U.S. evacuates consulate in Pakistan

August 9, 2013

Washington pulls staff from Lahore consulate, Taiwan radioactive leak rattles faith in nuclear safety, and U.S. officials try to fry fish with Russia. Today is Friday, August 9, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @clarerrrr.

A happier scene in the city.

People great each other after attending Eid al-Fitr prayers at the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, August 9, 2013. Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

Holiday horrors in Pakistan. Two days after evacuating diplomats from Yemen, Washington ordered non-essential staff to leave the U.S. consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, due to “specific threats.”

The United States shut nearly two dozen missions across the Middle East after a worldwide alert on August 2, warning Americans that al Qaeda may be planning attacks in August, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. The Lahore warning noted that “several foreign and indigenous terrorist groups pose a potential danger to U.S. citizens throughout Pakistan”. A U.S. embassy spokeswoman said it was unclear when the consulate would reopen. Tensions have also risen this week with Pakistan’s neighbor India over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

It remains unclear whether the closure in Lahore is related to the shuttering of other missions. Over the past two days, Pakistan has suffered deadly attacks that appear to be politically motivated. Gunmen attacked a politician’s vehicle outside a mosque in the city of Quetta today, killing nine worshipers and wounding 27 on the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. Yesterday, a Taliban attack on the funeral of a policeman killed 30 people.

Open the flood gates on nuclear fears.

A military personnel, dressed in protective suit, monitors nuclear radiation in a Taiwan-made nuclear bio-chemical detection vehicle during a safety drill near a nuclear power plant in Shihmen, New Taipei City, northern Taiwan, September 4, 2012.

Taiwan, too. All eyes are on Japan’s crippled Fukushima plant, yet a nuclear power plant in Taiwan may have been leaking radioactive water for years. The government announcement could inflame a crisis of confidence in nuclear safety among North Asian countries.

Nuclear power has long been used as a reliable alternative to fossil fuels in natural resource-starved parts of Asia like Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, but the safety worries are forcing a rethink. A plan to build Taiwan’s fourth nuclear plant has been held up for years by street protests and a brawl in the legislature over safety issues. Most nuclear plants in Japan remain closed and nine of South Korea’s reactors have been shut down, six for maintenance and three to replace cables that were supplied using forged certificates.

Japanese officials on Wednesday said that highly radioactive water continues to pour from Fukushima plant, a tacit acknowledgment that Japan has a long way to go in addressing the damage there.

Kerry’s counterpart.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov adjusts his glasses during a meeting with his Belarussian counterpart Vladimir Makei in Moscow, July 10, 2013. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

“We have a lot of fish to fry with the Russians.” Officials from the U.S. and Russia will meet today to try and smooth over their increasingly rocky relationship.

U.S. officials expect no breakthroughs when Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel meet their Russian counterparts Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu on Friday, but they say the very decision to go ahead with the talks despite the current frictions is significant in itself. Moscow and Washington disagree over a long list of issues, from Syria’s civil war to human rights and Russia’s ban on homosexual “propaganda,” but there are some areas, critical to global security, where they have been able to work together.

Before he begins his summer vacation, President Obama will hold a news conference this afternoon. He is expected to address thorny foreign policy issues such as NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s asylum in Russia and unrest in the Middle East.

Nota Bene: A Turkish airlines pilot and his assistant were abducted in Beirut by a group asking for the release of Lebanese Shi’ites kidnapped near the Turkish-Syrian border last year.


Open the gulag gates – Putin’s stimulus plan involves amnesty for imprisoned business people. (New York Times)

Spy kid – How a baby-faced Icelandic citizen spied on WikiLeaks for the FBI.  (Slate)

Destroy the evidence – Email service shutters to avoid complying with government surveillance. (The Guardian)

Gleaming ghost cities – Chinese urbanization projects draw neither jobs nor people. (Wall Street Journal)

Malaria momentum – U.S. researchers report a breakthrough in the search for a vaccine. (CNN)

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