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Daily Archives: March 5, 2011

Venezuela says Libya OKs Chavez mediation plan

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

 

 

CARACAS, Venezuela, March 5, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM)  – Moammar Gadhafi’s government has authorized Venezuela to select countries for an effort to mediate an end to Libya’s crisis and to coordinate the effort, Venezuela’s foreign minister said Friday.

As reported by AP on Saturday, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said he received a message from his Libyan counterpart authorizing Venezuela to “take all measures necessary to select the members and coordinate their participation in that dialogue.”

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who calls Gadhafi a friend and ally, has proposed creating a group of “friendly countries” to help mediate in the conflict.

Gadhafi’s opponents in Libya, however, have shown no willingness to negotiate as long as he remains in power.

Countries including the U.S. and Italy also have been cool to Chavez’s proposal.

The idea won support Friday from the foreign ministers of Cuba, Ecuador and Bolivia as well as from other officials representing Nicaragua, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. They joined Maduro in Caracas for a meeting of nations belonging to the Venezuela-led Bolivarian Alternative bloc, or ALBA.

Chavez read a statement Friday night in which the group condemned attempts at “intervention” in Libya by other countries and called for a cease-fire.

Chavez accused the United States and its allies of trying to use events in Libya to take control of its oil reserves. He warned that if there is a bigger conflict in North Africa, “those flames could reach Europe.”

Support for the mediation proposal by Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia shows “how important the ALBA is for this world of today, which before the silence of the world has been left as the voice,” Chavez said. He said time is of the essence in creating a “working group of coordination with other countries.”

“We must make a very great effort. We cannot lose a day,” he said.

Chavez accused news media of presenting a distorted view of events in Libya. He did not discuss the Libyan government’s crackdown on civilian protesters, which has drawn condemnation from other nations.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez praised Chavez’s proposal and called on supporters to work on building “an international movement … against a NATO military intervention in Libya and in Arab countries.”

Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, said his government supports Chavez’s proposal or any other proposal that would lead to dialogue and a peaceful outcome of the 2 1/2-week-old uprising.   (*)

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US warships arrive in Crete

The USS Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship

March 5, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM ) — The United States Navy says two warships carrying 1,300 US Marines have arrived at a US base on the Greek island of Crete, as reported by Iranian television PRESS TV.IR on Saturday.

The move is part of a military buildup around Libya by forces from several countries.

The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge and the USS Ponce, carrying a total of around 4,000 personnel, including the Marines, arrived at the base on Friday, Souda Bay navy base spokesman Paul Farley said, according to an AP report.

Another 400 Marines, from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Unit based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, arrived in Crete two days ago.

Over the past few days, Western powers have been discussing the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone over Libya.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Washington is looking at a full range of options on Libya.

However, NATO member states remain divided on whether to take military action against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Late on Friday, about 100 supporters of Greece’s Communist Party held a rally in the Cretan city of Hania, which is located near the base, to protest against the arrival of the US forces.   (*)

 
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China says it will tackle inflation, boost incomes

China's President Hu Jintao, left, and Premier Wen Jiabao arrive at the opening session of the annual National People's Congress in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Saturday, March 5, 2011. Premier Wen said Saturday there would be more assistance to working class and rural Chinese who have not benefited from the country's rapid growth. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

 

 

BEIJING, March 5, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM /  AP ) – China’s government vowed Saturday to clamp down on inflation and urgently raise incomes as it pushes to spread the benefits of economic growth at a time when living standards are rising but so are popular calls for greater change, as reported by AP on Saturday.

In a speech that is China’s equivalent to the American president’s annual State of the Union address, Premier Wen Jiabao said there would be more assistance to working class and rural Chinese who have not benefited from the country’s rapid growth.

“Happiness” is a key theme for the authoritarian government this year, as it seeks to pull down inflation that has caused public grumbling and deliver more sustainable growth rather than the breakneck pace that has fouled the environment and widened a yawning rich-poor gap.

“We must make improving the people’s lives a pivot linking reform, development and stability … and make sure people are content with their lives and jobs, society is tranquil and orderly and the country enjoys long-term peace and stability,” Wen said at the opening of theNational People’s Congress, where the country’s social and economic goals will be laid out for the next five years amid lower growth targets and concerns about inflation and asset bubbles.

Security, always high during the congress, is extreme this year following anonymous calls posted on the Internet for Chinese to imitate the popular protests that unseated autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt. A new appeal called for more protests Sunday, the third in a row, though the previous two have attracted onlookers, journalists and swarms of police, but few outright demonstrators.

Police were seen Saturday taking away at least two woman from Tiananmen Square, possibly several of the many petitioners who flock to Beijing during the 10-day congress to seek help with their grievances.

In a country where many people spend a large part of their salaries on food, inflation is a serious concern, hitting 4.9 percent in January despite government efforts to reduce it.

“This problem concerns the people’ s well-being, bears on overall interests and affects social stability,” Wen told the nearly 3,000 national legislators, adding the government would impose price controls as needed and promote food supply, including building up reserves of key items to be released into the market when needed.

Price supports for wheat and rice will also be raised.

The centerpiece of Wen’s program — certain to be approved by the Communist Party-controlled congress — is a five-year plan that outlines an ambitious transformation: moving the economy from its dependence on state investment and exports to one driven by consumption.

If accomplished, the change would boost household spending power through higher wages, level the playing field for private companies and end policies that have effectively shortchanged consumers and channeled savings to the favored state-owned enterprises. The move would also likely reduce friction with the United States and other trading partners as China imports more.

Getting there, however, would require altering the successful formula that has helped propel China to the world’s No. 2 economy. It would also challenge deep-seated interests — from state companies and real estate barons who have benefited from cheap bank loans to politicians whose careers have benefited from the resulting high rates of growth.

Just when it needs cohesion, the leadership is also in the midst of an always contentious transition. Wen, President Hu Jintao and most other members of the Politburo Standing Committee are expected to begin stepping aside late next year for a new generation of technocrats.

In a sign of friction, Wen’s program sets economic growth for this year at about the normal 8 percent, but ratchets back the figure for the whole 2011-15 period to 7 percent annually, hoping to downshift to better quality growth. But most provincial and other local governments have set higher rates, some in double digits.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for Beijing is empowering consumers without encouraging them to demand greater political rights. Protests have proliferated in pace with affluence over the past decade. Chinese scholars, extrapolating from state media reports, estimate that large-scale demonstrations, strikes and other mass disturbances reached 180,000 last year — a doubling in five years.

Wen said the government would move to stop illegal seizures of farm land and illegal demolitions of houses, common causes of protests as local governments try to boost growth through construction.

Aware of social fracturing, the government has spent heavily strengthening the military and police and other domestic security agencies. A spokesman for the national legislature told reporters Friday that defense budget would rise 12.7 percent this year, resuming the double-digit increases of much of the past decade.

A task force from elite Tsinghua University reported last year that spending on internal security nationwide was on par with the official defense budget and was expanding much faster. Some members of the task force have questioned that smothering security — evidenced in recent weeks in Beijing in response to calls for a Middle East-style “Jasmine Revolution” — saying it risks alienating the public and stifling appropriate demands for greater accountability and less government waste and corruption.

The government is not counting on muscle alone to forestall those demands.

“We will adjust the income distribution in a reasonable manner. This is both a long-term task and an urgent issue we need to address now,” Wen said, adding the government would steadily increase the minimum wage, pensions and welfare payments, and boost spending on health care.

“Through unremitting efforts, we will reverse the trend of a widening income gap as soon as possible and ensure that the people share more in the fruits of reform and development,” he said.

Behind the shift to greater economic and social fairness is a demographic change. State media have in recent days reported that China’s labor pool is expected to peak during the five-year plan before shrinking as the population ages. The reports note that when South Korea entered that phase in the late 1980s, the government and companies were forced to raise wages. The reports did not mention the labor strife and surge in democratic protests against the authoritarian South Korean government.   (*)

 
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Reining in prices is China's 'top priority': Wen Jiabao

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is seen in India 2010. Reining in prices is China's "top priority" in 2011, according to a speech Wen was to deliver to the nation's parliament Saturday, which reiterated a four percent inflation goal. (AFP/File/Pedro Ugarte)

 

 

BEIJING, March 5, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM / AFP) – Reining in prices is China’s “top priority” in 2011, according to a speech Premier Wen Jiabao was to deliver to the nation’s parliament Saturday, which reiterated a four percent inflation goal, AFP reported on Saturday.

The world’s second-largest economy will target eight percent growth this year, and seven percent growth in the 2011-2015 period, Wen was to say, as he outlined the country’s priorities for the coming year.

The premier acknowledged that the communist leadership has “not yet fundamentally solved a number of issues that the masses feel strongly about” — from price rises to illegal land grabs to corruption.

“Recent prices have risen fairly quickly and inflation expectations have increased,” Wen was to say.

“This problem concerns the people’s well-being, bears on overall interests and affects social stability. We must therefore make it our top priority in macroeconomic control to keep overall price levels stable.”

Soaring prices of food, housing and other essentials have become the top public concern in China and Wen’s “state of the nation” speech to the rubber-stamp parliament pledged new efforts to contain the problem.

“We will resolutely regulate the housing market. We will act more quickly to improve the long-term mechanism for regulating the real estate market,” he was to say, according to the text.

China aims to “generally stabilise housing prices and meet the reasonable demands of residents for housing,” Wen was to say.

China announced last month that January inflation remained stubbornly high at 4.9 percent despite a series of measures taken to dampen price rises, including three interest rate hikes in the past four months.

The consumer price index, the main inflation gauge, had hit a more than two-year high of 5.1 in November.

The urgency of addressing key social issues has been underlined in the past two weeks by mysterious Internet calls for weekly Sunday “strolling” rallies in major cities, which have largely fizzled under a smothering security presence.

Wen noted the “large income gap” dividing rich and poor, as well as the need to boost minimum wages.

Shanghai’s municipal government said earlier this week it would raise the minimum wage 14 percent, taking the figure in the financial hub to 1,280 yuan ($194) per month from 1,120 yuan.

Local authorities across China have been raising minimum wages to help boost domestic consumption and relieve pressure on households struggling to keep up with rising food and property prices.   (*)

 
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Photostream : David Cameron's daughter Florence christened

Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha Cameron after the christening of their daughter Florence Rose Endellion at St Mary Abbots Church on March 4, 2011 in London, United Kingdom. Florence, the youngest of their children was born in Cornwall in August 2010. (March 3, 2011 - Photo by WPA Pool/Getty Images Europe)

Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha Cameron after the christening of their daughter Florence Rose Endellion at St Mary Abbots Church on March 4, 2011 in London, United Kingdom. Florence, the youngest of their children was born in Cornwall in August 2010. (March 3, 2011 - Photo by WPA Pool/Getty Images Europe)

Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha Cameron after the christening of their daughter Florence Rose Endellion at St Mary Abbots Church on March 4, 2011 in London, United Kingdom. Florence, the youngest of their children was born in Cornwall in August 2010. (March 3, 2011 - Photo by WPA Pool/Getty Images Europe)

Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha Cameron after the christening of their daughter Florence Rose Endellion at St Mary Abbots Church on March 4, 2011 in London, United Kingdom. Florence, the youngest of their children was born in Cornwall in August 2010. (March 3, 2011 - Photo by WPA Pool/Getty Images Europe)

 
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