Sunday, 7 September 2008

A Place in the Auvergne, Saturday, 6th September 2008


Turkey's president visits Armenia

Gul accepted the invitation to visit Armenia despite heavy public opposition in each nation. He said that attending the soccer game, a World Cup qualifying match, was an opportunity to improve ties.
Security was heavy around the stadium in Yerevan, and protesters lined the streets along his motorcade's route.
"I hope today's match will help lift the barriers to closer relations between two nations that share a common history, and contribute to the establishment of regional friendship and peace," Gul said at a news conference before his departure for Yerevan.
After a new government was elected in Armenia this year, relations between the countries improved; several meetings were held between Foreign Ministry officials on the two sides.
"Although I cannot go into details, some consensus was reached for the normalization of bilateral relations," said a Turkish Foreign Ministry official who asked not to be identified, under normal diplomatic rules.
"Expectations should not be hyped, but the visit is clearly a goodwill gesture from Turkey," the official said.
Russia's military actions in Georgia, which borders Armenia and Turkey, have also fostered the rapprochement.
In response to the conflict, Turkey formed a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform to encourage political and economic links with five neighboring countries, including Armenia.
On Saturday, Sargsyan said Armenia and Turkey would work together to solve regional conflicts. "We are going to resolve the issues and not pass them on to next generations," he said.
Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 after Armenia occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan, Turkey's close ally and energy provider in the region. The border remains closed, and economic and trade ties are scant.

Bhutto's widower elected in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of the assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who has little experience in governing, was elected president of Pakistan on Saturday by a wide margin.


Atomic club removes ban on trade with India

NEW DELHI: The 45 nations that supply nuclear material and technology worldwide removed a major obstacle on Saturday to the passage of a landmark nuclear deal between the United States and India.
The organization, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, agreed to lift a ban on nuclear trade with India after three days of acrimonious talks in Vienna, overcoming opposition from countries fearful that it could set a dangerous precedent. India has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
The deal, pushed by the Bush administration, still needs approval from the United States Congress, where it has been divisive.
The accord would allow India to buy nuclear fuel and technology from the world market for its civilian energy program. India has been prohibited from doing so for three decades, since it tested nuclear weapons.
The pact is important to both President George W. Bush and the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, who have made it a central piece of their foreign policy agendas.

Rescue slow as part of cliff flattens Cairo district
CAIRO: A huge chunk of a stone cliff that towers over the eastern end of this city crashed down on Saturday morning, crushing dozens of apartment blocks and trapping and killing whole families, residents and officials said.
It was difficult to determine how many were dead or trapped because a neighborhood of densely packed apartments was flattened beneath boulders, each the size of a hill, and because government rescue workers were extremely slow to respond.
By midday 16 bodies had been recovered, and 27 people had been rescued alive, but residents said that at least 50 homes filled with people had vanished beneath the debris.
The collapse occurred around 9 a.m. on Saturday, during the holy month of Ramadan, when most people are at home.
"It was like judgment day," said Ahmed Muhammad Mahmoud, 42, who said he ran out of his house when he heard the first popping sounds. He said that rocks had fallen many times before and that he and his neighbors had complained to the government about the problem. But he and many others said the government never addressed the complaints, instead chastising them for living there.
Manshiet Nasser is a so-called informal community, one of several that are each home to millions of Cairo residents. Water, sewage, electricity, whole apartment blocks — all were built and installed by the residents in a process of spontaneous development, and many corners of the neighborhood are extremely poor.
When the dust settled after the rocks crashed down here on Saturday, El Dardeery Street was gone. Half of El Amayen Street was gone. The Abu Gharib family was gone. The Morsey family was gone.
At 10 a.m., Abdo Said, 32, was helping to pull bodies from the corner of the debris that was accessible — and wondering when the authorities would arrive. At 11:30, Nasser Muhammad Ali, 48, was wondering when the authorities would arrive to help. At 1:30 p.m., crowds started throwing rocks at the riot police, who had arrived long ago, not to help with rescue, but to control the crowds.
"Consider these people are your people," hollered a distraught man as an officer tried to calm the crowds through a bullhorn. "Consider they are your family. Do something!"
"Call somebody, call somebody," shouted Nehmedo Muhammad Ali, 42, whose sister-in-law was gone, under the fallen mountain.
Six hours after the collapse, rescue teams from Egypt's Division of Civil Defense began to arrive, armed with shovels and hand picks.
An hour after that, officials said they had a plan to get heavy equipment to the scene. The neighborhood was sandwiched between the towering yellow cliff and a berm. Railroad tracks ran across the top of the berm. Officials said they would cut a path through the berm to get the equipment in.
But the people did not wait. They could not: their homes were gone and their neighbors trapped.
Ismail Muhammad Ali, 35, knew where his sister-in-law lived. It was beneath a massive stone, the size of a building. He squatted in the dirt, and shimmied beneath the edge of the stone. He scarred his hands, tripping into the dirt, pulling out hunks of wood, calling her name. "Safa Adel!" he shouted. He pulled out more wood. "Safa Adel!"
Tempers began boiling over, because while the neighbors struggled, forming lines to pull debris away, many police officers were present but doing nothing. "You come here to sit in the shade!" a woman screamed at a group of police officers seated on the ground.
One officer said, "People are emotional; we have to keep them calm." He refused to give his name, his rank or even his branch of the Interior Ministry. He said, "We all have our responsibilities."
And of course, the anger mixed with shock. Who lived and who died appeared random.
Reham Ismail, 21, and her husband, Emad Said, 25, by chance spent the night at his mother's house. They were nearly speechless, standing atop a massive piece of the mountain that rested where their apartment block had stood a few hours earlier.
"Our whole family and our neighbors, they all are dead," Ismail said. "We blame the government. They keep saying we choose to live like this. But tell me, can we do any better?"
That theme arose again and again: anger and frustration at having to live amid dirt roads, without proper water or sewage, on paltry salaries, all in the center of Cairo.
"Before there was the rich, the poor and people in the middle; now there is nobody in the middle," said Muhammad Abdel Wahid, 36, an elevator technician who earns less than $50 a month. "There are the rich, they eat and drink; there are the poor, and they die."

Cheney issues warning to Russia
CERNOBBIO, Italy: Vice President Dick Cheney on Saturday denounced Russia's war against Georgia as evidence of a pattern of "troublesome and unhelpful actions" that threatened peace from Central Asia to the Middle East to Europe.
Cheney, speaking at an international conference here beside Lake Como, said that Russia now faced a choice between cooperation and isolation, and he urged European nations to join the United States in unambiguously supporting Georgia, Ukraine and other new democracies in Russia's shadow.
"Does Russia really want to separate itself from the community of values that has fueled so much of its own economic progress?" Cheney asked an annual gathering of political leaders and business executives organized by the European House-Ambrosetti, a private consultancy. "Does the Russian government really wish to operate in the modern world as an outsider, alienating free countries and trying to rally the world's dictatorships?"

Cheney noted Russia's reduction of oil to the Czech Republic after it agreed to build a missile defense radar station and also a Russian suggestion that Poland would be making itself a target if it agreed to deploy missile interceptors. He also cited threats and economic pressure directed against Ukraine and the Baltic states.
"That is no way for a responsible power to conduct itself," Cheney said. "And it reflects the discredited notion that any country can claim an exclusion zone of authority, to be held together by muscle and threats."
Even as he declared the cold war a thing of the past, he warned that Russia's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, if not reversed, could lead to new divisions and conflicts on Europe's eastern borders.
"We know that if one country is allowed to unilaterally redraw the borders of another, it will happen and it will happen again," he said. "We know that if we permit a new line to be drawn across Europe, that line will be drawn."


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