News & Reports 2011-04-24

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Broadcasting Time: 07:00-08:00, GMT+08:00, 2011-04-24

Hello and Welcome to News and Reports on China Radio International.

In This Edition

As rebels advancing in the western Libyan city of Misrata, a stalemate continues in the east, with rebel fighters struggling to take the key oil city of Brega.

The top U.S. military officer in Iraq urges the Iraqi government to decide soon whether it wants American forces to stay longer in the country.

India's environment minister Jairam Ramesh advocates pressing the pause button on nuclear power projects in the wake of Japan's nuclear crisis.

The First Beijing International Film Festival opens in the Chinese capital.

Hot Issue Reports

Libyan Rebels Push on Brega
As rebels advancing in the western Libyan city of Misrata, a stalemate continued in the east, with rebel fighters still struggling to take the key oil city of Brega.

Fighters at the western gate to the nearby city of Ajdabiyah, which leads towards Brega, said that NATO had increased air strikes over the last few days, after complaining for weeks that strikes had slowed.

Rebel fighter Fathi Mukhtar said he was pleased by the prospect that the United States would introduce the use of unarmed Predator strike aircraft, and that he did not worry about civilian casualties.

"Based on what's happened before, if there's an airplane without a pilot, it's no problem. They know how to strike accurately. They don't threaten civilians. After all they're here to protect civilians, not to kill them."

Rebels said Gaddafi's forces were ensconced in the center of Brega, often inside houses, while insurgent fighters were more exposed.

Gaddafi's forces have been bombing the road from Ajdabiyah for several days, sometimes firing from a distance, sometimes approaching in cars.

Ajdabiyah, once a bustling city of 100,000, has become a ghost town, with most residents fleeing the fighting.

Libyan Civilians to Leave Misrata for Benghazi by Water
Meanwhile, the fourth ship chartered by the International Organization for Migration to evacuate people from the besieged Libyan city of Misrata has left to Benghazi.

The ship, called the Red Star One, carried some Libyan civilians, migrant workers and people wounded in the fighting between Libyan rebels and forces loyal to leader Muammar Gaddafi.

According to the IOM, a specialized medical team is on board to care for wounded evacuees.

Migrants will travel on from Benghazi to the Egyptian border by road and eventually return to their final destination countries from there.

A woman boarding the ship described the situation in Misrata.

"In Misrata it's terrible. Everything is terrible in Misrata. I can't tell you how we feel. Hard. Hard. Hard life in Misrata, hard life. Really hard life. And we can't sleep, we can't eat, we can't do anything in Misrata. We only cry and scream all the time. We can do nothing."

Libyan troops captured by rebels in Misrata said the army had been ordered to retreat from the western port, and a rebel spokesman said soldiers had booby-trapped bodies and buildings as they fled.

Misrata, the last large city held by rebels in the west of the country, has been under a punishing government siege for nearly two months.

Hundreds of civilians have died in shelling and fighting, petrol is scarce and thousands of migrant workers are trapped there.

Top US General Urges Iraq to Decide Soon on Troop Presence
The top U.S. military officer in Iraq has urged the Iraqi government to decide soon whether it wants American forces to stay longer in the country.

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the discussions on the issue are intensifying but time is running out.

"I think the timeline is in the next few weeks because for the withdrawal there is what I call a physics problem. We've 47-thousand troops here, lots of equipment, and physically it just takes time to move them."

The White House has reiterated the Obama administration's commitment to withdraw the remaining U.S. forces in Iraq by the end of the year, but negotiations and discussions about the extension is going on.

The U.S. has said repeatedly that any move to keep American soldiers in Iraq after that date must start with a request from the Iraqi government.

Mullen said Iraq has not made any such request.

Al-Sadr Followers Resist Prolonging US Troops Presence in Iraq
Hundreds of followers of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr took to the streets of Baghdad on Saturday, trampling on U.S. flags and vowing to escalate military resistance if U.S. troops fail to leave Iraq by the end of this year.

It was the second major demonstration by Sadr's followers in recent days after Sadr issued a warning on April 9 that he would unleash his Mehdi Army militia if U.S. troops were not out of Iraq by Dec. 31.

Earlier, more than 5,000 marched in the streets of Basra, Iraq's southern oil hub.

The rally came a day after Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a visit to the capital that Iraq's leaders must move quickly if they want U.S. forces to stay beyond year-end. About 47,000 American troops remain to advise and train Iraqi forces.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has said his police and army are ready to provide security and foreign troops will no longer be needed after December 31, 2011.

Men, women and children, some dressed in the black clothing of the Sadrist movement, trampled U.S. and Israeli flags and chanted slogans of loyalty to Sadr.

Sheikh Nasir al-Saedi, a Sadr aide, expressed their attitudes towards US military presence in Iraq.

"If the occupier doesn't leave Iraq, we will face him militarily, culturally and in all fields."

The march marked the seventh anniversary of the formation of the Mehdi Army, which fought U.S. forces after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Indian Environment Minister Calls for a Pause on the Country's Nuclear Power Project
India's environment minister Jairam Ramesh has advocated pressing the pause button on nuclear power projects in the wake of Japan's nuclear crisis.

Jairam Ramesh said India has undertaken an urgent review of safety standards at its nuclear power plants in case of any emergency, and to withstand natural disasters of the magnitude witnessed in Japan.

He also commented on the construction of an Indian nuclear power plants, which protestors argue would harm the local environment and put people at risk.

"There is a need for balance between development and environment. If we tread the road for nine percent growth, then our jungles and rivers will be affected from air and water pollution. All these problems are before us. We want development. Even I also want nine percent growth. But the question is regarding the process of achieving it."

India is to build a 9,900 MW nuclear power project at Jaitapur in western Maharashtra state, in collaboration with France.

Ramesh also said that the country's Planning Commission's hope to add 100 thousand megawatts to India's power generation capacity in plans was "ecologically impossible."

US Army Deserter Got His Claim Rejected
Annual traditional Easter marches kicked off in various German cities on Saturday with some 500 marchers taking to the streets in the southern town of Stuttgart to call for peace and an end to international wars.

This year's peace rally was attended by Andr?? Shepherd, a U.S. soldier who deserted his unit to avoid returning to Iraq in 2007. The 34-year-old former Apache helicopter mechanic has been living in Germany since deserting.

According to U.S. law, soldiers who desert during a time of war can face the death penalty, Shepherd said he had made the claim to the German government to protect himself but also to highlight the problems of war.

"I decided to apply for asylum for the personal freedom, so that I wouldn't be prosecuted and for the political statement. Because people need to do what they can in order to stop this war, or these imperialistic wars on the world. The collateral murder, actually galvansied my efforts, since then because, what it shows is the brutality of the wars."

Shepherd's application for refugee status was turned down by the German government on April 5.

The former soldier said he was surprised by the news given that Germany was a staunch opponent of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, due to the legacy of the post-war trials of Nazi officials, notably in Nuremberg in 1945-1949.

Shepherd has said he will appeal the decision. And he is thought to be the first American deserter to seek asylum in Europe.

Australian PM Gillard Visits Town Destroyed by Tsunami and Quake in Japan
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard traveled to Minamisanriku in northern Japan on Saturday to show her support for the coastal town devastated by last month's earthquake and tsunami.

Gillard is the first foreign leader to visit the area since the disaster struck on March 11th.

She surveyed damage to buildings and spoke with local residents at a makeshift evacuation center.

"We're very pleased that we've been able to assist you in this very, very difficult time."

Seventy-five Australian rescue workers were deployed last month to the town in Miyagi Prefecture following the tsunami and quake.

The disasters have left 27-thousand people dead or missing across Japan and also damaged a nuclear power plant in the country's northeast.

Gillard arrived in Japan on Wednesday and held talks with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and met with the Japanese royal couple, pledging Australia's help with reconstruction efforts.

Thousands Gather in Thai to Remember Japanese Victims
Thousands gathered on Saturday in Pathum Thani, central Thailand, to remember those who died and support those who survived the Japanese tsunami over six weeks ago.

A thousand Buddhist monks prayed at the Dhammakaya Temple, just north of Bangkok. Dr. Thaniyo Bhikku, one of Buddhist monks, attended the memorial.

"Today is the day that Thais, the Japanese and people from around the world join together for Japan. Everybody here has good intentions, wishing Japanese people to return to normality following the devastation, as soon as possible."

The devastating impact of a tsunami is something that most Thais are painfully familiar with.

During the December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, more than 8,000 people were killed or are still missing in Thailand alone.

The total included around 2,200 foreign tourists, almost all of whom were vacationing on or around the southern island of Phuket, a region that had contributed as much as 40 percent of Thailand's annual tourism income.

Saturday's commemoration was dominated by prayers and meditation.

Thailand and Japan have close ties after more than 120 years of cooperation. Around 45,000 Japanese people live in Thailand.

St. Louis International Airport Expected to Be Partly Operational after Tornado Damage
In the US state of Missouri, St.Louis International Airport is expected to be partly operational after tornado damage.

The airport was hit by a roaring storm that also destroyed dozens of houses, tossed cars and knocked out power on Friday night, with winds over 100 mph/160 kph.

Airport director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge said an American Airlines jet on the ground was damaged, several injuries were reported but no fatalities.

"We believe, based where we are now with the assessment that if the power is back up and running, we will hear from Ameren shortly, that we can be at about a 70 percent capacity tomorrow. "

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and released state funds to help in the cleanup.

Power lines were reported down across St. Louis County with vehicles overturned on the area's roads, making it hard for emergency personnel to get through and leaving thousands without power on Friday night.

Patricia Fay, a resident of a neighborhood destroyed by the storms, said she went into her basement seconds before the tornado touched down.

"I heard glass breaking. My water pipes on the lower level broke so there was water rushing in everywhere. I heard glass shattering. I knew the windows were blowing out, and I had no idea until I opened the door that the entire roof and back and sides of my house were gone."

Over the years storms and tornadoes have claimed hundreds of lives in the St. Louis region, one of the most active urban areas for tornadoes in the United States.

The worst tornado in St. Louis history killed 137 people and left 550 injured in 1927.

First Beijing International Film Festival Officially Opens
The First Beijing International Film Festival has officially opened in the Chinese capital. More than 100 VIPs in the movie industry, including presidents of established film festivals, well-known directors and A-list movie stars have walked the red carpet and attended the opening ceremony. They all share the same belief that BIFF will grow into a grand, successful and prestigious annual event.

Liu Yan has the story.

Although this is only the inaugural Beijing International Film Festival, it is being treated as a significant milestone event. The organizing committee says it boasts the largest number of VIP guests in history who are presidents, directors or chairmen of well-established international film festivals, including Berlin, Venice, Toronto, Sundance, Warsaw and Tokyo.
Cameron Bailey is the co-director of the Toronto International Film Festival.

"I'm really happy to be here. It was an honor to receive the invitation. Beijing is a very important city. We're very pleased they are launching a new film festival here. We hope to share our experience in terms of our festival. We've run a festival in Toronto for 36 years. We hope to learn from China. We hope to learn more about the Chinese film industry, and we hope that Beijing can build an important festival here."

Darren Aronofsky, director of the Oscar-winning movie "Black Swan", says he's also very glad to be here, as he can communicate and possibly work with some of his Chinese idols.

"I got to meet John Woo yesterday, which was very exciting. I'm a big (fan). I grew up watching his movies. And of course Wong Kar-wai. I'm a huge fan of so many Chinese actors. It's hard to list them all. So it's exciting to see some of them here, and hopefully there'll be a collaboration in the future."

Wang Xueqi, a veteran Chinese actor whose recent films include Bodyguards and Assassins, Chongqing Blues and Sacrifice, is visibly excited as well. His reason has more to do with pride.

"We finally have a big-scale international film festival here at home. I truly think it'll be up there with those most-well known film festivals. It's a sign that Chinese movies are beginning to be recognized internationally. I sincerely hope more Chinese films will be trailblazers and lead the international film market in the future."

Right now, Shanghai International Film Festival is the only A festival, or category one film festival in China. Can Beijing become the next? Zhang Ziyi, image ambassador for the first BIFF, is quite confident.

"Very soon. I think if we put our heart and soul into it, if audiences and the media can work as one to make every BIFF the best it can be, we'll definitely reach that goal."

Jackie Chan, the other image ambassador for the first BIFF, is equally optimistic.

"We hope one day, Beijing International Film Festival doesn't need to invite guests anymore. Instead, everybody will flock here, thinking, 'It'll be a huge pity if I don't come.' You know, like the Oscars, celebrities won't be asking for money. They'll be willing to take money out of their own pockets just to be a part of the event. This is only the first BIFF, I'm sure we can get there."

The first Beijing International Film Festival will showcase 100 recently-produced foreign films and 60 Chinese films. It will run until April 28th.

For CRI, I'm Liu Yan.

China Daily: Citizens Must Do Their Part to Protect the Planet

Earth Day, which was celebrated Friday around the world, is meant to inspire an awareness and appreciation for the vulnerability of the planet we call home.

It is an annual day designated to highlight the fact that we all have a responsibility to the environment and need to adjust our personal behavior to improve the quality of our air, soil and water.

An editorial in "China Daily" says designating one day a year to the earth's well-being and protecting its resources is clearly more than necessary.

It goes on to appreciate what China has achieved in promoting renewable energy in its plan for further economic growth.
The Chinese government is spending billions of yuan to exploit energy alternatives such as wind, solar, nuclear and tidal power. The 12th Five-Year Plan set targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions and creating new forest areas to boost forest cover. The plan also puts forward an "ecological security" strategy, rigorously enforcing the ecological protection of areas where development is limited or banned and using green buffer zones to shield vulnerable land.

But the editorial also emphasizes that little will be accomplished without changes in individuals' behavior. The Chinese generally view solving environmental problems as a function of government and to some extent corporations rather than a personal responsibility. Sustainability practices are seen as being too costly and inconvenient and therefore unrealistic and impractical for citizens to undertake.

The editorial concludes that real action should be taken whenever the Chinese celebrate Earth Day.


Beijing News: Officials Must Observe the Rule of Law

China's Minister of Justice has called on government officials, public servants and the managers of state-owned enterprises to strengthen their awareness of the rule of law. Officials have been advised to familiarize themselves with relevant laws and regulations and adhere to them in practice.

A recent spate of public incidents have exposed blatant violations of laws by officials and dented the legitimate rights of ordinary citizens as a result.

An editorial in "The Beijing News" says the ignorance of some officials about the law has complicated the process of problem solving. Others have pretended to know little about laws and regulations and only paid lip service to abiding by laws in practice.

The editorial suggests that in the future a long-standing system of creating campaigns to disseminate information about laws and regulations be put in place, including assessments of officials before they take office. In this way, such a knowledge promotion campaign would not be reduced to a mere formality, but assure that candidates who were ill-prepared in terms of an awareness of the law would not be appointed.

The editorial further states that officials who do not abide by the law on purpose should be held accountable for their actions. These public servants should be clear that the law is superior to officials' authority, performance and vested interests.

The editorial concludes by highlighting the significance of disseminating information about rules and regulations. Officials would better understand what is allowed and what is not from a legal perspective, because the boundaries no longer would be blurry. If officials succumbed to temptation, they would be held accountable for their violations.

The editorial says promoting the rule of law and imbedding this concept into people's minds will be an arduous task. Only when public servants uphold the rule of law can the interests of groups be truly balanced and tensions be dissolved.