Venezuelans bid farewell to Chavez

Thousands of Venezuelans lined the streets of Caracas on Friday to escort the body of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez to the Military Museum, local media have reported.

Friday’s procession was the culmination of ten days of national mourning after the death of the Venezuelan president. The coffin was taken from the Military Academy in Caracas, where it was to lie in state until Friday,according to Voice of Russia, RIA.

 Venezuela’s authorities originally planned to embalm the Chavez’s body, but later reconsidered after consultations with Russian experts, who said the process should have started earlier.

President Hugo Chavez, who led Venezuela for 14 years, died on March 5 at the age of 58 after a two-year-long fight against cancer. The decision on the possible embalming of his body was announced two days after his death.

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Terrorists ramp up extrajudicial killings, kidnappings – Amnesty Int’l

Terrorists in Syria  have increasingly resorted to torture and the summary execution of soldiers, suspected informants, pro-government militias and captured or kidnapped civilians, Amnesty International has warned ,according to RT.

In two separate reports reviewing the conduct of the terrorists in Syria, Amnesty said that the killing of government soldiers and suspected government supporters was on the rise .

 “Terrorists  are summarily killing people with a chilling sense of impunity, and the death toll continues to rise as more towns and villages come under the control of armed opposition groups," Amnesty said.

 “our research points to an escalation in abuses by armed opposition groups,” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program. “If left unaddressed such practices risk becoming more and more entrenched - it is imperative that all those concerned know they will be held accountable for their actions.”

Noting the public sympathy the Syrian opposition continues to receive in the West, Cilina Nasser of Amnesty said" rebels " must be held accountable for crimes against humanity: “It’s time for the armed opposition groups to know that what they are doing is very wrong, and that some of the abuses they committed amount to war crimes.”

Amnesty said it also investigated one of the most gruesome videos in the conflict to surface in recent months, which showed the beheading of two Syrian army officers abducted by in the eastern town of Deir al-Zour in August.

Nasser said researchers contacted the families of the two men. The relatives of the slain men told Amnesty the kidnappers had identified themselves as members of the opposition group Osoud Tawhid.  They initially contacted the family to demand a ransom, but after negotiations the hostage-takers told the family they had killed the two men.

In a separate case, a witness told the rights watchdog of a so-called

 “hole of death” where rebels have dumped the bodies of pro-government fighters or suspected informers. 

Another witness told the group about a man who was killed by an opposition faction after being accused of collaborating with the government: “

We immediately went there and found him on a heap of waste, with a bullet hole in the middle of his forehead, a firearm injury to the shoulder… His knee was broken.

One video reportedly filmed on March 9 in Raqqa, a city which was occupied by terrorists  last week, showed three bodies laid out in a city square in pools of blood. One of the dead was lying face-down, with his hands tied behind his back.

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France, Britain for Arming "Syrian Opposition"

CAPITALS,(ST)_ French President Francois Hollande on Thursday expressed hope that " the Europeans  will lift  weapons embargo    to the Syrian opposition", despite  warnings made by European countries  on  the consequences which may result in breaking  an overwhelming  war in the whole region .

AFP quoted Hollande as saying to pressmen in Brussels which hosts the EU summit:" we hope the Europeans will lift the embargo. We are ready to support the opposition and therefore to go far to that. "

Hollande failed to hide contradictory remarks when he called for the arming of terrorist groups and, at the same time, claimed desire to reach a political solution when he also said, "We believe that the transitional political process must be the solution in Syria."

In a flagrant violation of international law, France and Britain want an urgent European Union meeting, possibly this month, to persuade their allies to lift an embargo on supplying arms to the Syrian opposition, France's foreign minister said on Thursday.

Following Britain's line, Laurent Fabius warned on Thursday that Paris could break with the embargo, which in any case will lapse on May 31 unless all 27 EU states agree to renew it. That could pave the way for arms supplies to rebels.

Speaking on France Info radio, Fabius said: "We have to go very fast. The Europeans are supposed to look at this question in several weeks, but we will ask, with the British, for that meeting to be brought forward."

The arms ban is part of a package of EU sanctions on Syria that rolls over every three months. An extension agreed last month expires on May 31. Without unanimous agreement to renew or amend it, the embargo lapses, along with the sanctions.

EU foreign ministers are to meet next informally on March 22 in Ireland and formally a month later. Depending on events in Syria, Paris and London will push for an emergency meeting before then to decide on the embargo, the source said.

Asked on France Info whether France and Britain would arm the opposition if there was no agreement, Fabius said only that France was "a sovereign state" and that the two countries would jointly act "to lift the embargo".

Worthy mentioning that a senior French official who spoke on condition of anonymity said anti-aircraft missiles were among weapons that might be supplied to already identified  groups of rebel fighters.

"The well-known arguments against arming the rebels - finding a political solution first, not militarizing the situation or weapons falling into the wrong hands - are losing their impact," the French official said.

 

T. Fateh

Xi Jinping elected as China’s President

Xi Jinping was today elected as China’s new President and head of the military succeeding Hu Jintao, completing a generational transition of power in the world’s most populous country.

China’s Parliament formally elected Xi, 59, as President, four months after he took charge of the Communist Party.

Besides being the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC ) Xi has been appointed as the Chairman of the Powerful Military Commission, when he was elected as the new leader of the party in November last.

According to an official announcement, Xi was elected as President by 3,000-strong National People’s Congress, which also endorsed his appointment as the Chairman of the Military Commission,according to the Hindu.

The Military Commission supervises 2.3 million-strong and the world’s largest standing army called People’s Liberation Army, incorporating Army, Navy and Air Force.

His election a formality as the NPC, dominated by the CPC functionaries completed the once-in-a-decade power transfer from the administration headed by Hu, 70, who along with team of leaders including Premier Wen Jiabao formally retires.

With today’s election, Xi has emerged as the most powerful leader in China as heads the country, CPC and the Military.

Also, the NPC today elected Li Yuanchao, a reformist and Politburo member of the CPC, as Vice-President. Yi was reportedly picked by Xi ignoring pressures within the factions to energize the economic reform process to revitalize slowing economy.

Widely regarded as smooth transfer of power, Xi along with seven-member Standing Committee of the CPC which virtually rules the country, completed over 100 days in the leadership running various public campaigns against corruption, austerity both in the government and military and revamping the administration by cutting down the size of cabinet.

R.S

Moscow Warns A L Over Syria Seat for Terrorists

Russia's Foreign Ministry warned the Arab League on Thursday that its recent decision to give Syria’s seat to the "opposition National Council "would legalize arms supplies to militants and terrorists,according to RIA Novosti

The Arab League’s decision to give the "SNC" the seat facilitates the possibility of legalizing arms supplies to "terrorists," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.

 “Considering that the most battle worthy force standing up to Syria’s regular army is admittedly Jabhat al Nusra, a terrorist group, it is easy to see who will become the ‘end user’ of that assistance,” Lukashevich said.

He claimed there was still a chance for talks between the Syrian government and the disparate opposition groups.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday Russia is taking no sides in the Syrian conflict and hopes the Syrian opposition will soon form a team to negotiate with government representatives. Moscow has previously said it is ready to provide a venue for negotiations between the Syrian opposition and Syrian authorities.

Earlier this week, during a visit to London with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Lavrov warned Britain against arming the terrorists in Syria, saying this would breach international law, The Independent reported. Britain said last week it was ready to supply light armored vehicles to the rebels.

On Tuesday, Moscow criticized the United States' support for the Syrian opposition.

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Russian, German officials against arming terrorists in Syria

Russia is concerned with the intention of several Western countries to arm the Syrian opposition, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov says.

In his Twitter blog, Mr. Gatilov wrote that arming the terrorists in Syria contradicts the same countries’ statements that they want stability in Syria,according to  Voice of Russia, TASS, RIA.

Earlier, Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called on European countries not to arm the Syrian opposition. Otherwise, there will be a threat that the conflict in Syria may spread to other countries, Mr. Westerwelle believes.

This was Mr. Westerwelle’s reaction to a statement of his French counterpart Laurent Fabius, who said on Thursday that if the EU does not lift the embargo on supplies of weapons to Syria, France and the UK will arm the Syrian opposition on a unilateral basis.

M.D

The New Pope: Bergoglio of Argentina

With a puff of white smoke from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel and to the cheers of thousands of rain-soaked faithful, a gathering of Catholic cardinals picked a new pope from among their midst on Wednesday — choosing the cardinal from Argentina, the first South American to ever lead the church,according to CNN.

The new pope, 76, Jorge Mario Bergoglio (pronounced Ber-GOAL-io) will be called Francis, the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. He is also the first non-European leader of the church in more than 1,000 years.

Francis, who had been the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, is the first pope not born in Europe since Columbus alighted in the New World. In choosing him, the cardinals sent a powerful message that the future of the Church lies in the Global South, home to the bulk of the world’s Catholics.

“I would like to thank you for your embrace,” said the new pope, dressed in white, speaking from the white balcony on St. Peter’s Basilica as thousands of the faithful cheered joyously below. “My brother cardinals have chosen one who is from far away, but here I am.”

Speaking in Italian as he blessed the faithful, Francis wished them “good night, and have a good rest.”

“Habemus papam!,” members of the crowd shouted in Latin, waving umbrellas and flags. “We have a pope!” Others cried “Viva il Papa!”

 “It was like waiting for the birth of a baby, only better, " said a Roman man. A child sitting atop his father’s shoulders waved a crucifix.

Formerly the head of the church’s influential Jesuit order, Francis is known as a humble man who led an austere life in Buenos Aires. He was born to Italian immigrant parents and was raised in the Argentine capital.

The new pope inherits a church wrestling with an array of challenges that intensified during his predecessor, Benedict XVI — from a priest shortage and growing competition from evangelical churches in the Southern Hemisphere, to a sexual abuse crisis that has undermined the church’s moral authority in the West, to difficulties governing the Vatican itself.

Benedict abruptly ended his troubled eight-year papacy last month, announcing he was no longer up to the rigors of the job. He became the first pontiff in 598 years to resign. The 115 cardinals who are under the age of 80 and eligible to vote chose their new leader after two days of voting.

Before beginning the voting by secret ballot in the Sistine Chapel on Tuesday, in a cloistered meeting known as a conclave, the cardinals swore an oath of secrecy in Latin, a rite designed to protect deliberations from outside scrutiny — and to protect cardinals from earthly influence as they seek divine guidance.

The conclave followed more than a week of intense, broader discussions among the world’s cardinals where they discussed the problems facing the church and their criteria for its next leader.

 “We spoke among ourselves in an exceptional and free way, with great truth, about the lights, but also about shadows in the current situation of the Catholic Church,” Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, a theologian known for his intellect and his pastoral touch, told reporters earlier this week.

 “The pope’s election is something substantially different from a political election,” Cardinal Schönborn said, adding that the role was not “the chief executive of a multinational company, but the spiritual head of a community of believers.”

Indeed, Benedict was selected in 2005 as a caretaker after the momentous papacy of John Paul II, but the shy theologian appeared to show little inclination toward management. His papacy suffered from crises of communications — with Muslims, Jews and Anglicans — that, along with a sex abuse crisis that raged back to life in Europe in 2010, evolved into a crisis of governance.

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Arming Syrian opposition is violation of international law - Lavrov

 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that supplying the Syrian opposition with weapons was illegal under international law, a day after Britain floated the possibility it might bypass an EU arms embargo to do just that.

"International law does not permit the supply of arms to non-governmental actors and our point of view is that it is a violation of international law," Lavrov told a news conference in London via a translator.

Lavrov and British Foreign Secretary William Hague stressed that they both believed in political dialogue, but their difference of opinion over arming the rebels and over taking tough action against Syria in the U.N. Security Council laid bare their disunity.

Lavrov said he was concerned about the presence of radicals among the rebels.

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