EU approves aid package to Burma

An EU official has announced the approval of a $128m aid package for Burma to develop the country’s infrastructure, in a sign of further easing of sanctions placed on the state. Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said the package would be for improving the country’s health, education and basic infrastructure. Piebalgs suggested that more sanctions will be lifted if elections, scheduled to be held in April, are free and fair. "There is concern [on the government side] that they've made reforms, they released political prisoners, they opened up, but the sanctions are still in place," Mr...

Security Council inaction has 'emboldened' Assad regime - Navi Pillay

The UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, criticised the Security Council for failing to agree on "collective action", which she said "appears to have emboldened the Syrian government. Addressing UN delegates in New York Monday, Pillay said, "The failure of the Security Council to agree on firm collective action appears to have emboldened the Syrian government to plan an all out assault in an effort to crush resistance with overwhelming force ." "I am particularly appalled by the ongoing violence in Homs." "We are certain that the number of dead and injured continues to rise...

Nelson Mandela to feature on South African bank notes

In commemoration of the 22nd anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release from jail, Mandela's image will be printed on five new South African bank notes — 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 rand. Announcing the news, current president, Jacob Zuma, said, “It is my honour and pleasure to announce that new South African banknotes will bear the image of President Mandela, the first President of a free, democratic South Africa." “It is a befitting tribute to a man who became a symbol of this country’s struggle for freedom, human rights and democracy." “With this humble gesture, we are expressing our deep gratitude as the South African people, to a life spent in service of the people of this country and in the cause of humanity worldwide.” The notes will feature an image of Mandela taken in 1990, the year of his release. In 1962, Mandela was arrested and convicted of sabotage, along with other crimes, and sentenced to life in prison. A front-line anti-apartheid campaigner within the African National Congress (ANC), Mandela was one of the forming members and subsequent leader of the ANC's military wing - MK or Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). The ANC was outlawed as an unlawful organisation in 1960, and was until 2008, on the United States' terrorism watch list , along side Nelson Mandela and other ANC members. In 1964, during his trial, Mandela defended the actions of the ANC and the justification for the actions of Umkhonto we Sizwe, in a speech - 'An ideal for which I am prepared to die'. See here for speech in full and original recording. Extracts reproduced below: "Some of the things so far told to the court are true and some are untrue. I do not, however, deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness, nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation, and oppression of my people by the whites."

Saudi king criticises Russia and China's veto

The king of Saudi Arabia, in an uncharacteristic outburst, criticised the veto of the UN Security Council resolution on Syria as "absolutely regrettable". In a national televised address, King Abdullah said, “We are going through scary days and unfortunately what happened at the United Nations is absolutely regrettable,” “No matter how powerful, countries cannot rule the whole world,” “The world is ruled by brains by justice, by morals and by fairness.” The Saudi king's address comes as the Assad regime continues to face increasing international isolation. Following on from the US, UK, EU and...

Sanctions on Iran an opportunity to increase trade - India

Citing the increasing sanctions imposed on Iran, India's minister of trade, Rahul Khullar, said Friday, there is no reason why India should not "tap that opportunity", and announced the visit of a "huge" Indian delegation to IRan later this month. Khullar is reported to have said, “If Europe and the US want to stop exports to Iran, why should [India] follow suit? Why shouldn’t we tap that opportunity?” Earlier this week, the Nancy Powell, the US Ambassador-Designate to Delhi, has said that she hoped to see Indian-Iranian trade "significantly reduced", adding, “This is going to be a very...

Twentieth Tibetan self-immolation reported

A man, believed to be a monk, has set himself alight in South-Western China, protesting against the Chinese government, becoming the 20th such person to do so in the past year alone. The condition of the person is unknown, but marks an increasingly violent time in the region, the likes of which have not been seen since deadly riots in 2008. Protests against Chinese authorities have been growing over the past year, along with the self immolations, through which at least 13 people have died. Reports have also indicated that China has fired three officials in the region for failing to crack down...

Guinea Minister charged for massacre in 2009

A minister has been charged for the role he played in a massacre that killed scores of people in the Guinean capital Conakry in 2009. Over 157 people were killed and at least 100 women were raped during an attack by Guinean troops on civilians protesting against military rule. Colonel Tiegboro Camara is the most senior official charged in coinnection with the killings. Camara, the current minister in charge of fighting drugs trafficking and organised crime, was named in a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) as being in command of the soldiers who attacked over 50,000 protesteers. "Ensuring...

EU members and Gulf States recall Syria envoys

Members of the European Union and several Gulf countries have recalled their ambassadors to Syria. Germany, France, Spain and Belgium announced the move today along with the Gulf Cooperation Council, whose members are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The Gulf Cooperation Council also expelled Syrian envoys to their member countries from Syrian Embassies. The EU will keep its head of delegation in Damascus to observe events “on the ground,” bloc spokesman Michael Mann said. Germany said it was responding to the arrest of two Syrian nationals in Berlin thought to be...

Liberian war crimes accused to be deported from US

A man accused of committing war crimes, while one of the leaders of a faction during the Liberian civil war, has been ordered to leave the US. George Boley Sr. was the head of the Liberian Peace Council, which is accused of massacring dozens of villagers between 1994 and 1995 and of recruiting child soldiers. Mr Boley, 62, lived near New York with his family and worked as a school administrator. A trial in 2010-11 ruled that Mr Boley committed atrocities in Liberia and resided in the US without valid documents. An immigration tribunal held on Monday that this conviction made him inadmissible...

US to Assad - ‘Your days are numbered’

US officials once again reiterated their call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, as the city of Homs came under a fifth consecutive day of shelling by government forces. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice directed comments at President Assad, saying, "Your days are numbered. It is time and past time for you to transfer power responsibly and peacefully." Her remarks came as two senior US officials told CNN , that both the Pentagon and US Central Command had begun preliminary reviews of military capabilities, in case President Obama was to call for them. This...

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