Mystery Surrounds China’s Leader-in-Waiting, Last Seen 10 Days Ago
Tuesday marked the 10th day since Xi Jinping, China’s leader-in-waiting, was last seen in public. Xi’s absence has ignited a firestorm of speculation over his health and his whereabouts in the run-up to the 18th Communist Party Congress in October, when he was to be announced as the country’s next president. China’s popular microblogging site Sina Weibo blocked searches for his name, as it usually does with controversial topics in the country, but users bypassed censorship by referring to Xi as “the crown prince”. One user wrote “what’s up with the crown prince? He’s vanished for the last 10 days or so and the whole world is wondering where he is”. Xi missed a photocall with Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Denmark’s Prime Minister, on Monday and had already skipped meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last Wednesday. One source told Reuters Xi was “unwell, but it’s not a big problem”.
Moody set to downgrade U.S., Germany criticises U.S. debt levels
Bond credit rating firm Moody’s said it would likely cut the United States’ “AAA” rating on its government debt, probably by a single notch, if budget negotiations failed. More than US$600 billion in spending cuts and tax increases would kick in next year if Congress does not reach a deal soon, a situation dubbed a “fiscal cliff” because it would send the U.S. economy back into recession and drive unemployment up. The ratings agency said it would also monitor talks on increasing the country’s debt limit. The rating warning came as German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble used a speech to the country’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, to express concerns about U.S. debt levels. “Ahead of the election in the United States there is great uncertainty about the course American politics will take in dealing with the U.S. government’s debts, which are much too high. We need to remind ourselves of that sometimes and the global economy knows that and is burdened by it”, said Schäuble. His remarks were largely seen as a riposte to Washington, which has criticised Europe for failing to manage its own debt crisis.
Spain Rejects Outside Conditions Over Possible Bailout
Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy gave his first television interview since taking office in December and said the country would not accept outside conditions over a possible bailout, saying that no decision had yet been taken over whether to request one. “I will look at the conditions. I would not like, and I could not accept, being told which were the concrete policies where we had to cut”, said Rajoy. His words came after the European Central Bank announced last week that it would agree to buy bonds from debt-stricken Eurozone members if they made a formal request for bailout funds. Countries requesting a bailout would have to stick to the terms of any deal, to be monitored by the International Monetary Fund. “I am absolutely convinced that everyone will be reasonable, but I insist that we haven’t yet taken a decision”, said the Prime Minister. Spain’s borrowing costs fell sharply after the television interview.
Yemen Defence Minister Escapes Assassination Attempt, Possible Al-Qaeda Reprisal
Yemen’s defence minister escaped an assassination attempt as his motorcade left the Prime Minister’s office in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. Witnesses told Reuters that the blast happened as Major General Muhammad Nasir Ahmad’s motorcade left the premises. “A booby-trapped car waited for the motorcade of the minister near the government offices and as soon as it moved, it exploded. A security vehicle was totally destroyed and all its occupants were killed, but the minister survived because his car is armoured”, said a security source. The bombing follows the killing of al-Qaeda’s second-in-command in the country, Said al-Shehri. The terrorist organisation had blamed the minister for the campaign that drove it from its former strongholds in southern Yemen.
Al-Qaeda Confirms the June Death of its Global Second-in-Command
Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda’s global leader, appeared in a video to confirm the death of the organisation’s number two, Abu Yahya al-Libi, last June in the tribal areas of Pakistan. U.S. officials had announced al-Libi’s death after a drone attack, but the confirmation come through a video distributed by the organisation to mark the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks against the United States. Zawahiri described the Libyan-born al-Libi as a “lion of jihad and knowledge” and called on Libyans to avenge his death, saying his “blood is calling, urging and inciting you to fight and kill the Crusaders”. Al-Libi had risen up Al-Qaeda’s ranks after escaping the Bagram prison in Afghanistan in 2005.