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Daily Archives: March 26, 2011

President Mahmoud Abbas: No peace agreement before all prisoners in Israel are released

President Mahmoud Abbas

RAMALLAH, March 26, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM / Ma’an) – There will be no peace agreement before all Palestinian prisoners in Israel’s custody are released, President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday.
 

As reported by Ma’an News Agency on Saturday, during a reception Ramallah for the coordinator of the popular committee against the wall and settlements in Bil’in, Abdullah Abu Rahma, recently freed from Israeli jail, Abbas asserted the Palestinian Authority would not spare any effort to release all Palestinian prisoners.

The official PA news agency Wafa quoted Abbas saying he gives special attention to the prisoners’ cause as “a pivotal issue” which tops priorities of the PA leadership. The president also expressed appreciation of the great role the popular committees play in resisting the wall and settlement expansion through non-violent protests.

Abu Rahma told Abbas that Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails supported Abbas’ initiative to end rivalry and reach unity between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

“National reconciliation is necessary to counter the dire conditions the Palestinian cause is facing,” Abu Rahma said on behalf of prisoners. He expressed his support for Abbas’ policies to recruit international support for popular resistance and for recognition of statehood on the 1967 border with Jerusalem as its capital.

Former speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council Aziz Dweik and other Hamas leaders and lawmakers from the West Bank have received invitations to meet with Abbas, sources close to Hamas told Ma’an.

Ma’an learned on Friday the meeting could take place very soon, possibly by Saturday afternoon, in order to take advantage of Abbas’ initiative to visit Gaza and finalize a reconciliation agreement.

A high-level official in the PLO expressed doubts about Hamas’ willingness to respond positively to Abbas’ initiative. He highlighted that Hamas’ leadership in Gaza have been trying to make up excuses to avoid finalizing a reconciliation agreement with the Palestinian Authority and its dominant party Fatah.

“I don’t believe it will be that easy because Hamas leaders in Gaza know that ending the state of disagreement will harm their interests and thus they are not interested in ending reconciliation but rather in reaching a ceasefire with Israel,” the official said.

He went on to say that “Hamas is not compelled to respond positively to any such initiatives currently because they count on the Muslim Brotherhood to take a leading role in Egypt and other Arab countries in the aftermath of the popular uprisings in these countries.”

For his part, the second deputy PLC speaker Hasan Khreisha confirmed that Abbas was scheduled to meet former PLC speaker Dweik on Sunday. He said during a talk show broadcast on Palestine TV that it is not Dweik who represents Hamas in the West Bank, but the movement’s official spokespersons.   (*)

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2011 in World News

 

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Workers trying to pump out radioactive water from Japan reactors

Aerial view shows the damaged roof of the No. 1 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Tomioka, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, in this still image taken from a March 23, 2011 Japan Defence Ministry video. Credit: Reuters/Japan Defence Ministry via Reuters TV

TOKYO, March 26, 2011 (Reuters) – Japanese engineers were frantically attempting on Saturday to pump out puddles of radioactive water at the earthquake-crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant after it injured three workers and delayed efforts to cool reactors to safe levels.

Underscoring growing international qualms about nuclear power raised by the killer earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan two weeks ago, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it was time to reassess the international atomic safety regime.

Radioactive water has been found in buildings of three of the six reactors at the power complex 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo. On Thursday, three workers sustained burns at reactor No. 3 after being exposed to radiation levels 10,000 times higher than usually found in a reactor.

“Bailing out accumulated water from the turbine housing units before radiation levels rise further is becoming very important,” said Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency senior official Hidehiko Nishiyama.

The 9.0 magnitude quake and giant waves on March 11 left more than 10,000 people dead and 17,000 missing.

Despite such a shocking toll, much attention since the disaster has been on the possibility of a catastrophic meltdown at Fukushima.


With elevated radiation levels around the plant triggering fears across the nation, storage of the contaminated water has to be handled carefully.

“We are working out ways of safely bailing out the water so that it does not get out into the environment, and we are making preparations,” Nishiyama said.

He initially said the high radiation reading meant there could be damage to the reactor, but he later said it could be from venting operations to release pressure or water leakage from pipes or valves.

“There is no data suggesting a crack,” he said.

Nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Friday there had not been much change in the crisis over the previous 24 hours.

“Some positive trends are continuing but there remain areas of uncertainty that are of serious concern,” agency official Graham Andrew said in Vienna, adding the high radiation could be coming from steam.

On Friday, Nishiyama chided plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) for not following safety procedures inside the turbine building. Local media also criticised TEPCO, which has a poor safety record.

“The people on the spot have a strong sense of mission and may be trying to rush,” the Nikkei business paper said. “But if the work is done hastily, it puts lives at risk and in the end, will delay the repairs. This kind of accident ought to have been avoidable by proceeding with the work cautiously.”


SHIFTS

More than 700 engineers have been working in shifts to stabilise the plant and work has been advancing to restart water pumps to cool their fuel rods.

Two of the plant’s reactors are now seen as safe but the other four are volatile, occasionally emitting steam and smoke. However, the nuclear safety agency said on Saturday that temperature and pressure in all reactors had stabilised.

When TEPCO restored power to the plant late last week, some thought the crisis would soon be over. But two weeks after the earthquake, lingering high levels of radiation from the damaged reactors has kept hampering workers’ progress.

At Three Mile Island, the worst nuclear power accident in the United States, workers took just four days to stabilise the reactor, which suffered a partial meltdown. No one was injured and there was no radiation release above the legal limit.

At Chernobyl in the Ukraine, the worst nuclear accident in the world, it took weeks to “stabilize” what remained of the plant and months to clean up radioactive materials and cover the site with a concrete and steel sarcophagus.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said on Friday the situation at Fukushima was “nowhere near” being resolved.

“We are making efforts to prevent it from getting worse, but I feel we cannot become complacent,” Kan told reporters. “We must continue to be on our guard.”


RADIATION IN TOKYO WITHIN GLOBAL AVERAGE RANGE

In Tokyo, a metropolis of 13 million people, a Reuters reading on Saturday morning showed ambient radiation of 0.22 microsieverts per hour, about six times normal for the city.

However, this was well within the global average of naturally occurring background radiation of 0.17-0.39 microsieverts per hour, a range given by the World Nuclear Association.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government has prodded tens of thousands of people living in a 20 km-30 km (12-18 mile) zone beyond the stricken complex to leave, but insisted it was not widening a 20 km evacuation zone.

Opposition lawmakers and local officials were severly critical of the move, especially since it came after the government advised residents there to stay indoors.

“So far they have only given the irresponsible instruction to stay inside; the decision-making is slow,” conservative Sankei newspaper quited Toshikazu Ide, the mayor of a village inside the 20-30 km area, as saying.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano has said the residents should move because it was difficult to get supplies to the area, and not because of elevated radiation.

An official at the Science Ministry however confirmed that daily radiation levels in an area 30 km (18 miles) northwest of the plant had exceeded the annual limit.


TAP WATER

Vegetable and milk shipments from near the stricken plant have been stopped, and Tokyo’s residents were told this week not to give tap water to babies after contamination from rain put radiation at twice the safety level.

It dropped back to safe levels the next day, and the city governor cheerily drank tap water in front of cameras.

Experts say radiation from the plant is still generally below levels of exposure from flights or medical X-rays.

Nevertheless, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, the United States and Hong Kong are restricting food and milk imports from the zone. Other nations are screening Japanese food, and German shipping lines are simply avoiding the country.

In Japan’s north, more than a quarter of a million people are in shelters. Exhausted rescuers are still sifting through the wreckage of towns and villages, retrieving bodies.

Amid the suffering, though, there was a sense the corner was being turned. Aid is flowing and phone, electricity, postal and bank services have resumed, though they can still be patchy. (*)
 
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Posted by on March 26, 2011 in World News

 

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Israel Plans Deploment of Rocket Defense System

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

 

ISRAEL, March 26, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM) — The Israeli government has decided to deploy an expensive rocket defense system in response to the recent increase in mortar and rocket fire into southern Israel from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, VOA reported.

This so-called “Iron Dome” interceptor system is said to be capable of shooting down rockets fired from a range of five to 70 kilometers.

Israel’s decision follows Friday’s pledge by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his government is prepared to act with “great force” to halt rocket attacks from Gaza.

Dozens of rocket and mortar shells have been fired across the Israeli-Gaza border in the past week. The Israeli military has responded with air strikes, in the most serious escalation of violence since the end of the Gaza War two years ago.

Mr. Netanyahu spoke Friday, on the same day he met in Jerusalem with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Gates was in the region to get the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process back on track. He later became the first U.S. defense chief to visit the West Bank. He met in Ramallah with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad.

Mr. Fayad said this is a “time of great challenge” throughout the region, but also a “time of opportunity.”

Gates traveled to Israel from Egypt, where he held talks with officials about the pro-democracy movement sweeping across the Middle East. He stopped in Jordan for talks with King Abdullah on Friday before leaving for home. (*)

 

 
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Canada's Harper government defeated by parliament non-confidence vote

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivers a speech following a non-confidence vote in Ottawa, capital of Canada, March 25, 2011. The Canadian House of Commons passed Friday a non-confidence motion tabled by opposition parties, defeating the ruling Conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper for contempt of Parliament. According to the procedure, Prime Minister Harper is expected to visit the Governor General David Johnston on Saturday to ask him to dissolve Canada's 40th Parliament. (Xinhua/Christopher Pike)

OTTAWA, March 25 (KATAKAMI.COM / Xinhua) — The Canadian House of Commons passed Friday a non-confidence motion tabled by opposition parties, defeating the ruling Conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper for contempt of Parliament, Xinhua reported.

The motion, which was put forward by Liberal Party and backed by the other two parties, Bloc Quebecois and New Democratic Party, was passed by a vote of 156 to 145 in the afternoon, making the Harper government the first one defeated for being in contempt of Parliament in Canada’s history.

In his delivery of the motion, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff accused the government of refusing to provide Members of Parliament with the information they need in order to hold the government accountable to the people of Canada.

On Wednesday, after all three parties rejected the Tories’ federal budget, Ignatieff unveiled the motion that said Canadians had lost confidence in the government.

He said that the government is in contempt of Parliament for refusing to supply enough information on the cost of the F-35 fighter jets procurement, their justice system reforms and their projections for corporate profits and tax rates.

“For four months, we demanded to know how much Canadian taxpayers were being asked to pay for fighter jets, for prisons, and for corporate tax breaks,” Ignatieff said, adding that other information, including budget documents, were stonewalled by the government on excuse of national security.

“After five years of Conservative government, it is time to say enough is enough,” he concluded, claiming that the Harper government is out of touch and out of control.

In his response, the Conservative Government House Leader John Baird fired back that the opposition parties are trying to grab power by forming a coalition to topple the government in regardless of Canada’s vulnerable recovery from the global economic recession.

Baird said his government, which have created 430,000 jobs and boosted Canada’s GDP growth by 1.5 percent since 2009, does not want an “unnecessary” election which will cost some 400 million Canadian dollars.

According to the procedure, Prime Minister Harper is expected to visit the Governor General David Johnston on Saturday to ask him to dissolve Canada’s 40th Parliament.

Canadians, aged 18 and above, will go to the polls on a date as early as on May 2 for a federal election, the fourth one in seven years, as all of the parties have been working to get ready for a campaign, including preparations for campaign buses, candidate signs and drafting key messaging strategies.

Latest polls show that the Conservative Party enjoys some 40 percent plus support, a rate which is advanced than other parties but still below the majority government level.  (*)
 
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Posted by on March 26, 2011 in World News

 

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Photostream : Russian President Dmitry Medvedev meets Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia Prince Saud Al-Faisal Al-Saud

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (R) welcomes Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister, Prince Saud Al Faisal, during their meeting in the Moscow Kremlin, on March 25, 2011. The current situation in the Middle East was the subject of discussion.HRH Prince Saud Al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud passed on to Mr Medvedev a personal oral message from King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.The Saudi leader’s message expressed the need for close coordination of Saudi Arabia’s and Russia’s policies in the Middle East and North Africa in light of the major events taking place in these regions at the moment. Russia expressed concern at the sharp rise in tension in this part of the world. It was noted that the peoples of the countries currently caught up in upheaval should themselves determine their own roads forward in their pursuit of political, social and economic development.The Saudi Foreign Minister went into some detail on the recent events that have led to the decision to send military units, mostly Saudi units and troops from the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) joint armed forces, the Peninsula Shield Force, to the territory of the Kingdom of Bahrain. HRH Prince Saud Al-Faisal explained that this decision was made in response to a request from Bahrain’s lawful government, and based on the agreement on collective security that binds the GCC members. Russia expressed the hope that the GCC members’ efforts would help to stabilise the situation. Minister Saud Al-Faisal reaffirmed the Saudi leadership and King Abdullah’s personal desire to continue expanding and developing friendship and cooperation in all areas between Saudi Arabia and the Russian Federation. The Russian delegation at the meeting included Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Presidential Aide Sergei Prikhodko. (Photo by VLADIMIR RODIONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev meets with Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia Saud Al-Faisal Al-Saud

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2011 in World News

 

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