Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, September 28, 2007

Major powers meet discuss sanctions on Iran

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to meet today with her counterparts from Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany to discuss placing a third round of sanctions on Iran for continuing to pursue uranium enrichment, Agence-France Presse reported.

Nicholas Burns, U.S. Under Secretary of State for political affairs, said the aim of the meeting is “to chart a way ahead, a diplomatic path forward for the rest of the autumn as we seek to continue this good cooperation internationally.”

“But I wouldn’t anticipate concluding negotiations on a sanctions resolution,” he added

Sergei Lavrov of Russia urges patience in regards to Iran, and wants the talks between Tehran and the International Atomic Energy Agency to proceed before imposing any more sanctions. In response to Lavrov’s statement, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said: “you still have an agreement on the basic strategy that is the Security Council to pressure the Iranians in changing their behavior.”

The U.N. Security Council has already passed two rounds of sanctions to force Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, but Iran still refuses to end its program, and continues to reject charges that the country is building nuclear weapons.

“Ahmadinejad says that the program is peaceful. Ultimately, we do not believe him. Everyone knows that the program has military goals,” French presidential spokesman David Martinon said, referring to Iran’s president. “We have a string of very powerful clues leading us to that conclusion.”

McCormack added: “We think the Security Council should move forward with a sanctions resolution. Now.”

For the full story, click here.

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Mennonite church slated for official recognition in Viet Nam

The Vietnam Mennonite Church will be granted a “Certificate for Religious Activities” in early October 2007, Ekklesia.co.uk reported today. The move comes after church president Pastor Nguyen Quang Trung first began pursuing recognition two decades ago.

According to the terms of the certification, the Mennonite Church will now be able to function throughout the country and organize a national conference within the year. Additionally, if the entire process of holding a conference, and if a constitution and statement of faith are adopted, and officers elected, the church may be granted legal status. With this status, the church will be able to purchase property, open an official training school, and publish materials.

The recognition, however, does not cover all Mennonite churches in Viet Nam. The certificate only recognizes churches associated with Pastor Trung, who has a relationship with about 80 congregations with 5,000 members. The Mennonite church in Viet Nam split in 2004 after some religious leaders were arrested, and, more recently, some congregations have considered themselves independent of either group.

Although authorities have made registration easier in the past year, some rural ethnic minority churches continue to be harassed.

For the full story, click here.

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U.S starting to put pressure on Egypt’s media crackdown

The situation in Egypt is getting worse between President Hosni Mubarak and the free press, as journalists are on trial and editors are threatening to boycott newsstands, Agence France Presse reported Thursday.

According to the article: “At least seven journalists have been given custodial sentenced so far this month on charges ranging from misquoting the justice minister to reporting rumors that Mubarak was sick.”

Ibrahim Eissa, editor of the Al-Destur daily, told AFP ahead of his trail that: “I could feel important but what I see is the mark of a regime gone crazy.”

15 independent and opposition newspapers said on Thursday that due to the crackdown they will not publish on October 7 in protest “against the fierce campaign against the free press in Egypt.”

“Now the regime has learned this new tactic – instead of pursuing someone directly, it gets citizens who are part of their own ruling junta to file complaints and then get an investigation underway,” human rights activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim said.

The United States made a statement Monday expressing “deep concerns” over the convictions.” The criticism was rejected by key regional ally Egypt as “unacceptable interference.”

For full article, click here


Negotiators working through Afghan elders to secure release of 4 Red Cross workers

Four International Red Cross workers were abducted by an “armed group” on Wednesday in the province of Wardak, located outside of Kabul. Negotiation through tribal elders will be used in lieu of military action to free the four men, two of whom are foreigners, Agence France Presse reported Thursday.

Negotiators are now in contact with the kidnappers through prominent tribal elders and influential government leaders.

This incident comes on the heels of a series of abductions of foreigners working in Afghanistan. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for some of these past abductions but denies involvement in the present kidnapping.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has played a significant role in the release of hostages in the past, including the 21 South Korean Christian aid workers that were recently released.

For the full article, click here.

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Bush, Karzai discuss stability in Afghanistan

President Bush commended Afghan President Hamid Karzai for his efforts by acknowledging in a meeting on Wednesday that Afghanistan is becoming a safer, more stable country, The Associated Press reported the same day.

“Mr. President, you have strong friends here,” Bush told Karzai. “I expect progress and you expect progress and I appreciate the report you have given me today.”

“I don’t know if you feel it in the United States but we feel it immensely in Afghanistan,” Karzai said, going on to highlight improvements in basic services such as roads and education.

Karzai asserted that the liberation of Afghanistan is often overlooked. However, the two leaders did not publicly mention Afghanistan’s record levels of poppy cultivation or the Taliban’s resurgence.

Karzai has pledged to initiate peace talks with the Taliban.

According to the article: “Bush, in New York for the annual gathering of the U.N. General Assembly, made only brief mention of the war in Afghanistan during his speech to world leaders Tuesday. He said the people of Afghanistan – and Iraq and Lebanon – were in a deadly fight for survival.”

For the full article, click here.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Senate endorses a federal system in Iraq

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly endorsed the decentralization of Iraq into semi-autonomous regions, The Los Angeles Times reported today.

Sponsored by Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), the nonbinding measure, which supports a “federal system” that would divide Iraq into sectarian-dominated regions, won “unusually broad bipartisan support, passing 75 to 23,” according to the article.

“It attracted 26 Republicans, 47 Democrats and both independents,” The Times says.

Biden outlined his proposal a year and a half ago, but it was, according to the article, “dismissed by the Bush administration and many on Capitol Hill as an unworkable and irresponsible prescription for breaking apart Iraq.” However, “as the government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has stumbled in its efforts to unify the country’s warring religious and ethnic communities, the idea of a decentralized country divided among Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites has taken on new currency.”

The White House reaction was terse, stating that a change in policy was to be made by Iraqis. “The amendment recognizes that Iraqis will be the ones that make decisions about their political future,” National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in a statement. “It also reiterates the importance of bottom-up reconciliation.”

“It is possible that the present structure in Baghdad is incapable of national reconciliation because its elected constituents were elected on a sectarian basis,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), one of the measure’s cosponsors. “A wiser course would be to concentrate on the three principal regions.”

For full article, click here.

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Resolution on Cyprus reunification approved by Foreign Affairs Committee

Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis (R-Fla.), previously introduced a resolution in support of the implementation of a United Nations-brokered agreement toward the reunification of Cyprus. The House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday unanimously passed the measure, The Hellenic News of America reported.

“On July 8, 2006, Republic of Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat agreed to a UN-sponsored framework establishing a set of principles for the Greek and Turkish Cypriots to find common ground and ensure a lasting peace and eventual reunification,” the article says.

“The Committee has acted decisively today to demonstrate its support for a constructive and transparent process toward a reunification of Cyprus,” Bilirakis said. “The implementation of the July 8 Agreement would make it possible for a Cyprus that is unified under a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with a single sovereignty, single international personality and single citizenship with respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all Cypriots.”

According to the article: “H. Res. 405 acknowledges the key terms of the July 8, 2006 agreement, particularly the formation of a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with territory allocated to the Greek and Turkish communities within a united Cyprus.”

“More than 33 years after the division of Cyprus, it is important that both sides now move forward on a dialogue that can pave the way for a more sustainable and lasting peace,” Bilirakis said. “I urge Speaker Pelosi to move this important resolution before the full House for a vote. It is now time for this Congress to act in expressing its support for the unification of Cyprus.”


Iraq: Increasing number of people becoming ill from cholera

Every day the number of people falling ill from cholera in Iraq is increasing. The outbreak started in late August and since then 25 northern and 4 southern districts have been affected, along with the central Iraq, according to the health website Spiritindia.com.

“It is estimated that more than 30,000 people have fallen ill with acute watery diarrhoea, among with 2,116 were identified as positive for Vibrio cholerae"

The worst outbreak has been in the northern provinces of the country, and the disease was first detected in Kirkuk, where, according to the article “68% of laboratory-confirmed cholera cases have so far been reported.” From there it has spread to both Sulaymaniah and Erbil provinces and additional cases have also been identified around the country.

The World Health Organization is supporting both the local and national health authorities in the ongoing response operation. According to the article: “Ten interagency diarrhoeal disease kits, each sufficient to treat 400 moderate and 100 severe cases, arrived in Erbil International airport on 16 September.”

It added:Rapid diagnostic tests are being pre-positioned in remote health care facilities. In addition, 10% of all positive stool samples are being sent to NAMRU 3 reference laboratory (US Navy Advanced Research Unit) in Cairo for further confirmation and phenotypic characterization.”

For the full article, click here.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Combating growing problem of self-immolation in Iraqi Kurdistan

In recent weeks, the issue of increasing numbers of female burn victims in northern Iraq has been covered more extensively in the media. According to the latest report, from McClatchy Newspapers, while many of the surviving women and girls tell stories about how they got injured while working at home, according to the doctors and nurses this is not the case, as 80 percent of the burn cases in the northern cities of Irbil and Sulaimaniyah are actually suicide attempts.

According to the article: “Suicide by fire among girls and young women in the region has been increasing sharply since 2004,” adding later: “Some of the victims are as young as 12, but most range from age 15 to 25.”

“Some experts blame an economic boom that’s lured traditional villagers into cities with more modern values, resulting in family strains,” the article says. “But because the victims include lifelong city residents as well, a patriarchal culture that gives little power to women may be a bigger factor.”

Suicide by self-immolation is an extremely painful way to die and surviving girls and women sometimes have to face a terrible situation after they are released from the hospital, as, according to the article “their husbands and friends desert them and parents hide them from the rest of the family and visitors out of shame.”

The article also highlights the opinions of Amin Monsour, the director of the Women’s Union of Kurdistan, the largest women’s advocacy group in the region. Monsour calls on the Kurdistan Regional Government to “build counseling centers to teach men and women the basics of relationships.” She also calls for the establishment of hospitals with post-discharge centers that have psychologists and counselors to help with coping, community reintegration and job-seeking.

For full article click here

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Iraqi refugee women and children in desperate need of healthcare

Iraqi refugees, particularly women and children in Jordan, Syria and Egypt, are in desperate need of health care, according to ReliefWeb.

According to the article, The Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children on Tuesday “called on the United States and the international community to respond quickly and fully to the United Nations interagency appeal for $85 million dollars to provide desperately need health care for Iraqi refugees in Jordan, Syria and Egypt.

These refugees have almost no access to basic services and the Women’s Commission reports that on their recent trip to Jordan, there we only two clinics to provide free or subsidized medical care to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

“Iraqi women and children have suffered terrible trauma and violence – we have a responsibility to care for their health. The international community must act now to alleviate this situation,” said Carolyn Makinson, Executive Director.

There is a special need for a greater emphasis on women and girl’s health since many have been targets of sexual violence, including rape. Also, according to the article, “the stresses and pressures of refugee life are also causing a rise in domestic violence. And because refugees cannot legally work in Jordan, women and girls remain vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse.”

The Commission calls for the development of “a more comprehensive assistance strategy for Iraqi refugees that will reflect the magnitude of the refugee crisis,” and add that: “This should include significantly increased humanitarian assistance for refugees, greater support for refugee receiving countries, and robust resettlement programs for highly vulnerable Iraqis.”

For the full article, click here.

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Collapsed bridge kills 52 in Viet Nam

A bridge under construction in southern Viet Nam collapsed Wednesday, killing at least 52 workers and injuring 97, The Associated Press reported today.

The four lane bridge was being built across the Hau River in the city of Can Tho, along a heavily used route between the Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City. The bridge was not yet open for traffic.

At least 200 people were working on the bridge when it collapsed, and the exact number of people missing is unknown. “I expect the death toll to rise, as there [are] still victims under the concrete,” Dang Van Tam, director of Central Can Tho General Hospital said.

Construction on the bridge, which at 1.7 miles would be the largest suspension bridge in Viet Nam, began in 2004, and was expected to be finished by next year. Officials are still investigating the cause of the accident.

For the full story, click here.

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Fourth Iranian-American detainee released

Ali Shakeri, a member of the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at the University of California, Irvine, was released Monday night from Iran’s Evin Prison after being imprisoned there since May, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Shakeri was held on security-related charges similar to fellow Iranian-American detainees Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh, who were previously released. The other Iranian-American, Parnaz Azima, was detained, but released on bail and prevented from leaving Iran.

Shakeri’s family posted a bail of approximately $107,000, but Shakeri still needs permission from a judge to be able to leave the country.

The release coincided with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly.

For the full article, click here.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Protests continue in Burma despite government threats

Buddhist monks in Burma (officially Myanmar) re-launched their protests today despite government orders to stay out of politics, The Canadian Press reported.

About 4,000 monks gathered at Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda for the eighth day of peaceful protests.

“The protest is not merely for the well being of people but also for monks struggling for democracy and for people to have an opportunity to determine their own future,” one monk told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity fearing reprisals from officials. “People do not tolerate the military government any longer.”
On Monday, the protests in Yangon reached 100,000, making it the largest protest since the pro-democracy march in 1988. Protests in Myanmar began on August 19 against current economic conditions. The monks, however, took charge last week, and with the public joining the protests, there is a demand for national reconciliation and freedom for political prisoners, as well as adequate food, shelter and clothing.

The government of Myanmar has been cautious when dealing with the monks, not wanting to provoke the public. The White House has also threatened Myanmar with more sanctions, while U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon stated that he hoped the government would “seize this opportunity” to include all opposition groups in the political process.

For the full article, click here.

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The plight of Egypt’s most prominent dissident

In a September 22 op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Joshua Muravchik, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, highlighted the case of Egyptian sociologist and dissident Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who has been traveling the world for the past three months, afraid to go home.

“What has Mr. Ibrahim done to enrage President Mubarak?” Muravchik asks. “He has loudly advocated democracy in public writings, interviews with Western reporters, and, most unforgivably, in a face-to-face meeting with President George W. Bush.”

Ibrahim was also imprisoned on dubious charges for several years earlier this decade and Muravchik suggests that he was not treated well there. However, while “torture is all too common in Egyptian prison,” Muravchik writes that “his jailers were reluctant to leave scars on Mr. Ibrahim because the U.S. government followed his case closely. (He is married to an American and holds American as well as Egyptian citizenship.) Instead they resorted to sleep deprivation. After 45 days of being roughly wakened each time he started to doze, Mr. Ibrahim suffered a stroke.”

Muravchik also argues that the campaign against Ibrahim “is the latest evidence that Egypt is marching backwards on democracy and human rights.” Hopes grew when Mubarak announced Egypt's first ever presidential election, which was held in 2005. However, Muravchik notes that: “To no one's surprise, the election was not fair.” He adds that Mubarak “had his main competitor, Ayman Nour, tossed in prison on trumped up charges, where he languishes in declining health. Mr. Mubarak then pushed through constitutional “reform” in the form of 35 amendments adopted as a single indivisible package, precluding meaningful deliberation.”

Ibrahim is not in prison today but is still living under a threat and, Muravchik argues, “being persecuted more for the actions of the U.S. president and Congress than for what he, himself, did.” Muravchik asks: “Can we tolerate this?”

For the full article, click here.


Billboard raises issues of human rights in Viet Nam

A billboard campaign by a Houston-based Vietnamese human rights group condemns human rights violations occurring in Viet Nam, the Houston Chronicle reported on September 22. The image shows Father Nguyen Van Ly, a former “prisoner of conscience,” being muzzled by a plainclothes Vietnamese guard for speaking out against the Communist Party during a government trial on March 30.

The billboard campaign emerged because of concern that Viet Nam’s growing economy and new international standing is overshadowing human rights conditions. The country joined the World Trade Organization earlier this year.

Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, says that since Viet Nam joined the WTO, human rights violations have become worse in the country. The U.S. House of Representatives has condemned the recent repression in Viet Nam, and passed a bill to promote human rights there, although it remains to be seen if the Senate will pass it.

On the contrary, Cuong The Nguyen, press attaché for the Vietnam Embassy, says there have been talks about human rights between the United States and Viet Nam, and that “progression in human rights, freedom of religions, freedom of speech in Vietnam is an undeniable fact.”

For the full article, click here.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

24 nations meet to discuss regional support for Afghanistan

On Sunday, 24 countries participated in a high-level meeting, co-chaired by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, to discuss peace and stability issues in Afghanistan, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

The United States, Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan were among those present. Topics discussed included security, law, human rights, international terrorism, and economic and social development strategies.

Participants also reviewed progress on the “Afghanistan Compact,” a five-year development plan launched in January 2006.

A major goal of the meeting was strengthening ties with the Afghanistan’s neighbors, especially Pakistan and Iran, in an attempt to secure their support in the peace-building process.

“While we help the Afghan government in their own efforts, the regional cooperation in the area of economy and security should also be strengthened, and there should be more efforts by President Karzai and Afghan leaders in promoting inclusive political dialogue for national reconciliation. All these efforts should be accompanied by international cooperation,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban said.

For the full article, click here.

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Cairo tightens grip on dissent

There has been a turbulent atmosphere in Egypt the past few months and The Washington Post reported on Sunday that the doors have been closed at an Egyptian human rights law group that was at the forefront of court battles over accusations of torture in Egypt's jails, after the group was accused by the government of illegally receiving funds from abroad.

The past month has seen, among other arrests, the conviction of the four journalists for defaming President Hosni Mubarak.

“What I am feeling is there is a kind of nervousness. They are very nervous within the regime,” said Diaa Rashwan, a political analyst at Cairo’s al-Ahram Centre. “Now there is an effort to prepare for the post-Mubarak era. Nobody knows what is the arrangement, what is already done, what are the chances of his son Gamal Mubarak (taking over).”

Other cases also attest to Cairo’s tightened grip on free expression. According to the article: “Some 40 Brotherhood members, including a top leader, are on trial in a military court on charges including terrorism and money laundering in proceedings rights groups including Amnesty International have dismissed as unfair. More than 120 other Brotherhood men are in jail, unrelated to that case.”

In addition, Egypt faced pressure in 2002 over the arrest of sociologist Saad Eddin Ibrahim and in 2005 over the detention of opposition politician Ayman Nour.

Other recent cases have also drawn condemnation. According to the article: “A government-appointed panel of forensic experts cleared police of wrongdoing earlier this month in the case of a 13-year-old boy, arrested on suspicion of stealing packets of tea, who died shortly after being released from police custody.” According to an internationally respected Egyptian anti-torture group, the El-Nadim Centre, the boy had been beaten and subjected to electric shocks, and then received inadequate care.

For full article click here.

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Iran restricts Baha'is chances of going to University

Human Rights Watch is pushing for the Iranian government to end restrictions that keep Baha’is in the country from attending universities, AHN reported on September 21.

International Baha’i organizations as well as students within Iran have told HRW that authorities at the National Education Measurement and Evaluation Organization have denied 800 students their entrance examination scores based on religious affiliation. Because the Baha’i students have been denied access to their scores, it has made it almost impossible for them to attend university.

Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at HRW, said that “as universities begin the new academic year, hundreds of Iranian students will be absent from campuses because of blatant religious discrimination.”

For the full article, click here.

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Taliban allows Afghan polio team to enter southern provinces

The World Health Organization announced Sunday that medical teams have now been allowed to treat polio patients in areas such as Helmand and Kandahar provinces, Agence France Presse reported the same day.

These areas have seen some of the most severe violence of the Taliban insurgency.

Access to these areas has not been allowed for months, and this new development has been long-awaited by patients suffering from the crippling disease. Afghanistan is one of the few countries where polio still exists; there were 31 new cases reported last year.

The Afghan health workers, who are part of a WHO vaccination drive, successfully convinced Taliban leaders that their work was to benefit all children, non-Taliban and Taliban alike.

For the full article, click here.

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Wilson Center event highlights connections between environment and conflict in Sudan

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars hosted a discussion on September 21 examining the environmental links to peace and conflict in Sudan. The speakers, Ibrahim Thiaw and Andrew Morton, presented the United Nations Environment Program’s “Sudan Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment” to a packed auditorium.

Thiaw, director of the division of environmental policy at the UNEP, first highlighted the different environmental landscapes within Sudan: the north is arid and the scarcity of natural resources there leads to competition and conflict, whereas the southern provinces boast a more tropical environment where numerous resettlement communities have flourished – pressing resources as well as the limited infrastructure.

Thiaw also emphasized that the connections among the environment, climate change, and poverty are indisputable and that this relationship – one that is certainly not unique to Sudan – requires greater attention from the international community, specifically in the form of peace-keeping forces.

Andrew Morton, the Sudan project coordinator at the UNEP’s post-conflict branch, presented the research methods and findings of the environmental assessment. He highlighted the positive findings, some of which included the decentralization of the government, the recently signed peace agreement between northern and southern Sudan, the local recognition of environmental problems, and the fact that 75 percent of the country is at peace. Morton also noted the widespread recognition of environmental problems among local Sudanese and their marked commitment to addressing these issues.

Negative findings included desertification in the northern regions, internal displacement of numerous Sudanese citizens, a 30 percent drop in rainfall that led to drought, a 20 to 70 percent decrease in food production capacity, and the absence of substantial policies to address these challenges.

Both scholars addressed the causes for these negative findings, but cautioned against conflating the issues. They cited examples of conflicts between farmers and pastoralists, two groups that have historically practiced reconciliation. However, recent legal reforms no longer recognize the tribal bodies from each group that once served as a forum to settle disagreements, leaving the groups resentful and without political resources.

Thiaw and Morton also highlighted the displacement of people due to certain agricultural practices, such as when groups abandon fields after a few years of planting because it is cheaper to migrate than to rehabilitate the field. These practices simultaneously reduce land availability in Sudan and prevent environmental sustainability. The resultant north-to-south migrations are also creating tensions within urban areas.

No comments were made concerning the difficulties of Sudanese women, who face danger on a daily basis while traveling long distances to collect firewood.

Recommendations (the report cited 85 in total) to remedy Sudan’s environmental problems included a call for investment in environmental management, with funds being directed to the Sudanese government. Morton also pointed out that while it is easy to obtain relief funding, he argued that it is imperative that this short-term funding be transformed into longer-term development funding in order to promote sustainability in the region.

The forum concluded with the assertion that the UNEP cannot and does not strive to solve all the problems in Sudan alone, but rather seeks to initiate dialogue and encourage collaboration with many other groups.

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Ahmadinejad visit causes mixed reactions

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has arrived in New York to address the United Nations General Assembly and try to convince Americans that Iran does not pose a threat to their safety, London’s Times Online reported today. According to Ahmadinejad, Americans have not been given accurate information and his visit will allow them to hear a different voice.

“It is wrong to think that Iran and the U.S. are walking towards war,” he said. “Who says so? Why should we go to war? There is no war in the offing.”

Washington has stated that it is handling the situation with Iran diplomatically, but that all options are open.

People lined up outside Columbia University yesterday to protest the Iranian president’s scheduled talk there today. New York State Assemblyman, Dov Hikind, said: “He should be arrested when he comes to Columbia University, not invited to speak, for God’s sake.”

Colombia University President Lee Bollinger promised that he will ask Ahmadinejad questions about human rights, the Holocaust, and Iran’s nuclear program before allowing him to speak.

Ahmadinejad’s arrival in New York has caused mixed reactions in Iran. Political analyst Iraj Jamshadi said of the visit: “The world has not welcomed Mr. Ahmadinejad’s hardline approach. His previous address to the assembly didn’t resolve any of Iran’s foreign policy issues and no one expects anything better this time.” On the other hand, conservative politician Alaeddin Boroujerdi told Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency that “This trip gives the president a good chance to meet world leaders and inform them of Iran’s rightful position.”

For the full article, click here.

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Iran closes border to Kurdish Iraq

Iran has closed its five entry points with Iraqi Kurdistan, CNN reported Monday.

One of the entry points is in Irbil, two are in Sulaimaniya and two are in Khanaqin. The closure has been linked to the arrest last week of an Iranian man by U.S troops in Sulaimaniya. The U.S. military labeled Mahmoody Farhadi a member of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force and said that he “has been involved in transporting improvised explosive devices and explosively formed penetrates into Iraq. Intelligence reports also indicate he was involved in the infiltration and training of foreign terrorists in Iraq.”

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani blasted the United States for the arrest and called for Farhadi’s release, saying that he is a civil servant who was merely on a trade mission to Iraqi Kurdistan.

Talabani also spoke out against the border closures, saying that they would cause “severe damage to markets and trade in the province on this blessed month,” referring to Ramadan.

For full article, click here.


New U.S. ambassador vows to pressure Viet Nam to release political dissidents

U.S. Ambassador to Viet Nam Michael Michalak has said that the United States will continue to put pressure on Viet Nam to release dissidents convicted of spreading anti-state propaganda, Agence-France Presse reported Saturday.

Western governments and human rights organizations have been criticizing Viet Nam recently for the number of arrests it has had for activists speaking out against the government. The propaganda charge is found under article 88 of Viet Nam’s penal code, and Michalak said that: “We would like to talk about ways to change this particular article.”

He added: “We don’t believe people should be put in jail just for expressing their opinion.” He also asserted that he will “continue to encourage the government of Viet Nam to make progress on human rights, including religious freedom, freedom of the press, and freedom of expression.”

For the full article, click here.

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