Rabu, 22 Januari 2014

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Halt in expansion of Panama Canal could cause major delays - arbitrators

Posted: 22 Jan 2014 09:25 PM PST

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - If work on the expansion of the Panama Canal is suspended, it could take up to five more years to finish, according to arbitrators helping to oversee the project that has been hit by a dispute over costs.

Since the start of 2014, the Panama Canal Authority (PCA) has been embroiled in a public row with the consortium known as Grupo Unidos Por el Canal (GUPC) over $1.6 billion in additional costs the GUPC says have arisen during work on the project.

Though the spat only recently went public, discussions over added costs have been going on since 2010, and advisors on the project's Dispute Advisory Board (DAB) said in a letter written in December that any hold-ups would be serious.

"If GUPC was to stop work now, the canal would be finished, but not in 2015 - more likely in 2018, 2019, or 2020," the panel of independent international advisers said in the document, a copy of which was seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

"The enormous losses to (the PCA) - which have not only a severe financial impact but also would seriously damage its credibility and reputation - can only be imagined," the DAB added in the letter that was sent to both sides of the dispute.

The planned completion date for the expansion of the 50-mile (80-km) canal has already been delayed from 2014 to mid-2015.

If the canal authorities do not help pay for cost overruns, the consortium of construction companies - fronted by Spanish firm Sacyr - has threatened to suspend work on the project that aims to double the waterway's shipping capacity and bring in billions of dollars in new revenue for Panama.

The PCA has refused, warning the GUPC it could be dismissed and that other contractors could finish the project to build a third set of locks for the canal, the heart of the expansion.

The PCA, a semi-government entity, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the letter's contents. However, earlier on Wednesday, Panama's President Ricardo Martinelli vowed the work would be completed.

"Panama has the resources, and will finish work by 2015 regardless of what happens, rain, thunder or lightning," he said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The DAB letter described the GUPC's shortfall as "genuine" but added the $3.12 billion bid which the consortium made to clinch the deal for the locks in 2009 was likely too low.

That bid was $1 billion below the second-lowest offer tendered by a group fronted by U.S. engineering company Bechtel. Top Panamanian officials and others close to the deal have raised concerns that the bid was too low.

"But horsewhipping or pointing the finger of blame will not save this project," the DAB wrote.

The DAB must help arbitrate the dispute over costs, which has been ongoing since 2010. But the letter stated its views on the potential delays did not have any bearing on the claims.

The PCA held talks with GUPC earlier this week and canal administrator Jorge Quijano said a potential financing deal involving insurer Zurich North America had been proposed that could offer a long-term solution to the project.

Nevertheless, the two sides have yet to agree on how much each party could provide to bridge the funding gap.

The DAB letter said the GUPC appeared to need a cash injection of $250 million to $500 million to keep work going.

As talks began on Tuesday, the consortium, which includes Italy's Salini Impregilo, Belgium's Jan De Nul and Panama's Constructora Urbana, pushed back its possible suspension of the work until the end of January.

(Additional reporting by Alessandra Galloni in Davos; Editing by Dave Graham and Lisa Shumaker)

Abe sees World War One echoes in Japan-China tensions

Posted: 22 Jan 2014 09:20 PM PST

TOKYO (Reuters) - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe compared current tensions between Japan and China to rivalry between Britain and Germany on the eve of World War One, but his top spokesman denied the Japanese leader meant war between Asia's two big powers was possible.

Sino-Japanese ties, long plagued by what Beijing sees as Japan's failure to atone for its occupation of parts of China in the 1930s and 1940s, have worsened recently due to a territorial row, Tokyo's mistrust of Beijing's military buildup and Abe's December visit to a shrine that critics say glorifies Japan's wartime past.

Abe, speaking to international journalists at the World Economic Forum in Davos, said on Wednesday that China and Japan were in a "similar situation" to that of Britain and Germany before World War One, the Financial Times and BBC reported.

Although the rivals then had strong trade ties, that did not prevent the outbreak of war in 1914, Abe said, adding that China's steady increase in military spending was a major source of instability in the region, the reports said.

He also repeated Japan's call for a military hotline to avert an accidental conflict.

China and Japan, the world's second- and third-largest economies respectively, have deep business ties and bilateral trade that was worth nearly $334 billion in 2012, according to Japanese figures.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that Abe had by no means meant that war between the two Asian giants was possible.

"I don't know the specifics of the prime minister's comment," Suga told a regular news conference in Tokyo on Thursday. But he noted that Abe, in a keynote speech at the forum, said dialogue and the rule of law, not armed forces and threats, were needed for peace and prosperity in Asia.

"He clearly stated that endless military expansion in Asia must be curbed. I believe, in these words, he underscored the importance of peace and stability in Asia," Suga said.


In a message on Thursday to local Chinese-language papers ahead of the lunar new year, Abe said Japan had "built a free and democratic country and taken the path of peace" since the end of World War Two.

"Nothing has been changed in the policy of continuing to uphold this position," he said, according to a Japanese version provided by the prime minister's office. "I believe you, who live in Japan, can understand this fundamental stance of ours."

In his keynote address at the Davos forum, Abe called for military restraint in the region and took a veiled swipe at China's military buildup.

"We must...restrain military expansion in Asia, which could otherwise go unchecked," Abe said.

"Military budgets should be made completely transparent and there should be public disclosure in a form that can be verified," Abe said, adding disputes should be resolved through dialogue and the rule of law, and not through force and coercion. He did not single out China by name.

He also defended his visit to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, which is seen by critics as a symbol of Japan's past militarism because it honours leaders convicted as war criminals along with those killed in battle.

China's state Xinhua news agency blasted the Yasukuni visit again on Thursday, saying it was "taken by all peace-loving nations as a despicable kowtow to Fascism" and accusing Abe of pushing "regional tensions precariously close to boiling."

Xinhua added: "While frozen ties with neighbouring countries can never make Japan a reliable and constructive player in regional and global issues, sincere repentance over its war past can."

Abe's December 26 pilgrimage prompted a rare statement of disappointment from Tokyo's ally Washington, which is worried about rising regional tensions and fears entanglement in any conflict over tiny, uninhabited isles in the East China Sea that are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy weighed in on the touchy topic of wartime history in an interview published by the Asahi newspaper on Thursday.

Kennedy, who arrived in Japan last year to a fanfare of attention, said that the people of the world should cheer on leaders who try to overcome history to build a peaceful future, the newspaper said.

She also said Japan had made an extremely constructive contribution to the region and world and by building trust with its neighbours, Japan could carry out that role with more confidence, the newspaper said.

Texas executes Mexican national despite diplomatic protests

Posted: 22 Jan 2014 09:10 PM PST

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A Mexican national convicted for the 1994 slaying of a Houston police officer was executed by lethal injection in Texas on Wednesday, ending a capital murder case that put him at the centre of a diplomatic dispute.

Edgar Tamayo, 46, who was denied an 11th-hour stay of execution by the U.S. Supreme Court, was pronounced dead at 9:32 p.m. local time (0332 GMT) at a state prison in Huntsville, Texas, according to officials at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

The Mexican government had called on Texas to halt the execution, calling it a violation of international law, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had asked Texas Governor Rick Perry to consider a stay.

Tamayo was convicted of shooting Houston police officer Guy Gaddis to death in 1994. Gaddis had arrested him on suspicion of robbery.

While handcuffed in the police car, Tamayo pulled a pistol that had gone unseen and shot Gaddis, 24, three times in the back of the head. Tamayo kicked open a window and ran away from the car but was arrested again a few blocks from the scene.

The Mexican government contends Tamayo was not informed of his right to diplomatic assistance in the case, a guarantee enshrined in an international treaty known as the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

In 2004, the United Nations' International Court of Justice ordered the United States to reconsider the convictions of 51 Mexicans, including Tamayo, who had been sent to death row without being informed of their consular rights.

Two from that group have previously been executed. Tamayo, who was in the United States illegally at the time of his arrest, became the third.


As Tamayo's last chance for a reprieve slipped away, anguished relatives gathered at his parents' home in Miacatlan in central Mexico, huddling next to radios listening for news from the United States and praying for a miracle.

A crowd of nieces and nephews erupted in sobs when they heard about the Supreme Court decision.

"This pains us so much. We kept holding onto hope," said Karen Arias, one of Tamayo's nieces.

In a statement on Sunday, Mexico's foreign ministry said, "If Edgar Tamayo's execution were to go ahead without his trial being reviewed and his sentence reconsidered ... it would be a clear violation of the United States' international obligations."

Last month, Secretary of State Kerry urged Governor Perry, a foe of the Obama administration, to reconsider Tamayo's execution because it could make it more difficult for the United States to help Americans in legal trouble abroad.

On Wednesday, the State Department said it has been in communication with Texas throughout the process. Texas argues it is not bound by the International Court of Justice ruling.

"Mr. Tamayo was convicted of killing a police officer," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told a news briefing on Wednesday.

"It's not that we don't take that seriously. It's that we take seriously our obligations to uphold consular access for folks incarcerated here because we go all over the world and ask other countries to do the same thing and apply those same obligations when our folks are incarcerated overseas," she added.

The case has drawn attention from around the world. Tamayo said his family had received letters of support from at least 67 countries.

Back in his native town of Miacatlan, relatives professed their belief in Tamayo's innocence.

"He was like any other guy, a bit crazy yes, feisty, but not to the point of killing someone," said his cousin Kenia, a housewife, declining to give her surname.

A U.S. federal judge in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday rejected a request to delay the execution brought on Tamayo's behalf, saying Texas was operating within its rights.

Tamayo became the fourth person put to death in the United States this year and the first in Texas.

Texas has executed 508 prisoners since the reinstatement of capital punishment by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976, the most of any U.S. state.

(Additional reporting by Liz Diaz in Miacatlan, Sandra Maler in Washington, Gabriel Stargardter and Julia Symmes Cobb in Mexico City and Scott Markley; Editing by Eric Walsh and Lisa Shumaker)

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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