Sabtu, 23 April 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

The Star Online: World Updates


FACTBOX - International reaction to Syria's crackdown

Posted: 23 Apr 2011 06:52 AM PDT

LONDON (Reuters) - The European Union, Russia, Greece and France on Saturday joined the United States in condemning Syria's bloody crackdown against protesters calling for political freedoms and an end to corruption.

Tens of thousands of Syrians demanded the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad on Saturday at funerals for scores of demonstrators killed by security forces. Rights activists say the death toll has climbed to over 300 since the unrest started on March 18 in the city of Deraa.

Here are some comments from political leaders condemning the violence:

UNITED STATES:

U.S. President Barack Obama told Syria its crackdown on protesters "must come to an end now" and dismissed as "not serious" Assad's lifting of a decades-old emergency law in Syria this week and accused him of seeking help from Iran.

"This outrageous use of violence to quell protests must come to an end now," Obama said.

"Instead of listening to their own people, President Assad is blaming outsiders while seeking Iranian assistance in repressing Syria's citizens through the same brutal tactics that have been used by his Iranian allies."

EUROPEAN UNION:

President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, urged the Syrian government to stop the "bloodshed" and respond to the demands of the demonstrators. He called on the country to release "all prisoners of conscience", end media censorship and bring those responsible for torture and abuse to justice.

"The Syrian regime must at last acknowledge the signs of the times and meet the legitimate aspirations of its own people. Mere declarations will not delude the people any more," he said.

"People have expressed their demands in all clarity. Any form of violence against peaceful demonstrators must stop: No more killing, no more torture, no more arbitrary arrests. An independent investigation into the deaths of protesters has to be carried out."

RUSSIA:

Russia called on the Syrian leadership to speed up "large-scale political reforms" and refrain from violence amid deadly clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters in escalating unrest in the Arab state.

"The government and all non-government and religious forces in Syria must rule out violence and continue to search for a fair resolution to the brewing problems," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"Only constructive dialogue, the speeding up of large-scale political reforms by the Syrian leadership and socio-economic change can guarantee the stable and democratic development of the country."

FRANCE:

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe condemned the "extreme violence" of Syrian security forces and called for those responsible for the deaths of scores of protestors on Friday to be made responsible for their actions.

"We call on Syrian authorities to immediately renounce the use of violence and to respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of their citizens," said Juppe.

"Only an inclusive political dialogue responding to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people can preserve the country's stability, which is in everyone's interest."

"This brutal and indiscriminate repression contradicts the lifting of the state of emergency," he said.

GREECE:

Greece's Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas said his government was greatly concerned about reports of violent repression by Syrian authorities, and called on the country to implement reforms.

"The right for peaceful assembly and the free expression of views are a basic element of democracy and must be respected," said Droutsas.

"We are urging restraint and the immediate implementation by the Syrian government of the necessary reforms, to the benefit of the Syrian people and the country's stability."

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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Fresh fighting on Thai-Cambodia border kills 4 soldiers

Posted: 23 Apr 2011 06:52 AM PDT

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A second day of fighting between Thai and Cambodian troops on Saturday killed at least four soldiers, bringing the two-day death toll to 11, the worst bloodshed since the United Nations called for a ceasefire in February.

Thai soldiers help carry their injured comrade near the border in Surin province April 22, 2011. (REUTERS/Daily News newspaper)

Thousands of villagers have been evacuated from the disputed border area in thick jungles around the Ta Moan and Ta Krabey temples, about 150 km (93 miles) west of the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple which saw a deadly four-day standoff in February.

Thai army Lieutenant-General Thawatchai Samutsakorn said one Thai soldier had been killed. A local hospital said 13 were wounded.

Suos Sothea, deputy commander of Cambodia's artillery unit in the area, said three Cambodian soldiers had been killed and 11 wounded, bringing the two-day toll of wounded on both sides to at least 43.

The Cambodia Defense Ministry condemned "these repeated deliberate acts of aggression" and called on Thailand to cease "hostilities". It accused Thailand of firing cluster munitions - anti-personnel weapons banned by many countries -- and 75 and 105 mm shells "loaded with poisonous gas".

Thai Foreign affairs Minister Kasit Piromya denied those charges as "groundless".

Sovereignty over the ancient, stone-walled Hindu temples -- Preah Vihear, Ta Moan and Ta Krabey -- and the jungle of the Dangrek Mountains surrounding them has been in dispute since the withdrawal of the French from Cambodia in the 1950s.

Ta Moan and Ta Krabey, perched on a 10-metre (32-ft) escarpment about 12 km (seven miles) apart in landmine-riddled terrain, were built in the 12th century when the Khmer empire stretched across parts of Thailand and Vietnam before shrinking to just present-day Cambodia.

Thailand says the two temples reside in its Surin province according to a 1947 map. Cambodia rejects that and says they are in its Oddar Meanchey province. Before Friday, they jointly patrolled the area largely without incident.

"It came as a big surprise, we weren't ready," said 57-year-old Suwat Thathong, who fled with his wife and three children to a refugee camp in the Thai village of Prasat, about 40 km (25 miles) from the fighting.

A Thai-Cambodian Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary has yet to settle the border issue despite a 10-year survey of the area. Meanwhile, the temples have fallen into disrepair. In 2008, Thailand accused Cambodia of turning them into an army base.

ASEAN CHAIR URGES RESTRAINT

The latest clash began before dawn west of Ta Krabey and lasted about five hours, a day after clashes in the area killed four Thai and three Cambodian soldiers.

Both sides blame each other for starting the fighting, the most severe since three Thais and eight Cambodians were killed and dozens of people wounded over Feb. 4-7 in the bloodiest border clashes in nearly two decades.

As part of a ceasefire deal, Thailand and Cambodia agreed on Feb. 22 to allow unarmed military observers from Indonesia to be posted along their border.

But that arrangement -- brokered at a meeting of the Association for South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta at the urging of the United Nations -- has yet to be put in place. Thailand said international observers were not required, insisting the neighbours should resolve the issue bilaterally.

"We are calling for Cambodian leaders to return to the negotiable table," said Kasit, the Thai foreign minister. On Friday, he said the international community had no place in the matter, responding to a letter from Cambodia addressed to ASEAN stating Thailand had staged "a large-scale attack".

Thailand and Cambodia have been locked in a standoff since July 2008, when Preah Vihear was granted UNESCO World Heritage status, which Thailand opposed on the grounds that the land around the temple had never been demarcated.

An international court awarded the temple to Cambodia 49 years ago but both countries lay claim to a 4.6 sq km (1.8 sq mile) patch of land around it.

Indonesia, the current chair of ASEAN, has urged restraint.

The dispute has become a bone of contention in Thailand's fractious domestic politics. Some analysts say some hawkish Thai generals and their ultra-nationalist allies, who wear the Thai king's colour of yellow at protests, may be trying to create a pretext to stage a coup and cancel elections expected by July.

Others say it may be a breakdown in communication at a time of strained relations between the neighbours and unease after a rumour of an imminent military coup swirled in Thailand on Thursday. The army has dismissed the rumours as baseless.

Thailand and Cambodia are both members of ASEAN which plans to form a European-style single market by 2015.

(Additonal reporting by Orathai Sriring and Ambika Ahuja in Bangkok, and Martin Petty in Prasat, Thailand; Writing by Jason Szep; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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