Foreign articles

IMF has changed, chief tells Asia

IMF has changed, chief tells Asia

JAKARTA – The IMF on Wednesday said it had learnt from its mistakes during the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis and had undertaken reform to give the region’s countries a greater say in how the Fund is managed. IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn said the organisation wanted a fresh start with Asia as he visited Indonesia and met President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Indonesia was hit hard by the Asian crisis and the IMF remains deeply unpopular in the country of 240 million people

Egypt, Mideast in focus at Munich conference

BERLIN – Revolt in Egypt and the implications for the stalled Middle East peace process are set to be key talking points for top defence officials at the Munich Security Conference in Germany from Friday. The three-day annual get-together of ministers, top military brass, national security advisors and experts will also tackle hot-button issues like Iran, Afghanistan, the rise of China, NATO-Russia relations and disarmament.
Other topics for the 750 participants, who will include

French minister fights off Tunisia allegations

PARIS – Allies of France’s foreign minister fought off embarrassing allegations of links to Tunisia’s ousted leader on Wednesday after a report that the owner of a private jet she used was close to his regime. The allegations raised pressure on the minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, following France’s U-turn over authoritarian ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s regime after he bowed to popular protests and fled Tunisia last month.
The investigative weekly Le Canard Enchaine reported in

Internet restored in Cairo after revolt blackout

CAIRO – Internet services were at least partially restored in Cairo on Wednesday after a five-day cut aimed at stymieing protests against President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, Internet users said. Egypt’s four main Internet service providers cut off access to their customers in a near simultaneous move overnight last Thursday, two days after anti-Mubarak protests – many coordinated via the Internet – began.
Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook have become increasingly

‘Solidarity with Belarus’ meet to bolster opposition aid

WARSAW – Thirty-six states were set Wednesday to bolster financial support for Belarussian opposition groups at a donors’ conference spearheaded by Poland – the first initiative of its kind. The “Solidarity with Belarus” conference was called in response to a crackdown by Belarus’s strongman President Alexander Lukashenko in the wake of his December 19 re-election which has been disputed by the opposition and the West.
“Belarussians deserve reasonable government by reasonable

Syria again holds the strings in Lebanon: analysts

BEIRUT – Lebanon’s former powerbroker Syria has edged its way back into the heart of local politics, analysts say, after the militant Hezbollah and its allies toppled the Western-backed government of Saad Hariri.
“Over the past six years, Syria has sought to regain its influence, step by step, until the time came when it could announce to the world that Lebanon was once again squarely in its hands,” said Marwan Rowayheb, political science professor at the Lebanese American

WikiLeaks candidate for 2011 Nobel Peace Prize: MP

OSLO – A Norwegian member of the parliament on Wednesday said he had nominated WikiLeaks for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, saying the whistleblower website was a gauge of transparency in the world, including in democratic societies.
Jailed Chinese dissident “Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year for his struggle for human rights, democracy and freedom of speech in China,” Snorre Valen, a member of the Socialist Left Party that is part of the ruling left-leaning

Halle Berry to fight for daughter’s custody

NEW YORK – Hollywood star Halle Berry is planning to take ex, Gabriel Aubry, to court to fight for the custody of their daughter, Nahla. “Halle Berry was forced to pull out of a film production in New York this week due to pending custody litigation involving her daughter,” her publicist told in a statement.
“She has attempted to resolve these custody issues amicably with her daughter’s father, Gabriel Aubry, directly, but given his lack of cooperation, Halle has no choice but to

Torture fed anti-regime wrath in Egypt: HRW

CAIRO – Anger against routine police abuse and torture has been a driving force behind the massive popular protests sweeping across Egypt, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Tuesday.
“The Egyptian government’s foul record on this issue is a huge part of what is still bringing crowds onto the streets today,” Joe Stork, the US-based rights group’s deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa said in an accompanying statement. The 95-page report, “Work on Him

Jordanian king names new prime minister: palace

AMMAN – King Abdullah II of Jordan named Maruf Bakhit as prime minister on Tuesday with orders to carry out “true political reforms,” the palace said, after weeks of opposition protests demanding change. “King Abdullah II designated Maruf Bakhit to form a new government to replace the government of Samir Rifai,” a palace statement said.
“Bakhit’s mission is to take practical, quick and tangible steps to launch true political reforms, enhance Jordan’s democratic drive and ensure

Limited options dog African panel on I Coast crisis

ADDIS ABABA – A high-level panel named by the African Union faces an uphill battle in agreeing a unified stand on Ivory Coast’s political crisis and has limited new options to offer the country’s two rival leaders.
Divisions were laid bare at the two-day AU summit that ended Monday, with the leaders agreeing to set up a panel made up of the presidents of Burkina Faso, Chad, South Africa, Mauritania and Tanzania to work out an exit strategy. AU commission chief Jean Ping said last

In Cairo, checkpoints mark a city transformed

CAIRO – As the plane banks towards Cairo airport, passengers peer from the windows onto the highways below, empty of the cars usually inching along in heavy traffic at all hours of the day and night. Arriving in Egypt’s protest-shaken capital after curfew, visitors quickly see how the usually heaving, noisy city has been transformed by eight days of demonstrations against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
At the arrivals terminal, immigration booths that are usually fully staffed

‘I am not tough’: Putin tells supermodel

MOSCOW – Strongman leader Vladimir Putin has sat down for an interview with supermodel Naomi Campbell, telling her Russia had tougher guys than him and praising Moscow students who undressed for his birthday for their courage.
Putin, known for his adrenaline-fuelled antics, told the British supermodel of experiences including swimming butterfly in a cold Siberian river and coming face to face with a tiger but added Russia had braver men than him. “I’m not the tough guy,” the

Egyptians feel economic pinch of protest

CAIRO – There is no money at the banks. Fuel is scarce. Tourism is evaporating. As a popular uprising to oust President Hosni Mubark enters its second week, Egyptians are feeling the economic pinch. Banks have been shut since Sunday, and they remained so on Tuesday, the day that protesters hope will see a million-strong demonstration in Cairo to demand an end to Mubarak’s regime.
Many automatic teller machines (ATM) in the teeming capital have run out of cash, and those still

Egypt crisis – Turkish PM calls for change

ANKARA – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Tuesday to meet his people’s desire for change as he voiced support for democratic reform in the whole Middle East. In a weekly speech to his party’s lawmakers in parliament, Erdogan described his appeal to Mubarak as very sincere advice, a very sincere warning.
“Hear the cry of the people and their extremely humane demands. Meet the people’s desire for change without hesitation… In

Egypt crisis – Japan urges ‘democratic’ govt

TOKYO – Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Tuesday called on Cairo to form a “democratic government” as several hundred thousand Egyptians massed in an eighth day of protest against President Hosni Mubarak.
“It is desirable that Egypt will undergo a transition to a democratic government in a peaceful manner by communicating fully with the people,” Kan told reporters. Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said he wanted the Mubarak government to listen to the Egyptian people and make

Egypt crisis – UNESCO warns on heritage

PARIS – The United Nations cultural organisation urged Egyptian authorities and protesters on Tuesday to protect the country’s heritage and respect freedom of expression during the ongoing political crisis. There have been reports of a looting attempt at Cairo’s renowned Egyptian Museum and other historal sites, as well as of citizens taking it upon themselves to set up a cordon to protect their nation’s heritage.
“My compassion goes first to the victims of the civil unrest and