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31.07.2012 Headlines

Spokesperson’s Morning Headlines For Tuesday, 31 July 2012

By United Nations
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SYRIA: Fighting in Syria's largest city of Aleppo stretched into its 11th day on Tuesday amid growing international condemnation of the Syrian government's crackdown on a tenacious rebellion that has lasted 17 months. (AP) Syrian rebels attacked the ruling Baath party office and the military hospital in Aleppo, northern Syria, on Tuesday, as fighting continued for the fourth consecutive day. (DPA) 

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday singled out Syria's government for censure, telling it to halt its violent crackdown on the dissidents and rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad's regime, and denounced an armed attack on a convoy carrying the military chief of the U.N. observer mission. (AP) 

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned Syria not to use its stockpiles of chemical weapons under any circumstances. Ban told reporters in New York on Monday that he is deeply concerned about the impact of shelling and use of other heavy weapons on civilians in the city of Aleppo. Ban said Syria is the United Nation's top, most urgent priority, and pledged to continue efforts to resolve the conflict. (NHK News, Tokyo) 

The new head of the U.N. observer mission in Syria said on Monday that he saw heavy shelling in the central city of Homs and major damage to the nearby town of Rastan during his first visit into the field. (Al Jazeera) UN observers have reported an upsurge in violence in the city, the new head of their mission Babacar Gaye said. He added that he had personally seen heavy shelling in the city of Homs. Lt-Gen Gaye also said he had witnessed serious damage from shelling and fighting in the nearby town of Rastan. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon later reported that Gen Gaye's convoy had been attacked at the weekend. (BBC) 

Syria's top diplomat to Britain defected on Monday, according to the British Foreign Office, striking a blow against the beleaguered government of President Bashar al-Assad as tens of thousands fled heavy fighting in Aleppo, the most populous city in the country and its commercial capital. (WP) 

The U.N. refugee agency says it has been unable to reach all 200,000 people fleeing the fighting in Aleppo, Syria's largest city. The agency's spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, told reporters Tuesday that thousands of frightened residents are seeking shelter in schools, mosques and makeshift facilities. (AP) 

Iraqi Kurdish forces gave basic training to Syrian Kurds to fill any "security gap" should the Syrian regime fall, a top official in the party of the Kurdistan region's president said on Tuesday. 

Moscow has supported Assad and has shown no sign of abandoning him, blaming the West and Arab countries for stoking the revolt by backing the opposition. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on Twitter: “Situation is really critical in Aleppo. It is clear that biased media by all means try to do work for the opposition when the latter fails.” (Reuters) 

The Turkish military sent troops, armored personnel carriers and missile batteries to the Syrian border on Monday, shoring up defenses against a country that has plunged into turmoil with some serious potential repercussions for Turkey. (NYT)

According to the White House, President Barack Obama and the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, held a telephone conversation to "coordinate efforts to accelerate a political transition in Syria". (Expresso, Lisbon) 

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said in an exclusive interview to CNN that "when, not if, al-Assad falls, Syrian military should remain intact". The best way to maintain stability is to keep as much of the military, the police and the security forces as possible and “hope that they will transition to a democratic form of government", Panetta added. (ANSA, Rome) 

The ongoing revolt in Syria, which has begun as a secular movement for democracy, is gradually turning into a religious war, with Islamist groups playing an ever increasing role within the ranks of the opposition. One of the key reasons for such a rapid "Islamization" is the financial one. (Kommersant, Moscow) 

Switzerland on Monday said that it will make a 50,000 Euro contribution to discussions by former Syrian officers, generals and experts who are meeting in Berlin, Germany, in a bid to develop a new Syrian constitution and plans for reforming the economy and the security sector. (Neue Zuercher Zeitung, Switzerland) 

Will the Syrian crisis become a new black spot in Kofi Annan's history? Will he shoulder the blame of failure alone? Or will the international community stop looking for its narrow interests and find an immediate solution to the Syrian crisis? (Al-Shorouk, Cairo, ed) 

Reduced to defending a handful of cities, and confident of the loyalty of only a fraction of his army, Mr. Assad is no longer bidding for outright victory. A core of his security forces can still be counted on to obey orders and defeat the rebels in pitched battles, but the clock is clearly ticking. He can still buy time – perhaps measured in months – but he cannot win, writes columnist David Blair. (Telegraph, London, Op-Ed) 

IRAN: Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta sent a tacit message to Israeli leaders on Monday, urging that diplomacy and economic pressure be given more time to work before they move ahead with any military strike on Iran. (NYT) President Obama's position, which is known to Netanyahu and Barak, is that in a year and a half from today, when the Iranians will be a moment before crossing the critical threshold, the US will use its full might against them and attack the nuclear facilities, but not before. (Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel) 

US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro has said that there is still time regarding the Iranian nuclear threat - though not a lot - and that is why Washington was preparing alternatives, among them the military option, in case the negotiations failed. (Israel Radio) 

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran suffered embarrassments in two politically delicate judicial cases on Monday, in what Iranian analysts called a possible sign of further isolation during his final year in office. (NYT) 

IRAQ: Iraq's government says time is running out for an estimated 1,200 members of an Iranian opposition group to move into a refugee camp outside Baghdad. Top U.N. envoy in Iraq Martin Kobler urged the government to refrain from violence. (AP) 

AFGHANISTAN: Hundreds of millions of US taxpayer dollars may have been wasted on poorly managed infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, a report to Congress says. John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction, found that project "planning, co-ordination and execution" had been weak. (BBC) 

The French military completed an important step in its accelerated withdrawal from Afghanistan on Tuesday as it pulled out of a district outside Kabul. (AFP) 

ISRAEL/PALESTINE: Palestinians have accused US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney of racism after he suggested disparities between the Israeli and Palestinian economies had cultural roots while not mentioning Israel's occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza. (Al Arabiya) 

PALESTINE/EGYPT: Some may believe that facilitating the Palestinians' entry to Egypt without visas or security checks will ease their suffering and contribute to lifting their suffering from the imposed siege. But the fact is that by doing so, it will be the end of the Palestinian cause and its liquidation, and will also be a golden opportunity for Israel and its plan to shift the conflict to Egypt and the beginning of a new era of conflict in the region, writes Mohamed Taalab. (Al-Gomhuria, Cairo, Op-Ed)

SUDAN/SOUTH SUDAN: Sudan's President Omer al-Bashir declined to meet his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir in a last chance summit to overcome divergences over outstanding issues before the 2 August deadline. The long-time announced second summit was considered by the mediation to narrow the gaps between the two parties over oil and security issues. But the divergences between the two parties remained deep on key issues. (Sudan Tribune) 

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to visit South Sudan as part of a major Africa trip this week in order to “encourage progress” in talks with its northern neighbor Sudan. (Sudan Tribune) 

GUINEA-BISSAU: The UN Security Council is considering calling a summit on Guinea-Bissau and expressed concern Monday that drug trafficking in the troubled West African state has grown since a junta seized control in April. (AFP) 

MALI: Interim President Dioncounda Traore put the final touches on a unity government on Monday, the eve of a deadline set by foreign partners, taking the lead in negotiations after sidelining his unpopular premier. (News24 Online, South Africa) 

Amnesty International reported that the soldiers held in Mali after the coup d'etat of April 30 were victims of torture and other human rights abuses by the military junta. (RTP Notícias, Lisbon) 

LIBERIA: Liberia has arrested four more suspects in connection with an attack on the Côte d'Ivoire border last month in which seven UN peacekeepers were killed, a statement said on Monday. (News24 Online, South Africa)

D.R. CONGO/RWANDA: The Congolese government says it won't negotiate with a new rebel movement that is sparking violence in the country's east. However, government spokesman Lambert Mende said late Monday that dialogue is possible with neighboring Rwanda, which Congo blames for helping the rebels. (AP) 

Uganda has denied allegations its army was providing support to the M23 rebels fighting against the Kinshasa government in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, joining Rwanda, which has also refuted similar accusations. (Independent Online, South Africa) 

M23 rebels on Monday pushed to surround a regional capital in Democratic Republic of Congo, as the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said it had treated scores of wounded civilians and was sheltering hundreds. (Independent Online, South Africa)

RWANDA: An exiled Rwandan general who went from close aide to outspoken critic of the country's president, Paul Kagame, has described his former ally as a "dictator" determined to kill him, according to a newspaper report. (Guardian, London) 

INDIA: The Indian authorities are taking urgent measures to remedy the situation in the state of Assam, which witnessed last week violent clashes between representatives of the local Bodo ethnic group and Muslim migrants of the Bangladeshi origin. The rioting, as a result of which more than 50 people died and more than 400,000 became the IDPs, is far from the only interethnic conflict in today's India, which poses a threat to the country's territorial integrity. (Kommersant, Moscow)

A massive power breakdown has hit India for a second day running, leaving more than half the country without power. (BBC) 

MYANMAR: A United Nations human rights envoy traveled Tuesday to western Myanmar to investigate communal violence that left at least 78 dead and tens of thousands homeless. (AP) 

NORTH KOREA: U.N. staff visited storm-pounded areas of North Korea on Tuesday, after heavy rain submerged buildings and rice paddies, cut off power and forced people to climb onto rooftops for safety. (AP) 

CHINA: China reports a slowdown in growth for the sixth consecutive semester. The country's growth has fallen under the 8% level, the level supposed to give a guarantee of social stability. (Le Monde, Paris) 

RUSSIA: At the opening of their trial on charges of inciting religious hatred, three young women who performed a crude anti-Putin song on the altar of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior said on Monday that they were prepared to take responsibility for “an ethical mistake.” But they denied the formal criminal accusations read aloud by prosecutors. (NYT) 

Against Pussy Riot's fleet-footed goad, the Russian state is wielding the full might of a court widely viewed as a creature of the Kremlin. If the Kremlin wills it, the three defendants – two of them with young children whom they have not seen since their arrest – face sentences of up to seven years. This is hardly the action of the confident, forward-looking state that Mr Putin would claim to lead; rather, it is the peevish response of slighted machismo that Pussy Riot exists to mock. (Guardian, London, ed) 

BULGARIA/ISRAEL: Nearly two weeks after the bombing of a busload of Israeli tourists, Bulgarian investigators said they had yet to identify the bomber, and did not publicly indicate who they believed was behind the attack. But if the trail remains murky, the impact of the disaster on this small Balkan nation is clear: It has jeopardized its strong ties with both Israel and the Arab countries of the Middle East. (NYT) 

POLAND: US presidential candidate Mitt Romney has met Polish ex-President Lech Walesa in Gdansk, on the final leg of a tour that has included Israel and the UK. But trade union movement Solidarity has distanced itself from the visit. (BBC) 

EURO: Europe was buzzing Monday with reports of yet another plan to save the euro by convincing skeptical financial markets that the continent's debt-ridden governments are creditworthy enough to merit new loans. (WP) 

VENEZUELA/U.S.: Venezuela contributed to a "rising tide of anti-Semitism" in 2011, with virulently anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish statements in state media and by government entities, the State Department said Monday. (AFP) 

CHILE: The prospect of Michelle Bachelet's return raises expectations in Chilean politics. The former President, based in the United States, maintains high levels of support and, although she has kept silent on her intentions, it seems clear that she will run in the 2013 elections. (El País, Madrid) 

HIV/AIDS: Treatment for HIV/AIDS has advanced significantly. But if too much focus on medical treatment would undermine diligent efforts for prevention, it could retrigger the spread of infection. As the global economy remains sluggish, it is unrealistic to expect unlimited resources to support the HIV/AIDS treatment. There is no miracle drug for HIV/AIDS. What is needed now is to build up comprehensive preventive strategies by combining treatment and support. (Sankei Shimbun, Tokyo, ed)

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