Khamis, 30 Januari 2014

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The Star Online: World Updates

Rwanda calls Congo 'crybaby' at UN, Congo says Rwanda 'arrogant'

Posted: 30 Jan 2014 08:45 PM PST

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council stressed on Thursday that M23 rebels must be stopped from regrouping in Democratic Republic of Congo and expressed concern at Congolese soldiers aiding Rwandan Hutu militia, sparking a verbal clash between the countries' envoys.

Rwanda's U.N. ambassador, Eugene Gasana - a temporary member of the 15-member Security Council - accused Congo of "crying like small babies," while his Congolese counterpart, Ignace Gata Mavita wa Lufuta, said Rwanda's "arrogant behavior must stop."

Rwanda has repeatedly intervened in Congo, saying it had to hunt down Hutu militia, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which fled after Rwanda's 1994 genocide. Congo and Rwanda have fought two wars in two decades in eastern Congo.

The U.N. Security Council expressed its concerns about the violence in eastern Congo in a unanimously adopted resolution that renewed an arms embargo and targeted sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on Democratic Republic of Congo.

The top U.N. official in Congo, Martin Kobler, has said there were credible reports that the M23 rebels appeared to be regrouping just two months after Congolese troops and U.N. peacekeepers defeated the Tutsi-led insurgency.

U.N. experts, who monitor violations of U.N. sanctions on Congo, and Democratic Republic of Congo have long accused Rwanda of backing M23, which ended its 20-month rebellion in November, a claim that Kigali has fiercely rejected.

Rwanda and the U.N. experts have accused Congolese troops of collaborating with the FDLR, which includes Hutus who fled Rwanda after the genocide of 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus. Kinshasa denies the claim.

"These guys (Congo), just every other day, coming and crying like small babies," Gasana told reporters after the council meeting. "Rwanda, it's a small country. Congo is rich. Congo has everything. How come Rwanda is always the scapegoat?"

Gata Mavita wa Lufuta told the Security Council: "We are a sovereign country and we must be respected as such and this arrogant behavior (by Rwanda) must stop."


There was one thing both ambassadors agreed on: the U.N. Security Council was not the appropriate venue for their verbal spat.

Millions of people have died from violence, disease and hunger in Congo since the 1990s as armed groups have fought for control of the country's vast deposits of gold, diamonds, copper, cobalt and uranium.

The Security Council resolution noted "with deep concern reports indicating FARDC (Congolese army) collaboration with the FDLR at a local level, recalling that the FDLR is a group under U.N. sanctions whose leaders and members include perpetrators of the 1994 genocide."

It stressed the importance of "permanently addressing this threat."

A 20,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo received a boost last year with the unprecedented deployments of unarmed surveillance drones and an Intervention Brigade of 3,000 troops to help Congolese forces hunt down rebel groups.

After the military defeat of M23, the peacekeepers and the Congolese army have turned their attention to tackling the FDLR and the Allied Democratic Forces, a Ugandan Islamist group.

The resolution asked the United Nations and international organizations to work with neighboring states to "urgently address the situation of former M23 combatants located in their territories, and stresses the importance of ensuring that the M23 does not regroup and resume military activities."

It also called upon countries in the region to take steps to ensure there is no support in or from their territories for armed groups in eastern Congo. U.N. experts have also accused Uganda of aiding Congolese rebels, which Kampala has denied.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Leslie Adler and Lisa Shumaker)

Australia permits dredge dumping near Great Barrier Reef for major coal port

Posted: 30 Jan 2014 08:20 PM PST

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia's Great Barrier Reef watchdog gave the green light on Friday for millions of cubic metres of dredged mud to be dumped near the fragile reef to create the world's biggest coal port and possibly unlock $28 billion in coal projects.

The dumping permit clears the way for a major expansion of the port of Abbot Point for two Indian firms and Australian billionaire miner Gina Rinehart, who together have $16 billion worth of coal projects in the untapped, inland Galilee Basin.

Environmentalists, scientists and tourist operators had fought the plan, which they fear will harm delicate corals and seagrasses and potentially double the ship traffic through the World Heritage marine park.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, an independent government agency charged with protecting the reef, acknowledged the concerns, but said expanding Abbot Point would require much less dredging than other port options.

"It's important to note the seafloor of the approved disposal area consists of sand, silt and clay and does not contain coral reefs or seagrass beds," the marine park authority's chairman, Russell Reichert, said in a statement.

The permit to dump 3 million cubic metres of mud within the marine park could place at risk the World Heritage-listing of the Great Barrier Reef, one of Australia's top tourist attractions generating an estimated $5.7 billion.

UNESCO, which awarded the reef its heritage listing, last year postponed a decision to June 2014 on whether to put the Great Barrier Reef on its "in danger" list or even cancel its World Heritage listing. It is awaiting a report from the national government on steps taken to address its concerns.

The permit allows North Queensland Bulk Ports Corp to dump dredged material in the reef marine park to deepen Abbot Point for two terminals planned by Adani Enterprises and GVK-Hancock, a joint venture between India's GVK conglomerate and Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting, which have long term plans to export 120 million tonnes a year of coal all together.

The marine park authority imposed strict conditions on the dumping permit, including no environmental, cultural or heritage damage to areas beyond 20 km (12 miles) from the disposal site, and urged the ports corporation to consider other dump sites.

If all the dredged material were dumped on land, the pile would be bigger than the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Even with the permit, it's unclear how soon the dredging will go ahead, as Adani and GVK-Hancock's plans have been delayed amid funding challenges in the face of sliding coal prices and China's efforts to cut coal use to battle smog.

"This approval is very important for them to achieve financial close for their projects," said a spokeswoman for North Queensland Bulk Ports, referring to GVK-Hancock and Adani.

(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Paul Tait and Michael Perry)

U.S. Republicans wary as they weigh immigration reforms

Posted: 30 Jan 2014 08:20 PM PST

CAMBRIDGE, Maryland (Reuters) - Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday proposed granting legal status to potentially millions of undocumented residents and citizenship to some children brought into the United States illegally by their parents.

The move, after months of preparing rank-and-file lawmakers for a new Republican Party approach toward immigration, was immediately met with opposition from conservatives who dominate the House.

The broad principles that were unveiled for debating immigration reform in the Republican-controlled House were aimed at gauging the party's willingness to tackle such a controversial issue during an election year in which all 435 House seats are at stake.

Republican leaders offered up the outline during a two-day retreat they were holding with their House members at a resort on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, about 85 miles (137 km) from Washington, D.C.

During a closed-door session, House Speaker John Boehner warned, "These standards are as far as we are willing to go," according to a source in the room.

That was a warning to President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats in Congress that Republicans would not go along with the "pathway to citizenship" for the approximately 11 million undocumented residents that is a centerpiece of a bill passed by the Senate last June.

Instead, just a small fraction of those 11 million, the children who crossed U.S. borders illegally, would win citizenship under the House Republican initiative.

The House leaders' plan, spearheaded by Boehner, marked a significant shift from the Republican Party's 2012 campaign message that focused squarely on deporting the more than 11 million people who are living in the United States illegally.

A congressional aide told Reuters that the initiative sparked a heated discussion among House Republicans, some of whom strongly disagreed with the principles.

This set of ideas has a long way to go before being translated into actual legislation that could be debated on the House floor as an alternative to a bipartisan bill that passed the Democratic-controlled Senate last June. And there were no guarantees that it would even advance that far.

Reactions were varied to the broad principles House Republican leaders laid out in a one-page document.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, speaking for the largest U.S. labor organisation, blasted it as "a flimsy document that only serves to underscore the callous attitude Republicans have toward our nation's immigrants."

Trumka said that the establishment of a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million, which the House initiative denies except for children, was needed for any immigration bill that is enacted.

Another view came from a spokesman for the conservative group Heritage Action, Dan Holler, who said the language amounted to "amnesty" for some illegal immigrants.

Some prominent Democrats in Congress held out hope that Boehner has produced a catalyst for a deal.

"While these standards are certainly not everything we would agree with, they leave a real possibility that Democrats and Republicans, in both the House and Senate, can in some way come together and pass immigration reform," said Senator Charles Schumer of New York, a Democrat who was a main sponsor of the Senate-passed bill.

Meanwhile, Representative Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, a Democrat and an outspoken proponent of immigration reform, said in a statement that the most important priority now was to "stop the massive increase in deportations." He said he would await detailed legislation from Republicans before knowing whether he could support it.

Before any illegal immigrants could obtain legal status or citizenship, further steps would have to be taken to secure the southwestern U.S. border and to clamp down on undocumented workers already in the country, according to the Republican outline.

One House source said that the principles being floated could be changed, depending on how rank-and-file House Republicans react.


Early indications were that House Republicans were coalescing around advancing new healthcare legislation that they will present as an alternative to "Obamacare," which suffered a troubled rollout in October.

All signs pointed to the healthcare initiative becoming the Republicans' marquis legislative initiative for 2014, rather than immigration reform.

As with immigration reform, Republicans presented a general set of healthcare principles that they said would "inform" the effort - along with bills already introduced.

They emphasized affordability, access to care, and a choice of private options and doctors, but offered no specifics about how these goals would be accomplished.

But such consensus was not apparent on immigration reform. Some outspoken conservative Republicans pointedly disagreed with Boehner's desire to move forward on legislation.

"It's not just the conservatives. I think a majority of the conference" feel that now is "not the time to deal with the issue," Representative Raul Labrador of Idaho said in a telephone interview.

Labrador, who last year was part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers working on a comprehensive immigration deal, said some Republicans fear that getting bogged down in a contentious immigration debate this year could jeopardize the party's "great opportunity" to take control of the Senate away from Democrats in the November congressional elections.

Even allies of Boehner such as Representative Greg Walden of Oregon said that the first half of 2014 could go by without any action on the contentious immigration issue. "It's probably months out. I don't know," Walden said on the sidelines of the Republican conference.

(Additional reporting by David Lawder; Editing by David Storey, Mohammad Zargham, Andrew Hay and Lisa Shumaker)


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