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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

UN Launches Philippines Aid Appeal

The UN has launched a US$301m appeal to aid the Philippines, struck by Typhoon Hainan on Friday. The organisation estimates that more than 11 million people were affected by the passage of the storm through the country’s central provinces, with another 673,000 displaced from their homes. Valerie Amos, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief, told the BBC in Manila that those affected were “absolutely desperate” and in need of food, water and shelter”. “People need to be protected”, she added. She said that the UN would focus on “food, health, sanitation, shelter, debris removal and also protection of the most vulnerable” and hoped donor countries would be generous. The US has sent the USS George Washington aircraft carrier to aid relief efforts. “As needed, these ships and aircraft will be able to provide humanitarian assistance, supplies, and medical care in support of ongoing relief efforts”, said Pentagon spokesman George Little.

Iran Blames the West for Talks Breakdown

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed remarks made by US Secretary of State John Kerry that said Iran had backed out of a nuclear deal with Western powers at the last minute. In a series of tweets, the Iranian foreign minister said that “no amount of spinning can change what happened”, saying that internal divisions among Western powers had actually stalled talks. He also claimed that Kerry’s posture “damages confidence” in an interview on Iranian television. Speaking in Abu Dhabi, Kerry said that Ayatollah Khamenei “issued a fatwa, the highest form of Islamic prohibition against some activity, and he said that is to prohibit Iran from ever seeking a nuclear weapon. What we are seeking to do is transform that fatwa into a legal code that universally is acceptable so that we can, in fact, prove that the program is peaceful”.

China Unveils Reforms

A meeting of China’s senior leaders, expected to set the country’s directives for the next decade, held back any reduction in the state’s role in the economy, with state ownership still a cornerstone of China’s system. The meeting was overseen by President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. “The overall goal is to complete and develop the socialist system with Chinese characteristics and push forward the modernisation of the governing system and governing ability”, said a communiqué released after the end of four days of discussions. The leaders also vowed to strengthen the independence of the country’s judiciary, often seen as bowing to the dictats of the party, and strengthen the country’s anti-corruption mechanism. Other pledges included more security measures against internal unrest and more land property rights for farmers.

Egypt Lifts State of Emergency

Egypt lifted a three-month state of emergency and night-time curfews on Tuesday after a court ruled it had expired. The country’s cabinet said in a prepared statement that it would respect the ruling, but would wait for official notification before lifting the measures. Most expected the measures to end on Thursday, exactly three months after they were announced by interim president Adly Mansour on August 14. “The government is committed to implement judicial rulings. The government is waiting for the text of the ruling”, read the statement. The state of emergency and the curfews were put in place after the coup that brought down Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, which prompted large protests across the country and battles between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and the country’s armed forces.

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