Khamis, 31 Oktober 2013

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

China security chief blames separatists for Tiananmen attack


BEIJING (Reuters) - China's domestic security chief believes a fatal vehicle crash in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in which five died was planned by a Uighur separatist group, designated as a terrorist organisation by the United States and United Nations.

An SUV ploughed through bystanders in the capital's iconic Tiananmen Square on Monday and burst into flames, killing the three people in the car and two bystanders, in what the government called a terrorist attack.

Beijing police have arrested five people it says were radical Islamists who were planning a holy war. Security has been strengthened in both Beijing and in Xinjiang, the restive far western region the Muslim Uighurs call home.

Meng Jianzhu, a member of the elite 25-member Politburo with responsibility for domestic security, blamed the incident on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.

Many Uighurs call Xinjiang East Turkestan, and the government often blames the frequent outbreaks of violence there on extremists agitating for an independent state.

"This violent terrorist incident that's happened in Beijing was organised and premeditated," Meng told Hong Kong's Phoenix TV, in comments carried by the official Xinhua news agency on Friday.

"The group that stood behind the scenes inciting it was the East Turkestan Islamic Movement," he added, speaking on the sidelines of a Tashkent meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a Chinese and Russian-lead security group.

"We must seek to further strengthen international anti-terror order to create a strong deterrent and further safeguard peace and stability in our region."

Police identified the driver as a man called Usmen Hasan, whose name suggests he is a Uighur, and said his mother and wife were in the car with him, along with devices filled with gasoline and a flag with "extreme religious content" on it.

At least 42 people were injured.

However, exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer told Reuters this week that caution should be exercised over the government's account, adding she did not believe any kind of organised extremist Islamic movement was operating in Xinjiang, a view shared by rights groups and some experts.

The United Nations and U.S. placed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement on lists of terrorist organisations after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Xinjiang, a sprawling, desert-like region that borders Central Asian nations that were part of the former Soviet Union as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan, has been beset by violence, blamed by China on Uighur separatists and extremists.

In 2009, nearly 200 people were killed in the Xinjiang capital Urumqi in rioting between Uighurs and the majority Han Chinese.

(Editing by Ben Blanchard and Michael Perry)

Zelaya's wife to seek IMF deal if elected in Honduras - running mate


TEGUCICALPA (Reuters) - The wife of ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya will seek a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to resolve a mounting debt crisis if she wins next month's presidential election, her running mate said on Thursday.

Juliette Handal, the vice-presidential candidate of Zelaya's wife Xiomara Castro, said their leftist Liberty and Refoundation Party (LIBRE) would seek assistance from the IMF to help tackle the country's bloated budget deficit.

"We're going to seek an accord with the International Monetary Fund based on reality; it's necessary, we're very clear about this," Handal told Reuters in Tegucigalpa as her party presented its plan for governing the country.

Honduras, the biggest exporter of coffee in Central America, is on track to post a budget deficit of at least six percent of gross domestic product for the second year running.

The election will be held on November 24, and latest polls show Castro and her conservative rival Juan Hernandez, head of Honduras' Congress, are running neck-and-neck.

Outgoing President Porfirio Lobo is constitutionally barred from running again after serving a four-year term.

A voter survey earlier this month gave Hernandez 28 percent support, compared with 27 percent for the 54-year-old Castro.

In 2010, the IMF agreed to provide some $200 million in financial support to the Central American country to help it strengthen its public finances and stabilize its economy.

The agreement expired in March 2012 and Lobo's government has failed to reach a new agreement with the Washington-based fund after falling short of consolidation targets.

The budgetary crisis has sparked strikes and protests by public sector officials like doctors, nurses in police in Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the Americas that also suffers from the highest murder rate in the world.

Castro, catapulted into the spotlight after a 2009 coup when she led protests against Zelaya's ouster, is running on a toned-down version of his leftist populism.

Many see Zelaya, whose removal triggered a deep political crisis, as the power behind Castro's candidacy. At rallies, supporters often cheer more for him than for his wife.

The election campaign has been dominated by debate over how to tackle the predations of drug gangs, a major cause of the country's high crime rate. Mexican cartels have moved into Honduras, using it as a staging point for moving large quantities of South American cocaine to the United States.

(Editing by Dave Graham and Ken Wills)

Indonesia summons Australian ambassador over U.S.-led spying claims


JAKARTA/PERTH (Reuters) - Indonesia summonsed Australia's ambassador on Friday to explain media reports his embassy in Jakarta was used to spy on Southeast Asia's biggest country as part of a U.S.-led global spying network.

Indonesia this week called in the chief U.S. diplomat in Jakarta over similar allegations, while China on Thursday demanded an explanation from the United States after the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported Australian embassies across Asia were part of the U.S. spying operation.

News of Australia's role in a U.S.-led surveillance network could damage relations with Indonesia, Australia's nearest Asian neighbour and a key strategic ally.

"Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has demanded an explanation from the Australian ambassador in Jakarta about the existence and use of surveillance facilities in the Australian embassy here," Indonesia's foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The reported activities absolutely do not reflect the spirit of a close and friendly relationship between the two neighbours and are considered unacceptable by the government of Indonesia."

The Herald said its reports were based on U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden and a former Australian intelligence officer.

Snowden leaks to other media have detailed vast intelligence collection by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) on allies, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, prompting protests and a U.S. review of intelligence gathering.

Natalegawa, in Australia for a meeting with his counterpart Julie Bishop and other regional foreign ministers, said the reports of spying by Australia and the United States were likely to be raised "in a more concerted way" by other countries.

"The fact that certain countries may have certain capacities to gather information in the way that they have, that's one thing, but whether you would want to put that into effect and therefore potentially damage the kind of trust and confidence that have been nurtured and developed over many decades and years is something that we may want to ponder," he told reporters in Perth in western Australia.

"I think we have been able to communicate to Foreign Minister Bishop about our concern."

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade did not immediately reply to requests for comment. In an earlier response to the surveillance allegations, a spokeswoman said: "It is the long-standing practice of Australian governments not to comment on intelligence matters."

The Australian ambassador is scheduled to meet Indonesian officials in Jakarta on Friday over the matter, a foreign ministry spokesperson confirmed.

Bilateral relations were already shaky after Australia's new conservative prime minister, Tony Abbott, in September proposed turning back boats of asylum-seekers coming through Indonesia.

Abbott made his first official trip overseas to Jakarta last month where he sought to played down tensions over the asylum seekers issue and called instead on both countries to focus on boosting bilateral trade.

(Reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor in Jakarta and Rebekah Kebede in Perth; Editing by Jonathan Thatcher and Michael Perry)


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