Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 17 April 2011





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World at a glance

Australia's carbon tax under threat

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's proposed carbon tax is under threat. The Australian reports: "The nation's most powerful union leader has demanded Julia Gillard exempt steel production from the carbon tax, with workers and bosses uniting for the first time to warn of jobloes and the potential collapse of the industry. "And more unions have locked in behind Australian Workers Union leader Paul Howes to insist the Prime Minister protect members' jobs as she attempts to engineer one of the biggest economic transformations in the nation's history.

"Mr Howes's move to place a marker on the steel sector - one of the nation's heaviest carbon polluters - complicates Ms Gillard's push to price carbon.

"Ms Gillard played down Mr Howes's criticism of Labor's attempts to sell the carbon tax, with Australian Greens leader Bob Brown attacking the union boss as an economic illiterate and conceding that the switch to a low-carbon economy would cost jobs."

Clashes in Syria

The pro-democracy protests which started in Tunisia are spreading in the Arab world. It is reported that a wave of pro-democracy protests has started in Syria. Syrian security forces have used tear gas and batons to disperse tens of thousands of protesters in the capital, Damascus.Some of the protesters called for reforms, while some demanded the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad.

The protests, in Damascus and other cities, are believed to be the largest in a month of unrest in which about 200 people have been reported killed.President Bashar al-Assad has made some concessions while cracking down on dissent.

Thousands of people were reported to have demonstrated in a number of other Syrian cities including Deraa, Latakia, Baniyas and Qamishli; places where violence has been previously reported.State media reported that "small-scale demonstrations" had taken place in different parts of the country and security forces had not intervened.

The mass protests in the suburbs of Damascus marks a major escalation of Syria's month of unrest, which has largely bypassed the capital.Analysts said Friday's protests were the largest since they began in the southern city of Deraa on March 15.

The unrest is seen as the biggest challenge to Assad, who inherited power from his father in 2000.

The protesters say they want greater freedom, including a repeal of the decades-old security law, which bans public gatherings of more than five people.Some are calling for the overthrow of the president, who rules with a tight grip through his family and the security forces.Assad has offered some concessions, forming a new government on Thursday and pronouncing amnesty for an undisclosed number of people detained last month.

He has also sacked some local officials and granted Syrian citizenship to thousands of the country's Kurdish minority - satisfying a long-held demand.The demonstrators in Damascus held up yellow cards, in a football-style warning to President Assad, the AP news agency said.

"This is our first warning, next time we will come with the red cards," one protester said.Other witnesses said the demonstrators tore down posters of Assad as they passed along their route and called for the overthrow of the president.Reuters quoted a witness who said 15 busloads of secret police had chased people into alleyways north of the city's main Abbasside Square.

The United Nations and a number of Western governments have decried President Assad's use of force to try to quash the protests.US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Syria's authorities to stop using violence against their own people."The Syrian government has not addressed the legitimate demands of the Syrian people," she said after a NATO meeting in Berlin.

Obama reiterates his position on Libya

US President Barack Obama has added his name to a commitment from David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy to support military action in Libya until Muammar Gaddafi is overthrown.

In a joint article published in The Times, The Washington Post and Le Figaro, the US, British and French leaders say the world will be guilty of an "unconscionable betrayal" if the Libyan leader is left in place, putting the fate of citizens who have rebelled against his rule in the hands of a merciless militia intent on revenge.Gaddafi must "go, and go for good" before the rebuilding of Libya can begin, the Western leaders say, rejecting demands for an immediate ceasefire and a negotiated exit for the Libyan dictator, which could have left his family in charge.

As the Libyan conflict approaches the end of its first month, there is still no sign of a breakthrough. In the capital, Tripoli - again hit by NATO airstrikes in a show of fresh Western resolve - a defiant Gaddafi drove through the streets in a cavalcade, standing up through the sunroof of the lead vehicle and punching the air triumphantly. His daughter Aisha also made a public appearance, addressing crowds from the second-floor balcony of her father's Bab al-Aziziya compound - first bombed by the US 25 years ago.Libya had not been defeated by the US airstrikes then and would not be defeated now, she told the cheering crowd.

"To speak of Gaddafi's resignation is a humiliation for all Libyans," she said. "Let me go back to the past when I was a child, when I was nine years old in this house," she said. "A rain of missiles and bombs came down. They tried to kill me. They killed dozens of children in Libya.



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