Ahad, 22 September 2013

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The Star Online: World Updates

Syria's Assad slams Western powers on U.N. draft resolution - China state TV


BEIJING (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denounced the United States, France and Britain for submitting a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control, saying they were fighting an "imaginary enemy".

Assad, who was interviewed by China's state television CCTV in Damascus, the Syrian capital, said he was not concerned about the draft resolution and that China and Russia would "ensure any excuse for military action against Syria will not stand."

An article posted on the CCTV website on Monday quoted Assad as saying, "I am not concerned. Since its independence, Syria has been committed to all the treaties it has signed. We will honour everything that we have agreed to do.

"And more importantly, I want to say, by submitting the draft to the U.N. Security Council, or by urging the U.S. and Russia to agree on a deal, the U.S., France, and Britain are just trying to make themselves winners in a war against a Syria which is their imaginary enemy."

Russia and the United States brokered the deal to put Assad's chemical arms stockpiles under international control to avert possible U.S. military strikes that Washington said would punish Assad for a poison gas attack last month.

Washington has blamed Assad's forces for the attack, which it said killed more than 1,400 people. Assad blamed rebels battling to overthrow him, saying it made no sense for his forces to use chemical weapons when they were gaining the upper hand and while U.N. chemical inspectors were staying in central Damascus.

Under the U.S.-Russian deal, Assad must account for his chemical weapons stockpiles within a week and see them destroyed by the middle of next year.

Envoys from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China - met last Thursday for a third straight day to discuss a draft resolution Western powers hope will make the deal legally binding.

Russia, a key ally of Assad, is unhappy with the draft's references to possible punitive measures against Syria under Article 7 of the U.N. charter, which talks about U.N. authorisation for sanctions and military force.

In the interview, Assad said gunmen could hinder the access of chemical weapons inspectors to sites where the weapons were stored and made.

He added, "We know that these terrorists are obeying the orders of other countries and these countries do drive these terrorists to commit acts that could get the Syrian government blamed for hindering this agreement."

Asked whether Syria had lots of chemical weapons, Assad said: "Syria has been manufacturing chemical weapons for decades so it's normal for there to be large quantities in the country.

"We are a nation at war, we've got territories that have been occupied for more than 40 years, but in any case, the Syrian army is trained to fight using conventional weapons."

He said the chemical weapons were stored "under special conditions to prevent any terrorist for other destructive forces from tampering with them, that is, destructive forces that could come from other countries."

"So there is nothing to worry about. The chemical weapons in Syria are in a safe place that is secure and under the control of the Syrian army."

Separately, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi told U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that China was willing to send experts to help in the Syrian chemical weapons destruction process, and reiterated that a political solution was the only way to solve the crisis in Syria.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Saturday Syria had handed over information about its chemical weapons arsenal, meeting the first deadline of the disarmament operation.

(Additional reporting by Miral Fahmy in Singapore)

Heavy and sustained gunfire from Kenyan mall under siege - witness


NAIROBI (Reuters) - Heavy and sustained gunfire was heard from the Kenyan shopping mall where at least 68 people were killed in an attack by the Somali al Shabaab group, suggesting a possible assault by Kenyan security forces, a Reuters witness at the scene said.

Kenya's military had earlier said on its Twitter feed that it was making every effort to bring the siege "to a speedy conclusion."

(Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Stacey Joyce)

Cambodian opposition boycotts parliament, security tight


BANGKOK (Reuters) - Opposition lawmakers in Cambodia boycotted the opening of a new session of parliament on Monday because authorities have refused to hold an independent inquiry into alleged vote-rigging by the party of long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Security at the National Assembly and elsewhere in the capital, Phnom Penh, was tight, with many roads blocked off.

"Our goal still stands. We are boycotting today's meeting because the truth has not been uncovered and there has been no breakthrough," Yim Sovann, a lawmaker for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), told Reuters.

"This meeting is a violation of the constitution," he said.

The National Election Committee (NEC) says Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) won 68 seats in the July 28 election to the CNRP's 55. The CNRP says it was cheated out of 2.3 million votes that would have handed it victory.

The opposition and some political analysts say a quorum of 120 lawmakers is needed to open parliament. Hun Sen has ignored that, saying the rules stipulate a new government can be appointed with 63 of the 123 lawmakers voting in favour.

Last week, King Norodom Sihamoni turned down a request from the CNRP to delay the start of parliament, saying he was constitutionally required to preside over the opening within 60 days of the poll.

In an address to the house on Monday, the king congratulated the newly elected members of parliament and said they had to put the nation's interest before anything else.

"The Cambodian nation must stand united and show the highest national solidarity based on the implementation of the principles of democracy and rule of law that we have been practising since 1993," he said.

That year Cambodia held its first elections, under United Nations supervision, since before the ultra-maoist Khmer Rouge regime of the late 1970s and the civil war that followed.

King Sihamoni took the throne in 2004 after the abdication of his father Sihanouk, who was given a lavish state burial after his death last year. King Sihamoni does not enjoy his father's semi-divine status among Cambodians.

Hun Sen, 61, has been in power for 28 years and has said he would rule Cambodia into his seventies.

He portrays himself as the man who saved Cambodia from the terror and chaos of the Khmer Rouge years, but his authoritarian rule, along with widespread corruption, alienated many young people who did not live through that era and who turned to the newly merged opposition CNRP in the election.

(Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by Paul Tait)

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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