Jumaat, 7 Februari 2014

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Obama aide Rice says recent troubles shouldn't derail U.S.-India ties

Posted: 07 Feb 2014 07:25 PM PST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top White House adviser attempted to smooth over troubled ties between the United States and India on Friday, saying the two countries should not allow the dispute over an Indian diplomat to "derail the future we are working diligently to build."

The diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, was arrested on December 12 on charges of visa fraud and lying to U.S. authorities about what she paid her housekeeper. She was stripped-searched while detained in a Manhattan federal courthouse, an incident that triggered a major rift between India and the United States.

The controversy interrupted what had been a warming in U.S.-Indian relations as part of a U.S. pivot toward Asia.

President Barack Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, addressing the Aspen Institute U.S.-India Dialogue, said recent events had drawn more attention to disagreements than cooperative efforts.

"But those difficulties should be minor compared to the breadth of our relationship and the magnitude of what we can accomplish together. We must also deal with our differences in a constructive manner, commensurate with a relationship of this importance," she said.

The two countries cooperate on a wide range of issues including counterterrorism, regional security and defense. India is also a major market for U.S. weapons.

"We cannot allow such challenges to derail the future we are working diligently to build — a future of greater prosperity, greater security, and consistent adherence to our shared values," Rice said.

Rice also said the United States is confident that, whatever the outcome of India's upcoming national elections, the cooperation and strategic partnership between the two nations will continue to grow.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Ken Wills)

Egypt's top TV satirist returns, criticizes public for lionizing Sisi

Posted: 07 Feb 2014 05:40 PM PST

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's top satirist returned to television on Friday for the first airing of his show since it was pulled three months ago, and he skewered the public and media for lionizing the army chief widely expected to be the country's next president.

In taking aim at the frenzy of support for Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Bassem Youssef went further in his criticism of the army-backed political order than anyone else currently allowed on the airwaves.

Pledging not to discuss political issues that got his wildly popular show "The Program" yanked by private broadcaster CBC in November, Youssef showed that all topics in the country lead back to Sisi, who overthrew Islamist President Mohamed Mursi last year.

After attempting in a mock game show to explore subjects ranging from cooking to sports, Youssef asked with exasperation, "So what are we going to talk about?"

"There's not another subject to talk about," he concluded, adding that he would flip through Egyptian television to find another topic.

This led to a montage of Egyptians of all ages and various backgrounds, from talk show hosts to belly dancers, expressing their love for Sisi. When the clip ended, the heart surgeon-turned-comedian stuck a fake gun to his temple.

Youssef first poked fun at Egyptians for idolizing Sisi three months ago in the first episode of the show broadcast since Mursi's ouster. The CBC channel then suspended his show, saying it had caused discontent and violated editorial policy.

Since then, a state crackdown on Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood has escalated and expanded to include other critics of the army-backed interim government. The Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organization in December.

Several foreign journalists have been charged with aiding Egyptians belonging to a "terrorist organization," demonstrating that simply interviewing or interacting with members of the Brotherhood could earn reporters jail time.

State and private media speak with reverence about Sisi and cast anyone who dares critique him, including Youssef, a traitor.

Sisi is expected to announce his candidacy for president any day and to win by a landslide in an election due within six months. Many compare him to Gamal Abdel Nasser, the charismatic colonel who led a coup against the monarchy in 1952.

In Friday's program, broadcast by privately owned MBC Masr, Youssef promised to continue his show. "We won't fear anyone," he said as the unmistakable profile of Sisi appeared behind him.

"It's better we don't say anything about him," he said quickly. "That's not fear, that's respect."

There is no need for political satire, he then told the audience, because "the world is stable and everything is stable in the country."

In the seven months since Mursi's ouster, hundreds of his supporters have been killed by security forces and thousands have been jailed.

Bombings and assassinations of security officials have spread from the Sinai Peninsula to cities including Cairo as the state struggles to tame militant violence. At least 250 police have been killed in militant attacks since Mursi was overthrown.

As in the episode broadcast before his show was pulled, Youssef did not touch on the bloody events of recent months.

"He again focused on extreme forms of admiration and over-exultation ... when it comes to Sisi, but there is also a subtle criticism of Sisi himself," Egyptian political commentator Bassem Sabry said after the show.

Youssef, who has drawn inspiration from U.S. comedian Jon Stewart, rose to fame with a satirical online show after the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

His popularity skyrocketed when his TV program took aim at Mursi, drawing the ire of his government. Youssef was investigated on allegations of insulting Islam and the president. Critics of the Mursi government saw this as an attempt to stifle dissent. The charges were ultimately dropped.

Egypt's army-backed leaders now face even harsher criticism from local and international human rights groups.

Whether Youssef will be allowed to stay on air if he keeps up his sharp commentary was another topic of the broadcast.

"Second episode?" Youssef asked before bursting into laughter.

(The story corrects "skewed" to "skewered" in the first paragraph)

(Reporting By Ali Abdelatti; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

U.S. missionary said moved back to North Korean labour camp

Posted: 07 Feb 2014 05:20 PM PST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. missionary being held in North Korea was moved from a hospital back to a labour camp last month on the same day he made a public appeal for Washington to help get him home, the U.S. State Department said on Friday, citing Swedish diplomats who met the prisoner.

Kenneth Bae, 45, has been held for more than a year in North Korea after being sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for trying to overthrow the state. From last summer until January 20, he had been kept at Friendship Hospital in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, his family said.

"The Department of State has learned that the DPRK transferred Mr. Bae from a hospital to a labour camp, a development with which we are deeply concerned," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

"We also remain gravely concerned about Mr. Bae's health, and we continue to urge DPRK authorities to grant Mr Bae special amnesty and immediate release on humanitarian grounds," she said, referring to North Korea by the acronym of its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Psaki said Swedish Embassy representatives had met Bae 10 times since his detention, most recently on Friday in a labour camp.

"We continue to work actively to secure Mr. Bae's release," Psaki said, adding that Washington remained prepared to send its human rights envoy for North Korea, Robert King, to Pyongyang for that purpose.

North Korea has rejected this offer in the past and withdrew an invitation for King to visit Pyongyang last August.

Bae said in an interview with a pro-North Korea newspaper published in Japan that a Swedish Embassy official had visited him on Friday and told him King would visit as early as Monday and by the end of the month at the latest.

The United States had offered to send civil rights activist Jessie Jackson but North Korea has instead approved the visit by King, Bae said in the interview with the Choson Sinbo newspaper issued on Friday. It did not have further details on King or Jackson's plans.

A State Department official said Bae was moved back to the labour camp on January 20.

Bae's sister, Terri Chung, told Reuters Bae had been held in a labour camp from May 14 last year until August 5, when he was moved to the hospital.

She said the family did not know where the camp was, except that it was far from Pyongyang and Bae was working eight hours a day, six days a week.


Chung said her brother suffered from a variety of health issues, including diabetes, an enlarged heart, kidney stones and severe back pain.

"We are very concerned about his health," she said.

Bae, a Korean American, last appeared in public at Pyongyang Friendship Hospital on January 20 when he was paraded in front of a group of reporters and asked Washington to help him get home.

Bae's media appearance was his second since his arrest in 2012 when he led a tour group into the country. North Korea's state KCNA news agency reported Bae himself had asked to hold the news conference.

Bae has acknowledged being a missionary and has said he conducted religious services in the North, one of the most isolated states on earth and long hostile to Westerners advocating religious causes.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama offered prayers for Bae and U.S. prisoners held in other countries during remarks at an annual prayer breakfast that highlighted his Christian faith.

"His family wants him home. And the United States will continue to do everything in our power to secure his release," Obama said.

On Tuesday, the last surviving members of the U.S. Congress to have served in the Korean War sent a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un asking him to release Bae.

North Korea in December released 85-year-old Korean War veteran Merrill E. Newman, a former U.S. special forces soldier who had been held since October after visiting the country as a tourist, and the members of Congress applauded that in the letter seeking Bae's freedom.

The letter, signed by Democratic Representative Charles Rangel from New York, Democratic Representative John Conyers Jr. from Michigan, Republican Representative Sam Johnson from Texas and Republican Representative Howard Coble from North Carolina, is not seen as having nearly as much influence on the North Korean leaders as a possible visit from a U.S. envoy.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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