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Monday, September 24, 2012

IMF Softens Stance on Austerity Demands

The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Christine Lagarde said today both growth and austerity are necessary to solve the crisis in the euro area. She also called for support to the debt-stricken nations that have showed most willingness to make tough decision and implement harsh spending cuts, suggesting the IMF could be “flexible”  even as its demands are met. These comments came after Portugal announced it will not go through with its plan to raise social security payments by employees from 11 percent to 18 percent, a sign that it may look for ways to promote growth rather than just focus on austerity. Meanwhile, the German parliamentary coalition grew more impatient with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who hasn’t yet determined whether his nation will ask for a bailout package. “Rajoy evidently has a communications problem. If he needs help he must say so,” said Michael Meister, the finance spokesman for Germany’s Christian Democratic Union, the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Separately, Germany and France haven’t been able to agree on the timing for the creation of a banking union across the European Union. French President François Hollande said a pan-European banking regulator should be created, “the earlier, the better.” The banking union “has to be thorough, the quality has to be good and then we’ll see how long it takes,” Merkel replied.

Iran’s Ahmadinejad Says Israel “Has No Roots” in Middle East

Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad failed to heed calls for less inflammatory rhetoric against Israel, saying today the Jewish nation’s fate is to be “eliminated.” For weeks now, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been suggesting his country’s forces may launch a military strike against Iran to end its nuclear program, a threat Ahmadinejad said Iran does “not take seriously.” Ahmadinejad also reiterated the nuclear program is being developed for peaceful purposes, and denied speculation that Iran has been providing weapons to Syria’s embattled regime. “Iran has been around for the last seven, 10 thousand years. They (Israel) have been occupying those territories for the last 60 to 70 years, with the support and force of the Westerners. They have no roots there in history,” said Ahmadinejad at the the United Nations’ headquarters in New York. “We don’t even count them as any part of any equation for Iran. During a historical phase, they (Israel) represent minimal disturbances that come into the picture and are then eliminated.” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon met yesterday with the Iranian leader, warning him that harsh words had no place in the hemicycle. Ahmadinejad questioned the Holocaust and called Israel a “tumor” at prior U.N. sessions. “President Ahmadinejad’s comments are characteristically disgusting, offensive and outrageous,” said White House Spokesman Tommy Vietor.

Syria: Assad “Not Serious About Reform,” Says U.N. Envoy

The United Nations’ (U.N.) Special Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said today Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “not serious about making reforms,” and wants to return to “the old Syria.” Brahimi spoke at the U.N. Security Council, adding that the embattled regime is increasingly characterizing the uprising, which has ravaged the country for 18 months, as a “foreign conspiracy.” Brahimi met in Syria both with rebels and the country’s government, and said today the crisis is worsening. He told the council there are as many as 1.5 million refugees, 280,000 of whom have fled to neighboring countries. He said people who need medical care avoid hospitals, as they are under the control of Assad’s forces. He also described a conflict where torture of prisoners is now “routine.” The U.N.S.C. has been deadlocked for months as China and Russia have consistently vetoed sanctions against Assad. Bombardments continued in the capital, Damascus, as well as the northern city of Aleppo. Militants say as many as 29,000 people died since the civil war began in March of last year.

Terrorism Suspects to Be Extradited to U.S., EU Court Says

Eight years after extradition proceedings began, the European Court of Human Rights said today five people suspected of terrorism will be sent to the U.S. to stand trial, including cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri. Abu Hamza is thought to have opened a terrorist training camp in Oregon and provided arms to the Taliban. He is also said to have taken hostages in Yemen in 1998. The EU court said the suspects’ rights will not be violated by life sentences and solitary confinement in American prisons. Two of the other people concerned are thought to have been close aides to Osama Bin Laden in London. The U.K.’s Home Secretary Theresa May “welcomes” the decision, a statement said, and the Home Office “will work to ensure that the individuals are handed over to the US authorities as quickly as possible.”

U.S. Marines to Be Court Martialed for Urinating on Taliban Corpses

Two U.S. marines will stand courts martial for urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. Staff sergeants Joseph Chamblin and Edward Deptola were also charged with failing to stop misconduct among lower-ranking soldiers and “posing for unofficial photographs with human casualties.” These are the first charges since the incident took place in July 2011, and since the video of it was circulated on the internet in January of this year. U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said at the time the incident came to light that it was “utterly deplorable,” and apologized on behalf of the U.S. American and international troops in Afghanistan have been suffering a spike in attacks by the Afghan military as well as the country’s police forces, prompting the U.S. army to disengage from joint operations with Afghan soldiers.

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