Khamis, 10 Mac 2011

The Malaysian Insider :: World

The Malaysian Insider :: World

Cameron and Sarkozy: Gaddafi must step down now

Posted: 10 Mar 2011 06:33 PM PST

PARIS, March 11 — Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his ruling clique have lost legitimacy and must step down to end violence in the country, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday.

In a letter signed by both leaders and addressed to the president of the European Union Council, Herman von Rumpus, they called for plans to prepare to help the Libyan rebellion and said these could include imposing a no-fly zone over Libya.

"It is clear to us the (Libyan) regime has lost any legitimacy that it could have," the letter said. "To end the suffering of the Libyan people, Muammar Gaddafi and his clique must leave."

Sarkozy and Cameron, who have been working together to draft a United Nations Security Council resolution about Libya, also urged the EU to recognise the rebellion's National Libyan Council as a viable political entity.

"We need to send a clear political signal that we consider the Council as a viable political counter-party and an important voice for the Libyan people at this time," the letter said.

France became the first country to recognise the rebel group earlier yesterday, and Sarkozy has raised the idea of a limited air campaign against forces loyal to Gaddafi, three party sources told Reuters after a lunch with the president.

Sarkozy will present concrete plans for a response to the crisis at a European Union summit today in Brussels. The sources said that the possibility of strikes was among the options to be discussed.

The UN Security Council is split on whether to authorise a no-fly zone over Libya, an option Paris and London have pushed as they seek ways to limit Muammar Gaddafi's ability to mobilise his forces against rebels.

The leaders also called on the international community to enforce an arms embargo on Libya.

"We call on all countries to enforce completely the embargo on weapons, including on supplies for armed mercenaries," they said in the letter, which outlined seven points to be raised at the European meeting today. — Reuters


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Yemen president vows reform as protests continue

Posted: 10 Mar 2011 05:49 PM PST

New constitution to create a parliamentary system of government: President Ali Abdullah Saleh pledges at a gathering of supporters in Sanaa, March 10, 2011. — Reuters pic

SANAA, March 11 — Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh, hoping to defuse increasingly violent protests against his 32-year rule, said yesterday that he would draw up a new constitution to create a parliamentary system of government.

An opposition spokesman swiftly rejected the proposal, and called for the continuation of anti-government rallies, which kicked off in January and have claimed almost 30 lives.

Impoverished Yemen, a neighbour of oil giant Saudi Arabia, is one of several Arab states that have had mass protests this year, with Saleh looking increasingly weakened by the unrest.

Speaking to thousands of cheering supporters gathered in a football stadium, the autocratic Saleh said he wanted to form a unity government to help put in place a new political system.

"Firstly we will form a new constitution based on the separation of powers," he said, speaking beneath a large portrait of himself. "A referendum on this new constitution will be held before the end of this year.

"I'm already sure that this initiative won't be accepted by the opposition, but in order to do the right thing, I am offering this to the people and they will decide," he added.

Yemen is a presidential republic, where the head of state wields significant powers. But as water and oil resources dry up, it has become increasingly difficult to fuel the patronage system that kept his tribal and political backers loyal.

The rotating president of Yemen's umbrella opposition coalition, Yassin Noman, said his plan was too little too late, and would not put an end to calls for Saleh's resignation.

"These proposals have been overtaken by realities on the ground," he said. "Had the ruling party offered this six months ago, it would have been different. It's too late now."

Lack of trust

Saleh has already made several concessions to protesters, but has refused to bow to their central demand that he relinquish power immediately, saying he wanted to see out his term, which expires in 2013.

"What President Saleh doesn't realise is that in the past 32 years he's really racked up a trust deficit and people just don't believe him anymore," said Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen scholar from Princeton University.

Tens of thousands of anti-Saleh protesters took to the streets of Sanaa, Taiz and Ibb as Saleh pitched his initiative to his own supporters. South of the capital in Dhamar, one of the 68-year old leader's political strongholds, thousands yesterday rallied against the government.

"This initiative doesn't satisfy our ambitions now," said Bushra al-Maqtari, a youth activist in Taiz. "Our demand is clear, the regime must go."

Saleh also offered to regroup Yemen's 22 provinces into larger regional blocs. An official told Reuters this would allow wealthier provinces to support poorer ones, and said the plan would ensure there was an airport and a seaport in every region.

"Where exactly would Yemen be getting money to develop or build those?" said Princeton scholar Johnsen. "It seems like a speech that in many ways is divorced from the economic reality of the situation in Yemen."

A string of allies have recently defected to the protesters, who are frustrated by rampant corruption and soaring unemployment in Yemen, where 40 per cent of the population live on US$2 (RM6) a day or less, and a third face chronic hunger.

"We want the regime to go, then we can solve our other problems," said Samia al Aghbari, a leading Sanaa activist. — Reuters


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