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Daily Archives: March 15, 2011

Gaddafi says rebel choice: Surrender or run away

Colonel Muammar Al Gaddafi

TOBRUK, Libya, March 15, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM / AP)– Libyan leader Muammar Al Gaddafi says he expects victory in the fight against the rebels trying to overthrow his government and is deriding international discussion of a no-fly zone, AP reported on Tuesday.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Giornale published Tuesday, he said he was not like the Tunisian or Egyptian leaders, who fell after anti-government protests.

“I’m very different from them,” he said. “People are on my side and give me strength.”

Gaddafi’s forces are racing toward rebels’ strongholds, with an all-out assault on Ajdabiya and blockade of Misrata outpacing French and British efforts to build support for a no-fly zone.

He said rebels’ options are closing: “There are only two possibilities: Surrender or run away.”

Outnumbered and outgunned, Libyan rebels lost control of their last town west of Tripoli on Tuesday and struggled to stall or outrun Gaddafi’s forces as they raced eastward. With a punishing blockade, airstrikes and long-range missiles, Gaddafi’s forces neared opposition strongholds, apparently hoping either for outright victory or to force residents to turn against the rebels.

With the victory in Zwara and the west largely consolidated under Gadhafi, government troops and warplane raced eastward, their all-out assault on the city of Ajdabiya easily outpacing French and British efforts to build support for a no-fly zone over Libya.

Opposition fighters were left with only one foothold in the country’s west, where the Libyan leader’s strength is greatest, and teetering control of some of the eastern cities that have been their support base, refuge and source of supplies.

Gaddafi’s forces reached the Ajdabiya’s outskirts on Tuesday afternoon, pounding the city entrance with long-range missiles, tank fire and airstrikes. One bomb destroyed a rebel camp, a panicked local activist told The Associated Press, and another wrecked a key rebel supply road.

“This isn’t one or two planes. They are like a flock!” he said, as explosions went off in the background.

He said Gaddafi’s forces had also pounded the crucial eastern road that linked the city to other rebel strongholds.

Residents were fleeing to nearby villages, he said.

Rebel spokesman Ahmed al-Zwei, among a group of fighters at Ajdabiya’s western gate, said his comrades were hoping to try stall the government advance: “God willing, no, no, no, they will not reach Ajdabiya. God willing we can push them back.” Later, with the sounds of gunfire behind him, he said missiles were coming in from the sea and bombs were coming from warplanes above.

“Just now they hit a group of fighters. They are dead, wounded,” he said in a harried phone call interupted by shouting orders. He claimed Gaddafi’s forces haden’t yet entered the city.

Lt. Col. Mohammed Saber, who defected from the army to join the rebels, said young men were coming by the hundreds to protect the city, even though there were not enough guns to go around: “They don’t have the arms, but they have the will to fight.”

Libyan state television claimed the battle was already won. The report said Gaddafi’s troops were “completely in control of Ajdabiya and are cleansing it from armed gangs.”

In Paris, efforts for a no-fly zone had stalled and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe suggested in a radio interview that events in Libya have already outpaced diplomatic efforts.

“If we had used military force last week to neutralize some airstrips and the several dozen planes that they have, perhaps the reversal taking place to the detriment of the opposition wouldn’t have happened,” Juppe told Europe-1 radio. “But that’s the past.”

The victory in Zwara, a seaside town about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the Tunisian border, reversed the early rebel gains in the uprising against his rule that began on Feb. 15. Government troops had surrounded the town of 45,000 on Monday and bombarded it with tanks and artillery for hours, killing at least four rebel fighters, several residents said.

Even as Zwara fell, the Obama administration on Monday held its first high-level talks with the Libyan opposition and introduced a liaison to deal full time with their ranks. It remained undecided about exactly how much support to lend a group it still knows little about while turmoil and uncertainty increase across the Arab world.

Government troops have also blockaded Misrata, Libya’s third-largest city, 125 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli.

“We are short on antibiotics and surgery supplies and disposable equipment,” said a doctor in the city. “We feel so, so, isolated here. We are pleading with the international community to help us in this very difficult time.”

The doctor said naval ships in the Mediterranean port were blocking aid ships. Another resident said townspeople were relying on poor quality home-dug wells normally used to water gardens. He said in many parts of town, the water network was cut, and tankers that traditionally supply rooftop tanks weren’t able to enter Misrata.

Government troops have scored victories using overpowering bombardments with artillery, tanks, warplanes and warships. Such an assault drove rebel fighters out of the western city of Zawiya last week.

The rebel’s main stronghold, Benghazi, remained firmly in their hands on Tuesday. A Tuareg lieutenant from Mali who has fought for the Libyan government since 1993 said the government wants to retake Benghazi, but doesn’t want to attack the city itself. He says the government will try to convince the residents of Benghazi to force militants out.

“Everyone in Benghazi is still watching Libyan state television so the government will try to get its message across like this,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid reprisal. “The idea is to surround Benghazi but to leave one exit open for the rebels. If we can get the rebels to leave the city then we will move troops in between them and the city and fight them in the open desert.”   (*)
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Iranian leader warns against Western military intervention in Libya

File pic : Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

IRAN, March 15, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM ) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned against Western military intervention in Libya in an interview with the Spanish TVE1 channel on Tuesday.

“Iraq and Afghanistan are real examples of the results of Western military intervention: thousands of civilians were killed,” Ahmadinejad said. “We can use other mechanisms to control the situation in Libya.”

As reported by RIA Novosti on Tuesday, fierce clashes between Libyan rebels and forces loyal to leader Muammar Gaddafi have been raging in Libya since mid-February, claiming thousands of lives. The G8 foreign ministers discussed implementing a no-fly zone over the north-African country on Monday and Tuesday in Paris, but were unable to reach an agreement.

The Iranian president accused Western powers of causing the Libyan unrest.

“Tell me, who has been supporting dictatorial regimes for the past 50 years?” Ahmadinejad asked. “Who sold the weapons to Libya that Gaddafi is now using to bomb his own people?”

Pro-Gaddafi forces attacked the rebel-held town of Zuwarah in northwestern Libya on Monday, forcing out rebel forces. They have also launched air strikes on the Libyan towns of Ajdabiya and Brega.

Nothing can justify Gaddafi’s harsh military response to his adversaries, Ahmadinejad said.

“The one who bombs his own people should be condemned and receive a fair punishment,” he said, adding “it is necessary to find dialogue with the people.”

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Giornale, published on Tuesday, Gaddafi said the Libyan rebels were terrorists backed by Al Qaeda.

When asked by a journalist if he was ready to begin dialogue with rebels, Gaddafi answered: “Dialogue with whom? The people are on my side.”  (*)
 
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PM Naoto Kan orders SDF to focus on relief operations for quake victims

Japanese Self Defence Force soldiers search missing people at Noda village in Iwate prefecture amid devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami. (AFP/Yomiuri Shimbun)

JAPAN, March 15, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM) — Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Tuesday ordered the Self-Defense Forces to focus on relief operations for survivors of Friday’s deadly earthquake that hit northeastern Japan, Kyodo News Agency reported on Tuesday.

”While we will continue with our rescue operations, there are many people at evacuation centers hoping for help so we need to gradually shift our work to addressing (their needs),” Kan said at the outset of a Cabinet-level emergency disaster headquarters meeting held at his office.

Bearing in mind that food, water and other necessary supplies are not reaching the survivors, the premier urged SDF troops to assume a central role in transporting these items to the quake-affected areas.

It is ”most effective” for the SDF to take charge of this task because they have the organizational power to do so, Kan said. (*)
 
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Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano : Radiation high enough to affect health

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano ( Photo : NHK )

JAPAN, March 15, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM) — Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano says the level of radiation around the quake-damaged Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant is high enough to affect human health, NHK reported on Tuesday.

Edano told reporters on Tuesday morning that 400 millisieverts of radiation per hour had been detected around the plant’s No.3 reactor building at 10:22 AM.

He cited reports claiming that it is highly likely the containment vessel at the No.2 reactor building had been damaged. He added that the No.1, No.2 and No.3 reactors are all releasing hazardous radioactive material.

The figure 400 millisieverts, or 400,000 microsieverts, is 4 times higher than the acceptable level of radiation for humans. Such levels could lead to a loss of white blood cells.  (*)
 
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Chavez, allies lead push for Libya mediation

FILE.- In this Sept. 28, 2009 file photo, Libya's President Moammar Gadhafi, left, and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez wave upon their arrival to the old port in Porlamar, on Margarita Island, Venezuela. As Gadhafi finds himself increasingly alone internationally, he still has at least a few friends far away. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Cuba's Fidel Castro and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega have been foremost in opposing U.S. and NATO military involvement, and in suggesting that reports of atrocities by Gadhafi's troops are overblown or unproven. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano, File)

CARACAS, Venezuela, March 15, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM / AP) – As Moammar Gadhafi finds himself increasingly isolated internationally, he still has at least a few friends far away.

As reported by AP on Tuesday, Latin America’s most prominent leftists rallied early to his defense and have stayed there even as former friends, neighbors and countrymen have abandoned the embattled Libyan leader and urged his ouster.

Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega have been foremost in opposing U.S. and NATO military involvement, and in suggesting that reports of atrocities by Gadhafi’s troops are overblown or unproven.

“The United States is proposing a war over Libya because they want Libyan oil,” Chavez said Sunday. He praised the African Union for appointing a commission of leaders to travel to Libya for talks — an effort in line with his own peace proposals.

Chavez’s calls for mediation reflect both his affinity for Gadhafi and his ambition to be a global player, rallying nations against the United States.

But his critics say Chavez has no credibility to promote mediation because he has ignored abuses by Gadhafi’s regime. And his stance is also uncomfortable for some of his allies and political supporters, who side with the uprising and say it’s time for Gadhafi to go.

Latin America’s staunchest leftists long ago embraced Gadhafi as a fellow fighter against global U.S. influence, and they instinctively reject any U.S. intervention almost anywhere.

Both Castro and Chavez have repeatedly suggested the U.S. is stirring up trouble in Libya to grab its oil and say Libyans should settle their own internal conflict.

That stance has put them at odds with some of their friends. The left-leaning governments of Argentina and Brazil have condemned Gadhafi’s crackdown on opposition. And even some followers of Castro and Chavez have been recoiling from their positions.

Comments posted on Cuban government websites and some articles on the pro-Chavez website aporrea.org have objected to backing for Libya’s eccentric strongman. One article on aporrea.org titled “Neither Gadafi nor imperialism!” argued that Chavez’s government should “support the revolutionary masses of Libya” that have risen up to topple the “capitalist dictator.”

A group of Venezuelan Marxists led by writer Domingo Alberto Rangel and lawyer Jose Ramon Velasquez issued a statement last week condemning Gadhafi’s “brutal repression” of the civilian population.

The government, meanwhile, released a statement backed by more than 260 artists and intellectuals in Venezuela and elsewhere opposing foreign military intervention and supporting Chavez’s mediation proposal.

Adam Isacson, an analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, said Chavez’s approach and “his evident lack of concern about Gadhafi’s abuses owe to a combination of misplaced south-south solidarity and a desire to take a position contrary to the United States’ almost for its own sake.”

“Chavez’s stance certainly gives a lot of new fodder to his many international critics,” Isacson said. “Especially among more moderate Latin American leaders, Chavez’s Libya stance increases the political cost of maintaining warm relations with him.”

The Chavez-Castro stance also is at odds with that of many Arab states. The Arab League is promoting a no-fly zone to prevent more air strikes by Gadhafi’s forces.

The African Union, however, said it had formed a committee of heads of state who will travel to Libya to try to resolve the crisis.

“We condemn the disproportionate use of force,” said Noureddine Mezni, spokesman for African Union chairman Jean Ping. “We are taking this issue of Libya very seriously.”

Chavez also praised the position of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been wary of a military intervention, and said he expects Russia and China to weigh in against foreign military involvement.

While Chavez has reaffirmed his friendship with Gadhafi, he has not endorsed the Libyan crackdown on the opposition, merely suggesting it is being misreported and that he hopes the civil war ends soon.

More enthusiastic was Nicaragua’s Ortega, who expressed solidarity with Gadhafi and called the fighting a battle to keep Libya intact. Ortega’s ties to the Libyan leader go back to the 1980s, when Gadhafi was a supporter of the leftist Sandinista government.

Before fighting erupted in Libya, Chavez and Gadhafi had been trying to boost integration between South America and Africa.

When Gadhafi visited Latin America for the first time in 2009, he joined Chavez at a summit in Venezuela. The Libyan leader stood out with his dark sunglasses, African robes and entourage of women bodyguards, but he stressed the same themes as Chavez: socialist ideals and a need to stand up to world powers.

Through an interpreter, Gadhafi told his friend: “We’re on the same front, in the same trench against the same enemy.”  (*)
 
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Medvedev urges harsher punishment for illegal casino owners

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

 

 

RUSSIA, March 15, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Monday organizing illegal casinos should be treated as a crime, not as an administrative offence, RIA Novosti reported on Monday.

Illegal casinos have mushroomed across Russia since a law came into force in July 2009 banning gambling everywhere except in four remote zones. Moscow police said last month that 388 illegal casinos were shut down in the capital in just the first six weeks of the year.

“Certain illegal activities should be treated as a crime, so let’s think of making the [illegal] gambling business a criminal offence,” the Russian president told Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika.

He said illegal casino owners are ‘contemptuous’ of the law, because their deeds are classed as running an unregistered enterprise.
The Russian president also ordered Chaika to look into online coverage of illegal gambling, including the gdecasino.ru website, which publishes addresses of illegal gambling facilities.

“Instruct prosecutors to check all the information here, they must inspect every address, in every city,” he said.

The governors of Moscow and St. Petersburg have complained that the laws against gambling are inadequate, particularly regarding lotteries, which can be used to circumvent the restrictions on gaming, the Kremlin statement said.

In a crackdown in February, a number of officials, including Moscow Region prosecutor Alexander Mokhov and deputy prosecutor Alexander Ignatenko were suspended after police found evidence that they had “hushed up” an illegal gambling ring.   (*)

 
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