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Monday, September 3, 2012

New U.N. Envoy Says Peace in Syria “Nearly Impossible”

The new United Nations special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, has expressed deep pessimism about finding a diplomatic solution to the conflict in the Middle Eastern country. Speaking to the BBC during an interview on Monday, Brahimi said he knew “how difficult it is, how nearly impossible. I can’t say impossible, nearly impossible. And we are not doing much. That in itself is a terrible weight.” He added that he felt as if “standing in front of a brick wall” and that his only chances were contained in the small cracks that could provide some opportunity. He will visit Damascus this month for talks with the Assad government in hopes of putting an end to the 18 months of civil war in the country. A veteran Algerian diplomat, having already served as U.N. special representative to Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq and South Africa, Brahimi replaces former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who quit the post in early August citing “the disunity of the international community”.

Scores of Police Officers Injured in N.Ireland Sectarian Clashes

Almost 50 police officers were injured while holding the line between loyalist and republican gangs in the Carlisle Circus and Antrim Road areas of Belfast, in Northern Ireland. Clashes broke out during a republican parade along one of the main roads in the north of the city on Sunday lunchtime, continued through the afternoon and only ended in the early hours of the morning. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) described the activity of the sets of rioters as “savage”. “This was violence in which we saw an excess of 34 petrol-bombs, hundreds of fireworks, huge pieces of masonry and even lasers used against this community’s police officers”, said Chief Superintendent George Clark of the PSNI. One of the buildings hit by the rioters was a nursing home. Another parade is scheduled to occur at the end of the month and the police service has said preparations are in place in case of more disturbances.

Four Miners Shot During Strike at Gold Mine Near Johannesburg

Four miners were shot and injured by security guards using rubber bullets at a gold mine owned by a company in which a nephew of President Jacob Zuma and a grandson of former president Nelson Mandela both have a stake. Police spokeswoman Pinky Tsinyane said the security guards used the rubber bullets to break up clashes between striking and non-striking miners at the Gold One mine, in the southwest of Johannesburg. The mine had been visited last week by Julius Malema, a firebrand politician who was expelled by the ruling ANC party from its youth wing because of his radical views. He had told the miners that they should make the premises “ungovernable” until their demands for higher wages were met. South African mines have been gripped by a wave of unrest after a shooting at the Marikana platinum mine two weeks ago where 34 miners were killed by police.

U.K. Rejects Assange Death Penalty Claims, Seeks Diplomatic Solution to Impasse

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the United Kingdom and Ecuador “should be able to find a diplomatic solution” to the fate of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been sheltered by the South American government at its embassy in London since 19 June. Assange is wanted for questioning by Sweden over sex crimes where he allegedly assaulted two women in Stockholm in 2010. He claims Sweden would be a mere stepping stone in his extradition to the United States, where he believes he would face the death penalty because of his work exposing sensitive documents through Wikileaks. In a written statement to Parliament, Hague said that “the United Kingdom could only consent to Mr. Assange’s onward extradition from Sweden to a third country if satisfied that the extradition would be compatible with his human rights, and that there was no prospect of a death sentence being carried out”. The foreign secretary met with Ecuador’s vice-president, Lenin Moreno, during his visit to the Paralympics on 29 August.

Unemployed Palestinian Teenager Dies After Setting Himself on Fire

An 18-year-old teenager died in Gaza after setting himself on fire to protest his family’s living conditions. Mohammed Abu Nada poured petrol over his body after walking into the Shifa Hospital morgue last Thursday, according to doctors, and died of his wounds on Sunday night. “I asked my son on Thursday to go and look for a job because I don’t have a job and we don’t have any source of living”, said his father. The United Nations estimates that 30% of the population is unemployed in Gaza and that 80% of the families in the Palestinian territory are said to receive some type of food aid from U.N. agencies and other aid organisations.

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