.
Obama cautioned, however, that military action would not achieve lasting peace and that any nation, including the US, should not determine who will lead Syria.
Renewed talks on Iran
Obama also used his time in front of the Assembly to welcome the new Iranian government's pursuit of what he called a "more moderate course," in relation to stalled negotiations over its nuclear program.
"The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested," Obama said.
On Monday, the EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, announced that Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, would join talks with six key nations due to "energy and determination" shown by Tehran for fresh talks.
The foreign ministers of the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany are set to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Thursday.
The meeting between the six powers and Iran will be the first since April, when discussions on how to reduce fears that Tehran might use its nuclear technology to create weapons stalled at a meeting in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
The UN Security Council has imposed several rounds of sanctions against Iran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment and sanctions from the US and its allies have had a crippling effect on Iran's economy.
Obama did not say whether he will meet with Iran's new moderate conservative President Hasan Rouhani. Even a handshake would mark the first such encounter between US and Iranian leaders in over 30 years.
Obama faces criticism over NSA
Despite the focus on Syria and Iran, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff used her opening speech at the General Assembly to criticize Obama and the US National Security Agency (NSA) over reports it had spied on Brazilian government communications.
She announced Brazil would adopt legislation and technology to protect it from illegal interception of communications.
Last week, Rousseff called off a high-profile state visit to Washington scheduled for October over the reports.
"Meddling in such a manner in the lives and affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and, as such, it is an affront to the principles that should otherwise govern relations among countries, especially among friendly nations," Rousseff said to the gathering of world leaders.
President Obama was en route to the UN during her speech and therefore not present.
hc/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP)

Germany Votes 2013

Lady Europe and Machiavelli

Angela Merkel has said she expects the US not to break German laws in data collection. A newspaper has reported that Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service knew about the US National Security Agency’s snooping for years.

The online espionage activities of the National Security Agency have firmly established themselves as an election talking point in Germany.

"I expect a clear commitment from the US government that they will adhere to German law in the future when on German soil," Merkel said, adding that she did not yet know whether German laws were breached by the NSA or other bodies in the past. "We are friends and allies. We are in a defense alliance and we need to be able to rely on each other."

Ends versus means
The Christian Democrat said that while cooperative efforts to combat terrorism were important and would continue, boundaries should be defined, preferably on an international scale.
"Not everything that is technically feasible - and more and more will be in the future - should be allowed," Merkel said. "The ends don't justify the means here, in our view."

The chancellor added that she would sound out EU leaders on a continental data protection standard agreed by all, saying strong German data protection laws could do nothing to help people using websites based abroad.
"We have a truly excellent federal data protection law, but if Facebook is registered in Ireland, then Irish law applies, and that's why we need a unified European directive," Merkel said. The chancellor also said that, so far as she was aware, her communications had not been tapped.

Asleep at the wheel?
Opposition politicians have sought to pounce on the government's reaction to the NSA spying allegations, claiming that German authorities must have known about the activities and arguing that the government's response was too soft once Snowden went public.

"Mrs. Merkel has sworn as chancellor to protect the German people from harm," Social Democrat challenger Peer Steinbrück said in an interview with the mass-circulation Bild am Sonntag, calling for a parliamentary probe into possible dereliction of duty. "I envisage damage limitation as something rather different."

"Whoever is at the wheel carries the responsibility, regardless of whether they're awake or have dozed off," Steinbrück surmised.

Steinbrück's colleague, SPD secretary general Andrea Nahles, said Merkel's Sunday interview offered only "trivialities."

Meanwhile the daily newspaper Bild reported Monday that Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service has known about NSA snooping for years. Bild reported that the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) had, for example, asked US intelligence services for help when German citizens were kidnapped abroad.

"We know of a long cooperation between the German intelligence service and US agencies," an official quoted by the newspaper said. "The government has not made the details of this cooperation public, except for to a parliamentary committee."

Election countdown

September 22: Germany votes
41% - CDU poll rating
5 % - pro-business Free Democrats (CDU allied)

If the elections were today "Frau" Merkel could not form a government. 

 Sorce: msh, mkg/av (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

China court compensates mother sent to labour camp

BEIJING (AFP) - A Chinese court awarded damages to the mother of a rape victim after she was sent to a labour camp for demanding her daughter's attackers be punished, a spokesman said on Monday.
Tang Hui, who became a figurehead for critics of the "re-education through labour" system after she was condemned to 18 months in a camp, won a total of 2,641 yuan ($430) following an appeal, a court spokesman surnamed Zhang told AFP.
The court in Changsha, the capital of the central province of Hunan, awarded compensation on the grounds that local authorities had violated Tang's personal freedom and caused her "psychological damage", Zhang said.
But it rejected Tang's demand that the police who sentenced her write a formal apology, because the "relevant people had apologised in court", he added.
The police chief of Yongzhou, who headed the committee that sentenced Tang, said during the hearing that he had "not acted with enough humanity or care", Tang told AFP earlier this month.
She was released last August after just over a week in a labour camp following a public outcry over her case, which was given unusual prominence in state-run media and prompted speculation that the system would be abolished.
The compensation award comes as a surprise after Tang lost her initial case. She herself had estimated the chance of success in her appeal as a "remote possibility".
Tang's daughter, 11 at the time, was kidnapped, raped and forced into prostitution in 2006, prompting Tang to seek to bring to justice the abductors and the police she says protected them.
Seven men were finally convicted in June last year, with two condemned to death, four given life sentences and one jailed for 15 years, but Tang continued to agitate for the policemen to face trial, and soon afterwards she was sentenced for "seriously disturbing social order and exerting a negative impact on society".
China's re-education through labour system gives police the right to hand out sentences of up to four years without a judicial trial.
Premier Li Keqiang said in March that the system would be "reformed", without giving further details.
US-based advocacy group the Dui Hua Foundation said on its website last month that some re-education through labour facilities had been "quietly taking formal steps to transition into compulsory drug treatment centres", citing local media reports.

Russian-Chinese naval flotilla spotted off Hokkaido

Sixteen Russian and five Chinese naval ships sailed through an international strait north of Hokkaido from midday Saturday to the Sea of Okhotsk, the Defense Ministry said Sunday.
Russia and China conducted a joint naval drill off the coast of Vladivostok from July 5 to 12, but the purpose of their passage through the Soya Strait is not known, a ministry official said.
The Russian fleet, including missile cruisers, missile destroyers, a supply ship and a hospital ship, traveled through the strait Saturday afternoon, while the Chinese fleet, comprising two missile destroyers, two frigates and a supply ship, passed through the strait early Sunday, the ministry said.

Snowden Puts His Future in Russia's hands

Former U.S. National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden met with Russian human rights activists, lawyers and government officials Friday to seek their support in securing asylum in Russia in order to later travel safely to South America, leaving Russia with little wriggle room to remain neutral.
“I do intend to ask for political asylum in Russia. I believe that the legal means to stay in Russia safely, to attempt to move to Latin America, is to request asylum in the Russian Federation. I can only at this time formally accept asylum in Russia because of the limitations on my ability to travel,” Snowden told his handpicked audience.
The meeting took place in an unidentified room of Sheremetyevo Airport's transit zone, where Snowden has been apparently stuck for three weeks after the United States revoked his passport. Snowden's guests were followed by dozens of frenzied journalists as they made their way to a special door meant for staff only. The drama reached its peak when the overcrowding on the escalator made it malfunction and journalists had to rush up the frozen stairs.
Snowden's plea for Russian protection marks his second attempt to obtain legal status in Russia.  On July 2, he withdrew a request after President Vladimir Putin said he could only stay in Russia if he stopped inflicting damage against “our American partners.”
This time, Snowden reasoned that his request was not at odds with Putin's condition, as he was not actually inflicting damage against the U.S.
“He called on the organizations present to intervene in support of his asylum claim. He also said that he did not find Putin's remark problematic because, as he says, he did not do any harm to the United States and he did not plan to do any,” Tanya Lokshina, senior researcher at Moscow's Human Rights Watch office, said after the meeting, noting that Snowden “looked like a schoolboy.”
Snowden also asked for assistance in convincing international organizations to petition the U.S. and European Union to allow him to travel, since such organizations require applicants to come to them, and he is stuck in the airport, Lokshina said.
The Russian government is clearly watching the situation closely, as representatives of Russia's secret services were evidently present at the meeting, said Sergei Nikitin, head of Moscow's office of Amnesty International.

“If you see men in suits with military bearing and a heavy look on their faces, then who do you think these people are, school teachers?” he said.

Nikitin also said that whoever was taking care of Snowden seemed to be doing it quite well, as Snowden himself clearly stated that the conditions he enjoyed in Moscow were good. At the same time, according to Nikitin, Snowden said he had not yet been able to improve his Russian despite listening to hundreds of airport announcements each day.
The head of Russia's Federal Migration Service, Konstantin Romodanovsky, told Interfax on Saturday that the agency had not yet received Snowden's asylum application. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization's foreign ministers in Kyrgyzstan on the same day that the government was not in contact with Snowden.
Putin discussed the Snowden situation with U.S. President Barack Obama over the phone Friday, though no details of that conversation have been made public.
All participants of the meeting, including both pro-Kremlin State Duma Deputy Vyacheslav Nikonov and human rights organizations — the offices of which have been raided by government authorities in recent months — agreed that Snowden had a strong case to seek asylum in Russia.
The asylum request leaves Russia with fewer options to remain neutral in the matter. The Kremlin has publicly indicated a desire to be rid of Snowden, whose presence in Russia has hurt already strained U.S.-Russia ties, but signals Friday pointed to a possible change in attitude.
State Duma speaker and strong Putin ally Sergei Naryshkin told Rossia 24 television that he thought Russia should grant Snowden asylum, assuming he fulfilled the condition set by Putin. And lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, a member of the Public Chamber who has represented outspokenly pro-Putin film director Nikita Mikhalkov and United Russia lawmaker Iosif Kobzon, said he had agreed with Snowden to help him in preparing his asylum request, according to Interfax. The application process would take between two and three weeks, he said.
Obama's spokesman, Jay Carney, said Friday that “providing a propaganda platform for Mr. Snowden runs counter to the Russian government's previous declarations of Russia's neutrality and [claims] that they have no control over his presence in the airport.”
It was unclear from Snowden's statements regarding his attitude toward the U.S. whether he intended to stop leaking secret U.S. documents, for which the United States wants to charge him with espionage, or whether he believes that he is actually helping the U.S. by leaking the information.
United Russia parliamentarian Alexei Pushkov, who heads the State Duma's International Affairs Committee, said on Twitter that Russia had acted correctly in not extraditing Snowden.
“Russia did the right thing in not giving up Snowden. There are things more important than a momentary gain. Pragmatism in foreign policy is not the same as cynicism,” Pushkov wrote.

Source: The Moscow Times