Jumaat, 8 April 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

The Star Online: World Updates

Iraqi forces clash with Iran exiles in camp

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 06:55 AM PDT

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi security forces clashed with residents of an Iranian dissident camp north of Baghdad overnight, the Iraqi government said on Friday, and an Iranian opposition group said residents were attacked and killed.

The government spokesman said five members of the Iraqi security forces were wounded in the incident at Camp Ashraf. Representatives of the camp called the incident a "criminal attack" and said 25 residents were killed and 320 wounded.

An Iraqi medical source at nearby Baquba hospital said they had received the bodies of three Iranians, while 16 Iranians, five Iraqi soldiers and one Iraqi policemen were brought to the hospital with injuries. The source requested anonymity since he was not authorised to speak to the media.

The 25-year-old camp, home to some 3,500 people, is the base of the People's Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI), a guerrilla group that opposes Iran's Shi'ite cleric leaders.

Iran, Iraq and the United States consider the PMOI a terrorist organisation.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Ashraf residents threw rocks at security forces in what he called a "riot". Troops had not opened fire, he said, contrary to reports by camp residents.

"The security forces have pushed back residents of Camp Ashraf inside the camp by force," Dabbagh said. "The situation is now controlled."

"I do not have any information about any deaths or injuries among the residents of the camp," he said.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, the PMOI's political wing, said Iraqi security forces had been ordered by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to attack the camp, in restive Diyala province about 90 km (55 miles) northeast of Baghdad in a remote location largely inaccessible to journalists.

"Al-Maliki, under orders of (Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei, has commenced an unprecedented murder in Ashraf," the group said in a statement. "Forces under his command used Colts, automatic weapons and machineguns installed on armoured vehicles to open fire on residents."

Ashraf has been a sore point for Washington, Baghdad and Tehran for years. The PMOI began as a group of Islamist leftists opposed to Iran's late Shah but fell out with the Shi'ite clerics who took power after the 1979 revolution.

U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who is visiting Iraq, said the U.S. military had reports of deaths in clashes at Ashraf but could not confirm them.

"We're very concerned with reports of deaths and injuries resulting from this morning's clashes... I urge the Iraqi government to show restraint and to live up to its commitments to treat residents of Ashraf according to Iraqi law and their international obligations."

Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein gave the PMOI shelter in Iraq and some of the group's guerrillas fought with him against Iran.

Iraq's current government, which includes former Saddam opponents, has a close relationship with Tehran.

The group surrendered weapons to U.S. forces after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The fate of Ashraf's residents has been in question since Iraq took over the camp from U.S. forces in 2009 under a bilateral security pact.

Asked about any U.S. military role, Gates said nearby forces might render medical help "but that's about the extent of it".

Rights advocates said earlier this year in Geneva that the United Nations and the United States should take on protection of the camp to head off a tragedy which could lead to the deaths of residents.

(Additional reporting by Khalid al-Ansary in Baghdad and Missy Ryan in Mosul; editing by Paul Taylor)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Life, of sorts, goes on in Ivory Coast's main city

Posted: 08 Apr 2011 06:55 AM PDT

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - A two-day lull in fighting and an easing of the curfew are bringing the cowed residents of Abidjan slowly back out onto the streets.

A woman waits to be served at a counter of a hospital pharmacy in Abidjan April 8, 2011. (REUTERS/ Thierry Gouegnon)

But few believe the shattered city that was once the economic jewel of West Africa will see normal life any time soon, even when a four-month power struggle between presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara and rival Laurent Gbagbo is resolved.

"Just give us food to eat and water to drink and wash with. The rest can come later," said labourer Guy-Rogier Bolou at a market in the northern Yopougon suburb.

Market may be too grand a term for the paltry offering on display Friday.

Tiny sachets of drinking water, barely more than a couple of gulps, are on sale alongside the omnipresent packs of ground manioch.

No fresh vegetables or fruit are to be seen, while meat and fish have long been absent from the diet of many Abidjanais.

An abandoned blue saloon car by the market stalls, a hole from a sniper's bullet through its windscreen, is testimony to street battles that have turned many neighbourhoods into ghost towns, with most people hiding out in their homes.

Samira Ouattara -- no relation to the presidential claimant -- holds up a tiny plastic bag containing an onion, a single chili pepper, a pack of cigarettes, a couple of spoonfuls ground manioch and a sachet of peanut paste.

"That cost 2,000 CFA today -- double what it normally would be," said the 27-year-old, adding that she and her friends were supplementing rations for their families with sweet potato leaves scavenged from fields on the outskirts of the city.

Two thousand CFA -- about $4 -- doesn't seem much, but it can be a full day's salary for the lucky few with jobs and still getting paid.

All those interviewed had watched or heard of Ouattara's televised address to the nation late on Thursday, urging the EU to drop sanctions on Ivorian ports and appealing to commercial banks to re-open their branches.

In a speech aimed at persuading Ivorians to try and get on with their lives, Ouattara used his own TCI television channel to promise that his parallel government was doing all it could to bring restart basic services -- even as Gbagbo and his allies remain bunkered in his heavily guarded downtown residence.

Sibrinah Coulibaly, 34, whose business selling fish was destroyed by looters who smashed his refrigeration equipment, said he was still confident for the future.

"We've had it worse than this -- 2002 for example," he said of the all-out civil war that left the country divided in two.

"I believe we can pull ourselves out of it this time ... It's up to all of us Ivorians to work together.

(Editing by Louise Ireland)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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