Moussa Koussa, the Libyan foreign minister, has defected to the United Kingdom, the British foreign ministry has said. The ministry said in a statement that Koussa had arrived at Farnborough Airport, in the south of England, on a flight from Tunisia on Wednesday. "He travelled here under his own free will. He has told us that he is resigning his post. We are discussing this with him and we will release further details in due course," the statement said.
"We encourage those around Gaddafi to abandon him and embrace a better future for Libya that allows political transition and real reform that meets the aspirations of the Libyan people."
It added that Koussa was one of the most senior officials in Gaddafi's government with a role to represent it internationally, which is "something that he is no longer willing to do".
Tunisia's TAP news agency said on Monday that Koussa had crossed over into Tunisia from Libya. A government spokesman in the Libyan capital Tripoli had earlier denied speculation that he had defected.
"He is on a diplomatic mission," Mussa Ibrahim, the spokesman, said. He gave no further details.
Earlier on Wednesday, the British government announced the expulsion of Libya's military attache and four other diplomats in protest and for intimidating opposition groups in London.
A government source quoted by Reuters said the diplomats, believed to be supporters of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, have been given seven days to leave. William Hague, the British foreign minister, told legislators the move was to "underline our grave concern at the regime's behaviour". Source: Al Jazeera
VANCOUVER, Canada - A man accused in a 10-year-old murder in which the victim’s head was severed and carried around in a plastic bucket is being re-tried in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. The Crown’s theory is that Mihaly Illes shot Javan Dowling, 27, in the back of the head inside a van being driven by a third man, Derrick Madinsky.
Crown counsel Dan Mulligan told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Mark McEwan that at the time of the April 2001 shooting, all three men were involved in the drug trade.
Mulligan told the judge that after the shooting, Illes was in possession of Dowling’s severed head and carried it in a Home Depot bucket.
Mulligan said the heart of the Crown’s case is a confession made by Illes at the home of a friend of Illes’ girlfriend. Illes had asked if he could store the bucket in the home and while they were in the house, he discussed the murder, said Mulligan.
Illes said that he had shot Dowling in the back of the head four times with .22 calibre bullets or with a .22 calibre gun, he said.
The accused told others that he used that particular calibre because the bullets would richochet inside the head and would not exit, said Mulligan.
Madinsky is expected to testify that after the shooting in the van, Illes put plastic bags over Dowling’s head and they drove the van to a marijuana grow-op house, said Mulligan. The men left Dowling’s body inside a garage at the house, he said.
Two days after the killing, Illes and two others travelled to a remote logging road near Squamish and dumped Dowling’s dismembered remains from a duffle bag into a shallow grave, said the prosecutor.
Madinsky is expected to testify that Dowling’s head was not among the remains, he added.
Later, Illes told others that his motive for the murder was that Dowling was taking proceeds from the drug operation and had stolen drugs or money from other dealers, Mulligan told the judge.
After being arrested but released without charges, Madinsky eventually co-operated with police, signing an immunity agreement and entering the witness-protection program,as part of the agreement, he led police to the location where Mr. Dowling’s remains had been buried, he said.
“The police recovered Javan Dowling’s head and body parts in two separate graves in the back country near Squamish.”
In November 2001, Illes was charged with first-degree murder. He was found guilty by a jury but appealed and saw his appeal dismissed by the B.C. Court of Appeal. However, a further appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada saw the conviction overturned and a new trial ordered.
Cornelia Peralta, 73, mother-in-law of Ramon Credo, cries upon hearing about her son-in-law's execution in China, at her residence in Bacoor, Cavite city, south of Manila. China executed on Wednesday Credo and two other Filipinos convicted of drug trafficking.
MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine government said China on Wednesday executed three Filipinos convicted of drug smuggling despite last-minute appeals for clemency and political concessions by the Southeast Asian country's leaders. Sally Ordinario-Villanueva, 32, and Ramon Credo, 42, met their families for the last time early on Wednesday before they were put to death by lethal injection in Xiamen city in southeastern China, said Philippine Consul Noel Novicio.
Elizabeth Batain, 38, was allowed to meet with her relatives hours ahead of her execution in southeastern Shenzhen city, Novicio said.
The three were not aware they would be executed on Wednesday, although their sentences were promulgated early in the day, Novicio said. It was the first time that Philippine citizens were executed in China.
China normally does not announce executions. Amnesty International says China is the world's biggest executioner, with thousands of convicts killed every year. The Philippines has abolished the death penalty.
Neighbours, relatives and activists held overnight vigils at the homes of the condemned, offering prayers to the distraught family members. The dominant Roman Catholic Church, which opposes the death penalty, held special Mass in Manila.
The three were arrested separately in 2008 carrying packages containing at least 4 kilograms of heroin. They were convicted and sentenced in 2009.
In its appeal for clemency which included three letters by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to his Chinese counterpart and a February visit to Beijing by the vice president, which prompted China to postpone the executions by a month - the government said it was able to prove that a drug syndicate took advantage of the Filipinos.
RAS LANOUF, Libya - Moammar Gadhafi's forces hammered rebels with tanks and rockets, turning their rapid advance into a panicked retreat in an hourslong battle Tuesday. The fighting underscored the dilemma facing the U.S. and its allies in Libya: Rebels may be unable to oust Gadhafi militarily unless already contentious international airstrikes go even further in taking out his forces.
Opposition fighters pleaded for strikes as they fled the hamlet of Bin Jawwad, where artillery shells crashed thunderously, raising plumes of smoke. No such strikes were launched during the fighting, and some rebels shouted, "Sarkozy, where are you?" — a reference to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, one of the strongest supporters of using air power against Gadhafi.
Reports overnight indicated that the rebels were in flight from Brega and Ras Lanouf.
World leaders meeting in London agreed that Gadhafi should step down but have yet to decide what additional pressure to put on him. "Gadhafi has lost the legitimacy to lead, so we believe he must go. We're working with the international community to try to achieve that outcome," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters after the talks concluded. Source: Agency
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Malaysia’s dirty politics reached a nadir last week when the local media reported on a new video featuring a man who looked like former deputy prime minister and present opposition leader, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim having sex with a prostitute in a hotel room. Coming at a time when Anwar is battling sodomy charges in court, it makes you wonder just really how low can it go. The video was shown to a few journalists from the mainstream media who were selected and screened in a fashion worthy of a cloak-and-dagger novel.
The government-controlled media, which have played a key role in previous campaigns to discredit Anwar, violated every known ethical practice of journalism by providing graphic reports of the alleged “sex sojourn” without verifying the identities of the video’s subjects.
Typically, the source of the video was not disclosed, evoking the popular Indonesian (and Malay) saying lempar batu sembunyi tangan, which means “throw the rock, hide your hand”. No one took responsibility for screening the video, but the mainstream media played along and reported what their journalists saw.
Ever willing accomplices, the media broke one of the credos of journalism: Identify your sources, especially when making allegations as serious as this.
The Malaysian media did not bother to identify the man in the video. The mere suggestion that man looked like Anwar Ibrahim was enough to cast doubt on Anwar’s credibility and integrity in the supposedly puritan yet hypocritical society. Truth and verification go out window when you are part of a propaganda machine.
The media placed the onus on Anwar to disprove the claim, something which would likely keep him busy for the next several months or even years, certainly until the next general election.
We have seen this before when Anwar was first sentenced to prison for sodomy, only to have the Supreme Court to overturn his conviction in 2004. Subsequently, new sodomy charges appeared and Anwar has been busy going to and from the courtroom. Sex, media and video conspiracies define Malaysian politics today. It gets dirtier all the time.
Source: Jakarta Post (Editorial)
BAGHDAD, Iraq - The man known for throwing a shoe at former US president Bush campaigns against the Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki. Muntadhr Al Zaydi had to stay away from his country for months after serving jail time, but he is now back on the streets of Baghdad, on a mission that is again putting him at odds with the authorities.
Demonstrators in Iraq have been calling for sweeping reforms and in their midst is Al Zaydi, the man known internationally for throwing a shoe at former US president George Bush.
ISTANBUL, Turkey - The Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signalled that Turkey is ready to act as a mediator to broker an early ceasefire in Libya, as he warned that a drawn-out conflict risked turning the country into a "second Iraq" or "another Afghanistan" with devastating repercussions both for Libya and the Nato states leading the intervention. In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Erdogan said that talks were still under way with Muammar Gaddafi's government and the Transitional National Council.
He also revealed that Turkey is about to take over the running of the rebel-held Benghazi harbour and airport to facilitate humanitarian aid, in agreement with Nato.
Speaking in Istanbul at the weekend, Erdogan said Gaddafi had to "provide some confidence to Nato forces right now" on the ground if there was to be progress towards the ceasefire the Libyan leader wanted and an "end to the blood being spilled in Libya".
His comments came as Nato leaders met in Brussels to finalise arrangements for the alliance - with Turkey's participation - to take over the enforcement of the UN no-fly zone from Tuesday, as well as for the more controversial air strikes against Gaddafi's ground forces.
Meanwhile, rebel forces completed their weekend take-over of a string of government-held oil towns, including Brega, Ras Lanuf and Bin Jawad, with the help of heavy coalition air strikes on pro-Gaddafi forces. By Sunday night their Their rapid advance westwards is heading for the Libyan leader's home town and stronghold, Sirte, where two loud explosions were heard.
The Turkish government, which is playing an increasingly important regional role and has the second largest armed forces within Nato, has been at the centre of the argument within the alliance over Libya, publicly clashing with the French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
Turkey opposed any outside military involvement before it began – Erdogan described the idea of Nato intervention as a "nonsense" — but has now agreed to participate in a non-combat role in the wake of the UN security resolutions and Arab League appeal.
His public challenge to US, British and French direct military intervention is likely to deepen Nato dissension and alarm western leaders who hoped Turkey had now acquiesced in the thrust of the Libya mission.
TRIPOLI, Libya - PhilippinesForeign Affairs Secretary Alberto Del Rosario said based on the feedback he had got from Filipino community leaders in Libya, most had opted to stay because they think they are better off. Filipinos in Libya are risking their lives with their decision to stay in the strife-torn North African country because they fear they will have no jobs if they return to the Philippines.
"Many want to go home, but they prefer to stay in Libya because there are no job opportunities in the Philippines," the official said.
Del Rosario, who visited Libya on March 22 to make a last call to Filipinos to avail of the government's repatriation programme, said Filipino community leaders told him most of those who opted to stay were promised pay increases.
Others were warned by their employers they would lose entitlement to gratuity pay if they did not finish their contracts. Most who opted to stay were nurses and other health workers. Del Rosario said one nurse told him people believed they were safe in Libya.
He quoted one nurse as saying: "Our employer promised to take care of us and told us that if the worse comes to worst, we will be housed in the hospital and provided with everything we need for free, on top of salary increase."
Del Rosario said one Filipino nursing professor teaching in a university in Benghazi said that they were asked to stay and would be paid their wages even if there are no classes. Another admitted that she could not readily give up a salary ranging between 4,500 and 6,000 Libyan dinars, or 160,000 pesos (Dh13,261) to 200,000 pesos (Dh17,000), roughly the equivalent of pay received by vice-presidents of multi-national corporations in the Philippines.
He said of 2,000 nurses with dependents in Libya, around 1,600 had decided to stay. Eight hundred of these nurses and dependents are in Tripoli. Del Rosario said rather than fearing for their life because of the reported fighting raging in parts of Libya, "Filipino workers are actually more concerned about the difficulty in remitting money to their family."
LONDON, U.K. - An unprecedented security operation will swing into gear in the days before Prince William and Kate Middleton marry at Westminster Abbey. Up to 500,000 well-wishers are expected to travel to the capital to see the new royal couple. However, Police Senior Officers fear the occasion could act as a magnet for extremist groups which have been using a series of peaceful protests as a cover to bring carnage to the capital.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson (right photo) has ruled that no expense should be spared to ensure the wedding goes off peacefully on Friday April 29.
Commander Bob Broadhurst, who will be responsible for securing the wedding celebrations, said investigators have already swung the spotlight on those involved in Saturday’s clashes.
He warned ‘different rules will be in play’ during the wedding and appealed to anti-establishment groups not to ‘spoil the party’.
He said he did not want to turn the wedding into ‘fortress London’ but, hinting at a more hardline approach, he added that intrusive counter-terrorism powers will be used to keep a lid on any protests.
The wedding security operation is likely to be the most expensive ever staged in Britain, with thousands of officers lining the streets. A large number from Scotland Yard’s elite firearms unit will mingle with guests inside Westminster Abbey, with snipers at key locations along the wedding route.
Among those hoping to cause trouble at the wedding, leading anarchists have held clandestine meetings with student leaders and radicals under an umbrella group calling itself Network X.
Among them are members of G20 protest organisers Meltdown, Whitechapel Anarchist Group, which infiltrated the student protests, and Class War, whose members have carried ‘Kill a Royal’ banners.
Yonge and Dundas Square in Toronto city centre is pictured shortly before the end of Earth Hour on Saturday March 26, 2011.
TORONTO, Canada — Buildings and homes across the country went dark Saturday night as Canadians took part in the fifth annual Earth Hour. But early results suggested fewer people turned off the lights this year. In Toronto, hundreds watched as the billboards in Dundas Square suddenly shut down. Still, some in the crowd said they were disappointed to see so many stores stay brightly lit.
"There's still too many lights on," said Brandon Marton, pointing to the store signs and street lights illuminating the area. "You really don't get the full effect."
Others were dismayed to find no public celebrations, like there had been in previous years.
Energy use fell by 115 megawatts between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., a drop of about 5 per cent, said Jennifer Link, a spokeswoman for Toronto Hydro. Last year, the city's Earth Hour efforts saved 296 megawatts; in 2009, it was 454 megawatts.
Meanwhile, Nova Scotia Power reported saving 10 megawatts of power, a significant drop from last year's 18 megawatts. Utilities in other provinces said it could take them until Monday to calculate the results. Some experts say Earth Hour is losing steam now that the novelty has worn off.
A record number of countries and municipalities signed up for this year's event, he said. Over the next few days, the organization will conduct surveys to determine how many people participated, Price said. He expects there to be about one-billion people worldwide.
Earth Hour began in Australia in 2007 and has since spread to more than 130 countries.
WASHINGTON, U.S.A. - U.S. intelligence reports suggest that Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's forces have placed the bodies of people they have killed at the sites of coalition air strikes so they can blame the West for the deaths, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in a television interview on Saturday. "We do have a lot of intelligence reporting about Gaddafi taking the bodies of the people he's killed and putting them at the sites where we've attacked," Gates said according to interview excerpts released by CBS News' "Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer" program, which will air on Sunday.
A U.S.-led coalition began air strikes against Libya a week ago to establish a no-fly zone over the oil-exporting North African country and to try to prevent Gaddafi from using his air force to attack people rebelling against his rule.
Last week Libyan officials said nearly 100 civilians had been killed in the coalition strikes, but Western military officials at the time denied any civilians had been killed.
"The truth of the matter is we have trouble coming up with proof of any civilian casualties that we have been responsible for," Gates said in the television interview.
Separately, the State Department praised the African Union for convening a meeting on Libya and said the group had an important role to play in resolving the crisis there.
LONDON, U.K. - Trouble continued to flare late into the night as hundreds of people attempted to hijack yesterday's massive anti government cuts demonstration in central London. Riot police fought activists in Trafalgar Square as violent protesters threatened to overshadow the TUC rally in Hyde Park which had earlier passed off peacefully.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said between 200 and 300 people had gathered at the landmark location late this evening.
He said: 'A large number from the crowd are throwing missiles and have attempted to damage the Olympic clock within the square.
In stark contrast, the daytime demonstration was hailed a 'fantastic success' by trade unions as people from across the UK marched through central London. Organisers estimated between 400,000 and 500,000 teachers, nurses, firefighters, council and NHS workers, other public sector employees, students, pensioners and campaign groups converged on the capital.
Union officials and Labour leader Ed Miliband condemned the 'brutal' cuts in jobs and services. But during the good-natured protest hundreds of activists not connected with the union rally clashed with police in the West End. Officers were attacked as they tried to stop demonstrators smashing their way into banks and shops.
The protesters surged along Piccadilly, Regent Street and Oxford Street, chanting 'welfare not warfare' as they blocked traffic and forced shops to close. Paint, fireworks and flares were thrown at buildings, while the outnumbered police were attacked with large pieces of wood.
Branches of HSBC, RBS, Santander and Topshop were among those to have their windows smashed. Scotland Yard said lightbulbs filled with ammonia were also thrown at their officers. The police often had to step aside as the activists continued their destruction late into the evening.
Campaign group UK Uncut claimed around 200 of its supporters forced themselves into luxury store Fortnum and Mason - known as the Queen's grocer. A spokesman for the demonstrators said the target was chosen because 'they dodge tens of millions in tax'.