Death toll from SW China landslide rises to 46

The death toll from a landslide that hit a mountainous region in southwest China's Yunnan Province Friday rose to 46 as bodies of the last two missing were found Saturday morning, rescuers said,according to Xinhua.

The landslide hit the Zhaojiagou area of Gaopo Village, Zhenxiong County around 8:20 a.m. Friday. Zhenxiong is some 550 km northeast of the provincial capital, Kunming.

Forty-six residents -- 27 adults and 19 children -- were buried in the landslide, according to the local civil affairs bureau.

A State Council work group, comprising of officials from several ministries, arrived at the scene at 4 a.m. Saturday to coordinate rescue and disaster relief efforts.

The rescue and disaster relief operation involved more than 1,000 rescue workers with the help of excavators, shovels and life detectors.


Venezuelan Vice President Travels to Cuba to Visit Chavez

Venezuela''s Executive Vice President, Nicolas Maduro, said he will travel to Cuba to visit President Hugo Chavez, who is recovering from a surgery since last December 11.

Maduro said the political team has maintained its pace of work, compatriots Diosdado Cabello, Rafael Ramirez, Cilia Flores, Jorge Arreaza, and Adan Chavez have been in Havana. "We have been permanently supporting our commander".

He added, "the president of our sister Republic of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, has arrived to Cuba. She is a sister of struggle, one of the bravest women existing in the history of our continent, of our President Hugo Chavez; and also there will be the fighting fellow of our commander Hugo Chavez, the commander Ollanta Humala president of our sister Republic of Peru".

"So, in the next 24 hours we have some activities to carry out. Coordination is in charge of executive vice president Héctor Navarro, and the government team is working hard", he said.

Foreign Minister of the Republic said that on days 9 and 10 they had the presence of 27 official delegations from the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean.


Bushfires rage on in Australia 'helped' by climate change

Australian firefighters are continuing to tackle more than 100 bushfires, which have gutted houses and thousands of hectares of land.

Officials say temperatures are lower than feared, but gusty winds are making it hard to contain the blazes in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.

Six people have been treated for heat exposure, but nobody has died.

A government commission says the heat wave and fires have been exacerbated by global warming.

"Climate change is increasing the risk of more frequent and longer heat waves and more extreme hot days, as well as exacerbating bushfire conditions," the Climate Commission said in its report.

It warned that "when (a) fire occurs in more extreme weather conditions, there is the potential for the fire to be far more intense and difficult to control".

Map: Forecasted temperatures in Australia for 14 Jan. Temperatures have been so high the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has increased its temperature scale to 54 degrees, and added a new colour code.

The current heat wave saw the average maximum daily temperature across Australia reach 40.3C (104.5F) earlier this week, breaking the previous record of 40.17C registered in 1972, David Karoly, one of the report's authors, told the AFP news agency.

However, on Saturday temperatures have somewhat eased in the three affected states where the fires have the potential to threaten communities, the BBC's Nick Bryant in New South Wales reports.

He says that so far, local residents have not been fleeing their homes, but there is the worry that the winds will pick up and change direction.

In 2009, more than 170 people died in the so-called Black Saturday firestorm - Australia's worst natural disaster in modern times.


Demonstrators in Paris Describe Erdogn as Murderer

PARIS,(ST)- Hundreds  had taken to the streets of the French capital on Friday , after the Federation of Kurdish Associations in France (Feyka) called for a demonstration in Paris.

The demonstrators were  chanting slogans condemning the assassination  crime of three  Kurdish  women activists   and describing  the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a murderer . They demanded  the release of Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey

 The demonstrators were  also chanting "We are all PKK!" and "Turkey assassin, Hollande complicit", referring to French President Francois Hollande, AFP reported.

The PKK (Parti Karkerani Kurdistan, or Kurdistan Workers' Party) is an organization which has been battling for greater autonomy for Kurds in Turkey for decades, with 40,000 people killed during the 28-year conflict. Turkish authorities have recently said they were holding talks with the group’s imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan, with a peace plan reportedly being agreed. He was jailed in 1999 on the western Turkish island of Imrali.

“Ocalan and the Turkish government have started a peace process, they want to engage in dialogue, but there are parties that are against resolving the Kurdish question and want to sabotage the peace process,” leader of the Kurdistan National Congress, an umbrella group of Kurdish organizations in Europe, Remzi Kartal, told Reuters.

"This is a political crime, there is no doubt about it," he added.

The Kurdish institute, as posted on its website, is “an independent, non-political, secular organization, embracing Kurdish intellectuals and artists from different horizons as well as Western specialists in Kurdish Studies.”

Earlier, three Kurdish women  were  found shot dead  outside  the Kurdish Institute in Paris. One of them is a co-founder of the PPK separatist movement. Hundreds of people have gathered to protest what the French Interior Minister dubbed "intolerable assassinations.”

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls told France-Info radio, “These assassinations are intolerable, and I hope the inquiry will make rapid progress but let's allow the investigators to do their work.”

The minister also stressed that the killings were “surely an execution.”

"Rest assured that French authorities are determined to get to the bottom of these unbearable acts," added Valls.

The three victims of the attack are Sakine Casiz, a co-founder of the militant PPK, 32-year-old Fidan Dogan, a representative of the National Congress of Kurdistan, an organization based in Brussels, while the third woman was young activist Leyla Soylemez.The women are believed to have held Turkish passports.

Cansiz and one more other victim were reportedly shot in the head, a French police source told Reuters. The third was shot in the stomach, Kurdish media reported.

The murder weapon was believed to have been fitted with a silencer, according to the Firat news agency, which is close to the group.

All three women were last seen on Wednesday, late in the afternoon, in the building of the Kurdish institute.

The killer or killers locked the door of the office where the attack took place, according to Turkey’s ambassador to Paris, Tahsin Burcuoğlu.

Police responding to the scene of the crime were forced to break in when they arrived and the “attackers had locked the doors and then left,” Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News quoted Burcuoğlu, as saying.



Russian experts: President Al-Assad's plan is ' essential'

MOSCOW,(ST)_ Russian political researchers see President Bashar Al-Assad's political plan to resolve the crisis in Syria is 'very important'.

A senior political scientist at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Boris Dolgov, said: "The plan is significant to bring about solution to Syria crisis. All Syrian national parties and democratic national opposition must take part in the national dialogue. This is what President Al-Assad stressed in his speech. "

He added that Russia's attitude goes along with President Al-Assad's plan.

"Russia's attitude has not changed and it is based on solving the crisis in Syria through national and political dialogue 'only' according to Geneva Statement," Dolgov said.

He cited that Russia's attitude and the tripartite meeting to be held in Geneva between representatives of  Russia, US and the UN Special Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi are important to resolve the crisis in Syria.  

As for Brahimi's stance, Dolgov said: "The stance calls for bringing about a solution to the crisis on one hand, and at the same time talks about future government on the other," stressing that only Syrians have the right to tackle this issue.

Another comment

Meanwhile, a Russian expert in international affairs, Vyacheslav Afanasyev, told SANA reporter in Moscow that President Al-Assad's speech has laid out number of main elements that must be used in the process of reaching political solution to the crisis.

"The Syrian national dialogue, which Russia is also waiting for, must be based on preserving Syria's independence and not meddling in its internal affairs, especially in military ways," Afanasyev said.

He underscored that every people including the Syrian people must resolve their problems by themselves and in peaceful way only.

Afanasyev sees it is desirable that the opposition adopts constructive stances and accepts to participate in the dialogue without preconditions.

"Russia's attitude is constructive and all international parties accept it," the Russian expert concluded.

Basma Qaddour 

BRICS Nations Meet on Terrorism, Cyber Security Issues

NEWDELHI,(ST)-  Secretary of the Russian National Security Council  Nikolai Patrushev,  stressed that the BRICs group of BRICs states  can be transformed into a locomotive  for  traction the global economy if  their inter-relations are maintained correctly.
Patrushev said in an interview with reporters  on Thursday at the conclusion of his talks with the Indian leadership and with  senior representatives of the Group of BRICs that global economy and the political system are changing rapidly and continuously .

Terrorism and cyber security were among the issues which dominated the fourth meeting of the national security advisors (NSAs) of BRICS nations in New Delhi on Thursday.

The top security officials of BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India -China-South Africa) also discussed regional and international issues, including conflict in Syria and situation in Libya.

The meeting also discussed how the grouping, which now accounts for about 43 per cent of the world's population and about one quarter of world's GDP, can work together for the global peace, stability, growth and betterment, he said.

"Most of our discussions concentrated on important regional and global developments. Naturally, West Asia, North Africa was major part of what we discussed. Syria, Libya, Mali (also figured). We also discussed ways to enhance our cooperation and coordination in cyber security, terrorism and piracy and other such threats to international security," Menon said.

Observing that there was a "fairly detailed" discussion on cyber security, he said most of the BRICS countries were in the process of putting in place rules, structures and systems to deal with the issue, which "bothers all of us".

He said the discussions included exchange of best practices and ideas such as setting up of emergency response teams to handle the cyber security threat.

Noting that there was a "high-level of congruence" on most of the issues, he said now the delegates will report back to their leaders and the discussions will feed into the preparations for the Durban Summit of BRICS leaders at end of March.

On Syria, he said the view is that the process has to be Syrian-led and the BRICS nations are against military intervention.

He also talked about BRICS bank, saying the proposal was almost ripe and is expected to come up at the Durban Summit.

Worthy mentioning  that BRICS  include Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa and are  trying to re-balance international relations and the world order  and move away from exclusivity , US control of World 's  policy and economy, and the global dominance system through intervention in the  internal affairs  of  countries and  exploitation of international organizations .

T. Fateh

Russian Military Source: " Syrian Opposition" allies Prepare Mercenaries to defame Russia

MOSCOW,(ST)_ A Russian Military  and Diplomatic Source said  that countries allied to the " Syrian opposition" are planning to carry out provocative operations through figures of Slavic complexions  in order to tarnish Russia's reputation as one of the intermediate states in the negotiating process.
The source explained that circles interested in changing the regime in Syria are currently recruiting clients with Slavic facial features from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus be assigned to play the role of Russian mercenaries  to serve as warriors with the "Syrian regime"  and are supposed to be captivated by the  armed terrorist groups of the so called "Free Army" .
The source added that " these mercenaries prisoners created by the armed groups  are presumed  to give televised testimonies   on  that the Russian intelligence was involved in  sending them from Russia to Syria  by  the Russian warships," adding that these scenes can be filmed in Turkey or Jordan, where studios and special places  are equipped  in advance  to be broadcast widely as evidence on the destruction of the Syrian cities.
The source continued that  the characters candidate to do the work are men preferably  of Slavic appearance aging between  25 and 45 years ,  and of experience in military service, air defense and how to use arms.
The source recalled a former UN  accusation against   Russia of supporting the Syrian leadership and later  when the Western media incited the issue  of supplying  Syria with Russian  weapons including  the Russian Iskander missile systems.  The source also recalled such attempts when  the British " Guardian" newspaper  by the  end of  last December rumored that  Russian ships transported military pieces to Syria by  Russian special units for the  use and maintenance of  the Syrian air defense systems and for  units of the Syrian foreign intelligence forces.
The source  considered that the ultimate goal of these provocative acts is to accuse  Russia of direct intervention in the events  in Syria and undermine  its role as a mediator in the negotiation process while considering the Syrian issue, adding that all this will contribute to the empowerment of Western countries and certain  countries in the Middle East to ensure the appropriate conditions for changing the regime in Syria.

T. Fateh

Massive Rally in Venezuela to Support Absent Chavez on Inauguration Day




CARACAS, (ST)_ Tens of thousands of supporters gathered in Caracas today for a massive rally in support of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and in response to the controversy surrounding his absence on the January 10th inauguration day.

Still in Havana recovering from surgery, the Venezuelan head of state could not be present for the customary swearing-in before the National Assembly.  The absence has generated much controversy among the Venezuelan opposition, who claim that the current government should not continue in power without the inauguration ceremony.

In response, the Chavez government organized a massive concentration in the center of Caracas this Thursday with the participation of representatives from 27 different Latin American countries to support the continuation of the Chavez government for the new constitutional term of 2013-2019.

From the early morning hours, tens of thousands of Chavez supporters congregated in various areas of the capital city in yet another show of the immense capacity for mobilization for which the Chavez government is well known.

A seemingly endless sea of red-clad supporters filled the streets surrounding the presidential palace and the adjoining areas in a very festive atmosphere, many holding posters of Chavez, and signs that read “I am Chavez” and “Chavez is the heart of the people”, among others.

Vice President Nicolás Maduro and other state officials arrived to the rally in the early afternoon accompanied by Bolivian President Evo Morales, Uruguayan President José Mujica, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, as well as several other diplomats and leaders from other Latin American and Caribbean countries.

One by one, the Latin American leaders addressed the concentration with emotive speeches in support of the Chavez government and calls for solidarity with the ailing president.

“Who said Hugo Chavez is absent? He is present here in the women, in the farmers. Chavez is not only the patrimony of Venezuela, but of all Latin America,” said former Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo.

Bolivian President Evo Morales stressed the importance of the Chavez government for the unity among Latin American countries, and called for more rallies in support of Chavez throughout the region.

“My friends, the situation of our brother Hugo Chavez is not only a concern of the Venezuelan people, but of all those who are a part of this struggle,” he said. “The best tribute and solidarity with Chavez is unity, let’s keep unity between our countries.”

Several leaders of Caribbean and Central American countries also addressed the rally with strong messages of solidarity and support for the Chavez government.

“We are fervently supporting Venezuela, and we are here to say to our friend [Vice President] Maduro that although your leader is going through a difficult time, you can count on Dominica as a reliable friend,” said the President of Dominica Eliud Williams.

“Venezuela has converted itself into that guiding light for Latin America that the Cuban Revolution was in the 1960s,” said Vice President of El Salvador, Salvador Sánchez Cerén.

Various foreign leaders expressed their amazement with the size of the concentration, and the Chavez government’s great capacity for mobilization.

“I want to say that this gathering of Chavez supporters is really enviable, this capacity for mobilization that you have,” said Evo Morales.

“This is the largest concentration of people that I have ever addressed in my life,” said the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves.

The rally was broadcast on live television across the country, including the mandatory broadcast of the leaders’ speeches on the private news channels that were ignoring the event.

The unanimous support for the Chavez government among the region’s leaders seemed to further solidify the government’s victory in the recent feud over the constitution.

On Wednesday, Venezuela’s Supreme Court ruled against the opposition’s interpretation of the constitution, and assured that the January 10th inauguration was not necessary for the Chavez government to continue in power for the constitutional period of 2013-2019.

Opposition leaders, however, have criticized the decision, calling it a “coup” and claiming the continuation of the Chavez government is illegal.

Vice President Nicolás Maduro ended the rally with a passionate speech reminiscent of those given by President Hugo Chavez at these types of events, and accused the opposition of trying to manipulate events in the country.

“They are trying to manipulate and opportunistically take advantage of the circumstances of Chavez’s situation in order to destabilize the country,” said Maduro.

“Yet however they come after us, we always beat them. Here we are ready to continue with this revolution. Make no mistake, here the people have demonstrated their strength,” he said.