More countries push to block YouTube over anti-Islam video

Protestpakistan

This post has been updated. See the note below for details.

As protests over an online video mocking the Islamic prophet continue to simmer in Pakistan, Indonesia and elsewhere, more countries are trying to keep it from being seen around the world.

Google has already stopped the film trailer from being viewed on YouTube in Egypt and Libya “given the very difficult situation” and has restricted it in Indonesia and India over concerns that it violates local laws. Malaysian news media reported that the video was also inaccessible there late Monday after  government officials lodged similar complaints with the company about the amateurish video.

However, the company has turned down requests to pull down the video entirely so as to stop it from being viewed anywhere, saying it was “clearly within our guidelines” and widely available online.

That has failed to appease some of those disgusted by the “Innocence of Muslims” trailer, even in countries where the video has been blocked. In Egypt, attorney Mohamed Hamed Salem filed a lawsuit aimed at completely blocking the website, the Al Ahram state newspaper reported Tuesday.

"Not only has YouTube insisted on showing the original movie, but now there are at least 50 different videos showing various clips of the film," Salem told Al Ahram. "We need to block YouTube in Egypt because this would be a robust response, and we need a robust response so that what happened is not repeated again."

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Must Reads: Olympic woes, unwilling brides and the Israeli army

Olympic torch in Britain

From abducted brides to Olympic woes, here are the five stories you shouldn't miss from last week in global news:

Mexico's Enrique Peña Nieto, man of mystery

Israel's draft reform debate and the 'people's army'

Bride abductions a 'distortion' of South Africa's culture

In Malaysia, ruling party uses Islamic values to bolster support

As Olympics near, forecast is gloomy, even by London standards

-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: U.S. Olympian sprinter Michael Johnson holds the Olympic torch at Stonehenge in Britain on Thursday. Credit: Danny Lawson / Associated Press / London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games


Myanmar forces struggle to contain ethnic and religious violence

Myanmar
NEW DELHI -- Security forces struggled to contain clashes in western Myanmar on Tuesday after days of ethnic and religious violence left at least a dozen people killed and thousands displaced.

The fighting between majority Rakhine Buddhists and minority Rohingya Muslims is posing a serious challenge for the national government and its reform agenda as it seeks to end decades of isolation and military rule.

President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency in coastal Rakhine state Sunday night and ordered troops into the area to restore calm, but reports of violence continue and the United Nations announced it is evacuating staff from the area.

Police fired rounds into the air Tuesday to disperse Rohingya as houses burned in a neighborhood of the regional capital of Sittwe, the Associated Press reported.

In a refugee camp on the outskirts of New Delhi, Hafiz Ahmed, 42, said he was worried sick about the situation. "My parents are in Rakhine, I can't sleep at night," said Ahmed, who came to India three years ago to escape persecution in Myanmar. "Every three or four hours, I call them. I think the violence should stop now."

The unrest was sparked Friday following last month's rape and murder of a Buddhist girl, allegedly by three Muslims, and the lynching of 10 Muslims in retaliation. The weekend saw rival Muslim and Buddhist mobs burn houses. The government said about 4,100 people have lost their homes, many taking refuge in schools and Buddhist monasteries.

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U.S. exempts seven countries that consume Iran oil from sanctions

India

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration announced Monday that it had exempted seven countries that are major consumers of Iranian oil from threatened U.S. sanctions aimed at punishing Tehran for its disputed nuclear program.

Officials said India, South Korea, Turkey, Taiwan, Malaysia, South Africa and Sri Lanka had reduced their purchases of Iranian crude sufficiently to cut Tehran’s exports without upsetting global oil prices. In March, the Obama administration similarly exempted 10 European countries and Japan from sanctions, saying they too had done enough to wean themselves from Iranian energy.

U.S. officials said Iran now exports at least 700,000 barrels per day fewer than last year’s exports of 2.5 million barrels a day, cutting into a crucial source of revenue. U.S. and European officials have sought to squeeze Iran’s energy sector as part of the international campaign to pressure Iran to stop enriching uranium that could be converted for use in nuclear weapons.

“We are sending a decisive message to Iran’s leaders: Until they take concrete actions to satisfy the concerns of the international community, they will continue to face increasing isolation and pressure,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement Monday.

Another round of Western sanctions is  due to begin July 1, including an embargo on purchases of Iranian oil by all European Union members. Mark Dubowitz, an energy specialist at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank, said the new embargo could cut Iran oil exports to below 1.2 million barrels per day, less than half last year’s output.

Although the tightening sanctions have hurt Iran’s economy, Iranian negotiators have shown little sign in two rounds of international talks that they may slow down their nuclear development. Many countries believe Iran is enriching uranium so it can become capable of producing a nuclear bomb if it decides to do so. Iran maintains it is interested only in peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Obama administration officials didn’t say how much the seven countries had cut their oil purchases. In March, U.S. officials signaled that they were seeking reductions of 15% to 22% of purchases.

Several large countries, including India and Turkey, said publicly that they were reluctant to reduce imports of Iranian oil because of their long reliance on the Islamic regime. They appear to have met the minimum level of cooperation that Washington demanded, however.

Many of the countries have begun buying additional oil from Saudi Arabia to make up for their Iranian supplies.

The cutbacks by the seven nations haven’t raised global oil prices, largely because of the economic slowdown in both Europe and China, as well as increased supply from several countries, including Iraq and Libya.

Two importers of Iranian oil that have not yet been granted exemptions are China and Singapore.

China has been increasing purchases of Iranian oil in the last two months, after a sharp reduction earlier in the year. But Beijing has forced Tehran to grant it substantial price cuts. Since price cuts reduce Iran’s profit, China may ultimately be granted an exemption, some analysts believe. The tiny nation of Singapore imports relatively small amounts of Iranian oil overall.

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-- Paul Richter

Photo: Indian motorists crawl along a road in Hyderabad. Credit: Mahesh Kumar A. / Associated Press


China cancels tours to Philippines over South China Sea dispute

Philippines

BEIJING -- China warned its nationals against traveling to the Philippines, canceled tours and raised trade barriers on imported pineapples and bananas as the squabble over disputed fishing grounds in the South China Sea grew more intense.

At issue is a triangular-shaped cluster of reefs known as Scarborough Shoal about 130 miles from the Philippines’ Subic Bay. The Chinese call it Huangyan Island and complain that the Philippine navy has been harassing its fishing boats there.

In keeping with the prevailing jingoism, a Chinese journalist on Thursday posted a photograph of himself planting a Chinese flag on an outcropping of rock. An enthusiastic microblogger promised, “We’ll plant the flag all the way to Manila.’’

"We want to say that anyone's attempt to take away China's sovereignty over Huangyan Island will not be allowed by the Chinese government, people and armed forces," warned the PLA Daily, the newspaper of the People’s Liberation Army in an article Wednesday entitled, "Don't Attempt to Take Away Half an Inch of China's Territory."

Filipino activists have planned demonstrations Friday at Chinese embassies. As a result, Beijing issued a warning for Chinese citizens in Manila to stay indoors. In Beijing, Filipinos residing in China got a similar advisory from their embassy.

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Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim acquitted in sodomy trial

A Malaysian court Monday acquitted opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges

REPORTING FROM NEW DELHI –- In an unexpected conclusion to a controversial two-year trial, a Malaysian court Monday acquitted opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges, ruling that the DNA evidence submitted by the prosecution was unreliable.

Sodomy, even between consenting adults, is illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia although few people are prosecuted. Anwar, who faced up to 20 years in prison for allegedly having sex with a former aide, has repeatedly maintained his innocence, terming the charges politically motivated.

Malaysia's information minister said Monday in a statement that the verdict in the case showed that the Southeast Asian nation's judiciary was free from government interference.

As news of the verdict spread, cheers erupted among Anwar's supporters, opposition politicians and his wife and daughters, many of whom raised their fists in the air.

"Thank God justice has prevailed," Anwar, 64, told journalists outside the courtroom amid heavy security. "To be honest, I am a little surprised."

The allegations against Anwar, a former deputy prime minister, were raised shortly after 2008 elections saw the opposition make sizable gains against the ruling United Malays National Organization party, in power for the last 50 years. This was the second sodomy trial against Anwar, who was beaten and jailed for six years in another case widely seen as politically motivated.

National elections are due by 2013, although analysts expect they'll be called later this year.

Minutes after the verdict, a message from Anwar's Twitter account read: "In the coming election, voice of the people will be heard and this corrupt government will be toppled from its pedestals of power." 

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Holy koalas! Aussies and Kiwis are top pot users

Tokyo and Seoul struggle to quit Iranian oil habit

Chinese will hear Ai Weiwei's appeal on tax evasion

-- Mark Magnier

Photo: Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim at his residence after he was acquitted in a surprise end to a politically charged sodomy trial. Credit: Kamarul Akhir / AFP/Getty Images


Japan joins multilateral free-trade talks, hopes to boost economy

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda
REPORTING FROM TOKYO –- Desperate to jumpstart an already moribund economy further crippled by the March earthquake and tsunami, Japan announced plans to join talks for a multinational, Asia-rim free-trade initiative.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda signaled that he was prepared to take what many consider a gamble to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which would open up much-needed markets for faltering Japanese exports while angering other entrenched interests, such as the nation’s powerful farm lobby.

Signaling the division that surrounded the move, Noda deliberated for a day before using a nationally televised news conference Friday to announce that Japan will take part in the accord talks.

On Saturday, Noda left to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Honolulu, where officials said he would convey Japan's decision to take part in the free-trade pact talks to President Obama.

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