Reuters | Oct 23, 2010 | 7:18pm IST
WikiLeaks said on Saturday its release of nearly 400,000 classified U.S. files on the Iraq war showed 15,000 more Iraqi civilians died than previously thought. Uploaded on the WikiLeaks’ website, the files detailed gruesome cases of prisoner abuse by Iraqi forces that the U.S. military knew about but did not seem to investigate. In Baghdad, Iraqi officials responded to WikiLeaks’ move by pledging to probe any allegations that police or soldiers had committed crimes and any culprits would be prosecuted.
The whistle-blowing website’s founder, Julian Assange, who was sharply criticised by the Pentagon for publishing the secret reports, said the release should throw light on what had happened in Iraq, thwarting an official "attack on the truth". "We hope to correct some of that attack on the truth that occurred before the war, during the war and which has continued on since the war officially concluded," he told a news conference in London.
Working with Iraq Body Count, a group run by academics and peace activists that estimates Iraq casualties, WikiLeaks had calculated that the documents revealed about 15,000 previously unknown civilian deaths, Assange said. "Adding in the combatant deaths reported in these logs … we are now able to say that more than 150,000 people have been killed in total since 2003, of which about 80 percent were civilians," Iraq Body Count co-founder John Sloboda said. The Pentagon decried the website’s publication of the secret reports — the largest security breach of its kind in U.S. military history, far surpassing the group’s dump of more than 70,000 Afghan war files in July.
PENTAGON DEPLORES LEAK
U.S. officials said the leak endangered U.S. troops and threatened to put some 300 Iraqi collaborators at risk by exposing their identities. "We deplore WikiLeaks for inducing individuals to break the law, leak classified documents and then cavalierly share that secret information with the world," said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary. Britain’s Ministry of Defence condemned the release of classified material, saying it could put the lives of British soldiers at risk.
BBC | 21 October 2010 | 11:29 GMT
A United Nations agency has suspended plans to grant a prize sponsored by Equatorial Guinea President Teodor Obiang Nguema.
UNESCO said its executive board agreed to suspend the life sciences prize. It said it would continue consultations on the award’s future.
Rights groups had urged UNESCO to abandon the prize, accusing Mr Obiang of abuses, rigging elections and corruption. He has previously denied such charges.
Yahoo | Indian Express | Oct 11 2010 | 01:12 PM
India is all set to get a seat on the Security Council as a non-permanent member after a gap of 19 years through the elections to be held on Tuesday in the United Nations General Assembly. India is expecting an easy win after Kazakhstan pulled out from the race earlier this year and there is no other challenger from the region.
While the Asian, African and Latin American seats are going uncontested with only one candidate each, the two seats for Western Europe and others Group are being fought for by Canada, Germany and Portugal. South Africa is a shoo-in for the African seat, which leads to a configuration of three emerging economies — India, Brazil and South Africa – being on the Council at the same time.
In the run-up to the elections, Indian envoy to the UN Hardeep Singh Puri pointed out that BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations will occupy places in the Security Council in the coming year, and could present a united front on several contentious international issues. "BRIC coordination in the Security Council becomes a fact of life," Puri had said.
Indian diplomats have been canvassing for the spot for the past three years. To win, India needs two-thirds of the General Assembly vote, which adds up to about 128 giving the green light to India. India’s last stint on the Security Council was in 1992. The five new countries will be replacing Austria, Japan, Mexico, Turkey and Uganda. Colombia is expected to come in place of Mexico.
Reuters | 08 Sep 2010 | 13:14 GMT
Pakistan, whose economy has been battered by the worst floods in its history, needs to abide by terms of an IMF bailout loan by enforcing fiscal austerity, the chances of which happening appear close to zero. The World Bank and Asian Development Bank are still assessing damage but three things are clear — the fiscal deficit target will be missed, inflation will rise and annual economic growth could be knocked back to between zero and 2 percent. Before the floods, which killed more than 1,700 people, displaced millions and caused an estimated $43 billion in damage — almost one quarter of the South Asian nation’s 2009/10 gross domestic product — Pakistan had forecast growth of 4.5 percent.
The floods have impacted 30 percent of all farmland, a massive blow to a mainstay of the economy. The economic problems are of concern to the United States which relies on a stable Pakistan in its fight against terrorism. "The future of the economy is a big question mark, as there is no policy response from the government so far," said Muzzamil Aslam, an economist at JS Global Capital Ltd. "Doom, gloom and despair are spreading fast," said Ashfaque Hasan Khan, dean at NUST Business School in Islamabad. Part of the problem, he said, was the government’s focus. "The economy is not on the radar screen," said Khan. But the government has to abide by International Monetary Fund demands that focus on narrowing the fiscal deficit and raising tax revenue.
The IMF said last week it would give Pakistan $450 million in emergency flood aid and disburse funds in September but the status of the release of the sixth tranche of an $11 billion bailout loan is unclear. It seems to have been delayed at least until November. There’s no evidence that Pakistan will be able to meet the reform targets soon as the
Deutsche Welle | 25/08/2010
German federal prosecutors said Wednesday they have charged three German citizens with supporting groups linked to al-Qaeda. One of those indicted, 28-year-old Filiz G. is the wife of a man convicted in March of planning a series of car bombs targeting Germans and US soldiers. She has been in custody, along with the 21-year-old Alican T., since February. Authorities are still searching for a second male suspect, the 31-year-old Fatih K.
The German authorities say the three allegedly remitted 4,300 euros ($5,458) from November 2009 to February 2010 to Islamic terror groups abroad. They are also accused of spreading radical Islamist videos on the Internet with Filiz G. allegedly making around 1,000 posts to a leading web forum for Islamists in Germany. Continue reading
Reuters | AlertNet |
Scant international donations to flooded Pakistan are being driven by a multitude of factors ranging from the financial crisis, donor fatigue, a low death toll and scepticism that the government can translate the contributions into effective aid, say relief workers and analysts. The disaster, which has killed up to 1,600 people and affected around 20 million, is one of the biggest humanitarian crises in recent years – bigger than the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 or the earthquake in Haiti earlier this year, according to the United Nations. Yet despite the television images broadcast across the world showing large swathes of land submerged, villages and towns decimated and hundreds of thousands of people living in makeshift camps with no food and water, the world has been slow to react to calls for aid.
While some donations in cash and kind have been provided bilaterally or channeled via smaller appeals, only around 50 percent of the $459 million of the main U.N. appeal has been met by international donors – far less than in other recent disasters. “It’s pretty much fair to say that there has been a lot less money generated for the Pakistan floods than the other major disasters that it has been compared to, like Haiti and Kashmir earthquakes or the tsunami,” said Jan Kellett, leader of Global Humanitarian Assistance, a programme that monitors trends in humanitarian financing run by British-based Development Initiatives. “For example, on day 16 after the tsunami, commitments of aid were more than $1.4 billion, whereas the Pakistan flooding has received $200 million over the same period. So there is a huge difference.” He does however add that comparisons between crises at such an early stage are notoriously difficult. Continue reading
BBC News | 15 August 2010 | 19:46 GMT
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has described as “heart-wrenching” the destruction he witnessed on a visit to flood-devastated Pakistan. Mr Ban said the scale of the disaster was greater than anything he had seen before. He again urged the world to speed up aid to the country, saying shelter and medicine were desperately needed. The Pakistani government says up to 20 million people have now been affected by the monsoon floods. At least 1,500 are known to have lost their lives. Health experts are warning that the threat of epidemics in flood-hit areas is growing.
Mr Ban said at a press conference, stood alongside President Asif Ali Zardari.”I will never forget the destruction and suffering I have witnessed today. “In the past I have seen scenes of natural disaster around the world, but nothing like this. The scale of this disaster is so large. So many people in so many places in so much need.” He announced a further $10m (£6.4m) from the UN’s central emergency response fund, making a total of $27m from the fund so far, and repeated his calls for the international community to come to Pakistan’s aid. “The people of Pakistan need food, emergency shelters, medicines, clean water,” he said. “We are all deeply concerned about the spread of diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases. All our combined medical capacity will be needed to provide the right drugs and care.”