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Brics nations meet to cement relationships

The humidity and sub-tropical rain in South Africa's port city of Durban is doing little to dampen the enthusiasm for the fifth Brics summit, the first time the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa have met in Africa.

The grouping has come a long way since 2001, when the acronym was first coined by the then head of global economics for Goldman Sachs, Jim O'Neill.

The largest emerging economies represent 25.9% of the world's land mass, 43% of the population and 17% of global trade. The group also accounts for a quarter of the world's gross domestic product (GDP) in terms of purchasing power parity,according to the BBC.

Indeed, a recent report from the United Nations Development Programme states that "by 2020, the combined economic output of three leading developing countries alone - Brazil, China and India - will surpass the aggregate production of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the United States".

Enthusiasts will spend this week pointing to the latest woes of the Eurozone and the crisis in Cyprus, to give force to their argument that the fulcrum of world economics is changing and the Brics are at the center of that change.

"We've never seen the total realignment of global politics and economics the way we've seen in the last two to three years," says Abdullah Verachia from the consultants Frontier Advisory. "That's why this Brics grouping has become so influential."

Ruchir Sharma, the head of emerging markets at Morgan Stanley, points out that the Brics are split over commodity prices. China and India, which import vast amounts of commodities, want lower prices. The exporters of Brazil, Russia and South Africa want higher prices.

There are also several other sources of tension between the Brics on trade issues.

Cheap imports from China into South Africa have been blamed for at least part of the decline in the country's manufacturing sector. South Africa itself has been taken to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in a row over the import of Brazilian chickens. Regulations and bureaucratic red tape in India have also troubled its Brics partners.

"Making it easy to do business is certainly something that will assist in the growth of trade between the Brics countries," says Sunil Joshi, chief executive of Neotel, a South African telecoms company largely owned by the Indian conglomerate Tata.

"I think intellectually stimulating conversations will happen at the Brics Summit to enable that.

"We look forward to some of the progress being made in that space."

Location and cost

BRICS leaders at the 2012 BRICS Summit Brics leaders hope to build on progress made at last year's summit

One of the biggest conversations that is due to happen at the summit is about the possible foundation of a Brics bank.

There is a tremendous desire to set up a development bank that would aim to improve infrastructure within the Brics nations.

Part of this desire stems from a feeling of mistrust that the Brics, particularly China, have towards established structures such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.


Syrian National Dialogue Forum Concluded

DAMASCUS, (ST) – The Syrian National Dialogue Forum has stressed that the only way out of the crisis in Syria is unconditional dialogue.

Concluding its meeting on Monday, the two-day Forum affirmed the need to halt all forms of violence and called on all concerned parties  to join dialogue as soon as possible.

The conferees held the West responsible for the outcomes of the unjust economic siege which claimed the lives of many Syrians, pointing out that participants in the forum will prepare files to put those responsible for the siege to international trail and to assess the material losses caused by direct and indirect foreign intervention so as to ask for legitimate compensation.

The forum condemned in its final communique the Arab League's (AL) decision to offer the "armed Syrian opposition" Syria's AL seat.

"The Syrian Arab Army is the only legitimate party which has the right to carry weapon and the Syrians depend on this army to stop civil war possibilities.", the statement said.

It urged the government to accelerate efforts so as to improve the living standards of citizens and the logistic conditions of the Syrian Arab Army.

It also called on the government to pay compensations for the victims of terrorist acts, to deal positively with the issues of detention, kidnapping, refugees and displaced family and to punish corruptors.

The statement noted that the conferees agreed on main points relating to the Charter, the constitution, the state's authorities and the national unity government. More discussions are to be held within specialized committees meetings with the purpose of reaching specific formulas that is to be presented at coming dialogue forums and conferences.

They stressed the importance of organizing visits to some key capitals so as to explain the current situation and dangers as well as the basic humanitarian needs of citizens.

The forum warned of the ongoing developments at the borders with the Zionist enemy and of the Turkish direct interferences particularly at the Syrian-Turkish borders, stressing that these provocations necessitate launching popular resistance and action to liberate the occupied Syrian Golan and Iskenderun province which is still being occupied by Turkey.

H. Mustafa

Syrian UN Association debates political plan with committee concerned




DAMASCUS,(ST)_Prime Minister, once again, appealed to all loyal Syrian citizens including coordination committees  and gunmen, who lay down their weapons, to take part in the political process to surpass the ongoing crisis in the country.

Dr. Wael al-Halqi's remark came during a meeting held on Monday between the ministerial committee entrusted with materializing the endorsed three-stage political plan and the Board of Directors of the Syrian UN Association.

According to SANA, talks between the two sides revolved around steps taken thus far to pave the ground for launching national dialogue, political and economic situation in the country, and role of the Association in international activities and the Syrian society. .

The Association, which seeks to cement ties with the UN system and the Syrian Arab Republic, aims also to consolidate dialogue and peaceful co-existence as well as cooperation among peoples under the UN charter and international law principles.

Professor George Jabbor heads the Syrian UN Association.

On January 9th, 2013, the cabinet endorsed the political plan outlined by President Bashar al-Assad in January 6th-speech to resolve the crisis in Syria.

The ministerial committee, which was formed to implement the plan, includes Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, Ministers of Information, Justice, National Reconciliation, Transport, Industry, Red Crescent Affairs, and People's Assembly Affairs.

Basma Qaddour  





Eurojust Acknowledges: Hundreds of Europeans Joining Terrorists in Syria

CAPITALS, (ST) - "Hundreds of Europeans, including Belgians are joining armed terrorist groups in Syria," acknowledged Head of the European Union Judicial Cooperation Unit (Eurojust) Michele Coninsx on Sunday, but she didn't explain how they arrived in the country.

The remarks came amidst reports by Belgian newspapers on the increasing number of Belgians who join the mercenary terrorist groups in Syria.

In the light of these reports, the Belgian authorities decided to adopt necessary procedures to prevent young Belgians from joining the ranks of armed groups to take part in the' "war" in Syria.

According to media reports, the number of Belgian gunmen in Syria is between 50 and 80. A banned movement in Belgium calling itself "Sharia for Belgium" is responsible for helping these gunmen come to Syria.

Meanwhile, in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa and within the same context, the Yemeni "Al Share'" independent newspaper uncovered on Sunday that Yemen's President Abd Rabbuh  Mansur Hadi two days ago received a secret intelligence report on more than 5000 young Yemenis having been recruited to fight against the Syrian state. According to the report, those fighters were illusively sent to Qatar under the pretext that Qatar want to recruit them in the "Qatari Guards" in preparation for sending them later to Syria across Turkey. 

A high ranking security source, who asked not to be named, said that religious leaders in the (Yemeni Reform Party) have worked hard over the past four months to recruit young people from several Yemeni tribes by cheating them that Qatar wants to recruit Yemenis within the ranks of its guards for attractive financial offer. Many young Yemenis accepted to travel to Qatar where they received training and later on they were moved to Turkey in preparation for being sent to Syria to fight along with the so-called "Free Army".     

According to the source, tens of the recruited Yemenis fled across the Syrian-Lebanese borders and a number of them were able to return to their homeland.

On Saturday, the Yemeni "al-Jumhour" newspaper published a report saying that 10000 young Yemenis were sent to fight with terrorists in Syria. Most of them joined the "al-Nusra Front" while others joined the so-called "Free Army".

In Tunis, the Tunisian "al-Shouroq" newspaper said that the country's current authorities have encouraged sending Tunisian terrorists to Syria, referring in this regard to statements made by Tunisia's interim President Munsef al-Marzouki concerning what is called "jihad" in Syria, and which caused a big legal trouble to the Tunisian judicial authorities.

In this connection, a number of legal Tunisian figures called for implementing the terrorism law against all who are involved in the process of recruiting Tunisian youths and sending them to join "Jihad" against the Syrian people.

H. Mustafa

National dialogue forum kicks off in Damascus




DAMASCUS,(ST)_The two-day national dialogue Forum kicked off on Sunday at Dama Rose Hotel in Damascus with participation of a number of national parties, activists and personalities.

The conferees are to debate the endorsed three-stage political plan for resolving the crisis in Syria, constitution, national charter, time table of implementing  each stage, laws of election, media and parties, road map drawn up by the national opposition forces conference to safely surpass the crisis.

The forum spokesman, Adel Naeesa, said: "Building modern Syria requires dialogue and discussion of constitution and laws of media, elections and local administration," adding that freedom should be based on principles of development, justice, fair distribution of national wealth.

Building trust

National Reconciliation Minister, Ali Haidar, reiterated that the only way to solve the ongoing crisis is through political solution national dialogue among the Syrian people."

"Those who reject sitting on negotiation under false pretexts are responsible for blood shedding in Syria," the minister said.

He considers the forum as a real opportunity to build trust among Syrians and a step forwards to confront strict people everyplace to halt destruction.

"Dialogue is unconditional and excludes no one… Syrian people, themselves, are to judge actions not intentions," Haidar said, citing that the whole world is investing and exploiting the crisis to rebuild a new system.

He made comparison between the dirty role of the US, France, Britain, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia which are involved in shedding blood in Syria, and the constructive role of Russia, Iran and BRICS which insist on lending Syrian people a helping hand to surpass the crisis.

Secretary General of the Syrian Communist Party, Ammar Bekdash, said that dialogue is not an emergency process; rather it is a firm policy to be followed. "Democracy means dialogue".

He pointed out the successful experience of the party's alliance with the Progressive National Front's parties, citing that the party is ready to hold talks with all citizens.


Bekdash also talked about an important point related to logical synchronization between terrorism-supporter states' adherence to halt funding gunmen and halting gunmen's terrorist acts.

Member of the Baath Arab Socialist Party's Central Committee, Dr. Khalil Mash'hadeya, said: "the forum would pave the ground for holding a comprehensive national dialogue," asserting need for cooperation with friendly regional and international efforts to abort conspiracy.

Russia and Iran

Russia's Ambassador in Damascus called for unifying efforts of the national opposition that rejects violence, extremism and foreign meddling, and seeks to comprehensive dialogue.

"The main task now is to halt violence and head towards dialogue under Geneva Communique without pre-conditions to bring about political solution to the crisis," the ambassador said.

He underscored that parties which opposes political settlement are behind increasing violence, noting that the scholar Dr. Mohammad Ramadan al-Bouti was assassinated because he called for dialogue and peace.

The Russian official said that his country will go ahead with calling for launching comprehensive dialogue and halting violence in cooperation with the Syrian government and all states that stand by reaching political settlement to the crisis.

The Iranian Ambassador's Assistant, for his part, said: "Today-forum in which the Syrian people's real representatives are taking part would lead Syria to victory," adding that supplying opposition with arms would complicate  the matter.

Coordination commission absence

Member of national dialogue committee, Tareq al-Ahmad, wondered whether the conferees in today's  forum do represent no one in Syria so as Europe and the Arab League claim that Doha-formed coalition is the only and legitimate representative of the Syrians.

He, in addition, wondered at absence of coordination commission which was calling for holding such meeting.

All participating parities' representatives gave speeches, stressing importance of the forum.

Basma Qaddour