- - Sunday, August 8, 2010

CAMBODIA

Cambodia alerts U.N. to Thai border ‘threat’

PHNOM PENH | Cambodia wrote to the United Nations on Sunday in an escalating war of words over a border spat with Thailand, saying it was ready to defend its territory.

Prime Minister Hun Sen accused neighboring Thailand of threatening to use its armed forces to settle the dispute.

Mr. Hun Sen said statements by Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, when he addressed royalist “Yellow Shirt” protesters in Bangkok on Saturday, was “a clear threat to use military force” to settle the border problem.

The letter to the U.N. General Assembly and Security Council said the speech was “seriously threatening to use military forces against Cambodia” and therefore was in violation of U.N. rules.

The Cambodian prime minister reaffirmed his country’s “constant policy” not to use military means to settle disputes with its neighbors but “reserves its legitimate rights to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Cambodia and Thailand have been locked in a troop standoff at their disputed border since July 2008, when the ancient Preah Vihear temple was granted World Heritage status by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

RUSSIA

Doctors fear firings for heat, smoke illness

MOSCOW | Moscow doctors said they were wary of diagnosing heat- and smoke-related illnesses out of fear that their patients will lose their jobs, hinting at Russia’s long record of covering up the impact of disasters.

Many Russians have criticized the government’s slow response to the peat and forest fires that have engulfed swaths of Russia and left a harmful smoke cloud that has choked the capital for several days.

An unnamed doctor at a Moscow clinic wrote on his site that the bodies of those who had died from heatstroke and smoke ailments over the past few days were piling up in the basement, as the “fridges are full,” leaving a “rotting stench.” He added the situation was similar at hospitals across Moscow.

But “we can’t give that diagnosis — we don’t want to be sacked. We have families to feed,” he said on his blog site, in comments that were carried by several Russian media outlets on Sunday.

He added that if a state of emergency is declared in Moscow as in other regions, doctors will have to be paid double.

Another doctor at a major hospital, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters that staff had been instructed by senior management to not link patients’ illnesses with the heat wave.

AFGHANISTAN

Civilian deaths rise 6% from last year

KABUL | Civilian war deaths in the first seven months of 2010 rose by 6 percent over the same period last year, Afghanistan’s human rights commission said Sunday. The modest increase suggested that U.S. and NATO efforts to hold down civilian casualties were having some success.

Also Sunday, the bodies of 10 members of a medical team — six Americans, two Afghans, one German and a Briton — were flown to Kabul from the northern province of Badakhshan, where they were gunned down three days ago at the end of a humanitarian mission. The Taliban claimed responsibility and accused the group of spying and seeking to convert Muslims to Christianity.

The Taliban and their allies were responsible for 68 percent of the at least 1,325 civilian deaths recorded by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, the organization said in a report. Twenty-three percent were ascribed to NATO or Afghan government forces.

Responsibility for the remaining 9 percent could not be determined because they occurred in areas that were too dangerous for a thorough investigation, the commission said.

ISRAEL

Nuclear whistleblower out of prison again

JERUSALEM | An Israeli nuclear whistleblower who spent 18 years behind bars was released from jail Sunday after serving an additional three months for violating his release terms.

Mordechai Vanunu was a technician at Israel’s top-secret nuclear reactor next to the desert town of Dimona. In 1986, he carried out of the country hundreds of pictures he took of the interior of the reactor and gave them to the London Sunday Times.

Analysts concluded from his information and pictures that Israel had hundreds of nuclear bombs. Israel has never acknowledged that, pursuing an official policy of “ambiguity” in an effort to deter potential attackers without detailing a nuclear arsenal.

Israeli security agents abducted Vanunu weeks after the publication of the article. Vanunu was brought to Israel for trial and sentenced to 18 years in prison, serving much of the term in solitary confinement.

On his release in 2004, Vanunu was forbidden from speaking to foreigners, including journalists. He has been arrested and imprisoned several times since then for flouting the restrictions. In the latest case, he was detained three months ago for contacting journalists and other foreigners.

IRAQ

Suicide car bomber kills 8 west of Baghdad

BAGHDAD | A suicide car bomber struck a police patrol west of Baghdad on Sunday and killed eight people, most of them civilians standing in line outside a post office to collect the monthly stipend for the country’s poorest, police officials said.

The bomber attacked just a day after explosions tore through a market in the south, killing 43 people.

Violence across Iraq has spiked in the past few weeks as the U.S. moves ahead with a major drawdown of troops set to be completed by the end of the month.

The increase in violence and the U.S. pullout have raised concerns about whether Iraqi security forces are up to the job of keeping militants from destabilizing the country further at a time of political uncertainty over who will form the next government.

Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, vouched for the preparedness of Iraq’s security forces, telling ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that they are ready and able to take over operations.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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