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Karzai unhurt after parade attack

Minggu, 27 April 2008


The moment when gunfire broke out at the military parade

At least one person has been killed and 11 were hurt in an attack on a military parade in Kabul attended by President Hamid Karzai and other dignitaries.

Security forces whisked Mr Karzai away from the scene and hundreds fled as shots rang out. Two MPs were reported to be among the wounded.

The parade was a celebration to mark 16 years since the overthrow of the country's Soviet-backed rule.

A spokesman for the Taleban said the movement had carried out the attack.

Troops running for cover as shots ring out
The attack caused panic among troops at the tightly guarded event

He said six militants had been deployed near the parade with suicide vests and guns. Three of them were killed and the other three arrested, he added.

In a live TV address after the incident, Mr Karzai confirmed that there had been arrests.

"Fortunately Afghan security forces quickly surrounded them," he said. "Some of them were captured."

"Everything is calm, rest assured."

Mr Karzai has frequently been the target of assassination attempts in recent years.

Anthem playing

The parade, in central Kabul, was part of Afghan National Day celebrations, marking the capture of Kabul from the Soviet-backed government by the mujahideen in 1992.

Afghan map

The national anthem was being played when the attack started.

Live TV showed President Karzai standing on a huge stage surrounded by a crowd of MPs, cabinet members, military commanders and foreign diplomats.

Automatic weapons were fired into the crowd and two people, apparently MPs, were seen slumping into their chairs.

The US and UK ambassadors and the Nato military commander were among dignitaries bundled away by security forces.

Live TV coverage of the event was cut off shortly afterwards, and the state channel switched to music.

Sirajudin, a police officer at the scene, told the Associated Press news agency he saw two people firing AK-47 assault rifles from a house toward the area of the stage.

At least one explosion followed the gunfire, and security forces returned fire.

Soldiers dressed in ceremonial garb were seen running from the scene.

The BBC's Alastair Leithead in Kabul says there was a sense of panic in the streets, with people unsure how serious the incident had been.

The event, which had been shrouded in tight security for days, was cancelled soon afterwards.

Police and army are now in control of the area.

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Torch relay begins in South Korea

Protester wearing a Chinese police uniform during a rally ahead of Olympic torch relay in Seoul, South Korea (26 April 2008)
Human rights activists staged a demonstration ahead of the torch relay

The latest leg of the Olympic torch relay is underway in South Korea with protestors vowing to disrupt its run through the capital Seoul.

The 24-km (15-mile) route from Olympic Park to City Hall will be guarded by 8,000 police officers.

Human rights groups have said thousands are preparing to protest over China's forced repatriation of North Korean refugees and its crackdown in Tibet.

Police warned anyone trying to disrupt the relay would be severely punished.

The torch arrived in South Korea from Japan, where four people were injured and five men arrested in scuffles.

More than 3,000 police could not stop Japanese nationalists and pro-Tibet activists clashing with pro-Chinese groups in the mountain resort of Nagano on Saturday.

China tries to promote itself as a civilised nation but what it's doing to [North Korean] defectors is uncivilised
Kim Sang-chul Human rights lawyer

A coalition of human rights groups in South Korea is warning of similar scenes during the relay in central Seoul.

Protesters have threatened to stop the Olympic beacon crossing one of the main river bridges in the city.

Thousands of Chinese people study or work in South Korea and many of those are expected to welcome the torch.

About 1,500 flag-waving Chinese supporters gathered at the relay's starting point, and a small group of protestors were also seen in the area.

The US embassy has cautioned its citizens in Seoul to avoid unnecessary travel during the relay, which started shortly after 1400 local time (0600 BST).

Dozens of human rights activists took part in a demonstration near the Olympic Park on Saturday ahead of the torch's arrival.

In addition to protests against the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the relay is also seen as an opportunity to raise the issue of China's policy of repatriating North Korean defectors.

Vowing to stop the march, human rights lawyer Kim Sang-chul told South Korean news agency Yonhap China had repatriated 75,000 North Koreans over the past 15 years.

Police officers stand on guard before the 2008 Beijing Olympics torch relay in Nagano
As in Japan, thousands of Chinese supporters are expected to turn out

"China tries to promote itself as a civilised nation but what it's doing to the defectors is uncivilised," he said.

Security for the relay includes 120 police runners and a helicopter.

"Those who attempt to stop the relay will surely be arrested on the site and given stern punishment," a police spokesman said.

Over the following few days, the torch will stop in North Korea and Vietnam.

The BBC's John Sudworth in Seoul says the Pyongyang leg of the relay is guaranteed to be trouble-free.

North Korea tolerates no public protest and the torch will be greeted by hundreds of thousands of people in a choreographed mass display of flower-waving, he says.

Protests elsewhere on the torch's progress have turned the celebratory tour of 20 countries into what analysts describe as a public-relations disaster for Beijing.

Demonstrations in Athens, London, Paris and San Francisco have dominated media coverage of the relay.

But the flame has made relatively peaceful progress through other cities, including Bangkok in Thailand and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

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Bush pokes fun at his successors

US President George W Bush conducts the US Marine Corps band at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner on 26 April 2008
Mr Bush made a few jokes before conducting the US Marine band

US President George W Bush poked fun at his potential successors during his last White House Correspondents' Association dinner.

The president said he was surprised they were not in the audience before making jokes at their expense.

Referring to Republican candidate John McCain's absence, he said: "He probably wanted to distance himself from me."

The annual dinner dates back to 1924 and is attended by media personalities, celebrities and politicians.

President Bush also put forward mock excuses on behalf of the Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Taking a jibe at controversies which have dogged their campaigns, he said: "Hillary Clinton couldn't get in because of sniper fire and Senator Obama's at church."

He was referring to Mrs Clinton's "mis-speak" when she erroneously claimed she faced sniper fire on a trip to Bosnia in the 1990s; and Mr Obama's pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who criticised America in fiery sermons.

The president admitted to being a "little wistful" at his final dinner, and video clips of his previous performances were broadcast.

He finished by conducting the US Marine band in a medley of patriotic marches.

Retirement plans

Mr Bush was followed by Craig Ferguson, host of US television's the Late Late Show.

Scottish-born Mr Ferguson asked Mr Bush what he was planning to do after leaving office, suggesting: "You could look for a job with more vacation time."

The president has been criticised for the amount of time he has spent away from the White House during his presidency.

Vice-President Dick Cheney, Mr Ferguson said, "is already moving out of his residence. It takes longer than you think to pack up an entire dungeon".

The White House Correspondents' Association presented its annual awards during the dinner on Saturday in front of a crowd of VIPs, including author Salman Rushdie, singer Ashlee Simpson and actors Ben Affleck and Pamela Anderson.

Mr Bush's appearance at the event continues a tradition begun by US President Calvin Coolidge in 1924.

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Mugabe attacks opposition and UK

Jumat, 18 April 2008

Robert Mugabe addresses rally 18/4/08

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has denounced the opposition and former colonial power Britain in his first speech since the disputed elections.

"Down with thieves who want to steal our country," he told crowds marking 28 years of independence.

The outcome of the presidential poll is unclear but the high court has rejected an opposition bid to stop a recount.

Meanwhile, a Chinese ship carrying arms to Zimbabwe is reported to have left South Africa after failing to unload.

Dock workers had refused to remove the arms aboard the An Yue Jiang, which had been forced to anchor off the port of Durban for four days.

The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union said it did "not agree with the position of the government not to intervene".

Reports say the An Yue Jiang is carrying 3m rounds of ammunition, 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades and 2,500 mortar rounds.

On Thursday, Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said South African President Thabo Mbeki needed to be "relieved of his duties" as a mediator in the crisis caused by the presidential poll, for which results have not been released.

This is the saddest independence day since our liberation from colonial rule
Morgan Tsvangirai Movement for Democratic Change

He also told the BBC that his party had come close to an agreement with the ruling Zanu-PF to remove Mr Mugabe from power.

Mr Tsvangirai is adamant he won the presidential election outright. But the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission says it cannot release the results until it investigates anomalies.

On Friday, the high court rejected an application by the MDC to stop a partial recount taking place this weekend.

"I find no merit in the application," said Justice Antonia Guvava. "Accordingly, the application is dismissed with costs."

The ruling paves the way for all presidential, parliamentary, senate and council votes cast in 23 out of 210 constituencies to be recounted.

A change in the parliamentary result by nine seats could see the Zanu-PF party regain its lost majority in the assembly.

In the presidential poll, government ministers suggest that a run-off may be needed, and the MDC says its activists in rural areas are being attacked ahead of that possible poll.

The independent Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights has said at least 200 people have been treated for severe injuries as a result of political violence since last month's election.

'British machinations'

Thousands of people gathered at the Gwanzura Stadium in Highfield, a suburb of Harare, to hear Mr Mugabe speak at a rally celebrating the anniversary of Zimbabwe's independence from Britain and the end of white minority rule.

The 84-year-old played a key role in the 1970s war of independence and took power as Zimbabwe's first prime minister in 1980 on a wave of popular support.

We, not the British, established democracy, based on one person, one vote
President Robert Mugabe

Many of those in the crowd wore T-shirts decorated with Mr Mugabe's portrait or held banners showing their support for his government's policies.

"Defending our land from imperialists," said one poster, while another claimed "Zimbabwe has no place for sell-outs."

Mr Mugabe took to the stage to rapturous applause to celebrate what he described as the day on which the "nation finally shook off the chains of British racist settler colonialism".

"Our political history is well known, yet with time, we feel more challenged to recall it, especially for those who appear ignorant of it or are deliberately engaged in reversing the gains of our liberation struggle," he said.

Mr Mugabe brushed aside criticism by the British government of Zimbabwe's human rights record and political system, saying democracy had only been established there after independence.

"We, not the British, established democracy based on one person, one vote - democracy which rejected racial or gender discrimination and upheld human rights and religious freedom," he said.

I predict that the situation will end up like Kenya. Mugabe will be encouraged by the African Union to form a national unity government
Frank Hartry, South Africa

The president called on Zimbabweans "to maintain utmost vigilance in the face of vicious British machinations and the machinations of our other detractors, who are allies of Britain".

"Whereas yesterday they relied on brute force to subjugate our people and plunder our resources, today they have perfected their tactics to more subtle forms," he warned.

Mr Mugabe also said the government was attempting to deal with the hardships facing Zimbabweans, such as the shortage of food and high unemployment, which have been compounded by hyper-inflation.

'Saddest day'

On Thursday, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa accused Mr Tsvangirai of treason and working with the UK to bring about "regime change".

Morgan Tsvangirai talks to the BBC

The state-controlled Herald newspaper paper said the details were contained in a "memorandum of understanding" between the MDC leader and "various right-wing groups" in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

The UK embassy in Harare said the correspondence was "a forgery". Mr Tsvangirai also rejected the treason allegations, describing Mr Chinamasa as an "injustice minister" because he had lost his seat in parliament.

At a news conference in Johannesburg, Mr Tsvangirai said Zimbabwe was facing "the saddest independence day since our liberation from colonial rule" and that people were literally starving.

Later, Mr Tsvangirai told the BBC of the near-agreement between the MDC and Zanu-PF that would have removed President Mugabe.

"We were prepared to consider the issue of an inclusive government including some members of Zanu-PF," he said.

"In fact they were suggesting how many and they were talking about a panel from which we were going to choose."

The government talks failed when it became clear there were "others in the establishment who did not want to accept that", he said.

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Pope urges global unity on crises

Pope Benedict XVI stands with Rabbi Arthur Schneier during his visit to the Park East Synagogue, New York, on 18 Friday 2008
Pope Benedict XVI visited a synagogue in Manhattan's Upper East Side

The head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, has told the UN in New York that member states should solve the world's crises together.

Benedict XVI, the third pope to address the UN, said the world was still subject to "the decisions of a few", without naming countries.

He urged states to protect their people from "grave and sustained" human rights abuses or face outside intervention.

The Pope later visited a synagogue as part of his six-day US tour.

Pope Benedict visited Park East synagogue, just hours before the start of the Jewish Passover, becoming the first leader of the Roman Catholic church to visit a Jewish place of worship in the US.

His agenda in New York, his last stop before returning to Rome, also includes visiting Ground Zero and celebrating Mass at Yankee Stadium.

'Decisions of a few'

The UN speech was rather theoretical, reports the BBC's David Willey, who is travelling with the Pope during his visit, with the pontiff referring to no countries by name.

Pope Benedict XVI speaking to the UN General Assembly

"Every state has the primary duty to protect its own population from grave and sustained violations of human rights," the Pope said.

"If states are unable to guarantee such protection, the international community must intervene with the juridical means provided in the United Nations Charter and in other international instruments."

The real harm, he said, came from indifference or non-intervention.

Rules, the Pope argued, did not limit freedom but promoted it when they prohibited conduct and actions against the common good.

Multilateral consensus, he said, was "in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of a few, whereas the world's problems call for interventions in the form of collective action".

Talking about war, the pontiff called for "a deeper search for ways of pre-empting and managing conflicts by exploring every possible diplomatic avenue".

Attention and encouragement should be given to "even the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation".

In a separate speech to UN staff, Pope Benedict praised their work, saying their dedication was never sufficiently acknowledged.

Addressing abuse

Pope Benedict later paid a visit to the Park East synagogue, in Manhattan's Upper East Side, where he was met by chief rabbi Arthur Schneier.

The pontiff said the Jewish community made "a valuable contribution" to life in New York city.

"And I encourage all of you to continue building bridges of friendship with all the many different ethnic and religious groups present in your neighbourhood," he added.

15 Apr: Arrived at Andrews Air Force Base
16 Apr: White House luncheon; talks with Mr Bush. Meeting with US bishops and prayer service in Washington (evening)
17 Apr: Washington Mass; addressed Catholic University; interfaith meeting
18 Apr: Addresses UN
19 Apr: New York Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral
20 Apr: Ground Zero visit; Yankee Stadium Mass

Pope Benedict then attended an evening ecumenical service with Protestant and Orthodox clergy at St Joseph's church in Manhattan.

Celebrating open-air Mass at the Nationals stadium in Washington DC on Thursday, the Pope spoke of the sexual abuse of children by US Catholic clergy before talking privately to a group of people who had been abused by priests.

The Pope, who was addressing 40,000 people, told the victims he would pray for them and their families.

He spent 25 minutes in individual meetings with half a dozen victims, some of whom were in tears during the encounters, a spokesman said.

During the open-air Mass, the pontiff said: "No words of mine can describe the pain and the harm inflicted by the sexual abuse of minors."

Efforts to protect children had to continue, he said.

Our correspondent says that for the third time in as many days, the pontiff has done what many Catholics have been asking for years.

He has condemned and publicly accepted full responsibility for the crimes of sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests in the US.

On Wednesday, the pontiff met President George W Bush at the White House.

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Carter in Hamas 'ceasefire call'

Former US President Jimmy Carter in Damascus
Jimmy Carter met the Syrian president before his talks with Hamas

Former US President Jimmy Carter has held talks with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Syria despite US and Israeli opposition.

Hamas spokesmen said Mr Carter had asked for it to stop rocket attacks on Israel and to enter talks for the release of an Israeli captive.

They said any truce must be two-way and there would be a "price" for freeing Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Mr Carter earlier met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Gaza boycott

Mr Carter has said he is not trying to mediate in the Arab-Israeli conflict, but believes peace will not be achieved without talking to Hamas and Syria.

Israel, the US and the European Union all refuse to deal with the group directly and pursue policies to isolate it.

A spokesman for US President George W Bush described the meeting as "not wise", and said it had given Hamas a credibility it does not deserve.

Mr Carter, awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, brokered the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty, the first between Israel and an Arab state.

Khaled Meshaal in August 2005
Khaled Meshaal has said Hamas wants a mutual ceasefire

He made no comment after the meeting.

But leading Hamas political bureau figure, Mohammed Nazzal, told reporters: "Carter suggested a truce and that Hamas should stop its rockets against Israel.

"We support a truce, but Israel should support it too."

One senior Hamas official in Damascus told Associated Press news agency Mr Carter had also asked Hamas to agree to a meeting with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai to discuss a prisoner exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Mr Nazzal would only say that Hamas leaders were to meet later to discuss the fate of Cpl Shalit, who was captured by Hamas in a raid into Israel from Gaza two years ago.

"They will discuss details related to the price and mechanisms for his release, which will not happen without a price," Mr Nazzal said.

Arab initiative

Hamas gunmen seized control of Gaza in June last year from their rival Palestinian faction Fatah, which has been left in control of the West Bank.

An Israeli boycott of Gaza has isolated the small territory and further deepened the poverty of its 1.4 million residents.

Mr Meshaal has said that Hamas accepts and supports an Arab peace initiative, which offers peace and recognition to Israel in return for a full withdrawal from the land captured in 1967 in the West Bank, the dismantling of Jewish settlements and the establishment of a Palestinian state with a capital in east Jerusalem.

He says Hamas wants a mutual ceasefire, that would also include the West Bank and which would reopen Gaza's borders - but anything else would be Israel dictating a Palestinian "surrender".

'Risk of misrepresentation'

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other senior Israeli officials earlier snubbed a meeting with Mr Carter, saying to meet him would create the impression of negotiating with Hamas.

Mr Yishai, however, told Mr Carter he was willing to meet Hamas representatives - including Mr Meshaal - for talks to discuss the release of Cpl Shalit.

Such a meeting involving Mr Yishai - the leader of the orthodox Shas party - would be against Israeli government policy. Shas is an important member of the governing coalition in Israel, holding four cabinet posts.

Washington has played down Mr Carter's trip, saying he is acting in a personal capacity and that there is "some risk" that his talks with Hamas "will be misrepresented" by the group.

Syrian state news agency Sana said Mr Carter and Mr Assad had discussed the peace process and ties between the two countries.

After Syria, Mr Carter is due to travel to Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

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