Just Foreign Policy News
February 19, 2010
NYT "Mystery" Op-Ed calls for more deaths of innocents in Afghanistan
The New York Times op-ed page has given a platform to a "mystery op-ed" of dubious provenance that slammed the Obama Administration for having *too low a tolerance* for civilian deaths in Afghanistan.
Ask the New York Times Public Editor to investigate why this op-ed was published without informing readers who the author is – and what the author’s connection might be to those who profit from US use of airstrikes, heedless of civilian casualties.
Peace Action: Call for vigils marking 1000th US death in Afghanistan
Soon, the number of American soldiers who have lost their lives in Afghanistan will likely reach 1,000. Peace Action is calling for vigils and other actions, and has a place where you can post your action.
Support the work of Just Foreign Policy:
1) Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive says the Haitian government will appropriate land to build temporary camps for earthquake victims, AP reports. The decision is potentially explosive in a country where a small elite owns most of the land in and around the capital, AP says: that elite, a traditionally corrupting force in Haitian politics, has the power to bring down the government. But AP notes that the government has appropriated land in the past without conflict. [Aid groups have called on the government to take private land if needed to house the displaced; see Oxfam quote in this article and HRW letter, #4 below – JFP.]
2) An election promise to pull Dutch troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2010 threatens to topple the Netherlands’ coalition government and undermine the U.S. mission, the Wall Street Journal reports. Deputy Prime Minister Wouter Bos, leader of the Labor Party, campaigned in 2007 on a pledge to bring home Dutch forces and on Thursday he reaffirmed that promise. His coalition partners say the troops must stay. The loss of the 2,000 Dutch troops would further exacerbate the military gulf between NATO and the U.S., which is assuming an ever-larger share of the combat burden in Afghanistan.
3) Peace Now said a quarter of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank have begun new construction despite a government order banning new housing starts, AFP reports. In November, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced a 10-month ban on new housing starts in settlements after months of US pressure. But Palestinians have dismissed the lull – which excludes public buildings, construction already under way and annexed east Jerusalem – as falling short of their demand of a full freeze before negotiations can resume.
4) Human Rights Watch told the UN that none of the camp sites which HRW visited in Haiti had shelters erected in accordance with international standards. All of the sites were severely overcrowded, and with one exception had no proper sanitation facilities, or no sanitation facilities at all. HRW noted that much of the land which could be used to decongest the camp sites is privately owned, and that it is essential that the Haitian government proceed quickly to acquire the land.
5) Secretary of State Clinton’s inflammatory rhetoric against Iran seems designed to promote conflict, writes Mark Weisbrot in the Guardian. One thing is clear: it’s not about concern for human rights, as the U.S. supports collective punishment against Palestinian and Gaza and ignores repression of peaceful political activity in Egypt. Clinton is preparing US public opinion for a future military conflict with Iran, just as her husband’s administration prepared US public opinion for President Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
6) The Obama administration said Thursday that it would ask the Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the New York Times reports. But the Administration did not say when it would push for ratification.
7) The UN launched a new appeal Thursday for nearly $1.5 billion to help 3 million Haitians affected by last month’s earthquake, AP reports. More than 1.2 million Haitians need emergency shelter and urgent santitation facilities, at least 2 million need food, and some 500,000 people who fled Port-au-Prince and other badly affected cities also need help. Donors have pledged $673 million; that means $768 million is still needed, the UN said.
8) The top U.S. Marine in the Pacific said his forces needed to be based on Okinawa, Reuters reports. Prime Minister Hatoyama said before toppling a long-ruling conservative party in a general election last year that the base should be moved out of the region.
9) UN nuclear inspectors declared for the first time Thursday they had extensive evidence of "past or current undisclosed activities" by Iran’s military to develop a nuclear warhead, the New York Times reports. The report, the first under the new director general of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, concluded that Iran’s weapons-related activity apparently continued "beyond 2004, " contradicting a US intelligence assessment published a little over two years ago that concluded that work on a bomb was suspended at the end of 2003.
10) Hundreds of people across Egypt’s political spectrum greeted Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei on his arrival at the airport and called on him to run for president, a daring political gesture in a country where unauthorized political demonstrations are illegal, the New York Times reports. It was not clear that if ElBaradei agreed to run, whether he would be able to. Amendments to the Egyptian Constitution limit who has the right to run, and ElBaradei does not appear to meet the criteria. In addition, ElBaradei has said he would consider running only if the elections were free, fair, under the supervision of the judiciary and in the presences of international observers, criteria the Egyptian leadership has rejected in the past.
11) The National Ombudsman’s Office said clashes between the Colombian military and leftist rebels in the province of Nariño forced 300 members of an indigenous community to flee their lands, EFE reports. According to a recent report by the independent Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement, known as Codhes, a total of 2.4 million Colombians have been forced to flee their homes since 2002 due to intensified armed conflict stemming from President Alvaro Uribe’s "democratic security" policy. Those 2.4 million people represent about 49 percent of the 4.9 million internal refugees uprooted by Colombia’s armed conflict over the past 25 years, Codhes said.
1) Haiti PM: Gov’t to take land for temporary camps
Michelle Faul, Associated Press, February 19, 2010
Port-au-Prince, Haiti – Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive says the Haitian government will appropriate land to build temporary camps for earthquake victims. The decision, announced in an interview with The Associated Press, is potentially explosive in a country where a small elite owns most of the land in and around the capital. That elite, a traditionally corrupting force in Haitian politics, has the power to bring down the government.
The government owns some land but not enough, Bellerive said in an interview Thursday, meaning he has no choice but to take over private terrain. He would not say how much land will be appropriated. But international aid groups say hundreds of hectares (acres) are needed to get quake victims out of overcrowded makeshift camps sprawled all over the devastated capital.
Bernard Fils-Aime, a businessman, property owner and president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Haiti, said he was not aware of anyone in the business community being approached by the government about land. He said the issue would need to be treated cautiously. "Land is one of our very scarce resources and an issue that has underlined many political conflicts in Haiti since independence," Fils-Aime said, adding: "You don’t want to create more conflict."
Aid agencies have criticized the government for dragging its feet in building camps for the displaced. "The temporary camps where people have congregated are fast becoming over-crowded slums," the relief agency Oxfam International warned last week. "The government … needs to clarify whether there is government land available or if it needs to confiscate private land instead. These decisions need to be taken quickly."
The Haitian government has seemed to operate on a slower timetable. On Friday, the economist leading a government emergency commission on shelter held a news conference, saying government panels will make decisions in three to four weeks, and that the homes will be built in five or six months. In the meantime, Charles Clermont said, people in the private sector have offered to build 20,000 to 30,000 temporary homes on private land and, presumably, sell them to the government.
Some 1.2 million Haitians were left homeless by the Jan. 12 quake, about half of them in the capital where about a third of Haiti’s nearly 10 million people are concentrated along with the government and almost all industry.
Camps have sprung up on every bit of available land – school and university grounds, public gardens, a golf course, the central Champ de Mars plaza or simply on sidewalks. But the camps, many made of little more than bed sheets propped up by poles, have little sanitation, and early sporadic downpours already are adding to the misery of their residents.
Health workers warn of disease in the camps – something Haiti’s already strained health system can hardly handle. Relief agencies are working against the clock to find temporary settlements for the homeless before the spring rainy season.
Haitian law provides for the government to seize land as long as it is in the public interest and the owners are fairly compensated, said lawyer Benissoit Jude Detournel, who handles property disputes. "There has to be a just and equitable indemnity, taking into account the market value of the property," Detournel said. He said setting a price is difficult now in the quake’s aftermath.
The government has appropriated land in the past without conflict – to build a wider road on the western outskirts of Port-au-Prince four years ago, to protect underground water aquifers 14 years ago and to construct government buildings in downtown Port-au-Prince in the 1970s, said Jean-Andre Victor, an agronomist who worked on a failed government attempt to survey land ownership in 2003.
[…] Bellerive is clearly aware of the stakes. He told the AP on Thursday, in a separate interview, that the government could fall as political opponents capitalize on its inability to respond strongly to the Jan. 12 earthquake.
Camp-dwellers are also offering resistance. Many don’t want to move out of the debris-choked capital, which would separate them from family, jobs and aid. An Oxfam survey of 110 people showed less than a third of them willing to move out of the capital.
Meanwhile, those camps are becoming ever more miserable. Leonel Martine, a 42-year-old electrician, said a light overnight shower Friday left his camp in ankle-deep water and soaked the mattress he shares with his wife, his daughter and two grandchildren. "My wife spent the night standing, holding the baby," he said.
2) Dutch Parliament Debates Afghanistan
John W. Miller and Maarten van Tartwijk, Wall Street Journal, February 19, 2010
Amsterdam – An election promise to pull Dutch troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2010 threatens to topple the Netherlands’ coalition government and undermine the U.S. mission as the Pentagon steps up operations against the Taliban.
Deputy Prime Minister Wouter Bos, leader of the left-leaning Labor Party, campaigned in 2007 on a pledge to bring home Dutch forces and on Thursday he reaffirmed that promise, putting him at odds with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and with the prime and foreign ministers of his own three-party ruling coalition. A Dutch withdrawal would be a blow to the Obama administration which has worked hard to persuade European nations to maintain-and ideally expand-their troop commitments to Afghanistan.
Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende and Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen, whose Christian Democrat Party is to the right of Mr. Bos, have staked their political future on a position that the troops must stay, even if in a reduced role.
Since the start of Dutch operations there in 2006, 21 of their soldiers have died, watering down public support for the mission. Recent opinion polls, as well as the Dutch Parliament, favor withdrawal.
[…] Senior American officials had once talked of NATO adding as many as 10,000 new troops to the 30,000 U.S. forces that are currently surging into Afghanistan, largely drawn from major alliance powers like Germany and France. But both countries have largely rebuffed the U.S. requests, with France sending just 80 new troops and Germany committing to sending 500 reinforcements while reiterating its plans to begin withdrawing its forces next year.
[…] The loss of the 2,000 Dutch troops would further exacerbate the military gulf between NATO and the U.S., which is assuming an ever-larger share of the combat burden in Afghanistan.
[…] If Mr. Balkenende can’t persuade Mr. Bos to a compromise solution by March 1, the Labor Party could leave the coalition, toppling the government. At a Friday cabinet meeting, Mr. Bos will have the option of negotiating a compromise with Mr. Balkenende, postponing a decision, or pulling out of the coalition. He has already indicated what way he would lean. "By the end of this year, the last soldier should have left Uruzghan," Mr. Bos told a party meeting this week. "We’re keeping our promise to the Dutch people."
3) Quarter of Israeli settlements violate building ban: group
AFP, February 15, 2010
Jerusalem – A quarter of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank have begun new construction despite a government order banning new housing starts, an anti-settlement group said on Monday.
The Israeli defence ministry, which is responsible for the occupied Palestinian territory, has documented violations in 29 settlements, the Peace Now group said in a statement.
Peace Now also recorded five additional settlements to have violated the government orders, it said.
In November, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a 10-month ban on new housing starts in settlements in a move aimed at restarting stalled peace talks with the Palestinians after months of US pressure.
But the Palestinians have dismissed the lull – which excludes public buildings, construction already under way and annexed east Jerusalem – as falling short of their demand of a full freeze before the stalled negotiations can resume.
4) Letter to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Member Ambassadors
The Human Rights and Humanitarian Situation in Haiti
Human Rights Watch, February 19, 2010
In light of today’s briefing to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) by Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes and Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations at the United Nations, Alain Le Roy, on the humanitarian situation in Haiti, we write to bring to your urgent attention our preliminary recommendations to improve human rights and humanitarian protection in Haiti, based on an in-country field investigation completed on February 12, 2010. During its mission, the Human Rights Watch team visited 15 of the largest camps for the displaced in Port-au-Prince and Jacmel (housing 5,000 to 35,000 individuals each), and interviewed over 150 individuals-camp residents, local officials, staff of the international relief agencies and UN bodies, as well as local activists and NGOs.
It is clearly a matter of serious concern to all that despite the large-scale international effort to help the victims, the majority of the 1.2 million people left homeless by the earthquake continue to be in desperate need of vital assistance and protection. We are particularly concerned that efforts to acquire land needed to allow relief agencies to establish camp sites that meet international standards are progressing slowly. In the absence of such camps, hundreds of thousands of Haitians may have to persist in squalid, unsafe conditions which could become deadly as rainy season begins. The current camps also lack security leaving their residents, in particular vulnerable groups and women and girls at risk of violence. We believe that to address this, it is important that priority be given to the following issues:
None of the camp sites visited by Human Rights Watch had shelters erected in accordance with international standards, such as those set out by Inter-Agency Standing Committee in their Operational Guidelines on Human Rights and Natural Disasters. The vast majority of the displaced live in makeshift huts made of wooden poles and pieces of cloth; very few have received tarpaulin cover. According to the update from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on February 16, relief agencies have so far distributed only 17,000 family-size tents-thus reaching less than 10 percent of people in need of shelter; additionally, 87,000 tarpaulins were distributed.
All of the camp sites visited by Human Rights Watch were severely overcrowded, and with one exception had no proper sanitation facilities (latrines and showers), or no sanitation facilities at all. According to OCHA, only 5% of latrines are in place in the camps.
Many of the large camp sites currently located on hill sides are in danger of being flooded once the rainy season begins in late February-March.
In order to decongest the existing camps and relocate people from unsafe areas, it is necessary that more suitable and appropriate land be made available for humanitarian relief efforts. In this regard, one obstacle is that much of the land which could be used for such efforts is privately owned. The requisition or expropriation of private property for the public interest, in situations such as these, when accompanied by due process and fair compensation is permitted by international law. The Haitian constitution also provides for such measures. However there is little evidence that meaningful efforts have been made to negotiate the land acquisition and secure proper land titles. It is essential that this be given priority and that the Haitian government is urged to proceed promptly in accordance with international law to acquire the necessary land, and that this be done in a non-arbitrary and non-discriminatory manner. When such lands are available to be used to provide shelter for the displaced, relocations should proceed on a voluntary basis, taking into account groups with special protection needs.
5) How Wars Are Made: Behind Clinton’s Tough Talk on Iran
The goal of Hillary Clinton’s rhetoric seems to be to promote conflict and convince Americans Iran is a threat to their security
Mark Weisbrot, Guardian, Thursday 18 February 2010 23.51 GMT
In a visit to Qatar and Saudi Arabia this week, Hillary Clinton said that Iran "is moving toward a military dictatorship," and continued the administration’s campaign for tougher sanctions against that country.
What could America’s top diplomat hope to accomplish with this kind of inflammatory rhetoric? It seems unlikely that the goal was to support human rights in Iran. Because of the United States’ history in Iran and in the region, it tends to give legitimacy to repression. The more that any opposition can be linked to the United States’ actions, words, or support, the harder time they will have.
Second, it is tough for anyone – especially in the region – to believe that the US is really concerned about human rights abuses. In addition to supporting Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinians in Gaza, Washington has been remarkably quiet as the most important opposition leaders in Egypt were arrested as part of the government’s preparations for October elections. Amnesty International stated that the arrestees were "prisoners of conscience, detained solely for their peaceful political activities".
So what is the purpose of a speech like this? The most obvious conclusion is that it is to promote conflict, and to convince Americans that Iran is an actual threat to their security. Americans generally have to be prepared and persuaded for years if they are to accept that they must go to war. The groundwork for the Iraq war was laid during the Clinton presidency. President Clinton imposed sanctions on the country that devastated the civilian population, carried out bombings, and publicly declared that Washington’s intention was to overthrow the government. Although, as we now know, Iraq never posed any significant security threat to the US, President Clinton spent years trying to convince Americans that it did.
President Bush picked up where President Clinton left off; and President Clinton publicly supported his campaign for the war. So did Hillary, and she defended her decision in 2008 even as it looked like it might cost her the presidency.
President Obama is unlikely to start a war with Iran – which would likely begin as an air war, not a ground war – not least because he already has two wars to deal with. But, as in the case of the Iraq war, his secretary of state is preparing the ground for the next president that may have a stronger desire or better opportunity to do so. There is a strong faction of our foreign policy establishment that believes it has the right and obligation to bomb Iran in order to curtail its nuclear programme, and they have a long-term strategy.
The public relations campaign is working. A new Gallup poll finds that 61% of Americans see Iran as "as a critical threat to US vital interests," with an additional 29% believing that it is "an important threat". It is not clear why anyone would believe this; even if Iran did obtain a nuclear weapon, which is still a way off, they would not have the capacity to deliver it as far as the US. Nor is it likely that they would want to commit national suicide, any more than a number of other countries that currently have nuclear weapons.
6) Obama To Seek Ratification Of Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
David E. Sanger, New York Times, February 19, 2010
Washington – The Obama administration said Thursday that it would ask the Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, more than a decade after President Bill Clinton failed to convince the treaty’s opponents that the American arsenal could deter adversaries without ever setting off nuclear explosions.
The effort to move ahead with the treaty – one of the steps the administration wants to take to convince the world that the United States is committed to reducing and ultimately eliminating its arsenals – was announced by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Speaking at the National Defense University, he was introduced by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, the only cabinet holdover from the Bush administration, and the man the White House believes will help provide political cover for what promises to be another bruising rematch over national security.
[…] But at a moment that Mr. Obama is struggling to get his domestic agenda through Congress, it is unclear when he will try to move ahead on the treaty, and Mr. Biden offered no timetable for the effort.
7) UN appeals for nearly $1.5 billion for Haiti
Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press, Thursday, February 18, 2010; 9:03 PM
United Nations – The United Nations launched a new appeal Thursday for nearly $1.5 billion to help the 3 million Haitians affected by last month’s devastating earthquake, its largest appeal ever for a natural disaster. The appeal, covering needs in 2010, is more than double the U.N.’s initial request on Jan. 15 for $562 million to help quake victims for six months.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his special envoy for Haiti, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, launched the $1.44 billion appeal at a meeting with diplomats from many of the 191 other U.N. member states. "Before last month’s disaster we had a plan for Haiti’s long-term development and reconstruction," Ban said. "Our challenge today is to reformulate that plan to help Haitians build back better."
With the rainy season approaching, he said, the top priority is to provide shelter, sanitation and humanitarian assistance.
Clinton told the diplomats the appeal is important to begin long-term rebuilding but first the world must help millions of Haitians living day-to-day and facing many problems: Will their children get diarrhea and die because of contaminated water in camps for the displaced? Will their tents be blown away when the hurricane season starts? Will they have enough food?
"We have to move them from living day-to-day to where people are living month-to-month," he said, and that means building some shelters that can withstand hurricanes, scaling up cash-for-work programs to get young people who are reviving gangs into jobs, and reopening schools.
Donors have already pledged $673 million, said Stephanie Bunker, spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. That means $768 million is still needed, she said.
[…] According to the U.N., the size of the revised appeal – covering about 30 percent of Haiti’s population – reflects the scale of the catastrophe caused by the Jan. 12 quake that killed over 200,000 people. More than 1.2 million Haitians need emergency shelter and urgent santitation facilities, at least 2 million need food, and some 500,000 people who fled Port-au-Prince and other badly affected cities also need help, the U.N. said.
The new appeal also seeks funds to revive agriculture, provide emergency telecommunications, manage camps for the displaced, improve nutrition and start early recovery programs including cash-for-work.
[…] The largest U.N. appeal for a natural disaster before Haiti was the 2005 request for $1.41 billion for the Asian tsunami that struck a dozen countries around the Indian Ocean rim and left 230,000 people dead.
8) Top U.S. Pacific Marine Says Base Must Be In Okinawa
Reuters, Friday, February 19, 2010; 12:25 AM
Tokyo – The top U.S. Marine in the Pacific said on Friday that his forces needed to be based on the southern island of Okinawa for strategic reasons, as Tokyo struggles to resolve a dispute with Washington over relocating a base.
The relocation of the Futenma Marine base on Okinawa is at the center of a feud between Washington and Tokyo that is eroding support for Japan’s governing Democratic Party and setting its coalition partners at odds ahead of an election expected in July.
"Okinawa is in the perfect place in the region," said Lieutenant General Keith Stalder, when asked about suggestions that the base be moved to Guam or the tiny island of Tinian. "It’s literally a day away from almost anything that can occur in the region," he said during a visit to Tokyo.
Stalder underscored the U.S. view that a 2006 agreement between the two governments to shift the Futenma base to a more remote area of Okinawa as part of a realignment that involves moving 8,000 Marines to Guam was the most desirable option. But he said shifting all Japan-based Marines elsewhere would not be feasible.
[…] Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said before toppling a long-ruling conservative party in a general election last year that the base should be moved out of the region, sparking a row that threatened to undermine ties with the United States.
The Democratic Party needs to win a majority in the upper house poll to end its reliance on an awkward coalition with two smaller parties. A poor result could even result in policy gridlock. Media polls show concern about Hatoyama’s handling of Japan’s relationship with its most important ally is damaging government support.
Japanese media said on Friday the government had sounded out U.S. officials about a proposal to put a new helipad inside an existing base, but one of the Democrats’ tiny allies, the Social Democratic Party, said it would be unacceptable to local people.
9) Inspectors Say Iran Worked On Warhead
David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, New York Times, February 19, 2010
Washington – The United Nations’ nuclear inspectors declared for the first time on Thursday that they had extensive evidence of "past or current undisclosed activities" by Iran’s military to develop a nuclear warhead, an unusually strongly worded conclusion that seems certain to accelerate Iran’s confrontation with the United States and other Western countries.
The report, the first under the new director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, also concluded that Iran’s weapons-related activity apparently continued "beyond 2004, " contradicting an American intelligence assessment published a little over two years ago that concluded that work on a bomb was suspended at the end of 2003.
[…] At a briefing at the White House shortly after the agency’s report was released, senior administration officials said they saw continuing evidence that Iran had to struggle just to keep its uranium-enrichment equipment running. Thousands of centrifuges that it installed at Natanz, its main site for enrichment, are not spinning. The Obama administration said that Iran was producing only 100 grams a day of enriched uranium, and that even if it could quadruple its capacity it would still need several years to make enough for a weapon.
[…] One senior administration official, told of the report’s main conclusions, said that he thought the actions described in the document "almost suggest the Iranian military is inviting a confrontation." In fact, some in the Obama administration suspect that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps or its leading religious leaders are betting that an escalation of the nuclear confrontation might distract attention from the protests that have rocked the government, while unifying the country against outsiders supposedly trying to suppress Iran’s rise as a significant power.
The report buttressed that view by indicating that Iran had moved most of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium into an above-ground storage plant at Natanz, where it is vulnerable to military attack.
"It’s odd, and there is no technical explanation for it," the senior administration official said at a briefing. "There must be some other explanation." He and other Obama administration officials declined to speculate why the Iranians would deliberately place their stockpile in a place where, with relatively little effort, Israel or another country could strike it.
10) Calls in Egypt for ElBaradei to Seek Presidency
Michael Slackman and Mona El-Naggar, New York Times, February 20, 2010
Cairo – Hundreds of people across Egypt’s political spectrum greeted the Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei on his arrival at the airport here Friday and called on him to run for president, a daring political gesture in a country where unauthorized political demonstrations are illegal.
Dr. ElBaradei’s plane landed several hours late, at 6 p.m., marking his first return to Egypt since leaving his post at the end of last year as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Though opposition politics in Egypt are constrained by laws that restrict freedom of speech and the right to assemble, a grass-roots effort has emerged to try to draft Dr. ElBaradei to run during the presidential election in 2011.
The broad nature of Dr. ElBaradei’s appeal – as an outsider of international renown with no ties to a political system widely seen as ineffective and corrupt – was on display at the airport. Those gathered included people who said they had never been involved in politics, prominent actors and writers, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, men and women, as well as leading members of groups calling for democratic change.
[…] Many political scientists, commentators and activists believe the president has tried to position his son, Gamal Mubarak, to take over. But that prospect has already spawned a group called The Egyptian Campaign Against Succession and has encouraged a growing movement to try to enlist Dr. ElBaradei. An ElBaradei for President group on the social networking site Facebook has more than 60,000 members, and those who turned out on Friday were from regions around the country.
[…] It was not at all clear that Dr. ElBaradei would agree to run, and if he did, whether he would be able to. Amendments to the Egyptian Constitution limit who has the right to run, and at the moment, at least, Dr. ElBaradei does not appear to meet the criteria. In addition, Dr. ElBaradei has said he would consider running only if the elections were free, fair, under the supervision of the judiciary and in the presences of international observers, criteria the leadership here has rejected in the past.
11) Military-Rebel Clashes Drive Indians Off Their Land in Colombia
EFE, February 17, 2010
Bogota – Clashes between the Colombian military and leftist rebels in a rural area of the southern province of Nariño forced 300 members of an indigenous community to flee their lands, the National Ombudsman’s Office said Wednesday. The mass displacement stemmed from a Jan. 31 clash between marines and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, combatants during a meeting of a regional association of indigenous councils.
National Ombudsman Volmar Perez expressed concern over the plight of the members of the Eperara Siapidara indigenous group, who fled to the Nariño town of Boca de Vibora. The Indians said illegal armed groups are setting up checkpoints in urban areas and that was the reason the meeting of the association of Eperara Siapidara indigenous councils of Nariño was organized.
According to a recent report by the independent Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement, known as Codhes, a total of 2.4 million Colombians have been forced to flee their homes since 2002 due to intensified armed conflict stemming from President Alvaro Uribe’s "democratic security" policy. Those 2.4 million people represent about 49 percent of the 4.9 million internal refugees uprooted by Colombia’s armed conflict over the past 25 years, Codhes said.
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