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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Obama Signals a Diplomatic Solution to the Syrian Crisis

US President Barack Obama used a televised address on Monday night to signal that a diplomatic solution to the crisis over Syria was possible, but also insisted that a military strike was still in the cards. He said he suspended a congressional vote on whether to authorise a military strike against Syria, but that the US military would “maintain their current posture to keep the pressure on Assad and to be in a position to respond if diplomacy fails”. Obama also said he would wait for a final report by United Nations weapons inspectors before taking any action. On the Russian proposal to place chemical weapons under international control, the US president said that “it’s too early to tell whether this offer will succeed and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments, but this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force, particularly because Russia is one of Assad’s strongest allies”.

Russia Could Increase Arms Sales to Iran if Syria is Attacked

Alexei Pushkov, a Russian lawmaker and an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said on Wednesday that Russia could increase arms sales to Iran or review its cooperation in Afghanistan if the US launched a military strike against Syria. Pushkov is the head of the lower house’s foreign affairs committee and outlined possible Russian responses to a US strike during a statement to the lower house, the State Duma. Mentioning the Russian plan to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control, Pushkov said that “the party of war in the United States will try to derail the Russian plan, and that has already begun. The United States State Department has already been making skeptical statements. An attack on Syria could cause a major regional war. Such a threat exists”. Russia sustains that the chemical attack that struck a suburb of Damascus in April was carried out by rebels in an attempt to attract a military strike and its government has so far been unconvinced by intelligence reports from the US, the UK and France indicating that the weapons had been launched by Syrian troops loyal to the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Deputy Speaker Resigns After Sex Charges

House of Commons Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans MP resigned from his post on Wednesday after being charged with two counts of indecent assault, five of sexual assault and one of rape against seven male victims. “Since these allegations, I have not been able to fully fulfil my duties in the chair, which left me in a land of limbo. None of us was elected to the fine office of Member of Parliament to be put in that invidious position, unable to fully fulfil the reason why we were sent here”, said Evans. Speaker John Bercow said Evans was “highly competent, fair and good-humoured”, a “loyal and hugely valued member of the team” and that he was “enormously grateful to him”. Evans said he would carry on as MP for Ribble Valey as an independent, relinquishing his association with the Conservative Party.

One Third of Food Produced is Wasted, Says UN

A report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the UN’s food agency, revealed on Wednesday that one-third of the food produced around the world is wasted, costing the global economy US$750 billion every year. Asia, and China in particular, were pointed out as the biggest culprits. The FAO’s Director General, José Graziano da Silva, said that the waste was equivalent to the GDP of Switzerland. “We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million people go hungry every day”, said Graziano da Silva. Achim Steiner, head of the UN’s Environment Programme (UNEP), said it was a “big wake up call”. “It will take less than 37 years to add another two billion people to the global population. How on earth will we feed ourselves in the future?”, he asked. The report stated that over 100 kilos of vegetables are wasted per person every year in Asia, and that intensive rice cultivation in the region had emerged as “a significant environmental hotspot”.

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