Jumaat, 21 Mac 2014

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Venezuela says street protests have caused $10 billion in damage

Posted: 21 Mar 2014 09:00 PM PDT

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's president said on Friday that street protests for the past month have caused at least $10 billion in damage, accusing hardline foes of carrying out terrorist acts to sabotage public assets.

President Nicolas Maduro did not say how the government arrived at that figure from the clashes between demonstrators barricading roads, pro-government radicals and security forces that have killed at least 31 people.

"The minority who want a coup have done so much damage to the country ... they burnt a public university where hundreds of young people studied," he said in a nationally televised speech.

"This isn't protest. It's vandalism. It's terrorism."

Maduro was referring to a military college affiliated with the Venezuelan armed forces that authorities say was torched by demonstrators in the western city of San Cristobal, near the border with Colombia.

San Cristobal has been harder hit by the violence than anywhere else since the protests began early last month. On Wednesday, intelligence agents arrested the city's opposition mayor and accused him of "civil rebellion."

The Supreme Court has ordered the mayors of several opposition-run municipalities to dismantle street barricades set up by protesters that have become flashpoints for clashes.

One opposition mayor from central Carabobo state was jailed for 10 months for failing to comply with a similar order.

The protesters say they want political change and an end to high inflation, shortages of basic foods such as milk and flour, and one of the highest rates of violent crime in the world.

Supporters of both camps plan to march in the capital Caracas on Saturday in the latest of daily rallies around the polarized country.

The protesters are demanding Maduro resign, while he says "fascists" want a coup like the one 12 years ago that briefly ousted his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez.

(Reporting by Daniel Wallis and Deisy Buitrago; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

U.S. expresses concern on Sri Lanka's arrest of rights activists

Posted: 21 Mar 2014 06:10 PM PDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States expressed concern on Friday about the Sri Lankan government's arrest of two human rights activists this week and about an overall "deteriorating human rights situation" in the island nation.

Ruki Fernando, a human rights adviser, and Praveen Mahesahn, a pastor and director of a rights group, were arrested, Sri Lanka's military said on Monday, under an anti-terrorism law that was used to crush Tamil Tiger rebels during the final phase of a quarter-century long war.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said it was "encouraging" that the two have since been released but added that they continue to face harassment by Sri Lankan security forces.

Their arrest came amid international pressure on Sri Lanka to address allegations that tens of thousands of civilians were killed by the army in the final weeks of the war in 2009. Many more people are still missing.

"It is disturbing that the government of Sri Lanka has taken punitive measures against its own brave citizens who have devoted their careers and lives to investigating alleged human rights abuses by both sides during Sri Lanka's long and brutal civil conflict," Psaki said in a statement.

"These detentions and the continued harassment of those who support the quest for reconciliation and accountability send a chilling effect across Sri Lanka's vibrant civil society, and undermine Sri Lanka's proud democratic traditions," Psaki added.

Residents living in the former northern war zone where the two men were arrested said the pair had been gathering information on the circumstances surrounding the earlier arrest of an ethnic Tamil woman who had protested about the fate of her missing rebel son.

Psaki said the United States is "concerned by intensifying pressure on Sri Lankan civil society and human rights activists" and "especially concerned" by the detention of Fernando and Mahesahn.

She also cited reports that additional rights groups were being targeted for investigation by security forces.

The United States has called for a resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council to investigate "past abuses and to examine more recent attacks on journalists, human rights defenders and religious minorities."

Psaki said, "We are undertaking this action due to our support for the Sri Lankan people and strong concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation in Sri Lanka."

North Korea fires 30 short-range rockets -Yonhap

Posted: 21 Mar 2014 06:00 PM PDT

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea fired 30 short-range rockets into the sea off the east of the Korean peninsula early on Saturday, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported, citing the Joint Chiefs of Staff in South Korea.

The rockets, which are believed to be old Soviet-developed FROG rockets that North Korea has had since the 1960s, flew for 60 km (37 miles) before crashing into the sea, Yonhap said.

Six days ago, North Korea had fired 25 short-range rockets into the sea off its east coast.

South Korea believes the short-range rocket launches conducted by North Korea this month are an "armed protest" against the South Korean-U.S. military drills that are currently taking place.

The North has denounced the joint military exercises as a preparation for war while Seoul and Washington have said the annual drills are defensive in nature.

Early last year, North Korea conducted its third nuclear weapons test, having successfully launched a long-range rocket in 2012 that critics say was aimed at proving technology for an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Both of those are banned under U.N. sanctions.

(Reporting by Narae Kim; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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