Four peacekeepers killed in Darfur in evening ambush


Four peacekeepers were slain and eight injured in an ambush in West Darfur, the African Union and United Nations joint mission to the troubled region said Wednesday.

It remains unclear who was behind the Tuesday evening attack less than a mile and a half from the mission regional headquarters, which involved a Nigerian military patrol. Hit with heavy fire from several directions, the peacekeepers returned fire, according to a brief statement released by the mission.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday urged the government of Sudan to investigate the attacks and prosecute those responsible. He also expressed condolences for Nigeria.

The Sudanese region has been wracked for nearly a decade by a conflict that began with rebels waging war against the government in Khartoum, complaining about the marginalization of the western region.

President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of murder and other war crimes committed during Sudan's crackdown on the rebellion, estimated to have killed 35,000 people. At least 100,000 more people are believed to have died from disease and hunger caused by the campaign.

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Syrian foreign minister accuses West of fomenting terror

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem
Syria's foreign minister blasted U.S. and other Western and Arab nations at the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, accusing them of supporting terrorism by supplying weapons and guidance to rebels fighting for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

In an address webcast worldwide on U.N. television, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem also branded calls for Assad to step down as "blatant interference in the domestic affairs of Syria." He said the appeals for regime change were made by "those who are ignorant of the facts or may be ignoring them."

The U.S. says it supplies non-lethal assistance to the rebels but not weaponry. Some states in the gulf region have sent arms to the opposition forces in Syria.

Moallem named the United States, France, Turkey, Libya, Qatar and Saudi Arabia as states "that clearly induce and support terrorism in Syria with money, weapons and foreign fighters." He was referring to support for the rebels who have been battling Assad's forces in an 18-month uprising against the autocratic government.

Moallem directed his harshest words at "some members of the U.N. Security Council," referring to U.S.-backed resolutions to condemn the Syrian government for atrocities committed during the fighting and to demand that Assad step aside and allow negotiations on a new leadership. The proposed resolutions failed to get the necessary unanimous support of the five permanent Security Council members, as Russia and China refused to back them.

Assad's loyalists have cast the rebellion in Syria as the work of foreign terrorists rather than a domestic uprising aimed at breaking the government's stranglehold on political power.

Moallem also alluded to the worldwide violence sparked by a crude anti-Muslim video privately produced in Southern California as part of what he called a conspiracy to foment unrest and religious discord.

"This terrorism which is externally supported is accompanied by unprecedented media provocation based on igniting religious extremism," Moallem said, apparently referring to the 14-minute "Innocence of Muslims" movie trailer that denigrates the prophet Muhammad.

Syrian state-run media, meanwhile, reported that the Syrian delegation to the U.N. General Assembly engaged in wide-ranging diplomacy on the sidelines of the annual gathering, meeting with U.N. officials and with colleagues from the governments with which Damascus remains on good terms, including Belarus and Sudan.

Belarus Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei "expressed his country's support for the Syrian government in its efforts to overcome the current situation, adding that Belarus firmly opposes foreign interference in Syria's internal affairs," Syrian radio and television reported.

The broadcasts aired in Syria were likely intended to dispel the image of Assad's regime as internationally isolated and on the verge of collapse to the rebels.


Iranian currency plunges to record low against the dollar

Afghan authorities raise death toll to 20 in motorcycle bombing

Hourly wage in Mexico? Union members express fears of legislation

— Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles

Photo: Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem used his address at the U.N. General Assembly on Monday to accuse the United States and others of supporting terrorism with their aid to rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad. Credit: Jason DeCrow / Associated Press

Must Reads: Raccoons, vigilantes and free speech


From raccoons ravaging Germany to the relatives of the last Chinese emperor, here are five stories you shouldn't miss from this past week in global news:

In China, last emperor's kin hold rare reunion

Vigilante justice brings terror to 2 African nations

At U.N., free speech divides West and Muslim nations

In Damascus, Syria, life is disappearing from the streets

Unfortunately for Germany, it's 'a wonderland for raccoons'

-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: Philippine Muslims shout slogans during a demonstration near the gates of the presidential  palace in Manila on Friday. A group of Filipinos opposed to an anti-Islam video recently filed a petition to order the government to ban it. Credit: Amiel Meneses / European Pressphoto Agency

Palestinian official criticizes U.S. position on U.N. recognition

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- A Palestinian official Friday criticized President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for opposing Palestinians' bid for statehood recognition in the United Nations, and failing to give the issue more attention in their speeches this week before the international body.

"By ignoring us, the Palestinian question is not going to go away," said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday at the U.N. General Assembly that consultations have begun with various nations on drafting a resolution that will be submitted before the end of the assembly's current session, calling for upgrading the status of the Palestinian territories from observer to non-member state.

The upgrade would allow the Palestinian Authority to join all U.N. organizations, but not to vote.

Ashrawi said no specific date has been set for a vote on the proposed resolution, but several nations have strongly suggested submitting it on Nov. 29, the U.N.-adopted International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. That is also is the anniversary of a 1947 U.N. resolution partitioning the region into Arab and Jewish states.

She said the U.S. was already working behind the scenes to discourage other nations from supporting the proposal, as it did a year ago when Palestinians attempted to gain full U.N. membership.


Spain announces cutbacks, tax increases

"Bibi's Bomb": Netanyahu uses a picture to make his point

Greyhound bus makes one of its last overnight trips across Britain

-- Maher Abukhater



'Bibi's Bomb': Netanyahu uses a picture to make his point


For weeks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged the United States to draw a clear “red line” to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Today, Netanyahu showed them how.


Warning the United Nations General Assembly that the world must act quickly to halt Iran, Netanyahu brandished a red marker and drew his own clear red line atop a drawing of a bomb.

By the middle of next year, Netanyahu argued, Iran could have enough enriched uranium to make a weapon within “a few months, possibly a few weeks.” His red line landed just below the “final stage” on the diagram.

The gambit grabbed as much attention as his dire message: The image of Netanyahu drawing that “red line” was irresistible to the media after photo after dull photo of suited diplomats at the U.N. If cartoonish, it was unforgettable. If simplistic, it was easily grasped. Some saw it as a brilliant stroke of political stagecraft.

“Bibi's use of that chart was one of the most effective, gripping uses of a chart I've ever seen. Is the world listening??” former Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer tweeted.

In a rarity for the sober world of international diplomacy, “Bibi’s bomb” went viral, as Internet users competed to get in the best quips.

But illustrating the tense and serious issue with a cartoon fell flat with others watching the speech. Some said that the act made Netanyahu himself look cartoonish, an image that didn’t spell out the threat so much as conjure up animated villains.

“It is precisely because Iran's nuclear program is such a threat to Israel that turning to cartoon bombs to explain the issue is a lousy idea,” tweeted Jeffrey Goldberg, a correspondent with the Atlantic.

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Israel leader demands 'red line' to stop Iran nuclear program


UNITED NATIONS -– Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the United Nations that Iran’s progress toward a nuclear bomb will be irreversible by next spring or summer, a more specific time frame than he has publicly argued before, and demanded that world powers draw a “red line” to trigger military action if Tehran refuses to stop before then.

Holding up a crude cartoon drawing of a bomb with a burning fuse, Netanyahu told the General Assembly that at its current rate, he believes Iran will have produced enough sufficiently enriched uranium by mid-2013 that it could turn its attention to building an actual weapon within “a few months, possibly a few weeks.”

He did not threaten to attack Iran, however, and said he was still working with the Obama administration to find a way to curb Iran’s nuclear development without war. He emphasized Israel’s close ties to the United States in what appeared to be an attempt to ease public concern of a rift between the two allies over the immediacy of the nuclear threat.

In his 30-minute address, Netanyahu drew a bright red line through the cartoon bomb to make his point that unless the world stops Iran, it will become an existential threat to Israel and a terrorist threat to the entire world, comparing a nuclear-armed Iran to a nuclear-armed Al Qaeda.

“The relevant question is not when Iran will get the bomb,” he said. “It is at what stage we can stop Iran from getting the bomb.”

Iran insists it is enriching uranium for civilian purposes, such as power generation, as is its right under international agreements, and that it is not seeking to build a nuclear weapon.

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Palestinians pursuing U.N. recognition as nonmember state

Mahmoud Abbas at UN General Assembly
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday that he has opened talks with the world body on obtaining recognition of Palestine as a nonmember state.

The recognition campaign, to be formally launched Nov. 29 to avoid becoming an issue in the U.S. presidential election, seeks a status that would grant the Palestinian territories associate membership in U.N. organizations and representation in some of its bodies.

The bid, if successful, would allow the Palestinians to sign treaties and participate in some world body activities. But it represents a significant step down in ambitions to join the United Nations as a full-fledged member, a move made at last year's General Assembly that failed in the face of fierce U.S. and Israeli opposition.

U.S. law mandates that the government cease funding any U.N. agencies granting the Palestinian Authority full member-state status, said Stewart Patrick of the Council on Foreign Relations. He noted that U.S. funding for the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was cut last year after the agency admitted Palestine into its ranks. 

"We have begun intensive consultations with various regional organizations and member states aimed at having the General Assembly adopt a resolution considering the state of Palestine as a nonmember state of the United Nations during this session," Abbas said in his address to the annual gathering. Nonmember state status requires only a majority vote of the assembly.

"In our endeavor, we do not seek to delegitimize an existing state, that is Israel, but rather to assert the state that must be realized, that is Palestine," Abbas said.

He lashed out at Israel in the same address, though, for "the catastrophic danger of the racist Israeli settlement of our country," referring to the building of housing for Jewish Israelis in the areas of Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who followed Abbas at the General Assembly podium, warned that the two states will never resolve their differences "with libelous speeches at the U.N."


Syrian refugee crisis is escalating rapidly, U.N. says

Sudan and South Sudan sign a deal to resume oil exports

U.S.-led sanctions having impact in Iran, Israeli report says

-- Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles

Photo: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addressing the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday. Credit: John Moore / Getty Images

Iranian president says 'uncivilized Zionists' threaten his country

UNITED NATIONS -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday that "uncivilized Zionists" are threatening to attack his country, but he otherwise was silent on the continuing clash between Iran and world powers over the Tehran's disputed nuclear program.

Ahmadinejad, in an address that climaxed days of public and media appearances in New York, focused his remarks on what he described as an unjust international system, built around the United Nations, that oppresses the world in the interests of the West's wealthy minority.

He said his country has "suffered from the agonies of forced aggressions" from countries he didn’t identify. He said that an "arms race and intimidation by nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction by hegemonic powers have become prevalent" and that a "continued threat by the uncivilized Zionists to resort to military action against our great nation is a clear example of this bitter reality."

He complained that the United Nations has no legitimacy, while praising the Non-Aligned Movement, which met weeks ago in Tehran with the Iranian regime presiding. Ahmadinejad said he spoke for the group.

"A state of mistrust has cast its shadow on the international relations, whilst there is no trusted or just authority to help resolve world conflicts," he said.

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At U.N., Obama condemns anti-U.S. protests, calls for patience

During an appearance at the United Nations, President Obama condemned the deadly anti-American protests that tore across the Middle East and North Africa and asked for patience during a "season of progress"UNITED NATIONS -- During an appearance at the United Nations on Tuesday, President Obama condemned the deadly anti-American protests that tore across the Middle East and North Africa and asked for patience during a "season of progress," as he sought to defend his strategy for supporting fledgling democracies across the Arab world.

Speaking before a meeting of the General Assembly, Obama asked world leaders to reject intolerance and violence and to resist the temptation to crack down on dissidents. He touted his support for the shift to democracies in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt and decried government violence against the people of Syria.

"We have taken these positions because we believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture," Obama said. "These are not simply American values or Western values -- they are universal values. And even as there will be huge challenges that come with a transition to democracy,  I am convinced that ultimately government of the people, by the people and for the people is more likely to bring about the stability, prosperity and individual opportunity that serve as a basis for peace in our world."

"True democracy -- real freedom -- is hard work," Obama said.

The protests and riots that rattled cities across the Arab world two weeks ago over an anti-Islam movie produced in California have put the president unexpectedly on his heels, defending his foreign policy six weeks before election day. His annual trip to the U.N. was aimed at providing reassurance to the world on the progress of the "Arab Spring" while also deflecting attacks from a Republican election opponent who has sought to portray the president's policies in the region as weak and confused.

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Iran president: Israel short-lived in region, will be eliminated

Iran's Ahmadinejad at the U.N.

UNITED NATIONS -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday that Israel is only a short lived presence among the ancient civilizations of the Middle East and would eventually be “eliminated.”

Speaking to a group of journalists in New York ahead of this week’s United Nations General Assembly session, Ahmadinejad said Israel has existed “during a historical phase” to create “minimal disturbances that come into the picture and then are eliminated.”

Israel has been in the Middle East for only 60 to 70 years “with the support and force of the Westerners,” and Iran has existed for 10,000 years, he said.

He also dismissed Israel’s warnings that it was close to unleashing an air attack on Iran to destroy the nuclear complex that Israel and many other countries believe is seeking to develop nuclear bomb-making capability.

“Fundamentally, we do not take seriously the threats of the Israelis,” Ahmadinejad said, according to the Reuters news agency. “We have at our disposal all the means to defend ourselves.”

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