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Non-proliferation

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Non-proliferation

     09商务英语《英语阅读?下,》 2010.03 1

2010-03-08 BBC

    BBC News with Mary Small.

    The acting President of Nigeria Good luck Jonathan has placed the security forces in the center of the country on full alert following a fresh wave of sectarian violence near the city of Jos. Witnesses say they saw more than 100 corpses, many of them women and children in the village Dogo-Nahawa, just a few kilometers from the city. With more, here is Richard Hamilton.

    Reports say the attack happened at about three in the morning local time when gangs of men descended on the village and attacked people with machetes. One eyewitness said he saw scores of dead bodies including those of children. The military which already has a presence in Jos has sent troops to the village. The attack seems to be a reprisal for earlier incidents in January when Christians and Muslims clashed, claiming the lives of at least 200 people and displacing thousands of others.

    President Obama has praised the courage of Iraqi voters who turned out to vote in the country's parliamentary elections, despite attacks by insurgent groups which killed at least 35 people. Mr Obama praised the Iraqi authorities for their conduct of the poll and the professionalism of the security forces.

    "On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the Iraqi people on their courage throughout this historic election. Today, in the face of violence from those who would only destroy, Iraqis took a step forward in the hard work of building up their country. The United States will continue to help them in that effort as we responsibly end this war, and support the Iraqi people as they take control of their future."

    Election officials said it could take several days for preliminary results to be released.

    Reports from Pakistan say one of the best known faces of al-Qaeda, an American-born senior spokesman for the organization Adam Gadahn, has been arrested. The reports, which‘ve not yet been confirmed either in Islamabad or Washington, say Mr Gadahn was captured by Pakistani intelligence officers in the past few days. Madeleine Morris reports from Washington.

    Adam Gadahn is one of the best known faces of al-Qaeda, frequently appearing in videos exhorting Muslims to commit terrorist acts against western targets. The most recent of these was posed at Sunday morning a 25-minute speech praising a Muslim US army Major who allegedly

    killed 13 people on a Texas army base last year. Adam Gadahn, who converted to Islam as a teenager in California, is on the FBI's wanted list and faces charges of treason in the United States.

    The Palestinian leadership in the occupied West Bank has agreed to resume indirect peace talks with Israel. The news came as the Obama administration announced a new attempt to relaunch the Middle East peace process by sending two senior envoys to the region. Previously, the Palestinians had said that they'd not re-enter any negotiations until the Israelis halted illegal Jewish settlement expansion in all the occupied Palestinian territories.

    World News from the BBC.

    The charity campaigner Bob Geldof has challenged the BBC to substantiate a report, alleging that some of the funds raised for Ethiopian famine victims in the 1980s ended up buying arms for rebel groups in Tigray. Mr Geldof, whose Band Aid campaign raised many millions of dollars, said the allegation of the BBC World Service program was rubbish, produced, as he put it, without a shred of evidence. The BBC said it stood by the program which said there was evidence that some of the money sent to rebel-held areas of Tigray was misappropriated to buy arms.

    Voters in Switzerland have rejected by a large majority, a proposal to appoint state-funded lawyers to represent animals in court. An animal rights lawyer already operates in the city of Zurich,

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    and supporters say this has helped prevent cases of cruelty. A yes vote in the referendum would have introduced the same system across the country. Opponents said the measure would simply increase costs and bureaucracy.

    Haiti's national footballers have played a charity match against a team of former European football stars to raise money for the victims of the Haitian earthquake which killed more than 200,000 people in January. The match, which the Haitians won six goals to two, was played in the German city of Augsburg. From Berlin, Steve Rosenberg reports.

    It was the first time Haiti's national football team had played in Europe since the World Cup of 1974. Taking on the Haitian team in the Augsburg Stadium was an all-star 11 made up of former footballing greats from across Europe, like Fredi Bobic and Krasimir Balakov. The match was broadcast live in Haiti and across Germany where viewers were encouraged to call in and pledge money.

    Concerns have been voiced in China that people under 25 are much less healthy than the generation before them. Government advisers meeting in Beijing warned the issue would have a direct bearing on China's future.

    2010-03-06 BBC

    BBC News with Ally Macue.

    The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has welcomed the austerity measures taken by Greece to solve its financial crisis. Flanked by the Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou after talks in Berlin, Mrs Merkel said direct aid to Greece was not needed. From Berlin, here's Steve Rosenberg.

    The Chancellor made it clear that Greece had not asked Germany for any financial assistance. She said she was optimistic such help would not be required. What Germany could provide, Chancellor Merkel said was solidarity and understanding. In her opinion the stability of the Euro would not be affected by problems in Greece. She went on to denounce speculation by the markets on Greece's defaulting on its debts. For his part, the Greek Premier dismissed recent suggestions in the German press that Greece should sell off some of its islands to help raise funds.

    Earlier there were clashes in Athens during renewed protests against the Greek government's austerity plan. Police sues tear gas to disperse the protestors who try to storm Parliament as it voted to approve the measures. The violence comes as an opinion poll suggests that 90% of Greeks are opposed to the government's plan to tackle its debt crisis by raising taxes, cutting wages and freezing pensions.

    The newly-elected President of Ukraine Victor Yanukovych has spoken of a new era in relations with Russia. Mr.Yanukovych was speaking after meeting the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow. Our correspondent Richard Gelpon reports from the Russian capital.

    The Russian government is delighted the main leaders of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine who came to power five years ago have been removed following last month's election. Mr.Yanukovych responded to the warm words of welcoming here in Moscow by indicating that all the major issues which have been causing tensions between them, could now be dealt with. Specifically, he said the question over whether Russia's Black Sea Fleet could remain in Southern Ukraine beyond 2017 will be sorted out soon with an answer which will suit both sides.

    The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has told an inquiry in London at the invasion of Iraq that the decision to go to war was the right one and taken for the right reasons. Mr.Brown said the Intelligence reports had convinced him that the international order was at stake. The Prime Minister who was Finance Minister or Chancellor at that time, was also adamant that he'd imposed no financial restraint on Britain's armed forces. Peter Hunt reports.

    Gordon Brown delivered a finely balanced performance. A resolute backing of the decision to go

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    to war was tempered by an acknowledgement of the enduring pain inflicted on relatives of those who died in battle on both sides. If he had reservations as Chancellor, they went on displaying at the hearing. The Prime Minister told the Inquiry, he'd received five briefings from the Intelligence Services and they led him to believe that Iraq was a threat which have to be dealt with.

    World News from the BBC.

    The American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the Obama Administration will do what he can to block further progress of a bill describing as genocide the killing by Turks of hundreds of thousands of Armenians. A congressional committee narrowly approved the resolution on Thursday. The Turkish Foreign Minister urge President Obama to block a full congressional vote, describing the issue as one of the honour for Turkey.

    An aide to Pope Benedict and a Vatican chorister have been removed from their posts because of allegations that they were involved with a homosexual prostitution ring. The Vatican confirmed that it has suspended Angelo Balducci whose title was Gentlemen to His Holiness and whose duties included greeting important papal visitors.

    The Prime Minister of Iceland Johanna Sigurdardottir has urged Britain to apologize for using anti-terror laws to seize Icelandic assets in 2008. She was speaking ahead of a public vote on Saturday over the payment of billions of dollars to Britain and Netherlands. The money is owed after the two governments were forced to reimburse investors in the collapsed Icelandic bank, Icesave. From Reykjavik our correspondent Johnny Diamond.

    Since the collapse of its banks a year and a half ago, Iceland's economy has contracted sharply, and unemployment has risen dramatically and its currency has lost half of its value. But talked to people here time and time again they come back to the use by the British government in 2008 of anti-terrorism legislation to seize Iceland‘s assets following the collapse of Icesave. On Friday, grim-faced, Iceland's Prime Minister went out of her way to criticize Britain's actions.

    News just in. President Obama has pledged to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons in America's National Security Strategy. Speaking to mark the 40th anniversary of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, Mr. Obama said he would also continue to seek rectification of the comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban treaty.

    2010-03-05 BBC

    BBC News with David Austin.

    Bomb attacks in Baghdad have killed at least 14 people as some early voting took place in Iraq's parliamentary elections. Suicide bombers killed seven soldiers at two polling stations while seven civilians died in an attack at another. More than half a million members of the Iraqi armed forces were voting early to free them for security duties on the main polling day on Sunday. Gabriel Gatehouse sent this report from a polling station in Baghdad.

    The police and the military have thrown everything they got to try to stop attackers from disrupting the poll. All leaves have been canceled and there will be around 200,000 personnel on duty in Baghdad alone.

    "We are ready for anything." this policemen told us, "If we don't risk our lives, how will we change the country." The Americans too, are hoping that these elections will bring about change. There are still around 100,000 US troops in Iraq. The Pentagon wants that number halved by the summer in preparation for a full military withdrawal by 2012.

    The Nigerian Senates has begun an inquiry after graphic pictures appeared on the Internet showing bodies strewn across the road after an armed robbery on the Lagos to Beining in highway. There is no indication of when the robbery took place. Caroline Duffield reports from Lagos.

    These pictures appeared to show the bodies of men and women twisted and crushed in the road in

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    broad daylight. Bloggers and local journalists circulating them and describing an attack on a bus on the Lagos-Beining express way. There are claims that the passengers were made to lie down in the road and that the bus driver was forced to run them over and that is how the large number of death occurred. Senators have now set up a committee of inquiry to try to find out what happened.

    The Congressional Committee in the United States has narrowly approved the resolution describing as genocide—— the death of hundreds of thousands of Armenians at the hands of Turkish forces during the First World War. A house representative's foreign affair's committee endorsed the non-binding resolution. Earlier, the Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had urged Congress not to offend Turkey by approving it. But the Chairman of the Committee Howard Berman said Ankara had to come to terms with its history.

    It is now time for Turkey to accept the reality of the Armenian genocide. This will most likely be a difficult and painful process for the Turkish people. But at the end of the day it will strengthen Turkish democracy and put the US-Turkey relationship on a better footing.

    Within the passed few minutes, the Turkish Prime Minister condemned the resolution and said Turkey's lose recalling its ambassador to Washington for consultations.

    Scientists say unprecedented amounts of the powerful greenhouse gas Methane are leaking into the atmosphere from under the frozen Siberian seabed off northeast Russia. The experts cautions that it's unclear whether the leakage is a result of current globle warming or some other factor.

    This is the World News from the BBC.

    A report by the Nepalese government says nearly half the country's children under five are suffering from malnutrition. The report says there has been study but slow progress in cutting poverty in the last decade, but more needs to be done to tackle poor nutrition. Health experts say extra attention should go to pregnant women and infants to stop children from suffering permanent intellectual damage.

    Managers from the collapsed Russian oil firm Yukos have told the European Court of Human Rights, said the Kremlin government tried to destroy the company for political reasons. Yukos is seeking around 100 billion dollars in compensation. The Russian government says Yukos commited tax evasion on a massive scale.

    Scientists say they can now definitively back, the long held theory that a huge asteroid striking the earth some 65 million years ago was responsible for wiping out the dinosaurs and more than half of all animal species on the planet. The scientists finally discounted an alternative theory that volcanic eruptions caused the dinosaur's demise. Our science correspondent Pallab Ghosh reports.

    The popular conception is that dinosaur's reign supreme until they were suddenly eradicated from the face of the planet. The theory goes that a giant asteroid crashed into the earth, wiping out half of all life on earth. Some scientists though say that those evidences that dinosaur survived the asteroid impact and became extinct some 300,000 years later. But a new analysis of all the available research has backed the view that it was a giant asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs.

    Pallab Ghosh reporting.

    The Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has said that he is ready to serve another term in office even though he will be almost 90 by the time the next election is due. Responding to a question at a news conference, Mr.Mugabe who is now 86 said if his party ZANU PF wanted him to serve another term, then he would stand.

    And those are the latest stories from BBC News.

    2010-03-04 BBC

    BBC News with Zoe Diamond

    There has been angry protests in Athens against the Greek government's announcement of further

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    austerity measures to deal with the country's massive debts. Pensioners scuffled with riot police and civil servants protested outside the Finance Ministry. The new measures are designed to save 6.5 billion dollars. The head of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso welcomed the move.

    The additional measures announced today appropriately include expenditure cuts and in particular savings in the public wage bill which are essential for achieving permanent fiscal recognition ,effects and restore competitiveness. This is in the interest of the Greek people who will benefit from sounder public finances, better growth prospects and job opportunities. It is as well important for the overall financial stability of the euro area.

    Brazil has rejected efforts by the visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to persuade it to back sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. At a news conference, the foreign minister said Brazil felt strongly that a dialogue with Iran should occur before sanctions are imposed. From Sao Paulo, here is Gary Duffy.

    On her first official visit to South America's largest country, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was adamant that only further sanctions would persuade Iran to negotiate in good fair. Though it doesn't have a veto, Brazil is currently a voting member of the UN Security Council, and the US administration is keen to have its support. However, President Lula continues to warn against isolating Iran, insisting instead, that it would be better to continue with negotiations.

    President Obama has dismissed any prospect of greater state control over the US health care system as he called on Congress to approve his sweeping reform plans. Mr Obama said it was time to give the American people more control over their health insurance. From Washington, here is Paul Adams.

    President Obama says he wants Congress to finish its work. He wants to sign health care reform into law. The process, he says, has simply taken long enough. For us to start over now could simply lead to delay that could last for another decade or even more. The American people and the US economy just can't wait that long. The president said this was not just about the ability of Washington to solve the problem of health care but about its ability to solve any problem. He repeated his offer to include some Republican ideas in his health care proposals, but the fact remains that the Republicans are implacably opposed to the sort of overhaul the president wants.

    The Italian police have arrested seven people suspected of trafficking arms to Iran in breach of a UN arms embargo. The two Iranians and five Italians were allegedly involved in an operation which moved arms around Europe to avoid detection before sending them to Iran. Police have seized anti-tank shells and explosives.

    This is Zoe Diamond with the latest World News from the BBC in London.

    The Red Cross in Uganda has begun an appeal for emergency shelters for the survivors of a series of disastrous mudslides. Three villages in the east of the country were swept away. Rescuers have recovered at least 86 bodies, and more than 260 people are still missing. Peter Greste reports from the district of Bududa.

    As the rains began pounding the slopes in late this afternoon, rescue workers retreated from the disaster zone on high on the extinct volcano's flanks. As they trudged down through the mud, a group of villagers began the 2-hour march up to the site with makeshift coffins balanced on their heads. Uganda's Prime Minister Yoweri Museveni flew in the helicopter earlier on the day. He blamed the disaster on local people who settled dangerously unstable mountain slopes and cleared the hillsides of forests. The Red Cross was appealed for help of emergency shelters, blankets and mobile medical clinic, and psychological help for the handful of survivors.

    Aid agencies and the Ethiopian authorities have denied allegations in a BBC report that millions of dollars donated to the relief effort for the Ethiopian famine in the mid 1980s went to buy weapons. The rock star Bob Geldof, who was the public face of the appeal for funds, has also described the

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    report as rubbish.

    Libya is imposing an economic and commercial embargo against Switzerland. The

    announcement follows a call last week by the Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi for a jihad against the country. The Libyans have been angered by a Swiss ban on building minarets and the detention by Swiss police of Colonel Gaddafi's son in 2008 on assault charges that were later dropped.

    The American Federal Aviation Administration is investigating why a child was apparently allowed to direct air traffic at New York's JFK airport. The aviation authority said the behavior of employees involved was unacceptable. And a number of staff have been suspended.

    That's the latest World News from the BBC here in London.

    CNN 10.22

    Hello. From the CNN Center in Atlanta. I'm Naamua Delaney. It is Tuesday October 21st. And here are some of the headlines at NOW IN THE NEWS.

    Oil and gas prices are down and the dollar is higher against rival currencies, however, stocks have been sliding low after yesterday's rally of more than 400 points. The Fed is trying to ease the market, saying it'll buy commercial paper from money market mutual funds. Commercial paper is a short-term funding mechanism many companies use for day-to-day operations. Also investor fears appeared to be easing as frozen credit markets begin to thaw.

    Voting problems are popping up in Florida sound like deja vu, people waited for hours yesterday as early voting began. Not only did some counties see a record turnout, there were problems with vote scanner machines and with voter identification machines. Florida secretary of state says the lines are sign of a healthy democracy.

    President Bush wants developed countries to keep their promises to poor nations, he's speaking this hour at a day-long summit on international aid. The President is also advocating increase trade with developing countries. The Washington Summit brings together representatives of nations that receive US aid faith-based groups and private and public leaders from the US and from the developing world.

    It is hard to believe this long draw-out battle for the White House draws to a close just two weeks from today. For John McCain and Barrack Obama there are still a lot of grounds to cover. McCain's got 3 rallies today in Pennsylvania including 1 next hour in Harrisburg. From Pennsylvania it is onto New Hampshire for the Republican candidate. For Obama, it's all about Florida today. The Democratic candidate cast a rally in Miami coming up a bit later. Florida with 27 electoral votes may be the biggest toss-up state left on the map. After his stops there today Obama heads to Virginia. CNN 10.20

    I'm Asieh Namdar at the CNN.com newsroom in Atlanta. Here is a look at what is happening NOW IN THE NEWS.

    A big political score for Barack Obama this weekend. Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell has officially endorsed the senator. Powell says Obama is better suited to address the nation's economic problems and improve its standing in the world. Powell who is a retired US General and a Republican was once seen as a possible presidential candidate himself.

    President Bush is calling for a series of global summits to address the economy. The first summit

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    will focus on ways that current crisis has been addressed as well as ways to keep it from happening again. No date has been said though a White House statement says the gathering will be held in the Unite States soon after the November 4th's General Election.

    British and Iraqi leaders are discussing the future of British troops in Iraq. And Britain's new Defense Minister John Hutton made his first visit to Iraq over the weekend. A UN mandate allowing British forces to be in Iraq expires at the end of this year. The US is working on a similar deal to remain in Iraq beyond 2008.

    And politics and comedy collided again on this weekend's episode of Saturday Night Live. Sarah Palin was on this show, critiquing Tina Fey's impression of her, alongside Alec Baldwin and executive producer Lorne Michaels. Tina Fey's impersonation of Palin has turned into record ratings for SNL for the last few weeks.

    And those are the headlines this hour, for more on these stories and other news of the day, CNN is your source online, on TV, or when you are on the go.

    Just when hundreds of people stopped celebrating a big lottery win, the state of Virginia said, "not so fast". A computer glitch left more than 600 people thinking they each won thousands of dollars. Turns out officials claimed the winning tickets were misprints, lottery officials are talking with this state Attorney General about whether it will award people the big money.

    CNN 10.19

    Hello, I'm Creshon Saunders at the CNN. com newsroom in Atlanta. Here is a look at what is happening NOW IN THE NEWS.

    A massive search is on for a six year old boy. Cole Puffinburger was kidnapped Wednesday from his Las Vegas home. His grandfather's being held for questioning as a person of interest in the case. Now police say Clemons Tinnemeyer was involved in significant drug dealing worth millions of dollars. They believe the boy was kidnapped by Mexican drug dealers trying to recover lost money and property. Now the missing boy's aunt spoke about him: "Just really hard to have one of our babies out there with strangers. Coz he is a very very good boy, he is very shy. Please just bring him home safeso he is Okay. "

    All right, just 17 days to go before the huge election. Here‘s what the presidential candidates are up to today. John McCain is in North Carolina and Virginia. His running mate Sarah Palin is in Landcaster Pennsylvania. She is expected to be on Saturday night live, tonight. Barack Obama and his running mate Joe Biden are in Missouri.

    One of the famous faces of the current financial crisis will have to talk to grand jurors. A source tells CNN former Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld has been subpoenaed in connection with 3 grand jury investigations. They are looking into the bankruptcy filing for the investment bank. It is the largest bankruptcy filing in US history. Earlier this month Fuld blamed the failure on government inaction and loss of confidence in markets.

    The latest victim of the economy: Mervyns' Department Stores. Mervyn's has stores in seven states and it's closing every single one of them. The fifty nine year old company filed for bankruptcy back in July. Earlier in the week, Linens 'n Things announced it was closing all its stores.

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    That scene is exciting. Hundreds of thrill seekers converged on Fayetteville, West Virginia earlier today to plunge nearly 900 feet into a river. The drop takes less than 10 seconds, but the excitement is endless. Once jumpers reach the water, they flow down the river and get off at the water's edge. The jump off the New River Gorge Bridge is part of the West Virginia's largest one day festival. Looks like fun.

    Those are the headlines at this hour. For more on these stories and other news of the day, CNN is your source on line on TV, even when you are on the go.

    CNN 10.18

    Hello from the CNN Center in Atlanta. I‘m Naamua Delaney and here‘s a look at what‘s happening NOW IN THE NEWS.

    "A deeply unsettling period", that is what President Bush's saying about the current state of the economy. Despite the ongoing financial crisis, he's urging Americans to have confidence the economy will recover. He spoke at the US Chamber of Commerce this morning. The President says the government is responding with unprecedented action, but adds it will take time for the bailout plan to work. Mr. Bush also says the next President and Congress will have to reform the system, so this kind of financial meltdown doesn‘t happen again.

    The US Supreme Court says Ohio doesn‘t have to give the Republican Party a list of newly

    registered voters who have problems with their paperwork. On Tuesday, a lower court ordered the secretary of state to set up a system that would allow Republican's ammunition to challenge new voters on Election Day. The secretary of state, a Democrat, asked the high court to intervene.

    To North Georgia now where an explosion at a small law firm in Dalton has left several people injured and one person in custody. Witnesses say the blast happened about ten this morning blowing out the building‘s windows and injuring those several people inside. Dalton Police say the blast was caused by some sort of explosive device. Police, fire and medical personnel and AGF agents are on the scene.

    Three big wildfires in Southern California are almost fully contained. The Santa Ana winds have died down but low humidity is still a concern. The largest fire in the San Fernando valley was 90% contained last night. The fires destroyed more than fifty homes.

    Alaska Senator Ted Stevens returned to the stand today as the final witness in his corruption trial. The Justice Department says the 6-term Republican concealed more than 250,000 dollars in gifts, most of which went to renovations on his Alaska home. Stevens is the first sitting senator to testify in his own defense at a criminal trial since 1981. Closing arguments may happen next week. Stevens is currently running for re-election.

    Well, those are the headlines of this hour. Do stay with CNN for more on these stories and the other news of the day.

    VOA 2010-03-02

    The West Bank city of Hebron has been the scene of clashes between rock-throwing Palestinian demonstrators and police almost daily in the past two weeks. The violence stems from Israel's decision to add Hebron's Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem to Israel's list of national

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    heritage sites.

    The sites are holy to both Jews and Muslims, and Israeli President Shimon Peres has pledged to keep them open to Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims alike.

    "We are not monopolizing. And in the Cave of the Monarchs as they call it, we already made arrangements that everybody will pray. We are not going to change it," Israeli President Shimon Peres said. "We are going to tell our children that this is historic and holy place for the Jewish people. It does not mean that the Muslims do not have any right there."

    But Palestinians see it as an attempt by Israel to hold on to parts of the West Bank that the Palestinians claim for a future independent state.

    The Cave of the Patriarchs believed to be the burial place of Abraham and other biblical

    patriarchs is in the center of Hebron a city where tensions perpetually run high over the presence

    of hundreds of hard-line Jewish residents living among 170,000 Palestinians. The site is known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque.

    On Monday, the Palestinian cabinet moved its weekly meeting normally held in the West Bank

    town of Ramallah to Hebron as a symbolic protest.

    Palestinian leaders have called the Israeli move an attack on the holy places and a violation of international law.

    Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib on Sunday accused Israel of trying to draw the Palestinians into a new conflict.

    "Israel is provoking the Palestinians in order to escape from the mounting pressure on Israel resulting from the violations to international law," Khatib said.

    Sunday, Muslim worshippers at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem clashed with police amid rumors that Jewish extremists were trying to enter the complex.

    The tensions threaten prospects for restarting peace negotiations that have been stalled for more than year.

    The clashes come days before the arrival of U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, who is expected to focus on the resumption of talks. Biden will be the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the region since President Barack Obama took office last year.

    VOA 2010-03-02

    The Iranian government has released a handful of detainees, including several prominent journalists, according to opposition Web sites. At the same time, the official Fars News agency reports two reformist newspapers, Etemaad and Irandokht, have been shut down.

    Paris-based Reporters Without Borders announced journalists Abdolreza Tajik, Behrang Tonkaboni, Rozbeh Karimi, Ali Hekmet, and Mashaallah Shamsolvaezin were released after weeks of incarceration. Shamsolvaezin is the spokesman of the Iranian Journalists Association.

    Top Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafaar Doulatabadi promised Sunday that many opposition detainees would be released for the Iranian new year Nowrouz, but warned of severe consequences for those that do not cooperate.

    Another journalist and a blogger were also arrested in recent days, according to Reporters Without Borders, while two others received six-year prison sentences.

    Opposition Web site Rah-e-Sabz also writes the government is calling for former prisoners to submit to new interrogations, in which they will be forced to admit to wrongdoing. Those "admissions," it says, will later be published.

    Analyst Mehrdad Khonsari of the Center for Arab and Iranian Studies in London says the Iranian government believes it gained the upper hand after a February 11 rally marking the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution:

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    "With the [Iranian] new year coming up, it is their strategy to finely balance the carrot-and-stick approach and consolidate the kind of gains that they thought they had made on February 11 by appealing to the public and showing leniency, but at the same time making it quite clear that they are not willing to tolerate further breaches of discipline," he noted.

    Alex Vatanka of Janes' Defense Analyst concurs with Khonsari, noting it is difficult to see any clear plan of attack in the approach of the Iranian government towards the opposition:

    "I think it is kind of difficult to, at this stage, reach the conclusion that this hard-line faction that is currently running the state in Iran is in possession of some sort of blueprint about where to go from here," said Vatanka. "Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad are saying 'come with us, stay within the Islamic Republic fold, and we will be lenient, and if you do not bad things will happen to you.'"

    The Iranian parliament, meanwhile, is reported to be continuing its investigation of previous government crackdowns, amid lingering anger over reports of the abuse of prisoners at the Kahrizak detention center, and the ransacking of student dormitories at Tehran University. A recent video shown by the BBC of student dormitories being attacked has reportedly ignited further outrage. VOA 2010-03-02

    Ukraine's new president, Viktor Yanukovich, says he is committed to establishing closer ties with the European Union.

    Yanukovich, who is considered far more pro-Russian than his predecessor, chose to make his first foreign trip to Brussels, rather than to Moscow. There are plenty of issues on the table, including closer ties with the 27-member European Union.

    At a press conference following talks with EU officials, Mr. Yanukovich sought to allay European fears about Russian natural gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine that have sometimes been disrupted.

    He said Ukraine would remain a reliable transit country for all energy resources, including gas.

    European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called for Ukraine to resume cooperation with the International Monetary Fund, a key condition for Kyiv to get European Union assistance. He also brought up the possibility of a so-called EU association agreement.

    "Currently under negotiation, it will lead to a deep and comprehensive free-trade agreement offering Ukraine access to a market of 500 million consumers and providing a perspective of, in a very short period, doubling Ukrainian exports to the European Union," Barroso said.

    A European analyst for the Chatham House policy institute in London, Richard Whitman, says Mr. Yanukovich's visit to Brussels signals an openness toward the West that some had not expected.

    "The expectation has been that he was more Moscow interested and clearly by coming to visit Brussels, he has both confounded expectations and pulled the rug from under the feet of his opponents," Whitman said.

    But eastern European analyst Amanda Paul, of the Brussels-based European Policy Center, says it is too early to read much into Mr. Yanukovich's visit to Brussels.

    "I think he still wants to have a constructive relationship with the European Union. How far that actually goes still remains to be seen," Paul said.Analysts say Europe wants a Ukraine that is economically and politically stable. If Mr. Yanukovich proves to be a reliable negotiating partner, that will be welcome in Brussels.

    VOA 2010-02-27

    Greece embarks on tough economic reforms it is facing the prospect of deep social unrest, with

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