Maldives' former president arrested after defying court summons


Police arrested the former leader of the Maldives on Monday as he campaigned to regain the presidency, the latest chapter in the political saga roiling the tiny string of islands south of India.

The winding case has rattled the young democracy, which shook off decades of autocratic rule just a few years ago. Mohamed Nasheed was charged this year with illegally ordering the arrest of a judge during his presidency. His decision to arrest the judge triggered protests and a police mutiny before Nasheed resigned in February, the culmination of weeks of turmoil.

Nasheed later said he had been forced to step down. The former president defended his push to arrest the judge, saying he believed his rulings were politically tainted, and warned the nation was being dragged back into the days of dictatorship.

In late August, a national commission found that there was no coup and that no one had threatened to kill the former president, as he claimed. A Maldives court issued an order for his arrest Sunday after he repeatedly failed to appear in court, the Maldives Police Services said in a statement Monday.

Nasheed and his allies have disputed the commission findings and argue the court case is a pretext to thwart him from campaigning ahead of the presidential elections, expected to be held next summer.

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


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

New warning systems appear to work amid Indonesia tsunami scare


This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details.

NEW DELHI -- Warning and monitoring systems put in place after the 2004 Asian tsunami appeared to work well Wednesday after an 8.6-magnitude earthquake that struck roughly the same area off Indonesia, said officials, civic groups and citizens in affected areas.

However, the real test will only come with another major disaster.

Fortunately, no more than slightly higher than normal waves were seen in only a few coastal towns along the southwestern coast of Sumatra island, with no reports of deaths or major damage.

PHOTOS: Off-shore earthquake triggers tsunami scare

The rapid dissemination of warnings and relatively rapid evacuation of coastal areas throughout the Indian Ocean, including fairly isolated communities, were helped by fresh memories of the tsunami that battered the region eight years ago, killing 230,000 people.

Also helpful was the footage aired after Japan’s massive March 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster, motivating people to take the risk seriously, even though ultimately the wave proved elusive. From a public safety perspective, complacency is often the biggest killer, especially if people have not  experienced or heard about a tsunami in decades.

“Things worked quite well,” said Dailin Wang, oceanographer with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach, Hawaii. The Indonesian earthquake and tsunami of 2004 “was not too long ago. People took it seriously and moved away from the coast. The challenge is to keep the knowledge alive.”

GRAPHIC: How a tsunami-warning system works

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Asylum claims hit record high from Syria, Tunisia, Ivory Coast


More people clamored for asylum from countries in Arab Spring tumult, part of the global trends that pushed a 20% jump in applications to industrialized nations last year. The increase was observed by the United Nations refugee agency, which released a new report Tuesday on the 2011 trends.

The report analyzes the asylum claims received by 44 industrialized countries across Europe, North America, Australasia and northeast Asia. Those claims do not reflect the entire scope of people fleeing conflict and deprivation, as the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees noted Tuesday.

"The number of asylum claims received across all industrialized countries is still smaller than the population of Dadaab, a single refugee camp in northeast Kenya," commissioner Antonio Guterres said.

Afghanistan had the most people seeking asylum, followed by China, Iraq, Serbia and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, asylum claims jumped by more than a third as uncertainty and violence continued to plague the Central Asian country, rebounding to their highest point since 2001.

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Sri Lanka angered by U.N. vote to investigate war abuses

Sri Lanka legislators protest

In a step that infuriated Sri Lankan leaders, the country was urged to investigate alleged war crimes from its bloody civil war, in a resolution passed Thursday by the chief human rights body at the United Nations.

U.S. Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe said she hoped the resolution would be “an important step in a process of helping the Sri Lankan people move toward a lasting peace.” Human rights groups praised it as a move toward holding people accountable for abuses that have continued beyond the war.

The vote in the U.N. Human Rights Council passed with 24 countries in favor, 15 against and eight abstentions. China, Russia and Cuba were among the countries that opposed the resolution. Neighboring India backed the resolution, facing pressure from political parties in Tamil Nadu to take a strong stand against atrocities.

"As a neighbor with thousands of years of cordial relations with Sri Lanka, with deep-rooted spiritual and cultural ties, we cannot remain untouched by developments in that country," the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement after the vote.

The act upset Sri Lankan officials who believe the U.N. resolution tramples on its sovereignty. Some have argued it could revive terrorism from the defeated Tamil Tiger rebels. Before the vote, hundreds of Buddhist monks clad in orange robes and other clergy held ceremonies and prayed for the resolution to fail.

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Sri Lankan monks pray against call to investigate war crimes

Buddhist monks in Colombo, Sri Lanka, before a prayer session to denounce a proposed U.N. Human Rights Council resolution

Every day on WorldNow we choose a remarkable photo from around the world. Today we spotted this vivid shot of Buddhist monks gathering in Sri Lanka, pushing against calls to investigate alleged war crimes.

Three years after the end of a lengthy civil war, Sri Lanka is facing new calls from human rights groups and other nations, including the United States, to bring people responsible for wartime abuses to justice.

Sri Lankan officials have denounced a proposed United Nations Human Rights Council resolution that calls for the country to hold people accountable for alleged war crimes, saying it could foster terrorism.

Tamil Tiger rebels fought for decades for a separate state for the Tamil people before being defeated three years ago. U.N. action “would only lead to derailing the ongoing reconciliation process that has been put in place by the government,” Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris wrote to retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who has called for the U.N. resolution on Sri Lanka to be passed.

Hundreds of Buddhist monks, including the orange-robed men seen here, along with Hindu, Muslim and Christian clergy, held a ceremony in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Monday praying for the resolution to be defeated, the Associated Press reported.

The ceremony reportedly included a statement that “evil forces both local and international have joined hands to deprive Sri Lanka of the present environment of peace ... and take this blessed island back to an era of darkness.”

The Sri Lanka resolution is expected to come before the U.N. Human Rights Council this week.


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Photo: Buddhist monks in Colombo, Sri Lanka, before a prayer session Monday to denounce the proposed U.N. Human Rights Council resolution on alleged rights abuses during the country's civil war. Credit: Gemunu Amarasinghe / Associated Press

Sri Lanka angered by new calls to investigate war crimes

Pro-government protest in Sri Lanka

Nearly three years after the end of a bloody war that endured for a quarter-century, Sri Lanka faces new calls to investigate alleged war crimes and stop what is called a continuing pattern of shadowy disappearances and detentions.

The accusations have angered Sri Lankan officials, who say outsiders are meddling and fostering future terrorism.

Amnesty International charges in a new report that Sri Lanka continues to lock up suspected rebels without evidence, leaving them to languish in prison “without bothering to prosecute and prove to a court that they have indeed broken the law.” Torture and disappearances also continue, the report says.

“I was beaten and questioned at least every week by different soldiers,” a 17-year-old is quoted as saying. The young man also said he was burned with cigarettes and forced to sign documents he couldn’t read.

His story is similar to others gathered by the group.

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See the world: Sri Lankan protesters slammed with water cannons

Sri Lanka protesters face police water cannons in Colombo.
Every day on World Now, we highlight a photo. Today's comes from Sri Lanka, where fishermen and Maoist opposition groups are protesting increases in fuel prices.

Protests have raged in the South Asian island nation since the government raised the price for fuel Saturday night, the Associated Press reported. The government said the move was in response to rising oil prices.

The Associated Press reports that in a town north of the capital, Colombo, a witness and a doctor say police opened fire on protesting fishermen, killing one person and injuring three. The police refused to comment.

Rising gasoline prices can be politically explosive in many parts of the world: Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan was forced to reinstate a fuel subsidy after a public outcry last month. Bolivia faced similar protests after it tried to drop subsidies.

Spot a photo that strikes you? Please tweet it to @latimesworld with the hashtag #see.


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Photo: Members of Sri Lanka's People's Liberation Front face police water cannons during a protest in Colombo on Wednesday. Credit: Eranga Jayawardena / Associated Press


Former Sri Lanka army chief sentenced to 3 more years

REPORTING FROM NEW DELHI -- A Sri Lankan court Friday sentenced former army chief Sarath Fonseka to an additional three years in prison for allegedly implicating the defense secretary in war crimes in the final weeks of the quarter-century-long civil war with the separatist Tamil Tigers that ended in 2009.

Fonseka was quoted in an interview with a weekly newspaper as saying that the nation’s top defense official and president’s brother, Gotabhaya Rajapakse, had ordered field commanders to execute Tamil rebels as they waved white flags in surrender.

“I think for an army chief to enter the political arena so soon after serving has landed him in trouble,” said G. Parthasarathy, an analyst with New Delhi’s Center for Policy Research and former national advisor on Sri Lanka.  

Fonseka, already serving 30 months on charges of fraud and engaging in political activity while still in the military, claimed he was misquoted. He’s faced several charges since deciding to run against President Mahinda Rajapaksa in last year’s election and says they’re politically motivated. His latest conviction on charges of "spreading rumors and causing public disorder" during a period of national emergency carried a maximum 20-year prison sentence.


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Photo: Sri Lanka's former army chief, Sarath Fonseka, waves to supporters Friday as he arrives at the Colombo High Court in Colombo. Credit: Ishara S.Kodikara / AFP/Getty Images


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