Bulgaria freezes accounts receiving millions from Venezuela

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Officials in Bulgaria say they have frozen several bank accounts that received millions of euros transferred from Venezuela’s state-owned oil company.Chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov said Wednesday that the money was meant to be eventually sent to accounts abroad.“All measures have been taken so that the funds that are still in the accounts … will be fully under our control and not leave the country on false grounds,” he said.Tsatsarov said charges for money laundering would likely be pressed against the accounts’ owner, a Bulgarian citizen who was currently out of the country.“Our government is working very closely with Bulgaria and other EU members to ensure that the wealth of the people of Venezuela is not stolen,” U.S. ambassador to Sofia, Eric Rubin, told reporters.The Associated Press read more

Saudi Arabia Admits Jamal Khashoggi Was Killed in Consulate

Rabat – Saudi authorities have just admitted that prominent Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.The Saudi news channel Al Akhbariya made the announcement. Saudi authorities are claiming that Khashoggi was killed in a fight that erupted after he entered the consulate.According to the same source, Khashoggi died from a choke hold during a physical altercation. The announcement contradicts a previous official statement by Saudi authorities. Originally, Saudi Arabia denied any involvement in the Saudi journalist’s death and stressed that he left the consulate shortly after he arrived.It also contradicts statements by Turkish officials to the New York Times in which they asserted that a hit squad that flew in from Saudi Arabia to eliminate the journalist tortured, killed, and dismembered Khashoggi.Saudi authorities announced the arrest of 18 individuals after an investigation established their link to Khashoggi’s murder.Saud Al Qahtani, an adviser to Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, was dismissed from his post. Al Qahtani is notorious for having spearheaded a ferocious media campaign against Qatar since the start of the Saudi-led blockade against its neighbor in June 2017.In late 2016, Qahtani told Khashoggi that he was banned from writing or posting tweets after he made “unfriendly” comments about Trump.???: ?????? ????? ?? ?????? “???? ????? ????? ????? ?????”? ?????? ???? ???? ???? ??????? ?? ????? ??? ????? ???? ???? ? #???????_???????— ???? ???????? (@saudq1978) August 17, 2017In August 2017, Al Qahtani took advantage of his large base of followers and launched a blacklist. He called on all Saudis to report any account showing sympathy towards Qatar or questioning the Saudi decision to impose a blockade on its neighbor.US Senator Lindsay Graham has questioned the narrative of Saudi Arabia. The senator, known for being a close ally to President Donald Trump, said in his Twitter account that he is more than “skeptical about the new Saudi narrative.”To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement. https://t.co/am4fraUL6H— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 19, 2018Representative Adam Schiff, a ranking member of the US House Intelligence Committee, expressed the same skepticism and called on Congress to hold Saudi Arabia accountable if the Trump administration fails to do so.The claim that Khashoggi was killed while brawling with 15 men dispatched from Saudi Arabia is not at all credible. If he was fighting with those sent to capture or kill him, it was for his life.The Kingdom must be held to account. If Administration doesn’t lead, Congress must.— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) October 19, 2018 read more

Bouknadel Train Accident Survivor Some Tried to Help Others Looted

Rabat- Passengers who survived the Bouknadel train accident still suffered theft by individuals who pretended to help, only to loot from the train.Many eyewitnesses recounted how some individuals took advantage of the accident to loot from the luggage of passengers. The act has shocked and disgusted Moroccans. Others claimed that some taxi drivers raised prices to transport the stranded passengers.One survivor told Moroccan radio station Hit Radio that thieves stole from jackets, pockets, and luggage of shock-stricken passengers who could not do anything to stop them.Read Also: Bouknadel Train Accident: Spain, Qatar Send Condolences to Morocco“My money, my bag, my passport, my phone, everything was robbed,” the Moroccan man residing in Germany complained. “It was an apocalypse.”He stated, “If it weren’t for the royal gendarmerie showing up only a quarter hour from the accident, everyone would have ended up stark naked” because of looters from nearby shantytowns.However, the man was sympathetic, saying poverty was the real culprit because the looters were victims of poverty.Read Also: #Baraka: Moroccans Call for Boycott of ONCF TrainsThe survivor described how some of the people who genuinely wanted to help had no knowledge of first aid and pulled passengers out by their limbs, which may have exacerbated injuries.The man wished that they had waited for the arrival of ambulances and civil protection forces to retrieve the injured.“Half of the injured people were paralyzed because of the [inexperienced humanitarians].” Comparing Moroccan authorities to those of Germany, the speaker said that the Moroccan civil protection forces did an “amazing” job and were very competent.Train No. 9 linking Rabat and Kenitra on the Casablanca-Kenitra line derailed on Tuesday near Bouknadel at 10:20 a.m., killing 7 and injuring 125, according to the most recent statistics.Neither the National Office of Railways (ONCF) nor the Moroccan government has yet given an official statement on the cause of the accidents.According to a leaked recording of a phone conversation between ONCF employees, the train was running at 120 kilometers per hour, when it was supposed to run at 60 kilometers per hour in the area where it derailed.One of the employees stated that problems on that stretch of track were noticed last Friday, however ONCF did not set speed limit signs, properly communicate the speed limit to drivers, or take it into consideration.On the other hand, the Media and Press Department at the Ministry of Equipment told Morocco World News that they had no knowledge about the recording. The department emphasized that there should be “a scientific proof of what happened.” Many Moroccans have expressed rage towards ONCF, blaming it for the accident after the recording blaming faulty tracks and speeding went viral.Moroccans have begun an online campaign with hashtags “#Baraka” (enough) and “#Boycott ONCF” on Twitter and Facebook. ONCF, the only rail transport company in Morocco, is state-run with “financial autonomy” according to its website.While many are calling for actions, hundreds of people have donated blood for the victims of the accident at the Regional Center for Blood Transfusion.Many people in Rabat, including royal gendarmes volunteered to donate blood for the victims.The center had taken 549 sacks of blood in the first 24 hours after the accident. The center only had to use 16 by mid-Wednesday, according to the head of the center, Mohammed Benajiba. read more

Drone sighting halts flights at Irelands Dublin Airport

LONDON — Flights to and from Dublin Airport in Ireland were briefly halted after a drone was spotted over the airfield.The airport says it suspended flights “for safety reasons” after a “confirmed sighting” on Thursday morning. Flights resumed a short time later.The airport said “the safety and security of customers is our key priority at all times.”The popularity of drones makes them a growing threat to aviation.More than 100,000 travellers were stranded or delayed before Christmas after drone sightings near London’s Gatwick, Britain’s second-busiest airport.The Associated Press

The Latest Defence lawyers accuse feds of judge shopping

BOSTON — The Latest on the case against prominent parents and athletic coaches charged in a sweeping college bribery scam (all times local):3 p.m.Attorneys for a group of parents charged in the college admissions bribery scandal are accusing prosecutors of manipulating the legal process to get the case in front of the judge of their choice.The defence lawyers criticized prosecutors Tuesday for adding their clients to an indictment that has already been assigned to Judge Nathaniel Gorton.The lawyers say the move is a “clear form of judge shopping” in a letter to Chief Judge Patti Saris.They want their clients’ case randomly assigned to a judge to “stamp out any perception” that prosecutors evaded the standard judge-picking process.Saris has asked the U.S. attorney’s office to respond to the lawyer’s letter.The parents were indicted Tuesday on money laundering and mail fraud conspiracy charges.___1:45 p.m.Actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, have been hit with a new charge in the sweeping college admissions bribery case.Loughlin and Giannulli were among 16 prominent parents indicted Tuesday on a charge of money laundering conspiracy.The parents were arrested last month on a single charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.Loughlin and Giannulli are accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters admitted to the University of Southern California as crew team recruits, even though neither of them played the sport.They have not publicly commented on the allegations.The new charges come a day after fellow actress Felicity Huffman and a dozen other parents announced they would plead guilty to the scam .The Associated Press read more

Escalating violence in Gaza alarms UN human rights chief

In a statement, Ms. Arbour said the deadly intra-Palestinian violence was having a “devastating impact on an already vulnerable civilian population,” and she voiced hope that the ceasefire reached among Palestinian factions on Saturday would hold.The High Commissioner also deplored the ongoing rocket attacks by Palestinian militants against the Israeli town of Sderot.“Deliberate attacks against civilians, and the use of indiscriminate weapons, which I personally witnessed during my visit to Sderot a few months ago, are in flagrant violation of cardinal principles of international humanitarian law and must stop,” she said.Ms. Arbour also called on Israel to exercise restraint. “Extrajudicial killings are in breach of both international human rights and humanitarian law, and cannot be justified under any circumstance,” she said. 23 May 2007United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour today condemned the recent escalation of violence across the Gaza Strip, calling on all sides to do their utmost to ensure that civilians are protected. read more

SecretaryGeneral journeys to San Francisco site of first overseas visit

“I’m very touched to be able to visit this place, my second home,” he told journalists following the meeting. “I stayed eight days in this home with love and affection.”Asked about her impression of Mr. Ban, Mrs. Patterson told the UN News Service, “He’s as sincere now as he was at 18.”As a teenager, Ban Ki-moon scored top points on a nationwide English-writing exam as part of the competitive process to win a coveted chance to go to the United States in a trip sponsored by the Red Cross.From his rural hometown of Eumseong in the North Chungcheong Province, Republic of Korea, the young Ban Ki-moon took an unpaved road to the capital, Seoul, where he was selected to participate in the Red Cross’ VISTA programme (Visit of International Students to America) which would take 41 students representing 25 countries to different cities throughout the United States.Writing about the trip in Junior Red Cross, a Korean-language publication, Mr. Ban said, “I was so excited I felt I could grab the stars from the sky, but also concerned about how I should present myself to this new world.” He reminded himself to be “careful not to prejudge” the people he would encounter along the way. The first stop was San Francisco, where the eager foreign student crossed the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County’s town of Novato along Highway 101. The fog resting over the span “is still in my eyes” Mr. Ban wrote in describing his trip to meet the Patterson family, which would host him during his short stay in the western state.Having difficulty with English, Ban Ki-moon asked the family to speak more slowly. The shared communication that ensued would continue over the decades to come. Mr. Ban’s meeting today with Mrs. Patterson was not a reunion of long-lost friends; the two were together last in 2006 before he became Secretary-General, maintaining a relationship that has taken each to the other side of the Pacific Ocean over the years. The 1962 visit included what Mr. Ban called in his Junior Red Cross essay the “great honour to meet with President Kennedy.” Meeting the President in person would have been “unimaginable,” wrote Mr. Ban, who had only seen the US leader in pictures and on television.The President greeted a few students, and Mr. Ban thought of saluting him but did not because there was no time. “I wished that could have happened,” he wrote, “but in vain.” Although he did not make any formal gesture at the time, Mr. Ban “was inspired to pursue his diplomatic career” during the meeting, his spokesperson, Choi Soung-ah, told the UN News Service. 26 July 2007The United Nations Secretary-General today met in San Francisco with the woman who, in 1962, hosted the young Ban Ki-moon when he was a student on the first stop in what would eventually develop into a life of international travel as part of his diplomatic career. read more

Humans in ape suits skate to save gorilla cousins under UN plan

The event is part of the launch of the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) international Year of the Gorilla (YoG) in the United Kingdom, a project aimed at raising awareness and boosting protection of the great ape and its habitat by increasing the livelihoods and incomes of local people from managing their conservation. Many experts warn that without urgent action gorillas will become extinct in the wild within the next few decades.“The world is currently going through a sixth wave of extinctions, so it not just gorillas that are skating on thin ice – you could put a whole menagerie out there today on the Natural History Museum rink from Iberian Lynx and Cuban crocodile to the La Palma Giant Lizard and the Rameshwaram Parachute Spider,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said.“Thus in supporting the Year of the Gorilla countries, companies and citizens will not only be acting to save important high-profile species, but also a rich array of forest biodiversity upon which many people depend; biodiversity too that may hold the clue to breakthroughs in pharmaceuticals and improved crops to new kinds of smart materials and processes that will be urgently needed for a sustainable 21st century.” Projects being drawn up by the UNEP Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (UNEP/CMS) – all in need of government and corporate support – aim at boosting the prospects for the Cross River Gorilla which is Africa’s rarest ape. “Gorillas play a crucial role in maintaining the tropical rainforests in Africa, which are one of the key pillars of a world climate in balance,” CMS Executive Secretary Robert Hepworth said. “The future of these forests depends on gorillas who plant the seeds for the next generation of trees. The Year of the Gorilla is a unique opportunity to secure government, corporate and civil support for the survival of our closest relatives.” Numbering less than 300 remaining individuals, the Cross River Gorilla prowls an area of 12,000 square kilometres along the Nigerian-Cameroon border. While most of the forest sites fall within the boundaries of Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries or Forest Reserves, affording them some level of protection, community-based protection is being promoted in the remaining sites. Therefore, a community Wildlife Sanctuary is currently being establishment in Nigeria and a gorilla guardian network is being implemented in Cameroon. A broad-based outreach program envisages the development of local radio programs, thematic conservation films and a trans-boundary education campaign targeted at local hunters. These media will target major conservation challenges such as river poisoning, over-hunting, lack of understanding of wildlife laws and bush burning. 15 January 2009A United Nations campaign to halt the slide towards extinction of one of human-kind’s closest relatives gained moment today with troupe of skaters in ape disguise taking to the rink at London’s Natural History Museum, highlighting the them ‘Gorillas on Thin Ice.’ read more

Darfur AfricanUN mission sets up unit to investigate genderbased crimes

18 August 2009The police component of the joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping operation in Darfur has established a special investigations unit to monitor and report on crimes involving sexual and gender-based violence, a prevalent problem in the western Sudanese region. The peacekeeping force, known as UNAMID, announced today that the seven-member unit has been set up in response to the high rates of sexual and gender-based violence recorded across Darfur in the past two years. Staff members have received specialist training for dealing with such cases.The new unit will work to encourage victims of violence to report incidents to local law enforcement authorities, reduce the stigmatization of sexual abuse victims and help to rehabilitate victims.It also aims to support local law enforcement agencies as they investigate a range of cases, including child abuse, child abandonment, prostitution, human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual harassment.UNAMID said the unit would work closely with the police, non-government organizations (NGOs) and other agencies that deal with gender-related issues.Sexual and gender-based violence remains widespread across Darfur, which has been beset by conflict and displacement for six years. An estimated 300,000 people have been killed and about 2.7 million others forced to leave their homes, with many women and children vulnerable to violent attacks, particularly when they are searching for scarce firewood.Meanwhile, staff from the mission’s human rights and rule of law sections have completed a four-day training course on human rights standards and prison management for 30 corrections officials working in North Darfur state.The training, the first of its kind in North Darfur, included such topics as the humane treatment of prisoners, particularly minors, pre-trial detainees and female prisoners.The course, held in El Fasher, was funded by Switzerland through the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). read more

Ban hails universal participation with ozone protection pacts

16 September 2009With Timor-Leste’s accession to the global pacts seeking to stem ozone loss, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today hailed the now universal participation in these treaties as he marked the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer. Timor-Leste, the world’s youngest democracy, has now joined all of the world’s other States in taking part in the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and its Montreal Protocol.“Timor-Leste’s action sends a strong signal of global solidarity, not only for addressing ozone depletion but for tackling other pressing multilateral challenges, of which climate change is pre-eminent,” Mr. Ban said in a message marking the International Day to protect the ozone layer, which protects the Earth’s population from harmful ultra-violet radiation.The country’s Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmão, said Timor-Leste is “very pleased to be joining the rest of the world in the fight against the depletion of the ozone layer and the effort towards it recovery.”The Montreal Protocol, which opened for signature on 16 September 2007, is an annex to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. Since the adoption of the two pacts, the international ozone regime has expanded to address almost 100 ozone-depleting chemicals for refrigeration, electronics, foam-making and other industries.With evidence showing that, since 1990, the phasing out of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, has slowed the progression of climate change by 12 years, the Secretary-General said that international cooperation on the harmful substance is a “timely reaffirmation that through unity of purpose and concerted action, we can minimize risks to our planet and build a safer world for future generations.”The lessons gleaned from this global collaboration should propel nations to ‘seal the deal’ at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, which is just over 80 days away from today, he underscored.Mr. Ban warned that inaction on the issue could result in dire social, economic and environmental consequences.“The example of the Montreal Protocol sends a power message that action on major global challenges is not only possible, but that the financial and human benefits invariably outweigh the costs.”The head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) today pointed out that without the Montreal Protocol and its Vienna Convention, atmospheric levels of ozone-depleting substances would have surged tenfold by 2050.Achim Steiner said this would have resulted in “up to 20 million more cases of skin cancer and 130 million more cases of eye cataracts, not to speak of damage to human immune systems, wildlife and agriculture.” read more

Madagascar Ban urges leaders to build on momentum for unity government

7 October 2009Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on Madagascar’s leaders to quickly conclude talks on a transitional government following progress made under United Nations-backed mediation in the crisis that led to the President’s ouster earlier this year. The UN will remain engaged in the process through the Joint Mediation Team on Madagascar, chaired by former president of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano, he said in a statement issued by his spokesperson, urging the leaders to make the necessary concessions to ensure that the transitional process runs smoothly.“It [the UN] is committed to support the full implementation of the Maputo agreements and a rapid return to constitutional order through credible elections,” he added, referring to the accord reached in the Mozambican capital in August committing the parties to a government of national unity after months of turmoil and political violence in the Indian Ocean island.President Marc Ravalomanana resigned in early March amid a dispute with Andry Rajoelina, mayor of the capital, Antananarivo, who now leads the country. Yesterday in Antananarivo, UN Special Envoy Tiébilé Dramé read a communiqué from the International Contact Group on Madagascar supporting the Government’s request that sanctions imposed on the country be lifted.The communiqué also endorsed Madagascar’s request for international financial aid, backing for the political transition, including preparations for agreed-upon elections, and support for development and other aid projects. read more

Ban strongly condemns Qadhafis actions against protesters calls for punishment

23 February 2011Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today condemned Libyan President Muammar Al-Qadhafi’s actions against protestors as possible crimes against humanity, calling for the punishment of those who “brutally shed” the blood of innocents. “I have strongly condemned, again and again, what he has done. It is totally unacceptable,” Mr. Ban told reporters after rushing back early from a trip to Los Angeles to confer with his senior advisers on the Libyan crisis at United Nations Headquarters in New York. “I am sure that the international community are considering a broad range of options,” he said, referring to his own extensive appeal he made to the Libyan leader in a long telephone call on Monday to end violence immediately. “He has not heeded to that… the Government of Libya must meet its responsibility to protect its people…“At this critical juncture, it is imperative that the international community maintain its unity and act together to ensure a prompt and peaceful transition.” Summarizing his position on the violence, which according to some media reports has claimed over 1,000 lives, Mr. Ban underscored what the UN special advisers on the prevention of genocide and the responsibility to protect said yesterday.“The reported nature and scale of the attacks on civilians are egregious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. I condemn them, loudly and without qualification,” he said. “Those responsible for brutally shedding the blood of innocents must be punished.”Describing Monday’s 40-minute phone conversation with Mr. Qadhafi, Mr. Ban told a dinner in Los Angeles last night: “It was not an easy conversation. I told him, bluntly, that the violence must stop – immediately.” According to media accounts, Mr. Qadhafi went on state TV yesterday to call on his supporters to fight those protesting against his four decades in power and today two pilots were reported to have crashed their warplane and parachuted to safety rather than execute orders to bomb the opposition-held city of Benghazi. Mr. Ban applauded the decision of the Arab League to suspend Libya – “the first time the League has taken such an action on the domestic situation of one of its members” – and the UN Security Council’s statement condemning the use of force, demanding an immediate end to the violence, and calling on the Government to address the legitimate demands of the population, through national dialogue in full respect for human rights. He told reporters today the he and his top advisers are closely watching developments in Bahrain, Yemen and other countries in North Africa and the Middle East where protests have erupted against entrenched leaders. This afternoon he spoke by phone with Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa and he announced that tomorrow he will send UN Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe and senior economic, development and human rights officials to Egypt, where popular demonstrations ousted President Hosni Mubarak earlier this month. Over the weekend, he will dispatch a senior official of the Department of Political Affairs, Jamal Benomar, to Tunisia, where the current wave of popular demonstrations first crested, forcing President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee the country.He welcomed the decision of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to convene a special session on Libya on Friday, including the possible establishment of an international inquiry into the events there, and he voiced concern for people fleeing the country, noting that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has appealed to neighbours in Europe and North Africa not to return them.Mr. Ban, who has spoken repeatedly with leaders of the region in the weeks since unrest first erupted, noted in his speech last night that for years the UN has been calling attention to the so-called “youth bulge” in the Arab world. In some countries over 60 to 70 per cent of the population is under 30. “Our Arab Human Development Report has consistently chronicled the need for economic, social and political reform across the region. In particular, it emphasized what we called a ‘deficit of democracy’ and the need for political leaders to address it. Now the situation has exploded onto the streets,” he said. “The changes underway in the Middle East are historic. Whether in Libya or elsewhere, our message must be consistent and strong: no violence. The time for change is now. The United Nations stands ready to assist the people of the region in meeting the challenges of this great transition.” read more

TSX traders shake off durable goods disappointment maintain hopes for stimulus

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market closed slightly higher Friday as traders shrugged off a weak U.S. manufacturing report and hopes rose for another dose of economic stimulus from the U.S. Federal Reserve.The S&P/TSX composite index gained 19.72 points to 12,082.23, while the TSX Venture Exchange added 3.80 points to 1,251.88.The Canadian dollar was ahead 0.21 of a cent at 100.85 US cents.U.S. markets also advanced after the U.S. Commerce Department said that orders for durable goods rose a seasonally-adjusted 4.2% in July. But there had been initial dismay as the data showed that excluding aircraft and other transportation goods, orders dropped 0.4%. Economists had expected a 2.5% rise.“Is it really realistic to exclude the whole aircraft and auto industry from the numbers?” asked Robert Gorman, chief portfolio strategist at TD Waterhouse. “No.”“The auto sector numbers continue to be quite strong, they’re a big part of the economy and I wouldn’t get too bent out of shape about the ex-transport number being below expectations. I’m not sure this is really going to make a huge difference at the end of the day and the … market reaction reflects that.”Sentiment improved on markets late in the morning after the Wall Street Journal reported that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made it clear in a letter to a House Republican lawmaker that he thinks the Fed can do more to bolster the economic recovery and help reduce unemployment.Bernanke says in the letter to Darrell Issa that with interest rates already at record lows, the Fed has had to deploy other means to strengthen the economy, such as buying bonds.The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 100.51 points to 13,157.97.The Nasdaq composite index was 16.39 points higher to 3,069.79 while the S&P 500 index rose 9.05 points to 1,411.13.The Fed has been in focus after minutes released Wednesday from the Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting showed bankers favoured more stimulus.But doubts about Fed intentions grew Thursday after St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank president James Bullard said the minutes from the Aug. 1 meeting were stale because the economy had picked up since then.Adding to uncertainty was Chicago Fed president Charles Evans, who said Thursday the Fed should take action to bolster the economy.The durable goods report added to the debate over whether the U.S. economic recovery has weakened to a point where the Federal Reserve will launch another round of stimulus measures.Commodities were lower and the energy sector led advances, up 0.41% as the October crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange slipped 12 cents to US$96.15 a barrel. Petrominerales Ltd. was ahead 40 cents to $9.84 while Talisman Energy improved 29 cents to $13.56.The financials rose 0.35% with Royal Bank ahead 44 cents to $53.73 and Manulife Financial up 10 cents to $10.96.The TSX base metals component led losers, down 0.91% as copper eased a penny to US$3.48 a pound following a 12-cent jump over the last three sessions. Inmet Mininggave back $1.32 to $45.16 while Sherritt International lost 16 cents to $4.56.Techs were weak as Research In Motion Ltd. gave back 15 cents to $6.88.The gold sector fell about 0.22% while bullion added a dime to Thursday’s US$32 rise, closing at US$1,672.90 an ounce. Iamgold Corp. faded 14 cents to $12.98.A three month rally on the TSX looked frayed by Friday with the main index up a slight 0.16% for the week. But the TSX is up 6.6% from the lows of early June.Markets have been supported this month after European Central Bank president Mario Draghi pledged to do whatever was necessary to protect the euro currency by lowering borrowing costs for vulnerable members such as Spain. Traders had hoped this would be backed up by definitive measures at the ECB’s next interest rate meeting Sept. 6.But bank officials say that Draghi may wait until Germany’s Constitutional Court rules on the legality of Europe’s permanent bailout fund before announcing any new measures to buy government bonds.The court is set to rule on Sept. 12.Traders also digested a report from Reuters that the European Central Bank was considering yield targets in a bond-buying program. There were also fresh questions about how the European Central Bank plans to decisively deal with the eurozone debt crisis.Also, the German Finance Ministry confirmed for the first time that a scenario involving a Greek exit from the eurozone “and accompanying contagion firewalls are being examined.”The news came as Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras visited Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.In corporate news, shares of Score Media Inc. jumped nearly 46.67% to $1.54 following reports that the specialty TV sports broadcaster was in discussions to be purchased by Rogers Communications.China National Offshore Oil Co. raised the takeover price for Calgary-based oil and gas giant Nexen Inc. twice before the $15.1-billion bid was ultimately accepted, according to an information circular sent to shareholders. Nexen shares dipped nine cents to $25.45.Eli Lilly’s potential Alzheimer’s disease treatment failed to slow mental decline in two late-stage studies, but combined data from both trials showed promising results in patients with mild-to-moderate cases of the mind-robbing disease. Its shares were up 3.44% to US$43.86.The Canadian Press read more

Negotiators report progress in latest round of NAFTA trade talks in Mexico

MEXICO CITY — The latest round of NAFTA negotiations has wrapped up with the three countries saying they’ve managed to make some progress.The three lead ministers told a closing news conference in Mexico City that they’re still aiming to get a deal by year’s end.U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer, who says two dozen chapter texts have been tabled, is also thanking his North American neighbours for their thoughts in the wake of a devastating hurricane in Texas and Louisiana.Lighthizer, who reiterated some of his tough-talk remarks from the opening round, nonetheless struck a less aggressive tone.The agreements reached so far relate to less-controversial parts of the agreement.Multiple sources say the countries have not even begun dealing with the more complex elements — and that any attempts to raise a contentious issue have been brushed off by the other parties.That’s true of Canadian proposals like some labour reforms that have been declared a non-starter by the U.S.It’s also true of the U.S. desire to secure more dairy sales in Canada. The U.S. tried informally starting the conversation, and sources say Canada pushed it off.The next round of talks is scheduled to take place in Ottawa Sept. 23-27. read more

Key foreign currency quotations

Quotations for key foreign currencies in terms of the Canadian dollar. Quotations are nominal, for information purposes only.Canadian dollar value on Monday, the previous day, three-months and one-year: Currency Mon Fri 3 months Year U.S. dollar 1.2529 1.2487 1.2672 1.3145 British Pound 1.6627 1.6606 1.6553 1.6001 Japanese Yen 0.0112 0.0112 0.0113 0.0126 Euro in U.S. 1.1803 1.1836 1.1454 1.0971 Euro in Cdn 1.4788 1.4780 1.4515 1.4422Quotations provided by the Bank of Canada

TESO calls for Indian resolution on Lanka

Asked whether TESO was still in favour of creation of Tamil Eelam, Mr Karunanidhi said, “Yes, yes, yes.”Asked why the TESO was not able to retain the vigour of the 1980s when it was able to force the Centre to cancel the extradition of Sri Lankan militants, Karunanidhi said there would be a series of agitations if its demands were not taken seriously by the Centre, The Hindu newspaper reported. He also said TESO would hold a seminar in Delhi to bring to the notice of all political parties the sufferings of Tamils.“Vajpayee attended the TESO meeting in 1986 in Madurai,” he said while answering to a question whether the BJP would be invited for the seminar.Recalling the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State James Moore’s assertion that a new resolution would be moved in the UN against Sri Lanka, he said India should strongly support the resolution. Another resolution adopted in the TESO meeting urged the Sri Lankan government to disclose information about LTTE leaders, including Baby Subramanian, Balakumar, Yogi, Puduvai Rathinadurai, Ilamparithi, who were arrested after the war. Explaining a resolution adopted in TESO meeting, Karunanidhi alleged that Rajapaksa had led the massacre of Tamils and was seen as an enemy of humanity after being accused of war crimes and violation of human rights. The Tamil Eelam Supporters Organisation (TESO) in Tamil Nadu has passed a resolution calling on the Indian government to facilitate a resolution calling for a referendum during the general council meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.India’s The Hindu newspaper reported today that DMK president M. Karunanidhi had urged the Union government not to encourage Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visit to the country and announced a black-shirt demonstration in Chennai during his visit on February 8. “India also should put pressure on Sri Lanka in connection with the issue,” the resolution said. “He takes advantage of our friendly attitude and traditional hospitality. But he is a symbol of Sinhalese majoritarianism. India should not encourage his visit, as Tamils will not tolerate it,” the resolution said. The TESO meeting also decided to hold a demonstration in Rameswaram and Nagapattinam on February 18 and 19 respectively to urge the Centre to set up a Naval base near Manadapam to prevent the killing of Tamil fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy.TESO also has constituted seven teams comprising DMK MPs and Thol Thirumavalavan to hold talks with Ambassadors of various countries to muster support for the Sri Lankan Tamils cause, The Hindu newspaper added. read more

Lanka to brief diplomats media regularly

His briefing explained efforts by the Government to restore democracy through constitutional, administrative and cultural changes. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided to have regular briefings for diplomats and the media based in Sri Lanka.Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said that the Ministry has appointed Ms. Mahishini Collonne as the official spokesperson to hold regular briefings and interactions with the media and diplomatic community. Samaraweera said this when he briefed ambassadors representing twenty four countries and other senior diplomatic officials on the achievements of the Government over the last four months. He also outlined some of the government’s future plans. Samaraweera also noted that Sri Lanka, whose foreign policy has been reset to serve the interests of all Sri Lankans, was eager to regain its position as a constructive and respected member of the international community. (Colombo Gazette) The critical importance the government placed on efforts to build a “truly multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-lingual society where diversity is celebrated” and where all citizens would enjoy “full and equal citizenship” was also emphasized.In this context, he highlighted efforts underway to win the trust of all Sri Lankans and discussed plans to address key issues especially missing persons, restoring land to rightful owners and reconciliation. read more

India will assist Sri Lanka says Chidambaram

Terming a “courtesy call” his meeting with Chief Minister of the Northern Province C.V. Wigneswaran in Jaffna, the former Minister said Wigneswaran was “quite forthcoming and candid” on pluses and drawbacks in the existing arrangement between the Central government and provincial councils. Asked about his stand on a resolution adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council early this month on reconciliation and accountability, Mr. Chidambaram replied that “international flavour” could be added to the inquiry by involving “credible individuals.”He recalled that an Indian judge [Radhabinod Pal] had taken part in post-World War II trials held [by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East] in Japan.Pointing out that political parties in Tamil Nadu were for an international inquiry, he said, “I don’t think there is any support [for such a position] in the UNHRC.” Chidambaram, who clarified that he did not discuss the UNHRC resolution with Mr Wigneswaran, said he sought meetings with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R. Sampanthan.He will deliver the 20th Annual Tax Oration at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka on Thursday before leaving Colombo on Friday evening. (Colombo Gazette) Speaking to reporters following his meeting with Wigneswaran, the former Indian Minister praised the Northern Province Chief Minister. Congress member and former Indian Finance Minister P Chidambaram said that India will always assist Sri Lanka.Chidambaram said this after meeting Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran in Jaffna yesterday. The former Indian Minister is on a two day visit to Sri Lanka and he was in Jaffna as part of the visit. Meanwhile Chidambaram said a “credible inquiry” [into alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka] could be achieved in many ways.Chidambaram, who is the first prominent leader from Tamil Nadu to visit Sri Lanka in recent times, told The Hindu that “at least, there a few ways. You don’t have to have binary approach.” read more

Sampanthan insists no demand for a separate state

“The war has come to an end and more importantly there is no more a demand for a separate state,” he said.The LTTE had pushed for a separate state but Sampanthan says the demand was dropped even before the war ended. (Colombo Gazette) He said the Tamils hope the new Constitution which has been proposed, will resolve the National issue. Sampanthan said that the demand for a separate state resulted in a war which pushed the country backwards. Opposition leader and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R Sampanthan today insisted that there is no more a demand for a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka.Speaking in Parliament today the TNA leader said that the Tamils have, during the recent elections, backed a political solution within the framework of a united and undivided and indivisible Sri Lanka. read more

UNP agrees to give Fonseka National List seat

Fonseka’s Democratic Party and the UNP reached an agreement last week to work together.The former Army Commander contested the last Parliamentary election but failed to secure enough votes to enter Parliament. (Colombo Gazette) The United National Party (UNP) today unanimously agreed to give Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka the vacant UNP National List seat in Parliament.The decision was taken when the UNP Working Committee met this evening to decide on the National List seat left vacant following the demise of M.K.D.S. Gunawardena.