Sabtu, 9 April 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

The Star Online: World Updates


Polish PM chides Europe over Libya "hypocrisy"

Posted: 09 Apr 2011 06:27 AM PDT

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland refuses to join NATO's military campaign against Libya's Muammar Gaddafi because of Europe's "hypocrisy" and inconsistency over human rights, Prime Minister Donald Tusk was quoted on Saturday as saying.

Tusk, whose country assumes the European Union's rotating six-month presidency in July, said Europe risked creating an impression it only intervenes when oil supplies are at stake.

File photo of Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk as he holds a news conference at the end of a two-day European Union leaders summit in Brussels March 25, 2011. (REUTERS/Yves Herman/Files)

"Although there exists a need to defend civilians from a regime's brutality, isn't the Libyan case yet another example of European hypocrisy in view of the way Europe has behaved towards Gaddafi in recent years or even months?" Tusk told the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper in an interview.

"That is one of the reasons for our restraint... If we want to defend people against dictators, reprisals, torture and prison, that principle must be universal and not invoked only when it is convenient, profitable or safe," Tusk said.

Like Libya's government, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain have sought to stamp out pro-democracy unrest by force but there is no talk of Western intervention to protect civilians there.

Poland, a usually staunch NATO ally that sent soldiers to Iraq and still has 2,600 troops in Afghanistan, has said no national or NATO security interests are at stake in Libya, taking a very cautious stance as has neighbouring Germany.

"Looking at Afghanistan and Iraq..., we will take decisions on military involvement elsewhere only when he have a 100 percent conviction that it is absolutely necessary," said Tusk, who faces parliamentary elections in the autumn.

In the interview, he also reiterated Poland's support for continuing generous EU subsidies for infrastructure in poorer member states against a British-led drive for budget savings.

Poland is the biggest beneficiary of the regional aid that makes up about a third of EU spending. Talks on the EU's next multi-year budget are set to begin later this year under the Polish presidency of the 27-nation bloc.

Tusk reaffirmed Poland's commitment to join the euro despite the euro zone's current woes. He said Warsaw could meet all the membership criteria by 2015, but declined to name a target date for entry.

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Japan's reactor operator apologises for radiation release

Posted: 09 Apr 2011 06:27 AM PDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - A Japanese power company executive apologised on Saturday for spreading radiation into the air and sea as regulators said the pumping of radioactive water into waters off Japan from a crippled nuclear plant would end one day later than planned.

Shunsei Sato sitting on the lap of his mother Maki, from Soma in Fukushima, undergoes a screening test for signs of nuclear radiation by a doctor at a welfare center in Yonezawa, northern Japan, 98 km (61 miles) from the Fukushima nuclear plant, March 21, 2011. (REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao/Files)

The apology from Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) came a day after China and South Korea expressed concern at the discharge of contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi plant smashed by last month's earthquake, reflecting growing international unease over the month-long nuclear crisis.

"It is almost a month since the earthquake took place. I would like to apologise from my heart over the worries and troubles we are causing for society due to the release of radiological materials into the atmosphere and seawater," Sakae Muto, a TEPCO vice president, told a news conference.

"We caused worry and trouble for having made this decision without taking sufficient time to explain the matter beforehand to those involved, to the press, to the fishing industry and to people overseas, and we are sorry for this," he added.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, a deputy director-general at Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, earlier told reporters "we are working on releasing water ... we are likely to finish this tomorrow."

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He said a condenser at the No.2 reactor had been emptied of low-radiation water on Saturday, making room for engineers to shift highly radioactive water from the reactor's trench.

"To prevent radioactive water in the trench from overflowing is an important step considering a possible further contamination of the sea," Nishiyama said.

Plant operator TEPCO said earlier it expected to stop pumping tainted water into the sea on Saturday, but work was interrupted by a powerful aftershock on Thursday.

TEPCO is struggling to contain the worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl. Engineers say they are far from in control of the damaged reactors and it could take months to stabilise them and years to clear up the toxic mess left behind.

Nuclear reactor maker Toshiba Corp has proposed a 10-year plan to decommission four of the six damaged reactors at the plant, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, said Kyodo news agency.

But the government has said it was too early to have a "specific road map" for ending the crisis.

Nishiyama said Japan would look into the electric power back-up system that had failed after the tsunami, leaving operators unable to cool the reactor. "Based on this experience, we need to review everything in the direction of safety," he said.

The magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami on March 11 left 28,000 people dead or missing, and northeastern Japan a splintered wreck.

More than 153,000 people affected by the tsunami and radiation are living in school gymnasiums and other evacuation centres, according to the National Police Agency. Several tsunami-damaged cities have begun moving families into temporary housing, NHK state television said.

Banri Kaieda, a minister whose portfolio includes the nuclear industry, said he hoped evacuees from the radiation zone in Fukushima could visit their homes as soon as possible.

Japan has made evacuation mandatory for people living within a 20 km (12-mile) radius of the crippled reactor and urged those living between 20 km and 30 km from the plant to stay indoors.

"There were expectations among the evacuees that they could return to their homes for one night, but they will only be able to stay for a few hours to gather their personal belongings," Kaieda was quoted by Jiji news agency as saying in Fukushima.

GLOBAL RADIATION CONCERNS

Several countries have restricted food imports from Japan over radiation fears as Japan's economy reels from the country's worst disaster since World War Two.

Food is a tiny part of Japan's export-oriented economy, but disruptions to its manufacturing and electronics supply chains are reverberating around the world.

China will ban imports of farm produce from 12 areas in Japan, China's quarantine authority said.

China said earlier it had detected 10 cases of ships, aircraft or cargo arriving from Japan with higher than normal levels of radiation since mid-March.

Xinhua also reported trace levels of radioactivity had been detected in 22 Chinese provinces.

On Friday, China said it would closely monitor Japan's actions to regain control of the plant and demanded Tokyo provide swift and accurate information on the crisis.

South Korea has also criticised Japan, accusing it of incompetence for failing to notify its neighbours that it would pump radioactive water into the sea.

Radiation from Japan spread around the entire northern hemisphere in the first two weeks of the nuclear crisis, according to the Vienna-based Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation.

ECONOMY REELING

The world's third largest economy is now in a "severe condition," the government said on Friday.

Finance leaders of the G20 group of countries will ask Tokyo for a plan to resuscitate its economy as they see the damage from the earthquake as a risk to global growth, Takatoshi Kato, a former IMF deputy managing director, told Reuters on Friday.

Automaker Toyota Motor Corp plans to idle some of U.S. plants late in April, while Honda Motor Co Ltd has extended reduced U.S. production until April 22.

Power blackouts and restrictions, factory shutdowns, and a sharp drop in tourists have hit the world's most indebted nation, which is facing a damages bill as high as $300 billion, making it by far the world's costliest natural disaster.

Economists expect Japan to slip into recession this year.

(Additional reporting by Yoko Nishikawa, Shinichi Saoshiro, Leika Kihara and Chang-Ran Kim in Tokyo, Ben Blanchard and Sui-lee Wee in Beijing, Jacqueline Wong in Shanghai, Jack Kim in Seoul; Writing by Paul Eckert and Daniel Magnowski; Editing by Miral Fahmy)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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