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Sunday, 3 April 2011





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World at a Glance

Unrest in Ivory Coast

This week's world news focused on unrest and clashes in Ivory Coast, killing including alleged beheadings of UN staff in Afghanistan and rebel forces re-capturing Ajdabiya and the oil-refining towns of Ras Lanuf and Brega from pro-Muammar Qaddafi forces. Reports from Down Under suggest that Australians have emerged on top as the world's most envious people in a tally of the seven deadly sins.

Clashes in Abidjan

As reported by Reuters, several dozens of "people left a district of Ivory Coast's economic capital Abidjan last Sunday, a day after gun battles erupted forces backing two presidential rivals.

Residents of the northern Abobo district said clashes between forces loyal to incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo and those supporting his rival Alassane Ouattara continued most of Saturday, but had died down on Sunday.

"People are starting to leave because they fear more combat," said Issa Dembele, a resident of Abobo. "Personally, I'm preparing to evacuate my own family."

The United Nations estimates that around 200,000 people - most of Abobo's population - have left in the past two weeks.

International sanctions such as a ban on European ships using Ivorian ports, together with the near-collapse of the local banking sector, mean supplies of Ivory Coast's cocoa to world markets have virtually dried up.

Around 400 people have already been killed in post-election violence according to the United Nations, while some 450,000 Ivorians have fled their homes for fear of attacks. Around 90,000 have sought refuge in neighbouring Liberia.

Libya rebels retake Ajdabiya

After rebel forces retook Ajdabiya and the oil-refining towns of Ras Lanuf and Brega, it seemed that Muammar Qaddafi's troops might crumble fast in the face of Western air attacks. But that hope was fleeting. At a hastily assembled conference in London on March 29, attended by nearly 40 delegations representing the international coalition that is enforcing UN Security Resolution 1973, the turn of events on the ground saw Libyan government forces dramatically regain the initiative. And that prompted a more sober assessment of the rebels' progress.

A day earlier, General Carter Ham, the American officer who was running operations in Libya until NATO assumed command, had warned: "The regime still vastly overmatches opposition forces militarily. The regime possesses the capability to roll them back very quickly. Coalition air power is the major reason that has not happened." The General added that apart from some "localised wavering" there had so far been only a few cases of military or government officials defecting to the opposition.

Crisis in Syria

Syrian President Bashar Assad is under intensifying fire, but refuses to retreat. The protests that started in the southern city of Deraa on March 18 have spread and the regime of President Assad has so far been determined to crush them. Since March 25, when many thousands of Syrians again took to the streets for the second Friday in a row, more than 40 people were killed, raising the death toll in two weeks to more than 100 and many more have been arrested and tortured.

UN staff killed in Afghanistan

According to Reuters sources, "Afghans protesting the burning of a Koran by an obscure US pastor over-ran a United Nations compound on Friday and killed at least seven international staff in the deadliest ever attack on the UN in Afghanistan.

Thousands of demonstrators flooded into the streets after Friday prayers and headed for the UN mission in usually peaceful Mazar-i-Sharif, a city slated as safe enough to be in the vanguard of a crucial security transition.

The governor of Balkh province said insurgents had used the march as cover to attack the compound, in a battle that raged for several hours and raises serious questions about plans to make the city a pilot project for security transfer to national forces.

The New York Times provides more details on the incident. "The dead included ...four Nepalese guards and three Europeans from Romania, Sweden... Early reports, later denied by Afghan officials...that at least two of the dead had been beheaded.

The attack was the deadliest for the United Nations in Afghanistan since 11 people were killed in 2009, when Taliban suicide bombers invaded a guesthouse in Kabul.

LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lanka
Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL)
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