Palestinians win initial vote on joining UNESCO, US baffled.

The 58-nation executive board of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) voted in favour of full Palestinian membership to the organisation, by 40 to 4. The US, Germany, Latvia and Romania opposed the move, whilst fourteen members, including Belgium, France, Italy and Spain abstained. It is believed that the UNESCO membership would facilitate the Palestinians seeking greater protection of their historical and cultural sites - no doubt a source of contention with Israel, particularly with regards to sites in East Jerusalem. "[UNESCO] is one place where we can...

Karzai agrees strategic alliance with India

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has signed a strategic partnership agreement with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a visit to New Delhi. Karzai’s visit comes as ties with Pakistan have deteriorated rapidly over the last few weeks, after the assassination of peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani. Afghan officials have accused Pakistan of aiding the perpetrators of the attack, who they say was a Pakistani citizen. The agreement is said to include military and police training along with support for Afghan "capacity building" in the areas of education and development. India is already one of...

Tutu slams ANC after Dalai Lama trip cancelled

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has accused the African National Congress of being “worse than apartheid” after the Dalai Lama was forced to pull out of a trip for Tutu’s 80th birthday celebrations as he was not yet granted a visa by South African authorities. "When we (anti-apartheid activists) used to apply for passports from the apartheid government, we never knew until the last moment what the decision was," Tutu said . "Our government is worse than the apartheid government, because at least you were expecting it with the apartheid government." Tutu was outraged at the ANC at the decision not to...

China, Russia veto Syria resolution as Turkey threatens unilateral sanctions

A UN Security Council resolution threatening sanctions against Syria has been vetoed by Russia and China. The resolution, proposed by Britain, Portugal, Germany, France and the US, had been watered down three times before its proposal, to address concerns by Russia and China that, if passed, it might pave the way for another military intervention. Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa have argued that the resolution passed on Libya was used as a pretext to aid the removal of Gaddafi, although the resolution only authorised the use of force for the protection of civilians.

Retrial for Bahraini doctors as they speak out against torture

A Bahraini court has ordered for the retrial of 20 doctors and nurses who were sentenced to long prison terms by a military court after treating injured protestors in anti-government demonstrations earlier this year. The case, which aroused an international outrage, saw the health care workers receive sentences ranging from 5 to 15 years for charges including "inciting hatred to the regime and insulting it”. A statement on Wednesday appears to have overturned the earlier ruling and said that the accused would be retried in a civilian court. Dr Fatima Haji, who was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment said that she was tortured while being interrogated. Speaking to Al Jazeera she said, "I was a human being. I was a doctor. I was doing my duty as a professional. What we did is our duty as doctors, human beings, mothers. If I knew this would sentence me to life... I would still do it, again and again and again."

Iraq to end legal immunity for US troops

Iraq's political leaders announced on Tuesday that American troops may remain in Iraq next year, however, any remaining troops would no longer be granted immunity from Iraqi law. The move is expected to be welcomed by the Iraqi public, who have long protested against perceived impunity granted to US troops particularly after the Abu Ghraib affair. US officials have previously said such a decision by the Iraqis would end American support for the training of Iraqi troops. An official for the United States Embassy in Iraq said the Americans were reviewing the statement and “appreciate the...

Syrian diplomats harrass diaspora protesters

Amnesty International accused Syrian diplomats of launching a 'systematic' campaign of harassment and threats against expatriate dissidents protesting outside their embassies in eight countries - Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Britain and the United States. Protesters state that they were initially filmed or photographed by officials, before receiving phone calls, e-mails and Facebook messages warning them to stop the protests. Amnesty has expressed concern at reports that the relatives of protesters, currently in Syria, have been subject to targetted harassment, detention,...

Syrian National Council launched as battles intensify

Syria’s opposition forces have formally established a united front for the first time at a meeting in Turkey on Sunday. The formation of the Syrian National Council (SNC) represents a serious challenge to President Assad’s regime as it continues to crackdown on pro-democracy protests across the country. A spokesman told AFP , "The Syrian National Council reunites the forces of the opposition and the peaceful revolution... it represents the Syrian revolution both inside and outside the country ”. Stating that the SNC was open to all Syrians, they went on to call on "international organisations...

ICC allows Ivory Coast investigation

Laurent Gbagbo was captured by Ouattara loyalists backed by French special forces (Photo: ZimDaily) The International Criminal Court in The Hague has granted prosecutors permission to investigate alleged war crimes in the Ivory Coast. A spokesperson for the ICC said an investigation into the atrocities will begin soon.

Bangladesh tribunal charges war crimes suspect

A war crimes tribunal set up to investigate war crimes committed during the independence struggle in Bangladesh has charged its first suspect. Delawar Hossain Sayedee, a senior leader of the Jamat-e-Islami party, has been charged with war crimes including mass murder, rape, looting and forcibly converting Hindus.