Ahad, 19 Jun 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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NATO admits Libya air strike led to civilian deaths

Posted: 19 Jun 2011 09:36 PM PDT

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - NATO has admitted it destroyed a house in Tripoli in which Libyan officials said nine civilians were killed, an incident likely to sow new doubts inside the alliance about its mission in Libya.

EDITOR'S NOTE: PICTURE TAKEN ON A GUIDED GOVERNMENT TOUR. Libyans check the rubble of a house, which is damaged by coalition air strikes according to the Libyan government, in Tripoli June 19, 2011. RUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

The air strike was the clearest case yet of NATO bombing causing multiple civilian casualties, and comes at a time when NATO is already under strain from a campaign that is taking more time and resources than it expected.

A NATO statement said a military missile site was the intended target of the air strikes but that it appeared one of the weapons did not strike that target.

"NATO regrets the loss of innocent civilian lives and takes great care in conducting strikes against a regime determined to use violence against its own citizens," said Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, commander of NATO's operations over Libya.

"Although we are still determining the specifics of this event, indications are that a weapons system failure may have caused this incident," he said.

Reporters taken to the residential area in Tripoli's Souq al-Juma district by Libyan officials early on Sunday saw several bodies being pulled out of the rubble of a destroyed building.

Later, in a hospital, they were shown the bodies of two children and three adults who, officials said, were among those killed in the strike.

Libyan Foreign Minister Abdelati Obeidi said the NATO strike was a "pathetic attempt .... to break the spirit of the people of Tripoli and allow small numbers of terrorists to cause instability and disorder in the peaceful city".

"We will never forgive, we will never forget, we are here; on our land, united with our leader, ready for peace and ready for the fight for our freedom and honour," he told a news conference.

But a spokesman for the rebels fighting to end Muammar Gaddafi's 41-year rule said the Libyan leader was to blame.

"We are sorry for the loss of civilian life that was caused by air strikes carried out by NATO," said Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, vice chairman of the rebel National Transitional Council.

"We hold the Gaddafi regime responsible for having placed its military (installations) near civilian areas," he said. "So these losses are to be expected."


NATO has been pounding targets in Libya since March 19 in what it says is an operation to protect civilians who rebelled against Gaddafi's 41-year rule. The Libyan leader says it is an act of colonial aggression designed to steal oil.

Strains are appearing within NATO member states as the campaign drags on for longer than envisaged and Gaddafi remains in power -- even making a show of defiance last week by playing chess with a visiting official.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he believed NATO should be allowed to stick at its task. "I think this is going to end OK. I think Gaddafi will eventually fall," he told CNN.

At the scene of the destroyed building on Sunday, clothes, smashed crockery and a rubber duck littered the area.

The building is in a neighbourhood where security forces have in the past few weeks put down anti-Gaddafi protests.

"Why is NATO doing this to us? Why?" asked Ibrahim Ali, who said he lived on the same street as the wrecked building. "NATO is a big problem for the Libyan people. NATO doesn't have any business here, this is between the Libyan people."

Another man, who gave his name as Tony, nodded towards the remains of the building and said: "They (local people) don't like this ... But they don't like the regime either."

(Additional reporting by Matt Robinson in Misrata, Hamid Ould Ahmed in Algiers, David Brunnstrom in Brussels, Maria Golovnina in Benghazi and Washington bureau; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Jon Hemming)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Thai army takes sides as divisive election nears

Posted: 19 Jun 2011 09:06 PM PDT

BANGKOK (Reuters) - After Thailand's military removed her brother in a bloodless coup on a hot September night five years ago, the front-runner in next month's closely fought election has good reason to fear the generals will go after her.

Recent rumblings from the army suggest she should be concerned.

As Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, surges ahead in the race to become Thailand's next prime minister after elections next month, the army has cast aside its neutrality, analysts say, and looks intent on derailing her. How far they will go is unclear.

If she prevails over Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's ruling Democrat Party and forms a government, a coup is one option, though an unlikely one due to the risk of drawing tens of thousands of Thaksin's "red shirt" supporters into the streets in a reprise of last year's bloody clashes with troops.

Most analysts and diplomats suggest she may cut a deal with the army to preserve her government and to prevent a new round of street riots.

But in the days leading up to the July 3 election, the army is doing what it can to stop her momentum and foil her plans for a general amnesty that would clear the way for Thaksin to return from self-exile in Dubai, where he lives to avoid prison following a graft conviction he says was politically motivated.

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, instrumental in the coup that toppled Thaksin and offensives to crush anti-government red-shirt street insurrections in 2009 and 2010, made a stern-faced address on two army-owned television channels last week, stressing the military would not meddle in the election.

But his message had the opposite effect.

Prayuth warned of threats against Thailand's monarchy and urged the public to vote for "good people" and to avoid a repeat of previous polls, a not-so-subtle reference to a decade of elections won by Thaksin allies.

"If you allow the election results to be the same as before, you will not get anything new and you will not see any improvement," Prayuth said.

By wading into the political fray, the army risks inflaming a sometimes-violent, five-year political crisis in which the rural and urban poor red shirts are pitted against a traditional elite of generals, royal advisers, middle-class bureaucrats and old-money families who back the ruling Democrats.

Prayuth's comments were widely seen as a move to discredit Yingluck's Puea Thai Party and stem its momentum following opinion polls that show it is likely to win the most votes in the election.

"For an army chief to plead with the voters to cast their ballots for 'good' parties and 'good' candidates is very inappropriate and, as such, he can be seen as taking sides in the upcoming election," Veera Prateepchaikul, a former editor of The Bangkok Post, wrote in the daily on Monday.


The army has been a major force in politics since Thailand became a democracy in 1932, staging 18 coups -- some successful, some not -- and several discreet interventions in forming coalition governments, almost all with the tacit backing of Thailand's royalist establishment.

Since the last coup, the military's budget has nearly doubled and it has stood firm behind Abhisit, aiding his rise to power in a 2008 parliamentary vote and battling with pro-Thaksin red shirt demonstrators. The last face-off in April and May last year killed 91 people and wounded at least 1,800.

"The general image of the military has not exactly complemented Thailand's democratic process," said Worajet Phakhirat, a law professor at Bangkok's Thammasat University. "Making these comments so close to the election can have a negative reaction."

Kan Yuenyong, an analyst at the Siam Intelligence Unit, said the stakes are high for the military, which faces a possible purge if Yingluck becomes premier and remains influenced by Thaksin, who may seek a military reshuffle in revenge for his ouster.

"A coup is the worst-case scenario but that can't be ruled out if Thaksin regains power," he said. "The military has learned from the past and knows Thaksin will want his revenge."

Since Yingluck's May 16 nomination, the 43-year-old businesswoman has championed Thaksin's populist legacy and energised his urban and rural working class supporters, who elected his now-defunct Thai Rak Thai Party twice in landslides in 2001 and 2005.

Yingluck says she will pursue reconciliation if she becomes prime minister, vowing not to interfere with the armed forces.

But not everyone is convinced. Mistrust of Thaksin runs deep and her assurances are unlikely to be enough.


Some expect the generals to intervene discreetly to prevent Puea Thai from forming a government if, as many expect, it wins the most seats in parliament but falls short of an outright majority and must form a coalition to govern.

That's where the army could wield its influence by trying to persuade smaller parties to shun Puea Thai and side with Abhisit's Democrats.

That may not work. If Puea Thai wins by a landslide, or wins comfortably, it could govern with just one medium-sized party in a coalition.

A tougher step, such as a coup, is difficult. The red shirts are far stronger and more organised than in 2006 when the generals removed Thaksin. If tanks rumbled into Bangkok, thousands would likely flood the city's streets in protest.

"Another coup is an option Prayuth doesn't want to take because more red shirts than ever before would come to shut down Bangkok," said an analyst with close knowledge of the military who requested anonymity.

"But a coup becomes likely if Prayuth gets word of a planned purge by a Puea Thai government. There might be no other option."

Sources close to Puea Thai and the military say that could be averted, and that Thaksin and the generals are discussing an arrangement under which Puea Thai could govern in return for an assurance the top brass would not be purged.

Abhisit told Reuters last week he was aware the military had been approached by Puea Thai with a view to a deal.

Thaksin declined to comment on any such arrangement, but conceded in an interview with Reuters in Dubai last Wednesday that his return to Thailand hinged on talks with the military.

Anthony Davis, a security analyst with IHS-Jane's, said a deal was almost inevitable if Puea Thai won handsomely.

But in return, he said, Puea Thai would have to scrap its plans for an amnesty to allow Thaksin's return, appoint a defence minister sensitive to the army leadership and guarantee the party would not get involved in the military's affairs.

(Additional reporting by Vithoon Amorn; Editing by Jason Szep and John Chalmers)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Medvedev hints he and Putin won't be 2012 rivals

Posted: 19 Jun 2011 09:06 PM PDT

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev dismissed talk of a deepening rift with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in remarks published on Monday, strongly hinting they would not run against each other for president next year.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin prepare to play badminton during an informal meeting at the presidential residence at Gorki, outside Moscow June 11, 2011. (REUTERS/Dmitry Astakhov/RIA Novosti/Kremlin)

In a Financial Times interview, he also said he hoped Barack Obama, who has helped improve Russian-U.S. ties, would win a new term as U.S. president next year.

Medvedev, steered into the Kremlin by Putin in 2008 when he was barred from a third straight term, has made veiled criticism of his predecessor and emphasised the need for change, stoking speculation of growing discord ahead of the March 2012 election.

In what many investors saw as a campaign speech on Friday, he warned against one-man rule and hinted that the stability Putin boasts of bringing to Russia could lead to stagnation.

But in the Financial Times interview conducted the next day, Medvedev said he and Putin were "different people" with different ideas about how to reach some goals, but were on the same side.

"To believe some sort of rift is deepening between us is absolutely wrong," he said, according to a Kremlin transcript.

He sounded less combative than on some occasions, when he has targeted Putin by criticising his cabinet. While he said Russia needed more political plurality, he made clear he advocated only gradual change in electoral legislation.

"I do not think that disagreements between us are growing," Medvedev said.

He repeated a promise to announce soon whether he would run for a new term -- six years this time -- and suggested he wanted to do so, saying that "any leader who is in a position such as president is simply obliged to want to run".

"Whether he will take this decision or not is another question," he added.

Many analysts, however, believe it is Putin who will decide whether to return to the country's top job or endorse his protege for a second term. With a marginalised opposition, either one would be likely to win.

There has been speculation that Putin and Medvedev could break the unwritten rules of their "tandem" leadership and run against one another, but Medvedev said that "probably would not be the best scenario for our country".

"It is hard to imagine that for one reason at least. The thing is, Vladimir Putin and I, after all, to a significant degree represent one and the same political force," he said.

"Competition between us could undermine the tasks and the aims that we have been realising in recent years."

Medvedev sounded far less equivocal about the U.S. election in November 2012, praising Obama and accusing some of his opponents of turning Russia into a scapegoat.

"There are representatives of a very conservative wing who are trying to resolve their political tasks in part by whipping up passions about Russia," he said.

He suggested a Republican victory could chill ties after a period that included the signing of a new nuclear arms reduction pact and U.S. support for Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organisation.

"I would like Barack Obama to be elected to the office of president of the United States a second time," he said.

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

'Bold and Beautiful' repeats as best drama

Posted: 19 Jun 2011 09:04 PM PDT

LAS VEGAS (AP) - "The Bold and the Beautiful" won drama series honors for the third consecutive year at the Daytime Emmys on Sunday night in a bittersweet ceremony that marked the impending daytime departures of two veteran soap operas along with Regis Philbin and talk show queen Oprah Winfrey.

Executive producer Bradley Bell accepted the trophy, saying, "It's over the top. We're so grateful."

Bell saluted his late father William Bell, who created "The Young and the Restless" and gave the younger Bell his start in the business.

"Dad, we did it," he said. "Happy Father's Day." Laura Wright, who plays Carly Corinthos on "General Hospital," won her first Emmy in her first nomination. She joins Finola Hughes in 1991 as the only stars of the ABC soap to win lead actress honors.

"Hell, yeah!" she said, thrusting the trophy in the air. "This has been 20 years of the best career ever." Michael Park, who plays Jack Snyder on CBS' "As the World Turns," earned lead actor honors.

Scott Clifton won younger actor honors for his role as Liam Cooper on "The Bold and the Beautiful," one of four trophies the show earned. It tied with "The Young and the Restless" for directing in a drama series.

"The Young and the Restless" won for best writing. Brittany Allen of "All My Children" earned the show's final Daytime Emmy, winning for younger actress in a drama series. She is no longer playing the role of Marisa Chandler.

The ABC soap opera, along with the network's "One Life to Live," are leaving the air after more than 40 years because of declining ratings.

"My heart breaks for all these people that this is not going to be a part of their lives," she said backstage about the show's impending demise. "Having just gone through something like this, I survived. It was scary, but change is a good thing and it opens the door for new opportunities."

Jonathan Jackson of "General Hospital" and Heather Tom of "The Bold and the Beautiful" won as supporting actor and actress in the live show hosted by Wayne Brady at the Las Vegas Hilton. Jackson, who plays Lucky Spencer, brought his young son and daughter onstage with him.

"It's Father's Day. I couldn't resist," he said. Tom, a veteran soap actress who plays Katie Logan Spencer the CBS show, won for the first time after five nominations in the supporting category.

"I have to thank the daytime community as a whole," she said. "You have been my home for most of my life and I am so grateful for that."

"Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune" tied for best game show, fitting since the respective hosts, Alex Trebek and Pat Sajak, received lifetime achievement awards during the show. Those shows dethroned "Cash Cab," which had won three straight years.

"We're part of Americana," Trebek said backstage with Sajak alongside him. "People, when they hear the themes to 'Wheel' and 'Jeopardy!', they know immediately what the reference is. Part of that is because we've been on for so long. We hope it will continue for as long as we want to do it."

Trebek has quizzed brainy contestants for 27 years, while Sajak has been selling vowels for 30 years.

Ben Bailey of "Cash Cab" took home a trophy, repeating as best game-show host. He didn't immediately appear to accept his award, leaving presenter Tracey E. Bregman to ask the audience, "Anybody?"

A harried Bailey walked out from backstage, where he said he had been using the restroom when he heard his name called.

Backstage, Bailey admitted he hadn't washed his hands but promised to do so, which surely would have met the approval of Dr. Mehmet Oz. Oz repeated as best talk-show host, while his "The Dr. Oz Show" won for best talk show-informative. Oz, one of Winfrey's proteges, is being rewarded in many markets with the 4 p.m. slot that Winfrey ruled for so many years.

"I don't feel pressure," he said backstage. "I feel honored and I feel responsibility to give to the audience what she did so beautifully for 25 years."

Oz added, "I think I'll have Oprah on as a guest sooner rather than later."

"The Ellen DeGeneres Show" earned best talk show-entertainment honors for the second straight year, although she skipped the ceremony, yielding the spotlight to her producing and writing staffs.

In a tribute to Winfrey, Gladys Knight sang "That's What Friends Are For" as a montage of the talk queen's shows played behind her. Oz paid tribute, as did frequent Oprah guest Celine Dion, who sang "Because You Loved Me" from the stage at Caesar's Palace, where she performs.

Winfrey appeared on tape with her staff gathered behind her and holding the Crystal Pillar award she was given for changing the face of daytime television.

Philbin is leaving his syndicated chat fest later this year, and he and co-host Kelly Ripa shared talk-show host honors with Oz. Philbin and Ripa didn't attend.

Meredith Vieira ended her five-year run on the "Today" show earlier this month, and she was nominated for best game-show host for "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

The awards show was in its second year in Las Vegas, where it moved from Los Angeles after up-and-down ratings in recent years. The CBS telecast faced competition in its second hour Sunday from another splashy event, the Miss USA pageant held at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Sin City and shown on NBC.

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Miss California crowned Miss USA

Posted: 19 Jun 2011 08:52 PM PDT

LAS VEGAS (Reuters): A 21-year-old "history geek" representing California was named Miss USA at the annual beauty pageant in Las Vegas on Sunday.

Alyssa Campanella, who was born and raised in New Jersey which she represented at the Miss Teen USA contest in 2007, was considered among the favorites by pageant experts.

She will represent the United States at the Miss Universe pageant to be held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Sept. 12.

Campanella was crowned by incumbent Miss USA, Rima Fakih, a Lebanese-born Muslim who was the first Arab-American to hold the title.

Miss Tennessee came in second, Miss Alabama was third, and Miss Texas was fourth.

Campanella said she was a "huge history geek" fascinated by the Tudor and Stuart periods and the Game Of Thrones TV fantasy. She is a natural blond who dyed her hair red for a play several years ago and never went back.

She won the crown despite giving a muddled answer when a judge asked her whether marijuana should be legalized in California. She replied that marijuana for medical purposes was "very important," but had concerns about whether legalization would help in the war against drugs.

Miss Tennessee, 21-year-old journalism student Ashley Elizabeth Durham, declared that burning the American flag should not be protected by free speech and that burning religious books was "just a line that you do not cross."

Miss Alabama, 22-year-old Madeleine Mitchell, said Internet bullies whose taunts force their targets to commit suicide should be prosecuted. Miss Texas, 25-year-old Ana Rodriguez, received loud applause when she said the wives of political figures caught in sex scandals should move on "and find a man who really loves you."

The fate of most of the 51 contestants was decided during a preliminary ceremony last Wednesday when a panel of judges selected 15 of the quarter-finalists based on their swimwear and evening gowns. A 16th spot was reserved for a contestant determined by fans' Internet voting.

During that event, Campanella tripped while parading in her evening gown.

The results were announced early in Sunday's ceremony, with contestants from Georgia, Arizona, Maine, Utah, Indiana, South Carolina, New York, Hawaii, Florida, Missouri and Maryland rounding out the top 15. Miss New Mexico was the fan favorite for the 16th spot.

The semi-finalists were then whittled down to Maine, Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina, Alabama, Hawaii, California and Maryland by a new panel of judges.

Elsewhere, Brittany Dawn Brannon of Arizona was named Miss Photogenic, and Kia Ben-et Hampton of Kentucky Miss Congeniality.

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Questions and answers about Greek debt

Posted: 19 Jun 2011 05:48 PM PDT

Questions and answers about Greek debt

Is Greece on a path to stability or just delaying an inevitable disaster?

The answer won't come for weeks or months, but financial analysts are not optimistic.

Greece is in talks with international creditors about a second package of rescue loans similar in size to the $157 billion bailout it received last year. The aim is to keep Greece from defaulting on its crushing national debt.

But to get the new loans, Greece will probably be forced to adopt new austerity measures, such as tax hikes and pension cuts, and the prospect of new cuts has already led to unrest in Athens.

Financial indicators, such as what it costs to insure Greek debt, suggest a default is extremely likely. Here are some questions and answers about the Greek debt crisis.


Q: What happened Sunday?

A: The prime minister of Greece, George Papandreou, confirmed that his nation was talking with world lenders about a second financial rescue package "roughly equal" to what Greece received last year.

In Luxembourg, European finance ministers were meeting to consider whether to release about $17 billion to Greece from the first rescue package.

Europe and the International Monetary Fund say new loans for Greece are contingent on Greece's passing budget cuts before the end of the month. Those measures have already led to angry protests and forced the prime minister to reshuffle his government.


Q: Who is paying for the Greek bailout?

A: Other European nations and the International Monetary Fund. Germany had demanded that the private sector, primarily international banks that hold Greek government bonds, share some of the pain by waiting longer to be repaid. Germany softened its demands on Friday by agreeing that any burden-sharing by private bondholders be strictly voluntary, calming the financial markets.


Q: How likely is it that Greece will default on its debt?

A: Bond traders are betting a default is almost certain. It now costs more than ever to insure Greek debt. At prices quoted Friday, the insurance contracts suggest an 80 percent chance that Greece will default in the next five years, according to data from Markit, a financial information provider.


Q: Why is a potential Greek default such a big deal?

A: Greece has an economy roughly the size of Washington state, but the real worry is about a domino effect. Or, to use a better analogy, says Guy LeBas, chief fixed income strategist at Janney Capital Markets, think of it as a spider web - pluck one string and the whole thing shakes.

Banks lend money to governments and to each other to make sure everyone has enough cash to operate every day, and banks insure each other's debt. If Greece defaults, banks will charge more money to make loans or stop lending altogether. At the same time, they'll have to raise at least $300 billion to cover insurance contracts on Greek debt.

That's why many analysts are drawing comparisons to what happened after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the storied investment bank, in 2008. Lending froze up around the world, all the way down to small businesses and individual borrowers in the United States. The credit crunch deepened the worldwide recession.

At the least, bond investors would demand higher borrowing rates from other deeply indebted European countries, including Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Belgium. Borrowing costs for Ireland and Portugal have already jumped to record highs, with 10-year interest rates topping 10 percent. The U.S. rate is about 3 percent.


Q: What is Greece doing about all this?

A: The Greek government wants to enact further austerity measures, such as raising taxes, cutting public wages and selling state assets. And it will probably have to before it gets a fresh bailout package. But the public has reacted angrily, staging violent protests in central Athens. The union that represents employees in the state-run electric system has threatened a strike and blackouts.


Q: How would a wider European crisis hurt the U.S.?

A: It's difficult to say. American banks say they could handle a crisis. All told, they were exposed to about $43 billion in Greek debt at the end of September 2010, compared with $113 billion tied to Ireland and $187 billion to Spain.

But the investments are opaque. It's impossible to tell which banks are holding more Greek debt than the others.

"It would be naive to think their banking crisis wouldn't affect us after what we saw in the last financial crisis," warns Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics.

When credit begins to freeze or it gets more expensive to borrow, other European countries could end up in a similar situation to Greece's - saddled with rampant debt and unable to borrow more money to pay it off.

Many of the economies in Europe are under that cloud, raising fears of a massive, even unprecedented, chain of defaults that slows the world economy.

Banks in the United States could end up with bad bonds on their books, just as they're working off bad loans from the mortgage crisis a few years ago. American money market funds are heavily invested in European bank debt, too.


Q: What about the dollar?

A: Even if a wider crisis is averted, a prolonged slump in Europe would probably make the dollar stronger compared with the euro. For foreign customers, a stronger dollar makes American goods more expensive. Companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index get 20 percent of their profits from Europe. Sustained strength in the dollar could hit profits of large corporations like Boeing and DuPont because they rely on selling to foreign customers, who might not be able to afford the markup.

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Eurozone: Greek to get aid in July, steps needed

Posted: 19 Jun 2011 05:47 PM PDT

LUXEMBOURG: Hours of talks between eurozone finance ministers on the imploding finances of Greece broke up early Monday morning without the ministers signing off on a vital installment of rescue loans needed to avoid bankruptcy next month.

Greece will get the next 12 billion of its existing 110 billion bailout package in early July, but only if it manages to pass 28 billion in new spending cuts and economic reforms by the end of the month, said Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg who also chairs the regular meetings of the 17 eurozone finance ministers.

"We have to, of course, await this vote" by the Greek parliament, Juncker said as he left the meeting.

However, Juncker said that as long as the parliament supported the new measures, he was certain that Greece would also get a second bailout - on top of the existing one - that will keep it afloat over the coming years as it works to restore its struggling economy. Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said Sunday that his country was in talks for a new bailout similar in size to the first one.

In a statement, the ministers said that the private sector would contribute to the new package of rescue loans on a voluntary basis. Banks and other private creditors will be asked to buy up new Greek bonds as old ones mature, thereby reducing the amount of money other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund will have to provide.

"No pressure may be exerted on the private sector," Juncker stressed, since any sign of coercion could force rating agencies to consider the bond-rollover as a partial default. Such a negative rating could take down Greek banks and further shake other struggling euro countries like Ireland and Portugal, economists have warned.

Juncker said he planned to convene a special finance ministers meeting in the first days of July, where the remaining questions would be finalized. He said that because of the voluntary nature of the roll-over, it was too early to put a number on the contribution of the private sector.

The meeting of the 17 eurozone nations came after a tumultuous week that saw rioting on the streets of Athens, a Greek Cabinet reshuffle and days of market turmoil that sent borrowing costs spiking. A default by Greece could cause ripples around the world, disrupting the global economy similarly to the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers in 2008.

Just before the meeting broke up, the finance chiefs of the United States, Canada, Japan and the U.K. were updated on the discussions taking place in Luxembourg in a conference call limited to the Group of Seven rich nations, underlining the heightened level of concern over the small euro nation. - AP

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Japanese exports drop 10.3% in May

Posted: 19 Jun 2011 05:46 PM PDT

TOKYO: The government says Japan's exports in May dropped 10.3 percent from a year earlier.

The finance ministry said Monday that exports shrank to 4.76 trillion yen ($6 billion) in the month. Imports in May rose 12.3 percent to 5.61 trillion yen, resulting in a trade deficit of 85 billion yen.

Auto exports in May plunged 38.9 percent and shipments of auto parts dropped 18.5 percent due to production losses following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northern Japan.

The twin disasters left more than 23,000 people dead or missing and destroyed hundreds of factories in Japan's northeastern coastal region, forcing manufacturers such as Toyota Motor Corp. and Sony Corp. to suspend production. - AP

For more on Japanese exports and other news, pictures and videos from The Daily Yomiuri, a partner with The Star in the Asia News Network, click here

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Wozniacki shows wacky side during Novak interview

Posted: 19 Jun 2011 06:49 PM PDT

CAROLINE Wozniacki revealed her mischievous side again at Wimbledon on Saturday as the world number one hijacked Novak Djokovic's pre-tournament press conference.

After dodging the west London showers for some practice on the All England Club grasscourts, the blonde Dane sat down in the main interview room and began a spoof interview with the Serb.

World number two Djokovic, known on Tour as 'Joker' for his comic impersonations of fellow players, broke off from answering the normal questions about his form, his fitness and his Wimbledon hopes to engage in some light-hearted banter with his fellow Monte Carlo resident.

"You know, you had this losing streak of one, so what are you going to do to change that?" the 20-year-old, introducing herself as a reporter from the Monaco newspaper, asked Djokovic, referring to his French Open semi-final defeat by Roger Federer which ended his 43-match winning streak.

"Well, you know what? I will try to look up to some women players who have been so consistent with their wins, for example like Caroline Wozniacki.

"I don't know if you've heard about her," replied Djokovic.

"She's been winning so much. I'm going to try to look some of her matches and try to break this losing streak of one, you know, try to get on the right path."

The giggling Wozniacki then asked Djokovic who his favourite woman player was.

"Well, we'll have to keep that a secret," he said. "I think I already discovered one of my favourite women's players. I just said her name. She's actually my neighbour, as well... she actually lives in the street where you come from.

"From time to time we have coffee there on the beach and just relax and have lunch, have a jog."

The bizarre exchange finally came to a halt when a WTA official had a quiet word in Wozniacki's ear.

"I cannot even talk anymore. They're pulling me," Wozniacki said. – Reuters

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McIlroy takes hefty eight-stroke lead into US Open final round

Posted: 19 Jun 2011 06:45 PM PDT

LONG regarded as the heir-apparent to Tiger Woods as the game's greatest player, Rory McIlroy believes his time has finally come to start piling up major titles.

Aged just 22, the mop-haired Briton will take a commanding eight-shot lead into the final round of the US Open at Congressional Country Club where he has completely overshadowed his closest rivals in record-breaking fashion.

Despite his tender years, his golfing maturity already matches his sublime talent and the popular Northern Irishman is confident that hard lessons learned from his Masters meltdown two months ago will help him seal victory here.

"From the experience that I had at Augusta, I know now how to approach tomorrow," world number seven McIlroy told reporters after posting a three-under 68 in Saturday's third round. "I know what I need to do tomorrow.       

"At Augusta, it was all a little bit new to me, going into the final round with the lead. I didn't know whether to be defensive, aggressive, go for it, not go for it but now I know what I need to do.       

"I have a clear mind going out there tomorrow, and I just need to stick to my game plan."       

In April, McIlroy let the 2011 Masters slip through his hands as he blew a four-shot lead after 54 holes with an ugly closing 80 at Augusta National.       

Despite the extreme disappointment of that unforgettable day, he patiently handled his post-tournament media responsibilities with astonishing grace and feels he has since developed the killer instinct required at major level.       

"I think they go hand in hand, having a little bit of attitude and a killer instinct," said McIlroy, who has held at least a share of the lead in six of his last seven rounds in the majors.

"That's what you need on the golf course, especially in the position that I find myself in.

"You can't get complacent. No lead is big enough, so you need to just keep going.

"Today, I tried to set myself little goals, just because it kept me from focusing on the leaderboard, on how far ahead I was. The big goal I set myself was to try and get to 15 (under). I didn't quite achieve it, but I don't mind."       

McIlroy's game is ideally suited to the rain-softened conditions on Congressional's Blue Course this week.       

His long hitting has helped him cope with the challenge of the second longest layout to stage a US Open while he has continually peppered the flags on the unusually receptive greens with his high ball flight. – Reuters       

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Just a matter of time before Jason wins a major

Posted: 19 Jun 2011 06:45 PM PDT

THE fresh-faced kid from the island keeps putting his name on leaderboards at the majors. Eventually, he's bound to figure out a way to win one of these.

Were it not for Rory McIlroy, that story line would belong to Jason Day, the player from Down Under who has been doing a very good job playing under the radar at the majors this year.

Day, who was climbing to a second-place finish at Augusta while McIlroy was melting down, was in a tie for third after Saturday's third round at the US Open.

His round of six-under 65 began before McIlroy got to the course. It left the Aussie nine shots out of the lead, but still, he'll have the second-to-last tee time in the final round, paired with the world's second-ranked player, Lee Westwood.

Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.

"The more times I put myself in this position, the better chance I have of winning a tournament," Day said.

Odds are he'll get there. He has six top-10 finishes this year, including The Players, the Byron Nelson and the Masters.

He's on a steady climb from 224th in the world in 2008 to 18th this year. He's 23 and off to a good start in the quest to join Greg Norman, Geoff Ogilvy, Adam Scott and all the others on the long list of Australia's favourite golfers.

Day came into the weekend at one-over, 12 shots behind McIlroy, but not willing to give in to the sense of the inevitable that's slowly smothering Congressional.

"Playing for second place, I guess you're playing for first loser," Day said. "I went out there and I just said, `Look, I've got to put up at least a decent score today to actually have a shot."

On a day in which birdies and red numbers covered the course, Day fit right in. He made six birdies, not a single bogey and his name kept shooting up the leaderboard.

He knew it was possible when he was walking to the first tee box and saw Webb Simpson, who started the day tied for last, making the turn at four-under en route to a 66.

"I saw that. I knew the front nine. If you could play well, you could go out and shoot a low score.," Day said.

So, he did.

And while McIlroy has plenty of mistakes to learn from his Masters finish, Day went through a much different experience at Augusta.

He was playing under the radar - everyone was that day - and suddenly found himself in the middle of one of the wildest endings in the history of the tournament.

He birdied four of the last seven holes, making clutch putts at 17 and 18 that put him in position to win.

Charl Schwartzel overtook him but the second-place finish looked pretty good on a resume that also includes a 10th-place finish at the 2010 PGA. – AP

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The Heights: Diving into life

Posted: 19 Jun 2011 01:58 AM PDT

Through the minutiae of daily living, this novel explores the 'big' topics, like marriage and fidelity, and relationships and loyalty.

THIS is, I think, Peter Hedges's most grown up novel, in terms of subject matter. In 1991, he dealt with coming-of-age issues in What's Eating Gilbert Grape (made into a movie that gave Leonardo DiCaprio his breakout role in 1993) and his 1997 follow up, An Ocean In Iowa, was about a seven-year-old boy coming to terms with the collapse of his family.

In The Heights, Hedges moves firmly into adult territory as he explores the complexities of marriage, the temptations that face couples daily, and the disillusionment of expectations not met.

At the outset, Tim and Kate Welch seem to have an almost enviable marriage. He's a history teacher in a posh private school, she's a stay-at-home mother to two sons. Their apartment might be cramped but it's in upmarket New York neighbourhood, Brooklyn Heights. But there are cracks that are slowly becoming apparent. As Hedges, in typical fashion, throws the reader into the minute details of the Welches' everyday life, the creeping suspicion arises that far from being the perfect couple, Tim and Kate are only staying together for the sake of their sons.

While Kate is being bored among the Brooklyn Heights ladies who spend their time gossiping and bitching about people they barely know, Tim is trying too hard to be the cool, popular teacher.

The plot picks up when the wealthy, beautiful, and aloof Anna Brody moves into Brooklyn Heights. Kate is instantly smitten by and curious about Anna, and the longer she hangs out with the far wealthier older woman, the more she begins to question her life. Anna's entrance coincides with a number of life changing incidents: the forced retirement of Tim's basketball coach father due to a sexual scandal; Kate gets a lucrative job and becomes the breadwinner while Tim becomes the stay-at-home parent; and Kate's former lover, Jeff Slade, who is now a television star, re-appears in her life.

Once this three-tiered plot takes off, the novel becomes decidedly more interesting. While the relationship between Kate and Jeff raises the spectre of predictable sexual tension, kudos is due to Hedges for providing enough twists in this part of the plot to keep us guessing.

The multi-level plot could have become a tad too busy, but Hedges keeps everything on track by keeping the dialogue sharp and witty, the chapters short, and the storyline realistic. Hedges serves up a plot that mirrors real life. He does not provide over-the-top drama for the sake of injecting tension into a storyline.

As protagonists, Tim and Kate are more anti-hero than heroic; they're flawed, clueless, frightened, unsure of what the next chapter in their lives will bring. Though they can be exasperating at times – Kate can seem rather aloof and Tim can be annoying about his never ending thesis – readers will likely find themselves rooting for this mismatched pair.

This is Hedges's meditation on parenthood, marriage, and family life. Despite the exploration of these "big" topics, though, The Heights is a very easy and relatively quick read. The plot keeps the pages turning and I found myself wanting to find out if the Welches' marriage survives the fallout from Anna Brody and Jeff Slade's entrance into their lives.

I thought the ending was headed towards being touching, but, surprisingly, it instead seems rather anti-climactic – almost distant and cold. I wonder if Hedges had actually planned this end to his delightful novel or whether it was a case of too many editors trying to push their own versions and confusing matter? You will have to decide for yourself.

Apart from that cold-ish finale, The Heights is a great read. Fans of Hedges's work (both novels and films) will enjoy this one.

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Truth in fiction

Posted: 19 Jun 2011 01:50 AM PDT

A recent gathering of authors elicits descriptions like 'inspiring' and 'entertaining'.

IT'S been several years since Kuala Lumpur played host to a literary festival, so the city's book lovers were understandably excited when Malaysian writer and poet Bernice Chauly announced the Writers Unlimited Tour KL/Makassar 2011 a couple of months ago.

At the time, there was some doubt whether the festival would happen as the organisers were having problems raising the necessary funds (a common problem faced by arts and literature groups all over the world). Fortunately, Chauly's appeal for RM22,000 was met in the nick of time by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Institut Terjemahan Negara Malaysia.

The event was jointly organised by Writers Unlimited and Readings@CeritAku. Writers Unlimited, formerly known as Winternachten, is an initiative that organises an annual international literature festival in The Hague, as well as literary events abroad, in cooperation with local partner organisations. Readings@CeritAku is Chauly's creation, a showcase (held at KL café-bar No Black Tie) for Malaysian writers, and a continuation of Readings, the platform for published and unpublished writers that was started by book blogger Sharon Bakar and that is now a monthly event in the Klang Valley.

Chauly met Writers Unlimited director Ton van de Langkruis at the UtanKayu Literary Biennale in Jakarta back in 2009 and through him became part of the touring festival. She is the first Malaysian to have toured with them and this is the first time the festival has come to Malaysia.

The festival in KL lasted for three days and comprised readings at Taylor's University, readings and panel discussions at the Annexe Gallery, and more readings at No Black Tie.

I attended the readings and panel discussions on the second day of the festival and was inspired as well as thoroughly entertained by what I heard. The Annexe Gallery at Central Market was an ideal venue for these sessions, being small enough to create a sense of intimacy between the writers and the audience.

Two sessions split the nine featured writers into two groups. Gündüz Vassaf (Turkey), Maaza Mengiste (Ethiopia/US), Dipika Mukherjee, Uthaya Sankar S.B., and Kee Thuan Chye appeared in the morning, while Rodaan Al Galidi (Iraq/Netherlands), Abeer Soliman (Egypt), Chua Guat Eng and Dain Said appeared after lunch.

The writers read published and unpublished works, and then answered questions posed by sessions' moderators Amir Muhammad and Umapagan Ampikaipakan as well as the audience.

Central to the discussions was the idea of how the truth may be presented in various ways. This was in keeping with the festival's theme, Writing The Truth – Fact Or Fiction?, which was decided jointly by van de Langkruis and Chauly.

Said Chauly at a later interview, "I wanted to work with a theme that would resonate with readers, writers and audiences here. Issues like religion, identity, nationality, conflict, corruption are issues that we deal with along with people in many parts of the world. And so we began working on the theme which would deal with writing and truth."

The blurred lines between fact and fiction are what Chauly is more than familiar with. Her most recent collection of poetry, The Book Of Sins, is a deeply personal and painfully truthful exploration of life, love, death and disappointment, while her latest work, Growing Up With Ghosts (to be published by Matahari Books in August), is a fictive memoir based on her Chinese-Punjabi family's history.

Unfortunately, she did not read from her work at the sessions I attended. However, the featured writers I did hear presented richly diverse material in a variety of voices and styles, all reflecting their lives, their experiences and the places they're from. Based on truth, the work was written and presented as fiction.

Maaza Mengiste said, "Fiction gives us breathing room – gives our imagination room to play and helps us fill the gaps left by memory."

Her novel, Beneath The Lion's Gaze, is set in the 1970s and describes life in Ethiopia under the repressive and cruel Derg regime.

"Writers confront the facts," she said, "but fiction allows us to get into people's hearts – it's a more visceral connection. If writers remain silent we have lost everything."

Mengiste and the other visiting writers showed how fiction is used to explore reality. Abeer Soliman, whose blog and book (Diary Of An Old Spinster) deal with the problems single women face in Egypt, spoke about how literature is used by writers in the Arab world to "run from restrictions". She described how a certain writer got around the impossibility of writing about religion by depicting god as a mysterious and powerful man. "Reality is more surprising than fiction but we can use fiction to manoeuvre around the truth."

I was incredibly moved by the work read by Soliman, Mengiste and Al Galidi. Al Galidi's poems I found especially affecting. They are based on his experiences as an Iraqi refugee in The Netherlands, and, in translation (Al Galidi performed, with panache, the pieces in their original Dutch, but English versions were projected on to the wall behind him), the nonchalance, whimsy and wry humour of the pieces underline all the more the bitter irony of the situations they describe.

I had a less favourable reaction to Dipika Mukherjee's reading of the prologue of her soon-to-be published novel Thunder Demons. The piece describes the murder of a beautiful young Tibetan woman at the behest of a corrupt Malaysian politician and sounded to me more like gossipy reportage than creative fiction.

While I don't deny the importance of writing about controversial events and "outing" leaders guilty of committing atrocities, I feel that there is no merit in simply presenting the same "facts" as discussed in coffee shops and taxis up and down the country. Sorry, but a bunch of adjectives and fictitious names doesn't make it good fiction.

I would much prefer our country's troubles and foibles be explored through the depiction of how they have impacted ordinary Malaysians. Perhaps Mukherjee's book goes on to do this and if so, the prologue is misleading.

Chua Guat Eng, in answer to a question on why writers choose to write fiction, said that this was a form that allowed her to explore things and leave them in a state that allows for further exploration. It seems to me that this approach helps a writer avoid the pitfalls of preaching just one view point, thus coming across as didactic.

To avoid didacticism, Gündüz Vassaf advised writers to avoid dealing with only one truth – their own. He stressed the need to view oneself and one's beliefs with a critical eye, questioning them constantly.

Kee Thuan Chye read an amusing story that left no one in doubt about his politics. He has always worn his heart on his sleeve in any case, and is admirably forthright in his articles for online news sites MalaysiaKini and Malaysian Digest. I think he has the potential to create powerful and affecting fiction. But first, he needs to stop writing stories as though they are op-ed pieces. (Kee was an associate editor at The Star and also editor of the paper's Mind Our English column.)

One of my favourite stories from the sessions was Uthaya Sankar S.B.'s Cat, an absurdist tale of a multi-lingual feline who learns that the most successful civil servants are seen, not heard.

The story ends with Uthaya stating his point rather too plainly, but at least the rest of the story manages not to suggest that Malaysians are unable to draw conclusions without the aid of an instruction manual. And I have to say, the writer's deadpan expression leads me to believe he would do well as a stand-up comedian.

I left the sessions wishing there were more such events to look forward to. When I e-mailed Chauly to ask if Writers Unlimited would be back, she replied, "Writers Unlimited has had its share of budget cuts in the arts and there is a real possibility that they will lose their funding for these tours in two years." However, we should not rule out the possibility of Chauly organising an event of her own.

"I think its important to have a regular literary festival in KL," said Chauly in her e-mail. "I think the model that I have learnt from this festival and from the tours is that it's important to keep it small enough to engage the writers and the audiences. I also have a sense of how the literary scene works here, having organised readings for so many years now. So, as an organiser, a writer and a reader, I have a better idea, more so now than ever, how to make a literary festival in KL work.

"Rodaan Al Galidi took me aside after the final reading on Sunday and said, 'For 11 years I have been to literary festivals, and this is the first time I have been to a festival like this. It is so great, thank you.' "

My sentiments exactly.

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Posted: 19 Jun 2011 01:50 AM PDT

FOR week ending June 12, 2011:


1. A Doctor In The House: The Memoirs Of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

2. Run, Mummy, Run by Cathy Glass

3. The Power by Rhonda Byrne

4. 100 Greatest Wonders Of The World: The Most Incredible Places On Earth by Igloo Books Ltd

5. How To Get Things Done: Organize Your Life And Achieve The Results You Want by Ann Jackman

6. When A Billion Chinese Jump: How China Will Save Mankind – Or Destroy It by Jonathan Watts

7. Stand And Deliver: How To Become A Masterful Communicator And Public Speaker by Dale Carnegie Training

8. Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going by Han Fook Kwang et al

9. Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice In The Dock (revised second edition) by Alan Shadrake

10. Have A Little Faith by Mitch Albom


1. Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

2. Fall Of Giants by Ken Follett

3. Something Borrowed (movie tie-in) by Emily Giffin

4. The Confession by John Grisham

5. Any Man Of Mine by Rachel Gibson

6. Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

7. Luka And The Fire Of Life by Salman Rushdie

8. Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer

9. The Single Girl's To-Do List by Lindsey Kelk

10. Scarlet Nights by Jude Deveraux

Weekly list compiled by MPH Mid Valley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur; www.mphonline.com.

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Anwar: No Bersih demo if PM can guarantee fair elections

Posted: 19 Jun 2011 07:11 AM PDT

Published: Sunday June 19, 2011 MYT 10:11:00 PM

SHAH ALAM: The Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih) will be asked to call off its planned illegal street demonstration for July 9 if the prime minister can guarantee free and fair elections in the country.

Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said he was willing to ask Bersih chairman Datuk S.Ambiga to cancel the plan right away if Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak could give the assurance.

"If the prime minister can guarantee this and a clean electoral roll as well, we don't need to hold a mass procession," he said, when winding up his speech at the party's General Election Convention, here, Sunday.

Bersih plans to hold an illegal demonstration to demand for free and fair elections, the electoral roll to be cleaned up, postal voting to be reformed, the using of undelible ink for voters, and free and fair access to the media.

Anwar, in his speech, also reminded party members dissatisfied with the choice of candidates for the general election to bring up the matter through the right channels and not to lobby him to determine the candidates.

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Identities of Malaysian hackers given to the police, says Fadillah

Posted: 19 Jun 2011 04:50 AM PDT

KUCHING: A number of Malaysian hackers involved in attacks on more than 200 websites since last week have been identified.

Deputy Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Fadillah Yusof said yesterday that their identities had been forwarded to the police.

Fadillah conceded that the attacks were a lesson for the Government on cyber security.

He declined to say how many hackers had been exposed or whether they would face prosecution.

"Please don't do this. Let us work together to develop a safer space in the cyber world," Fadillah said.

Since the pre-dawn attacks began six days ago, many public and private sectors websites have been compromised.

Two days ago, the Ministry announced that it had traced about 90% of the attacks to Malaysian addresses.

Speaking to reporters here on Sunday, Fadillah confirmed that no more websites would be blocked by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) for now.

"Our policy is that we are free. We won't censor unless you breach the law," he said.

A loose grouping of international hackers calling themselves Anonymous orchestrated their Operation Malaysia after MCMC blocked 10 websites, including those that accommodate illegal movie, music and software file-sharing.

Although Malaysia is their latest target, Anonymous's notoriety includes bringing down the computer systems of Paypal, after the online payment company suspended donations to Wikileaks, and causing a YouTube "porn day" and defacing the websites of religious cult Scientology.

The group claims that it is anti-censorship and its hackers hack not for financial gains but to challenge cyber-vulnerability.

Asked whether the group's intention was not all bad, as its hackers had exposed weaknesses that needed improving, Fadillah said: "Well, in a way, yes. But they also deny people their rights, information and service from our websites.

"What is more important is the awareness and we have to be more prepared. Cyber threats are real, so we've got to keep updating ourselves. We've got to be careful about our information content," he said.

Fadillah also said the Government also had the responsibility to protect the rights of content producers.

The initial blocking of the ten websites was to prevent people in the entertainment and software industries from losing a big chunk of their revenue to piracy.

"Stakeholders in these industries had lodged complaints that their rights were being infringed upon. We have a system. It can't be free for all online. Since there were complaints, once they were proven, we had to take action. We respect all. Democracy is about freedom, but freedom has its limits," he added.

Fadillah was speaking to reporters after a joint Gawai, Mothers Day and Fathers Day lunch by the Sarawak Bumiputra Disabled People's Association.

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Not all hack for the heck of it
Meet the good hackers
Who do the anonymous hackers represent?
90% of hackers are locals
Govt won't filter Net despite attacks, says DPM
50 government sites compromised but little damage done
Websites defaced before deadline set by hacker group
Cops probing website hackings
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KL-Khartoum’s ties still cordial despite Sudan’s absence at LID: Najib

Posted: 19 Jun 2011 04:29 AM PDT

PUTRAJAYA: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Sunday that Sudan's absence at the Langkawi International Dialogue (LID) 2011 was in reaction to some of the comments made here about the attendance of the country's president Omar al-Bashir at the dialogue, but stressed that Kuala Lumpur continued to maintain cordial ties with Khartoum.

The Prime Minister said there was some reaction (from Sudan) to some of the comments made here but it was the official position of the Malaysian government that was important.

"So they (the Sudan government) must understand that other people can voice their personal views but it is the official position of the Malaysian government that matters most," he said.

"Foreign policy is between the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister and whatever we decide is the policy of the Malaysian government" he said during a press conference on the sidelines of the three-day LID which began Sunday.

Earlier Sunday, responding to Bernama, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman confirmed that Sudan was not participating in this year's dialogue due to some unforeseen circumstances.

Prior to this development, it was reported that Sudan's Foreign Minister Ali Karti would represent his country, following Sudanese President Al-Bashir's decision not to attend the dialogue due to pressing domestic engagements.

Several days ago, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz was quoted by a news portal as saying that the presence of Bashir at LID could be an embarrassment for Malaysia.

Anifah offered a different perspective to Nazri's comments, saying that if the presence of the Sudanese president at LID could somehow improve the situation in troubled Sudan, then Malaysia would have done something useful.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant on Bashir on March 4, 2009, for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

Sudan does not recognise ICC's jurisdiction and the country is not a party to The Hague-based ICC.

Sudan's Ambassador to Malaysia Nadir Yousif Eltayeb had said that Bashir's decision not to attend the LID has nothing to do with the issue of the ICC's arrest warrant against him.

Najib said Bashir had been an active participant in the LID series and had attended the dialogue in 2002 and 2007.

He said Kuala Lumpur had very positive relations with Bashir who had studied in Malaysia, adding that Bashir had many warm feelings about Malaysia.

"LID is a forum to share experiences and views on development as well as an opportunity for us to try to play that kind of informal role to help towards influencing certain policies and actions that may result in bringing development in the world.

"We are aware of the problems in the South...the world is worried about the problems in the South and Malaysia can be an interlocutor to help and present not only our views but also the world views so that it will not escalate into a very serious problem," he said.

Najib also said Malaysia was not yet a member of the Statute of Rome and, therefore, Kuala Lumpur was not obliged to comply with its decisions and, as such. It was not illegal for Malaysia to invite Bashir to attend the LID.

"On balance, after studying it...the Foreign Ministry and the government believe it was mutually beneficial for President Bashir to attend," he said.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC).

On Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, whose presence at the LID was criticised by some quarters, Najib said the African leader was the most active participant at the LID series, having attended the dialogue five times before and now his sixth appearance.

"We are not constraint by any ideological decision, the basis of LID is developing networking and for us to understand and share experiences.

"We think it is useful for us to invite Mugabe to the LID although we are actually aware of his position vis-a-vis the Commonwealth and many other countries," he added. - Bernama

Related Stories:
Better to engage Sudan, says Anifah
Sudan president's absence at LID nothing to do with ICC, says ambassador
Amnesty urges Malaysia to arrest Sudan leader
Mugabe, al-Bashir to attend Langkawi International Dialogue

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