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Monday, September 2, 2013

Attacking Syria Same as ‘Supporting al-Qaeda’, Says Syrian Minister

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told the BBC’s Middle East Editor, Jeremy Bowen, that any US strike against the country would mean “support for al-Qaeda and its affiliates”. Mekdad added that an attack would increase “hatred for the Americans” and destabilise the Middle East. He also said that, despite saying that he would seek congressional approval before ordering strikes, President Obama is “determined to launch an attack”. Meanwhile, the French government has said it will show its lawmakers evidence linking the Syrian government to the chemical attack of August 21. “It will be a set of evidence of different kinds that will allow the regime to be clearly identified as responsible”, said a French government source. The French parliament is due to debate the issue on Wednesday.

Documents Show NSA Spying on Brazilian and Mexican Presidents

The US National Security Agency has monitored the communications of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and their staff members, according to documents revealed on a Brazilian TV news show, Fantástico, by journalist Glenn Greenwald. The revelations were contained in the documents given to Greenwald by US whistleblower Edward Snowden. The NSA’s objective while spying the Brazilian president and her communications was to understand how the higher echelons of the Brazilian government worked and how they communicated amongst themselves. In the case of the Mexican president, Peña Nieto had his e-mails monitored before he took office and US intelligence therefore became aware of his choice of cabinet members nearly six months before any names were announced. Brazilian Justice Minister José Eduardo Cardozo reacted to the news by saying that “if these facts are proven, we are before an unacceptable and inadmissible situation, because they would establish a clear violation of sovereignty”.

Japan Pledges Rapid Reaction to Radioactive Water Leak at Fukushima

The Japanese government has pledged to act quickly on the buildup of contaminated radioactive water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), the plant’s operator, said that it had detected a potentially fatal level of radiation, 1,800 millisieverts per hour, at one of the water tanks at the plant. Tepco had initially recorded a leval of 100 millisieverts per hour at the site, but later admitted that was the maximum level detected by equipment used earlier at Fukushima. A subcontractor who was involved in building the storage tanks revealed that concerns about possible leaks of radioactive water first emerged after workers were told to build the tanks as quickly as possible. “We were told to put priority on making the tanks, rather than quality control. There were fears that toxic water may leak”, said the subcontractor.

British Officer Denies Iraqi Insurgents Were Mutilated and Executed While in Custody

A British officer speaking at an inquiry examining claims of UK troops abusing, mistreating and killing detainees in Iraq has called them “baseless rumors”. Col Adam Griffiths said that the rumours were spread by insurgents in order to discredit coalition forces. One particular item concerning the inquiry is whether British soldiers took Iraqi insurgents dead or alive after a battle in May 2004. There are allegations that some were taken alive and mistreated and executed at Camp Abu Naji and Shaibah Logistics Base. “I did not believe any of our soldiers had mutilated a body and I did not see at the time, and have not seen since, any evidence to support this proposition”, said Col Griffiths. The inquiry is the second one into allegations of abuse by British troops in Iraq and is due to report back by the end of 2014.

Seychelles Tops ‘World Debt League’

The Seychelles island archipelago in the Indian Ocean is the most indebted nation in the world, according to a report released on Monday, with net debts of more than 150 percent of GDP. The “debt league” compiled by the Jubilee Debt Campaign, which presses for the cancellation of all developing countries’ debts, show that the Sheychelles is followed by Portugal, Ireland and Greece in the debt rankings. The data was compiled from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, central banks and the OECD. “These figures show the huge imbalances which continue to plague the global economy. Large debts in some countries are matched by huge lending from the likes of German, British and Swiss banks. This creates a global boom-bust cycle which has been repeated for the last 30 years, from Africa and Latin America, to east Asia and Europe, and now India once again”, said Tim Jones, who compiled the data.

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