Sunday, November 27, 2005

Commonwealth seeks security boost

Commonwealth leaders are to discuss ways to increase tolerance in order to fight extremism at the close of their three-day summit in Malta.
The talks are expected to include proposals to share information and boost co-operation against terrorism.
The heads of state and government hope to issue a strong final statement.
This comes after "no holds barred" talks on global trade issues ended with a statement asking rich nations to make sacrifices at upcoming trade talks.
The 53 Commonwealth members are due to discuss ways to work together to prevent and investigate terrorist attacks.
Illegal migration, an issue both for rich and poor nations within the Commonwealth, is also on the agenda.
The BBC's Mike Wooldridge, in Malta, says encouraging better understanding between people of different faiths and fostering inclusion rather than alienation is the bread and butter of an organisation like the Commonwealth.
Saturday's statement on trade issues means that the summit has already passed one of its main goals, our correspondent adds.
There is a high expectation in here that the EU will do more than what the EU is currently saying they will do Secretary General Don McKinnon
Rich nations were urged to "give more than they receive" during global trade talks in Hong Kong, especially over agriculture and market access.
The statement came at the end of what Commonwealth head Don McKinnon called a "no-holds barred" debate in which the EU was criticised for keeping farm subsidies.
Leaders said long-term prosperity and security for all nations was linked to progress in negotiations on market access.
Developing countries were also asked to be flexible during the Hong Kong talks.
There were calls for extra support to countries hard hit by trade liberalisation, such as smaller Commonwealth countries affected by the EU's sugar reforms.
On Friday, a number of Commonwealth Caribbean nations protested about a 36% cut by the EU to the guaranteed price of sugar.
'Critical moment'
Saturday's statement was quite an achievement for the Commonwealth given the strains over the issue during this summit, and a particular triumph for smaller, poorer members, says the BBC's Nick Childs in Malta.
"The desire is to ensure that something can happen," said Mr McKinnon. "And there is a high expectation in here that the EU will do more than what the EU is currently saying they will do"
The 53 Commonwealth nations represent about 30% of world trade and form a significant part of the World Trade Organisation, the forum for the Hong Kong talks.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is also the current EU president, said the world faces a "critical moment of decision" over trade.
Story from BBC NEWS: 2005/11/27 08:21:37 GMT© BBC MMV

Rescuers sent to China quake zone

Chinese rescue workers have been sent to areas worst hit by Saturday's magnitude 5.7 earthquake that left at least 14 people dead.
The teams were bringing food, water and tents to thousands of people whose their homes were flattened in the central province of Jiangxi.
Hundreds were injured in the earthquake and aftershocks have been reported.
The epicentre was near the city of Ruichang, where about 420,000 people left their homes fearing more tremors.
A total of 30,000 boxes of food and water have been delivered to the worst-hit areas, officials said.
The International Red Cross has sent 500 tents, and is expected to dispatch another 2,000 on Sunday.
About 8,000 homes have been destroyed.
"Basically, everyone in Ruichang is huddling in the street," a civil affairs official told AFP news agency.
Doctors treated people outside hospitals in case of new tremors, Xinhua news agency reported.
In nearby Jiujiang, thousands of people crowded the streets, following a series of aftershocks and fearing another strong quake.
Some wrapped themselves in blankets, with temperatures hovering at about 10C.
Zhang Xuping, 42, said his home in a village near Ruichang had cracks running down the walls.
Local officials told villagers not to stay indoors but had not provided any more information or assistance since, he said.
"We cut wood to build shelters," Mr Zhang said. "All of the people in the village stayed outdoors last night."
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Story from BBC NEWS: 2005/11/27 06:57:02 GMT© BBC MMV

Pressure on Malaysia police chief

By Jonathan Kent BBC News, Kuala Lumpur
Malaysian government and opposition politicians have called for the country's deputy police chief to quit.
Musa Hassan defended a police officer who was filmed forcing a female detainee to strip naked and squat repeatedly while holding both ears.
Mr Musa, the country's deputy inspector general of police, said the practice was standard procedure.
The video of a naked Chinese woman being humiliated in police station has caused widespread outrage in Malaysia.
But Mr Musa has made it clear he believes the real culprit is the person who filmed the incident.
He told reporters that detainees were made to strip and squat in order to dislodge items concealed in their private parts.
Doctors, including one who is a senior member of one of Malaysia's governing parties, says the procedure is not an effective means of conducting a body search.
They want intimate examinations carried out in hospital.
Mr Musa's speedy exoneration of his officer appears to contradict Malaysia's Prime Minister, Abdullah Badawi, who has promised a full investigation and no cover-up.
Leaders of all three of Malaysia's main opposition parties and at least one MP from the prime minister's own party are calling for Mr Musa to resign or be sacked.
One minister contacted by the BBC stopped short of that but demanded the police chief immediately explain his remarks.
The prime minister has made reform of Malaysia's police force a priority for his administration.
An independent inquiry held at his behest reported earlier this year and called such police strip search practices a gross infringement of human rights.
Story from BBC NEWS: 2005/11/27 06:06:13 GMT© BBC MMV

US condemns Azeri rally policing

The US has censured the use of force to disperse crowds in Azerbaijan's capital Baku on Saturday who were protesting about recent parliamentary elections.
A statement by the US embassy in Baku said it deplored the "unjustified and unprovoked use of force".
Many people were reported to have been injured by police using truncheons, tear gas and water cannon.
The opposition say the results giving President Ilham Aliyev's party overwhelming victory were falsified.
Leaders of the opposition United Freedom Bloc have insisted on a re-run of the vote.
Saturday saw the first use of police force against a rally since the 6 November election.
'Orange revolution'
Hundreds of policemen in full riot gear had lined the edges of Victory Square for the latest of a series of tightly controlled demonstrations.
"We deplore the unjustified and unprovoked use of force against citizens peacefully exercising their right to freedom of assembly," said the statement issued by the US embassy in Baku.
Police chiefs said only one demonstrator sustained injuries, while 20 officers were seriously hurt.
They branded the demonstrators, who defied a two-hour limit on their rally, as "provocateurs" and denied using water cannons or tear gas.
"They were calling for disobedience... we warned them," said Baku deputy police chief Yashar Aliyev.
He said 29 people were arrested, including a leader of the opposition Liberal party.
Many activists, inspired by Ukraine's "Orange Revolution" of a year ago and believing the time has come to put more pressure on the government, had called for an open-ended protest.
But President Aliyev, son of the late Heydar Aliyev, says that in his oil-rich state the chances of such a revolution are zero.
Story from BBC NEWS: 2005/11/27 08:48:38 GMT© BBC MMV

Chechens vote for new parliament

Chechnya is electing its first parliament since Russian troops restored Moscow's control over the region in 1999.
Russia sees the vote as a major step forward in its peace efforts, while separatist rebels dismiss it as a bid to avoid finding a real solution.
Tens of thousands have died since the rebels first tried to secede in 1991.
Human rights groups have dismissed the vote as a farce, saying the violence makes a free and fair poll impossible.
They also complain of bias in favour of the pro-Putin party United Russia.
Chechnya's pro-Moscow President, Alu Alkhanov, said on the eve of the polls that it was hard to expect the election to be "ideal by European standards because terrorist acts do occur".
But he insisted the tiny region, in the mountains of the North Caucasus, was "mature enough to hold a parliamentary election and... ready to have it".
'Flawed' elections
Eight Russian political parties are fielding candidates, while independents are also standing for the 58 seats.
The only outside observers are from Russia or the Arab League and Organization of the Islamic Conference, according to Chechen election officials.
The BBC's Steve Rosenberg says that the last time the people of Chechnya voted for a parliament, the rebels were in power, having humiliated the Russian army and won virtual independence.
Since the rebels were ousted, Chechens have voted for a new constitution, enshrining the region's status as part of Russia, in a vote widely seen as flawed.
In another controversial vote, they elected Mr Alkhanov, and now voters are being asked to choose MPs, most of whom are expected to be loyal to the Kremlin.
Moscow says this election is a sign that life in Chechnya is finally returning to normal after more than a decade of conflict, our correspondent says.
UK-based Chechen rebel envoy Akhmed Zakayev dismissed the vote as "pseudo-elections".
The UK's Lord Judd, a former Council of Europe special rapporteur on Chechnya, said this week that the election was based on flawed premises.
"I simply do not believe we will have stability, peace and a viable future for the Chechen people until we have a real political process," he said.
Story from BBC NEWS: 2005/11/27 06:54:11 GMT© BBC MMV