Foreign articles

PM designation splits Sunni camp in Lebanon

PM designation splits Sunni camp in Lebanon

TRIPOLI – Hezbollah-backed Najib Mikati’s appointment as Lebanon’s premier-designate has split the country’s Sunni Muslims, who for years had stood seemingly united in a deeply divided country. In the Sunni bastion of Tripoli on Lebanon’s northern coast, a rift is emerging in a community that once rallied behind US- and Saudi-backed Saad Hariri, the outgoing premier.
“Everyone has been saying for so long that Iran and Syria would try to split the Sunnis of Lebanon, and that they

Sanaa streets quiet a day after demonstrations

SANAA – Sanaa was quiet on Friday with no sign of the thousands of protesters who had flooded the streets the previous day to demand the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in power since 1978. Reports that the protesters would stage another rally after the weekly Muslim prayers proved unfounded and the situation was normal for a Friday, a weekly holiday in Yemen, with no visible extra police deployment, an AFP reporter said.
Saleh, who has been president for decades, was

Kazakh leader says ready to stay in power

ASTANA – Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on Friday said he was ready to work for as long as required, as his country is expected to hold a referendum on whether to extend his term until 2020. Nazarbayev’s comments delivered during an annual state-of-the-nation address appeared to leave little doubt that he intended to extend his grip over the Central Asia’s largest oil producer despite strong criticism from the West.
“I am ready to work for as long as my health allows me.

Mandela’s hospital stay grips South Africa

JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s revered former president Nelson Mandela’s hospital stay stretched into a second day on Thursday, as the nation grew increasingly concerned for the anti-apartheid hero’s health.
The news that Madiba – the clan name by which the 92-year-old Nobel peace prize winner is affectionately known, and the country’s first elected black leader – remained under medical supervision has put the nation on edge.
Current President Jacob Zuma called for calm as

Spain okays plan to raise retirement age to 67

MADRID – Spain’s government said Friday it had agreed to raise the retirement age to 67 from 65, a bitterly fought reform aimed at repairing public finances and soothing markets. Closely watched by markets as a sign of Madrid’s determination to keep long-term spending on track, the outline deal was reached after one-and-a-half months of talks with unions and business chiefs.
An agreement with the country’s two major unions was reached in the early hours of the morning ahead of

Lebanon’s Mikati could seek technocrat govt

BEIRUT – Lebanon’s prime minister designate Najib Mikati said he will seek to form a cabinet of technocrats if defeated rival Saad al-Hariri’s supporters reject his call for them to join his government.
Mikati, a wealthy businessman who was nominated with the support of Iran-backed Hezbollah, started talks on Thursday to form a government to succeed Hariri, who was brought down by Hezbollah and its allies two weeks ago. The Shi’ite militant group expects its members to be

New scandal documents pile pressure on Berlusconi

ROME – Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi faced more pressure to resign on Thursday after magistrates issued new documents with fresh details of erotic parties, some with under-age girls, and of his gifts to participants. The centre-left opposition said the new documents made his position “untenable” and said he should resign willingly or that his conservative allies should put pressure on him to step aside for the good of the country.
The 227 pages of new documents were sent by

Women will turn against ‘sultan’ Berlusconi: Bindi

ROME – One of Italy’s most senior female politicians has condemned Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as a “sultan” who degrades women and predicted many of those who voted for him will abandon him in the next election.
Rosy Bindi, president of the opposition Democratic Party and deputy speaker of the lower house of the parliament, said in an interview sex scandals were likely to cost Berlusconi power. “Italian women are paying the highest price for this scandal, with an image

Loyalists of ousted Tunisia leader expected to go

TUNIS – Tunisia plans to overhaul the lineup of its interim government on Thursday, a move expected to see key loyalists of ousted leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali step aside in a bid to end persistent protests. Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on Jan 14 when weeks of violent protests against poverty, repression and corruption toppled him after 23 years in power.
Since then, an interim government that includes many former ruling party officials has struggled to impose order. Protesters

Only reform can rescue Yemen: govt official

BEIRUT – Only bold reforms can calm Yemen’s perfect storm of economic and political woes, the deputy finance minister said in Sanaa, where angry street protests have erupted against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
“People do have fair grievances everywhere in Yemen, but unfortunately they are being used by politicians from both sides,” Jalal Yaqoub told Reuters in a telephone interview on Thursday. “The government should listen to the people and enact substantial reforms that give

Human Rights Watch fears Egypt army may open fire

DAVOS – Human Rights Watch (HRW) fears that Egypt’s army may open fire on protesters during demonstrations planned for Friday, the head of the New-York based group said on Thursday.
Police in Cairo have already fought thousands of Egyptians who defied a government ban on Wednesday to protest against President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-old rule, firing rubber bullets and tear gas at the crowds and dragging away demonstrators.
“We are enormously fearful that the army would

Hariri group asks Mikati not to shun Lebanon tribunal

BEIRUT – Outgoing Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s movement asked Hezbollah-backed prime minister designate Najib Mikati on Thursday not to cut Lebanon’s links to a UN-backed tribunal probing the killing of Hariri’s father.
The tribunal is the heart of a dispute between Hariri and Shi’ite movement Hezbollah which says it will accuse some of its members in the 2005 killing. Hariri’s bloc in parliament did not say whether the movement will join Mikati’s government.

Egypt prosecutor charges 40 with sedition

CAIRO – Egypt’s general prosecutor has charged 40 protesters with trying to “overthrow the regime”, al-Arabiya television reported on Thursday, as anti-government protests across the country entered a third day.
Demonstrations demanding the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, in power since 1981, have raged across several cities, including Cairo and Suez. Security sources contacted by Reuters were unable to immediately confirm the report.

Food inflation a threat, regulation questioned

DAVOS – Officials meeting at the World Economic Forum expressed concern on Thursday about soaring food prices stoking social unrest, but corporate figures rejected calls for curbs on speculation. “Higher food prices and volatility are one of the biggest threats to the global economic recovery and social stability,” Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, managing director at the World Bank, told Reuters on the sidelines of the meeting in the Swiss resort.
US wheat futures rose to a new 29-month

Fallen investor spoils Russia show for investors

DAVOS – A former big investor in Russia, who accuses the government of stealing his firms and killing his lawyer, spoiled on Thursday a Russian show in Davos meant to woo investors. Bill Browder, who had around $4 billion invested in Russia through his Hermitage fund, says he had to flee Russia after accusing officials of corruption and saw some of his firms being stolen from him by Interior Ministry officials.
One of his lawyers, Sergei Magnitsky, died in jail last year from

Egypt opposition calls for second day of protests

CAIRO – Egyptian activists called for a second day of street action on Wednesday as authorities vowed to prevent further protests following huge anti-government rallies in which four people died. The pro-democracy youth group April 6 Movement, the driving force behind Tuesday’s protests – the largest and most significant in Egypt since bread riots in 1977 – urged people to head back to Cairo’s main square Wednesday.
“Everyone needs to head down to Tahrir Square to take over the

Karzai opens Afghanistan parliament

KABUL – President Hamid Karzai opened Afghanistan’s parliament on Wednesday, ending a week-long stand-off with lawmakers who had threatened to inaugurate the legislature with or without him.
The ceremony held in a national assembly compound comes four months after the country held its second post-Taliban parliamentary elections, the results of which have met with massive controversy over claims of widespread fraud. “Congratulations to all of you,” Karzai told the lawmakers after