March 26, 2007

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Headlines (5:26)
Rival groups in Northern Ireland’s longtime civil conflict today signed a historic power-sharing agreement. The protestant pro-British Democratic Unionist Party and the mostly Catholic Irish nationalist Sinn Fein will form a joint executive on May 8th. The power-sharing deal agreed to today was the centerpiece of the Good Friday peace accord, signed nearly 10 years ago.

Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger rebels carried out their first air raid early this morning, bombing a main military base and forcing the temporary closure of the island’s only international airport. FSRN’s Ponniah Manikavasagam has more.

Defense officials said two bombs hit the aeronautical engineering department of their air base situated next to Katunayake International Airport. Three airmen were killed and another 16 were wounded. Two helicopters were also damaged in today’s rebel attack. Passengers were not affected. A rebel spokesman said the mission was undertaken to reduce the air capability of the Sri Lankan air force. The Sri Lankan government said the rebels aimed to disrupt civilian life in the wake of recent major military defeats in the east. The military claims to have killed 49 rebels for the loss of 10 troops in three days of fighting in the north. The Tigers say they have lost only 13 and in turn claimed to have killed more than 60 soldiers. The Tigers were known to possess light fixed-wing planes and an airfield in the rebel-held northern Wanni region, but they had not used planes before in a combat mission. The international airport near the capital, Colombo, was not damaged but authorities temporarily shut it as a precaution and reopened it after three hours. Military officials said security has been beefed up in Colombo and other key towns after today’s rebel air raid. For Free Speech Radio News, I am Ponniah Manikavasagam, from Vavuniya, Sri Lanka.

Mexico’s indigenous-led Zapatista National Liberation Army has launched a new phase in their so called “Other Campaign”. Tim Russo reports.

(audio) “We call on and invite all organizations and people of Mexico and the world to launch the Global campaign for the defense of the land, indigenous, autonomous and campesino territories in Chiapas, in Mexico, and the world.” These were the words of Zapatista Comandanta Kelly as she and 14 other Zapatista leaders launched the second phase of the rebel’s Other Campaign, an effort geared at organizing a broad grassroots leftist movement in Mexico and abroad. The 14 rebel commanders accompanying Subcomandante Marcos on Sunday prepared their departure as the first of several Zapatista delegations that will travel throughout Mexico during all of 2007 to work with “organizations, collectives, families and individuals” that have subscribed to the Zapatistas grassroots initiative. The rebel initiative, spelled out in the 6th Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, outright challenges President Felipe Calderon’s increased militarization of Mexico as well as ex-presidential candidate Andres Lopez Obrador’s center-leftist coalition, accusing it of being complacent with the Mexican political class. The rebel’s chose to push forward with Sunday’s launch despite renewed paramilitary activity in Chiapas over the last weeks and in order to keep their promise to participate in the upcoming National Indigenous Congress and the International Solidarity Camp in Cucupá territory in Baja California. For Free Speech Radio News, this is Tim Russo.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, met separately on Sunday with U.S Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. FSRN’s Rami Almeghari has more.

In her fourth visit to the region in three months, Secretary Rice said Sunday that both Israel and the Palestinians need to set ‘a common agenda’, to advance their peace talks for realizing a Palestinian state. UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, who is visiting the region for the first time since taking office, criticized the Israeli separation barrier in the West Bank, voicing his belief that the wall deprives Palestinians of basic opportunites to live normal lives. Ki-Moon also voiced hope that the new Palestinian unity government’s actions would show a genuine commitment to the basic principles of peace. Both the United Nations and the United States demand that the new unity government to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept past signed agreements before it wins international recognition. Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert strongly criticized President Abbas for signing a unity government with Hamas, saying Abbas had promised not to form a unity government before the release of Israeli corporal Gil’ad Shalit, who was captured in Gaza last year. For Free Speech Radio News and, this is Rami Almeghari, reporting from Gaza.

Military tribunal hearings started today in the case of Australian David Hicks – a Muslim convert who has been imprisoned in Guantanamo since January of 2002. He is accused of training at a terrorist camp and fighting against US-led forces in Afghanistan. David Hicks is the only detainee at Guantanamo Bay facing charges under the Military Commissions Act. Reports indicate that Hicks may agree to a plea bargain if it could return him to Australia.

Congress Debates Troop Withdrawl (3:42)
US Senators will spend this week debating a 122 billion dollar war supplemental that also includes a timeline for a US troop withdrawal. Meanwhile, members of the House are already looking to the next opportunity to bring about a speedy path to redeploy US combat troops. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Industrial Development in South Korea (4:28)
South Korea is launching another phase of industrial development in Kaesong, a border city of the North. Rebecca Henschke reports on how this development could affect the country’s economy.

UN Security Councils Sanctions Iran (3:05)
The Iranian New Year, which began on the first day of spring, has had quite the start — making headlines this past weekend from the 15 detained British sailors and marines to the sanctions unanimously approved by the U.N. Security Council on Saturday. Resolution 17-47 imposes a strict ban on import and export of Iranian weapons and expands a freeze on assets. It also asks governments and financial institutions to stop issuing grants and loans to Iran.

At the UN on Saturday, Acting U-S Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said the passage of the resolution sends a clear and unambiguous message to Iran.

Alejandro Wolff Clip

Following the vote, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said the Security Council’s decision was unlawful, unnecessary and unjustifiable.

Manouchehr Mottaki Clip

Despite the financial sanctions in Resolution 17-47, Russian’s Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that the sanctions were carefully crafted to avoid affecting civilians.

Vitaly Churkin Clip

Iranian Americans Respond to Sanctions (3:03)
The increasing isolation that Iran faces in the international community has affected many Iranian Americans. Free Speech Radio News correspondent Mandana Mofidi attended the 4th Annual Persian Parade in New York City on Sunday and followed up with community members regarding the recent tensions.

Romanian Guest Workers (4:03)
Fifty years ago yesterday, dignitaries from France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg met in Rome to create the framework for the European Economic Community. Now known as the European Union, 27 countries and 500 million people are united under a common trade bloc. But will free trade mean freedom for Europe’s poorest? Elise Hugus reports from Romania, one of the newest members of the EU.

Citrus Freeze Still Hurting Farmers (2:25)
This month, President Bush issued a federal disaster declaration for California counties hurt by the January freeze that wiped out citrus crops, and left thousands jobless. Organizers welcome the announcement, but say it is too little. Leilani Albano has more.

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