In ANYTHING on October 14, 2011 at 10:41 am

NATO’s 90-Day Air Campaign

NATO allies have agreed to extend their air campaign in Libya by
another 90 days, diplomats said, as forces loyal to ousted leader
Moamar Gadhafi maintain resistance.

“NATO agreed to extend mandate for Libya operation,” the US ambassador
to NATO, Ivo Daalder, wrote on Twitter. The mission “will continue for
as long as necessary; end as soon as possible.”

An alliance diplomat said that NATO ambassadors agreed on a third
90-day mandate, but the operation could be terminated “at any time” if
military commanders deem that civilians are finally safe.

The new mandate was accepted “without any disagreements,” the diplomat
said, adding that NATO military authorities would provide an update on
the situation on the ground every month.

The current 90-day mandate was due to expire on September 27, but
Western leaders have made clear their intention to continue flying
NATO warplanes as long as Gadhafi forces harm civilians.

“So long as the Libyan people are being threatened, the NATO-led
mission to protect them will continue,” US President Barack Obama said
at a United Nations meeting on Libya welcoming the country’s new

“And those still holding out must understand the old regime is over,
and it is time to lay down your arms and join the new Libya,” Obama

Libya’s National Transitional Council took control of Tripoli in
August, but Gadhafi forces still control some towns, putting up a
fierce resistance in the deposed despot’s hometown of Sirte after
seven months of fighting.

The new rulers declared victory in the battle for the key southern
desert city of Sabha.

But anti-Gadhafi forces have taken heavy losses in the battle for
Sirte. Medics say at least 45 NTC fighters have been killed and more
than 200 wounded since they launched an offensive early September.

A coalition led by the United States, France and Britain launched the
first air strikes against Gadhafi forces on March 19, under a UN
mandate to protect civilians from attack. NATO took over the mission
on March 31 after allies ironed out internal divisions.

Germany refused to back the UN resolution that authorised the
operation, while France initially refused to hand over command of the
mission to NATO. Only seven nations from the 28-nation alliance are
taking part in the air strikes — the United States, France, Britain,
Canada, Denmark, Italy and Belgium. Norway’s bombers dropped out of
the mission in August.

NATO aircraft have conducted 8,751 missions aimed at idenfifying or
hitting targets, according to the alliance’s latest figures.

U.S.Back in Tripoli

The U.S. ambassador to Libya has returned to Tripoli to lead a newly
reopened American Embassy in a post-Moammar Gadhafi era.

Ambassador Gene Cretz arrived in Tripoli late in September, a day
before plans to raise the U.S. flag over the embassy building in the
Libyan capital.

Cretz left for consultations in Washington in January after WikiLeaks
posted his assessments of Gadhafi’s personal life and habits in a
classified 2009 diplomatic cable.

He returns to a country much changed since revolutionary forces seized
control of Tripoli and forced the longtime leader into hiding.

President Barack Obama announced last month that the ambassador would
return, telling Libyans: “This is your chance. And today the world is
saying, with one unmistakable voice, we will stand with you.”

Iran Releases Jailed American Hikers

Two American hikers detained in Iran for more than two years have been
released on bail of $1 million and handed over to Omani authorities,
according to Iran’s state news agency .

Their lawyer, Masoud Shafiei, said he was heading to the Tehran jail
where Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, both 29 years old, were detained,
after Iranian courts approved the $1 million bail arrangement.

The two have been jailed in Iran since July 2009 and were sentenced in
August to eight years in prison each for espionage and illegally
crossing Iran’s border. They have denied the espionage charges.

“I can say that they will be free today,” Shafiei said . “I am going
to the jail, and after that I think the Swiss embassy will decide when
and how they will go out of Iran.” The Swiss Embassy protects U.S.
interests and citizen affairs in Iran, since the U.S. and Iran severed
diplomatic ties after Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979.

The Sultanate of Oman, an ally of the U.S. in the Gulf, paid the bail
for the hikers’ release, although Shafiei said he didn’t know why.

“I signed a paper that said Oman paid,” he said. In the fall of
August, an Iranian appeals court had agreed to set bail for the hikers
at $500,000 each.

The expected release of the two hikers coincided with a visit to New
York by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s for the United Nations
General Assembly. This time last year, again as Ahmadinejad was
traveling to New York, a third American hiker, Sarah Shourd, was also
released on a $500,000 bail posted by Oman. Her case remains open.

The three Americans were arrested along the Iran-Iraq border in July
2009 when Iran was roiling in post-election unrest. The hikers say
they are innocent and were hiking along the unmarked border area when
they were detained.

Obama Opposes Palestinian Statehood

President Obama declared his opposition to the Palestinian Authority’s
bid for statehood in the Security Council, throwing the weight of the
United States directly in the path of the Arab democracy movement even
as he hailed what he called the democratic aspirations that have taken
hold throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

“Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the U.N.,”
Obama said, in an address before world leaders at the General
Assembly. “If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by

Instead, Obama said, the international community should continue to
push Israelis and Palestinians toward talks on the four intractable
“final status” issues that have vexed peace negotiations since 1979:
the borders of a Palestinian state, security for Israel, the status of
Palestinian refugees who left or were forced to leave their homes in
Israel, and the fate of Jerusalem, which both sides claim for their

The Arab Spring quandary, in particular, has been enormously
troublesome for Obama. White House officials say that he has long been
keenly aware that he, like no other American president, stood as a
potential beacon to the Arab street as the ultimate symbol of the
hopes and rewards of democracy. But since he is, first and foremost,
the president of the United States, he has had to put American
interests first.

So Obama’s entire 47-minute address appeared, at times, an effort to
thread the needle meant to balance his efforts in support of
democratic movements against his efforts to stand behind Israel,
America’s foremost ally. From the moment he stepped behind the podium
and began talking, everything he said seemed directed to one point.

“Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, fellow delegates, ladies and
gentlemen: It is a great honor for me to be here today. I would like
to talk to you about a subject that is at the heart of the United
Nations—the pursuit of peace in an imperfect world.”

Obama called this year “a time of transformation.” This year alone, he
said, “more individuals are claiming their universal right to live in
freedom and dignity.”

He hailed the democratic movements in the Ivory Coast, in Tunisia, in
South Sudan. Of Egypt, where President Hosni Mubarak fell after 30
years, Mr. Obama said, “we saw in those protesters the moral force of
non-violence that has lit the world from Delhi to Warsaw; from Selma
to South Arica—and we knew that change had come to Egypt and to the
Arab world.”

He hailed the Libyan toppling of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, and threw
his weight behind the protesters in Syria.

But, he said, Palestinians must make peace with Israel before gaining
statehood themselves. Both Israelis and Palestinians, he said, have
legitimate grievances that should be addressed.

“The deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in
each other’s shoes,” Obama said. And he issued an oblique challenge to
the United Nations itself as an institution which has long been
accused of being anti-Israel.

Somalia in the Throes of Deaths

Drought and famine-blighted Somalia is at a “turning point” as
conditions decline with hundreds of thousands more people likely to
die in coming months, 20 aid agencies warned .

The situation was the worst ever seen by the group of international
and Somali non-governmental organisations, NGOs, and was expected to
deteriorate further, they said.

“As NGOs who have worked in Somalia for decades, we are accustomed to
the daily struggle to survive that is the reality for most Somalis,”
they said in a letter released late last month, warning upcoming rains
would add to the misery.

“However, never before have we faced such acute suffering with so many
lives at stake. Somalia is at a turning point.”

International agencies that signed the letter included Oxfam,
International Rescue Committee, ACF International, Caritas
Switzerland, World Vison, Medecins du Monde France, Danish Refugee
Council and Mines Advisory Group.

The United Nations has declared six regions in south Somalia famine zones.

The letter also repeated an earlier United Nations’ warning that
750,000 people faced death from starvation in the next four months.

“It is hard to imagine that the suffering in Somalia could get any
worse,” the letter by the aid agencies added.

Yet rains expected in October “will result in increased suffering and
lead to the deaths of many more weak and vulnerable Somalis in
communities already decimated by famine,” it said.

“The spread of cholera, measles and malaria will have a devastating
effect on malnourished men, women and children.”

Restrictions on the emergency aid delivering is blocking efforts to
support those in need in Somalia, the aid agencies added, calling for
“free passage of assistance.”

Extremist Shebab fighters pulled out of positions in the war-torn
capital Mogadishu in August but still control swathes of south and
central Somalia.

Their draconian aid restrictions are blamed for exacerbating harsh
drought into famine in areas they control.

Drought, high food prices and fighting in Somalia has increased the
number of those in need of humanitarian assistance across the Horn of
Africa to 13.3 million, according to the UN.

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