Australia lifts ban on female soldiers serving on frontlines

Australia is to lift all gender-based restrictions on military combat positions, paving the way for female soldiers serving along-side their male colleagues on the frontlines, in roles previous denied to them, including Special Forces units, infantry and certain artillery roles. The propsed changes will put Australia into a small group of conventional state militaries that have ensured equality for female soldiers - namely, Canada, Israel and New Zealand. Announcing the proposed changes, Stephen Smith, Australia's Defence Minister, said, “We have an Australian Army that’s been going for 110 years, an Australian Navy that’s been going formally for 100 years, and an Australian Air Force that’s been going for 90 years, and last night, we resolved to remove the final restrictions on the capacity of women to serve in front-line combat roles,” “ In the future, your role in the defense force will be determined on your ability, not on the basis of your sex .”

Libya to assist Lockerbie probe

The National Transitional Council (NTC) of Libya has assured the British Government of its cooperation in probing the Lockerbie bombing, after reports emerged that Libya’s justice minister refused any further cooperation as the case was ‘closed’. "What I and all the world knows is that Mr Abdel Basset al-Megrahi was tried in the Lockerbie case and convicted, he appealed and his conviction was upheld, then the Scottish, and later the British authorities decided to release him on compassionate grounds. "For me, as minister for justice the case is finished and it is not right put someone on...

US urged on UN-led probe into Myanmar atrocities, as rapes escalate

A petition by thousands of Americans is urging the United States to press for a UN-led probe into alleged crimes against humanity in Myanmar, saying the country needs accountability to move ahead. Earlier this month, Amnesty International urged the European Union and its member states to also lend their support to the establishment of a UN commission of inquiry. See AFP’s reports here and here . The US Campaign for Burma said that 13,000 US citizens signed the petition. "Justice is a crucial part of national reconciliation in any country. Burma cannot move forward until these attacks stop and...

China’s restrained protest at US arms sale to Taiwan

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sept. 26, 2011. (Xinhua) China has protested renewed arms sales by the US to Taiwan, but the threats of retaliatory action have been described as ‘restrained’ by commentators. Taiwan requested the sale of F-16 fighter jets but the US decided to ‘only’ upgrade Taiwan’s existing fleet in a deal worth $5.85 billion.

Extremists from France take up arms in West Bank

Two weeks ago, an announcement appeared on a French website, calling for "militants with military experience" to participate in a trip to Israel between September 19 and 25. 55 French citizens responded and travelled to the West Bank. No, it’s not what you think. See Al-Jazeera’s report here .

China's capitalist communist

The Central Committee of China’s ruling Communist party may next year have a new member – the country's richest tycoon. See the BBC’s report here .

Gaddafi's prison massacre unearthed 15 years on

National Transitional Council authorities discovered the remains of over 1270 Libyans killed by the Gaddafi regime more than fifteen years ago. The victims were all prisoners at the Abu Salim prison, massacred during a protest against conditions on 26th June 1996. It is understood that international assistance will be sought to identify the remains. The overthrow of Gaddafi's regime has led to numerous unsettling discoveries, including a stockpile of mustard gas in the Southern desert.

Turkey seizes Syrian arms as EU sanctions tighten

A Syrian ship with weapons heading to Damascus has been seized said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as pressure continues to grow on Syrian President Assad’s regime. Speaking from New York at the UN general Assembly, Erdogan confirmed that a ship was stopped and said that all future arms shipments to Syria would also be seized. Being interviewed by CNN, Erdogan also commented that, "If you're going to act against the fundamental rights, liberties and the law, you will lose your position in my heart as my brother and my friend. I was very patient. Patience, patience, patience. And then I cracked. " The move by Syria’s former key regional ally comes as the EU, joined by Switzerland, passed a seventh round of sanctions on Syria, including a blockade of banknotes to the Central bank of Syria and a ban on investment in the oil sector . The EU provides 95 percent of Syrian oil exports, which provide a third of the regime’s hard currency earnings. The intensified sanctions were welcomed by British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who commented , "International pressure will increase until the regime heeds the calls for an immediate end to violence, the release of political prisoners and genuine change. Assad is isolated internationally and things will never return to the way they were. He should step aside now. " "Countries across the region have called for Assad to end the violence immediately. This week in New York, I made clear to Security Council members that they too must increase the pressure on Syria. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, has also made this clear." The Syrian regime has already started to feel the effect of growing sanctions, as they announced a ban on a wide range of imports in an attempt to preserve foreign currency reserves.

Third US soldier sentenced for war crimes

A US soldier has been found guilty and sentenced to seven years in prison for his role in killing Afghan civilians. 21-year old Pvt 1st Class Andrew Holmes reached a plea deal with prosecutors pleaded guilty to the unpremeditated murder of a 15-year old villager in Afghanistan last year. He also pleaded guilty to charges relating to possession of a severed finger and smoking hashish. See report by AFP here . The prosecution alleges that soldiers threw grenades and fired guns at villagers, before planting weapons on them to make it seem as if the victims had fired first. They are also accused...

Palestinians submit historic UN membership bid

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas formally asked the UN to recognise the state of Palestine on Friday, despite sustained US-Israeli efforts to stall the move. In a speech that was welcomed with a standing ovation and applause, Abbas stated, " I do not believe that anyone with a shred of conscience can reject our application for a full membership of the United Nations and our admission as a full member state ," "At a time when the Arab people affirm their quest for democracy – the Arab spring – the time is now for the Palestinian spring, the time for independence. "It is a moment of truth...