US urges South Korea to reduce Iranian oil imports

A senior US diplomat, Robert J. Einhorn, urged South Korea to work with the US and increase pressure on Iran, during a visit to Seoul. Einhorn, the US State Department's special advisor for non-proliferation and arms control, met South Korea's deputy foreign minister, Kim Jae-shin on Tuesday. Einhorn said, “We are urging all of our partners to help us, to work with us in putting more pressure on the government of Iran to get them to negotiate seriously ,” “In particular, we are urging them to reduce their purchases of crude oil from Iran, and we are urging them to unwind their financial...

Ban Ki-Moon: ‘Assad… Stop killing your people’

The United Nations Secretary-General has strongly criticised Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at a conference in Beirut, and called on him to stop killing his own people. Delivering a keynote address at the UN Arab democracy conference, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said , "From the very beginning of the year's, last year's revolutions, from Tunisia through Egypt and beyond, I called on leaders to listen to their people, listen to the genuine aspirations of their people, what they need, and what are their voices. Some did and benefited; some didn't, and today they are reaping the whirlwind...

Iran warns Arab nations not to comply with sanctions

Iran has warned its Arab neighbours not to aid potential European Union sanctions by increasing their own oil production to replace that of Iranian crude oil. Pressure has been increasing on Iran, after the European Union looked to be moving towards passing sanctions on iran’s oil industry, as European ministers set to meet on the 23rd of January. Iran's Opec governor Mohammad Ali Khatibi said told reporters, "Our Arab neighbours should not cooperate with these adventurers … these measures will not be perceived as friendly." His statement comes as China's premier was in Saudi Arabia on Sunday...

Urgently reform 'arsenal of laws'- HRW tells new Egyptian leaders

Egypt's newly elected leaders must "urgently reform the arsenal of laws" used by Mubarak's regime, for law to become "an instrument that protects Egyptians’ rights rather than represses them", said Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report released Monday - 'The Road Ahead: A Human Rights Agenda for Egypt’s New Parliament'. Citing the penal code, associations law, assembly law, and emergency law, HRW said, "[The exisiting laws] limit public freedoms necessary for a democratic transition , challenge respect for the rule of law , and impede accountability for abuses by the police and the military...

American power: softer and smarter

“Are the “declinists” on the United States, focused on hard power and America’s falling share of global output, missing something?” “U.S.-based global corporations added 683,000 workers in China during the 1999-2009 decade, a 172 percent increase, and 392,000 workers in India, a 542 percent increase. In all they added 1.5 million workers to payrolls in the Asia and Pacific region, while cutting 864,600 workers at home, according to figures from the Commerce Department.” “ American isolationism has become an oxymoron. As these figures show, it’s a non-option.” “On one level this shift poses...

Clashes in Tibet after self-immolation

Violent clashes between police and a group of locals, after an attempted self-immolation in South-West China, have left one woman with gunshot injuries and the fate of the person who set themselves alight unknown. Kate Saunders, of the International Campaign for Tibet told reporters, "According to at least two or three sources, a Tibetan layperson set themselves on fire this morning in Ngaba town. As police put out the flames, they beat him severely." As local people tried to recover the body from the police, clashes began to erupt. Stephanie Brigden, director of the London-based Free Tibet...

Arab League observer quits Syria

An Arab League observer has quit from the mission in Syria, labelling it a “farce” and accused President Assad’s regime of war crimes. Anwar Malek, an Algerian observer part of an Arab League mission sent to country told Al-Jazeera, "I withdrew from the Arab observers mission because I found myself serving the regime, and not part of an independent observer group." " The mission was a farce and the observers have been fooled. The regime orchestrated it and fabricated most of what we saw to stop the Arab League from taking action against the regime," "What I saw was a humanitarian disaster. The regime isn't committing one war crime but a series of crimes against its people. Children are killed and they are starved and terrorised." “I have seen it with my own eyes. I could not shed my humanity in such situations and claim independence and objectivity. ” Malek went on to charge that Assad’s regime was playing "dirty," "It even began killing its supporters to convince the Arab observers that it is carrying out its duties and to gain their sympathy." The statements from Mr Malek came as Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State commented , “We cannot permit President Assad and his regime to have impunity." The mission is due to deliver its final report on January 19th.

Myanmar agrees ceasefire with Karen rebels

A ceasefire agreement was signed between the government of Myanmar, and the ethnic Karen rebels on Thursday. Speaking to Reuters, the deputy leader of the Karen National Union delegation, Saw David Htaw, said, “We have never been more confident in our talks.” “According to the changing situation everywhere, peace talks are unavoidable now; this is something we have to pass through without fail." "The people have experienced the horrors of war a long time. I’m sure they’ll be very glad to hear this news. I hope they’ll be able to fully enjoy the sweet taste of peace this time.” The rebels have...

Video of marines desecrating Afghan bodies will be 'fully investigated' - US military

Responding to a video that has emerged showing US marines urinating over the bodies of three, apparently lifeless Afghans, the US military said it was " deeply troubled by the video " and promised a full investigation. In a statement, the Marine Corps headquarters at the Pentagon said, "The actions portrayed are not consistent with our core values and are not indicative of the character of the Marines in our Corps. This matter will be fully investigated ." The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), led by NATO, said it "strongly condemns the actions depicted in the video, which...

2012 Bahrain Grand Prix under pressure

Formula 1 has come under criticism from human rights groups for its decision to carry on with the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix, scheduled to take place on Aprill 22nd. Last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix was cancelled after the country was rocked by anti-government protests, which saw a brutal crackdown by the state. Nabeel Rajab, vice president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, said , "We will campaign for … drivers and teams to boycott. The government wants Formula One to tell the outside world that everything is back to normal. Formula One, if they come, they are helping the government to say [it is normal]. We would prefer it if they didn't take part. I am sure the drivers and teams respect human rights." His call was backed by Mariwan Hama-Saeed, of New York-based Human Rights Watch, who said , "[The FIA] should consider the serious abuse of human rights in Bahrain and the fact that to this day authorities continue to suppress pro-democracy protests." "I doubt that Formula 1 can be a success in a country where serious human rights abuses have been committed. The political situation is unstable and polarised in Bahrain. We are very concerned about the government's commitment to implement meaningful reform." Formula 1 teams are also reported to be unhappy with attending the race, with Mercedes – which runs its own team and supplies engine to two others – and Formula 1’s sole tyre supplier Pirelli rumoured to have expressed their dissatisfaction to the sport’s governing body.

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