International News Briefs

Greek austerity protests continue

GREECE: With a crucial debt repayment deadline less than five weeks away, the government of recently appointed Greek president Lucas Papademos is scrambling to implement severe austerity measures designed to meet its obligations. In less than five weeks, the government will have to repay $14.5 billion in debt to its “troika” of creditors - the EU, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund - by making deep cuts to everything from entitlement programs, pensions and public sector wages. If Greece fails to implement these cuts, they risk a potentially disastrous default, The Guardian reported. However, protesters who have gathered in front of the Greek parliament view the measures as undemocratic impositions from the EU and other outside bodies.

Iran’s nuclear ambitions undeterred by sanctions, according to U.S.

WASHINGTON: While U.S. president Barack Obama continues to hope that sanctions work to dissuade Iran from progressing with their nuclear program, his administration continues to maintain that all options are on the table, including military action, to deal with the Iranian threat, the Mail and Guardian reported. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed this week that Iran had loaded its first domestically made fuel rod into a nuclear reactor. He is also threatening to cut off oil supplies to six European countries, which the U.S. views as a sign that Tehran remains unresponsive to, or unaffected by, sanctions. While Obama has stated that the U.S. and Israel are in “lockstep” when it comes to the Iranian threat, they disagree over the significance of the Islamic republic’s claim to have begun enriching uranium at an underground facility near the holy city of Qom.

Libyans celebrate anniversary of revolution, future of country uncertain

TRIPOLI: On Feb. 17, Libyans flooded the streets to celebrate the first anniversary of a revolution that ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi. However, as the Mail and Guardian reported, the feeling of many Libyans, while overjoyed by new freedoms, is increased uncertainty as the interim government prepares for free elections while various local, tribal and religious groups jockey for position in the oil-rich state. After 42 years of one-man rule, significant fissures exist in the country, with those deemed to be Gaddafi loyalists held in makeshift jails where they are often tortured by militiamen. International human rights groups have urged the National Transitional Council of Mustafa Abdel Jalil to do something about the jails, but he and the government complain they lack the means to do so.

U.S. to meet with North Korea over nuclear program

WASHINGTON: On Feb. 23, the United States will begin negotiations with North Korea over the possible dismantling of its nuclear program for the first time since former dictator Kim Jong-Il’s death in December last year. The talks, which will be held in Beijing, China, will be the third since last summer to explore the possibility of North Korea dismantling its nuclear arsenal or at least engaging in long-term negotiations to do so. It will also be an opportunity to gauge whether Kim Jong-Il’s successor, his son Kim Il-Sung, is more open to diplomacy. The negotiations to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, known as the six-party talks, collapsed in 2008 at the end of president George Bush’s second term. Since then, North Korea conducted a second nuclear test in 2009 and released evidence of an advanced uranium enrichment plant in 2010.

Published in Volume 66, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 22, 2012)

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