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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

U.S. Backs Syrian Coalition as 100 Countries Join in Recognition

U.S. President Barack Obama recognised the Syrian opposition coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people on Tuesday, saying that the recognition also carried responsibilities. “We’ve made a decision that the Syrian Opposition Coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime”, said Obama during an interview with ABC. On Wednesday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said more than 100 countries had recognised the Syrian opposition during a “Friends of the Syrian People” conference meeting in Morocco. “The fact that the coalition, which is asking for the right to defend itself, is now being recognised by one hundred countries, yesterday the U.S. and first France, I think this is a very important point”, said Fabius. In a sign of the opposition’s renewed strength, a car bomb exploded at the main gate of the Syrian Ministry of the Interior, according to Syrian state television. It said there were casualties, but did not give figures. The ministry is located in an area of Damascus fiercely contested by government forces and opposition fighters.

Egyptian Opposition Group Urges “No” Vote in Saturday’s Referendum

The National Salvation Front (NSF), Egypt’s gathering of liberal, leftist and nationalist parties, has called on its followers to vote against the adoption of the draft constitution in Saturday’s referendum. Headed by main oppositionist and former IAEA chief Mohammed el-Baradei as well as former presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabbahi and Amr Moussa, the NSF says the draft constitution neglects the social and economic needs of the Egyptian people and ignores its aspirations, stating that it could lead to a “presidential dictatorship”. “We hoped that the Egyptian President would cancel the referendum or at least postpone it, but it seems that this is not an option now that voting has already started abroad. So we have decided to call on all Egyptians to vote against the constitution”, said NSF spokesman Hussein Abdel-Ghani. The coalition also threatened to boycott the referendum altogether if some conditions were not met. They will only vote if the referendum takes place in a single day, if it has full judicial oversight, if security forces maintain order at polling stations, if international monitors are allowed to scrutinise voting processes and if the results are announced as soon as stations close.

North Korea Succesfully Launches Rocket into Space

North Korea defied international warnings and launched its Unha-3 rocket into space. It appeared to follow a planned trajectory, with different stages being jettisoned along its route, with a first section falling in the Yellow Sea and a second stage into the Philippine Sea. The U.S. stated that “an object appeared to achieve orbit” while the North Korean state news agency said the launch was carried out to signal the country’s “adoring affection for the great Comrade Kim Jong-Il“. The launch comes nearly a year after his death. South Korea, Japan and the U.S. said the launch was a ballistic missile test in disguise. The UN passed a resolution in 2009 banning Pyongyang from carrying out such tests. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it a “clear violation” of that resolution. China, North Korea’s closest ally, expressed “regret” at the launch through a Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Iran Ready to Discuss Issues of ‘Concern’ With IAEA

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast has signalled that Iran is ready to discuss issues of “concern” with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts during their visit to Tehran this week. The talks are the latest in a series of unsuccessful meetings since the start of the year. The IAEA wants Iran to clarify if it uses its installations for covert military activities and wants to gain access to the Parchin military base near the Iranian capital, where it suspects the country’s military has tested explosives capable of triggering a nuclear weapon. Iran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful and that Parchin is outside its obligations as a signatory to the UN’s Non-Proliferation Treaty. “Iran hopes the talks will lead to Iran enjoying its complete nuclear rights and to removing concerns of the agency”, said Mehmanparast.

Germany Backs ECB Role as EU Banking Supervisor

German officials said on Wednesday that the country was ready to back plans for the European Central Bank (ECB) to be made supervisor of banks, a move that could break a deadlock in the European Union’s (EU) financial reform. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble was reported by local officials heard by the Reuters news agency to have told the assembled German cabinet that he was “optimistic” about a deal before a meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels. “We have some questions, but if they can be resolved by finance ministers today then Germany will not stand in the way of an agreement”, Schäuble is reported to have said. The establishment of the ECB as a a single banking supervisor is an important part of planned fiscal and economic reforms in the bloc.

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