Tag Archives: accuses

UK accuses Iran of blocking new foreign office website

LONDON (BNO NEWS) — The British government on Sunday accused Iran of blocking access to a foreign office website it launched earlier this week to reach out to the Iranian people. The Iranian government also blocked a similar website in December.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the Iranian government blocked access to its ‘UK for Iranians’ website on Saturday, just three days after the website was launched in hopes of direct dialogue with the Iranian people. The website is similar to one launched by the United States last year, which Iran also blocked.

“I condemn this action by the Iranian Government,” Hague said on Sunday, adding that the website was launched to reach out to Iranians to explain and discuss UK policy. “We have no quarrel with the Iranian people and regret that the Iranian authorities fear their own citizens’ interaction and involvement with the outside world.”

In late December, the Iranian government added the ‘UK in Iran’ website of Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to its list of censored websites. It contained information about British government policies and statements, including criticism of the human rights situation in Iran and the country’s controversial nuclear program.

Hague on Sunday said the Iranian people have had to endure an ‘ever-tightening stranglehold of censorship’. “The blocking of our website is only a very small part of what Iranians undergo daily: millions of websites blocked, access to e-mail services denied, international television channels jammed, films and theater productions closed down, books unpublished, traditional Persian literature rewritten and newspapers banned,” he said in a statement.

Diplomatic relations between Iran and Britain reached a new low when hundreds of Iranian protesters stormed the British embassy and another British diplomatic compound in Tehran in November. Britain claimed the attack could not have happened without consent from Iranian authorities, and in response closed the embassy.

Hague also ordered the closure of the Iranian Embassy in London and expelled all its diplomats. Iran warned that Britain’s closure of its embassy in London would have consequences, but it is unknown if the blocking of the UK websites are the direct result of the diplomatic crisis.

After the blocking of the ‘UK in Iran’ website in December, Britain’s media regulator Ofcom in January decided to revoke the license of Iranian news channel Press TV. Ofcom, the government-approved regulatory authority for the TV and radio sectors, accused the English-language channel of breaking licensing rules because its editorial base is located in Tehran, not in London as had been indicated when it was granted the license.

Press TV called the move a “clear example of censorship” and pointed out that Ofcom, which calls itself independent, receives aid from the British government and the Secretary of State has the power to appoint or remove Ofcom’s chairman and its members. Nonetheless, a spokesperson for the UK Foreign Office said the British government was not involved in the decision to revoke the license.

South Sudan accuses Sudan of launching ‘economic war’

JUBA (BNO NEWS) — The Southern Sudanese government has accused Sudan of launching an ‘economic war’ after it suddenly introduced a new currency which will cost South Sudan at least 700 million U.S. dollar.

South Sudan became the world’s newest country when it broke away from Sudan on July 9 following decades of civil war that left millions dead. The new nation has since been formally accepted as a Member State of the United Nations.

But a sudden move by Sudan to introduce a new version of the Sudanese Pound has angered South Sudan which is still transitioning to the South Sudanese Pound. “Sudan has declared an economic war on South Sudan,” said South Sudanese Peace Minister Hon Pagan Amum.

Hon Amum, who is also the Secretary General of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), claimed Sudan is hostile to the new country and is ‘hell-bent’ to crush its economy. He said Sudan had previously agreed not to issue a new currency until six months after the South did.

As a result of the new currency being issued in the North, the South has shortened the currency conversion period for its citizens to 1.5 months until September 1. Any Sudanese Pounds which have not been exchanged by that date will be rendered valueless, the government warned on Tuesday.

Hon Amum said the North does no longer recognize its previous agreement to let the South return the Sudanese Pounds after its transition period. This, according to the minister, will cost the nation at least 700 million U.S. dollar.

“The release of the currency by the North is intended to destroy the economy of the Republic of South Sudan; they do not want to take responsibility of the old currency,” Hon Amum said, describing the North’s action as ‘hostile’ and adding that it would hurt both countries.

Sri Lankan Tamil party accuses army of attacking its election meeting

JAFFNA, SRI LANKA (BNO NEWS) — Sri Lanka’s major Tamil political party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), said on Friday that the army attacked some of its members and disrupted an election rally in the country’s north, the Colombo Page reported.

TNA parliamentarian Mavai Senathirajah told the media that more than 100 soldiers entered Alawetti College in Jaffna on Thursday night where the meeting was being held and said the party could not hold a meeting. The soldiers then allegedly forcibly removed the microphones and assaulted the participants, including police bodyguards of the legislators who had intervened.

Military spokesman Major General Ubhaya Madawela, however, said that he was not aware of such an incident. According to Sri Lanka police, two police teams have been deployed to probe the incident.

The aim of the meeting was to introduce the party’s candidates for the forthcoming local government elections in Jaffna.

Sri Lanka was involved in a bloody civil war between the government and the Tamil Tigers from July 1983 until May 2009, killing as many as 100,000 people. Both sides have been accused of war crimes and other human rights violations.

Yemen opposition accuses Saleh of allowing al-Qaida militants to seize town

SANAA, YEMEN (BNO NEWS) — Yemen’s opposition on Sunday accused President Ali Abduallah Saleh of allowing al-Qaida militants to seize Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province.

According to the Yemen Post, the opposition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) said in a statement that Saleh government was behind arming the militants in Zinjibar. It said that these militants work for Saleh and are made up by him to use against the people when he wants.

“He uses these tactics to show the international community what risks Yemen would pass through if he leaves office,” said the statement.

Militants took control of Zinjibar, forcing thousands of locals to evacuate the city fearing that attacks will continue for a while. At least two people were killed and several others injured on Sunday in clashes between the security forces and the militants.

“The Yemeni government is giving al-Qaeda a chance to strengthen itself while it is as weak as ever in Yemen,” a senior opposition JMP official said.

Meanwhile, tribal fighters loyal to Hashid sheikh, Sadeq Al-Ahmer, started today handing over some offices to the mediation committee after signing a ceasefire on Saturday. The truce came after five consecutive days of street battles that left dozens dead and hundreds injured.

In addition, at least two protesters were killed and dozens others injured on Sunday when security forces fired live bullets at a peaceful demonstration in Taiz province.

Violence has increased in recent days after Saleh threatened with civil war after refusing, for the third time, to sign a power transfer deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) last Sunday.

The opposition signed the deal on Saturday to end the country’s political crisis but Saleh told visiting GCC Secretary General Abdul Latif Al-Zayani his refusal to the transition deal. The GCC-proposed plan included guarantees that Saleh will not be prosecuted after his resignation within 30 days from the acceptance date. It also called for holding presidential elections within two months from the date of Saleh’s departure as well as the establishment of a new government within 90 days.

Iran accuses U.S. of approving ‘Bahrain invasion’

TEHRAN (BNO NEWS) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday said Bahrain’s crackdown on protesters was unjustifiable and held the United States accountable for the move, Press TV reported.

“This military invasion was a foul and doomed experience. Regional nations hold the US government accountable for such a heinous behavior,” President Ahmadinejad told reporters following a cabinet session.

“The US seeks to save the Zionist regime (Israel) and suppress popular uprisings. So, it supports certain governments,” he added, as cited by Press TV.

Saudi Arabia confirmed on Monday that more than 1,000 troops, part of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Peninsula Shield Force, had entered Bahrain at the request of the Manama government. On Tuesday, six people died and hundreds were injured in clashes between anti-regime protesters and Bahrain’s security forces.

“How can a person rule his people while he interacts with them via arms? A government should belong to its people,” President Ahmadinejad noted.

He pointed to “unjustifiable and irreversible” acts of violence against anti-government protesters in crisis-hit Bahrain and emphasized that such measures would bear no fruits.

On Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi urged the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to support the legitimate demands of anti-government protesters in line with the international commitments of the United Nations.

Then, Bahrain recalled its ambassador to Iran after the Foreign Ministry objected to the deployment of GCC troops. In response Iran summoned the envoys of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Switzerland – which represents the United States’ interest in Iran – to protest against the “U.S.-backed military intervention.”

After declaring a state of emergency, the government imposed a curfew starting Wednesday, and until further notice, between 4pm and 4am local time.

The country’s social unrest began after protesters called for a “Day of Rage” on February 14 to mark the 10th anniversary of the National Action Charter, which returned the country to constitutional rule after the 1990s uprisings. Initially, people took to the streets to demand reform and the introduction of a constitutional monarchy, but later they began to call for the removal of the royal family

Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, is ruled by the Sunni Muslim al-Khalifa family, but two-thirds of the population are Shiite. In recent years, younger Shiites have staged violent protests to complain about discrimination, unemployment and corruption.

Human rights group accuses Angola of intimidating people to prevent march

LUANDA, ANGOLA (BNO NEWS) — Human Rights Watch on Thursday said the Angola government carried out an intimidation campaign against anti-government demonstrations inspired by events in North Africa.

“The government and ruling party officials used baseless claims of possible violence, including an imminent outbreak of civil war, to deter people from participating in the demonstration,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

Several protesters planning to take to the streets to demand the departure of President Eduardo dos Santos, who has been in power for 32 years, were arrested along with journalists the night before the event, which was announced for March 7. The demonstration, which had been called by an anonymous group using the internet in February, did not take place.

Police also arrested a group of 17 young rap musicians in Luanda’s city center who were reading poems and distributing pamphlets saying they intended to participate in the protests later that day. All were held in custody by the criminal investigation police and released the following morning without any further explanations. The Luanda police spokesman, Jorge Bengue, later said the rappers had been arrested to avoid potential clashes with an unidentified group of residents allegedly heading for the same location.

The New York-based organization “expressed concern at anonymous death threats against opposition politicians and human rights lawyers, arbitrary arrests of journalists and activists, and misuse of the state media for partisan political purposes.”

On February 28, a number of small opposition groups announced they would join the demonstration to express their concern about social and economic exclusion of the majority of the Angolan population, corruption, intimidation, and lack of freedom of expression. On March 1, the governor of Luanda, José Maria Ferraz dos Santos, unlawfully banned a planned peaceful vigil by the same opposition groups set for March 6, denying the protesters’ constitutional right to peaceful assembly.

The ruling party called for a pro-government “peace march” in Luanda and several provincial towns on March 5, and reportedly government officials forced teachers and public servants to participate. Teachers were threatened with job loss or salary cuts and obliged to press their students to participate by threatening them with “problems” if they stayed home.

“Angola’s ruling party should not scare people with renewed violence to deter them from freely expressing their views,” Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

“Such disrespect of basic political freedoms does not bode well for Angola’s upcoming general elections in 2012,” he added.