U.K. Demands Further EU Budget Cuts
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has told European colleagues that he will not accept a EU budget deal unless it contains significant cuts. His remarks were made in Brussels on Thursday as EU leaders gathered for a two-day summit in an attempt to draw up the bloc’s next seven-year budget, the second attempt after a meeting in November yielded no results. “The numbers that were put forward were much too high,” Cameron told reporters. The initial budget ceiling proposed was of €1 trillion, later revised to €943 billion. “They need to come down, and if they don’t come down, there won’t be a deal.” The president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, suggested that the British position might be irresponsible in such difficult times. “Further delays will send out a very negative message at this time of fragile economic recovery. The risk is that positions will harden and will be even more difficult to overcome.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader Rebuffs U.S. Offer of Direct Talks
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rebuffed an offer of direct talks made by U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden on Thursday, saying that they would lead nowhere. “Some naive people like the idea of negotiating with America, however, negotiations will not solve the problem,” Khamenei said in a speech to members of Iran’s air force. The offer had been made by Biden in a speech earlier in the week in Munich, when he said the U.S. was ready to meet with the Iranian leadership. “That offer stands, but it must be real and tangible”, he clarified. Khamenei countered that the offer was shrouded in intimidation. “You take up arms against the nation of Iran and say: ‘negotiate or we fire’. But you should know that pressure and negotiations are not compatible and our nation will not be intimidated by these actions”, he said. Relations between the two countries were severed after the overthrow of the pro-Western Shah of Iran in 1979.
Russian Fighter Jets Briefly Intrude on Japanese Airspace
The Japanese Defence Ministry said on Thursday that Russian fighter jets had violated its airspace for just over a minute over the northwestern tip of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. The timing of the jets’ visit seemed to coincide with a rally sponsored by the Japanese government to urge Russia to return a group of islands off Hokkaido there were seized by the Soviet Union at the end of the World War II. Russia’s Defence Ministry denied any intrusion, saying that the fighter jets had been participating in a military exercise and that the pilots had been instructed to fly in “strict conformity with international rules without any border violations.” Japan says the unresolved territorial dispute prevents it from concluding a peace treaty with Russia, with the two countries technically remaining at war since 1945. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed “strong hope” of resolving the dispute in the coming months.
India Forgets its Child Sexual Abuse Victims, Says NGO
Child victims of sexual abuse are often mistreated and humiliated by officials in India, a report published by New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) has found. The findings come in the wake of the gang-rape and killing of a young woman on a Delhi bus in December, an attack that sparked a wave of protests across the country, forcing the country to come to terms with its rampant sexual abuse problem. “Shockingly, the very institutions that should protect vulnerable children can place them at risk of horrific child sexual abuse,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch. Abuse can happen in places where children should be protected, such as in state-funded care homes, and in may cases police and court officials refuse to accept rape or incest has taken place. The problem is compounded by the fact that a 2007 government survey with 12,500 Indian children found that in 13 states over half of those interviewed said they had experienced some kind of sexual abuse.
Indian Conglomerates Force Ethiopians Off Their Land
A report published by the U.S.-based think tank The Oakland Institute suggests that thousands of Ethiopians have been relocated or have fled to neighbouring countries after the leasing of 600,000 hectares of farmland to Indian companies. Journalists and oppositionists of the concession have been subjected to intimidation, repression, detentions, rapes and beatings. Obang Metho, a local activist cited in the report, said that “when the Ethiopian government met with [the investors], the local people were never consulted and were never compensated. The decision was made without involving the people”. He added that their survival “said Metho. “For the indigenous people, [their land,] their one identity and existence as a people for their survival “has been taken away by the very government that is supposed to protect them.” Karaturi Global, the Indian agricultural conglomerate who leased most of the land involved to grow palm oil, maize and cereals declined to comment on the matter. A spokesman added only that “this has nothing to do with us”.