- - Wednesday, July 6, 2011

MEXICO

U.S., Mexico sign trucking pact

MEXICO CITY | U.S. and Mexican officials signed an agreement Wednesday allowing each country’s trucks to traverse the other’s highways, implementing a key provision of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) after nearly two decades of bickering.

Transportation Secretaries Ray LaHood and Dionisio Perez-Jacome signed the three-year memorandum, which is based on an agreement announced in March by Presidents Obama and Felipe Calderon.

NAFTA, signed in 1994, had called for Mexican trucks to have unrestricted access to highways in border states by 1995 and full access to all U.S. highways by January 2000. Canadian trucks have no limits on where they can go.

But until now, Mexican trucks have seldom been allowed farther than a buffer zone on the U.S. side of the border. In retaliation, Mexico had imposed higher tariffs on dozens of U.S. products.

The Mexican government has now agreed to suspend those tariffs as long as the agreement is in place.

GREECE

Premier warns against descent into lawlessness

ATHENS | Prime Minister George Papandreou warned on Wednesday that violent protests against spending cuts to satisfy international lenders threatened to lead to the kind of barbarism that in the past had derailed democracy in Greece.

The austerity required in exchange for a bailout for debt-ridden Greece has sparked attacks on politicians and bloody demonstrations on the streets of Athens, where hooded youths have fought running battles with riot police.

In a reference to the installation of the military junta that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974, Mr. Papandreou told a Cabinet meeting that undermining democratic institutions in the past had led to a “derailment of democracy.”

“We must all learn from history,” he said.

A government official made clear Mr. Papandreou did not mean there was a risk the military would take over.

ISRAEL

Israel airport braces for pro-Palestinian activists

JERUSALEM | Hundreds of pro-Palestinian foreign activists planned to fly into Tel Aviv this week, prompting Israeli warnings Wednesday that security would be beefed up at the country’s already heavily fortified international airport.

The campaign coincides with a separate attempt to break Israel’s sea blockade of the Gaza Strip with an international flotilla.

Those set to arrive at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport on Friday said they plan to tour the West Bank in solidarity with the Palestinians and don’t intend to stir up trouble.

But the prospect of an influx of pro-Palestinian sympathizers sparked agitation in Israel.

The Israeli public security minister claimed some of the potential arrivals were “hooligans,” and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a show of reviewing security agencies’ plans at the airport before flying to Romania on Wednesday.

“Every country has a right to block the entry of provocateurs,” Mr. Netanyahu declared. At the same time, he said, officers were instructed to avoid “unnecessary confrontations.”

The protesters accused Israel of distorting their message and insisted their activities would be peaceful. They said their only protest at the airport would be to declare they had come to “visit Palestine,” and that they hoped to draw attention to Israeli policies that often bar foreigners with Palestinian ties.

BELARUS

Police punch, kick, arrest protesters

MINSK | Police in Belarus attacked peaceful protesters Wednesday, beating and detaining dozens during the latest series of rallies calling for the ouster of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Demonstrators assembled in eight different parts of the capital, Minsk, and 10 other towns and cities in the former Soviet nation, They clapped in unison as a show of solidarity against Mr. Lukashenko, whom they accuse of exacerbating the financial crisis and isolating Belarus from the civilized world.

The Vesna human rights advocacy group estimated there were several thousand participants nationwide, with as many as 100 detained - among them at least five journalists.

Public anger at Mr. Lukashenko is high as the country endures its worst economic downturn since the fall of the Soviet Union 20 years ago.

IRAQ

900 corpses found in mass grave

DIWANIYAH | Iraqi authorities uncovered a mass grave with 900 corpses near the central city of Diwaniyah on Wednesday, believed to be Kurds killed during the rule of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein, an official said.

The corpses were found in the Shanafiya region, 45 miles west of Diwaniyah.

In April, authorities said they had found another mass grave in Anbar province of western Iraq containing the bodies of more than 800 people, including women and children, executed during the late Saddam’s regime.

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