- Arab League seems to soften Israeli-Palestinian peace plan
- Retailers to compensate victims of Bangladesh disaster
- China says detains 19, seizes weapons after Xinjiang unrest
Posted: 29 Apr 2013 09:13 PM PDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Arab states appeared to soften their 2002 peace plan on Monday when a top Qatari official said Israel and the Palestinians could trade land rather than conform exactly to their 1967 borders.
Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, Qatar's prime minister and foreign minister, made the comment after he and a group of Arab officials met U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss how to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Speaking on behalf of an Arab League delegation, Sheikh Hamad appeared to make a concession to Israel by explicitly raising the possibility of land swaps, although it has long been assumed that these would be part of any peace agreement.
Kerry has made no secret of his hope to revive peace talks, which broke down in 2010, but it remains unclear whether U.S. President Barack Obama will decide to back a major U.S. effort.
In convening the group, Kerry is trying to ensure that a new peace process would have the backing of the Arab states, who, if they were to offer Israel a comprehensive peace, hold a powerful card that could provide an incentive for Israeli compromises.
"The Arab League delegation affirmed that agreement should be based on the two-state solution on the basis of the 4th of June 1967 line, with the (possibility) of comparable and mutual agreed minor swap of the land," he told reporters after the meeting at the Blair House, the U.S. president's guest house.
Monday's talks included the Bahraini, Egyptian, Jordanian and Qatari foreign ministers as well as officials from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden also attended part of the meeting.
The Arab League proposal offered full Arab recognition of Israel if it gave up land seized in a 1967 war and accepted a "just solution" for Palestinian refugees.
Rejected by Israel when it was originally proposed at a Beirut summit in 2002, the plan has major obstacles to overcome.
Israel objects to key points, including a return to 1967 borders, the inclusion of Arab East Jerusalem in a Palestinian state and the return of Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel.
The core issues that need to be settled in the more than six-decade dispute include borders, the fate of Palestinian refugees, the future of Jewish settlements on the West Bank and the status of Jerusalem.
(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by David Brunnstrom and Bill Trott)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 29 Apr 2013 08:58 PM PDT
DHAKA (Reuters) - Two Western retailers have promised to compensate families of garment workers killed while making their clothes in a Bangladesh factory building that collapsed last week in the country's worst industrial accident.
The pledge from Britain's Primark and Canada's Loblaw came after the owner of the collapsed Rana Plaza was brought before a court in Dhaka on Monday, where lawyers and protesters chanted "hang him, hang him".
At least 385 people were killed in the disaster, the latest incident to raise serious questions about worker safety and low wages in the poor South Asian country that relies on garments for 80 percent of its exports.
With almost no hope left of finding further survivors, heavy machinery has been brought in to start clearing the mass of concrete and debris from the site in the commercial suburb of Savar, about 30 km (20 miles) from the capital Dhaka.
Eight people have been arrested - four factory bosses, two engineers, building owner Mohammed Sohel Rana and his father, Abdul Khalek. Police are looking for a fifth factory boss, Spanish citizen David Mayor, although it was unclear whether he was in Bangladesh at the time of the accident.
There were angry scenes as Rana, a local leader of the ruling Awami League's youth front, was led into court on Monday wearing a helmet and protective police jacket, witnesses said.
"Put the killer on the gallows, he is not worth any mercy or lenient penalty," one onlooker outside the court shouted.
Rana, who was arrested on Sunday by the elite Rapid Action Battalion apparently trying to flee to India, was ordered to be held on remand for 15 days for interrogation.
Khalek, who officials said was named in documents as a legal owner of the Rana Plaza building, was arrested in Dhaka on Monday. Those being held face charges of faulty construction and causing unlawful death.
Bangladesh does carry out the death penalty for murder and for most serious categories of manslaughter.
About 2,500 people have been rescued from the wrecked building, which housed several factories on the upper floors, but hundreds of the mostly female workers who are thought to have been inside remain unaccounted for.
THIRD MAJOR ACCIDENT IN FIVE MONTHS
The collapse was the third major industrial incident in five months in Bangladesh, the second-largest exporter of garments in the world behind China. In November, a fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory in a suburb of Dhaka killed 112 people.
The industry employs about 3.6 million people, most of them women, some of whom earn as little as $38 a month.
Anger over the disaster has sparked days of protests and clashes. Many factories remained closed on Monday due to labour unrest and police used tear-gas to quell demonstrations.
Primark, which was supplied by one of the factories operating at Rana Plaza, said on Monday that it was working with a local NGO to help victims of the disaster.
"Primark will pay compensation to the victims of this disaster who worked for its supplier," said the company, owned by FTSE 100-listed Associated British Foods.
"This will include the provision of long-term aid for children who have lost parents, financial aid for those injured and payments to the families of the deceased."
Loblaw Companies Ltd, which had some of its Joe Fresh clothing line manufactured at Rana Plaza, said it too was offering compensation.
"We are working to ensure that we will deliver support in the best and most meaningful way possible, and with the goal of ensuring that victims and their families receive benefits now and in the future," said spokeswoman Julija Hunter in an email.
Primark and Loblaw operate under codes of conduct aimed at ensuring products are made in good working conditions.
Spain's fashion label Mango told its followers on Facebook at the weekend that it had not carried out a "social audit" of Mayor's company Phantom-Tak, with which it had an unfilled sample order, but would have done so had it gone on to place a full order.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO), an agency of the United Nations, said it was sending a high-level mission to Bangladesh in the coming days.
"Horror and regret must translate into firm action," said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder in a statement. "Action now can prevent further tragedy."
Officials in Bangladesh have said the eight-storey complex had been built on swampy ground without the correct permits, and more than 3,000 workers - most of them young women - entered the building on Wednesday morning despite warnings that it was structurally unsafe.
A bank and shops in the building closed after a jolt was felt and cracks were noticed on some pillars on Tuesday.
(Additional reporting by Sarah Young in London and Susan Taylor in Toronto; Writing by Alex Richardson; Editing by Michael Perry)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 29 Apr 2013 07:40 PM PDT
BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police have detained 19 people and seized homemade explosives and weapons following a bloody clash between residents and officials which killed 21 people last week in the restive region of Xinjiang, state media reported.
The violence, in the heavily ethnic Uighur part of Xinjiang near the old Silk Road city of Kashgar, was the deadliest in the far western region since July 2009, when nearly 200 people were killed in riots in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi.
The government has labelled the violence in Kashgar's Maralbexi county as a "terrorist attack", though the exiled World Uyghur Congress has said the shooting and killing of a young Uighur by "Chinese armed personnel" prompted the Uighurs to retaliate.
Many Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim people who call energy-rich Xinjiang home, chafe at Chinese restrictions on their culture, language and religion. China says it grants them wide-ranging freedoms.
Police have now rounded up 19 people in Kashgar, Urumqi and another part of Xinjiang called Bayingolin, the official Xinhua news agency said late on Monday.
Members of the group who carried out the attack "regularly watched video clips advocating religious extremism and terrorism and attended illegal preaching ceremonies", Xinhua said.
"Since early December 2012, they had always gathered ... to do physical training and to practise killing skills they had learned from the terrorist video clips," the English language report said.
It said the unidentified group had tested explosives, made bombs and remote controllers and planned to "do something big" in densely populated areas of Kashgar in the coming months.
"The group members were spotted making explosives on April 23 by local police and community workers, which led to the deadly clash," the report said.
Vice Minister of Public Security Meng Hongwei said police also seized homemade explosives, weapons and East Turkistan flags, Xinhua added.
China accuses armed Uighur groups of having links to Central Asian and Pakistani Islamist extremists, and of carrying out attacks to establish an independent state called East Turkistan.
Many rights groups say China overplays the threat posed to justify its tough controls in Xinjiang.
"China's unilateral accusations lack transparency and they are using so-called terrorism as an excuse to repress the Uighur people. The clash was a direct result of Chinese provocations," said World Uyghur Congress spokesman Dilxat Raxit.
Meng said the government would mount an "iron-handed crackdown against terrorism", Xinhua added.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Stephen Coates)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
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