Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Hezbollah literally rolled out the red carpet to welcome home five prisoners released by Israel in a U.N.-mediated exchange deal. Securing the release of the last five Lebanese held by Israel was a major triumph for the group, which in turn handed over the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured in a 2006 raid into Israel.
Having achieved a long-held goal, Hezbollah is holding up the exchange as further evidence that its uncompromising, armed approach to dealing with Israel brings results, directly challenging the policies of Arab leaders who have engaged in negotiations or signed peace treaties with the Jewish state. The New York Times called the prisoners’ homecoming a triumph.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, visibly delighted by the prisoner release, addressed the issue during a rare public appearance. He saluted “the true identity of the peoples of our region … the identity of resistance”.
Broadcast into homes across the Arab world by satellite stations, Nasrallah’s rhetoric resonates with viewers who have seen few results from years of talks over the establishment of a Palestinian state.
In the past President George W. Bush accused Tehran of belonging to an “axis of evil”, compared negotiations with its president to appeasing Adolf Hitler, and warned that a nuclear-armed Iran would lead to World War Three.
His administration refused to join international talks on Iran’s nuclear programme, which it suspects could be used to produce a nuclear bomb, unless Tehran halted enriching uranium. It pointedly declined to rule out military action if a diplomatic solution was not found.
The answer lies largely in the enduring power of historic symbols in Poland nearly 20 years after the independent Solidarity trade union led by shipyard electrician Lech Walesa helped topple the communist regime and usher in democracy.
Is there anything more holding Belgium together than “the king, the football team and certain beers”– as Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme once said?Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia have their own political parties and their own television stations and newspapers which on any normal day could be reporting on totally separate countries.Tuesday was not one of those such days. Following Leterme’s decision to quit on Monday night, Belgium’s media at least agreed on the top story, even if few could answer the question: what next? The days ahead are likely to lead to growing debate over a central Belgian question: is it worth staying together?Belgium has evolved since 1970 from a unitary state to a federation in five phases of devolution giving regional and linguistic parliaments control over education, culture,transport and housing.The Flemish majority want more, from powers to set their own job creation schemes and to vary rates of tax. French-speakers fear that Belgium will be nothing more than an empty shell and the economic divide between rich Flemish north and their depressed south will widen.Leterme’s Flemish Christian Democrats had promised change, but his failure to broker a deal led to his resignation. Opinion polls are notoriously volatile, but a recent poll of Flemings found that more than 49 percent would welcome the country splitting in two.Even many Flemish who want a united Belgium struggle to say why, often citing the enormous headache that division would cause — how would the national debt be split and what would happen to Brussels, the largely French-speaking capital withinFlanders?During the last political crisis, less than a year ago, the capital Brussels saw a burst of colour as patriotic Belgians hung the national flag from their windows and balconies.French-speakers are mindful of the economic impact of losing their richer northern neighbours, but they too are losing patience.The demands of the two communities could simply be incompatible and the question remains — is Belgium ungovernable and incapable of reform?
The European-Mediterranean summit in Paris might have produced grand projects ranging from cleaning up the Mediterranean sea to using North Africa’s sunshine to generate power. But that is is not what it will be remembered for.
It will be remembered for the glorious welcome it bestowed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who until yesterday was persona non-grata in the West, an autocrat leading a pariah regime, which many believe orchestrated the 2005 killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
A report in the Financial Times that Saudi Arabia has agreed in principle to defer payments for crude oil sales to Pakistan worth $5.9 billion has raised speculation about what it is looking for in return.
The Daily Times suggests that the Saudis are buying political stability in Pakistan, which may include throwing a lifeline to President Pervez Musharraf. "Apparently, the immediate impact will be on PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif's politics of confrontation with Musharraf, which will have to be diluted significantly in line with ground realities," it says. "The Saudis, like the Americans, want a stable transition to civilian rule and no confrontation between the politicians and the military, including Musharraf."
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
At first glance, it looks unlikely. The two countries have more or less managed to hold to a ceasefire agreed at the end of 2003 on both the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Kashmir and on Siachen, and they have a slow-moving peace process which at least has India and Pakistan talking rather than fighting each other. India is far too interested in winning itself superpower status to let itself be distracted by some embarrassing fighting on its border. And Pakistan has enough problems dealing with al Qaeda and the Taliban on its western border with Afghanistan, without having to cope with trouble on its eastern border with India as well.
On Friday I wrote that the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor was readying a genocide charge and arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. It came to pass today. A defiant Khartoum has said it will not bend to the court and has warned of an eruption of violence; the opposition too has said the warrant could threaten peace. Is this a case of justice versus peace and do the two have to be irreconcilable?
Here’s Friday’s blog:
Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court are readying arrest warrants for senior Sudanese officials, possibly even President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, sources at The Hague court have told Reuters. The Washington Post said it understood Bashir would face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Russia’s angry response to an accord between Washington and Prague on building part of a U.S. missile defence shield in the Czech Republic is reminiscent of the rhetoric of the Cold War. Although Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says Moscow still wants talks on the missile shield, his Foreign Ministry has threatened a “military-technical” response if the shield is deployed.
That phrase could have come straight out of the Soviet lexicon and seems more at home in the second half of the last century than now. Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer called it psychological pressure to try to encourage opposition to the missile system among Europeans, and described it as “the same sort that was used in the 1980s by the Soviet Union when the United States deployed cruise missiles in Europe.”
from Africa News blog:
Nigeria's revenues from oil exports have reached unprecedented levels as global crude prices rally, yet the majority of its 140 million population remain mired in poverty. Africa's top oil producer set up an "excess crude account" five years ago to save windfall oil earnings and try to help promote long-term economic stability.
But infighting among the three tiers of government -- federal, state and local -- on how the revenues should be shared out has seen them squandered.