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Monday, June 3, 2013

Protester Dies in Istanbul as PM and President Clash Over Riots

Protests about the development of Gezi Park in Istanbul have turned into an explosion of nationwide riots against the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In the fourth day of protests, riot police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse crowds gathered in central Kizlay Square in the capital, Ankara. In Istanbul, a 20-year-old named as Mehmet Ayvalitas was killed when a taxi drove into a group of marchers, becoming the first fatality registered since protests began, according to the Turkish Doctors Association. Speaking during an official visit to Morocco, Prime Minister Erdoğan said the tensions were stirred by “a minority” and “a bunch of looters”, as well as pledging to “settle accounts” with “internal and external” groups who he said were bent on harming Turkey. In contrast to his words, Turkish President Abdullah Gül defended the rights of citizens to protest and make their voices heard. “Democracy does not mean elections alone. There can be nothing more natural for the expression of various views, various situations and objections through a variety of ways, besides elections”, he said.

Shadow Chancellor Says Labour Government Would ‘Inherit Tough Spending Plans’

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has delivered a speech to an audience at Thomson Reuters on Monday outlining how a potential Labour government would keep spending levels similar to those of the coalition currently in power. “To serve the country and win its trust you cannot prepare now on any basis other than that you will inherit very tough spending plans from this year’s spending review. They will be our starting point”, adding that Labour would also make significant cuts to government spending. Among the series of measures set out by Balls during his speech, Labour would push for the abolition of police commissioners and a freeze to the building of more free schools, a reinstatement of the top tax rate at 50p, a cut in the number of senior officers in the navy and the army and a merger of health and social care services. He also outlined a renewed priority on preventive spending, such as “early years spending, support for troubled families, public and mental health services, scientific research into new cures and treatments – areas where spending now saves billions in the future”.

Hezbollah and Syrian Rebels Battle Inside Lebanon

Clashes involving the militant group Hezbollah and Syrian rebels spread into neighbouring Lebanon for the first time on Sunday, signalling the the civil war in Syria is increasingly spreading beyond its borders. One member of Hezbollah was killed in the Bekaa Valley, while Lebanese security sources said that 15 rebels had also been killed in the clashes. Syrian rebels had threatened to carry out attacks inside Lebanon after Hezbollah pledged support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s strike on Qusayr, a strategic town for the rebels. The government’s campaign started two weeks ago and its forces were aided by an estimated 1,700 fighters send by Hezbollah. UN agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had appealed to the Syrian government and rebel forces to gain access to the town so that civilians could leave the region unharmed. Syrian state television later reported that the country’s foreign minister would allow the agencies to move in and help “as soon as military operations are over”.

Thousands Evacuate Floods in Central Europe, EU Pledges Aid

Thousands of residents have evacuated towns in central Europe after heavy rains flooded many parts of the region, killing at least six people and cutting power to thousands of homes in Austria, the Czech Republic and Germany. The European Union has already pledged financial aid to the affected countries, using funds from the European Solidarity Fund, last used after similar floods struck the region in 2002. “I want to assure those affected and the politicians, too, that the European family will lend support to its member states and help where it’s needed the most”, said EU Regional Commissioner Johannes Rahn. In Austria, the government declared states of emergency in areas along the Danube river, with water levels already higher than those registered in 2002. In the Czech Republic, states of emergency were declared in Bohemia, while authorities expected the Vltava river in Prague to reach its peak height later on Monday. In Germany, the military send 1,760 troops to help the more than 28,000 emergency services staff battling floods across the country. “The situation is dramatic, especially in Wetterzeube, where we’re expecting the worst floods along the White Elster river since 1924,” said Saxony-Anhalt State Premier Reiner Haseloff. Heavy rainfall is expected to continue in the coming days.

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