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China’s Ambassador to Burma Meets Aung San Suu Kyi December 16, 2011

A Chinese official has held a rare meeting with Burmese opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin says Aung San Suu Kyi has asked several times to meet with Chinese officials.

Liu says the Chinese ambassador met her in response to her request, and listened to her opinions.

When asked when the meeting actually took place, the Chinese spokesman said the date is not important.

In Burma, officials with Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party said the two met on December 8. They did not release details of the talks, but indicated it was a friendly meeting that did not include much discussion about politics.

China, which has been criticized by Western countries for its own harsh treatment of outspoken Chinese dissidents, has been one of the Burmese government’s closest diplomatic allies. It also strongly backed the military regime that kept Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for a total of nearly 15 years.

On Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu indicated Beijing is ready to talk to people from all levels of Burmese society.

He says China will engage in contact with all sectors of Burmese society, under the principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. He adds that for Beijing to talk to people committed to China-Burma friendship would be beneficial to people of both countries.

Since she was released from house arrest more than one year ago, Aung San Suu Kyi has publicly said she does not consider Beijing an enemy.

Meanwhile, the Chinese spokesman says China’s top diplomat, State Councilor Dai Bingguo will travel to Burma next week (December 19) for a meeting of Mekong River countries.

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China imposes tariff on US car imports December 15, 2011

The tension between America and China over international trade escalated on Wednesday when Beijing imposed additional duties on cars imported from the United States.

China‘s commerce ministry accused America’s car industry of “dumping and subsidising”, thereby causing substantial damage to China’s domestic car industry. From Thursday, levies will be charged on larger-engined cars from several manufacturers, some being European firms with factories in the US.

General Motors faces the greatest impact, almost 22% extra on some sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and other cars with engine capacities above 2.5 litres. Chrysler faces a 15% penalty, while a 2% levy will be imposed on BMW, whose US plants make many of the cars it exports to China.

Existing taxes and duties already push up the cost of US imports by 25%, and the new levies make it even more expensive for Chinese consumers to buy American. The move was swiftly attacked in the US. Carl Levin, the Democratic senator for Michigan (which includes the motor city of Detroit), called it an “unjustified” attempt to circumvent international trade laws. “Instead of ending its unlawful trade practices, China is choosing to take further steps that are unauthorised by world trade rules,” he claimed.”The livelihoods of American families and the integrity of global trade law are at stake.”

GM says the levies will have little immediate impact, as it mostly exports lower-power cars to China. Analysts, though, said the decision underlined China’s determination to protect its car industry.

“The move shows that China is always capable of intervening politically in its markets,” Juergen Pieper of Bankhaus Metzler, the German investment bank, told Bloomberg. Georges Dieng, a Paris-based analyst with Natixis Securities, said the levies had been set to “inflict pain on the Americans, above all”. Shares in General Motors fell by over 3%, while BMW’s shares slipped 5%.

China and the US have peppered each other with legal actions and tariffs over the past few years.

Earlier this month, the US International Trade Commission ruled against China’s solar-power industry after an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigation. Last week, the US pledged to take China’s anti-dumping measures against American poultry imports to the World Trade Organisation.

Debbie Stabenow, the junior senator for Michigan, urged the US government to take China’s car levies to the WTO as well. “China relentlessly breaks international trade rules, and seeks to gain an anti-competitive advantage over our companies and workers. America must be equally relentless in fighting back,” she said.

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China ‘Regrets’ S. Korean Coast Guard Death December 14, 2011

The Chinese government said Tuesday it regrets the death of a South Korean coast guard officer allegedly stabbed to death by a Chinese fisherman.

The statement from China’s Foreign Ministry comes amid rising public anger in South Korea over the incident, which happened Monday during an operation to stop a Chinese vessel illegally fishing off the Korean peninsula.

More than 100 South Korean military veterans and activists protested in front of the Chinese embassy in Seoul on Tuesday to denounce Beijing for the killing. During the demonstration, a South Korean protester slammed his car several times into a police vehicle guarding the Chinese embassy.

Earlier Tuesday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak promised “strong countermeasures” to protect coast guard officers who are cracking down on increasingly bold incursions by Chinese fishermen.

South Korea’s foreign ministry on Monday summoned the Chinese ambassador in protest over the incident.

South Korean officials said the Chinese vessel was halted Monday morning in the Yellow Sea for fishing illegally in South Korea’s exclusive economic zone, but outside its territorial waters.

The officials said the captain of the boat used an undetermined weapon to stab two of the four coast guard officers who had boarded his vessel, killing a 41-year-old corporal and wounding a second officer.

South Korean officials say the captain has denied stabbing the officers. The Chinese vessel has been seized and its crew of nine is now in custody.

China’s Foreign Ministry said Beijing will cooperate with Seoul in investigating the incident, but urged South Korea to respect the “legitimate rights and interests of Chinese fishermen.”

This is the first such fatal encounter between South Korean authorities and a Chinese crew at sea since 2008, when Chinese fishermen killed a coast guard officer and injured six others.

South Korea’s coast guard says incursions by Chinese boats have been growing. It says it has cited over 470 Chinese ships this year for illegal fishing, compared to 370 last year.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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China: Canada’s Kyoto Protocol Withdrawal ‘Regrettable’

China is calling Canada’s decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol “regrettable” and says it goes against the efforts of the international community. Canada’s move comes days after climate-change negotiators met to hammer-out a global deal in Durban, South Africa.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin expressed China’s dismay at the news that Canada had pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol.

He says the timing is particularly bad, because negotiators at the just-concluded Durban conference made what he described as important progress on the issue of the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period.

Liu says Canada’s move goes against the efforts of the international community and is regrettable. He says Beijing hopes Canada will face up to its obligations, honor its commitments and actively participate in international efforts to fight climate change.

Canada Monday announced that it is pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty hammered out in 1997 that calls for major industrialized nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The United States never ratified the Kyoto Protocol. The accord recognizes China as a developing country and so does not impose mandated emissions reduction targets on Beijing.

China and the United States are the world’s two biggest emitters of carbon gases that many scientists say exacerbate global warming.

Liu indicated that Ottawa’s decision will not affect Beijing’s actions.

He says China has been actively participating in the international effort against climate change and made what he describes as “utmost efforts” for the Durban meeting’s success. He says this will continue in the future.

The Chinese negotiator at Durban, Xie Zhenhua, says he is concerned that developed nations are reluctant to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions, which many scientists say exacerbate global warming. He also called on developed countries to provide financial and technical aid to help developing nations fight against and cope with the effects of climate change.

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Iran Shows Footage of Purported US Drone December 9, 2011

Iranian state television on Thursday released the first images of what it said was a U.S. unmanned reconnaissance drone downed on Sunday along Iran’s eastern border after it made a brief incursion into its airspace.  

The footage shows Iranian military officials inspecting an aerial vehicle resembling a high-tech RQ-170 Sentinel drone.  The vehicle appears to be in good shape and with no visible damage.

The chief of the aerospace division of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards, General Ami Ali Hajizadeh, said Iranian forces brought the drone down through a “cyber attack.”  He said the drone “fell into the trap of electronic warfare unit” who then managed to land it with minimum damage.

Also Thursday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Swiss Ambassador to Tehran, Livia Leu Agosti, to protest the drone incident.  The U.S. and Iran do not have diplomatic relations, and Switzerland handles American interests in Iran.  The state television said that the ministry demanded an explanation and compensation from Washington.

U.S. officials have acknowledged the drone’s loss and described the incident as a major setback to the stealth drone program.  They said there are real fears that the Iranians will share the drone technology with China or some other country, but also expressed doubts the Iranians have the expertise to recover any surveillance data from the aircraft.

The drone incident came at a time of heightened political tension over Iran’s controversial nuclear program the West suspects is aimed at developing atomic weapons.  The United States and Israel said they were considering “all options” on Tehran, if diplomacy fails to resolve the dispute.  

During a news conference in Washington Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama said Iran has a clear choice, to end its pursuit of atomic weapons in favor of a peaceful nuclear program or continue to resist global pressure and face increased isolation.  

Mr. Obama said “Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is contrary to U.S. security interests, as well as to the national interests of U.S. allies, including Israel, and Washington will work with the world community to prevent that.”

Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

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Egyptian PM Receives Some Presidential Powers December 8, 2011

Egypt’s ruling military council has given some presidential powers to interim Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri.

The official news agency MENA reported Wednesday the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will maintain control of the army and judiciary as it hands over more power to Ganzouri.  

Egypt’s military rulers said Tuesday they would amend the constitution to give the prime minister more power than his predecessor Essam Sharaf, who quit amid unrest in the country last month. Critics accused the military ruling council of not giving the last Cabinet enough influence.

Ganzouri unveiled his new Cabinet Wednesday, naming a former regional security head as interior minister.  Mohammed Ibrahim will replace Mansour al-Eissawy. Many opposition youth activists have been calling for a civilian replacement of Eissawy, who also has a police background.

Many Egyptians resent the interior ministry for ordering police to violently crack down on opposition protesters, who forced autocratic president Hosni Mubarak to step down in February and who demonstrated last month against the military council that replaced him.

Ganzouri said the finance ministry will be headed by Mumtaz al-Saeed, a ministry veteran who faces the challenge of stabilizing an economy battered by unrest since Mr. Mubarak’s resignation in February.  Some incumbent ministers will remain in the Cabinet that is to govern until the end of phased parliamentary elections in March.

Mr. Mubarak, two of his sons and his former interior minister are all standing trial on charges including killing protesters and abuse of power. The news agency MENA reported Wednesday that an Egyptian court has rejected an appeal to remove the main judge in the Mubarak trial.  Lawyers representing the families of slain protesters have called for the judge to be replaced.

Meanwhile, Egyptians are awaiting official results from the runoff parliamentary elections held earlier this week. The election commission says it will announce the results later Wednesday.

The Muslim Brotherhood says its political party has won almost two-thirds of the parliamentary seats reserved for individual candidates in the opening rounds of the lower house elections.  If confirmed, the Brotherhood’s individual seat victories put the movement on track to become the leading power in the 498-member assembly.

In a statement Wednesday, the Islamist group’s Freedom and Justice party says it won 36 of the 56 individual seats that were contested in nine provinces, including the two largest cities of Cairo and Alexandria. It says Freedom and Justice candidates won 34 seats in runoff elections on Monday and Tuesday after winning outright victories in two other seats in last week’s first round of voting.

The Brotherhood’s party already had won the largest share of seats reserved for parties in last week’s vote, securing 37 percent of ballots in the nine provinces, compared to 24 percent for its nearest rival, the ultra-conservative Salafist Nour party. Egypt’s liberal coalition was a distant third.

In the coming weeks, Egyptians in the remaining 18 provinces will join the voting for the lower house of parliament. Elections for parliament’s less-powerful upper house will begin in late January and finish in March.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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Protests over Russian Elections Spread to More Cities December 7, 2011

Russia’s ruling party won only half of the votes in elections on Sunday. But opponents say even that poor showing was boosted by widespread fraud. Now they are protesting.

Protests against Sunday’s Duma elections are spreading across Russia.

On Tuesday, the interior ministry flooded downtown Moscow with dozens of prison trucks and as many as 50,000 police and troops.

Despite this show of force, protesters turned out and black helmeted riot police wrestled into detention a total of 300 people, largely off the sidewalks of Tverskaya, the capital’s most expensive shopping avenue.

Police arrested 200 more in St. Petersburg and dozens more in other cities. Dozhd, a private internet TV channel reported that protests took place in 50 Russian cities.

In Moscow, police protected pro-government demonstrators who banged drums and chanted “Rossiya, Rossiya.”

Many protesters seemed to be high school students, brought in groups, and clearly unfamiliar with downtown Moscow’s streets and subways.

Denis, a member of an opposition party Yabloko, took refuge in Mayakovskaya subway station.

He said he thought the pro-government protesters were paid.

With the opposition planning a major Moscow protest for Saturday, a judge imposed 15-day sentences on two organizers arrested for disobeying police on Monday. They are: Ilya Yashin, an activist, and Alexey Navalny, a blogger with millions of online readers.

Taking another tack, Russia’s ruling duo sought to cool widespread anger over the vote by announcing small concessions on national TV

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin promised to shake up government – if he is elected President in March.

He promised to change governors and the cabinet. The cabinet has continued virtually unchanged during the four years of the Medvedev government, now widely seen as a caretaker time.

For his part, President Medvedev ordered the government agency that conducted Sunday’s election to investigate reports of vote rigging. Russia’s president also reacted harshly to Western criticism of Sunday’s election.

As for foreigners, he said, Russia’s political system “is none of their business.”

But U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a visit to neighboring Lithuania, stepped up her criticism Tuesday, saying Russia’s elections were “neither free nor fair.”

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman immediately responded.

She called Ms. Clinton’s comments “unacceptable.”

On Monday, after Ms. Clinton called for investigation into fraud charges, Konstantin Kosachev, a senior ruling party member, denounced the call as “one of the darkest pages in Russian-US relations.”

On Tuesday, US Senator John McCain, a Republican, was less diplomatic.

After hearing of Monday’s nights arrests near the Kremlin, Senator McCain tweeted this message to Prime Minister Putin: “Dear Vlad, the Arab Spring is coming to a neighborhood near you.”

In Moscow, Boris Gryzlov, speaker of the Duma, reacted with outrage. He compared the American senator to the Mad Hatter in the book Alice in Wonderland.

Russia’s political unrest may now be taking an economic toll.

On Tuesday, a finance ministry official raised the official estimate of capital flight from Russia. Now, he said it will surpass $85 billion this year.

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Arab League Confirms Sanctions on Syria as Unrest Intensifies December 4, 2011

The Arab League on Saturday froze assets of 19 top Syrian officials and banned them from traveling to Arab states.  

After a meeting in Doha, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani who chairs the Arab League’s peace process committee, said the panel also gave Damascus until Sunday to come to Doha and sign an initiative to end its military crackdown on protests.

Also Saturday, activists said at least 23 people had died in anti-government unrest across Syria, including violent clashes between government troops and rebel soldiers in the northern province of Idlib.

Witnesses say the battles have been intensifying in recent days as more soldiers defect from regular army units.

The latest fighting came a day after the United Nations Human Rights Council voted to condemn Syria for “gross and systematic violations of human rights” that could be linked to the government’s crackdown on dissent.  The U.N. body also agreed to appoint a special investigator to probe human rights abuses in Syria.

But Syria’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the U.N. resolution and accused the U.N. Human Rights Council of “blatantly politicizing” it.  Syria’s state-run media quoted a foreign ministry official as saying the council “deliberately ignored” documents provided by the Syrian government that clarified facts.

In Istanbul Saturday, visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden praised Turkey for taking steps to address repression in Syria. He also joined with other world leaders in calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

“Regional issues from the brutal repression in Syria where Turkey, where we stand with Turkey and a growing chorus of nations in calling for President Assad to step aside,” Biden said. “And I welcome the Human Rights Council’s condemnation yesterday of the regime’s violence.”

Earlier, a U.N.-backed study said several hundred children were among those who had been killed in the government crackdown. The world body says the overall death toll from eight months of unrest in Syria has topped 4,000.

Syria has contended its actions are not a crackdown on protests, but a necessary response to attacks by “armed terrorists” on civilians and security personnel.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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Syria Denounces UN Resolution as Death Toll Rises December 3, 2011

Syria’s Foreign Ministry says a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution that accuses the country of “gross” and “systematic” human rights violations is “blatantly politicized.”

The U.N. body passed the resolution on Friday and also agreed to appoint a special investigator to probe human rights abuses in Syria that could be linked to the government’s crackdown on dissent.

On Saturday, Syria’s state-run media quoted a foreign ministry official as saying the council “deliberately ignored” documents provided by the Syrian government that clarified facts.

Earlier, a U.N.-backed study said several hundred children were among those who had been killed in the government crackdown. The world body says the overall death toll from eight months of unrest in Syria has topped 4,000.

Also on Saturday, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden praised Syria’s neighbor, Turkey, and the U.N. panel for taking steps to address repression in Syria.

“Regional issues from the brutal repression in Syria where Turkey, where we stand with Turkey and a growing chorus of nations in calling for President Assad to step aside. And I welcome the Human Rights Council’s condemnation yesterday of the regime’s violence.”

Biden commented in Istanbul, ahead of a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Meanwhile, activists say at least 23 people have been killed Saturday in anti-government unrest in Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says most of the deaths occurred in the Idlib region near the Turkish border. The London-based group says clashes between security forces and military defectors left 15 people dead, including three civilians.

Syria has contended its actions are not a crackdown on protests, but a necessary response to attacks by “armed terrorists” on civilians and security personnel.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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Israel threatens to cut off power, water to Gaza November 28, 2011

November 27, 2011

by legitgov


Israel threatens to cut off power, water to Gaza 27 Nov 2011 Israel warned on Saturday that it would cut the supply of water and electricity to the Gaza Strip if rival Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas form a unity government. “The foreign ministry is examining the possibility of Israel pulling out of the Gaza Strip in terms of infrastructure,” Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told the daily Yediot Aharonot website.

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Redundant Harrier jump-jets sold to US marines for spares November 25, 2011

The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that 72 Harrier jump-jets scrapped last year are being sold for spares to the US Marine Corps for £110m in what the defence minister Peter Luff described as “a good deal for both countries”. Scrapping the Harriers is expected to release £900m between now and 2018, which will be spent on RAF Tornado and Typhoon jets, and the US Joint Strike Fighter, whose cost is rising rapidly, the MoD said. Two Harrier aircraft will also be offered to museums in order “to preserve the Royal Navy’s military heritage”, it added.

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Three US students ‘released’ in Egypt November 24, 2011

Three American students arrested in Egypt and accused of throwing petrol bombs during the current unrest in Tahrir Square have been released and will not be charged, a relative of one of the accused has said.

The three young men – Luke Gates, Gregory Porter, and Derrik Sweeney – had been picked up by the authorities during clashes near the Interior Ministry, Egyptian police had said.

The trio had also been shown on local television after their arrests, prompting fears they would be accused of being outside agitators in the violence gripping the Egyptian capital.

However, Joy Sweeney, the mother of Derrik, confirmed news reports that the three were set to be released shortly and charges against them would be dropped. “All three of them have been released. The attorney-general is not going to appeal,” she told CNN on Thursday.

Sweeney said the news had been confirmed by the US consul general in Egypt, Roberto Powers. The diplomat had told her that the trio of students were now being taken to a local doctor for a medical examination and from there would go to a police station to have their paperwork processed ahead of being set free and returned to their student dorms.

Sweeney expressed her delight that the situation – which could have developed into a thorny diplomatic problem between Egypt and the US – had been resolved. “It is absolutely incredible. We are just so blessed and grateful right now,” she said. Sweeney expected that her son Derrik, at least, would now be leaving the strife-torn country as Powers had warned that the students pictures had been displayed all over local news media and it might not be safe to stay. “It wouldn’t be really be safe or prudent for him to be in the country,” Sweeney said.

The three were in Egypt to study at the American University in Cairo. Gates is a 21-year-old exchange student from Bloomington, Indiana, who attends Indiana University, Porter, 19, is at Drexel University in Pennsylvania, and Sweeney attends Georgetown University and is from Jefferson City, Missouri.

“We are grateful for the news this morning that our student, Derrik Sweeney, and the other two American students have been released in Cairo. Our entire Georgetown community is deeply grateful to all those whose prompt attention and work led to their release,” said Georgetown university president John DeGioia.

While in detention the three had been shown on Egyptian state television standing against a wall, looking scared, with pictures of their driving licences and ID cards spread out next to what the channel said were petrol bombs. Further footage, allegedly taken in Tahrir Square, showed demonstrators – at least one of whom was wearing a mask – with caucasian features, including a young man with blond hair.

Their apparent release is a dramatic turnaround by the Egyptian authorities who just hours earlier had appeared to be set to be held for at least four more days while police investigated the case.

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China Critical of UN Resolution on Syria

China has criticized a United Nations human rights resolution condemning Syria’s deadly eight-month crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters Wednesday that U.N. condemnation did not help solve Syria’s problems. He said dialogue is the only way to protect human rights.

“We always believe that conducting constructive dialogue and cooperation is the only way to promote and protect human rights,” he said. “Pressuring with a resolution drafted by certain countries doesn’t help resolve the problem.”

China was among 41 nations to abstain from voting on a U.N. resolution that condemns what it describes as continued grave and systematic human rights violations by Syria.

Liu Weimin also welcomed the formation of Libya’s new government and acknowledged Libya’s willingness to compensate Chinese companies for losses incurred during the unrest.

“We’ve noticed that the representatives from the Libyan transitional government, now the new government, have stated that the Libyan side is ready to compensate Chinese companies for their losses in Libya,” Liu said. “We appreciate such positive remarks from the Libyan side and will continue to encourage Chinese enterprises to actively engage in the post-war reconstruction in Libya.”

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US students arrested in Tahrir Square November 22, 2011

Violence continues in Tahrir Square Link to this video

The US embassy in Cairo is investigating the detention of three US students accused of throwing petrol bombs at security forces in Tahrir Square.

The three, all students at the American University in Cairo, were arrested during clashes outside the interior ministry on Monday, authorities said.

They were identified as Luke Gates, a 21-year-old exchange student from Bloomington, Indiana, who attends Indiana University, 19-year-old Gregory Porter, of Drexel University, and Derrik Sweeney, a Georgetown University student from Jefferson City, Missouri.

Adel Saeed, a spokesman for the Egyptian general prosecutor’s office, told CNN: “The three boys were throwing Molotov cocktails, and had no passports on them when they were picked up. They have been questioned by the police and will be further investigated by the Cairo prosecutor.”

Egyptian state television showed footage of the three men standing against a wall, with pictures of their driving licences and ID cards spread out next to what it said were petrol bombs.

Further footage, allegedly taken in Tahrir Square, showed demonstrators – at least one of whom was wearing a mask – with Caucasian features, including a young man with blond hair.

Sweeney’s sister Nicole told the Guardian via email that her brother was being held at a courthouse rather than a prison.

She said: “The response from the state department has largely been one of ‘we’ll let you know when we know more’, but the only contact has been that initiated by my parents.

“They do know that he’s being detained at a courthouse, rather than a prison, which we assume is a good thing.”

Sweeney was an intern for the Republican congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer from February to May 2011, working in his Washington office. Luetkemeyer’s spokesman, Paul Sloca, said he had been in contact with the state department.

“Our primary concern is that he is safe and being treated fairly,” he said.

Sloco said Sweeney, who answered phone and attended meetings for Leutkemeyer, had come highly recommended and was “very outgoing, a good intern”.

Egypt‘s generals have claimed foreign intervention is behind some of the violence in Cairo. Since the Egyptian revolution began at the start of the year, thousands of foreign activists have flocked to Cairo in solidarity with the aims of the Arab Spring.

Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy movements, including in the UK, have issued statements of solidarity with Tahrir Square protesters. Occupy Wall Street voted at a general assembly to send 20 election observers to Egypt at a cost of $29,000 (£18,000).

The arrest of the three students was announced as Egyptians began flowing to Tahrir Square for a fourth day of protests, despite a crackdown by police in which at least 29 people have been killed.

Activists hoped to increase the number of protesters in the square, which was the epicentre of the revolt that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February.

The violence continued, with security forces, backed by military troops, firing volleys of teargas and rubber bullets to block protesters, who responded by hurling stones and firebombs. The two sides have been engaged in intense clashes since the unrest began on Saturday.

State TV reported that three people were killed in the Suez canal city of Ismailia, east of Cairo, overnight.

Hundreds of protesters arrived early on Tuesday to join several thousand who have been camping on Tahrir Square. The crowds hoisted a giant Egyptian flag and chanted slogans demanding that the generals immediately step down in favour of a civilian presidential council.

One man held a sign reading “ministry of thuggery” with photos of Mubarak, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the senior military ruler, the prime minister, Essam Sharaf, and others.

A few hundred young men nearby chanted “say it, don’t fear, the council must go” and “the people want to execute the field marshal”.

On Monday, the civilian cabinet of Sharaf submitted its resignation to the military council, a move that had been widely expected given the government’s perceived inefficiency and its almost complete subordination to the generals.

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Egypt’s Ruling Council Calls for Crisis Talks with Political Forces

Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has called for crisis talks with the country’s political forces after the interim civilian cabinet submitted its resignation and three days of anti-military protests and a fierce security crackdown killed at least 24 people.

In a statement late Monday, the military council urged calm and called for a national dialogue “to look into the reasons behind the current crisis and ways to resolve it as quickly as possible.”

Related video by Elizabeth Arrott:

The statement, carried by Egypt’s state news agency MENA, also voiced its “deep sorrow over the deaths during the recent painful events,” and said the council ordered security forces to take all necessary measures to protect the demonstrators.

MENA said the civilian cabinet of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf will continue to perform its duties until the military council decides whether to accept the resignations.

The White House said Monday it was “deeply concerned” about the violence and urged restraint by all sides.  U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon deplored the loss of life and called on authorities to guarantee the protection of human rights and civil liberties for all Egyptians, including the right to peaceful protest.”

Amnesty International on Tuesday accused Egypt’s rulers of brutality sometimes exceeding that of former President Hosni Mubarak.  The group’s Philip Luther said that “by using military courts to try thousands of civilians, cracking down on peaceful protests and expanding the emergency law, the military council has continued the tradition of repressive rule which the January 25 demonstrators fought so hard to get rid of.”

Protests continued across the country Monday, including Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, in what some are calling “Egypt’s second revolution.”

Clashes also erupted near Egypt’s Interior Ministry. Reuters quotes an army official as saying the ministry requested protection against the protesters, who want the head of the ruling military to swiftly hand over power to a civilian government.

Some demonstrators called for a “million man” rally across Egypt Tuesday.

The military-led government held an emergency meeting Sunday and promised to begin staggered parliamentary elections as planned on November 28.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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20 Dead as Clashes Rock Cairo for 3rd Day November 21, 2011

Egypt’s Health Ministry says 20 people have been killed and more than 1,700 wounded in three days of clashes between police and protesters as security forces continue to fight with pro-democracy activists in nationwide demonstrations.

VOA’s correspondent in Cairo said Monday protesters continue to hold central Tahrir Square, with security forces firing tear gas at stone-throwing demonstrators. Police are attempting to clear the square, where activists camped out for a third consecutive night. The protesters accuse Egypt’s military rulers of not moving quickly enough to return the country to civilian rule.

Egyptian police and troops had briefly dispersed the activists Sunday by firing tear gas, birdshot and rubber bullets, but the protesters retook the square later in the day. Anti-government demonstrations have since spread to several other Egyptian cities, including Alexandria and Suez.

Many of the demonstrators have been chanting “The people want to topple the field marshal,” a reference to Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, leader of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. The Tantawi-led council took power in February when a popular uprising ousted autocratic President Hosni Mubarak.

Pro-democracy activists have criticized the council for setting guidelines for a new constitution that would keep some military affairs beyond civilian control. The activists also want the military rulers to stop putting civilians on trial in military courts.

Egypt’s military-led government held an emergency meeting Sunday and promised to begin staggered parliamentary elections as planned on November 28. Some opposition activists accuse the military council of provoking the violence as a pretext for postponing the elections and extending their tenure.

The protest-related violence began early Saturday as police moved into Tahrir Square to remove hundreds of people who camped on the site after a mass anti-government rally Friday.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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China Expresses Reservations About US-Australia Security Pact November 16, 2011

China is questioning the value of Washington’s plan to strengthen military cooperation with Australia and update its defense treaty with the Philippines. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin called for discussions about the boosting of American troop deployment in East Asia, questioning just how cooperation would benefit the international community.

U.S. President Barack Obama has announced an enhanced security agreement with Australia providing for up to 2,500 military personnel to be stationed in the country in the coming years. In the Philippines, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed a declaration reaffirming a longstanding mutual defense treaty between the countries.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin expressed reservations about the measures.

China wary of containment

He questioned how the United States will justify the expense of its East Asia military expansion in the face of what he described as the sluggish global financial situation. He also questioned the benefits of such cooperation, saying any “outside interference” would affect the peace, stability and development that both Washington and Beijing say they want.

On his arrival in Australia Wednesday, President Obama said U.S. troop deployments would help maintain what he described as the security architecture in Asia, assist with quick responses to humanitarian disasters, and respond to threats to the region’s crucial sea shipping lanes.

In Beijing, the strengthening of Washington’s military alliances is likely to be seen as an attempt at containment. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu refused to answer directly when asked if Beijing objected to the troop deployment in Australia.

Instead, he said China has never engaged in any kind of foreign military alliance like those formed by the United States. And he said China has its own opinion on how to maintain stability in the region.

Simmering South China Sea dispute

Liu said Beijing is sticking to what he described as the “path of peaceful development” in order to realize the common aspiration of the international community.

During the past 18 months, China has been seen by many of its neighbors as becoming more outspoken in claiming territorial rights in the mineral-rich South China Sea. The dispute is likely to be discussed at this week’s East Asia Summit, which the U.S. president is attending for the first time.

China opposes any discussion of the issue, saying it prefers to settle disputes one-on-one with the countries involved. That approach, though, is causing increasing friction.

Obama and other U.S. officials repeatedly have said America welcomes a China that is strong and prosperous, and that his government has no intention of containing Beijing.

Liu said Wednesday that China hopes Washington will keep its word.

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China Rebuffs Obama’s Criticisms on Trade, Currency November 14, 2011

China is pushing back at criticism from U.S. President Barack Obama about Beijing’s currency and trade policies.  Obama says Washington does not want China to take advantage of the United States.  China’s foreign ministry responded hours later by saying Beijing’s economic policies were not the cause of U.S. financial woes.

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Beijing denied President Barack Obama’s claim China is manipulating the international currency and trade systems in its favor.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin strongly defended his government’s currency and foreign investment policies.

Liu says far from trying to keep the yuan artificially low to benefit Chinese companies by making their products cheaper on international markets, Beijing is instead striving to manage a floating exchange rate.  But he says Beijing will do so at its own pace.

Liu says even if the RMB does rise substantially in value, it will not solve the problems facing the United States.

He says America’s trade deficit, unemployment and what he describes as “other structural problems” are not caused by China’s manipulation of its currency’s exchange rate.

President Obama used some of his strongest language yet to demand Beijing obey international investment rules.

After meeting Chinese President Hu Jintao at the APEC summit in Hawaii on Sunday, Mr. Obama said international rules are in place for all nations to follow and to allow them to compete fiercely with each other.

He said the United States will “continue to be firm that China operates by the same rules as everyone else.”

“Their role is different now than it was 20 years ago, or 30 years ago, where if they were breaking some rules, it did not really matter.  It did not have a significant impact, you were not seeing huge trade imbalances that had consequences for the world financial system.  Now, they have grown up and so they are going to have to mange this process in a responsible way,” said Obama.

Liu dismissed the President’s suggestion that China was behaving immaturely and unfavorably.

He says it is America, not China, that needs to abide by international trade rules.  He calls for Washington to let Chinese companies invest more in the United States.

Liu also insisted that Washington relax restrictions on the export of high tech products to China, claiming this greatly profits U.S. companies.  The United States bans some sophisticated technology sales to China on national security grounds.

Washington is not alone in calling China a currency manipulator.

The European Union also accuses Beijing of keeping its currency artificially low to help make China the world’s manufacturing capital and second-biggest economy.

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Russia, China: No new Iran sanctions November 11, 2011

November 10, 2011

by walden9


Russia, China: No new Iran sanctions. After a meeting in Moscow, Russian and Chinese diplomats expressed “the mutual conviction that the application of new, additional sanctions against Iran will not lead to the desired result,” Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, Reuters reported on Thursday.

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Kenya to Stay in Somalia Until Safe From Al-Shabab Menace October 29, 2011

Kenya’s Defense Ministry says it has not set a time frame for its operation against al-Shabab militants in Somalia, saying troops will leave the country when Kenyans feel secure.  Kenyan officials emphasized that they are not at war with Somalia, but with al-Shabab.  

Kenya’s military chief, General Julius Karangi, told reporters Saturday that Kenya’s military will continue its assault in Somalia until Kenyans feel safe from what he called “the al-Shabab menace.”

“This campaign is not time bound, we shall leave it to the people of this country to decide that yes, we feel safe enough on the common border and then we shall come back.  So key factors or indicators would be in the form of a highly degraded al-Shabab capacity,” he said.

The military says it has killed hundreds of al-Shabab militants in 15 days of fighting, while only one Kenyan soldier has been killed in battle.

Three Kenyan soldiers are missing, including two who were kidnapped earlier this year, and a third who was lost at sea during a mission to save a kidnapped Frenchwoman.

General Karangi insisted that Kenya’s military incursion was in direct reaction to those kidnappings and other similar attacks and that the entire operation was planned between October 4 and 14.

“Some people mentioned that this entire operation was pre-planned it had been on the table for many, many months and years, and the answer is no,” he said.  “We acted as a country on the spur of the moment and we were able to do what we have done so far inside 10 days.”

Karangi added that Kenya has at no time planned to annex any part of Somalia.

The Kenyan military claims to be working in conjunction with forces from Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, but says no foreign troops are engaged in the offensive.

It is unclear how many Kenya soldiers are involved in the operation.

Asked about this, Karangi would only say the size of force is “sufficient to do the task at hand.”

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