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Archive for February, 2012

EU, NATO dismiss Abkhazia election

SUKHUMI, Georgia, Aug. 30 (UPI) — The European Union and NATO say they don’t recognize the results of this past weekend’s election of Aleksandr Ankvab as the president of Abkhazia.

Ankvab, one of three candidates who were vying to replace the late President Sergei Bagapsh in the breakaway Georgian region, won with nearly 55 percent of the vote, Abkhazia’s Central Elections Commission announced Saturday.

Ankvab was Bagapsh’s vice president and was serving as acting president of the enclave, which is officially recognized as a nation only by Russia and a handful of other countries.

Ankvab bested Prime Minister Sergei Shamba and opposition leader Raul Khadzhimba, a former vice president, in the polling, which was Friday.

Shamba received 21 percent of the vote and Khadzhimba garnered 19.8 percent as 106,845 residents — a 72 percent turnout — participated, officials said.

Abkhazia, a small state with a population estimated at less than 200,000 and an area smaller than Connecticut, was recognized by Moscow as independent of Georgia after a brief 2008 war between Moscow and Tbilisi over it and another breakaway region, South Ossetia.

Georgia has refused to recognize the results of the Abkhazian election. The country’s foreign ministry issued a statement blasting the “so-called presidential elections” in Abkhazia, denouncing “the Russian occupation forces and its proxy regime in Sukhumi” and calling the polling a “mockery of the international law.”

Tbilisi accused Moscow of bringing in “several dozen of so-called ‘international observers’ in an attempt to legitimize the outcome of these ‘elections,’ and thus the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of people.”

EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen each issued statements over the weekend in which they dismissed the Abkhazian presidential results and referred to it as a “Georgian region.”

“In view of the reports today from Sukhumi in the breakaway region of Abkhazia in Georgia, that Mr. Alexander Ankvab has been elected as new president, this statement is to recall that the European Union does not recognize the constitutional and legal framework within which these elections have taken place,” the statement from Ashton read.

“The European Union reiterates its support to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia, as recognized by international law.”

Rasmussen, meanwhile, reiterated NATO’s “full support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders” while adding it “does not recognize the elections held on August 26 in the Georgian region of Abkhazia.”

Since the cease-fire agreement that ended the 2008 conflict, Russia and Georgia have traded accusations over ethnic cleansing in the breakaway regions and both have denounced the continuing problems of thousands of internally displaced people.

The international community has been meeting regularly on the Abkhazia and South Ossetia security and human rights situations through the Geneva Discussions, by which they are hoping to establish “non-use of force” and associated security agreements.

That is something Georgia supports but Russia opposes.

The EU and the United States have called on Moscow to withdraw its troops to positions held prior to the start of the 2008 hostilities and to allow humanitarian access to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

“The Russian Federation’s deployment of troops and weapons in the regions is inconsistent with its cease-fire commitments and clearly threatens stability,” the U.S. State Department said earlier this year.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Target Syria, Iran together, lawmakers say

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 (UPI) — Syria and Iran are “partners in crime” and should be targeted equally by direct sanctions from Washington, a U.S. lawmaker said.

Washington and the rest of the international community have ratcheted up the sanctions pressure on Damascus as the regime’s bloody crackdown continues. More than 2,000 people were killed at the hands of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, including hundreds killed during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Tehran, for its part, has earned the scorn of its Western adversaries for its poor human rights record. There’s been little heard, meanwhile, from two of Iran’s leading opposition members since their arrest in early spring.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Washington should directly target each regime with equal fervor.

“The Iranian and Syrian regimes are partners in crime, and the U.S. should apply the same sanctions to both dictatorships,” she said. “Both regimes brutally oppress their own citizens, and the Iranian regime is helping the Syrian regime with its ongoing bloody crackdown.”

In a separate measure, Ros-Lehtinen proposed a measure to make funding for the United Nations voluntary. The world body, she said, is “plagued by scandal, mismanagement, and inaction.”

The State Department said it opposes both measures.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Michigan sees future in wind energy

HARRISON TOWNSHIP, Mich., Aug. 30 (UPI) — Developing wind energy in Michigan is providing economic stimulus to the state and redefining its workforce, a U.S. congresswoman said.

U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., whose district includes the eastern part of the state, toured a wind-energy project in the so-called thumb area. She said more than 80 percent of the workforce needed to build the Michigan Wind 2 site is coming from state labor pools.

“This wind farm is providing our area with clean energy, and is doing so by engaging the local community,” she said in a statement.

Exelon Wind is building three wind farms in Michigan. The Wind 2 site will have 50 turbines spinning by the end of the year, supplying 90 megawatts of clean energy to Michigan consumers.

The thumb region is expected to become one of the more robust wind energy regions in the state. DTE Energy, a state utility company, aims to invest $225 million in three wind farms in the area.

Consumers Energy, another state utility, said it was doubling the amount of solar power it would purchase from its customers under a state plan that requires utility companies to get 10 percent of their energy from renewable resources by 2015.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Gold mine backers hail Romania president

ROSIA MONTANA, Romania, Aug. 31 (UPI) — Supporters of an effort to build a one of the world’s biggest gold mines in Romania say they’re encouraged by the public backing of President Traian Basescu.

A pro-mining industry and trade group said Monday it is thrilled with comments made last week by Basescu, who seemed to indicate the chronic waffling of the Romanian government on the controversial Rosia Montana Project is turning into qualified support more than a decade after the $1 billion project was announced.

“We hail the statements for support of the mining project in Rosia Montana made by the president of Romania,” a statement from the Group for the Support of the Rosia Montana Project said.

The Romanian group, composed of local public authorities, universities, non-governmental organizations, mining industry associations and trade unions, the project is needed in country’s Apuseni Mountains region, the English-language Romanian news Web site ACTMedia reported.

“The reality of Rosia Montana is that it is an underdeveloped area, with mining its only industry,” the group said. “(There is a large) unemployed population and 80 percent of its people live at subsistence levels, with youth lacking any perspective.”

The project, spearheaded by the Canadian mining company Gabriel Resources Ltd., has encountered stiff resistance from environmentalists and others, mainly because of its massive scale and the use of cyanide.

Rosia Montana, considered a world-class reserve, is estimated to hold gold resources of 10 million ounces and Gabriel has said it plans to produce an average 500,000 ounces a year at a cash cost of $400 an ounce, The Globe and Mail newspaper in Toronto reported.

With price of gold at an all-time high of $1,800 per ounce, the Romanian government is seeing its potential in a different light but is also responding to calls that it get a better deal from the investors.

A mine’s controlling company, Rosia Montana Gold Corp., is 19.3 percent-owned by Bucharest through its Minvest Deva while Gabriel Resources holds 80.5 percent and other minority with shareholders control 0.23 percent of the company.

Basescu told an audience at the Danube Delta town of Sulina last week he backed the Rosia Montana gold and silver mining project, given that the world gold prices had risen so high, but that the state’s profit-sharing arrangements with Gabriel need to be changed, ACTMedia said.

“I think the Rosia Montana project must be made,” he said. “Romania needs it, on condition that the terms relating the sharing of the benefits from the operation of the gold and silver reserves of Rosia Montana be renegotiated.”

Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc also has stated his preference to have the terms of the deal revisited, saying last week he’s awaiting the results of an environmental impact assessment as well as legal opinions on its EU aspects.

“I am no fan of this project for various reasons,” he told Radio Romania Actualitati Friday. “In my opinion, the benefits to the Romanian government are not yet sufficient within the project framework the government has negotiated with the entrepreneurs, and surely it should be revisited.”

Meanwhile, Gabriel Chief Executive Jonathan Henry said he’s encouraged Bucharest seems to be moving ahead with the project.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” he told The Globe and Mail. “If the Romanian government did not want this project, we’d know by now.”

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Brit schools expelled 1,200 kids under 8

LONDON, Aug. 31 (UPI) — British Education Department figures revealed more than 1,200 students ages 7 and under have been permanently expelled from school in the past five years.

The figures revealed 1,200 of the young students, 80 of whom were only 4 years old, were booted from school and 53,000 under the age of 8 were temporarily suspended during the five-year period, The Sun reported Tuesday.

Dan Poulter, a Conservative member of Parliament, blamed the Labor Party for the loss of control in classrooms.

“The [government] coalition is introducing a range of measures to help bring order back,” Poulter said.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Britain had cool summer

LONDON, Aug. 31 (UPI) — The summer of 2011 was the coolest in Britain in almost two decades, preliminary figures reported Tuesday by the Meteorological Office showed.

The summer was also wetter than usual, The Independent reported. Meteorologists said rainfall from Aug. 1 to Aug. 29 was at 126 percent of normal, while sunshine was 76 percent of normal.

The average temperature for the month was 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) below normal, meteorologists said. This makes 2011 the chilliest summer since 1993.

The Met plans to release its full report on the meteorological summer of June, July and August Thursday.

Brian Gaze of TheWeatherOutlook said Britain’s last run of high temperatures occurred in 2006.

“During the 1990s and 2000s, summer heat waves were more frequent than usual, and perhaps some people began to think this was the norm,” he said. “During the last few years the run of poor summers has coincided with colder weather during the winter months.”

The summer now coming to an end was wetter than last year although drier than those from 2007 to 2009.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

‘Imam Moussa Sadr definitely alive’

Wed Aug 31, 2011

A senior member of the Lebanese Amal Movement has expressed confidence that Shia cleric Imam Moussa al-Sadr, who went missing in Libya more than three decades ago, is still alive.

“We have been in contact with Libyan opposition and revolutionaries during recent years, and they emphasized that Imam Moussa Sadr is alive… but believed he has been frequently transferred to different prisons in Libya,” said Khalil Hamdan in the Iranian city of Qom on Wednesday.

He stressed the significance of following up Sadr’s case “with patience and precision,” and stated, “Based on the latest information, we believe that he is definitely alive,” Mehr news agency reported.

The top Amal official expressed hope that the cleric would be released in the near future thanks to further efforts by Iranian and Lebanese officials and his family.

Sadr, the founder of the Amal Movement, went missing during an official visit to the Libyan capital Tripoli in August 1978.

It is widely believed that the popular and highly revered Lebanese Shia cleric of Iranian descent was kidnapped on the orders of senior Libyan officials.

Accompanied by two of his companions, Mohammed Yaqoub and Abbas Badreddin, the top Shia cleric was scheduled to meet with Libyan officials.

In 2008, the Beirut government issued an arrest warrant for Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi over Sadr’s disappearance.

Source: PressTV.

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