Saturday, February 26, 2011

Athletics-Kenya drop Komon from world cross country team, Posted by Meosha Eaton

EMBU, Kenya, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Kenya have dropped Leonard Komon from their World Cross Country championships team after he defied orders not to take part in the World's Best 10km road race in Puerto Rico on Sunday. "We have taken this decision to give him leeway to compete in Puerto Rico and for the best interest of the team since he would be burned out," Kenya team leader Joseph Kinyua said.

Komon, who had been set to take part in his sixth successive world championships, became the first man to dip under the 27-minute mark for 10km on the road when he ran 26:44 in Utrecht, Netherlands, last September. Komon's management team said the 23-year-old would comment on his exclusion on Monday.

"Athletics Kenya should always act in the best interest of athletes," said a spokesman. "Komon has done his country proud and he should not be sacrificed for the interests of a few." The athletes are training in Embu at the foot of Mount Kenya some 190 km (118 miles) north east of Nairobi for next month's event in Spain.

Komon's place has been taken by Paul Tanui. Vivian Cheruiyot, the women's world 5,000 metres track champion, and Linet Masai, the women's world 10,000 metres track champion, pulled out of the lucrative Puerto Rico race after being told to concentrate on the cross country worlds. (Reporting by Jack Oyoo; Edited by Brian Homewood

Three killed in Tunisia clashes - govt, Posted by Meosha Eaton

* Three dead, 12 wounded after clash
* Government blames Ben Ali loyalists
* Clash follows anti-government protests

(Adds PM's comment to Al Jazeera para 7-8)

TUNIS, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Three people were killed in clashes between Tunisian security forces and youths rioting in central Tunis on Saturday, an Interior Ministry official told Reuters.

The official, who declined to be named, said another 12 had been injured in the clashes, which he said occurred after a riot orchestrated by loyalists of ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. He said about 100 people had been arrested.

"Those who were arrested have admitted they were pushed by former Ben Ali officials," he said. "Others said they were paid to do it." A Reuters witness had earlier seen Tunisian soldiers fire into the air and use tear gas in an effort to disperse dozens of youths, many carrying sticks, who were breaking shop windows near Tunis's Barcelona Station.

The North African state's crime rates have soared since a popular uprising toppled Ben Ali on Jan. 14, and security officials often say his supporters are trying to destabilise the country. The clash followed a large protest late on Friday against the make-up of the post-Ben Ali interim government. During that, security forces fired in the air to disperse protesters who burned tyres and threw rocks.

Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi told Al Jazeera television police seized a car and its driver with $60,000 in cash which he said was being distributed to thugs.
"We have been facing a lot of difficulties lately, as if there is a ploy to destabilise the interim government ... Next week will be decisive in bringing about a road map" for a transition to democratic government, he said.

"The Tunisian people will decide on what will be done". Critics of the interim government, which has promised to hold elections by mid-July, complain that it is too close to the old regime and has failed to provide adequate security. Tunisia's revolution inspired a similar revolt in Egypt and sparked protests elsewhere around the Arab world, including in neighbouring Libya.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Additional reporting by Omar Abdelaty in Cairo; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; editing by Jon Boyle

Shi'ite dissident returns to Bahrain from exile, Posted by Meosha Eaton

* Shi'ite opposition leader allowed to return unhindered
* Cabinet reshuffle unlikely to pacify protesters
* Health, housing, cabinet affairs ministers replaced

(Adds confirmation of cabinet reshuffle)
By Frederik Richter

MANAMA, Feb 26 (Reuters) - A hardline Shi'ite dissident flew home to Bahrain from exile on Saturday to join an opposition movement demanding that the island kingdom's Sunni ruling family grant more rights. King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa reshuffled the cabinet but this appeared unlikely to pacify protesters inspired by popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere.

"We want a real constitution," Hassan Mushaimaa told reporters at the airport on his return. "They've promised us (one) before and then did whatever they wanted to."
"I'm here to see what are the demands of the people at the square and sit with them and talk to them," he said, referring to anti-government protesters camped in Manama's Pearl Square.

Thousands of demonstrators marched from Pearl Square to a former office of Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa on Saturday in a new tactic to press demands for the removal of the man who had held his post for 40 years.
Sheikh Khalifa, the king's uncle, is a symbol of the ruling family's political power and wealth.

The march was the protesters' first foray into a government and commercial district of Manama. They halted at a compound which also houses the Foreign Ministry. Many waved Bahraini flags and chanted: "The people want the fall of the regime". Mushaimaa, London-based leader of the Shi'ite Haq movement, had been on trial in his absence over an alleged coup plot.

The other defendants in the case were freed in Bahrain this week and the Gulf Arab state's foreign minister said Mushaimaa had received a royal pardon and could return home unhindered. Allowing him to return was the latest in a series of concessions by the ruling al-Khalifa family aimed at placating Bahrain's majority Shi'ites who have been at the forefront of nearly two weeks of protests demanding more say in government.

Tens of thousands thronged the streets of Manama on Friday, declared a day of mourning by the government, in one of the biggest demonstrations since a "Day of Rage" on Feb. 14. Security forces did not interfere. Last week seven people were killed and hundreds wounded in unrest before Bahraini rulers, under pressure from their Western allies, pledged to allow peaceful protests and offered dialogue with opponents. This week the government released more than 300 people detained since a crackdown on Shi'ite unrest in August.

In the cabinet reshuffle, the ministers of housing, health and cabinet affairs were replaced, according to the official Bahrain News Agency (BNA).
Majeed al-Alawi, a former opposition activist who served as labour minister, was made housing minister. Nazar al-Baharna, an outgoing minister of state for foreign affairs and one of the highest-ranking Shi'ite government officials, took the health portfolio, BNA said. Replacing the ministers of health and housing could be a concession to Shi'ites who have complained of discrimination in public services, complaints the government says are unjustified.

Many of the protesters were demanding a constitutional monarchy instead of the existing system where citizens vote for a mostly toothless parliament and policy remains the preserve of an elite centred on the al-Khalifa dynasty which has ruled Bahrain for 200 years.

The main Shi'ite opposition group Wefaq said in a statement the reshuffle fell far short of people's demands and called for the entire government to step down. Mushaimaa's Haq party is more radical than Wefaq, from which it split in 2006 when Wefaq contested a parliamentary election, effectively legitimising it. Opposition groups want to see a commitment to an elected government instead of one appointed by the king before they enter any dialogue. Before the reshuffle, about two-thirds of the cabinet were members of the ruling family.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Attiatullah al-Khalifa, minister for cabinet affairs, was replaced by Kamal Ahmed, a former official at the Economic Development Board, a body used by Bahrain's crown prince to implement economic reforms. BNA also said that the National Oil and Gas Authority (NOGA) would be transformed into a ministry of energy headed by the head of NOGA Abdul-Hussain bin Ali Mirza. His portfolio would include electricity and water affairs.

(Reporting by Frederik Richter; writing by Alistair Lyon; editing by Andrew Dobbie )

Gaddafi Family members to face travel ban, Posted by Meosha Eaton

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, nine members of his family and six other members of his inner circle will face international travel bans, according to a draft U.N. sanctions proposal to be voted on on Saturday.

Any assets belonging to Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and four other family members will be frozen, according to the draft U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution, which was obtained by Reuters.

The draft resolution is expected to be put to a vote after the Security Council reconvenes at 8 p.m. EST (0100 GMT).

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Todd Eastham)

Time to go, US tells Gaddafi, as revolt closes in, Posted by Meosha Eaton

* Security forces abandon Tripoli neighbourhoods
* U.S., European leaders say it is time for Gaddafi to quit
* Security Council about to take a view on Libya
* Opposition in east says forming interim government
(Adds Obama, Clinton, interim government, edits throughout)

By Maria Golovnina and Ahmed Jadallah

TRIPOLI, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Muammar Gaddafi's grip on Libya looked ever more tenuous on Saturday, as his police abandoned parts of the capital Tripoli to a popular revolt that has swept the country and the United States bluntly told him he must go.
In the oil-rich east around the second city of Benghazi, freed a week ago by a disparate coalition of people power and defecting military units, a former minister of Gaddafi announced the formation of an "interim government" to reunite the country. At Tripoli in the west, the 68-year-old Brother Leader's redoubt was shrinking. Reuters correspondents found residents in some neighbourhoods of the capital barricading their streets and proclaiming open defiance after security forces melted away.

Western leaders, their rhetoric emboldened by evacuations that have sharply reduced the number of their citizens stranded in the oilfields and cities of the sprawling desert state, spoke out more clearly to say Gaddafi's 41-year rule must now end.
"When a leader's only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now," aides to U.S. President Barack Obama said in describing a call on Libya he had with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also showed a harder tone from Washington, which had warmed to Gaddafi in recent years after decades of sanctions: "(He) has lost the confidence of his people and he should go without further bloodshed and violence."
A vote in the United Nations Security Council was imminent. It may impose sanctions and say Gaddafi should face war crimes charges over deaths, estimated by diplomats at some 2,000, during his 10 days of efforts to stem the tide of revolution.

Talk of possible military action by foreign governments remained vague, however. It was unclear how long Gaddafi, with some thousands of loyalists, some his tribesmen, others military units commanded by his sons, might hold out against rebel forces comprised of youthful gunmen and mutinous soldiers. Correspondents in Tripoli reported occasional gunfire after dark but could not assess the balance of forces in the city.

London-based Algerian lawyer Saad Djebbar, who knows a large number of Gaddafi's top officials, says that for Gaddafi staying in power had become impossible. "It's about staying alive."

"(Gaddafi's) time is over," he added. "But how much damage he will cause before leaving is the question."

One key element in the opposition's efforts to unseat him may be tribal loyalties, always a factor in the desert nation of six million and one which Gaddafi, despite official rhetoric to the contrary, tended to reinforce down the years. His former justice minister Mustafa Mohamed Abud Ajleil, now gone over to the opposition in Benghazi, was quoted by the online edition of the Quryna newspaper as saying that an interim government, whose status remained unclear, would "forgive" his large Gaddadfa tribe for "crimes" committed by the leader.

Such declarations may be intended to erode Gaddafi's efforts to rally supporters into a do-or-die defence of the old guard. One of his sons, the London-educated Saif al-Islam, again appeared on television on Saturday to deny that much of Libya was in revolt. But he also warned: "What the Libyan nation is going through has opened the door to all options, and now the signs of civil war and foreign interference have started."

Gaddafi, once branded a "mad dog" by Washington for his support of militant groups worldwide, has been embraced by the West in recent years in return for renouncing some weapons programmes and, critically, for opening up Libya's oilfields.

While money has flowed into Libya, many people, especially in the long-restive and oil-rich east, have seen little benefit and, inspired by the popular overthrow of veteran strongmen in Tunisia and Egypt, on either side of their country, they rose up to demand better conditions and political freedoms last week. Particular condemnation has been reserved for aerial bombing by government forces and for reported indiscriminate attacks by Gaddafi loyalists and mercenaries on unarmed protesters.

"Gaddafi is the enemy of God!" a crowd chanted on Saturday in Tajoura, a poor neighbourhood of Tripoli, at the funeral of a man they said was shot down by Gaddafi loyalists the day before. Now, residents said, those security forces had disappeared. Locals had erected barricades of rocks and palm trees across rubbish-strewn streets, and graffiti covered many walls. Gaddafi's forces were nowhere to be seen but bullet holes in the walls of the tightly packed houses bore testimony to violence.

The residents, still unwilling to be identified for fear of reprisals, said troops fired on demonstrators who tried to march from Tajoura to central Green Square overnight, killing at least five people. The number could not be independently confirmed.
A funeral on Saturday morning for one of the victims turned into another show of defiance. "We will demonstrate again and again, today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow until they change," a man who called himself Ali, aged 25, told Reuters.
Libyan state television again showed a crowd chanting their loyalty to Gaddafi in Tripoli's Green Square on Saturday. But journalists estimated their number at scarcely 200.

From Misrata, a major city 200 km (120 miles) east of Tripoli, residents and exile groups said by telephone that a thrust by forces loyal to Gaddafi, operating from the local airport, had been rebuffed with bloodshed by the opposition. "There were violent clashes last night and in the early hours of the morning near the airport," one resident, Mohammed, told Reuters. "An extreme state of alert prevails in the city."

He said several mercenaries from Chad had been detained by rebels in Misrata. The report could not be verified but was similar to accounts elsewhere of Gaddafi deploying fighters brought in from African states where has long had allies. Protesters in Zawiyah, an oil refining town on the main coastal highway 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli, have fought off government forces for several nights, according to witnesses who fled across the nearby Tunisian border at Ras Jdir.

At Tripoli's international airport, thousands of desperate foreign workers besieged the main gate trying to leave the country as police used batons and whips to keep them out.
Outside the main terminal was a sprawling camp of makeshift tents and people huddled together in the cold, wrapped in blankets and surrounded by heaps of clothes, food and garbage. Britain and France followed the United States in closing their embassies. Britain sent in air force troop carriers to take some 150 oil workers out of camps in the desert.

Libya supplies 2 percent of the world's oil, the bulk of it from wells and supply terminals in the east. The prospect of it being shut off -- as well as speculation that the unrest in the Arab world could spread to the major exporters of the Gulf -- has pushed oil prices up to highs not seen in over two years. In recent days, the flamboyant Gaddafi has made several appearances railing against his enemies as rats and cockroaches and blaming the unrest on a range of foes from the United States and Israel to al Qaeda militants and youths high on drugs.

(Additional reporting by Yvonne Bell and Chris Helgren in Tripoli, Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Souhail Karam in Rabat, Dina Zayed and Caroline Drees in Cairo, Tom Pfeiffer, Alexander Dziadosz and Mohammed Abbas in Benghazi, Angus MacSwan and Sonya Hepinstall in London; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Jon Boyle)