Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110413

Financial Crisis
»Bank of Spain to Set Limit on Deposit Profitability
»Obama’s Debt Plan Pairs Cuts With Higher Taxes on Rich
»Spain: Zapatero to IMF, No Further Spending Cuts
»Barry Bonds Guilty of Obstructing Justice in Steroid Case
»Bloggers Against Huffington Post, “Owes Us 105 Mln Dlr”
Europe and the EU
»Croatia: EU — What’s it in Aid of?
»Forum Seeks More US Action in Muslim World Conflicts
»Interview With NATO Head Rasmussen: ‘There is No Military Solution to the Libya Conflict’
»Italy: Businesses Targeted to Sponsor Pompeii’s Restoration
»Italy: More Documents Filed for ‘Ruby’ Sex Trial
»Italy: Culture Minister Wants Museum Takings to Go to Ministry
»Italy: Bossi Backs Boycott of French Products After Migrant Row
»Italy: PM’s Lawyers Deny ‘Bunga Bunga’ Tale
»OECD Report: Spanish People Work Harder Than Germans
»UK: Greatest Men on Earth After the Prophets [Al Maghrib Event, Middlesbrough, Teeside]
»UK: Gang Members Jailed for Shooting Dead Innocent Girl Dead in Bungled Revenge Attack
North Africa
»Bossi Says the Constitution Forbids the Bombing of Libya
»Egypt: Mubarak ‘Has Second Heart-Attack’ After Dentention
»Egypt: ‘Martyr’ Mother, Hang Mubarak and Sons
»Egypt: Gas Prices for Israel and West Bank Will be Revised
»Italy to Boost Libyan Rebels’ ‘Ability to Defend Themselves’
»Libya: Doha: Rebels Offer Oil in Exchange for Aid
»Libya: Doha Contact Group; Gaddafi Out, Funds for Rebels OK
Middle East
»Bahrain: GCC Countries Want Baghdad Summit Called Off
»Iran: Bill Banning Dogs From Public Places Introduced in Parliament
»Syrian Security Forces Arrest 200 During Raid in Baida
»Syria: Protests: Christians to Celebrate Easter Quietly
»Syria: Embassy: Heavily Armed Infiltrators Among Demonstrators
»Syria Accuses, Lebanese Deputy Denies Role in Protests
»Yemeni Police Shoots on Army Defectors, Killing 7
»Azerbaijan: Baku: “Unregistered” Christians Forbidden to Pray Together
South Asia
»U.S. Strike Kills 6 in Pakistan, First Since March
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Somalia: Best Way to Free Pirate-Held Indonesians is ‘Through Negotiations’
»800 Dead in Channel of Sicily Since January
»Boat Hits Rocks Off Pantelleria, 2 Women Die
»EU Offers Tunisia More Aid — For Help on Migrants
»Italy: Hundreds Land at Lampedusa and Pantelleria
»Italy: Two Dead: One Missing in Another Migrant Wreck
»Migrants: Two Women Die in Pantelleria Stampede
»Netherlands: Amsterdam Plans to Accommodate Asylum-Seekers at Top Locations
»Netherlands: Bring Back Border Controls, Says PVV

Financial Crisis

Bank of Spain to Set Limit on Deposit Profitability

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 13 — Spain’s central bank is to establish a ceiling on the profitability that banks can offer clients to attract deposits from savers, with legislation currently being examined by the Economy Ministry. The measure, which has been mooted today in the economic daily Cinco Dias, aims to put an end to the so-called “deficit war”.

The bank’s controller is to double the amount that financial bodies will need to leave in reserves in the deposit guarantee fund for current accounts and fixed rates where these exceed certain levels of interest.

Banks are currently offering interest close to 4% a year to attract clients and increase liquidity, but the central authority does not consider this policy suitable, as it makes credit more expensive for families and businesses, reducing the banks’ margins and their ability to continue lending.

The legislation being studied by the government would see fixed rate deposits carrying a minimum stay of six months or more, and that pay an annual interest rate above the 6-month Euribor, obliged to raise double what they currently pay deposit guarantee funds, the “mattress” that helps to tackle the potential insolvency of credit institutes. Every quarter, Spain’s central bank will establish the value of the lowest threshold of interest for which financial bodies will be penalised.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Debt Plan Pairs Cuts With Higher Taxes on Rich

In a speech on Wednesday, President Obama called for cutting the nation’s budget deficits by $4 trillion over the next 12 years, countering Republican budget plans with what he said was a more balanced approach that relies in part on tax increases for the wealthy as well as on spending cuts.

In a speech that serves as the administration’s opening bid for negotiations over the nation’s fiscal future, Mr. Obama conceded a need to cut spending, rein in the growth of entitlement programs and close tax loopholes, officials said shortly before he spoke.

But he also insisted that the government must maintain what he called investment in programs that are necessary to compete globally. And he made clear that, despite his compromise with Congressional leaders in December, Mr. Obama would fight Republicans to end lowered tax rates for wealthy Americans that have been in place since President George W. Bush championed them in the last decade.

[Return to headlines]

Spain: Zapatero to IMF, No Further Spending Cuts

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 13 — Spain has “done its homework” and is currently “generating sufficient confidence to be able to respect the forecasts for deficit reduction,” according to the country’s Prime Minister, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who has been speaking from Peking, where he began an official visit yesterday aimed at attracting investments on Spanish sovereign debt.

“Employment, which is now our main concern, will cost us more,” the PM told the Spanish media, in a reference to policies targeting a reduction in unemployment, which currently stands at 20% in Spain, double the European average.

Zapatero answered the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which yesterday called for cuts to spending by autonomous communities in the country to reach the short-term deficit reduction targets, by saying that from now on, “there will be stimulus measures” and added that the government is to approve an important reform this Friday. Sources close to the government claim that the reform in question will concern measures aimed at creating jobs in the underground economy. Meanwhile, the reform of collective contracts and the employment contract will have to wait.

Zapatero also announced that Spanish businesses have signed deals with Chinese firms for a total of 1.5 billion euros. Yesterday, the Chinese Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, assured Zapatero that China would continue to invest in Spanish sovereign debt, of which it currently owns 12%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Barry Bonds Guilty of Obstructing Justice in Steroid Case

Barry Bonds, the former outfielder who hit more career home runs than anyone else in baseball history, was convicted Wednesday of obstructing justice after a trial over whether he lied about taking steroids. But the jury failed to reach a verdict on other counts.

[Return to headlines]

Bloggers Against Huffington Post, “Owes Us 105 Mln Dlr”

(AGI) New York — A lawsuit was filed against the Huffington Post, the online platform purchased by AOL for 315 million Dollars. Jonathan Tasini, together with other bloggers, filed a class action labor suit claiming one third of the amount spent by AOL in the purchase, i.e. over 105 million Dollars, asserting that the amount represents the equivalent of the salaries due to the Website’s “content developers” who are not getting paid.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Croatia: EU — What’s it in Aid of?

Tportal Zagreb

“For or against joining the EU?” Between now and the end of the year, the citizens of Croatia will be called on to answer a question they increasingly see as irrelevant. Having overcome many obstacles on the road to accession, they are no longer interested in a Europe that is strongly associated with their country’s discredited political elite.

Anto Mikic

If you look beyond the current protest movement [since the end of February there have been several demonstrations in Croatia’s major cities to demand the resignation of Jadranka Kosor’s government which has been accused of corruption and bad management] you might be forgiven for thinking that joining the European Union is the main issue in this country, and that all eyes are on Brussels and the messages that come to us from the EU. But beware of jumping to conclusions.

The EU may be big news in media and political circles, but hardly anyone else has time to spare a thought for accession. Overwhelmed by the crisis and the question of their own survival, most of Croatia’s citizens cannot be bothered with an issue that is viewed as no more relevant than last year’s snow!

As it stands, they have neither the inclination or the possibility of taking an informed interest in negotiations that are going ahead in a rarefied circle to which they have no access. On the long road to the European Union, it seems that its future citizens have fallen by the wayside.

Once again caught in the throes of a serious and painful crisis

Now that it has dragged on for years, European accession appears to have lost much of its appeal. Most of the young people who recently demonstrated in the the streets do not remember the Zagreb Summit [which brought together representatives of the Western Balkans and the EU in the year 2000], the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, or the moment when Croatia applied to join the EU [in February 2003].

The long road towards EU membership has been marked by so many obstacles and humiliations — the manhunt for General Gotovina [in March 2005, the EU postponed the opening of accession negotiations, and demanded that Croatia arrest Gotovina — wanted on war crimes charges — and hand him over to the ICTY], the disagreement with Slovenia over the Ecological and Fisheries Protection zone (ZERP) which resulted in Slovenia’s blocking of negotiations [in 2008 and 2009, the two countries became embroiled in a dispute over maritime borders in the Bay of Piran] — that we have not only forgotten where we started from but we have also lost sight of our final destination.

After a decade of reforms and re-adjustments, we are once again caught in the throes of a serious and painful crisis, and this has been compounded by the fact that for the last year or two the news from Europe has been anything but good — just look at what has been happening in Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain.

Many of Croatia’s Europhiles demoralised

But external factors are just part of the problem. Enthusiasm for Europe among Croatia’s citizens has suffered even greater damage at the hands of the country’s political elite. In a bid to appear even more European than their counterparts in Brussels, Croatia’s politicians have demonstrated that they will stop at nothing in their attempt to achieve the “strategic objective” of EU membership.

At the same time, they have taken a huge number of unpopular decisions that have been identified with Europe even though they have little or nothing to do with negotiations with Brussels or the conditions for joining the EU. As a result, we have now reached a point where many of Croatia’s Europhiles are disgusted by the idea of the EU.

The media should also accept its share of the blame. It has been five and a half years since negotiations began with Brussels, and we have yet to see any real debate about the positive and negative aspects of EU membership in this country.

Now the end is in sight. But exhausted by the long road behind us and weary of the crisis and the loss of confidence in our leaders, we find that we are largely ignorant of this goal which has been presented to us as a reality to which there is no alternative.

Our politicians’ disdain for public involvement

With the conclusion to negotiations on the horizon [at the end of June if everything goes according to plan, see below], and with just a few months left to run before the referendum on the European Union, we are now faced with the question that will be the focus of the popular vote: “Are you for or against Croatia’s inclusion in the European Union?”

How has the government planned for the referendum which will be the first since the independence of Croatia? What will be the level of voter participation? And if there is a big turn-out, can we expect voters to use the opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with the government and the opposition, which is a much more pressing reality than the construction of Europe?

Will the demonstrators who tore down and set fire to the flags of HDZ (the ruling Croatian Democratic Union), the SDP (the oppositon Social Democratic Party) and the European Union be tempted to punish national and European leaders? Our politicians’ disdain for public involvement in the most important decision on the future of this country for twenty years is a testament to the sad state of democracy in Croatia…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Forum Seeks More US Action in Muslim World Conflicts

WASHINGTON — Agence France-Presse

The head of a global Islamic group called Tuesday for the United States to be more active in solving conflicts in the Muslim world, particularly the long-running dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.

In a speech to open the U.S.-Islamic World Forum, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or OIC, said the Middle East peace process should be the cornerstone of U.S.-Muslim world relations and called on Washington to take a “more active role in seeking solutions to conflict-ridden situations in the Muslim world.”

The Muslim world has “seen improvements” in relations with the United States since President Barack Obama took office, said Ihsanoglu, but tensions between the two sides will persist if the Israel-Palestinian conflict is not resolved.

“There are certain concerns — I should say certain grievances — concerning the Palestinian issue,” Ihsanoglu told reporters.

“This should be addressed in a concrete way. Without addressing these issues properly, we will still find certain problems between the Muslim world and the United States,” he said.

U.S. Senator John Kerry called at the three-day forum for “anyone here who can intervene [to] play a role to do so,” to help revive the peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis, which broke down last year.

Since then, the Palestinians, with backing from Britain, France and Germany, have been pushing for the Middle East diplomatic quartet, comprised of the three European nations and the United States, to lay down clear parameters for any new negotiations.

Those parameters would include a reference to the borders that existed before the 1967 Six Day War, and the establishment of Jerusalem as the capital of both states. The Palestinians also want the quartet to issue a condemnation of continuing Israeli settlement expansion.

On Tuesday, as the U.S.-Islamic World forum opened, diplomats at the United Nations said Washington had blocked a bid to break the deadlock in the Middle East peace process by not agreeing to a meeting in Berlin where Britain, France and Germany wanted to outline a settlement to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Interview With NATO Head Rasmussen: ‘There is No Military Solution to the Libya Conflict’

Even after weeks of NATO air strikes, the conflict in Libya appears no closer to being resolved. SPIEGEL spoke with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen about whether bombs can lead to democracy, the possibility of Libya becoming a failed state and Germany’s reluctance to get involved.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Secretary General, the military leadership of the Libyan rebel government has leveled serious charges against NATO, saying the alliance has been active enough in flying air strikes against troops loyal to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and is thus partly responsible for the deaths of countless civilians. Is NATO failing?

Rasmussen: I can assure you that we are fully implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 to protect the Libyan civilian population. The scope and speed of our operation remain high. During the first week of our NATO operation alone, we flew more than 1,000 sorties. We have already destroyed a third of Gadhafi’s military machinery.

SPIEGEL: The foreign minister of the Libyan transitional council, Ali al-Issawi, says that the problems began after the initial coalition — led by the US, Great Britain and France — turned over the command to NATO. According to Issawi, NATO is obstructing and even betraying the resistance.

Rasmussen: That’s not fair. To some extent, we have been hampered by bad weather, which may have created the impression that we have scaled down our campaign. But that was unavoidable, and it has long since changed again. We are currently flying at least as many air strikes now as we were before.

SPIEGEL: But not necessarily with more success. And there remains the high risk of civilian casualties. Was it not to be expected that Gadhafi would abuse civilians as human shields?

Rasmussen: Yes, you’re right. He has changed his tactics. But that also points to our successes. Now that he has to hide his tanks and other heavy weapons, he can no longer use them as easily against civilians. The fact that the regime is using people as human shields also points to its unbelievable brutality. Gadhafi knows that we have to do everything, and want to do everything, to avoid civilian casualties, and he’s taking advantage of that.

SPIEGEL: Some rebel leaders are encouraging you to accept this “collateral damage” and, if necessary, to bombard central neighborhoods of the embattled city of Misurata if you could decisively weaken Gadhafi’s forces by doing so. Is it a question of strategy, or of morality?…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: Businesses Targeted to Sponsor Pompeii’s Restoration

Rome, 13 April (AKI) — Italy’s new culture minister aims to attract private sponsorship to shore up funds for Pompeii and keep structures at the 2,000 year-old Roman seaport city from crumbling under the force of the elements and time.

The bid for the companies to pay for archeological restoration projects at the site comes months after the owner of Tod’s agreed to spend 25 million euros to restore the Roman Colosseum in return for opportunities to promote his company’s brand of high-end Italian shoes.

Culture minister Giancarlo Galan on Wednesday addressed the senate about “a plan that facilitates sponsorship” with the aim of “private groups sponsoring even single structures.”

Galan took over the top government culture post from Sandro Bondi, who resigned after being lambasted for allegedly ignoring the fragile state of Italy’s numerous archeological sites and cultural treasures. Silvio Berlusconi’s government has been criticised for slashing culture funding, especially following the economic downturn that prompted Italy to reel in spending.

Outlining his plans for the ministry during testimony in the senate in Rome on Wedndesday, Galan’s comments echoed a press conference he gave on Tuesday in Pompeii where he stressed the continual importance of restoration work for the city that was preserved by the ash from Mount Vesuvius’ 79 AD volcanic eruption.

Part of a building in Pompeii where gladiators may have once prepared for combat in November collapsed into a pile of rubble amid heavy rain. Other buildings succumbed to what critics say was age and neglect leaving piles of stones in the 76 hectare site.

“In an archaeological area of this size, the urgency never goes away but the restoration starts tomorrow,” Galan told reporters in Pompeii on Tuesday. He said the restoration would make use of laser scanners for 3D-mapping of the site and would involve ministry experts as well as the private sector.

The government plans to earmark some 100 million euros for work on the site, he said. These funds were set aside by the European Union for the development of Italy’s underdeveloped southern regions. Galan said Italy would ask the EU for an additional 100 million euros. Pompeii is located near Naples in the southern Campania region.

Pompeii is the largest archaeological site in the world and received more than 2.2 million visitors in 2010.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: More Documents Filed for ‘Ruby’ Sex Trial

(AGI) Milan — Yesterday Milan’s Prosecutor’s office filed new investigation documents making them accessible to defense attorneys. Emilio Fede, Lele Mora and Nicole Minetti are under investigation for aiding prostitution and inducing minors to prostitution; their defense attorneys will now have access to files containing statements made by two 18-year-olds -Ambra Battilana and Chiara Danese- before the judges. The Prosecutor’s office granted the defense counsels 20 more days to file defense documents or ask the persons of interest to be questioned. Hence, the trial planned to take place this week, will be postponed.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: Culture Minister Wants Museum Takings to Go to Ministry

(AGI) Rome — The Culture Minister has proposed that takings from museums and archaeological sites go back to the Ministry of Culture. These are currently going to the Treasury.

Giancarlo Galan was discussing his plans in the Upper House today, underscoring the fact that “Arcus must be able to count on a 3 per cent investment in great works.” .

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: Bossi Backs Boycott of French Products After Migrant Row

‘What goes around, comes around’ says Italy’s reform minister

(ANSA) — Rome, April 13 — Italian Reform Minister Umberto Bossi backed a boycott of French products following a big row over their Transalpine neighbours’ refusal to share the burden of migrants from North Africa.

“It would be right,” the outspoken Northern League leader told reporters when asked about the prospect of a boycott.

“What goes around, comes around,” he said, adding that French consumers had boycotted Italian milk in the past.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, also a League member, called France “hostile” last week after it said it would continue to turn back North African migrants at the two nations’ shared border even if they had temporary visas issued by the Italian authorities.

On Monday Maroni went on to question the value of European membership given the lack of help Italy has received from fellow member states in dealing with around 28,000 mostly Tunisian migrants to have arrived on its shores this year following unrest in North Africa.

“Bossi’s comments on boycotting French products are not very appropriate for a minister,” said Antonio Borghesi of the opposition Italy of Values party.

“Instead of boycotting French products, the League should boycott the choices of Premier (Silvio Berlusconi),” he added in an apparent reference to a sex trial and three other judicial proceedings Berlusconi faces. On the hypothesis of quitting the EU, Bossi had lowered the tension, saying there was no chance of this happening and Maroni said he agreed with this “200%” Wednesday.

The Italian interior minister, however, continues to insist France and other signatories of the Schengen treaty that in theory abolished internal frontiers in much of the continent should accept the visas.

Maroni’s European counterparts rejected this at a meeting on Monday, saying the migrants must also have a valid ID document and enough money to live on, among other things.

The row prompted Belgium to announce Wednesday that it will start ‘strict” checks on Italian tourists and will turn back Tunisians who do not satisfy their entry criteria, while Guenter Krings, a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, accused Italy of using “Mafia” methods over the issue. Other Northern League members, meanwhile, stirred more controversy by mooting the possibility of shooting at migrant boats approaching Italy. Former Justice Minister Roberto Castelli, now junior transport and infrastructure minister, said violence by migrants might “oblige the authorities to use arms”.

A League MEP, Francesco Speroni, went as far as to talk about using machine guns.

“Enough is enough. The escalation of the verbal violence some League members are using to address the migration issue is no longer tolerable,” said Vannino Chiti, a Senator for the centre-left Democratic Party, the biggest opposition group.

“It damages Italy, it sows divisions and tensions, it doesn’t help manage a serious, difficult, phenomenon. It just makes things worse with bad propaganda”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: PM’s Lawyers Deny ‘Bunga Bunga’ Tale

Berlusconi ‘disgusted’ by account

(ANSA) — Rome, April 13 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s lawyers have denied one of the most detailed accounts yet of one of his alleged ‘bunga bunga’ sex parties leaked to Italy’s two biggest dailies Wednesday.

Berlusconi is currently on trial for allegedly having sex with an underage prostitute called Ruby after several of the parties at his villa at Arcore outside Milan and allegedly coercing police into releasing her after an unrelated theft claim to hush up their supposed relationship.

On Wednesday, statements given to magistrates on April 4 were published in Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica from two teen beauty contestants who said they were unwilling participants in an August 2010 party.

They claimed Berlusconi got girls to kiss a statuette with a giant penis before they allegedly cavorted in skimpy nurses’ uniforms, stripped and engaged in mutual fondling with the premier.

La Repubblica ran the story on its front page, headlined Nights of Terror at Arcore, The Truth About Bunga-Bunga while Corriere had it on page six, highlighting “the premier came on to us but we refused the statuette game”.

The pair, Ambra Battilana and Chiara Danese, 18 at the time of the party, said they had decided to come forward after being subjected to harassing phone calls “tarring them with the same brush” as the alleged 33 prostitutes, including Ruby, prosecutors say had sex with Berlusconi.

Battilana and Danese said they were taken to the party after a screen test as weather girls on the TV news show of Berlusconi’s close friend Emilio Fede, who is one of three people accused of supplying the premier with prostitutes.

Another, Berlusconi’s former dental hygienist Nicole Minetti, is now a Lombardy regional councillor for his People of Freedom (PdL) party.

In their testimony, the two witnesses claimed Minetti stripped naked after Berlusconi told a string of “increasingly vulgar” jokes and was kissed on the breasts by him before the party moved into its final “bunga bunga” stage when the young women dancing half-naked allegedly called the premier “Daddy” and sang the popular refrain “Thank God We Have Silvio” while Berlusconi allegedly called them all “my babies”.

They said the dozen or so girls allegedly taking part in the erotic dance “touched us everywhere and tried to get our clothes off too”.

At that point, they claimed, they were “quite literally terrified” and eventually mustered the courage to demand to leave, whereupon Fede allegedly said “you can forget about being weather girls or Miss Italy” only to allegedly change his tune in the limousine taking them back to central Milan, when they claimed the news anchor told them: “Now you’re Berlusconi’s favourites, not like all those skanks”.

Berlusconi’s lawyers Niccolo Ghedini and Piero Longo described Battilana and Danese’s tale as “devoid of all foundation” and said it “clashes with extremely numerous (statements) of a completely opposite nature”.

They also suggested the timing of the leak was suspect.

Battilana is being represented in the trial by a lawyer, Patrizia Bugnano, who is also a member of the opposition Italy of Values (IdV) party.

IdV spokesman Leoluca Orlando said “the dramatic account given by the two 18-year-olds is confirmation the premier is ill, as his ex-wife said, that he is perverting all moral values and profiting in an ignoble way from the penniless condition of certain young women”.


Berlusconi was said to be “disappointed and disgusted” by the young women’s leaked testimony, part of what he said was a continuing attempt to smear him.

“It’s a disgrace, what they’re doing to us,” the premier said, according to persons who spoke with him after the account appeared.

“We all know who’s behind this and who orchestrated this set-up, it’s obvious that it’s all false,” Berlusconi told aides who relayed his remarks to reporters.

The premier reiterated that he had nothing to fear from the so-called Ruby trial and was determined to press on with judicial reforms.

The deputy House whip for the PdL, Osvaldo Napoli, said: “the mud-slinging machine of the prosecutors, La Repubblica and the IdV is discrediting the premier and Italy.

“With concocted accounts in newspapers, accounts drafted suspiciously long after the event under the advice of IdV MPs, the media and judicial assault on Berlusconi is continuing”. Judicial sources in Milan said Danese and Battilana’s statements were “important to clarify the background” of the case against the premier.

Berlusconi, who says his parties were innocent and “elegant” affairs, has stressed that both he and Ruby deny having sex, and has quipped “33 women in two months is too many even for someone who likes pretty girls, like me”.

He claims to be the victim of biased prosecutors and has announced plans to rein them in.

On Tuesday night, he reportedly told foreign press club members in Rome he had “been at war with politicized prosecutors since 1992,” two years before he swept to power in the first of three general election wins.

Denying all wrongdoing, the premier says he phoned the Milan police about Ruby to avoid a diplomatic incident because he had been told she was a close relative of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

He also says he has an unnamed girlfriend who would have “scratched his eyes out” if he had got up to the antics alleged by prosecutors.

The charge of having sex with an underage prostitute carries a jail term of up to three years, and abuse of office 12 years.

The Ruby trial, which opened April 6, is expected to run for years, with dozens of witnesses called by the prosecution and defence including George Clooney and soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

OECD Report: Spanish People Work Harder Than Germans

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 13 — Who said that the Spanish people are ‘perezosos’, lazy, and that they spend most of their work hours on long lunch breaks and siestas? In effects on a daily basis they work more hours than the English, Norwegians, French and Germans, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (Oecd) quoted today by the media that helped to bring down many cliche’s on the most hard working Europeans. According to the report, the Spanish people work on average 4.6 hours per day (276 minutes), or 32 hours per week, 19% more than the 3.75 daily hours worked by the Germans (232 minutes) and 26% less than the Japanese. In pro capita terms the Germans work fewer hours, but all economic figures, from production to unemployment rates to competitiveness, are the envy of other developed countries. Thus it is not a matter of quantity, but of quality, which has a lot more to do with productivity. The Oecd report embraced the world’s 30 richest countries and examined key social indicators: number of work hours, unpaid work at home, equivalent to approximately one third of the average GDP of member countries. The average was calculated by dividing the work day between the population in working age (15 to 64 years of age).

In addition to time worked at home, the typical Spanish day amounts to eight hours. The German people instead work an average of 3.75 hours, which with work at home becomes 7.35 hours per day. Even countries such as Belgium and Holland are below the German level. The low average is given by the fact that weekly work is allocated over 7 days a week instead of 5 or 6. Of the Oecd countries, only three beat Spain in terms of time invested in paid work: Austria (5.1 hours a day), Portugal (approximately 5 hours) and Sweden (approximately 4.7 hours). The report reflects the fact that productivity does not depend on the amount of work hours, rather the opposite. In truth Mexico is in the lead in terms of work hours added to time not invested in recreational activities.

Simon Chapple, an economist and author of the Oecd report, claimed that “In Spain people do not work well, especially in the services sector, there is still an old notion according to which spending long hours in the office equals greater productivity. But that is not the case”.

Compared to working at home, in all developed countries women dedicate more time to unpaid activities, with an average of 2.5 hours per day. Spain, with 3.1 hours, is the sixth country out of 25, beaten only by Italy, Portugal, Turkey and Mexico.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Greatest Men on Earth After the Prophets [Al Maghrib Event, Middlesbrough, Teeside]


Date: 14 April 2011 — 14 April 2011

Start time: 20:15

End time: 23:00

Venue: Dar Al Salam Central Mosque, Middlesbrough, Teeside, TS1 3EX

Summary: with Shaykh Abdulbary Yahya (Vietnam / USA)

Description: Al Maghrib presents: with Shaykh Abdulbary Yahya (Vietnam / USA)

An insight into the lives of the Sahaba — the companions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). We will be looking at the deep love and respect they

had for the Prophet (saw), and the sacrifices and struggles that they underwent which made them some of the greatest men and women to walk

the earth after the Prophets.

All welcome.

For further information please e-mail:

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Gang Members Jailed for Shooting Dead Innocent Girl Dead in Bungled Revenge Attack

Two members of a murderous gun gang have been jailed for life for the murder of an innocent 16-year-old girl who was shot dead when a tit-for-tat revenge hit went wrong.

Agnes Sina-Inakoju, who hoped to go to Oxford University, was shot in the neck as she went to buy pizza at a takeaway shop.

She became the unwitting victim of “gang warfare” when she was gunned down by Leon Dunkley in east London in April last year.

Dunkley, a senior member of the London Fields gang, fired a submachine gun through the window in a “callous and cold-blooded” attack.

He and fellow gang member Mohammed Smoured, both wearing hoodies, cycled up to the Hoxton Chicken and Pizza Shop before Dunkley, without looking who he was aiming at, pulled out his gun and fired.

Dunkley, 22, and lookout Smoured, 21, both of Hackney, east London, were each convicted of murder by a 10-1 majority at the Old Bailey today. They were each jailed for life and told they must serve at least 32 years each behind bars.

Judge Peter Beaumont, the Recorder of London, said: “Gun violence with loaded weapons that imperils innocent people on the streets of London has to be stopped.”

The shooting was captured on shocking CCTV footage. It was the culmination of a violent and escalating feud between groups of youths from different parts of Hackney.

However the person Dunkley hit was not a gang member but Agnes, a “popular and successful” schoolgirl.

Simon Denison QC, prosecuting, told the court: “Her future was taken away from her in an instant.”

Agnes’s brother, Abiola Inakoju, said in a victim impact statement that she had had a “realistic ambition” to go to Oxford and went to see the university the week before she was shot.

He said: “We were looking forward to seeing her growing into a young woman and being everything she wanted to be.”

           — Hat tip: AF[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Bossi Says the Constitution Forbids the Bombing of Libya

(AGI) Rome — Umberto Bossi said that the Constitution forbids Italy bombing Libya. Talking to journalists at the Chamber of Deputies, the leader of the Lega Nord, added: “I would be cautious about recognising the rebels.” .

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Mubarak ‘Has Second Heart-Attack’ After Dentention

(AKI) — Egypt’s ousted president Hosni Mubarak had a second heart-attack on Wednesday following his detention amid a corruption probe, and his health has deteriorated further, according to the Youm7 website.

Mubarak might be admitted to a military hospital in Cairo, Youm7 said. He was on Wednesday detained with his sons Gamala and Alaa for 15 days after being admitted to hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh on Tuesday. He had he suffered a heart attack ahead of questioning by prosecutors in the Sinai city of El-Tor.

The Mubaraks, along with several top officials from his regime are accused of embezzling public funds and abuse of power for using force against protesters during anti-government demonstrations earlier this year.

Mubarak, 82, claims the allegations against him are smears and that he has the right to defend his reputation and that of his family.

He may have misappropriated up to 70 billion euros of public funds during his 30-year grip on power according to Arab media reports.

Mubarak resigned in February after a popular revolt demanding the end of his autocratic rule.

Since leaving office he been at his Sharm-el-Sheikh holiday residence where he was placed under house arrest.

Authorities have imposed a travel ban on Mubarak and his family and have frozen their assets.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Egypt: ‘Martyr’ Mother, Hang Mubarak and Sons

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, APRIL 13 — “We are pleased that Mubarak and his two sons have been placed under arrest but it is not enough. We want justice” and to see them hang in Tahrir square.

So stated Om Tamer, mother of Mohamed, a 28-year-old killed during the violent clashes in Tahrir square during the revolution that on February 11 put an end to the 30 year regime led by Hosni Mubarak.

Together with her other son Soliman, she told ANSA that “Mohamed studied in the polytechnic and he was a gentle and adorable son. Now we expect divine punishment and that justice be served to the killers of our children”, they stated, in reference to the approximately 800 ‘martyrs’ of the Egyptian revolution fpr which Mubarak and former Interior minister Habib el Adly are being investigated.

They stated that “The assassins must be hanged in Tahrir square and we will not be satisfied if we don’t see this happen as quickly as possible. God is fair and never tolerates injustice and he is all-powerful”. The woman reflected the words of another mother who lost her son, in this case even before the revolution. The person is Khaled Said, who was tortured to death by the police and whose figure inspired the young demonstrators of the January revolution. The woman stepped on the stage of last Friday’s massive demonstration during which hundreds of thousands of people asked for a swift trial of Mubarak and his family, demanding that the former rais be hanged in the same Tahrir square that was the focal point of the revolt. The woman, who participated in the people’s trial against Mubarak set up during the demonstration, also expressed her hope that former first lady Suzanne Mubarak may experience the same pain that she experienced when she lost her Khaled.

A less angry reaction was provided by the father of another ‘martyr’, 14-year-old Khaled Attya. Mohammed Attya stated that he felt “relieved by the arrest of Mubarak and his sons” but also expressed his desperation for the fate of the country.

“The Egyptian people are still the same and they will not change”, according to Mohamed, who made no secret that he wants to leave the country to start a new life. But at the same time he highlighted another aspect, in his opinion a positive side of the revolt, and of its consequences. “Before the police was in charge. Now the people are in charge”, he stated.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Gas Prices for Israel and West Bank Will be Revised

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, APRIL 13 — Egypt’s Prime Minister Essam Sharaf announced the decision to revise the prices of Egyptian gas exports towards Israel and the West Bank. So said the person in charge of the media of the council of ministers, Ahmed El-Seman, who explained that the objective is to achieve greater revenues for Egypt.

He explained that the review of contract prices could lead to revenues estimated between three and four billion dollars.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy to Boost Libyan Rebels’ ‘Ability to Defend Themselves’

‘Intelligence aid and satellite communications, but not weapons’

(ANSA) — Doha, April 13 — Italy plans to boost Libyan rebels’ capacity to defend themselves from Muammar Gaddafi’s forces but will stop short of supplying them with weapons, a foreign ministry spokesman said Wednesday.

Rome aims to provide assistance with intelligence and communications tools such as satellite capability “but certainly not lethal weapons,” Maurizio Massari said on the sidelines of the Libya Contact Group meeting in Doha, Qatar.

As the United States mulls arming the rebels and Egypt has reportedly begun shipping weapons across its border with Libya, Massari said the choice of the assistance to provide the bogged-down forces “is up to each country”.

Belgium came out against arming the rebels Wednesday, saying the United Nations resolution authorising the Libya mission did not envisage such a move.

Assistance for the rebel forces, who are stalled in their military drive, will top the agenda of the Doha meeting, attended by representatives of the anti-Gaddafi Libyan National Council.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Doha: Rebels Offer Oil in Exchange for Aid

(ANSAmed) — DOHA, APRIL 13 — The Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC), which is today attending the Contact Group for Libya meeting in Doha, will be asking Western governments to supply 1.5 billion dollars in humanitarian aid for the civilian population in exchange for oil supplies. This was said by NTC spokesman Mahmud Awad Shamman before the meeting commenced.

Oil fields currently under the control of anti-Gaddafi rebels are producing 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day but only a “very small part” is exported, added Shamman, who said that the rebels had managed to export about 1 million barrels of crude oil with the help of Qatar this month but had not received any money.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Doha Contact Group; Gaddafi Out, Funds for Rebels OK

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 13 — “Gaddafi and his regime have lost legitimacy” and the rais “must abandon power allowing the Libyan people to determine their own future”. The statement was included in the final document of the Contact group on Libya that met in Doha, a meeting with more than 20 countries and international organisations during which it was decided to provide financing to the Libyan rebels.

The final report stated that “the participants agree that a temporary financing mechanism could provide the Pnc and the international community with a method to manage resources for Libya’s short term financial needs and structural necessities”.

Nato general secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen also spoke in Doha to defend the work of the Allied powers, denying any delay in the operations. He explained that “I do not agree with the description of a slow to react Nato. Our operations will end when there will be no more threats on the ground for the civilian population”.

The dramatic situation in the city of Misrata was dealt with by Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini, who claimed that “Misrata is a martyr city, a disaster, a massacre”. That is why humanitarian assistance is “a priority, acknowledged during the Doha summit”, also thanks to Italy’s commitment in this direction. During the first week of May Rome will host the next meeting of the Contact group on Libya, according to foreign ministry spokesperson Maurizio Massari.

Un general secretary Ban Ki-Moon also paid attention to the humanitarian drama: “Approximately 3.6 million souls could need humanitarian assistance in Libya”. The general secretary added that “it is fundamental” for the international community to stick together and “speak with a single voice”, in reference to certain differences that emerged between the western allies on the strategy to follow to help Libya out of the crisis.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Bahrain: GCC Countries Want Baghdad Summit Called Off

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 13 — The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have asked the Arab League to call off the Baghdad summit scheduled in May, according to Bahrain’s foreign minister Khaled Ben Ahmed Al Khalifa. Khalifa’s statement came — according to the Al Jazeera website, which reported the news — after Iraqi criticism of Bahraini security forces’ dealing with the protests by the Shiite opposition. In a letter published on Twitter, the foreign minister of Bahrain spoke of the request to cancel the GCC summit without detailing the reasons thereof. The violent crushing of protests in Bahrain has triggered criticism from Iraq and Iran as well as a number of Shiite groups, such as the Lebanese party Hezbollah. This criticism have increased tension levels between Sunni Gulf region countries and their Shiite neighbours, according to the site.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iran: Bill Banning Dogs From Public Places Introduced in Parliament

Tehran, 13 April (AKI) — Members of Iran’s parliament have sponsored a bill barring dogs from public places because they are “unclean” and keeping pets is an “un-Islamic” custom, according to Iran’s state news agency Irna.

Under the bill, dog owners will be banned from taking their pets out into public spaces and in vehicles. First-time offenders will be fined five million riyals (around 4,800 dollars) and will be given 10 days to dispose of their dog.

If the dog owner fails to comply with these rules, health authorities will be called in to remove the dog from its owner. It is unclear what would be done to the dog.

The health ministry has been asked to enforce the rules, as have city councils and the 280-member parliament’s culture committee, Irna reported.

Besides being “unclean,” keeping dogs as pets goes against Iranian values, as it is a pratice which indicates the influence of Western culture, according the 39 MPs who tabled the bill.

Hardliners have moved to crack down on dog ownership, which has been on the rise in recent years in Iran, especially among citizens in the affluent neighborhoods of the capital, Tehran.

In June 2010, Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi issued a fatwa or religious edict against keeping dogs as pets, and police have fined dog owners and confiscated pets from streets and parks.

An exception has been made for working canines such as guard dogs and sheep dogs.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Syrian Security Forces Arrest 200 During Raid in Baida

(AGI) Amman — Syrian security forces yesterday arrested nearly 200 people in Baida, the scene of violent anti-regime protests.

A human rights lawyer reported the arrests, saying that security forces arrived in the city en masse yesterday along with a TV crew to film the arrests, forcing the prisoners to shout “we will sacrifice our blood for you Bashar.” .

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Syria: Protests: Christians to Celebrate Easter Quietly

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, APRIL 13 — Christian religious authorities in Syria have announced restrained Easter celebrations in the country this year, saying that mass will only be celebrated inside churches, due to the “current circumstances that the country is experiencing”. The news comes according to Syria’s official agency Sana.

The agency says that the decision has been taken by the heads of all Christian churches, Catholic and Orthodox, to “honour the souls of the martyrs and innocent victims who have fallen during the sad events of recent times”.

For the last month, Syria has seen unprecedented anti-regime protests sweep through the country, with local and international humanitarian organisations saying that the repression by security forces has left around 200 people dead, most of them protesters.

Christians in Syria, who make up around 10% of the population, are traditionally one of the most protected religious minorities under the Assad regime, which has ruled the country for 40 years and which itself represents a religious minority, the Alawites, a branch of Shia Islam.

Sana says that the decision has been taken to express “the unity of Syrian citizens and their attachment to the fabric of the country”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Embassy: Heavily Armed Infiltrators Among Demonstrators

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 13 — The revolt in Syria included foreign infiltrators whose heavy weapons, such as RPGs, and money amounting to millions of euros were seized. Syria is a Country “known for its tolerance and capability of co-existence” and “what is happening is not part of our traditions”. The statement was made by Syrian ambassador in Italy Hasan Khaddour, who explained recent events in Syria, the revolt which, after starting in Daraa, then spread to other cities.

And yet, the ambassador noted, the “legitimate requests” of the demonstrators (such as the replacement of the governor and the head of security of our city, the increase in wages) had been accepted. Just like the change in government had been accepted. But the “infiltrators used weapons against the people and forced security forces to intervene. They set many buildings on fire, they had weapons hidden in mosques and money amounting to millions of euros”. Hasan Khaddour added that “Who wants to demonstrate does not need all of this”.

The Syrian diplomat complained about the fact that “a certain type of information changed the reality”. Syria is “a tolerant Country and instead they tried to create separations between Islam’s currents or between Christians and the people of Islam”.

He added that president Assad ordered not to fire on the crowd, but of course there is also the need to protect the population. The ambassador stated that “You cannot just stand there and do nothing”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria Accuses, Lebanese Deputy Denies Role in Protests

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, APRIL 13 — Today the Syrian regime explicitly accused the Muslim Brothers and a Lebanese deputy, uncle of an alleged 9/11 attacker, of having provided weapons and money to a “terrorist cell’ guilty of “acts of sabotage” that are being carried out in Syria. The report was made by Syria’s State TV, which aired the alleged “confessions of the three members of the terrorist cell”.

The three self-proclaimed “members of the Syrian terrorist cell”, Anas Kanj, Bader al Qalam and Muhammad Sukhne, now “under arrest”, stated on State TV that they received money and weapons from Jamal Jarrah, a Lebanese Sunni deputy of the eastern Bekaa valley. He is the uncle of Ziad Jarrah, the young man who according to certain reconstructions was piloting one of the four airplanes that were hijacked during the 9/11 attacks.

The deputy was elected with the list of the ‘March 14 Forces’ led by outgoing Sunni premier Saad Hariri, an ally of Saudi Arabia working against the pro-Iranian and pro-Syrian front led by the Hezbollah Shiite movement.

But Jarrah denied any personal involvement, and accused the Syrian State TV of manipulating the statements of the three alleged terrorists. Interviewed by Lebanese TV Lbc, the deputy stated that “We have neither the ability nor the intention of interfering in Syria’s internal affairs”.

In recent days Syria’s authorities had already indirectly blamed Lebanese Sunni figures of sending money and weapons to “armed groups” guilty of “creating chaos in the Country”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Yemeni Police Shoots on Army Defectors, Killing 7

(AGI) Sanaa — The casualty toll of last night’s attack near Sanaa is of at least 5 dead, 4 agents & 1 soldier, and 10 injured. The news was reported to the press by sources of the security forces. In Amrane, 170 kilometers from Sanaa, the Yemeni police attacked a checkpoint set up by several army officers loyal to General Ali Mohsen and who defected to the rebels’ movement, killing one and injuring at least 10 more servicemen.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Azerbaijan: Baku: “Unregistered” Christians Forbidden to Pray Together

The new religious freedom law prohibits any activity of unregistered religious groups. Many groups have sought registration, but is slow in coming. Meanwhile, the police arrest the “offenders”. But President Ilham Aliev congratulates himself on his promotion of religious freedom.

Baku (AsiaNews/F18) — The authorities have prohibited three religious from coming together to pray in Gyanja, the second largest city of Azerbaijan. Forum 18 news agency says that Christians, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, confirmed the repeated threat of police to arrest those who continued to meet for Sunday service.

Recently at least two van loads of police arrived near the places where the faithful of the Eastern Star Pentecostal Church meet, ready to intervene. The source reports that the authorities want to target groups without state authorization.

Firdovsi Kerimov, the representative for the Department of State Gyanja registration committee, which oversees the authorization of religious communities, on March 29 told media they have warned the Pentecostal Church Star of the East, the New Apostolic Church and a Baptist group that they can not meet without permission, even to pray. He explained that two of these groups have sought permission, but can not meet in the meantime, while the process is underway.

“Now the faithful are really scared — says the anonymous source — the police check that you meet, even to pray together.

F18 found that the request for authorization of more than 300 religious communities are waiting to be examined. The reform of December 2010 on religious freedom states that all activities of unregistered groups is illegal, even to meet to pray. The legislation was presented as a useful tool against Islamic terrorism, but in fact various Protestant groups, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others, pending approval, are subject to police raids and arrests for short periods for their “illegal” religious activity (see AsiaNews 10/01/2011, Higher fines for people who meet to pray or read religious texts). The Star of the East was already authorized in Baku, but under the new law, was told that it had to submit a new application: it did and is waiting for the decision.

The New Apostolic Church had permission for the Baku group and explained to authorities that this permission has a value for the faithful of Gyanja and other cities. But it also had to request a new registration, under the new law, and is still waiting for a response. F18 denounces that in Gyanja many religious groups have been subjected to threats and prohibitions by the authorities. The only Sunni Muslim mosque in the city was closed. Jehovah’s Witnesses are forbidden to meet and are hit with fines and arrests.

But many mosques across the country were closed by force, as in Qobustan (Maraz) March 4. In Yevlakh since January, the young people of school age are forbidden to participate in Friday prayers in the Juma mosque, the only one of the city.

Meanwhile, President Ilham Aliev on April 7, opening the work of a global forum for intercultural dialogue in Baku, was congratulated himself on “Azerbaijan having a high level of ethnic and religious tolerance, that is the source of our strength” . “Freedom of religion and freedom of conscience exist in Azerbaijan.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

South Asia

U.S. Strike Kills 6 in Pakistan, First Since March

(Reuters) — Pakistan condemned an attack on militants by U.S. drone aircraft on Wednesday, the first such strike in the controversial program in nearly a month.

The missiles, fired from two unmanned planes, hit a vehicle carrying militants in a village about 12 km (eight miles) east of the Afghan border in South Waziristan, residents and officials said.

“We have confirmation of six (dead) but the toll could be high,” a security official said.

The United States has used drone attacks to target al Qaeda-linked militants over the past few years in Pakistan’s tribal areas but they have become a source of concern for the Pakistan government because of civilian casualties.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office strongly condemned the latest attack and said it had protested to the U.S. ambassador.

“We have repeatedly said that such attacks are counterproductive and only contribute to strengthen the hands of the terrorists,” it said in a statement.

“Drone attacks have become a core irritant in the counter-terror campaign. Pakistan has taken up the matter with the U.S. at all levels.”

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, speaking in the National Assembly, also said the attacks turned people against the government.

“We admit we are against them. We were able to separate militants from local tribal people, and when drone attack takes place the local tribes get united with militants,” Gilani said.

Wednesday’s strike was made two days after Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, sought an end to the drone campaign in a meeting in Washington with CIA Director Leon Panetta, officials said.

It was the first since March 17, when a similar attack killed 38 tribal elders and suspected militants and drew rare condemnation from the country’s powerful military chief.

An intelligence official said the United States acted without any Pakistani help.

In March, Pakistan refused to attend a meeting to discuss the conflict in Afghanistan in protest against the strike in North Waziristan tribal agency, a known hub for al Qaeda and Taliban militants on the Afghan border.

Ties between the intelligence agencies of the United States and Pakistan soured further over the case of Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who shot dead two Pakistanis in the eastern city of Lahore in January.

Pakistan held Davis despite U.S. insistence that he had diplomatic immunity. He was released last month after the families of the dead men were paid compensation, a custom in Pakistan and sanctioned in Islam.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Somalia: Best Way to Free Pirate-Held Indonesians is ‘Through Negotiations’

Jakarta, 13 April (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Somali ambassador to Indonesia Muhamod Olow Barow said Wednesday that the best way to rescue the 20 Indonesian crew members held hostage by Somali pirates was through negotiation, adding that his government was ready to help.

The 20 crewmen aboard the MV Sinar Kudus cargo ship, owned by PT Samudra Indonesia, were taken hostage in March by Somali pirates. The pirates have demanded a ransom payment of at least 3 million dollars.

“Other countries such as Malaysia and India negotiate first and foremost with the pirates. If that does not work, then they take military action,” he said.

He added that the number of groups negotiating the release should be kept to a minimum to avoid having the pirates increase their ransom with a certain group.

PT Samudra Indonesia and the Indonesian government are conducting negotiations with the pirates.

He further said Somalia would support whatever option, including military action, Indonesia chose to free the crew.

“We are ready to provide intelligence information,” he added.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


800 Dead in Channel of Sicily Since January

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 13 — More than 28,000 migrants reached Italy in less than three months, but many (approximately 800, but there are no official figures, so the number may even be greater) have been swallowed by the Channel of Sicily.

Hundreds of boats departed mostly from Tunisia, but also from Libya, and some sank with their human cargo.

Some 14 shipwrecks have been reported to date, the latest one today: two women drowned in Pantelleria during a landing.

Since 1988, according to figures gathered by Fortress Europe, almost 16,000 men, women and children died trying to reach Europe by boat. For more than 4,000 of them (4,249) the Channel of Sicily became their grave, while another 186 died sailing from Algeria to Sardinia. More than half of these dead bodies have never been recovered: official statistics mentioned 3,110 missing people.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Boat Hits Rocks Off Pantelleria, 2 Women Die

(ANSAmed) — LAMPEDUSA (AGRIGENTO), APRIL 13 — Two women died during the landing of migrants this morning on Pantelleria. The two women had been onboard an old fishing boat carrying 250 refugees which had almost certainly left from Libya and which ended up at dawn on the rocks of a small inlet on Pantelleria.

The migrants threw themselves into the sea and swam to the shore. However, two women died, most likely by drowning due to the very bad weather conditions. Weather conditions in the Sicilian Channel are worsening, with a storm at sea. This morning a plane took off to check for any boats which may be having difficulty at sea.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU Offers Tunisia More Aid — For Help on Migrants

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — The EU Commission president has conditioned an increase in financial aid for this North African country in return for more action to prevent migrants from leaving its shores.

Jose Manuel Barroso says the European bloc is considering up to euro140 million ($200 million) in extra aid for Tunisia — or more than a 50-percent increase from the planned outlay from now until 2013.

Some 20,000 migrants — mostly Tunisians — have arrived in the Italian island of Lampedusa since upheaval began sweeping across the Arab world this year.

Barroso said Tuesday the EU wants “strong and clear action” from the Tunisian government by readmitting Tunisians who have arrived illegally in Europe.

Barroso said EU is ready to help with extra means “but we also need Tunisian authorities to do more.”

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Italy: Hundreds Land at Lampedusa and Pantelleria

(AGI) Palermo — Boats loaded with immigrants were rescued at dawn near Lampedusa and Pantelleria. A Guardia di Finanza patrol boat reached a vessel loaded with 104 Tunisian men some four miles offshore from Lampedusa. A Pantelleria Coast Guard unit rescued an old fishing boat on which about 250 people were trying the crossing. At Lampedusa the immigrants’ arrival restarted last evening, thanks to the landing of a boat carrying 57 people.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italy: Two Dead: One Missing in Another Migrant Wreck

Incident comes week after 150 lost at sea near Lampedusa

(ANSA) — Rome, April 13 — Two women are dead and another person is missing after a boat got into trouble near the Sicilian island of Pantelleria Wednesday, a week after at least 150 people were lost at sea when another migrant vessel sank in the Channel of Sicily.

The boat, which was carrying 192 refugees and left conflict-hit Libya five days ago, appears to have run aground in shallow waters after getting lost while an Italian coast guard vessel was trying to escort it to port.

The passengers were forced to abandon the boat and swim ashore in choppy conditions, according to initial reconstructions, and the two women probably drowned as they were trying to do so.

Their bodies were found in water that was only around one-metre deep. The authorities, who have detained the boat’s pilot, are searching for the missing person. The death toll would have been higher if coast guards, police, firefighters and local people had not thrown themselves into the sea and saved dozens of migrants, most of whom are throught to be from sub-Saharan Africa.

Pantelleria Mayor Alberto Di Marzo said six children were aboard and a pregnant woman, none of whom are in a life-threatening condition, although the woman is in hospital.

Last week’s sinking in rough seas near the southern island of Lampedusa, a landing point for many of the 28,000 migrants to have arrived in Italy this year following unrest in North Africa, took the number of people to have gone missing in the Channel of Sicily in 2011 to around 800.

Children were among the victims of the wreck that claimed the lives of mostly Eritreans and Somalis last week.

Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said Tuesday he was hopeful that a recent agreement with the new Tunisian government to boost controls and repatriate new arrivals in exchange for aid and assistance would stem the flow of migrants from that country, the origin of most of the non-EU citizens to land in Italy this year.

But he expressed concerns that large numbers of Africans will keep coming via Libya as conflict between Muammar Gaddafi loyalists and rebels to his 40-year rule continues.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Migrants: Two Women Die in Pantelleria Stampede

(AGI) Palermo — Two women have died in a stampede as 250 refugees fought to disembark from an old fishing boat at Pantelleria. The Coastguard had come to the boat’s rescue and was escorting it into port, when a wrong manoeuvre meant that it actually came to ground on a beach a few hundred metres from the dock and is lying in approximately one metre of seawater.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Amsterdam Plans to Accommodate Asylum-Seekers at Top Locations

AMSTERDAM, 13/04/11 — Amsterdam wants to accommodate asylum-seekers at top locations in the city, including the Zuidas business centre.

Leftwing Green (GroenLinks) Alderman Maarten van Poelgeest wants to accommodate a total of 2,000 asylum-seekers at various newbuilding locations at top locations in the city. He has given as examples the Zuidas and the IJburg 2 housing project, consisting of villas on the water, the 6t5r journal reports.

According to Van Poelgeest, asylum-seekers feel “more included in the city” at top locations. The alderman does not want to accommodate immigrants at the edge of the city, mainly due to environmental ideals. “I am not planning to build in green areas.”

Van Poelgeest does not fear misunderstanding on the part of Amsterdammers. “I think that people do understand this.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Bring Back Border Controls, Says PVV

The anti-immigration PVV has called for border controls to be reintroduced around the Netherlands following Italy’s decision to give visas to thousands of young Libyans and Tunisians fleeing the fighting.

France and Germany are already considering reopening checkpoints on their borders with Italy and Austria.

Party leader Geert Wilders said Italy’s decision is a scandal. ‘We don’t need any more North Africans here,’ the Telegraaf quotes Wilders as saying.

On Tuesday, immigration minister Gerd Leers said he was very angry about Italy’s move.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]