- - Wednesday, November 23, 2011

EGYPT

International criticism of Egypt’s rulers mounts

CAIRO | International criticism of Egypt’s military rulers mounted Wednesday as police clashed for a fifth day with protesters demanding that the generals relinquish power immediately.

A rights group raised the death toll for the wave of violence to at least 38.

The U.N. condemned authorities for what it deemed an excessive use of force. Germany, one of Egypt’s top trading partners, called for a quick transfer of power to a civilian government.

“Some of the images coming out of Tahrir, including the brutal beating of already subdued protesters, are deeply shocking, as are the reports of unarmed protesters being shot in the head,” said Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights.

“There should be a prompt, impartial and independent investigation, and accountability for those found responsible for the abuses that have taken place should be ensured.”

Clashes resumed for a fifth day despite a promise by the head of the ruling military council Tuesday to speed up a presidential election to the first half of next year. The clashes are the longest spate of uninterrupted violence since the 18-day uprising that toppled the former regime in February.

FRANCE

Court approves Noriega extradition

PARIS | A French court ruled Wednesday that former dictator Manuel Noriega can be extradited to Panama to serve time for past crimes, more than 20 years after being ousted and arrested in a U.S. invasion.

The former Panamanian strongman hasn’t seen his homeland in more than two decades, years he spent behind bars in Florida on drug charges, and France for money laundering.

Panama wants Noriega returned to serve prison terms handed down after he was convicted in absentia for embezzlement, corruption and murder. There is a chance that because of his age, 77, he may get to serve out his time under house arrest.

The Paris appeals court announced its decision Wednesday after months of legal procedures around a man whose complicated past has kept judicial officials in three countries busy for years.

TURKEY

Premier apologizes for 1930s killings of Kurds

ANKARA | Turkey’s prime minister has apologized for the first time for the killings of nearly 14,000 people in a bombing and strafing campaign to crush a Kurdish rebellion in the 1930s.

The apology Wednesday by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan comes at a tense time for relations between Turkey and its minority Kurds and sparked calls to face another dark chapter of the Turkish history, the mass killings of Armenians in 1915.

Mr. Erdogan’s government is fighting against autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebels and despite efforts to seek peace, says it is determined to crush the rebels if they don’t lay down their arms.

The fighting has killed tens of thousands since it began in 1984, but it is only the latest of several uprisings by Kurds in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast.

Mr. Erdogan on Wednesday offered his apology for the killings of 13,806 people in the southeastern town of Dersim - now known as Tunceli - between 1936 and 1939. He made the apology after a war of words between Mr. Erdogan and the leader of the main opposition party.

CARIBBEAN

Islands brace for drop in tourism spending

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO | While the Caribbean anticipates another surge in visitors this winter, officials warn that the amount tourists spend while on vacation likely will decline.

That expected drop in expenditures is a concern for Caribbean tourism officials, who said an increase in visitors might not offset the loss of revenue considered vital to the many tiny islands scattered across the region.

“The bodies are traveling, obviously, but the spending is clearly impacted,” said Josef Forstmayr, president of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Organization. “The larger destinations have it a little easier. They have more resources, they get better airlift, they have better products.”

The economic crisis forced people to postpone their vacations for a few years. Although demand for travel has risen, tourists will not be able to afford much, said Evridiki Tsounta, an economist with the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF has encouraged the Caribbean to diversify and seek other tourism markets, especially in Latin America, where the economy has been rebounding, she said.

VENEZUELA

China pledges $4 billion in lending for oil production

CARACAS | Venezuela said China on Wednesday agreed to a new $4 billion loan to help the South American country boost oil production.

Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said the $4 billion loan is one of multiple joint projects. He also said that Chinese companies are involved in plans to increase production of iron and aluminum.

Mr. Ramirez said during a meeting with Chinese officials that the loan agreement will be signed shortly.

China has swiftly become Venezuela’s biggest foreign lender in recent years and has previously agreed to more than $32 billion in loans. Venezuela is repaying the loans with oil shipments.