News & Reports 2011-06-12

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Broadcasting Time: 07:00-08:00, GMT+08:00, 2011-06-12

Hello and Welcome to News and Reports on China Radio International.

In This Edition

President Dmitry Medvedev says chances are high for Russian to join the WTO before the end of this year following the Russia-EU summit.

India says it is concerned over Pakistan's nuclear arsenal going into the hands of militants.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signed a landmark Victims' Law that will compensate for citizens' property losses due to domestic conflict.

16 movies including three Chinese productions compete for the Golden Goblet award in this year's Shanghai International Film Festival.

Hot Issue Reports

Russia-EU Summit Wrapped up
Russian and European Union leaders discussed the recent dispute over Russia's ban on EU vegetables, its accession to the World Trade Organization and a long-awaited visa-free regime during the 27th Russia-EU summit.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told a press conference that Moscow would lift its ban on fresh vegetable imports from the EU after receiving details of the source of the E. coli outbreak.

"I would like to add that we discussed the mechanism for renewing the import of European vegetables to the Russian market. We are ready, with guarantees supplied by competent European agencies, to allow such deliveries. The EU should agree on a certificate that will confirm the safety of the imported produce."

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the EU would send a form for issuing such certificates to Russia within the next few days.

"A system of certification on vegetable safety by the European Commission will be put in place without any delay and details of the certification will be finalized as soon as possible between the Federation of Russia and the European Commission's services."

Meanwhile, Medvedev said there was a "very high" chance the country might join the WTO before the end of 2011.

"I called upon our partners in the EU to finish the negotiations literally within a month in order to make it to the procedure of signing the documents on Russia's WTO accession by the end of the year. I would like to say, frankly, that the chances of this happening are very high and everything depends on how we will listen to each other."

The EU-Russia summits are held twice a year: one in Russia, the other in the EU member state that holds the bloc's rotating presidency.

Indian Defence Minister Concerned about Safety of Pakistan Nuclear Arsenal
Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony has expressed concern over Pakistan's nuclear arsenal going into the hands of militants.

Antony says India is not so much worried about Pakistan amassing nuclear weapons compared to them falling into the hands of militants.

"We are closely monitoring what is happening around us, and we know Pakistan is strengthening their nuclear arsenal. We are not unduly worried about it because we are also capable of meeting any threat. Our only worry is that the Pakistani nuclear arsenal is always in danger and under threat of going into the hands of militants."

India has become particularly concerned about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal after militants laid siege to a heavily guarded naval air base later last month.

Tension between India and Pakistan has mounted since the US operation to kill Osama bin Laden more than a month ago.

The nuclear-armed neighbors have fought three wars since 1947.

Syrian Refugees Fled to Turkey
Turkey braced itself for a growing wave of refugees fleeing violence in Syria as the number entering to its southern border topped 3,000 on Friday.

The Syrian government has said armed gangs killed more than 120 security personnel in Jisr al-Shughour, a town of 50,000 near the Turkish border, earlier this week.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Turkey was ready for the worst case scenario.

"We are monitoring the developments in Syria on our daily intelligence and in great detail. Both our civilian and military sectors have prepared for the worst case scenario. Of course, we never want the worst developments to take place."

Metin Corabatir, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said more than 3,000 people had registered with the Turkish government, and the Turkish Red Crescent was preparing a third camp with the capacity to lodge thousands more.

"The second camp has started to host thousands of people in that border area. And the Turkish Red Crescent society is now constructing a third one which will have one thousand tents capable to host about five thousand people."

Meanwhile, amateur video uploaded to the Web shows tens of thousands of protesters flooding the streets of Syrian cities, brandishing banners in English and Arabic, saying they want to bring down the president.

Afghanistan and Pakistan to Cooperate to Fight against Taliban
During a meeting between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Pakistan counterpart in Islamabad on Friday, Afghanistan called for more cooperation with Pakistan in its fight against the Taliban insurgency as their mutual ally the United States tries to build on battlefield gains to force a political settlement.

Karzai repeated calls for Pakistan to help end a ten-year Taliban insurgency in a news conference.

"We must all work together, the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and rest of us, to remove terrorism, or any vestiges of it still around, for the good of all of us. The struggle is a struggle for all, and the victory will be in the interest of all."

The appeal was echoed by Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

"Pakistan is there to support the Afghan government, the Afghan people, and we stand with them. We can not expect to have peace in the region, if we do not have peace in Afghanistan."

Pakistan is seen as an important ally to the United States and other NATO members as they seek to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

Colombia Signs Landmark Victims' Law
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has signed a landmark Victims' Law that will compensate for citizens' property losses due to domestic conflict.

The legislation, passed in May by Congress, provides reparations to victims of Colombia's armed conflict and returns millions of acres of land to people displaced by the country's more than 40-year three-way war between the government, leftist rebels and paramilitaries.

The law would return as many as 6 million hectares of land taken from 3.6 million Colombian peasants displaced by heavily armed paramilitaries, drug lords and ranchers.

While some fighting and killings continue, Colombia has seen the conflict subside over the last decade. President Santos pledged the nation would right the wrongs of the past decades.

"Today is a historic day. We all know it. It's a day of national hope in which not just Colombians but the entire world are witnesses of the proposals of a state that, in the name of a society, is willing to pay a moral debt, a debt that has been postponed for a long time, a debt to the victims of violence that must end and that we will, we will, end."

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was on hand in Bogota to witness the occasion.

"The United Nations will do all it can to support the government and the victims in their efforts to build lasting democracy, peace and reconciliation. The job has just begun. Colombia can count on us."

Experts say the Victims' Law will face practical challenges such as institutional deficiencies and also a threat of violence against previously displaced people who want to return to land stolen from them. They estimate that it may take a decade to return the lands.

India Prosecutor Reacts to Verdict of Mumbai Attacks Suspect
India's Special public prosecutor for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks has reacted to the verdict of Pakistani-born Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana, who was allegedly linked to the Mumbai attacks.

Ujjwal Nikam says India is considering a demand for Rana's extradition.

"We can demand for extradition under the mutual legal assistance treaty that was done between the Indian and American governments. But until the time when the American judicial proceedings are not entirely completed, we cannot do much about it."

A U.S. jury has found Rana guilty of providing support to an Islamic militant group but not guilty of participating in the group's 2008 assault on Mumbai that killed 166 people.

The jury has also found the 50-year-old guilty of conspiring to attack a Danish newspaper, a plot hatched by the militant group but never carried out.

Rana, a former Pakistan Army doctor with Canadian citizenship, faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison on the two counts combined.

A sentencing date has not yet been announced.

Yemeni Rally to Protest Saleh's Return
Anti-Saleh demonstrators in Sanaa say they do not want the return of the Yemen president and will keep protesting to make sure he does not come back and resume leadership of the country.

Thousands of demonstrators filled Siteen Street in the heart of Sanaa demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh formally hand over power to his deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the acting president.

"If Ali Abdullah Saleh returns to Yemen, we will continue with our protest at the protest camps."

"We totally refuse the return of Ali Abdullah Saleh to Yemen, dead or alive."

Saleh, Yemen's ruler for three decades, has not been seen in public since being flown to Saudi Arabia for surgery following June 3rd's shelling attack on his palace.

But after months of factional violence and pro-democracy protests, he has resisted Western and Arab pressure to step down, and government media dismissed dire assessments of Saleh's condition, saying that preparations for his return were afoot.

The volatility of the country has made Western nations and neighboring oil giant Saudi Arabia fear that it could slip into chaos and give al Qaeda a regional foothold.

Greek Government Urges Domestic Support for Midterm Austerity Plan
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has urged political parties to support the government's midterm austerity plan as Greece is poised to receive more rescue funds.

"I call again the leadership of all the political parties to cooperate; there are many important convergences, and with national consensus we can negotiate preferred solutions together with our partners, concentrating on our duty and not on the result of the next elections."

The midterm austerity plan has been approved by the cabinet. In the coming weeks it will be debated in parliament before coming to a vote by the end of the month.

The plan calls for more taxes, sales of state firms and more social spending cuts.

Opposition parties have refused to back the governing socialists on the plan. The main opposition party demanded tax reductions instead of increases before it could even think of cooperating.

Party members within the ruling socialists also expressed their dissent with the plan.

Meanwhile, Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou pushed forward a move, trying to win cooperation from the opposition.

"In September, the government will submit a comprehensive proposal for a more simplified tax system with fewer and lower value added tax rates from the current rates and a further reduction to what has already been done to corporate taxation. This is a discussion that is just beginning in which we will officially call the other political parties to participate."

Greece has already been implementing austerity measures since it received a multi-billion euro bailout from the IMF and EU last year.

EU officials have demanded wider political consensus in Greece on the new austerity plan before they give the debt-ridden country more cash.

Turkey Ruling Party Eyes Victory in Sunday's Elections
Turkey goes to the polls on Sunday, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party fighting against its main opponent, the secular Republican People's Party.

The ruling AKP has championed reforms since coming to power in 2002 and presided over a strong economy, but the CHP is trying to reinvent itself, arguing that with growth has come increasing authoritarianism.

Selim Kayar is a CHP youth leader.

"It is so unfortunate that this dark system will continue in our country and even darker days ahead if the CHP party does not win in the elections, and that will not encourage us in our struggle."

Another election victory by the AKP would mean a third consecutive term of five years in power, raising some concern that the government's consolidation of power is undermining vows to strengthen Turkish democracy.

Turgut Vidinli is a fishmonger in Istanbul.

"The prime minister might not reach 356 seats in parliament which would be good, because that much power causes problems."

Erdogan recently indicated he would like to change Turkey's parliamentary system to a presidential system, raising alarm among critics who fear he seeks the post for himself as a means of staying in power until the 2023 centenary of the Turkish Republic.

Italians Set to Vote in Four Referendums
Italians are set to vote in four referendums this weekend, which the center-left opposition hopes will deliver another blow to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The referendums concern specific issues such as the privatization of water utilities, nuclear energy and whether government ministers can be exempted from attending trials against them.

Antonio di Pietro, leader of the Italy of Values Party, calls on Italians to vote in the referendums.

"Water, air and legalitythese are not issues just of the right, left or center. Do you want or not want nuclear reactors in Italy? Do you want everyone to be able to drink water or only those who can afford to drink, and everyone else needs to go thirsty? Do you want or not want laws that are the same for everyone? If you want all of this, then go and vote on Monday. The referendum is yours."

The referendum on nuclear power is the most emotive of the four issues, particularly after the nuclear crisis at Japan's Fukushima-Daiichi plant in March.

Polls indicate that most Italians are against nuclear plants which they consider unsafe in a country that has had more than its share of major earthquakes.

But Berlusconi is a big proponent of nuclear power.

Analysts say the referendums could not have come at a worse time for Berlusconi who is dogged by sex scandals and has just experienced defeats in local elections.

But the real unknown for the weekend vote is whether the opposition can buck the trend of failed referendums and bring out the voters.

The last referendum to reach a quorum in Italy was in 1995. Six referendums have been declared null and void since then.

Art Movies Compete for Golden Goblet in a 10-billion Market
The red carpet has been unfurled at the 14th Shanghai International Film Festival, drawing film stars from both near and far.

This year's Golden Goblet comes after China's national box office earnings hit 10 billion yuan, or some 1.5 billion U.S. dollars, last year.

Some big names walking down the red carpet, such as Oscar-winning American actress Susan Sarandon, are encouraging young Chinese actors and directors to diversify their works.

Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson says a seven-member jury panel is trying to convey to filmmakers that telling stories in their own way is encouraged and will eventually be rewarded.

"I think at the end of the day the most successful way is that telling the story in the way that you believe it should be told. I think if you are trying to follow a successful formula, ultimately the formula will fail."

The jury panel headed by Barry Levinson, includes Japanese director Yoichi Sai and Chinese actress Zhang Jingchu. It will choose the winner of the Golden Goblet award from among 16 films produced around the globe, including three Chinese works.

The festival ends on Sunday.

China Daily: Governments Must Prepare to Handle Extreme Weather Conditions

A lethal combination of droughts and floods is wreaking havoc across the world's most populous nation as severe weather has flooded areas along the Yangtze River that have just suffered their worst drought in decades. It reflects the reality that extreme weather conditions are becoming more prevalent.

An editorial in "China Daily" argues that apart from addressing complaints about the dams along the upper reaches of the Yangtze or extreme weather itself, governments at all levels should give enough thought to preparations to handle potential weather-related disasters as well as provide adequate support for people affected by them so they can rebuild their lives.

The editorial cites statistics that the water conservancy capacity for small and medium-sized water conservation projects in Central China's Hubei Province has dropped by 40 percent during the past several decades. The projects' capacity for draining floodwater and irrigating farmland has shrunk by half. Meanwhile, more than half of the province's water pumping facilities are in need of repair or maintenance. What's more, 40 percent of arable land in Hubei can hardly resist the impact of droughts or floods.

The editorial further states that provinces seriously affected by drought this year have not been prepared to handle the increased number of natural disasters. Because fighting droughts and floods, sometimes both occurring in swift succession, may turn out to be a permanent job, governments at all levels should learn lessons from what China has experienced this year in that it is necessary for them to be prepared and increase their vigilance.

The editorial believes that investment in water conservation and irrigation projects will effectively reduce the amount of money local governments must pay for disaster relief in the future.


Zhuzai Daily: Cities Should Stop Competing to Built Skyscrapers

Many Chinese cities are eagerly building skyscrapers as symbols of their newly amassed wealth and urban progress. It has been reported that one skyscraper will be completed across the nation every five days on average over the next three years.

A commentary in "The Zhuhai Daily," a newspaper based in the southern city of Zhuhai, calls on city planners to rethink their ambitious building plans. It notes that more than 200 skyscrapers are being under construction across the country. Five years from now, the total number of skyscrapers in China will reach 800, four times the current number in the United States.

The commentary argues that some of the skyscrapers may not be based on scientific and comprehensive urban planning. Citing Fangchenggang as an example, it says the southern city plans to build a 528-meter-high skyscraper that will dwarf the World Financial Center in Shanghai, the tallest building on the Chinese mainland. The commentary questions to purpose of such a tall building, given the city has a population of less than 1 million and lags far behind Shanghai in economic development.

The commentary points out those similar problems are very likely to surface in the skyscraper projects of other cities. It calls on city planners not to blindly build skyscrapers as the buildings will not increase a city's wealth or improve its competitiveness.

In conclusion, the commentary it is better for decision makers to direct investment toward improving a city's environment and residents' overall wellbeing, which are the basis of a city's prosperity and competitiveness.