Global news bulletin 02/06/2012

Posted: June 2, 2012 in News bulletin

-An Egyptian court has sentenced former president Hosni Mubarak to life in prison for complicity in killing more than 800 protesters during last year’s revolution, a first in the Arab world and a major achievement for the revolution which toppled him nearly 18 months ago. Judge Ahmed Refaat acknowledged problems with the prosecution’s case, which was widely criticised by legal experts. Prosecutors did not present evidence that Mubarak, 84, directly ordered the killings. But Refaat faulted the former president for not stopping them, and delivered a speech during today’s court session about what he called the “dark days” of Mubarak’s rule.

-International envoy Kofi Annan criticized President Bashar al-Assad for failing to comply with a peace plan to end the Syria conflict and said his forces were carrying out atrocities, arbitrary arrests and other abuses regardless of the world outcry against him. At a meeting with members of the Arab League, Annan gave a bleak assessment of the situation in Syria 15 months on from the start of the anti-Assad uprising.

Spain called for a new fiscal euro zone authority which would harmonize national budgets and manage the block’s debts. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the authority was the answer to the European debt crisis and would go a long way in alleviating Spain’s woes as it would send a clear signal to investors that the single currency is an irreversible project. It is not the first time a European leader has proposed creating such an authority but the woes and the size of Spain – a country deemed too big to fail – may now accelerate talks ahead of a EU summit on June 28-29. The prospect of a Greek euro exit and Spain’s parlous finances have prompted EU policymakers to hurriedly consider measures such as a “banking union”.

Cyprus looks increasingly set to become the fourth euro-zone country to seek financial aid under Europe’s temporary bailout fund, as early as this month, as it scrambles to protect its banking system from Greece’s widening financial crisis that is threatening to engulf its tiny island neighbor.The fallout from the Athens crisis already has forced Cyprus’s second biggest bank to seek government support for a planned multibillion euro recapitalization, something that will push the island’s public finances deep into the red and cause it to miss this year’s budget targets.

Ireland has backed the EU’s new fiscal treaty with 60 percent of voters in Thursday’s referendum saying ‘yes’ to plans to rein in government budgets across Europe. The Dublin parliament was the only one to put the proposals to a public vote. ‘Yes’ campaigners had argued that a rejection of the pact would hurt Ireland’s chances of attracting a second EU bailout, if required.

-The leader of the Greek radical left has confirmed that it will cancel the international rescue plan if Syriza wins the country’s repeat general election later this month. Alexis Tsipras also promised to reverse pay and pension cuts, and to nationalise Greek banks. Coalition talks collapsed after the last, inconclusive, election which was won by the conservative New Democracy party with Syriza a close second. Latest polls are contradictory. One gives New Democracy a narrow lead. Another puts the leftwingers six points ahead.

-Beijing has indicated that it will lift its year-long moratorium on new nuclear projects in a move that will breathe life into an industry plagued by uncertainty since the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi reactor last year. China‘s cabinet announced it had approved the 2020 nuclear strategy, finalised new safety standards and finished inspecting the country’s existing nuclear plants. After the Japanese nuclear crisis China suspended approvals of new reactors while it conducted safety inspections and drafted new regulations.

Burma has abandoned research into nuclear power generation, its defence minister says.The new government had “already given up all activities on nuclear issues”, Lt Gen Hla Min told the Shangri-La Dialogue security forum in Singapore. In 2010, a defecting Burmese soldier and mechanical engineer accused his country of starting work on a nuclear-weapons programme. But Hla Min insisted that the country had never pursued nuclear weapons.

-A major operation to refloat and remove the Costa Concordia is underway in Italy. The cruise liner hit rocks off the island of Giglio in January, with the loss of at least 30 lives. The year-long salvage operation is expected to cost 236 million euros.

-After barely a day in office, Serbia’s new president Tomislav Nikolic has threatened renewed tension in the Balkans by saying that the 1995 Srebrenica massacre was not genocide. His comments come despite international recognition that the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces during the war that tore apart former Yugoslavia does amount to a genocide.

-An internationally-acclaimed Turkish pianist is to go on trial, accused of insulting Muslim religious values in comments posted on Twitter. Fazil Say is said to have mocked Islamist beliefs about paradise and the call to prayer. He has denied the charges. If convicted, he could be jailed for up to 18 months.

-Britain has begun four days of festivities for Queen Elizabeth II‘s diamond jubilee, with organisers hoping a surge in enthusiasm for the royals will inspire crowds to defy drizzling rain. Gun salutes around the country kicked off celebrations today, marking the exact anniversary of the queen’s coronation, while the sovereign herself was to indulge her love of horse racing at the Epsom Derby.

-Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt has told CNN he can set a new 100 meter world record at the London 2012 Olympic Games — and could run as fast as 9.4 seconds. Bolt took the 100m gold medal at Beijing 2008 in a world-record time of 9.69s, before bettering that mark one year later with a stunning 9.58 at the World Championships in Berlin. The 25-year-old, who is also the record-holding world and Olympic champion over 200m, is confident he can become the first man to smash the 9.4 barrier in the British capital in August.

Sources: BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, Reuters, euronews, NYT, WSJ

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