Bashir declares ceasefire in South Kordofan, but blocks foreign access

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has declared a “two-week unilateral ceasefire” with rebels in the troubled state of South Kordofan, during an unannounced visit to the state's capital of Kadugli. Bashir’s declaration was described by BBC’s correspondent as catching “his own military - and the rebels they are fighting - by surprise”. The move follows pressure from both the US and the UN, who are pushing for an independent investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity, as detailed by a UN report . Bashir did go on to say that not a single foreign agency would be allowed into the region, contradicting an earlier acceptance by his government to allow UN agencies access to South Kordofan. It comes days after talks between President Bashir and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) failed to reach a solution to end the crisis.

Western states seek Security Council action over Syria's crackdown

A European and US draft resolution will call for UN Security Council sanctions against the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad and several other top officials, council diplomats told Reuters on Monday. More than 2,200 people have been killed in a five-month-old crackdown by Syrian forces against widespread anti-government protests that have gripped the country. See Reuters' report here . The draft would also call for a referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The resolution's drafters are the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Portugal . The five Western powers hoped to circulate a draft to the other 10 council members. Once it reaches the full 15-nation council, there will be further negotiations and the text will likely be revised. Last week the UN’s human rights chief, Navi Pillay, recommended the Security Council refer Syria's crackdown to the ICC saying the government may have been guilty of crimes against humanity.

China patches up with Libyan rebels

China has urged Libya to protect its investments after a rebel member was quoted as saying the new regime would have problems working with countries that did not back the rebel movement from the beginning of the uprising. Reuters reported an official of the National Transitional Council (NTC) at a Libyan oil firm in control of the rebels as saying: “We don't have a problem with western countries like the Italians, French and UK companies. But we may have some political issues with Russia, China and Brazil." China has responded by calling on the NTC to protect its investments and pointed out that the agreements in place would benefit both countries.

UN Human Rights Council approves international probe into Syria’s crackdown

The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) has launched a new commission of inquiry into Syria's crackdown on anti-government protesters, including possible crimes against humanity. See reports by Al-Jazeera and BBC . By 33 votes in favour to four against and nine abstentions, the HRC passed a resolution to "urgently dispatch an independent international commission of inquiry... to investigate violations of international human rights law in Syria since July 2011". China and Russia said they opposed the measure as unnecessary intervention. The resolution condemned the government’s violations “such as...

EU extends sanctions on Syria, mulls oil embargo

The European Union extended its sanctions on Syrian officials and businesses, but stopped short of imposing a full oil embargo on Damascus. However, a diplomatic source told AFP : “We are in a process of working through what further tools we want to use.” “ We are open to all options - the oil embargo, sanctions on banks and telecoms, in line with the Americans - but we want to make sure sanctions are targeted at the Assad regime.” “ We are acutely aware of the need to ramp up sanctions , but we don't want them to impact on the Syrian people.” Some 90 percent of Syrian crude oil is exported...

Libya’s rebels sweep into Tripoli

Libya’s rebels took control of most of Tripoli in a lightning advance Sunday, celebrating the victory in the city’s symbolic Green Square, as Muammar Gaddafi’s defences collapsed with little resistance. The rebels were welcomed by thousands of jubilant civilians who rushed out of their homes to cheer the long convoys of pickup trucks packed with fighters, who linked up with comrades said to have infiltrated the city in recent days.

US backs action on UN report on Sudan atrocities

The United States has urged Sudan to implement recommendations outlined in a UN report which found credible allegations that war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed in the South Kordofan region. The report, by UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay, has been blasted by Sudan who described the UN report as "unfounded" and "malicious", yet conversely said that it would form its own committee to assess the situation in the area. The move comes as efforts by the United States for a UN Security Council statement were stalled by Russia and China. The disagreements are said to be over the “precise language” and not “on the need for a council statement”. While Sudan has agreed to let UN relief agencies into the region, the regime still refuses to allow an investigation by the UN into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. Pressure mounts The statement by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, US Permanent Representative to the UN said that the United States was “deeply disturbed” by the report. She added: “We strongly support Commissioner [Navi] Pillay’s recommendations, including immediate, unhindered access for humanitarian assistance and ongoing human rights monitoring as well as for an independent inquiry to hold perpetrators of violence to account. We urge all members of the UN Security Council to join us in pressing for implementation of these recommendations.” The call for an investigation comes as a report by the Satellite Sentinel Project , has uncovered evidence of more mass graves in South Kordofan.

On Turkey’s air strikes on the Kurds

“The air strikes launched by Turkey against Kurdish bases across the border [in Iraq’s Kursish region] are part of a misguided strategy aimed at eliminating an entire people. “Turkish leaders now seem to have discarded dialogue in favour of what has been described as a “ Tamil solution ” to the Kurdish question. This will lead to disaster for the country and more death and destruction for a region that is already in flames.” - Peace in Kurdistan Campaign . See full text here . Iraqi politicians in Baghdad have joined Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials in condemning several days of...

UN urges investigation into killing of journalists in Pakistan

The UN has called on the Pakistani government to investigate a series of abductions, disappearances and extrajudicial killings that have been targeting journalists and political activists. At least 16 journalists were killed in 2010, while 25 people including writers and political activists were killed in the troubled province of Balochistan in the first four months of 2011 alone. In March, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay spoke out against the increasing trend of violence in the province and now the UN have asked for an inquiry into the cases. Rupert Colville of the Office...