Germany Summons US Ambassador Over Spying Claims
Germany’s Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, summoned the US ambassador to discuss allegations that the NSA had been spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone. The move comes one day after the allegations were published by German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, with Merkel calling US President Barack Obama to confront him about the claims. “This would be a grave breach of trust”, said her spokesman, Steffen Seibert. “Such practices must be immediately put to a stop”. In response to the allegations, a spokesman for the US National Security Council told Der Spiegel that President Obama had “assured the Chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel”. The revelation also prompted strong debate within Germany over the government’s apparent dismissal of the initial spying claims that alleged that the NSA had hacked into thousands of German e-mail accounts. “The report that the chancellor’s mobile phone was also tapped shows how absurd the attempt was to end the debate about the surveillance of everyday communications in this country. In light of the new revelations it was downright irresponsible not to have pushed harder to get to the truth,” said Germany’s commissioner for data protection and freedom of information, Peter Schaar.
Pakistan ‘Endorsed US Drone Strikes’
CIA documents and diplomatic memos revealed by the Washington Post on Thursday show that top Pakistani officials have secretly endorsed US drone strikes carried out in the country despite publicly denouncing the strikes as an aggression on Pakistan’s national sovereignty. They routinely received files and memos describing targets, drone attacks and before-and-after aerial photos of targets in a four-year stretch from late 2007 to late 2011. Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, spokesman for the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, said that such cooperation had changed in the current government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, a vocal critic of the drone strikes. “Whatever understandings there may or may not have been in the past, the present government has been very clear regarding its policy on the issue. We regard such strikes as a violation of our sovereignty as well as international law. They are also counter-productive”, he added.
Syrian Sectarian Tensions Flare Up in Lebanon
At least four people have been killed in Tripoli, the second largest city in Lebanon, in a firefight between supporters and opponents of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The district of Bab al-Tabbana, which opposes the Syrian regime, and the district of Jabal Muhsin, supportive of al-Assad, have been clashing since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. The city’s mayor, Nader Ghazal, said that the clashes had the biggest impact on the city’s poorest communities. “The reality is that we have always called for the need to save the city before it’s too late but to no avail. Today Tripoli is suffering, and there is a pressing need to save it”, he said. Lebanese security and military forces were ordered by the central government to move into the opposing districts and end the clashes.
French Football Clubs to Strike in Protest Over Taxes
Football clubs in France’s top two divisions, Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, will go on strike for a weekend to protest at the government’s plan of a “super tax” on wealth. According to the proposal, companies, and not individuals, will be liable to pay the 75 percent tax over annual salaries that exceed €1m. Only Monaco, based in the principality and therefore under a different tax code, will be spared the measure. “This tax is unfair and discriminatory. The economic crisis has not spared the clubs who have had their ticket sales and television rights decrease for three consecutive years”, said a statement on French football league’s (LFP) website. The president of the Professional Clubs Union (UCPF), Jean-Pierre Louvel, said he would meet French President François Hollande to discuss the tax. “The survival of French football is at stake. We will ask him once again to drop this tax”, said Louvel.