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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Syria Accepts Russian Chemical Weapons Plan

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said on Tuesday that his government was ready to hand over its chemical weapons cache to international control in order to avoid a possible military strike. “Yesterday we held a round of very fruitful negotiations with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and he put forward an initiative regarding chemical weapons. Already in the evening we accepted Russia’s initiative”, said Muallem. He added that the move would “pull the rug from under the feet of American aggression”. “We are now working on this – working out an efficient and precise plan, for that we are in talks with the Syrian side. We expect to present the plan, including to the US, in the nearest future. We are ready to elaborate it with the UN Secretary General, members of the Security Council and with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons”, said Russian foreign minister Lavrov. US President Barack Obama reacted to the proposal by saying he would “engage with the Russians and the international community to see if we can we arrive at something that is enforceable and serious”, but that the option of a military strike remained in the cards. “If we don’t maintain and move forward with a credible threat of military pressure, I do not think we will actually get the kind of agreement I would like to see”. Meanwhile, France said it would table a new UN resolution calling on Syria to make its chemical weapons arsenal public. “The resolution will state that Damascus must reveal and dismantle its chemical weapons stockpile and accept that it should be placed under international control”, said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

Pakistan to Free Taliban Second-in-Command

Sartaj Aziz, adviser to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on foreign affairs, said on Tuesday that his government would free Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, known as Mullah Brother, the Taliban’s second-in-command, to help advance peace negotiations in neighbouring Afghanistan. “In principle, we have agreed to release him. The timing is being discussed. It should be very soon, I think within this month. He will not be handed over to Afghanistan. Obviously Karzai wanted him to go to Afghanistan, but we feel that if they are to play a positive role in the reconciliation process then they must do it according to what their own shura, their own leadership, wants them to do”, said Aziz, referring to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Afghanistan had been pushing for Mullah Brother’s release, believing it would be a gesture that would push the Taliban into negotiations with the government in Kabul.

Almost a Quarter of Men ‘Admit to Rape’ in Parts of Asia

A study carried out by Partners for Prevention, a joint-UN programme that seeks to prevent gender-based violence in the Asia Pacific region, has found that nearly a quarter of men in the region have admitted to committing rape, with more than half of respondents saying they raped for the first time in their teenage years. The study covered Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka. Ten percent of men admitted to raping at least once a woman who was not their partner, with the figure rising to 25 percent when counting the rape of a partner. The data was collected from more than 10,000 men and 3,000 women aged from 18 to 49 between 2010 and 2013. “It probably suggests rape is more widespread than we had thought, and the perpetration of rape starts earlier than people perhaps thought, which really highlights the need to start working with younger boys and girls to stop the violence”, said Dr Emma Fulu, a member of the programme. The rates varied from country to country, with 62 percent of participants in Bouganville, in Papua New Guinea, saying they had committed rape in the past year. Urban Bangladesh had the lowest figure, with 9.5 percent of interviewees admitting to having raped a woman in the past year.

Presumed Consent for Organ Donation to Begin in Wales in 2015

Wales will be the first UK nation to introduce a plan whereby consent for organ donation is presumed upon death from December 2015. Currently, UK donors have to join a voluntary scheme and carry a card saying they specifically choose to donate their organs. “Many people will wait years for a transplant but sadly, many die waiting on the list. The shortage of human organs continues to cause otherwise preventable deaths and suffering. This law will not only help reduce the waiting list, but will also help save lives by reducing the number of people who needlessly die waiting for an organ transplant”, said Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones. Organs donated under the new scheme could go to recipients anywhere in the UK. Kidney Wales Foundation chief executive Roy Thomas said the legislation “gives hope to all those waiting for a transplant, not only those on the list but those who fear chronic organ failure and who may need a transplant”.

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