- - Wednesday, April 25, 2012

WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO | The U.N.’s World Trade Organization says 1 billion people will cross international borders as tourists this year for the first time.

The WTO’s regional director for the Americas, Carlos Vogeler, predicted Wednesday that the milestone will be reached in the fall.

That figure would be about 4 percent higher than last year’s total. Back in 1950, the figure was 25 million.

The U.N. counts only people who stay at least one night. It does not include cruise ship passengers.

“It is quite iconic when you realize 1 billion people crossed borders,” Mr. Vogeler said at a Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association conference in Puerto Rico. “It shows from a sociological point of view how things have changed. If you go back 20 to 30 years, many people would die without traveling more than 100 miles from home.”

The WTO plans a celebration, and may even try to designate someone as the billionth tourist, when the number is reached.

SYRIA

France: U.N. should prepare military option if peace plan fails

PARIS — France wants the U.N. Security Council to consider allowing military action in Syria if an international peace plan fails to stop the violence under Bashar Assad’s regime, the French foreign minister said Wednesday.

Alain Juppe’s comments signaled that Paris is increasingly lining up behind a U.S. position laid out by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last week.

But the prospect of the Security Council backing military action in Syria is remote because veto-wielding members Russia and China are unlikely to go along.

The Syrian government’s crackdown on a popular uprising is estimated to have killed more than 9,000 people in the past 13 months.

The French foreign minister demanded that 300 U.N. observers authorized to go to Syria be deployed within 15 days, and said France has all but set a May 5 deadline for Damascus to comply with special envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan.

“We think this mediation should be given a chance, on the condition that the deployment of the observer mission happens quickly,” Mr. Juppe said after a meeting with Syrian dissidents at his ministry. The plan isn’t dead, he said, but “it is severely compromised”

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