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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Taliban to Host Peace Talks

Afghani President Hamid Karzai announced today that his government will send envoys to the new Taliban offices in Qatar for peace talks. This comes as the NATO coalition has begun its final handover of power to Afghan security forces after the 12-year war led by the U.S. to topple the Taliban government. This handover, called “milestone 2013″, will culminate in the departure of all NATO troops serving in Afghanistan under the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) force by the end of next year. The Pakistan Foreign Ministry, an erstwhile ally to the Afghani Taliban, welcomed the peace overtures, saying, “it is in our common interest to jointly address the common challenges of terrorism and extremism being faced by our region.” Spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsansaid of the Tehreek-e-Taliban, the Pakistani arm of Taliban, told reporters, “we are independent from the Afghan Taliban and are fighting for the implementation of Sharia Law in Pakistan,” but he also said Tehreek-e-Taliban supports the Afghani peace talks and would refrain from carrying out cross-border attacks. The U.S. has indicated it is willing to hold peace talks with the Taliban. U.S. deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said, “the United States will be supporting a process that is fundamentally Afghan-led … We can play a role in talking to the Taliban as well in supporting that peace process – and because we have issues of our own to bring up with them.”

Greek Court Orders State Channel Returned to Air

A greek court ruled that the previously shuttered state broadcaster ERT must be reopened immediately until a restructured public broadcaster is launched. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras shutdown ERT due to public sector layoffs as part of an austerity aimed at pleasing the European Union Troika. The closure of the channel caused significant protests. Opposition Syriza party leader Alexis Tsipras reprimanded the Samaras’ unilateral action, saying, “you decided and commanded to silence the state television, tarnishing both democracy and freedom of speech. Such things happen on only two occasions, minister: only when there is a foreign invasion of the country or when there is a collapse of democracy.” But finance minister Yannis Stournaras rejected Tsipras’ criticism, saying the ERT “is going into the workshop, so it can come out repaired, clean, and without scandal. I would like to remind you what you said on May 18, you said then that it was a channel of a dictatorship government, a channel of bailout propaganda. I think today you are crying crocodile tears Mr President of Syriza.” Eleni Hrona, a reporter for ERT who took part in protest that saw the channel broadcasting over the Internet in defiance of Samaras’ closure, greeted the court’s decision, saying, “I’ve been here seven nights and this is the first time I’ve seen people smile.” All parties claimed victory from the ruling, which opted against specifying whether ERT must restart with programming as before or only partially resume operations until its relaunch.

Mozambican Soldiers Killed in Raid

At least five soldiers were killed when suspected members of the Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo) attacked an armory in the central region of Dondo. Renamo spokesperson Fernando Mazanga did not confirm his party’s involvement, but earlier this year, resistance members, attacked a police post in the same region in retaliation for police raids on Renamo meetings. Renamo’s security chief Ossufo Momad was unapologetic about the deaths, saying his party “is tired of persecution, humiliations, repression, dictatorship and slavery.” Five police officers were killed in that attack. A force of about 300 Renamo fighters have remained armed since a 1992 peace deal ended Mozambique’s 16-year civil war, which saw the governing Frelimo party pitted against Renamo. The resistance group has otherwise demilitarized and is now the largest opposition group in Mozambique. Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama has repeatedly rejected the call for his remaining fighters to be integrated into the Mozambican army, saying he needs his own personal bodyguards and that they remain far away from large cities.

Peruvians Protest Against Gold Mine

Yesterday saw at least 4,000 protestors encircle Lake Perol, high in the Peruvian Andes, protesting a plan to drain the lake along with others to make way for Conga, a gold mining project. Newmont Mining and its Peruvian partner, Buenaventura, are building a series of reservoirs and dams to contain the water, which the joint-venture will then sell to towns and farmers in the area, putting an end to seasonal doughts. But Angel Mendoza, from the nearby town of Pampa Verde, asked, “why would we want a reservoir controlled by the company when we already have lakes that naturally provide us water?” Protests against the Conga project are not new; in fact, they represent the largest issue facing Peruvian President Ollanta Humala. Humala has had to shuffle his cabinet twice in as many years due to vociferous protests against the mining and water transfer scheme, despite granting his security forces the right to arrest suspected protestors without warrant. Chief Executive Roque Benavides of Buenaventura suggested that water from Lake Perol would be transferred to a new reservoir later this year and that Conga might be scrapped if water from the lakes could not be transferred. Protestor Cesar Correa hopes that such results come to pass. “Hopefully, the company and the government will see the crowd here today and stop the project,” he said.

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