News & Reports 2012-07-08

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Broadcasting Time: 07:00-08:00, GMT+08:00, 2012-07-08

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

In This Edition

The United States declares Afghanistan a major non-NATO ally.
Libya holds landmark national congress election amid violent disruptions.
Pakistan's hardline groups threaten to stage a long march if the government does not revoke its decision to re-open NATO supply routes.
And researchers in Switzerland say the investigation into death of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is difficult because there is relatively little radioactivity left in his body.

Hot Issue Reports

U.S. Declares Afghanistan a Major Non-NATO Ally
The United States has declared Afghanistan a major non-NATO ally.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the decision at a joint news conference with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai in Kabul ahead of a meeting on aid to Afghanistan in Tokyo on Sunday.

"I am pleased to announce today that President Obama has officially designated Afghanistan as a major non-NATO ally of the United States. We see this as a powerful symbol of our commitment to Afghanistan's future."

The status upgrade may help Afghanistan acquire U.S. defense supplies and have greater access to U.S. military training.

Clinton also showed her support for Karzai's efforts to make economic reforms.

"Obviously, we know Afghanistan has an agenda ahead of itself to make key economic reforms to fight corruption to strengthen the rule of law to attract more trade and investment. And I want to commend President Karzai for his strong public pledges to stand up to corruption and build institutions that will be critical for Afghanistan's future. And, Mr. President, you will always have our support in your efforts."

Participants in the upcoming Tokyo meeting are expected to commit just under 4 billion U.S. dollars annually in development aid for Afghanistan.

But Afghanistan's central bank has said the country needs at least 6 billion dollars a year to foster economic growth over the next decade.

This will come on top of the 4.1 billion dollars committed annually by NATO and its partners for Afghanistan's security forces, pledged at a Chicago summit in May.

Libya Holds Historic National Congress
Polling stations across Libya are open for the entire day on Saturday for Libyans to cast votes in the country's first national congress election since the toppling of former leader Muammar Gaddafi last October.

Wei Tong has more.

It will be the first free election for Libyans in more than 50 years. Some 3,700 candidates, including 585 women, are running for 200 seats.

Around 3.3 million eligible voters are selecting a temporary assembly, which will have the task of picking a cabinet and prime minister.

The main contenders in the poll are the Muslim Brotherhood, Alliance of National Forces, National Front and National Centrist.

Some voters are excited to cast ballots in the country's first free election.

Camilla Rafifi and Fauzi Saadi are voters from the capital Tripoli and Misrata, respectively.

"It really was a big dream for me. I didn't expect this day in all my life. Really, I'm very, very, very happy, this will be in the history. We didn't expect this before."

"We are here in Misrata. We woke up early, and we are happy and very glad that Libya is moving towards the same path as other countries. We are civilized people. When we had to, we fought. And now we have put down our weapons and are now building the foundations of our country."

Abdul Jalil, head of the National Transitional Council says the NTC will be officially dismissed after the results of the national congress election are published.

The 200-member national congress is expected to replace the NTC to supervise the government and oversee experts to draw up a new constitution.

Meanwhile, election officials in Libya have also addressed concerns about people's lack of basic knowledge about the election but pledged to ensure the election process would go smoothly.

Saadi Al Senussi, Director of Sirte city election office.

"It's true that the election officials didn't do enough to teach people about the process, but we have to overcome this. Things are better. You should know that we are dealing with citizens who have no experience with elections."

The landmark democratic election has been overshadowed by a series of violent attacks and anti-poll protests in eastern Libya.

In the eastern city of Benghazi, some anti-NTC protesters are boycotting the election.

"Unfortunately, the National Transitional Council didn't respond to the demands of the Libyan people by not giving the number of seats it deserves for National Assembly elections."

Earlier, a helicopter carrying election material was shot down by ground fire near Benghazi. The crew survived a crash landing, but an election worker was killed. And ex-rebel fighters and other angry protesters in Benghazi attacked election offices, setting fire to ballot papers and other voting materials.

The final results of the election are expected to come out next week.

Another parliamentary election is scheduled for 2013, when a new constitution will be ready.

For CRI, I am Wei Tong.

Pakistan Defence Council Urges to Close the Reopened Supply Routes for NATO Forces
The Pakistan Defence Council, a coalition of over 40 religious groups, political parties and banned militant organisations has warned that they will begin a long march from Lahore to Islamabad if the government does not revoke its decision of re-opening supply routes for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, President of the Pakistan Defence Council, has criticised the federal government and demanded its immediate resignation.

"The government has insulted the Parliament and the entire nation by re-opening the NATO supply. They have once again surrendered the country to the Americans. These rulers are not fit to safeguard our national interests and security. The government should resign immediately. The aims of this long march are, firstly, to purge the country of the American aggression, and secondly, to protect the nation from the troubles inflicted by these ruthless rulers."

The Pakistani government decided earlier this week to re-open NATO supply lines after U.S. President Barack Obama's administration ceded to months of Pakistani demands to apologise for the U.S. air attack that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November.

Pakistan had closed the supply routes in retaliation for the attack.

Arafat's Death Investigation Proves Difficult: Researchers
The investigation into death of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has proven to be difficult because there is relatively little radioactivity left in his body.

The researchers made the statement during an interview in Switzerland on Friday.

Earlier, it was reported that there was polonium-210 in Arafat's personal belongings, although there were indications that Arafat's body possibly contained a relatively high amount of polonium-210.

Dr. Pascal Froidevaux is the principal investigator.

"Now, there is relatively little radioactivity left in his body, which has gradually waned to one out of a million. Even if we can test the body, it's still hard to prove Arafat was once poisoned. The investigation will prove to be very difficult. If Arafat was indeed poisoned to death, we are not sure enough to detect the high radioactivity. I'd say it's too late."

A year and a half ago, a special investigation committee was established but came out with very limited results because of a lack of modern facilities and equipment.

Although eight years have passed since Arafat's death, he is still regarded as a national hero.

Both Palestinian officials and the public support the reopening of the investigation into the death of their late leader.

Floods and Landslides Kill 103 in Russia
Floods and landslides killed at least 103 people in southern Russia after two months' average rainfall fell in a few hours on Saturday.

Many victims were elderly people who were asleep in the town of Krymsk when the storm broke overnight.

Local residents described what they have experienced.

"I gathered all my relatives, but can not find my cousin anywhere. When the water hit, we heard screams from the neighbours. They started breaking the windows."

Water rose above head-height in what one official called the worst flooding in 70 years.

Meanwhile, local official urged people not to panic as further rains were expected over the weekend.

Alexander Tkachov is the governor of the Krasnodar region.

"We never had such a natural disaster, such a volume of rainfall in such a short period of time."

The flooding damaged thousands of homes, blocked railways and roads, and halted oil and grain shipments.

Helicopters were evacuating people from the flooded areas, and most survivors found shelter in local schools and hospitals.

The Krasnodar region, with its coastline and wooded mountains, is a popular holiday destination for Russians.

It was not clear whether any tourists had been killed.

Romanian Lawmakers Vote Overwhelmingly to Impeach President
Romanian lawmakers have overwhelmingly voted to impeach the country's President Traian Basescu.

The move paved the way for a national referendum that could see the unpopular leader ousted from the top job he's held for eight years.

The vote of 256-114 in parliament came as Basescu and Prime Minister Victor Ponta have engaged in a bitter power struggle.

Basescu's opponents accused him of overstepping his authority by meddling with the prime minister's office and trying to influence judicial affairs.

However, not all agree that the impeachment is a step forward for Romanian democracy.

Stelian Tanase is Romanian political analyst.

"The leaders of the government coalition and the parliamentary majority rushed things too much. We have a parliamentary process with two elections this year which would have been enough for them to settle this conflict."

The president has vowed to use "all constitutional resources" to stay in office for his full five-year term, which ends in 2014.

A popular referendum on Basescu's fate will be held later this month.

Basescu was impeached in 2007 but survived a referendum.

Peru's President Confirms Rescue of 10 Children from Rebels
Peru's President Ollanta Humala has confirmed that police have captured 11 Shining Path rebels and freed 10 children thought to be in combat training after a string of military setbacks and a week of anti-mining violence.

"They awaken a tenderness - it's the first thing I can say. Little children should not be blamed for anything, they're simply victims of an unhappy circumstance that they have to live through, and we hope that these circumstances aren't repeated in other families, in other boys and girls. That's why our duty as a state is to rescue these children and give them an opportunity. If their parents have decided to abandon them or condemn them to this situation, we must not stand idly by."

Humala praised law enforcement involvement in the operation.

The Shining Path rebels went into the cocaine-trafficking business after the founders of the group were arrested in the early 1990s. The valleys where they operate contain natural gas reserves and pipelines that are essential to the country's energy security.

The rebels started a war to overthrow the state in 1980, and some 70,000 people were killed in the conflict.

Palestinians Celebrate the Inclusion of the Church of the Nativity in UNESCO's World Heritage List
Hundreds of Palestinians have gathered near Bethlehem's Church of Nativity to celebrate its inclusion in UNESCO list of World Heritage sites in danger.

Last month, UNESCO granted endangered World Heritage status and funding for repairs to the site despite objections from the United States and Israel.

Thirteen of the 21 members of the World Heritage Committee voted in favour of the move at a meeting at the end of last month.

The Palestinian Authority has viewed its entry into UNESCO as a strategic milestone ahead of the broader international recognition it seeks for future statehood.

Salam Fayyad is the Palestinian foreign minister.

"It's wonderful to have this celebration. It's a major event. It's a landmark event, Indeed, I believe, on the path to freedom and statehood. This is the most significant event to have happened since the inception of the Palestinian Authority."

However, Israel sees Palestinian moves at UNESCO and other U.N. bodies as efforts to embarrass Israel on the world stage.

The 4th century Church of the Nativity revered by Christians as Jesus's birthplace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, needs repairs but the Palestinian Authority is short of funds.

The Palestinian government plans to register about 20 more sites with UNESCO.

Last year, UNESCO granted the Palestinians full membership, a decision seen as a boost to their bid to win United Nations recognition of its statehood in the absence of peace talks with Israel.

Rain Eased across Parts of Britain
Rain has gradually eased across parts of Britain after weeks' flood damaging homes, washing out roads and disrupting train travel.

Southwest England was worst affected by the flood.

Hundreds of residents in the county of Devon were put on alert for possible evacuation as the River Yealm burst its banks. Most of the roads was cut off by the deluge.

The Environment Agency has issued more than 200 flood warnings and alerts. Richard Cresswell, an official from the agency explains.

"We're calling these the summer floods of 2012 and this is number five, and they've been all over the country. It's not always predictable where they're going to be although we have, as with this flood, been able to give 24 hours notice that somewhere was going to get really seriously hit in Devon and Cornwall."

Britain is even more prone to flooding than usual following the wettest June on record.

Forecasters say wet weather is expected to continue for several days.

Video Shot by Three Trapped Workers Released
Rescuers have excavated a 236-meter-long tunnel to reach the 16 miners who had been trapped in a flooded colliery pit in central China's Hunan province for over 60 hours.

Rescuers say the distance to reach the trapped miners from the excavated tunnel is very close, but huge rocks in the passageway hampered rescue efforts.
Earlier, a video made by three trapped railway workers was sent out through a ventilation tube.

The video showed the conditions inside the tunnel in the Shanghai-Kunming Railway. The ventilation tube has been used to send medicine, food and drinking water to the workers.

Wang Yonghong, an official at the Hongling Tunnel Project Department, said nearly 700 rescuers have been organized to rescue the trapped workers.

"We've arranged more shifts and breaks for rescuers so that they may keep fit and speed up the rescue as much as possible. Now the only goal set by our headquarters is to successfully rescue the three trapped workers at all costs."

The accident occurred on June 30th when part of the tunnel under construction caved in, trapping three railway workers inside.

The caved-in area was estimated at about 40 meters long.

S. Williams Wins Fifth Wimbledon Women's Singles Title
Serena Williams has clinched her fifth Wimbledon women's singles title. The American defeated Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland in three sets. CRI's London correspondent Tu Yun reports.

Williams had won both of their two previous meetings on court. And their third encounter proved to be no exceptional except that the American dropped the second set due to too many unforced errors.

But Williams managed to hold her nerves and regained control in the third set before winning 6-1, 5-7, 6-2.

"The Wimbledon Ladies Single's Champion 2012: Serena Williams."

It's William's fifth Wimbledon title and 14th Grand Slam championship.

"I can't even describe it. I almost didn't make it a few years ago. I was in hospital but now I'm here again and it was so worth it. I'm so happy."
It's the first time Radwanska entered the Wimbledon final.

"I think I had the best two weeks of my life. Serena was playing too good today but I'm just so happy to be here in the final. I think it was not my day. I'll try again next year."

Radwanska has also become the first Pole to reach a Wimbledon singles final in 75 years.

Tu Yun, CRI news, Wimbledon.

One-sided Approach to a Nation's Internal Affairs by Outside Forces is Unwelcome: Xinhua

Russia, China and Cuba voted on Friday against a resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council that unilaterally condemned the Syrian government.

The resolution, tabled by the United States, strongly condemned "the widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights; acts of violence; on-going atrocities; and indiscriminate targeting of civilians by the Syrian authorities."

A commentary by Xinhua News Agency says that as violence continues to tighten its grip on Syria and threatens to escalate into a full-scale war, it is imperative for the international community to speak with one voice to help lift the country out of its current misery.

The commentary points out that for a sovereign nation, any one-sided approach to its internal affairs proposed by outside forces is unwelcome, and any outside attempt at military intervention is detestable.

The commentary adds that such an approach is also likely to stymie the Syrian power-transition plan agreed in Geneva last week. Many consider the plan as the best solution by far to end the sufferings of the Syrian people.

In conclusion, the Xinhua commentary says it is now high time for the world powers to follow through on the commitments they made at the Geneva meeting and work together to prevent the further militarization of the conflict and advance the prospects of a political transition. It also says it is advisable for those who attempt to reap benefits from a forced regime change to respect the rights of the Syrian people.


China Daily: Family-Planning Policy Must Be Revised

Researchers at a Chinese government think tank have recently suggested that all young couples in China should be allowed to give birth to two children.

China's current family-planning policy lists specific conditions under which couples can have a second child. However, couples of minority ethnic groups can usually have two, or in some cases more, children.

An editorial in the China Daily newspaper argues that given the fact that China's birth rate is less than the officially published 1.8 child per couple and the birth rate in Shanghai and Beijing is lower than 1 child per couple, the population dividend will soon disappear. It says the growing problems of a shortage of workers and an aging society will become severe if the country's family-planning policy is not revised as soon as possible.

The commentary predicts that labor shortage and rapidly aging population will have an impact on the country's overall development. It calls for an urgent yet levelheaded review of China's demographic conditions and family-planning policy to ensure the policy serves the nation in the future.

The commentary warns that family planning is a serious issue. Only with adequate information and data about the population structure and other related issues will the government be able to come up with informed decisions about when and how the policy should be revised.