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Friday, September 6, 2013

Putin Says Chemical Weapons Used in Syria by Rebels to Spark Military Intervention

Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking during the G20 summit in St Petersburg, has characterised the chemical weapons attack in Syria as “a provocation on the part of the militants who are expecting to get support from outside” in order to spark a foreign military strike against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He also said that, contrary to US assertions, there was not an even split among the nations over the issue of attacking Syria. He said only Canada, France, Turkey and Saudi Arabia were favourable to military intervention, while Russia, China, India, Indonesia, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and Italy were opposed to it. When asked if Russia would “help” Syria in case it was attacked, the Russian president replied “we will, and we are already helping, we send arms, we cooperate in the economics sphere, we hope to expand our cooperation in the humanitarian sphere, which includes sending humanitarian aid to support those people – the civilians – who have found themselves in a very dire situation in this country”. Speaking separately, US President Barack Obama did not clarify what he would do if he did not manage to obtain congressional approval for military action against Syria. A poll commissioned by the BBC in partnership with ABC News showed that more than one-third of congress members were undecided on the issue, with a majority of those already decided saying they would vote against military action.

Brazil’s Rousseff: Obama Will Personally Look Into Spying Allegations

In a separate development at the G20 summit in St Petersburg, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said that US President Barack Obama had taken personal responsibility for investigating reports that his government had spied on Brazilian government communications. “I will go to the UN to ask for new regulations governing online privacy and my trip to Washington depends on political conditions to be created by president Obama” said Rousseff. The Brazilian president is scheduled to make a state visit to the US in late October, but her advance team cancelled its trip after the revelations on spying were made by Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald on Brazilian TV last Sunday. Rousseff would discuss cooperation on oil and biofuels technology, commercial agreements and a possible US$4 billion fighter jet purchase from US manufacturers.

US and UK Agencies Unlocked Encryption Designed to Protect Emails, Banking and Medical Records

New revelations drawn from the documents leaked by US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden have shown that US and British intelligence agencies are able to crack the encryption used to protect emails, online banking and confidential electronic medical records, according to the Guardian. The documents also reveal that the intelligence agencies have collaborated with technology companies and internet providers to insert secret vulnerabilities into their software in order to gain access to information, with Hotmail, Google, Yahoo and Facebook named among these companies. “These design changes make the systems in question exploitable through Sigint collection … with foreknowledge of the modification. To the consumer and other adversaries, however, the systems’ security remains intact”, set out one document. Intelligence officials had asked that the Guardian not publish this latest set of revelations, but the newspaper published the story “because of the value of a public debate about government actions that weaken the most powerful tools for protecting the privacy of internet users in the US and worldwide”.

Netherlands Found Liable for Srebrenica Deaths

The Supreme Court of the Netherlands ruled on Friday that the Dutch state was responsible for the deaths of three Bosnian Muslisms in Srebrenica in 1995, meaning that the victims’ families can now sue the Dutch state for compensation, setting an important precedent for future UN peacekeeping missions. The decision ends a case started in 2003, when Hasan Nuhanovic, a local interpreter for Dutch troops in the area, filed a complaint together with the relatives of electrician Rizo Mustafic. They alleged the Dutch state had been responsible for the deaths of the electrician and the father and brother of Nuhanovic because they had been expelled from a UN base outside Srebrenica shortly before Bosnian Serbs started rounding up and killing Muslims in July 1995. Around 8,000 Muslim men and boys died at what later became known as the Srebrenica massacre.

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