South News Oct 24 

Asian Markets crash like dominoes  

A panicky stock sell-off in Hong Kong reverberated Thursday throughout Europe and the United States, where Wall Street plunged almost 230 points before rebounding slightly. It was the fifth-worst point drop in the Dow's history.That decline echoed around global sharemarkets overnight ensuring another steep fall this morning in Australia.&

The string of falling currencies and stock markets started in June with Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia. On Thursday, it moved to Hong Kong, a venerable symbol of capitalism, where its stock market dropped an unprecedented 10 percent, making that a 23-percent drop for the week. Interest rates hit 250 per cent as the Government tried to protect the Hong Kong dollar against speculators who have plundered other Asian currencies. 

The Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammed has repeatedly accused currency traders of conspiring to fell the Asian markets, and has singled out U.S. financier George Soros. Speculation spread to Hong Kong yesterday, sparking its biggest one-day sharemarket fall and plunging Australian, regional markets into chaos. 

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index yesterday closed down 1211.5 points, or 10.4 per cent, at 10,426.3, taking losses so far this week to more than 23 per cent.The Philippines, the Japanese, Malaysian and Indonesian stock markets lost between 2 and 5 per cent. 

While Taiwan's market escaped yesterday, analysts were pointing to Taipei's decision on Monday to allow its currency to float down to a 12-year low against the US dollar – leaving Hong Kong and South Korea as the region's only dollar-pegged currencies – as one trigger for this week's mauling of Hong Kong equities. 

Mandela urges end to sanctions against Libya 

Nelson Mandela urged the United Nations on Thursday to lift sanctions on Libya. The South African president's call was a rebuff to the United States, the main backer of the sanctions that prohibit arms sales to Libya, ban flights to and from the country, and limit diplomatic contacts. 

The U.N. measures are harming "our African brothers and sisters," Mandela said in comments broadcast on Libyan television. Mandela decried the sufferings the people of Libya have gone through because of these sanctions. The suffering of the people of any single country, he said, affects all of us no matter where we find ourselves. 

"That is why it is so important that multilateral bodies assume collective responsibility for finding fair and just solutions to problems in the world, taking into account equally the considerations of the weak and the mighty, the rich and the poor, developed and developing nations alike," he said. 

"As Africans, especially as those who have benefited from African solidarity, we cannot be unmoved by the plight of African brothers," he added. "We should all redouble our efforts to have Africa's collective voice heard in the councils of the world in finding such fair, just and even-handed solutions." 

Libya on Tuesday has accused the United States and Great Britain of adopting obstructive policies in the Lockerbie case, which concluded taking testimony this week at the International Court of Justice at The Hague, Netherlands. 

Libya has proposed that the two suspects be tried by a court in a third country in the presence of American or Scottish magistrates. This proposal has been supported by the Organization of African Unity, the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Conference and the Non-aligned Movement. At the United Nations last month, Russian Foreign Minister Yevegeny Primakov, whose country holds a permanent seat on the Security Council, said Libya's proposal to allow the suspects to stand trial in a neutral country before a Scottish judge "deserves attention.'' 

South African President Nelson Mandela has praised the role played by the Libyan leader, Mu'ammar Qadhafi, and his people, in the fight to eliminate apartheid. "The people of Libya shared the trenches with us in our struggle for freedom. You were in the front ranks of those whose selfless and practical support helped assure a victory that was as much yours as it is ours," he said in a banquet speech in Tripoli Wednesday.

During the long years in the struggle to end apartheid, Qadhafi gave tremendous material and financial support to the fighters of Mandela's African National Congress. Mandela said he was in Tripoli to "renew, in person, the strong bonds between our nations" and to thank Libya for the assistance it gave in the liberation struggle.

The South African leader left Tripoli Thursday morning after the one-day visit during which he held several rounds of talks with Mu'ammar Qadhafi. He received a triumphant welcome Wednesday afternoon in Tripoli when he arrived from Jerba in Tunisia by land because of the United Nations air embargo imposed on the north African country. 

US/UK  bullies through Iraq UN resolution 

The United States and Britain bullied through the UN Security Council new travel sanctions against Iraq despite oppostion from France, Russia, China, Egypt and Kenya on late Thursday. An impatient British Ambassador John Weston said his government had compromised enough on the text but was not willing to go further "in order to appease Iraq.'' 

The five abstentions — France, Russia Federation, China, Egypt and Kenya — on a resolution threatening to prevent travel abroad by Iraqi officials reflected increasing division in the Security Council. Egypt's ambassador Nabil Araby saying enough sanctions had been imposed on Iraq since 1990. 

The Russian Federation said it could not understand why the draft resolution contained no mention of the IAEA report which had noted significant progress in the nuclear sphere, an area where the Iraqi dossier could in fact be viewed as closed. The co-sponsors' refusal to refer to the IAEA report in the draft had raised serious questions and was unacceptable to the Russian Federation. 

The resolution calls for a list of Iraqis who have blocked U.N. arms inspections and threatens to ban them from travel abroad if the weapons teams are barred again. But the council would have to take another vote before any action is taken, and France and Russia, who have veto rights, could block the measures in the future. 

However Sergey Lavrov (Russian federation) said the proposed new concept of a "black list" was faulty, both legally and logically. "Therefore, it could not be acceptable. List of persons subject to sanctions should not be drawn up when the Council had not decided whether sanctions would be imposed or not. Though some believed that the Council was its own master with enough power to introduce legal norms, the Russian Federation was positive that the Council should be guided by universally recognized norms of international law" , he said. 

The new resolution also continues the suspension of the council's regular review of trade sanctions against Iraq until next April. This means no easing of the embargo could even be considered until then.

The United States and Britain originally wanted the bans instituted immediately but compromised to get Russia and France's votes. However, both Moscow and Paris believed the resolution adopted on Thursday was still too strong, arguing there were enough sanctions imposed on Iraq.

Iraq's foreign minister, Mohammed al-Sahaf, blamed the resolution on the "sick motives and norms" of Washington and London said it was now up to the Iraqi leadership and people "to decide what are the alternatives to protect our country against this flagrant preparation to impose more injustices on our country and our people." 

Related :  Iraq's UN press statement

Protest vigils target US failure to pay UN dues 

Vigils were held worldwide last night to protest the failure of United States to pay their United Nations dues. "The precarious state of the UN’s finances -- threatening its very existence -- is largely due to the failure of the United States of America to pay its dues assessments, owed as a treaty obligation. The financial crisis imperils the UN’s vital work for peace, human rights and social well-being for all peoples" ,Sharon McHale of the World Federation of United Nations Associations  said in an open letter to US Ambassador Bill Richardson. 

"The United States owes a very large sum in arrears – at the end of September $1.47 billion. The U.S. arrears to the regular budget at that date were three times more than the arrears of all other member states combined!", Ms. McHale said. 

"We call for the United States government to meet its financial obligations in accordance with UN regulations: on time, in full and without condition. And we note that (according to polls) the majority of citizens of the United States support prompt payment of these obligations ", she said. 

Yesterday representatives of four non- governmental organizations (NGOs) told correspondents at a press conference at United Nations Headquarters correspondents that the NGO community worldwide was extremely concerned about the United Nations' financial crisis. 

Participating in the press conference were: Jim Olsen, of the United Nations Association of the United States of America; Bill Pace, of the World Federalist Movement; Sharon McHale, of the World Federation of United Nations Associations; and Jim Paul, of the Global Policy Forum. 

Mr. Paul said that some 45 vigils, including 22 in the United States, would be held around the world today to protest the Organization's fiscal crisis. Worldwide, citizens did not approve of the practice of withholding funds from the United Nations for political purposes. 

Mr. Pace said that statistics about the United Nations budget should be considered in perspective. The United States federal budget amounted to about $6,000 per capita. In contrast, all of the United States assessed dues, including those for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), came to roughly $6 per person -- less than the cost of a movie. 

Even the smallest states in the United States had budgets approaching double that of the United Nations, Mr. Pace went on to say. The number of public employees in the state of Wyoming was more than that employed by the entire United Nations system. United States citizens had been forming opinions on the basis of misinformation. 

The conditions put forth by the United States as precursors for payment amounted to political and financial blackmail, Mr. Pace said. That undermined the ability of the United States to take political leadership. Potential allies were being burdened by the United States' hypocrisy. Why was the United States population so unaware of the real situation? he asked. The media played an important role in increasing awareness by disseminating accurate information. If the most powerful country in the world did not pay its dues, how could the other 89 countries withholding payments be expected to pay? 

What was the official reason for withholding funds? a correspondent asked. Mr. Pace answered the United States had felt that the Organization needed reforming and that financial threats were the only way to guarantee action, Mr. Pace said. Legitimate complaints had been cited, such as overlapping programmes and undelivered objectives. In response, the Organization had streamlined its practices and decreased its funding and levels of staffing, while continuing to undertake its important and increasing responsibilities. Also, a Congressional group which wanted the United States to withdraw from the Organization seemed to have captured support, not only from conservative elements but also from the democrats. 

The financial crisis impacted negatively on many substantive programmes, Mr. Paul said. Asked which other countries owed the Organization, he said that while no country approached the level owed by the United States, the Ukraine and Brazil were significantly in arrears. Most cases of non-payment were due largely to countries' financial crises. In the case of the United States, however, the lack of payment was entirely for political reasons. 

A correspondent asked for the international response to the United States practice of withholding assessed dues. "No representation without taxation", the United Kingdom's Prime Minister John Major had said during last year's general debate, Mr. Paul told correspondents. 

The European Union, collectively, paid about 35 per cent of the Organization's regular budget, Mr. Olsen said. The United States' allies were becoming impatient with having to pick up the slack when Member States did not make their payments on time and in full. 

 The United States' treatment of the United Nations was essentially "un-American", Mr. Pace said. He called on the media to increase public understanding about the Organization's real situation. Some 40 per cent of the Organization's procurements went to the United States, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars for that country. In addition, the United States benefited in the amount of some $3 billion from hosting the Organization. 

 Website for information on the vigil. 

Arab League denounces Turkey's security zone in Iraq 

The Arab League on Thursday denounced Turkey's creation of a so-called security zone in northern Iraq and warned it could raise tension in the region. "This is a flagrant aggression against the sovereignty of an Arab country, " a senior Arab League official told reporters. 

The zone "will not resolve Ankara's problem with the Kurds in southern Turkey. On the contrary it will fan tension and violence in the region," the official said. "The area occupied by Turkey in northern Iraq will not be a zone of security but a zone of insecurity," the Arab League official. He said it would become like the Israeli-occupied buffer zone in south Lebanon set up by the Jewish state to prevent attacks on its northern territory. 

Meanwhile  a delegation from the WFP and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) visited Iraq in June and July and released their findings this month saying malnutrition remains a serious problem throughout the country. 

Eric Falt, spokesman for the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Iraq  delays meant some food rations would be excluded from the October food baskets for Iraqis,adding that hardest-hit would be the three million or so Kurds living outside government control in northern Iraq. 

The government could use some of its own stocks to supplement shortages in the central and southern parts of Iraq, but the Kurds had no stores to make up for shortfalls in their food supplies, Falt said. 
The U.N. is in charge of distributing aid in northern Iraq, which has been out of the control of Baghdad since soon after the 1991 Gulf War. The U.N. officials declined comment about what they planned to do about the shortages facing that region. 

Russia Concerned by U.S. Military Laser Tests  

Russia said Tuesday it was worried the United States was developing an anti-satellite laser weapon that could upset the strategic arms balance and violate an important arms control treaty. 

Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady Tarasov told a news briefing that Russia was following developments closely after the U.S. military successfully fired a ground-based laser at one of its own Air Force satellites last week. "We must state very definitely that such activities cause growing concern in Moscow. Objectively, the development of laser programs could become a step to the creation of an anti-satellite potential," Tarasov said. 

"The creation of anti-satellite weapons could sharply change the strategic situation." Tarasov's comments were the latest sign of Russian irritation with Washington and its dominant role in global diplomacy, although the United States remains an important partner for Moscow. 

A Pentagon spokesman said Monday the U.S. Army's "Miracl" laser was fired twice at an aging satellite last Friday to measure the vulnerability of American satellites to laser attack. The results were still being studied. 

Tarasov made clear Russia feared Washington was developing a weapon that might violate the 1972 U.S.-Soviet Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, which limits the countries from deploying defenses against long-range strategic missiles. "Considering the fact that the technologies to be tested were formerly developed for the purposes of anti-missile defense, the question also arises of how compatible such work is with progress achieved on joint measures to ensure compliance with the ABM treaty," Tarasov said. 

He said Moscow would have to take into account any U.S. moves to create anti-satellite systems in future decisions on security matters. "We would like to hope that the United States would also take into account all the consequences," he said 

Critics have called the entire experiment a mistake by giving other nations the impression that the United States is moving toward offensive use of lasers in space. 

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